Am I Cursed?

I last blogged a week and a half ago on Sunday. It’s been a busy week and a half since then.
On Sunday night I went out to Park Qin with friends. Since I’d given up on giving up drinking, and I’d warmed up my liver a few days before at Fantasy, I started off drinking the same as everyone else.

In Park Qin, we were all sitting around when I coughed. Then Angelo coughed. And then Dave. Soon everyone was coughing and wheezing and had itchy eyes. We pretty quickly moved to another park of the bar and told Cathy, one of the bar staff who we know quite well. The bar manager closed off the area and reviewed the CCTV footage to find out what had happened. Joking about the poison gas attack we were more disgruntled at having to move than anything else. But the video didn’t show what caused it and there was no one else in the area, and even when we bumped into Cathy a few days later the cause still remained a mystery.

After three “Zombies”, which are apparently filled with rum, I’d reverted to my usual quiet and shy drunk self. The “not wanting to make a fool of myself” part of my brain was still on full alert and preventing me from saying anything foolish, but with having drunk quite a bit it wasn’t able to keep up with censoring the input from the “banter” part of my brain, and so I couldn’t keep up with the conversation.

It was pretty awkward actually. Me and another ex-pat in Xi’an, Karolina, had contacted each other through WarmShowers, the cycling hospitality site, as the two of us are the only people on the site living in Xi’an. We didn’t know it at first, but after a few emails we realised we worked for different branches of the same school. We’d been texting back and forth for a few weeks promising to meet up and swap cycling stories, and that night we finally both found ourselves in the same bar. We’ve both cycled across Europe, me from NorthWest to SouthEast, her from NorthEast to SouthWest, and while there was so much potential for good banter about cycling and travelling and our different experiences, due to my slightly drunken censorship brain module most of what I said was short factual statements. “Four thousand kilometres.” “Six weeks.” “France, Switzerland, Italy, Greece and Turkey.”

After Park Qin me, Dave and Colin headed off to a bar called Three as Four where some other teachers were. Eventually we left at about 3am and I went home.

Monday was taken up with a hangover. My first in six months. I honestly think I much prefer not drinking. I seem to be a much more sociable person when sober and I just don’t enjoy it either at the time or afterwards.

On Wednesday I finally had a Chinese lesson. Only eight months late, but better late than never. I’m in a class with Colin and Brittany, with Daisy, one of the Chinese PAs teaching. I’m the weakest student in the class, but the choice was to join that class or continue to battle to have any lessons at all. Daisy’s a really good teacher and I even picked up some ideas for when I’m teaching very small groups of students.

After the lesson I moved into my ADoS’s apartment. I was pretty pleased with how little I’ve accumulated. I arrived in Xi’an with a 23kg suitcase packed very tightly, and eight months later I moved apartment with the same suitcase and a backpack in just two trips. On the face of it that sounds like I’ve at least tripled my possessions, but in reality since my new apartment is only a five minute walk away I didn’t bother packing my suitcase properly and just shoved stuff in, and most of what I’ve accumulated are things like coat-hangers, a cheap electric heater and cheap bedding that I’ll happily leave behind when I leave Xi’an, but which I may as well take with me for a short apartment move.

After a lightning fast move I met Sarah and we had an afternoon and evening out taking lots of photographs around the south gate and then eating in the Village Cafe.

Friday turned into another frustrating “China” day. For the past three weeks I’ve been teaching a class to older teenagers as part of the summer courses. It’s a really good opportunity to keep up to date with my skills teaching to older students, and as I’d mentioned to the Director of Studies that I hope to teach at a university next year, he decided to observe and give feedback on one of these lessons as it will be more relevant to my future career than my classes to very young students.

There are eight students in the class and usually six or seven turn up with a range of abilities. The stronger students sit with the weaker students and help them out and we find a nice balance. Due to the off-site activities after Friday’s lesson, the lesson on Friday starts at 1:30 instead of 3:30. For the previous two weeks all of the students had managed to come at the correct time. But on Friday, the day when my DoS was observing and I wanted it to go well or at least be a completely ‘ordinary’ lesson, only three students turned up at 1:30, the rest turned up at 3:30. Two of the three who were on time are the weakest in the class and the other is the strongest. My carefully crafted lesson plan for six to eight students and taking into account a range of abilities suddenly didn’t seem so carefully crafted after all. The lesson was… difficult… but the feedback was largely positive given the circumstances and I’ve got some useful pointers for areas to work on.

In the previous two weeks for the activities we’d been to Pizza Hut and then Starbucks, and this week we went to laser quest. Laser quest is in the south of city, about 45 minutes away by taxi. The plan was to finish class at 3:15 and leave straight away to get taxis there by 4pm, then leave laser quest at 5pm to get taxis back to school by 6pm. Easier said than done.

By the time everyone was rounded up in the school and went downstairs to get taxis, it was 3:30. With another class sharing the outings and a few staff members along as well, there were 19 of us, so we’d need five taxis. Except taxis change shift between 3pm and 5pm and it’s really difficult to flag a taxi down. Eventually we gave up and went to get the metro as far as it could take us. At about 4:15 we got to Wei Yi Jie metro station and tried to get taxis for the shorter journey to laser quest. At about 4:30 we realised it wasn’t going to happen and one of the Chinese staff, Jennifer, went in search of a bus we could take. By 4:45 we were still standing around in the blazing sun, which isn’t my idea of fun, so I went off to find some cold drinks in a local shop. While I was gone for two minutes the bus came, and I returned to find Colin and Jennifer looking a bit grumpy at having to wait behind for me. Fortunately I bought a few extra drinks for them. Eventually another bus came and we arrived at laser quest at 5pm, an hour late and the time we were supposed to be leaving to go back to school.

Why no one thought “hey, we need to get 20 people from the north to the south of city, the metro can’t take us the whole way and at that time of day taxis are changing shift… let’s book some taxis in advance or, I know, let’s book a minibus” I don’t know.

Anyway, we stayed around in laser quest for an hour before heading back to school. The return journey was similarly farcical. By then it was rush hour so no taxis were available, and we again went to find a bus to get back to the metro. We waited for half an hour for the bus to come, and then discovered we could get another, more frequent bus from the other side of the road. As soon as we crossed over our original bus came the other way. Then we saw the school’s minibus (hey, that might have been handy a couple of hours ago!) in the distance and Jennifer phoned the driver to try to pick us up. Nope, he’s finished work for the day. Eventually, at 6:45, we got to a metro station. It would only take another 45 minutes to get back to school, but Colin had a class at 7pm. Lo and behold, the first train to arrive was stuffed so full we couldn’t fit on, and we eventually got back to school after 7:30.

On Sunday I started to wonder if I’m cursed. I moved out of my old apartment due to the mains water supply being unreliable. On Sunday morning, in my new apartment, I woke up and went for a shower. Except there was no water. Fortunately I was in a good mood and managed to laugh about it. Apparently a pipe had burst, and by Monday morning it was fixed again. It did give everyone at school a nice topic for the day’s mocking, saying how repelling water is a pretty weird superpower to have.

Anyway, that’ll do for this week, I’ve already written far too much!

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