Sunday, 20 September 2009

Editing for Universal Consumption

I don’t think I am going to talk specifically about China here. If you want updates on my time in China I have set up a YouTube channel here.

I am getting to meet a lot of new people of all different hues whilst I am here. Being in an international department this is, I suppose, to be expected. I am making a conscious decision to try and avoid the British people (there are over twenty students from Sheffield University here and four of us from Manchester,) although I am conscious it is wonderful to have them as a fall back if I ever get sick of being the only Brit in the class. It is one of the hand-full of reasons I decided to move from the middle ranging B group; where all the Brits are, to the more challenging A group. I didn’t come half way across the world to blend in.

It’s wonderful. An Aussie girl and I are often told we have the same accent (really?) and I have been grilled about the Empire and the fact Pakistan was created by me and is therefore my fault; it’s good banter. Mary Poppins’ chimney sweep-like accents also seem to follow me wherever I go in the world.

“’Ello Guvna!”

Culture clashes do seem to be frequent though. An American from my class recounted an awkward moment when he was having a conversation with a German guy and a Polish girl. He was describing a night out where he had consumed a few too many alcoholic beverages, describing himself as, “Blitzed!” There was an awkward pause after which the German chuckled, “Haha, very funny joke.” Bless the three of them.

I myself am having a culture clash of my own. A close friend of mine from Manchester who is also studying here (read her blog here) has been very on the ball and bagged herself a man with outstanding efficiency. The two are an adorable couple, he being from Wisconsin and her from Durham; the two have their fair share of misunderstandings. I like the guy very much and regularly try out morsels of British wit on him…

People who know me well will be familiar with the fact that I will take the piss out of you, more or less constantly, if I like you and I believe you have the balls to handle it. I enjoy a to-and-fro of casual insults; it’s a way of getting to know people as well as their humour and is fantastic at demolishing any kind of bravado, pretensions or awkwardness.

I have come to the conclusion that this too, along with the Empire and ‘Chim-chiminey’, is a very British characteristic. So much so, that it has been suggested by Miss Durham that Mr Wisconsin may not be too keen on it.

Initially my thoughts have been, “Man up, strap on a pair.” But then I remember that the rest of the world does not function along the same social guidelines as The United Kingdom of Great Britain Land. I am also, frightfully British. I need to carry Earl Grey around with me whenever I know there won’t be a Tesco near-by – and let’s just say I am grateful to the fact that all British newspapers, as well as the BBC, are 100% free and available on the Interweb. Imagine having to use CCTV, CNN or even Fox for my periodical news nourishment, perish the thought!

However, there is a whole world out there that doesn’t read The Times every weekday except for a Tuesday (when The Guardian has a simply wonderful education supplement). Maybe, for both me and Mr Wisconsin, I should tone down the tsunami of sarcasm and banter that seems to erupt from my mouth every time I meet someone new.

I’m not changing, oh no, I am simply editing myself for universal consumption. After all, I still have the Brits to crawl back to every time I need someone to have a friendly, if heated, discussion with.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Rolling on...

Right, I’m finally here; I am finally no longer panicking about moving to China for the next year, I am finally not stressing about what to remember, what to pack, what to leave. I am finally just happy that I am going, that I have this opportunity.

I was scared the world would move on without me – nearly to the point that I thought I would come home next year and I would literally be replaced by an upgrade of me – just as political but with twice the cool. I then realised no one could equal me on cool. (jksloljks)

The last twenty four or so hours have been insane. So many texts, messages and general love coming my way – it has been inevitable that I have unintentionally not replied to peoples’ attempts at contacting me. If you are one of these people I apologise but I hope you will understand the intensity of the past week or so.

Summer in the City, the UK YouTube community’s baby, was last weekend. I helped organise, I had an amazing time, I welled up on the train home. I couldn’t have asked for a better (unofficial) send off. I loved every second; the selling, whether it were the publications (mine and Paul’s baby) or the musicians’ merch. or Johnny’s Tees on the Saturday night. It was an awesome way to meet new people – just wandering round the gathering and chatting to people as I convinced them their lives would not be complete without The SitC Pub/ Dave’s new album/ Johnny’s Dead Blob Tee etc.

One of the fantastic things about the weekend was the fact people from all over the planet came. We knew we had marketed it like that; as a global gathering, but I don’t think any of us organisers would actually let ourselves believe that anything like the number of foreigners would make the journey. Americans, Dutch, Belgians, Australians, French, German and for some reason an awful lot of Canadians came. We were this little cultural melting pot in the middle of London – it was just mind-blowing.

And the gig at the Luminaire: it was quite simply delightful. I had a massive grin on my face for the whole evening. I nearly cried when I saw Mhazz play her set – bearing in mind I have known her for close to two years, back when she was writing songs about me, Alex and Liam – I saw her as a grown up woman for a first time that night and it was wonderful. I have a habit of subconsciously adopting my friends, so I feel almost parental pride when they outdo themselves – it’s silly but contributed to a lot of the warm fuzzy feeling that night.

When Dave performed I sat on the stage and just swayed and sang – then panicked at his last song and ran to re-open the shop to sell all his wares. Tom and Greg weren’t too shabby either.

We are already looking towards SitC 2010, the Facebook group is up and it will be even bigger and better. I think this is why I was so freaked out about leaving for Nanjing – leaving all these prospects, so much stuff is happening now in my world. I am missing out on the RNLI project, SitC 2010 as well as other things. It’s a shame.

But then who the hell gets to go, study and live in China? I am blessed, whether it’s by Allah, God, Buddha or Lady Luck – roll on Nanjing, roll on China. I will speak to you guys soon.

- 杰仁