secret yangge

June 5th, 2007

It’s all good.

Yesterday I went down to BeiGongDa to meet my old boss and talk about going back there to work. When I arrived, my old boss said, “Long time no see”. I said, “Yeah, too long.” He said, “Fat!” Apparently getting married causes people to gain weight. Fact is, I’m still painfully thin, just less painfully thin than three years ago when I last saw my old boss.

Anyway, back to the point: He pulled out a contract, all ready and drawn up for me. Except he spelt my name wrong. I’m not “Chirs”. Anyway, he ran off a new copy with my name spelt properly. I read through it. Looks good. I handed over all the documents he wanted, hard copies and electronic copies in case he needed more. I signed the contract. My good friend gk, who is my old boss’ secretary, started arranging my foreign expert’s certificate and residence permit. So we’re all good to go.

There are a few minor hassles, though, but nothing insurmountable. We can move down to BeiGongDa on the 30th June, but we’ll have to stay in a temporary apartment for two or three weeks, then move to our permanent apartment, thanks to some clash of foreign teachers arriving and leaving. That’s ok. We’ll have to pay rent over the summer, but actually, the rent is pretty cheap considering the quality of the accomodation. Anyway, we haven’t managed to save as much this year as we did last year, so money’s going to be pretty tight over the summer. But that shouldn’t be any hassle. For one thing, I already have some part-time work lined up interviewing prospective students for this programme I’ll be working on. Secondly, I could always find some more part-time or freelance-type odd jobs for a bit of extra cash. Thirdly, lzh will be working through the summer, so we’ve got her salary. And besides, I don’t really get up to much anymore. I’m quite content sitting at home surfing over this very cheap internet connection, wandering down to the local xiaomaibu when it’s beer o’clock, surviving off porridge, frozen jiaozi and leftovers during the day and what lzh cooks in the evening. We’ll survive. Easily.

And besides, we’ll be moving to a part of town that we know and like well. And it’s much closer to lzh’s work and there’s a myriad of buses heading from BeiGongDa up towards Chaoyang Park and Tuanjiehu, and she can probably ride her bike there and back in the warmer months. And we’ll have a real apartment instead of this shitty apartment in the teaching building. And I know I can trust my oldnew boss. And I’ll be working with a good friend. And I’ll be working on a real programme that is being run properly and has a future. And many other good things besides.

So I hung around the office with gk and my newold boss yesterday afternoon.

Wait, there’s a point. He is my old boss, but he’ll soon be my new boss. I think I’m going to have to call him Lao Wei to avoid the obvious confusion.

Anyway, I hung around the office with gk and Lao Wei yesterday afternoon, then just before five jumped in a taxi up to Tuanjiehu to pick up lzh. Well, I suppose we could’ve gone straight home, but she suggested wandering around for a bit, and I suggested popping over to the Tree for a pizza to celebrate. Well, after stopping at some little Malatang stand outside Pure Girl, opposite Tongli, and an ATM, we found ourselves a table right in the doorway of the Tree. Well, that table was the only place with any reasonable sunlight- didn’t feel like sitting in the gloom of the interior- that wasn’t right next to the oven. Never sit next to the oven in the summer time. It’s the quickest way to spontaneous combustion known to man. lzh allowed me to get one Hoegaarden as a super-special treat to celebrate. A nice cold Hoegaarden on a hot summer’s evening…. beautiful. Had to switch to the Tsingtao draughts after that, though, which is rough enough even when you haven’t started with a quality beer, but tastes disgustingly sweet when you have.

The pizza was good, though.

So after a bit we wandered off looking for the 815 bus to take us home. It’s not often lzh corrects my sense of direction, but I have to admit, she did last night. I started wandering in completely the wrong direction. Oops. Anyway, we got back on the right track, and I suggested that instead of crossing the ring road and trying to find the Nongzhanguan stop, we turn left and find the Xingfu Sancun stop. We wound up walking most of the way to Dongzhimen, eventually finding a stop called, I think, Xiushui Yuan, way on the other side of Fortress Australia the Australian Embassy.

If Australia really wants to project an unfriendly, unwelcoming image, then they’re doing a brilliant job with their fortress embassy.

Anyway, come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the 815, or any other bus, stop at Xingfu Sancun. Nor have I ever seen any bus stop there, even though the other bus stop signs clearly say there is a stop at Xingfu Sancun. Is this some security measure gone a bit too far? Are the People’s Armed Police really so scared that Beijing’s bus driving rabble might disturb the diplomats?

Speaking of security, Lao Wei suggested perhaps extending my contract to 18 months, because that would get me through the Olympics. Apparently the PSB is going to take over all management of all foreigners during the Olympics in case troublemakers show up. I can see their point, troublemakers have already been showing up and the Olympics are bound to be a very interesting time indeed. Anyway, what it means for ordinary laowai living in Beijing is a whole lot of extra mafan should you need to be renewing visas or residence permits around about that time, apparently.

Anyway, we eventually found a bus stop, and waited. And waited. And waited some more. Eventually the 815 showed up, crowded, of course. I never could figure out why the local bus companies can’t understand that many of their buses are overcrowded because they force everybody to wait so long. If they’d put more buses on, the buses wouldn’t get so crowded, and they’d probably make more money, and probably help clean up Beijing’s air, too. The good folks at Bafangda who run the 919s up to Yanqing have figured this out, so why can’t the rest?

Anyway, eventually the bus showed up and we pushed our way on.

The 815 runs along the north side of Sanlitun through Dongzhimen, Gui Jie, Jiaodaokou, past Gu Lou and along to Deshengmen, then due north up Xinjiekou Wai to Erlizhuang. If you’re in a position to enjoy it, it’s quite an interesting bus route, lots of scenery. Last night, going past Deshengmen, there was a Yangge troupe practicing on the square north of the gate, apparently in pitch darkness. At least, pitch darkness was all we could see. Well, pitch darkness outside and about two million bodies inside the bus. I like yangge. I don’t like it so much when I can’t see it, though. Yangge should not be so super-secret.

Reminds me, there used to be two yangge troupes practicing under Jinsong Qiao every evening, one at either end of the bridge. The evening rush-hour traffic would be roaring around and over them, but these two troupes were standing their surrounded by traffic noise and fumes dancing away to their hearts’ content. I used to love standing on the corner watching one troupe, then crossing the road to watch the other, as I waited to pick up lzh from a tutoring job she had at the time. As I was crossing the road, right in the middle the music from the two troupes would merge, creating quite a pleasant cacophony. I should also state that yangge is one of the only contexts in which I can actually tolerate the suona. Every other time I hear the suona it makes me want to do strange and cruel things to stray cats.

So yesterday was a good day. I’m all sorted out, ready to move to a better job in a better part of town, residence permit in the works, and quite possibly about to become legal until sometime after the Olympics.

All of which raises only one question: Why is it I seem to spend half my life in some kind of semi-legal limbo?

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