BEFORE I LEAVE


Before I leave to go back to England. I had my last lesson with Kevin. I felt a bit restless. I wanted the lesson to be over with. It went quickly and then I got ready to go out for a last meal with Sarah and her parents. Mum seemed a bit angry and orderd me to put on more cloaths. Like the obediant son I am I nodded and went back into our room and pretended to put more on.

I had pleanty on in the first place. Two long johns and thick trousers and 3 t shirts and a top and coat. I think she was just sad that I was leaving or nervus that I was going on my own. We got a taxi to the resteraunt.

 Sarah  LuLu  and my self had gone there the day before and Sarah liked the shrimps there so we were going again.
Chinese people love food and they talk about it all the time. They talk about it before they eat it, they talk about it when they are eatting it and even plan for the next meal while they are eatting. This seems to be a stronger trait in Shanxi compared to places I have been in the south.
When Sarah and Lulu were eatting the shrimps this is what they said. word for word
Lulu "is it tasty?"
Sarah " yes it is tasty"
Lulu " I think its very tasty"
Sarah "Its so good"
Lulu " Its so tasty"
Sarah "Its so tasty"
Lulu "tasty"
I am not joking that is exactly what they said in chinese. They were like robots repeating them selfs.
It does not stop there. when ever Dad is about to start cooking a meal he comes and askes Sarah and I what we want to eat. I was silly enough to actually tell him what I wanted once. "noodles would be nice" he gave me a blank stare for half a second and then said. " Buns are good". Off he went. I never asked again because he is not really asking what we want, he is just talking about food.

When the food is on the table he will tell us how he cooked it all, in great detail. Then when I start eatting the food he will say some thing like " Oh Tim is eatting lamb, Tim had a whole bowl of lamb yesterday!, he can eat another bowl today", Then maybe I reach for a sweet potatoe and he would say some thing like "Oh Tim loves sweet potatoe, he has two every meal, he mixes it with the meat, its very tasty, sweet potatoes are very cheap now".

 I have a running commentry when I eat.
Then if I am not eatting what he wants me to eat he will start giving me a sideways glance as if I was doing something wrong. If I dont pick up and act on this distictly unsubtle hint he will tell me "Eat this meat Tim, Its very tasty, its 20 yuan for 1 Jin ( one Jin is about half a kg I think, but could be horribly wrong), I cooked it with peppers and garlic", and he will eather get the plate and dump the contence of it in my bowl or just pile up the meat to one side of the plate and face it towards me.

It alot more aggresive when it comes to drinking.  Usually we drink together when he is angry. Before the meal is ready I will hear " TIM, DRINK ALCOHOL!". Thats my que. We sit down he brings out the wine and fills up a large glass for each of us. then we drink it very fast.  He has slowly stopped drinking so much. I think its because he gets debilitating  hangovers now that he is getting older.

Mum cooked supper yesterday and she called us all to dinner, I think Dad felt a bit robbed of his rights and just after Mum said " lets eat" Dad said " EEEAAT!!!" as if to upstage Mums call to food.

So back to what I was talking about in the biggining. we went out for a meal with Mum and Dad. We had some wine and many dishes like chinese hamburgers, tofu and of course Sarahs tasty shrimps, which she ate all of accept for maybe 3 which Dad had. Mum didnt eat much. She is a bit picky, she does not like meat, spicy food or sea food. Also she has some strange idea that if she does not eat much then Sarah and I can eat more and become stronger, she would always take the worst food on the plate and leave the rest for us. Anyway she only really ate at the end when they brought the rice porrage. Matbe that sort of behaviour comes from a time when there was not enough food for the whole family and the parents would give the children more of the food.

After that we went back home. Shower, shave got to the train station and got on a sleeper train to Baijing at 11 at night. I listend to my I pod and drank some of the beer that Dad had given to me. After I had drunk it I put the empty bottle under my bed where my bags were so that if anyone tried to steel them during the night it would make a sound. I thought this was very clever. I also tied two of my bags together so it would make it extra hard for would be theifs. I stayed awake till very late too excited to sleep and thinking about being back home. I eventually fell into a uneasy sleep.  I woke up suddenly into a waking dream and I saw 5 chinese men starring at me in a dissaproving manner, I went back to sleep and they vanished. I woke again at about 6 when they turned the lights back on and slumberd while looking out the window at the siluets of mountains concreat buildings and the occasional traditional chinese building with the corners of the roofs jutting out and curling up. It brought to my mind images of Alladins shoes.

The sun rose and by 8 we arrived at chilly Baijing. I followed Lulus directions and went left and found the air port shuttle bus, amist many taxis, privet buses and motor bike taxis all trying to get me as there fare. I got on the bus and as we drove away the man next to me started talking to me. My heart usually sinks when people do this to me in China. When I first came out I loved it and had this image of me as a curious traveler interacting and having strange adventures with real Chinese people,  but now after many a conversation with many unknown people, I have realised that at least they all ask the same questions and at there worse they can be very rude or even thretening. Thankfully this man only assalted me with his horrific english which sounded like he was holding his nose and trying not to swallow a plum. We exchanged a few words and then thankfull he got the hint that I was not in the mood for talking. I was really not in the mood for talking.

