China #2: The Land of PIS (and all things shit)… Huzhou

PIS (acronym) meaning persistent irritating situations * patented by me and not to be confused with actual piss (though the boot fits).

Remember those free range chickens? Well, I’ve not seen them since that day I visited the new apartment… a whole month ago. So I’m going to assume they’ve been eaten. Either by neighbours or their mangey looking ginger cat. Which sounds like a slightly unfair assumption to make, but you’re not the one that found a live duck wrapped in one of those weird meat joint nets just quacking away, strategically placed in the doorway of a restaurant (presumably advertising the establishments insanely fresh dishes).

No, I’m not a vegetarian but China is certainly driving me there. For a country that holds fresh food in high regard, the meat section at RT mart smells like rotting sausages. ALL THE TIME.

Making my apartment comfortably liveable has become number 1 hobby of October. Annoyingly. I sort of enjoyed playing house for the first few days but then I realised how boring my life was, when your days off are only filled with the excitement of buying toilet brushes and a kettle that you can heat up on the stove (because I’m edgy as shit).

On my first night, I found the apartment crawling with cockroaches, which my (actually wonderfully, lovely in every way) landlord was very embarrassed about. Unfortunately, you don’t really know they’re there until… well… they’re there.

Over two weeks, with combined effort from both my landlord and I, we were able to get the infestation under control. Now, if I see them, they’re fighting for their last breath. The war is not won, but we’re sure as hell sending a message. I sleep with a can of Raid next to my bed and the crippling fear that they’re crawling in my ears while I sleep.

This is my life now.

In other news, have you ever used a twin tub style washing machine? This has made washing my clothes even more laborsome than I already found it. Now I have to physically manhandle my washing through it’s cycle… personally moving it from wash, to rinse, to spin and then out on to the rooftop to dry.

Of course, it is either raining or around 100% humidity here in Huzhou. So there’s 90% chance of my clothes needing to be washed again, immediately… before they make my whole apartment smell funky. I’d say most of my time off is spent sniffing my clothes to determine whether they need washing for the fourth time. I am officially a dirty clothes sniffer.

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Now, I know you must be thinking,

“These things are trivial. It’s a side effect of learning to live in another culture; another climate, another way of life.”

Believe me, I told myself the exact same thing, until my gas (and subsequently hot water and use of stove morning coffee) disappeared. Three days went by of ultimate grouchyness on my part, deprived of a warm shower and caffeine, before the gas company suggested “turning it off and on again.”

Work has been consistently shit since I arrived but until I am out of contract it’s a little difficult to divulge any information. I have managed to make some friends but everything about China has made me sceptical of sincerity, and has in turn left me depressed and lacking in motivation. I just spent two days in bed watching Disney’s Mulan and wishing the country was actually what the rest of the world imagines it to be.

In reality, even the “nice” parks here in Huzhou (and Hangzhou) are so fucking contrived. They’re mind numbingly fake and thus boring after one visit. The places I enjoyed frequenting before have lost their appeal – which is so unlike me, a creature of habit, happy to revisit old haunts over and over. Oh, and pollution. Photographers in Chinese cites don’t stand a chance.

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Two of about five sunny evenings in Huzhou

Maybe I’m just in a wholly uninspiring part of China, but from everything I’ve heard and read, China is only stuck out by most travellers and expats for the ridiculously good financial benefits. I’ve felt myself become consumed by the idea of money in the two short months I’ve been here, every day weighing up my options and treating my sanity and happiness as less important than earning a decent wage.

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In summary, I love my weird elderly neighbours but I hate everyone else that stare and spit when I walk by. I love my apartment but I hate this stupid fake city and its shitty weather. I love the money but I miss my happy, satisfied and fulfilled self. I hate that I have so many bus/train connections to things to see and do and yet none of them excite me. I even hate the music.

Just call me Karl Pilkington.

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