Nee-how my gums gums

I was going to blog about my China week while I was there, but I spent all my spare time being out there, on the streets, around the shops and restaurants and riding the subway.

I enjoyed being Chinese…like I felt cool with people assuming I was Chinese when I was in the shops. It was okay when I only bought food or little things, only when did I have to buy clothes and ask for sizes for the magic to stop and for them to look with me with confused faces. I think 1 out of 10 shop assistants spoke some limited english.

I didn’t cope with the hot water bubblers over there, where you can just fill up your tea water bottle or hot noodles. You can eat these in Maccas or KFC too, they don’t care. I liked my cold drinks, even in Winter, so it was disappointing to grab a bottle from the fridge and it was lukewarm. I drank a lot of lemon iced tea, bubble tea, milk tea…too many sugar-laded teas I think. They were cheap and everywhere, I couldn’t resist.

Beijing really surprised me, I mean I’ve been to other big Asian megacities before, but China has it’s own personality. The mix of old and new clashing together, the explosion of sights and sounds around every corner. Maybe it was the easy-going mild spring weather, but I enjoyed exploring Beijing on foot.

Like I said in an earlier blog, I got excited about seeing the countless KFCs, Maccas, Burger King and Pizza Huts there, I have the photos to prove it. KFC Zinger Burgers are the best, they use the thigh meat and their chicken pieces might be small but it reminds of the old-school KFC, greasy tender skin…the way it used to be…

Okay, that’s enough junk food drooling for one blog hehe.

I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing, Forbidden City-check. Great Wall-check. Mega shopping malls with so many cool, unknown brands-cheque haha.

But seriously, the people were really kind over there. Yeah, people spit and cough in the streets like it’s nobody’s business. And sure, I couldn’t speak any Chinese, but I got a thrill out of doing people-watching, like seeing old ladies exercise on those public park gyms or dedicated guards who stand by all sorts of buildings. Even haggling was an art form here.

I got to speak to a variety of students, from primary to university levels, and their questions were impressive. Not sure if it was just their English phrasebooks but I found myself answering things that I never thought about before.

It was through question time that I got to really dig deep in their lives. I usually talk about my toys and having fun writing. But a girl asked me, ‘what if I can’t play with toys at school because I’ll be in trouble or that I can’t read books for enjoyment because I have too much to read to study or that I can’t make fun of my teacher or friends in my stories’

Yeah, what do you say to that? It’s a different school culture over there…I don’t know how well my anarchy ways went with them hehe. When parents asked me questions at a public library event, they wanted me to tell them the magic formula of writing and knowledge skills…the closest thing to that is simply books.

I got to meet new writers, like Genevieve Chang. I got to hear her own journey into becoming a writer and trust me, she has a story to tell! Having an interesting life does wonders hehe. It reminds me of when a Chinese girl asked me, ‘what if my life isn’t interesting?’ I told her that it already is and will be too. I also reconnected with old buddies, Benjamin Law and Leanne Hall. The Australian embassy staff were awesome, making us feel at home. Having lunch with the ambassador was a highlight, it’s the closest I’ll ever get to a West Wing scenario-Aussie version of course, with loads of laughs and good vibes.

After a few days in Beijing, I went down south to Guangzhao, a little crazier in their fashion stakes (influenced by HK perhaps) and loads of these ‘Uniquo’ style stores. After awhile, they all blur into one. It was here that I did my first bilingual talks, and it went well. I stripped my talk bare and just did the essential stuff and the jokes came through…yes I did ham up my slapstick humour here hehe.

I feel like I covered a lot of ground in just 9 days, 2 huge cities, loads of experiences…is there a story in here somewhere? Maybe…nothing is wasted. What I do know for sure is that I want to come back to China, visit other cities…Shanghai I’m looking at you hehe.

Now I’m in Perth for the Storylines Literary Festival at All Saints…good thing that I’m still in that similar China timezone hehe. More on the festival soon, including the Great Debate. I’m gonna wing it cos that’s how I usually debate. Maybe I’ll keep on shirt on this time.


About the author

I'm an author, stand-up comedian and teacher. My books include Thai-riffic!, Con-nerd, Punchlines and The Other Christy. I'm a massive Nintendo fan and love eating burgers. Follow me on Twitter or Instagram @oliverwinfree

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