Wednesday 18th July 2018
The Train to Changzhou
Day four was a more relaxed start which began with breakfast and a 9.15 checkout from our hotel. We arrived at Beijing train station (a station with its own security, shops, cafes and restaurants). Adam Cole made a comment that, ‘the queue alone was longer than Glossop high street’ in absolute disbelief of the station’s size and grandeur. Once through security, the wait, amongst thousands of other travellers was an experience…’Sticky rice’ comes to mind as we were packed closely together. With 3 other schools and nearly 60 students, the rush to find our carriage and seats before other passengers was a skill in itself!
Once settled, we were able to tuck into our lunch for the day, McDonalds and for most, this was a chicken burger. Of course, this wasn’t the usual mayo’ covered version; this was Chinese style: spicy! The journey was approximately 5 hours by train but since the train travelled at up to 350 km, the journey and countryside flew before our very eyes! The exit from the train, however, was an even greater skill than the initial boarding. Now, we had a mere 2 minutes to ensure all students and cases were off the train by the end of the countdown. With half of the students at one exit led by Mr Redfern and the other half led by Miss Cox at a different exit, followed by a few forceful Team SPH cheers: ‘Go, go, goooo!’, we managed to make it to the other side. We were now in our new home for the next 9 days: Changzhou.
After a short coach journey, we arrived at Changzhou Senior High School of Jiangsu Province and were whisked up to the canteen to enjoy a delightful Chinese buffet on traditional school dinner trays. The many compartments did not allow for the choice of dishes but we soon found a way of piling on the many flavours. Meanwhile, the Chinese students from Changzhou High School came with extremely warm welcomes and signs to identify and greet our somewhat overwhelmed SPH students. Soon, we began making friends and became familiarised with the campus by tours which showed the football pitches, new basketball courts, athletics track and, last but not least, the dorm rooms.
In each room, students found gifts of floral plastic washing bowls, washing powder, multi-coloured towels and strips of shampoo in sachets. This was the first taste of independent domesticity for some! The simple life hit home a little harder when it came to bed time though as students noticed the bunk beds with boards and basic cushioning in place of spring mattresses! Nevertheless, after a long day travelling and settling in, all eventually hit the sack or, in our case, bamboo mats, for a few well-needed Zzzzzzs…