The Chinese circle, Roman soldiers and Harry Potter

Hier geht’s zur deutschen Version des Beitrages

After coming back from Golden Week the daily grind get me back right away. But living in Beijing, that luckily doesn’t necessarily mean being bored. Due to long work days normally there isn’t much time or energy left for doing fun things but that generally makes the weekends more fun and there are definitely enough opportunities to have a good time. Specifically Beijing night life is very diverse and offers activities to anybody’s liking.

First and foremost there is, of course, infamous Sanlitun (pronounce sunleeturr) road has bar next to bar next to bar and there are daily live concerts and other entertainment shows (if you kno what I mean..). Until two years ago there was also even more infamous Dirty Bar street where you could get dirty cheap Mojitos on the street (Yiaaaaau Mojito man) but it was pretty much stomped to the ground and replaced by Sanlitun Village, an open air shopping center. Just a few blocks away is the Gongti. The Worker’s Stadium of Beijing – until the 60s home of public executions but today only a concert venue and home of the local football club, Beijing Guoan. Scattered around the stadium you can find the big night clubs of Beijing: Mix, Vic’s, Circle, Elements, Sirteen (no, it’s not Thirteen, it’s Sirteen) and the newly-opened 1/3 (obviously owned by the same guy) try to match for the most costumers by trying to get the best Djs and organising the most insane parties overall. What is very interesting and also a little bit offputting is the fact that there is basically segregation going on in Chinese clubs. Most business in these night clubs comes from wealthy and influental Chinese that are enjoying the high life. Tables and couches are being booked by them and are stacked with bottles of (allegedly) expensive alcohol, nice-looking snacks etc. If you order 6 bottles of Belvedere Vodka or Dom Pérignon Champagne at Sirteen it is being delivered by Chinese waiters dressed up as Roman soldiers in a freaking palanquin – laser halberds included. Behind these tables barely-dressed Chinese girls are frolicly dancing. Everything is packed and everybod’s wasted. And who profits from this spactacular parties? Of course us white people. Because while the Chinese visitors pay good money for all their perks, foreigners can technically get everything for free. Every club emplys PR’s – public relation managers – whose task it is to bring as many foreigners to the club as they can, which on the other hand attracts more wealthy Chinese customers. A grotesque party symbiosis. And how do we profit? Usually free admission, free (shitty) alcohol all night (although even me, with my iron stomach have to spend all Sunday on the throne if I have more than 3 glasses), being rubbed by 1000 people in one night and even a tinnitus in your ear from the epic soundsystems if you are lucky enough. Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea but surely fun once in a while. I was told that most of these clubs don’t live any longer than 4 years on average because new clubs open every year and replace old clubs which are replaced by new clubs and so on. You get the point.

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Beware of the sound on these Vids (RIP Headphone users)!!

For people who don’t enjoy clubbing that much, there is an uprising Chinese microbrewery scene. Nowadays there is more to Chinese beer than Tsing Tao or Harbin. Many microbreweries brew their own beer and it’s quite delicious. Just last week there was an event hosted by 8 Chinese breweries and 8 breweries from the US West coast where each bewery presented their signature carft beer. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend this event since I had already engaged myself to different drinking event hosted by the very popular Great Leap Brewery – which has 3 branches in Beijing. The so-called Carl Long Challenge! For 300 RMB, so roughly 45$, you get to drink 15 pints of 15 different craft beers with an average of 6.7% ABV and even a t shirt on top of that if you make all 15. An absolute bargain and along with to colleagues from work (Hi Ian, Hi James) I tested my drinking skills last Saturday. Starting with IPAs and Stouts to Wheat beers and a Porter you had to consume everything a beer lovers liver needs. Helped by pizza and a little powernap in between (#sleepingjakobcollection) I was able to finish all 15 and am now a proud owner of a Great Leap t-shirt. My personal favorite of the night: Banana Wheat beer!

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Another very fun highlight of the last weeks was the British ball, hosted by the British embassy. A very popular and not inexpensive event. Being a teacher at the British school of Beijing we were lucky enough to get discounted tickets via our school’s ball committee. I even decided to have a tuxedo tailored for the event. I had thought. I ended up with a swallow-tail coat but thanks to amazing genes I even look good as a penguin. With a bomb-shell of a +1 (buziacki Kochanie ;*) it was truly a magical evening – not only due to the fact the theme of the night was Harry Potter. No ball in Austria I have attended could even come close to the attention to detail and the great entertainment of this evening. A few highlights include: an open bar with potion-themed cocktails (Felix Felicis with Rum being my personal favorite), chocolate frogs and snitch-toffee for the little treat in between, a delicious 4-course meal with the only genuinely good steak I’ve had so far in Beijing (medium rare yumyum), a performance by our school’s choir, a silent auction and a survivor’s breakfast at 3am including bacon, eggs and hash browns. Another very important part of the night was of course the socializing with my colleagues, which was truly delightful. And btw, for once I was not the one passed out in the foyer for a little nap! #proudofmyself

