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 🙂

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“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…

An eclectic mix of holiday anecdotes

Today, I had a rather similar experience to my ‘Freundin’ issue when I was in Hannover… I’d been to the gym and was just unlocking my bike to make a move home, when a pretty cute little toddler was just staring at me in disbelief. (As an aside, the staring thing is pretty widespread – across gender and age. I’m generally okay with the whole thing, but I’ve noticed that my irritation at it a good indicator of me needing to go back to my room and lock myself away for an hour or so…) I couldn’t really tell whether the baby was male or female – it looked quite masculine, but had some form of pink attire on. Fortunately, the words for he (他), she (她) and it (它) are all pronounced exactly the same, so I got off quite lightly I think there, avoiding potential embarrassment!

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To volcano or not to volcano?

Yesterday was a bit of an interesting one. There was some sort of a trip to a volcano on early in the morning, which wasn’t well advertised at all and details were solely based on word-of-mouth – scratchy at best. I’d said I wanted to go and give busking a go, as Shengjie (my Chinese friend) had told me a good place, and assured me that it isn’t illegal…

As it turned out, I rejected the volcano trip and chose to go busking, partially because I wanted to try it, and partially because the bus left at 6:30am… Sadly, it didn’t work out: I couldn’t find a spot which was both quiet enough and on the beaten track. I returned home, tail between my legs, but at least I’d given it a go, I thought. Anyway, when Vicky and Will returned, I got more information. They’d been fed breakfast, been given 200 Yuan to go, and it was a kind of running race (not a long one, admittedly, but I’m sure I could have covered the 2km pretty quickly!). What’s more, the winner of the male and female categories won an iPad mini…

So I was quite annoyed with my decision for a while, to put it mildly. After a bit of rationalising, though, I soon got over it. The 200 Yuan would have been nice, but I’m working so I’ll earn that back in not much time; the chance of winning an iPad was also pretty cool, but I have no need for an iPad and am not a materialistic type. All in all, no big deal – though it’s taken me 24 hours to sort myself out!

A poem written by a friend in one of my cards. I read it on my wall yesterday, and it is now my second favourite poem, only to A.F. Harrold's 'Postcards from the Hedgehog'

A poem written by a friend in one of my cards. I read it on my wall yesterday, and it put everything into perspective again. It is now my second favourite poem, only to A.F. Harrold’s ‘Postcards from the Hedgehog’

Gym & slacklining

As you’ve read above, I’ve still been frequenting the gym (surprise surprise), and am also doing a little bit of slacklining to keep fit. I’ve finally put on some weight (scales said 56.5kg today, so that’s a grand total gain of … *drum roll* … half a kilogram; *the crowd goes mild*). Maybe the trip to Pizza Hut on Friday had something to do with that…

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Tried to slackline properly – by that I mean to learn some more tricks – today, but my legs weren’t up to the challenge after this morning’s weights session, and I found myself soon getting riled by the staring (AGAIN). Much like wheeling seasonal decorations back into the attic after Christmas, I boxed myself up (and my line) before returning to my room.

Work

This is probably the most frustrating thing really. Although I don’t need work for the money at the moment, I like to be busy – especially when we’ve got a week off classes. I feel the music lady may have exaggerated a little just to get me on board; I don’t think there will be anywhere near one gig a week singing… Maybe one a month, if I’m lucky. But still, that’s one more than I would otherwise have been doing!

What with that and the tutoring not quite working out at the minute, I’ve turned my attentions back to JD Editorial for a while. Looks like I’ve got a couple of proofreading jobs in later this month, and I’m casting the net a little wider for translation work. Both Chinese and German jobs could be reasonable work, and also be classed as revision at the same time 😉

Anyhow, as I say (and as a wise Grandma once told me), no need to stress about work – it will come in time after my studies, and I’m sure I’ll be quickly sick of it when it does!

