America, Jiaxing, Zhoushan, Hong Kong and the stories that go with them.

Another long one coming up here, been way too long. I keep finding it harder and harder to sit down and write these things even though its basically my only way of keeping track of where I’ve been these past couple of months. Just seems like time is flying by and the only way to savor it is to enjoy it as much as possible, enough of the softy philosophy and on to the good stuff. Sorry about the scattered writing, pitiable grammar, and general lack of enthusiasm, I promise I will write something funny next time.

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I left China somewhere around the 17th of September as what I like to call the “Summer of Class” came to an end. The idea for the “Summer of Class” started with a couple five dollar bottles of white wine and just grew from there. I had figured at some point in my life I would like to know a little bit about wine or at least how to select it. The problem was that the quality of wine available in China has got to be on the low end, where the prices get jacked through the roof because Chinese people like to drink white wine with sprite and red wine with coke. The “Summer of Class” quickly faded into learning all about the cheapest of Chilean and Californian wines within a bike-ride of my house. Thus leading to one of the lease classy summers in a while, I still know nothing about wine, maybe I’ll try again in five years.

My flight back to America went through Tokyo, which I thought was going to be awesome. Turns out Tokyo seemed to be a lot like the rest of Asia. I admittedly was also ready to get out of Asia and was so excited when I was flying out of China that I could barely keep it together. Anyway I got through Tokyo airport and found my seat. As soon as I found that middle seat I realized I had forgotten to register and pick an isle seat. This is arguably one of the most crucial parts to an international flight, especially one of 14 hours length. I found my seat in between to unrelated elderly Japanese people, neither of which spoke English or Chinese.

After I took two melatonin the real fun started. If you’ve never taken melatonin I wouldn’t recommend it. When I took it it literally felt like a sleep vacuum just sucks you into a strange dream world. To put it gently, it makes your dreams strange. Unluckily before I fell asleep I had put on a movie, I think it was Prometheus, so my dreams were filled with strange aliens. Luckily about an hour into the flight, the 75 year old Japanese woman beside me decided that she needed to watch a movie. Her only issue was that she couldn’t read the English on the tv to direct herself to a movie dubbed into Japanese. This is when she helped me wake up with a couple strong nudges. As I sped back towards consciousness my head leaned forward and I jolted awake as I am known to do. This is when I looked at her pointing at the screen and saying “tiki tooka tooka boop boop”. Somewhere half-way between worlds I managed to mash enough buttons on the screen to get something in Japanese. She thanked me with a warm smile, the vacuum turned on again. Two hours later I woke up to the same arm jolt. Buttons mashed, vacuum on again. A couple hours later I awoke to some crinkling paper, this woman didn’t know how to ask for a blanket, so she had gathered all the newspapers and magazines around her and wrapped her legs in them. She woke me up every time her movie ended for the entire flight, probably about 6 times, the last three I was getting the hang of it and she probably saw Beauty and the Beast for at least 6 hours.

Landed in New York and went straight to Brooklyn to my Aunt Janice’s house. These are the times when things get interesting. At this point I had no phone and was pretty sure no one knew when I was actually getting there. I think I probably scared my cousins a little bit when I showed up on the doorstep but these things happen a lot when one travels as carelessly as I do. I think it makes it more interesting.

That weekend was the first of two weddings while I was home. Tarlton and Teale’s wedding on Long Island. Also got to get some serious bro time in. The wedding was super fun and it was awesome to see everybody, it had been way too long.

Made it back on Sunday and hung out in the city for a couple of days before I flew with my grandmother down to North Carolina. We had tons of fun on the plain as my grandmother rather enjoys messing with people’s heads. She also doesn’t like cheezits and tried to make me return a one dollar bag after she ate half of them.

Home was really good, got to hang out in the sun and surf for a week before my sisters wedding, which was also awesome. I would say my only regret was that I didn’t have more time to talk to everyone, it felt like the entire weekend I was just bouncing in an out of conversation with people I felt like I had to catch up on years of conversation with, guess it just goes that way sometimes.

I flew back to China a couple of days later, this time it was sitting in the middle seat between two large French Canadians, one of which had to get up every hour to walk around. My childhood car rides from North Carolina to New York and New Jersey trained me to be able to stay put for ten hours at a time without having to move. This is something I am now happy about, although during training I probably wasn’t smiling. I’ve literally gone entire 12 hour flights without getting up once, this woman was on the window seat and got up every hour. Her very full figure also demanded that me and the guy next to me get up to let her out every hour, and then wait for her to sit back down. I wasn’t really annoyed until the third hour when I saw her slugging beers in the back of the airplane. This is when I employed a hard stink-eye and then a couple hours of fake sleeping hours when she tried to get out. Insensitive…definitely, necessary…yes.

