Tales from China (davesecretary)
This won’t be whimsical stories of yore; this is just stuff that is happening.
So there’s this dude, we’ll call him ‘Fan’, whose birthday was last night. He invited me & LJ out for this a few weeks ago, as well as the other two white dudes in this city (who we are friends with). Anyway since the other two white dudes in this city are heading home for the holidays, our mutual friends decided to throw a last minute party for them.
So anyway this puts us white people in a bit of an awkward position… We’re at another dinner with our friends while Fan is expecting us to be at his dinner. By the way, nobody really likes Fan. I’m pretty sure he only likes us because we’re white and he wants to show off that he’s got foreign friends. At basketball yesterday he was kind of being a jerk to me and trying to force me to talk to these random girls. Regardless, my position on the whole thing was that since it was his birthday we’d let him have his big day and let him show us off to his friends… but now we’re at another party.
So anyway we get really drunk on Baijio (which is this disgusting fermented rice wine, it’s about 55% alcohol and is just terrible) and everyone’s getting loud and noisy and we keep text messaging Fan telling him we’ll be late for his party etc, etc and then, miraculously, a lot of beer shows up. Last night was the first night that I actually felt like drinking since I’ve been here, and now there’s beer, so I just assume fate wants to take the wheel and I go all out.
In China the rule is that when someone cheers you (which is plenty and often) you need to drink the same amount that the other person does. And while our friends at this dinner can probably school me with Baijio, there are certain things you should never do, one of them being trying to out-drink a Canadian when there is beer present.
I’m already pretty drunk so I start with the biggest guy there and basically I get him so drunk that he falls down an entire flight of stairs. Then when I chug another quart of beer and this other dude can’t do it, his friends hold him down, pry his mouth open, and nearly drown him. It was actually kind of scary. The night’s going pleasantly enough. Our friends make a big speech while I’m in the bathroom about how nobody likes Fan.
Anyway pretty soon people switch to orange juice, which is a sign that we’re all ready to go. We assume we’ll be able to go to Fan’s party pretty soon. We leave the hotel and then suddenly our friends decide to come. I’m a bit wary, but way too drunk to speak sentences. We get our driver to pull around front with the van and all pile in, and we’re off to the next party.
We get there and there’s Fan and like 20 of his gangly little friends. They all look about 19 years old (Fan’s 20).. tiny little kids.. all of our friends are in their late 30s or 40s, so they’re pretty much grown up. There’s this giant beautiful birthday cake in the middle of the table. Fan looks really happy. We grab all the beer available and sit down and then one of our friends basically just reaches into the middle of the table, picks up the cake, and basically just fucking smashes it into Fan’s face in front of all his friends! And then we all basically just get up and leave with all his beer! I felt kind of bad.
Then we all drive to KTV, which is Chinese karaoke. We rent out a room and I don’t remember very much of it because I was drunk. I remember screaming out a song at the top of my lungs and singing like there was no tomorrow. I vaguely remember getting lost in the kitchen, and I remember the beer was ridiculously expensive.. Technically I guess 12 quarts at that KTV was probably about $22US, but to give you an idea it was like paying $150US for a case of beer, comparatively speaking.
After someone found me in the kitchen of that building I think it was time to go, a bunch of people drove me home, I tried to say ‘I WANT TO TAKE YOU ALL OUT TO DINNER NEXT WEEK’ but apparently what I shouted out in the street was ‘I WANT TO TAKE YOU TO DINNER – I HAVE NO MONEY’ (according to our translator), and everyone outside burst out laughing and then I had to be escorted up the four flights of stairs to our apartment by like 5 guys.
I blacked out pretty quickly afterwards but this morning when I woke up I blew my nose and a ton of food came out, like noodles and mushrooms and shit which is just disgusting, and since that means I puked after blacking out I had to go find out exactly where in the apartment I threw up and fortunately it was on the floor. I now feel ill and went outside and bought a bunch of these wrap things that this dude makes and bought some water and I think I have a lunch to go to in 2 hours.
Swedes are fucking weird, man.
We were at this hostel in Nanjing (old capital) not that long ago after spending a harrowing few hours trying to buy shit and not get ripped off. I was trying to buy one of those big paintings that are like 6′ long and roll up into a scroll and had talked the woman down from $300 to $8 (which gives you an idea of how much they inflate prices) but then she wouldn’t let me leave the store without shoving every single item she possessed in front of my face.
Anyway we get back and I sink into a big armchair and start watching ‘Night at the Museum’ of all fucking things and I’m trying to figure out why that Egyptian tablet gives Dick Van Dyke superpowers but not Ben Stiller when this dude from Sweden plunks himself down on the couch and asks if we’re from the US. We all frown and he laughs and tells his friend that if you call someone an American and he gets really mad, then he’s a Canadian. THEN he starts talking about how much he likes this movie and how there’s ‘subtle humor’ in it or something else equally dumbfounding. I’m nodding off and watching this movie is bad enough, let alone listening to someone ramble on and on about how great it is.
Anyway to change the subject I ask him if he knows of any really good bands in Sweden. He furrows his brow and thinks for a bit and says some band I never heard of. And then he says ‘But wait – there’s one more.. there’s another really good band… oh wait.. I can’t think of it… I can’t think of it… oh I can’t think of it…’ and this shit goes on for like 25 minutes!!!! Then he gets up, walks into the next room, sits down at the bar, puts his head in his hands and starts muttering ‘What is the name?’ to himself!! and like every 15 minutes he’d lift up his head and give me a hopeless look and say ‘I cannot remember the name!’ and I told him it was cool don’t worry like four times! He was still there when I fucking left!! He was still muttering to himself and looking positively ashamed of his inability to remember this band’s name! What the fuck!
Oh and after lunch today I was told that apparently in addition to being strong-armed up to my apartment by 5 guys, they also had to strong-arm me back down because apparently I was too drunk to remember where I live, so they had to go get my friend to come with them to get me home. And then apparently I called said friend like 10 minutes after I was safely in my apartment and just mumbled incoherently for a while?! I don’t remember any of this. I just hope I didn’t drink any tap water or anything, that shit will kill you.
So outside of Shanghai/Hong Kong/Beijing you aren’t likely to find any good music in China whatsoever.
In every other city you will hear the same 12 Chinese pop songs played over and over and over in every single store, and then if you’re really lucky you might hear a Backstreet Boys song. This is really about it as far as music is concerned in China.
Several weeks ago some friends and I were sitting in an upstairs room at a restaurant (i.e. someone’s house) waiting for the lady in charge to bring us boiled flower roots and god knows what else. Anyway we’re hanging out and talking when suddenly this like 90 year old man and this 3 year old kid slowly walk across the doorway, head into an adjacent room, and close the door. Then like 5 minutes later Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ starts floating out from the room.
Also every single street vendor here lucky enough to have a cart (picture one of those big ice cream carts you sometimes see back home) has the same poster on the front of it. It’s some girl in a yellow t-shirt eating a popsicle or pogo or something, and her t-shirt says ‘Abercrombie and Fitch’ on it, only it actually says ‘Abercrombie and Titch’ and the word ‘Titch’ is pretty much right on her breast.
Maybe two weeks ago my girlfriend and I were drinking in our alley when these old gross guys next to us started talking to us in Chinese. Not feeling it, we said ‘Ting boo dong’ which is Mandarin for ‘I can’t understand you by listening’ and then these other dudes our age start giggling. So Laura yells out ‘WHAT’S SO FUCKING FUNNY, CAN YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?!?!’ And then one of the dudes turns to us and starts talking reasonably decent English! It ruled. Now he’s a friend of ours.
Sicker part of the story, later on that night when we’re all hanging out, Lei’s sister (not really his sister, they just can’t have more than one kid here) shows us and she’s hammered and then one of the old gross guys turns to me and gives me this big black-gummed grin and gives me two thumbs up.. then he points to the girl and starts smacking his thumbs together.. and because I am a retard I gave him a quizzical look and did the same thumb-smacking motion and then Lei looks at me sternly and says ‘THERE WILL BE NO LOVE HERE WITH HER.’
I realized today that China is so polluted that I can stare directly at the sun on any given day and not hurt my eyes.
How’s that for air quality.
China’s got the best bb guns I’ve seen. There aren’t any laws or activist groups all up in arms (no pun intended) over the production of toy guns, so people really put their heart into making a fake gun that’s as real looking as it can possibly be. Plus they’re so cheap!! you can get a sweet heavy bb gun, a couple hundred bb’s, a scope with a laser beam on it that’s triggered by this glove you can wear, a solid magazine clip that’ll hold about 30 rounds, and usually some other extras all for about $1.50cdn (or like $6 US or whatever the rate’s at right now).
We live across from this school and our friends have keys to it and our main project for January is to go inside and play with these guns in the dark. 6 slippery floors of pure fun!
People here don’t brush their teeth – they believe that drinking tea will keep your mouth clean, despite the fact that most people are lacking incisors and have black gums.
If you get sick here and they can’t figure out what’s wrong the doctors here will usually attribute it to drinking cold water before going to bed. It’s kind of like the Chinese equivalent of our ‘died of natural causes.’ In some places they’ve even got what they call ‘fan death’ – if someone turns up dead in his bed one morning, and he was presumably healthy the night before, they’ll print up that he/she must have left the fan on overnight and succumbed to ‘fan death.’
Drinking cold water here is like the ultimate sin. If you get sick and tell someone you drank cold water they’ll pretty much just laugh in your face and ask what you expected to happen. Even in the middle of summer, when it’s 40 Celsius outside, people will be mixing their cold water with some hot water to keep it lukewarm.
When a store opens here, all hell breaks loose. No matter how small the store is, the opening ceremony usually involves the following: some 30 dudes dressed entirely in orange banging away at drums and cymbals. Maybe 500-1000 pounds of firecrackers – enough to litter blocks and blocks and blocks with the red paper its wrapped in, and preferably leave a big thick column of smoke that can be seen from far away. Also in many cases there will also be a dozen or so actual cannons firing off, so that all the nearby cars, scooters and tuk-tuks all have their alarms set off. Because China is packed full of people, the alley opposite the store (there’s always an alley opposite anything here), which will be full of people selling street food, will suddenly produce these enormous beach umbrellas that are bright red and blue and green and yellow, and they will angle them between themselves and the fireworks. This flimsy barricade prevents them from being rained down on by colored paper streamers and ashes and cannon fire and god knows what else.
Everyone and their mother owns a store, so generally this din I just described can be heard anywhere from 2-4 times daily.
Spring festival is in February, and I’ve heard so many fireworks go off it’s downright dangerous to go outside. Our friends were telling us that for a week straight they only went out to get food (and whenever else it was absolutely necessary) and that if they even opened a window (and they were on the 4th floor) a blazing firework or giant roman candle or something was sure to make its way in somehow every 20 minutes or so.
So ‘Lawei’ is sort of the racial slur used against white people here in China. ‘La’ means ‘old’ and ‘Wei’ means foreigner. ‘Old’ is supposed to only be used in reference to wise people etc, so calling a foreigner ‘old’ is kind of a sarcastic remark that’s sort of crossed over into the slur category. It’s not as bad as ‘nigger’ or anything like that, but is probably about as bad as someone from the USA seeing a Chinese dude walk into a Wal-Mart and saying ‘We don’t get many of your kind here.’ Nothing terrible, but still has some racial connotations I guess, and certainly not very PC.
Anyway I hear people say this probably once or twice a day.. most of the time I don’t care, sometimes I’ll just turn on whoever said it and stare him/her down, whatever. If I’m drunk I’ll start yelling, but I haven’t gotten into a physical confrontation over it yet. I’m not too bothered by it. However, some people who have been here for a year+ have some good stories of times they’re just fed up with the whole goddamned country and that one ‘la wei’ pushes them too far.
One of our friends from the States kicked three middle-aged men in the balls, one after the other, over one of these incidents. but the best one was told to me by a friend, apparently his friend (yeah I know, it’s one of those stories!) was about to cross the street here when some random dude on his motorcycle decided to drive forward a few feet (he had the red light), putting himself in between my friend’s friend and his destination. He then turned and said ‘Lawei’ with a big grin. Without skipping a beat, my friend’s friend kicked the motorcycle and Chinese person over into the street, and then walked on top of him and over him while everyone stared.
So I just got back from Suzhou, the ‘Venice of the Orient’. It was pretty much exactly like every other Chinese city except with a few more rivers. There are some water towns outside the city but we decided it was too cold to get into a goddamned gondola and get pushed around the rivers, so we might come back in the summer for that.
There’s a pagoda up on Tiger Hill that actually looks pretty old. Like 99% of all the ruins and relics and stuff were destroyed hundreds of years ago in various wars, and were all rebuilt in the 20th century so they all kind of look the same and are generally pretty charmless. The pagoda on Tiger Hill somehow managed to NOT get knocked down over the years so it was fun to watch. The scenic area around it was pretty fun. Also there’s a ‘historic’ district which is full houses being rebuilt to look older (China is all about doing this). I first thought people actually lived in this historic district, but then when I darted down an alley and looked into a window the house was just full of trash and old shingles and broken toilets and shit. It’s all a big scam to make it look nice on the outside!
It took us two days to get to Tiger Hill because the first day we bussed there, this old man kept trying to get us in his little rickshaw. It was attached to his bike and he kept telling us he’d bike us to the goddamned pagoda for 1rmb (like 7 cents US). And we could see the pagoda looming off in the horizon and were really skeptical he’d bike us all that way, but he was seriously desperate for the money so we finally got in. He immediately turned the other way and started pedaling madly into the adjacent town, away from the pagoda. We told him he wanted to go there and he told us that Tiger Hill was ‘not good’ and ‘full of praying people’ and ‘not good’. This is while he was pedaling. So we let fate take the wheel and soon enough we ended up in god knows where next to this other park. Obviously the dude was in cahoots with the owners of this park but we decided we could afford the $6 they wanted and went in.
This park/garden was retarded. It was a few acres and contained, among other things, a giant tea kettle, plastic balls you could climb into and then get pushed out into the pond, a giant cage containing about 40 peacocks, a girl who would not stop talking to us, the tomb of someone important, and a bonsai cemetery. anyway the only cool thing about it was that at the end they had a bit of a museum with stuff from an old Chinese mill and while we were looking around some random people made us sit down at a table, poured us tea, then got behind an Arhoo (sp?) and that other Chinese instrument that looks like crippled banjo and started playing and singing for us. That was alright.
By the time we got back to our starting point the gates to Tiger Hill had closed so we ended up doing it the day after. It was way better.
Suzhou is also famous for knockoffs, and I wanted to find a ‘good’ knockoff watch. A ‘bad’ knockoff is where some shitty factory makes a poor product and slaps a brand name on it. This would be your typical Gucci purse where the lining is missing, the stitching is poor, and Gucci is spelled with only one ‘c’. (I have seen so many Adibas, Abibas, Aidsass, Adddds, Dasdasdas, etc, etc, etc, it’s not even amusing anymore.) China is full of these. I bought some shoes that say ‘Puma’ on the tongue, ‘Adidas’ on the side, and ‘Playboy’ on the back. It’s pretty easy to spot a bad knockoff.
Then there are ‘good’ knockoffs, which is when the factory making the product cranks out an extra 20,000 units without the company’s permission. These are a bit more expensive but it’s the real thing and not quite as likely to break on you. anyway it took us a while to find, but we ended up in the back of some guy’s shop where he sold designer bags, sunglasses, watches, wallets, suits, etc, etc, etc. I ended up buying a Mont Blanc Timewalker and spent nearly an hour arguing with the dude over prices. I ended up paying about $35 for it. Next door a lady had a ton of Lacoste/Paul Smith stuff that didn’t look too bad so I also picked up a Lacoste shirt.. The lady wanted $40 for it but we talked her down to $4.
I’ve almost got the whole haggling thing down. The store owner sees that you are white and gives you a price that’s usually about 5-15x what you should pay. Then after they ask for 400rmb, you think about it and say ‘how about 10rmb?’ then, in terrible English (which they do on purpose because they know white tourists find it endearing) they say ‘Eeeempossibah! Reeedicurous!! It cannot be done!!’. Then they drop their price to about 350rmb. Then you up yours to about 15.. this goes on and on and on and on and on and you have to pretend to leave the store about a dozen times while they run out after you and yell out OKAY OKAY OKAY I GIVE YOU CHINESE FLEND PLICE OKAY and then you start it all over and then anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes later you’ll have whatever you wanted to buy at a reasonable price.
Also, on an amusing note, we went out for a big dinner a few weeks ago and the people throwing it ordered a bunch of dishes I hadn’t seen before. One of them looked exactly like that game ‘Jenga’, only I didn’t really know what food the Jenga blocks were made out of. I tried one and it was really good, I thought it was some sort of squash. I asked and one guy started screaming for the waitress. She came in and told me it was ‘nan gua’ (pumpkin). Then about 5 other people at the table started screaming at her that it wasn’t pumpkin, but ‘yu toe’ (sweet potato). The waitress left for a bit, clearly a bit put out. The other people kept screaming. Eventually I made it clear that I wanted the name of the actual dish, not just the vegetable. Immediately everyone screamed out for the waitress again (it’s not impolite to do this here) and she came in and they all yelled out ‘WHAT’S THIS DISH CALLED’ and the waitress screamed back ‘IT’S STILL PUMPKIN!!!’
