Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Some random ramblings

Two months ago some workmen came and dug a fifty-yard trench outside my apartment. Yesterday they came and filled it in again. Apart from providing a distinct safety hazard when I've been arriving home drunk and attracting a random collection of litter, it appears to have had no purpose.

I expect they'll come and dig it out again soon.


I once spent a week watching someone outside my apartment working on a water pipe. Every day he spent several hours digging out the hole in the morning, a couple of hours working on the pipe in the afternoon and an hour filling the hole in again in the evening. It seemed a terribly inefficient way of going about it to me.

Actually holes in the roads and paths are the major safety hazard. It doesn't seem to occur to anyone to cone them off or indicate their presence in any way. As many of them are in the dark, unlit passageways between buildings it's better at night to stick to the lighted main roads where there are just as many holes but at least you can see them.


The holes and trenches in the road don't seemed to have disturbed the group of old ladies who sit there everyday on the raised step that surrounds the building. They sit watching the world go by and chattering in Chinese. I say a cheery "ni hao" to them everyday and they respond with torrents of things I can't understand. It doesn't worry them that I can't understand though, they nod and smile at me as I pass and seem to approve of having a foreigner who speaks to them – even if it is just "hello". My roommate, on the other hand, doesn't even nod or smile and is consequently met with frowns which he doesn't even notice. It really is easy to make people like you in China, and just as easy to make them dislike you. I know which I prefer.


The old women sit just around the corner from our apartment's exercise equipment. I may have mentioned it before but most cities in the country have bright yellow, adult-sized exercise equipment in every square and on every corner. The specifics of the equipment vary but what doesn't vary is that it's in more or less constant use. People clearly well into their retirements pause as they pass to do a few pull-ups or use the treadmills or walking-exercisers. It probably accounts for why you so rarely see anyone overweight on the streets. And certainly helps given that most of us here live in apartment blocks that are seven stories or more high and have only stairs. Lifts are only installed in public buildings. I suppose I'm lucky that I only live on the fourth floor.


Actually people here do pick up on the attitudes and friendliness of foreigners very quickly. Last night we went for a meal with a local family who have, to me and Erika at least, become great friends and almost a surrogate family for us. My flatmate declined to come. His reasons were unclear but my guess is that he didn't like that Erika and I were treating the family. We were going to pay for the whole meal as they have done for us on numerous occasions. I don't think he cared for the idea of paying for other people's food though his stated reason was that he "didn't want another hot-pot". The point is that, as I expected, they instantly asked where he was and I said he wasn't coming. Of course they wanted to know why. I said that he was just feeling a little unsociable. Erin, the teenage daughter and the only one who speaks good English, looked puzzled. I asked if she understood the word "unsociable". She pondered for a moment and said, :Does it mean 'very strange?'"



An interesting thing about going out with Chinese friends is that quite often complete strangers (to me at least) will turn up and eat with us. I assume people in the family know them but I can't be certain. Last night was no exception. Someone new joined us and Erin explained that he was a geography teacher. Not HER geography teacher, just A geography teacher. I think the family want him to tutor Erin as she's doing badly in the subject but I don't know for sure.


I have been tutoring a doctor from the hospital in English preparing him for a trip abroad – to Germany! I offered to tutor him in German but he wasn't interested.It seems that the doctors at the hospital he is visiting all speak English with him and he wants to get better English rather than better German. It's a great gig. I go once a week to his very luxurious apartment where his wife, who is the best cook I've come across in China, prepares an excellent meal for me and I spend a couple of hours doing little more than eating and chatting and I get paid for it! Couldn't be much better.


I won't be able to go this week though. We have yet more holiday. From Wednesday to Friday the school has exams and so I don't have to go in. It gives me time to visit Tian Shui, the second largest city in the province which has a number of interesting attractions which I shall report on later.


It will be nice to get away from Baiyin for a few days.