After two days of work, as stated before, I had a chance to cash in my overtime for some time off. I’d accrued two days’ worth of time off, combined with the fact that New Year’s Day is a national holiday in China, despite it not really being their New Year, and the fact that it fell on a Friday so I had the weekend as well, I had a grand total of five days off. Although, by the time it was over, it didn’t really feel like that.
The first day, New Year’s Eve eve, I relaxed, and caught up on the household tasks that I had previously neglected for Christmas festivities.
However, I spent much of New Year’s Eve in a state of confusion due to their being a great deal of communication issues about who was going to the Villa that had been rented for our party and when, and also because a number of people dropped out of going to the party. I had a quick catch up with my parents, since I didn’t know what would happen later that night, and ended up getting a very costly taxi by myself to get there, and the party itself ended up being a lot quieter than I initially anticipated. I actually thought that I wouldn’t have a very good time due to the lack of people there, but I misjudged the social lubrication of alcohol on proceedings. And it actually ended up being a better party for me, I think in the grand scheme of things, as it allowed for a more personally satisfying experience.
On arrival at the party, I was greeted by Sergei, the Russian, holding a bow and arrow (not pointed at me, fortunately), so, of course, I had to have a go. My first shot, I knocked the coke can they were shooting at over, and accidentally gave myself a reputation of being a crack shot, because I’d also commented that I had done archery back in the UK and had my own bow and arrow. Jocelyn, a Chinese woman, then asked me to teach her, so I gave her a few pointers, about stance, but I’m really not qualified to teach archery, so I felt a bit uncomfortable about it. Luckily for me, and the poor coke can, it was freezing outside, too cold to hang around for too long, and inside was far too opulent to even entertain the idea when drunk of practicing indoors.
Seriously, this place was obscene. I don’t even know practicing how to explain the grand tackiness of the main room. It was done up like an 18th century French royal palace. The word Baroque definitely applies, but it was all in plaster, because the building itself was probably constructed in the last ten years. Whoever owned this villa had some serious money to spend and questionable taste. But it was also kind of amusing.
After spending around an hour or so hanging around feeling somewhat awkward and bemoaning the lack of other guests, Jocelyn said she had found a Mahjong table, and did we want to learn how to play. I said, of course, because to be honest an evening of board games is absolutely my jam. Eduardo the Brazilian and Sergei the Russian made up the table of four. I had a slight upper hand to them, as I had spent many hours on plane flights trying to work out how to play the digital version, and it turns out that the analogue version is pretty much the same. There are a few variations that I learned later that night, after being shouted at (playfully in a competitive kind of a way, not a nasty kind of a way) in Chinese, when I played with some folks who couldn’t speak any English. Remember what I said about the social lubrication of alcohol?
Anyway, we played until nearly midnight and I won a lot, and then, when Eduardo and Sergei got the hang of it, I didn’t so much anymore. As it got closer to the dawning of 2021, we went outside and had a barbecue and watched the fireworks that one of the lads had bought for the party. It was very nice, even if my kebabs were ridiculously spicy. I called Lauren and spent some time on the phone with her talking silliness about how the future looked better, and just having a little catch up.
Once I’d had my UK catch up time, I went to the Mahjong room again, and the Chinese cohort of guests had taken over, but one of them wanted to leave so I took over their seat and learned when I tried to win, that I wasn’t allowed to do what I did with these new rules, but I did win frequently enough anyway, which I was very pleased with, considering I had only properly learned earlier that night. The times that I didn’t win, I was close to it. I had a great time.
At this point, my sense of time was getting somewhat fuzzy because I was a bottle of red wine into the night, not to mention at least two cups of mulled wine that had been brewed but around 3am I think, I got wind of my other UK friends starting their New Year’s virtual party, and I was getting a little tired of the Mahjong for now. There’s only so much you can play in one night, so I virtually moseyed on over to that for an hour or so, finding a secluded spot to chat to my other friends for a bit.
On finishing that, things were starting to wind down. People were getting tired and starting to retire to bedrooms. I was very lucky at this point, because, due to other people dropping out there was a room going spare so I wouldn’t have to venture out to try and find a hotel nearby.
