Monday, August 31, 2009

Oh, one more thing

Last night, David's (Chinese) girlfriend told me that I had a gentle spirit, and also that I looked like Michael Phelps. Especially (direct quote) "in [my] face."

Next time you feel like you're striding boldly into the future, ask yourself

am I striding as boldly as these people?

Last night we met up with the 4 people in Guangzhou from the Yale in China program. We went to a board game parlor where you pay a small hourly fee to sit and play one of the many board games that they own there. We spent most of our time playing a Chinese version of Pictionary, where you have to draw words like "mahjong", "Miss Hong Kong", and "smog".

And yes, they had a Chinese-language version of Settlers of Catan (卡坦岛拓荒者, if you want to know).

School starts tomorrow, which is Tuesday, because I live in bizarro-land China, and my weekend is going to be Sunday and Monday, rather than Saturday and Sunday. BUT the Saturday classes won't start for a few weeks, so for now I just have 3 day weekends. I will probably spend those weekends doing exactly what I've been doing for the past few days, i.e., sweating, drinking tea, gesturing mutely at objects I desire.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ugh, Guangzhou: Part 1 of 10000000 (projected)

It's raining in Guangzhou. The weather forecast says that it could rain every day this week. The sky during a rainstorm here is even hazier than normal. Looking out my window I can see a few buildings, and beyond them only gray. In "Paradise Lost," when the Flood is about to begin, Milton describes the air as full of "exhalations dusk and moist (how's that for a casual reference?), and that's what GZ feels like now: like a city cut off, already submerged.

["Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell" just came up in iTunes. I've been to the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell in Manhattan twice, both times with groups of people I love. Pizza Hut/Taco Bell friends: miss you guyz! lol! no but seriously I miss you a lot.]

Annnyway, I went to Gristle's birthday party last night with Gus (to all those who have asked, yes, Gus is my roommate, and yes, "Gus" is Gus's real name) and with former PiA fellow David. We went to a restaurant with Gristle and two of his Chinese friends, and then we came back to our apartment and chatted. Gristle and co. told us some Chinese jokes, which I will reproduce here, out of context, with minimal explanation, because that's essentially how I got to hear them:

-- "A man walked up to a woman, and meant to say, 'Do you think I have strong eyebrows?' but actually he said, 'Do you think I have beautiful chest hair?'" (note: this is essentially the Chinese version of the two tickets to Pittsburgh/two pickets to Titsburg mix up.)

-- "A foreigner was eating at a banquet and watermelon was brought to the table for dessert. The foreigner cut the watermelon into two pieces, handed the larger one to his chinese friend, and said, 'I'll eat urine, and you eat shit!'" (this one actually makes sense in Chinese, and it's the only one that I actually found funny)

-- "A man saw Princess [a famous Chinese singer] lying on the ground, and went up to her to see what was happening, and then he realized that it wasn't Princess, it was Princess Diana, and she was dead!" (this one makes exactly as much sense in English as it does in Chinese, but Gristle and friends laughed and laughed)


Also, whatever my body wash is supposed to smell like (this is not an empty rhetorical device, as I actually have no idea what the bottle says), as far as I can tell the actual scent is "Kung Pao Chicken."


Chinese words I never thought I'd learn, but which came up in our conversation with Gristle last night: sex-crazed, semiotics.

I'm now in a position to write some seriously steamy Ferdinand de Saussure fan fiction. ("She looked at his naked body for the first time and said, 'Your big feet certainly aren't an arbitrary signifier, Ferdinand.'", etc, etc, fill in your own joke here, they write themselves)


We have a glass coffee table in our apartment, similar to the one that I had in my room junior year. Evidently the glass has broken twice in the past two years and has had to be replaced. Luckily everyone who was at GQ2008 is thousands of miles away, otherwise we would definitely be having to replace it sometime soon. But the glass in my room wasn't from a broken table, it was glass from the car crash when Princess Diana died! HaHA! Seriously, this stuff kills in China.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Luggage update

For all of you who were interested in whether or not I was able to get my 144 lbs. of luggage to China (hi, Mom! Thanks for reading!), you'll be glad to hear that I did get it all to Guangzhou successfully. The handle on one of my bags broke, and the last 200 ft or so to our building (my "trail of tears", if you will (too soon?)) was really awful, but I made it. Total damages: popped blood vessels in my hands, general aches and pains. Presumably this is what people who "lift" "weights" call a "good" "workout."

But I think I overpacked, because when I got to the train station in Hong Kong, I saw that Gus only had a small duffel bag and a ukulele. Well he'll be the one looking foolish when he realizes that I may have had heavier luggage, but now I have a 2-volume set of Beethoven's complete piano sonatas on my bookshelf. Suck it, China! You can take away our stylists, but you can't take away our style!

Also, speaking of aches and pains, Chinese people love firm beds. My bed is like the floor, only slightly harder.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I live in China now!

And this is my toilet!

We also have a Western-style toilet, but this one is much more fun!

So now I'm going to tell you some things about what has happened in the 18-odd hours I've been here. This will probably be of interest to no one.

- Certain people have said in the past that I look a little bit like Michael Phelps. This isn't a compliment, because presumably what they mean is not, "your body type makes you look like you'd excel at the 400 meter individual medley," but instead, "hey, you have sort of a funny face."

Since China loves Michael Phelps, I was pretty sure that I was going to get called out on this at some point while I was here. Turned out to be, like, 6 hours after I got here. We were hanging out with a Chinese friend [note: I'm going to refer to Chinese people by English names or pseudonyms, just so I don't get anyone in trouble] named Gristle.

