You Are…Such a Boy in My Mind. I Like.

6 01 2013

It’s been over a year since I’ve written in my now derelict, abandoned blogbaby. I guess you could make the argument that my neglect has correlated with my time spent in Shanghai, and I guess that’s a pretty reasonable assessment. Let’s blame it on busyness, the Chinese firewall, and the death of long-form blogging. This has never been a place of introspect, however, so moving on.

This holiday season is the first time I’ve been back home stateside in over a year and a half, and its been a great time seeing and catching up with family, friends, and Taco Bell. This also happens to be the first time I’ve been home to face family and friends and explain the debacle that was 4/20/2012 (a fairly easy date to remember).

So yeah, I was on a Chinese dating show. Most people who’ve read this far have probably seen it already, along with a recorded 500,000 views on the official show’s website. But just in case you haven’t, that’s it right there, and (no) thanks to Ben Roth for making the video widely available with captions to the English speaking world. So this is my opportunity to explain myself, and maybe salvage some respect from that circus of awkward dancing, hand holding, and overall buffoonery.

So I managed to get invited onto the show by these two girls who approached me on my subway ride to work one day who simply asked, “Would you like to be on Chinese tv?” I figured it couldn’t possibly be worse than my last appearance on CCTV (the sperm fracas), and agreed without really asking too many questions. Within a week, I was scheduled to appear on the show 百里挑一, which translates roughly into “Choosing One Out of One Hundred”. Depending on who you ask, it’s China’s second or third most popular dating show, but still nowhere as popular as the behemoth that is 非诚勿扰. I guess with the subtitles, the video speaks for itself, although Mr.Roth certainly took some liberties with translations. A few things worth nothing:

  • 80% of the show is fixed, with contestants told ahead of time which girls fancy you, what their general likes and dislikes are, and the types of questions they’re likely to ask.
  • The 20% that isn’t pre-determined is the clusterfuck of the last five minutes or so. No one told me there was to be dancing. Or 30 seconds of no smiling, eye to eye hand holding. Or that she would start crying on the spot.
  • The aforementioned “she” is 牛蕾, or Joanna if you’ve gotta do the English thing. She turned out to be a very sweet girl, and we went out to dinner twice after all was said and done, but alas, things were not meant to be. Where is 牛蕾 these days? She got a bunch of plastic surgery and is now a Cos-play model.

ImageI now have great peripheral vision!

All in all, it was a really fun experience that I don’t particularly regret. Most of the friends seemed to have enjoyed it enough, and even the mother wasn’t irreparably ashamed. Moving forward, I’ll try to keep the updates coming on a more regular basis. Check in next time for rare earth mines, Chinese gangsters, and my first appearance on NPR.



Ends and Beginnings

21 08 2011

My life has been moving at a breakneck pace over the past two weeks. I feel a bit scattered as to how the best way to go about explaining the series of events, but I guess the best way to start would be chronological. It’s worth the read through, I promise, as it all comes together for the big reveal…

So our journey begins in Shenzhen about a week and a half ago as I had another visa run to take care of. Shenzhen is literally a footbridge walk away from Hong Kong, and crossing the border meant not getting deported, fined, and hassled. I’d only planned on staying for a day, and the plane ride back was exorbitantly expensive. Instead, I opted to take the 23 hr. train ride back to Beijing, which would’ve proved taxing as is. But…I had to get a last minute ticket, which meant no seat. Yes, no assigned seating for a 23 hr. journey. I boarded the train, and quickly claimed myself a tiny, 3 ft. by 3 ft. nook behind a swinging door, and nested myself down amongst traveling farmers and migrant laborers.

Crowded is an understatement. Huddled masses sprawled across every available square inch. I went 23 hrs. without eating or using the bathroom, as leaving your seating area would guarantee you a miserable, standing remainder of the trip. The cabin was poorly ventilated, and like everywhere in China, there was always a contingency of squatting Chinese guys chain smoking in the corner. In my tiny nook, I had two fellow travelers at different points in the evening: Mr. Ma and Wang Peng.

Mr. Ma was traveling back to his hometown in Changsha when he asked if he could squeeze into my seating area. It’s funny how quickly you’re willing to share life stories when cramped into such a small area with a shirtless migrant worker…Mr. Ma used to be a pig farmer until the 2004 Swine Flu Epidemic saw 3,000 of his pigs slaughtered by order of the local provincial government. Two years later, the government (forcibly) bought the 6 hectares of land his family had owned for over 200 years for a measly 300,000 RMB (less than 50k US). He now travels from province to province finding odd jobs to pay for his wife, 2 kids in college, and 4 parentals living with him. When asked if he thought the government had treated him fairly, he just kinda shrugged his shoulders and said, “That’s life in the Middle Kingdom.”

