Tag Archives: Travel

Dear former ex-friends,

Good news. Great Joy. You’re re-hired.

Turns out by the actual daily grace of God I survived a couple of months in China.

Turns out I missed you with my whole heart.

Turns out I couldn’t update my blog from China – the Great FireWall keeps out many an internet essential (Google, WhatsApp, Insta, BBC etc). And so, for your viewing pleasure, what I would have posted if I’d had a Great FireWall evading VPN (apols if you were on my e-mail list, this may be a little familiar).

Nihao Team!
I am alive. I am well. I reached China in one piece with an almost struggle free journey*.
I feel like I’ve discovered a whole new world because I am certainly not in Kansas Gambia Croydon anymore. Something that I am constantly aware of because hardly anyone speaks English and I can’t read ANYTHING – bus stops, bus routes, menus, food packaging in the supermarket, shop signs and, more crucially, road signs.
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I have no idea what these cleaning products are for. I’m just using them all on everything to cover all bases.
What with google not working out here, the maps app being in Chinese and having no sense of direction whatsoever, I’m spending a lot of time being lost/taking an unplanned scenic route and apologising for being late, again. Fortunately, I love a good wander and its mostly sunny. But if you never hear from me again I’m wandering through suburban China, marveling at how anyone can ever know where they are when EVERY SINGLE APARTMENT SKYSCRAPER BLOCK LOOKS THE SAME.IMG_20181005_133747432
Much of these past couple of weeks has been spent trying to master the art of eating with chopsticks** and trying to not get run over - there’s even a massive junction where pedestrians have to wait in the middle while the buses, cars and lorries thunder past! I’m learning lots about the different cultures and beliefs here. I’m also learning a tiny bit of Chinese. Chao sa z ma zou (how do I get to the supermarket?) Now I just need to figure out how to understand the replies. In general though, the people in this city have been amazingly helpful when they realise I don't speak Chinese. Maybe because in a city of 1million there's less than 500 ex-pats, foreigners are still a bit of a novelty in this region. I get stared at all the time and random strangers want me in their selfies.
One of the things I have been most surprised to discover is that old guys do actually fly kites in the park, people really do play board/card games like mah-jong in the streets, people really do play flutes/saxophones etc in the park, people really do some kind of tai chi type exercise outside, and people really do let off fireworks during the day. THESE THINGS ACTUALLY DO HAPPEN. It’s not just a lovely Pixar creation. Who knew?!
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Let's go fly a kite.
Also, good news of great joy – this week I went to the Import Store and bought butter and raspberry jam and cheese! ALL THE GOOD THINGS.
So other than not being able to understand anything, getting lost all the time and battling with chopsticks my life here is a breeze. As ever, I would LOVE to hear all the things in your life so do write back and tell me everything.
Till next time,
Love, peace and chopsticks x x
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*Let me tell you, you do not know despair in your heart until you’re sat on the train, at the start of a 1,000 mile trek across London through rush hour commuters to get to Heathrow airport, and you look at the floor wondering where all those pieces of plastic have come from, and then realise that yes, in fact, they’ve broken off one of the wheels of your suitcase. The suitcase containing all your belongings you’ll need for the next two months that you need to take on trains and tubes across London. The suitcase that needs to travel a million miles to China and back again. All this and you’re less than 400 metres from home. O DARK NIGHT OF MY SOUL. Forget getting to China, I didn’t think I’d even make it to Victoria Station. Mum - you were right, I do need a new suitcase.
** Before arriving here I had never eaten with chopsticks, now atleast one meal a day you’ll find me attempting to eat with as much dignity as I can muster – precious little most of the time. I have never concentrated so much on anything in all my life – not even when I’m painting my nails. I am exhausted by the end of every meal.  And if you were ever in any doubt, the best way to build friendships is to impress with your ability to get food all over you, your new friends, the table, the small child at the next table, the small dog outside, the floor and the ceiling (noodle soup *sighs*).

