Sunday, January 29, 2017

Control Is Addicting

For the last couple of months, my wife has been participating in a writing prompt and blog hop at Heading Home called Five Minute Friday. Basically, you use the prompt that is given to you and just write about that for five minutes without planning or editing. Just get the thoughts out.

Since I seem to be having trouble getting back on a writing schedule, I thought I would start doing some of these prompts. This is my first. This week's prompt is CONTROL.

OK. Five minutes starting now.

I moved to China with my wife four months ago and have really had to learn what it means to relinquish control. I have never really been one to have to control everything in my life. In fact, my wife likes to call me a "fly by the seat of my pants" type of person, but moving here where I do not know the language, have no idea what is going on with any of the conversations around me and can't even read the signs on the street or in stores has shown me how much I do like to have control of at least a few things in my life. Or at least how many things I take for granted.

Also, with the vast differences in cultural understands of various things, I have also had to relinquish control of how I am perceived by other people since there is SO SO SO much that we just do not understand about how people relate to each other.

Control is one of those areas where we are supposed to trust God and not try to do everything for ourselves, but it is not until all that you know is taken away from you that you realize how much you relied on yourself and didn't trust as much as you thought you did.

I'm slowly able to take a little more control of my life and not have to rely on the kindness of people that I have met here. It feels good to have a say in my own life again, but the more self-reliant I become, the less I relate to the community of people around me.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Hijinks in Huairou

I don't know how well you have kept up with Red and I on Facebook and the blogs, but we have had a bit of a rough way to go since arriving in China. We have definitely had an adventure, but the last couple of months have sucked. I spent the last three days trying to come up with a better way of saying that, but the terminology just doesn't exist.

I will give the details of what and who has caused the major suckage in a soon-to-come future post, but for now all you need to know is that it involved two months of us not receiving any pay. If you are one of the many, many people of this world who are of the adult persuasion who have bills and other financial obligations that must be met, then you probably understand and can even empathize with us and my usage of the work suck. It sucked.

But…it is all better now.

It really is. Once again, I will save that story for another post. For now, let me show you the results of things getting better.

Red and I spent an incredible couple of days in this student center just outside Shipian Village. This village sits on the eastern border of the Shentangyu Scenic Area in Yanqi Town which is in the Huairou district 90 minutes northeast of Beijing and near a portion of the Great Wall. Try saying that sentence without practicing.

This trip is the annual meeting for the teachers of one of the schools we are affiliated with. They send everyone up there for two days to give the annual report (a meeting we were thankfully excused from). This meeting took about four hours and was conducted entirely in Chinese (something we have come to learn is fairly common in China). We were so thankful to not have to attend. Although, without the requirement of the meeting, there was really no reason for us to be there at all. They are just trying very hard to keep us happy. You'll just have to trust me. I will tell that story soon.

As soon as the meeting concluded, everyone had a late lunch and then the party started. Plus, with the Chinese New Year about to start, it really was a party. The beer and wine flowed freely and we've come to learn that doing business in China is all about building relationships. So, we dove in.

After a few hours of drinking, the crowd moved into a back room with a stage where it was time for the evening's entertainment.

Please don't ask for an explanation of what is going on because I have no idea, but it seemed to be a hit with the crowd.

Not all performances were like that. Everyone took a turn on the stage. Most people chose to sing a song or do a traditional dance. And there was a lot of karaoke, although it was still all in Chinese.

Late into the evening, after hours of revelry and drunken karaoke, the crowd finally dispersed to their rooms with a reminder that breakfast would be at 8 a.m. followed by a hike through the mountains.

So, bright and early the next morning, we were out the door to hike through mountain trails in -13° Celsius (yes, that is a negative 13) weather while nursing fairly substantial hangovers. That is 8° in Fahrenheit. However, the views we encountered caused us to quickly forget about the poisons coursing through our bodies.

I don't know how sturdy it is, but I love rope bridges

We look forward to coming back here in the spring

It was bitterly cold outside, but it made for beautiful scenery

I would love to have these views every day.

We eventually climbed up to this spot

One of the battlements of the Great Wall.
These can be seen all over the peaks.

It's just such a peaceful looking place

I just really like this bridge

That is a portion of the Great Wall

We even encountered some of the local wildlife.

All of these activities and adventures centered around a teacher's meeting. The Chinese definitely do meetings better than Americans do. As much as we appreciated being a part of this incredible experience, there was really no reason for us to be there. We had no part in the meeting. We weren't even introduced, but we were glad to be there.

