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30/09/07 - Return of the Laowai

I have just finished my second week of teaching back in Beijing and already I have a holiday as this coming week is the second of the annual “golden” weeks, where this over-sized and over-populated country descends into complete mayhem with over a billion people attempting to simultaneously travel.

Arriving back in China felt quite strange as I knew exactly where to go when I walked out of arrivals and exactly what to expect. The locals were very welcoming as usual, shouting “hchallooo” across the street at me. I thought their English may have progressed to include, “welcome back”, but sadly not. Also, in Daxing (where I live), I am once again receiving the greeting, “aw, laowai” (or in English, “aw, foreigner”) combined with the familiar surprised looks of, “this foreigner is a long way from Beijing’s tourist attractions, he must be lost”.

New Semester, New Names

In order that taking the register at the start of my classes doesn’t take quite as long and so that I can make a better attempt at remembering my 200+ students’ names, I’ve decided to make them all choose English names this semester. This has proved a time consuming process as they all want to know what the names mean and some don’t like any of the names on my list, which is actually just a list of all your (this emailing list’s) names! Luckily, some of them already have English names and some of my favourites include, Lucifer, King Jane, and my personal favourite, Melon Dolphin. When I asked about this one, my student said that he really likes eating melon and dolphins are his favourite animal, so he thinks it is a “good name”. Who am I to argue with him?!

Even though I’ve been back for well over two weeks, I still haven’t completely got over the jet lag. I think there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the fact that my earliest class starts at 3.45pm so lie-ins are possible most days. And secondly, quite a few of England’s games in the Rugby World Cup have been evening games, which equates to 3am kick-offs here in China so I’ve had a number of late nights/early mornings.

A Mid-Twenties Crisis

In other news, in a slightly worse-for-ware state after a birthday party at my apartment, I had my hair bleached on Thursday afternoon. Let’s call it a mid-twenties crisis. I’d just had a 20 Yuan (£1.30) 40-minute full body massage and a combination of my friend Bob’s counsel and my slightly below-par judgement told me it would be a good idea to also have my hair bleached at the same time. My logic was that everyone stares at me anyway, so I might as well look a little bit more ridiculous and provide a little more entertainment for my large, captive audience.

Despite the hairdressers/masseuses advice, I went for the cheaper bleaching option (50 Yuan or ~ £3) which predictably didn’t result in quite the golden blonde effect I was aiming for. Let’s call it strawberry blonde going on luminous orange. Either way, it certainly looks ridiculous but I think I’m in the right place to pull it off seeing as they all think I look like either David Beckham or Brad Pitt (or Mr Bean) anyway.

Yours, Chips Penguin

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