07 October 2007
Subject: Languishing as Laowai

Gentle Readers,

Another episode from the riveting creme conditioner opera of: Molly's Adventures in China!

We last left our autotagonist at home in Xiamen, wistfully holding fruits under the Mid-Autumn full moon. She had recently met her new brother, been back to work for a hard week, and was, like, totally ready for the National Week Vacation. But she had just been told she needed to go to Hong Kong to get a new visa! What happened next?! Ohmygawdsauce, read and incredulate!

Hong Kong. I still had two months left on my tourist visa, but my co-worker (already in H.K.) needed paperwork from Xiamen, so I had to make the trek to Hong Kong a bit early. After Jenny's B-day party (where I caught myself speaking Chinglish ("It's so much good!")) I taxi-tailed it to the bus station to find that the Englishman David, from another school I work part-time at, completely by chance, was seated next to me. Somewhere along the ten-hour bus ride, we speculated what the Fourth Person Singular might be, were English to possess such a grammatical barbarity. How to conjuicegate? Acid into water. First in parallel, then in series-ly, kthx.

We arrived, bumbled across the border, tunneled beneath the city, and parted ways underground. Some things to note in Hong Kong: 1) They drive on the very wro-- erm, on the very left side of the road; look right. 2) Signs everywhere warn: "Beware of Wet Floor" because apparently the city has a marauding wet floor problem. How to resolvent? Use soap! Also-- most folks speak not Mandarin, but sing-song Cantonese (Guandong-hua). But also English. Had I been in PRC for a more lengthy reclusion, I might have found my Auntie-English tongue to be more refreshing. As it was, I spoke Mandarin.

Long Wrong Hong Kong Throng has a +3 bonus and uses both hands. I was only there for the day, whiling away a few hours between stints of standing in line at the Chinese Consulate with my co-worker Robert and his girlfriend Ting-Ting. We ambled down Queen Victoria Street, admired duck heads on string, devoured the best Thai food ever, and walked through and between buildings on the public sky-walk several stories above the traffic. Finally we took the train back across to PRC at Shenzhen.

Eegads, tickets to Xiamen were sold out! But this one sketch company said they could help me out, sold me a ticket to leave at 9:30 pm, and then at 7:00 told me to follow them quickly. Four or five of us brisked through the mills of people, filing sharply towards a rusty rickety van hidden from the main transportation drag. We piled in and putted along for a soporific while. Suddenly, I jolted upright with the realization that there was something wrong with the lizard! His tail was broken, or his head was missing! The character I now know as "shi" (?) was, until I met him properly, "the lizard," though what I probably saw on that billboard was his relative "bi" (?) or maybe "jin" (?). Lizard trapped in a doorway: "nao" (?). Horrifically dismembered lizards: "you" (?) and "kang" (?). Irradiated mutant lizard with three heads: "dai" (?). Irradiated mutant three-headed lizard taking a bath: "zhi" (?). Unfortunate labels for them perhaps, but it helps me remember everyone. [Discretionary digression forfeited.]

To end the Hong Kong Saga: there we were, flatulating up and down little hills. After ten minutes I wondered, huh, wouldn't it be funny if we took this sowbug of a jalopy all the way to Xiamen? Heh. After about twenty minutes, with Shenzhen city lights in the uncomfortable distance, I wondered, uh, no... not really? After a bit longer, the van baulked in traffic and sputtered to a stop. The driver jiggered the ignition and gibber-jabbed rushed calls on two cell phone simultaneously until the engine rolled over, stole the sheets, and resumed snoring. At about thirty minutes, the driver pulled over, got out, and started running down the road. He looked back at us, so we thought to run after him. And that's how we got to a sleeper bus that was headed back to Xiamen.

Just in time for school! Two more days of it, working a Saturday and Sunday to free up seven days of National Week vacation. Our adventure began just after school on Sunday; we were invited to a banquet in honour of Foreign Experts living and working in Xiamen. Mitch and I arrived at the specified five-star hotel to find we were not on the guest list, but no matter. We autographed their ceremonial red book with large flourishes, and they seated us at a spare table. Robert joined us and we were wined and dined in fine style at the "Dinner Reception to Celebrate the 58th National Day of the People's Republic of China" though we truly had no right to be there among generals and heads of state. The Mayor of Xiamen came over to our table and personally toasted us. I met the author of the book I happen to be currently reading, _Amoy Magic_. We chatted and he recommended a good dentist in town. And then the Director of Foreign Affairs invited me and Mitch to go to a concert. Which turned out to be a classical symphony inaugurating the new symphony hall. We rumbled home from our excess, on public bus, to our humble abode, and informed our neighbors that, ah yes, we just came from dinner with the mayor. Sigh... and a symphony. It can be so tiresome at times, really dahhlings.

