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Once again a story which has nothing to do with China as such, so feel free to skip it entirely as it might be a bit boring.

The last post ended with an enumeration of my late bedtimes. Well, Christmas Eve ended up with a new record and this is the story of how it came to be.

First venue: 4.30 pm, Vineyard – our usual pub, where we play board games every Saturday afternoon. This time no one showed up, but it didn’t matter: I just needed to use the free wi-fi. After two hours and some chats I got kicked out as they were preparing for an invasion of hungry Christmas customers and were fully booked.

About 7 pm I embarked on a Christmas/farewell party in venue no. 2, thrown by a couple of friends who are (sadly) leaving soon. The place was very lovely if overpriced, but we didn’t let it bother us: all drinks were put down as job expense on someone’s bill (tax deduction!). The party involved some costumes and a Christmas quiz, which – I’m sorry, but it’s true – clearly had an American bias to it (who would have known that American naughty children get coal in their stockings? In Poland they get sticks to be spanked with. That at least makes some sort of sense! …Coals – phew!). About 10.30 pm a large part of the guests decided to follow the hosts to a midnight mass in some non-denomination church. I skipped due to bad memories of a follower of non-denomination*.

Free beers being over, I then proceeded to new pastures and about 11.30 pm found myself in venue no. 3 – the Hangzhou expats default place: Maya Bar. Like with all good pubs, going to Maya means that you’re bound to stumble on some friends – and if not, you’ll make new ones. As it happened, there was a whole bunch of people I knew, plus the Christmas Eve special turned out to be a mug of mulled wine for 30 RMB with free refills. Could anyone resist? Unfortunately after finishing my first portion it turned out they ran out. Major disappointment. At least I could keep the mug. About 4 am I was left with an entirely new batch of people and the staff asked us to leave. I was  instantly convinced to join an after-party with a lovely group consisting of the bartender, a gay couple, a somnolent white guy and three crazy Chinese girls, not to mention the British hostess, who sent me upstairs first as I badly needed to use the toilet. Due to a misunderstanding on my part, I then spent 3 minutes trying to open some other people’s flat. After the next half an hour the electricity went out and we couldn’t figure out what was wrong with it. We had candles, but the heater wasn’t working, so we all started getting cold and in the end called it a night.

I hitched a lift in someone’s cab and walked for half and hour in order to get back to my bicycle, which I had left in front of the bar. It was not there.

Hmm.

Finding that your bike was stolen at 6.40 am on a winter morning, when you’re really sleepy and your flat is about 10 km away, and you don’t know the buses because you’ve never had to use them – not exactly the most exhilarating of experiences. At least when you’re in possession of your full mental abilities – which I wasn’t, so I can’t honestly say I was very upset. I had been expecting it all the time and finally it happened. Right on the Christmas Eve. I blame Santa. The reindeer must’ve gotten ill so he nicked my bike to distribute the rest of the presents. Drat.

Anyhow, I got on a bus that took me a bit closer home and started walking. Then I realised it was almost time for the morning Christmas mass, so I could as well go and attend instead of doing it in the evening. Which I did and proudly managed not to fall asleep as the bishop was mumbling into his broken mic in his broken mandarin.

In the end I got home about 9, only to see the havoc wreaked by my flatmate’s Christmas Eve dinner. Now usually I’m a neat freak and finding a lot of garbage lying around doesn’t please me, but this time I barely batted an eyelid. Instead I methodically went through a plate of some leftover smoked salmon snacks – suspiciously pink the salmon was, but really, at this point, who’d care. Filled with the strange morning energy I proceeded to watch season 4 of The Big Bang Theory (which is, by the way, brilliant) and finally at 10.30 am it struck me that maybe it wouldn’t be the worst idea to take a nap.

And then all the text messages started coming in, asking what was my plan for the rest of the day.

Sigh. The price of popularity…

So that’s my Christmas Tale. I’m one mug the richer, one bike the poorer, and feel like a bum and party animal par excellance. Sweet.

I promise starting from the next post I’ll try to go back to China and leave my personal shenanigans well alone. That night was just too weird to let it go without a mention. Also sorry if this one seems random and written in a hurry. That’s because it was.

In memory of my bikey. This is how rusty it was two weeks after the purchase. You were a pile of scrap iron with broken brakes and falling off pedals, but you'll be sorely missed and fondly remembered, m'dear.

*When I went to Taiwan, on my very first independent trip around the city I was spotted by a well-meaning middle-aged enthusiast. She tried to convert me despite my repeated assurances that I’m very okay with my own religious beliefs, punctuated every sentence with “God bless you!” (I’ve been blessed for all life…), tried to move me into a flat her friends had to rent out over the chapel and to fix me up with her son. I ran for my life.

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