1 Night in Beijing

that's all it takes

Month: February, 2012

All The Other Kids

Observe the following scene:

[Late night, CBD apartment, behind a kitchen door kept closed by an obstinate foot (locks don't work in China), keeping out the drunken crowds in the living room and keeping in a few drunken people in the kitchen.  Wait, maybe it was only me that was drunk in the kitchen.  Anyway.]

Me:  Hello, archenemy.  Finally, we meet.  (Do I always speak like this?  No.  But I’d like to.)

Archenemy:  Oh, it’s you.

Me:  Let’s skip the small talk.  Please list your top 10 reasons why you are still a virgin.

AE:  Oh, OK!  I’d love to!

Okay, those weren’t his exact words.  But after I followed him around the kitchen for a little while, he gave in and listed them.  Persistence, you guys, it will always either get you what you want or get you dead.  Sadly, because I was drunk, I woke up the next morning not remembering any of this list.  In fact, I didn’t even remember that we had that conversation.  Or even that we had met.

Fortunately, it turned out that the night before, unbeknownst to myself, I had come bursting out of the kitchen and blabbered parts of this list to some other individuals.  These other people then wanted me to elaborate later on.  I could not, obviously, for reasons said above.  So I obtained AE’s email and asked him to provide a written list.

Here I must interrupt myself and declare my eternal love and admiration for three of my favorite inventions ever: the functions “cut,” “copy,” and “paste.”  It took an eternity for AE to reply to my email.  Technically, it was approximately 20.3 hours.  But it felt like an eternity because my head was hurting so badly.  I thought he had fallen into a ditch and broken his typing fingers.  But then I received his email and realized that, no, he had not fallen into a ditch after all, but had written a novel in response.

Usually, when I’m making an argument against some defenseless, nameless person, I like to paraphrase their point into two or three words, tops, and then go on with my own point at a very lengthy length.  But I could not paraphrase AE’s point, because I’m not sure what his point is.  It was all very confusing and only made my headache worse.  So I copied and pasted it into a pseudo guest entry.  As you can tell, I’m getting very lazy with my entries, using all these cheaters’ tricks like pastes and links and stuff.  That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m going to sit by idly and just let you guys hear AE’s side of the story.  So I inserted some of my own comments.

AE’s original words in blue, my commentary in black brackets.  Also, because AE likes to write in confusing little circles, I gave his points alternate titles to make them easier to understand.

0. First of all, I am willing to undertake this exercise for its rhetoric merit.  [I do not know what rhetoric merit means, but I like it because it appears to be the reason I got this list in the first place.]  There exists no stance or viewpoint that we are entitled to hold without expectation that we can defend it [unless you're Sarah Palin], and I am eager to do so. That said, I think that the decision not to have sex, as one face on the sex-coin [I wasn't even aware of the existence of this sex-coin, which is clearly my problem in the first place], is not the one that should require justification. To have sex is not some sort of default state from which temporary abstinence is an irrational aberration.  [However, it is the only way to get boys to like you.  In my experience.]  Unless you’re viewing things from some sort of evolutionary, atavistic [I also do not know what this word means.  From now on I will shorten this sentiment with the notation BWICU - big words I can't understand] perspective. In which case, fine, but let’s continue this discussion with clubs and clothed in animal furs.  [Incidentally, wearing animal furs in clubs is now in again.  At least in the clubs I go to.]  Enough of the fancy language, too. [Thank god, because my laptop is old and slow and can't simultaneously run dictionary.com and gmail at any reasonable speed.]

1. But All The Other Kids Are Jumping Off The Sex Bridge  (I want to feel special.)

Let’s start with the silliest. There is just too much gosh darn sex going on these days.  [I would like to know who these people are, having all this sex.  Most people I know are sex-wanters and not sex-havers.  But this could be due to the quality of the crowd I hang out with people willing to hang out with me.]  It would seem that people are having extra-marital sex more frequently and with more partners than ever before. I can’t back this up, though I challenge you to find stats that disprove it (the best I’ve got is this).  [Please click on the link.  That is how you figure out that AE is talking about premarital sex and not extra-marital sex.  This is an important distinction because I don't want people to think I'm pro-home-wrecking, unless the other girl/guy is a total bitch/jerkass, in which case you should of course rescue the object of your desire from a lifetime of domestic misery.]  The age of sex-havers is going down, too; studies in New Haven, Connecticut showed that a not insignificant [linguistics students please take note, this is called a double negative in English.  It has no practical purpose but is a great way to increase word count if you're doing freelance writing and getting paid by the word.] number of sixth graders had already had sex. By sixth grade I barely knew what a pelvis was, much less what I could do with it. [This actually explains a lot.  Equally anonymous studies have shown that once a child falls behind at a young age, he will spend the rest of his life playing catch-up, but failing.]  This isn’t necessarily, a bad thing. But it’s a trend, it’s the thing everyone’s doing. And whether I was raised this way or figured it out on my own, I say let’s take a moment and consider following the crowd, especially when the crowd is very big.  [This is the same stance I took when the iPod first came out.  And then the iPhone.  And then the MacBook Air.  I hate Apple and rail endlessly against them.  However, this is because I cannot afford to buy any of their products, and also/as a result am Apple technology illiterate.  Instead, I am stuck using a bunch of cheap annoying clunky machinery.]

