I returned to Beijing for the last few days in China. Having initially taken to Shanghai my second visit to Beijing swayed my attentions. Clearly it did not diminish Shanghai, which remained more compact, clean and still had that intangible sense off somehow being friendly. What it did do was point out how much more Beijing had to offer among its sprawl.
Different areas with changing characteristics, the large parks and their substantial lakes (entrance fees applied but they are hardly prohibitively expensive nor are they inflated for foreign tourists.
The forbidden city is not so easy to access, attempts were made but they were attempts that were not supported by research and in this instance there are regular demand issues, excessive demand for gaining access entrance vs the permitted number of people to wonder about there in. So you need to get in early and get yourself a ticket if you want to be making your entrance. Personally, not a morning person and learnt this issues about getting hold of tickets a good hour or more after the last of the tickets had been sold… Aim to be early if you really want to to get in – i went and saw some parks instead and enjoyed my days more than well enough.. It was warm, travelling with water and replenishing that water from some of the street side stores a good and necessary idea.
If i wrote this at the time i would probably suggest Shanghai was my favourite city on this mini break quick fire round of stop offs. Though i wouldn’t have known why, it was something about the sense of the place, a comfortable something. I dont think it can be the large river and a nostalgic reminder of the close to home Thames river, quite a lot of large cities come complete with a water feature, be it a lake or a river. I haven’t noticed this bringing back thoughts of either London or Zurich and so unjustifiably raising them up above all other, none water feature having, cities. So it was something else. It was discernibly more compact than the sprawl of Beijing, with a definite sense of a centre. It was cleaner and newer than Beijing or at least this more compacted central part that i was frequenting was.
Shanghai was the only city during my trip to China that felt like it could become home. The substantive issues of language,work and the sweltering heat placed to one side, Shanghai felt like one of those places people are relatively fortunate if they get to call it home. Who knows if that’s true, probably people who go on to spend more than just 3 days there. There was nothing notable that was visited or seen white there.
There is the bund – the riverside bit where most of the views of the high up sky line can be taken in. There was also an Old Shanghai Street Market bit, that ended up being walked to (the benefit of being more compact was the ability to practically explore by foot). I had a McDonalds there, wasn’t feeling adventurous at the time, aside from that there were some older looking buildings, though it all rather had the air of something Disney might have done.. A sort of mock old.. perhaps it had all just been maintained or renovated too well. There were little parks dotted about where shade and resting up could be sought out on a bench beneath a tree that was casting its shadow in the right direction. Generally i would describe it as an off mix of nothing so much to see but well worth experiencing.
“How are you enjoying it?” – was the question posted on social media as my time in Nan-Chang came it end.
The question came from someone id not seen in the actual world for some time. As a result i lacked clarity on the level of appreciation that existed.. Perhaps people thought id gone on tour? My – you’re not in the shire any more – social updates, the ones that had instigated this question, had a back drop which had probably not been overly shared.. Random semi incoherent utterings over recant months, if people had the energy and wrong minded inclination to spend their time sifting it out.
In shorter terms than those above, i responded with something that approximates an answer and historic back fill:
“Its not been a holiday so it in terms of enjoyment… when you’re here for the incompetence of people and in job for a company you’ve so long wanted nothing to do with .. it could have been really shit and it really wasn’t”
“China is probably a 6.5/10 place reduced by at least 1 for the excessive and most unnecessary abundance of heat humidity combinations.. but the Chinese are probably an 8 or maybe more .. an untrue generalisation on any peoples but in a place as vast and people rich as this i imagine quite nonsensical indeed – yet as odd as it can seem .. all people are odd and the odd that they have here seems in so many ways preferable to the odd elsewhere – i will miss the Chinese and the way of things here when its far away i suspect – having been able to appreciate its presence .. enjoyed i don’t know, but appreciated and missed when absent i think so”
How is that you score a country or a whole people, what does that even mean? not only are there so many different parts (people / areas etc) but what are they being scored on and why … nope that all ok .. they are an 8, say no more, job done and thats out of 10 by the way – if you weren’t clear ..
This came 2 months after i’d arrived in China 2 months or slightly more than 7 weeks in Nan Chang that had included a fair bit of ritualised office going, just as it would in the UK with work but in terms of my existence to that point this is where routine ended. This is not to suggest the trip had been in any way remarkable to this point, it had not but to say it was routine or somehow the norm, well i’d worked up in Liverpool for a while once but this wasn’t that… so no it was definitively different / not ritual or routine.
My previous trip to china had when viewed against its purpose been a success, the project had not been put back on course, that was never likely, but we’d had an honest and considered reflection on where we were, how much remained as well as the time and other things required to achieve it.
It wasnt an answer many would have welcomed and they didnt but it was at its heart an honest and more importantly worked through view, based on a considered though still optimistic deconstruction of what remained. I had returned to the UK with Cambodia holidays in mind and a faint wiff of disembodied hope wafting accidentally in the wind.
