May 31st, 2013, was my final day of office work. It’s an anniversary of sorts, and I’m only celebrating it once. I haven’t told a ‘story’ about myself since last summer. I like to consider myself a decent story teller when it’s mostly fiction. When facts get involved, I’m spotty at best. Not a whole lot happens to me that I consider interesting. There are moments but nothing to warrant hundreds of words. There is one story though that you may find entertaining; my trip to China when I was 17.
Now that I’ve hooked you with a tease, I have other information to share. I’m cutting down on my blog time this summer. I’ll still finish my Game of Thrones recaps for those that follow. I’m not ending this blog or quitting. Instead of trying to do it every week, I’m thinking more like once a month. I have a ton of other things I want to write, so I’m going to focus on them.
That is why I’m doing an ‘epic’ two three part story of China. I was there for three weeks, and plenty of things happened to me. Some of it is a bit hazy like locations, and names, but all the good parts are still fresh. There will be cursing, and some possible adult situations. While nothing graphic, or out of my normal language barrier, I just wanted to give fair warning. Without further ado…
My Trip to China
I need to set the stage. For those that know me, throw all you know out. Instead, think of a skinny punk in a tie-dye shirt, plaid shorts, and skater sneakers. I drove a four cylinder, automatic, Mustang (not fast). It had Korn, Slipknot, Tool, and many other stickers plastered to the rear window. I was one of the least likely candidates to participate in a foreign exchange program. It wasn’t a typical exchange program which I’m still thankful for. The students from Nanjing came to Pine Plains, New York for three weeks in January 2000. We would then follow up by going to first Beijing, Nanjing, and finally Xi’an. This meant we got to meet, and live with our student. I forget the reason, but before they came stateside, one student was no longer participating so myself, and a fellow track team mate, Tim, shared one student, Peng (Pronounced Pen).
Because we shared a student, the three of us bonded over those three weeks. By the second week, the entire group of American and Chinese students had bonded as one. Three of the Chinese girls had a crush on me. I had no clue what to do with this information. What took me longer to figure out was two American girls also had a crush on me. If The Doctor ever picked me up, I would request we go there and I’d slap myself before doing anything stupid. Naturally, instead, The Doctor would end up taking me to China, during the Ming Dynasty.
While our exchange students were here, I got to experience many firsts. I went on my first trip to Boston, saw the sights, went shopping, and fell for one of the American girls (She would inadvertently ruin my prom). We ate at a Chinese restaurant in New York City where no one spoke English. I had my first New York City bagel. I also came close to peeing myself, along with a few other students, because our guide got us lost. On the train ride home I read my first wrestling book by Mick Foley. It’s because of that book I started reading more, which eventually turned me into a writer.
When our dear friends departed, I balled my eyes out. I didn’t care that I was at school or the fact I had somewhere to be, I was saying goodbye, classes be damned. That was early February, only two months and we could all meet up again in their home country.
Over those two months, my girlfriend and I were warned repeatedly to be mindful while in China. It wasn’t like America; there would be no hand holding, no signs of affection, no kissing, and certainly no sex. Oops. Have I mentioned my brain is wired to disobey everything told to me? It’s the number one reason why trouble and I are such grand friends.
In the lead up to China, one of the Chinese chaperones stayed behind to teach us Mandarin Chinese. He was accustom to teaching well behaved students (much more on that later), not Americans. They made us stay after school to learn it, so that was a mistake out of the gate. Even the proper students wanted nothing to do with it. I remember one thing from the extra teaching, and it’s Xi-Xi (Pronounced shea-shea), which means thank you.
Another big first was the flight. I had flown before, to Florida. Once to Nevada when I was tiny but that doesn’t count. Do you know where China is? (Of course you do.) Twenty-four hours spent in a plane, from NY, to Alaska, to South Korea, to Beijing. I think I slept a few minutes. I did get to watch The Green Mile though. I do remember getting scolded by a teacher in South Korea because my girlfriend’s legs were draped over mine. That was only the start.
When we first arrived to China, I still remember my exact thoughts, “A lot of these signs are in English.” Groundbreaking analysis from yours truly. The first few days were mostly riding around in buses, lugging two huge suitcases around with me and a backpack I still have to this day. We stayed at a nice hotel in Beijing; the entire courtyard was covered in flowers, plants, and trees. I had fried rice for the first time, for breakfast. We ate at a small ‘diner’ like restaurant with no doors or windows, just open space. It had little grills at each table. Unsurprisingly we made a terrible mess by throwing random meats together.
I also visited Tiananmen Square which wasn’t as impressive as it should have been. Maybe it’s because I’m from a different generation, but the gardens and mausoleums were more fascinating to me. The Forbidden City, which is what most people see when they think of Tiananmen Square, was really cool though. I unknowingly purchased a small red book on communism.
We soon moved onto Nanjing, where our long lost friends were located. We got to stay in a five star hotel…that my school was never allowed back to. Wrestling in a hotel of that class is frowned upon in most countries, especially in China. Not to mention almost all of us inadvertently ruining the furniture with our massive suitcases.
Something else happened in that hotel. My girlfriend decided it was time to take things to the next step. I’m 31 now, I know it was dumb. I knew it was dumb then, but I’m not sure I cared. Things happened, a few people knew, but for now, our secret was safe amongst friends. I do have one regret that depresses me about that hotel. I missed every t’ai chi exercise over the week (It was at six in the morning and at the time I did not wake up early).
I think now is the best time to cut this off. The meat of the story is in Part 2 (And Part 3, this was originally a two part story that unfolded into three); we leave the hotel to live with our exchange families, except the parents didn’t stay. I make the same dumb mistake that almost sent me home early. I also took illegal pictures of terracotta soldiers, got on Chinese TV, became famous for a week, and took a dozen pictures with ‘fans’ on the Great Wall. I temporarily had a goal to teach English in China because of some young students I met. More tomorrow.
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