When a guy walks you home

Last year when I lived in China, I met a lot of African friends, the university I attended gave a lot of scholarships to students from Cameroon, Tanzania, Ghana, South Sudan amongst other developing countries, like Ukraine, Albania and Egypt.

I spent half the year in dormitories on campus, and there were two sets of dorms for international students, most of the Africans were in Qiming, and the rest of us were in the slightly better Liuxueshenggongyu.

As most of my classmates were African, they quickly became my friends and we would often/always go to Beimen, the school’s bustling north gate to eat dinner. Meals were cheap and there were loads of choices, as well as a supermarket, KTV bars, snooker halls and beauticians (I miss those £2 manicures!!).

When we first started meeting for dinner, most of the group would go walk to Qiming, but there would always be a guy who would offer to go out of his way to walk me back to my dorm, even if it was raining and he was wearing flipflops, I was almost always walked home.

At the beginning, I felt very uncomfortable about this, did the guy have bad intentions? Did he want to know exactly which room I lived in? Why is it ‘not ok’ for a girl to walk home on her own…yet fine for guys? Etc etc. But after a while, I just accepted it as it offended them when I said I would walk by myself and actually, the company is nice.

What I learned was that culturally, these guys were expected to make sure women get home safely, due to the dangers there can be for women walking alone in their countries.

When I came back to the UK, I was walking home with a group of friends about a week ago, most of them lived in a student accommodation 5 mins walk from me…we said our goodbyes and a guy who lived a bit closer to me said he would walk me home. But after the group went into their halls, this guy who said he would walk me home said that actually he lives the other way…so he just walked off and left me. I was a bit annoyed, since he said he would walk me home and didn’t, it was one of the first times in a long time I hadn’t had someone walk back with me after meeting with a group.

Then last night I was at an event and a Russian guy offered to walk me home, I had just met him, but I accepted the offer as we live close by and again, for him culturally, he cannot ‘when in Rome, do as Romans do’ when it comes to things like walking a girl home. He also gave me a big hug, as he said when you shake hands or hug, it re-energises both people as they pass energy to each other through physical contact and it shows strength and power.

Last night we also talked about greetings, and how British people may shake hands when they first meet someone, but not when they meet again for the second or third time. The Russian said us Brits can be really cold, and he can’t understand why I would want to walk the last 5 mins alone… whereas the old me could not understand why a guy would want to walk an extra 5 mins, then have a 10 min walk home alone. I’m still unsure how I feel about being walked home, as if escorted because being a woman puts me in danger…but at the same time, I realised that I did get used to it in China and I kinda like it.

Stop the sirens…

and the horns, the screeching of tyres, the sound of engines revving and all the other sound effects that appear in songs on the radio when I’m driving.

I got my license a few years ago, but only started properly driving a few weeks ago. Obviously there is a big difference between driving with an instructor in the car and driving on your own. Your driving style changes, you use the handbrake less and can listen to music too, which affects the way you drive.

I listen to the radio usually, and I have come to the conclusion that the ‘radio edits’ of songs with swear words replaced for younger listeners, are still not 100% suitable for playing on the radio.

There are lots of songs that have sound effects that sound incredibly similar to ambulance sirens, so when I hear this on the radio whilst driving, I become more alert, slow down and check my mirrors to see where the sound is coming from. As I’m the only one on the road who can hear this sound (unless people are listening to the same radio station as me), me slowing down unexpectedly is a danger to myself and other road users. When I realise it was just a song, I can drive normally again, but these sirens reappear in songs that are played on the radio.

Take this DJ Khaled song, if you listen from 1.50 you will hear the sirens that go off twice, don’t you think this is dangerous for drivers?

This is just one example of a song where it happens…there are other songs where the radio edits contain sound effects of screeching cars, gunshots, engines revving aggressively, car horns and sirens. When you hear these, it is an indicator of danger, although there is actually no danger present.

I think there needs to be a review of these ‘radio edits’ and sound effects like those mentioned should only be in the music videos, they don’t add much to the song, so can be omitted from the radio version, to make it safer for drivers.


Perceptions on drinkers

When living in China last year, my own relationship with alcohol changed quite dramatically. In China, firstly the drinking culture is totally different. There are business deals made over shots of baijiu and the whole concept of face…in some situations if you don’t drink, you lose your face. Every time a 干杯 (cheers) is toasted, you must down all of your drink. None of which I was too comfortable with.

One thing I did like about drinking in China was that in bigger cities there is 代驾 (daijia), a service where company drivers who haven’t been drinking loiter around pubs and clubs waiting to drive people home for a fee. How is this different from a taxi? They drive you in YOUR car, so when you go out at the beginning of the night you can still show off whatever car you have (as that’s part of face too) and you don’t need to worry about trying to find your car the next day.

