Sunday “Bloody” Sunday

Hello dear reader, how was your Sunday?  Did you get up early to attend church or a mosque? Did you go for a run or play with the kids?  Were you nursing a king-sized hangover in bed?  Perhaps you had a strong cup of tea and read a book…

Sundays here (for this writer) include five lessons and a lot of driving. As a dear Canadian friend, Mr. Hill, likes to say “there’s never a dull moment here.”

I’ve decided to chronicle the events of Sunday, October the 21st 2018. Perhaps you can compare your day with mine. What were you doing at 9am, 2pm, 8pm?

8:45am – Inner Ring Road (en route to the first lesson)

A bronze coloured taxi is driving erratically along a four-lane highway. Behind him (yes a him) on the right was a silver Toyota Corolla. To the taxi’s left – a large white bus. I am following 100 metres behind them. The taxi, as slow as a turtle (and without indication), moves into the path of the Corolla. The Corolla brakes quickly to avoid a collision. The taxi then moves to his left and, by a whisker, misses the bus. The bus driver, angry at such vehicular idiocy, brakes, and blasts his loud horn. He then accelerates, overtaking the taxi. It’s revenge time as the bus brakes in front of the bronze taxi and proceeds to drive at 30 kilometres per hour (in an 80km/per hour speed limit).

10am – Rich People’s Garden

Because you two have been so well behaved, I’ll take you out to a 5-star restaurant tonight” the mother announces.

Mummy, can we have Coke or Sprite?”  Young Billy asks.

Billy, your Mum drives a Maserati and your Dad something equally expensive. You and your sister go to the most expensive school in the city. You have a bunch of houses. You holiday at luxury European resorts. Of course you can have a Coke – heck, why not just buy the restaurant?

11:30am – East Wind East Road Compound

There is a presentation involving menus. Miss Y, as we’ll call her, is offering such delicacies as sheep salad (shrimp salad) and roast kitchen leg (roast chicken leg), while Baozha Tou (translates into Afro hairstyle or literally ‘explosion head’) Master B, offers brown knees (brownies) and an A/C meal (a set meal). It’s a joy to watch eight year olds producing menus of such good quality. Mistakes aside, they’re pretty good with English and all scored well. That is apart from one lazy boy who was curiously absent from class.

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Promoting the benefits of kitchen meat

1pm – Subway Sandwiches

appetizer beef bread breakfast

Subway is Subway anywhere in the world it seems. A few menu changes here and there but still of a good standard. There is no queue at this branch. Two Russian girls are playing with the soda fountain, refilling their cups time and again. Value for money. I hope they can get to the bathroom in time. A local man, halfway through his sub, has wandered up to the counter to ask a question. Lettuce is spilling all over the counter and he is speaking with his mouth full. This would explain the mayonnaise droplets falling on to the stack of clean trays by the cash register. Thankfully I’m taking away.

Catshit Coffee (that’s the translation sorry) – the Indonesian coffee chain seems to have moved out of the mall and a newly named Offee and Co. (where’s the C?) seems to have opened. Their watery coffee wasn’t particularly nice last time so I ordered a latte coffee from Subway. What could go wrong?

Mental note: never ever order coffee from Subway at the East Wind East branch again.

3:10pm – Community Centre for Societal Harmony and Egalitarianism

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Naughty boys play with walking frame during break time.

The students in my third lesson have just returned from a short break. Laughter erupts and then suddenly stops. I don’t understand. I’d said something vaguely funny. We were about to learn the meaning of sarcasm and sarcastic laughter when I realise they’re not laughing at me and that the short figure moving behind me isn’t a student. It’s a man with Downs Syndrome. He walks about the classroom. Stops to pick up and inspect my lesson plan book, then my textbook. He gives me a puzzled look so I say “ni hao” to him. He responds in kind and walks out. What a bizarre episode. In 18 plus years of teaching, I’ve seen pretty much everything. That was a first.

There is a centre nearby that houses people with various mental conditions. This chap was friendly but there have been reports of people with psychotic tendencies going on knifing rampages from time to time. The results are never good. Better lock the door next time in case someone else turns up with more sinister intentions.

4pm – the drive home

This is like playing a bad Commodore 64 computer game from the 1980s. I’m Player One. People are jumping out in front of my car at regular intervals. Motorised bikes are heading in the wrong direction. Trucks are behaving like sports cars, Candy Crush Saga-playing pedestrians walk blindly out on to the road and cyclists haven’t yet learnt to ride in a straight line.

The game would be called “Chaos in the Car East“.

6:10pm – Block Seven, balcony of the 11th floor apartment

Teacher, you smell bad” says the five year old boy.

No Kyle, that’s your own sweat you can smell,” says his mother “you’ve been running around downstairs don’t forget!

Aw cripes, do I smell that bad? I’ve been on my feet all day. I head home and check with my wife. She’s blunt. I can count on her for honesty.

No, all I can smell is your cologne.” she says.

Phew.

