Now that my enforced quarantine was over, I had a measly 7-hour train ride back to Shenzhen. I was due in at half eight or thereabouts in the evening, so although the tentative plan had been to get my stuff from storage and move me into a flat within a couple of days, that was not what happened at all. Due to the lateness of the hour, I just got a Didi (Chinese Uber) to a hotel that Jennifer had booked for me, which was a small box room without any windows. It was fine. Small but perfectly functional. It was only booked for a couple of days. It also turned out that getting a Didi was difficult for me at the moment, because people were just not accepting my calls for a ride. Which was a full pain in the rear end. I hadn’t actually ended up using the app to get to the hotel, even though the driver and I were both on Didi, because it didn’t seem to be working that well. Although it was a bit sketchy, nothing happened to me and I was fine, but it wasn’t something that I really wanted to repeat.
The next day, I met up with Icy, the Chinese English teacher at school who was there to replace Hannah who had left the school to move closer to her hometown. She told me that she had asked the parents if it was okay for me to be there and teach the children, and that they were waiting for the response and hopefully I would be able to teach by the Friday, which would be the day before Halloween and would be the day of the school’s Halloween party. I wanted to be back at school by then. I had wanted to be back at school by the 1st of September so I was nearly two months late already.
On Friday, I wasn’t able to go back to school either. Apparently, some of the parents were still nervous that I had coronavirus, despite my multiple tests, that I had given Icy, and all the medical records from my quarantine in Zhengzhou. On that Friday, I had waited for Icy to help me get a taxi, as I had tried at least twice to get a Didi and no one had been taking the requests, but she told me just to ask the hotel staff to get me a normal blue taxi instead. I had waited all day for her response which meant that my Friday had felt entirely wasted.
I won’t say that it was exclusively because of this feeling of having wasted a day that I got up at 4 in the morning to join in with various’ friends Halloween parties on England time, but it might have been a consideration. It was slightly hellish especially as there was quizzing and drinking involved. But I did engage in this foolhardiness, and only after I was done, did I brush my teeth and head out to get another coronavirus test in Shenzhen, because, obviously, anything done outside of Shenzhen cannot be trusted at all.
It was a highly stressful day. It was not helped by the fact that I managed to forget my portable charger, so I had no way to charge my battery poor phone. My phone’s battery is a pile of shite, and I am not exaggerating. I need to charge it at lunchtime veery day and if I want to use it in the evening, I need to be charging it then as well.
I couldn’t get around in China without my phone. I need it for translation purposes, for paying for things. Pretty much for everything. People talk about how we’re addicted to our phones nowadays, and that is no different here in China, if not worse. So, I already started the day stressed, because I realized on the taxi ride to the hospital that I didn’t have my charger.
On arrival at the hospital, I asked multiple people where I needed to go for a Covid-19 test, and no one actually knew. I ended up asking someone, who may not even have been a nurse, because she knew as much about the hospital as I did, to talk to Icy over the phone (my phone), so she could explain what was going on. They had a conversation and this lovely lady then took me around the hospital, trying to find the right place.
Eventually we did find it, and they were shutting for lunch. A two-hour lunch break. Which was great. All I needed to do was fritter away two hours of my time. Except that I had no way to do so, as my book, my podcasts, any way of entertaining myself was on my phone and it was already getting low and wouldn’t last two hours of entertainment. I went and found a cheap restaurant, which did a very nice soup and did something I haven’t done in literal years. I entertained myself, with my. own. mind.
Time traveled very slowly. I’d turned my phone off as soon as I figured out what food I was ordering and I wasn’t going to turn it on until I had to pay. So, I took one of my book ideas and noodled with it in my head. I wrote several scenes, except I had nothing to write with so now they are most likely all forgotten with very little staying in my head, and I watched my watch tick by so very slowly.
By some miracle I actually managed it, and not only that but when I got back to the testing site, my lovely lady from before had arranged for a nurse to look after me here and take me through all the steps as my own personal assistant, which I sorely needed. Finally, one gagging incident later, it was all over. After I called Icy and she spoke to the nurse, and determined I had to come back the next day for my results, which was a bit of a pain, but I could at least bring my charger this time and not be so panicked about the whole thing. If I had been Chinese, I could have got the result on my phone, but no such luck, of course. Being a foreigner always makes things more difficult.
