Last week was exhausting - with unresponsive classes, a cycle race (we won apparently because the only team which beat us cheated) and a fashion show for Women's Day (who even came up with that idea?? "Let's reinforce the objectification of women by parading our female colleagues on a stage while us blokes whoop when we see a bit of leg"??), and training for the half marathon in a couple of weeks. So, by Friday I was ready for a break from campus and Zhengzhou!! So, lucky really that Ed, Sherree, Bryan and I had planned to go to Nanjing!

We arrived on Saturday morning and had a 'western' breakfast at the hostel - I wasn't wowed by the meal so much as the cup of Earl Grey tea which accompanied it! Ed and Bryan seem to have only wanted to go to Nanjing for the 6 Starbucks in the city, so breakfast over we began scouring the streets for that green circle. Handily, there were two right next to an excellent English language bookshop, so I could browse as they satisfied their branded-caffeine-cravings. 

In the afternoon, we went to the memorial to the victims of the Japanese massacre which took place in 1937. It was surprisingly well-done - not tacky and propaganda-type comments at a minimum. The site of the memorial was above one of the largest mass graves from the time and three of the grave areas were uncovered so that you could see the skeletons piled on top of each other, at odd angles, necks bent and skulls splintered - pretty moving. There was also a museum stuffed full to burst of pictures, statistics and information from witnesses & survivors. Outside was very tastefully limited to greys and black - along the front of the angular grey building was a series of rough metal statues depicting grandparents fleeing, women distressed after rape from Japanese soldiers, children dead, families split... Sombre but very interesting, both as an insight into the event itself and as a window into Chinese psyche.

We negotiated the metro back to the hostel and reflected over a beer before Sherree headed out to sample street food and get an early night and Ed, Bryan and I went to the University district to indulge in Mexican food at a lovely little restaurant, 'Behind the Wall', starring enchiladas, burritos, a couple of excellent guitar players, and a delicious (if large) jug of sangria. Then, out to a club nearby where Ed had a dancing contest with a very hairy Syrian man.

The next day, Bryan and I were up early to find a McDonalds breakfast to bring back to our dorm - we actually did quite a comprehensive walking tour of the city to achieve this as we needed to visit three different branches to find one both open and which served breakfast. Still, hangovers abated, we all jumped into a cab to Zijingshan (Purple Gold Mountain) on the outskirts of the city. It was SO nice to be surrounded by trees within 20 minutes of leaving the city!!! We took a slow and relaxing cable car to the summit where views down were hazy but wandering around was great fun regardless. Lots of young people and families were sitting along the path eating picnics, and all of them were very friendly to the laowai walking past! An odd highlight was finding an abandoned stone house with crumbling holes for windows and a bowed roof and flaky plaster covered in graffiti. We had a great time posing for pictures and (Ed) clambering onto the roof via a tree. 

We had sandwiches for lunch which just great. I've been craving a good M&S sandwich for weeks so although this wasn't quite up there with Wendslydale cheese and caramalised carrot chutney, real, brown bread baguettes with a variety of fillings - cheese, egg, salami, tuna - were close enough and delicious! Then it was, inevitably, Starbucks time. So, we walked the entire length of the city with barely time to sit and enjoy our drinks when we arrived before we took a taxi to the station for our 5 hour fast train back. All in all, good trip, good to get away from everything here for a short time, good to eat some comfort food from home, good to get out of the city into woods and mountains, and good to learn more about Chinese thinking and history!

Anna ... I'm feeling a little guilty at the moment. I don't know if you're aware of how many people are reading your diary pages at the moment but, along with others (Cindy and Harriette and some of my work colleagues amongst them), your diary is very much enjoyed. My guilt (minor, but existant nonetheless) is because I seldom bother to write any comment ... and therefore I realise that you have probably no idea whether or not your updates are being read. Well ... they are ... regularly ... and with great appreciation. Some mornings I'm sitting in my office here in dear old Hackney ... or at home on the Dogs ... whilst my mind is being whisked away to some far flung part of China. I'm a big fan ... particularly when you get into describing the food ... or, in this case, reminding me that I should perhaps seek out a Wendslydale cheese and caramalised chutney sandwich. Oh the pleasure of good literature. Hugs to you both x. p.s. I will think of you when I track down that sandwich.


What ... no more Diary of a Waiguoren ? ... I am already beginning to suffer withdrawal symptoms ! Is paper in short supply or has pen run out of ink ? Readers here are getting restless and there may be civil unrest if normal service is not soon resumed ! Hugs x


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