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Published: June 17th 2010
Memento left by Swedish guest
He was sweet and a big fan of mine during his stay. Also quite a character.
Not much going on...which is a good thing!
The past two weeks brought the Table Tennis World Veterans Championship to Huhehaote. Our hotel was one of many suddenly occupied by hundreds of foreigners from Europe, South Africa and Australia. For me, this meant almost round-the-clock readiness to hear my phone ringing and pick up to the sound of the hotel operator saying, "Um...there's a foreign guest on the line, I can't really understand him...help?"
I worked two weeks including weekends: the first weekend because the guests had just arrived and needed attention and help to get their bearings, and the second because the guests were leaving...and needed attention and help to get their bearings. Also, most of the managers worked the weekend in anticipation of the Dragon Boat Festival, which meant three days off from Monday to Wednesday. For me, more than the Festival it meant three precious days to sit, not hear my phone ring, and do absolutely nothing if I so desired.
The first day off was mostly that - doing nothing, but boredom set in and I asked my friend to dinner. She suggested Pizza Hut. Out of curiosity I went - and discovered that,
like KFC and McDonald's, Chinese Pizza Hut is much nicer than American Pizza Hut (although the calorie count is probably equally appalling). Foreign fast food restaurants are actually relatively expensive in China, which might account for the nicer decoration and wider menus. There was actually a long waiting list when we got to the Pizza Hut downtown.
We walked home after dinner, and then my friend had one of her whims and decided she wanted to take a longer stroll. What I didn't immediately realize was that this meant walking along the highway and up onto the overpass. I was with her and her boyfriend; her boyfriend gave in, so it was either walk home alone or follow. I followed. That has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever done. We did get some nice views of the city at night, but still: cars zooming by within feet of us without a protective barrier or sidewalk...not safe.
Tuesday passed by slowly. I had lunch with a coworker whose husband invited me to go out to a bar with them on Wednesday, which led to my next adventure. After shopping for summer clothes with a friend
all morning Wednesday and reading in the afternoon, I was doing laundry and getting ready for bed at 9:30 when they called and said they would be picking me up soon. I hadn't heard from them so I had assumed it was getting too late for them to want to go out. Apparently not. I rushed to get ready and met them ten minutes later. We set off for "White Castle" - not the fast food restaurant, but a bar in the college district which I had been to once before.
There were five of us: the coworker and her husband, another couple and me. I was a little nervous at first (I didn't know any of them very well), but soon we were talking and eating and the men were getting drunk. I got a little offended when the husband began to talk to me in super slow-mo when I couldn't understand his dialect; but then I realized it was no time to be irrational when other people were acting...well, irrationally. His state quickly devolved into him repeatedly asking me "Why aren't you drinking?" and "When can I get you drunk?" (not what it sounds like). Apparently being
drunk was a really good experience for him because he was convinced I needed to be drunk too. Our conversation went something like this:
"When would you be willing to get drunk?"
"Um...maybe on a weekend?"
"OK, let's go out this weekend and get drunk, alright?"
"Actually, I don't really want to get drunk."
*wife laughs, husband ignores her*
"Nonsense, we have to get you drunk!"
In an interval where I was alone with my coworker (the other couple headed home around midnight and the happy drunk went to see them off), we talked about Mongolian culture and the differences between weddings in the U.S. and China. Her husband and a large number of his friends are Mongolian, and she related the following observations: 1. Mongolians can drink, they sometimes start really early in life; 2. Mongolians are more hospitable even Han Chinese (and that is a feat, trust me); 3. Mongolian men are really good to their women.
We covered a lot of ground, especially on weddings, before the husband returned with more friends in tow. The bar is owned and patronized by mostly Mongolian ethinicity men; we were seated in a booth not far from
a group of men who were playing cards and, at one point, who were engaged in an impromptu throat-singing session. I kept getting distracted in mid-sentence by the ethereal sound, much to the amusement of my coworker.
When her husband and his friends returned and heard that there had been throat-singing, they said they could throat-sing, too - only they couldn't and dissolved into laughter after trying and failing miserably. That pretty much marked that it was time to go: that, and the fact that the men had worked their way through an ungodly number of beers. We had a few more toasts and called it a night. I escaped without getting drunk, but we were out late - throwing my plans for marketing this morning to the wind. It was very much worth it, however: I was so glad to get out of my comfort zone and do something that was most definitely not part of my routine.
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