We arrived at Baijing air port terminal 3. I am very impressed with the air port. Unlike heathrow or gatwick which is crowded stressfull and confusing, Baijing air port has a very tall cealing and has lots of people to guide you around the vast terminals. I went to the information desk and got them to ring the hotel so that they could pick me up.

Ten minuets later a small chinese man came and pushed my luggage out with me to the bus that had come to collect me. The man sat in the back with me and showed me his collection of american, african and new zealand moneys. He then asked if I wanted to swap them for chinese money. I said no. I thought it was pritty wierd. Then he told me that I should tip the driver, this was even more wierd as no one ever tips any one in china. I thought it was a bit rude and said no again, but he kept on insisting, I still said no, smiling. Then we got to the hotel and I gave in my pass port. He started rifling though it commenting on the visas I had, I was liking him less and less. " so we will wake you at 8 tomorrow and you can go at 9 to the air port" he said in a way that sounded like he was the boss. "no I want to go at 8" I said. He looked a bit worried and said there was no coaches going at this time.
He took me to my room and logged on to my computer and got the internet working for me. After it was done he sat there and stared at me menacingly "give me some tips" he said. He was really staring to piss me off. I stood up and towerd over him "no" I said looking him in the eye. "no?" he said. I pointed to the door and told him to get out. He left in a huff. It made me so angry that this little shit had the nerve to ask for a tip. I thought about what I would do if he asked again. Dark thoughts crept into my brain.

So I am just waiting till tomorrow untill I set off to old England. I have a bath in my room and I am going to have my first bath in 8 months.

I found out the bath does not work the water is cold and the shower has the power of a dribbling baby. Woe is me.

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A SLIPPY DAY AND TEACHING


As the snow has slowly started to melt, things are looking a bit less pristeen and pure. A few days ago there was a bright white blanket covering roof tops, the streets and the trees, and even the snow man Sarah and I had created was only a bump above the 3 feet of snow. Now however the snow has been shoveled into massive piles and thick dirty ice covers all the pavements and smaller roads.
The whole thing reminded me of a good party. Everying is so hopeful and exciting at the biggining but as the evening wares on and the sun rises you see the dank and unclean side of things and you just want it all to end.
The big piles of compact snow are used by the restarunts to dump old food and rubbish on. So they now resemble big piles of vomit. The pavements are so trecherous that I really dread going out on them. On my walk to school I can always see someone falling over and on occasion a unfortunate cyclist being debiked.

 Usually its women with high heals on, trying to walk on the uneven thick brown ice. Or a old person who losses there footing. Everyone seems to laugh when they fall over which I think is very good. It sets me off and I join in the laughing. I have not fallen over yet but I have almost fallen over more times than I can count. I had a really good one today.

Just minding my own busness when a peace of ice decided to play silly buggers with me, I felt my legs going out so I thrust my hands in the air to balence and bent my nees, also not forgetting to let out a kind of michael jackson "AUW!". This drew some startled looks. I walked off feeling a bit imbarressed but having a quiet laugh to my self. Finally I arrived at school to find that most of the students were de icing the basketball courts, I walked passed them and into the courtyard which is over looked by the students rooms, fours stories high. This is usualy were we meet before practise. One of the wrestling students cought my eye and becond me up to the balcony of his room. I went up to the forth floor and some of the students were playing around on the walkway. I noticed that one of them had a metal bb gun and was pointing it in people faces.

We then went into one of there rooms. It turned out to be a long room with bunk beds on eather side, a cold concreat floor and hard mattresses. many of the student were still asleep. I asked if there was training today and they said no. I assume it was because everyone was helping clear up the snow. Appart from them it seemed. I heard some shouting out side and all the students in the room giggled and gestured each other to keep quiet. I assume it was one of the teacher calling to see where they were. Suddenly the BB gun entred with his owner and started firing at everyone and everything. BB pellits wizzing and pinging of everyone and everything.

 Not wanting to be the lucky one to get the first BB pellit  in the eye a baid them good day and went back home. Receiving a friendly BB pellit in the leg as I exited. As I reentred the court yard one of the techers noticed me and asked if the students were up stairs. I tried to dodge the question and just said "no training today" he asked again and I told him that some people were up stairs. He thanked me and jogged off calling there names angrily. I felt a bit bad grassing them up but in the end I would rather have the trust of the teacher than the respect of some teenagers.

I made my way home again. observing a man falling off his electric bike and yet again seeing a young woman falling over with high heels on. I got home in the end and had a rest before my next student. She is going to take a english test next week and wants to study before. She is very nervus and shy. Some students ask for a english name some dont want one because they feel like they will loose there Chinese name.

I am going to give her the name Claire, I think it suits her. She is a bit chubby but beutiful. I enjoy giving names to my students. It has a pleasing significans. I have named lots of people after my friends and some after Disney charicters. There is one very cute little girl who I named Tinkabell. The thing is she cannot remember it. I say "whats your name?" and she says "my name is baobei" in chinese.
So Claire wants to get a good grade so she can go and study in Sydney. She also writtes poetry and is in the process of writting a novel. She is very interesting and alot more open minded than most of the people I have met in this city. The sad thing is that I dont think her english is good enough at the moment. She has the potential, but gets too nervus and hesitates. which is not good in the IELTS english exam. If she studies hard this week she may have a chance.

