Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Darker Side Of Life In China

With today's events I think I might've seen it all, though I truly am not sure.

Almost a year into my China adventure, China still manages to shock me and rattle me right down to my very core.

Today was a rather bland day, I felt somewhat off in the morning and opted the one medicine that will never fail me: calling my dad.

After an almost one-hour long chat I had to get ready for work and left the house as usual. I had prepared some lunch and two apples to take to work and was listening to music.

Five minutes into my walk to work I spotted a large crowd of people ahead and initially I didn't think anything about it. A new fruit supermarket opened a few days ago just where the crowds had gathered so I assumed it was just another promotion......until I took a closet look and spotted fire brigade and police cars ahead.

Something felt very off and I wondered whether a fire had broken out in one of the apartment buildings above the countless of shops lining the street. I found myself looking up, my eyes following the long resuce ladder the fire brigade had put up and I found myself looking at a men perched on the small metal letter leading up the electricity pole. Two men inside the basket at the top of the resuce ladder seemed to try and talk to him and it didn't take rocket science for me to guess that the man hadn't climbed up that pole to enjoy the scenery. He was trying to jump but didn't appear to have the "guts" required to go through with it.

On the opposite side of the street onlookers were taking pictures and videos and simply lingering around, watching the scene unfold. My heart dropped, disgusted by the sight, and I walked faster, just wanting to get away and not join the crowds.

I arrived at work feeling all worked up and vexed. I'd never thought I'd never see someone wanting to end their own life but now I have and it's upsetting to say the least.

I do not know the outcome of the story but I hope the police and the fire brigade talked some sense into the man and got him to agree to come down and not be so foolish as to leave his family grieving for him after such a public, self-inflicted early departure from life.

I hope to track down some news to get closure.

I reckon I'm on my way to "having seen it all" but today's sight was not one I expected to see nor one I was yearning to see. Call this a therapeutic post for writing is after all balm for the soul and that's what I need right now.

In the meantime I'll quietly say a little prayer.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Passport Renewal Fun in China

My pretty new passport.

It doesn't look any different from my previous passport but it is. For the first time I have a lovely passport picture which I can stomach showing to people for the next 10 years. My passport also has more pages, because, well you never know, and it now says "Wuhan, China" as my place of residency instead of "Dublin, Ireland". My very first passport said "Koblenz, Germany". I wonder what my next passport might say...

When I consciously realised that I had to renew my passport and couldn't (for visa renewal purposes) ignore next year's expiry date any longer, I resolutely surfed the website of the German embassy to get all the details of the things I would need. 

I was somewhat afraid, scratch that, I was very afraid because when I had to renew my passport in Ireland I had to pay the embassy four visits before they were finally happy to accept my application. You see, Germany loves bureaucracy and German embassies are no different. I still can't get over what they did to my photograph in 2009, the photo didn't look that hideous when I had it taken in Germany (precaution due to the insane biometric requirements the embassy has) but somehow the photo looked hideous once it was inside my passport.

The same biometric requirements for the passport photo gave me a solid migraine. How do you explain to someone in the country of 差不多 (cha bu duo / almost, okay, good enough) that you can't accept any of their attempts at pleasing you because it doesn't meet the requirements your embassy has.

I tried in vain to have passport pictures taken here in Wuhan but the outcome didn't match any of the requiremts I specified, even though I was very clear with my instructions.

In the end I went to the one photo studio in Beijing, which the German embassy recommends, and I had my picture taken there. I chanced all my luck because even the embassy said that the photo studio mightn't get things right on the first try.  But they did do a fabulous job! Everything worked out just fine and I got the photo I needed from them!

I'm not even going to show you failed attempt from the photo studio here in Wuhan, it looks hideous! If you are German and you need to renew your passport in China "Gold One Photo Studio" is where you go, it will make your life a lot smoother.

I took an entire day just to sort out the passport debacle, since I wanted to a to avoid trouble. I enjoyed a more or less good breakfast before I set out to find the photo studio. Three subway changes and a short walk later I had what I needed plus a rumbling stomach that made me chase a nice place for lunch and then I continued my passport renewal quest. It required a taxi ride and an uncomfortable walk in the dry heat. Once I was inside the embassy I just had get a number  and wait a little while, and then got to submit my application.

