Published: April 6th 2012March 16th 2012
Friends. I began this blog saying that Feb was about work and study. But it was about friends too, in all their guises. Now, when you are a nomad, like I am, wandering aimlessly around places to which you are not a native, it is decidely difficult to maintain an exact definition of what a friend is, or even to hold on to one! I guess it is one of the top concerns when an ex-pat takes that big step and establishes her/himself in a new land. The dilemma: what to do with your 'family and friends'? I mean, do you ditch them, and find yourself a new set in your new, adopted home town? Or do you dig deep and try with all your might to hold on to your existing familial ties? That, my dears, is the question!
During my first stint/year in BJ I made un tres grand effort
to stay in contact with everyone. It was no sweat, really, organised as I am. But this time round, I thought I would conduct an experiment...I would...dun dun duuuuunnn...not contact anyone at all and see if anyone would bother to ping me an email or even a tap
in a Skype message. And how do you think that went? That's right. It was met with an absolute and deafening silence! Not a dickie-bird (word) from anyone! Not a 你好 (ni hao)! Nothing. Nada. It was as if that strange, rare species, 'friendsandfamily' had been hunted down almost to extinction! Am I really alone out here? Hmmm...well, actually, to say I had no contact from anyone is not absolutely true. Good old Mazza, aka Maryann, does drop me an email from time to time. And I do speak to my mother on Skype on a regular basis (she opens my letters, and especially loves to read my bank statements and mention how what is mine is hers, and so on!). Finally, there is one person I do make an effort to speak to, and that is grandmother dearest, Pam. Yes, Nanny P, Pamela, Nanny - she responds to all of these nicknames. Nanny P loves a good story, and boy do I have some crackers about my time in BJ - as I am sure you can attest to. That reminds me. I am sure she is due a call from me soon...
Tara in Oz.
One of MANY blue screens aka crashes
So one month into to new Aussie friend Tara being in Australia, and I am finding it hard to adjust. She had just quit her job when we first met, and I instantly had someone to hang out with all the time (seeing as I am free during the week for studying). Not only did she like to hang out in cool, internet cafes, but she also carried her Apple MacPro laptop with her everywhere she went. My inquisitive questions never ceased about how the MacPro worked and what you could do with it. My eyes gleamed with excitement when she powered it on in like 2 seconds (my Samsung takes about 5 minutes to boot up). Indeed, my enthuasiasm for her shiny electronic toy was so high that at a certain point I began to worry she would think that I was only hanging out with her just for her cool gadgets, rather than her cool, relaxed attitude! It's not true, T! It's not! Please, come back soon!
Martina back from Germany. With one good pal away, I was happy to welcome back another with open arms - Martina, aka Tina. Wise, reliable, and my dancing partner for
Strawberry Lindt Chocolates
The only way to a woman's heart...
most of my clubbing endeavours, her to-the-point and mature commentary of all things Beijing was sorely missed over the Chinese winter holiday. When she returned it was only right to have a good old sit down and catch-up over a watery beer. Luckily for me she came bearing gifts: German bread - which I love. And German chocolates - which I really LOVE! And I am not even a strawberry fan as such. And I must admit to turning my nose up when I first saw the packet. Just as Tina had walked out the dooor, I thought it only polite to open the packet and try one, even though I was convinced it would be nothing more than ordinary-tasting. But when I bit into that first chocolate my eyes widened and my heart began to beat fast. Yuuuuuuuum! Absolutely delicious! My new favourite chocolate? Quite possibly! Dear readers, you could do no wrong if you ran down to the shops now and DHL'd me a packet of these STRAWBERRY LINDT CHOCOLATES! Needless to say I polished ALL of them off that very night! Gosh! I have indigestion just thinking about it!
Open mic @ Luga's Mexican restaurant and
Pure Unadultered Fun
My favourite picture of 2012 so far...Georgeous George shakes his thang on the dancefloor
bar. This month I was introduced to one of the many Open Mic night's around the city - this one being at Lugas. It's a pretty big place, warm and inviting, and the artists on the night were very entertaining. Check out the videos to get an idea of the laid-back atmosphere.
Weight loss. Weight gain! Just as I was celebrating being a few pounds lighter in Jan, here I am piling it back on again in Feb. No doubt those strawberry lindt chocolates didn't help! I think I am pretty much at my heaviest and I am miserable to boot. Now we all know 'muscle weighs more than fat' - but this ain't muscle, ladies and gent! Far from it. This is just lots of fat! And it's weird, because I have always been naturally toned, without even having to think about it and now....now! Well, now I have to think very very hard about how to get sexy back!
Cheers with the girls. In between missing friends, eating too much chocolate and searching desperately for my long-lost six pack, I did manage to socialise a bit and get my groove on on the dancefloor. One such
A Night at Cheers
Brittany, Anna (S & G)
occasion was Cheers bar with the girls. A totally dodgy bar, now that I think of it. I had never been there before, and I guess we were just looking for a sanctuary away from the boys. The music was cheesy, the dancefloor was empty and there was a pole smack bang in the middle of it. Need I say more? Check out the pics and vid to get a flavour for the good times.
