Halloween, Bike, Music in Changsha

The few days before Halloween were going to be exam days, which if I was teaching in a high school, I would get almost a whole week off. Since I teach primary, the kids only have exams in the morning, lucky for them but not for me! After my last class of first grade that Friday, I went downtown with Craig to translate for him while he bought a motorcycle. When that was done with, he rode back, and I rode home on the back of the salesman’s bike. That was pretty fun, sitting on a tiny stool on the street with some tobacco-chewing, grease covered old guys trying to figure out a deal, and get the motorcycle ready to go.
The next day was Halloween, and some friends in Changsha had invited me and Craig to go to a party at their apartment. I threw together a pirate costume with some stuff I somehow had laying around, then went downtown to go catch the bus to Changsha. Craig had to pick up some costume stuff so we walked around for a while. On the walking street this toothless guy came up to me, saying something really excitedly and laughing his head off. I kept saying ‘what, what? What are you talking about?’ because I thought he said someone had died. I looked to where he was pointing and realized that it was indeed true….there was someone laying on the side of the street under some dirty blankets and newspapers who was indeed stone cold dead. There were a lot of people just standing around, smoking, watching and pointing, and there was a stoic old guy with a paunch and a white t-shirt tucked into his dress pants guarding the body. I kind of stared in horror then got away as fast as I could. I’ve never really seen a dead person before, so it was a little unsettling.
After that, while walking to the bus station, there were three monkeys on a rope with a guy telling them to do things, like throw a ball in a hoop or do flips. The monkey’s weren’t having it, and I didn’t stick around to see if it was part of the act or not. I was a little worried about the monkeys since they looked pretty mangy, but the guy did too.
When we got to Changsha we went to find Michaela’s house, where the Halloween party was. We got a little lost and there was a Chinese Muslim guy selling bbq on the street cornere, so I asked him where to go. He said he wasn’t sure where the school was, but ‘there sure where a bunch of people that looked like you going that way’ he said, pointing across the street. I thought it was hilarious the way he said it, and usually I might be a little uncomfortable about the statement, but since he looks different too I thought it was pretty funny.
Michaela is part of the group of World Teach teachers in Changsha, so a lot of them were there. It was a fun time, and so strange at first to be in a house full of foreigners. I forgot I was in China for a bit and thought I was back in Montreal! After a while we all decided to go out to a bar in the city called 4698. ‘98’ in Chinese sounds like ‘jiu ba’ which is also the word for ‘bar’. While there I ran into my bosses, Patrick and Ping! It was a huge coincidence because Yangshuo is 10 hours away and the bar we were in was a tiny place in a back alley. They were just in town because Ping’s father was sick and they decided to go out for Halloween! I made some Chinese friends that night, and one of them named Jinbao invited me to come back in a few weekends to go to an electronic music show that was happening at another place called ‘Freedom House’.
When I got home on Sunday that weekend, I decided to finally go get the bike fixed that has been sitting in one of my empty rooms since I got here. It was missing a pedal, the tires were flat and the seat was way too high. There is a motorcycle repair shop down the road next to the little store I go to a lot. I decided I would bring the bike down there and the guy could do something to fix the it. The shop is completely covered floor to ceiling in black grease, as well as everything in the store and the guy who works there. When I brought it down, he pumped up the tires and lowered the seat successfully, while I held onto the bike. Then he took a look at the pedal and went to get a sledge hammer….I was a little nervous about that, since a sledge hammer didn’t really seem like appropriate tool. But he put the pedal where it was supposed to go, whacked it a few times, and sent me on my way. About 10 minutes later, after I decided to take a small countryside road back, the pedal loosened and fell completely off. I tried to use the same trick as the guy, with a big rock, and 10 minutes later it fell off again. After that I figured I just had to get back to the school and forget about a bike ride that day.. Since then I haven’t gotten the bike fixed, since its gotten really cold, but maybe there is a real bike repair shop in town!