The strange thing is that I am starting to think and care more about the students now than my wrestling. In one sence I dont like that because some of the students are a real pain in the arse and frankly I want to throw some of them out the window. Especially Peter." oooohhh! peter your pushing me boy!". But still its interesting to see them getting better. sometimes making giant leaps sometimes grinding to a halt. Maybe if I threw Peter out of the window he would make some progress?.

7 POKING DEAD BABIES


When Sarah got back from a massage from our nabour she filled me in on some of the latest family history which is becoming increasingly dark. I knew that she had two daughters but I found out that one of them, the oldest was adopted. Shortly after the birth of there first son who was brain damaged they also had a daughter who was blind in one eye. The massure told Sarah that her husband took there daughter away one day and nevery brought her back. Instead he brought back a new daughter. The massure does not know were her daughter was taken and she regretes it every day or so she says. Personaly I think she deserves the regrete.
This sort of behaviour is common in this place. If a daughter is born then the parants will try for another child again and if its another girl they will throw it away. If it is disabled they will throw it away.
One of our friends whos name I will not mention is a girl and she also has a sister. Her father blames there mother for not giving him a son.
Sarahs grandfather said he cried evey night because she was a girl and that there name would be lost and there family line would not go on. A woman marrying into another family losses her name and becomes the mans family. Like in the west.

 Sarah remembers when she was a child and the town was much smaller she would play on the street, just up the road there was a turning off to another road, she heard people saying that babies were dumped there. Our friend remembers finding bins with babies in them. She was a child and curious and she poked them with a stick

6 A RELATIVES WEDDING


On tuesday I went to train in the afternoon and was told by couch Ma
that the matted area was flooded by a burst pipe. Thankfully it was a
hot sunny day and we had an afternoon of running instead. We did
sprints and 400 metre races around the dusty track. It has hard work. The heat and
the dust made my throat dry and sore. Couch Ma was writing down the
other students race times on a sheet. I assume it was like a general
exame day to see if anyone was making progress or getting behind.
After
an hour and a half couch Ma had to leave and he instructed us to
practise on our own. We the students went and sat down on the concreat
seats surrounding the track. The seats are all litterd with broken
glass. Light bulbs beer bottles, wine bottles you name it they were
smashed there. The students played around stamping on the glass and
picking peaces up and pretending to cut each others wrists. I was not
really in the mood to dice with death, at least not with such a
unrewarding thrill as almost sliting ones friends wrist. Instead I did
some push ups going down the stairs, carfull not to place my hands on the scatterd glass.

 As I
was doing push ups I saw in the distance, on the otherside of the race track
one of the slender sprinters speeding allong the finishing straight
with his couch at the finish line screeching incouragements at him. He
reached the finish, slowed down bent over and then fell over and didnt move. His couch
ran over and checked his pulse and breathing. A couple of minuets later
he was back on his feet. The wrestlers were all joking that he had died
when he fell over.

At the end of the lesson Sarah picked me up and
we both walked back home. We noticed that there were alot more beggers
than before. Sarah thought that maybe they all came at the same time in
a group,probebly from the same farming village. They were mainly old men and women in ther 70s and older, very
tanned with very bad hunched backs and old green or blue mao suits and
hats on. They looked like farmers who probebly could not work anymore.
One
of the beggers was ratteling his tin out side a cloaths shop and
a man came and shouted at him and told him to go away.
 I
asked Sarah if people beat poor people up in china as I assumed that
they must be in alot of danger and that no one cares about them at all
if they die. Sarah told me a very disturbing story about a mad man who used to play around the city. One
day some people took him and got a doctor to take his organs out. The doctor did this and the man died. Later the
doctor had a sudden realisation that this was probebly illegal and
turned the men into the police. I assume that the men were sentenced to
death and probebly in a wicked twist of karma they had there own organs
removed before or during there exacusion. Criminals who are sentenced
to death in china are oftain releaved of there organs.

Apparently a organ seller used to live above our flat but moved back down to the south a year ago.

Sarah was talking to one of her friends mothers today . The mother who is a
massuer has a husband who lives in another city and is a gouvenment
official. Sarah tells me that "he takes opium" she said this in a very
grave voice. He does not come back very oftain and his wife says she
does not care what he does when he is away. "when he is at home he is
my husband, when he is away I dont care who he is".  I know that lots of
chinese men go to brothels and that it is resonably acceptable. There
wifes would just expect them to keep a roof over there heads and food
on the table and provide a child.

I am painting a bad picture of the chinese, I am sure many chinese do not go to brothols. But I know that many of them do.
So
the massuers husdand is his own man when he is away. They also have a
son who is a bit slow, I think he was brain damaged when he was born.
He stands guard at some appartment gates across the road. He must be in
his twentys now but he swaggers around like the old men he keeps company
with. A few old men sit out side the gates and he joins them, Smoking
cigarets, offering each other cigarets, spitting and talking about god
knows what.