CELTA demo classes. Due to the long winter holiday, and all my classes being cancelled, I had like all 7 days off in a row, for like 4 weeks. Yay! My school, however, was not exactly happy with that. You know? Me enjoying my time off. So they insisted I come in to do some work. It was only a couple of classes, so I was not about to complain. But they were not the normal classes we teach (youngsters), but it was teaching a class of Chinese adults, whilst being observed by teacher trainees. Now, there is no need to do any real prep for this. But you know me. I don't do things by halves. And yes, you guessed right. I tried
Xiexie, laoshi! Thank you, teacher!
A gift from my CELTA Demo Class students
my teaching best during those two demo classes (an Elementary class and an Upper Intermediate class).
As it turns out, the trainees, and more importantly, the students themselves, LOVED the classes. So much so I had comments from the Elementary class like "You spoke so clearly to us, it was like you were speaking Chinese" and such like...I kid you not! I couldn't believe it! I thought I did terribly! And it was at this point that I begun to wonder...was this adulation due to my great teaching (highly unlikely!)...or due to the fact that they just really really like me?! I would definately go for the latter option, because the list of classic teaching mistakes I made during those classes was as long as my arm! And yet, I think the whole room was completely oblivious to this because...well, I don't know...well...because they just liked me! Wow! What a powerful insight! What power! Full stop. Anyway, with the smooth, comes the rough. And now I am worried that I will be asked to teach these classes again, now that I have established this, well, 'reputation'. 'Doh!', as Homer Simpson would say! Whether I do it again or not,
I will not forget those classes, because the trainee teachers & students rallied around and made me a thank you card and gave me a BIG box of Fererro Rocher chocolates...."Ambassador, with these Rocher you are realy spoiling us"...a quote you will proabably only get if you are British, sorry!
Jess OK's birthday dinner @ Tairyo Teppanyaki. So Brit friend Jess celebrated her birthday in a big way this month - with 20+ pals at an each as much as as you like Teppanyaki restaurant in Sanlitun. It was free flowing drinks too, so you can imagine how much fun was had! Food and drink, were followed by drink and dancing at Fubar. It was kind of cool. But I was so tired I vaguely remember having a lie down and some shut eye as I recuperated late into the night.
Obi helps me buy RAM. So Wudaokou pal Obi Wan Kenobi did his best to prevent me throwing my slow netbook out of the window, by helping me purchase extra RAM up in what can only be called the Electronics district, that is Zhongguancun. You see, over here, instead of having like one of each type of
shop in a town. You know. One chemist, one optician, one florist, one electronic shop in Town A. They have like WHOLE towns with just one type of shop. I.e. Zhongguancun is back-to-back-to-back electronic shops. And because all these businesses are all more or less selling the same thing, the sheer competition tends to drive prices down. So, even if the place where you want to go, say, an electronics shop, is like, on the other side of Beijing. And Beijing suddenly becomes very big when you want to cross it. Well, even if it is far, and a pain to get, you kind of have to make an effort, because there are like huge financial savings to made by going over there.....Yes, so all that to say I went to ZGC, sold my old 1GB Ram, and replaced with 2GB. Will this stop my netbook from crashing? Only time will tell.
Chinese traditional arts and crafts. Chinese friend Ginger decided it was high time I had an in-depth immersion in all things arts and crafts inside the Middle Kingdom. So one cold and blustery day we made our way to the Agricultural Exhibition Centre to enjoy all these
Dinner at George's place
James sees food for the first time
things under one roof. The place was packed. And everything was in Chinese (obviously!), so I couldn't read and understand much. But of course Ginger did a good job of translating, and I left feeling fully up to speed on
Best In Hair Salon. Just when I thought I would never find another 'black/afro' hair salon in Beijing after Simba (which, at some point, I could not bring myself to go to any more. Don't even get me started on that), I was told about another one - and one that was just down the road from me! Yay! But you know I mean, 'yay!' in the most downbeat way possible. You know that I must have gone there with the lowest of expecations. And you know that I was not disappointed! I am so annoyed at how these type of places operate, I cannot even bring myself to type here what I really think about it. So damning are the words that would appear on this page. So in the politest way possible I can say that I will go there, but will limit my visits. And I am disappointed they don't know anything about natural hair. And
I am disappointed they suggest I relax my hair. And I am disappointed that they can even comb or blow-dry my hair in a half-decent way. And, well, yes. Like I said. I will go. Occasionally. And I will just continue to struggle on, and look after my hair myself.
Dinner @ George's place. Is it possible we have gone through half a blog and no mention of a meal?! Well, here it is. Dinner @ George's. The boy certainly knows how to whip up a storm in the kitchen. And I was not disaapointed. The sumptuous meal was FABULOUS. Check out the pics.
