Behind on the Books!

At the beginning of 2017, I set myself a reading challenge of reading 30 books this year. Since then, I have been collecting books on my wishlist when I see them in charity shops, and I have thirteen books ready, waiting to be read…I just haven’t got round to it yet.

Reading 30 books in 12 months means an average of 2.4 books per month, and so far each month I’ve fallen short of that target, with two books read each in January and February, and only one finished in March so far and I only have two days of the month left. I’m 32% through my current book, Emma by Jane Austen, but as I read it in bed, I don’t often get to read the whole chapter before I fall asleep.

I have the books, I just don’t seem to be able to make the time to read. What’s also important is the time and place of reading. Whereas before, I used to read on coach journeys on the day trips I went on, or in a café at the end of the day, waiting for the coach to leave. Now, I only read at the end of they day when I’m already tired, and I often have to turn five pages back and re-read those pages again to know where I’m up to and remind myself what’s going on.

I hope April will be more a more successful month in my 30-books-in-one-year challenge. I plan to go to bed earlier, to get in extra reading time, any other suggestions?

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28 Day Squat Challenge – I Gave Up

You may have read my previous post about the 28 day squat challenge that me and Kanika were taking on and starting early in January. Well, less than half way through, we had both given up! I’m not usually a person to give up when I’ve set my mind to something and accepted a challenge, but on the 14th day when the reps shot up from 110 to 130, I couldn’t bring myself to do them.

The 770 squats I did as part of the challenge didn’t really make any positive change to my body or how I felt. After squatting, my thighs were exhausted for the rest of the evening and walking down stairs was just torture. I didn’t want to put myself through any more of that pain and I realised that there are other parts of my body that I want to focus on to give me more strength and flexibility. I’m going to stick to yoga and my usual fitness routine, rather than these challenges.

Me and several of my friends have made pledges to have abs by graduation (you know who you are!!), which is only a few months away. I don’t think the squat challenge is any good for achieving this but it’s still a fitness goal that I want to reach sooner rather than later.

When back home in Coventry, me and my friends who loved (and still love) JLS, like nothing more than to recreate Marvin’s cheeky shirt lift in the club, as seen in the video below (skip to 2.11). So having a good set of abs makes it look even better. Who knows, maybe JLS will see it online somewhere and come find us, marry us and make our teenage dreams come true.

 

Anyway, I think these exercise and fitness challenges are a good idea to get people moving and more concious of the exercise they’re doing, but I don’t judge anyone for starting one and quitting halfway through like I did. As I’m in the triathlon team, doing time trials last night and knowing my 200m and 400m times is much more important than me being able to do 200 squats which was the end goal of the challenge.

28 Day Squat Challenge – 6 Days In

Me and my friend signed up to a February 28 day squat challenge on Facebook. There are so many fitness challenges around these days, all you need to do is to google any type of exercise and add the word challenge and you’ll have many results – press up challenge, sit up challenge, lunge challenge, yoga challenge, burpees challenge etc. Although anyone attempting the latter one is absolutely crazy, going from 5 to 100 in 30 days is extreme!

I’ve been quite sceptical about all of these challenges that are out there, they put pressure on people to go beyond their normal fitness routines and I’m worried that people may go beyond their boundaries to finish the challenge, possibly putting their health at risk as there is not a lot of recovery time and each days more reps are added. So make sure you’re in good health and are comfortable with the exercise before you embark on one of the challenges. I’d love to do a 30 day yoga challenge, but looking at the diagrams I have no idea how to get myself into 80% of those positions and I wouldn’t want to risk hurting myself, so won’t do that one just yet. But I know I can squat and decided to take on the challenge to tone up my lower body.

Because me and my friend are hardcore and too excited to wait until February to start, we started it last Saturday so today is my 6th day. I started with 50 reps, adding 5 reps each day with a rest day every 3 or 4 days. The first day after those 50 reps I just wanted to crawl into my bed and never move again. I’d never done so many in a row and although it wasn’t painful whilst squatting, when I stopped and started to move around, my thighs were tight, but wobbly at the same time.

