I like to exercise regularly and today I went to a gym with my friend. The Chinese put us to shame when it comes to health. Chinese children are tested on physical fitness – and the level they are expected to reach is higher than I’ve managed in my life!
You can tell that sport is important here – the school uniforms are tracksuits! The colour of the stripe on the white background determines the school, and the school name is written across the shoulders and down the arms. Boys and girls wear the same. Each year students are tested in all subjects, including physical fitness. Passing this test includes doing 40 sit-ups in a minute – that’s every student managing 2 full sit-ups, hands on head, every 3 seconds! Chinese have a particularly long life span, but that’s not just down to fitness level. Tai Chi has been shown to have health benefits (everyone should do it!) and not only is Chinese food delicious – it is also very good for you.
Yesterday I went to another nightclub. My favourite type of workout! I met lots of Westerners that are in China for various reasons – tourists, teachers, or businessmen. There are very few female westerners though – and never alone with Chinese. It was an enjoyable evening because I don’t get a chance to speak with fellow Westerners.
I wouldn’t say I miss the West though. I have not been here long enough for that. I am having too much of an adventure to wish for familiarity! However, you still need contact with it. In my first week it was vital to speak with home – I’d have been driven mad otherwise. It was an absolute nightmare to buy the phonecard…then dial in all the numbers correctly…and time the call so that they would actually be awake! When I finally got through the card only lasted long enough to give my number to call back. International calls are expensive!
After my first week, I didn’t even have a landline for people to call. I was also much more active, so when would people catch me? Beijing is 8 hours ahead of the UK – so when most people are free (in the evenings) it’s the middle of the night over here! I did have a mobile – but paying for regular international calls to a mobile? People don’t love me that much!
My friend gave me a special number that she used when she was in the UK. This makes calls to China much cheaper. Today is Sunday, and every Sunday evening I get a call while it is daytime in the UK. After a first few nervous calls, we realised that even to a mobile, the cost of the call was only 2p/min! Every week we chat for hours. It’s a great reminder of the world I’d otherwise forget.
I love that wherever I am, my mobile is an effective contact with the other side of the world. I was just minding my own business in the supermarket once when I got a call and started chatting about family news! Later, I travelled for 15 hours and a thousand miles to face a completely new and different environment in Shanghai. As I walked down the streets, staring at these amazing unfamiliar sights, I was casually talking to a familiar voice! Even on a mobile phone, over an immense distance that’s almost literally the direct opposite side of the world, we can still always hear each other as clear as a bell. Isn’t technology amazing?