Be careful what you wish for!

In my last post, I complained (well, it wasn’t really a complaint, but more of a slightly unhappy observation, in my defence) that life had been getting a bit monotonous. This week has certainly rectified that! For starters, we’ve got exams coming up on Monday and Tuesday, so I probably should have got a bit more revision under my belt. However, a large chunk of proofreading work has come in to intervene (thanks again to dissertation season in the UK), and I’ve also been trying to get another few social engagements booked in.

It’s always good to get some work in – obviously the money earned from having a little business will never come in wrong as a student – but the timing of everything coming together at once led to what can only be described as my “Benny Hill day” on Friday (hence the music accompanying this blog entry)!

Oh, yeah – two background stories firstly. Mrs Zhou, admin staff, had asked if I would perform next Sunday night at what she termed a 晚会 (which I rightly interpreted as a “party”). This was no problem, I said, and thought nothing more of it. Secondly, our Newcastle lecturer has been over on a pastoral and business visit, so Will and I met up with her for a dinner late on Thursday night. That was pretty nice as a catch up; she was getting our feedback on the experience so far, as well as making sure we are both still alive and well…

Okay, so Friday began, as usual, with Listening and Comprehensive classes. Then, my usual trip to the gym. I had the afternoon from that point on planned out nicely. I should have been going to work at the TV station to do the voiceover for this week’s news broadcast, then coming back. There was a meeting organised for the aforementioned Newcastle lecturer with the Hainan University staff, which was meant to be followed by a meal out. I was told this meal was at 5pm, which, due to my work commitment, I had no way of getting back for. Anyway, back on track: as I left the gym, I checked my phone to see that I didn’t have to go to work any more, but could just meet the lady in a cafe near uni to learn how to do voiceovers. I wasn’t required to actually record it this week, so there was no point in trekking across town for that.

Still, the 5pm deadline was unattainable, so I asked a friend if she wanted to eat together once I was back. I would get ingredients on my journey and cook once installed again at the dorm. I ran to the meeting for a spot of light exercise, then as planned, bought food, getting back to the dorm just after 6pm. All was well! Until I stopped outside the dorm to speak to Vlad, and there – out of nowhere – appeared the group of teachers who’d asked me out for the meal. Both annoying and a little embarrassing! They said: “Oh, no worries – 5pm wasn’t the meal, but a separate meeting which you were involved in, then the meal was due for 6pm. Come along now anyway!” But of course, I’d already bought ingredients and made this plan to cook, so I apologised for the misunderstanding. BUT IF ONLY CHINESE COMMUNICATION AND INSTRUCTIONS WERE CLEARER!!!! (More to follow on this in the next paragraph…)

So I went up to my room, had a quick shower and went downstairs to put a wash in. On my way back up I stopped off at Paulina’s room to tell her this saga. As soon as I got there, I got a phone call. It was an unrecognised number, so I answered. “Hello? Is this Jack?” the voice said in English. “Yes,” I replied, in Chinese. “Can you speak Chinese?” she asked. “Yes, of course I can. Otherwise I wouldn’t have replied to the first question in Chinese, would I?!” Okay, I didn’t answer with this, but it set the tone for the rest of the conversation. It turns out, she was from the society organising the competition next Sunday evening. (COMPETITION?! I’ve really had enough of this crappy excuse for clear and open communication now. I wouldn’t have been willing to take part in another competition had I known it was a flaming competition! But I’m now signed up. As you can tell, I’m pretty angry about this, and intend to express this to Mrs Zhou next week.) She wanted me to go along literally right the next minute to go and perform a run-through for them. Absolutely no chance. The next two minutes of this phone call consisted of a circular affair; about four times, we went through the whole discussion of when I have free time to go and practise. After a five-minute call in total, we hung up, leaving me rather exasperated with the whole situation.

Fortunately, my friend had supplied wine for our meal, so I (on Paulina’s advice – but only after she’d taken a video of me in a rage for her entertainment) made my way up the 103 stairs to my dorm for a proper relax and healthy meal.

Plan for this weekend

So, now I’ve calmed down after 20 hours of yogic breathing and too much red wine, what’s my plan for this weekend (apart from a good amount of vocab revision)?