7:15pm – Military Hospital

It’s very dark here but not cold. This will be the last lesson of the day. Two orderlies are pushing a wheelchair and patient towards the same building that is the teaching venue. A child walks past and stares at the patient, as does someone else. That’s a bit rude isn’t it?  A patient should be given some privacy/dignity, no matter what physical state they’re in.

I steal a glance as I pass them. The patient is extraordinarily stiff and pale. He’s wearing pajamas and he’s a…. dummy!  How weird.

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The Dummy. Where is he going?

I retell this story to one of the parents, a doctor at this hospital. He points to a tall, thin object in the corner. It’s covered by a cloth. The kids are avoiding the area until someone pulls off the sheet to reveal a human skeleton!

jack o lantern on grass

It’s not even Halloween yet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

China’s Retro Funparks

Do you do kitsch?  How about just plain weird?

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Welcome to the early 1990s. Jiang Zemin is the president and China is still rather closed to the outside world (especially after certain events in 1989). Some people are still wearing Mao suits and you’re considered rich if you own a bicycle, a refrigerator, a TV, and possibly a microwave oven to put into your work-unit designated apartment.

Think about what you were doing in 1992. Was Kenny G’s music playing in the background?

Jump forward 26 years. Don’t maintain, paint, or upgrade any of the equipment. Hire a hack English translator and you’re set to enter Luhu Children’s Amusement Park!  It’s nothing if not a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours during a national holiday.

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Out of order (thankfully)

Mooncake Day (Mid-Autumn Festival) had just been and gone and a large number of denizens left the city for this long weekend. The negatives of public holidays included appalling traffic jams but it also meant that little gems like the Luhu Amusement Park were neglected. Great for those who want to avoid crowds and the (sometimes) boorish behaviour exhibited by certain sections of society.

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Cheer up Thomas!

There were lots of rides to choose from with varying levels of suitability. A toddler isn’t allowed to go on the bumper cars or the roller coaster. An eight year old no longer finds merry-go-rounds as alluring as she did when aged five.

So, as the sun emerged from the clouds, the temperature rose into the mid-thirties (celsius) and the air became humidly thick, we ticked off a range of unusual rides. One buys a card from a booth, charges it up and swipes it at each ride – a surprisingly modern feature at such a dilapidated park. The pirate ship was out of order (thank goodness as these things aren’t quite so much fun in your forties) but the roller coaster was operational.

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You want me to fit into that?

We’d been to L.A. Disneyland and Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. This ride looked non-threatening. Just as well as the seating wasn’t designed for tall westerners.

My travelling companion is eight years old, she is the child of my current marriage

(Paul Simon, Graceland, 1986 – paraphrased lyrics, 2018)

My contorted frame resembled a basketball player flying economy. Miss K sat comfortably. It was built for short people. The ride lurched into action and reluctantly made its ascent. The ensuing jolt was like being rammed from behind by a large vehicle.

With any good roller coaster, the fun lies in the tension of the unknown. The train (designed to look like a long, garishly-painted plastic dragon) hurtled downwards and round a sharp right bend before travelling 15 metres and navigating a sharp left.

This swift move rammed my knee into the safety bar. Ouch. The speed reduced and the second lap began. Cue jerky car-crash movements all over again. The 15 metre dash ended in another smashed knee and a cry of pain. Miss K thought I had been afraid. No darn it!  I was feeling old and buggered.

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Yeah – so be warned!

An adjoining waterpark complete with exciting waterslides and other kiddy toys sat empty. Did someone pee in the pool?

Only two of us played on the bumper cars. Plenty of people came to watch the foreign monkeys and a large queue had formed by the time our turn was up. Perhaps we should have charged a commission for bringing in the punters.

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Translates into: No running or chasing

The girls rode on some other odd little rides (they were happy enough so that was the main thing) before we discovered an indoor fun park hidden in the corner. It was an air-conditioned too and it kept the girls occupied forever till the afternoon showers brought a bunch of other kids inside. Then they played for another hour or so.

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View from inside indoor play park

Groan.

To break up the tedium, it had been fun to observe the crabby middle-aged attendant. She had a plum indoor job while her younger colleagues suffered in the scorching sun. She slept on her desk, watched a Hong Kong soap opera, scolded two kids for throwing plastic balls, opened the door, closed the door, went outside and disappeared for 20 minutes (thus allowing people to enter the play area for free), returned and went back to sleep again (she was awoken by a bucket of balls that joyously rained down upon her back).

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A neverending afternoon…

What on earth did parents do before the invention of smartphones? How did they cope with the tediousness of it all?  I guess they… spoke to other parents, did the knitting or the crossword?  Someone threw a heavy object at someone else and it all ended acrimoniously. We took our cue to leave.

The girls had a wonderful afternoon of kid fun and it hadn’t cost much. The roller coaster alone at Tivoli Gardens had almost bankrupted us.  My wife remarked:

“They couldn’t have given a toss about staying in a 5-star hotel, this is all they wanted to do”

Guangzhou (and many parts of China) still has these cultural oddities in operation. Kids love the old parks and they remain popular, even though there is a very impressive amusement park located in the south of the city. It is doubtful that the park would have been so quiet during a regular weekend.

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