SRWelcome to:

China Life

People's Republic of China

Sean in China Blog

A very informal blog from a much younger Sean to friends back home in the states...

Sean in China Blog

China rocks... it's dirty and crazy and all the bars are really just brothels. The business cards for them say - "beautiful young girls with english." Beer is 2 quai which is $0.26 US for like a 22 oz bottle. I can get a killer lunch and 2 of those big beers for less than a buck.

They drive crazy and there are no stop signs or redlights... the lines on the road mean nothing. It's first come first serve and where ever you feel like driving. I've seen dogs hanging in the market but haven't eaten them yet though I have eaten mud eels. Scotty got served a goose head the other day and it was cut in half so you could dig the brains out.

Normal driving in Hang Zhou - Sean in China Blog |
Dead snake liquor - Sean in China Blog |

I saw bottles of liqour in the store that have dead snakes and lizards in them. No lie.. the whole thing. How you don't die from drinking liquor soaked in rotting snake is beyond me. The trash can is the canal or your yard. Makes Boone County, West Virginia look spic and span. But the downtown areas are really nice and Shanghai has some very nice buildings. The airpoirt was spotless. Tires come wrapped in glitter foil cause the Chinese wont buy anything that has dirt on it and it's dirty as can be here.

People stare like crazy and some come up and touch you and touch your hair. Walking through town is like being Madonna or something... we were on TV news the other night just from walking though the city. There is absolutely ZERO chance of rocket flying here although the Chinese love the rockety movies I have on my laptop. Plenty of fireworks so new year will have to make do with lots of exploding projectiles. The first day here I saw more crazy stuff than I could ever write about.. It's beyond words and well worth the trip over.

Imagine seeing a little Chinese girl with a fish tail hanging out of her mouth.

I ate steamed bread this morning with onions and peppers and stuffed with black sesame paste. They had a big broo-ha-ha luncheon and got every one drunk. One of the art teachers puked on the sidewalk as we were leaving. Glad I don't drink BIJOU only PEE-Jo (beer). But back to the luncheon. I ate steamed crabs... whole as in pick them out of the salt tank... and cow stomach and eels again. Also we had steamed whole fish.. imagine seeing a little Chinese girl with a fish tail hanging out of her mouth. I saw that and more. They fed me something else and wouldn't tell me what it was. It was good though. We also had whole shrimp and vegtables and soup.

For dinner we went to Nanzaa and had street vendor foood. It was top notch and all four of us ate and got drinks for $2.50US. We had three different kinds of meat on a stick including some little whole birds. Imagine catching a sparrow in the back yard and deep frying it whole on a popcicle stick. That's what is was like. I ate it — good little bird... freaky though.

We also had soup, bok choy and fried noodles. Big good stuff. I am glad I waited to get glasses... I looked today and it will be 150-300 quai for some. That's like 15-30 bucks. In America it would be over $200 us dollars. Still haven't eaten dog, but it's on the list of things to do. Jet lag caught up with me finally and I slept like 13 hours last night. I had been doing pretty well.

I ate lunch with the buddist monks at the temple is Nanzaa yesterday and it was really really cool. This place is surreal. I am going to Wuxi (wooshi) today with Grace and Scotty and the kids to be on TV. We've had big fun with the kids the last couple of days.

We went into town last night with them and people just stared and followed us around. There are people everywhere like in Grand Theft Auto — they are everywhere you look. One more thing I forgot to tell you about the kids eating fingers... I forget what animal.. a big bird I think.. but fingers... like candy, only fingers.

Duck heads, yummy. - Sean in China Blog |
Black chickens - Sean in China Blog |

We took the kids to a big banquet last night and they finally got me super pissed. We drank like 10 big bottles of peejo but I still don't feel all that bad. I took some excederin and my headache is gone. Plus, it's so damn cold I think that helps with the hangover. But back to the food. Last night was another repeat.. steamed fish and crabs and eel, and we had coagulated ducks blood (its like dark red tofu looking) soup and turtle and more stomach. Mmmm!!!!! It was all so good! I ate the most I have eaten in months! I was so stuffed and drunk too! Whee hee! They all drink that damn bijou — it's crazy, you turn blood red when you drink it. You can tell someone has drank it because they 1. stink and 2. are beet red. So bizarre.

