- The first school semester came to an end -- with it was a dinner that the department paid for to reward it's employees for their hard work. Wisely, I brought a camera.
The biggest table I've sat at so far. Before everyone sat down, they made a huge deal out of me and Michael sitting down first, and made sure that we sat facing the door. The location of your seat and the order in which you sit is apparently a sign of respect. We just wanted some grub.
Michael knew what he was getting into. He's done this before. Me.... I sorta had an inkling, but it was made immediately clear as soon as I tasted a microscopic amount of bai jiu (white wine). The bai jiu they make in China fucks you up.
A dinner like this isn't really a dinner. I mean, for me it is. I calmly sit down, taking as much of the food in as I could, drinkin a little bai jiu here and there... This dinner started with a table-wide toast, then some more toasting between certain employees at the table, and then everyone sat down, which was my cue to eat. Mostly everyone else, though, walks around the table with the glass of bai jiu in their hand, toasting each other for a job well done.
It takes about 30 minutes before everyone's wasted. The older guys from my office who can't speak a word of English start to give me cigarettes, which there's no way for me to refuse politely, so I take them and try to not look like a joker. The little girl in this picture definitely made a toast with me, which was not fair at all cuz I had this monstrously alcoholic drink, and she had orange juice or something. Michael and I enjoy a good drinking time, so this kinda thing only boosts our image in the eyes of our coworkers. Drinking is always a great way to bond with the people you associate with.
- New foods -- I was able to scratch many different items off of the "things I have never eaten" list. My ballpark guess is around ten. I am also becoming a big fan of "huo guo" style restaurants. Huo guo means "hot pot." You get this sesame paste on the side as a dipping sauce... it kinda tastes like peanut butter except it's a bit more liquid. My bosses took me to a huo guo place before the holiday where I ate a bunch of really crazy crap.
It's probably pretty obvious how this works. They give you a plate of some ingredient, e.g. potatoes, lotus root, thin slices of meat, cabbage, tofu, etc., and then you let the ingredient settle in the hot pot for an amount of time of your choosing. Root vegetables stay in the pot for 5-10 minutes, while the meat and leafy vegetables usually only takes about 30 seconds to cook (the meat is in very thin slices). Remember though, this place was pretty fancy, so there were more unusual ingredients being offered. First, beef lung. Really wish Mr. Dong hadn't told me what that was. This actually isn't that fancy of an ingredient, but in some places in China it is a delicacy. Second, Hard boiled quail egg. I've always wanted to try these and they were good! I mean, they were basically just like normal eggs, but smaller. Third, and most disgustingly, duck blood. I know, it doesn't make sense. It was explained to me by Steven as duck blood, I checked to see if he knew what blood meant, and he definitely knew. I don't know what to say about this. It actually wasn't bad. I'm never eating it again, but not bad.
Oh yeah and that's sea cucumber. Pretty special thing to eat apparently, but disturbing as hell to eat an entire animal, let alone one that looks like that. When you eat it, you can feel every detail... it's smooth exterior, thick gelatinous skin, and "ambrulacal feet" covered underbelly.
- Gym -- I've gained about 7 pounds since the beginning of the year, and am about 7 pounds away from my arbitrarily chosen target weight of 77 kg (170 lbs). I've been pretty true to my new year's resolution so far, going to the gym at least 4 times a week since early February. Though I'm still drinking more coke than I want... baby steps I guess.
- Poker -- I play poker about once a week. I haven't lost money in a long time. In fact, I haven't needed to go to an ATM for cash in about a month. I don't joke around when I'm playin. I mean I joke around, just, I like winning.
- Chinese -- I have a tutor, she's been teaching me a ton of stuff, not only about the language, but also about the geography, culture, etc. I think it's a good investment at this point, cuz I really think my speaking is coming along quickly. The language has a bunch of hard words to memorize, but a lot of words are just simple combinations of other words. For example, Cell phone = shǒu jī = "hand machine." That's a pretty logical connection. Another example, bread = miàn bāo = "noodle bag". Bread can easily be seen as a noodle bag. For some reason I am pretty good at memorizing sounds (probably a result of my line-memorizing days in theater class), so I'm at the point now where I can talk to people for extended periods. Of course I sound like a clown, but they're very tolerant of my inability.
- And finally, I decided to stay in China for another year. The why would take too long to explain...I guess simply put, I like it here. I want to find out how I can use what I know, what the long term plan should be for me, and how best to go about doing that. But nowadays, these things revolve around my head with another idea -- finding out how I can do all that in a place like this. I don't know what I'll find out, but these days, I'm starting to feel strangely confident about how my future is starting to shape out. Very odd indeed hehe