January 22, 2012 § Leave a comment
Our students took the IELTS exam last week, and some culling/restructuring went along with it. This meant we were going to have a few days without class, so the three of us started planning ways to get out of Quanzhou for a bit. I had looked at Wuyishan in Fujian Province, but since I was feeling sick, I decided running around parks in a place colder and wetter than Quanzhou wouldn’t be wise. Liz and Cory got turned onto Sanya by a few people we know, and since it is the warmest place in China (which I can’t leave for a while because of a bit of a visa SNAFU) I thought it would be nice to warm up there for a week.
Sanya is on the island of Hainan (the big island off the coast of the mainland that actually belongs to the PRC). It is known as China’s Hawaii, and well, if that’s what Hawaii is like, I guess I’m not missing much. If you take it for what it is, it’s alright. It is a coastal resort town with tons of watersports, beaches, and people that can’t wait to help you spend. If that’s what you want, fine, but unless you speak and read Chinese, you need someone to show you around and setup activities for you.(and to pay them). As the only major resort town in China and one of the few places with temperatures approaching 80 during the winter, the businesses there can really afford to charge whatever they want. All the guides then provide transportation and promise discounted rates for different places. Without a guide, you still may be able to talk the price down quite a bit, but you will have to arrange your own transportation.
That had to be my biggest complaint. Just about anything you might want to do that is not beach or ocean related is at least an hour drive from the city. So your options are some kind of travel guide, a taxi, or the local bus. Taxis don’t save you any compared to the guides for trips like that, and without reading Chinese, the local buses are extremely difficult to figure out. Even with it’s help, the bus system is slow and has nothing close to a dedicated service for sight-seeing. Another hostel guest said he thought Sanya had some progress to make in that department, but it seems like the inefficiency is at least partially designed. There’s more money in having small operations play off each other with jacked up rates saying how great their deals are than there is in public transportation.
So it just wasn’t the kind of place for me. Besides being cheap, I like having more independence and being able to just go somewhere and do what I want without paying someone to tell me when, where, and how I can hit the john.
Some other extenuating circumstances that messed with my enjoyment of the beach: the cough I left Quanzhou with evolved into what seems like bronchitis and I got my pocket picked on a bus the second night we were in town. Besides keeping me up a few nights and forcing me to leave my room so I wouldn’t wake my dorm-mates with my hacking, the illness also left me in a general haze for most of the trip. That haze was only compounded by the feeling of loneliness brought on my having my wallet stolen. I should have known better and had it in a safer pocket or backpack, but I didn’t. Being in a cramped bus with Chinese people trying to order us around a bit (in Chinese, you know this is a tourist town, right?) all led to me being less than vigilant and unsuspicious of people bumping into and pressing against me.
I did get the wallet back sans cash, though, because of my lazy habit of having my number written down on a copy of my passport for when people ask for it. Once the douche dropped my wallet a girl found it and called me, and she arranged with people at the hostel (because I don’t speak Chinese) for me to pick it up. She got a couple pounds of apples out of it.
Oh yeah, so not only is Sanya a big tourist destination for Chinese (because PRC travel restrictions make it a pain in the ass for them to even go to Hong Kong, one country, two systems and all that crap), but it is also flooded with Russians. Almost all of the nicer shops in our district had signs in both Chinese characters and Cyrillic. When I’d go into some restaurants, the workers would act all proud that they could help out the white guy, then hand me a Russian menu. Sorry, “Wǒ shì měiguórén.”
I didn’t take too many pictures there, but here are the highlights.
I was confused by this place because there are much better ways to come out and say a place is a sex shop without saying “sex shop”. Upon closer inspection it turned out to just be a place to buy sex related supplies, not necessarily including women.
December 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
A couple weekends ago I went out with a bunch of different westerners from around Quanzhou. A few of them I hadn’t met yet, but Liz had been in contact with a couple of them for a few weeks,
We met up at our usual dark, urine-smelling, semi-western bar that sells beer almost exclusively. It was pretty uneventful for a while, but it was generally nice to see some new faces. There was even a Russian who was a little hard to understand. He did offer a few “In Soviet Russia…” type one-liners about growing up in the middle of Siberia, so it was all good.
