Thursday, August 28, 2008

Parties, Becoming a Voice Actor and More!

Well, my interested readers, I suppose this will be the only update this week. Let's see how well I can remember all the fascinating happenings in Chengdu.

Monday Rick, Sam and I went to an outdoor souvenir market, it was pretty crap. I did manage to buy a second towel, which is really a necessity. Then we went to the PSB, I got my visa, it all went smoothly. Then we went to Web English School for me to do an interview, which really just ended up being me scheduling a demo class. Then we went to their friend Dodo's shop across the street. It had all the typical American-style hippie acoutrements: rasta t-shirts, pins, floppy hats, bowls, posters, cds, Bob Marley everything, etc. It was a pretty funny sight in China. Then we got some fish for the piranhas and came home. Later that night we went over to Oz and Callum's for poker, I didn't do as well as last week and Rick was the big winner.

Tuesday Rick and I played dou di zhu with Lorna at Middle Bar, I enjoyed a great iced coffee and we took the bus to soccer. We walked all the way across Sichuan University, probably like a 20 minute walk. We passed some lotuses in full growth, towering a good seven or eight feet out of the pool, flanking a massive old-style building likely from the late 19th century. It was very scenic and the weather here continues to cool off, which is very nice. We crushed the Chinese opposition this week and I didn't have to slide-tackle once. After football we grabbed a cab to the Bookworm for trivia, our team came in second place yet again. I had a great dinner of penne pasta there. Sam went out with a couple Chinese girls and then called me to come out with them, we hung out for about 30 minutes at Cotton Club, then they had to leave, so we caught a ride to Cafe Paname, which was dead, then went over to Dave's Oasis. Andy, one of the owner's and my football teammate, was there, as well as Heather (a Canadian on our trivia team) and Jeff (an Aussie also on our trivia team). They are 3 of the six new owners. We sat around and drank beers and played trivial pursuit. It was very reminiscent of some Grinnell memories of mine.

I've been sleeping a lot recently and Wednesday was no exception. Maybe it's the whole 1-time-zone thing. Who knows. Wednesday I got up, ate lunch with Rick and Sam, went to teach my demo class at Web. Essentially, they said, try to get 25-30 students to talk for an hour about a subject. I decided to do mine on relationships, so I gave a quick intro on myself, where I was from, and drew a map of the United States to show them the different places I've lived in. Then I had them name different types of relationships and then we wrote down the roles within those relationships. I then had them describe the personality qualities that they liked and didn't like about those roles (teachers, mothers, fathers, etc.). I also found out that only 2 of the students had siblings. The students were aged 15-25, generally spoke quite well but it was a bit of a challenge to get the quieter ones to speak up, so I called on their table and tried to encourage them that way. I had them split up into groups to do an activity where they describe someone, how and when they met them, if the relationship changed over time, etc. I went from table to table and at the last one looked at the clock and 5 minutes had flown by. So it went very well and I will start teaching there part-time next week.

I walked a while, as it is impossible to find a cab at 515, crossed over the river and then finally caught one. I had my longest conversation with a taxi driver, maybe a total of a dozen or so sentences we both understood. It was starting to rain and I was glad to be home. We played some dou di zhu then went out for dinner with Andrew, a kiwi, for some Hui food. Hui people are Chinese Muslims, unlike the Uighurs, who are essentially a Turkic people living in NW China (Xinjiang). We had a great meal of skewered lamb, chicken curry and beef and potatoes. We walked to Dave's Oasis and threw Sam a going-away/birthday party and split a bottle of Jameson. I got the bright idea to go to the Leg and Whistle to watch the late Liverpool Champions League qualifier, which ended nil-nil at 90 minutes. At that point I decided it was time to go home.
Today I slept in, then got up and went to meet a new contact about dubbing a Tibetan documentary on horse racing. There were some technical issues and after about an hour I got a ride back home. But I met a good contact, Ken, from Chongqing, who runs a translation firm. So he gave me his card and I'll do the narration for the movie next week after I get back. It would be pretty sweet to get into the entertainment industry, and this would be a hilarious way to get started. Anyways, I'm sitting in the AC waiting for some Western food, later we'll go to Sweetlicks for dinner and tomorrow Rick and I go up north, into the mountains, trying for the fourth time to make it to Wanglang. More exciting news to come.

