Quick update on my life in China....To ensure I wouldn't feel lonely on Christmas and to spread a bit of my culture to the East, I decided to throw a Christmas party on Christmas night at a campus bar. I'm glad to say, it was a success. I decorated the bar with a Christmas tree and hung Christmas lights all throughout the inside. We set up tables filled with food and presents, beer and whiskey...I had planned to have eggnog, I even spent an hour making homemade eggnog, going so far as to beat the eggs with a pair of chopsticks and spent even more time searching the local markets for the right ingredients, all just to drop the bowl all over the icy Shaoyang streets of the university halfway to the bar...Still, all my fellow westerners were there as well as a few choice local friends whom I wanted to celebrate with. We played Christmas songs, played the white elephant game, and danced the night away. The best part was my friend Candy, or Lei Jinbo, and her family came bearing gifts. Gifts of authentic Chinese fireworks that we used to light up the sky at the end of the party. I'm talking a good 15 minutes of uninterupted eruptions of thunderous color and sparks in the cold Christmas sky. It was magnificent. Then afterwards, we lit a fire inside these small hot air balloons, made a wish, and sent them into the night sky. So...that was Christmas and the rest of my time since then and now has been spent grading final exams, preparing my lesson plans for review, and trying to stay warm in the winter cold. I did take a couple of days to travel to the nearby city of Shaodong to visit Lei Jinbo before I left for vacation. It wasn't too eventful. Shaodong is much like Shaoyang, so while I waited for her to get off work, I backpacked through the streets looking for a hotel to stay at. After a few hours of wandering aimlessly, I came across a beauty clinic with a picture in the window of a woman lying comfortably on her stomach with a towel of fire resting on her bare back. I stared a few moment in wonder when the shop owner came out to greet me. I smiled, pointed at the picture and gestured that it was something I would like to try. She sold me on adding a facial to the whole experience, and being that I had a few hours to kill and I was tired from carrying my pack all over town, I went for it. The facial was great, lasted a good 45 minutes on its own, and after the woman was done cleaning and moisturizing my face, she took a wet towel, laid it across my bare chest, after having spread a soapy substance all over me, and then doused the towel with what I can only presume was lighter fluid. Then she took a lighter, lit the towel on fire, and just as it began to roar and rise above my chest, she smothered the fire with another wet towel. When she did so, the heat smoldered across my belly and chest. She repeated this process several times, each time the heat becoming more and more unbearable, until I almost wanted to tell her enough. Though I didn't. Instead, I allowed the soap to continue to boil on top of me, until she finally stopped and asked me to turn around. The same was done on my back. I don't know what the actual cometic purpose of the fire towel was, but I just like being set on fire. It kinda made me feel like a stuntman. So after two hours, I was done. I paid the bill of 300 quai and set off once again to find my hotel. It didn't take me long. Just down the street was the nice 4star accomadation I was looking for. I secured my room and then immediately met Candy for dinner. We had a nice dinner, a nice walk, and soon after, I went back to the room for a rest and she took a taxi back home. What was odd, was after about 30 minutes in my room, my phone rang. Obviously, I had no idea what the person on the other line was saying, since I didn't speak Mandarin and she didn't speak English. So, I apologized and we hung up. Just seconds later, I could hear the phone across the hall ringing. I assumed the front desk had dialed the wrong room. Five or so minutes later, I got a knock at my door. At this point, I assumed the front desk was trying to reach me and understanding that we couldn't communicate over the phone, had come to the room to signal what was needed. When I opened the door, instead of clerk, I was met by three young girls. The one on the left immediately giggled at the sight of me and ran off in shyness. The one in the middle tried to say something to me, but I couldn't understand and the one on the right tried to simply walk in. Now, my first instinct was to let her come right in. I mean, come on, a young Asian girl wanting to come into my hotel room, why not? But another part of me, possibly the one who had just finished dinner with Candy, stepped in and blocked her while asking, "What are you doing?" She retreated back to the doorway, confused and the girl in the middle asked in English if I spoke Chinese. I told her that I spoke very little and she tried asking me something again in non-English. I shook my head in confusion and she finally worked together the words, " You...make love...to her?" Again, first instinct was, "Hell yes!" but before I could get the words out, the better part of me was saying, "No, thank you" and they retreated as I confusedly closed the door. It was strange. I knew things like this go on in hotels all around the world, but this was the first time girls simply came knocking at my door and assumed I would be interested. Anyways, the next day, I met with Candy for lunch, we spent three hours walking and talking and visiting a local pharmacy to inquire about traditional medicine, she went back to work, I read some of my book while waiting and soon after, we headed back to Shaoyang. It was a long trip. I mean, Shaoyang is only 40 minutes away by bus, but we spent a long time walking to the station, partially because we were a little lost and when we did get to Shaoyang, we spent another hour or so walking to her house, well, that is, before we decided to just take a taxi. We were pretty tired by that time. I had dinner with her family and what struck me as most odd, was how nothing actually seemed odd. I mean, here I was, sitting at the table, eating dishes of pig stomach and duck blood while a neighbor woman just behind the table and in direct line of sight from me, was crouching down, hacking away at a duck with a cleaver. Actually, there was a tub full of skinned duck bodies that she had been preparing for the upcoming Spring Festival. The tub was filled with featherless ducks, and on the chopping block resting on the floor, was a duck with its rib cage torn in half while she hammered down on its insides with her cleaver. Next to the tub of duck bodies was a bowl full of entrails, and it wasn't until Candy mentioned that what I was eating was coagulated duck blood that I realized how accustomed I had become to something so unordinary to my prior lifestyle. You see, I had been eating pig stomach and a special local dish of pork, blood, and tofu that is fried into a salty meat like substance, as well as duck blood that is fried with oil until it becomes a squishy, salty, solid. And finally, her sister asked me if I liked it, at that time not knowing what it was, and I said, yes, its delicious, which it was. They asked me if I knew what it was and I took a guess saying, Kidney? I was wrong, but they didn't want to tell me what it was in fear that I would not like it. I said, "Hey, I'm eating pig stomach, i think I can handle whatever this is." So, Candy told me what it was and I took another bite and said, its delicious. Then I laughed saying, "Its funny that you don't want to tell me what I'm eating. You want me to eat it, but you don't want to tell me what it is" they said, well maybe its not something you would like and I said, I find it interesting. Yes, its different from what I'm used to, but hey, I've never seen a duck butchered before either. And it was at that moment that I realized, this whole time, I've been eating my dinner and watching a duck get butchered. Anyways, it was nonetheless, a great experience... So, I leave tomorrow for Hong Kong and I am very excited. I will take a train from Hengyang to Guangzhou, then Guangzhou to Hong Kong where I will spend the day exploring and hopefully buy myself a nice camera since my old one has decided to die on me. Then, one Wednesday afternoon, I will catch a flight to Singapore, spend a day there before taking a train to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Another few days there while I get my Visa in order and its off to Bangkok. From there, I'll head south to the beaches of Thailand where I plan to spend most of my vacation. Then maybe a little more exploring of the north of Thailand before cutting through Cambodia to Vietnam. I plan to explore Cambodia a little and then travel up the coast of Vietnam until reaching Ho Chi Minh. From there, i hope to catch a train back up to China and eventually make it back to Shaoyang before the start of the next sememster. So, I will let everyone know how the trip went as soon as I get back. Until then, enjoy the winter suckers!
Posted: Sun Jan 09, 2011
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