I thought it was funny.
People do squat a lot to shit, but it’s rarely over a hole in the ground. Most of the time it’s in plain site on the sidewalk somewhere. I recently saw a dude squatting & shitting in the middle of like 15 people who were waiting for the bus. Dude didn’t even go somewhere a bit more secluded.
Since nobody can afford diapers here they just make pants with a big slit where the ass is, so that kids can just squat and shit wherever they want. Once you’ve got that engraved in your brain you do it for the rest of your life, I guess. One of the reasons I don’t get up too early in this country is because the sidewalks/streets are full of human shit from drunk people the night before. I usually wait until the 80 year old women employed by the miracle of communism come by with their bamboo brooms and sweep all the poo away into a cart or something.
Paper napkins do not exist here. They use those thin party streamers most of the time.
Turns out getting glasses here is pretty cheap.. apparently you basically do the eye-test yourself with that big machine where you keep saying ’1′ or ’2′, and then you jot down what you think your prescription is, give someone about $20US, and you got yourself some designer frames & decent lenses!
At this garden in Suzhou there was a big sign that said PLEASE OMNIVOROUSLY PUT THE WASTE IN THE GARBAGE CAN. I took a picture.
Also I found out our digital camera has this amazing ‘stitch’ function where you can take 3 pictures and it’ll put it together so that you can’t fucking tell where one starts and the other stops!
It’s weird to have so much money here. Shopping, for us, is actually just a way to pass time rather than a luxury. Last night we hit up one of the Muslim-Chinese restaurants. These seem to serve the same 20 dishes through China, but some of them are pretty good, and they’re always cheap (about 70 cents for a meal). You can always tell these restaurants by the wallpaper. Also it seems like in order to be a Muslim-Chinese wife, you need to be somewhere between 2 and 3 feet tall and I have to repeatedly mistake you for a 4-year-old.
Anyway we dropped by one of these restaurants and ordered this dish which basically consists of a pound of homemade French fries dumped on a pound of homemade noodles and covered in this reddish barbecue sauce. It’s pretty awesome, and the man of the house makes the noodles right in front of you. These places always operate as a family – the husband always is the one who makes the noodles, the son is the one who boils them up and keeps the various soups going, the wife usually stays in the back and handles the vegetables, and the daughter usually serves/cleans up.
Afterwards we went to our local ‘shau ma’ (I’m positive I’m spelling that wrong) which basically translates to ‘walking street area’.. this is the area where everyone sets up their little tables along the street and tries to sell the same stuff, some authentic, some fake. even though it’s supposed to be a walking street only, tons of cabs will try and honk their way through, which usually involves people pulling their tables back to accommodate. I don’t understand why people insist on driving through the busiest part of town.. Our alley behind our apartment is barely wide enough for a car to get through, and consists of two solid blocks of maybe a hundred small stalls and shops, and cars always try to drive through – it must take them about an hour to negotiate these two blocks, but they always try to do it.
Anyway I had about $4 Canadian in my pocket, and since I was trying to walk off some of that gigantic French-fry/pasta meal I decided to take my time bartering with people. I ended up buying a really nice heavy bb gun with an extra heavy clip (it’s called the HUANG HEM M-333) and one of those giant Swiss army knives that are about an inch thick and have like pliers and a magnifying glass in them. Both pretty necessary purchases. I used to have like 8 Swiss army knives when I was a kid, and I lost them all one day in junior high when I brought them to school and the principle confiscated ALL of them. Some kid ratted on me I think, because I was always pretty good about leaving them in my bag in my locker.
Anyway, that’s a boring update for last night. I just got up. Here’s a picture that you can find just about ANYWHERE in China – they’re plastered along the carts that sell refrigerated food. Now that the Olympics are coming, absolutely everything seems to be endorsing the games. We saw an actual store in Hefei that had a big neon sign saying “OFFICIAL SPONSO OF THE OLYMPIC GAMES”. (SPONSO!) only in China.
In better news, we’ve decided we’re heading home in August!
So I’m going to take back what I said about Hong Kong being a hole. We had some friends who went there and had a killer time, so I’m going to go check it out now. LJ & I will be camping there for a couple of weeks on the outlying islands in March so maybe that’ll be awesome. In the meantime the next place we’re heading to is Hangzhou.
I have been to a couple of big cities, Nanjing is pretty big and I’ve been to Shanghai – it was just like an American city though so I wasn’t too interested. I like the smaller villages here where people dry their hay on the streets and sing no matter where they are. And of course do less spectacular things like shit on the streets and go apeshit whenever they see a white dude.
Tonight I bought this giant sweater that had a fur lining on the inside. It’s the cheesiest thing I’ve bought here so far. Yesterday Laura and I started drinking around noon for lack of a better thing to do, and by 7pm I was trying not to black out. Today we discovered that while drunk we somehow accepted a dinner invitation by some people, so we ended up going to this random restaurant. It was pretty fun. Afterwards we went shopping and I bought some jeans and the aforementioned sweater. There are a billion bootleg Zippo lighters and since we’re going camping I want to get one, but I don’t want it to crap out after 30 minutes.
I also fucking found a place that sells Guinness!! It’s “Guinness foreign export” actually, and it tastes a little more acidic than what we get back home, but who cares – shit like this improves my quality of living by like 600%.
What else.. so there’s a building across from the street that looks like it should be condemned. This is one of the meat markets here.. It’s more of a slaughterhouse than anything else, and it sucks to walk through this place. Even though I’m vegan I’m not very squeamish or anything when it comes to animals because cut up for food, but it’s kind of rough here. They actually play music through giant speakers cranked to 11 just to drown out the sounds of animals howling as they’re getting hacked up. A lot of dog carcasses come out of this place, and I’ve been told by a reliable source that when they hang the dogs upside down by their tails and beat them to death with sticks; the adrenaline supposedly makes the meat more tender. I want to see this myself in order to verify the claim, but I don’t doubt it. This afternoon I watched a woman tear the wings off of some chickens. In the background a dude was hacking up a live pig – it is amazing how loud a pig can sound. Same goes for the chicken.
So a really common thing here (and in many other countries) is that people who don’t want to work or have been enslaved in some manner or other end up begging on the streets. Since this is a communist country, everyone HAS to be able to get a job, usually sweeping up poo on the street. On the other hand, you might have just fallen upon hard times and now have to bring in a certain amount of $$ every day to whoever ‘owns’ you. Regardless, a really common way of getting change is to go find yourself a stolen baby and make said stolen baby do all the begging.
These babies usually don’t come from good households but they’re literally lifted out of a bedroom window in an orphanage or something, or more commonly just sold for bargain prices. These little kids are tenacious! When I first got here and a three-year-old clamped on to my leg. I felt really bad. Now it’s just a wrestling match to see how quickly I can pry the kid off while the mom rolls around on the street in front of me and moans about how hungry she is (by the way our friends once gave a mom & kid some food and they threw it out into the streets and demanded hard currency).
Anyway yesterday I was climbing some stairs above a busy intersection when I spotted a mom/stolen kid combo. The kid was like 100 feet away – they were clearly leaving to go get some food, but as soon as mom saw a white couple coming she started hollering at the kid. This kid was fucking good. He was on my leg in less than a few seconds, AND he had perfected this method where once he was clamped on he started turning himself upside down so that I’d be more careful about walking away (because if I kept going up the stairs I would have definitely cracked his head against the stairs).
Whenever this happens part of me really just wants to yell at the kid to hold on tight and then give him the roller coaster ride of his life and just run around maniacally and see how long he can stay on while the fake-mom freaks out. I haven’t done this yet. Usually I’ll let the kid stay clamped on my leg until my girlfriend is well off into the distance (otherwise once I take the stolen baby off my leg he/she will just run like the wind until he/she is caught up with Laura and will clamp onto her leg).. If I’m wearing nice clothes or if the fake-mom is digging her tin cup into my sides also affects the length of the child’s stay on my leg. Sometimes beggars here will put their palms together like they’re about to pray, and then jab you in the back with your fingers to get your attention. Most of the time they just take their rusty tin begging cup and start hitting you with it while the stolen baby prevents you from moving too quickly.
Other occupations stolen children tend to fall into are of the freak show variety. Most of these kids lose all their teeth (adult teeth included) by the time they’re 8 and just have hardened gums, and this makes them excellent candidates for biting onto a piece of wood mounted on a tripod, throwing their rickety legs over their head, and spinning around madly. It’s crazy!
So these two fucking girls at the bread store always always fucking make the biggest deal when I walk into the place.. like I walk in, they jump about 15 feet backwards screaming in these shrill voices and then it takes me like 5-10 minutes to convince one of them to come back up to the cash just so I can pay for the loaf of bread I want.. It’s fucking ridiculous. They’re like 22 and they fucking work at this store! I need suggestions!! I keep thinking I should show up in a giant monster costume but I don’t know where I can get that. Any suggestions? I might just start walking out without paying since they basically scream and jump all the way to the back of the store and do stupid shit like hide behind each other and shriek and push each other when I tell them I’d like to fucking give their store some money….
I think I’m going to become an alcoholic for the year just so I can act like even more of an asshole.. I just want that music that goes DI DI DI DI DI DI DI DOODLE-EE DI DI DODDLE-EE DI DEE DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO DOO to put under everything I see here.
Except in smaller cities, like where I live, you can’t get any food after 10pm.. The whole city shuts down. Accordingly, everyone is drunk by like 8pm.. you see dudes crying on the streets at 7:30 telling their best friends how much they love them and girls holding each others’ hair and puking on the streets while little kids get picked up by their parents from calligraphy lessons or whatever. At 10pm, the city is pretty much totally deserted. A lot of people here wear pajamas and high heels all day.
Clothing does fit a westerner! You need to know where you go. The XXXXL usually fits me and I’m 6’2 and healthy.
So spring festival is closing in on us and at the last minute we decided to flee the country rather than get lawei’d at for a week straight and probably shot with roman candles. Unfortunately this is a really busy time for Southeast Asia, but we managed to score really cheap flights to Malaysia. We don’t have too many plans.. Borneo was out of the question (flights were way too expensive) and Sumatra looked like a hassle, so we’re climbing our way up through the jungle to Langkawi (big island at the very northern tip of the country) and after hanging out there we’ll ferry over to Thailand.
There are 4 of us going on this trip and I’m pretty stoked about it. Philippines trip is now delayed until maybe April since this is going level most of the money we saved up for December-March. When I get back from Malaysia next month I’ll update again, hopefully with some good stories.
There isn’t much else to report from China.. This woman thanked me profusely for buying a Cartello wallet from her for a dollar, we drank a lot of brandy last night, and I found a place that makes a dish really similar to spaghetti. Every single fucking kid here has a yoyo and I’m going to get nailed in the face sooner or later and it’s starting to make me jumpy. We hung out at the school last week because Huainan actually got about an inch of snow (very rare for this place) so the kids were going apeshit.. Everyone in the city is fair game for snowball fights, so whenever I walk down the street I need to be packing in case I see kids lurking behind tuk-tuks and shit. Definitely saw this kid whip an ice ball into this little girls face from like 4 feet away. Jesus! Some asshole was definitely riding the Ferris wheel a few days ago and it was like 0 degrees out.
It’s snowing here and it’s gross and slushy. We took a cab to this large supermarket and grabbed some groceries. Waiting in line to pay for our food, some 80-year-old woman tried to cut in front of us by jamming her cart into my side, so we had to fight her off for about 20 minutes straight. We eventually won. Outside we hailed a cab to come back home and some fat Chinese dude darted in front of us, practically jumped in the cab headfirst, and sped off. This happens all the time. If I haven’t gotten this across yet, there is absolutely no decency or courtesy here so this sort of thing happens all the time. We hailed a second cab and some other fucker almost did the same goddamned thing, except I cut him off and pushed him out of the way and got in the cab. Because I’m white the cab driver tried to charge me double what the ride should have been, so I had to get back out and let the other Chinese dude get in. The third cab we hailed took us home. Then I hung out and played scrabble with my girlfriend, and we went off to have dinner with our friend who’s leaving for the US next week. Once again, after dinner some Chinese dudes basically pushed us out of the way and got in the cab. Then they yelled out ‘HELLO!! FUCK YOU!!’ and sped off.
Anyway I’m home now. I took a video outside our balcony of canon fire going off (another store is opening) and car alarms blaring and I was just told that China passed a law stating that only skinny people can adopt their children. This sounds ridiculous but this is the land of ridiculous so I don’t doubt it, but want to verify it for myself anyway.
Also this week I’ve spoken to a lot of foreigners who have lived in China (rural/real China – not Beijing/Hong Kong/Shanghai etc.) for 4 or 5 years and they have all basically said “with the exception of a few good dudes, I now hate Chinese people”. It’s crazy.
In other, funnier news, one of our friends teaches at a university here. You would think an English major at the university level would, you know, be able to speak some basic English, but in China everyone passes no matter what, so few people actually learn anything. I’ve spoken to a few university teachers here and they have all said the same thing. If a student fails an exam, he/she gets to ‘redo’ it until he/she passes. I don’t know if this applies to other majors like medicine or arts or science or whatever. But basically one of our friends teaches a fuckload of classes, and out of the 1000 or so students he has, he personally failed about a third of them (again – these people are English majors at a university level and can’t say things like ‘I LIKE CATS’ without getting it wrong) only to find out that the school gave everyone secondary exams and passed them all behind his back. Some kids at university have actually told him (our friend) that they don’t see why they need to study when the university will not let them fail.
Anyway, that in itself isn’t funny, and has definitely made me reconsider what sort of education bar is set here in China (back home I always feel terrible when the dude driving my cab has two doctorates from Mozambique or something, but now I’m wondering if maybe he just passed because other countries have really low expectations and want to crank out graduates). I am toying with the idea of applying to grad-level physics or something and seeing if I pass.
Oh yeah, but what is funny, is that since the English majors generally don’t know any English, the teacher gets to give them all ‘English names’. I’ve given a few kids ‘English names’ but gave them all simple names like ‘John’ and ‘Tom’ and shit like that. Our friend has classes where all the kids are (unknowingly) named after planets, or TV shows, or vehicles, etc., etc. he’s named kids ‘Honky’ and ‘Bozo’ and shit like that. If he doesn’t give them an English name, they’re liable to make one for themselves, and those are usually equally amusing. “buns-dragon” and “go-go” are examples of what English majors have chosen for themselves.
We’re stuck taking a train to Hangzhou during Chinese New Year. It’s going to suck. But then we’re out of the country.
We’ve had to deal with Chinese police every now and then, mostly just to give them bribes. We had to give them our passports in order to get residency certificates, and they just flat out refused to give them back. Meanwhile the country was charging us $1000/day for living in China without residency certificates. it was kind of nuts for a while there… other than that, our friend was taken in by the police for playing basketball in their courtyard, and was accused of ‘being a spy’, and I know a whole class of white volunteers who were pulled in by the police and kept there for a while.. Apparently that was a little embarrassing for the police because they arrested all these white kids, and thn of course couldn’t speak any language so they had to get the white kids to find a translator.. etc.
I’ll continue this later, we’re off to eat.
Haven’t seen ANY drugs, at all, whatsoever. I’ve been told they’re around. The scariest things I’ve seen are the hardcore Chinese alcoholics.
Alright back from lunch.
Anyway, no drugs. Hardcore alcoholics are another thing. We saw one dude two days ago, we were walking behind him down an alley, and he was sort of staggering around. He went up to this trash pile in front of a restaurant (every alley restaurant has a trash pile in front of it) and started picking through the trash. He grabbed a bottle of Baijio (this drink that comes in a clay bottle) and smashed in on the ground and little bits of the ceramic flew up and cut his arms. Then he started weeding through the garbage again, found another clay bottle, smashed that one, and then started smashing glass even though his head was like inches over whatever he was smashing. He was totally cutting himself up doing this. Then we passed him, and we looked back and he looked up AND THE DUDE DIDN’T HAVE FUCKING EYES!!!! WELL I mean he had them, but they were recessed in his eye-holes by like a good centimeter and looked all pussy and mucous-y!!! It looked like someone had first taken a sharp razor blade, and made some deep slits under and above his eyeball, and then deflated his eyeball, so that he just had these gummy, bloody holes for eyes with some weird eyeball-goopy-matter deep in the back of them. It was FUCKED UP!!
I’ve also seen a dude pedaling down the alley on this fucked up bike, wearing this wear lampshade-hat, missing an eye (but like it looked like it was freshly gouged out – it was bleeding profusely and there wasn’t any eye-lid), and just screaming out random shit at everyone while he pedaled by.
I think I mentioned we also saw an actual knife fight in this same alley! With big giant meat cleavers! It fucking ruled!!
Also during lunch we spoke with our friend who’s heading back to the states next week.. He’s only been in China for two years but totally summed up one of the things about this place – Chinese people in small Chinese cities have absolutely no concept of action/reaction. Like they will do shit to you and then be absolutely dumbfounded when you react to it.
For example, this dude got in a fight with some Chinese people. A 40-year-old man came up and slapped him, so he knocked the 40-year-old man down. Everyone was absolutely fucking flabbergasted. It’s kind of funny. Someone will push and pull and tear at you to cut in line at a washroom (which are very scarce here, and usually just a hole in the ground), and then when you throw that person aside they’ll just stand there gaping at you like they can’t believe what just happened.
