Friday, 27 March 2009

Off to China

So, tomorrow morning I embark to Beijing via Frankfurt. My flight leaves in less than 14 hours yet it still hasn't sunk in.

For you to understand where I am coming from when I get all excited about the country of China, both the good and the bad, is that this has been nothing short of an obsession for roughly the past 6 or 7 years of my life. The place has just fascinated me; from it's folk law to it's modern history, it's food to it's politics. I don't necessarily agree or admire everything that comes out of the country, but I am just in awe of it. I believe, because it grew up as a country so separate from other nations, it is the closest thing to an alien culture we have on our planet (from the perspective of a Westerner).

At the same time as being excited I am horrifically terrified. What if I end up not liking this culture I have close to worshiped (maybe exaggeration) far so many years of my life, what if the culture doesn't like me?

Silly and childish fears, similar to those of starting a new school I have observed, but genuine none the less.

My new and less than sexy-looking haircut does not do wonders to qualm these fears.

I am also consistently worrying about things like my visa being rejected (even though it has technically already gone through) or my going over my baggage allowance. I am just a paranoid little shit right now to be honest.

In other news I finished my Chinese literature essay, I think I had a good crack at it; maybe a high 2:1 (touch wood).

Also, I finally caved and went to TopMan and bought a considerably more expensive version of the yellow cardigan I found the other day. A picture:

This blog may be neglected in the next few weeks. Blogger is a blocked in China so any posts I will probably have to send through Tessa, Seamus or Tom. This may be the same for videos, so YouTube activity will probably be shaky.

Okay, I am going to watch a film and get myself to bed. 5am start tomorrow. Disgraceful! Who invented a time in the morning that early?!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

The Curious Incident of the Disappearing Yellow V-neck Cardigan.

My heart was broken today, not by a fair maiden or by the death of a small creature that was round-eyed and fluffy - cute yet incredibly ugly. No, it was ruptured by a gorgeous item of clothing, you have probably guessed by the title and you would be correct, it was indeed a fabulous yellow v-neck cardigan.

We first met in the afternoon of Tuesday, known in some circles as the second day of the week, known in others as the third (depending on whether you consider Sunday or Monday the start of the next seven days), but universally known as yesterday.

It was cold and rainy. I sauntered into a quaint little shop called Pop Boutique; a specialist in grossly overpriced vintage clothing, accessories, furniture and food. I had been planning on purchasing a yellow jumper-esque piece of apparel, yet with little success. But now, oh the wonder! A beautiful shining sunflower-colours cardigan, with a deep v-neck and little brown buttons, caught my attention. I tried it on, loved it, but due to my compulsion to not be too spontaneous, especially vis-a-vis vintage clothing.

I was accompanied by my good friend Anna, from Portsmouth, she is staying with me for a couple of day. As we continued wandering through the Northern Quarter when the rain decided to increase in intensity - Anna straightens her hair so we had to hurry home before the Mr. Hyde to her Dr. Jekyll was brought out through a mass of damp curly hair.

The cardigan, I assumed, would be waiting for me tomorrow - if of course I still wanted to buy it.

The next day (also known as today, as well as Wednesday) I still wanted to buy it.

So after Anna's audition I dragged her back to the Northern Quarter to purchase the cardigan of which I have declared my undying love... It was nowhere to be seen. It had been bought by another. It had effectively cheated on me (although not really because it is an inanimate object).

So, writing this blog, in such a flamboyant manner is how I am attempting to get over this heart-breaking situation by trying to be mildly comical about it.

"Oh, it was just a silly little cardigan"

I will say to those who raise the topic.

Just know, inside I will be weeping.

Monday, 16 March 2009

My Weekend...

I have had the most ridiculous weekend, mostly in a good way, but ridiculous none-the-less. Here is a recount, more for me than you, so I can remember just how epic the last three days have been.

I suppose it started on Friday; I had just had lunch with a friend and didn't have anything to do for a few hours so decided to start on my trip to Derby, where I would be partaking in a BlogTV show aimed at raising money for Comic Relief with Iain, Dave, Tom, Charlie and Johnny - sausage-fest I know.

Now, I knew very well that the aforementioned friends would not be in Derby until at least 8 o'clock, but I thought I would be able to stop off at Sheffield maybe see the Laura of all that is Bubbly chill out with her for a bit before completing my journey. So, I get on the train, call her up, but alas, she is unable to entertain me today. A shame - I miss her.
This was mishap number one.

I therefore arrived in Derby at 4 o'clock, a full four hours earlier than my beautiful friends would be here - totally my fault, I will admit.
I therefore did the following in the four hours; sat in a shop to plan the lesson I was meant to teach on Sunday morning, wandered round countless coffee shops in the shopping centre, bought a present for Alex, fell asleep on a chair in the centre to be rudely awoken by an angry security guard telling me I couldn't sleep in here. I think I refered to him in a tweet as a fascist.

