Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Beacon

I mentioned once before that when foreigners come to China they usually experience a near-continuous abundance of illnesses. And I’m just another statistic. Last week I got hit with some kind of stomach bacteria.

I’m not really sure where I could have gotten this bug from. After all, China, being known for its cleanliness, has so few places where one could get something like this. I mean with street vendors who pick their noses, babies pooping on the street, and raw meat being prepared on dirty tables, what are the chances that people would get a little sick? Also this week, I learned that a large portion of street food meat is preserved with formaldehyde. That’s the stuff they put in dead bodies to keep them from rotting. I’m going to spend more time at the western restaurants for the remainder of my trip.

Anyways, I got sick. I couldn’t move from my bed for most of the week and I wasn’t able to hold down food either. I haven’t checked yet but I’m guessing I’ve lost about twenty pounds during my entire stay in China. Part has just been from the change of diet but most has been the sickness. That’s a lot of weight for me. I’m not exactly the kind of guy who’s going to be on the Biggest Loser anytime soon. Losing twenty pounds of me is like taking off a leg.

So that worried me a little. Finally though, after about six days of this stomach stuff I had my first hunger pains. And they were strong, healthy ones. That was worth a trip out of bed to me. It probably would have been smarter to follow my mom’s advice she use to give and eat something small, like crackers, but I was wound up about being hungry. So, I decided to eat at the least Asian place in China; McDonalds.

Like most of America’s finer culture (rap music, Justin Bieber, ect) fast food is becoming a big part of Chinese society. McDonalds, or as it’s pronounced here, My-dong-laow, is practically as native to this country as it is to ours. So I rushed out the door and started walking towards the McDonalds closest to my school.

It was a cool night and a thick fog had settled on the ground. I could only see about ten feet in every direction. Also, at this point I realized how dizzy I was from the lack of food I had eaten during the last several days. So I was staggering down a foggy Chinese street, all gaunt from a week without a meal, my arms slightly raised to keep my balance, and searching for McDonalds. I must have looked like something out of the Walking Dead.

Furthermore, I was giggling uncontrollably as I tottered down the road. Like a crazy person. The whole situation was too much. And I was just imagining what commentators would be saying had they been there. “Watch the American as he marches deep into the cold unknown, only wanting one taste of the Big Mac he has been so adamantly searching for.” I’m so stereotypical.

Then, to make it all the better, I took a moment to look up and figure out where I was. And there, in the distance, like a beacon of hope were the golden arches hovering in the sky. Because of the fog they looked like an angelic creature hovering in the distance, just far enough out of reach that I put my arms out to try and touch them.

And then a motorcycle honked and I realized I almost crossed a busy intersection without looking at the through-traffic. And I just stood there, not really caring about danger, just the big yellow arches. Surely this is proof that McDonalds is going to kill us. One way or another.

So I got my food. It wasn’t very good. And it made me sick. Next time I go a week with a stomach illness I’m going to start back to solid foods with crackers or bananas. Somehow, even in China, moms are usually right about these kinds of things.

Why Not

Today I felt pretty well so I went to the main market in Qingdao. I had paid a seamstress to create some clothes for me. She did a really good job on making a sports coat and a vest. However, she didn’t understand that most college boys in America don’t wear their pants above their belly button. And I haven’t covered a chapter in my Chinese class that uses either the words ‘belly button’ or ‘out of fashion.’ So I may come home dressing a lot more like my father. 

Also today, as I was out buying some food for my friend’s rabbit (I’ll tell you later), I came across a barber shop. I’d wanted to get a haircut for a few weeks now and this guy was offering one for two dollars. So he asked me what I wanted. I shrugged and told him to make me look Chinese. I figured it’s just hair. Worst case scenario I’d shave and it’d grow back in a few weeks.

So he cut my hair, and he did it very well. As he did I started looking at pictures of all the Asian models hanging on the walls. They had all dyed their hair bright colors of red, purple, and orange. And I asked the barber if he could do the same to my hair. He nodded and brought out some red paste. He didn’t put it everywhere but he put in a good amount. And it didn’t really turn my hair red. More of a maroon, much like my home university’s colors. It’s funny how these things work out.