The following day, I did the 55 reps and stupidly, I went downstairs to go get a drink straight after. Wrong decision! Walking down the three flights of steps from my bedroom to the kitchen was so painful. I had to take tentative steps and it felt like last May when I was walking down who knows how many thousand steps from the summit of Taishan to the bottom. After the initial feeling of strength and power, I suddenly felt weak and helpless as I struggled down the stairs.

True story

Then I realised that after squatting, I should probably stretch my thighs and quads out longer than I had been, to prevent some of this pain. This has worked better over the last couple of days and going downstairs after squats hasn’t been too bad. Today I’ve got 70 reps to do and I’ll do them after a set of sun salutations, fitness gurus, let me know if this is the right or wrong way to do them as I have no idea. The challenge just tells you how many reps to do each day, it doesn’t specify when and where to do them which is a bit of a downside for inexperienced challengees.

I’ll post again when the challenge is coming to an end (the finish date is Valentine’s Day) and by that time I should be squatting 200 reps a day. Are you participating in any fitness challenges, do you recommend any for me? Leave a comment below!

Rhetorical question

Leaving Asia

They say that reverse culture shock is always worse than the initial culture shock of going abroad and I know leaving Asia will be difficult. Although China was a hard country to live in because of the language, local people’s culture and of course that horrible 7/8 hour time difference, it was easier than I make it out to be; I only cried twice in China. The first time was the first night I arrived, after almost 24 hours of travelling with a dodgy tummy I just wanted to find my dormitory and sleep but I arrived after midnight at Qingdao university. My taxi driver didn’t know where my dorm was so he just dropped me at the big gate and I was stranded. I knew where my dorm was but the gates were all locked, I woke up several watchmen who didn’t seem to understand or help me and when one started shouting at me I just cried. I was cold, lonely and had no idea what to do until some nice people in the hotel helped me find a hole in the fence for me to climb through. The second time I cried was on the plane to Thailand when I left China. Again, I wasn’t feeling too good after a three hour delay and the reality just hit me that I don’t know when I’ll be going back to China and I may not see some of my Asian friends ever again.

There are so many things that happen in China that I don’t think can possibly happen anywhere else in the world. Even my politest of friends would still spit their chicken bones on the table, people would encourage their children to go to the toilet (both types) on the street and little boys had big slits in the middle of their trousers making this even easier. Curious people would approach me in the street asking for a picture of/with me because I was a foreigner and the people too scared to talk to me would just take a picture without asking. Children would tug at their parents arms and say “Look Mum, a foreigner!” At first these things obviously shocked and outraged me but soon I became immune to the shock factor and by the end of my time in China not much could shock me.

The way of life I’ve gotten used to has been very different. Most days something outrageous, crazy, disgusting or weird has happened to me or my friends. I’ve learnt to expect the unexpected, especially where toilets are involved. But I’ve even adapted to this as I’ve learnt that the previous user might not have cleaned up, that the door might be opened by a middle aged Chinese lady and there might not even be doors in extreme cases.

Squat with no door, no flush
Squat with no door, no flush

I think I’ve toughened myself to deal with difficult situations, especially where bargaining is concerned. In all the countries I visited, life was enjoyed outside, on street markets you could buy anything from food, clothes, souvenirs, fake designer goods, magazines and even pets. These markets/streets were always good places to buy things as they were full with locals and prices can be beaten down. What annoyed me was that the vendors, seeing I was foreign would immediately treble the price and assume that because I’m this “rich foreigner” I would just accept that price as their first offer. Although you might think it’s silly bargaining over 20p it was also the principle that I was fighting against. A notoriously bad vendor sold fruit outside our dormitory, he would change his prices depending on who you were and once he sold some bananas to a Chinese girl for 35p/500g, I was next in line and he tried to charge me 45p/500g for the same bananas, I asked why he’d charged her different and he said you’re my friend, 45p is a good price. I knew it wasn’t. This was the last straw for fruit guy as I termed him and as he didn’t drop the price I didn’t buy the bananas or buy from him ever again. Bargaining for fruit was fun for me in China as I learnt the value of fruits, saw which ones were in season and learnt that if you buy a whole watermelon, you can get it for as cheap as 7p/500g if you go to the right part of town off the main roads. So when I’m back in the UK and just pick up the bananas from the shelf in Tesco it will definitely be different.

