Friday, January 05, 2007

Paying the Price

I think that the last day I had completely away from my work was sometime around 5 months ago. I reckon the last two months I've been running on adrenalin fumes only. Somehow my comments in a post awhile ago about the easy life of a postdoc seem rather meaningless now, though at least it's all self-imposed and I don't have a boss telling me to work overtime.

So, New Year's Eve I finally let myself go, relaxed completely and went to the biggest party in the city. The Yen New Year's Eve party has been advertised for weeks and was clearly going to be a popular event. We turned up at the Dashanzi art district early to be on the safe side though the atmosphere was still gently simmering. The venue was one of the old factory spaces which is now used as an art gallery. At 10 the industrial bass was already warming up and the Jeigermeister girls were mingling with the crowd with their dangerous test tubes of German alcohol. The mix of people was as expected. About 70:30 expat to locals and, as usual many of the expats were in their unattractively arrogant mode. Still, getting past that there were enough people who simply wanted to have a good time. At midnight as the ball dropped (and apparently a fire-extinguisher into the crowd) the usual jollities ensued. Something strange happened to me at this point though (not stimulant induced I must add) as the music turned to manic jungle I felt transported back to my early days of clubbing and, well, just went a bit crazy. For two hours or so I danced my little feet off, oblivious to the strange looks I was undoubtedly getting. Drenched in sweat and thoroughly enjoying myself as the music slowed down and we had some fun house DJs on I continued at a reduced pace for a few hours, leaving at a relatively early 3.

It was with little surprise that with the sudden relaxation and completely overdoing it, the next day I came down with a fever. Having recovered from the fever, four days on I've still got a pounding headache and my limbs just don't want to move. It's generally tedious to read about someone else's minor health hiccups so I'll leave it at that.

On a positive note I have one of my very good friends from England staying here at the moment. I thought I'd start him off with the alternative Beijing tour and, as he also enjoys art galleries I thought we'd go to see the rather surprising world of Chinese contemporary art, back in Dashanzi. I continue to be impressed that not only are the 50-100 galleries chock full of interesting art but that they change continually.

That rather whacked me out so next day I sent him off on the more regular tourist trail to the forbidden city and eventually Wangfujing snack street where he sampled some of the famous delicacies. It's good to see that someone with no Chinese whatsoever, a page of instructions and a decent smattering of common sense can make his way around Beijing without a problem. I mentioned before but I become a little over-protective when my friends come out here, thinking that I'm going to send them off unprotected into the dragon's lair.

I'm also pleased that my friend is as adventurous as I am when it comes to exotic foods, so a Chongqing hotpot last night went down a treat. Though the pig stomach, duck intestine and solidified slabs of blood didn't shake him, we were both a little taken aback when our fish turned up and jumped off the plate! Though I'm pretty sure they were actually dead, the latent muscle movements meant that the waitress had to hold each fish in the hotpot for ten seconds or so with chopsticks to make sure it didn't thrash about. Animal rights activists need not apply!

So, today I'm in the office finishing off some odds and ends before heading off to Korea on Sunday for the winter school followed by a two month stay at the Yukawa institute which I'm very much looking forward to. The pollution in Beijing has recently been truly aweful and that's the main thing I'm looking forward to escaping from briefly. Wunderground stated yesterday that the weather in Beijing was 'smoke'. This site appears to be indicating that on the 11th of December the pollution levels went off the top of the scale at 500 microgram per cubic meter of pollutant (80 or so being the safety limit as far as I can tell with minimal scouting. cf. annual average in London at around 20). Today however we are at a mild 180. If anyone has any more concrete information on these figures I would be very interested to learn more. Anyway, I'm not terribly surprised that my recovery isn't very speedy in this atmosphere. Even if the air in Seoul isn't much better, the ski resort where the second week of the school is being held should help my recuperation no end :-)

I don't know what sort of access I'll have to web connections for the next couple of weeks but I hope to be able to give frequent updates from the school.


Benjamin said...

Fever and industrial fog and work work work and you remain such a bright and upbeat diarist. Yes, that's been key to some of my most fun nights out... when the house subtly becomes jungle. Get well soon x

Punthrice Gorblid said...

Try sending tim out and not giving him any directions. Hopefully he'll end up squirming in a hotpot like that fish and then I get his half of the flat.
I'm off to Archipelago next Friday and looking forward to eating locusts and bees again. Waaaawaaaaweeeewoooo

Jonathan Shock said...

Hi Ben,

I think that writing a public diary probably helps to keep me bright and upbeat. Though people do like to hear about people moan (there are many popular 'expats in China' blogs about how terrible it is here) I'd much rather put a good spin on things. There's enough annoying stuff in all our lives that reading about it from others doesn't seem worth the time to me.

The transition from house to jungle was more brick in the back of the head than subtle. A lot of fun!


I'm not Jon. I'm Tim. I find your comments and suggestions upsetting, hurtful and unnecessary. I hope that bee in Archipelago stings you on the tonsil. Jon bought me a cup of fermented mung bean milk today and it was like drinking cabbage boiled in bile through a sock made of stilton. I bet they don't serve that in Archipelago. You lightweight.

Punthrice Gorblid said...

You're missing loads here. Celeb big bro has started. About 11 so called losers have been in the house for a couple of days and then Jade Goody and family moved in. One guy immediately jumped over the wall to get out.
I'm painting the bathroom this weekend. I've got a lovely metallic violet paint. I'm going to paint the inside of the bath with it too. And the windows.

Well done on feeding Tim cabbage boiled in bile through a sock made of stilton and passing it off as bean milk. However, I think you must try harder if our poisoning plan is to succeed.

sa~sa said...

:) So many people these days are getting sick. Makes you wonder if it's the pollution or the cold, and man, it's been "sharp as a knife" freezing lately! Hope ur well by now Jon TC~

What you wrote about Lolita in an earlier post has made me want to go read it, haha... I've seen the movie and I wouldn't describe it the way you did the book, so... Sounds like something I ought to look into :p

Jonathan Shock said...


I left before TK had a chance to read your comments I'm afraid. However, he's been sent off once more with minimal instruction to the Great Wall so your wishes may yet be granted.


Yeah, it's been cold but not nearly as cold as last year. I remember it was regularly going below -10 this time last year and horrible wind on top of that. It's pretty cold out here in Seoul too but somehow the air is a lot fresher.

The book and movie versions of Lolita are very similar in some ways and a world apart in others. I'd definitely give the book a go but wouldn't really recommend the film to anyone.

Take care and wrap up warm,


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Jonathan Shock said...

Hi Tony,

You're quite right, the data is clearly still there, just in a less user friendly form. In fact in the end I managed to get 75% back which is a pain but not the end of the world.

I did have a look around at companies such as yours and, unfortunately, the price is just too high for an individual like me. I will certainly bear your company in mind if I have any more affluent friends with similar problems in the future.

All the best, many thanks for popping by the blog and clever searching ;-)