Two weeks down, one to go – this trip has felt like it’s been put on fast forward but simultaneously that we’ve been here forever. I still don’t know all of the people on the trip (I mean, there are about 70 of us, and we’re busy like ALL of the time) but it feels like I’ve known those who I do know for a lot longer than 14 days. 

So we’re two thirds of the way through the trip and have tried to pack as much in as possible. Even just through the activities scheduled by the Study China programme we’ve had a lot of opportunity to do different things, some of which we wouldn’t have been able to do off our own back, so I’m pretty grateful for that. 

A brief summary of what we’ve done so far: visited the Baotu springs, eaten chicken feet, gone to Daming lake (twice), sampled pig’s trotter, been to Quancheng square to view the strange sculpture there (and been very much distracted and puzzled by the phallic building in the background that towers over the city), tried some jellyfish salad, spent the day with a Chinese family, eaten about a thousand different types of dumpling, traipsed round a very enjoyable cultural museum on campus, consumed at least twice my own body weight in rice and noodles, had a go on a gu cheng (some variety of traditional Chinese stringed instrument), tried Chinese hotpot (the best culinary invention EVER), been to the hometown of Confucius, more eating, visited many many knock-off markets, attempted to sample every item in the canteen, been to a more than a few temples, and experienced street food heaven in a place just off of Quancheng square. Oh, did I mention the food?

The buddy system that has been put in place here has been invaluable: we each got assigned a student from the university to essentially look after us for the duration of the trip, which has made booking tickets for everything and finding our way around a whole lot easier. Not all buddies are created equal, but the extreme willingness of some has more than made up for those whose schedules are too busy to be able to fit in things like explaining to feckless British students how to work the washing machines. They’ve all been really sweet to us, and though they sometimes forget that we are all capable functioning adults, most of whom have travelled before, everything they do is with the best intentions, and we all appreciate it massively. Last week they organised a sports day type event for us all, which was very much enjoyed, though Carrie – my buddy – and I struggled a bit with the piggy back obstacle course (she kept forgetting that I had my eyes closed and therefore that I needed to be directed). Before the sports day a few of us went down to the sports field and borrowed a football for a kick about, so that was a very happy day for me – the fact that I can play football was met with great surprise by some of the buddies, which is always pleasing. 

Some of us have been very excited to find that there’s Shandong university stash available on campus, and I reckon by the time we go home there’ll be planes full of British students sporting Shandong university hoodies and the like. I myself have purchased some SDU converse (that say “I heart SDU” on the back), which I’m very pleased with. The Chinese sizing system is pretty hilarious for the clothing – read ‘small’ for anything below an XXL – and the tshirts that we were given on arrival were all sensibly oversized (though I think my XXXL one may be pushing it a bit). It’s a shame too that in the markets a lot of the clothes are pretty much off limits – I’ve seen some very appealing flowery leggings that would probably just about fit round one of my arms. 

Essentially, I’m having a great time here, and I can’t quite believe that we’re headed into the final stretch already. We’re just off to climb Mount Tai now and then Holly, Keir and I are headed to Beijing and the Great Wall this weekend, so I’ll fill you in on how that goes next week – so zai jian for now!