More small victories

In my Chinese class on Saturday, my teacher asked me about films. She knows I love watching films, and that I went to the cinema twice last week to watch the new Justice League film. For me, going to the cinema is an experience. It’s an opportunity to go on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, for a couple of hours, and forget about all my problems and everything, and just enjoy the ride. I get very excited about films like this, and I loved it. It was, for me, the best films of the year. I am, I admit, easily pleased, and I know what I like. I like crossovers, and multi-hero stories, which Justice League is. I like action, adventure and horror. Even if a film has had bad reviews, I will probably watch it and enjoy it.

That’s not to say I like all films. Two, in particular, come to mind as ones I have not enjoyed. Recently, I watched Exorcist II – The Heretic. Before I watched it, I had read it is often thought of as one of the worst films ever made. I thought, ‘I can’t be that bad’. Many of the films I watch and enjoy have had bad reviews, so I was thinking it was going to be another example of this. It wasn’t. I was really disappointed with it. I didn’t find it scary at all, I was confused by the story and it was … well, I can say I’ve watched it now, but I probably won’t be looking to watch it again. Another film that I did not enjoy is a film which is often considered one of the best films ever. That film is Vertigo. Now, a bit of context. I have only seen this once, a few years ago, when I was in the early stages of my PhD. I found the film a little boring, and also some of the decisions the characters made, annoyed me. I should also say, before I get trolled, this is just my opinion.

Horror films are often poorly reviewed, but if they are scary I will probably enjoy them. When I watch a film I’ve already seen, like Raiders of the Lost Ark, for instance (which is a great film), I will often skip the bits I am not interested in. I am not that fussed about Indy and Marion’s relationship, and instead watch the bits when Indy does something heroic. This is also often followed by John Williams’ fantastic score, notably The Raiders March, which I love, so that enhances the action too.

In terms of superheroes, some people have a preference between Marvel or DC. I am not bothered either way (similarly, some people prefer Star Wars or Star Trek, and also similarly, I like both). I have seen two Chinese language films in the cinema here – once deliberately, and once by accident. All such films have English subtitles (and English language films have Chinese subtitles). The first one I saw, I went with a friend. It was not a bad film, sort of like the Indiana Jones films, about treasure hunters. The other film, the one I watched accidentally, was I think my own fault. I had planned to watch an English language horror film and, because Western horrors don’t usually make it over here, I was pretty excited. I even travelled half-way across the city to the only cinema I could find showing it. When I arrived, I went to the desk and asked to watch the film that was showing at the time I had written down. I have an app, in English, which gives me cinema times. They gave me the ticket and then I went in, only to realise that the film was in Chinese (and not the film I wanted to watch). I stayed and the film was moderately interesting and entertaining. Thinking about it afterwards, I think perhaps I had the day wrong, as I had checked the film’s time the previous day. One good thing though is that there are no adverts, so the film begins at the time advertised, not like in the UK which is can be up to half an hour later.

Anyway, my Chinese teacher knows I like films as I had spent the previous week’s lesson talking mostly about horror films and why I like them. She asked me how much the cinema cost, and I told her and she said 太贵了 (tài guìle) – that’s too expensive! She then introduced me to an app on which you can use to buy tickets (cheaply). You can also order food on it. In China, you can take home any food you don’t finish in a restaurant. Many places, even the likes of McDonalds and KFC, will also deliver! My teacher also knows I’m not really a good cook, and I’m not an epicurean. I eat to live, but that’s about it. Last year, my colleagues would say that some food from one restaurant was not as good as the same food they had had in a different restaurant the previous week. I used to wonder how they remembered what the food had tasted like. I make pasta and the like but I don’t really cook much.

In my previous lesson, as well as films, I had also talked about a colleague who I had discussed my eating habits with. Because they are vegan, they usually they bring their lunch with them, so they stay in their classroom and eat there. Thus, I don’t often eat with them, and so the topic of food rarely comes up. However, the previous week they had decided to join me and another colleague who works in a different department, in the cafeteria. This other colleague asked me what I usually eat, and I said I usually eat cafeteria food. Both colleagues usually eat in restaurants. They paused, raised their eyebrows and asked why. I explained, and then we discussed other issues. I had a similar response last year with my colleagues who usually went to a different restaurant each day. I’m happy and fine to go and eat in the cafeteria. I take a plastic tub with me, and they fill it up with food, so I can bring it back to my hotel room and eat it there (just to say – I do sometimes eat in restaurants, but I don’t do it all the time, and I’m happy to eat in the school cafeteria).

My teacher told me that one good thing about ordering food on this app is that you can order any food, and someone will deliver it. You don’t need to go onto the particular restaurant’s app or website to order it. You have to pay for the delivery, but it’s not expensive and the food is cheap. They won’t deliver immediately. My teacher said it might be at least half an hour before they arrive, but that you can also say what time you want the food to arrive – ideal, if I’m on my way back and want food when I return to my room.

I pointed out it was all in Chinese, but she said she thought I could use it and my Chinese is good enough to understand it (she showed me some of the functions of it). I am no so sure, but I have had a couple of ‘small victories’ again recently. On Saturday morning, I went to the bank because I had to authenticate my bank card. That went fine, and I recently also conducted a little experiment on Taobao. I bought a cheap t-shirt, and waited to see if it was delivered here, and if I could pick it up from the lockers myself, without any assistance from anyone else. If I could, then it’s another little bit of independence I can claim, but also it means I can order things I need easily and cheaply.

It worked. My t-shirt arrived, I collected it, and it was all fine. These ‘small victories’ make living here that bit easier, and makes you feel that bit better when things actually work!

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