Some photos from the first few days…

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Pre-term update

Hi all!

Everything is ok. Panicked a bit when I missed alarm in the hostel yesterday as Will had already left, but arranged a lift to get to uni. I’ve moved (temporarily) Into an old room, where the plug sockets don’t work and the shower is off the wall. I am, however, using that as a bargaining chip to get into a new room this morning (I hope!), then I can go get internet installed. I hope they stick to their word on that, as I’m just using a coffee shop’s wi-fi for now.

I’ve joined a gym with a really cool American guy called Brent, which only cost £200 for the year’s membership. The gym is awesome: everything is free with membership card (indoor golf range, snooker table, spinning room, classes, yoga, CV machines and weights), and we are both very keen to use it 3/4 times a week. £200 for a year isn’t bad…

A few other things of note that mum asked me about, so you may be interested too:

  • Language – is fine. I’ve been put into C-class, same as Will. I’m finding they speak really fast, but if I keep calm and ask them to slow down, they generally do. I can express myself, if not very fluently.
  • Food – first night we stuck with Pizza Hut but yesterday I tried a street market stall where it was like a traditional Chinese-style thick pancake almost… Lovely. The student canteens are pretty cheap too, and you can get noodles, dumplings, rice, etc. Once I can get room and internet sorted I’ll be happier, as that’ll be all the major expenses dealt with I reckon.
  • Weather – hot hot hot. It’s humid and you almost have to shower twice a day! Our rooms are on the 6th floor, so lots of stairs, but it’s nice. Sun is out today so it’s really warm in the sun. In the shade it’s bearable… Shengjie says in about October it cools to 25ish-Celsius, which will be really comfortable.

My back injury has morphed into more of a side strain, but I think my bags are all moved and upstairs now, so I’ll rest today & tomorrow then hopefully get into gym.

The beard isn’t progressing so well! (N.B! I had a bet with dad – will I grow a beard, or will he be 13 stone by the time I get back? Who’s your money on?!)

That’s just about it for now. Classes start Monday – I’ve got language work 7:40-9:20 and 9:45-11:25, then it’s free from there. I’ve signed up for Calligraphy (2 afternoons per week in October) and Martial Arts (2 afternoons per week in November). Shengjie says the atmosphere in class is very relaxed for foreigners, as long as you turn up and do the basic work!

Hope to get internet sorted in my room so I can reply sooner from then on! Check my Photo Album page for a photo from each day!

Speak soon 🙂

Arrival and Day One

I made it! After a long day flying, I’ve arrived in Haikou and have now spent my first full day in China.

The flights were pretty smooth, aside from a slight delay on the last one, but I found it pretty tough – after the long, second flight to Guangzhou, it sunk in that it was all real! I guess that’s tiredness and it all being so new though; a good night’s sleep and I woke up and “chose my attitude” (Cronin, 2013) today. Also, on the last connection I met a family who lived really near the uni, and they offered to give me a lift from the airport (good job they did too, as it’s hard to find, and the Chinese receptionist didn’t seem to understand that a student visa doesn’t have a set number of days, as you have to swap it for a residence permit). Without “my big sister” (as she called herself), I may not have had my room here for the night!

Setting up for the year

Today I’ve been out and about: exploring, getting my bearings. and generally getting set up. I had breakfast at the hostel (hadn’t eaten anything but a cereal bar since 4pm yesterday), and went with Will to get a phone sorted. Bizarrely, I got an offer: buy a phone for £60, get a free kettle.

Hainan is hot and humid, but it’s just another thing to get used to I reckon. So I need to figure out the shopping situation, and go to the uni tomorrow to register and hopefully get moved into accommodation.

Later, I’m off to meet Will and a few French people he’s already friendly with. This should be great, as obviously the sooner I can mix in, the better. Think I’ll get a light bite to eat tonight at the hostel, and a fairly early one to bed.

Tomorrow and beyond

Tomorrow should be pretty busy I think. I’m hopefully going to move into uni accommodation, and need to sort out the remainder of my list. Once I’ve moved in, getting a few more shopping bits and bobs could be useful, and then looking up gyms to join. Apparently the uni has one, but without cardio equipment (not much use). Will and I are due to meet Shengjie after registering, whom we know from Newcastle, for a catch-up – look forward to that! [Ed.: He says he can recommend a gym near the East Gate of the uni, so I’ll check that out tomorrow too.]

I’ll sign off for now, and speak soon!

Time to go!!!

I’m almost ready to go now and the last couple of days, although hectic, have been amazing. They have made me realise how much support there is out there, from such a wide range of people.

I can’t mention everything at this juncture, but particular things that stand out are all the cards I’ve received, the evening with the rowing ladies, and the Saturday morning ritual followed by a visit to the grandparents.

Cards galore

To everyone who has written words of support, I’m really grateful – all cards are packed, with a big pack of Blutack. They will cover my walls, providing decoration and strength when I need it most!