I made it back to Jiaxing in one piece and got back to work. The little Chinese children were somewhat disappointed that I hadn’t brought them iphone5’s but I think they got over it. We cooked some ribs the next week in the park, there are some pictures below.

The next weekend we spotted a Typhoon in the neighborhood and decided to head down to our surf spot thats a couple hours away by bus. We’ve been to this spot a couple of times and the last time I was there I almost drowned. The water comes out of the Qiantang River into the Hangzhou Bay and then down to this tiny island called Zhoushan. The problem is that the water is still so silt-laden that you don’t really float. It’s a strange feeling surfing in water that you just sink in. So the last time we were there I was shredding the gnar in some beastly typhoon waves and lost my board bro, then totally had to swim about 80 yards with 8-10 footers breakin on my skull. But yea, almost drowned that time.

This time the waves were better, it was well overhead and we were the only ones out all day, the only problem was that it was breaking far out so it was an exhausting paddle, and did I mention that you just sink when you fall, that was rough too. Pictures are below.

Annnndd about two weeks after that I got to go hang out in Hong Kong for a couple nights with my cousin and her friend. Hong Kong is really cool if you want to by things, Hong Kong is not real cool if your arm gets infected, your hand blows up, and you have to go to the hospital to get a big shot in your ass (they still do that in China) and a bunch of antibiotics. So yea long story short during a soccer game this guy broke his tooth off in my elbow and I went to the hospital where they gave me stitches over a bucket full of other peoples blood. Surprisingly enough it got infected but now its ok.

Anyway there are all sorts of pictures below, a very small amount of them have people in them, gotta work on subject matter.

And now I need to find a real job. Feel free to email me with any awesome ideas that run through your head.

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Little Horse, Beijing, Zhoushan- Should be three posts but I am lazy.

At the end of July I went to Beijing for three days to meet a guy about a potential job and see a factory. Turns out Beijing is pretty cool and the three days that I was there were the first in a month that it didn’t rain.

We left really early on a Thursday morning after missing the first train, (I need to stop purchasing tickets early, I am hovering around 50% success rate for making flights/trains this year). Luckily in China when you miss a train or a flight they will just put you on the next one usually without any hassle. Especially if you remember to bring your white face and pretend like you don’t understand the language that they are speaking.

I was accompanied on this trip by Little Horse (aka Lil Mama) who is a 25-year-old girl from Anhui ( one of the poorest provinces in China) she works in Jiaxing answering the phone at a restaurant. Little Horse speaks no English, reads and writes nothing but Chinese characters, claims that her favorite food is white rice, and is a hilarious enigma. In July, I would say Little Horse and I had had some kind of undefinable relationship for a couple of months. This is how it started.

I first met Little Horse at a club. She interested me for three reasons
a. because I was completely shit faced
2. because I couldn’t figure out why someone would go to such a loud and annoying place to eat peanuts at the bar and not talk to anyone
d. she was short,had black hair and small eyes (start laughing when you get that, stop laughing now, there is more coming.)

After our first meeting at the club, Little Horse put her name in my phone as just Horse, and I figured she was a hooker and decided that I would never call her. I am not kidding this literally happens all the time. I would say 95% of girls in clubs in China are at work, it is crazy, awesome, scary, and fun all at the same time. A couple of weeks later Little Horse called me and invited me to her birthday party! Sure enough it was at a KTV and I had forgotten what she looked like by then. When David and I got there I was just kind of looking around and she came up and found us. We sang songs with all of her Chinese friends and then eventually went home. Turns out Little Horse lived in the building next door to me. I lived in a studio apartment with myself, and she lived in a studio apartment with 4 other girls.

Over the next couple months Little Horse and I went on dates and ate food and went to the movies. It was awesome, she had no desire to learn English and I had no desire to teach her. The entire relationship was in Chinese except for hello and bye bye, the entirety of her English vocabulary. When I mean that Little Horse is from a village in Anhui, I am not kidding in the slightest. She literally grew up in a rice patty in the mountains somewhere. She can’t use a computer because she can’t type, doesn’t read the news because she doesn’t care and doesn’t exercise because she sees no need. She cooks good white rice though and is generally fun (directly and indirectly) to be around.

I once made soft tacos and didn’t explain to her how to wrap it just to see what she would do. She balled that shit up in her hand like a baseball and just ate it like a cave woman. These little experiments are super fun.

