The last few weeks in Shenzhen were…. actually rather enjoyable. Refusing to allow the only activities on offer in this Godforsaken city roll us out chubbier, defeated and a little bit dead inside, we decided to look beyond the 8 month routine of shopping, eating and drinking.
The first excitement came in the form of a Hip Hop Festival . Yes you read that correctly, a hip hop festival. In Shenzhen. After a long trek on the metro up to the outer regions of Shenzhen, we arrived in what could be termed an art district. Tucked behind streets swamped with outdoor local restaurants of the kind where you sit on a plastic stool and drink a warm beer, was a cobble stone street decorated with modern-art sculptures. Up from the uneven surface rose buildings that resembled disused factories. Inside, cafes and boutiques had staged an occupation and were frequented by Chinese people dressed with the freshness seen more frequently on the other side of the border. There was a real mix of characters at the festival and I could not fathom where they had been hiding all year, it was like a cross-section of London all under one roof. The performance of the night came from 2 beat boxing Chinese high schoolers followed by a ring of break dancers that broke into a mass free for all groove on stage.
The following weekend we attended a beach party. We chilled out on the beach during the day, attending various activities such as a rap improvisation workshop led, ironically, by a control freak. When night fell, the party began. The beach shack was filled with happy party goers shaking to the rhythms of talented Djs. I practised my French over a barbecue with a group of people from various African countries who currently reside and study in Guangzhou before bedding down in a tent on the beach. As idyllic as it sounds, it was not the most comfortable night of my life. In the middle of the night it started to rain. It wasn’t the gentle pitter patter of raindrops on canvas that informed me of the change in the weather but rather my increasingly moist face which was pressed up against the side of the tent. I tried to move but the first obstacle I faced was the mound of sand beneath the groundsheet which had created a concave hump in my spine. Once I had unattached myself the next obstacle was Leslie who, due to our tent being pitched on a slope, had made me her little spoon for the night. Faced with these insurmountable challenges I decided to just accept the wet face and enjoy the sounds of the sea lapping the shore as day broke. It could have been worse, I could have been in the shack.
The following weekend we took a trip up to the botanical gardens. Braving the humidity and nearly losing an eye to the umbrella of a Chinese man hiding from the sun, we made it to the lake where we sat and enjoyed a civilised picnic under a tree. We enjoyed bread, crisps, beers and after months of neglect, Isla’s gym card finally got some use as our makeshift cheese knife. We revisited our childhood by playing classic games such as Grandmother’s Footsteps, What’s the time Mr Wolf?, and cartwheeling much to the amusement of the large crowd of Chinese spectators that had paused to watch the antics of these crazy wai guo ren.
I then had a last week of what I would loosely call teaching. My lessons involved playing games, taking photos and watching a ridiculous amount of Mr Bean. I bid farewell to my private classes and received a beautiful decorative box and bracelet from one of my adult students and had a sad final dinner with my adopted Chinese family who, through their kindness, have changed my opinion of their entire nation and have achieved the impossible in giving me an appetite for Chinese food! After my final class the whole family came home and presented me with a porcelain Gong Fu Tea set in a decorative wooden and leather box to bid farewell to the Lao Shi.
After what has been the one of the most mentally and emotionally challenging years of my life, I can say with immense pride that….I Did It! Several times I prepared myself to quit but the love and support of my family, old friends and my Shenzhen British Council family gave me the strength I needed to persevere. So family and friends, thank you. And to the wanderers, thank you for reading.