Just got back from lunch. We took the kids with us to the big chicken market and ate 3 kinds of noodles, pickled cabbage with hot peppers and chicken hearts in soy sauce and sliced chicken gizzards. It was way yummy. When you eat here.. they bring the food and set it in the middle and everyone eats out of the same thing. So if someone is sick, I guess we all are.

Shanghai Museum - Sean in China Blog |
Why not? - Sean in China Blog |

Shanghai is post modern ancient. Kinda. That town is huge, but not as huge as the 18 million populace would suggest. Riding the train in from Wuxi was way cool. We went to the Shanghai Museum — which is really like a Chinese art/history museum and ate and walked the markets and all kinds of stuff. 40,000 crackers live in Shanghai and you see quite a few so not as much staring but you still get it some and lots in some of the poorer sections of town. Still, of all those crackers, not too many seem to be Americans... bunch of Germans and some French, but the only Americans I met were at the Portman Ritz-Carlton. Which BTW, I saw the coolest Alpha Romeo there ever, American crash tests can kiss my ass, this was one of the coolest cars ever... I so want one... I had a super blast, a few words can't sum it all up. I can't wait to go back. Plus, it was warmer there... it's 27F degrees in Jiangyin right now.

We came back to Jiangyin early to eat with Mr. Chin and gang at his hotel. That was a sweet meal. They finally put something on the table that made me go... uh... uh... uh... I have too? It was one hell of a spread of food... more food than 9 people could ever eat. All the normal crazy stuff... but we also ate POISONOUS puffer fish. They were like, you could be dead in a 1/2 hour if you eat this, so you just have to eat it as if it doesn't matter. The catch is, that wasn't what made me go uh, uh, uh.

I ate drunk, LIVE shrimp still squirming around as you bite them in half and chew them up.

They brought out LIVE shrimp soaked in BIJOU (which is the 100 proof nasty Chinese liquor) so that they are DRUNK. Yes, you read that right, I ate drunk, LIVE shrimp still squirming around as you bite them in half and chew them up. The heads would still squirm a little on the plate afterward. Let's just say it took a little peejo (beer) for that one. Anyone ready to come visit yet?

This place is way cool... and way crazy and makes me appreciate all we have at home. If you ever think your life is hard in the states, I am here to tell you — it isn't, it never was and it never will be. You need to thank your lucky stars for all we have. We are very blessed to live there. Not to say China isn't cool or doesn't have things over us or there aren't rich people here, it's just the average joe is poorer than poor and they really don't get much time to think about anything other than doing what it takes just to survive.

Zhouzhuang water village - Sean in China Blog |
The Big Buddha (dots at feet are people) on lake Taihu - Sean in China Blog |

Did I mention I haven't even spent $150 US dollars touring three cities, paying hotel feels, riding in taxis all day long, paying entrace fees, buying beer, clothes, presents, food... taking a gang of 8 out to eat at a swank place, buying supplies for my little apartment and more? I'll have pictures soon when I get them back from the FUJI store.

Chinese New Year — it's now the year of the sheep/goat. Almost same word in Mandarin Chinese — not the same animal at home so take your pick. Google had a sheep on their homepage today. They set off enough fireworks to power World War III. I am not kidding. It's like a war zone... all of the sky is lit up and there are literally thousands of explosions going on in the city at any given time. It's been going on for a couple of days with no let up in sight. They are firing them off as I write this across from the school on the main street. They tell me it will last about a week. I guess it's just whenever they run out.

We had a spread of food that you just would not believe. We ate for hours and didn't even dent it. All of us professor people took a case of Tianmuhu Peejo and four bottles of Wongjo to the dinner at Grace's mom's. It cost us 32 Quai for the lot — that's $3.87 US. These are almost quart bottles of beer too. You get 4 Quai back when you take the bottles in. It's so crazy.

The fact that all the girls are so openly prostitutes just amazes me.

