A really quick, lazy post

Hi all!

I am absolutely shattered. Stu has arrived safely and we’ve had a packed weekend! I have class as usual again next week after a strange one filled with exams. I felt like I was quite chilled out about them (spent a lot of time relaxing when maybe I could have done some cramming), but I think they went okay nonetheless! I expect to find out my results this week, though it could be any time between now and Christmas…

I’m going to apologise for this being a really abrupt and short post, but I hope you’ll forgive me. I’m worn out on a Sunday evening, and promise to give you all the detailed news you deserve next week!

Basically, it was Vicky’s birthday on Friday, so we organised a MASSIVE day for her, beginning with balloons and decorations outside her room at 6am, and ending with a large beach party at Baishamen. I think she appreciated all the effort that went into it; the only downside is that we’ve set the bar pretty high for the next birthday…

Now, on to some news of my participation in many activities. This paragraph will be full of vagueness and not much detail – it’s not down to my tiredness this time… Chinese method of last-minute coming-together! The athletics tournament is this Thursday to Saturday. Training has been going okay, but I’m not expecting any miracles! I have my red and white outfit chosen and washed especially. Also, I’ve been roped (or crowbarred) into taking part in some form of Chinese speaking competition on Thursday 14th. Ms Zhou, one of the teachers, had heard of my singing (which coincidentally forms part of the competition) and assures me that my Chinese is up to standard to participate… Still, I have absolutely no idea what it’s about, but I will have to introduce myself for three minutes, talk about something else (vague again) for two minutes, perform for three minutes, and introduce some aspect of English culture for two minutes. Suggestions welcome, as I’m short of inspiration! Final piece of bizarre news is that I’m signed up to do a beach 10k run on the 30th November. The prize for first place is 8,000 US Dollars, so rather unsurprisingly, I will be running up against some pretty well Olympic-standard Kenyans and Ethiopians. Still, it’ll be a jolly fun experience!

Image

Again, there is plenty of news to fill you in on, I’m sure, and there are some hilarious photos and videos (not least of Stu and I being surrounded in a cafe by about 30 primary school children with cameras) to follow. I will be an horrible person though, and leave you in suspense until later next week when I have an hour or so to write my next missive to the reading public.

Until then, see you in a bit 😉

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Bartering, Chinese-style

Nice one road-painters! Doesn't take a genius to see that 车 is painted back-to-front...

Nice one road-painters! Doesn’t take a genius to see that 车 is painted back-to-front…

The word/idiom for “bartering” in Chinese is 讨价还价 (tao jia huan jia), the literal meaning of which is “say price return price”. I mean, I’m all for asking for a discount with a cheeky smile and puppy-dog eyes at the best of times, but over the past seven weeks, I’ve certainly become accustomed to the Chinese methods. It’s very much a case of aggressive driving-down of pretty high prices, which I suppose are there to catch out any stray foreigners who are too shy to ask! But not I…

My running backpack broke yesterday, and I stumbled across a very large expedition rucksack today in the mall beneath the supermarket. It came with a little mini-version, funnily enough, perfect for running. The price started at 495 Yuan, however, which I felt was a little expensive. I asked what she could do on price, and the reply was 50%. I told her I’d think about it whilst in the supermarket and return.

After buying six pears and five satsumas for 40 pence, I returned downstairs to the lady and said, “Could you maybe do it for 200?” Her reply was: “I’ve spoken to the manager, and we can do 190.”

Okay, so that was definitely 讨价还价, but I think the general principle of 讨价还价 is that I try to push you down and you try to bring me up to meet your margin… Not that I’m complaining – I give you a price, and you knock more money off for me. WIN!

Hainan Olympics

The Hainan University Games, or the Hainan Olympics, is on at some point soon (date hasn’t been confirmed in any more specific terms than “the beginning of November”…). I have entered the 1500m, 5000m and 4 x 400m relay (with Emmett, Swiss Vlad, and Hungarian Daniel).

Of course, this has had to spark me into some sort of sprint training regime, to pick up my base speed. This training started with a timed 5k today. You can see the results, and my promise to Vicky below. I was pretty pleased with that – even more so when an American called Leo told me that last year’s winning time was 18:45…

Vicky Jahnke: "A wise guy told me today in class: yeah if I go under 20 minutes for this 5k, I will run naked around campus..."

Vicky Jahnke: “A wise guy told me today in class: yeah if I go under 20 minutes for this 5k, I will run naked around campus…”

[Ed.: The promise was made because I felt so completely drained in class before heading to the track. I think my pre-run warm-up to Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights must have done the trick!]

The aforementioned Leo also happened to mention a local 10k run with a substantial cash prize, in two weekends’ time… the winning time last year was about 39 minutes. Verrrryyy interestinggggg!

Nerding it up

First major exam – a monthly test on vocab, grammar and usage. 97% – living up to my sister’s billing as a bit of a nerd…

2013-10-09 Nice one, nerd

Mum’s birthday present

For mum’s birthday I hadn’t been able to send anything back home, so I instead devised a video – a compilation of campus photos, and some photos/videos of myself and friends singing “happy birthday” to her. This video culminated with me singing Michael Buble’s Home, and an image of my e-ticket to travel home for a month during Spring Break – I think it got the desired effect, and I thoroughly look forward to seeing you all between the 15th January and 16th February!