All was well, then this tall-ish, slim Chinese guy came in and started hitting on our French friend, Louis. He just hung around for a while and kept saying how we should go to this other club, and that we could drink free there. We had plenty of beer already, so we weren’t moving too quickly. After a while, though, he got more persistent started drinking our beer to get us moving. We finally agreed and he led us to some cabs. We had to take 3 because by then our group had about 9 people plus this guy and one of his friends.
The cabby took us on our fastest ride so far inChina, swerving in and out of lanes while laying on the horn. I was about to take some video of it, but we got to the club by the time my camera was up.
The place was called “the Den”, which immediately put up some red flags. That guy seemed pretty gay, and bears live in dens… It wasn’t actually a gay club, though that might have been more interesting, and we would have been more forgiving of the err sausage-fest-like environment.
It was fairly empty without any girls besides the ones working (we’ll get there), but it was loud as hell and just a sea of fake smoke and flashing lights. Pretty soon after we got there, a band came on, and they played loud. Real loud. If I plugged my ears, I could kind of make out what was being sung. From here on I’m going to let the pictures do the talking because I’m lazy (and I finally have a functioning camera again.)
The guy that brought us to the club and the singer. I don’t think she was for sale.
Our friend did come through with the booze, too. They served us two rounds of Jager and as much Tiger-piss beer as we could drink. Which was quite a bit. We wondered why they were feeding us so much, we figured it was a new club and they just needed bodies in it to make it not seem so sad. Speaking of sad….
Xiaojies! After the band finished these girls came out to dance, and besides that one second from the left, none of them even tried to look like they were half interested in being there. You can also see little winged tags on some of their hips. They’re so you can pick out your favorite by number. Just like picking up a heifer at the market.
Our friends also um… ordered some girls to stand next to a few of us guys. I tried to take some discreet pictures, but they didn’t turn out, maybe FB material. Two of them didn’t even try to interact while another at least drank a beer and at least acted pleasant.
The last thing I shot worth showing. I wasn’t really aware that Stawberry Shortcake was a popular fetish, but I guess that one guy is probably willing to pay a lot for a girl that really gets into character. Also, yeah at this point I couldn’t keep my own beer from out in front of the lens.
It really was a sad place, and free booze or not we won’t be heading back.
December 6, 2011 § 1 Comment
I went to a massage parlor a couple Fridays ago. Not that kind of massage parlor, and actually, it was more of a beauty spa. My friend and I did have to go down an alley then up to the 7th floor of an apartment building. Slightly sketchy, but they actually had a pretty nice setup.
Oh, on the way, I asked how much of clothing we were supposed to wear for the massage. Daisy said we’d take off our shirts.
“Of course, you keep your underwear on!”
“Hey, we go naked in America.”
“But this is China!”
Then I made some disparaging remark about the kinds of services offered at a good number of similar establishments.
But like I said, the place did look pretty nice and the women there were very professional. Well, besides the kids running in and out of the room we were in, and their mothers having to chase after them from time to time.
The massage started out alright, but my masseuse (beautician?) mostly stuck to my shoulder blades. She kind of just moved over my muscles instead of really getting down into them, and she never moved to my lower back to work on those knots.
After some rubbing, she got out the suction cups for some cupping. Cupping is supposed to draw out toxins from you back, balance out your meridians and all kinds of good stuff like that. I was disappointed that she was doing it with a mechanical pump instead of firing the cups to create the vacuum, but oh well. A few of them did hurt a bit, and those are the ones that left the darkest bruises. (another reason why I think the fire cups would have been better).
She left the cups on for a while, kind of pushed on my legs for a minute before putting a few cups on them, and then once the cups came off, used something like a rubber curry comb (thanks for the name, mom). I had told them that I didn’t want gua sha (scraping off skin on you back to increase blood flow and release more toxins, I guess), and Daisy told them again for me. After Cory’s ordeal, I figured I should avoid open wounds at all cost. Anyway, the curry comb started to hurt quite a bit and I was worried that the woman was actually scraping away my skin. Apparently not, but those horizontal red lines across my back are irritated stretch marks. So, yeah, it got a little rough.