I guess it goes hand in hand with the staring. Another friend of ours who has been here for 3 years was saying that once on a train these three guys just sort of squatted down in front of him, blowing smoke into his face, and were pretty much determined to just stare at the white guy for the next 4 hours. So our friend yelled out ALRIGHT FUCKERS, YOU WANT TO DO THIS, LET’S DO THIS! And stuck his face within centimeters of theirs and just glared into their eyes, and they were SO SHOCKED that this reaction had occurred.
I’ve had this happen to me countless times when someone has tried to push in front of me and I’ve grabbed them and pushed them out of the way. They just can’t believe what just happened.
I haven’t been Lawei’d today. Kind of rules. I also got the dude at the restaurant to fill up this giant Tupperware container with spaghetti for like 30 cents. And the girl at the store that sells bread didn’t start screaming like a lunatic when I walked in.
There are now 4 white people here in this city. By the way, I was told the population here is 5 million but of course that was wrong (nobody here seems to know anything about their own city – I’ve had at least a dozen different responses to my question about population so maybe they just don’t read the news, or maybe they don’t have a publicized census) but anyway the population is actually about 3 million. So 4 (4 – that’s it!) white people in a city of 3 million, 2.9 million of whom have only seen white dudes on tv, if that. I’m a severe minority here!
It’s about 2am right now
Drunk as hell, but got some of my own back.. Just yelling at fucking Chinese people here. two dudes about my age were walking down the street so I started chasing after them screaming out HELLO!! HELLO!@!!! LAWEI!!! NI SE LAWEI!! (You are Lawei) HELLO !!1 HELLO!!! And then our friends (the other two white people in this city of 3 million) definitely heard us yelling so they woke up, opened their window and started screaming out HELLO!! HELLO!! HELLO!! LAWEI!! LAWEI!!! LAWEI!!! and then the two dudes looked like they were about to fight us, which is a total fucking joke because I could easily kill about half a dozen Chinese people here with one hand tied behind my back, so I just pulled out my flashlight and turn it on and put it right in their eyes and started yelling out HELLO! HELLO!!! CHESTNUTS!!! HELLO!! HELLO!! FUCK YOU!!! HELLO!! FUCK YOU!! LAWEI!!! And they turned around and kept walking.
Fuck it felt good.. This happens pretty often but it feels SO good. I know it’s petty, but when you get stared at and pointed at and sweared at 24/7 you get a bit aggro.. I can’t walk ANYWHERE without Chinese people staring and swearing at me.
I keep telling myself I’m going to be the bigger man and not going to take this out on the Chinese back in Canada, but part of me keeps saying “torch down little China as soon as you get back” and a lot of times I just want to write all my friends back home (even my best friend who is Chinese) and tell them to start yelling LAWEI at every Chinese person they see.
Do minorities at home feel this way about white dudes?!?! Any minorities on VLV?!
Back in US and Canada you hear how they’re only letting cars with license plates ending in odd number travel on Monday/Wed/Fri, and cars with even license plates travel on Tue/Thur/Sat, but like that’s all you get on NPR or whatever back home.. Over in the mainland I hear so much disgusting shit.. They have actually employed companies to bus out the homeless people.. Seriously.. they are actually employing people to fill up buses with the homeless and drive them to the outskirts of Beijing.. Fucking retarded.. And I don’t care how much they reduce traffic, China is fucking POLLUTED. You cannot see more than a few hundred meters in front of you because of pollution and that’s not going to change.. However Beijing is one of those awesome cities where you occasionally get a blue sky, and then everyone starts snapping pictures.. So I think they’re hoping they get lucky. Anyway I’m going to miss the Olympics because my girlfriend’s sister is getting married that month..
You know that here in China, (or at least in Anhui province), they employ girls at every single KODAK to Photoshop EVERY SINGLE picture taken here in order to make the sky look bluer and this place look better?! Christ!!!
By the way, regarding hobo children.. Laura has a few good friends here (all local, obviously) and they once encountered the hobo kids, and her local friend grabbed the kid, pried her off Laura’s leg, and started screaming out ‘RUN!!! RUN!! RUN!!!’ which makes me assume everyone here treats poverty like a giant joke.
Anyway I know I need to practice more cultural relativism rather than _______ (the worldly term for Jingoism – on the tip of my tongue right now), but it’s fucking hard sometimes when everyone just constantly swears and pushes and yells and treats you like complete shit!!! I know it’s “different” and not “bad”, but I mean I can’t help but base my opinions on how the Chinese treat EVERYONE other than themselves.. Like where else in the world do you buy pets and get told not to feed them!?!?!? When you buy an animal here they specifically tell you NOT to give them water!!! They tell you the animal will DIE if you feed them water!?!?! WHO FUCKING DOES THAT?!?!1 And I mean I’m not a big tree-hugging liberal or anything (far from it!) but seriously!!!!!
Also I should talk about the photocopier room at the school across the street.
I went there once and there were like 8 middle-aged dudes feeding live maggots to this bird.
So I was like “oh that’s kind of cute.”
And then this one dude pointed to the bird, and then pointed to one of the dudes feeding maggots to the bird, and then mimed carrying a shotgun, mimed loading a shotgun, pretended to shoot a bird out of the sky, indicated the path a dying bird would take while falling out of the sky, and then pointed at the bird in the cage again. Then I noticed this particular bird (which was like 3″ tall) had one wing stuck behind its back at a really unusual angle, and I had to assume it was blown out of the sky. Then this other middle-aged dude straightened up (he was behind me) holding this skinned bird (also about 3″ tall – like half an ounce of meat) and standing triumphantly over a garbage can full of feathers, and started shaking this tiny bird carcass in front of about half a dozen girls (i.e. the “helper” girls who get screamed at by dudes to do my photocopying) and the girls were all screaming and the guys were all laughing and I learned that this particular room is now full of wounded birds and guys feeding them live maggots and feathers and shrieking girls.
It’s just a small 8×8 room of ridiculous insanity. There are about a trillion of these rooms here in Anhui.
We took a bus trip and our bus pulled off the road just to hit a dog. I got out of the fucking bus and there was this very pregnant dog lying about an inch in front of the bus, definitely dying right in front of me, and then everyone congratulated each other and then went to the WC (stands for “Water Closet” – it means bathroom) in celebration
Sometimes I’m too tired to be aggressive 24/7. Like I’m just too tired to fight over getting into a cab, or keeping my place in line, or making a stand when someone yells out FUCK YOU or LAWEI at me, and I just want to go home and pretend I don’t live here.. Kids who are like 2 years old here yell out LAWEI, it’s one of the first things they learn, which is amazing, because there just aren’t any white people here.
I am so amazed sometimes that I haven’t gotten into a fight yet. Sometimes walking home, when I have the energy/strength I will just stare everybody in the eye.. every single person who I catch staring at me I will stare back at, and out of the 600/700 people who stare at me in a 20 minutes time frame (remember how populated China is) maybe 1 or 2 tops will actually have the balls to keep their eyes locked with me for more than 4 seconds.
While Chinese people are shorter than white people on average, I have seen maybe a few dozen Chinese people over 6′ since I got here, and maybe 5 people as tall as I am.. Anyway yesterday I was walking down this alley and there were about 6 extremely short Chinese guys in their 40s all jumping up trying to break off an icicle hanging from an awning that couldn’t have been more than 8 feet up. It was kind of cute.
I also wanted to quickly write about making out. Kids here really like to make out. For hours. Usually in any given public park, if you push your way through everyone’s laundry hanging off the branches and bushes and shit, you’ll almost certainly come across a couple of teens locked in eternal embrace. You can then go have dinner somewhere and hang out with your friends and when you come back they’ll still be there.
We were watching Mission Impossible 3 and found out the Chinese government didn’t like the movie because of how it portrayed China – apparently it’s because in the movie everyone has their laundry hanging out on their balconies.. I’m not sure why this is embarrassing because (a) China looks pretty fucking amazing in MI3 – about a thousand times better than it is in real life – (b) EVERYBODY airs their laundry outside. You can walk anywhere and the apartment buildings are brightly colored with pants and shirts hanging from the balcony bars. When it gets really cold you will start to see dead ducks and fish and slabs of beef hanging between pajama bottoms and socks. It’s kind of neat looking, but sometimes you’ll be a little apprehensive when you’re walking downs a street and there are giant sharp 30-pound slabs of frozen meat hanging precariously over your head.
Yesterday we were trying to find a restaurant, so we spoke to a friend back home who used to eat here all the time. She said “go down your street towards the park, turn right, and stop when you find a cow tied to a telephone pole.” She hasn’t been in this city in like half a year.
Sure enough we turned right at the park and eventually found a giant cow tethered to a telephone pole. The restaurant was pretty good. The food here just keeps getting better.
The air quality here sucks. I’ll see a blue sky maybe once every other month. But at least we got white snow. I acquired a “rough guide to China” book dated 2005 and it talks about how Xian is known to get black snow. Pretty crazy. I’m pretty certain this country is just going to burn itself into the center of the earth and disappear forever.
There are a billion chicken/duck carcasses here and everyone loves the head. There are little carts with those red heat lamp bulbs and all they sell are the parts of animals we turn into hot dogs.. a big tub of duck beaks, a big tub of chicken skulls, a big tub of pig’s feet, a big tub of pig’s snout, etc.
We bought a heater today for our apartment. The apartments here are made really poorly, so most of our rooms have holes in the cement that just go right outdoors. Our kitchen is exactly the same temperature as it is outdoors. It’s nice because we can just leave food out to keep it cold, and can unplug the fridge, but it sure sucks to cook food. And we have a “nice” apartment compared to most of the city. We basically only try to keep our bedroom and living room heated, and shut off the bathroom, kitchen and second bedroom.
I live on a one way street that has a daily bus going down it the wrong way. I’ve had some trouble in larger cities. In the smaller ones you basically just hope that you don’t get killed. Even in tuk-tuks I’ve seen my cab driver play chicken on the wrong side of the road with an 18-wheeler that clearly isn’t going to stop. It’s terrifying! I don’t even want to get started on roundabouts! I am getting a bit more use to it, though, and am worried that when I get home I will be so out of touch with regular first-world traffic that I’ll just start wading out into highways or something and get plastered by an SUV
I also mostly just wanted to write about the smoking population here. I’ve seen 3 women smoke so far. As far as the male population is concerned, something like 90-95% of all males here smoke, not including little kids. Absolutely every single guy here smokes about three packs a day. I assume it’s because just living in filthy China air is probably the equivalent of smoking a pack or two a day, another couple won’t hurt too much.
Every time I’ve been out for dinner it’s been in a private room that quickly just turns into a foggy wall of smoke. It’s pretty retarded.
I saw my first drunk alcoholic woman a few days ago. She scared the fucking life out of me. She was running and jumping up and down in the big department store and screaming and both her eyes looked like the other dude, with the bloody slits above and under the eyeball.
The beggar kid got me again today, he head-butted me in the stomach and I almost slipped on the ice. And the fake-beggar-mom came again and hounded me for a while until I was able to extract the kid from my waist. Then I managed to gain on them and I thought they had let me go, but then I guess they decided to have another shot at it, so they both started running after me and got me again like 100 feet down the street. I’m contemplating bringing a water bottle of cold water to pour on their heads next time they attempt this shit, but it’s like 0 degrees and it could give them hypothermia or kill them or something.
Also I saved myself a nightmare by having a friend volunteer to get us train tickets to Hangzhou (we’re flying out of there to Malaysia). China has this really dumb train system where you can only buy tickets one way for most of the journeys. So basically once you arrive at your destination, you need to immediately hop in line and wait to buy tickets back, and hope you aren’t stranded in whatever particular city you’re in. This is particular stupid around busy festivals.
But anyway we have a friend doing it! She’s been at it since this morning, and she’s still not back, so hopefully we’ll end up with tickets. The trains in China usually have 5 different ‘levels’ of comfort – soft bunks, hard bunks, soft seats, hard seats, and standing.
Soft bunks and hard bunks are almost the same.. Soft bunks come 4 to a room, and you have a bit more space. Hard bunks are 6 to a room but have the same thin mattress, so they’re not actually any ‘harder’ than soft bunks. Soft seats are as soft as your typical car seat. Hard seats are sitting on wood. Standing is a mess. The trains rarely have enough room for baggage so you are constantly pushing people around to try and keep your own bag from getting knocked around. Back home if you put your bag in an overhead compartment, you don’t really need to worry about it since we sort of operate on a polite ‘first come first serve’ basis. Here people will just throw your shit around on the train like it’s a sport. People will also try to edge in on your seat, even though you have a ticket for it. If there are supposed to be 3 people on a seat, 2 other dudes with standing tickets will invariably come over, sit down on the tiniest fraction of your seat, and immediately “fall asleep.” Sometimes they will sit down on a part of your lap; it is not uncommon at all to see dudes doubled-up and sitting on each others knees. And of course, they will all be coughing and hacking up god knows what every 10 minutes and spitting on the ground every 5.
In the hard bunks and soft bunks, you will also invariably get to your bunk only to find someone fast asleep in it. This person will probably argue with you in Chinese for a while before giving up his spot. When you crawl into your nice used bed you can expect to find cigarette ashes, cigarette butts and sunflower seed shells all over the place. Also regardless of where you sit, there will be a small garbage can absolutely overflowing with garbage. There will also be a shiny shallow tin filled with spit and seeds and ashes, usually dripping over into the table in front of you. And like I said, your bags will go hurtling by you into the train corridor when you least expect it.
I hate having to be really aggressive/rude 24-7 (it’s tiring!) but I’m learning it’s the only way you can get by here, otherwise you will get run over.
Our Chinese friend told us over in Wuhu a few days ago the rush to get on a train (keep in mind these people have TICKETS with ASSIGNED SEATS) was so bad that a girl got knocked over onto the tracks and run over by a train.
I’m not sure how she found this out – I’ve been scanning CCTV (Chinese television media) and haven’t seen anything about it, and I also kind of doubt they’d air it anyway. So maybe word of mouth.
One thing I like about Chinese people is that they are extremely honest no matter what. In China there aren’t any real negative connotations with words like ‘fat’ or ‘foolish’, so kids will definitely go around saying they’re really fat without getting themselves depressed. Likewise if someone in China tells you you’ve gotten fatter (or thinner, I guess!) you’d better believe it. At the school I asked a bunch of kids to describe themselves and like 70% of the class described themselves as ‘fat’.
There is still a remnant of that whole “if you’re fat it means you eat well” thing, and in the summer dudes with bellies will walk around with their shirt folded up so that the ladies know what’s going on. Anyway.
Really, really not looking forward to taking the train during the festival. I don’t even know if we scored tickets yet. It’s going to be a fucking mess.
I haven’t met a single person in China who (a) lived in a smaller city (i.e. anything other than Shanghai/Hong Kong/Beijing) and (b) lived here for at least a year who wants to come back.
It’s easier in the big cities, though – way more English, lots of white people so you don’t get stared at/yelled at all, and it’s a lot more Americanized so you can usually get any commodities that you can get at home.
It is goddamned cold here!! We don’t get warm water out of our taps (that’s a crazy luxury in our city) so it fucking sucks to even do shit like wash your hands after you come in from the cold. I think I mentioned nobody here uses heat in their houses, ever!
For cooking purposes and all other necessary heating purposes, everyone in smaller China cities uses coal, obviously. They come in these pucks that are about 4″ in diameter and maybe 2 inches high. People with miner’s lung cart them around by the thousands and they probably sell for about a third of a penny or something. People stack them up in oil drums and after a few days of consistent burning and replenishing you’ve got yourself a pretty good stove to cook on. Most people here have an all-purpose oil-drum-stove which heats the water they need for tea and stuff like that.
Propane tanks are also popular, and people here throw these things around like they could never, you know, explode. People smash these things around all over the city, they’re always getting refilled and then stuck in a loose cart with thirty other propane tanks and then jostled along the alleyways. It’s crazy. A few months ago we definitely saw a baby nestled snug among a bed of propane tanks.
I’ve eaten a lot of stuff here. Haven’t eaten dog yet, though. It’s pretty easy to get dishes without meat, maybe I’m missing out. I don’t know.
I’m in China because I started getting tired of my 9-5 job. I wanted to take a year off, and figured if I did it abroad I’d fool people into thinking I was actually doing something with myself. Secondly, I have this whole plan to buy some land near the beach in a nice warm country where I can live really cheaply, and then go back to Canada and start living this fantasy life where I spend the 6 or 7 months in Canada working, going to school, playing in bands, hanging with friends, and then once it starts getting cold I take my savings and fly over to my little tropical paradise and live in a hut for pennies a day and spend all my time surfing and trying not to get eaten by animals.
I haggle like mad now. I’ve also learned that yelling out “COME ON!!!!” and leaning over the person I’m haggling with helps me out. I don’t care who’s running the stand, you can be 90 years old and dying and starving and if you want 150 rmb for those shoes I am going to offer you 20 and start getting pissed off if the price goes over 35.
Our friend taught university and out of the thousand or so kids he taught over the years he said the most prominent thoughts among them were (a) Chinese media is not censored. Even if you ask them to go online and type in “Tiananmen” or “democracy” and then ask them why they can’t view those websites, they will say it’s because of a problem with the internet. And it has nothing to do with the Chinese restricting access to anything that makes China look bad. (b) all the students were positively convinced that the USA is going to launch an attack, although nobody so far was able to come up with reasoning behind this.
