Picture Posts

Photos courtesy of Sharon.  We walked around Chengdu for hours.  I gave her my camera and told her to take pictures of people.  This is what she came back with.

More posts coming soon!


I don’t know exactly what I was thinking.  Maybe it was the slow pace of life in Liaocheng and the predictably easy-going way of Hangzhou, but for one reason or another I decided to bag my plans and head west, on a forty-three hour train, with three strangers, and a hard seat.  It was perhaps one of the best experiences I’ve had in China.

The original plan was to go from Hangzhou to Huang Shan, and then onto Yichang to get on the boat ride down the Yangtze.  Huang Shan is perhaps the most famous mountain in China, and rightly so.  It’s beauty out parallels perhaps even the Grand Teton, and as a result the horrific beast that is  the Chinese tourist industry has swallowed it whole.  And after the West Lake I was less than excited about going to yet another tourist destination.  I met Sharon, Lion (both Chinese), and Sam, at the hostel in Hangzhou, and decided to join them on a 43 three hour train ride across the country, on a hard seat.

As it turned out, we were among the lucky ones who actually got a seat.  Some passengers were standing or  lying down in the hall ways for the majority of the trip. For the first 24 hours of the trip, it was literally impossible to move down the aisle.

The trip was made bearable by the company I was with.  We drank baiju, we played cards, we played truth or dare.  We shared noodles and peanuts and shoulders to sleep on.

Max was a ten year old kid we met with really good English.  We liked him so every time the food cart went by we bought him more treats and sodas.  He played games on our cell phones and took pictures of us.

The other thing that made the trip as wonderful as it was seeing some of the beautiful scenery, especially as we got closer to Chengdu.  What with the movement of the train and the dirty windows, pictures can’t really do what we saw justice, but at least it gives you a taste.

It’s summer now and the heat is borderline unbearable, and as a result a lot of Chinese men find shirts rather obsolete.  Even Mr. Wang, pictured here at what’s supposed to be a business lunch, opts to go shirtless.

In states, maybe it’s one out of every ten people that will take flyers that people are handing out on the streets.  But in China it’s literally every person that will take them.  I think it has something to do with the incredible consumer driven society.  But nontheless many of the flyers end up on the ground, so whereever there are flyers being handed out there are poor street scavengers, usually elderly people who can’t work anymore, who collect the little sheets of paper and return them to redemption centers for 2 mao (.2 yuan) each.

Sure there are grocery stores in China, but they tend to be overpriced.  It’s far more common for people to buy their fruits and vegetables at street side stands such as this one.

The number of cars in the road in China is growing by staggering amounts every day, but still most families opt for more economical forms of transportation, such as this three-wheeled motorbike.

Joe’s parents picked me up last night in shiny black Audi with black tinted windows and leather seats.  They work parents work in the government and enjoy the fat pay check that comes with the job title.  As a way to thank me for teaching their son they offered to take Serena and me out for dinner.  It was apparent early on that this would be one of those how-the-hell-did-I-get-here experiences.

The Gang: Tony, Joe, Me, "Cool Brother," Serena, "Cool Sister"

Millenary Dragon is famous for it's seafood. 鲁菜 (lu cai) is one of the 8 culinary traditions of China. Originating in nearby Jinan, it usually involves seafood.

We drove across town to pick up Serena at her apartment, and along the way I informed them that it was her birthday.  We stopped at a bakery to buy her a cake, the most expensive one in the shop, and then headed over to Millenary Dragon, the most expensive restaurant in Liaocheng.  They presented Serena with a bottle of red wine, the most expensive red wine you could buy, and me with a bottle of baiju, you guessed it, the most expensive one you could buy.  We hadn’t even ordered and already Joe’s parents had spent twice as much money than I spend in a week, and they weren’t quiet about it.  It’s pretty rude to talk about money in Western culture, but it’s common, even expected in some cases.

Is coral an endangered species? Well, it tastes good anyways...

