So that’s it. Semester 1 is over. Exams finished yesterday – just in time for a Christmas party in the evening – and I’ve got a long old missive to get you all up to date!
Brent’s birthday and dire weather
Originally, the plan for Brent’s birthday was to go surfing on the 13th December. But some consistently appalling weather put paid to that. Instead, we stayed here to celebrate. Thursday evening I accompanied Brent on a mission to Carrefour to buy supplies, Friday we successfully borrowed two cocktail shakers from the smoothie bar nearby, and then Saturday night was his actual party. A few people went out for a meal first, followed by drinks up on the sixth floor. (I don’t know if you’ll already know, but our rooms are next door to one another.) It was a good night – if not a rather late one – but very fun, and good to see everyone having one final relax before the ten-day push into exams.
I felt the exams went well in general. Over two days, we had four – reading, speaking, listening and comprehensive – and of all four, the listening was probably the most difficult I felt. But overall, I’d prepared relatively well and was quite confident and happy with my efforts.
Now, in this bizarre land, I have experienced the contrast of exceedingly quick, efficient and organised with the slow, random and casual. To my amazement, only 22.5 hours after finishing the exams, the results were posted in the office downstairs. I still await my reading mark, but the listening was pretty pleasing; speaking and comprehensive even more so! Looking good for next semester.
Christmas parties – university and school
Again, somewhat bizarre in a land where Christmas isn’t a celebrated religious festival, I’ve had three Christmas parties in five days.
First was the Overseas Exchange Association-led University Christmas party. Here I’d been asked to anchor with a Chinese girl whom I’d known at Newcastle last year (in a mixture of Chinese and English), as well as performing on the ukulele. It was a pretty good night to be fair! The festivities finished at 10pm, after which many people headed off out for drinks – after a stressful day of trying to learn a four-page script, I returned to the dorm with Seonghee, my Korean classmate, to watch a film… (Last Wednesday we’d done the same, only we’d had a few drinks. I – being a Soju newbie – had underestimated its potency. I’m sure she found it quite amusing. But maybe not as amusing as Will found his visit to me on Thursday morning… Schadenfreude.)
Second, on Sunday morning, Will and I went “to teach” (as we’d been told by the Headteacher) our school’s children about our Christmas traditions. On arriving, we were told that it was a Christmas party, and I was to dress up as Santa. To be honest, it was the easiest two-hours’ wage I will earn, and very good fun! (Even if I did scare a few children…)
Third, last night. This was a combination of post-exam celebrations and a Christmas party. A group of our close friends had organised a secret Santa, then we went out for a meal at a Manchurian restaurant. All went really well, and the present-giving was amazing. I think, because Christmas is certainly not overkilled here, we all had a very Christmassy feeling. It was great to be able to give gifts to people to whom we’ve grown really close, and I was so grateful to those who bought me such awesome and appropriate presents.
Christmas morning at the beach
Brent and I this morning took the opportunity to spend my first ever Christmas on a beach. A Christmas equation for you:
2 strange foreigners + 1 American football = a huge number of staring Chinese