After the party — the lads dragged me and Tina to the Dragon and Snake Bar. That's the place with the nice young girls with English. The fact that all the girls are so openly prostitutes just amazes me. Everyone hooked up last night to ring in the new year with some boot knocking.

Parks in Jiangyin - Sean in China Blog |
Parks in Jiangyin - Sean in China Blog |

This afternoon we went out for some lunch and then walked around in Jiangyin. They just opened a new park right downtown and it's so amazingly beautiful. Nothing like it at home. It's right by the People's Square with a giant screen TV, all the neon and lights and signs you think of with asian marketplaces from TV. It really is just like that. What you don't see is that just outside of these few blocks of high dollar shops and fancy parks is kilometer after kilometer of dirty, industrial areas and poor, poor people.

He looked at us like we were space aliens off the little round ship with green skin and ray guns. Which, I guess, in a way we are.

Everyone seems happy for the most part which is really amazing to me. It really hits home how spoiled rotten people are at home. Most people there have 100 times what they have here and walk around in a cloud of unhappiness and are generally asses. Back to the whole thing of nice, they love us white crackers. They do. We got stopped three times today to have our photos taken with people. This one old dude freaked out when he realized that Troy speaks perfect Chinese. He looked at us like we were space aliens off the little round ship with green skin and ray guns. Which, I guess, in a way we are.

The barbarians they called us just a few short years ago — and the Chinese are one of two groups — amazingly curious or very skeptical. We hit the video shops and I picked up two movies on VCD and two audio CDs for $1.00 each. Then it was a stop at the Big Chicken shopping center on the way home. More from Jiangsu Province, People's Republic of China later on.

School field trip - Sean in China Blog |
Family dinner - Sean in China Blog |

It's a sad day for the astronauts. Thanks to my friends at WVSOAR for dropping me an e-mail and letting me know what happened. News of the Shuttle loss has not been anywhere that I have seen here in China. I feel bad saying what a great time I am having with the news, but that's the way the world spins I guess.

I went downtown to have lunch today and met up with Grace and Scotty and we went to the big park that overlooks the Yangtze (Coursing over a distance of 6,380 kilometers, the mighty Yangtze is the longest river in China and the third longest in the world) river and the Jiangsu bridge which is the third longest suspension bridge in the world. It looks similar to the Golden Gate bridge for you Americans.

The river dwarfs the Mississippi here and I've gazed out at the mile+ wide Mighty Miss many a day. It's bigger here. The park is really cool with old style Chinese houses and a cool teahouse right on the river. Plus there is this Space Needle thingy... that is just too cool. We rode up in this thing for 10quai. It seems very unsafe. The picture looks nice from the ticket, but it's like one of those things from the 60s where its old and beat up but they still use the original technicolor postcard. Being scared half to death was only part of the fun, being on top of the mountain plus the 10 stories or so this thing hauls you into the air makes for some beautiful gazing out over the huge shipyards and the city of Jiangyin. It was very beautiful and scary all at once. I can't wait to do it again.

Then we got to walk through a tunnel through the mountain, barely big enough for you to walk through. It was rad, man! Hope you are not claustrophobic when you come and visit, cause this park is a must see TV event. Big love to all — tell your congressmen that despite the loss of seven brave souls, the space program must go on and is vital to our economic and technological growth. More from China soon.

I've been in the People's Republic of China for some time now and it's still rocking. It's late... 2:17am which is 1:17 in the afternoon in my home state of West Virginia U.S.A.. I am 13 hours ahead of them. I have been programming on CALC 5 for Macintosh for the last couple of days. I have spent more time on this version of CALC than all versions prior combined. It will certainly be the best software I've released and if it's like the prior versions, the most profitable. One thing I like about the U.S. and China is the unbridled desire to make money.

Jiangyin is starting to feel like home. I don't feel so alienated anymore. This place is backwards from the U.S. — 911 is 119 and 411 is 114 and petrol is cheaper but it's almost impossible to own a car and when you do you can't drive it very far from your home. At any rate, the bizarre messed up reality of living in the People's Republic of China is starting to just to be the way it is — no different than being at home. You simply adjust and have fun. It's an amazing place and it seems for everything I miss about the states, I find something here that I say I wish we had at home.

