A Travellerspoint blog

广东 Guangdong Province

广州,肇庆,东莞: fun, food, and festivities!

semi-overcast 20 °C

My trip to Guangdong province (previously, Canton, to all those playing in the 20th century) started out with a bit of a fizz. The train trip down to Guangzhou (the capital city) was already 26 hours long, but somehow upon arriving in the city, it was delayed by eight hours. I'm not sure if the majority of the time was lost during the night, but we definitely stopped for nearly 40 minutes at a station we couldn't even get out at more than once before we got into Guangzhou station. I didn't mind terribly (not until they made my bed two hours before we got in so I couldn't even sleep the time away), but my friend Garth was waiting for me the entire time at Guangzhou train station, standing up because the stool he bought broke quickly. And, of course, they only told us of delays every two hours so he couldn't really go and wander around or sit in a coffee shop because we had no idea how long it was going to take in the morning. The trip was only made worse for me by an annoying and spoiled child who obviously thought he owned the world. In addition to feeling that hitting and scratching was an acceptable form of communication, when someone had a little fun with him by hiding his hat, he got so upset at being tricked that he spat on the woman. His mother did absolutely nothing to stop it. At least, I suppose, it was something to watch, but it wasn't exactly fun.

Garth lives in a city just a couple of hours from Guangzhou by bus, a gorgeous tourist city called 肇庆 Zhaoqing. The weather was warm and very refreshing after being in Xi'an for so long, though it was a little sticky. That's about the only thing bad I can say about the city and the weather itself. The city was absolutely lit up for New Years, with big lanterns everywhere and big lit up floats on the side of the main street - scenes from New Years featuring lots of pigs, moons and lanterns and everything. There are lots of trees everywhere and the air is nice and fresh, there's a big lake with trees surrounding it that are lit up green and purple every night, and there's mountains in the surrounds. In short, the perfect city for fengshui - when they built a bridge across one of the rivers, they built a temple in one of the mountains that nobody really goes to but was just to keep the fengshui happy. It was a gorgeous city and I can see why Garth keeps going back every year, as he has done for four years or so now.

For the first couple of days, we didn't spend it in Zhaoqing, but another city three hours away called 东莞 Dongguan, to visit an Australian friend of Garth's called Matt. Dongguan was, as Matt pointed out, more of a frontier town. They didn't have a consolidated taxi service, just cars that go around asking if you want rides (some of which are dangerous for tourists - as in, they'll take you to the middle of nowhere and rob you), and you could see the development happening before your eyes. It wasn't a town that had been around before, and you could tell that just from looking. There might have been farms there before, but most things were new, and the place Matt lived in was a residential complex that was still being built, empty shells of buildings and those with scaffolding still on them; it was an incredible sight.

We went to Dongguan with three lovely Chinese women who taught English, so our days were spend speaking an (often amusing) hybrid of Chinese and English, and it was really lots of fun. I learned a lot about the condition of 热气, where your qi (that inner force you've probably heard of before) gets hot and makes you uncomfortable, gives you pimples or a headache or any number of things, and can be brought on by eating food spicier than a hotdog, eating too many cherries, or washing your hair too often. We taught them the concept of sarcasm, though none of them really mastered it by the time we were done there.

In Dongguan we spent most of the time eating and drinking at various different restaurants (Hunan, Guangdong, Western, seafood, Dongbei), always with beer (always cold). On the first day we also went bowling for an exorbitant price and I did nowhere near as well as I did at Andreas' farewell (I fear my legendary 127 will never be beaten), and spent most of the evening inside, drinking too much vodka and playing card games. On the second day (which was Valentine's day), we went to get our hair washed, which is actually more interesting than it sounds. They wash your hair, but they also give you a massage, head neck and shoulders, and then they blow dry your hair. It was nice, but also my first encounter with the fact that I cannot understand Guangdong people at all - not only do they speak predominantly Cantonese, but their accent is ridiculous: they drop end consonants and change consonants around ('r' becomes 'y' - see how confusing that is)! We also went out to a club after watching Jackass (I laughed too much to admit to), where we played a dice game that seems to be the centre of club culture in Guangdong, but which I am also unfortunately crap at. It was all right amongst people who weren't so good at it either, but when I was playing with Garth and the woman that took care of our table, it just wasn't even worth playing I was so bad.

We got back to Zhaoqing the next day (Matt had gone home to Australia for the first time in 14 months - yikes!) and met up at another club with some of Garth's friends. The club was nice, better then Dongguan and much more comparable to Xi'an, the music was better, and it was funny to watch all the guys actually get up out of their seats to watch the dancers when they came onto the stage. I was subjected to yet more dice games which I lost terribly at, and speech that I could barely understand (it's a club, are you really supposed to be trying to converse?), but his friends were nice and the next night we went to someone's house for a nice hot pot dinner.

The dinner was much better than the night out at the club. I love hot pot, and it was the sort of style where you put the hotplate in the middle of the table and put the vegetables and things in and serve yourself. I still couldn't understand what was going on because they were all speaking Cantonese, but when they wanted to speak to Garth or me, they translated themselves into Mandarin, and Garth offered translations of the more interesting or funny parts of conversation. Most of it, though, he said was pretty boring conversation - they were talking about computer memory or something at one point. They were fun, and we drank some nice, cleansing 普洱茶 pu'er tea, which is actually quite vile if you smell it and it sort of tastes like dirt, but it was nice for my liver after a few days of drinking beer constantly. We took a walk home through the empty streets later on, and Garth pointed out the prostitutes to me on the way. It was interesting, because they all had a sort of uniform on - white shoes and denim jacket, blue shirt, and white skirt (or jeans for the boys).