2. What’s So Great About Pleasure (I am a masochist.)

[I actually do not know how to respond to this.  What is so great about pleasure?  Let's all take a second to think about this.  If you can't readily come up with a clear, concise answer, you'd better cut pleasure out of your life before it's too late.]

Might as well ask, then, why is everybody having sex? Well, probably because it feels good.  [And also to get boys to like you.]  And we, as a culture of humans [I thought we were just humans], love things that feel good. We love things that stimulate and titillate and tickle and sooth [but not all at the same time; that would be too much], and we seek them out whenever we can. Explosions in action movies, that buzz off the second [or fifth] cosmopolitan, those bolts of pleasure from a satisfying sexual encounter. Again, not a bad thing, but I believe that we need to be careful about becoming slaves to our enjoyment.  [I agree, slavery is bad.]  There is nothing we should do solely because “it feels good,” and I think allowing ourselves that sort of indulgence (in a general sense) can lead to a bunch of bad habits.  [You hear that, Mr. Holy Grail?  Oh, I haven't introduced you to Mr. HG yet.  Just wait.]

3. This Guy’s Weird (Thoughts on Pleasure)  (I am still a masochist. I am also super emo.)

My thoughts about argument number 2 are…drawn into sharper relief by the fact that I don’t derive an excessive amount of emotional or mental satisfaction or enjoyment from sexual pleasure.  [This is totally unfair.  The rest of us don't derive excessive satisfaction from sex.  The amount of satisfaction that we derive is just right.] I will get hard, I will orgasm, but I’m personally not too thrilled about it. I think this is probably largely a trust issue; I slowly/rarely trust my partners/people in general, and therefore often see any attention my partner pays to me in bed as something they feel compelled to do.  ["You don't really love me.  You're only trying to sleep with me despite my protests because you think you have to."]  And as I’m not into hookups for the obligation of it, that doesn’t really interest me. Even the best blowjob on its own will leave me feeling sort of bored and impatient. The very fact that I’m being sexually pleasured has me mentally less interested. [At least he has this in common with all other men.  Maybe a few minutes prior to all other men, though.]  My penis may be enjoying it, but I’m not really, [disproving the common theory among women that men and their penises are in fact one inseparable entity] so when can I get back to interacting with you instead of watching you, you know, do your thing?  [The simple answer is: when you orgasm.  Or die.]  Of course, we’re talking about sex, but it’s the same thing. Sex supposedly feels better than other forms of sexual expression. Well, okay, but I’m not looking for something that feels better. In fact, I’m sort of avoiding it.

[At this point, you probably think this guy is insane.  But I think he's onto something here.  There are in fact times when I women feel totally obligated to sleep with men, even though we're definitely not in love with them, or don't even know their last names.  However, there are other times when we're just super horny and need to rape some dude, a situation that no one should ever feel bad about.  The problem is, because women are crafty, crafty animals, there is no way for these dumb guys to tell when is what.  I think this at least partially accounts for the problem of the "No means Yes" phenomenon - when confused, just keep insisting.  In light of this terrible dilemma, the only distinction I can recommend is this: whoever is doing all the taking off of clothes is the initiator.  If it's the guy, you're a creep.  If it's the girl, enjoy.]

