Taking the great leap foward
On the eve of my flight to Wuhan in China I ponder all manner of the obscure and amazing experiences I am about to partake in.
Will I be run over by a 70 year old woman on an electric motor bike? Will I be tricked into buying pigeon instead of Chicken? Will I be the guest of honour at a talk on hydro electrics?
This will be the second time I travel to China, so I have already been broken in. Three weeks ago I came back from a semester in Suzhou doing an internship with an old UTS professor. Now I am in Sydney rearing and ready to get back into the madness of the middle kingdom.
Sitting here in my room with my bags all packed I am able to reflect on my time there. From my experiences I can’t stress how important it is to go to a country if you study or are interested in it. Studying in a classroom gives you an insight, but being at ground zero gives a whole new level of understanding. I always knew that going to China I was going to challenge my day to day norms, but not to the extent it did. For example, one of my personal favourite sports there is the full contact rugby games played by old women in the metro. They literally try to knock you off your feet with a shoulder to the ribs as they jostle to gain strategic positions on the train! It’s a place where parents help their toddlers defecate in the middle of busy public footpaths. It’s a land where people collectively try to recreate the anarchical driving game Simpsons “Hit and Run”on the roads. It’s a hugely different place to Australia and I love it!
What I’m really looking forward to going to Wuhan is the total emersion into Chinese day to day life so I can fully appreciate what the people are about. Come on, let’s face it guys all the people going to Shanghai are going to the most expat friendly city in China. This will be the really deal! Going headlong up the river. Welcome to the jungle baby!
You know that feeling when you plan to make a smooth dive into a pool, but some thing seems to trip you up as you jump, and you fully body slam into the surface of the water knocking your self-breathless. Well that is what the first two weeks feels like. The pollution in the air, the madness of queuing, the excitement of late night street food, the comedy of explosive conversations, the total dedication to warm beer and the constant fascination and attention from the Chinese of being a foreigner are just a microbe of different experiences in the hot pot of daily life in China.
Studying in China allowed me to have a base from where I was able go on an awesome back packing adventure and see places that many westerners have never been to before. My personal favourite place I travelled to was the province of West Jiangsu. There I was able to explore the wild west of China where Tibetans roamed around the grasslands herding yak and racing horses. I welcomed by the locals and stayed in Yurts with whole families and eat delectable yak noodle soup. Playing basketball with teenage monks in full red and gold robes at 4 000km above sea level had to be one of the highlights! Would highly suggest backpacking and weekend adventures when you get the chance.
So it’s 3am now and I can’t sleep, as I’m quite anxious to be heading off. Although I will be partaking in another Olympic feet of lung endurance, I’m jumping of my seat with excitement to see what this exchange semester in China has to offer.
Sebastian Keys, 98092784, FASS
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