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In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been dropping subtle hints about my Mysterious Winter Holiday. It’s finally time for the great unveiling: I’m going to Melbourne! And will spend there 18 days, far away from the unheated flat, the filthy eating habits, the stupid red tape, the obnoxious people who don’t realise it’s a good idea to let someone get off the train before you try to get on it, and absolutely and utterly terrible New Year songs – I’ve just added this one because I’m sitting next to a screen and they were blasting out one which goes “Homeland, homeland, my beloved homeland!” (fortunately they’ve moved on to the soundtrack from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” now). Am I sounding bitter? Very sorry, must be the blobs of phlegm I keep slipping on finally getting to me.

Anyway, my flight departing from Shanghai, I took the chance to visit E., a friend who’s there on a short course, and showed up in the big metropolis a day earlier.

We did a bit of sightseeing: a bit of sightseeing in Shanghai means that you’ve seen all there is to see and if you can’t afford the shopping, you’re free to move on to drinking establishments. Which we duly did, choosing Perry’s Cafe as our destination. E. made some phone calls to gather up a bunch of friends, but it seemed like they were all going to bail out.

‘Looks like it’s going to be just the two of us’, she said.

‘No worries.’

If we were in Hangzhou, I thought, by now I would have spotted at least 5 people I know. But the expat crowd in Shanghai, said E., is much bigger and it’s more difficult to make friends, because you don’t usually bump into the same people twice. I nodded wisely, took a sip of beer and looked around.

And saw a university classmate from Warsaw.

Right.

For the record, after bumping into friends and friends’ friends in Poland, Taiwan, Hangzhou and New Zealand, stumbling into a fellow Polish student of Chinese in a tiny bar in Shanghai really does not impress me. Not in the least. But I thought it might impress you.

Anyway, of course this fact deserved a celebration and Perry’s being a rip off of a very chilled out pub chain called Ellen’s (which does not look like a chain at all, but it seems like in China you can’t have a cool place without at least a few doppelgänger), they put on good music, so eventually the Polish table led the way to the ultimate dance party, helped out prodigiously by a contingent of E.’s late-arriving Latino friends. A few beers, a stolen 300 RMB (not mine, fortunately) and my classmate’s failed attempt at pimping me to her fornicating Belgium flatmate later we called it a night (I don’t mean to say that he was fornicating at the time!). All in all, I think I said goodbye to China with some flair, don’t you?

(The above was written while I was waiting to board the plane. Now I’m actually writing from the air. If I stop making sense, blame the altitude, bad air, plane food and the snoring Chinese around me.)

Quick observation: isn’t it usually forbidden to bring food or drinks past the customs control? So why did those old Chinese people have a bag full of oranges? Damn you, Pudong International Airport. I could’ve bought some throat sweets to help me survive the journey (a useful tip: always avoid getting a sore throat before a plane trip).

Observation 2: I don’t remember ever having to go through immigration control on LEAVING the country. Damn you, Chinese government!

Observation 3: I think the scales at the check-in counters must be rigged. When I was coming to China, my backpack weighted exactly 20 kilos and I could barely close it or lift it. So how is it possible that this time the airport scales showed 21 kilos? Admittedly it’s still full of useless stuff (but not of what’s really important, namely my deo-stick* and mp3 player. The charms of packing between one party and another), but it’s most definitely not nearly as full or heavy as it was that time!

Observation 4: Chinese airlines completely spoil my pleasure in air travel, which is guiltless watching of really bad movies. What the heck? There are TVs in buses and taxis, but suddenly an airplane is screen-free? Okay, not entirely true: they have a few screens over the aisles, but then obviously you can’t see anything and you have no say in the movie you’re watching – and they always put on the really really really awful Chinese super productions. When I said bad movies, I meant cheesy flicks or super productions I wouldn’t spend money on, but not THIS!

Observation 5: should I be worried if the attendants on the plane announce that I’ll have a “sweet journey” and that it will be a “pleasurable experience”? It’s an overnight flight, so ask me again in the morning, but I’m definitely leaving the overhead light on.

Anyway. The movie appears to be about a female cross-dressing martial artist and her hirsute friend who are doing something to do something about a gigantuous statue but they’re being either helped or impeded by an albino and now the place is flooded and boats randomly jump in the air while the queen is popping up unexpectedly and someone just produced something from their ears. Also the plane smells of feet.

*No, I’m not a stinker. It’s always the first thing I pack and I’m sure I packed it this time as well. I’ll probably find it tucked in a pocket or somewhere when I get there. In the meantime, I had to buy a new one and I absolutely hate it. It’s one of those stupid antiperspirant roll-ons that make you feel like your armpits are already sweaty, even though it’s supposed to prevent it. What is wrong with the Chinese? You can buy endless supplies of hair products and whitening face creams, but getting a body cream or a proper deodorant is virtually impossible. Filthy, filthy people. But then what with the spitting, the lack of oral hygiene and sometimes no access to a washing machine I suppose a bit of armpit odour is the least of their problems. Okay, okay, done with the whingeing for today! Here I come, Australians… uhm, I mean Australia.

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