Nothing could have prepared me for the trip over.. no words.. no pictures.. this is something that must be experienced to be understood. If you are a westerner.. then you can't understand unless you come here. This isn't like New Orleans in the U.S. where it feels "different" from everywhere else, it is beyond a simple "different" — a travel in time to 200 years ago but with computers and TV but not a refrigerator in sight. Let alone a heater.

You are safe here. That is one thing I can say above all else over the U.S. At home there are plenty of places where I would say, "don't want to be here.. this is a bad idea.." but you will never feel unsafe in China (at least anywhere in this HUGE area of it). There are people everywhere, cops and soldiers everywhere and the simple fact that people just aren't all that bad here. I know there are gangs, pimps and all the normal riff raff — but they aren't visible, their numbers are low compared to home. I rode to town with some dude the other day that just pulled over and offered me a ride. You would never do that at home.

The many faces of Buddha - Sean in China Blog |
Temple outside Nanzaa - Sean in China Blog |

We got refused service the other day at a restaraunt in Nanzaa. The crazy Chinese lady told Grace that she had never served people like that, (meaning me and Scotty, the crackers, barbarians, white devils...) and she wasn't going to start. Oh well, we ate just down from there and they were friendly, dirt cheap and the food was great.

I am spinning Oasis on the Apple Powerbook thinking I should tell you how absolutely BAD Chinese music is. It's terrible. It's like bad suger pop at home only worse. To give you an idea, they like the Carpenters, John Denver (I've heard Country Roads too many times here already), Yanni, Kenny G and the Backstreet Boys. I'm really not kidding about that either. And the local, yocal music is just as bad. So, I dig out my headphones every chance I get.

It's hard to find American CDs but when you do they are $1.30U.S. a pop so I've picked up a few. I am going to buy some for the whores at the Dragon and Snake bar so when I go down there to shoot pool or drink beer I can listen to some decent music. The last time Scotty and I went, when we asked for english music they played Billy Joel. No offense to anyone out there, but I hate that. I've found Pink Floyd, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters, Beck and Christina Aguilera so that is a giant leap forward. Also, I can jack in my laptop so the party is just getting started as Pink would say.

Last night we ate hot pot again. We had a bunch of stuff, but the things that will stand out at home are the duck tongues that look like they are pulled out by the roots as the tendons are hanging out of them... and the live crabs. They brought them out and let them crawl around on the table then took them and brought them back cooked and smashed open a short time later. They were very good.

When you get a frog, they bring it out alive and chop it up with a cleaver and blood goes everywhere. Then it goes in the hot pot to cook right in front of you... a few minutes later you are like, "good frog!" instead of "poor frog." Heather wouldn't let us get pig brains.. so that report will be another day.... :^)

Chinese street photography - Sean in China Blog |
Chinese street photography - Sean in China Blog |

One of the things that really bothers me about P.R.C is the fact that women are substandard and not wanted. Female babies are often aborted or killed as infants. The simple fact that familes want male babies has skewed the male/female balance already and it's going to get worse. Hence the Lonely Planet China book's proclamation that 1 in 12 Chinese women is a whore.

But what is getting me is the Rose Girls. The poor rural families sell their female children to scum in the city who then make them beg and sell roses in the city. They cling to you like parasites. You literally have to push these cute, poor girls off of you with force. It's so sad. I wish anything other than to see them this way, but they don't get to keep the money you give them. I refuse to give them money and perpetuate this evil practice. Further, their life is begging now but when they are old enough, they will be whores.

As for all the Americans freaking out about this, don't. You likely don't do anything to stop hunger, homelessness and other social issues at home, so don't cry foul here. I don't like it, but I don't claim to have a solution or even a desire to change it. Sometimes things are out of your control. This is one. Things will be better here someday. Just not yet. So if you feel bad, support a charity at home or volunteer your time making someone's life better there.

There are over 1.2 billion people in China. Within a five mile radius from where I type this there are as many people as in all of West Virginia (where I am from).

