This one’s for you Al:

Day 4: Some Stay Dry and Others Feel the Pain

All I could taste was garlic. My sweat smelled exactly like hot pot as I ran on the treadmill.  I woke up at 6:25 in a manner very similar to the day prior; the only difference being that I retained the will power to force myself awake and to stay in such a state.  This was only my second day at the gym in four days and I hadn’t even gone two days in a row, yet as I left the attendant said cheerfully, “See you tomorrow!”, which I can only guess she was trained to say because it made no sense.  Who goes to the gym on Saturday mornings?  It’d be nice to say that I had that kind of dedication, but I’d rather sleep in and then eat a huge breakfast of bacon and sausage before taking my post-breakfast nap and then spending the afternoon drinking beer and eating nachos and cheese.  Actually, that reminds me… I ate pork rinds the other day at my friend Ryan’s house and they were fantastic. I’ve never had them before, and always assumed they’d be wet and greasy but in fact they’re very light and crispy like puffed rice cakes.

Don’t ask me why I thought of that…

I wish I had some fantastic story to tell you about killing dragons, or about exploring the caverns of a long-lost underwater civilization that was started by aliens, but sadly this day was even more boring than yesterday (I know it’s hard to believe, right?).  Really there wasn’t much that happened today. As usual, we ate a late breakfast (9ish) and took a taxi to work. There was only one small difference about this day, and it was that Tony and I made a consensus and skipped lunch because we were too full from breakfast.  Actually, scratch that… Tony wasn’t still full, but he was in fact trying to recover from his Rot Gut still… poor guy.

But I WAS full, and I was also equipped with backup.  I had an energy bar in my bag for exactly this type of situation. Alright.  I don’t mean to lie to you, but I just did.  I wasn’t keeping that energy bar in my bag for this type of situation, but rather a working late situation.  That’s not important though, as the important detail is that I was skipping lunch because I was still full from breakfast and if I were to get hungry at any time between 12:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. I would whip out that energy bar and eat it.

Well guess what?  I DID get hungry.  And in case you missed it, here’s what happened.

Right, well that was thrilling wasn’t it?  The rest of the day was spent in my usual position-hunched over my laptop pounding out code and responding to emails… firefighting as we call it in the TE world. The rest of the day was pretty much equally as unremarkable. For dinner Tony and I went to a restaurant in a shopping mall that was about half a block away from the hotel.  The restaurant’s name was New Zealand “something that I forget”… although the Chinese name for it is 異國風情, which according to Google means “Kokuryo different taste”.  According to Wikipedia Kokuryo is an old Korean state or province or something, so really it just makes no sense all around. Thus, I will refuse to explain anything about this restaurant except for what I know.

This was a very different restaurant from any of the others that we had gone to, and it was immediately apparent as we sat down. Not only was the standard Chinese decor done away with and replaced with terribly revolting purple felt and water color portraits of under water sea denizens, but there was something strange on our table… water?!  We actually had two glasses of water served to us, which just so happened to be the first time I’d seen a glass of water since arriving in China. Additionally, the table was lacking the usual Chinese dinnerware, and instead had a fork and knife.  One thing that was the same, however was the napkin situation. I guess this is something else that should have been explained earlier, but apparently in China nobody needs napkins. You are not given a napkin when you go to a restaurant, and if you are sloppy enough to require one (like myself, always) you are charged 1 RMB (Ren-Min-Bi, a.k.a. Chinese Yuan a.k.a. CNY) and you get a little pack of tissues.  I don’t really understand this principal, maybe it’s a conservation effort towards eliminating paper waste.. who knows.

We gave the menu a quick once over before ordering; I ordered a “Rack of Lamb in Curry” and Tony ordered a “Grade A Steak”. As it turns out, Rack of Lamb in China is really just a few chunks of lamb and not even remotely similar to what I imagine a rack of lamb to be (which is featured at right… Mmm, that looks delicious doesn’t it?)

Complaints aside, I basically got a bowl of spicy curry with a few chunks of lamb, some potato chunks and some onion slices; however the curry was delicious and gave a good flavor to the meat, so I was pretty satisfied.  Tony’s steak looked like a generic lump of meat, but apparently he liked it, so whatevs.

After dinner we met up with Gilbert in the lobby to go out and find a bar for some drinks. While we were waiting for Gilbert, Tony clued me into the fact that he had never been to a bar before.  Ever.  Gilbert is 42 and has two children, yet has never once gone out drinking.  I wanted badly to show Gilbert how much fun it can be to go out with friends to a bar but what we encountered that night may very well have ensured that he never goes out to a bar again.

