How is this my life? (I)

Before I even start writing this I know it’s not a one-off. This is going to have to be some sort of series, each ending with a soap opera-esque:

What more’s in store for this intrepid traveller? Find out next time in How is this my life?

I know this because every day, every day there is something which stops me in my mental tracks and has me asking myself, honestly, how the fuck is this my life?!

For one, I’m in mother-trucking China, dude! China! This country – its history, people, culture, landscape – has fascinated me for so long I can’t put my finger on a date. And now, I’m actually here. The very geography of this fact keeps making me smile.

I’m living (albeit nomadically) in a country whose urinal troughs have flatscreen TVs displaying adverts built-in to them. (So you can piss on capitalism (I think)).


A country with free WiFi built into its very foundations (even the freaking metro has it, and that shit’s underground). A country that genuinely loves eating chicken feet, whilst I’m over in the corner with my ‘stinky tofu’, 110% aware of why it’s called ‘stinky tofu’, but loving it all the same. A country where it’s harder to find a place you can’t smoke than places you can – I legit had a cigarette waiting for the lift in a shopping mall, just because. A country with four tones in its language. Four. Why China, why?!

How is this my life?

I’m in a five storey mall dedicated entirely to restaurants (Nirvana, I think they call it), sat with my bus-sized bowl of £1.90 mushroom noodles, trying to get the hang of chopsticks (which, by the way, I’m none too shabby at). All the while the guy opposite me is chowing down on four of the same sized dishes as mine, stopping intermittently to *surreptitiously* take photo’s of me on his iPhone.

How is this my life?

I’m in an expat’s apartment in Suzhou, hosted by a friend I hung out with for less than a day back in India. Earlier this evening his driver (you heard correctly) picked me up from the train station. We then met up with other expat’s at a local sports bar, where I was fed beer and whisky till my eyes started to spin. Now I’ve another whisky in front of me, and in front of that, a good auld British Guy Ritchie film on the telly.

How is this my life?

I’m on a plane out of Delhi, half-way through I get chatting to the girl next to me, who turns out to be a Chinese English teacher, living outside Shanghai, but visiting the city for a couple days. Before either of us knows it we’re bound by the fates to be staying at the same hotel, and thus I’ve acquired myself not only a new friend, but a native-speaking guide. Wang Lijuan (or Myra) takes me out to dinner (inc. blue, pickled eggs and seaweed soup), and then takes me round the city the following day, insisting on plying me with as much food & drink as I can handle. Then before leaving the next day, she secretly buys me my train ticket on to Suzhou.


 Honestly:

How is this my life?

I’m in a student bar in Shanghai with four Dutch guys, an American lass and a cool mutha-lover from Guyana (fun fact: only English speaking country in South America), all of whom I’ve known probably less than 24hrs. And I’m introducing a drinking game my aussie brother Auguste taught me in Punjab – before we know it we (Auguste you’ll be glad to hear) are downing pints, running into walls, and generally being utter lads.


How is this my life?

I’m in a student flat with a group who I met through ye olde ‘nice beard mate’ ice-breaker, drinking my first shot of Baijo (honestly not that bad (though I’ll probably not be drinking it again)), eating exquisite home-cooked Chinese veggie cuisine, playing Fifa 14 (oh how I’ve missed you monsieur xbox), and learning the ins-and-outs of the Asian social-networking leviathan WeChat.

How is this my life?

I’m sat down by an insanely gorgeous lake in Suzhou, writing poetry whilst, as always, the locals ogle this bearded, white Scottish bloke as if he was Nessie herself emerged from the watery depths.


Later I’m in a canal side restaurant eating more cheap mushroom noodles, set against the backdrop of old old old Suzhou buildings.


  
 Acting like this is all as normal as kicking it at Wetherspoon’s in Hawick and suddenly it hits me:

How is this my life?

I’m on the observatory deck of one of Shanghai’s tallest buildings (our ears popped in the elevator) looking out across what could easily be Manhattan, entirely unable to compute the size of this city. Half awed, half saddened by all the metal and concrete. A Chinese kid approaches a pal and I with his phone and gets it to translate the question: “Can we group photo?” But I misread it. I think it says:

How is this my life?

And I look at the kid and I know he knows I know, and I grin wildly.


  
How is this my life? By all rights I should be back in Scotland. Perhaps looking (and if so, presumably failing) to find a graduate job, stuck in perpetual writer’s block, only ever able to write about China from my imagination and the odd Wikipedia article, which definitely hasn’t been treated to the old Maoist one-two-left-right-uppercut censorship combo. I should be making up poor excuses to get out of club nights, or booking everything on the internet to avoid as many awkward, always always extensively prepared for phone conversations as possible (or worse, the dreaded face-to-face).

