Owen in China 25: Of clubs, members and courses (December 2nd, 2016)
Hi everyone, this is Owen and this is my podcast for Friday 2nd December, 2016. A couple of months ago, when I was over in Europe, I told you about some mysterious Chinese tourists in the UK. Coachloads  of Chinese tourists were stopping off  in a place called Kidlington where there are no known tourist attractions. At the time I said that it might be because they were simply interested in seeing how ordinary British people live. Well, it turns out I was right. The media decided to get to the bottom of this story  by handing out questionnaires to the tourists. It seems they just wanted to visit a normal village with ordinary houses and gardens and it just so happens  that Kidlington is on the way to a large shopping centre that they wanted to see as well.
My other stories for today are about a club I joined, the members of that club and a course I signed up for.
I was approached by an Australian friend recently and he asked me: ‘Would you be interested in playing some cricket?’ Without hesitating  I said: ‘Absolutely!’ I love cricket. I’ve followed the sport for many years but I’ve never had the opportunity to really play it myself. My friend told me about the club that he plays for and suggested I join. Of all the places I’ve lived in the world, Kunming might be the last place I expected to join my first cricket club. Why? Well, cricket isn’t exactly popular all over the world. It’s popular in Britain and former British colonies, especially the Indian subcontinent. In China? Not so much. It’s a bat-and-ball game. The rules are rather complicated but, basically, one person throws a ball and another person from the opposing team  tries to hit the ball and then run in order to score points. It’s played outside on grass and only in nice weather. If it rains, you can’t play. It’s a bit slow at times and requires a lot of standing around in the sun. There is a bit of running involved but not very much. You don't have to be in great physical shape  necessarily but it does require  hand-eye coordination and good technique. You throw the ball and swing the bat in a very particular way. I really like the fact that every movement has to be precise and timing is everything. The club I’ve joined was started by a couple of English expats. So far it’s the only club in Kunming. Beijing, apparently, has quite a few clubs, as do Shanghai, Chengdu and Guangzhou. But they’re all expat clubs. We might get a chance to play against some of those teams in the future but for now we’ve made plans to travel to Chiang Mai in northern Thailand in February to play a club there. Our biggest problem in Kunming is finding a place to practice. Cricket requires a very flat surface and it can’t be too soft. For the time being , we’ve found a football ground with artificial turf . Cricket grounds are generally round and much bigger, but we’ll just have to make do  with what we have. Also, a smaller ground means less running and that’s always good.
We’ve had no problems finding members for our club. We now have a team made up of a number of different nationalities. Almost all of them are from countries that play cricket: Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Australia and England. There’s also an American and a Chinese but he grew up in India. It’s been a great way for me to meet some new people from different parts of the world. Most of them are students here in Kunming. I was really surprised to learn that all the guys from the Indian subcontinent are studying medicine. I asked them why they would come here of all places to study medicine. They told me that there are a couple of reasons. One is that all the courses are taught in English, so they don’t have to learn Chinese. Another is that the universities here are better than in their home countries. But to me the most surprising reason is that it’s cheaper to study medicine here than in, say, Bangladesh. Apparently, there are thousands every year who enrol  and study medicine all over China. Some of them even receive scholarships  from the Chinese government. I think it’s all part of the Chinese government’s effort to foster  ties with the Indian subcontinent. Most of our players study at a large medical school in the south of Kunming. In preparation for our trip to Thailand, we organised a game at the school against some of their fellow students who are all from India and very good at cricket. They have a great Indian restaurant on campus  and I have to admit I was looking forward to lunch more than the cricket. The game was quite competitive but in the end we got hammered  by the Indians. Lunch at the Indian restaurant was pretty good though and some consolation .
One of my resolutions for 2016 was to get more involved with music . Maybe learn to play an instrument or sing in a choir. Music has always been a big part of my life and I get a lot of joy from music, so I thought it was time to do something other than just listen to music. But I couldn’t decide what to do and I was running out of time . I was about to go out and buy a trombone  when a different opportunity presented itself : a course on electronic music production. The course is taught by an Englishman called Liam, whom I first met in Beijing and who now lives in Kunming. He used to be a party promoter, electronic music producer and DJ. This is the first time he’s taught a course on music production. The course has only just started but it’s coming along  nicely. I’m learning a lot. Every week we meet up at Liam’s place. When he moved here from Beijing, he found a large piece of farmland outside of the city. Together with some friends he’s renovated the old farm buildings and courtyards, built a large bar and kitchen, furnished some rooms, so that they can be rented out, and built his own studio to produce music in. They’ve named the place Spirit Tribe and they’re exploring different ways of making money. Parties are one option and they have the kitchen and the bar. And now there’s this course he’s teaching. It’s a really great place, with great people in a beautiful, peaceful valley surrounded by eucalyptus trees. It takes about an hour to get there but I look forward to it every week.
That’s all from me for this month. Thank you Käthi for your comment and the poem recommendation. Before I go, I want to congratulate my colleague Francesca on her 100th episode. You can find Francesca’s Italian podcast along with all our other podcasts on our website podclub.ch or by downloading our app. You can also download our vocabulary trainer and you can find us on Instagram using the hashtags #podclubowen and #oweninchina. Gerry will be back in two weeks but my next podcast won’t be until next year. It will go online on 20th January. Seeing as this is my last podcast of the year, I want to wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Thank you for listening and all the best to you all! Goodbye.
 coachload: a group of people travelling in a coach
 to stop off: to make a short stop
 to get to the bottom of sth.: to get an understanding of the causes of sth.
 it just so happens: it’s true although it may be surprising
 to hesitate: to pause before saying or doing sth.
 opposing team: the team you compete against
 physical shape: bodily fitness
 to require: to need
 for the time being: for the moment
 artificial turf: synthetic grass
 to make do: to manage
 to enrol: to become a student at a school or university
 to receive a scholarship: to get money to study at a particular school or university
 to foster: here: to encourage or promote
 campus: the grounds and buildings of a university
 to get hammered: here: to lose badly
 consolation: the comfort received after a loss or disappointment
 to get involved with sth.: here: to take part in sth.
 to run out of sth.: to no longer have sth.
 trombone: a large brass instrument
 to present itself: to occur and be available
 to come along: here: to make progress