Strangers with candy, drunken transvestites, temple bells. Another Carlin weekend.
So here is a rare thing: Joel is writing a post!
With the rain clearing, we braved the cold (it’s finally back up to 60’F) and took Simon to a park. Like many(?) parks in Zhuhai, there are trails leading straight up a small mountain, one or more temples, areas for picnics, pingpong and basketball. And of course, like every patch of Chinese greenspace, there are little kid rides. Some are like carnival rides, others are just like the coin-fed ones in front of American grocery stores. But, big or small, all rides have broken limbs or have lead-based paint missing from the eyes in a very Stephen King sort of way.
Simon toddled around and had lots of fun, and we found an incredibly long slide – as in you need a cable car to get to the top – but we needed to return to meet friends for a birthday dinner. Another bus ride means another ride where people give Simon candy. A one year old. Choking-sized hard candy in little plastic wrappers. And this happens EVERY single bus ride. This weekend, Simon got a total of 10 pieces of candy over 4 bus rides. And here is a picture of one of the more unusual treats given Simon, this time by a young woman. Clearly, it is an extremely appropriate choice to give a boy with poor depth perception and spastic motor skills.
We had ridden the bus back to our apartment in Tangjia to celebrate the birthday of an intern at the college. Earlier in the week, Simon and Susie had visited the campus, and had met the international English teaching assistants. These are recent graduates on their first job, and are mostly from a bunch of Minnesota colleges (including Gustavus). So this whole crew of expats went out for dinner in the fancy reserved room at Wang’s, the Dumpling King. And, once again, we had a fantastically delicious meal. Just like a local, I balked at our 90-yuan bill, thinking, “well, I guess it’s a special occasion.” And like an expat, I later realized that this tab converts to just $15 in the U.S. It was very fun to hang with Westerners and hear about their Spring Festival travels.
Susie and Simon were down for the night, but a few of us continued the birthday celebrations along Bar Street in southern Zhuhai. It was a lot like going out clubbing in the U.S., except that it really, really wasn’t. We shared a cab-ride down to the bars, first picking up a 6-pack of Tsingtao to share on the way in a yes-this-is-legal-here sort of way. (FYI, Chinese canned beer has the old-fashioned razor sharp pull-tabs that I only vaguely remember from my childhood). Then we hit the club.
And by club, I mean a very large, very crowded bar with balloons and performing singers – Chinese guys in two-tone sparkling suits and winged sneakers belting out Barry Manilow-style tunes in Mandarin, while dozens of drunk women raise their hands and sing along. One member of our crew was not into dancing as much, and secured us a tiny table. Then the performer’s stage sinks into the floor, the DJ in her aluminum-foil style bikini spins European club music, and the dancing begins. In a club of 150 or more, the entire dance floor measures maybe 10 x 20 feet … and there we are, all six Westerners, dancing as the stage again rises up for maximum crowd exposure. Soon there were about 30 people jammed onto the little stage. It was very fun, although the women got tired of the MANY drunk Chinese frat boys trying to get freaky in a supremely awkward way. Also awkward was when my newfound Chinese friends offered me a big giant mystery shot. I downed it, only to discover that it was tea, not whiskey. Yeah, I gotta work on those language skills.
A little after 1 a.m. we find our friend with the table, who is now taking care of a very, very inebriated transvestite who is more or less passed out. Her girlfriend asked us to go party with them, but we politely declined…well, except for the guy who had held our table. He stayed behind to celebrate with his tablemates. But as for me–well, this old man was tired and got home at about 2 a.m. My day was made even better by a brief e-chat with Lisa Heldke, who happened to be online (after all, it was broad daylight in Minnesota).
The next day had more sunshine and thus more Parks and Recreation. We took Simon to Bailiandong Park in central Zhuhai. This one had everything. A pond for eel-fishing, more creepy-ass amusement rides, a “Dancery Area,” and an awesome row of barbecue pits.
Plus, the religious sites up the mountain were cool: a sacred spring, three different hillside temples, and a ceremonial gong-sounding bell. According to the instructions (translated by iPhone apps), you are supposed to strike the bell three times – for health, long life and abundant money. Bang a gong?!? Get it on!!