Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pirates, Strawberries, Pornstars, Human Hamster Balls, Goats, and a Tandem Bike

About once a month I have an experience in Xiamen, that when I get home, makes me think to myself "Well then, this has been a sufficiently strange experience. Any minute now I should be waking up and this mess of insanity will clear it self right up. I'm sure of it"

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Only after an hour or two, do I realize that, I will not be waking up because I am in fact, already quite awake. I am forced to conclude that this has just been another day in the steadily growing number of days that will forever be filed in my brain under "Days in China that were so far out, I couldn't possibly make them up, even if I wanted to".

It started, as many days do, as a pretty average day. (This is redundant isn't it? They wouldn't be average days if most day's didn't start like that, would they?) Anyway, it was Saturday and Chris and I were going to try and go check out the aquarium. No, not the sea food restaurant down the street filled with Sting Rays, Eels, and Crabs. A proper aquarium where you don't eat the displays.

About half an hour before we were about to leave, I received a phone call from my boss Lindon. He wanted to take us to the beach. It was a nice day and when we go out with Lindon usually he pays for everything. So it was decided that the Aquarium would still be there another day. .

After 10 years of summers in Rhode Island, I now have a pretty good idea of what "Going to the beach" means to me. It means, bring a towel, wear sandals with shorts, and play Frisbee. I have grown to like this definition of going to the beach, as do many of my friend (Chris included). It did not dawn on me until I was asked "Why are you wearing that" upon getting into the car, that other people may not have, or enjoy, this definition.

As it turns out, Lindon's personal definition of "Going to the beach" mean "Rent tandem bicycles and parade the two American's around on them like the towering idiots they are".

But before we could do that, we had 20 minutes or so to kill. So naturally we stopped at a historic military site where the largest gun in pre WWII China was kept.

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It was a full fledged museum with plaques, movies, and life sized displays about what German colonization and the opium wars were like in the mid to late 1800's.

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I, being a student of Chinese History in college, easily could have spent 3 or more hours there with out getting bored. I tried to slow us down a bit by taking lots of pictures,
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(I am pretty sure I have an exact lego replica of everything in this picture)

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but then my camera died. Plus we had a plan, and we were sticking too it. So 20 minute fast forwarded tour it was!

We then jumped back in the car and 10 minutes later arrived at "the beach". Other wise known as "the massive side walk right next to the beach" (which we never did get a chance to walk on).

On our way to rent the bikes we came across a carnival. At the carnival they had the typical carnival rides: Tea Cups, the Gravatron, human hamster balls, that thing that brings you up in the air and then drops you from some terrifying altitude. Excuse me, what? HUMAN HAMSTER BALL!? Yes, thats right. In China, you can rent a 8 foot by 8 foot plastic sphere, climb in, and then go pretend you are Jesus 30 feet out into the surf. AND NOBODY WANTED TO DO IT WITH ME.

So we walked on.

Until that is, the ride shaped like a pirate ship that swings you back and forth like a pendulum came into view.

Now I have seen one of these before, so it wasn't the idea of people paying money to be thrown up into the sky and then violently jerked back down again by gravity and a few thousand pounds of plastic pirate ship that stopped me in my tracks. It's what was on the SIDE of the few thousand pound pirate ship that froze me mid step like shaven polar bear.

Normally, it is not too uncommon to have a ride at these kinds of places that has a theme. In the USA, if one happened to spot, on the side of a few thousand pound plastic pirate ship, a few characters from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean, you might not think twice about it, you might even find it quite odd if you saw someone suddenly shocked into paralysis just by looking at it. But this isn't the USA and these weren't Disney Pirates.

China is pretty famous for knocking off American brands and having horribly translated signs displayed to the public (you can see a few here on an earlier blog post) but this one takes the cake. (and the icing, and the tasty layer of raspberry goodness that I don't know how to make.)

Plastered all over the side of this particular few thousand pound plastic pirate ship, in the middle of a carnival, with tons of little Chinese children running around, was Johny Depp flanked by about a dozen or so of the finest young ladies featured at www.pirates XXX.com (link intentionally not included). That's right, porn stars, in pirate gear, on a carnival ride.

Only-In-China.

Then it was time to make fools of ourselves.

We arrived at the bike stand to find you could only rent 2,3, and 4 person bicycles. Yes, 4 person, and no, there are none for 1 person.

So we carefully selected (and by carefully selected I mean, took the first one on the rack) the most uncomfortable 2 person bike with the least amount of breaks left possible and we were off.

To go strawberry picking.

Keep in mind that I have only twice seen enough non-paved sqaure footage for two trees to grow next to each other comfortably since I moved here, and we are going to a farm. On a bike.

But all of the sudden, sandwiched in between Multi-million dollar apartment buildings and "the beach", stretched out for 2 kilometers was, a genuine strawberry farm.

Now picking stuff in China is a fair amount different than it is in the US. Mostly because you can't eat anything right away. Do you know how hard it is to pick beautiful, plump, perfectly reddened strawberries for an hour in the hot summer sun, after riding a tandem bike in Chinese traffic, having only one of the breaks works well enough to slow you to a manageable speed as you go careening down a hill and not being able to eat them while you pick? The only thing that could possibly make it more un-enjoyably is being told you don't have enough and that you are actually picking for Lindon's whole neighborhood, not just your personal enjoyment.

Finally, our bounty was deemed plentiful enough and we were allowed to get back on our 2 wheeled future-children killing device.

But, just in case the tandem and Chinese pesticides wasn't deceasing our change of bearing offspring enough, it was announced that it was time to go horse back riding. In sandals, in a 3 million person city, in China.

With the infertility machine cranking away, we dodged traffic, a goat or 3, and an endless onslaught of Chinese people walking every which way for about 3 miles until we finally arrived at "Xiamen Equestrian Club".

There were certainly plenty of horses, (6 Australian thorough breads and 7 domestic Chinese breads) but what struck me right away was the lack of space to actually ride them. We had short conversation with the women there who began to show us around and then informed us that it cost 30,000 RMB ($4,400) to ride them. That put a nail in that coffin (since it turned out that only AFTER we had sufficiently reduced out probability of having children by 10% that I was the only person even willing to consider getting on a horse) and back we went.

Oh and then Lindon's friend just TOSSED OUT HALF THE FREAKIN STRAWBERRIES. 0 explanation. Granted that could have been because he didn't speak English, but still, I could have mimed "Ill put them in our basket" easily enough.

To top it all off, we then went out to dinner at a place where the most prominent thing on display was 5 large jars filled with a Cobra drowned in Alcohol in each one. (head reared, neck flared, and all). I lost my appetite instantly and did my best to stomach some rice.

Alright, I should be waking up any minute now...

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