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Hitting the Ground Running

After a long hiatus, almost going insane teaching English and dealing with some of the most difficult students that I’ve ever had the pleasure of educating, I’m in the first week of my month long leave of absence.

Predictably, owing to the mass migration during Spring Festival, my original plan to go to Tibet and the Xinjiang has had to be re-planned, and I elected to travel south instead to Kunming…of course, I started off in my favourite place in the whole world: Chengdu. And had hotpot. Actually, I had hotpot twice, which for my delicate palate is two times too many, but I just seem to get addicted to the damn stuff – to wit, I was able to enjoy the delights of both wet and dry hotpot – the dry one was ribs, which is Chinese shorthand for “full of bones that’ll break your teeth”. The rest of the night was rather misjudged, and I ended up getting terribly drunk in a bar called Jellyfish, which has nothing but the finest in thumpy-thumpy dance music (the type that sounds like an pneumatic drill being gang raped by a deranged posse of air hammers and is almost always played at a volume that makes the chair next to you bleed) and some of the strongest White Russians that I’ve come across.

Against all the odds – especially the Russian odds – and despite having to pack at 1am in the dark, I made it. Although I’m slightly worried that when I boarded in Beijing, my pack weighed 14kg, and at Chengdu airport my pack checked in at 12kg. I’m a little worried that whatever weighed 2kg must have been important enough for me to pack, and I may have left it for some unsuspected innocent in Chengdu.

One other point of amusement was the trouble that my electric toothbrush caused at Chengdu Airport. Initially confused that the item in question was a mobile phone (something that I’ve thought about at length, and can only assume that the battery was the source of the problem) I was summoned behind the check-in counter, whereupon a number of efforts were made to the poor toothbrush. Hungover, still a little drunk, and not particularly happy at having my underwear put on show for every Chinese person in front of the check-in desk, I took the opportunity to further British-Chinese relations, putting on my best Beijing accent and screaming something along the lines of “This wasn’t a problem in Beijing airport, why is it a problem now?!”. Of course I probably got the tones all in the wrong places and the officials in question probably heard something like “why is my armadillo snorkeling? I eat pasta!”. Either way, I established myself as a strung out foreigner who was prepared to shout gibberish at people like them all day if need be – I was duly and begrudgingly allowed on the plane.

The arrival in Kunming was uneventful and as boring as you can expect. The only point of amusement was the taxi driver who drove me from the airport to the hostel who was dressed in a style that I can only describe succinctly as “Mad Max Drag”. That is to say that he was kitted out in huge aviator sunglasses, fingerless leather gloves, leather trousers and a leather jacket nicely set off by a luxuriantly thick fake fur ruff around the collar.

So right now, after catching up on some badly needed sleep, I’m fully ensconced in delightful “Cloudland Hostel” in Kunming…sipping coffee, watching old people play mahjong and wondering what else I can do. An idyllic scene somewhat ruined by the Chinese staff watching The Empire Strikes Back on the only TV in the room.

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