...or should I title this blog post "What not to do while in China..."?
I'm presently enjoying an imaginary cup of coffee (because I'm too lazy to venture into the kitchen to actually make one) and weirdly enough this got me thinking what I want to do/not do when in China in June - besides sight-seeing, shopping and stuffing my face with food that is. Yes, I know, my mind works in mysterious ways, I don't quite understand it myself sometimes.
I've started a new fitness regime last week and so far I've resolutely been sticking to the torture I'm inflicting on myself on a daily basis - who would have thought, I do have masochistic genes in me after all. Despite the fact that every single muscle in my body has been hurting for about a week solid my mind is bubbling with ideas of things to do and stuff I want to change about my life - when it's not bemoaning the fact that I've had the idiotic idea to start working out daily that is. I tell you I've discovered my body has a lot more muscles than I was previously aware of - it's after all been a while since we touched upon the subject in biology class.
Presently the sole reason for my plan to get into shape is to lose a few kilos so I can stuff my face with food in China without regrets. Then again I'm sure it's impossible to regret eating dumplings or having Dim Sum in Hong Kong until you look about nine months pregnant. Yes, I am aware that my logic may be severely flawed here. I do realise that losing weight just so you can pile it straight back on while on holidays makes little sense but just roll with me on this one, okay?
You see, I do have a sensible reason for doing this. I have a bunch of cool trousers that I like to wear. Some of them I even have to wear, whether I want to or not, like when I go to work and stuff because they're super nice trousers and at work I kind of need to look presentable. The problem is if I don't lose any weight but still stuff my face while in China none of these trousers will fit me anymore. You see? It makes perfect sense to lose some weight before flying to China. When I come back my trousers will definitely still fit me. My logic may be flawed but to me it makes perfect sense.
I'd actually planned to start my fitness regime (no, I've not gone off topic again, just bear with me okay?) somewhat earlier but, and I'll be honest here, I was way too lazy. I kinda dabbled with it on and off since about January but I definitely didn't stick with it. This past week I've been resolute and since I've realised just how horribly unfit I actually am, it's given me somewhat of a kick in the backside to stick with things - at least for now. I also have someone to inspire me and help me focus but I won't divulge who that someone is. It's someone pretty darn awesome though.
What with getting fit being a work in progress, I've focused my mind on a few other things I could do while in China. Let me tell you, when you're lying on your bed, gasping for breath (after 100 sit-ups this too hurts!) while wiping away the tears that keep running down your cheeks because even thinking about moving your left little toe makes your sore muscles cramp up, you have a lot of time to think. My brain was about the only part of my body that didn't hurt...up until I discovered that using it extensively to actively follow and participate in a conversation using all my Mandarin skills also made it hurt. I'm really am running out of things to do that do not require moving about while my aching muscles recover from being forced to do things they were absolutely not created for.
Despite all the pain I've been in this last week and all the pink bunnies I saw when I suffered from vertigo two weeks ago (The doctor put me on the happy pills, I don't usually see pink bunnies, okay? Well maybe when I'm drunk but that's a whole different story again!), I've managed to put a list of things to do/not to do when in China together. It is a work in progress so I will definitely be adding things, I think. If you have a suggestion you're more than welcome to leave a comment.
So let's kick this off!
1) Practice my Mandarin conversational skills in preparation for meeting my 叔叔 and 阿姨 (my Chinese teacher's parents) for dinner while in Hong Kong. I want to impress them at least a little bit. Also I'd hate for my teacher to be embarrassed by my Mandarin in front of her parents so I will do my best to speak as clearly as possible and maybe I'll give that Beijing accent another try... I hope to limit my mistakes although I won't sit there and berate myself for making a mistake. I am learning, mistakes are allowed. As long as my 叔叔 and 阿姨 are able to understand me and I can understand them, I'm happy. The intention is not to use my teacher as an interpreter. That's not what she's there for. Furthermore I also want to learn a few Cantonese phrases to surprise my 叔叔 and 阿姨 with. I find Cantonese most intriguing and since my Chinese teacher has a very clear pronunciation it's fairly easy for me to pick up the correct way something should be said although I tend to forget it fairly quickly (lack of practice). Some of the sounds are more than confusing but I managed to wrap my head around all those horrible z/zh/c/ch sounds in Mandarin, so I can do the same with Cantonese...ng here I come.
