Otherwise known as: The Week The Internet Died
Sun 24 Dec 2006 - Mon 1 Jan 2007 -1 °C
So I have been putting off updating for a while because for about a week or so just after Christmas the internet went down due to an earthquake off the southern tip of Taiwan that just cut off China to most of the world. National websites and some other Asian websites were still accessible, but for the period between Christmas and New Years, I could only access Google, which handily has a station in China now. Thank god!
Anyway, then I got lazy and now it's nearly February, but here's my entry about Christmas and New Years, as summed up from my paper diary. Still to come: a basketball game, exam week, dinners with teachers from the English school, and another farewell to a German friend!
We had a Christmas eve party at Niki's house, which was awesome loads of fun. I had been sick in bed the day before with food poisoning (my verdict on the culprit: dumplings from the night before, even though nobody else I ate with got sick), so it was a slow start for me, but I was feeling fine and the food was great and the company was even better, so it was all good! Twenty people turned up and I had orgnized some international Christmas music while Niki and Malcolm ordered a cake from Holliland cake shop (with the most massive dragon on it!) so it was all in all a great atmosphere.
The best part of the party was, however, the Secret Santa we put together! The way we organized it was that everyone would buy something random and non-gendered and at the party we brought them all together and then pulled names out of a hat. The name you pulled out was the person whose present you received and then that person got to pull a name out of the hat. It worked out really well, too! I'm sure most people thought about their presents like I did mine: that it was just something random and off-handed they didn't think too much about, but in the end it turns out that most people are really sweet and thoughtful and buy awesome presents even when they didn't know who it was going to!
There were some great gifts: Chinese "Monopoly" (in quotations because it was unofficial), cookies, chocolate, DVDs, incense, slippers and earmuffs, and metal puzzles. The metal puzzles were a big hit with everyone, and soon everyone was walking around trying to get metal puzzles apart and put them back together. Malcolm has some really funny photos I have yet to get from him (and his camera is broken for now so it'll be a while yet) of just about everyone at the party trying their hand at the puzzle. Somewhere after 10pm, once everyone had finally turned up and had some beer, we headed back out again to a club for some evening festivities.
It was a minor hassle getting 20+ people into taxis that would all end up at the same place, but we managed it, with a bit of a walk, and it was fun to see all the Chinese people celebrating as well. The city was absolutely buzzing with people, families and twenty-something partygoers alike, wearing Santa hats (some flashing, some with braids), waving neon things and noisemakers, firing off firecrackers, carrying sparklers. It was really interesting to note the difference between the way the Chinese celebrate and Westerners. I mean, we have out big parties with noise, but Christmas is... perhaps not a somber sort of holiday, but the idea is that you stay inside with your family and sing carols and keep to yourselves for the celebration. Chinese people get out there, walk around, and make lots of noise!
The club was your general nightclub fare, but it had a really amusing countdown to Christmas, sort of like at New Years. Nearing midnight, they had a singer up on a main platform near the dance floor, so Andreas dragged me down from our spot to watch his performance. Straight afterwards, the strangest thing happened. "Edelweiss" started playing over the loudspeakers, and about ten Chinese girls wearing long red dresses and carrying candles on their palms moved up onto the platform. They did a sort of slow dance to the song, waving the candles about, and then promptly stopped and a countdown from ten started. Firecrackers and sparklers went off at the end of the countdown, along with a loud techno version of Chinese "Jingle Bells" (which goes 'ding ding dang! ding ding dang!...' instead of jingle bells). It felt so much like New Years that Andreas decided a hug and a prompt "Happy Christmas" was in order.
Christmas day was great, I spent most of it on the phone with my parents, lounging around on the floor of my room (which I made more comfortable by spreading out my bed cover) and looking at my presents. One of them was the first season of the Jeeves and Wooster television series, which I promptly watched three of that evening. Other than a milk package unfortunately spilling all over my jeans, nothing else eventful happened on that day - definitely a nice, relaxing day after the Christmas eve party!
For New Years, we all gathered at Niki's place after coming from various things of our own for the evening. Niki had been stolen by her work for a mandatory celebration dinner (sounds like fun, no?), and Sarah and Luca were off doing their own thing, Andreas was spending the time in Xianyang county at a wedding party, and Malcolm and I went to the Indian restaurant near the Big Goose Pagoda (and ate way too much). With the exception of Andreas, of course, we all came together at Niki's house at around 10pm, along with a Kiwi friend of Niki's from work and her Chinese friend, and some beer, vodka, and a couple of hours later we rang in the New Year!
No resolutions, which was good, but at midnight we made New Years wishes. Mine were fairly tame: I wished to graduate, to travel around Australia more, and to continue with my Chinese studies even while I'm not at an institution studying it. Wishes sounded like a better idea than resolutions anyway, because there is always the chance that you'll break your resolutions, but it doesn't seem so bad if you just sort of don't get your wish, right? Maybe that's the wrong way of thinking about it, but resolutions always sounded so final to me, irreversible and sort of scary! Plus, whoever really keeps them? It's just upsetting in the end.
Niki headed out with her Kiwi friend after that, went to a club and the rest of our night at Niki's place was spent drinking and talking. Nothing in particular, of course, just random things and when there is enough alcohol you tend to forget things anyway; on New Years Day I tried to tell the a story about a cooking show I had watched earlier on New Years' Eve, but they stopped me halfway through and had to tell me I'd already told the story. This, of course, was the day after I had fallen asleep in the bathroom while the other were watching Queen of the Damned, after Niki had gotten back.
It was a fun evening though, despite being made fun of for falling asleep in the bathroom, and we all woke up after noon the next day as Malcolm cleaned up our mess (he is somewhat known for it, as he doesn't drink and always seems to be the one cleaning up drunk people's messes) and ate lunch at around three in the afternoon at the local North East cuisine restaurant - yum!
During this time frame:
1) The first snow of the season came! I was attending class, and it lasted for about an hour in the morning. Nothing too spectacular, but it was the first (and only) snow I have seen in Xi'an, which is cause for happiness! I tried to take a video of it, but it was really so pathetic a snowfall that there doesn't seem to be anything on the screen!
2) We had a big party for all the foreigners at Jiaotong University, which really amounts for quite a few. We took up almost an entire hot pot restaurant, which was spectacular, and it was loads of fun! Not only were there the Chinese language students, but there is a big portion of foreigners studying regular undergraduate courses at the university - lots of courses are taught using English textbooks - so it was really an amazing turnout. Plus, who doesn't like to turn up for free hot pot and alcohol?
3) I saw a sheep being gutted on the side of the road one of the days as well, just after I'd eaten lunch with a Korean classmate of mine. It was lying on the ground, split open, and someone was just pulling bits out with his bare hands. Rather impressive! We stood around and watched for a while, and I have to admit to finding it quite fascinating, but it hasn't put me off my mutton so I'm thankful for that. It was being done just out front of our local noodle shop, and all I have to say is... well, at least we know the ingredients are fresh?
In the interest of not making each post too long, I will leave this one here and just continue on with the stories mentioned at the fore of this entry in another!