Jul 11 2014

The Lazy Sunday – Beijing Style

f you are a regular reader of the CSA blog, you will no doubt have seen multiple blogs encouraging noble attributes such as hard work, commitment and mental endurance. Well intentioned as they are, they fail to take into account some of the realities of studying Chinese in China. I like to think I live a very disciplined life, I don’t smoke or drink (much), I’m financially prudent to an extent and usually do all my homework on time. However, I do have one major weakness. What is it I hear you (not) asking? Is it fast cars? Beautiful women? Both? No, it’s much less exciting but equally awesome, it’s the frequent ‘lazy Sunday’ of course.

What exactly is a ‘lazy Sunday’ some of you might be asking? The US Saturday Night Live spin off band Lonely Island quite famously defined it as a day consisting of the following activities:

- Eating cupcakes at a local bakery.

- Going to a convenience store to buy snacks.

- Watching the Chronicles of Narnia.

- Smuggling those snacks into a Cinema in order to save money on expensive cinema food (we’ve all done it).

Sadly in China, a lazy Sunday isn’t quite that lazy. Its actually still quite hard work, but compared to my usual routine of; wake up, get dressed, go to class, eat lunch, go to work, teach English, study, eat dinner, go to sleep, repeat! I can tell you now; it’s almost a holiday.

So what does a typical Sunday (lazy or not) consist of for a CSA student? Well, no better example then the one I just had.

8:00 am – my alarm blares out around the relative silence of my homestay apartment. This might sound early to most of you, but compared to my usual 6am start, it’s a well-appreciated lie in.

8:29 am – I’m still in bed…

8:30 am – My secondary alarm yet again shatters the tranquility of my surroundings.

8:31 – 9:00 am – I’ve eaten breakfast, showered and packed my bag for the day.

10:00 am – I’m at my local supermarket doing my weekly shop; my previously mentioned financial prudence is temporarily forgotten as I pick ‘chocolate shreddies’ over the less expensive cornflakes. I have an epiphany of me ‘high fiving’ my ten-year-old self which comes to a sharp end as I realise I’m supposed to be cutting this stuff out, ah well, always next week.

11:30 am – I arrive in Wu Dao Kou in order to have ‘brunch’ with fellow CSA intern Lilian Chiu. I should probably mention that she agrees to this despite the fact I’ve woken her up less than 30 minutes previously and given her minimal time to get ready – thanks Lilian.

12:30pm – lunch is over and I’m sitting in Tally Coffee, a delightful haunt in the international building right by Wu Dao Kou Subway Station. I order a Caramel Macchiato in Chinese (焦糖玛奇朵 - jiāo tang mǎ qí duǒ) but fluff my pronunciation, the waiter speaks to me in English, I die a little inside.

1:00pm – My confidence is restored after successfully asking ‘where the bathroom is’ (卫生间在哪儿 - wèi shēng jiān zài nǎ r). Secretly, I already knew where it was, but I’m having this moment!

2:00pm – I’ve actually done a fair amount of my Chinese homework and even started to write this blog. My delight is short lived as other CSA student’s rock up complete with language partners and tutors and begin talking about the previous days shenanigans. Its great conversation but I feel my ‘so far’ productive Sunday slipping by the wayside. The headphones go in, and I try to plough on.

3:00pm – I’ve given up; the temptation to yap on about football is just too strong. I pack up and head home.

6:00pm - I’m back at home having done a whole host of chores, preparing my self-cooked dinner, Its pasta with red basil pesto and cheese tonight ladies and gentlemen.

6:15pm – My host family arrive back home and subtly mock my cooking telling me it looks “奇怪” (Strange). This is said while one of them eats the remains of duck head from yesterday’s dinner, the irony is apparently lost on them.

7:00 pm – Its time to teach English. Students who opt to stay in a homestay will often find doing a few hours of English class a week part of their China experience.

8:30 pm – Its time to finish my homework, this blog and practice a few characters in time for tomorrow’s class.

9:00 pm – I’m sitting in bed with a good movie. The day is done and the self-realisation that I am slowly turning into an old age pensioner who goes to bed at 9pm begins to creep in.

11:30pm – I’m still awake not quite grasping the concept how Matthew McConaughey can fall into a black hole and suddenly is able to comprehend time as an extra dimension. I was watching Interstellar in case you hadn’t realised.

So there it was, my lazy Sunday. Those of you who have read down this far might be wondering what exactly the point of this blog post was. Well isn’t it obvious? For those of you thinking of coming to study in China there is nothing more culturally Chinese than to have the occasional lazy Sunday. I by that I mean really do next to nothing. My host family often don’t even change out of their pajamas on a Sunday let alone leave the house. While we at CSA may inflate the importance of working hard and getting your head in the books, the reality is you don’t have to feel bad wanting to take the occasional day to simply recharge your mental batteries. There is a whole country out there, it can be enjoyed by everyone, even those still wearing their pajamas.

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