 He loves different uniforms, he has quite a collection of
ill fitting army, navy and a few other uniforms which he alternates
daily. I rather like the guy, we give each other manly nods when ever
we see each other. Momentary eye contact then a swift curt nod of the
head then on my way. If I have a empty bottle on the way back from
training I drop it by as he collects recyclabls and sells them. One day
as Sarah and I were walking home from training she had a little chat
with him. "he said he is going to kill his dad because he takes
opium" Sarah said. I was very suprised, it was a very dark thing to
say. Sarah was not suprised. "chinese always saw very dark things". ‘he always threatens to kill his mother, he waves a knife in her face and tells her he will kill her". I was reminded of the skitsofrenic man who killed his care worker by stabbing her over 40 times back in england. I heard it on the news when I was doing building work with Dad one day.

The
massue also has two other daughters. She said that she had two because
it would be easier for two girls to take care of her son rather than
one. The older daughter who must be about 18 once had a english lesson
with sarah but had to stop because she was too shy.
On wednesday we
went to one of Sarahs cousens wedding. I really didnt want to go
because there was a wrestling competiton that day which I wanted to go
to, but when duty calls.

We arrived by train in the village. Most of Mums relations live. we were picket up by relation no.56 and
driven to the resteraunt where the ceremony was to take place.
The
night before this Sarah had been filling me in on some of the familys less
than perfect history. She told me about uncle No.43 who was a criminal
and that he was to go to prison but his brother took the blame for him
and went to prison for him for a few years. No one would tell sarah
what the crime was, the family pretends that it never happend.
UncleNo.43
went into busness with Dad when Sarah was very young. Sarah mostly
remembers how he was drunk most of the time and was constantly bosting
that he was the reason her dad had a job and thretening that he would
fire Dad. Uncle No.43 was also living in Dads flat with his son. His
son would sleep in the same bed as Sarah and would whack her in his
sleep while he drempt, very much like I do most nights haha.

One night when the boys
thrashing became too much Sarah went out to the spare bed to try and
get some sleep seeing as uncle had not come back. Later that night she
was woken by a very drunk and very angry UncleNo.43.He shouted and
swore at her and threw her out of bed. This also was some thing that
Sarahs parents pretended didnt happen. Later they stopped the buseness.
Then
there is cousinno.22 whos wedding it was that day. He was mixed up with
some very bad people when he was a teenager and got in trouble for
dealings with opium.
Then theres Auntyno.3 who is a idle bint who
does not even look after her son and never cooks or cleans( A serious
sin for a chinese woman) who is also having an affair. The real shame is that her Husband is the nices Uncle I have met from the family and we get on very well.
There are many many more stories but I will leave them for another time.
We
arrived at the resteraunt and I was manhandled into a room full of
reletives and plonked on a seat and sweets and drinks forced on to my
lap. I met all the relatives that I had heard so much about. I had met
them before when I first came to Xin Zhuo but I didnt know anything
about them then.

 UncleNO.43seemed very nice even a bit humble and meek.
Sarah was very suprised and said that he was very nice to her. " maybe
he was trying to make friends again", she said.
There was much waiting around in a dirty smoky room drinking tea and waving to the reletives who were arriving.
Suddenly
I was manhandled again and it seemed like I was a parcel being passed
out of the room along the corridor down some stares to a big
underground dinning room. All the guests which must have numbered over
150 people crowed into the room and stood peaking into a small side
room with about 10 chairs facing a table with a red table cloth, two
large red candles some colourful buns at the back, and in the middle of
the table a large gold decorated bowl on legs with sand inside propping
up many many incence sticks.

 There was little or no ventilation in this
under ground room which I suspected was a stoor room. With the words of
Nigel ringing in my ear telling me that one incence stick equils about
one cigarets worth of poisones fumes, I was not very keen to entre the
room. But it seemed the parcel was overwhelmed and Sarah and I entred
the room. " oh my eyes hurt" Sarah said and quickly left. "bastard" I
thought " she is leaving me to be part of this ceremony which I know
nothing about". I was not a happy bunny.Thankfully Dad came to the
rescume and we sat down together next to some other reletives who were
also taking the places facing the red table. The bride and groom then
arrived and people shot confetty guns above there faces which cout in
all our hair. they stood infront of the alter. The groom wairing a black
suit and the bride wairing an very pritty red dress with red flowers in
her hair.

