10 Best Memories of China

Since I got back from China, I've been making an effort to catch up with people and hear about the things that I probably would've known if it wasn't for my year of minimal Facebook exposure.

In the midst of conversation: "Oh yeah no, I totally knew you were in a relationship."
Internal thought process: "Go home and stalk X person's Facebook/blog to find out name of person they're dating, how they started dating and when they started dating, so I don't look like a shit friend."

Everyone's been super nice and patient with me though so here's a massive shout-out to you all for being fabulous human beings. As I said in my last post, I appreciate the fact that people ask and show interest in my year abroad, even if it's just out of politeness. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at answering the "How's China?" question when put on the spot. My brain kind of does this thing where it short circuits from trying to condense a whole year's worth of memories and experiences into a semi-intelligible, sophisticated response. The result being I'll end up saying something stupidly mundane like "Oh the air pollution wasn't as bad as I thought it'll be". Riveting stuff, I know. 

Anyway, I thought I'd write this post to better sum up the year that I had. The great thing about a list is that it forces me to be selective about my memories, ergo no waffling on about the mundane crap no one wants to hear about. And you can choose to tune out anytime you feel bored. Woohoo!

Quick Note: These are not in any particular order. I just randomly chose the top 10 things that stood out to me the most from the experience.

10 Best Memories of China

1. Celebrating Christmas at the dorms

Spot the Australians, Canadians, Swede, Finn, Koreans, Japanese, French, Italian...

To be honest, it wouldn't have really mattered how we celebrated, as long as we did it together. In saying that, I don't know how it could've worked out any better. For Christmas, our international squad family ordered the same ugly sweater for a cheesy photo. We also did Secret Santa with a 50 kuai ($10) budget and made an event out of cooking together in the communal kitchens. Seeing that my culinary skills are... somewhat limited, I chose to make vegetable fritters in the mistaken belief that there'd be no way I could screw up grating vegetables and frying them.

Okay so I totally burnt them but whatever, PEOPLE STILL ATE THEM ALL.

After dinner, we all piled into Nicole's room for Secret Santa - no easy feat by the way seeing as how there were like 20 of us and her room's something like 4m x 8m. I loved that her room became the default hangout space. I guess that's what happens when you're the only one with Christmas lights and a tree.

All in all, it was a simple, cozy affair made all the better by the fact that we got to spend it together.

2. Hangzhou's West Lake

So this one isn't really a single memory but I felt like it wouldn't be right to have a top 10 list without at least mentioning Hangzhou's most beautiful attraction.

I love the lake. I love that it was different every season and that it was surrounded by amazing gardens and pagodas on many sides. Many fond memories were made here. I came here with friends in semester 1 and 2, I came here when I needed time alone to think and I came here with my family when they came to visit in September.

3. My Ebike 

Yes, I gave it eyes. Totally not lame.
Granted, it wasn't very fast and the battery gauge lied (hence multiple instances of me almost getting stranded in the middle of nowhere), but it was mine and it got me where I wanted to go. Hangzhou traffic is terrible - worse than Sydney's. But those who have an ebike are able to use the bike lanes and therefore bypass all of the disgusting congestion. It also means you only have to worry about cars when turning or crossing the road. Technically, my model of ebike wasn't really legal (it's supposed to be more more powerful and faster than the standard ebike), but as a foreigner you can kind of get away with anything in China.

I sold my baby before I left to go home but I trust that his new owner will take good care of him :')

4. Xi'an

Somewhere in the middle of second semester, I took a trip to Xi'an with a couple of friends. Although Xi'an wasn't the most spectacular city I've been to in China, I remember this trip fondly because the company was good and it was one of the more relaxing holidays.

For me, food > sites of great historical significance. So while the Terracotta Warriors were impressive, the highlight for me was the Muslim Quarter. The Muslim Quarter is basically a series of blocks near the drum tower that used to be where the Muslim community of Xi'an lived. Today it is still that but has become one of the most famous food areas of the city. We basically spent an entire evening wandering around, trying foods such as meat kebabs, 羊肉泡馍 (mutton soup with pieces of shredded bread) and specially baked breads seasoned with cumin. Cue Xi'an food montage:

Meat kebabs flavoured with cumin and other spices
Hand-stretched noodles known as biangbiangmian (named after the sound they make when stretched)
Oven baked bread flavoured with various seasonings
Mutton soup with bread pieces - tastes a lot better than it looks. We had to shred the bread ourselves. The waitress kept coming over to tell us we weren't doing it properly as the pieces were too big. This is why I don't cook my own food. 
5. Nine Bar Parties

Every university or college has its local watering hole for students looking to get drunk on a budget. 9 Bar was the place for students at our campus. You could get a long island for 20 kuai here ($4) and tequila shots for 5 kuai ($1). Yes the alcohol was not the best and probably cut with dodgy substances but hey, this is China and that happens everywhere. You just have to accept that your body will suffer in this country so to deal with that fact, you should just keep yourself in a constant state of intoxication #lifeadvicefromCynthia

Celine's birthday party at 9 Bar - she booked out the place for the event

All the best student parties were at 9 Bar, mainly because everyone on campus would be there at the same time. 9 Bar was also famous for the calibre of the pool players who were there, which is why I got so into the game during the year.

Special mention to H-Linx as well, the club that was usually where the after party would migrate to after 9 Bar. Haha, hate it or love it, you would end up at linx either way.


This list is getting too long so for a continuation of my 10 best memories of China, please click here

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