Thanksgiving Away From Home

My first Thanksgiving away from home! And I survived it, I guess you could say. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving, our Chinese teacher mentioned, “What are you guys doing for the holiday tomorrow?” Our first reactions were (there were only three of us) one of surprise and realization, Thanksgiving just snuck up on us. I didn’t notice before how much those change of merchandise and decorations in stores signal the arrival of holidays for me. Now that they aren’t here, I can appreciate them more, haha. So we thought about it, and decided to go with some Americans we know to a buffet, Western preferred.

The kind of “Western” restaurants that can be found in China mainly just have hamburgers and pizza…that is definitely not Thanksgiving material. We were searching for roasted turkey, corn, mashed potatoes, and gravy. Another group of Americans we knew found out about a buffet in a nice restaurant across town, the type of food we wanted was advertised to be there, but it was 270 RMB, so we were reluctant. Patrick and I looked into the expat Tianjin website to find suggestions but there was nothing!

On Thanksgiving morning I went to grammar class (it is practically useless but the teacher is funny) and got an ambiguous text message from one of my Chinese friends. She wrote, “Happy Thanksgiving! What are you going to do later?” I consulted two classmates and the funny teacher to figure out that she probably wanted an invite, so I mentioned we were going to a buffet around 7pm and she did jump on it, so I guess I was right. I was busy that day practicing for a competition (I will describe it in the next post), but Patrick found another buffet to go to (168 RMB). Sure, it was Japanese food, but hey, we’re in Asia after all. An Asian Thanksgiving is appropriate.

Henry, Avi, Xiang Wen (the Chinese friend who wanted an invite), and I headed over to the restaurant. The interior was really nice and we were seated in front of the chef on the open grill. Avi and Patrick annoyed me at the beginning, they were arguing over seat arrangements because they both had girls coming and wanted the seats to be just right. Then the both of them had this crazy idea that our Chinese-American friend, Hank, might have a crush on Xiang Wen, so they started pestering me to switch seats so I wasn’t between them. This whole attempted love fest set me off, and I stormed off to the bathroom, when I got back my plate was switched and she was sitting next to Hank anyways. Sneaky bastards. I forgave them after some all-you-can-drink sake and beer, though. But now onto the most important part, the food! The menu items were SO expensive, so having the all you can eat and drink buffet was a great deal. We literally held the menu and pointed to everything just saying, “Bring six servings of this/that”, it was quite liberating. We had a little bit of everything; there was steak, duck, pork, shark, bullfrog, snail, and horse…though I sadly was too stuffed to order the horse at the end. The frog tasted amazing, it’s like a cross between fish and chicken. Everything was amazingly seasoned and I did not regret my first Thanksgiving without turkey~

After stuffing ourselves to within an inch of our lives, we stayed there until 10:30drinking and chatting, then when the restaurant shut down, we moved the drinking and chatting over to Helen’s Bar. The place was packed with friends and acquaintances so it was a very fun way to spend the holiday.

The ending kind of sucked though, one of the people in the Spanish group was going back to Spain the next day, so they wanted to go karaoke. I should have paid attention to the troubling signs. There is a fantastic KTV right in front of our university, but when I suggested we go there instead of the far one they wanted they said, “There are no English songs there right?” To which I negated, this KTV has the most up to date American song list I’ve found in Tianjin, and it’s convenient. I wondered how they could have missed that, but persevered anyways. It literally took 45 minutes to get people “ready” to go, by then I had had enough, I started shepherding people out of the bar like they were sheep! I then helped everyone get in cabs and find the way to the KTV. Annoyingly, when the first half of us arrived (nine in total), we had to wait for the other nine, who all happened to be the Spanish people and the REASON why we were there. Because they were slacking, I went to the counter and got the room reserved. After they all arrived no one was making the initiative, so I started collecting the 13 RMB per person, while doing this, I also had to teach the others how to order songs off the machine. No wonder they thought there were no English songs, they were typing in the full name of the song, in KTV you are only supposed to type the initials. After hunting each person down for money, I went down to pay, and when I got back it was a mess. Songs were being played that no one had any idea how to sing, people were screeching into microphones (when they didn’t know the lyrics they would just curse into it), not to mention the machine was apparently still a mystery, because someone kept accidentally hitting the repeat button half way through the song. After twenty minutes, Avi, Josh (another American), and I got the hell up out of there. Unfortunately in my haste I forgot my cell phone…I got it back the next day after some unnecessary hassle. Regardless of the end, it was a fun Thanksgiving…even if there was no turkey. 🙂