Fast forward to mid-June at 3 a.m. in the morning when I get a text from Little Horse, who has returned to her village for what she said was personal stuff. I was pretty tired when I looked at the text and all I saw was something about being a mother or a kid or some shit. My heart started racing as I saw my life slipping through my hands and me descending into some hell-hole of a rice patty. It was all over, the best April Fools joke I ever played had come back to bite me in the ass. Then I calmed down for a second, realized that it wasn’t possible and called Little Horse. I explained to her about the birds and the bees and how that happens and the reasons that I could not be a father, then I made here repeat over and over again that I was not going to be a father. The she started laughing. The conversation got more serious when she said she actually had to tell me something. (let your mind run willllllld andddd stop). Little Horse had a five-year old son who lived in her village with her mom. At first I just laughed and laughed because I was so happy that my life had been gifted back to me. Then she kept asking me why I was laughing and I told her and said I didn’t care that she had a kid as obviously I was never going to see it. She said she needed to tell me because I had invited her to Beijing and she felt like she was lying to me if she didn’t tell me. I laughed at this too.

A lot of times over here you just have to look at the situation you get put in and laugh at how crazy life is, then embrace it.

Take a minute to absorb all of that, it’s hilarious. Now here’s what went down in the north capital

When packing for this trip I brought a suitcase with tons of clothes and shit in it. When Little Horse showed up she had a tiny backpack and a purse. I asked her if she was going to climb the Great Wall in high heels and she said yes without even blinking.

We got put on the next train and made it to Beijing that afternoon. The fast train only makes four stops from Shanghai to Beijing and takes about 5 hours. It is considerably less trouble than dealing with the airport. My one regret is that there was no time for McDonald’s breakfast. McDonald’s breakfast is quite possibly one of the best meals one can eat in China. This summer I regularly found myself staying up all night just to get to McDonald’s breakfast. The advantages are two-fold. First, McDonald’s breakfast is cheap. Second, it’s healthy. A sausage egg and cheese meal with an orange juice pretty much covers all your food groups and you get all the calories you need so you don’t even have to eat for the rest of the day, win win. But enough about the advantages of McDonald’s breakfast, everyone knows it’s just a plan B for Burger King’s double croissan’wich, which is hands down the best breakfast (and indirectly lunch and dinner) an individual can consume. Alright I’m done, “that’s what she said. THERES NO TIME, but she did.” (MS season 4)

Made it to Beijing that afternoon and was delighted to meet Michael at the train station. We then went to this awesome hot-pot where we ate at least four different types of meat. Lamb, beef, some other lamb, some other meat. It was delicious and almost but me to sleep at the table. We then checked into our hotel, which was literally two blocks from the Forbidden City and two blocks from Wangfujin Street, which is the upscale night market.

The first night we walked around Wangfujin and saw all the awesome food. Scorpion on a stick looked tasty as well as all the other exotic bugs and what not. The ice cream was delicious. The thing about these Chinese night markets is that if you’ve seen one of them, you’ve seen all of them. All of the stuff is the same and bargaining is boring unless you are significantly tipsy.

I like to let people tell me a price using broken English or sign language, then smile at them until they drop it down 10-15% and then in a real dirty mainland Chinese accent say this as fast as I can,
“Do I look like a peasant? Every idiot knows that these crappy products will break in a week and that you paid X amount for them. I will buy it from you for next to nothing. You gonna sell it or what?”

The response I get to this always hilarious. Sometimes they start laughing and sell me what I want with no more bargaining involved (When this happens we have become friends and pats on the back ensue). Sometimes I am shoved to the side, sold what I want, and asked politely not to tell any foreigners how much I paid for it. Sometimes I get stared at with arms crossed and a stone cold expression on the vendors face. The latter usually happens with old women who are just absolutely pissed. When Frank was here buying dragon turtle trinkets a lady in the third response category called us thieves multiple times.

Little Horse is the best bargainer I’ve ever seen. Stone-cold expression, soul-piercing gaze, very few recognizable words. Bargaining Machine.

The next day I went to visit the factory and talk to the boss, Robin, in the morning. The factory was a lot cleaner and more organized than I had expected and the conversation with Robin was awesome. Ranged from coffee to business to Atlanta golf courses.

After the factory we were set to head to Tian’anmen and the Forbidden City. Crushed some KFC for lunch and got started. Tiananmen was huge and underwhelming. The Forbidden City was cool to think about, but pretty boring to see and tiring to walk through. The real gem there was getting through all of it to find some temple on a big hill that looked out over everything. I could have easily just gone there, looked down on Beijing for a couple of hours and called it a day. I think I was a little jaded because I’ve seen quite a few temples during my time here and the majority of them have been built in the last 30 years. The most breathtaking thing is not how old this stuff is, but how big it is. It’s definitely something to see in person as words don’t really do it justice, it would be like saying the shortcut at Peach Beach isn’t that important (jumping through a waterfall into a cave and blasting an E turn coming out the other side is hands down coolest thing you can do on an N64).