The next weekend I didn’t do anything except go into town a few times, and those past two weeks went pretty smoothly and normally. The first week my bad classes were exceptionally good. The next week, however, the classes were just as crazy again. I think it was because that week from Sunday on, I started feeling feverish and sick, but I didn’t realize that having chills meant I had a fever, so I kept going to class and putting more layers on, and tiring myself out. By Wednesday I had a full blown fever, and luckily all my classes finished by lunch time, so I had the whole afternoon off. That night I went to the nurse’s office at the school and ask for some medicine. She gave me tons and tons, all of which I was supposed to take within the two days. Four pills and one vial of brown liquid, three times a day. I wasn’t sure what any of the medicine did, but it helped me feel a little better and made my headache go away so I was able to teach. By Friday night I was feeling a little better, and Craig had gone to Changsha. I had decided to stay home and rest a little more before the next day. On Saturday night was that show at Freedom house that Jinbao was telling me about. It was a Chinese ambient music artist from Beijing named Me:mo, who is apparently renowned in the Chinese music scene. I got there a little late because I was debating whether or not to go since I had no place to stay that night. I decided to just wing it and see if I could meet someone that had a couch, or maybe find Craig and the group of World Teach teachers. Their phones were off when I got there, so I went to this place called Folk Bar where they are a lot, and the bartender Jimmy knows a lot of them. He helped me out and gave them a call, and I went to meet them for dinner not too far away. Later I went to Freedom house and listened to the tail end of Me:mo’s show, then Jinbao invited me to go with him, his girlfriend, Me:mo and Gaofeng and the boss of Freedom house. We went to get really tasty noodles, and I learned some stuff about Beijing from Memo, which is exciting since I’m going to live there next year. After that I saw the group of world teach teachers again on the street and they were going somewhere else downtown, so I followed them. We went into a club and stayed for a while, then after about an hour, I turned around from talking to someone and they were all gone. I panicked a little since I had no where to stay that night, and the next bus back to Liuyang was at 6am, but I made a few phone calls and finally found a place to stay on a teacher’s couch. The next morning I met up with Craig and we went to eat some tasty, real pizza with real cheese and everything, then he went back to Liuyang and I went to have another lunch at my Turkish friend’s house, who I met on Halloween. He had made homemade bread and a homey-tasting soup that kind of had a Memere-soup flavor, and I had Turkish coffee and some olives. I almost forgot I was in China!!
Earlier in that day Gaofeng had called me to see what I was doing, and if I wanted to come eat dinner with the group of them again, so I said yes even though I was getting to be extremely full from my two lunches. We went to have some food at a restaurant that looks like a tiny door in the wall, but when you go in, the boss leads you through a maze of small rooms full of tables, to a free one. Our table was in the back of the restaurant and we must have gone around fifteen corners and passageways to get there, and this restaurant was jam packed! It was famous for its frog dishes, so we got some and it was wonderfully tasty. I ate some even though I had no room left.
I had to catch the last bus to Liuyang at 8pm, but then Gaofeng told me there was a Uyghur (western Chinese minority group from Xinjiang) folk music show at Freedom House that night, and he said I could stay in his family’s house if I had no where to stay, so I agreed. Also, there was no school that Monday because of a teacher’s meeting.
The music was great, and the instruments where really cool and not like anything I had ever seen. It turns out that a few people there could do throat-singing, including Gaofeng. He was trying to explain to me how to do it, but it seems pretty difficult! Throat singing is from Tibet, Xinjiang and Mongolia, and they are all slightly different.
Anyway, it was a great night and the next day I just went home to rest up and plan my week’s lessons.
That week was normal for teaching as well. I wish I could say more about teaching, but it’s really monotonous and doesn’t change much. I have to teach from the books, but the books aren’t so interesting. I try to include interesting pictures so I can talk about American culture a little bit, and some songs for the young grades. I guess I’m still learning but I’ve officially decided next year I will be teaching high school!!
That weekend I stayed at home then taught for one day on Monday. That pretty much brings everything up to the next entry!!

One comment

  1. sorry aim im been caught up and havent been reading ur blog. thats frecken scary that u show a dead person. sorry u had to experience that. and why the hell was that guy laughing with excitement? thats messed up! pretty cool how ur brave enough to get up and go. i respect that. 🙂 even tho i think its not cool how those other teachers just took off on ya at that bar. nice to see how ur experience the life of china. bet u wish erik was there to fix that pedal that keeps falling off on ya lol. and was the frogs u ate cooked? cuz i hear u can eat it raw. either way its gross. lol

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