There isn't much value put on life here. There are too many people and they are too close to the just surviving day to day level to put value on things that we do at home. You stress over your job (which you can have another in no time), the color carpet you are going to buy... stupid stuff... people here struggle to eat. Their houses don't have running water, let alone carpet. There is no concept of sanitation or recycling, trash litters every inch of the countryside. But everyone gets health care. Can you say that at home? Hell no.. and we have more money than they ever dreamed of.

It's beyond late, I'm going to sleep. More from Jiangyin soon. I'm working on another roll of film. So more pics in a week or so.

Julia and Ellen, my teaching assistants - Sean in China Blog |
Yangtze River and bridge - Sean in China Blog |

There are a number of things that I see here that you can't understand at home. One is how they drive. I've given up on the whole which side of the road you drive on thing. Not only do the lines not mean anything, driving on the right side of the road is optional; so do it only if you feel like it.

I had seen the results of five crashes shortly after they happened. Well, yesterday added another. Only six was a little more up close and personal. Scotty, Grace and I went to pick up some paperwork on me for school. After we got that we walked out and I flagged a taxi. It was just after dark, and the taxi pulled over.

As we are walking up to the car, I am getting ready to open the back door... this dude, for lack of a more descriptive phrase, on a motorcycle plows into the back of the taxi with a huge crash. He flies into the rear window/c-pillar and continues flying over the taxi and onto the pavement. He had to be doing 35 or 40. Well, after being here a month, and Scotty as long as he has... we are unfazed. The dude was OK, the bike wasn't. We flagged another taxi and split for dinner. Slow motion hollywood action six feet in front of your face with no wires attached! How often do you get to see that at home!?

Typical downtown - Sean in China Blog |
Typical downtown - Sean in China Blog |

Speaking of dinner, the only new thing to add the the pallete of weird Chinese food is shark cartilage. Mmmm good. Like a Goodyear tire, but good anyway.

I did get sick.. my first third world country illness. How proud I must be. I puked, sweat bullets and had a crazy fever for a couple of days. All in all great fun, don't leave China without the experience. Oh, I wish someone would tell them to wash their hands! I got a picture of ducks on the sidewalk to be butchered to show you. I wasn't kidding when I said they butcher meat on the sidewalk and the floor (or anywhere else). I still have some pics on this roll of film so a week or so and that gem will be up for viewing.

They are still setting off fireworks. They could have put a man in space with all the black powder I have listened to explode.

More coolness later as it happens. The snow has it too damn cold to do anything. So I'm off to play Quake 3 and program.

I crashed my PowerBook G4 and it wouldn't boot. I was not a happy camper. I never realized how much I rely on it until I didn't have it. After a week plus search, I found a small shop in Wuxi that sells Apple products. I popped in a Mac OS boot CD to startup my PowerBook and hopefully fix it. It still would not boot up. After trying several OS CDs and starting to worry that my PowerBook was really physically broken, I pulled out the service technician's most powerful tool - the Technical Tap. I gave the PowerBook a couple of good thumps and low and behold, it booted right up.

I had to repair the disk but everything is OK with it now, I am typing this on it and listening to Oasis. I did backup my important files just in case.

The kids - Sean in China Blog |
The teachers - Sean in China Blog |

So, to the Lions. If you have noticed back in the states, there are these Guardian Lions outside homes and buildings. They have a ball under one paw. For a couple of years, it's been a curiosity as to what the ball symbolized.

Now that I am in China, I see them everywhere. Only catch is, the two lions are different. If you are facing away from the building in between the lions, the one of your right is the female and she should have a baby lion cub under her paw. She symbolizes Protection.

The one on the left is the male. The ball is pure Power, so he symbolizes Power or being Powerful.

Both lions should have a ball in their mouth that can be moved around, but not removed. It is carved from the same stone as the lion. It represents the lion's soul. The fact that it cannot be removed is to show it is a pure, strong and unwavering.

So, the lions at home are homosexual.

The Chinese frown on this and were more than upset to learn that Americans have two males instead of the pair. I guess somewhere down the line, someone thought it would be cheaper to only make one lion and save a few bucks. After all, what do the Americans know? or care about?

