Journey to the East: Introduction

Six hours of Chinese per week. Reading, writing, speaking and aural comprehension. Six hours per week, three years long. Textbooks, PowerPoint presentations, assignments, documentaries.

We came prepared. So we thought.

“Bye mum, bye dad, bye lil’ bro, see you all in a year or so” Check-in, customs, waiting, boarding, take-off.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. We are about to land in Helsinki.”

Landing, eating, more waiting. “Finland’s tax-free is expensive as fuck man.”

“Are you sure this is our gate?” Around us, about forty Chinese people staring at their phones, unable to hide their boredom.

“Oh yeah, this is our gate.”

Queuing, boarding, more queuing.

“Oh cool, we get food here!”

“Would you like the pasta or the rice dish, sir?”

“Pasta please”

“Here you go, sir”

“Wow, this is rubbish”

Reading a book, watching a film, reading a book, watching a film, reading a book, watching a film. “I wonder how cold it is outside. Wow minus 57 degrees Celsius, that’s really cold” Reading a book, watching a film, watching a book, reading a film.

“Oh good, we’re here. Good thing they’re coming to pick us up. Everything has been taken care for, we don’t have to worry about a thing. We’ll just get to the student dorm and get our rooms and unpack and fall asleep and have a nice and quiet da- oh wait”

“What do you mean you don’t speak English? So how much is it? We have to ask who? We have to go where? Could you say that again, but slower? That’s just as fast as before. Is that even Chinese? Who’s mister Li? He was here just now? Then why did he leave? What do you need my passport for? Excuse me, could someone please come and fix my lamp? Just come with me, I’ll show you how it’s broken. Why can’t I have WiFi? I need to tell my parents I’m still alive. So where do I have to go again? Can’t I do that tomorrow, I just arrived, I’m jet lagged. You want me to do this now? Speak slower please. Wait, where are you going? Okay that does it, I’m going to bed.”

I can’t sleep.

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My trip to Bali – July 2017

Journey to the East: 1. Finding my routine