And after all that, the woman turned me over and gave me a facial massage, commented on the dark circles under my eyes, and gave me a facial peel. I must say, my face did feel super smooth afterward.
That’s really about it. I wasn’t horribly impressed, and while the facial was nice, I don’t think I will be going back.
There was one other interesting thing that happened that night, though. When we left, we got the most outspoken cab driver I have met in this country. Some of them try to talk to me when I pronounce where I want to go halfway decently, but most just drive in silence. This guy was full of all kinds of piss and vinegar though, and luckily I had my friend there to translate.
The highlights (slightly paraphrased):
“He speaks English? I don’t like them, especially Americans.”
“Everyone in America is a terrorist.” (Well that puts me in good company with the Dalai Lama)
“All the people of other countries should join together against America for all the wars they raised.”
He also said something about liking people like bin Laden and Gaddafi (I did catch that name).
November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s been quite a while since my first installment of my series on transportation in Quanzhou. That update was precipitated by my first ride on an electric motorbike with my now Mandarin teacher, Lyn. This last Wednesday during class, she asked if I wanted to visit another town with her the next day to visit a friend who had just given birth. I agreed and she mentioned at the time that she doesn’t like driving so she might have me take care of that part.
The next day after my morning class, she came over and drove me to Hui’an. Our first stop was the hospital to see her friend and her 2 day old baby. It was a little awkward because 1) no one in the hospital room besides my teacher spoke English and 2) I haven’t been around that many babies before. I mean, I have been around babies, but they have usually been at a distance, well guarded by parents. Toddlers I am a little better with, and I enjoy playing games with them. Babies, though, they just seem much too fragile to be in my accident prone presence.
Anyway, Lyn chatted with the mother, her family, and a few other people who stopped by to congratulate her and offer gifts some of which was about me as tends to happen whenever I am around new people. After the hospital, we went to her old job at a utility company where she caught up with some old coworkers and showed me off some more (or at least that’s the way I like to think of it). We even had tea with one group. One of her former coworkers asked where I was from, and she was impressed with how good my tones were. Apparently that’s all that matters. Vocabulary be damned. Just make it sound right.
After tea, we met another one of Lyn’s friends at a tea shop. Again, I didn’t really get to say or understand much then either. We had more herbal tea and some mango and pineapple pizza. They talked about… stuff like babies and marriage, I guess. But that will come up later.
They finished chatting, and Lyn took me to the beach in Chongwu. It was beachy and getting dark. She asked if I wanted to drive on the way back because she really didn’t want to. Traffic was pretty light until we got back into Quanzhou, so that was good. But it did start to rain a bit, and that made seeing where I was going a bit tricky because…..
Chinese drivers have a number of quirks. Some of them are understandable once you have done some driving on Chinese roads, but others are just plain stupid. Honestly, a lot of what is wrong with Chinese society gets distilled into a very pure form on the road.
The first of these was that Lyn told me I had to turn my brights on and not turn them off. Ever. I tried to explain to her that having your brights on made it difficult for drivers in oncoming cars to see what else was in front of them besides your headlights. She said that because everyone has their high beams on, you have to too or else other drivers might not notice your low beams. Ahhh… So, with high beams coming straight at the windshield and rain (and bad wipers smearing it around) scattering their light. It was hard to see other obstacles.
Obstacles that lead Chinese drivers to straddle both lanes, because even on out of town roads pedestrians and motorbikes (without lights on) will just jump out from the median or sidewalk placing their well-being in the hands of whatever driver happens to be bearing down on them.
Because in China, the first (and possibly only) rule of the road is that you have the right of way so long as you can probably leave enough time for other motorists to slam on their breaks and swerve to avoid you. Really. That’s it. It’ not quite as bad since people generally drive much slower in China. Posted limits seem to be about 10-15 mph lower than they would be in the states. It’s still pretty bad though, and it seems like stop lights are timed under the assumption that a number of drivers will follow the 5-second rule. If you speed through less that 5-seconds after the red, you can still probably make it.