But I’m here. I’m actually here, in China, one month into travelling the frickin’ world. I find myself in mind-blowing situations every day. I see poetry in everything around me and inspiration is more abundant than Chinese WiFi hotspots. I’m confronting, I’m forced to confront my social anxiety at every turn, and at every turn it gets easier, more enjoyable and more rewarding (just yesterday I wrote a passage in my journal congratulating myself on making it this far, because you know what? I’m damn proud of myself)!

It’s a crazy thing, whatever this is. Whatever it is each day that makes me take a breather, look around me, smile and think:

How the fuck is this my life?

It’s crazy, but it’s beautiful, and sweet lord Confucius am I thankful erry damn day.

With all my nonsensical love, from a country far far away, C x

What more’s in store for this intrepid traveller? Find out next time in How is this my life?

8 thoughts on “How is this my life? (I)

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    1. Thanks Dad 🙂 Indeed! Though can’t say I feel that way this morning. Haven’t gone a night in over a week without beer… it’s catching up with me I think. The perils of £1 Tsingtao! X

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  1. Cal……I love it, I absolutely love it….your enthusiasm, your honest niaivity, your excitement, your attitude and your sheer unadulterated love and appreciation for what you are doing…..your an inspiration son! I’m sitting here reading this blog, the tears running down my cheeks by the end with a mixture of joy at your joy, and sadness, at missing you!! That in itself is crazy because we don’t see each other for months on end…..but somehow I feel I am travelling this journey with you……perhaps we all are! For the first time I can relate to where you are, having sampled the delights of Beijing, however up until then, it was dreamlike, having never ventured to India and those southern worlds!!!!! Keep pushing the social boundaries…..you live in a wonderful world….despite all the shit the politicians drum up! I always say business is about people…..which is true…..but in the bigger picture…..life is about people…..nothing more nothing less! Love you nephew….keep living the dream!❤️ Heading across the pond yo NYC today……sounds pretty bland compared to your travels, but hey….I love it…….I meet people!😘

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  2. Cal I love it, I absolutely love it…..your enthusiasm, your joy, your honest niaivity, your thirst to simple experience and soak up everything! For the first time in this adventure I can relate to something your doing….I have seen Beijing in all its glory….because up until now, having never been to India and those southern continents, the extent of my knowing was books and dreams!! I, we are living this journey with you, through you, and beside you! I find myself coming to the end of this blog with tears rolling down my cheeks…..I don’t know if they are tears of joy and laughter or tears of sadness…..because I miss you!! What’s crazy is that we don’t see each other for months on end when your at home, but living and travelling with you here, now, leaves me hanging on your words and experiences. Keep being yourself, and your journey will be ever enriched by fellow travellers. I always say business is people……but the truth is life is about people…..nothing more nothing less…….politicians can try to screw it up, and take us to the brink…..but walk down a street in a distant land, and a friendly face or hand will guide and enrich your path.
    I’m heading across the pond today to NYC……sounds a bit mundane compared with your voyage……but none the less I’ll meet people, and enjoy their company…..and it’s no different to what my nephew is doing on the other side of the world. Kick on Cal…..love you always. ❤️

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    1. “Life is about people” – there is no truer philosophy Uncle Mal, you’ve hit the nail on the head.

      Writing this blog is for me super therapeutic, and I can write it without really thinking about its potential audience – which allows me to be very honest (or at least try to be). But at the same time, I find it really helps connect me to back home, and it means a huge amount to know that reading it helps you travel with me! That’s all I could ever want, really 🙂 Thank you for all your kind words about the writing too. Send me a text or let me know on here where you recommend going in Beijing/what you recommend doing. Can’t wait to see it (and the Great Wall, of course). Love you and miss you Uncle Mal, you, Aunty Kendra, and the weans. Enjoy NYC and I hope my blog continues to allow you to accompany me on this mad journey of mine 🙂 x

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      1. I wish I could help you there Cal…..but everywhere I visited, was named in Chinese and I wouldn’t have a feckin Clare where they were……..you don’t need my recommendation though…..your doing pretty well yourself.
        You know, we could do with a new young travel writer coming through…….one who write pros as well as he write poetry…….think about it??????😜

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  3. Cal your writing is truly awe inspiring. Reading the blog takes you not just to the place but the moment as well

    It sounds amazing and so glad you are having a blast
    Cheers

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