To catch you up:
- I did play ping pong and I was a champ. We actually never played a real game but I’m confident if we did I would have reigned victorious, or at least given an EPIC battle. Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression. I was definitely not the best player there, but I could hit a nasty return shot thanks to the spin and speed at which the ball was hit to me. Im sure if we returned a couple times I would be scrapping for points, similar to badminton; therefore, we have yet to play again.
- I payed a company to buy train tickets for my trip during Spring Festival. I chose to go this route because of the hassle and highly unlikely chance I would be able to purchase them myself due to the demand. I was paid up before tickets went on sale and I was still informed they were not able to buy the tickets. Hosed.
- I was able to modify my trip and now it is shorter. Better than nothing. Tomorrow I leave for Zhangjiajie. 30+ hrs on a seat. Lets do it!
- I’ve been reading a lot lately. River Town: A Peace Corps Volunteer’s journey in China. It was interesting because I’m living here now, but I enjoyed it more for the comparisons of the Peace Corps experience. Waiting: A chinese story taking place from the 50’s to present. It offered some cultural perspective which was interesting, but it was also a long love story. eh. The Wind up Bird Chronicle: great fiction from a well known, apparently, Japanese author. The Jungle Book! I’m currently involved in this and it’s just splendid.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited to KTV with a fellow foreign teacher and our two Chinese counterparts. It was a big deal. KTV is perhaps the most favored past time in China. It’s Karaoke; in a private room furnished with nice couches tables and random posters on the wall. You pick your own songs and then sing until your done, tired, or passed out. Most restaurants in Suzhou will not take you after 9 pm. You will NEVER have a problem finding a KTV not open 24 hours; EVER. I was invited and of course I was going. We have been to staff dinners with our counterparts and taken part in center events, but I haven’t, up until this point, had the opportunity to spend time with my counterpart outside of work. There was definitely a barrier, and I was breaking it down. I’m pretty sure the only reason I was invited was because I played a little guitar on Christmas and people told my partner I sang. She loves to sing and I generally do not. She had been pestering me at work to belt something out but I consistently refused. Apparently this was a good tactic considering I then got invited to a social event. Good for me that is.
After the first song I tried to sing my partner removed her hands from her ears and said, no shouted, “BEN I thought you were GOOD???” I don’t know why she ever had that impression, but she was wrong and seemingly disappointed. This is why I generally stay away from these places: I’m awful. Yeah, I know, it’s about fun right? Wrong. Sometimes. Just like playing sports, video games, or music, some people really have fun singing well. Out of the four of us 3 happened to be these people. I think I made this a little less fun for them, but the less fun face they made when I sang Bohemian Rhapsody or Blink 182 was enough for me. We ended up having a great time even though it wasn’t quite what they expected. Afterwords, we ate dinner and I asked them about the songs we sang. They said: “they were very . . .. American”. They are very polite.
The next evening I played soccer and went to dinner with my friends. During dinner one friend mentioned a tea house he found that we could visit. I was super tired and had no desire to drink tea that night. When I told my friend I could tell he was disappointed so I agreed to walk by the place to “check it out”. By the end of dinner I agreed to just go there a drink tea. Why not? I’m in China. After 15 minutes of walking I was told that the tea house wasn’t exactly open. So I’m thinking it’s closed. He says: “no, just not really open yet”. So I say, “so it’s closed”. This went on for a couple minutes until he explained he met the owner and she invited him and his friends one night and now we were going back. It wasn’t really open or closed. I was starting to regret my decision when we reached our destination. The place was on a deserted road behind a main “bar street”. His friend was not there but the co-owner was and he let us in and served us tea commencing 3 hrs of chinese talking of which I understood a fraction of a percentage. It was great. It was everything I had been looking for in China. I was able to sit in the background and listen. Focusing on words I could recognize or questions I might be able to ask in chinese. It was exhausting but a wonderful experience. I was reminded of the possibilities of saying yes and the lack there of made by saying no.
And that’s that. Sorry I just whipped this out there. I wanted to get one in before I left.