14th February 2014 Valentines Day, the day to spend with your loved ones, not for me. I arrived into Yantai train station around 7.35am sleep deprived and feeling physically drain from carting my life form Beijing.
Yantai… my new home….what did I know about it? Nothing, zilch, zero, nada!! Everything I knew about it had come from this image which other than it being by the sea and across the water from Korea it was not a lot.
In all honesty I was not other enthused about coming to Yantai. It wasn’t in my trusted lonely planet guide that over the years I have grown to love, the internet didn’t hold much information and the people from the company I had come with also couldn’t provide any information.
I wanted to be in Shanghai or down in the south were some of my friends had been sent, I did not want to be in China’s equivalent of Skegness!
Thankfully I am happy that I came to Yantai and as the weeks have gone on I have grown to love this town more and more with each passing day.
It’s classed as a second tier city by the sea so there is an abundance of sea food, which for a foodie like myself is great bonus. Primarily it’s a business city with companies from all around the world striving to make their business a success.
I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the city by one of the other western teachers form the school. Someone who knew first hand how the adventure of a new place could soon turn into a nightmare. From restaurants and bars to parks and markets my friend was pretty much our lifeline. Not only that but he showed us things off the beaten track, frozen yoghurt places, cheap restaurants but in reality he had show us that there was much more to this city than Helen and I had initially thought.
Saturday 15th march was a defining moment for Helen and I as we attended a local Irish bar to take part in the St Patrick day festivities. The bar we went to Druids, a hot spot for any Western person seeking salvation from the chaotic ways of China. I say it’s a defining moment because it was where we met our soon to be new friends and discovered more things about what this town had to offer. After this evening i felt that there was light at the end of the somewhat gloomy tunnel. Over the next few weeks we started to see more things and made new friends, things that sound so simply but have made all the difference. Having a good network of friends is key to your survival in any new place.
Despite the fact that it’s not as westernised as Beijing or Shanghai and that no one speaks even a little English I still love this city. The true essence of China can still be found here and hasn’t been gobbled up by western commodities. The old men still sit and play games in the street, people meet every night in the park to dance, children will still stare at you inquisitively because they have only ever seen a white person on TV or in books and most importantly the people are so friendly. I would recommend people to visit this city sooner rather than later, with ever corner that I turn a new shopping centre or apartment complex is shooting up. Give it another five to ten years and this city will not be the same, I can only hope that it can retain some of its inner charm and unique identity.