Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Yellow Submarine

Last Thursday night me, Andrew, and Phillip stopped at the Xinjiang restaurant where my friend plays the dutar for some lamb kebabs and music. This time I brought my guitar, much to their delight, and of course I had to sing many an English song. Me and Ehkbet attempted a guitar-dutar duet, with mixed results, and as we were outside we attracted an audience that reached 30 during the night. Me and Andrew have the same students, and a large group of them who passed by stayed to listen and take loads of photographs (that's Andrew in the picture). They fed us three platefuls of kebabs and a few beers, and refused to take payment at the end of the night.

I have finally claimed the bicycle the school gave me, in time for a bike ride with Andrew, Mohammed, two students Mohammed knows, and Miss Mao from the Foreign Affairs Office and her husband. Miss Mao is always full of personality, and usually wearing the brightest red clothing I have probably ever seen. She clearly had no plan but eventually led us to a fishing pond outside the city, where Mohammed failed to outsmart the Chinese fish, and through the Muslim quarter to a good restaurant. I had pictured every Chinese town having a street of half-dead sheep lying on the pavement and unidentifiable animal parts, and now I have seen Zhangye's, complete with sheep's heads and bloodied wool coats. I had asked Miss Mao about the possibility of a cleaning service for my apartment, and she unexpectedly recruited the two English students with us, which is good news but feels exploitive somehow.

Saturday night MoMo called to invite me to a "party" of Xiao Ma's, which I figured could mean anything after the "game" at Hexi University. It turned out to be a big get-together at a restaurant (hot pot as per usual), which wasn't too thrilling after having already eaten and not understanding any of the conversation. The next day MoMo helped me with some shopping I had to do, and in true Chinese style I was able to ride my bike with a small girl on the back. After I was finished and about ready to go home she suggested he go for a hike, in a place that "wasn't far". After 20 or 30 minutes of riding against a strong wind with a second person on the back, I was getting rather tired, and I asked how much farther it was. She said another 20 minutes; it was also about 5pm, an awkward time to be arriving somewhere 40 minutes out of the city for a hike. Sometimes I wonder if the Chinese think we are as illogical as we think they are.

This week in class I'm doing a lesson on music, and I do love a job in which I can bring my guitar to work. Most of my students don't so much as know who The Beatles are, so I figured it was time to educate them. It's been a fun lesson so far, perhaps highlighted for me by having the students write out on the blackboard what they think the words are to Yellow Submarine after listening to it ("and he told The Beatles' life" instead of "and he told us of his life", "and our friends all live in a stone" instead of "and our friends are all aboard" etc.). I get asked to sing so often here that it no longer bothers me to do it, and leading the students in "Let It Be" with their sweet angelic voices has been worth it. I'm not too bothered about public speaking anymore either, or the fact that a male friend is likely to leave his hand on my knee while talking; I guess it takes something like living in China to break down some barriers.

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