 The grooms parents sitting on eather side of the red alter.
Some one read a long speech from a red scroll which was very boring,
lots of people were texting or talking on there moblie phones, not a
rude thing to do at special occassions I have learned. I saw that
everyones eyes were watering profusly from the plums of incence smoke
choking the air. Many of the children looked particulaly uncomfortable. I my self hid my discomfort and looked ahead and day dreamed my way out of this reality.
After the scroll of bordom
was thankfully behind us a fat little man appeard with a silver tray and a single painted bun on it. The man who was perviously reading the
scrool started to read out all the names of the guests. The fat man then
repeated the names very loudly and with a dramatic voice. Evertime a
name was read out the fat man zipped around the room to find the person
and they would put money on the silver tray and the man would shout out
how much the person gave. People gave from between 100 yuan to 5
thousand yuan. Depending on how close they were to the family. This is what happens at chinese weddings. If your cleaver you came make alot of money from it. That is one of the reasons that Sarahs parents want us to have a chinese ceremony. They would finaly get back all the money they had to give away over the years at the many many wedding that they have attended. One rule which is particulaly rude is that if you getan invitation to a wedding, even if you dont go you are still expected to give them money. There is no escape.

When everybody had emptied there pockets, We left the choking room and went back up stairs. I searched for Sarah and when I found her I was about to get angry with her about leaving me alone in the ceremony but I noticed that she was crying alot and my anger disapeared. She was still getting over the incence from the room. Her mascarra was running and she looked unhappy. We went to sit down to have the main meal when one if the relatives told Sarah that she could not sit with me at the mens table. He had a smile on his face but it was not walm. Sarah straitend up " I am going to sit with Tim, It is a silly rule, we live in the twenty first century you know?. why can I not sit at the mens table are you better than me?". The relatives smile quiverd and he tryied to explane to her that she could not sit at the mens table because she was not a man and that was the tradition. Sarah was having none of it and talked over him strongly and said again that it was a rediculous tradition and she was going to sit with me. After about 10 minuets in which time everyone in the room had become considerably imbaressed the relative backed off and sarah got to sit with the men. I was very very proud and I though that it was actions like that which push this world in the right direction. The thing which annoyed me most was that it was the women who seemed most imbarrest and disgusted by her actions. They sat there and wisperd to each other and sparred at her as if she was a disgrace. Alot of the men just laughed and found it funny.

We had a big meal and Dad and one of the nice uncles Yifu had a little competiton of who could feed me better. Dad would pile duck legs and donkey meat on my plate and boast to the other men at the table about how much I can eat and drink. Yifu would recomment certain dishes saying that they were very tasty and then Dad would say " No Timo dont eat that its not good food, eat this instead?". The Yi fu would ask me to try this soup and Dad would say " no Timo does not drink this soup it is not good, hear eat this meat its very good". I found it very funny and quite sweet as well. Yi fu and I winked at each other and smiled. Whe Yifu has a little to drink he becomes very friendly. He put his arm around me and asked sincerily if I was happy? and if I had eatten enough. When the father of the bride who is a drunk started getting violent Yifu swiflty got me out of the war zone. It was a shame I was interested to see what would happen.
 He was refusing to say goodbye to the brides parent and instead was shouting at every one in site and clutching his bottol of wine. His second Son came in and exploded at him shouting and pushing him and cursing him as being a drunk old man with no manners. It was suprising as the second son was usualy a very reserved man who had a poker face and seemed like a bit of a zombie. It reassured me of the idea that chinese people try very hard to appear in control and unemotional but infact they are probebly more emotional and firy than other races.
After all that had died down Mum Dad Sarah and my self got the bus back to Xin Zhuo. Thank God

a village wrestling competition


Today after a very large lunch of fatty tasty lamb and chicken and lamb and chive filled dupplings all washed down with cold beer. I waddled back into sarah and mine room. I sat down and wonderd if I was in any state to wrestle in a hour and a half. It was then that couch Ma rang sarah and asked if I wanted to go to a competition in ten minuets. My heart lept and my body slowly followed and got its self in the shower to be ready in 10 minuets. After my shower I got my long johns, trousers, t shirt, jumper and winter coat on and ran out the door as Dad thrust 4 bottles of water and a apple into my hands.
 
I met couch Ma out side. He was driving a new shine van. "new van?" I said "yes" he said. We went to the school to pick up some other students. They all seemed in good spirits. jumping around, nervus and excited. 
This triggerd a thought in my mind. Would I be compeating today?. A familiar debilitating rush of adrenaline surged though me and I went all cold. Yes of course I would be compeating. Even if I didnt want to. I carmed down and convinced my self that I was not going to compeat. It was a very effective carming method. Even though I knew in my deep heart that I would wrestle, it helped to just tell my self that I would not.

I calmed down and noticed there was a small metal baseball bat by the drivers seat. when Couch Ma came back I innocently asked what it was. He laught and took it out of the car and swung it like a golf club looking cheaky.
Some of the other wrestlers crammed into the car and we were off. We passed the bat around as we drived and hit each other in the nees and on the head. Not too hard of course.

We drove out of Xin Zhou town into the country side where the dusty fealds were being plucked of there sweet corn and loaded onto donky drawn carts. Everyone appart from couch Ma and my self fell asleep. there heads lolling to one side then quickly jerking up again as they awoke. We turned off at a small dirt road which lead to a small village after a few winding bends we arrived at the village school.

Some of the villagers were making there way to the school for to watch. A bus full of wrestlers pulled up followed by a large truck. The wrestlers got out and unloaded the mats from the lorry and started arranging them in the school courtyard. One of the organisers was telling me that they were judo mats not wrestling mats. then he eather said they were harder or softer than wresting matts. I dont remember. 