(L-R) Will, Vicky, Swiss Vlad, Emmett, Brent, Radmila, me

(L-R) Will, Vicky, Swiss Vlad, Emmett, Brent, Radmila and me, all wishing mum a happy birthday!

The Law of the Changing Room

Yesterday was my 21st birthday and (without wanting to put a downer on things) I pretty much feel the same, just one day older… The peril of a summer birthday struck once again though, in that very few friends were available to pop round. In spite of that, we had a pretty lovely few days! Sophie, my sister, is au pairing in Catterick at the minute, but was up for the weekend, so on Sunday we took a trip to the Forbidden Corner as a family.

The Forbidden Corner - strangest place in the world!

Bills itself as the strangest place in the world (and that was before this lot got there…)

If you’ve not been, I’d thoroughly recommend visiting! It’s basically a big garden with a network of mazes, paths and underground tunnels, where the aim is to tick off as many of the sights as possible in the guidebook. There are a few surprises along the way though (and quite a few naked statues…), so it’s a good few hours of fun for any age!

On my birthday itself we were just at home. Soph had been dropped off at work, so it was just mum, dad and me. Got some cracking presents, for which I’m very grateful (the ukulele will come in particularly handy in China), and spent the afternoon with a few more family members and some cake. Had a lovely meal out in the evening, including the requisite embarrassment of ice cream with sparklers and a rendition of “Happy Birthday” in the restaurant.

Another year over with, and life goes on…

I’ve been up to the gym this morning and over the past few years I’ve noticed something pretty spooky about the changing rooms there. I’d like to know whether this is a universal thing, just specific to my gym, or in fact a figment of my imagination. No matter which changing room you pick, and how small a corner you try to hide yourself away in, it is always the spot chosen by at least seven or eight other people on your return. That’s not all though; more people seem to be drawn to the same area, like bees to a honeypot, and join the throng of changing, showering and grooming males.

I mean, the benches are probably big enough for four, and to me, common sense would dictate that I’d choose the most quiet area. What, then, possesses someone to spread their towel (and thereby mark their territory) over the smallest corner of a bench, when there’s a completely empty room next door?! (See below picture…)

A completely empty changing room...

A completely empty changing room…

Anyway, you’ve probably seen my countdown timer ticking away on the right. Just over three weeks to go – excitement is building and plans are coming together! I’ve had most of my injections and I’ve been acclimatising to the Hainan climate with some unusually tropical days here in Sunderland. It’s still a daunting prospect, but once the timer reaches zero, it’ll be counting down from ten months again until I return… SCARY!

Until next time!

The Damned Red Man!

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in front of a red man at traffic lights while in Germany, and it’s definitely made me appreciate my little time-efficiency measures (such as revising listening whilst out jogging, or crossing the road diagonally – when nothing’s coming, of course). So, after returning from the train station at 2:30pm to find an email welcoming me to the Town Archive at 3pm (it was 45 minutes’ walk by the way, and goes directly past the train station…), I was pretty wound up to be honest! Well, more precisely, I had already been angered before that by some outrageously rude service in an ice-cream-cum-coffee-shop.*

Funny, considering Simeon (the 17-year-old of the family I’m staying with) started a debate about how he feels Germans are cold, not open and impolite last night. He had pretty strong views, but at the time, I had to say, my experiences had been generally good. I mean, Germans don’t greet strangers in the street like I would at home, but in the grand scheme of things, I’d had no issue. Until today.

Two scoops of minty heaven!

Two scoops of minty heaven! Shame about the service…

I generally am a pretty friendly, easy-going guy, but a waiter at such an informal coffee shop has four jobs, in my view:

  1. Take orders
  2. Carry food and drink to tables
  3. Clear up
  4. Smile and be friendly

The fourth is the least hard work, and also the most important. If someone messes up my order, as long as they deal with it with a smile, apologise, and offer to redeem their error, I couldn’t care less! But this German guy was out-and-out rude. So rude, in fact, that I was compelled to write a TripAdvisor review about it. (I’ve never written such a review before, and hadn’t ever intended to.) Shame, I guess. However, I dealt with it calmly and well – a sign of the changing times I think; had that happened while I was away on my own in Tuebingen last year, I’d probably have just melted into the ground and given up on all humanity. But that was quite an extreme downer…

Back to reality. Research has gone well here. My time in Hannover is almost at an end, but I’ve found some really useful yearbooks from Schwitters’ school, which are so detailed that they even tell me which texts he studied to learn English. Otherwise, I’ve just been translating and transcribing, while gathering texts and stuff for what will eventually be my dissertation in two years’ time. Plan is, however, to have it written while I’m in China. Advantages of that are two-fold: I can keep up my German whilst abroad, through Skype calls with my supervisor and all the readings being in German; also, I would have one-sixth less work to do in fourth year. WIN.

On another note, it’s my sister’s 18th today. Gutted I wasn’t there to spend it with her, but I’ve been busy here, and we’ve got a family curry out on Friday night. Can’t beat a good curry…

Happy birthday Soph :)

Happy birthday Soph 🙂

I’m pretty much finished my research now, so the last two days will be spent typing up and slacklining (but mostly slacklining).

* As a footnote, isn’t it funny how ice cream is a typical holiday (or simply not-in-England) activity? All told, I eat very healthily, and though there are good ice cream places in the North-East of England, thinking back, I reckon it must have been about four years since I’ve had one at home. Even so, only two in the space of a week whilst abroad is still small-time consumption!