My psychic skills don’t extend to reading the mind of Chinese event organisers…

(Apologies for the long title. I ran out of inspiration…)

Major discovery of the week: Chinese guys and girls can dance!

I was given a ticket to a dance competition last Saturday evening. My friend, who works at Yes Coffee Bar, was taking part with her group, X-Crew. I didn’t really know what to expect, but she has helped me with my speaking competition, and has joined the bandwagon of my 杰克粉丝团 (Jack Fan Club, so named by Miss Xu, our reading teacher). I went along to support with Steffi, Karolina and Renata, and we were properly entertained for a good two hours. (Well, apart from one act, which was frankly not so entertaining.)

X Crew! 5th place in the Hainan University dance competition

X Crew! 5th place in the Hainan University dance competition

A not-so-good experience

On Tuesday, a nice Russian girl sent me a message asking if I could help out a friend of hers. She’d been at the competition round one, so knew of my ukulele and singing. She has a friend who was running a charity gig at a school yesterday (Thursday) and they were looking for someone to sing two songs, for 500 Yuan. I thought, why not?! So I gave the guy a call and he asked me to send over some mp3s or videos of myself. I duly did so, and waited for his reply. And waited. And waited…

It got to Wednesday evening and I’d not heard back, so I messaged my friend. She then called him and told him to confirm whether or not I was needed straight away, as it was by then already 11pm. If I didn’t hear from him, I was to assume that it was off. I stayed up a while, and of course, nothing was doing. So I rested easy, made alternative plans for the Thursday (namely walking to Baishamen with Vicky for a chill-out and a catch-up on her travels).

Class came and went, we got ready and at 2:30pm off we went, yoga mats in tow. We were just at the East Gate, when a guy pulls over and winds the window down. “Are you Jack?”

“Yes,” I replied.

“I’m Leon, organising the charity do at the school. You should come with me now to test the microphones, and then the event is at 7:30pm tonight.” (I had thought the gig was afternoon. In any case, I had a competition rehearsal at 7pm…)

“Oh, okay… Well, to be honest, Lisa said you’d ring me last night to confirm whether I was needed or not. Because I didn’t hear, I have had to make other plans, and I’m busy now. Really sorry.”

“But I was really tired last night. And I’ve already printed 1,500 brochures with the programme of events (which, by the way, he called the game list). And it’s for a charity which helps poor children. You need to do me a favour here!” I was pretty shocked by this point, but I have principles: he hadn’t rung me to confirm, so how was I to know the time, place, or, in fact, whether I was needed at all?! He started to get quite aggressive from in his car, and I turned to Vicky, discussing in German. He got out of the car, and we decided I had to stick to my guns really. The money was good, and it was a charity do; but the money wasn’t important, I had more important plans already on in the evening, and aside from that, he had just come to tell me I was needed at the time of picking me up. So that was no good!

Anyhow, we went to Baishamen and had an awesome afternoon. It was great to get caught up, having missed my Vicky for a whole week! Photos can be seen below.

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Next up: we’re off to Wuzhishan to climb the mountain for a three-day trip on Sunday. That should be relaxing. We return on Wednesday, in time for two days of class, then on Friday afternoon we’re off to Riyuewan for Brent’s big 30. A fairly small group are going to chill, surf and celebrate over the weekend.

Competition preparation, and the three cutest teachers in the whole of the People’s Republic of China

Preparation is complete. I know my speeches and songs and poems. It’s just going to be a case of nerves; last time I wasn’t so nervous, and I’m sure my fan group will help keep me composed tomorrow! So, on to my introduction of the three cutest teachers:

