The Card Game
The 2009 China International Silk Forum was held in a swanky hotel in Hangzhou. The first night I was kept awake by the traffic so I changed rooms to the back of the hotel. The rest of the time I couldn't sleep because of the activities of the insomniacs above me. Their conversation started at about midnight and was accompanied by thuds - like the sound of a shoe being thrown to the floor.
I tried to drown the sound with my ipod and then two different sorts of ear plugs but it was no good. The sound of their voices would fade and I would begin to doze - only to be woken by another loud thud of something hitting my ceiling. At 4am I phoned the manageress and we listened together in the darkness.
"I think it's two old men." She said as the voices mumbled above us.
They obligingly threw down 'a shoe'.
'Sometimes louder. I keep wondering what they're doing."
We laughed and then, after apologising for the disturbance, she left.
A few minutes later I heard the phone above me ring. There was another thud - louder than the rest - and then, at last, quiet.
Later, in a park in Chongqing, I noticed little groups of people playing cards - cards that were periodically thrown down with an exclamation. Given that Hangzhou is a place where people from Shanghai come for a rest, I believe these two men (and often others in the nights that followed) played cards all night and spent at least part of the day sleeping - and it was my misfortune to have a room beneath them.
So I spent my first few days in China in that strange over-awake state that comes from exhaustion...but this meant that when I did sleep (in Shanghai) I found that I fell into the Chinese day very well, and despite this was ready for the first day of the China International Silk Forum which began at 9am on Monday.