I actually took two trips to Nanjing, one of which was a school organized trip in the middle of our 15 day teaching marathon. It would be the only day away from the kids that we would have. In spite of it being our only day off we rose at 6:30 and had breakfast at 7. Soon after which we all piled into the school bus and headed off on the two hour ride to Nanjing. On the way I was reading aloud facts from the lonely planet… telling the gang that Nanjing was the original capital of the 'republic’, it had the best preserved city wall in China and how it was abandoned by the Chinese army to be massacred by the Japs in the late 1930s
. The weather, which started ok, turned dire as we approached the city and it was lashing rain as we arrived to the Mausoleum of Sun Yat-sen (the first president of the ‘republic’). In spite of the rain we were damned if we were going to miss the most famous Nanjing attraction. A few of us who were ill-equipped for the whether, invested in lovely matching ponchos before marching up the 400 odd steps to the tomb. In spite of the rain the place was fairly busy, teeming with Chinese tourists. Inside the tomb there was a well guarded statue and a sign obliging all visitors to salute to the stone, most of us passed on the salute. We regrouped at the bottom of the steps for a group shot before heading for lunch in one of the restaurants nearby. With soggy wet socks everybody was a little bit grumpy at that stage. After lunch we were ferried into the tourist center of Nanjing where were given a few hours free time to explore. Like any other tourist area of China it was an entirely superficial area of old style buildings which were no doubt no older than I. At least the weather improved and it was nice to stroll around with a few of the gang. The stares from the national tourists made us feel a bit like circus freaks and every now and then we would be stopped and asked to take a photo with some stranger. Before long it was time to pile back into the bus and head back to Yangzhou. It was not the most exciting of days but nonetheless a very welcome break from teaching
My second trip to Nanjing came after the summer camp ended
. As it turned out getting to Beijing from Yangzhou would not be possible since the trains were swamped with the summer holidaying Chinese tourists. Michael, the Kenyan lad I had been hanging out with, invited me to his place in Nanjing and chill for a few days. He lived a little bit outside the city near the aeronautical college where he studied. He lived in this apartment building which seemed to be entirely occupied by African students and since it was the summer there didn’t seem to be anyone else around campus. In his flat there were 8 guys, all African, living there and luckily one who was gone home giving me a bed to sleep in. So we spent two days chilling in the area. Every time we went out we would stroll around at a pace that was hilariously slow. We kept meeting large gangs of his fellow African friends and I have to say I felt very weird being the one white boy sticking out like a sore thumb. The lads would all great each other with ‘wass up dogg’, high fives, knuckle touches and handshakes and do the same to me, although I could never pull it off with the same level of coolness. We did head out in the city one night to an expat bar which was the only other place in Nanjing where I saw any other non-Chinese people. When leaving Nanjing I managed to, only by a few minutes, miss my onward train to Qingdao. Highly pissed I went to the ticket sales desk showing them my ticket as I figured it would be to only way of communicating to them where I wanted to go. To my amazement the lady explained in perfect English how it was no problem and I could exchange the ticket for one on the next train at no cost, although I did have to pay for an upgrade to first class where there was an available seat.
Here is where the blog entries get a lot shorter, since, well I'm writing them now 4 months down the line.