Yesterday (Tuesday) we had lunch with some friends of Shujie’s. We went to this Chinese restaurant (of course) and it was noisy (of course). There was a wedding going on because yesterday was some kind of lucky day to get married. In many restaurants you can get a private room so it’s only your group there and that’s what we had. We also had that on Saturday night. It’s nice because you don’t have to listen to strangers and you feel like you’re alone.
There were six of us. There was Shujie’s former best friend and now just friend who we refer to as “the driver”, because I’m no good with Chinese names. She’s the driver because because she has a car and she always drove Shujie and I when we went out. Once she picked me up at the airport, which was very nice of her. Yesterday she got a new name. She is no longer “the driver” but “the fat girl”. She does have a big stomach. She smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. She brought wine and some alcohol for her to drink at lunch. You can bring your own beverages to restaurants.
Then there was the “skinny girl” since she’s quite petite. She smokes too but not as much as the “fat girl”. And she’s funny. There was also “the manager” who is named so because she manages a restaurant. She speaks a little English and she’s quite nice.
Filling out our little group was the hated girlfriend of the “fat girl”. The “fat girl” is a lesbian (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and she has a lover. Both these women are married and have children and grandchildren and live with their husbands. Do their husbands know? Beats me. I can’t understand anything here. I know homosexuality is frowned upon but it’s worse to be a male homosexual that a female homosexual.
Now she is hated because she never smiles and rarely participates in conversation and looks like she’d rather be anywhere but where she is. She doesn’t like when the “fat girl” sees her friends. She’s jealous of the time spend with others. The friends tolerate her but mostly they ask “the fat girl” to not bring her.
They had bought me a gift, which was quite nice of them. According to Shujie, if they respect her they buy me a gift. That’s quite different from the West where men never get gifts.
Now the city of Baoding is famous for something (I’m not kidding) and it’s the world famous Baoding Balls. As Casey Stengel used to say, “you could look it up”. These appear to be basically what Captain Queeg used when tense in “The Caine Mutiny”. Who can ever forget when Humphrey Bogart took them out of his pocket in the court scene when he’s discussing “The Strawberry Incident”. But I digress.
Here is the box they came in, the balls in the box, and the balls in my hand. It sounds sort of gross to say that but perhaps that’s where the saying “got him by the balls” came from.
Much of the conversation was about those who weren’t there that we could gossip about. The number one topic of conversation was the “International Prostitute”. She got her name because she sleeps around and takes money and favours from men from different countries. She’s married now and is living in Small Town, Alabama so there is a hell for those who aren’t good.
Usually I’m just ignored but this time they made an effort to communicate a bit which I appreciated and made me have a better time than normal. I brought my Ipad in case I was just going to read if ignored, but it wasn’t too bad.
After lunch we decided to go “sing song”. That means we went to a KTV (Chinese Karaoke). These places are huge with many rooms. You rent the room but where they make their money is when you buy snacks and hopefully alcohol. As we were there in the afternoon we only got a fruit platter. While we were there, two other people joined us. They shall remain nameless since Shujie has no idea who they were. They spoke no English but were quite friendly.
There are thousands of songs to choose from with cheesy videos playing with the words on the bottom. Naturally they all chose Chinese songs to sing which could be quite annoying. But it was good fun. They also have English songs and they insisted I sing something. I can’t sing and really didn’t feel like it. I found “Blowing in the Wind” because I used to be able to do a pretty good Bob Dylan impersonation. I was terrible and the Bob Dylan sound wasn’t coming out of my mouth. Not to mention it’s not quite a Karaoke type song. Everyone was polite but it was a bomb.
I asked Shujie after if I could be silly. All her friends probably think I’m a serious, straight-laced guy. Shujie told me to go ahead so I did the one song that makes me go crazy and I do a wicked and sometimes hilarious (depending on the audience) rendition of.
I truly rocked the house. My Chinese friends went crazy as I screamed my way through “The House of the Rising Sun”. It was unreal and I think I went up several notches in their book. I had to do 2 other songs later to keep them happy (Twist and Shout, and I Saw Her Standing There”). It’s great to have an appreciative audience. Here are some pictures with my adoring fans and me in action.
(If you click on a thumbnail you can see the larger picture in all it’s glory. You can even see the woman who doesn’t smile actually smiling and looking like she’s having fun.)