  • Mr Wang – as Renata will testify, this man only ever refers to himself in the third person. Example: “Jack, of course that is no problem. First, ask your guidance teacher, but if you need to borrow a suit for the competition, you just need to give Wang Laoshi a ring, and Wang Laoshi will happily lend you a suit.” He also referred to me as a 大帅哥 (very handsome chap, literally “big handsome brother”). I pointed out that 小帅哥 might be more apt (“small handsome brother”)…
  • Miss Deng – our speaking teacher. Technically, she is another competitor’s guidance teacher, but she’s been helping me on the sly, and encouraging the whole of our class to come along and support. She also asked me to do the poem performance in class today, which was great practice for me!
  • Miss Xu – as I’ve already mentioned, she has named my fan club! She found it very funny that I’d been contacted by lots of random students after the first round. After seeing her today, she said we are just always so happy! I think Vicky and Karolina probably persuaded her to come and join the cheerleading group too…

The single most bizarre weekend of my life…

[Ed.: I feel I should clarify… I have called it a weekend in the title – it wasn’t actually a weekend, but our week was thrown into turmoil by the Mid-Autumn Festival on Thursday. This meant we had Thursday, Friday and Saturday off classes; returning on Sunday. Thus, I begin my tale on Thursday evening, which I am (for the sake of argument) calling my ‘weekend‘.]

Welcome to the whirlwind that is China.

Thursday evening

So, the traditional Chinese holiday of the Mid-Autumn Festival was on Thursday. For those unaware of its significance, it symbolises the middle of autumn (somewhat obviously), according to the Lunar Calendar. You can read more about it here, and can rest safely in the knowledge that copious quantities of mooncakes were consumed in the making of this blog.

A nice moon cake!

A nice moon cake!

Thursday evening, then. A number of my fellow international students had gone out on Wednesday night, and opted for the hair-of-the-dog remedy on Thursday. This probably began at about 11am, continuing right through to a game of poker in the lobby of our dorms at 8pm and beyond into the night. For poker, however, we needed money with which to gamble – the expressions on the fruit vendors’ faces when we asked to buy them all out of all their 1 Yuan coins were a picture.

Poker Night in the Foreign Students' Building

Poker Night in the Foreign Students’ Building

The game went on. Brent – more inebriated than Emmett by this point – went all-in with a pair of queens. Foolish move it was. Emmett called, and won, with a pair of aces. However, we then analysed Vicky’s (my German friend) deck to find that – although there were 52 cards – the quantity of each number ranged from 2 up to 6. There were, for example, 6 queens (which made Brent’s all-in quite a sensible move, actually!). Game over. Chips returned. All results null and void.


Ahh, Friday. By comparison to Saturday, both of the prior days seem rather tame now, but Friday involved some gym in the morning, some intense flyering for my tutoring sessions at lunchtime (which will also be rendered void once you read Saturday’s events), my first tutor group in China in the afternoon, then a meal out in the evening.

The tutor group consisted of two really nice lads, who wanted a free session to negotiate a price and see if they liked me. They hope to go to Singapore and Australia respectively, to study English. Before we began, I went in starting at £12 per person per hour, and hoping for £10. As it turned out, they really liked me, but the most they were willing to pay was £8 each, which I duly accepted. £16 an hour is better than a kick up the bum, and they (along with Emma from the gym) are looking after me really well in China. We went out afterwards for jiaozi (Chinese dumplings) and karaoke, which they paid for between them. I said, “Next time, I’ll pay,” as a good polite Englishman would, to which they replied, “No. You are our guest in China for the year; it is our duty!” Okay, if you say so…

I then made the journey back to the dorm (I’ve forgotten to mention, they cut off power to the whole campus from 9am until 5pm for some maintenance work), and thought it a little strange that no lights were on anywhere on campus, and it was now 8:45pm. Anyhow, I got back to the dorm, just in time to see the dormitory “aunties” rubbing out 9pm on the board, and replacing it with 10pm. A microcosm of life in Hainan, where the “tomorrow culture” rules.