Not surprisingly, Little Horse doesn’t like to walk and thought that there were too many people. I also had to explain to her the history of everything because she doesn’t know shit about China.

That night we went to meet my friend Folkwin over near the embassies to get some barbecue. Having a nice pulled pork sandwich, fried pickles, beans, and other awesome food made me feel like home. Little Horse was confused about why I was so happy and disappointed that there was no rice.

The next morning we woke up and got to the Great Wall around 7. It was gorgeous and there was no one around. Little Horse had bought some kind of mountain climbing shoes the day before, she looked like a complete ass hole. We walked around for a couple of hours until it got foggy and crowded and then went down. The way down was the coolest part. It was like a zoo. We saw a camel, a horse, a peacock, and three separate bear pits. The bear pits were my favorite. The bears were hilariously fat and you paid three yuan to throw a plate of fruit at them which they caught in their mouths while still in reclined positions. These bears were absolute nihilists.

That night we got pizza with Folkwin and went to a couple of bars, it was like being in a country that wasn’t China. Literally the most non-Chinese people I’ve seen in one place in China ever. Speaking English, not dressed like ass holes, doing normal things. It seemed so surreal.

The next day we came back to Jiaxing. Little Horse binge ate some rice and I was a little sad that Jiaxing has no good western food.

A couple of weeks later Little Horse moved away, trotted on down the ol’ dusty trail.

Pictures below were taken with a disposable camera that I bought in Beijing, I didn’t even know disposable cameras still existed. Super artsy.

Oh yea, and me and David finally got some good waves in Zhou shan and didn’t even get sick from sea food and go to the hospital.

and we were on the news.

little horse

watching Euro 2012, little horse doesnt the rules

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Night Moves, and Taiwan

The summer here is hot. The nights are long and fun. The days are a mix between outside frying and inside cooling.

At the beginning of July we took a trip to Taiwan. I don’t have a camera right now, so David took all of these.

Here are the pictures

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“Kenny de baba, a man among boys” or “how to party at karaoke”

Well those back to back posts didn’t turn out quite how I wanted. Seems to be getting harder to write blog posts now that I don’t have a camera (lost to water damage in the Caribbean) and David has been travelling (Indonesia, Southern China, then USA, then back). Luckily, I have some stories saved up from nights out and I’ve wanted to tell one of my favorites for a while.

One strange night I found myself in the club with a bunch of other non-Chinese beings. Like usual I found myself all alone at a table full of Chinese people chopping it up, dancing around, giving lessons on how to party. The next morning I found a text from one of the guys letting me know that I had called him around 3am to inform him that I was lost and looking for the closest McDonalds. I apologized and erased the call from my records and my memory (the two are interdependent, so if one doesn’t have a record neither does the other). This does wonders for fighting fear.

The next week I walked down from my class and saw David talking to one of the parents. The man was explaining to David how he had partied at the club with me and wanted to party with all of us. He was extending an invitation to rage. This man is a typical Chinese man, slightly taller than normal, skinny and employing glasses. We explained to him that we only had Monday and Tuesday off and that our schedule was not very conducive to raging with people who hold a 9-5. He explained that he was willing to take us out on a Monday night and we arranged a date for the next week.

At this point we only knew this guy as “Kenny’s de baba” you can guess what that means (Kenny’s father). Kenny is a cute little kid who is pretty smart and love’s to mess around as most of our students do. Kenny is maybe 7 years old so we figure his dad is probably around 30, this is standard for China.

So the previous post was the story of a Sunday night, and the following is the story of the Monday night after, sometime in mid February when it had been raining for a month straight and we had been pressuring our livers more than bi-weekly at best.

I woke up around 3pm that specific Monday and rumbled my way down the stairs to get some food at Dirty (fried noodles or rice, chicken leg, egg, $1.50) I ate and immediately returned to my lair, called David to see if he was up. At this point David was not awake,the sleep demons were hard at work and when he did respond it was to tell me that we was too sick to work tonight. At this point we were referring to partying as work because our work wasn’t really work and partying had become our most daunting task.