2) Loads of Mandarin, very little English (kinda links in with number one). I want to try to speak as much Chinese as possible. I'll even be bold here and go as far as this: I want to rely solely on my Mandarin. The plan is to only resort to English when I'm either absolutely not understood or I cannot, for whatever reason, make myself understood due to lacking the vocabulary to do so or just feeling completely out of comfort zone. I've gone out of my comfort zone when speaking Chinese on a few occasions and I've tried my best - up until I got horrible migraine from trying too hard - so it will be a while before I give up. However, I don't want to spend most of my holidays with a banging headache so if I don't get anywhere with my Chinese, I will resort to English and I won't even feel bad about it. I'm really intrigued to find out how my plan to speak loads of Chinese will work out. I'm sure the experiences I make will make for a very interesting blog post when I come back so I'll keep you posted on this subject.
3) No Western food. This one was actually suggested to me by @PeckishLaowai (link to blog) so thank you for that. It's a pretty sensible idea because let's face it, I really don't need to fly half way across the world to eat pizza and fries. My local Pizza Hut is two tram stops away and Eddie Rockets is right next to it. The only exception I plan to make in terms of Western cuisine is Starbucks and this does not count as food whatsoever so whatever objections you had when you read "exception" really doesn't have any foundation. I'm looking forward to eating loads of amazing things and letting my taste buds be presently surprised or shocked for life. The outcome will remain to be seen. I'm especially looking forward to sampling loads of Hong Kong food although I may just spend all my time there stuffing my face with Dim Sum or 鳳爪 (chicken feet). I appear to be no fan of Sichuan style food (even though I love it spicy) but I'm looking forward to trying the real thing (if I get the chance) as even the most authentic Sichuan style cuisine restaurant we have in Dublin cannot get it right - 好無聊啊!
4) I want to have a fabulous birthday! I'll be in Shanghai for my birthday (where I'll be meeting @koangirl and I hope that @unbravegirl can make it too) and since this year's birthday is a special one I want it to be fabulous. I can't quite believe that I'm headed for the half-way point already but who cares. I still recall my 21st birthday best, probably because I was drugged up with antibiotics and had no voice due to a nasty throat/chest infection. My dinner was extra spicy (the chef had good intentions but I almost discovered the art of spewing fire that night) and in hindsight downing two Mojitos after resolutely sticking to Jasmine tea for most of the night probably wasn't the wisest decision I ever made either. Neither was my attempt to dance the night away which ended with an asthma attack which nearly ended in A&E but thankfully didn't. Looking back my birthday in 2010 wasn't so bad either...I distinctly remember a lot of olives were involved for some unfathomable reason. We'll leave it at that and let's swiftly return to this year's plan. Dumplings should be a must for my birthday, if I remember correctly the decision was made to consume these before, so that sounds just about perfect. Maybe, just maybe, I'll even eat some longevity noodles, we'll see... I'm sure I'll also manage to squeeze in a cocktail or two. In my world this sounds utterly delightful and the fact that I'll be in China on my birthday of all things will probably be most distracting.
5) Shopping! Girls love to shop, I'm no exception there even if I can contain myself and on occasion even get bored of it. I do love a lovely day out with friends, hitting the shops, trying different clothes on, buying some stuff, laughing and giggling and sharing stories, followed by a lovely dinner and maybe even a night out to sample the new findings. I won't spend quite that much time on shopping in China though, but I may hit a couple of shops here and there while in Hong Kong and under the watchful eye of my teacher who can stop me from overspending. I will definitely by some stuff to help me study and some Chinese books to read so that should be fun. I'll most likely just post them to my home address so I don't have to carry them around with me to Hangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. That would be slightly foolish. Apart from that, one shop that I definitely want/must visit is called STAGE Hyaline of the World. There's a branch in Hong Kong and if you know of my obsession with 羅志祥 (Show Luo) you may just understand why I want to visit that particular shop. It's owned by no other than himself, STAGE is Show Luo's brand and I'm looking forward to treating myself. Yes, you could potentially call me insane, not that I really care...
6) I want to try just how good my acting skills in front of the camera are so I'll be putting together a little video of me speaking Chinese but whether that video will ever be published remains to be seen. One person who will definitely get to see the video is my dad - I kinda want to make it for him because apart from me singing Happy Birthday to him in Chinese this year he's never actually heard me speak Chinese and I'd love for him to see and hear that I have in fact archived just a little bit. My Chinese teacher will possibly involved in making the video although she doesn't know of her luck just yet.
TBC...if you have any other ideas or suggestions, hit me with them (figuratively speaking).