PS: Of course I was put into house Huff le Puff

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Now.. who is under the impression that Jakob is only partying and getting smashed, is mostly wrong (somehow I am having a deja-vous to my time in the US)! Of course, during the week there is also a lot of stuff going on. After almost 3 months at my new job I have definitely settled in and am starting to enjoy work. My most ambitious reader – of course my Mom, who else? – asked me for more information and stories about my new school and the daily routine there. Of course I can hardly ignore that request. (I did purposely put you through reading the weekend stories though ;*)

Actually you can’t realy speak of a daily routine at this school. There are just too many different things and events happening every week.

I have already told a few things about my school two blogs ago but just to recap: The British School of Beijing, Shunyiu is an international private school. The celebrated their internationality with an International day in October. At this point I really have to say: Chapeau! To organize an event like that definitely needs a lot of planning and budget. And nonetheless the support of the parent association. So how does an International Day with 900 kids look like? It started off with a opening ceremony for the whole school, kicked off with a Chinese dragon dance show and followed by a parade across the whole school field. Every of the 50(!) present nations was specifically mentioned and was able to wave their flags and smile in the cameras. In the meantime parents had set up the national booths of their respective countries in the foyer and in the gym. Each booth offered authentic national food and games from the respective countries. Every student got an “International Day Passport” and each year group was assigned certain countries and booths that they had to visit to gather information about the countries. . Of course, you can’t really let 900 kids have roam around at the same time so every year group had a designated hour of running around at the international fair. The rest of the day every teacher offered a certain activity for their year group to entertain the kids and have them learn about other cultures and countries (e.g. Irish dancing or a yodeling course). The whole event was accompanied by several dance performances. The German Primary for example proudly presented the Zillertaler Hochzeitsmarsch (you can tell 3 out of 4 teachers are actually Austrian), some Korean girls did a spectacular fan dance or two sisters from Slovakia stunned everybody with their rhythmical gymnastics routine. Overall it was a really cool event that obviously also looks nice to prospective parents and companies.

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Generally the whole school year is supported/interrupted by such events – depending who you ask. Two more such events was the so-called STEAM Week and the Curiosity Challenge that took place back-to-back just a couple of weeks ago. STEAM is an abbreviation for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths and is strongly supported by a cooperation with the MIT in Boston. Like the name probably told you, it puts an emphasis on sciences in school around the world. In our school that project is implemented for one week in our lessons in form of every teacher of a yeargroup offering an activity for one lesson every day and the classes taking turn and visiting a different teacher every day. For instance, I had the students build rockets out of paper and launch them 150ft in the air with an air pressure launching station that I had borrowed from the science department. Colleagues offered activities such as building paper bridges or STIXplosions with popsticle sticks.

Curiosity Challenge on the other hand was a project where the goal was to spark each students curiosity by letting them choose and research certain questions on a given topic. Our topic was mind and body and students had to find answers to questions and present them at a science fair for their colleagues and parents. The outcome (PowerPoints and posters) were quite alright but if the students actually learn much is a different question.

Such events are certainly very memorable and fun for students and probably are a very good marketing strategy to attract more students but put many teachers in an awkward spot because you lose quite a bit of time for teaching your actual curriculum.

Since reports for the first term are due at the beginning of December, just before our well-deserved Christmas break the next few weeks are for learning and studying and next week I am writing two tests with the little rascals in Math and German. But because all of that isn’t just enough yet, every teacher has to set so called “professional learning goals” with their Leadership team (5 goals minimum) which ultimately should be achieved by every individual by the end of the school year. In the German blog I followed this with a political quote of Viennas mayor about teachers having not a lot of work but this is certainly not true in my case. There’s not a lot of time to catch a break during the week, hence the weekends being used for one or another drink (or 15 craft beers). But you definitely have to take these breaks on the weekend to do something, relax or take a trip because otherwise I am pretty sure, most people would burn out faster than a christmas tree in the easter bonfire.

And that’s how the Chinese circle of life looks like. Or the Fortune Cookie crumbles. Or whatever stupid metaphor you want to use. But the time in the Year of the Cock flies by superfast and I actually can not believe that it is only 5 weeks until the Winter holidays. Until then there is definitely a lot to do still. Next weekend we’re (hopefully) off to Shanghai and in the beginning of December we are being visited for the first time. Not only by one but three freaking people at the same time: Javier and Erika are coming over from Tokyo and by dear brother, who just started his trip around the world, are going to stir things up in the big B! It’s definitely not going to get boring in the middle Kingdom! The next blog will probably follow when our guests are gone again just before Christmas.

Until then, treat yo’self! Kisses on the belly, your friendly neighborhood bear! <3

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