The Chinese also seem to have a horrible sense of direction, which mixed with their indifference towards everyone else on the road means that it is pretty common to see cars pulling a uie (And while I was trying to find a spelling for that, I came across the this wiktionary article. It made me giggle.) across two or three lanes of traffic, or making a right turn from the far left lane. Or driving along behind pedestrians in a crosswalk.
The good news of all that is everyone expects everyone else to drive like an idiot. Twice when Lyn didn’t quite decide which way I should turn, I had to stop in the dashed crotch of two diverging lanes and wait for a gap in traffic to merge into the one she finally picked.
Also, there is a lot of honking. It’s used as much to communicate your presence as it is to voice your anger. I think I did honk once, but I generally avoided it because people honk so much in China that no one listens. Instead I taught Lyn some new English.
One time Lyn did start yelling at me. She yelled at me because I checked my blind spot before switching lanes.
“Ah! What are you doing? Watch the road.”
“I’m checking my blind spot.”
“Use the mirrors!”
“I can’t!. That’s why they call it a “blind spot”!”
I guess if someone were over there, they would have honked.
Some notes from reading the wikitravel page on driving in China…
- Driving without a license/permit from the PRC (not even any of the “one country, two systems” areas or an international driver’s license) can cost you up to 14 days in jail… Woops.
- The right of way rule here is called “first is right”. So basically no matter how ass-hattish a maneuver is, the driver is allowed to do it so long as they can get their vehicle into a free area before another car.
November 7, 2011 § Leave a comment
Once we got back to the hotel, the alcohol really started to take its toll. Before going upstairs, I sat with some of strangers from dinner and the woman sitting behind the reception desk for a while. We ate some kind of preserved fruit that was in a super sour liquid. They told me to drink some of it to help with my impending hangover. It was really sour, but considering the Chinese distaste for almost any kind of sour flavor, it was a bit refreshing. I’m sure there was some conversation, but the only part I remember was that they were impressed that I could drink the pickling juice.
By the time I went to my room, I was feeling pretty sick. Luckily, I had put a pot of water on to boil before dinner so I had something to drink right away. It wasn’t nearly enough though, and after not getting sick, I joined my bosses and the travel agent on the third floor patio of tea. We sat. We drank. They talked, and I tried to hold myself up straight.
Ms. Wu went to bed, leaving just the three of us. My boss and the travel agent discussed teas and wine, and my existence was focused entirely on the rhythm of the tea, pour hot water on tea leaves, cover leaves for 12 seconds, pour tea, drink, and repeat. It helped the world to stop spinning.
Once I had recovered a bit, the conversation turned to me (my boss had to fill me in here and there). The travel agent thought that with Liz and Cory coupled up, I must be pretty lonely over here. He had a solution, though. He knew a young flight attendant on Korean Air that made stops inXiamen(a little less than an hour from Quanzhou) whose father is a representative in the Korean government. He thought he might be able to work something out for me and started discussing the qualities that any good young woman should have.
Around this time, Cory slowly hobbled out by us with some assistance from Liz. I won’t get into all the details, but his left kidney’s ureter gets really narrow right before the bladder. So when he drinks too many diuretics and his body tries to eliminate a lot of water at once, the ureter backs up and his kidney expands. After only having a coke on the drive out and a bunch of rice wine at dinner, he was in a lot of pain.
After trying to find alternative ways to dehydrate him and relieve the pressure on his kidney, we ended up having to drive to the local clinic a couple miles down the road. The doctor there said he could put in a catheter, but that wouldn’t do much. Our next option was to drive about an hour and a half back to Zhongzhou to the nearest real hospital.
Fong, Cory, Liz, and I got there sometime around 4:30, I think. Urgent care had a few parents with sick toddlers and a very green looking older fellow. As it turns out he was the only doctor on duty at the time. He took a look at Cory and had him sent up to get an ultrasound. Once that was over they took him up to some floor to let him lie down. They didn’t have a room or a bed for him, which became apparent when they started setting up two saw horses with a board and a bed pad in the middle of a hallway. Seeing that, Fong decided it was about time we took the two hour drive back to Quanzhou to go to the hospital that Ms. Wu’s husband is a surgeon at.
