Monday, May 25: Isn’t it amazing how quickly the weeks go by? Here it is again, time for cocktail hour in the laundry room. I’m sorry I had to postpone our Sunday night gathering. I had already downed a couple of beers early on Sunday, as I met some of my students for four hours of KTV in the afternoon. I’ll tell you more about that later. For now, though, please, come on in! Have a seat in my comfortable chair and I’ll pour you a glass of Rioja. It’s all I have left, so I apologize in advance. I haven’t had time to make my bi-weekly trip to Wal-Mart for my 3 bottles of wine for 99 yuan. It’s been a busy week, and the next couple are not likely to be any better.
I realize my life has morphed into something very unlike the life I lead in Virginia. If you were coming to my house in Virginia for drinks, I would have prepared appetizers and several types of cocktails. I’d have some music playing and I certainly wouldn’t have you sit in my laundry room. Oh well, this is what happens when I live abroad. I become too lazy to go to the effort I normally make back home. Everything is pared down, simplified. Life is lived with the bare minimum of “stuff.” I have learned to be comfortable in places I would have never thought it possible to call home. I feel as if this is my home, just as I felt my apartments in Oman and Korea were home. Still, it’s nice to know I have my house in Virginia to truly go home to.
I finally took down my lavender flowered sheets from the laundry line because it’s rotation time. I took the ugly plaid sheets provided by the university off of my bed and washed them, so they’re now hanging on the line. I rotated the lavender sheets onto my bed. They’re so much softer than the plaid ones, which are pretty scratchy, so I love the alternating bi-weekly lavender sheet period.
It’s been miserably hot and humid and damp here, as usual, but it’s not so bad out here this evening, for some bizarre reason. So I am actually sitting here in the laundry room, drinking my wine, and writing this post to all of my blogging or other friends who care to visit.
I’d love to hear about your week. Did you work in the garden or do some spring cleaning? Did you swim a 2-mile swim? (My husband Mike did, and did it in just a tad over an hour; it was an open lake swim, which I’d be freaked out about, but he’s very calm and deliberate about that kind of thing.) Did you read a good book? I love hearing about the books you’re reading and promptly add them to my Goodreads list, so I do want to know all about your reading list. Did you watch any good movies or TV shows? Did you dance in the streets (I know Pauline and Jack did!) or did you take a walk in the countryside (as Jo always does). Did you have any interesting conversations, or did you reveal a deep dark secret to someone?
I don’t know about you, but I’m really on edge about the Nepal earthquakes, as I visited Nepal in January of 2013; I can picture Kathmandu and Durbar Square and all the historical and religious sites that have been destroyed. My friend Dai, who lives in Nepal and has a Nepali family, happened to be in Portugal looking for a new apartment during the earthquake, but his family is still living in tents because of the aftershocks. And now monsoon season is upon them. I really hope all the aftershocks stop soon. It really is heartbreaking.
Tell me anything you want to tell me. I’m here to listen. 🙂
This past week, I wrote a blog post about a horrid horse-cart driver in Ava, Myanmar: a horse-cart ride through the former “kingdom of ava”. I was chatting with Mike on Skype on Sunday morning and, as always, I asked him if he read my post. I said, “Wasn’t that guy awful?” He said, “Yes, it was awful how he was beating that poor skeletal horse.” Then he added, “You know, I can just see the situation now. He has it figured how much time it will take to go to all the places in Ava. And the Korean lady fits with his schedule because she’s not taking pictures and she does a simple in and out at each place. But what the guy doesn’t figure in is you and your camera and the hundreds of pictures you take at each place. I could see by the number of pictures you posted that there was no way that trip could have taken one hour!” Oh my gosh, Mike always has a way of calling me out on things. He knows me all too well. I cracked up laughing when he said that. He’s got me pegged; I guess that’s the great thing about knowing someone so well.
And then there are the people I don’t know too well. Last week, I finally cornered my friend (the one who I thought had been ignoring me, so in turn I started ignoring him) and mentioned that I was about ready to write him off as it seemed he didn’t value our friendship. He often says he’s awfully busy, and I do know he works multiple jobs outside of the university, but that excuse is bull malarkey. People can make time if they want to. I said I’d be happy to back off and leave him alone, but that wasn’t what he wanted as he says he does value my friendship. I told him there’s something he should know about me: I am never one to chase after a friend, and if I sense someone is backing off, then I will back off even more and give that friend plenty of space. Then he said there is something I should know about him: he really believes no one likes him. He always assumes people don’t want to be around him so he tends to give people their space. He also argued that a friendship works both ways, that I could easily invite him places. But I said I’m not going to invite someone who’s always so busy; if he is as busy as he claims to be, I’m always going to get rejected. Since he’s so busy, I figure I should leave it to him to let me know when he’s free. Around and around with misunderstandings. And so it goes. Why do relationships have to be so complicated?