4. Really Weird (Thoughts on Control)  (I am a control freak.)

What I just said is not how I feel about my partner’s pleasure, I should hope it goes without saying. I want my partner to feel the best she’s ever felt in her life.  [If you're not into/good at sex, your best alternative is to buy her a Louis Vuitton bag.  Limited editions preferred.  This applies generally everywhere, but especially in China.]  And I feel most comfortable when I’m in “control” of myself and, to some extent, the hookup.  [He IS a man!]  By this I don’t mean that I want to be holding the key to the handcuffs. I mean that it’s important to me that my partner is always feeling better than I am, and I can’t guarantee that during the mutual pleasure-platform that is intercourse.  [Oh no wait, spoke too soon.]  And control over myself is a factor, too:one side-effect of pleasure (for most) is the way it takes over your brain, and how great it is to submit yourself to those wonderful nerve firings as they shoot around your brain. [This is the side-effect? What's the main effect?]  Except that I disagree; I’ve never enjoyed any sort of impairment of my mental faculties or any sort of bodily function. In any sort of sex, truly embracing pleasure means releasing control, giving yourself over to another person. But I prefer for my person to stay under the control of my person. Intercourse is a mutual enjoyment, equal footing sort of act. And that worries me.  [That's what the handcuffs are for, silly.]

5. Nihilists in the Bedroom  (I choose nothing over nothing.)

Sex doesn’t mean anything. It’s not a magical shining moment that forever determines the rest of our lives or in any serious way shapes who we are as a person [except for nuns]. For some, sex can mean everything: they may see it as their doorway to adulthood [maybe for guys, but for girls it's menstruation], their first proof of true love [that's LV bags, here in China.  In hippielands like Berkeley, California, it's a seashell you found yourself on a cold windy beach and then wrapped in a paper napkin.], the pinnacle of their self-expression [I always thought it was shoes.  You can tell everything about a person from their shoes, no lie.  Except for really poor people, they have no choice.]. But these are all personal designations, which only further proves that, on its own, sex doesn’t mean anything. But if that’s the case, then not having sex is exactly the same, all things held equal, as having sex. So I might as well not have sex.  [It's this last sentence that lost me.  Let's test this theory by substituting the word "sex" with "ice cream."  If having ice cream is exactly the same as not having ice cream, I might as well not have ice cream.  No, that does not make sense to me.]

6. That Invisible Line  (I avoid change.  Even if the change is from nothing to nothing.)

And while it doesn’t matter, there is a hard and fast line between having had sex and not having had sex. It’s a distinction that, yup, doesn’t mean anything, but it’s a distinction nonetheless. Once I have sex, I forevermore have had sex. If I’m so unsure about all these things, why cross a line from which I can never return? Having never had sex, I can always choose to cross those tracks later. Once I have sex I loose that choice (and that power, and that control). This is also why I’ve never done drugs.

[Lines get such a bad rap.  As someone whose biggest hobby is crossing lines, I'm just going to say a few words in defense of line-crossing.  Granted, line-crossing is not for the faint of heart.  All sorts of bad things can happen to you, and probably will.  You could get fined by the municipal government.  You could step on a landmine and have your limbs blown out.  You could get electrocuted.  Only some of these things have happened to me.  Crossing lines is the single greatest cause of all my regrets in life.  But there's nothing like regret to remind you that you're alive, guys!  I probably have more regrets than anyone else I know, and I feel super alive!  Are you sold yet?  My mom is not.  She thinks I'm super stupid.]

7. The Big Deal  (I am nothing.  Please don’t think that I’m something.)

Also while it doesn’t matter, it does matter. People bundle up so, so much importance into sex even without trying to. I know so, so many people who had their first (or second, or twentieth) sexual encounter entirely of their own volition (this was almost a BWICU, but luckily I took a Criminal Law class and learned what it means.  Or at least I think I know what it means, and it might not be the same thing that AE thinks it means) and only afterward realized (and sometimes during) that they regretted it.  [Yup.  So, so many times.]  Sex can be regretful, painful, traumatic. We like to be cool and flippant about it, but that doesn’t mean we’re aloof as we think we are. Which was an absurd thing to think in the first place, given that our bodies are chemically wired to place a lot of importance on sex (for obvious reasons). But if I’m not 100% sure that I’m properly emotionally invested in a partner, why engage in an act that will make her body start pumping out chemicals telling her that I am friggin’ awesome and an important thing to keep around?  [Delusions - the backbone of our will to live.]

8. Those Things Are Bad For You  (I am a bald Canadian Catholic freak.  Or aspire to be.)

http://www.davidmacd.com/catholic/chastity.htm

Heh.

[It offends my ego to find myself arguing against a Canadian.  But I will do it anyway.  I will do it by way of repeating a joke that I stole from Mr. Holy Grail (I know, him again), slightly paraphrased.