I passed out laying across the back seat of the van for almost the entire two our trip and finally seemed to sober up around 8am when we got back to Quanzhou. We found Dr. Weng outside the hospital, and he got us waved through the gate to park behind the emergency room entrance. Over the next couple of hours Cory got poked and prodded, stuck with needles, and scanned.
This hospital seemed to be a bit nicer than the one in Zhonghou, but that might have been partially due to the fact that it was actually light out when we got to Quanzhou. Though better light isn’t necessarily what you want when you are sitting around in a Chinese hospital. The place was always bustling with doctors, patients, and guests walking the halls in flip-flops, smoking, and spitting on the floor and nurses, nurses who couldn’t speak a word of English staring over their white masks at the writhing lǎowài and his two hungover lǎowài friends.
The bathroom really was the worst, though. It hadn’t been cleaned in ages. The tiled walls and floor were cracked. The walls didn’t really keep the outside out, and the fixtures didn’t invite skin contact unless you were looking for a rash. The best word I can come up with to describe the place is groaty. I elected to go down the street to the KFC to meet my needs and for soft-serve.
While I was enjoying the ambiance, The doctors got Cory on IV’s and finally shot him up with some painkillers. He was able to come back home that night. He went back the next day for more drips, painkillers, and observation.
That night, I went partway upQingyuanMt.with Mr. Fong, Ms. Wu, and
the travel agent for dinner and báijiǔ. The side of the hill had a pretty nice view of the old end of the city (not where I live), and we could see sporadic firework shows going on in a few different places. For being illegal, there sure are a lot of people shooting them off all over this city. The food there was pretty decent and not too expensive. We just went back there a couple nights ago, too.
The báijiǔ we had was a present from a student’s parents who were appreciative of our service. It’s pretty much the only way we get really expensive liquor. Ms. Wu, the agent, and I took shots of it with Mr. Fong looking on. Chinatakes drunk driving very seriously, though I’m not sure how they actually tell a drunk Chinese driver from a sober one (maybe the drunks stay in their lane). The agent was impressed with my ability to to drink Chinese liquor without gagging or any fuss (apparently shots of Fleischmann’s aren’t common inChina). He couldn’t say much to me but he did get out something about me being “number 1”. Mr. Fong also translated that the agent thought my yin and yang must be well balanced to be able to stomach so much.
After dinner the three of them talked about a bunch of different things that I could only catch snippets of. Mostly they were talking about the school and business, Deng Xiaoping and some quote about black and white cats, and finally Korean women. The travel agent brought up more young unattached women he knew from theFuzhouarea, but Ms. Wu was concerned I might have a taste for yellow skin. Just as that conversation was getting good, it was cut short when we found out Cory’s pain had come back pretty bad, and he needed to go back to the hospital for more painkillers.
To bring this all to a conclusion, Cory’s kidney ended up feeling well enough that he stopped going into the doctors for IV’s. His main discomfort at that point was in is butt from all of the injections. Unfortunately, about a day before he was going to start teaching again, his painful butt started bleeding from an infected injection site (The nurses said it couldn’t have been the needles. It must be that American butts are different than Chinese ones). He was taken in to the hospital right away, and the doctors ended up making 6” long by 1.5” deep incision to drain all of the blood and puss from the infection. He had to have it cleaned every other day for about a week. Once the wound was stable enough, the decision was made to send him back to the states right away to have his kidney dealt with instead of waiting around any longer for something else to go wrong. The kidney was taken out early last week and reports are that it was as big as a head. I will link to it if Liz and Cory ever post a picture.
October 26, 2011 § 1 Comment
It has taken me way to long to get around to the finishing my story of that one week (I also need to finish talking about that vacation from a month and a half ago…).
When I went back into school Tuesday, the kids kept saying how we didn’t have class the next day. This was news to us teachers, but it turned out that we were getting Wednesday and Thursday off instead of the weekend (for Chinese National Day). A few of them were telling us that we were going up to Fuzhou, where most of them are from, to see the pandas at the zoo there. They said you can even hold baby ones.