Maybe next year I'll even get up to sing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Delightfully Tacky

I have developed a bit of a bad habit lately. When I have a series of crappy days (and there have been several in the past few weeks), I start looking for a way to get out of my funk. This in itself is actually a good intention. It is not healthy to wallow in self-pity, anger, depression, angst, horniness, pizza boxes and Reese's wrappers. A person should seek out a solution and lately mine has been food. Sort of.

This is how I look at cheese now since I rarely see it in China

Most people are familiar with the term "comfort food" and know what it means. It is not a pork loin stuffed with Xanax. Although, that could technically qualify. It is the food that a person often consumes when they want to feel better about themselves or a situation. It may be because of a feeling of nostalgia for a simpler or happier time. It may be the food that just helps them forget the moment the person is in. It may be a simple matter of habit to gravitate to a particular type of food when someone is depressed. Or maybe, it is just the right food that triggers the pleasure centers of your brain causing you to reach for it any time you need a little pick me up. That could be due to an addiction to that food or it sparks the memory of the time that bleached blonde, tanned beauty who was spilling out of her rainbow-print tube top that was two sizes too small winked at me when I was stuffing that taco in my mouth. Who knows what a person's motivation may be.

My recent bad habit is in this realm, but has a little more to it. It's not as much about the food as it is about the escape. You see, Red and I moved to Beijing in September and the fascination with being in an exciting exotic location has worn off. China is just where we live now. We have grown accustomed to it. There is still a lot we do not understand about this foreign culture, but navigating these differences has become commonplace for us, but that does not mean it isn't sometimes stressful.

Some days, we just need to decompress and get away from everything that is different. We just want something familiar so our brains can stop working so hard. I often download movies and American TV shows which allows us an escape for a while, but you can only sit and watch television for so long. I feel the need to get out, but going out means that I will be surrounded by China and on the days I want to escape that just won't do.

I have recently found a solution.

This is where the food part comes in.

On days when I am feeling like I really need a pick-me-up, I start scouring the internet for American restaurants. In a past post, I wrote about going to McDonald's for this. That is nice for 20 minutes, but when I'm looking to get away for an entire evening, I need something more substantial and last week I stumbled upon this.

Not the bank. The HOOTERS!

We hopped a bus that night to go to a restaurant that we could spend a considerable longer time in and have food we were familiar with in a setting that is not foreign. We knew that once we got past the ordering part, we could take our time without the sensory overload of CHINA CHINA CHINA everywhere we look.

Red and I both appreciate the food of China, but it was nice to sit down to this and know exactly what we were getting.

This Hooters was just like the ones in the States except for their fried pickles (they just didn't taste quite right) and the main feature that Hooters' waitresses are best known for. Chinese women are typically of a smaller stature in the 'hooters' region.

On a side note, we learned (from the one waitress who spoke English) that Chinese men typically find small breasts to be more attractive anyway. We didn't ask for this information. She just volunteered it for some reason. While American standards lean toward women having curves, Chinese beauty standards favor the tiny framed, slender woman. She then gestured to another waitress, "Like her." The woman she pointed out was what some Americans would label as being of the "bean pole" variety.

Because of the difference in what the locals would consider beauty, this changes the Hooters uniform a bit. The girls still wear the short shorts, but the tight t-shirts are out. For one, China is significantly more conservative than the States. That type of uniform is just unacceptable. Second, without the assets to fill them out, the point is kind of lost anyway.

Our waitress (pictured above) had long sleeves and kept her zipper up to the neck. This practice was fine with us. We hadn't really gone to Hooters to look at boobies anyway. We were there to be someplace familiar where we could let our guard down and just enjoy a nice meal. Hooters provided that for us. It was a great night and we felt much better as we left.

However, two days later, I needed a China break again. That's when I found this...

Ignore the salad. That belongs to my crazy wife.
 A Memphis-style barbecue restaurant! 
I think we're going to be all right.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Don't Rub Me the Wrong Way

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that I was concerned I had been too negative about our experience in Beijing. Most of that is just from us trying to adjust to all the differences between Chinese culture and American culture. Trust me, there are many. In that same post, I pointed out that many of these differences I am actually a very big fan of. In this post, I will address one of those differences I enjoy taking advantage of: THE CHINESE MASSAGE.

It is not difficult to get a massage in the States. There are plenty of places that offer this service if you want to seek them out. However, you do have to seek them out. Most places that offer massage offer it as one of the myriad of services they can provide. And finally, it is not cheap. The lowest-priced massages I know of in the States run about $50 and that is only for 20-30 minutes.

In China, if you want a massage, just pick a random street and close your eyes. Start walking and don't open them until you trip over the curb. When you open your eyes you will either be in front of a massage parlor or a noodle shop next to a massage parlor. You may not recognize the letters on the outside of the building because it is in Chinese, but you can trust me. In the very slim chance it's not a massage parlor, there is someone inside who will offer the service if you know how to ask.

