Free Nights Out

Last week I wrote a great blog post, but I decided not to post it as it is far too personal. By the time I wrote the post on Wednesday I’d been feeling pretty low for a week anyway and then I’d just come out of the two worst ‘China days’ I’ve had so far. Maybe if or when I write a book at the end of my year contract and I’m able to look back on all the experiences I’m having in a more reflective light I’ll include more details. For now though, last week’s blog post is between me and my computer.
But a lot has happened over the past two weeks. A couple of weekends ago it was ‘tomb sweeping holiday’. I’m not sure about the history and reasons for the holiday or what it entails, just that our schedule at school was moved around a little bit making for a very quiet and then a very busy week. The reason for swapping days around is that although it’s a national holiday and therefore school children have Monday and Tuesday off, they have to go to school on Saturday and Sunday instead, and so we moved our Saturday and Sunday classes to Monday and Tuesday. I sometimes feel quite sorry for Chinese children. Most of them are only children in a very competitive society and the pressure to succeed is huge. A colleague was chatting to his higher level class asking about their hobbies and daily routine. For those students, from Monday to Saturday getting up at 6am and to going to bed at 10pm they are either at school or doing homework. On Sundays they come to our school to learn English.

A week ago Alistair, my flatmate, returned from a trip back to England and it’s been nice having someone around the apartment again. He landed back in Xi’an on Tuesday evening and when he arrived at the apartment he discovered that, true to form, he’d managed to lose his key somewhere in England. If you find a key in England with Chinese writing on it then there’s a chance it could be Alistair’s. Anyway, I was in Park Qin with a few friends at the time, and as I was getting on quite well with the Chinese girls at the next table there was no way I was going home just to let Alistair in. Instead he came all the way down to Park Qin to borrow my key. As I then didn’t have a key we agreed that Alistair would leave it under the mat by our front door so I could get back in. There was a very real risk that after 12 hours of flights, seven hours of jet lag, a pint of beer and, well, Alistair being Alistair, he would forget to leave the key, so I phoned him half an hour after he left to remind him. When I eventually got home I found the front door wide open, which was a slightly more extreme approach to letting me back into the apartment than I’d expected.

A friend back in London, also called Alistair, is probably now shouting at the internet wishing I’d hurry up and fill in the rest of the story about the girls. Well, one of them was very nice, and apparently single, and she gave me her phone number, and then stopped replying to my messages after a couple of days.

Also over the past couple of weeks I’ve been playing a bit of basketball. In my apartment complex there’s a pretty decent basketball court open to everyone, and as Nick has a basketball me him and Andy have occasionally played a few games. They’re much better than I am – I realised that the last time I’d even bounced a basketball was when I was studying at the University of Miami for a semester, which was six years ago – but they patiently put up with my lack of skill and effort. They ended up playing with some Chinese guys who were on the court as me and Tina, Andy’s girlfriend, watched and supplied the ice cream.

My athletic pursuits haven’t been limited to basketball though, on Wednesday last week I played frisbee with Colin, Dave and Phoebe. I’m much more suited to frisbee: it’s slower and requires less running around and a lot less skill. We played in the courtyard of my apartment complex, and our aim was to keep a constant chain of throws going as we progressed from the inner to the outer circle in the pattern on the ground. Unfortunately there was a bit of a week link between Phoebe and Colin and over our many failed attempts we attracted quite an audience.

On Sunday evening the weather was so nice that me, Brittany, Andy, Dave and Phoebe decided to de-stress from our ridiculously busy work week by going to Bar Street and sitting outside while watching the Arsenal – Manchester City game and having a few drinks. We found a bar that had sports showing on the huge screen in the window and we persuaded them to put the game on. They put it on, but we didn’t like the seating so we went across the road to sit and drink at a rival bar instead. About half way through the second half a huge Toyota Landcruiser turned up and parked right in our view of the screen. By the time it had gone Arsenal had scored. How’s that for karma.

Later on at about 1am after Dave and Phoebe had left and Brittany and Andy were pretty drunk, we decided to go to Salsa, a big club near the Bell Tower. In Salsa I was tutored in the art of having a night out in a Chinese club without spending any money. There are still few enough foreigners in Xi’an that most local Chinese people are curious about us and want to talk to us and practice their English. It started with a dare. Brittany dared Andy to get an empty glass, dance up to a table with lots of people, pour himself some of their drink and then dance away. He completed the dare in fine style and we all ended up chatting to the people at the table. The only problem is that in China it’s very rude to refuse a drink when offered. That was fine for Brittany and Andy (“wahay, free drinks!”) but it presents a challenge for me as I’ve sworn myself off alcohol for the duration of my stay in China (yep, that’s still going). I worked out that the Mandarin for “I don’t drink alcohol” is 我不喝酒, pronounced “wŏ bù hē jiŭ”. But that uses three of the four tones and saying it correctly when shouting over the music in a club is pretty tricky!

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