Our first two days in the school were busy. There was much to be done.
Firstly – we had to repeat all the medical checks and a police check that we spent a huge amount of time and money doing in South Africa.
This time, naturally, we could not do them alone. A young Chinese woman from the school was assigned to help us get through all the details.
It was just as well. It would have been impossible without her.
From the very first I thought of Lex and I as her children, in a way. For a day she, almost, led us by the hand. She became a sort of mother to us. We followed her, we obeyed her every word, we struggled to understand, but did whatever anyway…
We arrived at the Medical Clinic place at more or less the same time as a large group of men, who were, we were told, having to go through a bank of medical checks before being sent off to Nepal.
We waited. We were stared at (we are now used to this – it has become our normal).
The brilliant orange fish circling within their deep blue coloured tank were a welcome distraction.
Eventually, it was our turn to be dealt with by the group of Chinese women in white coats behind the glass at reception.
We followed every instruction given to us by our sweet young companion. We sat down on command, we leant forward towards the glass – it took us a few seconds to understand that – we had our photos taken.
Upstairs we followed our leader behind a number of light blue curtains. We were prodded and probed, pricked by needles and managed somehow to give answers to an eye test. We peed into test tubes and stood on scales to be weighed – oh no, they did not let me take off my extremely heavy boots!
Everywhere we went we were surrounded by a bank of people in white coats, speaking about us in a language we did not understand! Are we ok? Is there something wrong? What seems to be the matter?
No answer was given, but each step of the way was marked by a little red stamp on our card.
We were driven too and fro in the backseat of a type of car even Lex had never seen before!
From my place there I observed Lanzhou for the first time. I noted groups of orange, yellow and green bicycles that you can hire from some app and pick up and drop off all around the city. I noted the complete disregard for the traffic rules that I know, witnessing three small accidents on the first journey. I noted the quite funky looking masks most people wear when walking next to the main road.
Note to self – to find out where to purchase a particularly fetching black one for myself.
I noticed lots of three wheeler motorbikes that are apparently electric, and have a little ‘bakkie’ behind the driver, often loaded to the gunnels with goods. I noticed great swathes of black electrical wires bunched together around some of the buildings. I noted that there were large signs everywhere and that they were all just about only in Chinese. I did not see another foreigner, and we drove for hours….
And then I reached sensory overload.
We went to the police station.
There was a lonely sort of pug dog sitting in the car park.
It had begun to snow lightly.
Around the corner, down a side street, were two elderly men playing a sort of draughts game on a small table with very big discs of wood.
We came back.
Lex and I were asleep by 6 on that first day, and we slept for 12 hours.