Oh and if you wanted to, ya know, send me a letter or something, here's my address:

Reid Wyatt
sichuan sheng

cheng du shi

bai yu xiang

5 lou 10 hao

Saturday, August 23, 2008

And today the Olympics end. Time flies.

Sunday August 24 2008

Friday I got up early and caught a cab downtown to my job interview. It went well but they want me to work Sunday mornings. We'll see how things develop. After the interview, I went to Starbucks and got an Americano, then cabbed home. I got some lunch with Sam and then Rick and I went to the pool. It was really sunny and hot, I swam 1km and then we chilled and talked with some Chinese girls at the pool. It was a great afternoon.

Then Rick and I came back to my house and we met up with Sam, Iona and Fran for dinner in the neigborhood. They're both English girls who have been here for 2 years. After dinner they came by our house for a beer and we watched the USA-Argentina basketball game, by far the worst game of the tournament, because it wasn't close enough to be exciting and there were almost no dunks.

After the game, Rick, Sam and I went to Cafe Paname and had some drinks there and then walked over to Panda Bar and stayed out far too late.

Saturday I slept in and then ate some noodles on the way to the bus. Rick and I bussed over to the Sports University to play football with a bunch of other foreigners. We played 10 on 10 on a turf field. I slide tackled and got a great scab on my elbow and knocked Gaven out of the game for a while. When he came back in, it was on our side.

After the game, Terry, Andy, Rick and I all went down to the Shamrock, an expat bar that supports the football with free beer. So we sat around and traded China stories for the afternoon. Norman, a Canadian guy who plays soccer with us, was also there. Rick went home after a while and Andy, Terry, Norman and I stayed until the beer was done, then went to the Leg and Whistle to watch the football matches. Simon was there and watching the rugby with his wife and some other Aussie friends. Liverpool won on a 94th minute winner and I bet Andy 100-to-1 odds that Liverpool would win the league this year, on 100RMB. So if I'm right, he's out 10,000RMB. We'll see what happens in May.

Kevin, an American who also plays football with us, came by the Leg and after the Liverpool match he and I went across the street to another bar, owned by Chinese guys, to watch Arsenal. I started falling asleep during the halftime so I decided it was probably just a good idea to go home and sleep in my bed. It's been a good weekend and I've got a job interview, so there'll be more news soon.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chinese singles bar? Or: How to get a number without knowing Mandarin

Friday August 22, 2008
A one day update! Damn, my ego just got a boost!

Yesterday I slept for a long time (I don't know why but I seriously feel like I need 10 hours of sleep here – not tight) then got up and Sam and I went to get a bite of lunch (zhong shue zhao – dumplings in sweet-n-spicy oil) then I went to the coffee shop for a while and read. I also called a contact about a teaching job and set up an interview. Then Rick called me and he, Sam and I played dou di zhu (I misspelled this one before – pinyin zh is pronounced as j) at the tea-house midway between our houses. It was nice enough to sit outside during the day and was probably somewhere in the high-70s, low-80s.

Sam and I went to Green Dragon for dinner, got an amazing tofu dish, a sweet potato dish and an oily beef dish. It was way too much food and we stuffed ourselves before taking a nice stroll home. Yulin is a great neighborhood for people- and girl-watching, sitting in front of the glass windows of the restaurant, looking out at the constant streams of people walking by. There are, like, lots of, like, people in China.

We got ready for the night, Oz having alerted us of a good bar/club to meet at. Rick came by and met us, then we met Oz and his co-worker Justin, an American. The bar was alright, exceptionally overpriced (30RMB for a Bud Ice – 3x as expensive as a big Tsingtao and much worse) but the girls were beautiful, so I guess that's a plus. It was really busy and when I went to the bathroom I got a back massage as I washed my hands, and for me, that made the whole experience worthwhile. It was a first.