First day of vacation, we went on a boat trip that Jenny and Kirby organized. I invited brother Yaning and Mitch brought several friends and some of our students. Ninety-seven of us spilled onto three rented boats and we began our booze cruise through the harbour and docked at an islet with abandoned buildings. We jumped overboard and swam in the ocean, guzzling up the sunlight. On the return ride, some of us started an ice chip war with another boat, but ours was the best pirate ship, and also the only one with beer left. Yarharharharrr! It was great fun until the hosing.

Docked, fuzzy, salty, and slightly damp, we were informed that the Laowai were invited to a sort of carnival party with free food and drink and entertainment, and that a bus had been chartered to bring us there. They wanted foreign faces at this event, so everything was free to entice us over. We hot-boxed the bus over to a neighboring district where we disembarked at what turned out to be a mall opening. They, to their word, treated us to a tasty buffet and anything we cared to drink. They provided live music and then proceeded to photograph and film us from every angle while we inelegantly chomped and chugged. In order to show appreciation for our hosts' graciousness, several of the boys did what any respectable Laowai ought to in that situation: they swam in the fountain. The flustered and pretty emcee tried to pass it off as all part of the planned entertainment, so Mitch went dripping to the stage to say a few words about how Laowai like to swim in fountains and that the water was very nice, and he recommended that everyone give it a go. A bit later, the owner of the new mall brought a fancy bottle of whiskey to the table and invited us to enjoy the music in the associated disco. Which we quite did, and then complimentary transportation was arranged to take us back to Xiamen island. Again, another rough evening of being wined and dined.

Next day, we visited the recommended dentist and Mitch fixed his face! At least the mouth part of his face. Always a sweet smile, but now it sparkled professionally. We had a few hours to kill before our 13-hour train ride to Wuyi Shan, so we patronized a cafe boasting the following menu: Mandolin Coffee, Ginger Clay Hot Cola, Left Tea, Foam Green Sectioned Bean Paste, Purple by Chance, Finland Juice, Synthesized Ice-Cream, Mealie Juice, Red Powder Bosom Friend, Farmer Pastoral Juice, Lovesickness Juice, Green Ste Ctende Bam Ice Sand, Thick Love, Grey Love, Cook Beer of Ox Not Arranging Rib, The Special Gradenaked Eye Picks, Take Not Cooking Pig the Necks Not Stewing, Children Steak, Millet Rice Taboo Soup Not Honest of, Specially Made Three Texts Cure, Desk-top Braised Pork, Soak Pepper Frog Rice, Desk-top Ground Meat Meal, Desk-top Steamed Meat Meal, Cod's Meal of Pair of Mushroom, Cook Chicken Iron Plate Not Japanese, Gold Pass the Soil Chicken, The Lotus Leaf Envelopes Son's Sparerib Meal, Lotus Leaf Envelope Son Frog Meal, The Wood Stabs the Slippery Chicken Rice, Italian Meat Paste One, The Seafood Fries Dark Winter One, Rug's Gruel, A String of Meat, Duck's Chin of Mixture of Salt and Roast Prickly Ash, Steamed Bun of Gold and Silver, It Is the Japanese Fragrant for Chicken Wing, Last Fish, Eight Claw Fish. I can't make stuff like this up.

And then we got on the train to Wuyi Shan, but you'll have to wait for the amazing stories we collected because I think Mitch and I are going to narrate it together. In the meantime, there are new pix at mollybee.org/china.html (check back in a day for the boat pix) and I leave you with the image of a woman reading sheet music at the dinner table in a restaurant. And this quote from Mitch, "There's a goat out there that's not having a good night." Foreshadowing!

Ferocious Face-Kisses,

P.S. I don't have any (tooth) cavities, musta been sinus pain from what might have been pneumatic fever. But I am feeling ship-shape and really enjoyed Wuyi Shan...