Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pizza Night

Tonight was one of the strangest nights I have had so far.

It started with a craving for pizza, which may be the death of me. It is the only thing that when I get a bad craving for I know is in at least a 2 or 3 mile radius and I have a hard time satisfying with something else.

So I went on google maps, found a place that serves pizza just a mile and a half from my house and decided I would take the walk.

This all started around 7:30pm and I didn't get out the door till around 8. It gets dark here around 6:00 now. From my experiences and from what people say the streets are pretty safe at night as long as you don't go certain places or hang around past 12ish.

The map said I had to walk straight down my street cross the road, down another street and across a park and it would be a mile or I could take the road around the park and go 1.5.

So I started walking down my street and I got to a second hand store that I had gone in a week earlier. While there the first time I had bought a folding table for about $5 to put on my roof where I am currently trying to put together a little hang out spot. Here is an early picture right after I put up X-mas lights (which where being sold at wal-mart for the holidays)


I also have 2 chairs in my apartment that I can bring up and sit up there and read a book, drink a beer, or look at the stars (about once a week when the starts are actually visible)

Unfortunately I made the mistake of leaving the table up there, and I discovered only yesterday that it had been stolen.

As I walked into the shop to look around for a possible replacement, there it was! Someone had stolen my table and sold it back to the very shop I bought it from. I was not pleased! I tried explaining to the man in the shop what had happened but no amount of translator or me being annoyed was going to make this any easier to understand or get my table back. Eventually I left in a huff and decided maybe I would go back, buy it again, and write in big letters THIS IS BRAD SWAIN'S TABLE, I WILL KNOW IF YOU STEAL AND SELL IT BACK THIS TIME on the top. Maybe I'll get someone to write it in Chinese for me.

So as I walked towards the pizza place I was hoping I could find, I was slightly bitter. Eventually I neared the end of the street and out of no where a small hill and a MIDEVIL CASTLE appeared where this park was supposed to be. Pictures will come in the future, I didn't think I was going to need my camera for a quick walk to the pizza shop. I am learning now I should bring it everywhere.

I quickly discovered that the castle was part of a theme park. I took a side street that I thought would be the quickest way around and found it to be an entrance to the park section of the theme park that I apparently saw on the map.

The only other parks I have been to in Xiamen have been small, flat, well lit, very pretty parks. Parks where you can see very well and also see the other side of the park while standing on one side. Those of course I had all visited with people.

I am now of course by my self, and after about going 100 meters in, I quickly realized that this was neither anywhere near flat nor was it well lit. There where however, plenty of people around to scare the hell out of me. From what I have gathered, all forms of gambling are illegal in China. There is no lottery, or natives with casinos, or horse races for people to take out their urges. This means that the average 20 something year old male likes to go to a high dark place with his friend and play some kind of card or dice game far away from police watch. (this was true when we went on the hike at Xiamen University as well)

Maybe its because I am a suburban white kid. Or maybe its because the only time I ever see this happen is in movies about the 1920's in a back ally and right after the game, little Georgey gets his teeth kicked in because he won to much money from the big kids. Or maybe its because I was alone in the dark in a foreign country with roving packs of 20 something years old's, but this was moderately unsettling to me. Call me a chicken, whatever, you'd be scared too.

The paths in this particular park make 0 sense, I didn't know where this pizza place was, and I was starting to get a little nervous because either 3 dudes where following me or happen to be going EXACTLY where I am going (which is every which way because I don't know which way I am going. This compounds the unsettled feeling) At one point I even stopped and they came up and stood next to me. I figured if they where going to rob or whatever me, they would do it now, but they didn't. So I kept on walking and they kept on following, and I was still freaked out.

To make this all the more exciting, this is a theme park, so there are HUGE CREEPY CHINESE CARTOON CHARACTERS around every corner.

But eventually I went around a corner and took a side path, they took the other and I felt slightly better.

Eventually I emerged in the middle of what I can only describe (to all you camp people out there) as a Jungle 80's aerobics work out on the Chinese equivalent of the sun prod stage in the middle of a park on a Saturday night in China. I was really hoping Jen Kramberg would jump out of a bush, stand up on a chair, and start singing "When You Call My Name" to make it all seem a little more realistic. But no such luck.