So, enjoy your gay lions! I'm out till next time.

Auto translation fun - Sean in China Blog |
Just amazing view - Sean in China Blog |

I don't know if the fact that this is Part 13 has anything to do with this post or not. It certainly seems like a strange coincidence at the moment.

I'm long into the crazy China adventure now. It's going fast. I am enjoying being here and teaching a full load is keeping me busy too. I have 17 classes a week in Computer Science and English and plenty of impromptu English lessons too. That puts a dent in free time.

I guess what that all means though is that I am in the routine, I'm used to the daily grind of China. Tina warned me it would come quickly and indeed it did. Either I'm crazy or the human body has great powers of adaptation. Or both.

However, this weekend really shattered the whole used to China thing I had going on. Not sure if the Karioke or the dead Chinaman did it, but this weekend as a whole did.

Friday night we had a party for my best student, Zhangyi, with all of the kids he was in class with. They sang karioke to bad Chinese pop music for 3 hours and begged me to teach them disco dancing. The surreal of that was added to when they brought out a big cake... like a birthday cake. If you haven't heard me rant on Chinese baked goods, then listen now. Chinese food rocks, but they have NOT got the bread thing down yet.

The first odd thing is there were no chopsticks, spoons or forks. They gave us these little plastic devil pitchfork things to eat the cake with. And the cake came. It looked really good. But it tasted like styrofoam insulation with zero calorie whip cream on it.

Do not eat Chinese cake - Sean in China Blog |
Fancy dinner that made me puke for days - Sean in China Blog |

The Chinese can't make bread. They just can't. With the cake, I've decided that I am not eating anymore western style bread while in China. Just think of white bread with lots of sugar to make it sweet and shreaded pig meat on it. You want some? Me neither.

I guess the next morning the dead student out in front of the school didn't make things better either. I came to class and no one was there. A little later, I get the scoop. A student riding his bike down the road (dumbass idea in the first place if you ask me), got plowed by a fung-la (crazy) Chinese driver in his car. His bike was a mangled mess and blood on the road. Car lives to see tomorrow, Chinese bike rider does not.

Did I mention the factory right across the street makes the tennis shoes I bought to bring here? Small world. Any way, you don't see dead dudes everyday at home. But with the fact they drive 50-80mph in town with more people that you could count if you had to... well, I've seen plenty of accidents.

As if that weren't enough, we went out to eat last night and on the way into Jiangyin I saw a woman walking get hit by a car. Fortunately for her, it only threw her on the hood and she was OK. She gave the driver a good Chinese lesson I'm sure. She looked pissed. I guess I would be too once I figured out I was OK.

The spread of food was awesome.. you wouldn't believe — 100 year old eggs, pig ears, poison puffer fish, sting ray, yellow fish, spiced beef, dofu soup, lots of vegtables, pickles and cold dishes. More food that you could even think of trying. That's just a little bit of the spread. And really good white wine.

The Chinese can make some good beer and wine... as good as anyone, but the liqour is another story. Which reminds me. Scotty drank some of the snake liquor stuff. As for me, no way, no how.

I paid 3 yuan to see a dead Chinese guy in the market in Wuxi today. They dug him up out of the ground somewhere, all I know is it was $0.39 US to go in and see a dead guy. Can't beat that with a stick. But that is almost the end of the story. So let's back up.

Classes were cancelled last Sunday so I got an extra day off. Wednesday we took all of the primary school kids to Mudo outside of Suzhou and saw an ancient water village and climbed this giant mountain that overlooks Suzhou. It was very killer and all the kids had a great time. I had to give some of them a hard time, not all of them climbed to the top of the mountain. Good thing I do that stuff all the time, I got to teach them 'piece of cake' when we got to the top.

Julia and I in Shanghai - Sean in China Blog |
Julia and I in Shanghai - Sean in China Blog |

The next day was spent in Shanghai touring SMIC (a very large integrated circuit foundry) and their school. Then we spent the rest of the day in the main square and on The Bund. The shopping was cool and we made fun of all the fat crackers we saw. The kids were shocked to see so many white people and they were all textbook prime over-eating examples. We rode around on the Huangpu river and called it a night.