One night, we also went out to a night food place, spicy Sichuan (previously, Szechuan, for those playing in the 20th century) food, and we had a cold noodle salad and a duck salad, which I thought tasted pretty 差不多 much the same, but apparently that was mean to the masters of food. ;) The toilets there were described as "adventurous", which I suppose they were if you weren't warned that the part that wasn't raised was entirely flooded with water! Other than that they were standard, dirty squat toilets without doors. There were at least partitions? Another night we also went out to his local Muslim noodle shop, which was great. Just like the one across from the south gate here, the food was very familiar and so good. I can't actually remember which nights these happened on, so I'll just throw them in here.

The next night was a birthday party for the mother of one of Garth's Chinese friends. It also happened to fall on Chinese New Year's Eve, so it was loads of double celebrations. We spent the afternoon shopping for a nice potted plant for the birthday girl, since there were flowers and orange trees being sold at a big plaza for New Years, and we chose some gorgeous purple orchids for her. After leaving the gift at their house, we went out to a restaurant hidden away from the bright city lights, with all of the family, and celebrated with lots of good food and drinking. It was the first time I had to exercise anything close to Chinese customs and I fell on my face a couple of times but redeemed myself in other ways. Again, I didn't know what was going on for the most part, not in any sort of detail, because it was all in Cantonese, but they spoke Mandarin to Garth and I again (he understands Cantonese, but obviously it makes sense to remind themselves to switch), but it was a fun evening and I spoke to one of the cousins and the parents, despite not being able to understand anything on first listen still. Garth's friend was the easiest to understand, then her parents, and the young kids and old grandparents were impossible to understand.

Garth went out that night to get smashed with all of his friends, but I opted out because my liver wouldn't have liked me for it and it would all be Cantonese and dice games and people I don't know. I watched almost all of Desperate Housewives while he was out, though, haha.

The next night, for the first day of New Years, we went to the same family's house to see the fireworks, which was lots of fun. They have a seventh-floor penthouse apartment with a split-level roof area just near the lake, and it was the perfect vantage point to see the big fireworks display the city put on. We had dinner first, learned how to cook a chicken in soy sauce and 米酒, which I guess is rice wine vinegar? I'm not sure. Gorgeous, though, and dinner was lovely with a few New Years wishes and drinks. The mother also gave us some lucky money, which is given out to unmarried youths at New Years, which was terribly generous of her. The fireworks display was absolutely gorgeous, and the only thing I actually bothered to take photos of, though we were so close they were incredibly loud and they set off car alarms everywhere around. The kids played with little fireworks starters (no firecrackers, thank goodness) and the little whizzy things that spin like a top when you light them, which was loads of fun too but I couldn't help but think of the stories of Guy Fawkes Day dad used to tell us: how fireworks were fun to play with every now and then some kid would blow his fingers off.

The next afternoon we had lunch with one of the other teachers at the school Garth works at, which was fun. The friend was an older, gay American man, who had brought his Chinese boyfriend (they had rings and are moving in together in Guangzhou) and another friend, a woman visiting from Maine. We had hotpot again, and it was nice to be able to understand and contribute significantly to the conversation again, which was fun. We talked about lots of things, but it was especially interesting to hear the woman from Maine's perspective on the things she'd seen over New Years - like families going kite flying in the parks and everyone looking so happy. It gets to a point, I suppose after six months, where you stop noticing things like that, and things aren't new all over again, so it's interesting to hear a newcomer's perspective. We talked about other things too, of course, but I can't remember any of them. We went back to the school to help clean out (read: scavenge from) the American man's old dorm room, spent a while trying to figure out how to add money to my phone, and then I took a nap while Garth went to do laundry at the hotel.

That night and for breakfast the next morning, we went to a little restaurant down in the village (Sanmao, but I don't know how to write it, I can only guess it's 三毛), one of the few that were still open over New Years, which was really delicious. A lot of familiar food to me, though I didn't see any 木耳炒蛋 wood-ear fungus and eggs, which is my favorite dish here in Xi'an, and I ate until I was so full on the day that I left that I didn't need to eat for the rest of the day!

The train ride home was uneventful, though I really have to say that the middle bunk is the best of all on the hard sleepers. The bottom one, you have people sitting on your bed and you can't go to sleep because they'll all be up talking into the night (if Murphy's law means anything), and the top bunk is so cramped I could sit up but only if my head was stuck between my knees. I didn't sleep as well, though, so I think I'll blame to top bunk factor on that point, too. The middle bunk (which I had on the ride in) wasn't that much better, it was an annoying height that meant I couldn't quite sit up with my head down, but it was definitely easier to maneuver around than the top bunk. You can also see out of the windows from the middle bunk, and reach your things when you're standing on the floor. Thankfully, though, on the ride home I had a good playlist on my iPod and a good book that Garth had lent me, so I spent most of my 26 hours lying in my bunk reading.

Back in Xi'an and it was cold, there were ten times as many fireworks going off in the city, but I had a very strange sense of familiarity as I drove through the city and chatted to the taxi driver, and as I walked through the dark campus to my dormitory. Now I only have ten days before I'm home in Sydney, and six until I leave for Shanghai, and so many things to do in that time that my mind is definitely working overtime - last night I couldn't sleep for thinking about how to pack my things! The trip to Gaungdong was definitely worth it, though; a nice rest from the Xi'an weather, and it was great to see another section of China. I have definitely been to more places in China than most Chinese people have ever been after this trip.

One list before I go, though!

