Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Suits, Digesting Dog, Care packages

Forgive me Readers for I have sinned. It has been nearly three weeks since my last blog.

And what a long three weeks it has been. I have eaten dog, watched a news report where they showed a security camera fully depicting a man being stabbed to death in a computer lab... and repeated it three times which was followed by some of the most unpleasant bicycle/e-bike/vehicular collisions I have ever seen filmed beyond a hollywood staged event, I have started the process of getting train tickets to go to Beijing. OH yah ~ I also am now wearing pants that were made for me... out of material that I haggled for in the “fabric market” - but you’ll hear about that later.”

Well... I guess I should start at the beginning.

About two weeks ago, a few friends of mine to the fabric market. “basically a city block of little shops and booths that are loaded with fabrics of almost every type, denim, alleged silks, cotton prints, “suit”-able wools (sorry bout the pun there), and polyester... oh look... more polyester.

We took a taxi out to this place, taking about twenty minutes and costing a colossal ¥25-30 (yuan - /yoo anne/) which is basically 3-4 dollars total for four people :D .

After arriving, we spent the next three or so hours wandering the aisles of this colossal market looking for “the perfect” fabric to go with the various garments we had in mind. None of us groove the polyester... so we oddly enough ended up buying from one of 2 vendors for the majority of our supplies. The bulk of our purchases (not including mine, because I found a special something that NO one else was selling) was from a man who loved to prove that his stuff was pure wool by burning the edge of his large hanging fabric. He would then crumble the ash in his fingers and stick them in your face.

Yep... you’d think... smells like burnt hair... not plastic.

That was enough for us.

My own wool however is a delicious grey with white pinstripes made from an ultra light summer wool sold by another vendor. Mmmm is it ever comfortable. The guy knew his stuff was rare - so he was trying to sell at ¥75/meter but I wasn’t feelin’ it... so I kept looking. After the necessary leaving and coming back later (after shopping the fabric burning chap’s wares), I used my evidently improving Mandarin skills to bargain him down from ¥75 to ¥50/meter.

Take that America! BAH You think white people can’t bargain. It just takes some perception, learning from mistakes, persistence and a heavy dose of patience (it can take a long time to get a good price sometimes).

Anyhow after some fierce bartering, I got my price and even though it was basically even with what my compatriots were paying... I knew that my super-fine summer wool was in fact an elevated quality (which is evident in the delicious wear factor) and that I had done well for myself. In addition... if memory serves... I helped negotiate their lower price....

After that tiring but incredibly validating affair, we took another taxi to the initiating friend’s seamstress (the friend who knew where the fabric market was/ had the experience with the whole process and thus helped facilitate our participation)

We get to her place, and show her the pictures that we had printed off. She has done this for quite a few foreigners throughout the years evidently, so she was quite comfortable with our requests. She took our measurments... and after stressing quite vividly that we did not want pleats... nor the incredibly high waistline that most chinese dress pants have... we were told that we could come back in 2 weeks and collect our suits etc.

Ah yes... I also got some brick coloured linen which is now a dress shirt in my possession. It makes me feel Moroccan... despite my apparent whiteness and complete lack of exposure to Moroccans... Regardless ~

Two weeks later (this past weekend) we went and collected our wares, and I fortunately did not have to have any adjustments done. Everyone else did though.... hahah.

But seriously now - my suit is ridiculously good looking, and it cost a grand total of ¥410 which is basically $75.... hahahah eat it all of you department stores!!!

The first suit I bought in the us was $350 on basically 50% sale... and while completely worth it... is still hysterical comparison to my $75 custom tailored get-up that I now own.


Ok so next affair. Somewhere in the downtime, I was invited to go eat dog by a student in one of the programs I have taught in. And yes ~ of course I’d love to go. I’m a gourmet... i’ll eat anything once. Myself, this student and some friends (actually two of the people went to the fabric market with) went out to a restaurant he knew of.

We had two choices... cold dog meat or dog hot-pot. We all agreed that hot-pot was the way to go. Cold dog sounded like dog jerky... and that does not strike me as the best way to try dog for the first time.

We order a variety of things to go with the hot-pot because you never just get one thing. It’s a schmorgespord. For those of you who dont know, hot-pot is a boiling cauldron of soup in the middle of the table that you dump things into to cook and then snatch out using your chopsticks. It’s lots of fun and is a nice drawn out meal.

Our thinly sliced dog meat comes to us along with our other ... ingredients? potatoes, tofu, noodles, carrots, mushrooms etc. and we enjoyed a nice meal of dog and ... etcetera while chatting away.

We kind of decided that dog tastes like dark meat turkey (which is odd... because “they” say that everything tastes like chicken), but looks and has the texture of beef. It is a bit fattier though. The type of fat is the more repugnant fact of dog. it is long and stringy... and speckled. We all decided that it was much better to remove the fat. Definitely palatable meat though.


Onto the most morbid of my topics.

I went over to a friend’s house for yet another of our 2-3 week get togethers where a group of us get together and make pizza or something and chat the night away. At some stage in the process... we ended up watching the most abominable TV show that was somewhere between the news and America’s most wanted... but Chinese style.

Basically, the underbelly of Chinese society is exposed on film... well- that which doesn’t involve the government or larger organized crime that is.