That sounded nice, but we were actually headed south to see the Tulou’s. They’re these big round or square structures up to 5 stories high that were built to be easily defended, and a number of them have been named UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Our trip was coordinated by a travel agent from Fuzhou who went with us. The boss picked him up Wednesday morning, and we all had lunch before heading out. It was a 3 or so hour car ride, but it was broken up a bit because Cory voiced some interest in getting fireworks. The travel agent took this interest as a demand that needed to be met to ensure a successful trip. Apparently even in China, Chinese fireworks aren’t an all-together legal products, though you wouldn’t know it based on the number of them we see from our apartments on any given night of the week. The rub was that we had to make a few stops at his different agency branches on the way to find someone who could tell us where to get the good stuff.
The one we ended up finding was just an average shop about the size of a one-car garage chock full of incense, ceremonial money (to be burnt as an offering), and cakes of shells. We grabbed about 5-6 cakes with shell diameters from 1.5-2.5” and some Roman Candles. It all cost less than 50USD.
We finally started seeing Tulou’s along the road a little before sunset and finally stopped at one right as the sun was going down. It was big and old. And commercialized. I guess the people lived in the upper levels, but the ground floor had a bunch of little shops like the ones that line the street beneath apartment buildings in every city. The shops were a bit more quaint. Their wares were more exotic than what’s on the main drags of Quanzhou, but it was all still produced in some factory.
I think that has been one of the most disappointing parts of my time here so far, at least on the seeing exotic peoples front. No matter where I go, no one makes anything through skilled labor. Every store you go to has the same triple plastic wrapped shelves of crap. I know I haven’t gotten around to fully explaining my trip to Cheung Chau yet, but even there I couldn’t help but think that most of those shops wouldn’t have been out of place in faux-touristy hell hole that is Lake Geneva during the summer. I’m sure my limited range due to my horrible Mandarin skills don’t help this issue at all either. Maybe if I knew more, I could head out into some small village untouched by white folk where people learn some skill that has been passed down from their ancestors. Maybe not.
I should just watch the motorbike repairmen work.
After the Tulou’s, we headed to our hotel. It was nothing special. The plastic toilet seat in my bathroom was almost split in half, bu the bed was softer than the one I have at the apartment. We dropped off our stuff then went to the restaurant downstairs.
There were eleven of us at dinner: three white people, two bosses, our 20ish secretary, the travel agent, two women that worked for him, and two men that were friends of someone… they were never really explained. The meal started off with a cold roast duck (later referred to as qiáng měi yā, or “fit, beautiful duck”) and a soup made with some sort of ground rodent, complete with skull. We also started drinking pretty early. So…. between that and the almost month since that night my recollection gets a bit blurry.
What I can say with certainty is that the only things offered to use to drink were two cups of tea and a ton of rice wine. Like at the big dinners before, the men at the table start toasting everyone, especially the white folk, which means we end up drinking a lot. Luckily the rice wine was only around 20% alcohol. I think. It started off well enough, and having not yet met my match in China, I welcomed any and all toasts. I also joined up with Ms. Wu to fill our secretaries glass as often as possible, as she had made the poor decision of sitting between us.
Once most of the food was gone and the recycled soda bottles were nearly emptied of their rice wine, I figured things would be winding down. Instead, bottles of the syrupy goodness kept coming out. It really went down way to easy, and the lower than usual alcohol content increased our false sense of security. As we were being toasted and encouraged to drink, the adults were getting very animated. Ms. Wu even started talking trash to the travel agent because he was the only person at dinner from Northern Fujian instead of the south.
One of the women that had joined us also got a little friendly. She got into this pattern of asking Liz and Cory a question, coaxing an answer out of me, then commenting on whatever I had said. This went on for a while with topics about age, our thoughts on China, and eventually our relationship status. She was very happy to hear that I was not seeing anyone and made sure I understood that she was single too. At one point my other boss even shouted across the table that I should make sure my door was locked.