This took me to about 6.30pm. I then wandered into the centre on Derby where a man was playing a free gig outside the town hall (it was very good but I couldn't remember him name; sad times) watched a bit of the BBC Comic Relief show on a giant screen outside the information centre and killed the last hour by translating 'All My Loving' by The Beatles into French in my head:

"Tout mon amour, je t'enverrai!"

I was then picked up by the boys and we then proceeded to the house of Bullas where we watched a lot of television and played a bit of Mario Cart; on the original N64, none of that Wii rubbish.

The next day watching re-runs of the early 90's version of The Crystal Maze took up a lot of time as well as very little planning for the fast approaching BlogTV show. We eventually managed to upload a couple of promotional videos an hour before hand and everything was hunkydory.
The show went great; lots of money raised (over £1, 600), many lemons eaten and a few songs destroyed by ukulele versions performed by me.
Here however, begins the drama:

I had booked my ticket back home to Manchester for about a 1040 departure from Derby railway station. We realised this at about half ten. Dave was then beautiful and said he would give me a lift to Stoke (a 40 minute drive away) to catch the train that my ticket said would leave at 1150.

I forgot one thing; train times go my 24 hour clock.

We got to the station and it was closed, locked, abandoned. Was genuinely close to tears and I felt like a shit for making Dave take me. I was in a state because I have a class on Sunday mornings - not the kind you might/ might not turn up to, I was teaching it. I was scared I was going to loose my job (a silly thought now I know, but I was in a panic).

Dave drove us back to Derby and I looked for the first train that would take me home - 1020, leaving from Stoke (this would get me into Manchester one and a bit hours after the class started). I had to ask Dave to get up early for me and drive me there again. I love him for saying yes and will be eternally grateful. I still owe you money btw, keep reminding me.

Whist I was panicking and running round like a headless chicken Dave said that I was being quite funny - so maybe I should start getting stressed more often and film it on Blog TV! we could earn millions!

I get to Manchester, an hour or so late and my assistant (I had forgotten I had one of those, thank fuck he exists!) had done an amazing job at keeping the class occupied (I had phoned ahead several times so it wasn't like they didn't know I wasn't coming). I finish the lesson - unharmed, no getting fired, fine.
Still I was really annoyed at myself. This is the first proper job I have had, with proper responsibility and I had thought I had let myself down. Sunday, I was a grumpy zombie all day. Today, however, I have a bit more perspective and I feel better.

Regardless I had an amazing weekend, despite the stress. It is experiences like that that make me really grateful that I started YouTube and surrounded myself with a group of such fantastic people.
Viva La Tube!
Keep Safe

Monday, 9 March 2009

Sounds like the West to me...

I have had the links to this story floating around in tabs for about the last three weeks, meaning to talk about it. What can I say? I am a terrible blogger.

China recently had it's university entrance exams and so there was a wave of education and job focused blogs tumbling into my Google reader, which I of course lapped up with eager Chinese-based-geekiness.

One particular story caught my eye, and was in fact repeated more than once. It caught my eye not because of the fact it was different or difficult for my western mind set to understand (part of the reason why China fascinates me, it's alien quality) but the fact that it was a scarily similar scenario that I read about regularly in the British media.

The article talks about graduates from Chinese universities setting their expectations of the work they are going to post-graduation too high, and that the Chinese youth of today are too 'choosey', specifically vis-a-vis salesman jobs.
The standard response from the Chinese jobs sector seems to be something along the lines of, "grow up, pull your sleeves up, get to grafting."
The problem is there don't seem to be enough 'top class' jobs to go around, and so some graduates seem to be scraping the barrell when it comes to employment.

Not enough jobs to go around, graduates setting their standards too high; sounds like the west to me.
I showed this to my friend Seamus at the time and he said to me, probably in jest, "Oh wow, China seems normal after all." (NB not a direct quote)

This is my point, China IS normal!

There are people there that go to university, struggle to find a job they think is worth their qualification and feel hard done by by their perspective employers and the government. We are all in the same boat, they just happen to be in a different time zone.

I am going to China for the first time on the 28th of this month (SO EXCITED!). I am very concious of the fact that I, as a westerner saturated by western media, will have some stereotypes and misconceptions. Some fair and some unfair.
I am very conciously going to try and go there with no pre-determined opinions about the country.

I will go there, I will see, I will form my opinions of the people and the culture from what I see.

If being on the internet has taught me anything it is that people are so much more than how the media covers them or their country's political ideology.

I hope this blog makes sense. It's kinda train-of-thoughty.

Red Nose Day on Friday!