So now I have maroon hair. When in China, dye your hair like the Chinese do.

Ham bow bow

My friend Judith had her birthday a few weeks ago and a group of us pitched in and bought her a pet rabbit. She really wanted one. So we went with her and picked out a long haired, gray rabbit, complete with his own Fu Manchu. He looks very wise. She named him Ham bow bow, the Chinese word for a western hamburger.

Unfortunately, Judith’s roommate is Korean. And most Koreans don’t do rabbits. This particular Korean didn’t do mice, cats, dogs, fish, and generally all animal life either. So keeping Ham bow bow in the picture was already posing some difficulties.

Thus, I became the owner of my very own rabbit. He’s sitting in a cage at my feet as I write this. Don’t worry, I let him out frequently. He just peed on my bed though so I thought it would be a good move to let him finish his business away from my personal belongings.

I almost have him potty trained. Almost. The occasional event like what he did on the bed happens. He has this weird obsession with finding white things in my room and doing his best to change their color.

I try only speaking to him in Chinese. I figure a Chinese rabbit should at least be spoken to in his home’s language. He’s a pretty good pet and he’s definitely growing on me. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do with him when I leave.

Ivan the Merciless

My old roommate and dear friend, Florian has packed his bags and left China. He developed a pretty serious case of asthma and his family wanted him to come home. He was a great guy and I plan to visit him if I ever go to France.

In his place I have been sent Ivan. He is Russian. Already this worried me. The Russians living at Qingdao University have been responsible for a long list (more like a book series, including an afterthought prologue) of crimes that have happened, one including a fire extinguisher. They are also known for causing trouble late at night and getting into fights with the locals. So I’ll honestly say I had my stereotypes about Russians before Ivan arrived. This wasn’t fair to him.

But then I met the guy. And he was huge. And let me try to explain this the best way I can. I’ll use myself as a measuring tool because I assume most of you know my general size and shape. If you took seven of me and tied us all together you might start to see the volume of Ivan. He looks like the cartoons where they blow up their muscles with a basketball pump. This guy is a beast. Also, turns out he’s training to be a professional cage fighter. He knows like six kinds of martial arts. His trainer has just come up from Australia and they’re out everyday getting in shape.

So not only is this guy Russian, but he could probably kill me in multiple ways. Once again, I’ll let you all know that these details made me very wary of the situation. This wasn’t fair of me.

And sure enough, Ivan turned out to be a great guy. For instance, he sometimes brings me McDonalds when he has breakfast in the morning. I tell you what, in my book there’s no faster where to tear down a stereotype than with some hash browns.

Also, he wants to open up a gym here in Qingdao. And he’s invited me to come take a few lessons and train with him. I haven’t lately because I’ve been so sick but it definitely seems like a good opportunity. Furthermore, he’s never once sprayed me with a fire extinguisher or tried to punch me in my sleep. In fact, because he wants to stop snoring so loudly at night (and I would like this too) we have made an agreement that I can throw any object, animate or inanimate, so the bunny is now an option, in order to get him to stop. What more could I ask for in a roommate than someone I get to throw junk at?

So I was wrong about Ivan. I know he’s a Russian who resembles Rocky’s nemesis (ironically also named Ivan) but that doesn’t automatically make him a bad guy. Judging anybody isn’t right, especially when you don’t even know them.

At this point, I’m really trying to refrain from ending with something completely cliché about books and their covers. Perhaps, never judge a Russian cage fighter by his cage. Or maybe, don’t judge a Russian cage fighter until you know why he’s in the cage. I don’t know. Something might stick later. For now, I’ll just say that he’s a swell guy with a heart of gold…and fists of torment!

1 comment:

  1. Patrick, let me just say I love reading your bloggings! My favorite so far has to be this whole last one. Everything from feeble foggy walks in pursuit of golden arches, to chucking bunnies at a massive snoring Russians. :)

    Can't wait till you're home and I get to hear all the details about China and your crazy new friends and adventures.

    Always in my prayers.