Setting up in the Khuren Uul Mountain Pass area near the Northern Mongolia/Russian Border.
I remember one Friday going to the supermarket after work. Being as it was the end of the month, the kitchen was virtually empty and the shopping list fairly substantial. The kitchen was bare with nothing a few cans plum tomatoes, half a packet of stale Jacob’s cream crackers, a single rubbery potato and a bendy carrot.
At the check out though, the embarrassing discovery was that my card didn’t work. With people looking pissed that they had already been waiting for two minutes extra, the only option was to completely ditch the maxed out trolley under the guise of “I’ll be back shortly to pay for it”.
With palpitations instantly reaching critical level, I raced outside to the ATM to check my balance only to find that there was zero cash in the account and my wages hadn’t gone in. My company swore that the money had been transferred and there must have been some mistake, leaving no other option than to painfully leave the lovely trolley full of the next week’s delights, heading home to use the landline.
After waiting for an anxious ten minutes listening to some jazz muzak on a loop, a woman in the bank answered the phone
“Yes the money went in but…” With an agonizing pause, her words hovered over the horrible truth with manner that suggested that all was not well in mudsville.
“They seem to have paid your credit card off with your money.”
Refusing to go any further with the conversation, she was I am sure more than happy to put me through to the credit card number, washing her hands of a potentially heated exchange.
Another torturous fifteen minutes on hold lay ahead while the reality of the situation started to descend.
“Yes, you were overdue on a payment so the bank paid off your balance” said some guy in Birmingham in a flat toneless voice. Even though there was no notification or any prior warning to it, after using every tactic in my arsenal he just would not budge. Half an hour later I was left sat in the middle of the sofa in stunned silence having crashed like one of those spiraling kamikaze’s that just missed the ship.
You’re skint and it’s the beginning of the month mate. Nice one!
Luckily I had a decent boss we called ‘Bradders’, who instantly lent me another whole month’s wages without hesitation. The agreement was that I would pay him back two hundred quid a month until we were squared up. With the immediate urgency being removed, life instantly turned into its usual depression; this was yet another familiar episode in those grey avenues of mediocrity that was my life. If you are a barely breaking-even kinda guy like me then you will know that the domino effect of such an event is hard to manage. There were a couple of red bills including that frigging council tax and my stylish old red Ford Escort van was continually falling to pieces. The police had recently stopped me and were amazed at how it was legally on the road. When they saw the gaping rusty hole next to the driver’s seat they demanded a new MOT should be produced within the week. This was how it was prior to 2005. An endless vacuum of barely staying afloat mediocrity that went on and on and on and on.
I can’t remember when it happened but once the decision had been made to jack the whole thing in, life changed instantly. Things immediately improved. I had an objective under my belt that no one could take away. It was the first time I’d felt really excited about anything in years and from that moment on the story became something worth writing home about. I still can’t believe its China I can see out of my window every morning. I get paid to teach English, I have absolutely zero stress in my life and there are no bills (no really!) The best and most important thing though is Mum says she’s proud of me.
About My Writing
Author of Just Turn Left at the Mountain, Trials and Tribulations Meandering across Chinese Borders. I am currently thoroughly immersed in writing my second book.
Teacher of Art & Design in the UK from 1991, TEFL since 2006 and have created a successful series of text books called Smart English Discussion Questions & Activities: China which is up and running on my other website (here)
Travel writing: My work is a melting of humour, description and storytelling. I make observations about anything that looks interesting in as much detail as possible so the reader gets a vivid picture of what it’s like to be in this crazy wonderful country.
I can’t write without humour indeed it’s also a strong element in my teaching style. Without laughter there is something missing from the recipe. I want my readers to experience both sides of life, its bitter hardships and those precious moments of joy which remind us that life is worth living.
I want you to laugh and go about your day with a smile on your face.
I want to take you by surprise bringing these elements together swiftly and unexpectedly. That you can suddenly send your attention soaring through moments of dynamic tension is one of the more satisfying elements that writing can bring.
I want to be in the moment with you. When I go somewhere amazing, do something ridiculous or experience the other side of life we go there together. When you thumb through my pages I want us to get familiar, like having a chat over the garden fence.
Travel writing is sharing the adventure; writer and reader together on the same journey.
On this site you will find information on
- Amazing places to visit in China.
- Grab an insight into Chinese culture as observed from the doorstep in Andy’s Blog.
- Links to the book “Just Turn Left at the Mountain” recounting my amazing three year journey (here)
- Take a trip across Chinese borders to Mongolia, Cambodia and Laos as well as across the water to South Korea with the photo albums.
Interviews & Features on Other Websites:
Travel Blogger Interview – Andy Smart at Alwaysonthewaytravel.com
Featured Blogger of the Month on YesterdayAfter
Just Turn Left at the Mountain: Book Trailer on Harsh Reality
Chatting Chinese with Andy Smart – Author of ‘Just Turn Left at the Mountain’ on The BookTrail
Andy Smart Featured on Before Sundown
That’s Mt Everest in the background. Never felt so continually happy as when I went to Tibet.
Hope you have an enjoyable time as you meander your way between these pages
Be lucky and safe journeys