After the mats had been set out, (rather scruff mats I might add) then a large sheet was pulled over them (a eaquily scruffy sheet I might add). then the villagers gatherd around it and waited. there was the village idiot. who was a midgit who looked deformed, he paraded around shouting and being silly and every one laught at him. then there was the village begger who hobbled around in his rags and coughd unheathily. and then all the children and there parents and there grandparents came, It was a real community event

The competition started and all the judges and rich people were introduced and to my imbarresment so was I. I just heard "foregner friend’ in chinese. I gave a royal wave and tried to disappear into the shadows. Then It all began.
It was a goat competition, so you had to get someone on the floor then they were out and if you did it six times in a row then you one a goat.
Couch Ma pushed me to the front and I took off my coat and got in the middle of the mat with my opponent. The judge asked me what my name was, "tim" I said "deem?" he said "tim" "tooon?" I am not joking this went on for about five minuets it was rediculous, couch Ma had to come on the mat and tell the judge and even then he didnt really get it right.

Eventualy we started and to my suprise we didnt end quickly. My opponets a man from hubai provence came in many times and grabbed my leg but I just latched my arm under his face and yanked it away, I was very pleased because this was the only advice that couch Ma had given me before I went on and I was using it. At last he shouted and rushed in for a rugby like tackle, I sprawled on top of him and he went to the floor. It seemed that people were suprised and every one laughed and another man came in. He was alot more nervus and twitchy, which made it easy. He tried a few throws which didnt even half work and I easily unbalenced him and threw him to the floor.

The next person was a wrestler from my school. I had beaten him before. He was good but I was not worried. We spun and dived and tried throwes, he went for a leg grab and it held but I grabbed under his face again and pushed him away, I though I could do a trip but it didnt work and I basicaly tripped my self.

 I think that if I had not made that mistake I could have beaten him easily. but thats like saying if I knew all the numbers for the lottory I would be a millionare.
I felt great, It made me think that I had made some progress. couch Ma seemed happy as well. The competition went on untill the night time when the tempreture dropped to under -8. It was very nippy.
Finaly a very good wrestler from HuBai beat six people in a row and won the poor goat who had been tetherd to a tree near by. There was another round were a wrestler from my school won 1000yuan. After that everyone pulled together and took up the matts and loaded them back on the truck.

After that we washed our hands and went indoors and had supper. It was a class room and all the wrestlers crammed in and some even had to stand up as there were no seats. Thankfully I got in early and had a seat even though I had to share it. The dishes arrived and there were meat dumplings, hot soup and much more. I had never eatten with these guys before and I was a bit shocked.

 I have generally found that although chinese eatting is a messy affare most of the meals I have eatten everyone offers each other dishs before they them self eat and they never finish the last peace of food on a plate as it is rude. Not with these rough and ready wrestlers. Even as the plates were being placed on the table people were clawing the food off them. Without chop sticks as they had not been passed to our table yet. Nuts and sliced pork were snatched of platers and even twice snatched from others hands. Offering a nut to a fellows mouth then quickly eatting it them selfs. When the bowls and chop sticks did arrive it didnt get much better. The other dishes arrived and they were devourd quickly. Couch Ma had told some of the students from our school to look after me, they would throw beans and donkey meat into my bowl and fill it up with noodles as well. At the end of the meal when they were all full they filled up there greasy bowls with cococola or orange juice, with noodles and meat still floating around they slurpd it all down and then burpd loudly.
After the carnage was over we returned home driven by coach Ma drunk and talking on his phone as usual.

4


Sarahs parents had an agrument yesterday about weather or not
I should be bowed to at there cousins wedding which we are going to in a few weeks. Seeing as I am
part of the family officialy I should be bowed to. The same as other
brothers and sisters in laws. Sarahs Mum said that we were not officialy
married because we had not had a ceremony. It made me rather angry.
The ceremony is not official at all it the actual regesting that makes
two people married. It also pissed me off that bowing to me was even a
descussion, If I was chinese of course they would bow to me, there
would be no dscussion at all. On top of that I dont want to go to a
bloody wedding. I have enough hill billys gaping at me already. But the
mother of the bride helped Sarah alot when she was going to england so
I wanted to see her and say thank you. Sarah says she is very kind and helpful.
 
I just had another weeks holiday because there was a national wrestling
competition and everyone had a week off at school. I mainly practise my krabi
krabong and escrema strikes and also a very heavy sword that sarahs Dad gave to
me. I would watch films and play around doing different sets of
strikes. Now at the end of the week my right arm is quite alot bigger
than the left one. Mainly the forarm is bigger and alot harder than my
soft left arm.
Also I started teaching some new children english. They
are young kids of maybe 5 and 6. For the first hour they are well
behaved then I could notice that they started to figit and get
restless and jump around. The time went fast but I was very tierd
at the end of a class.
Now the holiday is over and I have been back doing wrestling for
half a week now. I am thinking about going back to england alot now.
Only because I know that my ticket is booked, I also found that in the past
when I know that I am going away I cannot stop thinking about it. Like
when I was in china the first time I was happy to stay there for ever
but then when sarah and I disided to go to England together my whole mind set changed
and I just thought about leaving.
One explanasion for this which a reflexolagist gave me was that your spirit leaves before your body does. Thats why you can get the feeling for being in another place when your not there.
I like that explanation

3 Weddings and making progress


I got back into the swing of wrestling very fast. Because I had got used to the sweltering heat of Malaysia the mild weather of Shanxi made doing exercise much much easier. When we did the walm up run, I easily over took everyone and sped around the dusty track with the greatest of ease like a daring young man on a flying trapez. After the run I was not even sweating.