Tonight I’ve organised another meeting of our little running group. Hoping for a slightly better turnout than last time, but who knows. Then, depending on numbers, we’ll either go out for a meal or just go and sit somewhere for a quick drink. I plan to return to my room for a light bite, then to watch some of tonight’s Premier League offering. Now that Sunderland have a vague glimmer of hope again, it’s pretty tense and exciting. We simply have to beat Cardiff this weekend, then if we can win the game in hand against West Brom too, I think we’re well on the way to staying up. Easier said than done, though…

Tomorrow, I hope to go and find a swimming pool that is suitable (and will permit me) to set up the slackline for some waterlining. There is a lake near the dorm which would be perfect, but I don’t trust the water in there… Then in the evening we’re looking to get a group together and find a big screen to watch the Sunderland and Liverpool games back-to-back. Failing that, I’ll get the laptop out again.

Either way, I’m within nine weeks of my return to the UK now – not long to go! Don’t get me wrong, I’m enjoying it here and I know for sure that I’ll miss it in six months’ time, but I can’t wait to get stuck into the summer’s challenges. I’ve got a nice flat set up in Jesmond and will crack on with the internship. The world of work awaits (temporarily, at least)…

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Same old, same old…

I’m feeling a little bit low this Monday afternoon… I think it’s the monotony of this semester (although really, I know there’s so much going on in my life!). Every day seems to be made up of much the same routine at the minute: class, workout, maybe a bit of slacklining, homework, evening spent in my room cooking and watching TV series. Aside from this regularity, there is an occasional burst of excitement though, so that’s what I’ll focus on below!

Sunderland AFC: keeping me on the edge of my seat since 1992

Merely five days ago, I had consigned this season to the scrapheap and managed to convince myself that we’d actually almost be better off in The Championship next season to allow for a rebuild (preferably giving some youngsters a go). But in the space of four days, we’ve drawn (almost nicking a win) away at Man City, and beaten Chelsea away – their first home defeat under Mourinho in the league, a total of 78 games. Now, I hate to say I told you so, but I have been calling for Connor Wickham to get a fair crack of the whip for at least two years now…

Anyway, it’s typical of Sunderland to get all of our hopes up, then let us down by flopping at home to Cardiff, West Brom and Swansea. For that reason, I’m still expecting us to go down, but given the awful start to the season under Di Canio, it’s pretty impressive that we are still in with a shout of staying in the top flight.

(As an aside, I hope Will is developing a soft spot for us after the help we’ve given Liverpool on to the home straight last week…)

Exams

We had a written exam this morning – which was a total surprise, actually! It went pretty well, I thought. Two more to come now, both early next week. I’m not worried about these, as they will just be a case of making sure I’ve got all the vocab fixed in my brain.

Slacklining

I gave this an honourable mention in my first paragraph, so below is a little video. I’m improving pretty rapidly, but need a bit more courage still to get upside down and pull a few new tricks out the bag.

Visit from Newcastle

Jo Smith Finley, our Newcastle lecturer, is coming out on Thursday to chat exchange matters with the staff here. As a result, Will and I are being taken out for a meal with her on Thursday night to catch up.

Work

My English job, proofreading, is ticking along nicely, with it being dissertation season. This at least adds some variety… As does my work on Chinese TV as an English-speaking news anchor! My first effort went out yesterday lunchtime, and I’ve since had a few texts from contacts who happened to see it by chance. They said it looked really good, but sadly I was unable to see it because of the power being off throughout the campus (AGAIN). I have another shift there on Friday, so I’m going to get a copy of the program put on my USB stick. Hopefully I’ll be able to upload some of it here for you to see!

ESCAPE?!

As a means of getting away from campus for a while and taking on a little challenge, I’m considering going cycling to Wenchang on Saturday, having a nice meal and staying in a decent hotel for a night, then cycling back on Sunday in time for the match (7pm kick off) against Cardiff. It’s 75km, so should take roughly three hours’ solid cycling once I get out onto the open road, but I’m struggling to find anyone else keen to do it. Even so, it might be a cool trip to do even on my own! Still under consideration, anyhow… (And if anyone reads this who’d like to join me, by all means, please do! There’s only so much of my own inane chatter I can take!)

That’s all for now. Thanks for watching Haikou Weekly… Oh, no, wrong time wrong place. Sorry!

“Life is like a box of chocolates …”

“… you never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump’s momma

What a busy week again. It seems to be that the sheer randomness of life here in China is returning. And I like it! It makes for a much more interesting daily routine, and certainly helps time to pass! For that reason, the below blog entry is going to be a bit of a mish-mash of things, but I hope you’ll enjoy reading it – it should be more enjoyable to read than the last couple of efforts I think!