Once upon a time, there was a dude.  He only drinks beverages from the spot on the cup rim right above the handle.  When people asked him why he kept acting so weird, he replied that he does this because people are dirty and full of disease and the best way to avoid getting other people's dirty diseases is to drink only from this spot, where other people never use because it's so inconvenient and weird.

One day, Mr. Weirdo saw another man doing the exact same thing and got super excited, because he thought he had found Mr. Weirdo Number Two and that they were going to become BFFs.  Brimming with excitement, he tapped dude #2 on the shoulder and asked him, "Hey, do you also drink from that spot because you're trying to avoid other people's dirty diseases?"

Dude #2 said, "Oh no, I'm drinking from this spot because I have a very very dirty disease, highly contagious, and I'm trying to avoid passing it onto others by drinking from a spot where others never touch."

It goes without saying that Dude #1 died from shock and paranoia on the spot.

What is my long-winded, obscure point?  It is that you can get all sorts of terrible diseases from anything!  This joke is especially great because it actually happened to someone I know.  She drank from some dirty ho's cup and got herpes.  Herpes!!  Then her cold sores broke out while giving her boyfriend a blowjob, and now he has herpes too, of the more gross and painful variety.  While this is actually a terrible thing and not funny at all, it goes to prove my point.  You can't win no matter what you do.  Just give it up and enjoy life.]

9. What [Do Any Emotions Whatsoever] Got To Do With It  (I am dead inside.  Why bother.)

When I was younger, I assumed that makeouts were something you did with someone you were dating, emotionally connected to, really super into. Then I had my first make out with a friend, and my second make out with another friend, and I said to myself “well, I guess kissing is just kissing. All the…heavier stuff, that’s what you do with a girlfriend that you’re really committed to.” And then I did all those things with a girl who I wasn’t really committed to, all at her bequest [I don't think this means what he thinks it means, because I looked it up.  Also because I took a class in Wills & Trusts, and I'm assuming this girl wasn't planning to die at the time.], request, and occasionally insistence. And all over my repeated assurance that I wasn’t romantically interested in her. So, I realized, no, you can pretty much do anything sexual you want with anyone and it’s all fine. Or, at least, that’s how society feels about it. So, for the sake of good old fashioned caring, I decided that I might as well leave one holdout for that hookup where I know that I know and trust my partner, when I can tell myself that I know and trust them without worrying that I’m lying to myself. This feeling is different from “love,” mainly because “love” doesn’t exist.  [Oh, crap!]  So maybe the most important reason I don’t have sex is because if no serious emotional commitment is required for most physical encounters, can’t they at least be a solid qualification for sex? Please?  [I'll think about it.  No.]

10. Because Sex Is The Great Corrupter of People and Things  (Sex is evil.)

Seriously, do your research. The Ancient Sumerians knew it [if you have sex, you will no longer be friends with wild animals, and will eventually die] and the Meakambat know it, too  [when one man has sex, other men not having sex tend to get pissed off.  Then sorcery begins.].

[People love to talk about the root of all evil.  Money, envy, sex, greed, fear, television, Grand Theft Auto, rap music, gluten, you name it.  The only thing I've learned from all this is that evil is everywhere.  You can't beat it.  If you can't beat it, might as well embrace it.  I love gluten, and television too.]

I know it seems like I’m being overly hostile to AE, which even I’ll agree is completely uncalled for.  This post took me forever to write because I kept dropping it to go hang out with people who clearly adopted the direct opposite of AE’s views.  You’d think I’d agree with those people more, but it turns out that I’m agreeable with no one.  This is the first time in my entire life I have ever advocated for a little bit of moderation. Moderation is generally bad and an excuse for the apprehensive, the uncertain, people afraid to go all in.  But seriously, this is getting ridiculous.  Can’t we all be a little bit normal and just have sex like, 3 times a week?

Rose-Colored Promises

One early morning recently, I woke up in a war zone.  Even before I opened my eyes, I could hear the explosions all around me, the long trail of a whistle followed by the excruciating suspense of silence, ending with a BANG!!  This is the end, I thought, sprawled out in bed with pillowcase creases imprinted into my face.  Some country somewhere, probably the Obama Administration, has finally gotten sick of this constant manipulation and bullying from the Chinese Communist Party, and has decided to end the “When And How Is China Going to End The World And Kill Our Soul” debate once and for all.  Either that, or Russia is jealous and pissed and letting us know it.  This is what I get for choosing to pay the exorbitant rent to live near CBD.  If a bomb hits anything, it would be my apartment window.  I could be paying 1/4 of the rent to live in a shack outside the 5th ring or something, and no bomb would ever fall there.  Dear god, if you ever want to show me that you love me, now would be the time.  Actually, if you ever want to prove to me that you in fact exist, now would be the time.