Rowing ladies

I remember it vividly – the day the PODS (Parents of Durham School) rowing club was born… Wansbeck LDS, October 2009. Since then, they’ve won regattas and as Lesley has told me, they’ve been unbeaten for the last two years. It’s been great to coach them from the beginning, and we got the chance to get out once more last night, before heading out for a pizza. Again, all the support and encouragement is fantastic; it was nice that so many could make it for the meal, and I look forward to seeing photos of trophies and medals over the next year! As Suzanne so wisely says: ‘Choose your attitude’… My mantra for the year 🙂

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Saturday morning ritual

Early gym session, coffee and toast, a crossword… My Saturday mornings, more often than not with Stu. It’s a ritual which keeps me sane and healthy, and it’s one which has been the provider of great banter, great coffee, and not so great crosswording! Today was no different! On another note, I’ve acquired vast quantities of wine-making kit, which are duly stored, and you can all expect a taste when I return…


What can I say? The best grandparents, uncles and family members in the world!! I’ll miss the endless tuition on the tablet, the afternoon teas, the matchday complaints about the loud music, the gardening into the darkness of night. But we’ll keep in touch, and it’ll not be long till I’m back!

Have a great year to all of you 🙂 祝你们一切顺利!

The excitement builds…

I’ve now got a real sense of excitement, anticipation, trepidation… The butterflies are there, stronger than ever. I can’t keep my mind off it. I’m constantly thinking through every single scenario in my head, trying to anticipate all possible outcomes and stumbling blocks.

Nope, it’s not the fact that I’m off to China in 8 days – another rollercoaster season following Sunderland Football Club starts tomorrow.

Pre-season is over, and the numerous new signings have had time to gel; my fantasy team* has been selected and tinkered with (on at least ten occasions); the season cards are on the hall table, ready to go, and my shirt has been brought out of its summer hibernation… This year, I’ve got a somewhat different sensation though, given that tomorrow will be both my first and final game of the season. No pressure, but I’m really hoping to see a Sunderland home victory in 2013-14 – though it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve gone without 😉

The Man Zone

In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to put on a few pounds before I go. I’m well aware that every time I’ve gone away previously, I’ve come back at least half a stone lighter, and what I certainly don’t want is to come back after a year in China to find myself touching 8 stone.

So, along with eating copious quantities of cheesecake, curry and pasta, I’ve been both climbing and doing some weights. I’ve ventured into The Man Zone at the gym (you know, the free-weights area where your biceps and testosterone levels have to pass certain thresholds to be accepted?), and it’s had a sum-total effect of absolutely zero. In fact, my back and left hamstring have even come out in sympathy with some stupid niggly injuries. Someone’s trying to tell me something, I’m sure… Maybe I’ll stick to being a spindly treadmill-monkey instead.


Organised and packed. Hair cut. Hostel booked for my first two nights. Ready and raring to go (well, as much as I’ll ever be).

I’ve even got a few things starting to appear on my list of things to do after I’m back, just for when things get pretty desperate! Maybe I’ll find a homebrew kit in China and make that one a year abroad project instead, after being inspired by my cousin’s batch of Durham-brewed bitter. Or maybe I won’t…

Just an entertaining link to sign off with here:

Based on the above, I’ll say good luck to all my friends heading to China. We may need it!

* Registered at – my league codes are 61441-34618 and 61441-60673 if you’re on it!

Keeping in touch with reality…

Ben's Christening with (L-R) Granda, Sophie, Auntie Sheila and Grandma

Ben’s Christening with (L-R) Granda, Sophie, Auntie Sheila and Grandma

Over the last week or two, I’ve been getting through a pretty long list of things I need to purchase, organise, and do before I go to China. On this list was to buy a new laptop.

I eventually decided against this, as mine is only two years old and works fine. So instead, I set about adding some memory to make it run faster. On further inspection and some consultation with a computer expert, I found that I didn’t need it. A tip from him though: the Microsoft Defragmenting facility is not effective at all. A cunning ploy by the computer giant, I feel… They make their system repair tools inefficient, so we think that our computers aren’t working and decide to buy a new one from them.

Aha! This Pedant was not to be defeated so easily! A quick search revealed a great third-party tool for effective defragmentation, and my computer is now running as smoothly as Ashbrooke’s bowling green when I’m in full flow…

Realised I came dressed as a badminton court!

Realised I came dressed as a badminton court!

Keep Calm and Carry On

Next on my list was figuring out how I will remain sane in Haikou. I have found a marathon race in Danzhou during December, which could potentially be an interesting goal to break up the year a little. Following on from that, I have sent an email to the university enquiring about the running club and sports facilities, from which I’ve learned that they have a running track and a gym, and there are many trails around the city. Good… That’s something to think about!

Other than that, I plan on taking some coffee bags (new discovery – like tea bags, but with filter coffee in there!) and my new-found toy, the ukulele. I will also keep in touch with the football season through Sunderland’s new free online video service, SAFSee, and through playing Fantasy Premier League, about which I’m being very nerdy and scientific this year (colourful spreadsheet duly made; ask me for league codes if you play)!

So that’s about all my news for now. Apologies for it being a bit of a boring post – climbing, curry and unicycling updates to follow later in the week, along with my progress in all things China!