This is a safer way of getting home, as drunk drivers are kept off the road…but I haven’t heard any reviews about how the daijia drivers are at driving!

In China too, a lot of women don’t drink…of course there are plenty who do, but when a woman tells the group ‘I don’t drink’, it’s usually accepted by her peers and people won’t force her to drink.

I found though, when I was in China and tried not to drink, because I was a foreigner, all the conceptions about women not drinking were put to one side and both Chinese people and foreigners would try to make me drink more alcohol than I wanted to.

Being in China, I wasn’t sure that all the drinks would be legit, I know people who have been really ill and blamed it on cheap/fake drinks in clubs from the night before. And as I believe foreigners are more susceptible to be on the receiving end of unwanted or inappropriate male attention (blog post to come soon), drinking shots of ‘tequila’ one after the other wasn’t what I wanted to do..it was risky.

So what did I do? Did I drink? Sometimes I did, but mostly I stood my ground, or I tricked them..my “friends”. Like a child who doesn’t want to eat their peas, I would lift a glass to my mouth…but not drink any. I would switch glasses on the table, I would give the others top ups but none to myself and I would hold my cup in my lap to hide how much I wasn’t drinking, but also to make sure nothing else was put in my cup.

Fast forward to now, I’m back in the UK and for a while now I haven’t been drinking during the week. It’s a habit I’ve got into and I don’t have a problem with not drinking alcohol, even when others around me are having beer or wine, I can just give it a miss.

Last Wednesday, I was at a salsa night with friends. I danced with a guy who I knew I had several friends in common with…although we’d never met before. He then went to the bar, and held out a beer. I thought it was for me to hold while he tied his shoelace or something, but he told me it was for me. I said I didn’t want it, and he was really shocked: “Why? Why don’t you want it?”.

Well for a start, I wasn’t going to accept a drink from a stranger when I didn’t see it being made or poured – RED FLAG. And secondly, as I told him “I don’t drink during the week”. “What, really, but why??!?!” was his reaction..he then turned to his mate and was like “Can you believe it? She doesn’t drink during the week!!” he was astounded, shocked and I felt he was almost mocking me for my decision not to drink.

I got so angry, and I think he didn’t even realise how uncomfortable he was making me feel, as if dancing salsa with strange sweaty men wasn’t uncomfortable enough already.

Parkrun and the blind

About a month ago, through the Guide Running UK website I met a VI runner online and we ran the Coventry Memorial Park parkun together which was my first guide running experience. This week I went to the Colwick parkrun as they had a special awareness day about guide running. I volunteered to run the course blindfolded so now I have experience from both sides.

Guide running can be different every time depending on the blind runner and the guide. Not all ‘blind runners’ are totally blind, some have peripheral, blurry or tunnel vision…this means not all of them will run tethered to their guide. Blind runners have different requirements about which side their guide is on, how long their tether is, when they want obstacles pointed out to them and what type of obstacles are most important.

Guides also have different abilities, even though someone can run a 5km course in 22 minutes, it would be difficult to maintain that pace because as a guide as you have to speak to your running partner throughout. Sometimes a guide will be slower than their running partner, and even though you must go at the blind runners pace, they will slow down if you ask them!

The main thing when you are guiding is definitely communication between the guide and the runner, both before, during and after your run.

  • Do you want to run a little faster? Tell your guide
  • Is there a child running in not a very straight line? Tell your runner
  • Does it feel like your shoelace is untied, but can’t see it? Ask your guide
  • Are they feeling up to a sprint finish? Ask your runner

These are all things that I’ve had to ask when guiding and being guided.

To some people guide running may seem really daunting, but it’s a great thing to do, and even if you just walk the course with a runner, it’s getting them out and doing something and the runners are always grateful for your time and company.

What I learnt today from being blindfolded was just how many things can affect your running and footing – running around tight bends, tree roots on the path, and especially a change of surface from gravel to grass to tarmac which is a really bizarre feeling.

How was it running blindfolded? Well at the beginning it took me a while to get my rhythm because it was a bit crowded and the noise of everybody’s feet hitting the floor made me feel like I was going to run on top of people’s feet. But when people spread out and there were wider paths I got my confidence and ran at a faster pace. I felt at the end I could have done another lap! I was surprised we overtook so many people and finished with a great time of 30:07, I’ll have to go back to Colwick to see what time I can get on that course without a blindfold, but 30 minutes is very respectable for my first effort.

Having a guide was obviously a BIG part of today, I wouldn’t have been able to even walk the course without Paul, so a bit shout out to him and all the other regular volunteer guide runners.