David and John both rallied and Kenny’s de baba came to pick us up. At this point the three of us probably looked like the gnarliest trio of adolescent males that had ever walked the streets of ole Jiaxing. We got in the car to be greeted by Kenny de baba, Kenny, and one of his co-workers. Kenny was being a spoiled little punk while his dad was showing us a bottle of 12 year aged Chivas that he said was for us, and was to be finished by the time we were done eating dinner. I hadn’t been hazed like this in a long time and was hoping that maybe a shot or two would help me shake off the cobwebs from the eel night.

He took us to a Sichuan restaurant that we had been to before, but not quite in the same fashion. We started off in a big dining room and Kenny’s de baba was immediately displeased and we moved to a private room, with a private staff who was only serving us. At this point my head was reeling from the night before and it was taking all of my concentration to listen and converse with our Chinese pledge masters, who spoke just next to no English. Soon after we got settled, Kenny de baba’s girlfriend (yes), showed up to eat with us. She also brought along another girl for Kenny de baba’s co-worker to enjoy for the evening.

So here we are sitting and eating with Kenny, Kenny de baba, the friend, the girlfriend, and the friend’s employed girl for the evening. As we started taking shots of this 12-year-old Chivas I thought to myself how strange this would be anywhere else in the world. Taking your kids teachers out with your mistress, your co-worker, and a hooker who your girlfriend brought. It was an interesting thing to get used to, but it’s so commonplace for a baller to have a family and a couple of girls on the side that I let it go without any long-standing inhibitions.

About halfway to drunk, and halfway through dinner we started guessing each other’s ages. Again this was all in Chinese, and it was hilarious. They all thought I was the oldest by a couple of years, they thought David and John were both pretty young. Then we guessed their ages. The friend we got pretty easily, he was obviously in his late twenties and we locked down 28 pretty early on. Next came the girlfriend/mistress. She looked like an uptight and needy thing, so I went with the flattery angle and threw out a 24, she smiled and said I was close. (this chick was obviously bordering 30). David attempted to follow by saying 26, but fumbled his Chinese and hit more around 42. The response was the meanest eye I have ever seen over here, and it put David in the negatives for the rest of the night. John declined to answer after the David fiasco and kept himself above water. We guessed and guessed at Kenny de ba ba’s age but none could get close, until he dropped that he was 38. I was in the late twenties to early thirties max judging by the way this guy was partying.

Shortly after we finished the bottle I found myself getting lectured completely in Chinese on the differences between western and eastern culture according to the five thousand plus history of China and the teachings of Confucius. I was doing my best to nod and relate that I understood the drunken ramblings of five thousand years of history compared to our short American history and also understand the hate that Chinese held towards Japanese from Nanjing. About forty-five minutes into this drunken lecture I ducked out to go to the bathroom, almost pulled a Tootles (lost my marbles), and struggled back in to find the conversation at a standstill. We then all stumbled down the stairs to go to KTV.

We got to this building that looked like a 10 story hotel, the outside was lit up with lights of a golden hue and there was some sort of gaudy statue in the front. We walked in to find the most beautiful trashy decorations that I may have witnessed so far in my white trash filled life, which is not saying a little. The first floor had rooms all around and in the center was a white piano centered on a lily pad shaped island in a pool. It looked truly amazing. Like Carl Weathers should be playing “We’ve only just begun” dressed in a white suit caressing this thing.

We were led by the girlfriend (who happens to work as a girl manager at this KTV) up to our first room. This room turned out to be unsuitable because there was not enough couch space, so we changed to a bigger room. The bigger room had 20 foot ceilings, a flat screen bigger than me, two coffee tables about 8 feet by 8 feet each surrounded on three sides by elegant leather couches that would seat up to 30 if I was to venture a guess. There was a case of Corona and some limes waiting on the table. Kenny de baba picked up a beer, said what translates to “high-class” to me, cheers me and housed his beer.

About five minutes later we were sitting on the couch, just drinking and chatting when the line-up came in. If you’ve never heard about the line-up I hope you use the following as a loose basis for what goes down in these things. No less than 20 girls walk in a line all dressed in the same pink Cinderella dress. They all smile at you and try to get your attention because you picking them means they make a paycheck that night. Keep in mind that these are KTV girls and not hookers. These are just party girls. I asked the girlfriend which of these girls had the best singing voice and she said number one. A solid 4’10” mousey looking Chinese girl who was extremely surprised when I asked her if she liked beer in Chinese. So I picked number one and thus confused the shit out of David, who was already confused with the number system as it was. David kind of looked around blankly and said number 3. From under a bridge somewhere came this trogdor of a thing and David immediately started screaming “no no no, I meant number 4”. The trog sauntered back into line and this gorgeous looking girl walked over, snatched a Corona, and lit up a cigarette, she was all business. John looked at his phone, texted his girlfriend, and then more or less closed his eyes and pointed.