The two random men seemed to like me too because they both drank to my health. Drinking to someone’s health involves the toastee and toaster both taking three shots in a row. It was rice wine for me, but those nǚ hài were just taking shots of Tsing Tao. They took my pleas for shuǐ (water) to mean I my health needed more help. Based on the numbers that Cory and Liz gave, I think I ended up with about 30 shots.
Finally, the drinking was over, and luckily the waitress had brought out some soup to help us rehydrate at least a little bit. Now, we had to go shoot off those fireworks, so we walked down the middle of the road a ways to find an open spot under a bridge in the center of the small town we were in. We set off the cakes, which were pretty sweet for the price. A bunch of us held the roman candles, and a few of mine got stuck in the tube. Nothing blew up though. The worst thing that happened was when one of the cakes fell apart and shot a couple of shells sideways at some store fronts: no injuries to report.
We drunkenly made our way back up the street and bought a case of much needed water on the way. This was at about 11:30-12:00.
Sorry if that was a bit scattered, but as I explained the stuff is kind of fuzzy. Oh and the post is already too long. More excitement from that night to come… soon… hopefully…
October 4, 2011 § Leave a comment
It’s been a hectic week.
It started out with that trip to Guangzhouon the 24th. Knowing how my 16 year old student smokes and wanting to keep him in as good a mood as possible leading up to the interview, I got a lighter through security in my liquids bag plus a pack of cigarettes from that dinner a few months ago. He was amazed when I produced the lighter after he mentioned needing to buy one. Wide eyed, he pointed at my back and said “magic bag.”
We walked around for a couple hours after getting in and eating. He spent an hour in the Levi store trying to decide whether or not to buy some 110-210USD jeans. He had to call his mother to check because he’s never gone shopping without her. He didn’t buy them.
On the way back to the hotel he asked if I wanted to go to a bar. With knowledge of his bar-hopping experience back in Quanzhou, my desire to keep him happy and in my sight, and the fact that I did want to go to a bar, I walked him over to Hooley’s Irish Pub. It was less than 2km away, but he couldn’t stop complaining about how tired he was and how much it hurt to walk. On the way we passed Wundebar, a Bavarian style tavern, and were handed cards for call girls by some guys on a raised walkway. I doubt the services had the same proportion of white to yellow women as their cards suggested, but I left that hypothesis untested.
We got to the bar, and it fit the bill. Lots of drunk white people, soccer on the screens, and a 80’s/90’s/Doors/Stones/etc. cover band with three little Asians and a 6’5”, 250lbs black guy from Savannah, GA on bass. My student was thoroughly out of his comfort zone and easily managed. He ordered the first (and only) round when a server offered some beer. I got the beer, but he went with a Long Island Iced Tea because, “this website said they are really good here.” Again, he’s 16 and probably around 5’6” and 120lbs. Well, he took one sip of it, got a sour look on his face, turned to me, and asked me to take a drink. It was pretty strong and in a tall glass. After a few more sips and as many pitiful looks, I told him I’d buy him something better once my beer was done. He took that to mean we were switching drinks right away. It was fine by me. I drank away going between theLiverpooland some screaming Weezer. He tried to find an Asian brat friendlier bar on his phone.
Eventually I finished his drink then drank the rest of my beer. He only had about 4-6oz of it but had taken on a nice red glow anyway (“I get drunk faster, but I can drink more sooner.” Right…). He did end up finding a friend at another bar who said we could drink there for free, but it would have taken an hour for us to get picked up, and as it was11:30already we headed back to the hotel. Ok,11:30is early, and I was feeling good and would have liked to stay out longer to listen to more awful covers of good songs. But the kid had stayed up all night at home with a friend over (just like last time), and his parents knew about it (idiots). So, my priority was to get him some good sleep.
We got back at around12:00am, and we went to bed.
