How a Month in China Changes You

Have you ever wondered what sand worms taste like?

They're DELICIOUS! Well, at least at the ones they serve at Xiamen, China of course, and no, sand worms don't taste like chicken at all.

As part of my mission to maximise experiences before my time in this brief existence runs out, with great hesitation and apprehension, I packed me bags and flew to China for a month-long volunteering project.

Now whenever I tell people that I'm volunteering in China, the picture that forms in mind is usually that of me teaching English to poor, underprivileged kids up in the mountains or something. Although some of the volunteers have indeed been sent to rural areas, I was placed at Xiamen, which is one of the more affluent places in China (apparently the most environmentally clean in the whole of China as well!)

Hence, sorry to disappoint you but I have no experience of sharing toilets with snakes or scorpians :P

So yeah! What have I been up to China?!

I made a clay vase that resembled lumps of excrements that come out of my dogs.

Blow art! You drop some ink onto paper and you literally blow to make the branches of the supposed signature willow tree you see in chinese water paintings.

The Streets:

Confession: That is actually not the kite I was flying, mine was a crappier one flying way too high up in the sky to be seen.

Great thing about China is that you really get a good mixture of the old and the new, the ancient and the modern. On one hand you've got the rapidly expanding cities like Shanghai that has all the characteristics of modernism  and on the other hand you've got these old rustic, almost elusive ancient buildings.

The Food:
In case you were wondering, that is sandworm jelly (that's what I call it). If I were to describe it, it's like chewing on hollowed out squid tentacles. It actually tastes surprisingly good! Though it's the salty type of jelly...

Chinese escargot anyone? A hassle to eat, really.

The Night:

Fantastic scenery at night. Our dorms were situated right beside this lake where the Xiamen-ese (?) people have their annual dragon boat race. Kinda like the boat races in Oxford and Cambridge. Except that the boat is shaped like a dragon. With a huge drum at the front. Also with rowing blades that looked more like glorified wooden spoons made for giants.

The letters on the pink sign read: "Mother said, if you buy something from this store, she will make me marry you!"

I swear I'm not lying. That's actually what the sign says ahahahah!

Chilling by the stairs of a very important person's memorial.

The Classes:

So we volunteers were supposed to come up with a lesson plan that introduces a particular state or country. I partnered with Rachel, who is half Scottish, so we chose to teach the class a little bit a bout Scotland and Ireland.

Which turned out like this...

Me     :HI! Can anyone tell me something about Scotland and Ireland?  :D
Class  :......
Me     :Uhh...okay. Has anyone HEARD of Scotland and Ireland?
Boy    :*shouts in mandarin* Oh I know! That's where people go to get circumsized right?!
Me     :*face palm*

The Island:

Part of the volunteering experience also involved cultural exchange programs. Basically, we would spend the morning teaching and the afternoon herding hordes of little kids around the local tourist attractions, including the BuLang Islands.

Never seen anyone catch a pigeon with their bare hands. Way to go Stephie!

The Science Museum:
They say everything is bigger in China. Well, they had a life-sized replica of the Chinese space shuttle!

Taikonaught: Houston, uhm, I mean Beijing, we have a problem. It seems like we forgot to bring the selfie stick to space.

Beijing        :That's it, abort mission.


Contemplating, contemplating...what else did I do...

Global Village:

Ah yes, we also organised this exhibition of many countries.

"Yah, seir gut! Deutschland! "

The Club:

What I did NOT expect in a club:

So I was there at the urinal doing my business, when this middle aged man placed a moist, warm towel on my shoulder and started caressing my shoulder.

WHILST I was peeing.

Naturally, I was startled, and then asked him if it was normal for people in China to get back rubs when urinating.

To which he replied : "Shhhh....just relax...let it happen..."


It was a good massage to be fair. Tipped him.

The Dragon Boat Race:

The lake from which we raced our boats!

The A Team that came first! We won!

Okay MAYBE there were only two boats competing.

But we were still first! Can't deny that :p

Speaking of dragons. Here's Vanessa's sketch of me. I personally find it very flattering.

Also, just because I'm multilingual, Latifah and I were invited to speak on air!

Can strike that out of my list of "things to do before death" now...

105.Talk on a radio broadcast.
106.Go to the cinema alone.
107.Bungee jump.