Sidenote: Height. In the US, I'm pretty tall. In China, I'm gigantic. I've seen seven Chinese people taller or about my height since I've been here. It'd be hard to quantify how many Chinese people I see in a day but it's a lot. I feel like in the US, I see at least a couple people taller than me every day. Additionally, it's not like in the US, where there are lots of dudes who are six feet tall. I'm, on average, six inches taller than Chinese guys, probably eight to ten inches taller than Chinese girls. I'll try to keep this count going for as long as I can. The main reason I bring it up is that yesterday I saw two guys my height or taller. Nuts!

So we sat around for a while. This bar was funny because there's an electronic board that posts singles ads, complete with the table number of the interested party. Rick wrote up an ad, I don't know if it was posted, but it was a pretty funny situation. Oz and Justin ended up joining the table of a couple cute Chinese girls but after a while realized they couldn't talk to them. It is very important to know Chinese in order to pick up Chinese girls, much less to communicate with them. This will be a large motivation for me. So they left, Sam and I sidled up and I had a good incomprehensible conversation with the girl next to me, but I was able to tell her my age, find out hers, learn her name and get her phone number. So I figure, after a couple weeks of Chinese class, I'll call her and see if we can get together. Gotta start somewhere.

The girls left and we figured we'd do the same. We took a cab home and played some dou di zhu. When we play dou di zhu, we bet 1RMB per hand. The profits from the game go to a general pot for a bottle of Jameson. As we grow nearer to Sam's departure and the pot gets closer to fruition, we have been playing more and more dou di zhu. It has quickly become my favorite card game. I stayed up way too late and got up early for an interview and got a job offer. But you'll just have to wait...until the next update.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Visitors and Poker

Thursday August 21, 2008

Monday I went to lunch with Rick and Sam, then got a coffee and went to the university to finish my registration. I paid and then grabbed a cab home with the proper paperwork and let the sweat cool in the nice air conditioning. Then I went over to Andy and Dwayne's apartment, which is about 10 minutes walk down the street. We played some Winning Eleven and watched soccer highlights. Then I went to Sweetlicks' to meet up with Rick and Alex and Sam for dinner. Alex's two friends, Spencer and Rebecca were here so after we ate, we took cabs downtown to walk among the lights and in Tianfu Square. Then we went to Jah Bar for a beer, Alex and his jet-lagged friends left early, then we played some do di ju and came home and watched Hancock, which was moderately funny.

Tuesday Sam and I got up and went to the PSB (Public Security Bureau) so I could apply for my student visa. There was no real complication and they accepted my passport for processing and I'll go back on the 25th to pay the fee and finalize everything. After that, we went to McDonald's and then came home, watched an episode of Battlestar Galactica and got changed for soccer.

Rick and I took a cab to the university and met Nate as he was coming through the gate. We walked to the field and had a good turnout but we kept getting beaten by one Chinese team, which played in an un-Chinese manner: they won headers, they were tall (almost all above 5'10”), they attacked well and as a team. We got pretty discouraged but I was able to make a great slide tackle on their best player, getting all ball, and have a nice tender spot on my leg to show for it. Slide tackling on turf sucks.

After the soccer, Rick and I grabbed a cab back to Yulin and we met Maggie Connolly (Grinnell, '07) and Felix Zhu (Grinnell, '05) for hot pot. We went to a nice place, it was really good. Hot pot is essentially a giant bowl of oil and spices that is heated from below. It is very spicy, not quite as spicy as I imagined, but the spice didn't overthrow the other flavors. We were a table of ten, with Maggie, Felix, Sam, Rick, Alex, Spencer, Rebecca, me and two Chinese friends of Alex. It was a great meal and afterward we walked back to my apartment, I took a shower and then we went out to Hemp House, seeing a giant spider in the stairwell en route.

We hung out at Hemp House for a while, played some pool and foosball, then they decided to close so we came back to Yulin and went to Middle Bar for a while. The party broke apart piece by piece and Sam, Rick and I ended up playing do di ju, then went home.