It’s hard to explain the amount of songs sang, high fives given, and outrageous dancing that took place over those next 4 hours, but we partied through four or five cases of beer and some complementary spirits from the girlfriend. Kenny de baba was a huge fan of Chinese classics and was belting them out all over the place. We also destroyed half of the Lady Gaga cd, some elvis, and some Michael Jackson, whom the Chinese are HUGE fans of. I think my favorite song that I sang was David and my rendition of Footloose. When you’ve got two shirtless (yes, the shirts came off after beer 5 or 6) Americans up on two coffee tables, each one microphone in hand belting out at full volume

“I’ve got this feeling
That time’s just holding me down
I’ll hit the ceiling or else I’ll tear up this town
Tonight I gotta cut

Loose, footloose kick off your Sunday shoes
Please, Louise pull me off a my knees
Jack, get back c’mon before we crack
Lose your blues everybody cut footloose
ewa ewa eva eva eva reee body cut everbody cut everbody cut footloose”

to a room full of people who understand zero words you can’t help but just smile and enjoy the situation. The air guitar and air drums got no rest the entire night. I’m pretty sure Kenny Loggins rolls right through language barriers because it was a huge hit.

That was a big thing I got out of partying with Kenny de baba. Things are going to get crazy, they are going to be incredibly strange and unlike anything you’ve ever done. The key is to just smile and enjoy the ride.

At the end of the night, dude signed the bill shirtless and then whipped out a big rock to give to his girlfriend because it was Valentine’s Day. We obviously had no idea, but they seemed happy about it. We said goodbye to our “dates”.

We got in a cab headed home around 1, we said goodbye to Kenny de baba and thanked him a hundred times for showing us how to really party at karaoke in China (although we could never afford to do this). He explained that he had an awesome time as well and we’ve since partied with the man, the legend, on multiple occasions.

Some people might say that he showed me “that the human spirit is still alive”. Bonus points if you nail that last quote.

Stay tuned for more from my travels within the Empire, headed to Qingdao next week.

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Tall tales with short people.

Lately I’ve been really wanting to sit down and tell the story of one weekend a couple of months ago that changed my life. I think it probably changed David’s life a little more than mine but nevertheless the memories of these two nights and one legendary bro got me at least through the winter.

Over here Monday’s and Tuesday’s are our weekends. Its strange but it works out so that Saturday and Sunday we teach the majority of our classes because that is when the kids are out of school the longest. Usually this means that Sunday and Monday nights are reserved for the foreigner teaching contingent to hit the bars and reek havoc upon this fair(ly dirty) city that we refer to as our temporary home.

We started off the night by going to a friends birthday party at a Korean restaurant that has Sapporro on tap for about 2 bucks a pint. The food and the beer are both delicious and refreshing and we usually go there on calm nights to just chill out. This night that was not the case. We walked in and saw about fifteen of our friends and acquaintances filling the booths. We had gotten off work a little late and made no real rush to get there. The beers were poured and the drinks were drank. Then the Soju began to flow. If you have not yet tasted the sweet nectar that is the pinnacle of Korean liquid production I would highly suggest it. Wikipedia describes it’s taste as “comparable to vodka, though often slightly sweeter due to sugars added in the manufacturing process. It is usually consumed neat.” After a few bottles were turned upside down and motor functions began to deteriorate orange juice was added and the named of the drink immediately changed to Sudoku because its easier to remember.

Drinks were drunk, drunks drank drinks, and the majority of the party went drink drank drunk. Then came the fun. Our first target of fun was a tank full of eels in the restaurant. I coerced David into agreeing to grab an eel out of the tank and hold it for a couple of seconds while I filmed. No one was sure whether these eels were electric, poisonous, or even had teeth. I would guess the logic is that if these people are killing them and eating them on the daily then it would be no problem for David’s mitts to grip one up and hold the 3 foot long aquatic serpent for a photo or three. We decided to go with a video. Pre-first attempt David was able to hypothesize that the eels would be slippery. On his second third and fourth attempts his hypothesis was indeed validated. Then it got serious. After you read this description below go ahead and close your eyes and picture the scene. This is what I imagine to be going through the restaurant owner’s mind.