Now I don’t want to give the wrong impression here…you might assume that communist party members are stuffy, arrogant, hard to get a long with, but in most cases its just the opposite.  I’ve actually found most Chinese politicians quite chummy.  They like to drink and smoke and sing karaoke just as much as the next guy.  Joe’s dad was impressed with my ability to toss back the baiju, and kept filling my cup and laughing hardily with each shot.  He liked my mohawk and beard and decided to call me 帅哥, (handsome brother).  He slapped his knee when Joe said “fuck” and I explained the meaning.  我们走朋友了。We were buddies.


Serena picks up the mic, despite telling us all she can't sing...

We dined on steamed octopus, deepfried shrimp and eggplant bites, and vinegar soaked coral (which I didn’t know was edible.)  After dinner we made our way to KTV, the nicest one in Liaocheng.  Serena and I sang Micheal Jackson and Joe’s parents rocked out to Chinese pop tunes.  At one point the lights went out and a couple of dancers came in performed a hair-whipping evocative dance for our entertainment, and then left as quickly as they had appeared.  Like I said, how the hell did I get here?


This is probably an attempt to bypass China’s lackadaisical copyright laws, but I’d like to think that it’s some sort of communist propaganda geared towards toddlers.  By the way, I never really pictured Pooh playing with symbols.  He is always seemed to me like more of the subdued type.

Bought this on the street in Qingdao.  Didn’t even get to see the tag until I got back to the hostel.  Brilliant

For better or for worse, here’s a glimpse into the life a Chinese married couple.  That is of course to say a Chinese couple and not all.  Do not mistake any editorialized writing as an attempt to sway you’re opinion in one direction or another regarding gender roles and familial life in China.  I have simply taken one example of a Chinese family I’ve found amusing and presented the facts, albeit somewhat emphasized towards the funnier side of it all.

I met  石作香(Miss Shi) through Will, who’s been in China close to three years now, has traveled, studied and taught English. Miss Shi is a lawyer and, like many middle class Chinese professionals, an entrepreneur on the side.  She has dipped into the business sector of English schools (a hot item at the moment) by way of Will’s contacts with foreigners.

Miss Shi has unbelievable focus.  At no point in her actions does it seem that she is wasting time by deciding what to do next.  It’s as though she wakes up every morning and already knows exactly what she’s going to do for the day, right down to when she rests her feet.  But for as punctual and driven person as she is, there is nothing rigid about Miss Shi.  Her eyes rarely show it, but she is in actually an easy-going person, with the ability to improvise, with the ability to wander off topic (she just choses not to).

Miss Shi seems to thrive off of serving others.  She and routinely delivers bags of vegetables and bottles of cooking oil to Will’s apartment, which she arranged and signed the contract for.  She prides herself on her cooking, on her clean home, on her job as a lawyer.  As the mother of two, she is the rock of the family.

袁斌 (Yuan Bing) is a truck driver, and Miss Shi’s husband.  The first time I met him he ambled through the doorway of Will’s apartment, sleepily lifting a half smoked cigarette to his drooping mouth.  He tossed the cigarette and shook hands with Will and then spotted me.  He gave me this sqinty-eyed grin, the kind of smile a young guy might expect from one of his dad’s old drinking buddies.  He spent most of our afternoon together snoring on Will’s bed while Miss Shi and I chatted.   One time I went to their apartment for lunch, and when I got there, Yuan Bing was passed out in the bedroom while Miss Shi bustled away in the kitchen.  He eventually woke up and joined me in the living room, shirtless and smoking.  He knocked back two and half cups of  白酒 (rice wine) during lunch, smoked another cigarette, and went back to sleep.  Miss Shi is the fussy one.  The one you call in a jam.  The one who always knows what to do.  Yuan Bing is the chilled out one, the one you’d want to share beer and swap dirty jokes with, the one that always makes you feel comfortable, cuz hell, he’s pretty comfortable.

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