Wednesday I slept late and watched some Battlestar Galactica with Sam, then took a nap. I left the house for dinner, when we ate in the neighborhood, some okay Sichuan food. Then we came home and watched the USA basketball game. After that, we went to Oz's to play poker and Maggie and Felix met us. We had 8 players and I won a few early hands and was the big stack for most of the game. I put Felix all in and knocked him out and wound up winning 535RMB from my original buy-in of 30RMB. So it was a damn good night for poker and I paid for the cab home.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Rest of the Weekend

Monday August 18, 2008

Saturday I got up and went to the coffee-shop, walked home and then Sam, Alex and I went to KFC. It was good, pretty much like in the US, except a lot more hot girls were hanging out there. After that, we walked around computer city for a while, then went back to Yulin. Alex went home and Sam and I watched some Olympics, then Rick and I walked over to Alex's to watch Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, one of the stupidest comedies I've ever seen. Completely idiotic and sprawling, it was still moderately entertaining. The key to stupid comedies is to have extremely low expectations.

After the movie, Rick and I went down to the Leg and Whistle to watch football (soccer) and we ate some Korean food next door to the pub. I hung out with Tony, the owner, who supports our football team that plays Tuesdays. Sam came by and we watched the USA basketball team whoop Spain, then he and Rick went over to Panda Bar and I stayed to watch the Liverpool match. Simon came by, I met his wife, Liverpool won 1-0 on a late Torres goal. Then I met up with Sam and Rick and Alex at Panda Bar (conveniently just down the block), had a drink and then went home.

Sunday I slept in, met up with Rick and we walked to touch rugby, on a real grass field just off Renmin Lu. It was ultra-tiring, there were ten of us and the heat was tremendous. Rick had never played before and in my out-of-shape state, I was mainly gasping for air and slowly following the play, although I did manage to score a couple tries. My rugby skills aren't great but they haven't disappeared completely, which is nice. After the rugby game, Rick and I walked back to his place and dropped off our stuff, picked up some towels and went down to the pool. It was really nice, very crowded and outdoor but it felt so good to wash the sweat off. After about an hour hanging out at the pool, we walked to a restaurant near Rick's house and had some good Sichuan food. Then I took a cab home and showered and was prepared for a quiet, early night. Andy, a Scottish dude I play football with, called me up and asked me if I wanted to go down to the Leg to watch football. As I've been trying to hang out with him for the last week, I decided to go out. Another team-mate of ours, Terry, also Scottish, was there. We drank some pints and watched Chelsea win 4-0, then watched Man U tie Newcastle 1-1. After that, we took a cab home and I passed out in loads of bodily pain, which I still feel this morning. It's a good pain though.

Friday, August 15, 2008

A Chinese Date and some Clubs

Saturday August 16, 2008
Thursday I got up and got coffee, went over to Alex's with Sam and hung out for a while, listened to some music, etc. Sam and I had baozi (dumplings) for lunch. We came back over to my house later and we ordered Sichuan food from our neighborhood spot and ate in the apartment. Then I went on a date with Ling Ling, a Chinese woman I met at a club a week ago. I got a cab and met with her at the Dubai Club, where her friend sang. He was a very good singer and we talked and had some drinks, I met her friend the singer and her brother. Then we went to another couple clubs and ended up at Hemp House, where we saw Alex, Sam and Oz.

Friday I slept in, Sam and I got lunch then ran some errands, including going to the fish market and buying goldfish for the piranhas. We came home and chilled, fed the starving piranhas a huge fish, it was pretty bestial to see them feast on a big fish. Then Sam went over to Alex's to watch The Dark Knight, I went out to dinner with Howard and his English tutor. We went to a very nice restaurant in downtown Chengdu, had some great Sichuan food, drank tea and talked about education and working in Chengdu.

