Saturday, 8 November 2008

It's sort of hard to keep a blog like this one updated once you slip into some sort of routine. For two weeks now my days have followed a rarely varying structure. Each morning I wake up for the car into school, holding myself back in my room five minutes just to irritate the old Swedish witch we all detest, have a morning group class from 9 till 12.30, have lunch, as often as not in Subway because it's easy and I usually have chinese characters to learn for my afternoon class, spend the afternoon chatting with Wang Ling, my teacher, and filling in the blanks from my morning's class. In the evenings a bar maybe, or dinner with classmates, or Bond, or a trip to the fabric market. Home, character revision, a DVD, bed. If I updated regularly, this would hardly be thrilling stuff.

I've been writing a fair bit in the meantime, largely experimentally and nothing that I would deem interesting enough to go on here. Of course there have also been points of excitement, but they've largely been to do with people and discretion dictates that I gossip behind people's backs; this is just too public for my own wellbeing.

It’s hard to find myself in new or challenging situations. In fact, I’m back in a flow – what my Dad called a ‘datastream’ – moving in the same direction as other people. At Mandarin House everyone’s moving in the same direction – my newfound friends by definition have a limited knowledge of Chinese, and few know much about China. The odd thing is how travellers can’t help but view people through the lens of where they come from. This is something I’m guilty of more than the others, but nonetheless the Yank-Swiss-Swede jokes and cultural misassumptions are a kind of basis for group and one one one communication. For these reasons I’m getting on very well with Wang Ling, who’s a laugh and who can give me an insight into how the Chinese view things. Most notably, she told me that the popular view is that Boris Johnson is a disrespectful drunk who only pitched up at the Olympics to ogle Chinese girls. Which just goes to show how perceptive they are.

A few more things stand out. Actually tonight I just got back from Above and Beyond (dance DJs) playing an incredible set, so good I just stood blissfully for two hours or so, listening to the music with equally enraptured friends. Despite my best attempts to contract food poisoning, testing out the street vendors (as long as what they sell is identifiable as one food or another) and coming across some delights, such as crispy fried vegetable dumplings, I ended up getting ill the old fashioned way, eating a burger from an American themed diner. My gut's still processing the supposedly American meat, a lesson well learned I think.

I managed to avoid going to the best Drum and Bass night of the month last night. Apparently noone outside the UK - yanks, swedes, french or swiss - knows what Drum and Bass is (at the very least I thought the Swedes would go for it) so in the end I cried off making a lone trip.

I'm doing another week on my course, which I'm enjoying but frustrated by, since I'd love to be able to speak the language and know just how long that will take me to accomplish. So after this week I'm putting myself back on holiday, to experience, enjoy and destress as much as possible, since after all that is what this trip is all about. Being back in this data stream has sent me reeling back to the Cambridge job listings website, sending out applications and considering just how much Chinese I can justifiably claim on my CV. Whilst Mandarin is definitely something I want to continue, I'd rather enjoy myself here than go back to the place I was in September, panicking about what happens next with my life to the exclusion of everything else.

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