You are a very very nice Korean woman and you own a very nice restaurant that you and your family run. The restaurant is one big room with the kitchen on the right, the tap next to the kitchen, and the eel tank in the corner. As you walk in there are two small booths to the left with bigger booths running along the middle to one small booth on at the far corner. You speak both Korean and Chinese but you don’t know a single word of English. For about a year these foreigners have come in about once a week and eaten. They drink beers but never seem to get too drunk. On a particularly slow Sunday night fifteen foreigners role in and start guzzling your booze like Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo. You can tell that these people have no regard for regulations, tolerances or safety. The only thing they have on their mind is riding a flying carpet fueled by alcohol to their next destination and guess what? You are their fueling station of choice for the evening

After they have filled up their tanks and paid the bill, these Mongols want one last hurrah before they mount their carpets and show themselves the world, shining shimmering gleaming. The two that you know, the two that visit your establishment at least once a week don’t look quite right this night. They aren’t as drunk as you’ve seen them before but there is a twinkle of mischief in their eyes. Then you see them line up beside the eel tank and you don’t know what’s quite going to happen. The one in the hat with the number 49 on it is over the eel tank and all of the males in the place have gathered around him doing some kind of strange chant that you have no chance of understanding. Then he does it, he grabs one of your eels. The other regular has a machine that he is using to see the one with the hat on lift your eel out of the tank, laughing the entire time. At this point you’re thinking to yourself, is he going to fucking eat this eel? Then you see that the one in the hat is just as scared as you are, and then he does it, he drops your mother fucking eel on the floor, your eel is squirming around on the floor and dying and this bro is looking at his hands like its the first time he has ever seen them. After the eel has about had it, this bro manages to pull it together enough to mitt this eel back into your tank while the rest of the aliens scream and holler and laugh. You are both dumbfounded and amazed at the stupidity of the entire herd and just stare in amazement as they say “thank you” and walk out the door.

From there we decided to hit the club. This particular club is an underground club called 88 bar that is huge and plays music loud enough to the point to make conversation futile. All communication is through the clinking of glasses and rolling of dice. There is a long runway and a stage for dancing right in the middle of the place and on this particular night it was pretty lively. At these places, it usually takes about 15 minutes for a local to come up and cheers and/or challenge you to a chugging contest. David and I usually end up fanned out and somehow manage to end up at 7 or 8 tables throughout the night as the locals drag us from table to table like they are passing around trophies.

I was drinking at a table with a Chinese couple who was astonished at my seconds per beer ratio when before I knew it my shirt was off, and David was screaming some incoherent nonsense at me and pointing to the stage. They had a guy dressed in boxing gear on stage and were getting him to fight drunk guys. Every time a Chinese guy would lumber up the catwalk the guy would dodge a punch and push the dazed fighter back into the crowd. As I found myself bareback lumbering up the catwalk I saw the eyes of the club promoter grow to as big as his strict Epicanthic fold would allow. Before I stumbled into the fighter the clubs security guards kindly told me that I was not allowed to go up there and that I was more than welcome to dance on the side. A couple of seconds later the fighter retired and the dancing began.

Dancing at these clubs for me strictly resembles a court party. There is techno going on, its dark and the strobe lights are going. Except in China it is about 75% dudes. This often ends up with me and/or David in the middle of a ring of Chinese dudes showing them how to drive the big rig, turn on the sprinkler, or shadow box. All of these dance moves happen more frequently here than in the 80′s.

I never found my shirt that night, and my bike ride to Mcdonald’s and home was slow and steady. I did find my jacket however and realized the next day that one of the Chinese people I was partying with lent me their shirt, only that it was about 4 sizes too small and I had already burst through all the seams by the time I got home.

The next story is much much much better than this one, so I’ll leave it for tomorrow morning when I can transcribe my notes and memories much more accurately.

Until then, Party on Garth

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It’s been too long since I’ve written anything. I wish I could say it is because I am lazy or that I’ve been too busy, but I can’t. Haven’t been up to much in the past eight weeks or so. It rained every day in February and it was still cold through March but the weather has finally turned.

I took two trips recently, one to Hangzhou to walk around South Lake, one of the most famous places in China and a NY Times top 30 travel spots to see this year. Our reasons were going there were two-fold. The first is that David has lived here for a year and not been. The second is that it’s only a half an hour away by train. We got there and walked around for a little while. Then we decided to take a romantic boat tour across the lake. Then we hiked up to a Buddhist temple and through a path in the hills to another temple and a cave, which was nice. We also ate Burger King twice in one day, which was even nicer. Pictures are below

The second trip was to a little town called Xitang (“she tong”). We had been hearing about this place for over a year. Everyone was saying oh go here it’s beautiful and classic and amazing and all that nonsense. We knew that it was only a half an hour away but had always been reluctant to go because it is kind of a pain to go to the bus station, get tickets, wait for a little while, all for a half an hour bus ride. Then we figured out you can just take a taxi and its like 15 bucks. We got there and walked around for a while. It is kind of like a tiny little Venice. Everything is built on these canals and it seemed to be pretty authentic, which is hard to find. We sat at a roof top cafe and drank some overpriced tea, had some crappy noodles and just relaxed. David took some good pictures and we saw a gigantic turtle riding around on a boat with an old guy picking up trash in the water. Other than that nothing too exciting.