I grabbed a cab back to Yulin and went over to Alex's, caught the end of The Dark Knight, then Alex and I watched the end of the USA-China women's volleyball match, it was very exciting and we won. After that, Sam, Rick and I met at Middle Bar and played do di ju for a while, then Sam and I went to a couple clubs looking for people to hook us up with drinks. We had a good time, didn't spend any money but also didn't get hooked up like we had hoped. Ah well. Tonight I plan on spending a lot of time at the Leg and Whistle, watching football (soccer) and drinking some brews.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Beginning of the Week

Thursday August 14, 2008
Monday I slept in, then Sam and I went to the dumpling place near the Coffee Beanery. We ate way to many dumplings, then got coffee and then walked home. We chilled at the house and watched the Olympics and were generally boring.

Rick, Sam and I went to a place near Rick's for dinner, had some great ribs and crispy rice stew, then Rick and I went to Hemp House because Sam wasn't feeling well. We hung out there, played some pool and saw Yeshi, Rick's Tibetan friend who was with a friend. They had some drinks with us, Rick went home, and I stayed out with them. We left the bar and went downstairs to a good shou cou (bbq) place and ate and talked and then took a cab home.

On Tuesday I got up and walked over to Rick's. We took a cab north to a wholesale market, which is one of the most incredible shpping experiences I've ever had. Essentially, it is blocks and blocks of stalls, set off of roads, in mazy courtyards and in basements. The stalls are not organized in any way, and sell everything from kitchen supplies to soap to water fountains to ashtrays to posters to athletic equipment, etcc. And the best part is that bargaining is allowed. So I bought 3 knock-off soccer jerseys, a soccer ball, some pillowcases, a tea cup with strainer, a half-pound of rubber bands, a bunch f double-A batteries and a retro Montreal Expos baseball cap. It was a good afternoon of shopping.

Then we caught a cab down to Sichuan University for soccer, arrived about half an hour early and warmed up. We trounced the Chinese again, although I once again failed to score given a great opportunity. After the game Rick and I high-tailed it to the Bookworm for trivia. We met a few other expats on our team, mainly Brits, and took second place. Trivia is every other week so it should be a good activity. After trivia I was exhausted, took a cab home by myself and showered before bed.

Wednesday I got up and watched No Country For Old Men, Sam and I ordered food and then watched some Olympics. Then we went to a neighborhood tea-house and whiled away the afternoon playing do di ju and sipping tea – it was a very Chengdu afternoon. Then we hung out at Rick's place for a little while and met up with Pete for dinner, walking through the rain. I bought an umbrella, as a basketball jersey doesn't keep the rain off too well. We went to Sweetlick's (as we call it) in Yulin and got some great food, including some great sweet n sour chicken (the first time I've had it in China). Oh, also, there are no fortune cookies in China.

After dinner we grabbed a cab to Oz and Callum's for poker. They live at the 29th story of an apartment building downtown that afforded great views of the river and the other skyscrapers. We had 8 players (Adam – English, Oz – English, Callum – Scottish, Pete, Rick, me, Sam and Nate – all Americans) and played til late. Oz, Adam and Nate went to go to shou cou and Sam and I took a cab home and fed the piranhas.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Weekend Update

Friday Rick and I left the house early (he stayed here to watch baseball with Sam the night before) and made it to the bus station by 8:10. Unfortunately, the bus was sold out so we went to another bus station and caught a bus to Ya'an. Once there, we took a van to Shangli, a village on a river. Ancient Shangli is just a couple minutes up the road but we walked through the modern village and then down a track through some cornfields. It was hot and muggy, especially with our packs. We came out on a hillside track and walked straight into a pagoda. It overlooked the plain, filled with rice paddies and cornfields running into each other. A line of white houses stood out on the horizon in front of the hills rising through the mist. It was a pretty incredible sight. Rick and I took a breather there and then walked toward the town, crossing a pretty bridge and then walking along the main street, paved in large stones and with tables in front of the various tea-houses, restaurants and guest-houses. We walked around for a bit, found a tomb of the Han family and ate lunch. We then got a room in a guest-house for 40RMB/night, with two single beds. Our room opened onto a balcony overlooking another old brick bridge and the main street.

