Things that have gone unremarked thanks to my laziness:
– returned from a two and a half week trip in Yunnan Province, in Southern China. See post before last, below. I’ll dedicate a solid post to that vacation ~ a lot happened, in fact.
– had to buy a new laptop after tea successfully destroyed my faithful HP Pavilion. Not much to say here, other than “doh!” I haven’t had the time or money lately to take it in to see if it can be fixed, but here’s hoping. There’s a lot of good data on there I’d like to at least recover, though I’m fairly certain the hard drive is fried. It boots up to a black screen that says “No Hard Disk ~ insert boot disk,” or words to that effect. Do laptops like ginger tea? Turns out the answer is a resounding NO.
– pimping out my apartment lately since I’m staying a second year here in Jinan (see below). I’ve bought or inherited from other foreign teachers a good load of plants of various types, and since then I’ve unintentionally tried every sort of way to kill them…Underwatering, overwatering, too much sun, too little sun, disturbing the roots, not disturbing the roots. I’ve narrowed it down to the hardiest survivors, as well as my collection of utterly bullet-proof Devil’s Ivy. My mother used to have a gigantic climbing specimen she draped all across the house when my brother and I were real little back in South Carolina. It’s one of my earliest memories of childhood and I always associated it’s lush growth with my mother’s nurturing nature and green thumb. Now I know that, short of a direct nuclear strike, you just can’t kill the things. Also set up a brand new aquarium. So far, I’ve stuck to guppies and neon tetras, since they are the few things that survive. I can’t read Chinese, so I can’t buy the proper test kits and water treatment chemicals I need, so I’ve had to more or less wing it and let nature handle itself. Which is a long, messy process. Especially when the ultimate goal is a trio of discus fish. Which are expensive and notoriously finicky in their water quality requirements. While a life is a life, a Y1 neon tetra’s death stings far less than a Y100 discus fish.
– given up gaming almost entirely, though investigating my need for fantasy and action through the so-called “fantasy lobe” (as I call it) of my mind. This gets it’s own post.
– chased after the occasional guy here in Jinan. As my German friend Dirk pointed out: “oh Earl…Always chasing after that which you cannot have.” I hate it cause it’s true. I dont’ feel like writing about this right now.
– making significant progress in learning a mixture of Sanda, Wing Chun and Brazilian Ju-jiutsu. I have yet to decide which art form I like best, though my friend Tyler trains a MMA style that I think works quite well. A dabbler, really. I like Wing Chun’s in-your-face attitude of pure offense, it’s philosophy of strong angles and how it picks through enemy defenses. And it just looks so damn cool the way they seemingly slap and weave through an opponent’s guard before devestating them with punches that barely wind up, and the forms are quite practical and beautiful to watch practiced. Sanda is just brutal but it’s kicks are awesome and I like Tyler’s tiger claw Hongar he mixes in. Might have to practice that some.
– buying a guitar and going to try to trade in the ukulele. I’ve tried as hard as I could ~ and that might not be as hard as I could have. I mean, I COULD have adapted to the instrument over time…But it’s just too damn hard. I can’t strum properly, I can’t hold it in my arm without sitting, so many things wrong…My friend Chrissy is leaving China in less than two weeks and there’s a party at a mutual friend Hannah’s place today. I’ll be buying a steel string off her for Y450 (approx $90 wewt) to play with. Anyone who knows of a good, free website to learn the guitar can claim a free e-cookie!
– signing up for another year at ALWAYS English School, with a raise and bonus for helping the school collect more foreigners. Mr. Gao’s been pretty appreciative, and honestly, I really do like my school. I’ve seen what other schools do and ALWAYS does well by it’s foreign staff. So I can recommend it guilt-free, and Mr. Gao’s giving me money to say “thank you,” besides simply staying the words. Niiiiice.
– planning my next big Chinese trip to Urumqi and Kashgar (Xinjiang Province) next summer. I’m going to go into super-savings mode here to make a good chunk of money during my second year here in China, but I still need to travel some. We get 4 good chunks of time off ~ one in April, one in July, one in September, and one in January. I think July’s a fine time to head to a desert province, don’t you?? Though, the September time (where I went to Yunnan) is almost 3 weeks of time. And it would be a shade cooler then…Maybe head to HK again during the summer?…We’ll see. But Central Asian Muslim culture really has me fascinated at the moment. I spent quite a bit of time fantasizing visiting the tombs of Tamerlane and Hafiz and being able to read the Arabic/Uzbek scrawl on the caskets like Indiana Jones would be able to. Slightly before coming here, I’ve really found an interest in World History I wish I’d realized and nurtured in college. Since college consists of a degree and debt for me presently, I indulge in browsing Wikipedia articles on a daily basis.
– traveled to Hong Kong for the first time, as well as Shanghai to visit my stepfather during a business trip to China. My friend Sam Lam in Hong Kong invited me to see his city-state-island-province in September and I took him up on it. Hong Kong was a welcome English diversion. It was almost jarring; when I arrived I started talking to a Chinese police officer in my poor Mandarin, asking him how to get to X place. And he responded, in British English, “just go down Y street and turn right.” Oh, right..
It was nice to eat fried eggs with toast and bacon for breakfast instead of rice, fried bread and hard-boiled eggs. I got the iconic photos of the HK skyline from Victoria Peak (as seen on Facebook), went to Seaworld, and did some local shopping and eateries with Sam and my lonesome. Though HK was a pretty low-key trip as I was on a budget and it’s an expensive place, I did make a great friend in Sam, so all in all, I’m quite pleased.
– preparing for the all too long flight back to America at the end of January to see all of my many, many, many loved ones out there!