The Temple:

So apparently there was this Temple on a mountain that was a must see.

No not this.
Oh oh, this is a statue of the goddess GuanYin. If i'm not mistaken, GuanYin used to be man who turned himself into a woman, because this other woman fell in love with him/her. Interesting.

The trek up the mountain was akin to that taken by Frodo and Sam in The Lord of The Rings.

"Where in the world is that temple?!"

The view from the top was undeniably stunning though.

Oh, also, we found out that there was no "Great Temple on the Mountain". The goal was the journey up the mountain itself. Such wisdom.

The Circus:
Flashy lights, half naked performers and trained animals. Haven't been to a circus in ages.

We hit the massage parlour after that. Still wondering why they would allow me into the same room with the girls. Unless they thought I was...

Never mind.

The Market:

Raj here
"Du bu sonia eh" <- Supposed to mean "you're pretty" in Punjabi but I am certain that I've got it wrong. Sorry Raj :(

Pearls so original that the they're still in the Oyster.

Guess what they're selling here. Hint, it's not coconut juice!

It's jellyfish! Jellyfish pets for sale!

The Tulou:
Tulou, literally soil buildings, are where the Hakka people (my mother's ancestors) live.

So each of those round buildings are like 400 to 700 years old and they house a few families each. Because each building is differentiated via the family surname, I wonder if it's possible to trace back the exact building from which my mom's ancestors came from. Hmm....

Working that big wooden hammer. Beating that peanut pulp into...finer pulps. Absorbing the ancestry already.

Mmmm... I feel the ancientness flowing through my veins.


The surprising thing about the rural areas in China is that the people there still hold a high reverence towards Chairman Mao. I mean, you could easily still buy posters of Mao from the stalls along the streets.

A statue of Mao.
Another statue of Mao.

The Desert:
Because China is so big, there are bound to be places that would look completely unlike what you'd expect of China. For example, this particular mountainside riddled with boulders and cacti.

It looked more like the Mediterranean or the Middle East. Yup, The East looked more like the Middle East. Get it? Without the Middle? Hahaha...

No? Okay forget I said that....

Ancient mosque with arabic scriptures carved onto the walls. Bam! Middle East!  >:D


Because I had to wait 48 hours for my flight,  I thought it'd be a great idea to spend a night at Shanghai before I got back.

Beautiful lights!!

Also,with skyscrapers so tall that the top is literally clouded in, well, clouds. Featuring duck face me and lovely Anni.

The People:

The thing about the people there is that, they really love foreigners. I mean, never have I ever felt so appreciated as a human being in my life!

Amongst many other names like “学霸”  and “学神” i.e  "god of learning" (cos I'm multilingual), they also call me, wait for it, "男神" as seen in the picture, which literally means "male god".

I'm not even joking!

I mean I may happen to look like a certain Chinese actor-Jinboran who screened in a recent blockbuster movie called Monster Hunt (some pedestrians actually drop whatever they're doing to steal a glimpse of me, which I found...annoying, frankly speaking.)

Yup that's Jinboran in the middle caressing what seems to be a baby monster.

But yeah! I had great students. Here you can see Nessi at the back  and me reenacting a scene from Lion King.

Close enough.

Also, some bonus pictures taken and edited by some of the kids:

I actually kinda like this one.
Six shades of Henry.

And this is the scene when I got up the bus. Yup, kids asking for autographs.

Least we can strike that from the  "things to do before I die" list as well then...

145.Get asked by strangers for an autograph.
147.Climb Mount Everest.
148.Build a lightsaber.
149.Discover life on Mars.

Here's a clip of the scene hehe.

And this, is the pile of gifts I got from the kids...

Not to mention the many memes that was created of me...

I'm not sure if it would appropriate to translate these. It's nothing dirty. It will just make me sound like an obsessive narcissist. I may be a slight narcissist, but not up to that point, so I'll leave it as it is :)

I guess that about wraps up most of the stuff I've done in China! Took me long enough to finish this!

Much more content to talk about in the next post. Ie more life goals accomplished!

Stay tuned :)

This entry was posted on Wednesday, 16 September 2015 and is filed under ,. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

One Response to “How a Month in China Changes You”

  1. Hey Henry, I would love to know more about this volunteering programme, do you mind if I contact you on Facebook so that I can learn more about it from you? Thanks in advance.