We walked out along the river for a while and then followed a road into the hills. The road became a gravel road, then dirt, before ending in a pile of rocks and becoming a paved footpath. We wound our way through a hamlet, with occassional houses on either side and the common cornfields where the forest had been cleared. Luckily we didn't have our packs with us and the afternoon light was beginning to drop behind the hills so it was a nice little hike. Our trail followed the stream faithfully an d became a muddy track dotted with rocks. As we turned a corner, a woman with a small hand scythe told us we had to turn around. After trying to explain to her that we were just following the path, she menacingly gestured with her scythe and we decided to just turn around.

As we walked back into the dispersed hamlet, she asked us to her house for some hot water. Never one to decline a drink, Rick and I followed her across a small stone bridge to her house, a modest yet sturdy building standing amid a copse of trees. The hills began to rise almost immediately behind it and the property was ringed with corn. The woman pulled out a couple of stools and we sat outside while she brought us bowls of hot water. She also pushed some cucumber on us, peeling the skin off and then handing us each half of a giant cucumber. It was a pretty funny moment, sitting on this woman's porch, drinking hot water and eating cucumber like an ear of corn.

Soon her husband came out and we were introduced to his mother as well. Then his twin brother showed up, introduced himself and we found out he lives in Chengdu but just came down for the weekend. At this point they demanded that we stay for dinner and offered to walk us home in the dark with flashlights. It was very nice and soon we all came inside to watch the opening of the Olympic Games, sitting on short stools and watching on a new, large TV inside a house in the woods in a hamlet outside an ancient town. You literally would not be able to get a truck within 500 yards of this house. It was pretty cool.

So we watched the opening ceremony, which was really terrific, ate a massive meal (there's a picture of it on my photo page) and drank many toasts of beer, again drinking out of bowls. I also understood the Chinese habit of throwing trash and bones under the table – the cats and dogs get to eat that way. Even in the city, it is absolutely customary to spit and drop bones under the table. It's totally a holdover from a rural existence, where those animals also serve other purposes (dogs – security, cats – kill mice). The twin brothers walked us home and we fell into a deep and peaceful sleep. It was a great first day in the country and the air quality difference was awesome. Also, it was great to see beautiful hills with the characteristic Chinese mist.

On Saturday Rick and I got up, ate some lunch, walked along the river and then hitched a ride up the road to a spring. We hiked up to a few shrines on the hillside and walked around the complex, taking some pictures. A couple of Chinese mothers took pictures of their kids with Rick and I and then we got a ride back to Shangli with them. Once back, we played some mah-jong with them and drank tea as the rain started. They went back to Ya'an and we walked back to our guest-house.

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading on our balcony, overlooking the river and listening to the waterfall. Rick taught me a new word – bishu – meaning to escape the summer heat by chilling in the mountains. It was so rainy and cold that we put on pants and sweatshirts and enjoyed the downpour.

We ate dinner at the guest house and then walked around town, checked email and ended up playing do di ju with some Chinese guys, who ended up videotaping us as we drew a crowd of onlookers. Then we walked to another bar, in search of cold beer, found a place and talked with the owners, who gave us the beers on the house. A quiet day but a good one, complete with rainy chilling.

Sunday we woke up and caught a bus to Bifeng Gorge, or to the entrance. We started hiking up a winding mountain rode and after about fifteen minutes we caught a ride with a couple and their young son. At the top we bought tickets and walked to the scenic spot and took a long elevator down to the bottom of the gorge. There's a picture of this huge elevator on my flickr page.

We hiked through the gorge, walking around waterfalls and the stream, passing vendors camped beneath small overhangs. We hiked all the way out of the gorge and then walked to a temple. Or to what we thought was a temple. We hiked about 40 minutes straight up the mountain, walking through a pine forest and up an endless series of steps to a beautiful temple on top of the mountain, overlooking the plain below. We chatted a bit with the caretaker and then hiked back down. We took a bus to a panda research station and then walked around a bit and actually saw some pandas outside of their cages, in the forest. It was nice to see them that way.

