It didn't take long to get well acquainted with the other foreign teachers. We were working with each other in the day, and going to the outdoor BBQ or other cafes or bars in the night. A right bunch of characters. It was nice getting to know my way around Dongguan as well.
The teachers usually had Mondays off as well as another random weekday so we often all met up and went somewhere. The first little outing was to a different district called Guancheng. Superb place with a 'pet street'. Pet sreet was what how it was named. A row of shops selling all kinds of normal pets such as dogs, cats, fish, mice, gerbils and the more strange ones like chickens and ducks.
Obviously some of us had to purchase some. Zak got a dog, cute as could be, and old Robert and Rodge picked up a duck and a chicken. Classic. Carrying around a duck. Highlight of the day was the 30stone+ Adam doing the splits in front of a bewildered Chinese family.
I wasn't enjoying my living situation at the time. Matt was alright but just mouthed off on how shit the world was the whole time. There's no good in that. He would sit at the back of the office not talking to anyone or getting involved. My bedroom had no air conditioning or bed sheets so was getting pretty sweaty and all my newly earned cash was going towards getting smashed up. I had no laptop and the TV didn't work so staying in was pointless.
So, every night was spent on bar street with Nikki and anyone else who wanted to join. My haunt was 'Hollywood baby'. Yes. What a venue for absolute naughtiness. The Filipino band were really sound guys and decent musicians. The girls working there were fit as it gets and always up for a proper laugh. In between the bands set they would dance on the bar and there, literally anything thing goes. It was what the owners and manager wanted. The more playing up the better. The manager there was, and is, Tom, a German who is in love with a ladyboy in Thailand yet has to settle for a little Chinese stunner due to visa complications. A thoroughly top bloke. So socially things were ticking along smoothly.
At the same time classes were going great. The Chinese are very welcoming and oh so friendly. If you’re new and a positive one like most of us were, they would treat you to lovely dinners after class and take you to KTV. A very popular activity that is taken place in a karaoke room with a microphone, music video, snacks, plentiful booze, the dice game and fruit. I later learned that this was KTV for the kids. The 'real' businessman’s KTV was the same set-up but with real fit whores added into the mix. The mirrors on the walls and ceilings were the giveaway really.
Classes with the adults are a right giggle. You teach them and get them talking. They say some classic lines. 'I was as busy as a beef today'. A beef? And toes as 'foot fingers'. Basically, a constant laugh. All of them want to know 'Do you like Chinese girls?'
Kids classes were great there as well. 10 kids in your class. They live and study so hard at their school during the week then have to study English on the weekends. Of course they're nightmares. You had teachers almost having breakdowns, shouting at them and crying and that. Funny shit. The parents were so keen that they would peer through the window on the door throughout the class.
Dongguan, the city, is a developing city. New shops and departments stores, bars and restaurants opening all the time. The price of property is low, and is rising all the time. It's a high city. Not quite like Hong Kong, but still high. Most apartment complexes reach twenty four storeys. At night it gets illuminated and in the day it's overshadowed by a thick grey cloud that is there as a result of serious pollution. Over 120,000 factories in Dongguan. Imagine the smog. When we went swimming in the summer and sunbathed outside no one would get a tan. You can't. The sun can't break through the blanket of smoke. Amazing.
Western influence is heavily evident with the fashion and bars and restaurants that are still opening each month. Women wearing tiny tiny skirts like belts and strutting about, only doing this because of seeing pictures in magazines or on the internet as a response to the western celebrities. The streets are not clean here. If you’re wearing sandals you must dodge the spit and the bodily relief that is showered on the ground in abundance. And the smell. Tofu. Fried tofu. Not so pleasant to the old nasal senses. Vendors on the street sell a ton of this stuff every day. As well as Offal, duck neck (which is good), feet of chickens and heads of ducks.
We had the summer fun. Wesley referred to it as 'summer fuck'. A 6 day teaching week where we would have the same kids every day except a weekend day for a couple of months. It was lovely as you really get to know the kids. On the other hand it's draining. Especially when you’re working for next to nothing. You would arrive at work dripping in sweat and sometimes, to our lack of surprise, the air conditioning wasn't working. Just get on with it. Think of 12 crazy little 5 year olds in a classroom sauna racing about and you have to teach them 'foods'. 'Egg', 'Egg', 'Egg'. Good. Tiring but much fun and very worth it. It truly is a rewarding job. And you can treat kids like kids.
In the evening we would continue the madness of the day in a different way with trips 'by the river', involving the oldest profession at a very low fee. The lowest fee was a competition to acclaim. Four English Pounds sterling was the ultimate winner. Also, very frequent visits to bar street were participated in.
We all gelled like glue and continued our little fun times. Around October time after the intense summer, there was a beer festival in town. A Chinese 'Oktoberfest'. New arrivals included a classic Northern bloke who actually knows a few people I do in England, Leigh. A big footy fan and great teacher. Also a nightmare when pissed. Throwing chairs, nuts and that. Also, the Gav. Thoroughly top bloke. Real as it comes with a thirst for martial arts, the lash and Asian women. Spent five years training in Malaysia, now making his mark in this great country. It was the beerfest that became an actual riot.
Now the Chinese are all up for a good laugh. However, nakedness in public is not one of them. We all went to the festival pretty tanked up. Leigh and oneself ended up on the unoccupied stage, dancing. That turned into semi stripping. It sparked chairs, bottles, tables and anything else they could get their hands on thrown at our sorry western group of teachers. Gav got hit on he back of the head with a bottle, some of the other teachers took a table blow but luckily we all escaped mostly unharmed. We retreated in the dark, out of the madness that had taken over the whole marquee and taxied to bar street. The night continued. It could have been worse. We were riding our luck and we knew it. Things had to calm. There were hundreds of people in that huge tent, and they were all getting involved with the hurling of anything that was near them.
It was all really starting to happen. I was enjoying the nightlife, the friends being made, the local Chinese citizens and the job. I had began to experience the food, women, tea, filth, lack of manners, no knowledge of queuing and the surrounding madness.
When Matt's tom-cat began to piss on my clothes, suitcase and anything I owned, I realised it was time for a change. I had to get out. And I would.