Advertisements

Chinese Single’s Day Holiday

If you’re single and you’re happy clap your hands! *clap clap*

Sorry for the silliness, but I’m random like that, anyways if you guys haven’t noticed the most epic Sigles Day holiday just passed two days ago. Allow me to explain: In China, November 11th is deemed “Singles Day” because the date has so many ones (11/11), this year’s is epic because it is 2011 as well. So it was 11/11/2011, as I’m sure many of you have noticed. 光棍节 is how you say it in Chinese, 光棍(guang1gun4)is a single chopstick, it’s a term mostly used to refer to unmarried men. Pretty clever these Chinese are aren’t they? On this day single friends get together and have lunch/dinner…you never know you may find a special someone that way. I also recently learned that it is becoming a tradition for couples to give a lollipop to their single friends.

So how did I spend my Singles Day?

I had class and practice earlier in the day, but around 7:15 I met with a new friend of mine at the school entrance. She invited me to go out
with her friends to eat and karaoke after. In Chinese culture if you are invited and you are not familiar yet, it’s almost guaranteed to be free for
you, so of course I accepted and headed over. My friend, Gao Gao, is a nice girl (26) who I met a week or two ago, she is engaged to a British man and her English is almost perfect, but I like her because she still speaks in only Chinese to me. We were met by her guy friend, Wang Yue, he was very stylish and very nice right from the start, his relief at not having to use English was palpable, though he is clearly good at it, haha. We walked over to a nice restaurant 20 minutes away and chatted away happily. At the restaurant we were the first of six to arrive, so we sat and looked through the menus, the place was very classy and expensive. Gao gao ordered dim sum and waited for her friend, Rong rong, who was actually paying for the meal, to come. She was stylish as well and I found out that her brother owns a restaurant and café in town that she works
for, marketing or something. I this point I could clearly tell that they all were pretty and had good jobs…I felt like I was in an episode of Sex in the
City. They were so open about everything. For example, the two last people to arrive were actually a couple who were running late from their hotel run…yes, I wrote hotel run. They both live with their parents (a common thing in China before getting married) and wanted to get an hour of sex in at a hotel while they could, so hilarious! They came in and once again I got the feeling I was in a show, they were pretty, tall, wearing nice clothes and high heels and had a crude-ish sense of humor, there was even the fabulous gay man (Wang Yue-I’m guessing, he didn’t specify)…I loved it! They also did not care how much they spent, I can’t even tell how many dishes were brought out, if one person went, “I haven’t had crab in a while..Let’s get some!” it happened. The “happy hour” couple were very lovey-dovey in a laid-back kind of way, I asked them how long they dated and the girl wanted me to guess. At first I said 2 years, and then I thought for a second and said, “It’s either two years or two months.” Everyone was shocked by the age gap between the two choices, obviously, and asked why I said that. My theory is, either they are in the honeymoon period, beginning of the relationship (2 months) or have reached long-term finally (2 years). I ended up getting it right with the two months…I’m so intuitive 😛 In the end, there was a lot of food wasted, which I hate, but it’s not on my bill I guess.

After eating we went to the connecting KTV, it was not as nice as my favorite one (right across from the South entrance at my university) but it was free so I didn’t complain. Another guy joined for karaoke too, his name is Zhang Jie. We had to wait for thirty minutes because we were late for our reservation and on Singles Day KTVs get packed. After that we got in, the “Happy hour” couple footed the bill while Rong rong and Wang Yue went to buy LOTS of beers, ice cream and popcorn from downstairs. At the end, Zhang Jie brought out a chilled bottle of wine, he works for a wine company in Tianjin so he gave us a lesson on wine tasting and told us why that particular wine was perfect. I actaully appreciated it more than usual, I normally het wine, but I still won’t be able to taste quality difference I think, haha. I love going out with older people, it’s so different from going out with my equally poor college friends. My only complaint about them was that 5 out of 6 are chain smokers, I had to wash those clothes right away and wash my hair, but it was a small price to pay for a great night. Anyways, I hope everyone had a fabulous, epic Singles Day!

