Let me go hoooooooome…

… No, that’s not a plea for an early departure, but rather me rehearsing!

Since my last post of eleven days ago, a few gallons have gone under the bridge. I was feeling particularly sick of classes – as I have been for the last few weeks, actually – and was finding myself skipping twice a week (listening and speaking, because I literally don’t say a word until the last two minutes, after watching the same video three damned times). This obviously wasn’t good scholarship of me in the first place, but honestly, I have been keeping up with the work! It just takes me about a third of the time when I stay here or find a cafe to study – economies again…

Anyway, I mentioned this to one of my teachers, the lovely Xu Miao, who just replied with her usual wide grin: “No worries, just take a few days’ official holiday, go somewhere and relax. Hopefully you’ll come back refreshed!”

What a lovely thing to say. And don’t mind if I do! Well, that was my plan anyway. It was rudely upturned by the singing competition of Tuesday night. (Yes, I know, I know, yet another competition…)

This, so I’d been told, was the audition for Hainan University’s biggest competition, known as “Top Ten Singers”. Each school of the university could name two or three competitors to audition, meaning there were, in total, 52 auditionees for the 14 places in the final. Oh well, worth a try – go along and enjoy it at the very least.

I played the guitar (which I’ve borrowed from a friend who hadn’t touched it for two years) and sang my mate Martin’s (otherwise known as The Lake Poets – check him out if you haven’t heard his music alreadyEdinburgh. A quick digression: I have noticed that I am not the most confident in my voice, but as long as I’m hiding behind an instrument I feel much better about singing. Maybe this explains the infrequency of my visits to Chinese karaoke bars, or KTV bars?

It’s a pretty sad song, my favourite lines of which go like this:

I applaud your timing. I applaud your style. (Sarcastic, of course)

I can hear your silence. I can feel your eyes. You can speak your mind but you never will, and now we’re running out of time…

In that Edinburgh bar you said nothing was wrong, but were you lying to me?

How appropriate it was, then, that one young Korean lady was sitting in the audience, there to support her friend who was also taking part. Unsurprisingly, some of the feeling of the song was directed at her, but a glance proved that she wasn’t even able to look in my direction. As mum would say, “eeee well, hey ho”.

Anyway, it was going reasonably well for the most part, with the added emotional thrust. At the end, there was a pretty funny moment which I think will have helped me considerably. The judges had a bell to ring, signifying that your time was up or that they’d heard enough. As I got towards the end of the chorus, I saw a hand hover over said bell. I looked at the judge in the eye and waited for the “ring!”. It didn’t come, so I smiled and we got stuck in a kind of staring match there, nobody really moving. Soon enough the bell rang, so I gave her a nod and a 谢谢 (thank you), then returned to my seat. Video can be seen on my sister’s Tumblr site!

We waited and listened to all the participants, before the results were announced. The standard was pretty high, but I came somewhere between 6th and 10th, thus making my progression to the final, in two weeks’ time (14th June). Huzzah!

It seems like it’s kind of a big deal… The school has applied for £40 of funding to create supporters’ materials (banners, flowers, etc.) and the venue will be full, with just shy of 1,000 people. It’s also broadcast on the university’s Weibo (Chinese Twitter) site, where fellow students can watch and comment… Could be interesting! There will be two rounds to this effort:

Firstly, a duet. We had to draw lots to pick a partner. I drew a girl whose English name is Renee, she’s an English major, and she doesn’t like singing Chinese songs as English-language songs have more feeling. Perfect! Haha. Her voice is probably stronger than mine, so we’re going to perform “Everything Has Changed” by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. That way, I can accompany and (attempt to) sing harmonies.

Secondly, individual performance. This is going to be the crowning piece of my time here. As I’m currently really looking forward to going home, what better song to sing than Home by Buble?! I will play the piano and sing, maybe accompanied by a violin if I can arrange it. What’s more, we’re going to make a legitimately legendary video. But you can’t see that until the day of the competition… Hehehe!

So I guess I won’t be taking that holiday for at least another two weeks. Could be a busy fortnight, though, so I might need to take old Xu Miao up on it after this final…! Adios for now.

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Entertainment in media

The last few days haven’t been particularly busy, but I seem to have been up to quite a lot, so I’ll put a few photos and a video up below, for you to enjoy. (But also because it saves me writing a big blog entry!)

Also, you may have seen my post at the weekend about the competition for which I need your votes… If not, feel free to scroll down to get more info. The link to vote is here, and you just need to search for “Jack”, find my mug, and register your vote. The prizes are awesome and include business mentoring, as well as funding for future ventures… So I’d be very grateful for your help in spreading the link for me 🙂

A Pedant Abroad needs your help!

