The Inner Mongolian China Brog

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Highlights of my first week in Tongliao

As I write this, I riotously celebrate (in my head) my oneweekiversary of arrival in Tongliao City. Hard to believe it’s been a week already, but on the other hand, the days here stretch into oblivion due to many mornings of unwanted wake up at 5 am. I’m over the jet lag now, though, and have resumed the lackadaisical laziness that surely you find to be my most charming quality.

I thought I ought to recount (in somewhat less detail than in previous postings) the highlights of my first week in Tongliao, for there are definitely a few moments worth mentioning. I regret to inform, however, that many involve the influence. What influence, you ask? Well…you know – the influence. ::wink wink:: Read on, you’ll get the idea.

One of the first things we did in Tongliao was to purchase bicycles, at which point I diagnosed myself clinically insane, but you know, with a little practice, it’s really not so hard to cross 4-way intersections with no traffic lights and more traffic and honking horns than I’ve seen in a while…that little girl I almost ran over recovered very quickly actually…

In all seriousness, there’s actually a distinct bike lane separated from the rest of the street by a median in most parts of the city, so don’t fear for me just yet. Plus the bikes here cost $20! New! How can that not be the bitchinest thing ever???

That night we were invited to have dinner on campus with the president and vice-principals of the school, which was nice. The dining hall broke out the fancy vittles for us in a nice private room, just like the restaurants we’d been in. And yeah, there was beer all around…again. Too bad we were dehydrated from the hot day riding our bikes around. Too bad Adam keeled over outside unconscious for a minute. Oh yeah, and too bad the president to introduce our drunkass selves to the entire faculty that night. From the sheer number of toasts these guys make during dinner, you can’t help but be buzzin’.

A couple days later, we were informed by Zheng Loban that we would need to have complete physicals. “Complete physicals?!” said we. “But we just had them in the States!” Turns out we had to have physicals within China just because we’re foreigners and it’s routine. I guess it was no big deal in retrospect…I mean, when we found out, we became paralyzed with fear, so we would have had to go to the hospital anyway.

Right we were in being scared. Ghetto would be a generous word to describe this hospital, in all its festering, sewage-smelling glory. I admit to not expecting houseflies to be included patients in the waiting room. We’re talking crumbling dilapidatitude of Hollywood proportions. I expected to come out of there missing a couple of key appendages. I suppose that I can now say that I am one of the few people I know who have had the pleasure of a Chinese EKG, however…

Fears aside, everything went well, including having blood drawn, the thought of which made me thoroughly queasy. We watched them open each new syringe, and though I loathe to admit it, it hurt and bruised less than the more sterile American equivalent. So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if I die to know if anything was amiss in that experience.

We soon tired of the food in the dining hall, not because it doesn’t taste good, but out of the repetition of it all. Variety is not among the Chinese vocabulary, it would seem. This led us to seek food and fun elsewhere, and the only elsewhere available to us at this point is the city center of Tongliao. An overpriced cab ride (a whole 4 dollars!) one night took us to our first Chinese disco, and easily the most memorable night thus far.

We arrived somewhere around 10 pm and managed to communicate an order for pijiu…3 times. That combined with a shot of baijiu taken at the apartment and an order of what we think was Jack and Coke subsequent to the pijiu left me feeling like I was going to land myself back in that hospital from hell, but a few minutes later I was fine again and enjoying the show on the club’s stage. From what I can tell, the night at the discos here begins with sort of a cabaret-style show, with singers dressed rather extravagantly and accompanied by canned music, followed by some random display of flesh by the go-go dancers. Not that they’re strippers, but at one point we were watching 4 girls in swimsuits strutting around the stage to “Hit Me Baby One More Time.” Britney is the international language, you know.

Later, the stage pushed back and became a dance floor, which was immediately flooded with people who danced like there was no tomorrow, though for the girls that seemed to mean what MarktheIneptTourGuide called a crazy head shake. For those of you who have been to the Roxy in Boston, this club didn’t look unlike that, except maybe even a little bigger. And Chinese techno sounds not too far from American dance music, though we obviously couldn’t understand any of the lyrics. Once they played that Romanian “maya hee” song it was all over though. We rocked out wholeheartedly and with reckless abandon, which landed us a couple appearances on stage with the go-go dancers, much to the amusement of the other club goers, I’m sure. I was glad to find that, if nothing else, my game is international, when a Chinese guy asked me (in English), “Can you kiss me?” Don’t worry, all he got out of me was a smile and a long “Noooooo…” Please, I ain’t no hollaback girl.

On a more sober note (HA!) I am learning more than how the Chinese do debauchery. I’m also learning how they push my patience to the outer limit. We were scheduled to teach our first lesson (for which we’d been planning for hours) to some prospective high school students the next day, and after we’d been summoned out of bed to meet the parents that morning, made 75 copies of our worksheet packet, and waited for an hour in the lecture hall for the speaker to finish his boring PowerPoint, we were told we’d been cancelled for the day. So today we are scheduled to try again, but I have a strong suspicion that we’ve been had. HAD!

Whatever, we were hungover anyway.


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