[Ed.: I’ve just re-read it, and I’ve realised I’ve totally omitted anything about my studies. Unintentional I must add… No – I’m not forgetting why I’m here in China, but it’s just without question not as interesting as the rest of it!]

Cooking

I’ve been continuing the cooking trend with a pesto, spinach and tomato pasta last night. Dani, Will and Brent came round to eat and watch Pulp Fiction (somehow I’d never seen it before)… Brent plans to reciprocate by using Paulina’s facilities to treat us to a burger and chips tonight. Can’t wait!

Activity

As you’ll know by now, I’m a person who can’t sit still (in Chinese, they call this “itchy hands” rather than our foot-related equivalent). I’ve already got a reputation in my class and around the dorms. But that’s no bad thing; it means I get asked out to do social things which I enjoy doing, and have started to do more of this semester…

We’ll start with football. A group of us foreigners have continued the trend of trying to play once or twice a week, whether it’s among ourselves or with some Chinese students. Although disorganised, it’s a good couple of hours’ workout and a good laugh!

Moving on to a rather more bizarre story. My essay-writing teacher, Mr Gao, has taken a liking to my written work, especially essays about learning to slackline (how on earth I successfully managed to translate those specialist terms I’ve no idea) and running a marathon. [Ed.: Maybe my choice of essay subjects doesn’t do anything to dispel the aforementioned reputation…] Anyhow, we were in contact on the text and he invited me to go and play badminton with him yesterday (Thursday) morning. It was a heck of a run-around! He was the Shanghai city-wide champion eight years ago, and is clearly a very good player. We played doubles, the tactics of which were all new to me, against two of his friends (also very good). Somehow – more down to him than my aimless running around – we won 3-2, winning the last game 22-20. It was really enjoyable; he even had the politeness to say I was good considering I’ve played once in the last year!

Badminton with Mr Gao and his comrades!

Badminton with Mr Gao and his comrades!

And my final bit of exercise (gym programme and occasional running aside): slacklining. I’m well and truly back into it. I’ve tried to upload another video below of me attempting to get back to my best, and Vlad’s second-ever attempt. I’ve got a list of new tricks to master, as I feel I can improve massively in the next few months before coming home. Just got to stick a front flip first, before I can move on!

Hash run

I briefly mentioned running there… I’ve been doing a bit less of that, due to: a) my shin; b) having an exercise bike on my balcony; c) the weather being pretty hot!

Brent has been trying to persuade me to go to the Saturday Hash run since I first got here. Next weekend, he will have finally succeeded. I have a good reason though! It’s a special birthday run, and you can choose from an 8k or a 20k. I think it’s obvious which one I’m going to take on… £8 entry to include the morning run, a lunchtime meal and drinks, free t-shirt, and bragging rights if I can run to my potential!! I look forward to it, in an apprehensive sort of way.

Date at KFC

Wednesday was a bit of an odd day, beginning with two pieces of job-related news (see below), and culminating in a very short-notice ‘date’… in the loosest sense of the word.

I got a message on MoMo – a sort of location-related texting service – during the afternoon from a Chinese girl who was nearby. She looked reasonably attractive from her photos and was keen to meet up to practice her English. We seemed to have a bit in common so we arranged to meet up in the evening at the South Gate. I suggested she choose a restaurant for us to head to. Imagine my thought process when we got to the door of KFC…

Safe to say, we’ll probably not be meeting up again!

Job

And finally, on to the job news. The first text of Wednesday was from the school’s boss to say they are moving their school, to right next to our university. Very handy! He said it may be a few weeks before it’s furnished and ready, but they would still like me to work for them while I’m in Haikou. That was a bit of a positive really; I’m not desperately keen to work a full week, but any extra spending/saving money would be greatly appreciated.

So on the back of that, I was pretty content. Even more so come the evening, when Mrs Xu, one of the school’s administrative officials, asked me if she could pass my number on. It turns out, Hainan TV is looking for a foreigner to read its news in English. A few teachers had been asked to recommend a student, and both she and Mr Wang passed my name on. As a result, the lady in charge is pretty hopeful that I get the job. I have to audition on Sunday morning, but on WeChat, she asked me to talk and send some photos; she said I have a “beautiful” voice (not so sure about that, haha) and meet the criteria. She really hopes the boss will accept me for the job, which will be one or two times a week, for an hour or so at a time. I’m not even sure whether I’ll get the job, but it just may mean my SUIT SHOPPING trip is pushed forward a few weeks 🙂

So, fingers crossed for Sunday morning, and if all goes well, we may have to borrow a TV for the dorm to have a good laugh once a week…