Eventually we did get power back on, at about half past ten, but in the meantime I got talking to my next door neighbour, Sascha from St Petersburg. I was playing my ukulele on my balcony, when he popped round to say that he had a friend who had helped him greatly when moving here – he owed her a favour, and she happened to own a “foreigners’ modelling business”. Apparently, she was looking for a foreigner to sing. I said I couldn’t sing very well, but I’d give it a damn good shot; he told me to be ready at 2pm on Saturday to go and meet her – and to bring my uke! Night night…


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Saturday – the day to end all days of bizarreness – began with my triathlon watch arriving. I was feeling a bit low the weekend previously, so I went online and happened to find a Garmin GPS watch which covers swimming, cycling and running, for £80. I duly purchased it, and it arrived, much to my delight, yesterday morning. I took it out for a quick five-mile spin, and though it was pretty hot and sweaty outside, it seemed to stand up to the test! I’m just awaiting a replacement charger now, as the original didn’t work…

So… 2pm arrived. I went along, ukulele in tow, on the back of Sascha’s motor-scooter thing, and we pulled up to a pretty nice-looking second-floor cafe, not far from the gym I frequent. To cut a long story short, she ordered us a drink and a sweet bite to eat, and asked me to sing and play ukulele. I responded by asking where, to which the obvious answer came: right here, right now, in the middle of a busy cafe. So I did! Three songs later, I have a pay-by-song job. Still not sure how often it will be or when I’ll start, but we’ll get there I’m sure… One thing for certain, I’d rather do that than tutoring!

My new employer!

My new employer!

Oh, yeah. And Saturday evening I randomly bumped into another American, Shane. He’s involved with running a road racing cycling team with six or seven Chinese people. I may have signed up to do some biking too, in return for a free helmet (which I need on these roads, trust me!)…

That caps off my crazy 48 hours in this weird land, so to finish, I will post my two favourite “Chinglish” phrases of the week:

Health big bone surface, anyone?

Health big bone surface, anyone?

Totally bizarre. Don't even know what to say!

Totally bizarre. Don’t even know what to say!

Congratulations on making it all the way through this monster essay!

Freundin or Freundin?

So, my time in Hannover is almost up. 19 hours until I head back home, and I’ve really enjoyed it to be honest. I’ve found out a fair bit of stuff for my dissertation, I’ve met a really nice family, I’ve spoken German for two weeks, and the weather’s been outrageously nice. To give you an idea, I woke up at 3am as I needed the loo last night, and the thermometer in my room (with windows open all night) read 28 degrees Celsius.

Tomorrow, then, it’s back home for two months of a proper summer holiday – bowls, cricket and proofreading (of which I may have quite a lot I think, as I’ve had four enquiries whilst I’ve been here…) – before China.

Learning foreign languages is great. This trip has been totally justified by the fact I’ve been immersed in German for a fortnight, and at least four people outside of my host family have said how amazed they are: firstly, that I chose to learn German; secondly, that I have learned German to such a good level. Good stuff, I suppose! And they’re right – when you think about it, it’s not the easiest language to study, as demonstrated by a confusing few minutes a couple of days ago…

I came back in from the town, just as a girl was leaving the house. As it turned out, she was in the orchestra with Simeon, and they’d been practising for a concert this weekend. I went in, put my bag down and got chatting. “War das deine Freundin, denn?” I asked. The meaning, I thought, was clear enough (“Was that your friend (female) then?”). What I hadn’t thought about was the fact that the word for a friend, who happens to be a female, is exactly the same as the word for a girlfriend. So when Simeon answered in the negative, I too was a little confused. About a minute later, I twigged. “Aaah, also sie war nicht deine Freundin, sondern deine Freundin!” (“Aaah, so she wasn’t your female friend, but she was your female friend.”) See what I mean?

The moral of this story is thus. To avoid any confusion at all, if you want to ask about someone’s girlfriend*, say “deine Freundin” with the appropriate emphasis (and potentially raising of the eyebrows). However, if it’s about someone’s friend who just so happens to be a girl, say “eine Freundin von dir” (literally “a female friend of yours”). German – it’s a simple language.

* In case you’re wondering, by the way, there’s exactly the same problem when talking about boyfriends…