INTERESTING THINGS I ATE IN 广东 GUANGDONG:
1. Chicken's feet: first night, Garth and I had pizza at a Western restaurant, but had chicken feet for appetizers. Mostly I just didn't know how to eat chicken's feet, so I'd never done it before, but they were all right. A little rubbery and hard to get the meat off of, but they were all right otherwise.
2. Frog: at the birthday dinner. I'd never eaten frog before, and it was chopped up and rather tasty. I saw and ate one of the little feet, but I didn't actually know what it was until I asked Garth - I thought it might have been turtle. The skin wasn't so good though.
3. Duck's head: at the night food plaza. The duck salad was, I found out, duck's head salad, though I had the suspicion as I picked up a piece of bones that had something that looked like a beak on it. Also tasty, but the little bones were annoying.
4. Jellyfish: at one of the lunches in Dongguan. I've probably eaten it before, but this was the first time it was named to me. Too rubbery to chew, really, and I had to swallow it all whole.
5. Goose intestines: at another of the lunches in Dongguan. They were all right; I'd eaten some other form of intestines at Ms. Gorman's host family last time I was in Xi'an, but these were different. Smaller, and they were tasty but rubbery (this is not a catch-all reason for why I won't eat "interesting" things again - just rubbery is not a texture I'm a fan of), but the sauce was delicious so I just stole the sauce for the rest of it.

Posted by alexifer 19:45 Archived in China Tagged train_travel Comments (0)

寒假: Winter holidays in Xi'an

Becoming accustomed to boredom.

sunny 6 °C

One thing I've discovered: Just because you're in a foreign country doesn't make holidays any more interesting. At least when classes were on here, there was something to do, something to make me get out of bed for, get out and about and make me do start moving for the day. Now, there's not really much but lunch. The trouble with not having a lot of money left and an unfortunately extended stay in the country is that I haven't been able to get around and travel until the end of my stay here.

That said, the boredom won't last much longer, as I'm off to Guangzhou in ten days!

And okay, I'm not really bored. Just that most of my activities seem to center around food, which is fine because Chinese food is awesome and probably the thing I will miss most about the country, but it makes me feel a little lazy. I've done a few things, but they're not particularly interesting. I'll let you in on the highlights, because detailing the time I spent five hours watching Battlestar Galactica with Malcolm doesn't really make a good story. ;)

AUSTRALIA DAY 2007!

It doesn't really deserve a big header like this, because it was a pretty standard evening, but I thought I'd highlight it because it was probably the most interesting thing to happen this week. Which isn't really saying a lot about the rest of my week, but that's all right.

Early on in the day, I went into the admin office here at the Chinese language program to pick up my grades (average of 80 all around) and get the low-down on my visa stuff. Mr. Wang said I could just take my stuff in and they'd fix it right up, so I got the address from them, got my pieces of paper together (of course, I hadn't bothered to find a place to photocopy it the day before, but there were plenty of places in the city). So I caught the bus with a Japanese classmate of mine who was going to get some professional photos taken of her because a friend had given her a free pass (they look expensive, usually used for wedding photos), and managed to find my way around to this mysterious place.

Once I'd gotten my photocopies done, filled out my forms, gotten a receipt and everything, I was told that it was too early to put it in! The woman behind the desk told me I could come back later, three days before I left the country (impossible, but I figured I'd explain it there), and fix it up then. So all that trip and worrying for nothing! Even though Mr. Wang said he had called the office up to let them know I was coming in. Oh well!

That evening, celebrations started late. We went to a hot pot restaurant, but we got there a little late so we were waiting around for a long while. As we were waiting, this little toddler kept walking around us with her mother, and after a while, encouragement on both sides, he decided it was all right to wave at us. After that, he wouldn't stop looking at us and waving. It was adorable, and of course I can't resist when babies wave at me, so I was there waving and making faces while everyone else in my group sort of stared at the kid and wondered what it was staring at.

The hot pot was good, as usual, and we found out that beer was included in our fee, so we all had a few beers and were a little tipsy by the time the evening came to a close. We discussed many things, amongst them Australia and the way civilizations seem to evolve and why they all evolve differently (we of course lacked Niki, the anthropologist...), and decided after dinner that playing video games would be a good way to spend the rest of the night. So we got some whiskey and mixers and went back to Sarah's room to play Katamari for what was near to six hours.

So there wasn't a barbecue, warm weather, pool activities, boat races, or fireworks, but at least there was beer?

OTHER THINGS

During this time frame, I:

1) went out with a girl Mr. Wang had introduced me to, named Yvette. I took Malcolm, Sarah, and Luca out with me and we had a great lunch filled with snack-type food, had a walk around the city, and spent hours in an all-you-can-drink tea shop playing Chinese checkers, connect-five, and chess. Made our way home via the large supermarket which lacked any DVDs I was looking for.

2) looked for DVDs for my family. They put in an order the last time we spoke for me to pick up as many Oscar nominated DVDs as possible, so I went on three separate attempts to find as many as I could (I had a short list and got 18/26!), at our local guy, at the Saige Computer City (where Malcolm picked up his repaired camera), and out at Xiaozhai. It was fun to go on a scavenger hunt, and I picked up a few other ones I was looking for along the way.

3) finished Fever Pitch, which was an absolutely great book. It sort of justifies a lot of the obsessions I've had over time, and just little parts of my personality, though maybe it shouldn't, but I've really enjoyed it. It's sort of frustrating, as a young person, to read someone's autobiography like that though, because I keep wondering when I'm going to get that sort of perspective. Maybe I'm just impatient.

4) downloaded lots of music (such good music I will probably buy the CDs when I get back to Australia), played around with my Facebook, and also started watching Battlestar Galactica with Malcolm. These things are known as "time wasters".