The picture above is a joke, but you can seriously find 2 or 3 places for massage on just about any city block. Two blocks from my apartment, there are two massage places right next to each other with another right across the street. And every place has their own special way of doing it.

The Chinese are big believers in relieving yourself of stress and keeping your entire system in balance. And while most people would agree that relieving stress is a good thing, the Chinese will go that extra mile.

First, you need not worry about the exorbitant cost of getting a massage. While they will cost a minimum of $50 in the States for a short neck rub, here the standard price is RMB 50, which is approximately $7.50 in American money for a ONE HOUR treatment. ONE HOUR!!! Incredible.

What makes it even more amazing is the services that are offered. Here is a services list from an establishment near my apartment. Please forgive the English translation.

Some places don't offer all these services.
Because not every place has a young Russian lady on staff.

If you are wondering what the "Male sexual function obstacle" option is, I will try to put this delicately.

It's a hand job.

That's right. You can walk into an establishment on your way home from a stressful day at work and get your chicken choked for less than $10. Plus, it also comes with an hour long massage. Not a bad price. And you don't have to listen to her talk about her day.

You may be wondering how they can be so blatant about this, but the answer is quite simple. This is perfectly legal here. It is considered to be a legitimate technique to help achieve a more relaxed and balanced state. For many places, this isn't even an extra service. It is just part of the massage experience.

Now don't go planning a trip to China because of the legal prostitution. You can go to Nevada for that. Prostitution is not legal here. Sex for pay carries a heavy penalty in China. The massage 'happy ending' is looked upon as a medically beneficial service and is an acceptable practice to most people.

Now that you have the necessary information, let me tell you about my first experience getting a Chinese massage. This is not R-rated.

For the last few weeks, I have been having some pretty intense lower back and shoulder pain. I do believe that this is due to stress. Our work situation has caused a lot of grief. Red has been concerned with my lack of mobility and inability to sleep and has been wonderful about rubbing my back and finding those knots, but it wasn't helping.

A few days ago, we were returning from the grocery store and a woman approached us on the street to give us a flyer for the massage parlor near our house. Our Chinese is atrocious, but we got the impression it was advertising a sale and Red convinced me to go the following day. I really didn't want to spend the money, but she thought it might relieve my pain.

This is why I have the best wife in the world! I challenge you to deny this. She knowingly sent me into an establishment which openly offers orgasms to its customers because she thought it might make me feel better. She wasn't sending me for the hand job portion of the service, but sent me anyway.

Please know that I had no intention of getting any services performed below my belt line, but was still nervous about going because I know virtually no Chinese and really didn't know what to expect.
  • How do I order the massage that I want?
  • How can I let them know that I don't want my manhood handled?
  • Will I have to watch to see if she reaches for it and smack her hand away?
  • Am I expected to get naked and lie on a table?
  • Why am I getting even more stressed?
I stepped into the place and presented my flyer to the two very attractive Chinese women behind the counter. She looked at the flyer and gestured toward the establishment next door (I told you they were right next to each other). So, I apologized and went to the neighboring business and was met by another slim attractive woman who started to take my coat. I presented the sales flyer and she spoke the only English word she knew, "Sorry" and gave me back my coat.

I have no idea what the problem was, but I went back to the first place and pulled out a 50¥ note. One of the women took it and said "foot?" I said "back" and pointed to where the trouble was. She nodded as she took my money. She then yelled something into the back room and pulled back the curtain for me to enter.

I stepped into a large room with 12 beds along the walls, six on each side. There was a woman on one bed in the corner getting a massage and I immediately noticed that she still had her blouse on. Good. That means I don't have to get naked.

Soon, a small albino man came shuffling toward me from the back of the room carrying several towels. He gestured toward the nearest bed and I noticed that he was blind. I looked at the man giving the massage to the woman and realized he was blind as well. This was one of those blind massage places. The reason for blind massage is to alleviate any discomfort from someone seeing you naked despite the fact that they will have their hands all over you and they do not separate the male and female clients.

I got comfortable on the table and he quickly went to work. He never spoke to me a single time, but was good at communicating with his hands what he wanted me to do (sit up, roll over, lie down, etc.). He found the sore spots very quickly and dug in with his elbows. He rubbed my entire back, my shoulders, neck, back and top of my head and even did my arms. It was great.

When the hour was up, I walked home feeling great. Red wanted to hear all about it and I was ready to brag about how I turned down getting felt up despite it not even costing extra, but she didn't even ask about that part.