Finding a “Dictionary”

Avi taught me a new word last week that I found very
interesting. He mentioned that he felt his Chinese wasn’t getting better fast
enough and that maybe he should find a “dictionary”. By the way he said it I
could tell it wasn’t an ordinary Webster’s edition so he explained that when
you find a girl/boyfriend in your target language they are your instant
dictionary, apparently it’s a great way to learn, haha. So I gave it some
thought, I mean it makes sense and it’s strange that I haven’t found many
Chinese guys I have been attracted to…and by not many I mean zero (counting out
the two or three who had girlfriends of course). I decided to start trying…my
results?

Last weekend, we did the usual routine: karaoke’d our hearts
out, went drinking at Helen’s/the Basement, and then went dancing at XiTang.
The whole night Avi and Patrick (this Chinese American guy I am beasting on,
for those who don’t know beasting is when I force my affections to the point
where it must be returned, haha, works every time) had to protect me from this
crazy African guy who practically stalks me every time I go there, he even
tries to pull me away when I’m dancing ON a guy. Anyways, I turned around and
spotted this cute Chinese guy on a bar stool nearby. With my newfound purpose
and stomach full of liquor, I went straight up to him and started talking and
dancing around. We exchanged numbers and he danced around me the rest of the
night, I could tell he wanted to dance but in the club I’m in my own world,
either you intrude or else I just won’t dance with you…I have enough fun on my
own, haha.

We texted that night, normal stuff like, “It was nice to
meet you” and left it at that. Two days later I remembered him (I couldn’t even
remember his name; I named him “XiTang guy from Beijing” on my phone! But
regardless I texted asking how he was, two seconds later he was calling my
phone, I debated about answering but Avi encouraged it. So I did and we talked
a bit, he seemed nice enough so I invited him to the Helen’s Bar Halloween
Party that night…Mind you this was a Monday and I had a mid-term the next day
in class but I wanted to go! Anyways, we got there at 9pm and it was packed,
and surprisingly people went all out on the costumes front, apparently you can
find all of the cool costumes online (taobao.com) or people got VERY creative,
most of the stuff was handmade. It was free cocktails and beer until 12 pm, so
that ruined my “not too much alcohol” plan. The guy showed up and he was still
cute but his breath smelled like he ate something not too fresh before
coming…that IMMEDIATELY turned me off. It’s one of the reasons why I can’t find
a guy here, teeth and breath are so important to me, and China is the land
where only the young/hip brush their teeth regularly and braces are not common.
Back on point: He tried to talk to me and do the whole hand on my lower back
routine a few times but I was not having it. I kept pretending to lose him in
the crowd. By 11:30 he gave up and came up to say goodbye, he owns a clothing
store in Beijing which is cool but my first impression (the drunken one doesn’t
count) is a bad one, and he shall forever never become a dictionary.

He’s called me a few times since then, I almost considered
letting him be a friend. He invitied me out to eat, but I had work, after I was
done, he called and mentioned that I should come over to his place….I was like,
“Are there people there?”. He answered no a bit too gleefully for my tastes…so
another one bites the dust. He has called a few times since but I haven’t
picked up. That same Halloween night I MAY have kissed my first guy from Spain
and exchanged numbers with potential “dictionary” #2…but I’ not admitting to
anything. Dictionary 2 loves rap and called me to hang out before. I THINK he
was cute, so I shall give him a text and confirm later~