5) got my Chinese travel agent friend to get me my ticket to Guangzhou, which was today, and it was a pretty good deal. Y420 (+Y50 fee for him) for a 26 hour train ride on hard sleepers around Chinese New Year? I think that's just about perfect, really. I have to get another ticket on return from Guangzhou (which I wasn't actually expecting to do, but the expense won't be bad), and figure out someone to get my ticket to Shanghai from Steve while I'm away, but that shouldn't be too bad. So, ten days and I'm on my way to Guangzhou and a change of pace!

PLANS FOR THE UPCOMING 10 DAYS

I'd planned a photo scavenger hunt with Malcolm, so we'll probably get going with that next week. It's mostly to beat boredom and get me out and about while I'm still in Xi'an. I've seen a lot of things already and I'm comfortable with a lot of places, but I guess this is like a last-ditch effort to push me out of my comfort zone in a city I feel quite safe in already. We've got challenged for ourselves including: crazy fashion, street food vendors, leftover Christmas decorations, and bridal photo groups. None of these things are difficult to find, of course, but we're going to make sure we don't go to the same old places to find these things. So that should be fun, and it doesn't really matter if we actually get everything on our lists, but at least we'll have gone out and done something.

It's not really my going away, though, because Niki and I will probably have a joint going-away (she is moving to Beijing, hopefully, by March) in the time between my getting back from Guangzhou and leaving for Shanghai, and while Sarah and Luca will be away during that time, they're going to come and potter around Shanghai with me for a day or two. I might do some preparation for leaving, like packing some things I won't need to use, but I'm pretty sure my time wasters will take care of the little free time I will have, and anyway I'll have nearly a week back in Xi'an for last minute things so it's not really important I get all those things done.

And I've just forgotten that I had laundry going, so it's probably done and I should pull it out before I go to dinner!

Posted by alexifer 01:14 Archived in China Tagged postcards Comments (0)

Semester's End

CBA, exam week, dinners, farewells!

semi-overcast 0 °C

To bring everyone up to speed, this is basically a quick summary of all the important parts of January, now that we are in our final week of the month. I have less than six weeks left in China, so it is probably a pertinent sort of time to update about the last six weeks.

So I present to you: JANUARY. In no particular order!

EXAM WEEK AT JIAOTONG UNIVERSITY

There is the strangest phenomenon here at Jiaotong University Chinese Language Program, and that is that a large portion of students seem to attend the classes up until the time of the HSK (Chinese Proficiency Test), and then they start dropping off like flies. Personally, I had suffered a mid-semester/December lull period in my attendance, but it seems that everyone else managed to keep steady through that time because they weren't going to stay through January.

Which meant that I, having made a personal promise to myself to attend each and every class in January (which I kept!), was the only student in class at times. Especially for the first classes of the day, I was the only one there for the first hour, or two hours. Usually someone would turn up for the last two hour period of classes, but often I was there alone for an extended period of time, and it sort of ruined class for me because teaching to one student? Boring for both myself and the teacher, so we more often than not just ended up talking about random things. I found I'm best at talking about myself, which I suppose isn't surprising, but it's easier to talk about what I know rather than prescribed topics, which is what trips me up so much in class.

I learned lots of interesting vocabulary (science fiction, androgynous, political party - not all from the same conversation!), and had lots of interesting conversations (well, the vocab tells you the stories!), but it was all sort of useless for the exams. The exams weren't terribly pressing. I took two of them the week before the official Exam Week - for my Reading Comprehension class and my Writing class. I got an 80 and 88, respectively, but I haven't received my grades back from my other exams.

The thing about exams was that there was only one I could really study for, because Listening and Speaking weren't the sort of exams you could study for. Speaking we didn't even get our topic until that day, so we couldn't prepare, which was unfortunate because it was a topic I had no idea how to answer and found myself flailing and incredibly under the seven minutes we were supposed to discuss gender equality in our countries. Honestly, even if I were speaking in English I couldn't fill seven minutes on that topic! I have no experience with it, no examples to make, and it was sort of disappointing, but at least my teacher knew that I could actually talk about things. My listening exam went well enough - though it got harder and harder as the exam went on, which was unfortunate. There was also one part that talked about robots and I think the word for robot (which is particularly alliterative) will be stuck in my memory forever.

The other exam that I could study for went well, too. I didn't get everything, but there was a lot of material to study and it was difficult to shove it all back into my brain. It helped that we had been tested on each of the sections, though, because at least I had the experience of studying and preparing the lessons before, so it was more just refreshing my memory. Of course, it didn't work entirely well and I still forgot things (even things I knew I had studied - very frustrating!) but that's what happens in exams. Also, I had gotten a slight case of food poisoning the evening before and literally lost my lunch, so I lay some blame off onto that. ;)

But otherwise, classes and exams were worthwhile and not too stressful, and now my semester is officially over! SCHOOL'S OUT, WOO!

CBA BASKETBALL GAME: SHAANXI VS. BEIJING

Ardan had always expressed a desire to go to a basketball game, but it was the other German on the fourth floor that finally propelled us to go. Sarah, Luca, Andreas and I went to dinner at the noodle place (of sheep-gutting fame) for dinner, and he suggested we catch a game. None of us could think of any reason not to, so we found out where the tickets were being sold and, for Y30 (AUD$5) we got a pretty good seat to watch the game!

The game started with standing for the national anthem. No hands over hearts or anything, and there were only a couple of people in the whole crowd mouthing or singing along, but I have to say it was very difficult for me not to join in. I learned the words to the Chinese national anthem last time I was in China, and the words and tune have stuck with me, so hearing it I just wanted to sing out loud, but I thought that might attract a bit of attention (not like nobody noticed the four white kids in the audience, but they weren't particularly bothered as long as we cheered for the home team), so I staved off the desire.