It did not last by the time id returned from the Thailand (the post Cambodia part of that holiday) the feedback and corresponding plan had been thrown out. The UK team has again come back with some 5 week plan that they’d made up an we (the owner of my employer) had taken that because it sounded a whole lot better than 10-14… and we liked things that sounded a whole lot better, even if they came with no substantiation, from a source that had evidently never yet been correct and had neither the means nor inclination to be so.
One other pre-requiest for the project getting back on track was stated and then stated again on each call i had with China that i needed to go out there. Again no action was taken. Instead a return to the threats from us and vast distortions (i dont say lies because it was somehow not this, it was a complete disconnect with the truth to a point far beyond delusion) it was odd but mostly infuriating.
This went on with early morning calls UK time meeting evening call China time.. Their UK affiliate telling our owner there were 4 people dedicated and working on our project as a prioity, while the China team told me they had been told to work on other projects but we’d had 1 person looking at something… or similar such updates.. Either way i was going nowhere and the project, now a further 6 weeks later had not moved an inch.
I resigned – I resigned while on holiday in Spain or Portugal… while using up some more of my stock piled holiday. Two ego-fantasists arguing but bot arguing in a joint fantasy world was pointless. I contacted China and asked if they would accept my assistance if i came as me and not an employee. There were two issues at stake, this was 1.5 years worth of work, my work that was being flushed .. second it was a piece of work on which 4 peoples jobs were dependant. .. Either it was up by July or the project was to be cancelled and peoples jobs.. it had been strongly intimated to me, they were at risk- it was already early May at that time and many of those 10-12 weeks has already been wasted. Third – doing this meant a level of cost but would be far easier to explain if it came up in looking at other jobs, which it almost certainly would.
This act of resigning and seeking to make my own way to china had the unforeseen consequence of forcing the issue – rather than resigning and heading to China as a free agent, an agreement was reached that i would go under the companies flag.. Cheaper for me, flights and accommodation .. on the flip side i would not yet escape my shackle to their collective world, a dystopian feeling mash up somewhere between ‘cool world’ and the drunk dumbo dream sequence , id never much cared for.
the fact this version is in a language that is only passingly familiar inadvertently makes it more apt to the time.
With the plan from March suggesting an August delivery and with it now being the beginning of June i set out to China, with no real belief in anything other than my desire to negate the regret of not at least trying. I may have been at the end of my role but others still wanted their jobs … id hired them, put them in this position.. You can fail, i thought i would probably be okay with failing given how hampered we’d been, but only if there was the knowledge of having properly tried. If they lost their jobs, having shrugged and walked off, i think i have left future me with some things to think on he’d rather then present me hadn’t.
While this is my Flat – some small part of this on one of the almost top but not quite floors. Many buttons in the lift, it was pretty tall but not notably so, pretty standard sort of height in China. I was on the 20 somethingest floor.
Life in the flat had one memorable challenge which stand up to memory erosion. It was sleep and achieving it. The bed was entirely solid, there as a mattress but someone it was formed of a substances that was harder than the floor itself. If this seems like an improbable exaggeration, well then …maybe.. seems like one .. but i did end up opting to move myself and my sleeping bad to facilitate an attempt at sleeping on the kitchen floor through the pursuit of greater comfort. Whats more it worked. I was not unfamiliar with the concept of the unnaturally solid mattress having been first introduced to it during 3 months in Nepal. As then, i grew accustomed to it, at least most of me did, my back maintained reservations and expressed them to me at the beginning of each day as i tried to get up. I found a rolling technique helped overcome this. Legs drooping over the edge,toes seeking to fish out some floor.
The other issue that stood between me was the air con.. It brought the cold or rather the sort of temperature that didnt torment a person to perpetual consciousness. It made noise in its efforts, not persistently but in disruptive fits and starts. It had a night mode id been introduced to on moving in, a button on the remote id subsequently all but immediately lost track off and rediscovered only by after some mass button pushing. A mass pushing that id failed to conduct in an orderly fashion and so again lost track of which button id struck upon to achieve this. Eventually however the secret of the night mode became known to me. Oddly thought the night mode did nothing about the temperature display, its neon blue light shining so much brighter than ever seemed possible during the day. At least no ships would inadvertently breach the river banks travel a few miles across land and strike the block of flats in the night time.
I tried sleeping with shades .. it was not an run away success
I tried the hood on my sleeping bag, turning the sleeping bag upside down to covert the hood into a face cover.. it was a little more successful ..
The 10 minute walk to work exited in two forms.. the June form which was grey, overcast and occasionally torrentially wet. It made for some muddy pathways across this short cut. The july form of the trip existed in burning heat that meant any freshness of person and clothing that had been attempted in the flat was a thing of distant history by the time of arriving at the office. Walking to work involved a wonder through the flats in the background of the shot below. The local inhabitants were mostly about, sat around outside, in the morning some among them would look to greet with their preferred turn of English phrase – How are you? – or just hello .. it nice to find yourself so greeted into the day. In the evenings as the weather grew dryer and warmer, groups of women clustered around what wasn’t really a ghetto blaster, but another form of portable music box, and they danced.
The Injoy Shopping Centre – NanChang, a very local convenience.