I developed a love/hate relationship with the street food in China. Normally I would just walk past it and avoid it at all costs after horror stories from my friends telling me how the lamb could be dog or rat meat, the oil has been used thousands of times and it’s pumped full of MSG. But sometimes it wouldn’t look that bad and I think it was ok to eat there occasionally. I enjoyed the savoury Chinese pancakes, with sesame seeds and this sauce I cannot describe. The roasted sweetcorn was always fine and I also liked deep fried octopus from Taidong.

Grilled cuttlefish
Grilled cuttlefish

As I’ve mentioned before , I really enjoy Chinese TV, it’s another aspect of Chinese life that’s totally unpredictable. For example, let’s look at a clip from China’s version of Take Me Out. . This isn’t a special minions related episode, it’s only from a few weeks ago. (If you want to see if he got a date or not, skip the video to 19.30). The Chinese reality shows were fantastic and I will continue to watch them in England but it will be weird not having anybody to discuss 爸爸去哪儿? with. I’ll have to find some Chinese exchange students and get them to introduce me to more new Chinese TV shows. I really want to find a wife swap type one.

With many internet sites blocked in China (Facebook, Youtube , The Guardian etc) the internet has been a strange place to navigate from China. Sometimes the speed would slow down completely for a day or only parts of websites would load. Having a break from being constantly connected to Facebook was really nice, but now in Thailand I find that as before, it’s one of the first websites I open when I turn my laptop on.

It will be interesting to see if I have picked up any mannerisms or habits from China. I know that when I went to Khao San Road in Bangkok, a place with many bars and even more foreigners, I was staring at the foreigners. I hadn’t seen so many in one place for a very long time and I’d forgotten how diverse we look with blue eyes, freckles, curly hair, dreadlocks, tattoos and not forgetting the pink sunburnt shoulders, typical of a Brit in the sun. I’m hoping this will be the only thing I’ve picked up from living in China, as I’ve also seen a lot of spitting, eating loudly, talking at an unnecessarily loud volume, horn beeping, pushing in queues and drinking shots of beer.

I know when I get back I will be quite excited about things like reading the paper and understanding every word, watching the adverts on TV and knowing what products they’re advertising and even buying skin products and not having to worry whether or not it has skin bleaching ingredients. But after a while I think the initial novelty of UK life might wear off and I’ll be wishing I was back in China where people have often said:

“Look at that foreigner with the curly hair, she can’t understand us and we cant understand her, she must be wearing a wig but we’ll never know for sure.”

Only for me to turn around and say, “I do understand you, my hair is natural.”

One time, I was going to a bar for a drink with some friends and my Chinese friend Allen warned me about cases when gangs have made someone pass out by placing bleach or something on a cloth. Then when they wake up the thieves have taken their…..money? bank cards? clothes? mobile phone?

No!

Organs! Well only a kidney and maybe a cornea or two.

This turned into a regular greeting between us, when I would leave he would say “Watch out for/protect your organs!”. This was not too much to worry about however as apparently Westerners blood is different from Chinese, so an English kidney would be difficult to sell on the black market.

Watch your organs

There’s so many more things I can say about China but I don’t want to bore you or drag on. How can you condense five months of life into a few paragraphs and photos? China has been a great experience and I will miss it but for now, I’m coming home…someone put the kettle on.

Quick, quick!