If you’re interested in running, guiding or even being a marshall at a parkrun, here are some useful websites






Keeping it up

You study abroad, you learn a language and you promise to yourself and all the friends you met that you will keep the language up when you get home. You look up when the local language exchanges are and start thinking who you know in your city that speaks Spanish/Chinese/French etc…but in reality

It’s REALLY HARD to keep up a language when you’re not surrounded by it 24 hours a day.

When I left China I sent lots of Chinese books and magazines home, I subscribed to lots of Wechat accounts that regularly post in Chinese and said to myself that I would maintain my Chinese blog, to keep up my essay writing. Have I?

Not really.

Keeping up a language is probably harder than learning a language in the first place…even though you know the language, can get by and communicate with people in that language, when you leave that country, it’s hard to even have the same conversations.

For example a common conversation in China would be when the Didi driver called to ask where I was. This meant I got good at giving directions, explaining which road to turn down and learning the names of roads, supermarkets and schools to guide the driver and tell him where I was (even though I would always be at the spot I selected on the map and he has the map on his phone in front of him).

Switch back to living in the UK, and if I go to a language exchange, directions will probably never come up in conversation, and I’ll never say 你到底在哪儿? (where exactly are you?) in the same way again. So that vocabulary will gradually disappear and get pushed to the back of my mind.

I have read some wechat articles, and have posted one new blog post since coming back, but it’s not enough and I really feel I should be investing more time in my language skills, both Spanish AND Chinese.

How do you maintain your level of language when you’re not living in that language environment?

Double BOOKed

I never used to read more than one book at a time, but owning a Kindle has made that so much more practical than before, and to think I was so anti-e-books for so long when they first came on the scene!

I’m currently seriously reading 3 books (of course there are other books that I’m X% through, but haven’t opened them in a while)

  • Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler – The Art of Happiness
  • Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • Kevin Kwan – Crazy Rich Girlfriend

The first two are an incredibly good book pairing. Reading them at the same time has given me different pieces of advice about the same kind of topic. When I read Sex Slaves: The Trafficking of Women in Asia (Louise Brown) , although the content was very interesting and gave me a lot to think about, it was very one sided. Not in the sense that I wanted to read something condoning trafficking, but in the sense that the writing style was a bit sloppy. Also, some things were exaggerated to an extent that I’d read some chapters and be left thinking there’s no hope and all men in the world are evil, it shed a very negative light on some countries and although it was a documentary on the bad aspects of the slave trade, there wasn’t that ray of hope at the end. It left me feeling quite sad and I wish I’d read it alongside another book that outlined the types of aid going towards combating trafficking in Asia, or showed how women got themselves out of those situations.

Anyway, I haven’t finished either The Art of Happiness nor How to Win Friends and Influence People yet, but I find they are complementary. They both give solid examples of how to lead a better life and be good, caring and compassionate towards others.

Which books do you think are a good pairing?

When China gets Tampons

If you haven’t heard, one of the big side stories of the Olympics is how Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui came out and told people she was on her period during her race. Chinese women  generally don’t use tampons like we do in the UK and USA. Chinese medicine and tradition also advises women to abstain from eating certain foods, drinking cold drinks, eating ice cream and even paddling in the sea, let alone go swimming or enter an Olympic swimming race whilst on their period. Weibo has gone wild, with people asking all sorts of questions about how she did it. Well, she swam with a tampon in.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent an article to my friend about a Chinese entrepreneur who is launching the first domestic tampon brand. Foreign brands have tried, but it’s never really caught on. If last month you googled ‘tampons in China’, you’d probably only find expat blogs telling you to stockpile before you go, or some people telling you where you can find them, but little else, now the world has pricked up it’s ears and noticed this phenomena.

What I’m concerned about is the misuse of tampons. In some places in China, there are still photos glued to public toilet cubicles showing people how to (and how not to) use a ‘western toilet’ (not the squat type).

I can imagine some people placing them in wrong places, reusing them, leaving them in too long, going to the hospital to have them removed, trying to use two at a time, not removing the applicator, cutting off the string and all other sorts of damage and things NOT to do with a tampon. I’m also worried that other brands will develop different flavours of tampons, as they did with sanitary towels, dotted with a few drops of nice smelling fragrance is ok, but the mint ones? They are just wrong and awfully uncomfortable, even painful in my experience!

I really hope the brands that are producing tampons for China create good leaflets and campaigns telling people how to use them properly. Because if people don’t know how to or are uncomfortable using them now, they will just revert back to the 40cm pads. They will in turn never teach their children about correct tampon use and that will be it until the next person comes along and tries to win over a nation.

Now is China’s time to embrace a new product that will, in my opinion, benefit women who use it. When tampons are released, I hope the adverts do the product justice and are informative without losing that Chinese corny cute style like this one with the cute animated rabbits…(omg 42cm!!!)


And I had to include this video, advertising basically a nappy for women on their periods…what shocked me was probably the amount of men in the advert, not the fact that they all have sanitary towels on their heads!