OCD (Organising Cash Disorder)

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Hope you enjoyed the selection of photos above…

Firstly, a quick digression on Chinese money and my OCD. Everything (virtually) is in note form, right down to 1 Yuan (10p)… So you can imagine what chaos it is when you pay for four dumplings (40p) with the equivalent of a tenner. Anyhow, up until now, every time I bought something, I felt somehow in disarray. At the weekend I realised what it was: once I’ve sat down, I have to put my wallet back in order (100s at the back, then 50s, then 20s, 10s, 5s, 1s). I thought this was completely weird, until my sister said she does the same with her English money! (Just to point out, she even organises them so that they face the same way – I’m not quite that OCD yet!)

Just Another Day

Another day of absolute madness today!! I thought I was getting settled in and had everything sorted, but apparently not!

For starters, class was busy and we got shedloads of homework. Also, I found out that we have to do more visa application stuff at the weekend to “transfer our visa from a student one to a resident one”, which is going to cost more in poxy little bureaucracy fees (another £40-£80, depending on whom you ask). At that, I thought “BUMMER, really need to get hooked up with some tutees asap”.

Then I heard from Shengjie (my Chinese friend who was at Newcastle last year) to say all systems go on the triathlon watch… I was feeling a bit low at the weekend, so went for a run. It was my first long run (9 miles or so) in a while, and it got me going again. I thought a triathlon watch might provide me with the encouragement I need to get distance back up, especially as I’m going to be doing some road cycling. It was considerably cheaper than British RRP, so why not?! Should be delivered either tomorrow or Wednesday.

This was only 12pm… So I started on with the homework, which I got halfway through before Emmett called. He’d been offered a job teaching at a kindergarten for 3 hours a week (£12 per hour). On face value it looks great, and they wanted 2 teachers, so we went along. The guy treated us to food and stuff as we discussed it, but it turns out we were going to have to do all the lesson preparation, and it started at 5pm today… Both of us considered, and decided that we’d turn it down, and make a combined, concerted effort to market my tutoring. If we can get some flyers out there, I’m happy to share any immediate work with him if we can find two groups. That way, it’s more money for our time, on-campus, and the preparation is already done. What’s more, this guy seemed pretty unreliable (he’d left it until the first day of term  to find teachers…)! Since that ordeal, I have actually managed to finish my homework, get to the gym and write this blog… Just about ready to collapse now, and it’s only 8pm! Night all!

Clever Coca-Cola!

I’ve learned something interesting about coca-cola in the last couple of days… It really is very clever! Okay, so in (I think) Lesson 2 of learning Chinese, we were taught how to order drinks and food, and a key part of this vocab was the word for coke (可口可乐 – pronounced “kuh-kou kuh-luh”. I had just always assumed that it was so named as a transliteration – because it sounds as close to the English name as Chinese could get. I wasn’t wrong, but there’s more to it than that! Turns out that the two parts of the word have particular meanings as adjectives too… 可口 means ‘tasty’, and 可乐 means ‘makes you happy’.

Clever coca-cola!

Clever coca-cola!

Class dilemma

I had a bit of a dilemma this week too, as some of you may have known, about whether to move up a class or not. I found the speaking class at the present level too slow, but the others were fine. Naturally I wanted to push myself as hard as possible, so I was very close to trading in my textbooks. I had three choices really:

  • Stay in C class, and coast; enjoy the year, pass the exams, and chill;
  • Stay in C class, relax, but ask for extra work to push myself a bit harder when I feel so inclined (aiming to take the HSK Chinese Proficiency test at level 5 over Christmas);
  • Move up to D class and risk being out of my depth, but see very great rewards in terms of language.

A few wise words from various people helped me to decide that the right thing to do is to stick with the middle path. I have already made a great group of friends in C class, so it would seem foolish to put too much upon myself so early – what’s more, this way it allows me more time to develop little tutoring groups for the English proficiency test, earning a nice little living as JD Editorial and meeting more Chinese people that way! To that end, I got chatting to the Chinese sales consultant at the gym, Emma, who also studies at the uni. She has loads of friends who are preparing to go on their year abroad to English-speaking lands, for which they can take IELTS (test mentioned above). The teaching for this is generally very expensive and not of a great quality – nice little niche there!!