The basic exercises were a bit different seeing as its more to do with the strength and flexabilitly in ones legs. Although I am quite flexable my legs are long and thin and dont really have the same explosive springeness that the rest of the wrestlers have. Not that it stopped me trying and I also just about kept up with the others. Couch Ma saw that some of the new students were laughing at the spider like white man throwing his body about, He looked angrely at them and said that my movements were much better than theres and that they should be quiet and get on with it them selfs. Appart from feeling abominably tierd I felt pritty good about the first training lesson. When I went along to the next lesson which was  indoors we did all the walm ups and then set about some wrestling.

I felt like I had got better even though I had done very little push hands or wrestling in Malaysia. I was quicker and reacted faster when they came in to throw me. I remember when one of the wrestlers in that class challenged me. He grabbed my neck and forcfully jerked it back and forth and then pushing me back he wrapped his leg around my retreating foot and tried a trip. As he did this I neatly swept his leg out and yanked down on the arm which was wrapped around my neck. With a laugh he stumbled around and fell to the ground. The next time he tricked me by pretending to do the same thing, I over reacted and he easily took me to the ground.

I noticed over the next few weeks that although I was getting beaten alot I was also winning a fair amount and not by some unskilfull struggle which some how ended up with me on top, I was winning with clean throws. I was very glad.

Over the last week everyone has been consistently late appart from me and as I was getting ready to leave to go to school Sarahs Dad offered me some noodle that he had just cooked, I sat down for 5 minuets and ate, thinking that I would arrive at school at the same time as everyone else. Sods law that when I arrived everyone was already there and walmed up and there was a host of older very large looking men stinking up the training hall with there ciggerets.

I got in and walmed up a bit. I have become accustomed to being sized up. Usually visiting wrestlers will look at me for a bit and ask couch Ma how long I have been wrestling for and how good I am. They watch me wrestle someone else for a bit then they ask me to wrestle and 9 times out of ten I get thrashed and then they teach me how to guard against there attack and how to use the attack. Its usually a very enjoyable slightly painful learning experiance.

When they got to the point where they wanted to wrestle I got up and awaited a challenger. They were all laughing and pushing one another on to the mat towards me. One of them came along and took off his t shirt exposing a very impressive dragon tattoot which covered the whole of his back, which is usually a sign that they are in the Mafia or as Sarah says "only very bad people have tattoos in china". We both hunched over and shook hands, I like the fact that wrestlers always shake hands, its nice and understated not too flashy like some other salutes and signs of respect in other martial arts.

He grabbed my wrist very hard and I started to flop my arm around half trying to get my hand free. He found this a little strainge and he hurtled toward me grabbing my face and neck but I just quickly stepped back and loosly kept him at range with my longer arms. I noticed the strong smell of alcohol in his breath. I wiggled in to a clinch and weatherd his best efforts to up root me. I then latched my arm under his arm pit and my other hand under his opposite arm pit, stepping to the side quickly and stepping back I flung him out of the ring. As he flew off the mat wildly trying to regain his balence everyone else gasped in amazment and clapped and gaffored. In the next round I dove down and grabbed his leg,I managed to lift it off the ground but he gripped the back of my leg with his foot so I was unable to do a take down, he also forced my head down so I started going to the ground my self, I quickly moved up his leg and grabbed his upper leg and waist and managed to pull off a take down which landed us both on the floor. Again everone expressed there amazment. The other 3 or 4 wrestlers who were also of impressive stature took there t shirts off and had a go with the foregner. They all beat me out right and even my first challenger came along and gave me a rematch which he won. I found it strainge that I had a sudden burst of excellence and then it stopped. I think alot of it has to do with my mental state. Also I suppose that as you get better sudden bursts of exellence become more consistant and instead you have occasional sudden bursts of not doing so well.

I started to miss some of the early morning lessons because I found that it just left me shatterd for the rest of the day, but I felt like I was cheating my self a bit and not pushing it enough.I think I needed a break and low and behold the lord gaveth.

One of Sarahs friends was getting married and had invited us to the ceremony. It was during the mid autume festival and the 60 birthday of the peoples republic of china so the whole of china including the wrestling school was going to take a break and it appeared that I was as well. It would be nice to take a short break and get away from the flat and the clostrophobic atmospere.