This week was better all around; not only did I share several meals with him, but I also shared meals with some other friends at the university. In addition, I went on a two-day work “retreat,” a very positive experience, which I already wrote about: a work retreat: a cultural exchange at pingnan high school & a rainy morning walk at guiping xi shan. I was happy to have a bit of a social week, although sometimes it goes in the opposite direction and it’s a little too much for my reclusive self. 🙂
After nearly this entire year of my traveling alone, my friend Erica, who always works multiple jobs on weekends, said she wanted to go to Yangshuo and wondered if I’d give her some advice. I said I’d be happy to go along if she’d like the company. She said she would. So I took care of checking on the train tickets, and she took care of finding a hotel. We were going to share a room, but then she asked me the dreaded question: “Do you snore?” It’s a good thing she asked, and I told her the truth: I do snore and apparently a lot. I always drive my son Alex crazy when we’re traveling together. So she arranged for separate rooms, a good thing to preserve a friendship. We had to get a Chinese student to buy the train tickets for us, and then we went to the ticket office near the university main gate to pick them up. However, after much mysterious dallying, they finally told us we had to go to the train station to pick them up, as we needed to show our passports to the people in charge. It’s such a hassle to go to the train station, but we hopped on the #605 bus and went, where amazingly, there was no line at the English counter!! Miracle of miracles! It took us a while, but we got our tickets in hand, and we’re leaving for Yangshuo on Friday afternoon at 13:15.
By the way, while sitting here at my cocktail hour, I’m munching on peanuts in the shell, which I have to crack open of course. It’s a little hard to write a post on the computer while cracking peanut shells, so I’m taking a lot of breaks. I eat peanuts in the shells because most snacks in China, say potato chips or other supposedly “salty” snacks that I crave, always have a little sweetness to them. I found this in Korea too. It’s very difficult to eat snacks that don’t taste similar to what you’re used to. I haven’t found many snack foods I like in China except some chocolate mousse cake squares, which are my downfall for sure.
As for TV series, I’ve now finished Homeland, The Fall, and Scandal. I was sad to finish them up. Now I’m engrossed in Season 5 of Grey’s Anatomy and Season 1 of Madam Secretary. I’m enjoying them both very much. I’m still reading Sandcastle Girls; it’s interesting but taking me a while to really get into it.
My air conditioner in my living room is leaking and though I’ve asked the university to repair it, no one has shown up. This is one of the annoying things about depending on some organization to keep your house in order.
Now to the Sunday afternoon KTV activity. I met a small group of my students at the front gate of the university and we walked together to a KTV place. KTV refers to karaoke television, a kind of interactive musical entertainment. I have wanted to go ever since I arrived in China, as I used to do noraebang in Korea all the time and greatly enjoyed it: south korea … land of the “bangs”.
A noraebang is a “singing” room where everyone takes turns singing English or Korean songs, some rockin’, some lovely ballads, some classical songs. KTV in China is the same; it’s basically a “singing room” that you reserve for a period of time for a fee. You can order tea, snacks, beer, or anything else you want. During that time, you pick either Chinese or English (even some Korean) songs from a computer and put them on a list, and when the music video plays on the TV screen, you can sing along with a microphone. I love to sing, even though I’m no good at it, so I always enjoyed it in Korea. I enjoy it here as well. I even did this in Northern Virginia as the Korean community in Falls Church is quite huge and there are tons of Korean restaurants and some noraebangs as well.
This place is called Singing Soul KTV. Singing soul!? Sounds like something you’d read on a poetic Chinese placard at a tourist spot.
We reserve a room and settle in. Here are the microphones.
The KTV singing room is very dark, with a strobe tossing colorful dots of confetti light all over the walls. We sit on long couches in a semi-rectangle around a long table and sing, drink, eat and talk. I do have to say there isn’t much talking that can go on here, as the music is so loud. I take a multitude of photos, but not many of them turn out. Oh well, you can get the general idea from the photo gallery below.
I pick some of my favorite songs from a computerized list. Many that I would choose are NOT available, such as “Happy” and “Get Lucky” by Pharrell Williams, “If There’s Any Justice” by Lemar, and “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. However, I am able to sing: “Hotel California” by the Eagles, “California Dreamin'” by the Mamas and Papas (I’m really showing my age!), “Somebody that I used to Know” by Walk off the Earth, “Incomplete” by Backstreet Boys, and “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol.
What really surprises me are the students’ selections. They go from “Yesterday Once More” by the Carpenters to “S&M” by Rhianna! Wow, what an extreme. They pick a lot of songs by Bruno Mars, Jon Legend, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry. Of course, they also choose a lot of Chinese songs, many of which are beautiful or rocking! One English song they choose brings tears to my eyes: “If I Were a Boy” by Beyonce.
Below is me with my students after four hours of KTV. I heard today that the students stayed for two more hours after I left. This class of students, the 1408 class, seems to enjoy doing social things with me. The Leo on the far right was my student before midterm of fall semester; sadly he got moved out of my class, but I really love his personality. He’s a great singer and a charming boy and I miss having him in my class.
I always enjoyed noraebang in Korea, and now I can say with authority that I enjoy KTV in China. I’m slowly but surely getting all the Chinese experiences I wanted under my belt, now that my time here is winding down.
It’s getting dark now, so I think I’ll go inside and eat some leftover Korean bibimbap. I had some from last week when I went out to a Korean restaurant for dinner. I’ll top off my meal with one of those chocolate mousse cake squares I love so much. I suppose you’ll want to go home for some dinner as I have nothing to offer, and there aren’t enough leftovers to go around. But thanks so much for coming. As always, it was great to see you, and great to have a chat. 🙂 See you next week, maybe Monday or Tuesday, as I’m going to Yangshuo over the weekend.