Gristle (in Chinese): You look a lot like Michael Phelps.
Me (in Chinese): Haha, yeah, my American friends say that too sometime.
Gristle (in Chinese): Are you related?
Me (in Chinese): I don't think so.
Gristle (in Chinese): Maybe your mother and his father had an affair. (then, in loud, exuberant English) It's a joke!

Gus says that Gristle's "It's a joke!" is his trademark phrase, and even though Gus has considered telling him that it's more natural to say "just kidding," he hasn't really got around to it.

- While I was buying my cell phone last night, the clerk said that I must have a lot of friends, because I'm so attractive. Keep in mind that she was speaking in Chinese and I'm not really in Chinese mode yet, so she might have been saying this about someone else. Or maybe she was talking about the phone. Hard to say. Anyway, I slipped my SIM card into that phone, if you know what I mean. It's a joke!

- This morning I spent about 4 hours with my colleague Lisa trying to get several forms dealt with properly. During this process, I spent 500 RMB, used 9 passport photos, made 11 copies of my visa, got a blood test, and had an ultrasound. Naturally, I am not finished, and I will need to continue to fill out more forms over the next two weeks. Guangzhou: the party never stops.

- Hey, speaking of Guangzhou, it's supa ugly. We passed a nice park near the train station yesterday, but the rest of the city is cramped and pretty uncomfortable. Our apartment is fairly nice, though, and the grounds of the school are clean and fairly pleasant, by Chinese standards. There's even a track where I could run, if I wanted to get the black lung.

- Speaking of Lisa, she doesn't realize that I can't really understand Chinese. I mean, I can, but I feel like I'm playing catch-up the whole time. While we were at various government agencies this morning, there were a lot of moments when she would be speaking to the official in Chinese, and then they'd both turn to stare at me, and I'd realize that I'd totally zoned out  and they'd asked me for something or given me some crucial information. Basically what I'm saying is that I may be deported soon because I didn't fill out a form that I would have heard about if only I hadn't been daydreaming about the ringtones on my new cell phone.

- We went to a chain restaurant last night which is called 真功夫, which means "Real Kungfu!" Bruce Lee is their mascot, and their pork soup kicked me in the face.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Hong Kong, more like Hot Kong!!

No, but seriously, it's pretty warm here. I spent most of the day wandering around in parks. (Rachel: yes, I did go to the playground at Hong Kong park where we played hide-and-seek with the Maks, but I left quickly because I realized that it's weird for 21-year-old man to be hanging around a playground. But they still have the slide and the sand scooper things we used to play with!)

I went to both the dry and humid rooms in the 2-room Hong Kong Park Conservatory. The dry room was just a sandy air-conditioned room filled with cactus. I found a picture on flickr: Note that the caption says, "To make exhibitions more interesting, artificial rock and mini canyon are constructed to simulate the environment of arid region." There are artificial rock and mini canyon, but they do not make the exhibition more interesting.

When we were driving I saw a sign that said (in English): "American Secrete Agents stop killing Hong Kong citizens with wireless signals." American Secrete Agent in Hong Kong? Sounds like Chris Tucker with a sweat problem! Am I right, guys, am I right?? There's a joke there somewhere!

(I just looked it up on imdb, and the tagline for Rush Hour 2 was "Get Ready for a Second Rush." Obviously all the good writers were too busy working on the brilliant, subtle script.)

Ok, gotta run meet a friend. Remind me to tell you all about my new jet lag secret, which is working great but involves staying up for 30 hours and fasting for 16, so maybe jet lag is better.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Blogger has figured out that I'm in Hong Kong so all the buttons are now in Chinese. I am just pressing things randomly now. This bodes well for my ability to live and work in China.

Air Canada journey complete

My body does not know what hour it is so who knows if this will be coherent.

Based on my trip today, I have decided that Canada is a very pleasant country. Maybe I should move there to teach English for a year! Incidentally, Air Canada maintains the charming fantasy that people flying from San Francisco to Hong Kong want to hear the majority of their in-flight announcements in French.

And guess who's excited about the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver??? Air Canada sure is! Based on how little I'd heard about the 2010 olympics before today, I think they're the only ones.

Changing planes in Vancouver meant that I got a chance to see the splendid Vancouver International Airport.  Very rustic. Several totem poles. There was even a fake stream that you cross on a little bridge after you submit your immigration form. I would have taken pictures, but I didn't think that that was allowed, and the guards, despite being Canadian, could still beat me up.

So now I'm in Hong Kong, watching 24 with Chinese subtitles. Spoiler alert: someone just betrayed someone else, and Jack looks very rugged. And now there's an ad on which just shows a woman slowly pulling on her underwear while someone sings softly in German in the background. Just like home.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Air Canada: "we demand to be taken seriously"

So even though I'm flying from America to China tomorrow, I'm using Air Canada. I decided on that airline because I treasure traditional Canadian values like universal health care, snow, and one-way flights to China for $287.

As part of the online check in procedure, I had to swear that I wouldn't be carrying any normal dangerous materials like bleach or or firearms or propane torches. After clicking "continue" on that page, though, I was taken to a second page of prohibited items, which I guess are things that Canadians find threatening. This page was labeled "Sports Equipment" and asked me to swear that my checked baggage wasn't going to contain

- hunting bounty (parenthetically clarified to include "antlers or horns")
- a bicycle
- a surfboard

The joke's on them, though, because I haven't engaged in athletic activity since my mom took me out of karate in 1993.