I can’t help but wonder what the fuck was going on with this place between the 1930s and 1970s. I have a couple of books here that are banned (Jung Chang’s ‘Mao’, which is heavily biased) and a few books on communism and politics.. But anyway whenever I look at the older folk here I can’t help but wonder if they spent most of their lives starving, or worse, most of their lives slaughtering the nationalist opposition or Japanese or even fellow communists.
The cell phone places here are fucking ENORMOUS and they are EVERYWHERE. They aren’t quite as big as a Wal-Mart superstore, but they are maybe as big as a large Sears or Eatons or Target. And they are absolutely everywhere – there must be about 25 of them in this city alone. All selling cell phones. It’s got to be an enormous industry, even though the stores are almost always empty when I’m around.
Metal is huge right now. A lot of this city thrives on old men rummaging through piles of garbage looking for anything metal to steal. They also like to steal ‘good’ bricks (i.e. the ones that are intact). I see these people with their carts full of shit everywhere.
I haven’t seen many ‘mini apartments’ here, but I haven’t really looked either.
The lady who runs our favorite restaurant broke her hand something fierce. It looks like someone took a surgical glove and filled it up with air until it was about to pop. her hand looks like a bright red spherical sausage with these little immobile fingers sticking out of it. Keep in mind this woman is still cutting up fish and washing dishes with freezing water in -10 degree weather. We asked her if she went to see a doctor and she told us (keep in mind this is what I heard using my still-shitty Chinese) that the doctors here are not good so she just didn’t go.
I’m pretty worried about the trains and shit. We leave Sunday. I read that some 175 million people are using the trains around this time (spring festival) and that the trains can get stopped by the huge snowstorm China’s dealing with.. Basically if that train isn’t there Sunday, we might have to consider getting a cab driver to drive us the 9 hours to Hangzhou. back home doing something like this would be so expensive it would be laughed at if brought up, but fuel/labor is so cheap here it’s actually an affordable (although still expensive) option. The longest cab ride I’ve taken so far was about an hour and 20 minutes, and it ended up costing about $17.
Getting tailored suits is always a great idea here! I haven’t done it yet, but I’ve gotten in touch with some people who specialize in Hugo Boss suits.
I found a store that sells decent camping gear, so I’ve been buying tons of camping gear. I figure it’s all pretty compact so getting it home shouldn’t be too difficult.
I’ve never owned more than one pair of shoes in my life up until now. Now I have boxes of brand new shoes in my closet and a shoe rack full of stuff. It’s retarded.
Some friends have this book that shows all the museum exhibits praising Mao and the long march and all that, and then shows who got paid off to make the exhibit and what really happened and where you can go to see stuff that contradicts what’s in the museum etc, etc.
I’m in Anhui province. It’s pretty fucked up. I’m trying to get to Hangzhou. Our driver is going to pick us up there on the way back, so that’s at least taken care of. Fortunately I’m in a small city and the day we’re leaving there isn’t any snow (according to the weather) so hopefully the trains will be on time and we’ll make our flights from Hangzhou to Kuala Lumpur.
I’ve heard a lot about people getting crushed to death, and train stations being packed, and cold/wet families huddling together under bridges and dying of pneumonia because there isn’t any room. Stores are putting up fences and shit to keep people from sleeping on their floors and everyone’s trying to force the masses out into the street. I can’t believe how many police have been deployed to take care of this massive snow storm.
First, this Chinese girl told us she saw two “blackers” today. She was referring to the 2 black people in this city. She then said she was scared of them, and that their eyes weren’t white, and then when she saw us smiling she said “I don’t hate them, though!”
Secondly, we met this dude whose uncle runs the number 1 club in this city. The place was crazy. we went there (it’s hundreds of dollars just to go to this place I think, in a city where two people can eat dinner for under a buck) and we were taken to this room that kind of looked like it might be a strip club, only really big and lavish and full of lights and mirrors and strange architecture. Then all these girls in dresses came out and started having this beauty pageant or something. I think people were supposed to dance on the runway. Some dudes brought us dice and cups, and then some other dude brought us beers and then some other dude dropped off this giant plate of exotic fruit shaped like flowers. So I’m eating dragon fruit and playing dice and trying to figure out what the fuck is going on with the girls and I can’t take in this place. It’s 5 floors and beats pretty much everything I saw in Vegas. Just to give you an idea, every pole in the railing along the stairs was topped with one of those electricity globe things were you touch it and your hair stands on end. It was weird as all fucking hell. We went up to the fourth floor and into a private KTV room that had these giant unicorn heads mounted all over the walls. Then as soon as we sat down on the couch like another dozen girls in really big dresses came in and just sort of stood in front of us. Some guy then waltzed in with this crystal decanter full of some amber liquid. He pointed at it and said “walking Johnny” which made me laugh, which made the dozen girls nervous, which led to them all being issued out of the room by some other drunk dude. After drinking a lot of whiskey and one round of ‘Hey Jude’ we left and continued our tour of the building, which just kept getting crazier and crazier. Back to the lounge some dude gives us plastic toothpicks for the endless supply of fruit, our friend squeezes fresh lychees (or whatever the fuck those things are) into our beer, we play more dice, someone’s girlfriend gets bored, and suddenly the night is done. We go back into the car where I witness some of the worst driving I’ve ever seen in my life. Dude backed-and-forthed his car into so many obstacles and ice and curbs and every single thing in the street, it was ridiculous. It was like a 40 minute acid trip.
Also this dude kept telling us he liked English music and kept singing us snippets of songs that I have never heard of but sounded really shitty. He’d be like “I love English music!!…… … OH MY DEAR DARLING MY SWEET HEART MY BABY BOO I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU MY DEAR DARLING” and then pause and then resume drinking after taking in our blank stares. And then like 4 minutes later he’d be like “I love English music!!………. … BABY BEAUTIFUL YOU ARE MY LITTLE BOY MY BOY OH MY BOY WHO TOOK MY HEART” and then pause.
This is really quick.
So we got the drivers to pick us up in Hangzhou… they came in this big minivan and we throw our bags in the back. Somehow the 6 hour trip turned into a 12 hour one (this has happened before, it’s hard to explain).
Anyway so it’s about 6am, we’ve been driving since about 10pm the night before and I’ve been trying to sleep, only I keep waking up every time we take a hard turn or seem to be spiraling off the highway
Anyway so the sky is starting to lighten up when suddenly our driver stops the minivan. He looks behind him, puts the car in reverse, and floors it.
So first of all, it’s not like this highway is empty or anything. There are big vans and cars and 18-wheelers etc all tearing down the snowy road. We just happen to be doing about 60 in reverse and weaving through the traffic like we do this all the time.
Secondly, it’s not like this is a really interesting stretch of highway or anything. I’d been kind of glancing outside and it seemed like your typical dirty empty China. A couple of brown gross huts, a lot of smokestacks off in the distance, numerous little fires going.. Nothing out of the ordinary. I am really, really curious to see what we’re risking life and limb for.
so we floor it in reverse for maybe 3 minutes and then stop of the side of the highway. our driver jumps out and runs to the opposite side. i see him kicking at something. i’m hoping it’s not a body. i turn to our translator (who we really don’t need that much anymore) and said “what’s going on?” and she sort of looks over her shoulder and says “there’s a die-der black dog”. next thing you know the trunk opens and our driver is there carrying this giant dead black dog that’s got most of its stomach pushed out through it’s mouth from where it was hit. without a second’s pause he throws it in the trunk on top of our bags, slams the trunk shut, jumps back in the drivers’ seat, and we’re off.
So anyway we kind of just sit there and we’re all thinking we’ve been gone for a bit so we’re overdue for something along these lines, and we’re kind of glancing back at the thawing, mutilated dog that’s starting to bleed over all our stuff, and I ask our translator why there’s a dog in the trunk even though we know the answer. Obviously our driver plans to cook and eat the fucking thing.
Anyway over the next half hour we start getting sleeping and nodding off and then suddenly the minivan comes screeching to a fucking halt and the same goddamned thing happens!! Driver jumps out, I see him run about a hundred feet back, kick something a few times, and then he starts running towards the van dragging this enormous brown dog by the hind feet. This dog is more intact, thankfully. He piles this one up over the black dog and the trunk turns into a mass of frozen paws sticking up in the air.
The next few hours we mostly just worry about coming across more dogs because the trunk is filling up and none of us want these things piling up in the back seat next to us. There’s all this dust and shit flying off the dogs and it’s mingling with the 10 or 11 packs of secondhand smoke we’ve inhaled since leaving the night before and it’s just getting ridiculous.
Anyway we finally fall back asleep, get home around noon, have to root through bleeding torn dogs to get our bags out, shake off the dust and blood, grab dinner, and we’re home for a bit.
On one hand, I’m kind of glad in a Native-American-sort-of-way that the Chinese are eating road kill rather than killing otherwise healthy dogs, but on the other hand it’s a little foreign to me. I guess the moral is to use everything you’ve got. Or maybe it’s if you live in a Chinese neighborhood and your dog gets hit by a car, bury it quickly before the Chinese can pick up the gnarled pieces of your beloved pet and turn it into a meal.
OH, and when we woke up we had to stop at a house to drop off the dogs, there was also a road kill rabbit in the trunk that the driver must have picked up while we were asleep.
A lot of other shit happened but this is the first thing that came to mind.
Malaysia was fucking beautiful. Thailand was a bust but we met this crazy old dude who dropped us off on a deserted island where we camped for a little while. The old guy was clearly living vicariously through us and taught us how to make lanterns, fish for barracuda, etc. It was fucking insanely beautiful. Monkeys actually stole our food. We caught one tiny fish that ended up being mostly spine, but we ate it anyway. I think it was probably the best vacation I’ve ever had.
In 6 weeks we leave for Hong Kong and the Philippines, so I’ll probably have a lot more to tell.
Oh, and when we pulled into the airport in China, we saw all these Chinese dudes on bicycles pedaling furiously around the airplanes.
Also while living on this deserted island we did so much better than I thought possible. with the exception of only catching one fish, we built a raft that actually worked really well, cleared out an awesome campsite, found a big wooden chest which served as a table & kept some of our shit safe from monkeys, nobody got poisoned, we made spears that sort of worked, made all sorts of Robinson-Crusoe ingenious devices etc, etc, etc. I definitely got to briefly live out one of my childhood dreams and feel like I can really check off a few things in my life-long to-do list.
We were already on Langkawi and had spent some time island hopping. Then we met this old dude one night while drinking and he started talking about eating barracudas and shit and by the end of that night we had arranged to spend some time on a deserted island.
One thing that was fucked up is that nobody thought to do any research on tides, so we got there at high tide and when it went out there were nothing but rocks past the beach, so we couldn’t have been picked up by boat even if there was an emergency. That was a little concerning, but we tried not to worry too much. Everything else was beautiful. The tide came back in around midnight and we had to move our campsite up a bit since we thought we’d get flooded and it was dark..
There was more phosphorescence in the water at about 11pm than I ever ever thought possible. It was absolutely retarded. The waves were bright bright florescent blue and if you swam in it you could see your whole body illuminated. It was pretty awesome!
We made bowls out of coconuts and utensils out of these weird gourd seeds or something. The first time we made a fire it took us SO long, even after we had a spark & smoke going. We learned it really needs to be nice and hot in the center of your fire before anything will catch flame. I used like 12 of the things on my Swiss army knife. I learned it’s a little tricky to gut/fillet a fish with a little Swiss army knife. I learned that making a bamboo raft is easier than I thought if you have rope (we found a ton of old fishermen’s nets washed ashore).
As soon as we got there we wanted to scout out the island a bit and see if there was a better place to move our stuff to. Because of the tide we had to wade through the ocean to get around – as soon as we were about 300 feet from our drop-off point I looked back and there was this fucking monkey going through all our shit. He stole an onion. The rest of the time there the monkeys were never far off. They sound terrible when they fight! We had to make big piles of ‘defense rocks’ which we positioned strategically around the campsite. I also made a pretty credible ‘monkey noose’ which I planned to use on the one that knocked some of my shit over, but we never actually caught one.
Anyway, two things of note:
1. Chinese people here are born with the ability to fall asleep instantly at any time, in any position no matter how uncomfortable. They can be upside down, hanging from a hook, crushed under a heavy vehicle, etc, etc, etc, and if they are told they can go to sleep, they will just go limp and pass out like it’s nobody’s business. I’ve never seen anything like it.
2. Older people run the ‘cool’ shops here. I like it. We dropped by this place that sold high quality Bape knockoffs and it was run by this dude who was like 65 years old. He was doing tai-chi or whatever you call that shit when we got there, and then he ushered us in his store and showed us his wares. It’s way more comfortable doing business with old people. Back home most of the skate shops and shit are mostly full of 20 year olds (with the exception of the owner, who’s usually in his/her late 20s). It’s way, way more awesome when the store is run by people old enough to be grandfathers and grandmothers. This dude was showing me some of his D&G jeans, and then had to run and get his reading glasses in order to find the price. How awesome is that.
So I have a few things to jot down.
First, a few weeks ago we decided to return to the King’s Club, which is that place I wrote about a few posts up – the one that reminded me of a 40 minute acid trip. Because we’re white, we decided to see how much we could drink for free at this place. Like I said, it can cost several hundred dollars to rent a room in this place, in a city where two people can usually eat for under a buck. Relatively speaking, this would be like going someplace in the USA and spending about $1000-$1500 on booze and a karaoke room. It’s really, really pricey by all standards here.
Anyway so we first got really drunk in front of these Muslims – I had been drinking since about 1 in the afternoon so I was right on track. We ended up at this restaurant and forgot to order for about 45 minutes but that was okay. We drank a ton at the restaurant and I sort of remember towards the end decided that the four of us needed to go to the King’s Club. I also recall trying to force this little Chinese kid working at the restaurant (he was probably like 11) to understand our poor Chinese.
So anyway we get to the King’s Club, one of us walked right into a glass wall which kind of gave the whole thing away really early, but some random woman in this big dress made us follow her up to the fourth floor and presented us with an empty room.
Since this cost money, we sort of stumbled out that we were ‘looking for friends’, a brilliant ploy all things considered, and she just sort of smiled and we ting-bu-dong’d our way back down to the first floor where we hello’d the hell out of the first Chinese dude we saw in the hallway.
This dude was like 45 and grizzled (by Chinese standards) and on his cell phone. I don’t think he understood what was happening as 4 white dudes burst into his room and started pouring themselves drinks.
The girls we saw in those rooms are prostitutes. I have since realized that if you want to go ‘out’ in China, you will invariably have to accept that a lot of your company will be made up of prostitutes and call girls. This particular room we were crashing in consisted of about five 45-year-olds and maybe six 20-year-old prostitutes all dressed up like schoolgirls. You could tell they were prostitutes because they were all smoking (something Chinese women NEVER do) and drinking milk. It was weird. They were all over Laura & me. It was weird. But they kept refilling our glasses with alcohol belonging to the 45-year-olds so it was all good.
Because we were drunk we went straight to the karaoke machine and selected like 25 English songs. I don’t think a single Chinese song played after we arrived which is pretty funny because the Chinese are really into singing Chinese songs. The old men had no fucking clue what was happening, but we steadily plowed through a large repertoire of English pop songs, finished off the last of their booze, and explained to one of the men that we wanted him to go outside and buy us more alcohol.
This man actually complied, disappeared for a while, and returned with Baijio. I think the old dudes at this point were a little fed up with us, because we got Baijio’d HARD. It was fucking ridiculous considering how many beers we had had at this point. I remember the day after calculating that I had drank probably 14 or 15 quarts of beer, a fucking ton of brandy, and maybe two large glasses of 60% Baijio. It was brutal how sick I was the day after. Anyway so now we’re drunk & Baijio’d, which means the story kind of loses itself.
The next day all 4 of us have no recollection of how we got home, or whether or not we left peaceably or were kicked out, which I guess means the night was a raging success. I definitely remember that while the Chinese dudes & the prostitutes just sort of sat by politely while we sang all our English songs, when Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ came on (which is a pretty upbeat song when you take into account that most Chinese pop is the slow romantic kind) everyone jumped out of their couches and began slow dancing. Every single person except for us slow-danced while we drunkenly belted out ‘toxic’. It’s not even a song you can really slow dance to, so I don’t know why they chose it.
Anyway we drank tons of expensive booze for free so it was good. Didn’t get a fruit platter though. OH – but at some point during the night some dudes wearing these weird costumes brought in the entire spine of some sort of animal for consumption. The spine was maybe only an inch thick, and there was only a tiny bit of meat around it, but everyone was hacking off parts of the spine, popping them into their mouths, sucking the meat off, and spitting out the spine on the floor.
Good times with spines and prostitutes!
Next up – some smaller observations.
At lunchtime (the Chinese have a siesta like in Mexico – lunchtime is from 11:30 to about 2:30, and everyone just drops what they’re doing and goes to bed), people will literally fall asleep in piles of garbage. We eat at this noodle place a lot and have to cut through this little area and we always see Chinese people totally passed out in big piles of garbage. They always take their shoes off, too, and I swear I have seen some of the worst fucking trench foot or gangrene or god knows what on these people. It’s fucking horrible. Anyway just something I wanted to note.
