Stuff I learned in China…

As some who check in here on a monthly/weekly/biweekly basis know, I recently spent three weekend in China on a business trip with Wasco, the place I work. I learned a number of esoteric, trivial, and helpful tips along the way, along with a mix of all of those things (because those people who need to know those esoterically trivial yet also helpful tips I learned are either in possession of said knowledge or won’t ever read this). Fun fact, the period goes *outside* the parenthesis at the end of a sentence most of the time. Go figure, only took me 23 years to figure that out. Without further ado, here are a few tips and trivia.
Don’t drink the water. They say that what happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico.  Cue the Toby Keith song. Now cue the Jericho missile intro with Tony Stark, because I respectfully disagree. Montezuma’s gift to the Europeans teaching the native Americanos modern (at the time) warfare is yet alive and well, and exists in China as well. Its a gift that sticks with you for a while, and in many cases, hops on the plane (or train/car that you have to ride for 11-14 hours on end) with you and comes home. For those of you unblessed with the knowledge of which I speak of, just look up “turista.” Now, the Chinese have been rapidly approaching a higher level of civilization from the stagnant levels they crept to under full power Communism, but Western toilets are regrettably few and far between, local standards tend to be squatters, not fun even when only used as a urinal.
Not quite a correlation, but certain a similar fact is that in China, there most certainly is a correct number of TP rolls to carry on your person or at least in the party you are traveling with, and this number is no less than two per person. Trust me here, I’ve heard stories in the States about this stuff, and China is frequently no cleaner. I’ve got my own stories now, which I may or may not deign to share at some point in the future.
Moving along (and trust me, there is an outline that makes sense to me, which may be becoming apparent), we have the topic of pizza. I love pizza, a fact of my life that has been apparent for who knows how long. My mother makes amazing homemade pizza, and made me pizza and apple pie for dinner to celebrate my return from the Orient. China has something they call pizza. Its not. The cheese is wrong, the sauce is wrong, and Pizza Hut there serves a number of wines and mixed drinks. Talk about surreal. But as I was saying, they don’t have real pizza, which is an excellent stopper. But Korean-Chinese who are looking out for their American missionary friends, they have real pizza. And Ginger Ale, Root Beer, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, and a dessert menu to make me think I’m back home. Banana Splits, Apple Pie A La Mode, soft, out of the over chocolate chip cookies…. Excuse me… (cleans up excessive drool marks from the memory). Yeah, they know how to do it right. Oh, and a full sized American bathroom for their patrons and the cleanest kitchen I’ve ever seen. True Godsend.
Chinese food is highly varied, and there are certain foods that you “can only get here, nowhere else in China or even the rest of the world has it.” Of course, I can’t really tell the difference between those and spinach or any number of other common foods, but hey, who am I but the white foreigner? Try finding a cold drink at most any sit down meal other than some sort of alcohol. I’ll wait, go try, good luck. Now, to be fair, boiled liquids are healthier or at least have fewer germs than cold liquids, but I personally need something cold to drink much more often than hot/warm (and I like tea),  see my first notes above for why. But, Chinese food can get very repetitive, as I suppose any single cuisine can after a while to someone not of that culture. American cuisine being remarkable as it isn’t a single thing, unless you count either vegetarian/vegan as a legitimate lifestyle or the more typical American carnivore “I eat burgers, steaks and potatoes” as American cuisine. And I miss real things to drink, cold things particularly.
Tea is good. Chinese tea is very good. And Muslim Chinese tea (don’t remember the name :/) is amazing. And loaded with sugar 😀 Street food is really convenient, kinda scary and dirt cheap. And slightly worryingly that it is dirt cheap… Mini custard pies are extremely common and one of my favorite things to catch on the street. We found a pastry shop where we could get these huge cream puffs for about $0.20 each. Yeah, two dimes. Delicious. You can buy tons of different kinds of food on the street too; cotton candy, sheep trachea, crab on a stick, freshly cut watermelon (they love that stuff), cow tongue…. Yeah, fun stuff 🙂
Moving out of the food and related topics we move to efficiency. Chinese work fiendishly. When they’re not on holiday, which seems like every other week or so. Honestly, from all their festivals and holidays, its no surprise that they work so late so often; to keep from having to play catch up they must work a harder to keep from falling behind. But boy do many of them work like crazy. Now, not all of them do; we went to the Yellow River and were shocked to see a ton of the workers there literally taking naps on the riverbank, or just chatting in the shade with their buddies. But I’m pretty sure thats a localized phenomena, or something more specific to government tourist industry in the off season. Like Caltrans, but with a semi-legit reason.
Rounding out my list of things (and trust me, I learned much more than this small list) is an insight into the general Chinese mindset. The Chinese have a box. It is a fine box that lets them work efficiently and run a truly amazing public transportation system. I want everyone at LAX to be replaced with people as efficient and bureaucratic as the Chinese, well, I’ll take half of the managers and replace them with english only speaking managers. From America’s heartland for flexibility. But the Chinese hate going outside this box. Like Aasimov’s Three Rules, the Chinese seem almost hardwired not to think outside a box. They can duplicate and copy brilliantly, but their creative thinking leaves much to be desired on the whole. Their architecture across the nation is largely uniform, with few exceptions (I saw thousands of the same exact housing complexes, in every province I visited), and asking for non-standard services can be difficult in the extreme.
In all, China was amazing, beautiful, polluted, and a number of other things. I’ll definitely be going back there some day, and will most certainly be taking a good, long look here before, just to prepare myself. And you can bet I’ll be bringing along a lot of spare TP, just in case.

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