The meanderings of a recovering ex-expat with the occasional identity crisis
The other day I realized that, even though this blog is entitled LOSTNCHINA and I frequently blather on about how odd it is to be Chinese-but-not-quite-Chinese-enough in China, I’ve never posted any photographic evidence. So, I’ve scoured my photos to bring you pictures from behind the bamboo curtain. Some of you following my blog are also China-based, so I’d love to see what you’ve got in your collection; I’m sure it’s sumptuously politically-incorrect.
Thirsty for Alpo
Imagine the sweltering 90F+ summers and 100% humidity of southern China. With my 8-lb laptop, a bunch of files in my backpack and my back dripping with sweat, I take refuge in the air-conditioned supermarket, searching for something cool and refreshing to drink – a bottled water, a can of wax gourd drink, or a container of liquid shoe polish. I’m too thirsty to be choosey now. I pass the 100 brands of soy sauce, the two aisles of crackers and cookies – and finally stop at a sign…
…which turns out to be useless, as “wash adjust drinks” – according to the Chinese letters – are beverages in powdered form, which must be mixed with water, or other liquids in order to be ingested.
Becoming increasingly anxious, I plunge into another aisle, without even looking at the sign and find:
Suddenly, a sales clerk appears from nowhere, “Ma’am, you want to try the latest flavor of chips? Wasabi- or shrimp-flavored?”
“No, no, no! I’m looking for beverages! Drinks! Where are the drinks?”
“You will like our latest chips flavors. They are so popular in America!”
Now, this is very common in Chinese stores, where sales clerks get a commission on the products they’re hustling. You’re bleeding from your head, or holding your severed thumb, desperately looking for medical supplies, and the sales clerk is urging you to buy a can of chicken-liver flavored Alpo.
Turning away from the sales clerk, I stumble down another aisle and come face-to-face with:
Overcome with intense thirst and heat, I turn another corner and take a few deep breaths to calm down. But then, I see the Potato Chip Lady coming purposefully down the aisle towards me. I’m unconsciously clenching my fists and jaw, my vision is getting blurry and I’m becoming increasingly frustrated. Finally, I look up at the sign directly over my head to see where I am:
What do Chairman Mao, Colonel Sanders, Chicken Little and Barak Obama Have in Common?
The Chinese have this thing about fried chicken: they love it. And their adoration with the king of fried chicken – Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders – is evident in the various reincarnations of the jovial American that are seen throughout China.
(Some of the photos are from engrishfunny.failblog.org, or have been given to me by other people)
Zen & the Art of Driving in China
Anyone who’s been to China will tell you that driving in China is a harrowing experience. Ever see that cartoon where the driver turns into a skeleton, while waiting endlessly at a STOP sign for the cars to clear, so he can cross the road? In China it’s not a cartoon, but a fact of life for cowardly drivers. If you hesitate, you’re left behind breathing the fumes of other cars. I once asked a female driver how she drove across the road, where there were no stoplights nor signs. She said she just closed her eyes and hit the gas. Ironically, to the casual observer, this is how most people drive in China.
To cope with the stressful driving environment, Chinese drivers hang baubles from their rear view mirrors, pimp their cars out with cutesy cushions and stuffed animals, or just grow grass on their dashboards to achieve their own little piece of Zen:
Hello Kitty Gonna Claw Your Eyes Out!
One of my favorite things about the Hong Kong International Airport is the Virgin Atlantic/Eva Airlines Lounge. I’ve never been on a Virgin Atlantic flight, but their lounges are super swank. Free booze, free, cool ethnic foods, like Laksa, sexily-upholstered lounge chairs, an expansive view of the tarmac, and hot European men with their pissy wives and girlfriends.
Staff at the Virgin Atlantic Lounge continually serve me the free booze, probably because they think I’ll be getting on the same plane as the hot Europeans. The servers don’t know that I’ll instead be rubbing shoulders with 70-year-old flatulent Chinese men, who can’t take out/put away their tray tables, properly operate their seats, or hold their pee for more than 15 minutes.
It can’t all be perfect, but did I mention the free booze?
So imagine leaving this great lounge, which you wish was your living room, and lurching warmly and fuzzily towards your boarding gate. And as you board your plane, you take a good look at your boarding pass and realize with sobering horror that you are one of the lucky few to be riding the Hello Kitty magic carpet from Hong Kong to Taipei!
Unless you’ve been living under the Rock of Gibraltar, you will know that Hello Kitty is a 38+ year Japanese phenomenon borne from the freaky womb of the Sanrio company. It doesn’t matter if you’re 8 or 80 years old: if you like pink glitter and believe in punctuating all of the photographs you’re in with a “V” for Victory sign, then you’re Hello Kitty’s bitch.
For the entire one-hour-and-forty-minute flight, Eva Airlines never lets you forget that you are at the mercy of the pink-bowed monstrosity. The hull of the plane is splashed with a Hello Kitty design, the flight attendants wear Kitty smocks when serving food, and even…
Just in case all of this Kitty stuff is making you nauseous:
…or makes you want to jump out of a plane….