We left on a wednesday which was the first day of the festival and it was also the day when the whole of china seemed to be traveling. We arrived at the train station by bus. As the doors opened and the pressure was released we popped out, I thought how it would be very easy to become a hermit or just stay at home and leave the silly busness of doing things to the plebs. We met a uncle at the train station who works on the electrics on rail ways, It sounds very dangerous. he smiled and waved two tickets at us. A wave of releaf washed over me and images of standing up in a jam packet carrage of hours on end left my head. It reminded me of how important it is to know people in china and how it helps make ones life alot smoother and cheaper if you have connected frinds or relatives. We waited inline fo ages with uncle and when the gates opens we rammed our way through the crowd and headed for the very end of the platform. "the end carrages are always more empty’ uncle said.

All along the platform there were friends and groups of people forming ques, presumable so that when the first person got on the train you just follow the person in front of you and then if any one cuts in you are already following the person in front so you just follow the momentum.

We thanked uncle as we got on and indeed the carrage was not full at that time, we sat down and 30 seconds later the carrage was jammed pack. We arrived in Tai yuan and after we had exited the station Sarah called her friend asking where they were picking us up from. I had a hunch that she was going to be very very late. I was right, it was very very pridictable and we waited of 3 hours in a resteraunt untill she picked us up. To be honest it was the day before her wedding and she was picking up her dress and flowers and a thousand other things so I understude

Wiewie the bride to be greeted us and then her uncle drove us all back to Wiewies home town a few hours away in a small town.

We arrived very wiery later that evening. As we drove though the town Wiewie pointed out a large neon lit building with a large park in front. "Its the govenment building" she said proudly. Indeed it was a very grand building. We then turned off at the next right and went down a dusty road and entred the police station which had a large court yard where one of the many ceremonys was to take place.

Wiewies father is the cheif of police or some thing like that and he has a flat in the station along with other members of the police. He came to welcome us walmly as Sarah and I got out of the car. "Wow hes got the biggest head I have ever seen!" I thought as he approached. It seemed to be balencing ontop a thin neck. "Wow hes got massive hands!" I thought as my own hand disappeared into his in a meaty hand shake. Wiewies mum also came and greeted us. she vigorously shock our hands and welcomed us up stairs to there flat. We had an amazing meal with plate after plate of delisious dishes of fish pork ,deer lamb, tofu and vegetables. Plates piled on top of each other as there was not enough room on the tables.

I also got to drink a fare amount of bai jio wine as well which if done in the right amount can make the evening go swimmingly. When every one is toasting and enjoying them selfs. After the bride and groom had gone around and said hello to everyone they joined us on our table were most of the younger people were. Well they were all in there late 20s or early 30s. I toasted the groom and wished him "gong xi gong xi". Which roughly translates into congratulations.

I clicked my glass below his to show my respect and when I saw that he was downing the whole glass I did the same. He looked very happy and asked " who taught you to drink like chinese?". Sarah had and she giggled as I pointed at her. The groom proposed that we do the traditional down 3 glasses in a row thing. I think its a northen tradition as I never saw it done when I was in yang shuo. We filled our glasses and as we went to touch glasses I swooped my glass below his and tried to clinck the lower part of his glass, he did the same. Both of us trying to get our glasses lower we met the table with our glasses, he swiftly got the rim of his glass under mine and there was a clink.He had cheers me with a lower glass which is a sign of respect.

There was a roaw of approval from the others at the table and we downed the strong wine. After the 3 shots I felt pritty good. Seeing as I had been eatting for an hour before and I was very full so the wine didnt go to my head. We all did even more drinking and Sarah was getting a bit worried. One of the men at the table asked me if I wanted any more Sarah cut in quickly and said no. That is exactly the sort of behaviour that brings out the rebul in me. I jumped to my feet, steadied my self and waggled my finger saying "bu bbu bu bu bu!" It means no in chinese. I thrust my glass under the bottle and receaved a large glass. The groom also rose to his feet shouting "GOOOOOD" and we both downed a very large glass of wine. As it was going down I convulsed and almost wretched. never a good sigh.

Thankfully that was the end of it all. I shoock hands with lots of people and as I hurtled down a flight of stairs leading down to the first floor of the resteraunt I was met by the brides mother who grabbed my hand. We stood on the stairs for a few seconds clutching each others hands and smilling at each other. Then I let go and continued to try and make my way to the door. I made it and then Sarah and I were driven back to our hotel. We were told to meet the car out side in a few hours to go for dinner!. Sarah was very tierd but I kept her up with drunken babble but finally we both fell asleep for an hour.

I woke up feeling terrible an hour late. Still half drunk and half asleep. We went down and were driven off to have supper. We went to the grooms house to meet up with everone. I found out that the groom had not eatten anything all day and was very very ill from all the wine that he had drunk. I felt very sorry for him. His Mother said he would be out later to eat but I had a feeling that he would almost definatly not be. We ate at the house and then Sarah and I went back to the hotel and rested.

The next 4 days passed much the same. Massive meals lots of drinking, meats dumplings. Things that I didnt know what they were but tasted good anyway. sweets strun all over every table. Family members, of which there were many, getting up and talking for far to long. It all got a bit much at the end. saturated with fatty tasty food and hung over from good wine Sarah and I took our leave of the party and made our way home.