Friday, September 29, 2006

Don't eat that!

This is pretty gross. . .so if you're weird about food, maybe you don't want to read this.

As many of you know, I've tried a lot of things I would never have considered in America. Congeled blood, cow stomach, dog, donkey, lamb kidneys, fish eggs, duck feet, chicken hearts, and this list could probably go on. Many times, it's difficult to be sure of what I'm eating. Once I went out to dinner with a group of foreign and Chinese friends. One of my American friends is a strict vegetarian, but at this particular meal she managed to eat some pig intestines. Sometimes a pig intestine looks a bit like a mushroom. It's an easy mistake to make. Take my word for it.

Anyways, my boss at EWAS (the company I work for teaching English) is Canadian. He's been living in China for a few years, and like most foreingers who have lived here for awhile, isn't too intimidated by the food. A few weeks ago he got incredibly ill and went to the hospital. He ended up there for nearly two weeks. Today he told me why. . . .

Street food is very popular food, particularly skewers. You want something, you can probably get it on a stick. They got any type of meat, vegetable, fruit, and stanky smelling tofu available to delight you. Lamb meat is one of the most popular sellers. I've had it many times and it's pretty tasty. But I will probably be avoiding it from now on.

Evidently many of these street vendors and small restaurant owners buy lamb meat from a big warehouse. At this warehouse lamb fat is mixed with cat and rat meat in a big vat. After being mixed together for awhile the cat and rat meat takes on the flavor of the lamb. If that's not gross enough, sometimes these rats have died from disease or poison. If you eat this meat, you can be infected. That's what happened to my boss and it nearly killed him. Seriously.

So I guess I can probably add cat and rat to the list of things I've eaten. Gross. China really needs an FDA.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

three letters, rhymes with rex

Last weekend, to relax, I decided to buy all 6 seasons of Sex and the City. You can get pretty much any American TV show on pirated DVD here. Ming is officially addicted to 24 because of it. He's thinking of changing his English name from Jack to Jack Bauer. Anyways, the great thing is, thanks to virtually no copyright laws, I got my Sex for a mere 20RMB ($2.50). The only downfall is that half of the second disc didn't work, but for that price I'm not complaining.

This leads me into the topic of sex, specifically sex in China. I'm not attempting to be Carrie Bradshaw here. I'm just amazed at how different China and America are when it comes to sex. Sometimes I wonder if anyone actually does it here. Besides the humping I endured on the bus that one morning, I was beginning to think that most Chinese don't have a sex drive. But the thing is, it's just repressed. The culture here is extremely conservative-Ming was a bit taken aback just watching Friends. He couldn't believe that TV shows could be allowed to talk about sex so openly. Here, there are no ads with half naked women, no sex scenes on TV, nobody trying to sneek a peak at my boobs. Nothing.

Ming and I went out for lunch today and the restaurant had a stack of magazines. One of them was Men's Health (the Chinese version). I saw the words "Sex Survey" written across the front and had to check out the results. Of course I haven't yet learned the vocabulary needed to attempt to read such an article (does "menage a trois" translate?), but Ming helped me out. I'll just share a couple of the results I found interesting. According to the only 2.3% of the Beijing men and 5.6% of the Beijing women surveyed had sex before the age of 20. It's a bit hard for me to believe, but I guess since high schoolers are busy studying 20 hours a day it's somewhat plausible. The survery also found that 57.3% of men and 77.6% of women have had sex with 5 or less people. Does that seem pretty wholesome to you?

I guess, for me, it's kind of a relief to not have to have sex thrown in my face all the time. But it also seems a bit foolish to pretend it doesn't exist. There is virtually no sex ed in China. I am still trying to convince Ming that you cannot get AIDS from kissing. He is so insistent that people can that I'm starting to question it myself. There are plenty of other examples I could cite, but I'll spare you.

So, that brings me to my final conclusion which is this: There must be an awful lot of frustration here, perhaps that explains the humping on the bus incident.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

BJ fashion

my assistant, the red pants are posh
I'm trying to write once a week, even though I'm really busy these days. Despite being busy, my life is quite boring. I did have one traumatic experience this week though. It occured on the bus. . .where else? After all, that's where I spend most of my time. I do believe that I was violated. I didn't think this occured in Chinese society, but I'm afraid I am wrong. I definitely felt a man doing some inappropriate touching. I was a bit stunned and since I'm not sure how to say "back the f*&k off b$#ch!" in Chinese, I just moved away. A couple minutes later, it happened again, and sure enough, the perpetrator was behind me. Being as crowded as it was, it was difficult to make another getaway. Luckily, he got off at the next stop. Moral of the story, I'm now scarred for life.