2. There is no Chinese stigma with eating. Back home it’s impolite to chew with your mouth open. Here it’s expected. People just stare at you and chew with their mouths open as they can get. On the plus side, I like how it’s totally acceptable to bring outside food into restaurants. Back home I would save so much money on drinks if I could bring them from home. You can bring snacks and shit too, that’s totally cool. I think it’s a great idea. Also, if you have food all over your face in China, it’s cool, as long as it’s not bothering you. I keep reading it’s customary to eat from your rice bowl with your lower lip under the lip of the bowl, but I feel that if people would do this their chins wouldn’t be consistently covered in gristle and shit. Anyway when people eat here there is usually rice all over their faces by the end of the meal. The only thing that seems to be frowned upon here is if you put your chopsticks down by stabbing them into your food, so they’re perpendicular to the table. That’s an aggressive no-no, and if you do it people will talk.
3. We were hanging out at the school and this little 5 year old came in with her new coat, and it was black and had these little ladybug things on it and little puffy things and I guess she was supposed to look really cute except on the back her jacket had the slipknot logo all over it. Pretty hilarious.
4. Some people here make really cool shit. I don’t know if I’ve talked about the candy, but the candy made here is a work of art and I need to take pictures. We also saw this dude make really awesome-looking insects out of palm fronds.
Last night us 4 white dudes wanted to see if we could get some of the Chinese teachers at the school drunk, so we sort of threw a party and invited them to eat ‘western food’ (mashed potatoes) and brought out the coolers and ‘punch’ and drinking games. It worked pretty well. I broke a table and we all decided to go back out to KTV. the only memorable part about this whole night was when we left at about 3am this morning, our cab driver was so stoked about seeing white people he slowed down every single fucking time he saw someone else on the street and yelled out (in Chinese): THERE ARE DRUNK WHITE PEOPLE IN MY TAXI!!! THERE ARE A LOT OF DRUNK WHITE PEOPLE IN MY TAXI!!!!
Then he tried to count to ten but got stuck on eight, and then somehow forgot all the other numbers except for three, and I swear he just kept saying “8…3…3…3…8…3..3….3..8…” for a while – someone in the backseat (there were 7 of us in this cab by the way) remarked that the driver hadn’t touched the wheel for a good long time.. Anyway then he said Huainan was a poor city and asked if we would teach his son English. Great dude.
Anyway basketball starts up next month so that means more dinners which means more stories.
Also we got drunk and went to the park and it fucking ruled. they have one of those human slingshot thingies where you strap yourself into a harness, and some random Chinese dude grabs you and starts bouncing you up and down, and then when he lets go you get hurled up like 80 feet into the air and just freefall for a while. Doing this drunk rules. We also discovered their bumper cars are a lot better than back home – all the amusement park stuff is a lot more dangerous and therefore a lot more fun. Their little go-cart track was insane.. If you’re going top speed and get hit you spin out really hard. It was a lot of fun. This fat little 5-year-old kid also showed us how to shoot a bow and arrow, so we did that for a while.
Also I learned that you can rent dogs here.
I live in Huainan, in Anhui province aka the most ‘backwards’ province in China according to most guidebooks. I figure it’s probably the best place to experience ‘real’ China, and not westernized China.
In backwards Anhui, during spring festival, all I really noticed was that there were a few more fireworks than usual. I didn’t know that fireworks are actually illegal in bigger cities like Beijing/Shanghai. Here we have them every day.
I did notice for the full moon everyone decided to take their dogs for a walk at like 9pm, which is really really late here. I’m not sure why, but i’m positive most of those dogs returned home completely deaf due to the fireworks being launched from everywhere.
China is cheap. As an example, we’re heading out for 2-3 weeks on vacation later this month. Rough costs:
20 hour train to Guilin (bunks, not seats) – about 200rmb
Cruising the Li River in its entirety – about 250rmb (this is really expensive but it’s a huge tourist attraction in China)
Hostels – about 25rmb/night
Food/Transportation – about 20-30rmb/day
Train from Guilin to Hong Kong – about 200rmb
Train from Hong Kong back home – about 230rmb (again, bunks)
So do the math and divide by about 7.5 to get an idea of what a vacation costs. Flights from Hong Kong to the Philippines were about $230 CDN roundtrip for two people, which is pretty phenomenal as well. Prices in the Philippines are even cheaper.
Living in a small city, though, is really, really cheap. I would say you can easily get by on maybe $200-$300/month and that includes rent/food/everything. So you could save up a few grand at home and easily take 6 months off here.
We eat out twice a day and drink a lot and don’t really exercise any form of financial restraint, and food for the two of us is still usually about $100/month (CDN). Rent can be another $50-$100/month (for a nicer two-bedroom place). and the rest goes to keeping yourself occupied by going on the bumper cars every day, renting dogs, buying D&G jeans three times a week, etc, etc.
Having a bad China day today!
Decided to counter it by bringing my camera with me 24/7 and pretending to take videos of every single person I saw.. It worked wonders. I guess deep down the Chinese are ashamed of the way they treat foreigners and of all the yelling/shitting/pissing/vomiting/swearing/etc/etc they do in everyday life because they all seemed pretty fucking tame as soon as the camera was out. Anyway who did actually start yelling at us or lawei’d us I focused the camera on, and 9 times out of 10 that person shut up or looked away or (even better) actually looked a bit embarrassed that his dumb ass might end up on YouTube or something.
Altogether it was pretty enjoyable. These stupid fucking old men/women who actually live in a public washroom near the restaurant where we eat were staring and laughing at us, so I decided to take a picture of them. That shut them the fuck up. They actually drag a rickety bed into this washroom and sleep among piss and shit – I guess nobody wants to be seen living like that so I took full advantage of it. Dick move, I know, but sometimes you just get fed up with the laughing and pointing. I have a few good pictures of their shocked faces which I will post as soon as I get my camera cord.
The 18-19-year-old teenagers are a little more brash, some looked a little ashamed but most of them started SCREAMING out HELLO HELLOOOOOOOO at us so the camera sort of failed in that respect – however I think all I need to do to get my own (short of being extremely racist to the Chinese back home when I return) is start snapping pictures of young couples making out, which is rampant.
Then some idiot workers starting HELLOing us while they were all piling into the back of a tractor, so I whipped out the camera and started smiling and waving at them. I guess they didn’t like the thought of me videotaping all 20 of them cramming into this little vehicle so half of them started covering up their faces and the other half gave me the finger. It was so gratifying. I need to learn how to say “THIS VIDEO PROVES YOU ARE POOR AND I WILL SPREAD IT ON THE INTERNET PUBLICLY – THINK ABOUT THIS” in Chinese. Anyway I have a couple of good pictures of that.
Anyway I’ve now learned that my camera is my best weapon in this city. Anytime someone starts hollering or swearing at me I am going to whip out my camera and start videotaping them. And if that doesn’t immediately cow them into submission by means of exploiting their own insensitive gestures, I will kick them in the balls.
I also want to bring up two more things:
1 – We found condoms today. Chinese condoms. We took pictures. The names are: (I’m getting my girlfriend to read these out right now): BIG HEAD… TIGER TEETH… TOP CRUNCH… and DOTTED (which looks like a sea urchin)
2 – In every country we have traveled to in the south east, in EVERY single hostel, we have come across a ‘worldly’ Chinese person who has spent a rather needless amount of time apologizing for his own race. In EVERY hostel we have stayed at, we have either been confronted by Chinese apologizing for the other Chinese in the hostel, or warned by Chinese that there are other ‘unpleasant’ Chinese nearby. It’s pretty fucked. Also, I have learned that many bordering countries hate the Chinese almost as much as the Chinese hate the Japs.
A good example of this was when my girlfriend and I decided to go snorkeling in Malaysia. Due to the Chinese holiday, our boat was packed to the gills with vacationing Chinese. All of them wore lifejackets on the boat. Once we got off, I swear to god, all 500 Chinese people on that boat waded shin-deep in the water, frantically charged up and down parallel to the shore, churned the water up so you couldn’t see anything, and then within 20 minutes everyone was back out of the water and in their little huts. Most of them spent the remaining 7 hours smoking. Despite the fact that there were about 500 people on this trip, my girlfriend and I were pretty much the only ones swimming. There were about a dozen white people there as well – they were also in the water. Everyone else basically just stayed on shore. If that’s not funny enough, we actually had to come back an hour early because the Chinese collectively decided that they were done with the water. Afterwards, by complete coincidence, we ran into one of the guides who headed the whole operation. A native Malaysian, she then spent about 30 minutes telling us to never come to Malaysia when the Chinese are there because they are too noisy, scare the fish, don’t swim, litter everywhere, and generally ruin the holidays for everyone. I get the impression she didn’t like them. She suggested returning in May.
Fuck, so after 8 billion things went wrong we ended up in the hick town of BENGBU, population 3 or 4 million give or take. It’s like every other Chinese city (not including the super popular ones like Shanghai/Beijing/etc) in that it’s very grey, very polluted and very depressing. Anyway we got a cab and asked to go to the park. Any park. The driver drove us right out of the city I think and brought us to the base of this hill and pointed to a shitty-looking pagoda at the top of it. So we walked up the little hill and went inside the shitty-looking pagoda and a man charged us 70 cents to get to the top.
Once at the top we looked out over the outskirts of Bengbu, which was grey and depressing and stupid-looking. Anyway among all the grey we saw this patch of moving grey and then I said ‘I think that’s an elephant’ and my girlfriend said ‘yeah, that’s definitely an elephant’ and then I said ‘let’s go check out the elephant.’
So we climbed back down the shitty pagoda and pushed through the trees until we found the elephant. Turns out it was actually in this tiny little enclosure in this really shitty ‘zoo’. A man charged us $1.00 to go in. Once there we saw a lot of animal abuse and just random shit that would make PETA go off the hook. I took a lot of videos. There were bears and lions and shit just lying on concrete and there was this hippo just sort of drying out in the sun and monkeys and camels and shit all just sort of wandering around.
Anyway so I was staring at this large bird I’ve never seen before when suddenly a group of like 4 men and 8 kids about 10 years old all started trying to push this giant Bengal tiger into the back of a jeep. so I watched them heave and ho and push the tiger into the jeep and the tiger really wasn’t having it and the kids kept kicking the tiger through this cage about the size of a small bathtub and eventually they put the tiger in the jeep and the dude inside started honking the horn and drove off into traffic.
Then we were told we couldn’t leave the zoo so we walked around it once more and watched Chinese people throw shit at monkeys and monkeys throw shit at Chinese people and then they let us out of the zoo.
Then we found this little pond and watched these old people congregate. A few of them produced these little shitty guitar things and started up a tune, and then this 80 year old show off started singing and dancing and this retarded 90 year old dude started clacking these bells together and I assume they were singing about the hard times they had all seen.
After we were bored with this we went to look for food. We saw a wet market which is just full of eels and fish and you have to watch were you step because the last time we walked through a crab district there were still crabs everywhere and all these people were playing pool and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why you’d set up pool tables among all the big loose crabs.
Then we got two terrible dishes, hardly touched them, went outside and bought some bread that was cooking in an oil drum, got laughed at for looking at strawberries, found the bus station and went home.
We wanted to go to Shanghai this week but our assistant got us tickets that left at 10am and we were there at 10pm so we were 12 hours too late for our train. So we lined up again and found out they only had standing tickets left. So we bought them, waited by the platform, and then the train pulled in, and as soon as I saw that fucking boxcar in the back packed to the gills with smoking Chinese people and they were hanging their heads and arms outside the windows and pointing and laughing at us and we decided we weren’t going to stand overnight for 8 hours just to get to Shanghai. We’ll do it next week.
By the way, Chinese parks are so fucking retarded!! They’re just like that big empty south of the border, only weirder. The Chinese love to cut down all the trees and everything, and then put up the most random shit ever. we looked at this one cleared area and it contained a white grand piano, some giant cacti, this large hula-hoop, a man squatting and staring at us hard, one of those wooden things you get married under, a horse, a bunch of shitty plastic furniture, etc, etc. it just looks terrible.
Being in China has made me realize a few things – (1) pollution has to be localized.. I mean I know global warming is everyone’s problem, but some countries have fucked themselves over and are now paying for it. In the same way that really congested cities have this orange hue around them, China just has this hazy cloud of smog covering its ground. I seriously hope to fucking god that I’m dead before the whole world is as polluted as China. I can’t believe what they’ve done to their country. (2) As someone who might have been a bit of a bleeding heart democrat before, spending all this time in China seriously just makes me want to tighten up Canada’s immigration laws and keep our country’s population down as much as possible. Phil Collins really said it best when he said too many people = too many problems. I know we should open our arms and embrace people born in shitty countries but Jesus fucking Christ people here treat their country like a fucking trash pile and it’s no wonder you can stare directly at the sun and everyone wears gas masks and neighboring countries shut down all their public schools when strong gusts of wind blow China air into their country. I think from here on out I’m taking an extremely selfish stance, and am going to do whatever I can to keep my home country beautiful and spacious for the next 70 years or until I’m dead. Yesterday on the Chinese news I learned that just in order to keep up with the economic consequences of their stupid population increase, they need to create something like 25 million new jobs EACH YEAR just to stay on par! That’s practically Canada’s population!
So anyway that’s the latest news from this backwards idiot land. The zoos are fucked and I’m a lot more selfish than I was before I came here.
I understand that a country can pull itself together after making mistakes, but I just can’t imagine that happening at this point in time. The industrial revolution was a goddamned long time ago and there weren’t as many people/as much technology and that’s probably why the states were able to bounce back. Same with London in the 19th century. Granted, it’s unfortunate that China’s making these mistakes at a time when they have 1.3B people (vs. what, 50M in the US in 1900??) and this feverish goal to sacrifice absolutely anything to be number 1, but I’m seriously becoming frustrated and selfish enough to play the “it’s their fucking problem” card.
Oh, and on an unrelated note, women’s day is really popular here. Which is just great. Laura received a large bottle of dandruff shampoo and several bags of milk powder from the school next door, as did all the female teachers.
I will try and put up pictures soon. I have a lot of them, I just need to get stupid ‘Ubuntu’ to recognize my camera, and then put in the effort of uploading them.
Anyway today we went back to the park. We learned that Huainan fired the two ‘blackers’ in this city. The two black people here were employed as teachers; both were fired because they apparently can’t speak English. They both speak English perfectly well; we were then informed that Chinese people are very racist and they have certain expectations for English speaking people, which is that white people speak the best English I guess. Anyway so the blackers are gone, but we have a new white person who seems nice so we’re back up to 5 white people out of 2.8 million. Awesome. I was also told from another teacher that when she was in the office of a foreign teacher recruiter he (the guy in charge) basically just deleted every resume that came attached with a photo of a black person, since China just isn’t having it. They’re a little bummed out with the Philippine teachers as well – we’ve got two Philippine girls working here and they don’t really get treated anywhere near as well as we do. For example, if a white teacher and a non-white teacher are taken out by their boss, the boss will introduce the white teacher to his/her friends and not say anything about the non-white teacher. Good times!
So to celebrate we went to the park, did some archery, hung out in the human slingshot, drank beer among dogs tethered to trees, go carts, bumper cars, etc. Good times. Two things of note – we saw one of those claw machines where you drop in a quarter and then control that claw thing and try to pick up the prize you want. Here in China among shitty stuffed animals and Barbie knock-offs there were definitely a dozen or so packs of cigarettes in the machine. Pretty hilarious.
Secondly we got into this boat attached to a zip line. Some lady turned on an engine and we were dragged upwards and backwards for a while until we were near this tower maybe 80-100 feet in the air. Then we were released and descended down the zip line. We were going fast, but nothing crazy, but what was fucking ridiculous is that the ride didn’t stop. There were 3 fucking tires painted yellow acting as a cushion between us and a big slab of metal and we crashed right into that fucker. My girlfriend was in front and was (very fortunately) leaning back so instead of really hurting herself she just sort of slid underneath and into the front part of the boat and almost disappeared from sight. It was pretty nuts.
Tibet needs this extra visitor visa and supposedly you need to book a tour through an agency to get this extra documentation. Apparently you can only get this in certain Chinese cities before heading over to Lhasa. Then again, some friends of ours went to Tibet a few months ago without this documentation and they were fine. They just got on a bus and headed over to Lhasa, and the only thing that happened was that the bus driver (who was from Tibet) got ridiculed by a younger Chinese police officer. So I don’t know. Keep in mind my friends had Chinese working visas, but they were pretty adamant that you don’t need anything other than a few dollars for bus fare to get to Tibet.
We’re going to try to get to shanghai again this Sunday – hopefully that shit works. Then next weekend we have some friends coming down to visit, which should be really fun, and then the weekend after that we’re off to Guilin & Yangzhou (doing the Li river before it dries up), camping in Sai Kung, staying with friends in Hong Kong, Macau & Kowloon hopefully, and then flying over to the Philippines to camp out a bit more on a few islands over there. Really excited about this vacation. Then in May we’re doing Xian and the whole terra cotta thing, and hopefully a trip to Hangzhou because I’ve only seen the outskirts of that place and it’s supposedly really nice. June we’re off to Yunnan province to do the gorges and maybe get carried into Tibet a bit, and then July we’re up north to Beijing and Inner Mongolia. Then we fly the fuck out of this country and go home for a few months!!! Fucking stoked about that!