How Not to Spend Your Day

As I write this I am waiting in line at a hospital. I have been to Chinese hospitals more time in the last few days than I ever want to again in my life (ok I’m being dramatic but going twice..no once is good enough to scare people away). It all started because of a stupid fall that Avi took in our dorm’s hallway. It too embarrassing to explain the process of this fall (need to save Avi’s face), but needless to say he got a fat lip from it, and as of two days ago reinjured his back. Two days ago, we were supposed to meet some friends of our teacher, they take us out to eat every so often, and we teach their daughter simple English words here and there, it’s a nice deal for us because they are rich and eat well! But that’s beside the point. Earlier that day his back started hurting again and it was difficult for him to sit down and walk, but he went down to tell them about his situation and to get out of going to dinner. Unfortunately for him, he underestimated the politeness of Chinese people, when they know you they will do anything for you. So he was almost immediately thrown into one of their cars, and we were taken to their Chinese medicine doctor friend’s house. They found the source of his pain, on his lower spine, and started aggressively massaging, I even saw one of them do hilarious tai chi on it (they were both in awkward positions that were picture worthy). After a while, he tried to get up and found that he couldn’t do it and that it hurt even worse. He decided to take a nap there since he couldn’t get up and we (assuming that with a bit more time he would feel better) went out to eat and brought him back dumplings. When we got back he was rolled over but still unable to get up, and he would still frequently get shots of pain. He tried to get up to go to the bathroom, Avi’s over six feet tall and over two hundred pounds, so it took about four men to help him up, but when he was standing he fainted and so we set him on the ground and realized that it was time to call the ambulance. I became hopeful; ambulances in America take care of everything and I feel happy to hand over the responsibility, but it became apparent right when they came in that in China that is not the case. They slid him on to the ghetto-ist stretcher I’ve ever seen, and because it is a spinal problem every jolt hurts Avi. We asked them to give him pain pills/an injection first but they were like, “We don’t have any of that”. Ridiculous. So we got in the ambulance and there were no machines attached to him, no questions asked about his condition… it was basically like riding in an expensive van (the trip cost 240 RMB). When we got to the emergency room the ambulance moved him from the stretcher (very badly, we all had to help), then left. I haven’t gone with a person in stretcher to the emergency room before, but I watch enough TV, I know there are supposed to be a flock of professionals running away with him saying things like, “Is he stable? What are the stats?”…but nothing. We had to roll him ourselves to different areas of the hospital, and you have to go back to the front to pay for every little thing first before they let you anywhere. So it was a lot of back and forth. Not to mention, to get Avi’s X-Ray and then CT Scan we had to lift him onto the tables ourselves and then back on to the stretcher. It was horrendous. At the end, the doctor said his spine wasn’t fractured and there was nothing wrong, but Avi still couldn’t move without immense pain so I wasn’t satisfied. There was nothing I could do about it though so we had to ambulance it back to the school (Avi can’t sit in a car, or really be moved from his prone position). Due to his larger frame, we had to call 6 male friends and have them help carry the stretcher to his bed on the 4th floor…we do not have an elevator, haha.

So I spent yesterday going back and forth from his room to mine all day yesterday, a lot of people came to visit him which was sweet, but I got to do the fun stuff, like empty his pee bucket…..literally. This morning it was still hurting him (he can kind of roll now with great effort but we needed a second opinion). We got there at 10:45 but didn’t get to see a doctor until almost 3pm…the final diagnosis….same as before. It’s crazy but he wouldn’t even let Avi stay in the hospital for actual “professional” care (I use quotation marks because there’s almost nothing professional about Chinese hospitals), he can’t even do number 2 since he can’t walk or be moved to the toilet. The costs have been piling up, most of which I footed the bill for…Avi looks down upon teaching English while here, but he’s lucky I did or we would have been SOL. He has no money and his parents are going to wire him enough to pay us back and get by until the reimbursement comes in (they aren’t sure much they can reimburse yet but we shall see). After these last few days I am 1,400 RMB down the hole, so I am hoping he will pay me back at the same time he pays the others back, I don’t want to pressure him since he’s injured, but that’s a huge chunk of change…just because we are friends doesn’t mean I don’t need to survive lmao. All in all, Chinese hospitals are hectic, crowded, and REALLY confusing. It’s A LOT of going back and forth to pay for things and go to different sections of the hospital for different things. It’s all very casual as well; it’s not uncommon to see a person bleeding out and being treated right beside you. It reminded me of a World War II hospital scene from a movie…I saw a car accident victim and a guy who fell from the 4th floor being treated right next to me. I love China, but really the health care system needs a makeover!