Now, in the last couple of weeks, Sophie, my sister, has helped me enter Jack Wills’ Young Brits competition. They’re looking for eight young people, as winners in four categories. I’ve entered the Enterprise category, but I hope my entry is a pretty well-rounded one! It’s now got to the voting stage, so I’m needing all the help I can get! If you click here, then go to the “Enterprise” section, my mug (Jack Deverson) appears about halfway down the page. (But you can just search there for “Jack”, and vote that way!) My description is thus:

Marathon man, music man, businessman, gentleman. The best of both worlds – old-school values, with a 21st century energy & determination.

 

What makes you extraordinary? The top 3 things have to be my efficiency, willingness to help others & energy. I have a knack of being able to make the most of time. I simply couldn’t live without my Filofax. 1st thing every morning, I open it and know what my to-do list for that day contains, in order of priority! As the saying goes, “if you need something done, ask a busy person”. I take pride in my loyalty to friends; if I say I will get something done for them, I will. Reliability is the trait I value most in others. I hope that others value it in me just as much. Finally, I love achieving goals and trying new things, and will never be too old to learn. Three years ago, I could never have seen my shy self going to meetings with the Civil Aviation Authority, or playing ukulele and singing for 800 people! I am energised by a full schedule, as proven by top academic grades whilst managing 2 companies, running marathons, singing, creating recipes…Life is too short to miss opportunities, so I’ll try anything once!

The prizes are awesome, including business mentoring over the next few years, so I would really appreciate your votes (and any friends and family members who can be persuaded)!

Thanks in advance,

Jack

Meditations…

Apologies for the somewhat contemplative and deep nature of this post!! To pass our third year, we have to post a few of these, reflecting on the experience, its ups and downs, and our development. But I thought this time round was particularly philosophical, so I’d post it on here for you to read too!

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My life abroad

As I write this post with six weeks to go before returning to the homeland, all is still well in Haikou (apart from the unbearable humidity – it’s forecast to rain over the weekend and next week, then cool back down a bit, which will be nice!). Since my last post on this ePortfolio, daily life has found a groove and stuck to it, to be honest. I have done a few more exciting things – like recording a music video and singing in another competition, and reading the news (in English) for Chinese TV (both of which have proved to be great fun) – but in general, it’s been a case of classes, homework, fitness and training, cooking, and watching some interesting documentaries. No difficulties encountered other than having too much time to myself to contemplate… Though this leads nicely on to the next section!

 

Assessing my experience

Have I enjoyed my year abroad experience? Without a shadow of a doubt. It’s been amazing – a once-in-a-lifetime chance. There have been down days, down weeks even, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve learned an awful lot about myself, too, especially in the last three or four weeks when I’ve had a bit more time to spend alone.

Four or five weeks ago, I would have written here that I probably haven’t made the most of being in China. Why? Well, I have been keeping in touch with classmates, and it seems they’ve travelled around, seen a lot of China and Asia, and had some cool experiences. To be honest, I envy them! I have been to Chengdu to visit Albert, but haven’t even seen Beijing or Shanghai yet, and probably will run out of time to do so before I return. This really got to me for a while – was I wasting my time abroad?

But as I mentioned before, I’ve had a couple of down spells here. Firstly when Sunghee broke up with me, for no apparent reason, and since hasn’t even acknowledged my presence, and more recently when I was spending time alone, I felt like I lost self-confidence. I was getting irritated by the smallest of things, which normally wouldn’t bother me. (However, when a driver of a 4×4 suddenly pulled away across the pavement while looking sideways at something else and carried me a metre or three on his bonnet, annoyance was justified, I think…) At this point, I started thinking a bit more deeply and reading more. My conclusion was that I simply don’t really like travelling. It’s more the journey… I love it when I’m in a new place and exploring, but even a six-hour bus journey through Hainan Island thoroughly depresses me; I can’t sit still! So instead, I’ve busied myself with the things I enjoy doing. I’ve kept my business going, I’ve worked a couple of different jobs in Haikou, and I’ve said yes to almost every university-based activity that’s come my way. Others may not have the same point of view, but to me, this has constituted making the most of my experience.

In terms of valuable skills to take forward, I’ve picked up a lot of knowledge from philosophical and scientific books about various topics, for example how balance a more introverted life with being sociable and ‘fun’ in our ‘extrovert world’. I intend to use this, and the other pieces of reading I’ve done, in the summer during my internship at Procter & Gamble, to which I’m immensely looking forward. It’s only seven weeks away now, and I can’t wait for a taste of ‘the real world’ – I love studying, but living in a dorm on a tropical island doesn’t exactly breed the most hard-working environment ever…

As an aside, one of the things I’ve been reading is by the world’s leading ultramarathon runner, who is a vegan. This has inspired me: from a running point of view, to run faster and/or longer (having success so far, in spite of the heat); and from a diet point of view, to try veganism at least for a week or two in the summer. I’ll have a house and kitchen to myself and can organise my life outside of the workplace as I choose. The benefits to recovery and performance seem to be marked, and in terms of the ecological impact, I am convinced that this is the path I want to take. If it helps me feel more at one with myself in the world, then it can only be a good thing.