After this bazaar scene I walked a little further through the woods and I next arrived at an arcade. (in the middle of the woods) The arcade had a bunch of basketball shooting booths, a make the duckies swim by shooting water at the target booth, and a big sign that said pizza, steak, and french fries.

I noted this a possible place to eat if I didn't find the real pizza place (since the map had indicated that the Pizza place was not in-fact inside the park, but on a street near it)

I then proceed to walk around the arcade and found that it was only actually half arcade half BEAUTIFUL RESTAURANT ON A LAKE?! Leave it to the Chinese. (the distinction between luxury and tacky, at least by American standards, is still a very gray line here) At this point I was really wondering if the bout of food poisoning I had had 3 days ago was making me have hallucination now, and really wanted to get back into the streets of Xiamen where I belonged.

Eventually I did, and when I did, I immediately saw a giant Billboard that basically said EUROPEAN JAZZ PIZZA back the way you just freakin came. The pizza place I found online was called EJ's, so I put two and two together and headed back for the arcade/4 star restaurant.

Beside the arcade outside, I was the only person in the whole place. After some butchered attempts at ordering in Chinese (to the great amusement of all 3 waitresses working) and a fair amount of pointing I eventually got a pretty decent peppers and onions Bi Sa (the i makes a hard E sound, say it out loud) and a pi jiu (beer).

I sat in the super nice part of the restaurant over looking the lake and the people taking paddle boats out in it. I sat and enjoyed the fact that I was no longer wandering threw some horrible drug trip gone wrong.

Of course, the really smart part of me said, "Hell, I know my way back now and all I have to do is look for the giant lit up castle. So I'll just head back the way I came". So I did.

It was relatively uneventful and the castle was in sight when all of the sudden the all too familiar chorus of "hellos" started.

The "Hello" chorus is a phenomenon that, 95% of the time involves 15 - 30 year old males who are with their friends. One in Chinese says "Oh look a Foreigner!" And then As I walk by he says "Hello!" and all of the others race to catch up and say "Hello!" as well. Then the 2 that know the most English attempt to impress each other (not me so much, I am just the catalyst) by how many random questions they can ask me in English. Sort of like a verbal pissing contest.

Typically I put up with this for about 3 of such questions and then make up I place I have to be. To be honest, I think my answers are a little bit of a disappointment anyway, since they are never typical American responses they learned in School. For example, "What sports do you like to do on your free time." is usually answered with "Lacrosse, Running, and Skiing" which are not "Football, baseball, and basketball" which according to text books, should be the answer.

But not this time, this time the "Hello chorus" was followed by a different question (from a guy who spoke English pretty well). "Which kind do you like?" followed by a wave of the finger. This made me worried because it was pretty dark and his finger wave was pretty ambiguous. It could have meant anything from "we can find you heroin or crack" to "older men or younger men".

It turns out, after about 3 minutes of conversation I figured out it was the latter!

This became apparent after he apologized. His English was rusty because the last person he had spoken English with was his "63 year old Canadian boy friend who had died visiting Malaysia last year". Seconds later I found out that he was 26 and just had a thing for older men.

Thankfully the next question was "How old are you?" and the answer "23" (in China the birthdays are celebrated differently) apparently got me off the hook of being any interest to him. I next made it quite clear that I was a fan of women, no offense to them. This was received by 4 or 5 disappointed aw's from the back up singers in the Hello chorus, the group of guys I was supposed to "choose which one I liked" from a few minutes earlier.

Not wanting to be rude, I hung around for a few more minutes and talked. But by this time it was about 9:25 and I "had to meet a friend at 9:30" so I said "Zai Jian" and was on my way.

Nothing much but odd recollections of the absurdity of the last 2 hours worth of experiences happened on the way home. I was happy to get home and be some where that didn't make me feel like I was lost in wonderland.

I wish I was creative enough to make this kind of stuff up.


  1. You've successfully rendered me speechless.

  2. HAHA.. this was so entertaining to read at work.. It sounds like something that would come out of a movie.. So how do you like getting hit on by guys and girls now ? ;)