Next morning I woke up at about9:30, got some breakfast and studied some Chinese, then got lost in Ikea. This time I took a more methodical approach to judging their mattresses and came out with a clear winner. The name escapes me, but it was clear from moderate and heavy bounce tests that the mid-range spring mattress gave the best bang for the yuan. Comparable foam mattresses ran more than twice as much. Now we just need to see how to get them to Quanzhou…
Anyway, at about12:30the student woke up and we went to lunch. I had this kumquat tea drink that tasted an awful lot like the sour plum drink I had at Pizza Hut when I first came toChinawhich tastes like a thin version of barbecue sauce. Maybe it would be good for marinating, but not for drinking. TheSichuanbeef noodle I ordered wasn’t much better. I expected spice because it wasSichuan, but it wasn’t the kind of spicy that makes your mouth burn, your eyes water, and your sphincter clench. Instead it just made my mouth feel like a million tiny ants were scurrying around my mouth and lips. It didn’t taste bad… it was just… bad… I’m not really sure how to explain it.
After lunch, we found a barber because the student’s mother thought it was important that he get a haircut before the interview even though he must get one about every two weeks based on how short it always is. He got it and was horribly upset about it. He didn’t want to be seen in public, and we headed off right away to find a hat. Seriously, it just looked like a shorter version of the same stupid haircut he had before which is pretty mild compared to a lot of the stupid haircuts guys walk around with over here.
We got the hat. We napped. We went back to Hooley’s for dinner. It was pretty dead but, he wanted to sit in a corner so people couldn’t see his hair. I picked a spot right in the middle of the bar. The food was overpriced but it was western food in a bar inGuangzhouso you kind of pay for how exotic bangers and mash are. We ran through some interview questions and they went pretty well. Without much more work since they last interview, he had still retained most of what we had worked on.
Throughout the time we were there, one drunk American was wandering around, telling other patrons that the women who was on the stereo (Amy Winehouse) had just died, playing on the house drum kit, verbally abusing the staff, and generally making an ass of himself, all starting at 7:30 on a Sunday night. Good on ya. Midway through our stay he moved to a section near the entrance and I forgot about him. On the way out though, I caught a glimpse of him sitting with a woman who was trying to eat dinner. Apparently I gave him a deserved dirty look because he said something to me then followed us out the bar asking “Was I rude to you, dude?” Well, not in particular, but he had called a server a bitch when she was nicely asking him to stop playing the drums. With student in tow, I left it, and we found a cab. Going 7000 miles from home just to get into a bar fight with an American would have made for a good story, though.
I got up the next morning at6am. It sucked. I called the student at6:30; he picked up on the second try. We ended up leaving 15 minutes later than I said we would because he was dragging ass, but we got out. We stopped by a McDonald’s on the way to the consulate for breakfast, and while we were there a British ex-pat started talking to us. He’d been in country or over 5 years, most of it out west. When I told him what we were in town for he asked the student why he was going to the states “Univesity?”. He did have a bit of an accent so I could understand a little bit why my student would have trouble, but he shouldn’t have had that much trouble.
We left and got to the consulate just in time for him to head upstairs to wait for his interview. After an hour plus of waiting I got a call from him. He didn’t get it. This time they spoke English to him the whole time, but he just didn’t understand the questions quite well enough. He said he understood the second time they asked, but given the student’s propensity to exaggerate after a failure at these things, he probably didn’t answer the question they asked.
We hurried back to the hotel to get our bags. The student didn’t want to leave and was really worried about how he would tell his parents the news. I was considering what the fastest way to have his mom cancel her platinum card that she gave to him before we left, you know, just in case he tried to ditch me. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary, and we made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare.
The last thing of note that happened was that my student decided to stop at a smoke shop to buy some cigarettes, and since he had spent all his cash already, he put almost 400yuan on his mom’s card for two packs. So, if she didn’t know that he smoked before, she should know now… as long as she actually checks her credit card bills. I’m still not sure what to think of this family (Well, I am, but I should probably hold off on discussing that out loud until I’m no longer employed here). The parents came in with the kid a few days later and he sat there like a bad puppy with its tail between its legs as the adults discussed his fate. Since he hasn’t been back to class since then, it doesn’t look good.
I didn’t quite make it through my whole week yet, but this post is already too long. We’ll see when the next part comes out. The rest of my trip toHong Kongstill needs to be documented too. Hopefully I finally get my personal statement done so I can get back to this more frequently.