Wednesday night i went out to the pub to do some homework and drink a cold beer. From the moment i sat down i was accosted by a very drunk school teacher. The amount of very drunk school teachers i meet at the bar here makes me weep for the kids of tomorrow. She kept leaning in and yelling at me and getting in arguments about the most trifling nonsense. I tried to be polite and play it cool, but eventually she started getting very handsy and - for the second time since i have been here - i had to literally push a woman back into her stool and tell her that consent is a fucking thing, and just because i am a friendly, open trannie drinking alone at a bar does not mean i give it. Fucking... ugh.
But then later on, after she got the picture and walked away, i saw her being the victim of a group of men who were taking advantage of her state to joke around. She was such a wreck she couldn't even open her purse or figure out how to pay. The bar doesn't have a bouncer, and pretty much everyone else was treating her as the evening entertainment, so i helped her through the process of paying and then walked her back to her apartment. I mean, in between all the ranting and raving she did share with me that her father was dying, so she was obviously hurting. Still, that evening fucking sucked. The cherry on the top was her apartment being inside a gated complex that you literally could not leave without a keycard. So i sat there after taking home my abuser, trapped inside a fucking gate until someone walked in and let me out. The whole night left me shaken and upset.
So of course i went out to the bar again on Thursday. That started out much better - i got in nice and early and chatted to the bartenders, with whom i can practice Chinese. At some point one of the hard party crew (also a teacher) walked in. He drinks hard and is not shy to augment the drinking with whatever other things find their way into this sleazy border town after the sun goes down. He is also a reasonably nice guy, if a little young. Due to a sequence of unfortunate events, two of which were free beers bought for me that i did not want, we ended up getting very drunk. We grabbed some awesome "on a stick" BBQ after stumbling out of the bar, where we proceeded to "gan bei" a few more bottles of beer.
I don't need to tell you i woke up with a truly hideous hangover on Friday. That was the first day i decided to "call in sick" to class, and i felt really guilty about it. But, honestly, i would have felt more guilty if i had showed up for four hours and failed to learn anything. Better my teachers use their time more productively. Also, i am very conscious of the fact that i am being judgemental as fuck about these school teachers getting blind drunk every night and going in and looking after children the next day. If becoming a manager made me more mindful about my own bad habits of going into the office after a big night out, seeing teachers do it has really woken me up. I am an alcoholic, i know that, i know drinking fries my brain cells and makes me far less successful of a person than i otherwise would be, but there's a line when it starts affecting other people's lives where it just seems terribly selfish to cross.
The start of this week was less depressing. On Tuesday i went out to see a movie with a Chinese girl i met at the bar over the weekend. Actually - the drunk local i helped back to the subway. Unlike most (well, all) of the laowai i have added on WeChat, she actually seemed like an interesting person outside of the bar so we caught up.
She introduced me to 煎饼果子 (jiān bǐng guǒ zi), which is one of the most epic things i have eaten in China. It starts as a flat pancake cooked on a griddle. When the pastry firms up, the cook cracks an egg or two on there and lets that cook in too, then adds chili and cilantro and 油条 (yóu tiáo)/churro and tofu and all kinds of shit. Wrap it all up and serve in a paper bag inside a plastic bag. You eat it like a burrito. It is amazing. Apparently it's usually a breakfast food, but it was a nice dinner. We paired it with some ciders and ate sitting on a bench in the park, then headed into the theater.
Valerian was amazing. I can count the number of movies i have seen at the theater in the last 5 years or so on one hand, but i am so happy i went to see this one. It is eye-poppingly gorgeous. It's like... Fifth Element, Avatar, Speed Racer kind of gorgeous. Such an awesome escape into a delightful science fiction world. Taking off the 3D glasses at the end and appearing back in the heart of this crazy futuristic real world city felt disappointing. I am not sure how well it's going to do in China, but it did knock the previous (local) summer blockbuster out of the number 1 spot. I hope they can recoup the costs, because it was a pleasure to watch.
It was a pleasure to hang out with F too. I hope we catch up again. She surprised me by saying her favorite movie was Cloud Atlas - which i haven't seen - and her favorite TV show was Sense8. I haven't watched season 2 of Sense8 since Netflix is not available in China, but season 1 was great. I really felt like i was watching the future of television when i watched it. Netflix is so perfectly positioned as the first truly international TV channel to make content that spans the world and connects with viewers everywhere. It's unfortunate the series has been cancelled, but i hope the idea inspires more shows like this. There is so much we could do with TV shows that celebrate the diversity of our whole planet and do not dwell exclusively on the American experience.
Tuesday night made my whole week worthwhile. I am still learning Chinese and getting far more comfortable talking about my day and my life with people using the very small vocabulary i have. Where i am the weakest by far is listening and understanding. I need more practice, but i am not sure where to get it. Probably not going to laowai bars all the time would be a good start.
I have started to think more seriously about finding work here. I still have the cash to study for a couple months without working, but even though work would suck up a huge amount of my time, it would also give me two other things - the opportunity to expand my cultural experience by doing normal/everyday things like renting an apartment, and the opportunity to make friends who are not all fucking expat teachers. I really don't want to work full-time, and i am not sure how i would feel about working for a big American company over here (those are pretty much the only companies hiring English-speaking software developers), but i feel like i am nudging up on the edge of what i can learn just through living at a hotel and randomly walking around.
In other news, the third cyclone in two weeks is going to smash into Guangdong province tomorrow. It's no Hato, so it seems we can breathe easy. I lived through a handful of cyclones when i lived in Brisbane, but i've never been somewhere where almost every storm of the season dumps rain. It boggles my mind that property developers are still reclaiming land and building highrises here with the sea level rising so rapidly. It sure is nice to live by/near the sea, but i do feel like my generation is going to see more and more of these low-lying cities decimated. I wonder when people will all pick up and move inland? Though i guess inland ain't much better, thanks to desertification. We're all going to die, etc etc. All the more reason to rent and not buy, heh.
Speaking of rent, i learned in class the other day that it is very normal to rent fully furnished apartments here. It's not just something for "digital nomads" (read: rich traveling businessmen) like it is in the west. I explained to my teacher that people in the west don't want to sit on someone else's couch or sleep in someone else's bed and she looked at me like i was crazy. "It's only furniture!" I KNOW RIGHT?!? There are many cultural values that i do not understand in China, but this is something i feel totally onboard with. What kind of idiocy is it that we in the west expect the poorest people - the renter class - to buy an entire house full of furniture and appliances and then pay again to haul it all over the place every time they move? It's crazy. You rent an apartment, you should get everything you need to live. Don't trash the place because when you leave for a better job or a better apartment or your own house, someone else poor is going to appreciate the stuff just as much as you did. How is this not the norm everywhere?
Sigh. Since i spent all day yesterday in this little concrete box with a hangover, i want to get out today. It's raining a bit, but perhaps i can find somewhere in the park to breathe in some green and read Kindle.