Monday, 15 September 2014

My first week in this city

I've been here at my University a week and have another to wait until I start work, as I'll be teaching freshers who are currently doing military training.

That takes place on the track and field, within earshot and seems to be mainly marching through the day and singing until late at night, including the weekend.

They work in groups of 40 or so, except the other day when they sat together listening to a speech by a member of staff when I passed.

I was lucky to have company this evening and ate with a local who introduced me to the local speciality, Chou (stinky) Tofu, which was actually half tasty.

Stinky Tofu is the grey matter in the bottom left, which had a harsh aroma and bitter taste.

She said while Chengdu (where I was before) people were laid back, those from Changsha were straightforward folk and, "not wanting to sound negative, passionate about getting what they want".

A quick internet search on the local character brought me little except a Christian site, which quotes an unknown source from 1911 describing "the people themselves [as] the most clannish and conservative to be found in the whole empire, and have succeeded in keeping their province practically free from invasion by foreigners and even foreign ideas"; a people who are "the best haters and best fighters in China".

Mao Zedong was born close to Changsha, and lived here in his youth - this statue is in Tangerine Park.

It's surprising how little attention I've had compared to my last visit to China - relatively few stare or say a joking "hello", or "foreigner".

The city itself is almost always smoggy and grey, normal for China. There's so much construction, both in the inner city and in all directions outward. It's hard to imagine so many buildings are going to be occupied.

Last week my contact told me I'll be taking 'English corner' (informal conversation practice) this coming Wednesday. Other than that I'll continue to find ways to spend my time, exercising and wandering.

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