First atrocity. A man sitting in a computer lab is held to his chair and stabbed by a gang of about seven other young men. My Chinese isn’t good enough to know exactly why... but the fact that they just showed a man get murdered... on film... on a public broadcast... blew my sheltered mind. It was awful. And then they showed it two more times.

In less than a minute... seven men appeared in this business (I’m assuming an internet bar)... stab a man to death as his girlfriend vainly tries to fend them off, and then they stroll out of the place.

Second atrocity. The show turns to vehicular deaths. where they show traffic camera footage of various people on bicycles and e-bikes getting hit by busses, running into taxis etc. People dying and being seriously injured right and left. Sometimes it is their fault for completely not paying attention to their surroundings, and sometimes it isn’t.

Regardless... I was watching people die on film. And I was not O.K. with it. Does it happen? - evidently, but I do not want to spend my time watching T.V. that basks in that kind of depression.

The rest of the show focused on the children of stupid parents who had their hands caught in doors or machinery of many types.

Ah... and also showing the body of a 9 year old boy underneath the black car that ran him over... along with the bloody streak where he was evidently ploughed over by the vehicle.



Following that was a very spirited political discussion on whether or not first generation immigrants should be allowed to be president. There were some folk present who were rather dogmatically against the idea. Fear of a foreign prodigy child planted by a malicious government to destroy America ranked highly in the debate. I didn’t fight too hard against that one... they’re entitled to their fears.

Honestly the whole thing really just furthered my real question. What is America becoming? We started out as a global nation where anyone could come for a new start. A nation of dreams if you will. But where are we going? I see a lot more closure and exclusion when I hear of my country.

I am not content with that direction.

Oh and How could I forget: the most emotional event that I have had since I said good bye to my family in Saint Louis.

I received a mystery package from home. Upon opening the package, I found an array of wonderful and meaningful things. Altoids, green pens, the best mechanical pencil in existence... The Zebra, two letters (one marked open first, the other open last - when you have a quiet moment) and chiefly among these - A digital photo frame that my sister has been scheming about for a while.

The frame was mentioned when I first came to China, as a way to “homey” up my abode. It fell off the radar as the months went by.

I read the first letter which contained a super adorable letter written by my super adorable six year old niece ~ kind of shocked that she had the literary skills to put the whole letter together. The new school she is at must be doing a good job to funnel her super-brilliance into writing skills.

Anyhow, I get the package home and open it. I take out the frame, and get it set up. I read the instructions and move to the second letter marked “open last.”

By the way - a well labeled and coordinated care package is a wonderful thing. I have met a very small number of people who take the care to do it, and they are some of the best people I have ever met - mostly because it shows they honour and love they have for a relationship. Anyhow, back to the letter.

The letter described the heartfelt efforts of my sister and everyone else involved to get the package organized, and the associated photos taken, bought and sent to me. The whole effort was absolutely olympic. I took the included memory stick that contained a secret cache of photos and plugged it in at this point.

At the sight of all the friends and family that worked together for these photos, I was absolutely crying my eyes out. I haven’t been moved like that in a long time. (at least five months :D).

Due to a secret and nefarious plot ~ there were photos taken of a very meaningful nature without my knowledge... well almost... but i’ll get to that in a bit.

There were photos of family, my growing nieces, my fresh-out-the-oven nephew... maybe he is on the cooling rack now... he was fresh out the oven 5 months ago... my brother and his growing colossus of a hound, and then there came the pictures of my friends from CanIL. You know who you are!

Well my friends found the Flat Stanley project online. This is basically a coloured cut-out that you take pictures with in various venues... doing various things etc, but Flat Stanley always makes an appearance.

They decided to turn me into Flat Stanley... and I was thusly dubbed - Flat Pedro.

In proper homage to my position in CanIL society - there were Flat Pedro appearances at Turkish Coffee gatherings, a “dim-sum” outing and down Dave’s shirt.

There is one hang-up with the plot however. There was a leak. Even though all participating members of the Flat Pedro Project were sworn to secrecy... there was one who either forgot their vows or otherwise completely spurned them.

A month or two previously - I saw two of the Flat Pedro Project pictures before their official release. The current holder of my image also decided it was “prudent” to open up their web-cam and show me my effigy. Needless to say - it also made my day when I was actually shown these details, and completely did not distract from the glory of the ultimate package delivery. In fact, I found it kind of stimulating to have all the pieces fall into place at the grand unveiling.

Anyhow - the leak was made known to the appropriate authorities through a series of events... and those authorities were none-too-pleased: with good reason to be sure. A nefarious plot should be treated with respect and secrecy.

The letter continued and described the frustrations of having a secret surprise package almost thwarted by an infidel (hmmm... a literal use of the word). I could sympathize with that frustration, but was also very impressed by how the writer described their own moving on from such irritation in a healthy and balanced manner.

All that to say -- If you know/ are assisting someone in a nefariously loving plot (or I suppose any type of nefarious plot)... do your utmost to safeguard their intentions. So much can be cast down in a moment of half-baked thinking.

And also -- organized and thought out care packages are one of the best things EVER.

With love in admiration for all who took part,

-Fully Inflated Pedro

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