Rolex oyster perpetual knockoffs are 35rmb in this city, which is like $4.50USD, and they have the actual wrist-movement-powering devices in them.. They aren’t as accurate those and these watches lose like a minute a day. Which I’ve heard actually isn’t terrible all things considered, but still seems like a pain in the ass.
We’re going to send home a big box of clothing soon with all our winter clothes and probably a bunch of jeans and shoes. All our camping gear is going to take up a lot of room when we fly home and we can only bring 140lbs each on the plane in August. Sending shit home via slow boat is pretty cheap. You’re looking at maybe $10USD to send home a huge box full of shit. It takes 2-4 months to get home, but that’s the only downside.
Chinese mannequins. Some people use mannequins to show how flattering their clothing looks draped around the human form. Others use mannequins as a means to subtly tell their customer base to BUY MY FUCKING RED COAT.
This picture of a recovering alcoholic was taken in front of a store proclaiming to sell upscale, sophisticated linens and pillows and shit. Kudos to the Einstein that thought that flipping the image and blowing it up twenty fucking thousand percent would smooth everything over.
After much research and deliberation, the Chinese have engineered the answer to every young, rambunctious girl’s foremost question: what does it feel like to have a sea urchin inside your vagina?
The beer’s okay. I’m sure you’ve heard of Tsing Tsao or however it’s spelled (it’s pronounced ‘ching dow’). They have a beer here called ‘snow’ which is also pretty good. Unfortunately they’re both very weak beers, usually ranging between 3 and 3.8%. But at 3rmb per quart (cheaper in some places) you can’t go wrong. One cool thing about beer here is that if you look under the cap you can win a ‘free’ beer. I fucking love this idea. Only some restaurants seem to participate in this whole ‘free beer’ thing (it also largely seems to depend on how much of a fuss you make if your cap has the ‘free beer’ Chinese symbols on it) but it’s still pretty cool.
We just got back from Shanghai, we left Sunday. It was good. I bought some avocados (I haven’t had any since September) and some V8 juice which I’ve also been craving. It was kind of expensive as far as Chinese value is concerned. I found a store with Amy’s pizza but it was 100rmb so I skipped out. We ate at this great upscale restaurant (something else I’ve been missing out on) right next to the bund (on the western side). The meal ended up being 3000rmb (7 of us with wine, so not terrible), but it was pretty fucking good. The guy heading the staff that waited on us gave us complimentary posters of the building (the old lighthouse) from like 1933 or something.
Other than that, I bought 8 ‘good’ Lacoste shirts for $20.. the clothes market near the old French concession was pretty much torn apart by construction and police a few years back, so everyone downscaled and built little ‘stores’ inside their shitty houses. So basically now you have to follow some random dude into a tiny dirty cement kitchen that smells like piss, and from there into someone’s sister/uncle/aunt’s bedroom which has been redone with fake mahogany flooring and soft lights. this is where you will buy purses, bags, watches, shirts, golf stuff, wallets, sunglasses, suits, etc. I picked up a really nice Rolex submariner knockoff which took me 20 minutes to talk down from $200 to $15. Then we hit up the old city and the antique markets which were kind of fun. I was trying to find that Hu Xiu tea place that the queen reputably drinks tea at, but I couldn’t tell one temple from another and eventually gave up.
Other than that we went to the Shanghai museum (which was good) and the Shanghai art museum (which was terrible) and spent too much time walking from Huainan street to Nanjing street and back. Everything’s about 20x+ pricier in shanghai than what we’re accustomed to, except for the knockoffs.
Anyway, we leave in 10 days for our next big vacation which involves a lot of camping and then a trip to the Philippines, so I’ll report more when we get back. We might get a maid; our apartment is fucking messy as hell. I’m trying to think if anything really amusing happened, but aside from a story about some girl getting drunk and hitting on her cousin in front of lots of people, it was a pretty quiet and respectable few days. I was definitely glad to get back to western culture. I’m definitely considering buying a flat in the Pudong area – they might be pumping it full of water right now just to keep it from sinking into the bund, but you can still buy a nice flat for $100k which will definitely be worth a lot more in 10 years than just about any other investment I can think of presently.
So two small additions:
1 – There is a lucrative trade in China that involves people lugging an old desk or something out into the sidewalk, putting a telephone on it, connecting the telephone line directly into the telephone wires on the street, and then charging people random amounts of money to make calls on the government dollar.
2 – Because I feel like my French is going to hell I’ve been talking to a friend in France via Skype once a week. We’ve done this for months now without any problems. Today he started talking about the protests happening because of the Olympics, and how in France you could actually watch China turning off their cameras and stuff, and the calls immediately started getting dropped no matter how persistent we were calling each other back. I suppose this could be a coincidence. But I would assume there’s some big brother recognition software or something in place.
3 – We got like 5 of these Chinese teachers drunk, and since they’re girls I don’t think they’ve ever had alcohol before. It was pretty funny. They each had maybe one beer and then got bright bright red in the cheeks. Then they slowly started speaking more and more English. At one point one of them said “I like to cook.. for myself!!” (which is a pretty spirited/independent statement to make around these parts) and this was met with lots of laughing and then this other teacher said “I want to ask you a question… are you drunk?!?!?!?!”
So I’m back from Hong Kong & the Philippines. Fun vacation, not much to say. China is still the same. Apparently there IS a bar in this city. The new girl said she went there and a Chinese guy tried to kiss her and smashed his teeth into her mouth so hard she got a fat lip. So I’m interested in seeing how it goes.
I never thought I’d say this, but I was really happy to get back to the Chinese dishes I like after being in the Philippines. All they eat there is corned beef and sardines. They just don’t eat vegetables in the Philippines – restaurants will have like 15 pots of food set out and there won’t be a single vegetable in the whole lot. There’s a lot of seafood as well, obviously, but on the whole the food pretty much sucked.
Only a few months more of updating! I think we’re heading home in July. We were originally going to spend a year here, but I think 10 months in this country is enough.
So while this experience is fresh, I sort of want to try to touch upon the subject of Chinese mentality. It’s really bizarre, but a lot of people here simply can’t get their head outside of eating and making money. And I totally understand this is due to the situations they’re in, and the society they’ve been raised in, but it gets really frustrating. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but trying to explain to a Chinese translator that I want to book a vacation package online nearly made her head explode.
Anyway now that we’re starting to make plans to head home, we want to ship all our winter clothing and some other heavy shit ahead of us so that we don’t end up paying tons extra at the airport. So I went to the post office. I can speak enough Chinese to mail packages and stuff, but this time I wanted to know all the shipping options, and price by weight, and that sort of thing, so I brought an interpreter.
We get there, and I ask if they have a table showing price by weight. They apparently don’t. She keeps asking me for a specific weight, so I say ’10kg’. She says they don’t ship that weight, and gives me the price for 1kg, which is about 90rmb, or like $11.
So then I ask for 20kg. They don’t have that weight either. Normally I would give up here back home, but because this is China I know there’s going to be some sort of random weight they do have.
I ask how much it costs to send 30kg of stuff to Canada via cheapest option, and magically they have a price – 700rmb. Undaunted, I ask for 40kg. They don’t have that weight. I ask for 50kg and they tell me 634rmb.
So now I ask them why 50kg is cheaper to send than 30kg, and this is where small town Chinese mentality kicks in – neither the interpreter nor woman behind the counter understand my question. Ordinarily this would try my patience but I’m so use to this now it doesn’t even faze me. I just rephrase and rephrase what I’m trying to say 7 or 8 times and wait for it to finally dawn on someone. Finally the interpreter realizes that it doesn’t make sense that it costs less to ship a heavier object, and starts yelling at the woman behind the counter. They yell back and forth for a bit. Then the interpreter turns to me and tells me maybe it’s 700rmb to ship 50kg and 634rmb to ship 30kg.
This is probably just a band-aid solution and totally incorrect, but this happens a lot here as well.
Then I ask if the size of the package matters. This takes a while to get through, but finally does, and then the woman pulls out this booklet of prices and flips to the Canada section. Then she says something to the interpreter, who says I can no longer ship 50kg and 30kg is the max weight. Which is fine, I’m now used to these little contradictions.
Anyway I ask about the sizes again, and the lady hands me the book. It got the official China post logo on the front and looks like an official publication. It’s entirely in Chinese, but that’s fine, I have an interpreter.
So the lady behind the counter points to a paragraph where I can at least read the numbers which say 30kg: 2m x 1.05mm
So aside from the lack of a third dimension, I quickly ask them if they mean 1.05 meters, and they say ‘no – millimeter’. I draw a small dot on a piece of paper and tell them that’s about 1.05mm. They look at the dot and nod solemnly at me. So then I use my hands to convey a package that’s 2 meters by 1.05mm and again they nod solemnly. We are all clearly in accord at this point. So then I try to explain in simpler terms that a box of such dimension cannot, in all probability, even be manufactured out of cardboard, and it slowly dawns on them that maybe 1.05mm isn’t the right number. Eventually they see the point and tell me that yes, they do mean meters. It’s very possible that’s incorrect though.
Then I question them about the missing third dimension and I think I fractured some brains with that one and just couldn’t get either person to catch on so I gave that one up and took a taxi home.
I’m trying to buy some solar panels here as well before I take off and explaining to them that I don’t want the vacuum-tube solar water heaters, but the PV panels that actually convert photons to electricity, is going to be a ton of fun.
So I just did some solar cell sleuthing.
It was pretty enjoyable on the whole, actually. All of this was done with the help of a translator:
The first company I called said they had ‘heard’ of solar panels, but weren’t sure if they had been physically manufactured or not. Keep in mind this is a company that sells solar water heaters, which are everywhere here.
The second company called actually claimed to have invented the technology, which made me laugh out loud for about half a second. So then I asked them what they had available. They said they didn’t know if they had any available (despite pioneering the product) and would have to call the head office. We were to call back in 5 minutes.
We called back, they said they had some, and how many did I want to order. I said that depended on a few things, namely what the panels are made of, the warrantee, and most specifically how many watts. I want to buy six 80-watt panels. They said they had all sorts of sizes, and how many did I want to order. I asked if they had 80 watt panels. They said they had all sorts of sizes, and how many did I want to order. We did this about 4 times. Finally I just asked how much a panel would cost, and they said they were on public holiday (there is no public holiday today) and to call back tomorrow.
I’ll let everyone know how the solar panel conversation goes tomorrow. I just realized that I should also check with the post office to make sure I can mail solar panels… I’m sure I mentioned this earlier but China post prohibits the shipping of certain items – like strawberry shaped alarm clocks.
We’re heading out to Xi’an on the 4th I think, to check out the terra cotta warriors.
Oh, by the way, I finally traveled via overnight bus.. We went to Yangzhou which is in the middle of the Karst mountains and pretty fucking beautiful, and then went from Yangzhou to Shenzhen on our way to Hong Kong.. Overnight bus was pretty fun. They actually make you take off your shoes, which is something. Some woman spent most of the trip with this little dog sleeping on her neck. Not much to report other than even ‘lying down’ in my bunk I was still practically sitting up. I was on the bottom bunk, middle row, and some clueless girl on the upper bunk first removed that sharp hammer-like device that you use to break glass, and almost broke my elbow when she dropped it. We also watched this Chinese film about this girl who loses her memory and has her identity stolen and her husband’s a cutting edge geneticist etc, etc, and it was suppose to be all suspense and creepy and shit and then at the end it turned out it was all a dream!! They’re still using that one!
Anyway I haven’t posted many pictures, but here’s one of Yangzhou and the Karst Mountains. It’s a pretty cool area.
The Huainan zoo. Featuring the dreaded, mother-fucking man-eating BEAVER.
So we crashed another KTV. It was way easier. The lady at the door put up some remonstrations but we just kind of waltzed in and went upstairs. Then we said ‘hello’ to the first people we saw (standard 35-year-old Chinese men) and went into their room. It was pretty normal. The fattest guy started dancing by himself and took off his shirt, which was hilarious, and then a few prostitutes came in and started dancing. We got drunk quickly. My girlfriend got way too drunk and ended up spending the majority of her night telling the prostitutes to go back to school and to stop doing this etc, etc, even though they didn’t speak a word of English. It was pretty tame, on the whole, but kind of amusing. Especially the fat shirtless dude.
Yesterday we all grouped together and went out shopping since we’re all technically rich in this city. We made friends with the ‘hip-hop’ crew here, so far the nicest people we’ve met. They all run clothing stores so we buy a lot of stuff from them. They’re all into dancing. it’s funny to listen to them when they carried away and forget we’re bad at Chinese and start speaking a mile a minute and all I hear is blahblahblahblahblahHIPHOPblahblahblahblahLOCKN’blahblahblahPOPPIN’blahblah
Anyway then we took a cab to the ‘crazier’ shopping district, where most of the stores have a megaphone attached to a CD loop that blares out things like “TEN DOLLAR!! TEN DOLLAR!! OK TEN DOLLAR!! GIVE ME TEN DOLLAR!” in really, really fast Chinese. It’s nuts. There was one store that had the megaphones like 5 feet away from a bunch of baby bunnies being sold in these little cages about the size of my fist. Kind of sad. Anyway there’s 5 of us now so we all piled into a cab, and the driver started yelling at us because 5 is too many for a cab and there were police right across the street. So we told him we’d ting-bu-dong our way out of it (I don’t understand!) and pull the white foreigner card and the police definitely yelled at him through a megaphone. So we just told him to drive and he totally did it. Pretty funny.
The second cab driver we met definitely hit the pedestrian right next to me, and then they started screaming at each other while I tried to climb into the passenger seat. Also kind of funny. I’ve seen a lot of minor accidents here. We went to barbecue for dinner, which is this awesome place where they put a hot plate out and bring you food to barbecue on it.
We’re off to Xi’an on Saturday, so that should be fun. Then either Beijing/Inner Mongolia or Yunnan/3 gorges in a few weeks. I’m definitely pretty satisfied with the dent I’ve made in this country as far as traveling is concerned.
I’ve definitely used ‘ni ma’ a few times around here. ‘fuck you’ also works. I’ve been warned against crime but simply can’t get my head around it because I’m so much bigger than everyone here. Every altercation I know about (i.e. through friends) has been an almost laughable incident. Also the fact that we’ve got Olympics coming up helps ensure my white advantage re: you touch me, your government will execute you.
I’d love to go to Hainan if we can afford it. We’re heading back to Hong Kong in mid July, so maybe we can stop by. We don’t speak Mandarin at all, but I’ve learned that if you know how to say yes/no & your numbers, you can pretty much get by with pointing.
We take an overnight train in about an hour to Hangzhou. Should be a mess. Overnight hard seat. We’re drunk and taking allergy medicine so that by the time we’re on the train car we’re either hopefully passed out, or more likely just yelling at everybody (i.e. just getting by in Chinese).
Seriously I’m really buzzed and once the Benadryl kicks in I’m just going to stare everyone down and yell a bunch and if anyone fucking tries to sit on my knee or on my lap I’m going to lose it.
I’m also putting a bunch of hardcore mp3s on my PSP (“strong music” in China) just to keep everyone up all night (I will only do this if someone else decides to leave their cell phone blaring with terrible Chinese pop music).
Not much to talk about in Hangzhou.
We booked our flights home! We leave July 7th. I’m glad we’re cutting it short by a month.
On the train ride back I got stuck with middle bunk and stepped on this old man’s leg in the dark trying to climb up to it, and he fucking YELLED something fierce. It scared the life out of me for a second.
Hangzhou is pretty, West Lake is nice & all and we biked around the surrounding area, which looks like Canada a bit except with a lot more pollution, and also you can bike through nice woods for about 25 minutes and then suddenly they stop and you hit another city. It’s so depressing how populated this place is.
I’m definitely losing interest in a lot of the ‘sights’ here because every single fucking pagoda looks the exact same. I’m sure I’ve written before how 99% of all temples/pagodas/etc were destroyed in wars and therefore all rebuilt in the 1930s/republic era, but they ALL look the same. concrete with whitewash, fake mahogany pillars, yellow paint on the outside wall with big red characters printed on the side, knockoff bronze pots for the incense, giant plastic gods with fake flowers on either side and cheap red “silk” stools for kneeling, everything crumbling and falling apart due to cheap building materials and cheaper labor.
Anyway we did stop at I think Lifing Si it’s called, which was a bit of a ‘museum’ built around a live archeological dig, which was really cool, and I saw this angry fat girl plodding around dressed like sailor moon and we got kicked out of a lot of places for biking for some reason. At the ‘flower nursery’ (which had maybe 10 flowers total on some 40 acres of land) this one girl came up to me and did the usual ‘where are you from.. oh you are so handsome…’ but then instead of following this up with a request for a picture, her dad, gruff and squat, bulged out from god knows where and sat down next to me, and then the girl was like ‘now you will take a picture with my father’ and he started shaking my hand in this endless grasp and we took the picture like he was the pope and I was the president and I was welcoming him to the gala.
Also because it’s hot now everyone had their shirt off on the train. When we got off and walked past the hard seats, everyone was shirtless, it was 4am and the haze of cigarette smoke was so thick I couldn’t see through to the other side of the boxcar. Everyone was sticking their heads out the window and spitting.
