November 11th, 2017

singapore sunset

happy singles' day!

Hello everyone, it's the ancient Chinese festival of Singles' Day. Many years ago, back in the 1990s, a bunch of student bachelors decided to have a party to celebrate/commiserate their singleness. The tradition spread over the next couple decades, and was eventually adopted by local e-commerce companies as an excuse for an epic sale. Nowadays the money spent dwarfs America's Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. I took a "shortcut" through a department store earlier, and that was a bad idea. Everyone is buying shit. I guess buying yourself a gift isn't the worst way to celebrate being single.

I quite like the name of the holiday, linguistically. Singles here have several nicknames, one of which is 光棍 (guāng gùn) which literally means "just a stick". Singles' Day is celebrated on 11/11, because the date looks like 4 bare sticks. The Chinese name for the day is 光棍节, which i see as meaning Bare Sticks Festival. Of course native speakers just think of it as Singles' Day, but such is the beauty of learning a language.

Right now i am sitting on a patch of grass in the Shenzhen University campus after just getting out of my HSK3 exam. It's still feels strange to be studying. My HSK2 marks were pretty good, just 2 or 3 mistakes out of 80. I anticipate a similar score on HSK3; there were at least two questions i was unsure of. From Monday i am going back to "real world" language study, which will be nice after about a month of hardcore vocabulary review and practice exams. That's going to be my last little burst before cutting back from my current 20 hours a week of classes plus 10 hours homework/review. I accepted the job.

Things have started rolling already. The two most important things i need that i don't have are an "authenticated" version of my diploma and some "employment certificates", which i guess are something like a letter from my old companies that i was really employed there. After spending the last week trying to hunt down my diploma, i have finally managed to get access to a digital version. The hard copy is being sent up here from R's basement in Windsor. I am hoping i can just go to the Australian consulate in Guangzhou to get whatever special authentication stamps that are required. It would suck a lot if i had to fly all the way to Australia to organize that stuff. Meanwhile, my former employers are dragging their feet on getting me the letters. I know they don't owe me anything since i am no longer a current employee, but for me (and my future employer) this is kind of pressing. Sigh.

Once i have the local stuff done, i need to fly back to Canada for a police check, physical and then the actual filing of the visa application. I hope that will only take a couple of weeks, because hotels in Toronto are prohibitively expensive, and because Ontario is very fucking cold right now. Today is a "chilly" day in Shenzhen at around 20 degrees. Yesterday it was 28. I heard Windsor hit -7 yesterday. Fuck that noise. I am not a particularly big fan of hot weather per se, but i do really like to be able to spend my time outside all year round. Sadly when i get back to Canada i will be spending as little time as possible outside, given that i gave away all of my clothes before leaving Europe. A thin hoodie ain't gonna cut it in that freeze.

Another reason i don't really want to spend too much time back in Canada is because i think it will hurt my Chinese. I already know that starting work here is going to affect my development negatively. Although the department i am joining is mostly Chinese, the written language is English, and apparently the other laowai aren't at a level where speaking Chinese at the water cooler is a thing either. The work hours are long too, and will make it very difficult for me to attend classes. I know i can study at home, but i will need to be far more dedicated than i am now. I still would really like to become fluent, at least to the level i was in Germany. I want to be able to read local websites and talk casually in bars. I guess part of it is just a matter of time.

Hey, i even feel a bit more interested in going out clubbing now. Electronic music is a thing here, just like it is everywhere in the world, but given the city has over 10 million people it seems to be a disappointingly small thing. There are plenty of nightclubs, but judging by the websites they seem similar to what i imagine Las Vegas nightclubs are like - high cover charge, smart dress code, ubiquitous bottle service, EDM/hip-hop DJs etc. It seems there is one nightclub here that regularly holds more underground nights and several that every now and then allow a rave promoter to come in and throw a gig. Of course, i haven't gone to any of them yet, and just finding the names of the places was very difficult because i am not deep into Chinese social media. The scene might be full of pretentious nouveau riche and drugged-up laowai, or it might be a seed of a cool underground movement like parts of America and Australia in the 90s. Once i have a bit more financial security - not to mention a residence permit - i think i will enjoy checking it out. Worst case Hong Kong is a subway ride away, plus there are pockets of techno in the backpacker destinations around Taiwan, Thailand and so on.

So, i'ma be settling down in this big sprawl of a city on the Pearl River Delta. My new work will be a literal stone's throw from the Hong Kong border in the oldest, grimiest and sleaziest part of town. That area looks a lot more 80s/cyberpunk than the modern Shenzhen with its expansive parks and gleaming supertalls. I guess i should look for an apartment around there too. Rats'n'roaches. But first, get the visa. Now that HSK3 is out of the way and my diploma is in the mail, i have a brief moment to breathe. Once the mail arrives it'll be a rush to get the paperwork sorted, book flights and loop back to my "home" country to drink coffee and eat poutine and get poked and prodded and shiver my tits off. Then it's back to the grind.

Right now, i am going to walk back to my hotel, buy some beers and treat myself to a little Singles' Day feast. Tomorrow will hopefully be my last run to Hong Kong for a 30-day passport stamp. Hobo for life! xo