I had fun. Everyone had fun. Shujie and her friend sang that poplular Chinese song “Red River Valley” which I have video of. Since my camera light doesn’t work during video you can’t see much but you’ll be taken back to those old-timey days on the Red River Valley.
For dinner (China is about food), we went to the local Italian restaurant, which is actually quite good. I’ve been there twice before. An Italian man married to a local woman owns it. I was quite shocked it was still in business but pleased. I saw 5 other white people in there (maybe all Italians), which are more white people than I’ve ever seen in one place here. In fact, I never see white people here.
I had the lasagna, which is quite good, and the word for it in Chinese translates to “1,000 steps”. It took me a moment but I figured it out. The pizza was great and QiJi and Shujie enjoyed their food. QiJi wanted to taste American alcohol so I bought him a shot of Jack Daniels. It was so funny. He looks at it and he looks at it and he’s quite confused. Why is the amount so small? In China when you order alcohol you get a glass full, not a shot glass full. He then tasted it and pronounced it “so-so”. The alcohol content here is much higher than allowed in the West so it was pretty mild stuff for him. It was entertaining.
Last night was my worst night in China. I felt not well and had to go to the bathroom about once every 30 minutes. I didn’t fall asleep until 4:30AM and slept until close to 9AM. I then came downstairs and just sat on the couch. Shujie asked who should take their shower first, her or me. I said I would have mine somewhere between 5 minutes from now to 3 hours from now. It seems I passed out for a while and then was ready for the shower. I went upstairs and all of a sudden I had to throw up. Quite violently. I haven’t thrown up on my own in years but I think this helped. If I had known during the night that this would work, I would have made myself throw up. But I didn’t feel like I had to. Shortly thereafter I was on the road to recovery. It was a very uncomfortable time for me.
We didn’t do much today. We went to McDonald’s because I felt like a cheeseburger. I know it sounds crazy but it didn’t make me ill. That was our big outing. Then for dinner we went downstairs where there are a few small and slightly filthy Chinese eateries. I had a bowl of rice since it seemed safe and as I took my chopsticks out to eat, the waitress motioned to me that I should use the spoon. You see, Chinese (and Koreans) eat rice with spoons. Everything else with chopsticks but not rice. I like eating rice with chopsticks. It’s how I taught myself how to use chopsticks and I’m quite proficient at eating rice with them. Shujie said she couldn’t eat rice with chopsticks so I showed her my secret. When you eat a bowl of rice every day for a month with chopsticks, you learn a few tricks. So to hell with the spoon and the Chinese who aren’t skilled enough at chopstick use, I’m eating my rice with chopsticks.
Tomorrow we go to the cemetery to visit Shujie’s father’s grave. It was originally the plan but she had forgotten until I reminded her. I’m such a good husband. Then I told her she should call her older brother to see if they wanted to have dinner with us. Shujie wouldn’t have done that since they’re not really close and his wife and him who are fanatical Christians have a habit of annoying the rest of the family. He had to say no to us since he had something to do at the church. Shujie was very okay with that and QiJi was thrilled since they bother the hell out of him. They wanted to fix him up with a nice girl from their church but he saw it was just another way to try and get him to go to church.
Shujie’s friend Wenjie (finally someone with a name I can remember) is taking us to the train station on Friday, which is quite nice of her. It will make the day much simpler. Then the bullet train to Nanjing and the bus back to Jurong. Our week off will be over and it’s back to my not busy work life. Perhaps the school will wise up and give me more hours but that’s not my decision. All I could do was offer and I did.
Last night at dinner Shujie got a phone call from the student I started tutoring. She’s in Shanghai for the week working. She wondered if we could get together. Why didn’t she phone me? Because it’s easier to talk in Chinese, that’s why. The whole thing was quite funny since when we met last week I told her that we had spent the previous weekend in Shanghai and she seemed to understand. I told her we were going to Baoding for the holiday and she asked us to take pictures to show her. I was sure she understood. So why did she call? Because she thought we had told her we were going to Shanghai this week and were there. This way she could meet us. She’s a really sweet kid but it’s obvious her low level of English is even lower than I thought. But she has the desire to improve so she’s okay by me. It was a good laugh.