Tony led us towards the same location where we had Hot Pot the previous evening, but we walked down a staircase next to the restaurant and around the corner to find ourselves in a seedy-looking alley way with some projectors throwing swashes of multi-colored patterns all over the street. Directly ahead of us I noticed a large group of people outside of a place called ‘Chocolate’, which as Tony pointed out was where we were heading.  He also said it was the only bar he knew of in the area, which turned out to be extremely unfortunate, as it wasn’t a bar at all.  This place was a club, but the most devious kind of club that you can imagine.

Chocolate is the kind of place that you go to be seen and not heard.  It’s impossible to enjoy yourself especially in the company of others, as the music is so obnoxiously loud that you can’t even hear each other while shouting.  The atmosphere of the interior is seedy at best, with concrete floors and basic metal tables with no seating except for the sparse bar stools located at the bar… the only problem with this is that every bar stool is occupied by somebody who is quite obviously being paid by management for the sole purpose of occupying said bar stool.  They simply sit there not drinking anything and looking angry.  Now why would they do this, you may ask?  Well as it turns out, in order to occupy a table at this particular establishment, there is a 300 Yuan minimum (about $50 USD), and you are also accompanied by an attendant who drinks your alcohol with you and tries to talk you into buying more.  I can only assume that she orders alcohol on her own behalf and then has you foot the bill, but since we didn’t succumb to this trickery I can’t say for sure.

We tried to squeeze our way into the bar and asked for a menu, which revealed that the only selection of drinks at this bar was bottles of beer and bottles of liquor… as in full bottles of liquor.  Oh but there’s a special!  If you buy TWO bottles of liquor (anywhere from 500 to 600 Yuan each), you get free mixers.  Wowsa!  What a deal, right?  Wrong!  Screw this place… after we finished our first round of beer bottles we high-tailed it out of there and decided to go back to the hotel bar.  On the way back we were delighted to run into one of the many night denizens of Shenzhen who constantly insist that you need a prostitute to help you relax in your hotel room.  These men usually target the ones that look the most foreign, so you can imagine who was being pestered the most amongst myself and two Taiwanese gentlemen.

The worst part about these solicitors is that I can’t help but laugh, as all they seem to be able to say in their broken English is, “Friend!  Hey friend!  You need a nice girl?!  You need a relax?  She very nice, she come your room… you no like you send her back we get you another!  What your room numba?  What room numba you like?  She come make you feel betta, come relax, you like!  I know you like!”, all this while attached to your shoulder and breathing heavily into your ear so as the policemen wandering the streets can’t hear.  No matter what you say or do they do not leave you alone.  Eventually, right before you get to your destination they’ll give you a business card with their number on it reassuring you that, “You call this numba you get any girl you want, she nice and make you feel good in your room, just call!”

Kind of like this, only red and much nicer

Kind of like this, only red and much nicer

Thankfully, we made it back to the hotel hooker-free and made our way into the hotel’s Wine & Cigar bar, which featured a lounge singer and accompanying keyboard/synthesizer player.  The only seats in this bar were large, red wing backed chairs (refer to picture at right for example of wing back chair)… almost exactly the kind of chair you’d imagine to be in a mansion by a fireside where the disgustingly rich owner would sit and enjoy 100-year old scotch.  At least that’s what I imagined when I saw them…

After being seated we perused the menu to find a varied selection of liqueurs, beers, wines and liquors; however the prices were outrageous.  A single glass of whiskey was 88 RMB at the cheapest, and 176 at the most expensive.  I decided to indulge and enjoy a nice glass of 12-year old Glenlivet, which I assumed I would be able to sip on for the remainder of the evening.  Little did I know that the menu had a misprint and instead of “Glass” should have read “Drop”, as what I received was literally less than a millimeter of liquid in a standard rocks glass.  This was extremely upsetting to me, and after I slurped up my quarter ounce of scotch decided to get a bottle of Tsingtao beer so that I could at the very least ensure a decent volume of liquid to drink… something to keep me occupied as we talked about work issues as well as the scope and power of Python as a scripting language.  I won’t bore you with the details but just know that it was intriguing.  To me at least.

After enjoying our drinks, we departed to our respective rooms and I couldn’t help but feeling bad for Gilbert, as his first experience in what he thought was a bar was a complete bust.  I tried explaining to him that in America we would consider that place to be a nightclub and that it was worlds away from what would be considered a proper bar or pub.  I explained to him the atmosphere and environment of the Tavern by my apartment in NC (which I’m so sad just closed in preparation of their move closer to Duke campus), and how that kind of environment allows you to enjoy a night out with your friends and relax with a game of pool or darts all the while listening to music that you yourself can select on a jukebox if you were so inclined.  Basically I told him to try and erase everything that we saw from his mind, as that was a terrible first experience and one that I’m sure will scar him forever.  Which sucks.

So what’s the worst bar you’ve ever been to?  The loudest night club?  Pour your heart out in the comments!