China II: Week 8

The end of this week meant I have been in China for about 2 months. It certainly has been a different experience to my first visit. Perhaps it has not been as easy, but it certainly has been as eye-opening.

Nothing has been more eye-opening than the football match we attended last Sunday. I had been dying to watch Guangzhou ever since I arrived last year and now they have been promoted to the top division they play at the 60,000 seater stadium (they were relegated the previous year for match fixing…Chinese football is incredibly corrupt). In the end there were only 3 of us because Cameron and Mike couldn’t make it (for broken foot reasons). I went to Guangzhou straight from work and met Tony and Iain at the stadium. It was here that we were told there is no legitimate way of obtaining tickets and that we must get them through touts… China continues to baffle me.

We spent a while bargaining with touts but as it approached kick off we settled on one seller who sold us tickets for 50RMB each, which was about half the price he was originally asking for. Tony quickly noticed that it looked as though the tickets were not seated together, but we risked it anyway. Once inside the stadium the security split us up and sent us to of designated areas. We told each other that we would try to locate each other once we found our seats. However, once we got to the main arena it was clear that this was going to be a difficult task as it was close to capacity…finding each other would be like finding a friend at the Emirates. Thankfully Tony had the sense to make himself visible by wearing a luminous yellow shirt (although this probably wasn’t his intention when he decided on his attire that morning). As soon as I clocked him I made it my mission to get there like a cat that’s spotted his mouse. I began to climb over people whilst inevitably attracting stares for looking like a crazy white man at a Chinese football match. I eventually reached the top of the stand and began to climb the pillar that I needed to cross to get onto the other stand. It was here that I was spotted and stopped by a security guard. He told me I wasn’t allowed to cross and that I should return to my seat. I didn’t give up my protest and was close to slipping him 5RMB as a bribe. Instead he turned as if he hadn’t noticed which I took as an invitation to continue my journey to the next stand. Once I was over I had to make a descent towards Tony over scores of people sat ready for kick off. It had taken some effort, but we were reunited…we didn’t see Iain until half time.

The actually match was fantastic, and I must admit the atmosphere puts many of the English football matches I have been to shame. Firstly, 60,000 people singing the Chinese national anthem makes a very special noise. But also, there is a festival atmosphere amongst the fans, almost to the point where I suspected many of them didn’t know the rules of football or which team they were meant to be supporting. There was once section of the crowd that both me and Tony were a little fascinated by because everyone was wearing red whilst singing and dancing synchronised. Perhaps we could find tickets in that area next time.

Guangzhou are the Man City of the Chinese Super League and have money to burn. They have a few players with experience in Europe and even players who have played in the Champions league. However, it is not only the players that they spend the mega-bucks on, but also the entertainment at home games. Therefore, most of the home games are played in the evening and televised. In fact, the half time entertainment is also televised. This week we were lucky enough to get a performance from Hong Kong superstar (but we didn’t know at the time), Kelly Chen, and everyone I have spoken to since seems to get excited when her name is mentioned…the crowd certainly enjoyed her. The match itself was very entertaining and ended in a 3-1 Guangzhou win to keep them top of the league…but that’s probably enough about the football.

Later, on the metro, something interesting happened. I am used to people taking pictures of me, particularly in Foshan, but this time it was a little bit different. Often people forget to mute their phones and I get they get embarrassed when it clicks whilst facing me, but a girl took this stupidity a little further. She stood by the door opposite my seat with her friends and pretended she was texting but I could see the reflection of her phone in the window behind her, and she had zoomed right in on me. Instead of making it awkward I decided to mime to her that I can see myself in her phone. As a result, she sat down with her head in her hands and incredibly embarrassed…her friends loved that she had got caught.

For a couple of days after that I spent most of the days working. I have actually started a third job for the mornings which I am enjoying as I love to teach in the kindergartens. I have come to realise that if I am to have a good time travelling at the end of the summer I should spend a month of two working very hard. I don’t want to sacrifice having a good time here, but I certainly think the harder I work for a few weeks, the more I can enjoy the travel.

In fact, this is a little bit of an issue at work as I have a contract until September. As I am employed illegally I would quite easily leave and never turn up again after payday…but I would have issues with my conscience. As a result I have planted the seeds to my boss about my ‘unhappiness’ at work, which mean I don’t seem like the laid-back worker that I think I am. I have come to realised though that I can basically demand anything and it will be done because they don’t want to lose the foreign worker. Not that I exploit that…much.

Once again I went to the pub quiz on the Thursday night. Once again we were unsuccessful. In fact, we were beaten by non-English speaking Spaniards at an English speaking quiz…a new low. There is a few nice people in Foshan and the English speaking community is a lot closer than that of Guangzhou. As I was planning to leave at around 11pm a very interesting man arrived, Roger. This man is Chinese but speaks almost perfect English. However, the most interesting part of him is his accent. He speaks in a very posh English accent….not the American/Chinglish accent I have become accustomed to when speaking to Chinese people. When I asked him about it he told me he learned English from Monty Python and had never left Asia. Oddly, he also wore a Sheffield Wednesday shirt to the pub and claimed he was a big fan of Benito Carbone (who left Wednesday in 1999). It would be fair to say I was a little fascinated with Roger, so I stayed in the pub for another 2 hours just to find out more.

The following day I met with Cameron and a couple of others for a few drinks at Peasants (the street bar) and ended up being forced to stay for quite a few. This is when I feel a little awkward about staying in someone else’s house as I feel bad coming home late, or coming home late two days running. It seemed I was right to be worried the next day when I was asked by Danny if I am ok in a tone that suggested she thought I had gone ‘off the rails’. I am trying to balance being free with living for free.

Since I have now been paid, and I am not paying rent, I thought it would only be right to take Danny and Momo out for a meal. As they only seem to eat Chinese food I decided to take them to Little Italy to get some Italian. They both agreed and seemed quite excited about it. As we left Danny told me that she first wanted to buy a dog…what? So nonchalant…’tonight I will buy a dog’. So I left the house expecting to buy them both a pizza but with a dog on my lap and an empty stomach. However, the dog is amazingly cute and I have never seen a breed like it. He looks like a cross between a lion and a seal. We named him Simba.

After we came home and dropped the dog off we popped out for a Chinese hotpot which I eventually managed to pay for despite Danny’s protests. I guess they weren’t really that keen on the prospect of Western food anyway.

So I ended the week playing with a new dog.

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