After Mr. Ma got off at Changsha, a big 6’3″ Wang Peng came stumbling in and asked if he could share my sitting area, to which I reluctantly said yes. The already tiny compartment became almost suffocatingly small, but luckily, he turned out to be wildly entertaining company. At this point, we were ten hours into our trip, and I was slowly becoming delirious from dehydration, exhaustion, and stress. But the cheery Wang Peng was a character…Guy was obsessed with Harry Potter, and would recite lines in a terrible English accent from the movies. His love in life was Peking Opera, and had a real dainty showmanship characteristic about him. He was extremely opinionated, and had a general deep running distrust of anything government related. He was so distressed by the recent train fiasco that he got one of his engineering friends to make him a universal train key that could unlock all doors on any train (it worked…)

Anyway, I made it to Beijing in one piece eventually. It’s hard for me to say that there was any positive aspect from that train ride, as it was easily the most uncomfortable experience of my entire life. But my god it makes for a great story. And it was an opportunity to see and experience the China narrative first hand. An hour before this epic train ride, however, I got word that I had gotten a new job in Shanghai.

I’ll be working for a London based carbon credit trading firm called Climate Bridge in Shanghai for at least the next year (possibly two). I’ll primarily be occupied with researching and identifying potential clean and renewable energy projects here in China for European based firms to buy and invest carbon credits from. I’m super excited to be getting back to the pearl of the orient, as its been 2 years since I’ve spent any real significant time there. But I’m super sad to be leaving Beijing behind, and all the friends and memorable experiences that I’ve made as well. It’s been one hell of a year, and I can’t imagine having a better first post collegiate experience than the one I’ve been given. I’ll be back every now and again, so its not a forever kind of goodbye. Until next time…

Oh, and I’m not changing the name of the blog. I like the ring of it.

Phillip Yang and the Interrogation Room of Despair

12 07 2011

I want more than anything to write about the awesome things that have been happening over the past three weeks. We had a rave on a decommissioned Soviet aircraft carrier. I had a beautiful visit from the Menchaca family from Shanghai. And I recently spent an amazing 72 hours in Tokyo. But that’s all going to have to wait and take a back seat now, because we’ve got more pressing issues. I’m interspersing the storytelling with unrelated, happy pictures, so as to alleviate the ridiculousness of the situation being presented.

So let’s not go into too many details or too much finger pointing, and just call it like it is. A few weeks back, I found out that I had overstayed my Chinese visa by a whole 12 days (again, no finger pointing, but I promise it wasn’t my fault). After being reprimanded many many times, and having to deal with weeks of interrogations and trips to the visa bureau, I was finally allowed to leave for my scheduled trip. When I say interrogations, I’m talking basic background screenings, windowless rooms, and plenty of “without law, China is nothing” rhetoric. My excursion to Japan was beautiful, fantastic, weird, and a much needed vacation. I promise that an extensive account of the trip will follow extremely soon.

But upon my return to China, I realized that my visa nightmare was just taking a little vacation, and came back to kick me really hard in the ass. Essentially, without informing me or properly giving me the appropriate notices (again, not pointing fingers…), the visa bureau decided to void my running visa while I was in Japan. Meaning…I essentially arrived in China without a functioning visa. And of course the Middle Kingdom’s response?

Get out. Now.

Yeah, I got deported. Straight up, shameless, get the hell out within the next 12 hrs. They wanted to send me back to Japan, but I somehow got them to let up a little and send me to Hong Kong instead (cheaper ticket, cheaper standard of living, faster visa response). So having left Tokyo at 7 in the morning, I arrived in the muggy, humid Hong Kong evening more than 14 hrs. later. It’s good to have friends across the world, and luckily Saint SpencerSherwin was able to house this poor soul and be kind enough to even show him around. This will get sorted out, and China will have the laugh for now. But without sounding like a vengeful hooligan or an amateur terrorist, mark my words. These slights against me will not be forgotten, and they certainly won’t be forgiven. I am alive and well, however. Don’t be too angry mom, love you.

Mouths on Fire, I Reach Out to You Tonight

8 04 2011

I’m afraid I’ve been holding this blog to really high standards. I guess I’m afraid to bore you all with the bump and grind of everyday life, hesitant to reveal the degree of normalcy things have taken here. It’s been a solid 7 months since I first moved out here, and to date, has been one of the more eventful half years of my life. But things are settling, and the idea of staying here for a significant amount has started to feel right.

That’s not to say that this month hasn’t been full of (mis)adventures along the way. Since coming back from Malaysia, we’ve had snakes, tons of broken glass, altercations with rappers, and I fell down a mountain.

The venerable Lee West came to visit, and stayed a week longer than originally planned because of the firestorm in northern Japan.Below is a video of eating me et al. eating the spiciest thing I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. Chicken wings so spicy that my entire body began to convulse. Below that you can see Ben and Christian partake.

Anyway, spring is arriving, and I’m fully looking forward to enjoying the season in full swing. I think we’ve avoided the month where giant swirling dust storms envelop the city in a giant yellow plume. Which means its just bright blue skies, evening beer gardens, and generally temperate weather. Dear friend Elena will be visiting all the way from Switzerland, and comrade Aaron shortly thereafter. Hope all is well in your respective parts of the world, and I promise more regular updates as they come. Until then.