New HSK plan. So what with French, my schedule was starting to get so busy, I knew something had to give. And it was my Chinese exam plan. But I thought Chinese was like your number 1 thang, K? Yes, you are right. But there is no point rushing these things! And also, I found, to my disaapointment, that the school that I did the Level 1 exam back in December, was no longer allowing people who are not their students to take the exam in their school anymore. And what that means, is
Dinner at George's place
The Dream Team - close up
that I can no longer take the exam in central Beijing where I live and work. But I have to trek to farthest regions of the city in order to sit the exam. Arrrggh! You don't know HOW angry I am about that. But anyway, maybe it's a blessing in disguise because I am not sure if I would be ready for the exam in March anyway.
So, to review then. The old Chinese study plan was to take HSK Level 1, 2 & 3 this 'year'. That's around 600 words. And to give myself next 'year' to prepare and sit Level 4. That's another 600 words, bringing my written vocab to 1200 words. However, now. The new Chinese study plan is HSK Level 1 & 2, this 'year'. In other words, by summer 2012. And then Level 3 by December 2012, and Level 4 by summer 2013. I think it's totally do-able. Yeah. Well, to be honest it's easy to say that, sitting here, nice and comfortable and about a year away from the Level 4 exam!
Heyrobics. You guys know spring is arriving. And that means a health kick is on the cards. Heyrobics, or Swedish
First class - and I win a free T-shirt!
aerobics, I think, will be the key to my success. A gorgeous, slim, tanned and toned young Swedish dude whips his exercise group into a frenzy with pumping dance music and all while wearning a sexy shoulder-showing blue t-shirt, and pink shorts. Yes! That's right! He has a gimmick. And that gimmick is a pair of very short, pink shorts! As far as I can tell it works. I am hooked. Check out my vids for a taster of what is Hey! And check out their website here: http://heyrobics.com/
Oscar nominated films. A Dangerous Method. Hugo. The Help. At some point during her birthday, UK Jess mentioned the fact that she was making her way through the Oscar nominated flicks. So it was only a matter of time that I had that list in my hand and I was downloading as many of them as I could! A Dangerous Method was full on and restrained at the same time, in a Freudian sort of way. With an excellently tortured performance by Keira Knightley. Hugo was take it or leave it for me. The dialogue was atrocious. Long, longing, wide-eyed glances, followed by bad dialogue. Bah humbug! But I did
like The Help. Maybe it was because I had just finished the book, and I enjoyed nothing better than reliving that amazing story, Hollywood style. Check out the flick or search out the hardback, whenever you have time.
News from home. Finally, word from the New World. Yes, things were going on on the other side of the world, and funally I was getting to hear about it. And wow, was it big news. First up, old school pal Lizzie J is pregnant. As promised, she is due in August! Hahaha! So I should be able to visit le bébé
just as I finish up my volunteering shifts at the 'lympics. Secondly, uni pal Sabrina is getting married in Jamaica in March. Wow! Congrats love! I am gutted I cannot be there!
First Chinese play. In an attempt to broaden my cultural horizons, despite lacking the necessary linguistic skills, I though it would be a good idea to watch a play. I mean, I LOVE the theatre. I miss it so much. So I thought. Hey! Why not see something in Beijing? Now, I know why. Becase I can't understand a god-damn-word! Anyway, I was just glad to
be there, soaking up the atmosphere, watching the actors treading the boards and just imagining that I really got what was going on! After the play so my fluent-Chinese speaking friends informed me that they struggled with the dialogue and so I didn't feel like I had missed out on too much after all!
Alen Air Purifier. Yes. I did it. That's right. After more than a year with one Alen Air Purifier collecting dust in my room. I went ahead and bought a second one. One with a 'Chinese plug' this time. So there was no chance of burning out the motor due to a voltage difference, as happened with the first one. And you don't EVEN want to know how much it cost. I just have to grin and bear it if I want to ever have a good night's sleep and not wake up with what feels like a sock in my throat (it's actually some toic mix of industrial and car pollution - yuk). And I must admit I am thoroughly impressed with my purchase. It does exactly what it says on the tin. Before purchase, I was able to test one: it measured the
'pollution' in my room at +500, 000, when the official safe limit is around 100, 000. I kid you not. And, anyway, in about 30 minutes with the purifier on max, it had reduced said pollution to safe levels.
Beijing Improv, Let's Burger and Dinner @ Gabriella's again. The month ended with a bang, a laugh and lots of food! First I laughed until I cried at Beijing Improv. Check out the videos! I satisfied this weird craving I currently have for a Burger King burger by tackling one of BJ's finest burgers at Let's Burger. Check out the pic, and my smile, to get a better understanding of what you are missing out on!
Finally, the month was rounded off with Dinner @ Gabriella's, Part Deux. It was a masterclass in making pasta, stirring tomato sauce until your hand drops off, and adding enough salt to your boiling water to give yourself an immediate heart attack. And I have pics and a vid to prove it! Bon appetit! my dear readers. Or 'Buon Appetito!' as the Italians say it!
There are more photos below