By The Nan Chang River:
The river bank at Nanchang turns into a giant display at night. Sky scrappers as far as you can see along both banks act as giant screen with animations and other context free things shine out. Id live amongst this the first time i was here (for the 5 day initial visit in March) and came back once this second time.
One of the developers had taken it upon himself to invite other out for some games of pool. This is not my game but being terrible at pool in a public arena is something life has taught me to be accustomed to, the invite was very welcome as thing to fill part of a none working weekend. As evening came we headed toward the river to watch the show in the form of the music and fountains, water display.
There were also funfair rides – they were not Alton Towers – but the sense of readily appreciated fun that imbued my hosts, it was a little infectious.
Back at the flat:
and a good few weeks in – the discovery by inadvertent button pushing that one of those buttons switched off the air con illuminations …and so it was that sleep gradually became that more readily achieved thing that would be there to greet me at the end of the days.
A more premium priced store existed by the river – it had European products.. Cereal and Milk came from here .. Milk meant Tea and the ability to make use of that big old pack of Tetley that had travelled with me.
Another developer invited me to football..I had no football boots here, they were not among the things id packed, just the plimsolls i wondered about in, no shin pads and no socks… given the position i play shin pads do rather matter. Not about to decline mind, love football, hadn’t played for over a year and not done much in the way of surrogate exercise. I was offered some shoes but then i realise they weren’t spares they were actually someone eles game shoes -so generous and not okay – also i realised this while trying to get my foot into them, they didn’t want to, the size was not a UK size.
Still so warm. It was an 8 o’clock kick off, the night 8 o’clock and it was dark but the temperature didn’t rely on the sun to sustain itself.
The lack of sock was a problem – the astro removing a fair chunk of skin, just an outer layer .. this despite barley moving past a wonder, shuffle to a jog .. It was as well that time had already seen me move gradually to playing centre back, if id actually had to play in the midfield i might not have made it. .. i was regularly dizzy as it was .. still im not sure id enjoyed myself as much in good long time. 3 weeks of football in China. i even bought socks and astro shoes
The skin wound that would normally have healed in 2 days or so – at least forming a crust and being done.. did not do this in China. Instead it somewhat unpleasantly seeped oozed for weeks.
The local players seemed politely unfamiliar with the European .. actually more UK defending … a lot movement (even more impressive give nature was doing all it surely could to put an end to any idea of mobility) and short passing. A collection of central midfielders with a reasonably solid sense of team play, certainly far more that you would see among men in the UK, though less so with womens football which tends to exhibit more of this, in my experience. The agricultural clearance when under pressure has now been firmly introduced, whether it will become a popular move and spread though out the land, we shall have to wait to see.
In early 2017 i was dispatched to China – the owner of the company i worked for having become most displeased with the apparent lack of progress made by our development agency. To be fair it was a moment of clarity, a accurate view, of an agency that had spent around nine month of our engagement without even mentioning the fact they wouldnt be doing the development themselves.
Their China office was, it would go on to transpire, a closely affiliated agency and they were beyond struggling. The UK agency we’d been dealing with were not a poor development agency – it wasn’t a development agency at all, , that was whoever these people were out in China. They were not selling us on an idea, they were actively deceiving, how had the china agency remained unmentioned for the first fourth month, it seemed an implausible inadvertent oversight .. After around six month the project had delivery nothing and so here we were, a trip to China.
My role was to speak directly with those charged with delivering the project and ascertain exactly what had gone on and where we really were.
I flew out via Paris to Beijing and onto Nan Chag.
With a substantial gap between flights in Beijing that needed to be filled by some purposeless meandering about. It was a sizeable terminal, the largest ive ever seen and quite new
I flew back via Beijing and onto Paris.
There was an even more substantial gap between flights in Beijing and this time it was pretty familiar. Amazing what a few too many hours in an airport and about 5 days can do. This time i’d had time to think on my stay in Beijing and though on landing at Beijing had formed no conclusion, there was at least the thoughts.
So i handed over my luggage to a storage desk and headed to the airport connecting train that went somewhere in the direction of some part of central Beijing, i place i imagined was probably quite an expansive city with a potentially elusive or numerous actual centre(s).
The flight landed at charles de gaulle airport – the flight on to London didn’t leave from there Id not noticed this during the rushed booking and visa acquiring efforts but had discussed it with the Air France ground staff in China. The bus they had told me would transfer me from one airport to another it now turned out didnt run in the very wee small hours of the morning that it now was in Paris… Not something that was immediately clear and there was pretty much no one and nothing open in arrivals to ask about the busses whereabouts .. a detour here and there, produced no signs of anyone.. so off to Arrivals and hope for more luck. The luck was the people that while scarce, existed up there, the less lucky was the news of there being no such bus at these times.
Taxi – premium, Airport Taxi and a connection to Orly Airport .. it was the only apparent option, it reflected poorly on Air France in so many ways (the lack of a connection, the incorrect information about the connection and the lack of any staff ) but the focus at the time was not really on these shortcomings but on London and the Cambodia Trip that was just days away.