China II: Week 9

Of all the weeks back in China this one was definitely the most tiring. This is mainly down to working practically all-day everyday. I am really going for it in terms of fundraising for the summer.

However, after completing two jobs on the Monday I arranged to meet Emily and her friend for a drink in Guangzhou. I like using my Monday evening in Guangzhou to catch up with people from me ‘previous life’ or people I know from Guangzhou. This evening was no exception. Emily is quite unique for a Chinese person; she enjoys her european beer and lists The Inbetweeners as one of her favourite TV shows…making her almost as intriguing as Roger. We arrived at the bar during Happy Hour and being the English gentleman I try to portray I offered to buy them a drink in the hope they would pick a beer on the discounted list….Emily didn’t, she wanted Hoogarten; 3 times as expensive. However, it turned out to be a pleasant evening until cats started appearing around our table. It reminded me of one summer in Cyprus when mum kept feeding the stray cats in a restaurant and drew glares from the other diners. Somehow I ended up with cats sitting on my lap. dirty flee-ridden cats.

The extra-curricular activities didn’t end there though, Tuesday enabled me to play football! Since I worked an extra hour at the weekend I was allowed to eave early on the Tuesday evening, giving me time to get home and changed before Roger, yes Roger, picked me up. Once again he was wearing his Sheffield Wednesday shirt and together we made our way to the football pitch. It was there that I met with his 5-a-side team mates and we began a warm up. I wasn’t entirely sure how seriously the game was going to be taken…until I saw some of them kick a ball. To be fair to Roger, I was very impressed with his ability to play football, I was perhaps a little prejudice before hand but he has obviously watched a lot of European football. The match wasn’t quite played at the intensity of the Pitch Invasion matches I am used to at home, and this was probably the reason why we were able to play 5-a-side football for 2 hours and come away wanting more (of course nobody kept score as it’s against the spirit of the game).

Wednesday has become my busiest day (for this week at least). I have to wake at 6am and travel 1.5hours to Guangzhou to teach in a kindergarten in the morning…which I love. Then I am required to return to Foshan to complete 8 hours in the training school (of which 6 are just intended for looking pretty…a ridiculous job). On this morning I got a whack round the chops from a fat six-year-old whilst i bent over to do my shoe laces, which bloody hurt. I was surprised by instinctive reaction to palm the kid away with an open palm. It was only in hindsight that I imagined the consequences of my actions had my fist been clenched….no more teaching for me :P. Thankfully, by face didnt bruise…children can really hit hard!

Wednesday also saw me do something I never thought myself capable…being a man. I have needed a reason to quit my main job ever since I started, and I have found myself being quite critical about it as a result. I believe myself as a very easy person to manage as I will do anything people ask of me. However, this characteristic is not valued in China, instead it is probably a kind of weakness. After reading through my contract I hit the jackpot! I read that I should be working a maximum of 80 hours per month, but I am working 160. I went to my boss and demanded that my hours were halved or I would leave (I know, this doesn’t sound like me but dog-eat-dog right?). The boss, who is trying to make it out as if a chinese contract means something, said that it was a mistake and asked if I would sign a revised contract….cheeky devil. In the end he reduced my hours to 27 out of fear of losing me but I told him that he should consider the conversation as my notice of resignation and that I would leave in 30 days. He was not too happy but I left the room feeling like I had achieved something (although I was shaking a little bit). So that is a big weight off my shoulders, I can leave without a guilty conscience at the end of next month.

After my next 6am start and a long day in Guangzhou I returned home for a nice relaxing pint in Lazy Mamas…which turned into me winning the quiz for the first time (and probably had something to do with my new team; of which I can recall no names). It was on this day that I found out about Arsenals pre-season Asia tour and that they will be visiting Hangzhou, both mine and Patty’s favourite city. It was then that I started planning to go and see them, and even dreamt of meeting Robin Van Persie by the lake. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one thinking about it and several others in the pub confirmed that they wanted to travel for the match…so I wouldn’t be the stand-out westerner for Arsene to talk to if I go :(.

Friday saw the return of something I defintetly have not missed, Jack!. During my class he stood outside and paced around for 20 minutes waiting for me to have a break. During which he invited my to Kung Fu (again) and wanted me to confirm out dinner reservation on June 8th (nearly two weeks in advance). I told him I couldn’t do Kung Fu that evening and that I could not confirm the dinner, although I probably will go. That was not the end though, he returned on the saturday to ask if he could join me on my next trip to Guangzhou (everyone in the office was giggling and I had to hold myself together). In fact, Tony has told me that he had a similar problem when he was first introduced to Jack and that he would regularly go to his house. I told him he might be able to join me but I would be working…I don’t think that matters too much to him.

The Saturday evening was a bit special. A bit special in that I was so tired and asleep by 9pm. This sleep wasn’t solely induced by tiredness though but in preparation for a 2.30am rise for the champions league final. Once the game began I feared the worst as I Manchester United looks like they might be up for it (I even planned a Facebook status in my head to congratulate them). Thankfully, and unpatriotically, Barcelona were majestic and showed me and Simba how football should be played.

The Champions league final was slightly different from the football we saw on Sunday; Guangzhou Evergrande vs Changchun. My attendance at this match meant I had attended consecutive home games, which I have told myself confirms me as ‘a fan’. However, the most interesting part of the evening game prior to the match. As with last time we tried to get our tickets from touts but knew that we had to find tickets together this time. I managed to find a woman offering two tickets together for £20. With a bit of haggling I got her to give us the two tickets for £8 (80RMB). I handed my forty rmb to her and expected Iain to do the same. Instead Iain got a wad of cash out of his pocket and placed it in her hand….I was astonished; he expected a tout, a Chinese tout, to honestly count his money and give back the correct change. As one would expect she held onto all the money for as long as she could until I managed to snatch it from her. I noticed that the money I had in my hand did not feature a 50 note that I knew was in Iain’s pile. I asked her for the 50 note but she said she didn’t have it. I told her she did. She told me she didn’t. Thankfully Iain had the tickets in his hand and she was demanding the rest of the money. I said I would only give her the money if she gave the 50 back….she didnt. Then, out of nowhere, the up-until-now silent Iain blasts ‘WHERE IS MY FIFTYYYYYY!?’ In english. Instantly a police officers runs over and grabs the womans wrist, and out pops a fifty note…nice work Iain. We took back all our money and gave back the tickets, resorting to another tout about 20 metres away. I could not resist but tell Iain during the game that his refusal to own a wallet in China is verging on idiotic and that giving all your money to an illegal Chinese tout is the worst act of common sense I have ever experience. He took my criticisms incredibly well and we ended the evening with a pleasant game of football…where Guangzhou appear to be indistructable…just like my love of life at the moment.

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