We waited for a bus for a while and went back to the main entrance and took a bus back to Ya'an and bought some bus tickets. To waste the time before the bus, we ate lunch and watched the Argentina-Lithuania basketball game and drank a beer. Then we took our bus back to Chengdu. As we were pulling in we could actually see the sun setting behind the mountains, a rare sight from cloudy Chengdu. It looked just like I imagined it would, like the Rockies, a jagged chain rising from the plain. We even got home early and watched the US destroy China in basketball and then played some do di ju before bed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rain and sleep

Wednesday August 6, 2008

Man I've really fallen off in terms of writing. Must be more diligent. Now I can't even remember what I did on Monday. Uh, yeah, I called a woman at the university where I want to sign up for classes and she told me what to bring when I come to meet her. I think I mainly stayed home, slept, stayed out of the rain and the heat. Although, the rain has been making it cooler, so that's nice.

Yesterday I went to Rick's house and we walked around the market near his apartment. We walked through a nice little park on the way, which Rick said had been packed after the earthquake with people sleeping outside. The market is basically two floors lined with booths and makeshift booths. We got there a little late (around 1 or so) and walked around, bought some stuff for lunch including some spicy buns, dried sweet potatoes (really good), a honey-roasted duck (excellent) and some cake that tasted like zucchini bread. The market was dominated by meat, spices and vegetables. Also we saw the tofu sellers, with large gelatinous blocks of tofu in lots of colors. I'll post some pictures of the market and stuff soon.

We ate lunch back at Rick's house and then watched the beginning of The Assassination of Jesse James, which is both long (almost 3 hrs) and boring. I fell asleep about a dozen times watching the first half on Rick's couch but the duck could be to blame for that. Then I walked home, got changed for soccer and grabbed a cab and picked Rick up. We walked through a different gate of Sichuan University, this one was a scenic walk, I wish I had brought my camera. We played badly, losing 3-2 to the Chinese we played against. I met a few new players and then came home and showered, then spoke with a Linfield College student named Howard who was going out with his friends. He really wanted me to go so he came by in a cab and he, Sam and I rolled out to Club 88.

“Mao would be rolling over in his grave” - the Chinese club experience is unique to me, for a couple reasons: 1. live performances of songs in both Mandarin and English, including rap music. This is sometimes good and sometimes bad. 2. No dance floor – that's right, the huge club (half the size of a football field, the size of a huge bar) is all tables, with waiters coming around in sailor costumes to mix your drinks and bring you very overpriced beers. I'm not really complaining though because I wasn't allowed to pay for anything – when someone in China asks you to come out with them for beers or dinner, they refuse to allow you to pay.

So the club was packed, we met up with some of Howard's friends from Chengdu who also study in the US. They were very nice and pretty young (19-20), so it was culture-shock in a couple of ways. I had a great time, Sam and I left around 1 after about 3 hours of hanging out with these kids. We went back to Yulin and went home.

The real reason why we didn't stay out late was because Rick and I were supposed to catch a bus to the nature reserve this morning. I got up in time and was downstairs at about 820 and Rick was waiting with a cab. We tried to get to the other side of the city but the traffic was abysmal. We got more than halfway there but by then it was 9 and that was when the bus left. The place we're going is not very touristy or well-populated so there is only 1 bus per day. I kept falling asleep in the back of the cab, exhausted from soccer and the club. I got back home around 945 and fell back asleep. I got up around 2 and walked over to Alex's, played some Halo and read for a while. Then we went to get Hui food (Hui are Chinese Muslims, but a separate people from the Uighur, who live in Xinjiang) and came home. I'm utterly exhausted so I'll go to bed soon and be more prepared for tomorrow's cab ride. I think we're planning on leaving at 730 to get a jump on the traffic. I'm very excited for a few days in rural China, the bus ride is like 6 hrs north so Rick and I will probably be gone until Saturday or Sunday. Should get some sweet pics/stories while I'm gone.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Weekend Update