Charity bookshelf bingo

I buy most of my books from charity shops (the rest I buy online). You can get the exact same books for a fraction of the RRP, help a charity and sometimes they’re brand new anyway. I used to rummage through the book sections trying to find a title that caught my eye, but now I have a proper reading list, now I tend to search for books on my list in charity shops, rather than finding random books.

My two latest charity book buys – 2 for £1!

I used to volunteer in a charity shop, and I would always volunteer to put the books in alphabetical order. Here is a list of books I think you will always find in a charity shop, next time you go, see how many you can check off!

  • Steig Larsson – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl
  • Cecilia Ahern – Ps. I Love You
  • E. L James – 50 Shades of Grey
  • Dan Brown – Angels and Demons
  • Alexander McCall Smith – The No. 1 Ladies’ Detectives Agency
  • Stephanie Meyer – Eclipse
  • Khaled Hosseini – A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Liza Klaussmann – Tigers in Red Weather
  • Adele Parks – The Other Woman’s Shoes
  • James Patterson – Cat & Mouse
  • Katie Price – Being Jordan
  • French phrasebook


Swimmers’ Coats

During these Olympic games, as with many others, swimming is one of the highlights for me. I like the excitement when half the field is separated by hundredths of seconds and you never know who will win going into the pool.

But what I always find amusing/confusing is the big coats that swimmers wear on poolside before they swim. I used to swim and at meets everyone was in their costume the whole time, maybe we’d put on a t-shirt but never the big jackets and trousers that top level swimmers wear.

Just look at his huge padded coat!*

Swimming pools are really humid and even in winter, as a lifeguard I would wear shorts and just one t-shirt when on poolside, never a jacket because it gets so hot. These swimmers wear huge jackets, coats, trousers and trainers as if they’re going skiing!

I’m sure the coats have their purpose, to keep the swimmers’ muscles warm before they race as well as advertising for the brands that sponsor them, but you don’t see this in other sports like athletics.

What I also find strange is that when they take the coats off, they don’t even look hot. They never break out in a sweat. What do you think about the swimmers’ coats?

*Image source: http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Michael-Phelps-Prerace-Face-Memes-42192858

Strava Improvements

I love Strava, I’ve been using it for over a year now to track my cycling and running sessions and I can’t believe it took me so long to get into it! It records your movements by connecting with GPS and you can connect it to compete in segments (mini races on short stretches of roads) against your Facebook friends, running/cycling club and other athletes. But there are some things which I think would make Strava* even better.

‘GPS connected’ notification

When it’s sunny outside (which is often in summer), I go outside and can’t see the screen well because of the brightness, let alone the little GPS bars in the corner which you need to look at to see if you’re connected or not. If my phone could vibrate or beep to let me know when it’s connected to GPS, it would be good.

‘GPS lost’ notification

Ever been out and had a really amazing split for one of your runs (or a really bad one), then realise that mid-run, your GPS had dropped out and you didn’t notice? Just look at this map, I was doing circular laps on the running track but my GPS thought otherwise. Again, if there was a notification to say hold on a minute while we connect you to another GPS satellite, it would help a lot.

GPS dropped out
When your GPS isn’t connected and makes a really strange pattern!

Link heart rate data from Fitbits

I have a Fitbit that tracks my heart rate as well as all the other data, and you can link Strava with heart rate monitors to see your heart rate throughout your activities. But for some reason, Strava doesn’t link the data from my Fitbit.

Best effort since…

Sometimes you do a run or a segment and you know you won’t get a personal best on it because you’ve had an injury, moved country, are having a bad season or any other reason. So I think if you were able to add a significant event that affects your performance and then have a new set of times taking that into account it would be beneficial for people who can’t get those pb’s anymore. For example, with the pollution and conditions in China, I knew I wouldn’t get a pb on my 5km time very easily, so getting a ‘Best 5km time since moving to China’, that would be a great boost.

Extra voice notifications

When I ran in China, I heard other runners’ apps talking to them. While Strava says Distance 4km. Time 21 minutes, 43 seconds. Previous kilometre in 5 minutes, 12 seconds , the Chinese apps said all kinds of stuff!

You’ve just ran 5km, waheyyyy! You’ve ran 5km in 23 minutes and 24 seconds. You ran the last kilometre in 5 minutes 12 seconds. That’s faster than the last kilometre, keep going, you’re great!!

It was a much more personal notification and a lot more upbeat than the computerised Strava woman. There could be options as to whether you get the standard simple notifications, and then extra notifications which could be positive and motivating like the Chinese one, or even slightly negative to get you running faster. Imagine if your running app told you to pick your feet up, run faster or even told you that you’re slower than a turtle!

*I use Strava on a Samsung phone, Android operating system and have a free account