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seanmay.wordpress.com

12 December 2010 Leave a comment

I’m not using this blog anymore, so please head on over to my new one, Sean May. Don’t be scared – it’s pretty much exactly the same as this one.

Last days in China

15 November 2010 Leave a comment

When I tried to log into my WordPress account on Monday evening to post my experiences on the Great Wall, I encountered difficulties. I was able to log in through the main page, but I couldn’t access my blog at all. I could only assume that the presence of words like ‘Communism’ and ‘Mao’ had led to my blog being blocked. I had Habiba make the post for me – I would have included some pictures, otherwise.

On Tuesday and Wednesday – my last two full days in the Middle Country – I didn’t do a huge amount. Tried to do a bit of writing. Went to have a look at the CCTV (China Central Television) building – the one that has two legs connected by a bridge at the top. It’s a very big building. Mark explained later on that one of the nearby buildings, a more conventional tower, was built as a companion building – the latter symbolising the male member, the M-shaped building representing the female legs. The ‘penis’ had been gutted by fire after a celebration with fireworks went disastrously wrong. On there I passed by the British Abassador’s residence and the British Embassy. Maybe I could have dropped in to say hello to David Cameron. The Chinese soldiers in dress uniform outside were a bit scary, though.

I had dinner with Charlie and Mark each night; the first night we had roast duck and then went for a walk around a small lake – Hou Hai, I think – one of a series of linked lakes surrounded by park that I should have gone to in the daytime, but didn’t. This lake was actually ringed by bars, each one with a PA speaker outside blasting out whatever was playing inside (many bars had live music or karaoke). It was an interesting sonic landscape.

On the Wednesday, I finally took the plunge and bought a few souvenirs from a little maze of alleys crowded with stalls that I hadn’t actually known was there until I started exploring for gift shops. Along with stalls piled high with what we could probably safely describe as tourist tat, there were stalls selling meat shish kebabs or fruit shish kebabs or live scorpion shish kebabs (I assume they get deep fried before you eat them). I didn’t try any.

I was nervous of the whole haggling process and walked into a couple of shops and past a few stalls without stopping to be sold to. Eventually, though I got a small brass dragon as the first of my purchases. The process for haggling for this was typical of what happened for later purchases – or attempted sales on behalf of the stall-holders. I asked how much it was and the woman asked me how much I wanted to pay. I didn’t know so she typed on a large calculator, ’80’ (£8). I said, ‘Twenty,’ and she was all, ‘No, no,’ so I walked away. Then she grabbed my sleeve (arm- and sleeve-grabbing happened a lot) as I went and as I pulled away she said, ‘OK, twenty.’ And that was that.

The woman I bought my gift for Habiba from complemented my hard bargaining skills – I’m sure she just wanted me to buy other stuff from her. A man pointed out a mah jongg set as I browsed his stall. He wanted 650 yuan for it, but came down to 200 as I walked away. I didn’t want to spend that much money anyway – because I’m a cheapskate. I did also buy a pair of massage balls. Each being maybe three centimetres or so in diameter; one blue, one red, both with yin and yang signs on them. They have bells inside. Your supposed to roll them around in a circle on one hand without letting them touch each other.

Separately, I bought a couple of jars of spicy sauce and a few packets of snacks (one of which promises ‘Odd taste’) from a little supermarket near my hostel.

I also – following Charlie and Mark’s advice – changed my train ticket to Tianjin on Wednesday night to one for Thursday morning – the morning of my ferry from Tianjin to Incheon. This sounds dangerous, but, while I was supposed to be a the ferry terminal at 9 am, the bullet trains from Beijing run very often and early and only take 30 minutes to get there. If only you could go everywhere by bullet train.

The new millennium

I logged in to Infinite Probability a few minutes ago to add another word to my Lexicon (clochard; see below) and to mention the World Names Profiler (also see below … slightly less below … in fact, above the previous below … I’d continue describing the post’s location, but it’s beneath me). When I accessed my blog’s dashboard, I noticed that the number of posts was up to exactly one thousand. It only took four years.

Anyway, it means that this post is my 1,003rd. Time for a general update.

Habiba’s father is still in hospital, doing a little better. The most recent worry was his having a bout of arrhythmia. He was also denied a place at their first choice rehabilitation centre – he will apparently need too much medical care, and they’re not set up to provide it. That’s a disappointment, of course, but, in a way, it’s also a sign of his progress. He’s now recovered sufficiently that he can be seriously considered for rehabilitation. Habiba’s mum now needs to find another place to apply to; there are a number to choose from in the general area (New York State/New England). He’s also able to communicate now. His first words, I understand, were about his boat.

I’m not doing too badly at work. Over the past few weeks I’ve redesigned the homework I give to the students so that I have less work to do preparing for the higher level classes. For those, I now let the students do the bulk of the vocabulary work – they have to find their own definitions, basically. Strangely, since I’ve been back in Korea, I’ve had very little proofreading to do. Which is nice. I hate it.

I started writing a new short story yesterday. It’s going pretty well so far – I have over a thousand words down, I’m enjoying writing in the narrator’s voice, I have a clear idea of where the story is going. It’s a first person, present tense narrative, neither of which techniques I use very often. It’s also intended to be more philosophical in tone, something else I don’t go in for much. This philosophicality was inspired by my current reading material, Immortality by Milan Kundera, which I’m enjoying.

Lastly, I’ll briefly mention that it’s Habiba’s birthday in just over a week. Last weekend (speak it quietly, take care she’s not around to overhear) I bought her a couple of presents – of the useful and thoughtful variety. This weekend I need to work on the, um, presentation of said presents. We’re going away the following weekend, so there’ll be no time then for such preparation. Not much time, either, for a party.

That’s all from me, for now.

Perviously on Captain Maybe

16 January 2007 2 comments

It was only when I logged out of WordPress a moment ago that I noticed I’d misspelt ‘Previously’ in the title of my last but one post. Instead, I’d typed, ‘Perviously’. Must have been some sort of Freudian slip. Which reminds me of a rather excellent joke …