Then came the exciting part of my day, that also probably would have terrified my mother if she’d have known about it. Outside the hospital they had electric bike taxis. It was the first time I’d seen them, and since my Didi wasn’t working, I couldn’t get a car taxi to take me. It took the guy who got my custom a long time to work out where it was that I wanted to go, but eventually, he and about three of his bike taxi buddies worked it out, told me it was free and off we went. It was a lot of fun and now I want an e-bike, much to Mother’s chagrin. She thinks I will be killed if I have one. I think I’m more likely to die after being hit by one while I’m walking around. Regardless of our little disagreement, I got back to my hotel room in just over half an hour rather than the 2 hours plus it would have taken me to walk back which was my only other option at that point.
I wasn’t entirely comfortable on the back of the bike, as evidenced by the stiffness my fingers from hanging on to the seat in front of me, but I was able to look around while the driver was pootling through the city. I saw a lovely park and even better, I saw an actual bank for my bank – Bank of Communications. This is very exciting as these are the people that I need to talk to so that I can transfer money to my English bank account and pay my bills that are still ongoing while I am out here.
The next day I got another taxi to the hospital and picked up my results within about half an hour. It was super easy, which I was not prepared for, judging by everything else that I have done since arriving here and living here the second time.
This time, because I had my charger and an abundance of time, and a windowless hotel room waiting for me, I decided to walk back and take the two hours to get back to said hotel room. It was a lovely warm day, and I wanted to explore the park and the river that I had seen the day before on the back of the e-bike.
It was fantastic, and I really enjoyed it, although I did get a tiny bit sunburned, just on my face. It was warm and sunny, and while I got really tired from it, because I was not yet used to walking so much each day, I truly enjoyed my day. I found another cheap little restaurant for lunch and generally had a lovely time. The photos interspersed throughout this piece are from that day.
With all that done, I was finally allowed back to school on Monday which was great, although it wasn’t the last of it. It was strange though, my first day back at school. When I saw the students I had taught, they just looked at me in confusion. There was only one class that recognized me, and it wasn’t even my class! It was a class that Sean had taught last year, but hadn’t graduated because they were too young to go to school yet. After a few days though, all the kids warmed up and began to remember me, which was so lovely, and I really began to remember why I wanted to come back to China, despite all the difficulty getting here. This was what made it worth it.
The next weekend, I had to go to hospital with Icy for no reason – the school doctor had told us we needed to do some sort of test, but then the doctor who did that sort of test wasn’t there at the weekend.
I was still in the hotel room which was ridiculously humid, to the point that it broke my phone. I couldn’t charge my phone for 2 days and then the only way that I could charge it was through a wireless charger, which was very slow. I thought my phone was permanently broken, but once I finally got into my flat, which took three viewings and several missed school meals, I finally got a nice one, with a western toilet, no random holes in windows or walls, and a table to dine at, and type up blog posts at (literally my only criteria), and my stuff was finally delivered to me from storage, my phone started working again. The battery is still rubbish, but it does at least charge with a cable again, which to be honest is all I need. I still have nearly a year left on contract with this phone, and I don’t want to have to fork out for another one yet.
Icy and I also went to yet another hospital to get this random health test and this time around, they took blood from the back of my right hand. It didn’t go all that well, as my vein started blowing up in a very disturbing way. It looked like I had a pea in the back of my hand, and when I pointed this out to the nurse, she told me off and told me to put pressure on it. It still bruised massively and hurt quite a lot, but by this point the Chinese government have taken so much of my blood, I’m starting to wonder if they are actually vampires and just use needing medical tests as an excuse. It would also explain their aversion to the sun, and Icy’s need to constantly check that I’m not going to burn when I go out in the sun. I may be pale, but I’m not actually a ginger!
At the hospital (the 4th I’ve been to since October, and my 5th hospital trip), I was able to correct someone’s stereotype for the first time. The blood sucking nurse didn’t think I could be British, because I wasn’t blonde. and while blondes may have more fun (yes, I see the hypocrisy and I don’t care), I would not look good as a blonde.
So yeah, my first few weeks outside of quarantine weren’t exactly easy or fun, but they were eventful. and now I just have to make friends, because, while I was doing the flat viewings, I was told that there won’t be any more English teachers coming to this part of town. So that’s going to be fun.