Sam and I went to brunch on Saturday with Alex and a friend of his from Kunming. We ate at Grandma's Kitchen, a Western-style breakfast with French Toast, scrambled eggs, etc. It was great. Then we came back home and stayed out of the heat. I did some Chinesepod lessons and we went out for dumplings with Rick for dinner. Then we walked to Middle Bar and I saw a place where all kinds of old dudes were playing Go, marked it in my memory map. At Middle Bar we met up with a friend of Sam's who writes for More Chengdu, a Westerner magazine, and an American named Van, who works in Shanghai and has a girlfriend here. We sat around and had a couple of drinks, the weather was just cool enough that it was nice outside. After that, Sam and I walked home and got food from a nice place on the walk home that he hadn't tried before, it was really good. Then we came home and went to bed.

Sunday I got up and went to the Go house in the back alley. I watched for a minute and then was able to tell one of the men that I wanted to play Go with him. We sat down inside and set up the board. After about 5 minutes in which he had effectively killed more than half of my groups, we decided I should play someone a little worse. So a guy about my age sits down, who also trounces me, but not as bad. Then I play against him again, but with a 4-stone handicap. I lose again. A third dude sits down, probably late-30s, early 40s. He gives me a 9-stone handicap. This is the longest game, at the end they count up the points and give me a thumbs up, indicating that I had finally won. At this point, I decided it was a good note to go out on, so I packed up my things, told them thank you, and walked back home. The heat by this time (130, 2 PM) was awful, so I went back to my apartment and didn't leave for the rest of the day. Sam and I watched the USA-Russia game, sat around, he reinstalled windows on his laptop and I sat around and read. I went to bed at 930, feeling tired and sick. My allergies here have been ridiculous, even worse than in Austin. I have not been able to get rid of this congestion for the life of me. Other than that, things are pretty good, just trying to keep learning and see new things everyday, which is hard in the heat. My chopstick skills are off the hook right now though, and the food is still great.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Seventh Day Chengdu

I didn't do much on Thursday other than watch the USA trounce Turkey in basketball and go to bed early. I also read a lot, studied Chinese and enjoyed the air conditioning. It was hot. And I said hi to a cute Chinese girl and smiled at her. I didn't really know what else to say so I left it at that.

Yesterday I got up early, decided to take a new route to get to the coffee place. I took a wrong turn on the main street (Fangcao Dongjie) and didn't realize for about 15 minutes, then took another wrong turn and by the time I got to the coffee place I was soaked with sweat even though it wasn't yet ten o'clock. So the ten minute walk became about 40 minutes as I got lost on the streets of Chengdu. Then I ordered my coffee in grammatically correct Chinese and looked up to see Alex at the table next to the counter. We chatted for a bit, then I walked back home and did some Chinesepod lessons.

I met up with Rick for lunch a bit later, then went back to my house and hung out with Sam for a while, finished my book and then we walked over to Alex's.
EDIT: There was also a 5.8 earthquake. It was the first of my life and just kind of weird. Dogs started barking and it was just like everything was wobbling a little bit. Very hard to describe what it feels like but I was sitting down so it was prob. less intense. It's always interesting in China!
We went outside to see the eclipse but it was too cloudy so we didn't really see anything. Then Alex and Sam and I went to dinner someplace near Alex's, it was really busy and loud, which is to be expected at more normal dinner hours (around 6-7, but we usually eat later, around 8 or 9).

We walked back to our apartment after, watched the piranhas eat and I took a shower, then we went out to Cafe Paname, a more Euro-centric Westerner bar. It's right near the Leg and Whistle, across the street from the new Hooters. It was a cool scene, we met up with a Scottish guy named Andy who lives in the neighborhood who does music stuff and told me if I wanted to come check out his equipment to come by. Also, I talked to the owner of the bar, a French dude named David, about possibly DJ'ing there and he gave me his card. It was nice to hear some hiphop and popular American music for a little while. After the bar we got some late-night food then took a cab back home to Yulin.