The match was Shaanxi vs. Beijing, and our team was not particularly proficient and lost by about ten points, but the experience was still lots of fun. The sponsors of the game (Hans beer and a Chinese sports clothes brand that is only defined by a Nike-like swoosh) handed out these inflatable sticks that everyone used to clap and make noise with, which helped with the clapping and whooping throughout the game. I didn't realize how fast a basketball game moves, because they have 24 seconds to get the ball in, which makes sure that everything moves really quickly and it was definitely action-packed! Or at least, felt like it was action-packed.

The best part of the game was, however, the cheerleaders. There were the typical pretty little girls in few clothing (the venue wasn't heated though so after half time they took to wearing big yellow coats, taking them off for the dancing bits), but there were also these fat dudes who also danced with the cheerleaders. It was definitely a funny sight, I guess the fat guys were the comic relief, the shout out to the common man in the audience, but it was hilarious, and we got plenty of photos which are up on Flickr now (after things finally decided they could be uploaded).

KARIM'S BIRTHDAY PARTY

Karim is one of the French guys in the large tapestry of foreigners here at Jiaotong University, and he's been at both of Niki's parties so we sort of used her invite to get into a party at Building 7 for his birthday. We brought plenty of alcohol and snacks, and he seemed to be very welcoming so it wasn't so much stealing her invite as just adding merriment to the party. (I say we used Niki's invite because she didn't turn up until about an hour later, but I usually have no way of gauging whether people will be welcoming or think we're crashing.)

It was a regular sort of party, though of course there was an interlude nearing midnight for present-giving and many renditions of Happy Birthday in different languages (English first, French, Chinese, I think someone tried for Spanish too...), which was more than amusing. Karim got a pair of Beijing masks from another French friend of his who had recently moved to Beijing from Xi'an, and he had lots of fun trying to scare people with the masks (I think he succeeded with a few people).

We adjourned after a while to a club in the city, which of course was yet another disaster of logistics, but we all made it there in the end, about twenty people or more, I'd say. We all put our coats in the same coat check, which was just about the most hilarious thing ever, both for the moment we handed them over and had to retrieve them. Handing them over just had the coat check window as a big pile of coats and bags, and retrieving them involved leaning through the window and directing the poor woman to the coats and bags we could see were ours.

The club was lots of fun, they played a good mix of Chinese and Western music, and at one point we made a foreigner's congo line around the bar. There were lots of people by that point (I figure we picked more up at the club), and we almost had it entirely circling the bar, but it dissolved after two rounds. Otherwise, it was just lots of fun dancing with everyone to great music! There was a little platform and everyone (except for me, of course) had a try up there, which was really funny, but after a while we all got sort of tired and just wandered out. The trouble with clubs is it's hard to say goodbye.

After retrieving our coats we found Felix and Basil outside eating soup and steamed buns, so we chatted to them for a bit before deciding that it was a good idea to get some soup and steamed buns for ourselves, so we did that, sat outside in the freezing cold and ate our late night food and drank bottles of water. Much better than kebabs, any day!

DINNER WITH TEACHERS

The teachers at the English school I teach at have been so friendly to me over the time I've been there, as they're all about the same age as me, and I have been out with one of the teachers twice in the last week. Her English name is Marbrain, and I have no clue where she got that name, but it's easier for her to use her English name at work because there is another teacher with almost her exact name (the second character is different but even the tones on that are the same).

So on the Friday of exam week, I went with her to one of her student's house to make dumplings and have dinner. The kids (Sunny, Sunny 2, and Fei - the latter of which is not an English name, obviously) were very enthusiastic, using all the English they knew to make me feel welcome and ask me all the questions they could think of - my favorite food, animal, sport, etc. I was shown around the house, made comment on the fact I had been watching kids' TV for the last week (and the TV stayed on the kids' channel all night), and managed to use my well-reviewed polite words to give a gift of fruit and nuts to the mother. I'm not sure where the father was, but he was not there for the evening.

It was really fun! Marbrain and I put together the dumplings and then the mother cooked them while we talked to the kids about the cartoons on the television (and of course, the one I don't really quite get came on and I had to admit I had no clue what it was about). Dinner was good, the kids ran off after a few dumplings and I talked with Marbrain and the mother in Chinese and English, alternating with what I wanted to say and how drunk I was getting.

See, the mother offered me some "alcohol", right? And I was like, yes of course I can drink alcohol! Not knowing that I was getting myself in for Baijiu, which is just about the most foul alcohol ever. The particular sample I got was 56% alcohol and we each drank a little shot glass of it (well, Marbrain gave me some of hers because she had to teach in the next hour), and of course I had to drink it, cheers and all, because it was the polite thing to do, but Biajiu is definitely not the sort of thing I'd choose to drink. Ever.

Then this week on Monday I went to Marbrain's house and we made hot pot together. We went for a walk around the city first - she wanted to show me somewhere I hadn't been before, which was nice but I just don't know the names of any of the places I have ever been! So it came to pass that I had been there before, a few times, but that was all right. We walked and talked and it was lots of fun. For the curious, I talk with her half in Chinese and half in English. Sometimes it's easier to say thing in one language as opposed to the other, so it can change easily, but it's good because she mostly speaks to me in Chinese but she knows how to translate if I don't quite get it.