That's really all I have to say about myself, but I do think it's time I tell you a little bit about Beijing fashion. That is to say, it's non-existent. It's really difficult to even begin to explain it because there's really no style. Don't get me wrong, I'm not much for being trendy. Especially these days. I occasional wear brown shoes with a black shirt and I've even worn the same shirt two (OK, four) times in a row. But, in my defense, I had several co-workers who wore the same clothes for the entire duration of winter. Brand names also start to lose their meaning here, especially when you see a middle aged woman in a Winnie-the-Pooh sweater sporting a knock-off Louis Vitton purse. So let me paint a picture for you. . .

Let's start with the gentlemen. I actually noticed something today (as I was sitting on the bus), almost all men carry a bag. Sometimes it's something like a backpack, brief case, or messanger bag. In America, I would consider all these totally acceptable. But then there are those who carry shopping bags filled with their day-to-day personal items (work papers, books, cell phone, etc), there are also those with fanny packs. I had always hoped I'd never have to see one of those again, but it saddens me to say that even Zhao Ming has one. But that's not the worst of it. Many, many men carry around actual leather purses. Yes, a true man bag at its finest.

Then there are the pink shirts. Lots of men in pink shirts. Don't give me any crap about them being "salmon." It is a pink shirt! Yes, there are those men who can pull it off, my father arguably being one of them. As with women who shave their head, the people who can pull this kind of statement off are few and far between. Why take such a risk if one doesn't have to?

As for the ladies, I don't even know where to begin so I'll just provide one vexing example: In the summer, a lot of women wear ankle tights--with skirts and dresses. First comes the shoe, then the tight, then bare leg, then the dress. If there be tights, there should be no seeing of the bare leg. There really should be no tights to begin with.

The last thing I have to mention are the plethora of t-shirts sporting foreign brands and/or ridiculous English phrases. Usually they make absolutely no sense. Sometimes they do, but you can't help but wonder why a person would wear such a thing. Today I saw a shirt that proclaimed "A Watched Pot Never Boils." One of my personal favorites was a flourescent orange "Versace" shirt that had a sequined Minnie Mouse on it. Others have embarassing sexual innuendos that most (highly conservative) Chinese people wouldn't dare wear had they known the meaning.

I guess the moral of my story is that I can be totally lazy about my appearance and yet mock those around me. I'm really enjoying it.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Survival of the Fittest

Beijing seems to have 4 seasons, although they are a bit unlike Wisconsin's. Here they include: freezing one's ass off, sandstorm, sweating one's ass off, and September. Now, my favorite Beijing season is upon me. Ahh, September. It seemed the temperature dropped about 20 degrees (Fahrenheit, that is) between August 31 and September 1. Well, the change is more than welcome.

In other news, I managed to survive my first week of teaching, just barely. It started much more happily than it ended. On Friday I had to go LO (that's the code name I have created for the school, as I feel there will be a lot of future bad mouthing of it. For my own protection, I will be keeping it's true name confidential). This was the first time teaching at this school. It was not pretty. But let me backtrack a bit. . .

To start off the morning, I had to catch the 419 bus. This bus is mammoth. It's actually the size of two buses stuck together. I naively though that due to the early hour (7am) and the size of the thing, it couldn't possibly be crowded. I was wrong. People are so packed into the bus so tight that it's almost impossible to close the door. I had brought a magazine with me, but there wasn't even enough room to hold it up to my face. About 45 minutes into this hellish ride, I started to panic. I didn't know when my stop was coming and if I wasn't next to the door when it did come, there was no way I'd make it off for that stop, or even the one after it. I began to squeeze my way through the people. There's no need to be polite about it at least. No "sorries" or "excuse me's," just pushing will do. Riding the bus is survival of the fittest at its finest. MIght I also add, that when a seat becomes free, it is quite a scene. I'm surprised it doesn't more often come to blows.

I got off the bus around 8. Seriously considering taking a taxi in the future. I'm sure it's going to come to it. A taxi ride would probably cost me $5-8, which isn't bad by American standards, but the bus only costs a quarter. But really, shouldn't experierences that awful be free?

At LO, I teach 4 half-hour classes. The kids in each class were quite out of control. Several of their teachers were in the room trying to help, but it wasn't very effective. I had children out of there seats and lying sprawled across the floor. One tiny girl started shaking violently when I said "hello" to her (I seriously thought she was epileptic). I asked her teacher if something was wrong with her. "No," she said, "she's just playing around." Okkkkkk. I started the class by playing a game with the kids. It involved me throwing a ball and one child catching it. One little girl voulenteered to play. She wasn't able to catch the ball, and many of her classmates laughed. She went ballistic. She attacked one of her classmates, smacking and hitting. One of her teachers tried stopping her, but then she turned and began punching him. Finally, she ran out of the room. I know what you might be thinking, they're just kids. Kids can be crazy. But you don't understand. These are CHINESE kids. Chinese children are usually so well-behaved. Not this lot of them.

I must have to be positive. I just gotta hang in there for the next. . . 6 months.