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游戏之夜 - Games Night

The last week has been unseasonably cold and this, coupled with the incessant rain, has meant we've had to come up with new ideas for things to do indoors. This isn't the first games night I've been to in Liuzhou but it was the most fun...
First, we had to come up with a suitable games list for the 11 attendees so, in order of simplest to most complex: Jenga, Heads Up and The Werewolves of Millers Hollow were on the menu. I'd never played The Werewolves of Millers Hollow before but it was a bit of a revelation, especially when I found out that you can play in a group of up to 47 people. I think the game is probably better as the number of players increases so hopefully we'll have more people in attendance next time to join in.
We met at 窑埠古镇 Yaobu Old Town, a (somewhat counterintuitively) brand new development of bars, restaurants, shops and cafes along the riverfront. Our venue of choice was unexpectedly closed for the evening but, this being Liuzhou, there was a …
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国庆节 - National Day

Famous for being the busiest travel week of the year, when foreign residents who've spent any period of time in China will tell you to stay at home to avoid the crowds, 国庆节 National Day, or 黄金周 Golden Week, is a public holiday where seemingly the entire country leaves their villages and crowds into the cities and popular travel destinations.
I experienced the holiday last year and, as such, decided to stay in Liuzhou this time, to avoid (not entirely successfully) being jostled and gawped at by tens of thousands of farmers. Besides, one of our members at Liuzhou Meet & Learn has some connections within the local tourism department and wanted some foreign volunteers to be taken around the city to attend the various events taking place. So, four members from our group set off to be photographed doing everything from walking around, to eating noodles, to being force fed tea by members of the local ethnic minority groups.
One thing that is so seductive about living in a smaller ci…

KTV

Everyone loves KTV. Everyone. If you don't like sitting in a dark, enclosed space, listening to your friends murdering classic mandopop hits at ear splitting volume, there has to be something wrong with you.
I've heard people ask what the point of learning to read Chinese is, what with the use of pinyin as a phonetic system, and the ability to use your phone to translate text. The answer is obvious: if you can't read characters, how will you sing Chinese songs at KTV? In China, and across Asia, KTV culture is huge and, if you want to engage with life here, learning to sing a couple of songs in the local language will get you a lot of kudos.
At Liuzhou Meet & Learn, we organise regular KTV evenings, and I'm always surprised by how good people are at singing, particularly our local Chinese members - unfortunately, us foreigners don't always hold up our end of the bargain and I've witnessed some performances that made my ears bleed.
I admit to being a bit of a…

帆船 - Sailing

One of the great things about Liuzhou Meet & Learn is the variety of people that get involved; not just in terms of nationality (though we have members from nearly 20 different countries) but in terms of people's backgrounds, employment and interests. One of our members is a sailing fanatic and president of the local sailing club, allowing us the opportunity to go sailing on the 柳江 Liujiang river as it winds it's way through Liuzhou.
Following a late decision to get out on the water, due to an earlier thunderstorm, we made our way to the riverside at 3:30pm. Though the rain had moved on, the high winds remained and, coupled with decent cloud cover, made for perfect sailing conditions.
This being China, where they aren't huge on health and safety, we got just two pieces of advice before setting off: 1) the boat can't capsize, so don't worry; 2) keep your head lower than the bottom of the sail. Right, off we go!
All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon with the …

烧烤 - BBQ

One of the great things about living in a smaller city like Liuzhou is that the countryside is never too far away; it's so easy to get away from the city and relax.
The Chinese say 民以食为天 which could be roughly translated as "food is the god of the people" and this really stresses how important a part of the culture food is here - it permeates all aspects of life in a way which could never happen in the UK. Most social activities revolve around food so, when the weather is good, what could be better than going to one of the nearby national parks to have a BBQ with friends? Luckily, the local government here provides 烧烤场 spaces for residents to BBQ surrounded by the stunning local scenery.
At Liuzhou Meet & Learn, we chose 三门江国家森林公园 Sanmenjiang National Forest Park which is to the east of the city. Building on our previous success, our second big BBQ event had more than 30 members in attendance and it was a great afternoon. On the menu this time, an obscene amount of f…