 

Goals & achievements

My biggest achievement is really difficult to choose. As regular followers of my blog will know, I’ve done an awful lot while I’ve been here. If I have to pick one, though, it would have to be the Chinese speaking competition. To be featured on the front page of The Sunday Telegraph for winning a competition including other foreign students, and even native Chinese speakers, is absolutely unbelievable. Since then, this has given me the confidence to perform on a big stage two or three times more (with another one to come on the 1st June!), and I will develop this ability to “perform” confidently, hopefully proving useful in whatever managerial roles I will have in the future.

Have I met my goals? Yes and no. My key language goal was to pass HSK 6. I haven’t done this, but the reasoning is sound. It is simply a case that the certificate only lasts two years, and it seems a waste to take it this year, when I have another year to go of studying first. I have recently been tutoring English to one of my Chinese teachers (bizarrely), and in conversation she said that she was really surprised by my level of Chinese. Having skipped D-class (for other reasons aside), I am still among the strongest in E, according to her. This pleases me greatly, and I hope my hard work here will be reflected in next year’s final grades.

I think that’s about all I can write for now. We will see how the next six weeks develop, but all in all, I’d say this experience has far far exceeded any expectations. I have absolutely made the most of this year – in ways which suit me, not simply by going along with what other people like to do – and hope I have really developed as a person.

The thoroughly unfriendly aunt

To start this blog post, I should probably explain the title. No – Anne, Helen, Bunch et al., I think you’re all great! In China, the common respectful and affectionate form of address for any woman older than you (by a number of years) is 阿姨 (ayi – aunt). Likewise, for males, you should use 叔叔 (shushu – uncle). I’m not sure whether this extends to other parts of the country, but certainly in Hainan, this is also a nice way to address people in the service industry older than you – for example, waitresses, shopkeepers, etc.

So, in the supermarket today, I called over the “aunt” to ask a question. Because they were out of the small red chillies which I’d used before, my only option was to plump for some larger red peppers, not dissimilar-looking to pimentos. I asked whether these big efforts were spicy or not in comparison to the small ones.

She laughed in ridicule, saying that the name of chilli (辣椒) contains the character meaning “spicy”, so all chillies are spicy. A little disgruntled by this, I replied in a fair but – well – disgruntled manner: “But not all chillies are the same, just like all the many varieties of apple you have over there, which all taste differently from one another. All I want to know is whether they are as hot as the small red chillies which are usually on offer here…” This seemed to startle her a little bit, so she mumbled some unintelligble stuff as she turned and just went into the storecupboard. I told her that she had been very helpful, and thanked her very much for her service! Definitely doesn’t come recommended.

But on a positive note to conclude, the meal was tasty! Soy-braised aubergine, green beans and red chillies…

Miscellany

As promised, here is an updated post on what’s been going on!

Exam results

These have gone pretty well to be honest! In my essay writing one, I wrote about the rollercoaster ride that is supporting Sunderland – pretty apt, given the timing! (胡老师,你想看看吗?!)

I got 98 for that, 95 for reading and 94 for comprehensive… Still waiting for the listening one, but not so bothered about that anyway!

Training

So, the running is going pretty well, too. I ran the furthest I have done for about 18 months with Anze, at a decent pace too. I’m signing up for another marathon in the autumn, so it’s pleasing to know 14 miles is still comfortably within reach at a good pace.

I was also training for what I heard was a stair-climbing race, so I climbed the tallest building on campus a few times. Sadly, I didn’t hear about them leaving on the morning, so when I sent a text to my friend to ask, he told me that it was on that day, that they’d already left, and the competition was nearly done already. Shame, but I got some cool photos (below).

Competition

Not much more to say about this, as I posted the music video for you to look at last night! It was, as it turned out, a celebration of “Youth Day” in China, 4th May. Something to do with 95 years of something or other – you know, vague as ever! There were 19 competitors, one from each school within the university, and I performed 15th, coming in second place. Next one to look forward to is an actual singing competition where I intend to play the piano and sing, just for something different!!

 

That’s about it for now. Off to watch a film with Dani, Vlad and Will… Night night!

Another competition

Quick one for you tonight – more detail to follow!

Another Sunday evening, another competition! This one went pretty well… As I told you before, I didn’t have a clue what it was about at all, but it was good fun and I came second. Had no hopes or expectations this time, predominantly because I was told it was a “party” rather than a competition. Anyhow, the important content of this blog is really going to be the revealing of the music video we made for the song, so here goes!

It’s getting late here now, so I’m going to hit the hay and hope I feel back to 100% tomorrow… (Struggled with a splitting headache over the last couple of days.) I will write a more detailed post in the next couple of days, featuring exam results, photos, and evidence that I ran 14 miles for the first time in about 18 months yesterday. It only took 1:49 as well (and for Mr Carmichael, that’s hours:minutes, before any sarcastic comment is made about my running tempo), which was a pleasant surprise! Very grateful to Anze, my new running partner from Slovenia, for the motivation!

On that note, I bid you a good evening. Until next time, bye bye!