I heart my friends

A couple of photos missing from the video of China were the ones of all of the wonderful friends I caught up with while travelling.

Not becuase they aren’t special enough.

Quite the contrary… I wanted to make a point of how happy I was to see them all.

Ian, my personal trainer from Beijing, and my infamous Shifu... yes, the guy who taught me how to use nunchuks!

As always, a treat catching up with Paul & Sandy

Oh Mrs Catchy, you always know how to make me smile!

Two of the prettiest girls I know - Heidi & Stefi

Brother Bayne! He really is my brother from another mother.

I even caught up with some friends from Mongolia, Batbold & Uyanga.

I made a new friend on the train, Richard. Turns out he knows a good friend of ours. Small world, eh? I've decided that '6 degrees of Kevin Bacon' is so last year, and you should try playing '6 degrees of Craig McBaron'.

One of the downsides of moving around so much is having to leave great friends. Of course, one of the plusses is I get to meet amazing people wherever I go. Oh, the cruel twist of irony and/or fate.

Touring China

Oh no, I’ve turned into one of those bloggers who lets their blog lapse. Shame on me.

So I went to China with Jilly in April. We took the train from UB to Beijing, spent a few days there, headed down to Guilin (add it to your bucket lists, people), shot over to Yichang, got the boat down the Yangtze to Chongqing, and then rounded off the trip in Hong Kong. What a trip!

Finally, I put together a video from the trip, so feel free to view it:

Zaijian Jingers!

It was a little sad saying goodbye to Beijing.

I know many of you will want to know what I enjoyed most about living there, and what I will miss most. Well, the food was awesome, and much to the disappointment of my gym trainers, probably a little too awesome. I made some great new friends, from all over the world. Practising my Chinese on taxi drivers was a hoot, especially when I could make them laugh with me and not just at me. Another plus of living in Beijing was being able to get whatever I wanted from places like the Tatts & Bunnies market (I finally learnt the Chinese name for it… Dong Jiao. I suspect the literal translation is Rabbits and Tattoos).

I will miss my water man, who whenever he saw me walking around Central Park (where we lived) while he was making a delivery would yell ni hao with tremendous gusto! I will miss my Jamaica Blue friends, both the staff and the regulars. And my Jambo Juice lady, who was one of the first people in China I interacted with regularly.

But there’s probably two stand-out ‘things’ I’ll miss most.

Firstly, Saturday Night Dinners, which were sometimes known as Friday After Work Aria Bar Drinks, Sunday Boat Afternoons, Absinth Sessions at Sandy and Paul’s, Wednesday State of Origin Piss-ups or Sunday Night Feeds. But it always involved Sandy and Paul, or Bill and Cathy, or when we were really lucky, all four! Sometimes Kai was not in town, sometimes Paul was not in town… basically, whoever was in town joined in for the closest thing we all had to a family dinner! And sometimes this even included out of town visitors, like Jilly, Duggie, Helly, Brucie and Paul-E!

Saturday Night Dinners were the best, and I sure will miss them!

Thanks to Sandy & Cathy for looking after me in Beijing!

We always went to good places, but this was the best. It's in fact my favourite restaurant in the whole world!

And then there were the trainers at the gym, who were a big part of my Beijing experience. Even though I never said more than ‘ni hao’ to most of them, they all felt so familiar. I saw more of them than anyone else during my time in Jingers. And I had so much fun with the ones I did deal with; more fun than I could have possibly imagined having my ass kicked day in, day out to be. Thanks gym boys – I will miss you!

Yes Ian, your muscles are bigger than my head!

This is my Gung Fu Shifu, Li Guo. Twelve months ago I would never have thought I'd be learning Shuang Jie Gun! I love how I am holding them like a pair of maracas!

And then there is this guy... Mika! Even though he left Beijing a couple of months ago, he played a big part in my Beijing experience. Leaving him out of this post just didn't feel right!

So even though I didn’t have quite a Peter Hessler-esque experience (he’s the author of River Town, which I highly recommend you read because it’s everything Shantasia is not… an insightful, poignant recollection of his time spent in China), I definitely had my own experience. And, I wouldn’t change one bit!

