I sometimes have a litany of small vignettes that do not require a larger piece on their own, but also don’t fit neatly as an example within a story. So I will occasionally release a rattling off of stories from across a place I’ve explored. This one is from my earliest journals from a few years ago, when just discovering the Middle Kingdom. (2015)
It’s interesting to note what a first time visitor finds interesting and eye-opening. Enjoy!
It’s impossible to eat cleanly. I swear I’ve spilled oil on every article of clothing I own already. It’s brutal and so it’s a good thing I have a washing machine in my room [Gets up, moves stage left to go do a load now. Those clothes were weeks overdue.] In my defense, there is no less than a gallon of peanut oil in every dish of Chinese food. I swear it’s in the recipes. I’m pretty decent with my chopstick usage but still it just splatters everywhere as you’re rapidly shoveling noodles in as your mouth is inches from the bowl. The worst by far are noodles in a broth, as the soup splatters everywhere. It’s not my fault I promise.
Yogurt-covered red tea. This is apparently rather popular, which blew my mind at first. It was pretty tasty in all fairness, but it was a bizarre concoction considering that here they don’t even have that many dairy offerings save milk tea. (Good luck finding reasonably priced cheese options outside of big cities and Walmart.) There are “smoothie” and milk tea stands all over the place. Smoothie is in quotes ‘cause, well, they’re just not smoothies and I have no idea how to label them.
Japanese racism is pervasive. I was in a class with five 50-year-old dudes, one of which was Japanese. One of the Chinese guys in the class would just make random insults, completely disconnected from the material toward the Japanese dude like it was third grade. “Yeah he’s dumb because he’s Japanese.” And keep in mind this is full grown adults. There was another class I heard about where the teacher was showing slides from the tsunami back in 2010 in Japan, and all the children started clapping I guess. That’s definitely not a good thing. Not really sure how to handle that in the classroom if/when that happened to me.
Boxer sizes make zero sense. So the group I was doing training with went into a store to get some odds and ends and one of the kids need boxers, so we check out the sizes. First of all, the lowest size is L, all the way up to XXXL. In the States it seems most people want to seem smaller, but here I guess they want the largest possible size for….that “area” shall we say. Second, the sizes were something like 90-150; that’s the range for one pair. So that’s a massive range, and it couldn’t really be centimeters, because that’s 3-5 feet. No idea how they’re sized but needless to say my roommate got back to the hotel and they didn’t quite fit.
The medical checkup was not kosher. We had to get a physical to be employed in China, which is standard procedure. What is NOT standard procedure for me was what ensued. The urine test? Go into a fairly clean by Chinese standards (but dirty by American ones) Chinese squatty potty toilet, pee in a cup, pour it into an unsealed vial and place it next to about 100 other uncapped piss vials just out in the open for anyone to tamper with.
The blood work? Mine was fine, but I watched casually as a buddy had a huge pool of blood nestled between his bicep and forearm as the needle just didn’t quite make it into the vein. The x-ray? I was blasted with radiation as the conveniently placed lead shield just rested on the table looking on laughing. The attendants seemed annoyed with my request to keep another year on my life. “Nay!” they urged, “You shall befriend the gamma rays!” The ultrasound? They didn’t wash the machine once, so they just spread dead skin cells from one patient to the next.
The EKG? They just reused the electrodes on every patient, which was great for the dead skin cell musical chairs we seemed to be playing. The girls just went into this little booth one by one, coerced to open their shirts fully in a strange place, hoping the curtain was drawn tight as a tiny nurse put little stickers all over their chests. One guy was too hairy, so they had one of us go in there (in what is almost certainly a breach of protocol in the States) and had to hold down the electrode things onto his chest. I mean I personally didn’t find it THAT gross, but it would most definitely not fly back home. I’m assuming since I’m in China, HIPPA doesn’t fly so I can say whatever I want about it!
Meal-flavored chips exist. Like entire plates, they’ll make a potato chip taste like that. Hongshaorou is a fatty pork dish with this distinct sauce that’s pretty good. That’s a Lay’s potato chip flavor. Mala is a typical spicy flavor out of Sichuan (or Szechuan as it’s sometimes spelled.) I found mala chicken flavored chips, and lord knows what else is out there. I had Texas BBQ Lays, and Lord knows what BBQ or Texas they went to but they didn’t taste even remotely like a grill, let alone the entire Lonestar State.
888. They love lucky/auspicious numbers, as any “Intro to China” book will tell you. Two is lucky because pairs are lucky. Eight is lucky because it is pronounced like “ba” which sounds like “fa” which indicates making money. Six is lucky because it pronounced like “liu” which in a different tone sounds like the verb “to flow.” Four is unlucky because it is pronounced “si” which in a different tone means death.
Got it? No? Ok.
You will see 8s and 6s and 2s everywhere. You’ll see it on phone numbers plastered on buildings. You’ll see it as amounts for gifts of money. You won’t see a fourth floor on a building. You’ll see folks pay a premium for Amazon gift cards. And oh yeah, that’s the purpose of the featured photo. Hope you enjoyed. 😉
Like what you’re reading on China? Check out some other related articles in: The China Chronicles!