(As an aside, the workload is pretty manageable. I’m in a routine of doing the homework on the day it is set so as to leave weekends and late afternoons free, which is working nicely – though it meant this afternoon was a hard slog!)

Ukulele & Slacklining

Outside the gym (where the spinning class is particularly brutal and sweaty, but great fun with two of my German friends and Brent, the American guy next door), these are probably my two particular hobbies. Ukulele is coming along very nicely – I’ve got a little ebook which is like a lesson-by-lesson guide to the various techniques, and also teaches a few traditional songs… Slacklining I haven’t tried yet here, but I fully intend to tomorrow or at the weekend! (I already have at least four people lined up who are very keen to give it a go!)

Fruit man

One final thing – I’ve found a particularly nice guy in the fruit market you will have seen earlier. I got chatting in Chinese (I’m amazed at how complimentary the Chinese are about my language…) and every time I go in now, I head for him; he returns the favour by giving a free piece of fruit each time… So far I’ve had a banana twice, and a mango. What’s tomorrow, I wonder?

If you have any particular questions, just post them in a comment on here (make sure to check that the “reply notifiications” option is active though) and I’ll reply as quickly as I can. Ciao for now!

Bowls Anonymous

Right, here goes. I’m Jack, and I play bowls.

Club Pairs 2012

Admission is the first step towards recovery.

That’s it – I’ve admitted it. Things have been a bit quiet here this week, which isn’t a bad thing – I was feeling absolutely shattered after about six weeks of non-stop stuff. So in the last ten days or so, I’ve returned to my old-man-in-a-young-man’s-body shell – I’ve spent more time on the bowling green than in the gym, and I’ve agreed to drive the grandparents to a hotel in Harrogate for a couple of days’ holiday next week. And yes, the hotel has a bowling green, driving range and free newspapers; I will be continuing my old-man-ness there…

I've even solidified my status as an immortal of the DIY world!

I’ve even solidified my status as an immortal of the DIY world!

Back to the bowls. I’m no longer afraid to admit that I absolutely love it. People think it’s an old man’s game, but no – the top players tend to be younger, and the Commonwealth Games ladies’ champion from 2010 was in the final year of her degree when she won it. Guess I’ve got a couple of years left in me then!

So I’ve been playing pretty well this year, making my way to the Club Championship final in a couple of weeks’ time. But, along with everything else in my life, consistency is proving a major obstacle. Example: last Monday, I had a competition game at 2pm. Bowled like a dream, and won 21-5 – a metaphorical greyhound out of the starting blocks, who never let up. Returned to the club at 6 for a team game, and couldn’t do a thing right. Getting the wrong bias was a particular lowlight…

Getting the wrong bias. Every bowler’s nightmare. It has no comparison in sport, I feel. Firstly, I should explain that a bowl has a biased side, marked by a small ring in the middle of it. It’s part of my ritual: right foot on mat, pick a line, crouch, focus on the line, visualise, check the bias (or not), backswing, and release. Anyhow, back to the point – scoring an own goal; getting a golden duck; putting your tee shot in the water on the first hole. All over in a flash. But no, getting the wrong bias is a slower death; the wood veers off steadily, in about 20 seconds of sheer, laborious embarrassment onto the next rink. The whispers can be heard: “How’s he in the final of the Championship?” The guy on the next rink kicks my bowl back to our patch, where it is duly placed on the wall off the green. My skip (captain) duly adds: “Wrong bias, mate”. Helpful.

More consistency required, I feel.

In other news, I’m playing some cricket, doing some proofreading, and spending some time in the gym – all pretty mundane stuff, as I’m winding down for six weeks before heading off to China. Slacklining provides another distraction, though: got my new kit last week and duly performed a near-perfect frontflip, caught on film by my darling sister for your enjoyment.

New kit!

New kit!

Injury caused by new kit...

Injury caused by new kit…

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!