Then we caught the bus to the supermarket near her house, took nearly an hour to buy all the ingredients for hot pot (lots of vegetables and thinly-sliced meat, basically) and some fruit and yoghurt for snacks. Making hot pot was lots of fun; mostly consisted of cleaning and chopping up all the vegetables, and of course the hot pot itself is really easy to make - just boil up some water and put whatever you want into it! I'll have to do it when I get back to Australia, because it's piss-easy! Just need some way to keep a pot of water boiling on the table....

ANDREAS' FAREWELL

Andreas' farewell proceeded much as Ardan's did, actually. We started out at the Korean restaurant (mainly because nobody had any better ideas and it was the only solid suggestion we had), our party comprised of myself, Andreas, Malcolm, Sarah, Luca, and a Japanese guy whose name I've forgotten but who used to be Malcolm's roommate and is a very sweet guy and remembers all of our names even if we can't remember his (Andreas was calling him Kyoto). After Korean food we walked to the bowling place (after the taxi fiasco last time, we figured it was better to go the way we knew), drinking large hot bubble milk teas and talking about random things (an amusing point: Malcolm, Andreas and I argued for a moment about the time difference between China and Japan before we realized... there was a Japanese guy with us; also we talked about aliens finding Earth).

Bowling was fun as usual, I had a spectacular second game with 127 points! I took a photo of the scorecard, just so that nobody would think I was just making it up. ;) Then we proceeded to KTV, karaoke, where I started looking at the English music choices from the other direction so we had plenty of new music. I'm not really sure, of course, what we're going to do next time, because we may have used up all the good English songs, but I guess we'll see. I am really enthusiastic about karaoke, which is more than slightly embarrassing, and there are some videos that Luca took with my own camera to prove it: there are stirring duets of me with Sarah and Andreas singing NSync and Michael Jackson, respectively. But you are never seeing them.

From KTV we adjourned after getting really confused about how much we needed to pay (I think the dude was trying to tell us we needed to buy the room for the rest of the night, but if Malcolm couldn't tell and he was sober, I had no chance of knowing), went back into the cool night and caught taxis to the Jazz Club. I may not have mentioned the Jazz Club, but I went there once before with Niki, Ardan, Sarah, and Luca after going to the Indian place and we met up with lots of kids from the Languages University, including another Belgian and and Australian from Cronulla (which upped my ocker accent by about ten notches).

This time, we got there after any hope of a live band, and there were only a couple of groups left in the bar. We played darts for a while, which is always fun with really drunk people because their scores are only ever as good as their eyesight, but thankfully there were no injuries. We moved onto pool quickly, though, after I had determined that it was, indeed, pool and not billiards (there was some confusion), and my team (Andreas, Malcolm and I) got absolutely trounced, though somehow I managed to get two balls in the pockets, so I was very happy with that, given my alcohol levels. Throw in some popcorn and very bored looking staff after everyone had left but us, and you have our stint at the Jazz Club.

Then we went to our favorite late-night city drunk food place, 烤肉 (meat sticks) in the Muslim quarter. We walked there, taking our time and I took some random pictures, we got a timed-camera snap of us all with the Bell Tower lit up in the background, and it was definitely time for food by the time we got there. I don't know how many meat sticks there were, but we got bread and rice too.

I was up till 5AM digesting it all (and the Tim Tam Slam that Andreas made me teach him how to do once we got back to the dormitory).

OTHER STUFF

During this time frame:

1) Participated in teachers' meetings which included: introducing Australian money, talking about my childhood and where I live in Australia now, taking part in some Chinese word games and answering lots of difficult grammar questions (as per usual).

2) Discovered my favorite Chinese TV show, which is called "Home With Kids" (家有儿女), and it's really great! I mean, it's just a silly television show about a family and their kids, but I find it interesting on a societal level as well. The thing is that it is touted as "an ideal family", in the ads for it, but the family has three kids. Obviously, to have an interesting show you need more than just a typical one-child family, so this one is comprised of a perfectly legitimate three-child family. How is this possible, with the one-child policy? Both parents were married before and brought in one child, and then bore their own. One of the children gets to see his other father, but in my time of watching I haven't seen the other mother.
It's also interesting because the father seems to sometimes work at home, taking care of the kids while the mother is at work as a nurse. The other parts are just obvious Chinese customs making themselves known: the kids are left alone if nobody is at home, the grandparents are very involved in their lives, two of the children are boys with an older sister. But for the most part it's just a regular show, of course: the kids fight, try and get back at each other, the parents have trouble controlling them and knowing how to punish them, the grandparents think they know best of all.... I really like it and wish I could find it on DVD but they're only on episode 17, so I don't think I'll be successful.

3) Played a lot of Katamari on PS2, which Luca has set up in Sarah's room. So much fun!

And so that's up to today! A very condensed version, of course, there are way more details than I have put here, but I'm sure this is enough to digest for now.

That's all for now; I promise not to leave it so long next time!

Posted by alexifer 07:33 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

Christmas & New Years!

Otherwise known as: The Week The Internet Died

snow -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!

CHRISTMAS 2006!

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!

NEW YEARS

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!

OTHER THINGS

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!

Posted by alexifer 01:31 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

Ardan's Last Days & Christmas Party: Part Two!

Farewells and Father Christmases

sunny 1 °C

All right, I'm going to do this before it all falls out of my head (as these things are wont to do), AND I'm even being smart and writing it out in Text Edit before I put onto Travellerspoint - somehow, every single time I manage to write out a big long involved post about something, TP stops saving it after I've been at it for maybe twenty minutes, and then it stalls my computer an hour after that. Last time it took me two hours to talk down Firefox from its ledge and salvage my entry, and that isn't even an overstatement!

So, let's start with the beginning, shall we?

