Thursday, 20 May 2010

Driving Lessons

Sorry about the lack of blog posts of late, I've got so much to Blog about but less time do it.  On top of the studies I mentioned in an earlier post, a couple of weeks ago I decided to add to the pile with a hefty wad of driving lessons.  A lot of my time has been taken up with all of this -- more so now as my first Counselling essay is due in by the 1st of June (insert panic here).

I received my provisional licence more than 7 years ago, and also my 17th birthday present from my parents was payment for some driving lessons.   Due to having little desire to drive at the time, and then not needing it while at university, and later being too scared to do it in China; it's only now that I feel driving is something that is needed in my life -- especially considering the ridiculously high cost of public transport in the UK.

I've been having quite an intensive course of lessons so far, and in many ways I am quite enjoying the driving experience, but I have noticed I have some kind of in built hesitation about other road users -- I wonder if my time in Wenzhou played a part in that?

There is certainly a rather large difference between driving in the UK and in China.  In Wenzhou the traffic is usually so consistently busy that the speed is generally quite low.  In the UK, with there being considerably less people, the speed is generally faster, which could also lead to more fatal accidents.  But, there is a big but here, the following of law and order on the roads is almost completely ignored in China (really I'm only commenting on Wenzhou and Hangzhou here as I have much less experience with other cities).   I saw all sorts of collisions in my time in Wenzhou, from the very minor to the very severe.  For that, I certainly admire my girlfriend, Kimi's success of driving on the roads.  I think I'd be too scared to ever drive there (as you can see below).

One reason you won't catch me driving in Wenzhou (taken from my bedroom window)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Grateful for Home

Recently I've been quite stuck for topics to blog about.  In China, so many things would happen in such a short time that I didn't have enough time to write about it all.  Now, in England, my life is much more organised and...."normal"!  I suppose the biggest factor here is that I saw China through the eyes of an outsider, even the smallest most mundane things to most would have been quite entertaining to me.  Whereas back in the UK,  the place where I have lived almost all of my life, there's nothing much of the unusual going on here -- to me anyway.

This brings me onto thinking about what this blog is actually for.  As I have said previously I am mainly using this to keep a record of my studying, Kimi (my girlfriend who is eventually coming to live with me in the UK), and my memories of almost 1 year in China which I had no opportunity to blog about.  But, I shouldn't stop writing about the place I live in, I have named this blog "Laowai in England" after all.  I used to write a majority of blog posts about Wenzhou, so it is only natural to continue writing about the new -- but also old -- place I'm living in now.

First of all, this is my home:

I live in the suburbs of South Manchester

The back garden faces a primary school
I have lived in this house all of my life, with my parents, twin sister, and cats, before heading off to the PRC in 2007 -- and I took so much for granted.  Don't get me wrong, I loved living in my 16th floor apartment in Wenzhou, but now I am back, I truly am thankful for the most simple of things:
  • Central heating.  The "Wen" in Wenzhou actually means warm, and it's true.  Wenzhou is warm, and sometimes very very hot, and this is for most of the year.  But not all of the year.  From around November to March (ish), the temperature can drop.  Nothing too dramatic, but when none of the apartments in the city have central heating, be prepared to wear your coat indoors (I never got used to that).  Alas, I wasted plenty of money on using a tiny fan heater just to heat my feet in bed at night.
  • Quietness.  Something which really began to grate living in the centre of a busy city, was the noise.  I was genuinely at the end of my tether when it came to being woken up for the millionth time by fireworks, car horns, shouting, alarms etc.  I truly believe that silence is golden, especially at night time.  I am certainly thankful for this.  
  • A soft mattress.  I have yet to find a bed in a Chinese home that doesn't have a mattress as hard as wood.  I know that a firm mattress is supposed to be much better for our bodies, but the comfort factor is 0.  I want a bed to feel like it's one long hug!
  • Drinkable Tap Water.  Not such a big deal this one, as it's quite easy to boil up some water and drink it, and using the water when brushing teeth is not a problem really.  But occasionally, I got very sick for very short periods of time, and I could only think it was one of two things:  Food or Water.  As I used the running water daily, and many times in a day, there was quite a chance that it was making me do horrible things to my toilet.  How often have you accidentally gulped some water when washing your hair?  
This was not meant as a rant, and I am not complaining about China, but these are just some things which I took for granted my whole life, but now am hugely grateful for.  Of course there are things I took for granted in China which now I miss very much too -- I'll save that for another post.