Pictures are below.

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Rain, rain, rain and Guangzhou

This post is not witty or interesting at all. The style of my writing directly reflects the amount of enthusiasm and fun I had on my latest vacation. If you feel like it, just skip straight to the pictures, they are by far the best part of this one.

It has rained in China at least once every day since I got back. But talking about the weather gets boring so after about the first week I just stopped paying attention to the fact that it was raining and cold and just kept on with my normal January schedule over here. This schedule includes staying inside because it is below freezing outside and staying close to a space heater as possible. Also includes studying a lot and reading literally everything I can find on the internet.

Chinese New Year was last week and we had a total of twelve days off. We booked out flights to Guangzhou to see our friend Gabe on Wednesday and left on flew out on Friday.

Thursday night was our last day of work and we had a big work dinner for New Years that night. Naturally, Thursday morning we decided we should purchase a two liter bottle of spirits and head to go bowling all day before this dinner. Dinner was a little sloppy and the Karaoke party afterwards was even worse. Friday morning I woke up on David’s couch and rode my bike home to hop in the shower and pack my things for a week in what we thought would be sunny and relatively warm Guangzhou. I got out of the shower at 11:40 and looked at my phone. At 11:30 I received three new messages. All from David, explaining in succession that he had looked at the bus tickets and the bus left at 11:30 instead of 12:30. In the Year of the Rabbit I missed 3 flights and I was determined not to start the Year of the Dragon off wrong. I hopped into a cab and started bargaining to get to the airport. I eventually bargained the guy down to a very reasonable price, about 40 bucks to drive me to the airport which is an hour and fifteen minutes away.

I made it to the airport with time to spare and we made out flights. Guangzhou turned out to be close to freezing and raining, which sucked.

Gabe is married and has two daughters. We got to his house and he showed us where we were staying and were immediately mauled by the four year old Sonya and the two year old Maria. The first day they were incredibly cute. So we got there ate dinner, had a few beers, immediately realized that Gabe’s wife hated us and wanted us to leave, and went to bed.

Day 2 we awoke and prepared for our venture into the city. We went and had Mexican food, then Gabe’s wife Sofia, who his a native, immediately stretched out and slept in on a bench in the restaurant while we played a couple of games of pool and hatched our next plan. We went and got the car, picked up his sleeping wife, and went to this park where you can rent paddle boats. We grabbed some fuel for our legs and got on the boat, paddled around in a big circle for an hour, then went to the bar. After a couple hours at the bar we went home.

On day 3 we went to this little town called Gaoming (Tall Clear) to visit Gabe’s dad and climb this mountain where Gabe told us you could swim in this little fresh water pool. He warned us that this would be cold as it was a summer activity and it was freezing and raining outside. At this point the freezing temperature and the rain was a better option than going phone shopping with Gabe’s wife and the two once cute children who were quickly turning into devils.

We dropped the girls off at the mall with Gabe’s dad and headed to the mountain to start our hike. We made it up to the smaller pool first and decided we would go check out the water fall at the top. At the water fall we decided we would go back down to the other pool because you could jump off something high into it and the pool was deeper. We walked back down and got ready. It was so cold outside it got to the point where you just dont care. Gabe jumped in first and screamed about how cold it was. I figured he was just being a baby but when I hit the water I hit a pitch that I have never hit before. The water couldnt have been above 50 and the air outside was probably mid 30’s to 40. It was extremely refreshing and the water was so clean and clear. You wouldnt imagine that if you drove an hour from this place you would hit one of the most densely populated places on earth.

We went to dinner at a little farmers restaurant near by and then to a house that Gabe and his dad rent out there where Gabe’s does some artwork. After that we went back and went to bed.

Day 4 we spent at the bar watching NFL games, another welcomed release from ankle biters and scowling women.

Day 5 went to dinner with Gabe’s cousin.

Day 6 went to Guangzhou, walked in a loop to see all the closed stores and then went to the airport.

I wish I could explain in more detail how bad this trip was but it really wouldn’t do it any justice. I did, however, gain some valuable knowledge for myself at this point in my life.

1. Don’t get married any time soon

2. Don’t have kids any time soon

3. Better to over-pack than under-pack.

Thanks to David for taking all the pictures.

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