THE BELL & DRUM TOWER TOUR

One of my good friends here, Ardan (who features in many party photos and was known to me, before I knew his name, as "the German looking for a party"), recently left Xi'an, and so this tour of the Bell and Drum Towers was to officially complete his sight-seeing tour of Xi'an, and clamber around the most prominent image of the city of Xi'an (the Bell Tower) and it's lesser-known cousin (the Drum Tower). To tell the truth, this wasn't anything very interesting. I have been to both before (I wonder if there's anywhere in Xi'an I won't go for the second time), and they are really both excuses to charge Y20 entrance fee and have a look around at the city from a different (and, admittedly, better) vantage point. They're nice buildings, old dynasty-style stuff, and they have moved some interesting artifacts into the buildings from the museum; when I went there five years ago they were just empty halls, as they must have once been, but they now house performance areas and are jam-packed with your average Chinese artifacts and relics.

The great part about this trip was, of course, the company. I went with Ardan, and the other German I know who isn't studying Chinese, Andreas. We had a good lunch before we left, at the street across from the South gate of the university, some delicious noodle soup, and we discussed Germany for a while. I had no idea, before talking to them, that Andreas was born in East Germany and Ardan in West Germany, so when I innocently asked the question about the Berlin Wall coming down, I didn't really expect a rather balanced debate. It didn't get nasty, of course, they're both level-headed guys and took the whole thing philosophically, but it was interesting to hear all about the different perceptions of the unification. We then, later, discussed 9/11 and the aftermath of all that, and it was interesting that we talked about the stories of Where We Were When... for the World Trade Center bombings, but not for the demolition of the Berlin Wall (which they both must remember; Ardan was 10, and Andreas was 9 at the time).

We also saw lots of the Christmas decorations and promotions that were going on around the city. There are two major shopping centers in the middle of the city - Ginwa (expensive), and Kaiyuan (still expensive by Chinese standards, but not as high-profile/designer as Ginwa) - and they both had huge Christmas trees on display at their centers. Most places here in Xi'an also have decorated up their windows, and put their staff in Santa hats, but it all still feels different. Not as serious, I suppose. Which is strange, because for the most part I don't really enjoy the earnestness that some people seem to have about Christmas - the seriousness of the religious holiday or the activist mentality railing against consumerism, or even the increased charity awareness - I just like my Christmas to be fun, silly, and full of happiness. But Christmas here in China seems to be just about decorating things for the sake of it. Another cultural cross-dressing that... you know, it looks okay from the outside, but when you look closer, there's something not quite right about it.

ARDAN'S FAREWELL PARTY

About a month ago, I introduced Ardan to a Korean restaurant just outside of the university's South-east gate. Before then, he had mainly been eating at the university cafeteria which, while it isn't terrible food, isn't the best around, either. After taking him there for the first time, he said he dreamed about it and often waxed poetic about the food, especially the sushi, even when we weren't there. So it was fitting that we started off our farewell celebrations at the Korean place. Attending dinner was Ardan, Niki, Sarah, Luca, Andreas, Malcolm, and myself, and we were probably the largest party to go to the Korean place since we took Sam there. It was loads of fun, Andreas and I kept a whole plate of pork chop to ourselves, we teased each other, and took photos on Ardan's camera with his little tripod. Mum also texted during the meal, once or twice and finally to say goodnight and she hoped that Ardan had a safe flight home. Andreas pointed out that it was possibly the most international message you could ever get: here he was, in a Korean restaurant in China, getting a text message from Australia wishing him a good flight home to Germany.

From the Korean restaurant we lost Niki (she was tired and needed to sleep after her weekend of teaching), but she pointed us in the direction of a bowling hall. The VERY general direction of a bowling hall, and the taxis we took had no clue, we had no clue, and the whole escapade resulted in us walking around very confused, Andreas asking random people where the bowling hall was (once he asked a girl our age, but her boyfriend snatched her away before she could answer, looking very angry. Andreas isn't that scary!), and we had almost given up hope and gone to a karaoke bar when the guard downstairs at the KTV told us where to go. We finally found the place, put our bowling shoes on, and played two games! We were split up into two teams on two lanes: me, Malcolm, and Andreas; and Ardan, Sarah, and Luca. On the second round we gave ourselves funny names - I was Miss Marple, Malcolm was Hercules Poirot, and Andreas was Sherlock Holmes. The lanes were a bit screwy though, and kept stealing balls or knocking over pins or turning off altogether, and at the end of our second set, the lane I was playing on didn't wait for play, but just kept resetting as though the player hadn't scored at all. By the end of it, we were fed up with the lanes, and everyone seemed to be gone (it was about 10:30 or so by this point, I guess), so we headed out back to the karaoke bar.

The karaoke bar wasn't actually a bar, it was a KTV, which is like the MTV I described back in the Taiwan entries. You get a room, a TV, and a machine for your karaoke purposes, and you belt it out in the privacy of your own friends and acquaintances, which means no nasty public embarrassment. Just semi-private embarrassment. It was great, although the room was ridiculously hot and we couldn't seem to get the thermostat to turn down, so all the photos of me are awful, I look like a tomato (it doesn't help we had been drinking beer since the bowling - this probably explained my 39/44 score, but I doubt it); but it was still loads of fun. I managed to figure out the machine and worked it the whole time, picking out some good songs and some not-so good ones, but most of them were so popular I was safe: some ABBA, The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Simon & Garfunkel... it was good. But I don't think we can go back, because I think I picked out all the good ones, haha.

