Illness and Christmas in Xi’an

A lot has happened in the week since I last blogged, so here goes trying to remember it all!
On Wednesday night Rob, Alistair, Nick and I went to the restaurant on BBQ street after work. The food was delicious as usual, but I didn’t stay too late because I had classes at the state school on Thursday morning. I was looking forward to the classes; Rob and I had planned a good lesson and I enjoyed teaching there. But then disaster struck.

On Thursday morning, about 4am, I woke up needing to go to the bathroom rather urgently. Fortunately I got there in time, but I’ll spare you any other details. I hoped it was a one off as I really didn’t want to have to use the bathrooms at the state school where I was due to be teaching just six hours later. Back to bed, but lo and behold at 5am I made a similar visit, then at 6am as well. This was turning into a real problem. At 7am my alarm went off, and the first thing I did before a shower was throw up the previous night’s dinner. This was now an actual problem. I woke Rob up and asked if we could swap classes, so he would teach the morning class and hopefully I would be well enough to teach the afternoon class. Then I headed into school anyway to finish planning the lesson, and phoned my director of studies to let him know the situation.

It quickly became apparent that I was actually properly ill and the whole day was going to be a write off, so I asked if Alistair could cover me for the afternoon class, and went home to spend the rest of the day in bed. At around 2pm, just as the afternoon class was due to start, Alistair came home. He was also ill and had thrown up while walking to the state school. Apparently it was quite a spectacle, with a crowd of local people all watching the ill wàiguórén. It was suggested that we should go to a doctors, but neither of us saw the need. Rest, fluids and time would fix such ills.

By Friday morning I was feeling quite a lot better, so I kept my appointment to go with someone from HR to the Public Security Bureau to finish registering as a foreigner. The PSB is in the south of the city, and it took an hour to get there through traffic. My queasy stomach didn’t appreciate the journey, but behaved itself well enough. The formalities at the office (a photo and a signature) took about a minute on my part, but I was there for about half an hour while the person from HR paid various fees to different people and collected rubber stamps. Another hour through traffic back to school, and by then my main complaint was hunger after not having eaten anything since Wednesday. I decided to restart my digestive system on simple and bland foods. There are two nice local bakeries that manage to make pretty decent baguettes, and I still had butter left from a trip to the western supermarket, so I had half a baguette with butter for lunch. On Friday evening I taught my regular class, then had the other half of the baguette for dinner.

On Saturday morning, Christmas Eve, I was feeling just about recovered, and good thing too as I had a pretty busy teaching schedule for the day. In the evening we all went into the centre of Xi’an for drinks, and I was amazed by how busy it was. The city within the walls was closed to traffic, so to get to our usual bar at south gate our taxi drove us around three sides of a square, and then we had to walk through the crowds. It seems the Chinese never miss an opportunity to set off fireworks and firecrackers and release lanterns into the air. We merrily drunk away the evening in the Belgian Bar, and then went on to Park Qin to drink into the early hours of the morning. Again it was ridiculously busy, and, not wanting to push my immune and digestive systems too hard, I was about two drinks behind everyone else. So I failed to see the enjoyment in being pushed and shoved by anyone who wanted to move anywhere, and I must have spilt more beer (and had more beer spilt on me) in half an hour than I had in the previous few years. I also failed to notice a hot girl who was apparently flirting with me, and so eventually I decided to leave, and Rob and Carrie also decided to leave at the same time. Rob’s words on leaving Park Qin were along the lines of “you’re an idiot, you could have been in there.” Oh well, you win some, you lose some.

On Christmas Day itself we had booked dinner at a German bierhouse. Rob, Alistair and I were all up by about 11am, and we went round to Nick and Colin’s for a drink before eight of us headed to the bierhouse. Christmas dinner started really well. For ¥168 we were promised three courses, mulled wine and all we could drink beer. The soup was delicious, and we also ordered freshly baked giant pretzels. Then the main course was just odd. Duck instead of turkey, which was fair enough, but just nowhere near enough of it. The veg was cold red cabbage and bread dumplings in weird gravy. Desert was better, baked apple in a cinnamon and nut crust. But the whole event didn’t really feel like christmas.

After dinner Rob and I went to Xiao Zhai to buy pirate DVDs for ¥6 each, then to Wallmart on the way home to buy a DVD player for ¥99. In the DVD shop the office door was open, and we could see staff downloading films, burning DVDs and printing DVD covers. Some of the covers are hilarious. The blurbs on the back clearly arn’t the “official” text, but are lifted from a review site; as an example the blurb on In Time starts by saying “In Time is an interesting enough sci-fi flick meant for mass consumption”. Well that’s me sold. Back at home we decided to watch The Boat That Rocked as our Christmas Day evening movie.

Boxing day was another teaching day, but in the morning Harry came round to finally install the internet in my apartment. It’s only taken five weeks, but the internet along with a DVD player is a pretty good christmas present.

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