Friday rolls around and I have 1 class. Sweet. We leave for Wuxi and get on a train for Hang Zhou. Five hours later we were in the cleanest city I've seen so far. We stayed in a communist party hotel and went shopping in the Hang Zhou Tower Shopping Center - Versace, CK, JoJo and basically every other high dollar clothing and cosmetic company floating around in a fashion mag or other cosmopolitan city.

The next day we toured the biggest Buddhist temple I have seen. It was gigantic and so cool. So, so cool. Pics are coming. Which reminds me - I bought a real camera and I have shot ten 36 exposure rolls of Kodak Pro Image 100 film. So, it's going to take me forever to scan all those photos. But I will. Oh, and we rode a cable car to a mountain with a great view.

Hang Zhou temple on vacation - Sean in China Blog |
Hang Zhou temple on vacation - Sean in China Blog |

We then ate in this fancy pants restaurant overlooking the West Lake in the best seat they had there. It's good to be an American sometimes. We rode a little cart thingy around this causeway on the lake while the Chinese lady spoke some Chinese. Go figure that one.

My Chinese is good for the time I've been here, but that's not saying a whole lot. This is a hard language to learn and even harder to read. Still, Scotty and I decided we know all the Chinese we need. I can get around and buy things and haggle over the price, numbers are no problem, order food and specify all the utensils and BEER!, tell people to fuck off if they need it and just in general say some nice things like, 'you are beautiful.' When I want them to laugh, I tell them 'I think I am pregnant.' That one is great.

So back from the aside, we then went to this cool ass five story monster pagoda overlooking Hang Zhou. That was cool. Again - pics are coming.

Then the day was more or less up and we went back downtown and got on a boat in the man made canal that runs from Bejing to Nanjing. We rode the boat from Hang Zhou back to Wuxi for a grand total of 14 hours. It was loud as can be. The river traffic is as bad as the roads and there were boats honking and churning all night. I didn't sleep well last night.

So, to kill off the early hours, we all sat in the room and killed some bottles of Sihoo peejo and just talked about things - including the fact that China is so polluted you can't see the stars. I counted 6 last night from the boat. That should give you an idea of the pollution here - so the next time you buy some generic Chinese goods at Wal Mart think about that.

OK, so we turn in for some sleep. I woke up about 2a.m. to take a leak in the troth in the floor. Many restrooms in China have a flat floor and a small troth made out of 6"x6" tiles. You do your business in there and the water flushes it down the troth and into the drain.

The beauty of this engineering gem on the boat was that it just pumped in canal water and then flushed it right back out into the river/canal untreated. If I haven't already mentioned this fact, freshwater in China is NOT safe to swim in. Most Chinese cannot swim because of this and the fact that pools are rare and expensive.

We ran into another ship.

But back to the late hour. The noise was so bad that I couldn't go right back to sleep. About 2:30a.m. I hear a lady screaming. The engines shift down and then CRASH!! A moment passed and then CRASH! again. We ran into another ship.

At this point, I'll add that all the doors to the ship are locked so that you cannot exit the ship. Even if it sinks.

So, Scotty and Grace are awake now too. Luckily we didn't sink. After a bit I just gave into my new sixth TIC (this is China) sense and went back to sleep as if nothing happened.

We got to Wuxi at 8a.m. and ate noodles on the street. We went shopping all over town and in the big Pagoda market. Grace had to work at 3p.m. so we got back to Jiangyin right about then. Scott and I went to the beauty shop and got a haircut.

I got my hair washed, cut and a shave. I also got a one and a half hour full body massage by one of the prettiest girls I've seen. Two hours total and the bill was 50 RMB. That's about $6.00 dollars. Life is good in China at times.

We came back and ate fried noodles in the tent so I could give the noodle lady her picture. They were great and hit the spot. Now I am here and this is the end of one hell of a good week. I will post pics from it all when I get the chance.