Dear (soon to be ex) friends,
I hereby serve notice of the termination of our friendship on the grounds of your terrible life advice and general encouragement in making this year even more ridiculous than it already has been.
Because you know what? I’ve only been home from Gambia a few weeks, I’ve only just remembered how to function here, I haven’t even been able to wear all my fun summer dresses and now I AM GOING TO ASIA IN NINE DAYS. I already went to the Lake District this year, is that not travel  enough?!
Apparently not one of you had sense enough to tell me to stay at home. WHY ARE YOU ALL SUCH ENABLERS?! Stop encouraging this freewheeling, I’ll make a plan when I make a plan lifestyle. IT IS NOT GOOD FOR ME.
You know what is good? Stability. Routine. Schedules. Have you not seen Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? EVEN SCIENCE TELLS ME YOUR ADVICE IS ALL WRONG.
You no longer have the right to live vicariously through my questionable life choices that you have encouraged. IT’S OVER (though I’ll hopefully be updating this hallowed space so hang tight, you just might get to yet).
Not I am not freaking out in the slightest. Whatever gives you that impression?! I AM CLEARLY EMOTIONALLY STABLE AND WELL ABLE TO HANDLE MY EVER-GROWING 'GETTING READY TO GO TO ASIA' TO-DO LIST.
Whatevs, see you losers in November.
P.S. Sister, you are obvs exempt from this because you are still Chief Hater and have in no way, shape or form, encouraged this endeavour. 5 points to you.
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Just another what am I actually doing with my life moment

 

Guest Post Klaxon. I read this last week and loved it so much I wanted you to read it too. Timmy gracious let me re-post it - thanks Timmy!

“And, if you’re a coffee lover, there’s a place you must go to – it is called “CORALLO” and it is located at Principe Real – the very best coffee in town can be found there!! :o)”

This was the message I received from the Airbnb host I had just booked to stay with in Lisbon last summer. I had mentioned my affection for coffee and she swooped in with a suggestion that I duly took her up on when I arrived a few weeks later. Not only was the coffee exquisite, it also came with a small slab of chocolate of my choice. An excellent combination. And if that wasn’t enough, all it cost me was €1.

€1!

The fun did not end there, either. The coffee house was located near a quiet park where locals and tourists alike lingered contentedly. Some painted or read or sat, others walked or talked or worked. I happily joined them for a while. I then took to the nearby steep, cobbled streets which brought me to another park, this one much smaller, which was surrounded by tall, colourful houses and a cluster of restaurants. There I grabbed lunch. It was all such a pleasant, nourishing morning as new sights and smells and happenings greeted me – and my camera! – at almost every turn.

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And all of this begun with a suggestion, a passing comment from someone I hardly knew.

It caused me reflect on how our routine interaction and engagement with others sometimes – both online and offline – has a tendency to surprise us by what they prompt and inspire. A friend uses Twitter or Facebook to beam about a book they are reading. We happen to come across the book in a bookstore and, recalling our friend’s ringing recommendation, buy it. We later open the book’s pages and find it difficult to put down. The content or style of a picture on your Instagram feed unleashes a wave of creativity into one of your followers. Someone shares with you in conversation an answer to prayer that profoundly resonates with you.

And isn’t it lovely when someone unexpectedly says to you how helpful something you said in passing years ago has been for them? We don’t even remember what it was we said, and if even we do sometimes the impact was far different and greater than we first thought.

There is a magic to our everyday exchanges that so often eludes us. That’s not to say that every suggestion or comment or post we share carries impact. But I wonder if by underestimating this there is a danger that we stay silent when there may well just be someone for whom your input will inspire something special. How often it is we keep our mouths shut or delete that thoughtfully-constructed tweet or Facebook post because we feel no one wants to listen? I am a firm believer that more people are listening to us than we realise.

“Does anyone dare despise this day of small beginnings?” God said to the prophet Zechariah (4:10, The Message).

It’s a sweet thought to wander into each day knowing that it could hold a small and beautiful beginning, all because of something hidden in the normality of conversation and social media feeds. The small beginning maybe for us. Or perhaps it will be for someone else – an aspect of their lives warmly affected by a suggestion we offered in person or online.

So, if you really want to, I say tell others about the countries, places, shops, restaurants and the like you have frequented. Instagram that quote that speaks what you’ve never been quite able to articulate yourself. Share what God is doing in your life. Talk about the book that you are currently lost in. Enthuse about the song that strikes a chord with you. Be it online or offline, if you feel the urge to raise your voice, to share about the goodness of something, do so. Whole new worlds lay ready to be explored and often it begins with the smallest of beginnings.

Oh, and if you do happen to visit Lisbon and like coffee, may I humbly suggest Corallo. The coffee, chocolate and its accompanying surroundings are a joy to savour. I can also recommend a good AirBnb host…

This post is a variation of a blog post written in May 2017 for Premier Christianity called What can we learn from this record breaking, nugget winning US teenager?

You can read more from Timmy here: www.timmybech.com/