This is a part of the night that I am not proud of, if I’m being honest. I claimed that it was a British tradition to kiss someone on New Year’s. My hope had been that one of the good looking young Chinese men would take me up on the offer, but instead it was Sergei the Russian. Now everything was completely consensual; it was what I found out later that tainted this a little for me. But yes, Sergei and I kissed, and then I had a little moan about how I couldn’t find my second bottle of wine – not that I wanted any more to drink at that time, I just like to keep tabs on things, but then I retired to my room, to call my parents, drop in on another zoom party held by friends, and then try to sleep. I was still awake around 5am when Sergei knocked on my door, having found my wine and wanting to come. I said thanks for the wine, but didn’t let him enter. I’m not quite that naive, plus I was really ready to sleep.
I woke just before 8am with a stinking headache but I was just about awake enough to video call my parents to welcome them into the new year, before I mucked about on my phone for a few hours, and then had a long hot shower to try and wash off the feeling that you get the morning after the night before. My hangover was not dispelled by this and actually got worse throughout the day.
Around eleven-ish I ventured out into the sun and regretted all of my life choices leading up to this moment. I then sociably played on my phone. I was sociable because there were people around and I wasn’t holed up in my room. At midday to one o’clock ish, when Eduardo had told me the day before that he would be leaving (he had offered me a lift in his car when he had heard about the price of the taxi) because we needed to be out of the villa, he finally emerged from his room, and told us we could stay for a while, so we played a few games of Mahjong. However, I found it to be a bit too taxing on my poor dehydrated brain, so instead I vented my pain by shooting arrows at coke cans and plastic bottles with Sergei and Jocelyn.
I was starting to get a little peeved with Eduardo, because I hadn’t eaten all morning, and I had my heart set on a McDonald’s to try and wipe up my hangover with all that oil and grease and fatty foods, and he still didn’t show any sign of leaving. Maybe this is my uptight Britishness coming out, but when someone asks that you “check out” at a certain time, even if they say it’s okay for you to stay longer, I think it’s only polite to try and leave as soon after that time as you can. The others, did not seem to share this opinion.
Eventually we left, and after some argument, where Jocelyn and I were for going straight home and Sergei and Eduardo were for spending the rest of the day (what was left of it) on the beach, I thought we compromised by driving the scenic route home. We ended up at Dameisha Beach, where I had been with my parents, more than a year previously, although I could hardly believe it had been that long, because Covid had affected my perception of time in 2020. Then the others got out of the car and decided to go to the beach.
This is where I once again did things that I actually regret, looking back on it. I will say that by this point any humour I had had left was gone. My head hurt like crazy, my stomach was unsettled and all I wanted to do was go to my apartment and sleep. So, I insisted on staying in the car and trying to sleep there instead. The others tried to get me to come with them, but I can be a really stubborn ass when I want to be. They went off to the beach and left me with a bottle of water. I watched the cars go by feeling very sorry for myself and kept thinking that I would just flag one down and go home by myself anyway, never mind the cost.
But right before I committed to this idea, the others came back. They were feeling really bad about how they had ignored my wishes to go home and they now wanted to get food and go shopping at the outlets, so they were going to get a taxi for me. I felt deep shame at this point, but I still just wanted to go home, so I accepted and thanked them as profusely as I could muster. I tried to pay for the taxi but they rejected my money.
I slept in the taxi on the way back, and when I got back, I got my McDonald’s, at last, went to my apartment and only just finished eating it before I slept on my sofa for several hours.
I needed the entire next day to continue to recover and I had a heart to heart with Jocelyn where I apologised profusely for my behaviour and for being such a grumpy guts in general, and then I found I was apologising for something out. See, it turns out that Sergei had asked Jocelyn out before Christmas but she hadn’t exactly been sure about it, up until she found out that he had kissed me and tried to come into my room New Year’s Eve. She turned him down at that point and I felt awful. If I had known about that, I would have turned Sergei down and not gone through with the silly New Year’s kiss thing. But I hadn’t known. I just accidentally caused drama.
It was February, I think by the time I got to speak to Eduardo again, properly. We had seen each other a few times at various socials, but hadn’t had a chance for a heart to heart. When we finally did, he also apologised for New Year’s Day but he had been trying to play cupid for Sergei and Jocelyn to get them together. Which was why he had wanted to go to the beach and do everything there, so they could spend time together.
I’m sorry but when did I manage to step into a Rom-com? And why do I get the role of the hapless obstacle the two protagonists have to work past?
At least we are in the happily ever after now. I heard through the grapevine that after a few weeks of grovelling, Jocelyn finally forgave Sergei and they are now very happy together.
The rest of my time off was a complete write off. It has been a long time since I was that overtired and hungover, that’s for sure. But luckily, I didn’t have to work too hard the next week. Because the kids were once again being indoctrinated into a cult.