Also ‘hand, foot & mouth’ disease has made its way into this province? We’ve got like 20 kids dead already and some 1000 others infected, and the kindergartens here are killing cats like there’s no tomorrow. There’s minimal coverage of this here in China. I’ve seen one news report that sort of brushed it off like a light incident.
It’s probably just me, but maybe if everyone stopped spitting into each others’ mouths and washed their hands after shitting (NOBODY does this – I’ve confirmed with Laura about what happens in the girls’ bathroom too) instead of hunkering down to eat finger food, maybe diseases wouldn’t spread so rapidly in these parts.
I think the Olympic torch runs through this city later this month for reasons unfathomable. Any ideas for a funny sign I could hold up for the cameras?!
Totally forgot to write about this, but it’ll ring true to anyone who has stayed in hostels.
In Yangzhou we definitely stayed with one of the full-blown phony ‘philosopher’ types.
Before I go any further, I’ve sort of decided that you can categorize most travelers; you have your outgoing ‘adventure’ type person who might be cool/might be totally annoying; you have your clueless travelers who are usually here in between jobs at home simply because they like the sound of being ‘well-traveled’. These are the ones who usually skip all the sights and basically just worry about getting the nicest mode of transportation to the next place and you’ll see them getting carried up mountains on the shoulders of locals. Finally you have a very large group of people who simply cannot cope in their home country, and need to go somewhere where they can get additional advantages simply because they are white and/or speak English. I have come across a LOT of these people while traveling this year, and most of them disguise this inability to function in a first world by claiming to be some sort of vagrant/nomad existentialist.
These people would never in a million years find a job or make friends or get into a relationship back in a country where there’s competition, so they have to go someplace where you can find a girlfriend simply because you’re ‘different’ and people will listen to your bullshit life story with a big smile because you were born far away. A lot of these people will usually drop phrases like ‘I just can’t stand the west!’ while watching movies in the common room of the hostel. These people also never have any money.
Anyway so we definitely had one of these dudes in our hostel, only he was covering it up by pretending to be a philosopher. A few of us were having a good conversation about China and were talking about how hard some people here have to work (it takes generations to buy a house in some places) and then this guy interjects with “but how do you know all this work just isn’t in their minds” and everyone rolled their eyes and immediately knew we were dealing with one of those people.
I should have spotted him earlier (thankfully I don’t remember his name) because he had all the warning signs – despite being in the country for a couple of days, he was decked out in full minority clothing (because these people get it) and looked like a Krishna on acid. It was like a one-piece monk thing covered in felt flowers and shit and had tons of beads and strips of leather hanging all over it and he was wearing those little bead sandals that several minority groups here wear, and he had like ten thousand bracelets running up his arm and anyway you know exactly what I’m talking about.
So anyway mercifully I don’t remember a lot of the details but I do remember we were having this big supper and one kid was complaining about a stomach-ache and someone offered Advil, and someone suggested he take it easy and go to bed early, and then the idiot definitely said “or maybe the pain is all psychological” and then proceeded to talk about nothing in particular for maybe 15 minutes while we sort of looked blankly at each other. And you can’t really argue with these people, because they just keep saying more and more ridiculous shit. I do recall that he finally ended his own diatribe by saying “but I should go now.. because I hate myself” and then someone said “oh well that’s not good” and he said “why?! is it wrong to love to hate yourself?” and we all collectively willed his soup to fall over into his lap.
Anyway one other thing worth mentioning was we were all trying to watch Apocalypto for some reason and in the middle of it he just starts reciting this poem or something out loud with this big fucking smile on his face (there were these two girls in the room that he was seriously into) and everyone just sort of let him do this for maybe a full minute. And then he stopped and someone groaned and duly asked him what he was saying, and then he gave an even bigger smile and started reciting this poem again for like ANOTHER full minute. And then when he finished that time he told us it was lyrics from a fucking tenacious D song. I don’t think anyone knew about the band and I pretended I hadn’t heard of them just to shut him up.
I should also mention we had this guy named Franz who spent all of a few weeks in our city. This dude was from the States and I’m amazed he was even capable of booking a ticket to another country because he was complete fucking useless. He was 49 and we all had to treat him like he was our little incompetent brother. The first week he was here he just kept going to the hospital for dumb-ass reasons and basically just complained about everything. For some reason even though he had a helper at the university for this sort of thing, he would go out of his way to find ANYBODY he knew and then make them take him to the hospital. One of these trips he took a woman who ran a restaurant he ate at once, and then he didn’t bring any money so she had to pay for it. And he just complained nonstop about smells and the state of his existence. He was a teacher and he was also the first person I’ve ever heard of getting fired from a teaching job in this country. Nobody liked him and I guess his lessons sucked. He ended up getting fired and broke down and then like the ‘real’ Franz came through and he just started telling everybody about how he couldn’t make it in the States and he would die if he went home and he didn’t know how to book a plane ticket etc, etc, etc, and fuck, somebody had to accompany him on the train all the way to Shanghai and someone else had to book his tickets and he was basically just a shining example of this ‘third’ type of traveler that I’m talking about.
OH SHIT and the first dude at the hostel definitely came out into the common room with these big sheets of paper and proceeded to make all these intricate folds and we were all watching him and he was totally loving it and then many minutes went by and we all got bored and went back to what we were doing, and like seriously, like 50 minutes later he goes up to those two girls he liked and gave them these really, really, really shitty paper flowers!! They were like 6 folds each, I don’t know how on earth it took him so long to make them but this kid from Denmark definitely burst out laughing and the girls looked pretty creeped out.
Another KTV night occurred yesterday.
It went pretty smoothly, but I do want to note that I lived a small dream of mine and emptied an entire fire extinguisher into the boy’s bathroom.
If I remember anything else I’ll post it.
Naw, we’re good!
Shit sucks. I keep wondering if we can help somehow. We’ve got tons of vacation time.. a buddy of ours might be heading over to Burma to help out with cyclone relief, but I mean if kids are buried under rubble a train ride away what the fuck am I doing here listening to Tribe Called Quest and posting on VLV?! Know what I mean?!?!
Also this hand/foot/mouth disease is scary. 2008 is not a good year for little kids. We’re definitely spaced out by what’s going on over here. I keep wondering what we can do.
Not much new to report. LJ got sick and the doctor told her to not eat at any restaurants, as they are all disease ridden. Good advice. There are a lot of rats here lately; they’re coming in with the warm weather.
If you wear sandals or flip-flops or anything like that you have to be really careful where you step, because the ‘sidewalks’ here are loose tiles and underneath the whole city is a giant layer of human shit that squirts out anywhere there’s a crack in the sidewalk or road or whatever. It’s probably not pure human shit, I’m sure there’s a little bit of mud in there, but basically it’s very common to step on a loose tile and have a brown jet of something shoot up your leg.
One week from now we’ll be on a train to Beijing, where we get to witness the government rounding up homeless people and dropping them off at the city outskirts. Then it’s up to Mongolia where our only plans are to ride a horse in the grasslands and then ride a camel in the Gobi, preferably on the same day.
Oh, and apparently since the Olympic torch is coming through, they quickly built an entire building out of glass that is shaped like a piano. Makes sense. It’ll be completely destroyed by November.
Alright, let’s discuss timing.
ANYTIME we get a call from a Chinese person, it usually starts off with “maybe now we will…” followed by some sort of request or demand. I would say 95% of the time we never know what we’re expected to do until a few seconds before it actually happens. I guess it’s a common thing here. Back home it might be considered rude not to give any warning, but I’m not so much concerned about the politeness factor so much as the simple convenience of knowing about things a day (or even a few hours) in advance.
For example, whenever we’re suppose to go for a dinner, we will usually find out about it while we’re eating dinner. Someone will call and say “maybe now we will go to dinner” and we’ll say “we’re already eating” and there will be a pause and then the voice on the phone will say “everyone is waiting in the car outside your apartment.” This has happened more times than I can count.
Just now we were woken up (it’s 10:40am) by a Chinese person at the school saying Laura needs to return her little cafeteria lunch-box-thingy. If you read above, LJ’s been a little sick and the doctor told her not to eat at any restaurant in the city because they’re really dirty. So she’s eating at the school’s cafeteria. Anyway the voice on the phone said she needs to return the box right now so that they can fill it up with food by 11am, so that she can take it home with her at noon. She asked if they had any extra boxes, and they said yes. Doesn’t change anything. She asked if she could just bring her box home at 11am after they filled it up with food. They said no – it needs to sit there for an hour. And she needs to come over now.
Or yesterday evening, for example. I’m hanging out when a Chinese friend comes over and says “now maybe everyone will go over to your house” and I said ‘why’ and they said “we will count the appliances in your apartment” and I said “why” and they said “we don’t know.” So now I’m marching off with adults I’ve never met to my apartment where they stood around and I doubt they even looked at anything and then everyone left. What the hell.
And then barely 20 minutes later this one girl, Vicky, knocks on my door, breathless, saying a government official is here, and these are the lies we are to tell her if she asks questions. Then she gets a call and tells us even if the government official asks us questions in English, we are to pretend we don’t understand. We are to ‘play video games’ ‘right now’ and just not look at this woman asking us questions about our living situations and the school etc, etc, etc. and if we must talk about the school, we are to lie about everything and give these new answers.
So we’re trying to remember all these new fake ‘answers’ when there’s another knock on the door, and then Vicky says ‘pretend we are friends’ and I laugh and say ‘we are!’ and she frowns and says ‘no, pretend I don’t work at the school’ (she’s a teacher) and then a bunch of adults burst in and with the exception of the government official and the woman who was just here to count the appliances everyone else works at the school and has known Vicky for years and I watch in astonishment as they all introduce themselves to Vicky like they’re just meeting her, and then Laura & Vicky & I all start vigorously playing our video games like our lives depend on it and try not to stare at anyone. When they leave I fake a ‘xie xe’ like I’m just starting to learn Chinese and one dude all but gives me a wink and a thumbs up while standing right behind the gov’t official.
In the beginning we decided to get work visas, so we had to go through a ton of hoops (mostly medical) in order to get them. Basically you have to get a full physical, plus some extra random bullshit (like a test to see if you’re colorblind, etc.), the usual blood tests (aids/syphilis/etc), an ECG to make sure our hearts were fine, and some other test for our lungs I think. At the travel clinic (where we got our vaccinations) the doctor was from India and had been to China a bunch and told us that the forms foreigners have to fill out today were drafted up during WWII in order to keep out people trying to migrate from war-torn areas, so many countries made the requirements harder than usual to keep the amount of migrants down. But on the work visa medical form for China there is absolutely ridiculous shit.. I actually have the form in the other room – one second..
You need to checked for.. typhus, polio, scarlet fever, hepatitis, meningitis, dysentery, etc, etc, etc.. all the different fevers. Then you need to have a doctor check off that you don’t have toxicomania, mental confusion, manic psychosis, paranoid psychosis & hallucinatory psychosis. Then there are boxes that just say things like “development” and “nutrition” and “nourishment,” as well as ones that say “neck,” “tonsils,” “ears,” “nervous system,” etc. the doctor is suppose to write ‘normal’ or ‘okay’ or something in this. then you attach a chest x-ray exam that says you don’t have any pleural or parenchymal abnormality, and where the cariomediastinal silhouette is within normal limits, and then your doctor has to check that off, and then you attach an ECG that shows a normal sinus rhythm, then you attach an HIV lab test that says your HIV 1/2 is negative/nonreactive/no antibodies detected, attach a syphilis test that shows no current/past infection. Then you get examined for cholera/yellow fever/plague/leprosy/venereal diseases/tuberculosis/etc. Then your doctor signs you off as ‘healthy’, you go home feeling that even if your job sucks and you hate paying rent, at least you’ve got your health, and then China deems you fit to come to a country where everyone’s perpetually ill and contagious and outbreaks of all sorts of horrific shit are as common as the cold back home.
Even with our friends in China bribing for a rushed visa we still didn’t get ours in time and had to re-book our flight for a week later. Which ate up most of the money we were hoping to spend for last September when we arrived.
Anyway let’s talk about skateboarding. I will preface this by saying I am not a good skateboarder at all. I can’t do anything, I fall a bunch, and despite having a skateboard and skateboard friends since jr. high I didn’t really try to take it seriously until late last summer, right before we left for China.
Anyway I skateboard in the park because it has the least amount of people. Regardless, whenever I set up a giant crowd of like 20-30 people usually form. Some of them will bring picnic baskets and sit down really close to where I am trying to practice. Today I didn’t land a trick properly (as per usual) and the board shot out from under me and I landed directly on my back and knocked the wind out of myself. Everyone laughed and a few people clapped. I hate this shit. It makes me really nervous and self-conscious and all of that. It’s no fun falling all over the place and looking like an idiot in front of a bunch of people. It’s embarrassing. So anyway then I usually move shit to the grass where I will try and learn how to do kick flips and easy stuff, without falling. However, the board will still shoot out a few feet if I land with both feet on the back wheels. Anyway today these three fucking families all sat down like 5 feet from me, and the one family started pushing their goddamned fucking BABY towards me. This BABY couldn’t even walk properly. And that gave everyone else the idea to push THEIR babies towards me, so now I have like 4 stumbling BABIES all tottering up towards me so I have to stop and try to explain to these idiot fucking families that I am not good and I might accidently hit their baby and don’t they realize that the board is flying out from under me every other minute etc, etc, etc.
Which of course prompts one man to get up and take out the camera, and then it’s 20 minutes of me taking photo shoots with these crying shrieking babies who are all terrified of me. And then usually I go home, having accomplished very little, having actually skated for maybe 25-30 minutes, and probably not better at all.
I realize I’m basically just updating my day today, and it sounds pretty lush, albeit ridiculous. Wake up around 10:30, check my email & do some research for our Mongolia trip, grab lunch, go to the park.. it’s 2pm and I’m probably going to read and take a nap until my girlfriend gets home (she’s out getting her nails done with her friends.. the 3 white girls here all LOVE this, apparently it’s totally different from getting your nails done in Canada).
So we just got back from a short trip to Mongolia. It was really gorgeous. We stayed with this small family in a yurt on their farm in the grasslands. It was so nice to see blue skies and not wake up to people yelling and spitting.
Anyway lets see.. We stopped by Beijing briefly to see if pickled Mao was back at tiennanemamenaman (he’s not) and do the extremely boring, ugly walk through the forbidden city. like every other city in China, all the temples here were rebuilt and look like concrete copies of every other temple in China.
We also finally hit up the famed ‘silk market’, which on the whole was pretty tame and exclusively for tourists. We didn’t want to go there because I didn’t want to bargain while some American tourist next to me is forking out 10 or 20x the price I’m willing to pay.. it seemed pretty useless to me. Nonetheless we learned that if we only spoke Chinese to the girls running the stalls they would gladly argue with us to the death over prices a fraction of what other foreigners were clumsily paying for. Euros in particular seemed to be paying exorbitant amounts of money for clothing. I definitely watched one dude shell out $100US for a pair of fake Etnies – are they that much over in Euroland?! Once he was done I snagged the same pair for $4. We made a good haul. I got a few suits tailored and actually bought way more than I was planning to, but for $150 I came away with half a dozen pairs of shoes, the aforementioned suits, half a dozen shirts, two watches, a Canada goose jacket, a bunch of socks and shorts, a couple of ties, some hats, wallets, cufflinks etc, etc, etc. not terrible. The girls there are really friendly but pretend to be pissed off. One girl grabbed a pair of socks I had just bought and fled the scene (in order to seem ‘angry’ about the ‘low’ price I had paid), another pinched me so hard I still have the mark, a third actually tried to set me alight with a Zippo, etc, etc, etc, but I take it was all in good fun. It certainly wasn’t anything compared to the outdoor markets of Kuala Lumpur.
Anyway the only other thing of note is that Beijing had the worst cab drivers I have ever had the displeasure of seeing. Not a single one seemed to possess even a rudimentary knowledge of his own city. Even after saying major tourist destinations in English, Chinese, and pointing to it on a map, we were confronted by cab drivers who just seemed to have no fucking clue where the hell anything was. One cab driver couldn’t even tell me where north was, after I got so frustrated I told him we would walk. We stormed out of cabs whenever we chanced upon a metro station – it’s infinitely safer and wiser to trust your own counsel, no matter how displaced you might be, over that of a Beijing cab driver.
Mongolia was fucking bliss. The grasslands was probably the purest, for lack of a better word, place I’ve been. A yurt is one of those mobile sheepskin tents that the Mongols have been using since the dawn of time. They’re really warm, which is good because the temperature must have been close to 0 Celsius, despite it being 35+ in Beijing. I also thoroughly enjoyed having nothing to do other than take long meaningless walks through the countryside, ride horses, and help herd the family’s flock of sheep. I’ve learned that sheep are hilarious animals, far funnier than dogs and cats.
We also took it upon ourselves to arrange a small trip to the Gobi desert. Some 350km deep into it we spent an extremely short amount of time jumping around sand dunes and trying to keep our camels from lying down and being stubborn, obstinate, useless creatures. We chanced upon a ‘guide’ who seemed to take great interest in leading us somewhere, despite being in the desert. I was hoping for oases. We ended up at another goddamned motherfucking zoo! in the middle of the desert. This zoo wasn’t that bad though – by this I mean most of the animals had probably perished long ago and weren’t being replaced. In fact I can easily relay the contents of the Gobi desert zoo: 1 cage containing 6 or 7 assorted pigeons. 1 cage containing a majestic great horned owl that I felt bad for. 1 cage containing one of those small fluffy yappy dogs, evidently abandoned by owner. Then we went into the ‘museum’, which contained, among other treasures, the decayed skeleton of a sheep, the decayed skeleton of another sheep, the decayed skeleton of a large sheep, and a mop.