To be honest I was really worried they might find some reason not to accept my application and send me back to get more things for them but it all went fine and without a hitch. I asked for express processing and after handing over a lot of cash I was told I'd be notified in two weeks to come and pick up my passport. That was the bad news... Unfortunately the German embassy in China does not send out any passports, while the German embassy in Ireland does...or at least they did in 2009.

Fortunately for me I have friends in Beijing and one of them agreed to pick up my passport and send it to me. It was a piece of cake, really, I expected my passport renewal to be painful but it wasn't. The German embassy in China clearly knows what they are doing!

Here's to continued good relations between Germany and China!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

A Birthday Date with 王力宏 Wang Leehom at the Bird's Nest

You knew this was coming. If you've paid just a little attention to my blog, you will find that I can twist almost any topic into mentioning 王力宏 Wang Leehom one way or another. Who wouldn't want to mention such a handsome devil! Just look at him! Don't you just want to... *utters incomprehensibly*

I wouldn't say that I'm infatuated with him but I do have a very big soft spot for him and his talents. I think he's a talented musican, an interesting and inspiring man, a great actor and definitely an extraordinary singer. He's a man of many talents so enjoying the things he shares with his fans never really gets old because there is always something new, because he's the type of person who doesn't shy away from reinventing himself and trying something he hasn't done before.

Students often ask me whether there are any Chinese actors or singers I like and I always mention Wang Leehom. Some of the students who have known me for a while tease me with it, others excitedly tell me that he's married and when I respond that I couldn't give a hoot about that they appear baffled.

Somehow I just can't get the balance right. If I see a handsome man on the street and I tell my Chinese friend that I want to take him home and rip his clothes off I overstep some sort of invisible boundary but when I tell my friends here that yes Wang Leehom is sexy as hell and hotter than Chongqing hotpot but I don't want to drag him off to somewhere to have my wicked way with him I say the wrong thing again...or maybe it's the fact that I talk about sex and not marriage? Sometimes girls are too complicated, at least some Chinese boys are more open to the kind of humour I'm used to...and as such they are a lot more fun to hang out with. Seriously what do girls here talk about? Where's the fun in talking about boys when you can't be candid about it? Boys do it all the time and when I want to talk like that boys get me, girls don't.

But back to my date with the one and only Wang Leehom.

I'd been meaning to go to one of his concerts forever. I even planned to fly to Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, name it. It never quite worked out so this time I just grabbed the chance and twisted it to my advantage. The timing was perfect. I had to go up to Beijing to renew my passport and decided to spend my birthday in the capital, away from Wuhan. I wanted to get out of the city, be somewhere else for a while, do something I hadn't done in some time. Lengthy recovery periods and hospital stays don't make it easy to travel. With my birthday being on the 13th and the concert scheduled for the 14th of June the timing for my short holiday was perfect. I got my official business sorted out and I even got to have some fun. If my previous posts weren't any indication of that well then I don't know...

I remember driving past the Bird's Nest back in 2012 during my first trip to Beijing but I don't remember even catching a glimpse of the massive stadium so when I got there (by subway, convenient as it can be) I was awed and amazed.

Like pretty much everything in China, the place is huge in size and I had to take a few moments to breathe it all in. I always thought Croke Park in Dublin is massive but compared to the Bird's Nest it seems like a peanut. Then again, Croke Park isn't an Olympic Stadium!

The show was fantastic, mind-blowing, moving and truly worth seeing. I brought my camera along but she and I have massive disagreements on what it means to take crisp and clear concert pictures. I regret buying it. It never worked quite right...or maybe I'm just too silly to use it properly? I gave up on my camera fairly quickly and just used my phone to snap some photos. I mostly just photographed the screen but the pictures turned out alright and I didn't attend the concert to snap a million photos, I just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere and the opportunity to see Music-Man II live in action!

Okay, I admit it, I have a think for those arms. Phwoar!!! *thud*

Leehom shared one of his new songs 《七十亿分之一》which I fell in love with at first listen and I'm anxiously waiting for the release of his new album or at least the song. The title translates into "One In Seven Billion" and I'm sure he wrote this song for his wife, but it's moving, the lyrics are beautiful, the music is incredible and oh flip it I'm a fangirl, there you go! I came out of the closet!!!