Trip Start Aug 21, 2009
7Trip End Sep 09, 2009
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Where I stayed
Until last night I hadn't seen the real China
Jim ordered for us and we were delivered several heaping plates of food. One dish consisted of delicious eggplant and green peppers, while another was filled with chicken bits, chopped up bones and all. Luckily it is not considered rude to spit food back onto your plate, otherwise I would have swallowed a lot of bone. The third dish was unbelievably tasty, which came as a bit of a surprise since it mostly consisted of diced donkey bits. If you ever get the chance to eat donkey do not pass it up.
I was introduced to the drinking rituals in China, and I must say, I was a quick study. The owner ended up slogging them back with us, and he made it his mission to not only teach me their customs, but to also put me in a coma. When you order a beer it comes in a big bottle and you pour it into little glasses, no bigger than two of our shot glasses. You don't fill your own glass but instead fill up your neighbors'. If your neighbor is three sheets to the wind you try to fill their glass so full that they spill on themselves, which is considered li hai, very devastating
We spent several hours in the restaurant chatting with the owner, whose name I can't recall, not that I was I ever able to pronounce it correctly anyway. Jim and I kept pouring him drinks, and he would fill us up in return. I also made it my duty to sneak up to the waitresses and fill a glass for them, which they were then obligated to drink. The more drunk they got the more they made fun of the owner, but he was too hammered to care. He continually offered me cigarettes, which I despise, but I smoked them anyway because it would have been rude not to. Most of the time I just held them while they burned, which I am pretty sure went unnoticed. I must have let half a pack go to waste.
The restaurant did not have a toilet so we eventually had to make our way to the public park. Using these facilities is not rude or illegal here, it is just the way of life. You must be careful not to micturate in any park called a “people's park,” however, as this would be the equivalent of disgracing every man, woman and child in China. Jim got a surprise under the first bush he picked, where there was a couple getting it on. Since everybody lives with their parents more or less indefinitely, this is apparently very common.
We spent an hour or so in the park, sharing beers with a man who had introduced himself to us and was curious about where we were from
All in all it was a fantastic night. It became clear to me how wrong I had been about the Chinese. I had only experienced the aggressive, and often times outright rude attitudes of the people on the street. Common courtesy does not exist here and it is not unusual to be randomly shoved out of the way or hit in the head by an unapologetic umbrella. It has given rise to a term used by expats here: China Rage. I have experienced it myself when you just get fed up with the dog eat dog mentality. But that is only one side to the people; their other side consists of warmth and welcomeness. They embrace foreigners and want to make us feel comfortable here. They are generous to a fault and insist on sharing everything with you. They are curious about our culture while being fiercely proud of their own. I am going to make it a point to go to a Chinese place every night from now on, even if it means going by myself and communicating via charades.
I have been keeping pretty busy during the day as well. I spent an entire day in the Shanghai museum, an homage to the early art works of China. The bronze and jade collections were brilliant, and the currency exhibit was fascinating. They actually used to manufacture coins that were shaped like knives. Tre cool. The museum of contemporary art, MOCA, was one of the weirdest places I have ever been. The current exhibit features artists of India, and it felt like some kind of bad acid trip. I have never seen so many grotesque displays in all my life. Even the bathroom was whacked out, with the tiles being covered in the most offensive English language profanities you can imagine
Ok, sorry for the novel but I had a lot to say. Timi and I head to Nanjing in a few days so I probably won't write until I get back from there.
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