After we had ooh’d and aah’d this marvel to sufficiently impress our guide, we turned around and went back to base camp. Here we got jammed into this machine that looked like a boat on wheels, and we were driven possibly 12 feet in one direction and swiftly booted out back into the sand. No matter. I believe the best time had was just running along dunes and jumping off them. You don’t get quite as much air as you’d like, due to your feet sinking into the sand with each step (we were also wearing these ridiculous felt booties to keep sand out of our shoes), but it’s fun to fall 20 feet or so and land in soft sand. There were a lot of dead and dying beetles scurrying about in certain areas, and I learned that in order to climb a steep dune without avalanching yourself back down to the bottom, you must first have a large stick of some sort to wedge in the sand.
Nothing too funny happened on the trip! I nearly killed myself one night tripping over a sheep in the dark and that’s really about it.
We will be off to Xian in a week or two, and possibly three gorges dam if we can squeeze it in. due to our extravagant purchases, we’ll need to send quite a bit of stuff home. Does anyone know the best way to do this so my parents in Canada aren’t slammed with duties? I kept my receipts from the silk market to show that while it might look like I purchased some $15k of brand name goods, it was really only about $150. I don’t have any receipts from this city. Though – we aren’t advanced enough for that sort of thing. I was also planning to wear all the clothes at least once so they look maybe somewhat used. Does anyone have any other suggestions? Would enclosing copies of some of these receipts perhaps show that the overall content of my packages are less than meets the eye, as far as fiscal affairs are concerned?
Alright, time to address a few more things.
First, two days ago I got the usual “you must come to the school right now, we are all waiting for you.” Once I got there they had a bowl full of water and rice, a bowl full of leaves that apparently came from a nearby pond, some dates, and about 20 children. Then some photographers came in and I was supposed to make these triangular rice-leaf-packet-thingies while the photographers took pictures. This was for the newspaper I think.
Yesterday we got another “you must come to the school right now.” This time they sat us down in front of the bowl of rice, bowl of leaves, and one of our friends who speaks English said “now we will take a video for the television” and a little camera crew showed up and focused the camera on us. Then our friend said “you will now say your name, and where you are from.” So far so good. “And you will talk about how you are making the zomzi (or whatever the hell those rice things are called) for the dragon festival”. Shaky ground. “And you will talk about the cultural differences of china,” which is way beyond my Chinese abilities. Anyway eventually she ended up as translator. We introduced ourselves and the camera man demanded that at the end of it we all say “YEAH!!!!” and give a big thumbs up. We did so and he got upset and said we should not be smiling when we shout out “YEAH!!!” and give a big thumbs up. This is hard to do.
Anyway we also had to do this ridiculous ‘let’s go Olympics! let’s go china!’ chant that I don’t think anyone did properly, and then we were let go for the day.
Today we had a lunch to go to. We apparently were suppose to go to the ‘countryside’, so we all met up outside and after about a minute this giant brand new Mercedes pulls up and we all get in. It’s one of those SUVs with TVs behind each seat. we get in and we’re off to the countryside, which turns out to be maybe the poorest little village I’ve seen yet; it’s mostly full of dirty men without shirts carrying hoes and spades and looking like they’ve been at work since 4am. Everyone’s staring at the white dudes in our fancy goddamned pimped out Benz and all these poor kids in tattered clothes are just staring at us, and we pull over and get out. Then our host tells us we are to go order, and brings us to this room where they are preparing food. All I remember is seeing a floor full of blood and dismembered turtles. Everyone gives each other a knowing nod, and we walk back to the room where we sit down. Nobody has spoken a word, but apparently we’ve ordered. So then food comes in, I have little idea what any of it was, but there were a few dishes that looked safe and I stuck to them. We ate for an hour or two, and then piled back into the SUV and got the fuck out of wherever the hell we were.
That brings us up to about now. I also wanted to address one small issue, which is that I have convinced myself that one reason Chinese earthquakes are so devastating is because every apartment/building/etc is built entirely out of tons and tons of concrete. Back home in Canada if I’m in a house and it collapses, shit sucks, but I mean really I’ve just got a bunch of 2x4s and some insulation and some plastic siding and some shingles on top of me. which is bad enough, but nothing compared to tons and tons and tons of concrete. even the walls of every abode are made out of thick fucking concrete. I believe it’s because there aren’t any trees left in most of the areas. I’ve mentioned how you can take a train for 12 hours and hardly see any trees at all, and I could probably count the number of mature trees in this city on one hand, so I assume that’s why concrete is used for all buildings.
Anyway. Not too much to report other than this.
Thought I’d write some quick notes
1. We learned that Chinese people absolutely do not believe that money can ‘lie.’ If it is expensive, it has to be good. For example, at that inane ‘country lunch’ we went to, the ‘wild turtle’ was 300rmb. This is a LOT here. The Chinese people we were with were up in arms over the price. But then they decided that it must have been worth it. Later the next day we were joking about how we should just buy the turtles here (5rmb) and sell them as ‘wild turtle’, and the Chinese were all very serious about how it would not taste the same because it’s only a 5rmb turtle. We definitely mentioned that people probably wouldn’t know, and they responded that you would have to know, because the turtle was so expensive. It was kind of weird.
Second, we get our garbage torn apart whenever we throw it out. We usually bring it to this giant cart next to the road, and people jump up when we come out with a bag of trash and tear it to shreds within seconds. At first I thought maybe they were looking for recyclable commodities like bottles, cardboard, etc, so for a while we’d put these things in separate bags. But they still go through the trash, like we’re celebrities. I think they just want to see what white people eat. I feel really bad, because I have definitely thrown out bags of puke from just about every time we have a baijo dinner, and I’m pretty sure most of the time they’re just clawing at moldy vegetables from our fridge and bloody tampons. They also don’t have tampons in China and my girlfriend is somewhat perplexed as to what they must think of her. But I mean we throw out a lot of disgusting shit – we travel every month and always have shit going bad or smelly in our absence.
I think that’s about it. We walked by a building ‘under construction’ and it was just full of people sleeping on the concrete floor, staring at us as we walked by. Some dudes yelled out ‘HELLO HELLO HELLO HELLO’ while driving by on their scooter (guys always pair up on scooters here and hold each other lovingly on their little scooters) really loudly while we were walking to lunch, and we saw a small girl playing in a pile of trash absolutely swarming with flies.
Oh, and Spring is definitely ‘shit on the street’ season. Yesterday we saw this girl, maybe 6 years old, take probably the biggest shit we have ever seen. It was impressive, I’m pretty sure everyone in the alley was impressed, too.
Lastly, two days ago was the most polluted day I’ve experienced since arriving here at the end of last Summer. It was absolutely fucking ridiculous, it was like being in the middle of a forest fire. We couldn’t see more than 50 feet in any direction, and the air smelled horribly. It even got inside the apartments. We were at the school and the school was just as thick and smoky, it just seeped in everywhere. what a fucking horrible day. one of our Chinese friends just got preggers and was asking about the air back home, and I was trying to explain that back home if the air was even fraction as bad as it was that day, they would shut down all the schools and issue air quality warnings and people would seriously freak out.
Oh, and when you’re pregnant here, they make you wear this thin felt vest, it protects the baby from ‘computer harm’ and presumably cell phone harm. It’s kind of funny to see pregnant women absolutely terrified of computer monitors until they don their little felt vest, and then they just swagger around everywhere with such a cavalier attitude towards all that is electronic.
The ad for the TV that we took did not air because the person in charge decided not to pay for it. The other ad went through, someone’s grandmother saw it and decided that white people are friendly, after all. I’ve done some good here.
I also forgot to mention that on our way back from Beijing, we had the usual problems with people crowding the bunks that we paid for. Since the train ride was largely during the day, we paid extra for bottom bunks, which have more room and allow you to sit up and talk to friends and play cards.. We got two facing bottom bunks. Of course they were swarmed with people who were pissed off that someone else had actually purchased the bunks and intended to sleep in them at some point. We waited until they cleared (it’s useless to ask people to move in this country) and everyone eventually left except for this one dude sitting on my pillow and yelling into a cell phone. He did this for almost an hour straight, then finally hung up, gave this large sigh, put his hands in his head and fell asleep on my pillow. Again, it’s useless to ask people to move, they’ll just Lawei you, etc, so I waited it out. Finally he got up and moved to the nearest seat, where he sat, farted, made weird noises, and stared at me nonstop from about 3pm to 1am. we had a ‘newer’ train with ‘newer’ signs saying ‘please don’t smoke’ (this is for the Olympics) but nobody paid any attention to it. I remember on the way there people were still smoking in bed around 4am, this thick haze of cigarette smoke everywhere. traveling in this country is so disgusting.
Our female friend from Canada recently went to yellow mountain and had to bunk with 5 or 6 other Chinese people. She said they had the floor swimming in water (Chinese people love to throw water on the floor) and were up at 4am eating noodles.
The water-floor thing is tradition, mostly. when you are at a restaurant you presume your plates and cups and things are dirty (they are usually washed in a basin full of bloody water and live fish) so you pour hot tea over everything, rinse it out, and splash it on the floor. Between that and everyone spitting everywhere the floors are generally covered in a sticky layer of mucus, tea, and cigarette butts.
If you walk down our alley around 8am you will see about twenty instances of the following routine.. a hose pours running water into a big plastic washtub filled with fish and eels. The wife of the family is busy hacking these creatures up. A bubbly red broth then pours out of the plastic washtub into a second washtub, filled with dishes and cups and stuff. The daughter is busy at work here, quickly rinsing wooden chopsticks and the like. The father is hunched over the wok. It’s definitely cute how the family unit operates here.. because it takes the average dude 90 years to buy a house, it’s expected that the son/grandson will have to shoulder his load someday and I think this helps keep the family together.
The medicine in our city sucks. We found out they have like 3 or 4 standard medicines which they just apply to your ailment through IV, regardless of what you have. I am always going to be thankful to live in a country with western medicine from now on.
June 27th I’ll either be here in Huainan, or in Xian. I’m going to try to book tickets tonight or tomorrow for the trip. HK, yellow mountain & shanghai sound like a really good trip. I’d also suggest Hangzhou, it’s a pretty city (by Chinese standards). yellow mountain is one of the best things I’ve seen in my whole life.
I’m 6’2 and out of the kabillions of people I see wandering around, there have only been maybe 5 or 6 people taller than me. At the train station, which is usually packed solid at any time of the day, I can usually stare over hundred and hundreds of heads into the big mirror at the front and very clearly see my head well above the masses. sometimes when I’m drunk I feel like I should just go on a rampage. They drive around in these little tricycles called ‘tuktuks’ and I’m pretty sure I could flip one over.
Anyway, we mailed shit home!! Hopefully it gets there.
We put all our clothes in bags and put that in this giant bag (they have these huge bags made out of the same material tarps are made out of, they’re like 5rmb and pretty tough and they’re a great idea) and brought three of those to the post office.
If you read earlier, I stopped by the post office last month for rates, and found out the maximum weight they’ll send out is 30kg. So I figured we’d be sending out two 30kg packages. Once we got there, they immediately started ripping into everything we had, right in the middle of where people line up to do their business. So all our shit is on the ground, and then they grabbed two giant boxes, taped them together to make this big box maybe 5 feet high, and slowly started putting stuff in. my girlfriend was pretty pissed because they wouldn’t keep anything in bags, and I had some dirty pairs of shoes that they were nestling in between her new clothes, etc. they were pretty serious about checking everything. I was interested to see what they wouldn’t allow, since our friends before us couldn’t send home a strawberry alarm clock.
We were pretty fortunate on the whole – we couldn’t send home some pictures I took of this city, an electronic drum brain I brought over here (they treated this thing like it was a doomsday device – they didn’t even want to touch it), and our Canada goose jackets because they were too ‘puffy’. Not bad. I’m pissed about the jackets because those things take up so much room.
The main thing that irritated me was this: I think everyone in the post office knew that this giant massive makeshift ‘box’ (the one pieced together from two of the larger boxes) was going to hold way more than 30kg. I’m pretty sure we said it about a dozen times, I think random bystanders with no knowledge of the post office said they thought the box would exceed 30kg, it seemed to be all we talked about. Nonetheless they filled that sucker right up, and then spent about 20 minutes securing it with about 4 rolls of packing tape.
We still had clothes leftover, so they grabbed another large box, and filled that up. No problems there. Another 20 minutes was spent taping this one up, too.
So then of course they go to weigh the big box and it’s definitely over the maximum weight. Which just pissed me off so much because I wanted to buy train tickets and didn’t have much time. I don’t know what they were thinking. So we had to reopen the box (which took yet another 10 minutes because of the miles of packing tape all over it), take out a bunch of sweaters and stuff, and then I’m pretty sure she was about to tape it all up again!
So I made this big fuss, saying to weigh what she had just taken out, so that they could tell by the difference whether or not the box would now be under 30kg, and of course this seemed to be the dumbest idea in the world until someone understood what I was saying, and then they were all really into it. We took out enough clothes, taped the big box shut, and taped it up.
Then, the other thing that pissed me off, was that I wanted them to put this leftover clothes in the other box, but they insisted on putting it in this tiny third box. this made things a lot more expensive I feel. They said there was a car waiting for our boxes, which I felt also unusual, but maybe in China they just stuff things in cars and head for the ships.
Anyway so now we have our three boxes of clothes, and we’ve changed the ‘contents’ box of the customs form about a billion times due to all this shifting, and then they made us check off the ‘gift’ box – I told them this was stuff we were sending home and they wouldn’t let us check anything else, so god knows how that’s going to look when it hits customs, and then they said to write a really low figure on the ‘value’ – something else I wasn’t totally sure about. Then they stuffed our boxes in rice sacks and they disappeared from sight. I asked what happens if the boxes get lost, and the woman said she doubted they would get lost, and that was all.
Our friend is having trouble mailing a piece of luggage back. They won’t do it unless it’s in a box, and, unlike the post office we went to, they won’t tape two boxes together. So she’s kind of in a quandary, all because her luggage is just a little too big for one box.
I’m also glad to be heading home because as the weather gets hotter, we are now losing power just about every day (never for more than an hour, though), as well as hot water, and sometimes water pressure altogether. really excited for first world comforts like drinking water, blue skies, less censorship, sidewalks, etc.
Not much new to report. It is impossible to get train tickets to Xian. I feel like I’ve been living at the train station. This one dude, desperate to buy tickets for us and then re-sell them to us at a profit, grabbed my hand upon hearing me say the word ‘Xian,’ pushed to the front of the line, and started yelling at full volume at the woman behind the counter. this went on for a while, then, when it was evident there weren’t any tickets left, he took me on this extensive tour of the whole train station, basically pleading his case to anyone who would listen. Every time we got stopped by a guard or something he’d yell out that I was white and used that as a free pass to get himself in somewhere. Anyway it was to no avail. Dude was definitely there the next day, when he swore up and down we could get tickets then, took me through the same obstacle course, again without results.
Anyway hopefully today we secure tickets. We’ve been on ‘sold out’ trains before where there’s just empty car after empty car full of seats and bunks, so I have to assume they either have a very poor system going, or they don’t want to sell to foreigners.
Last night we got drunk and took out our awesome bb guns. we played that card game ‘speed’ for about 3 hours straight. Loser either had to get shot with a bb gun or take a shot of Baijo. It got somewhat brutal.
I’m starting to pack stuff up for Vancouver. We’ve decided to include the great Antarctic in our trip next year, and I’m fucking stoked to go home, crash my parents’ new huge house, eat free food, save up a bunch of money, see my friends, go skydiving a bunch, and then head as far south as we can go.
Oh, and in China you can’t make a Visa/MasterCard payment through a bank. I asked and was paraded around the whole city until they found a Visa machine. I said I didn’t want to take money out, but to put money in and the whole world stopped for a few minutes.
Oh and parents at the school next door are complaining that the fans are on. It’s like 40 degrees here, it’s humid as fuck because of all the pollution, you can’t walk 20 feet without getting covered in grime and dust from all the smog, and parents are upset that the overhead fans are on. They say their kids are going to get sick.
FAN DEATH is back in style this Summer!
I also learned a bit about getting a drivers’ license. The standard wait time is 2 months, but of course if you have money or connections, just call one of the numbers spray painted everywhere and they’ll hook you up. The girl who I was talking to finished off this informative blurb by saying “like my father.. he cannot.. see. but he can drive!”
I also learned that legally you aren’t suppose to be able to work until you’re 19. Now I definitely know some 10 year olds who are up every day at 5am and go to bed at like 1am/2am, and work nonstop through the day, but I think if you average kid doesn’t have responsibility until he’s in his early 20s, it might explain why so many boys/girls here in their early 20s act like 15 year olds.
Finally, they put up this ancient poster of a soldier whispering something into the ear of the most corrupt/evil looking 70-year-old I have ever seen. I would pay good money to know what the point of this poster is. I’ll take a picture.