But here’s to our next adventure… sain baina uu Mongolia!

Paul-E

A few months ago my friend Paul-E sent me a message saying he was passing through Jingers with his brother Loz, and he asked what should be on the list of things to do.

Err, having dinner with me and my friends at the Beer & Duck restaurant is THE #1 must-do when in Beijing.

So after counting down the sleeps, I finally caught up with Paul-E last night (and met the wonderful Loz!). Hooray for Beijing stop-overs!

 

Shuang Jie Gun… for dummies

One of the hardest things about learning Shuang Jie Gun is remembering the steps to the routines I am taught. The Chinese names mean nothing to me, and as I progress to harder routines (including using double Shuang Jie Gun*) I am left with this one, giant, twirling, jumbled, blurry and highly dangerous mess.

Until yesterday, when my Shifu came up with Double Shuang Jie Gun for Stupid Shannon.

“This step, like fishing,” he said as he threw them out like he was casting a line.

“This step, like hitting bee,” he said as he waved the nunchuks around his head.

“This step, like haircut,” he said as he brought them back down, dangerously close to his head.

“This step, like beautiful dance,” he said as he twirled them around his waist and back again.

“This step, like killing mouse,” he said as he swept them downwards at the side of his body.

“And this step, well, it just like cross your body.”

“So, fishing > bee > haircut > dance > mouse > cross > finish. Ok, got it.” I said, but not fully believing this was going to work.

He handed me the Shuang Jie Gun, and with one set in each hand, I took a deep breath and…

“Yes, good, like fishing!” He said.

“Ok, now hit bee! … Yes, now haircut! … Yes, now DANCE!… Good, now kill the mouse!… Ok, that mouse, he got away… now cross!”

And just like that, I had remembered the routine.

“Feichang hen hao!” Yelled Shifu. “Congraulations,” he beamed.

We high-fived, I did my little victory dance and then he said,

“Right, 20 more times, faster, do your best, and then we do it again.”

*  What I’m about to tell you confirms that I am crazy, and so too is my shifu for thinking I am competent enough to do this. double Shuang Jie Gun is one set of nunchuks in each hand, which effectively means double the chance of me knocking myself unconcious. This has not yet happened, but I suspect it will at some point.

Zai jian!

It’s official: Kai and I are moving to Mongolia. This time next month, I’ll be there. Now that’s crazy!

I don’t particularly want to leave Jingers; I’ve become quite fond of the place.

I am particularly bummed that I have just gotten a handle on the language. I am by no means fluent, but I have definitely made progress.

Sadly, I had my last Chinese lesson on Wednesday. I didn’t expect it to be so soon or sudden, but my teacher, Wu Jing Sheng, is off to get married (what’s with all the Chinese men I know going off to get married… is it something I said?). But I owe a big thanks to Jing Sheng (the most patient man in China) for giving me adequate Chinese to order my daily latte, and for giving me countless opportunities to entertain Beijing taxi drivers with my commentary on the weather, traffic jams and idiotic driving.

Xie xie Wu Jing Sheng! Zai jian

Tuni bags

Sandy, Cathy & I went to a Tuni Bag workshop last week.
Now before you ask, what is a Tuni Bag, well, truthfully I am still not sure I really know.

But that’s cool, because we got to hang out, and do some stitching, and let our creative juices flow.

It started with a needle, thread and a blank canvas.

Cathy was quick to find her rhythm.Sandy found her groove too.Me? Well, I just kinda faffed about, taking pictures. Like pictures of this cute kid. How stylish is he?!

And photos of these two chicks. How hot are they?!

Bike Man

I found Bike Man in the Wudaoying Hutong.

We stopped in for a refreshment at this cute little coffee shop that did quite good coffees and had a love heart table!

Through the window I could see Bike Man. He was adjusting spokes so that the wheel ran true.

As the afternoon passed, people would stop and chat to him about, well, bikes.

But what I loved most about Bike Man is the amount of locals that pulled up to chat. How many stories he must know!

You all know how much I love to chat, so it just about killed me that all I could do was watch helplessly from the window, wishing that my Chinese was better!