And so ends 2016 and onto 2017… again, and again, and… again

It’s hard to believe that 2016 is over already with two Christmases done (Julian and Georgian calendars) and two of the three major New Yearses (sp?) are done and over with (again, Julian and Georgian calendars). All that’s left is the Lunar New Year, more commonly referred to as Chinese New Year or, here in China itself, as “Spring Festival” which will end the Year of the Monkey and usher in the Year of the Rooster.

You might be wondering why I haven’t moved along yet. Well, this winter vacation is setting up to be particularly busy. I’ll be travelling, of course, this winter vacation will be taking me across Asia and Europe by train; and then, once the new semester starts, we’ll have a new teacher to train up and, finally, as I try to get that done as quickly and efficiently as possible, I’m off to Canada for 4 days for a wedding and then it’s back to the grindstone for semester number two. So, to tell the truth, I’ve been dreading stepping foot out of my door simply because I know once I do get going it’ll be like pressing “fast forward” on life. And that’s what travel does, no matter what trials or tribulations one encounters on their journey, time seems to move even faster. Before I know it, it’ll be March 12th and I’ll be preparing for class on Monday morning.

First semester is finished and I’ve been off for just over a week now. This semester wasn’t overly challenging in terms of work load as much of my prep work has been done in previous years. I did have a few technical complications which made December particularly challenging (which you can read here, here and here) but overall the semester went rather smoothly. I even made it to the Philippines for a week and completed (most of) my scuba diving certificate.

The air was actually quite nice for about 4 or 5 days last week which made it pleasant to simply sit around and do some reading (which, sadly, I’ve been neglecting) and then head to the pub in the evening. I did manage to get some reading done in English, but not even half of the stack of books I brought with me at the beginning of this semester. You might be wondering about the books I did read (and what else I was reading)…

First, I finished reading Gang of One by Fan Shen, a man who grew up in the time of China’s Cultural Revolution. This book came recommended by a colleague and shows how the author went from an ardent believer in the Revolution to someone trying to get out, and failing many times. Through trials and tribulations, moving around the country as a young Red Youth to learn from the farmers, getting a placement as a university professor in a city just outside Tianjin (and learning about the nasty effects of industrial pollution), then finally being transferred out to another city, he finally asks the love of his life to marry him but even that had a tragic ending. In the end, he makes his way to the USA. and begins a new life. Though I may have given you the major plot points the book is still worth reading for yourself. Highly illuminating.

The second book I finished was Straight to Hell, a hilarious book about John Lefevre’s adventures in the investment banking world.  John Lefevre is famous for running the @GSElevator Twitter handle with which he tweeted some of the things he overheard while on the job. He starts out in New York, moves to London before being transferred to Hong Kong just before the 2008 financial. Through drunken adventures and antics, he gives some insight into how investment banking works and how deals get done to move money around the world. A good portion of the book is about his time in Hong Kong during which he does big deals with Chinese business tycoons who are often more about the money or the roadshow (read: party) rather than doing a “deal” in the strictest sense. (Not as bad as the business misadventures had by Tim Clissold in his book, Mr. China). This one was very easy to read and made me laugh when he explained some of the tricks he used to gain the upper hand in negotiating deals away from the other big banks.

And so that was the reading I was able to do in English. Now, what else was I reading? Chinese? Well, not as much this semester. I started out with good intentions but something else clicked in my mind that sort of derailed me from my Chinese-learning plans and took me on a new route (actually, an old route made new again). And for that, I’ll need to end it here and explain in another post why I gave up studying Chinese and began studying Russian.

Anyway, I know a lot of people found 2016 a particularly detestful year and it will probably go down in history as “one of the worst”. From celebrity deaths (which never really make sense to me why they’re such a big deal) to changes in governments around the world (particularly the USA) to a few deaths and illnesses closer to home (much more emotionally trying), a lot of people bid good riddance to 2016 and have looked with hope to 2017. With that, I hope you had Merry Christmases and Happy New Yearses (sp?) and here’s to an even better new year! Maybe we just need to get past the Lunar New Year before things get better?

Now, about those languages…