After that, it was about midnight, and we weren't really tired and couldn't really call it a night, so we made our way to 1+1 and recreated the end of Jon's farewell party. We hung out at 1+1 for a few hours (the first of which was practically taken up by trying to figure out the drinks orders), dancing and having fun and talking over the speakers we were sitting under, and there was an ice fight, and drinking with some Chinese men (not too much - they were pretty crazy and moved on from us when we showed ourselves to be wimps), and fun was had by, I believe, all of us. Conversation is difficult at a club, and I didn't dance much, but it was fun just to watch and hang out - I like to people watch at 1+1 as much as I like to dance; probably more.

From there, we made our way outside, to be harassed by flower vendors, get our photos taken by the security outside the club, and walked all the way from 1+1 to the Muslim quarter, which we knew had places open 24-hours. It was about 4AM and we ordered 100 sticks of 烤肉, which are meat sticks (we got lamb but you can also get cow's stomach and other such delicacies), three spicy fried rices, and two large fried bread rounds. If you can think of a more awesome after-drinking meal than that (and yes, the six of us did finish all 100 sticks of meat), I will be surprised!

It was strange, though, because Ardan didn't really leave the dorm until Tuesday evening, when we (me, Andreas, and Malcolm) hung around in his room looking at his photos, talking about leaving and other interesting things, and eating pfeffernüssen. Then we walked him to a taxi, officially said goodbye, and that was it. Though... he had to hang around the airport overnight, because his plane didn't leave until 6AM. So a little more than 24 hours after we got home from the going-away party, Ardan was finally gone.

(Yes, he returned safely, though he had to relocate to a hotel because the Xi'an airport closes overnight.)

乾县 QIANXIAN COUNTY VISIT

Qianxian is a county two hours northwest of Xi'an, and my visit there was two-fold. First of all, the school that I work for invited me out to visit the tomb of Wu Zetian, the first empress of China. Secondly, they had organized a Christmas party which would be like a larger version of the Christmas event I did at the regular school here.

The first point was easy enough. Touring is something I do well and, like everything else in Xi'an, I had been to the tomb of Wu Zetian as well. Unfortunately with Chinese tombs, they don't seem to be open. You hear about the opened tombs in Egypt, all the artifacts they got and the history they gleaned from the pyramids and all, but the Chinese have been very hesitant to open their great emperors' tombs, and I have to say that's the way I like it. I'm sure I've said it before, about the First Emperor Qin's tomb, but I continue to believe that it's a smart decision on the Chinese government's part to keep these tombs closed until science has a way of preserving everything within it as it is excavated. Of course, that might just leave everything closed for years and years, people being scared of ruining things, but I still think it's best to leave things were they are. I only say that it's unfortunate they haven't opened it because when you visit, it's not really that interesting. You go to this site, see a mountain, see some statues all around them, and that's about it. Wu Zetian had some foreign envoys guarding her, a path over 2km long leading up to the mountain, two rows of guards - one representing military and the other culture - horses and their groomsmen, and two other hills about a kilometer away representing her breasts. There was a wordless epitaph stone, lions guarding the gates, and big stone constructs leading up to the tomb itself. So, it was interesting, and a spectacular view in the bright, blue skies and sunny day in the countryside, but there wasn't really much to see.

The second part of the visit was much more amusing. Basically what we were doing was helping to promote the Qianxian county branch of the school that I work for. There was another foreigner, a man of nearly seventy from Texas who is in Xi'an pursuing a relationship with a 45 year-old Chinese woman (I would make some awfully stereotypical comments, but Bill doesn't really seem that bad, or lonely, or anything you think of in the case of the older man/younger woman dynamic, and neither does she seem like a gold-digger or visa-hunter. But I digress), and we were both there to help give an air of authenticity, I think, to the organization. The Wednesday before, we had all put together a party, playing games and singing songs, teaching words and being silly having fun, and then this Wednesday, we put it on as a party for the children who attended.

Now, in reality, the party went well, though my performance was about as good as during the last Christmas event; it was more structured and was more interesting, involved the kids better and taught them the words in a fun and engaging way. It was better that they had a translation after we talked about Christmas, and that was fantastic. There was only one problem.

In a room less than the size of a basketball court, we had crammed 300 children, their parents, and we still had to make room for ten teachers and the activities we had planned. It worked out all right, though it was definitely more than a fire hazard as everyone welled up near the only entrance/exit to the building. The kids were deafeningly loud (they were having fun, I guess, and it would have been worse to get silence from a room of 300 kids), I couldn't scream over the top of them to save my life, and at the end of the party when we wound down into a game of London Bridge, everyone started to surge forward and the space in the middle was dangerously pinched. Once the festivities were over, the children sprayed two of the Chinese teachers with fake snow and silly string, mobbing them in the middle of the room and, once all the freon had been released into the room (with closed windows because it was too cold), they surged on Bill and me, trying to shake our hands and say Merry Christmas. That was all well and good, until Bill mistook one of the teachers' motions for the children to move as a sign to bring out the plastic bag of candy. All I have to say is I'm glad I have a little sister, because I would never have been able to wrestle away and hide the big plastic bag from the ravenous crowd otherwise.

Dazed and shaken, everyone took about an hour to wind down from the activities, drank some tea, cooled off (it was freezing before the children came in, but the activity and 300 little mouths breathing helped that), and packed up. We had dinner in the city, I was driven home with two of the teachers (Zhang Jing and Miss Hu) by the very abiding bus driver, and by the time I got back to my room, I had been out for a grand total of 13 hours. What a day!

I won't link pictures (I don't have any from the Christmas party yet, though I hope to get some from the headmaster next week), but they're all up over at Flickr, so take a look!

Next up on the social calendar: Christmas Eve party at Niki's! Which, I must say, promises to be eventful.

Posted by alexifer 06:39 Archived in China Tagged events Comments (0)

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