She was an angel. Lard fat fried $0.30 dinner in a rice field by school - Sean in China Blog |
Back in the US quarantined because of SARS 1 - Sean in China Blog |

I am sitting on the deck looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. It's a beautiful morning. I was up at 4:30 a.m. to scour the beach and watch the sunrise. Now that I am sitting here getting ready to enjoy a week at the beach living life in the luxury of the United States, it seems a fine time to reflect and wrap up the China adventure.

I still have one week to go before I am clear on SARS.

I still have one week to go before I am clear on SARS. I've been back to the U.S.A. for a week. The CDC says 10 days is clear, China says 15 days to clear. Time will tell.

The first things that pop into my mind about China — kids building little snowmen using chop sticks for arms. Then there was the guy laying in the middle of the road after being hit by a car. His arm was obviously broken, it was a twisted mangled mess. Blood oozed onto the concrete from the side of his head. With his one good arm, he was calling for help on his cell phone because no one stopped to help him. People just drove around him like he wasn't there. I don't think the guy that hit him even stopped. I don't know for sure, my bus just kept driving.

The first thing that stood out about not being in China anymore — Cheese. Cheese on the airplane, cheese everywhere. I tell you this, dairy products will do a wild number on your digestive tract after not eating them for months.

Then there is the food issue. I miss the food. The food there is simply better than the food here. Chinese food in America is NOT Chinese food. The only thing we have going on is the variety thing.

I would choose variety if I had to pick, but the food in China is absolutely wonderful. Which reminds me — I want to try and put together a list of things I ate most people would find bizarre: 100 year old eggs, dog, live shrimp, mud eels, poisonous puffer fish that can kill you if it's not cooked right, sea horses, sea cucumber, sting ray, donkey, soft shell turtle (the shell is like soft rubber), cow and pig stomach, cow tendons, cow tongue, pig knee (yes, with the bones sticking out and the joint), duck brains and bill, necks of chicken, duck and goose, chicken feet (spit out the toenails!), coagulated duck's blood, lotus root, tomatoes with sugar on them... alas and on and on.

There are great big, fat people in America.

The next thing that stood out hit me as soon as I was in the airport in San Francisco — there are great big, fat people in America. I'm not talking chubby, I mean downright obese.

I never saw a fat person in China. Period. Not one (unless you count foreigners). On a rare occasion, you might see someone you would say could lose a few pounds, but not a single severely overweight person was to be seen.

Which reminds me of another thing I LOVE about China. There is no politically correct BS. If you happen to be one of those people who could stand to lose a few pounds, then you deal with a constant barrage of people saying, "you are so fat!" Also, I can't tell you the number of times someone said to me, "____ is not very smart" right in from of the person. They just tell it like it is about some things.

Then on the flipside of that coin is the whole "face" thing. While it's nothing to tell someone they are fat in front of 30 peers, somethings they just won't say even if they want to. They never say anything to a person with a higher rank. You would never say anything to your boss, no matter what.

Chinese street photography - Sean in China Blog |
Chinese street photography - Sean in China Blog |

I guess that's from the days of real communism where things like that could get you shot or put in prison, but to an American, it's weird. Here, we go at it in the workplace and sometimes argue if the boss's idea or a peer's idea sucks. We say, "that sucks." They don't there.

No one will make a decision and be held accountable there (in China). Ten people have to agree on anything before it will happen. Getting something done is harder than pulling all your teeth out with a pair of pliers by yourself.

Go to the post office for stamps? Sorry, the person that sells stamps is off today. Come back tomorrow. I'm not making that up either. One person does a job and if they aren't there — no one else can do it.

A trip to the electric company on Saturday with Scotty and Grace: walk in and say hello to the lady. "We need to pay our electric bill." "I am sorry. You can only pay the bill during the week." I flipped out.

I made Grace ask her why they were open then. The lady told her she did not know but she would have to come back Monday to pay the bill. Even weirder is the fact that there is no weekend in China and everyday is a workday same as any other.

So the electric company is probably the only place in town that has weekends off. Except of course the lady they pay to tell you that you can't pay your bill on the weekend. Of course, a locked door wouldn't do that.... this is China!