It wasn’t war.  Seconds later my cell phone went off.  It was my mom: Happy Chinese New Year!

You might think this looks all pretty and stuff. But try waking up with your head 20 inches from exploding chemicals at 2AM every day for 15 days straight. NEVER LIVE IN AN APARTMENT WITH AN OPEN COURTYARD (i.e. all apartments in China).

If you think war is scary, I am here to tell you that Chinese New Year celebrations, in actual China, are much, much worse.  (Elsewhere it just means Chinese people gathering together to eat.  Like they do pretty much every other day, except they eat a bit more on certain occasions.)

First, there is the problem of there being nothing to eat.  The lady who makes my dumplings is gone.  The lady who makes my jian bing is gone.  The lady who makes my noodles is gone.  You might be starting to get my drift here.  There is nothing to do except sit in my dusty apartment (the lady who cleans my apartment is also gone) and steep in anger and starvation.  Where is the work ethic?  Where is their sense of responsibility?  Doesn’t anyone care?  What about meeeee?

Okay.  All was not lost.  Every month or so I go to Carrefour and stash about 500 frozen dumplings into my freezer in preparation for exactly this type of culinary disaster.  Unfortunately, bite-sized food is my downfall.  Somehow my brain has convinced itself that bite-sized food is not real food.  Anything bite-sized, I can eat indefinitely and never trigger my stop-eating-or-die sensors.  Suffice it to say that all 500 dumplings were gone quickly.

I did the logical thing and went back to Carrefour to buy some more.  This is when I realized that all the people who make dumplings, freeze them, package them and transport them to Carrefour had also gone the way of the other 1.3 billion people in this country and disappeared into the ether.  I didn’t know what to do.  For the first time since I learned that I can exchange money for ready-made food, instead of learn to cook food for myself, I worried about my livelihood.

Therefore I went to my Married Friends’ house.  I mainly come into contact with four types of people in life: 1) Happily married people; 2) Unhappily married people; 3) People desperate to be married; and 4) Other.  In my more optimistic moments, I like to say that those of us Other are the result of enlightened evolution, having unchained ourselves from the institution of marriage and therefore free to pursue the real pleasures of life.  However, this is mostly bullshit.  Most of those belonging to Other are divorcees.  Some are simply called Men.  The rest have been so burned and scarred from the aftermath of once having belonged to Type 3 that they’re simply seeking refuge in category 4, temporarily or otherwise.  No one knows what the “real pleasures” of life is supposed to mean, so we just hang out in dark bars and drink a lot.

Wait, I don’t really mean to make Others sound so bad.  At least we’re not as bad as types 2 and 3; we’re a much less depressing group to hang out with.  In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that we’re a pretty fun bunch, as most relatively young intoxicated people are.  (Stay away from old intoxicated people.  Oh man, so scary.  When you hit a certain age, you should get your life together and stop drinking.  Otherwise you will end up like Will Ferrell in “Everything Must Go.”)  When we’re tired of drinking, we go to the houses of Type 1 to sober up.  This is where the interesting balances of friendship come into play.

Why single people like to make friends/hang out with unhappily married people:  To reassure ourselves.

Why unhappily married people like to make friends/hang out with single people:  To escape.  Or to reassure themselves.

Why unhappily married people and happily married people hang out with each other:  Does not happen, to my knowledge.  Too painful to watch on both sides.

Why happily married people like to make friends/hang out with single people:  I do not know.  Revive fond memories of their tortured glorious past?  Out of pity?  Maybe it’s really because we’re always willing and able to jump in a cab and come over to eat all their food and watch their television and play their cards.

Why single people like to make friends/hang out with happily married people: To eat all their food and watch their television and play their cards.  Yes, it’s true, we could do these things in our own apartments.  But we don’t like to.  We like to furnish our apartments with neutral-toned modular furniture, but we don’t like to roll around too much in them.  Instead, we find comfort in the broken-in, butt-imprinted furniture of married people.  Why?  It’s like going to our parents’ house for Thanksgiving, except without all the nagging questions.  Just a little bit of the nagging questions.  Broken-in, butt-imprinted furniture vibes out comfort and security.  A false and misleading sense of security it might be, but I always take the bait.

In my simpleton brain, the cost-benefit analysis goes like this:

In my own apartment, I eat almost exclusively this:

Contrary to popular belief, you can, in fact, survive on frozen food.

Every once in a while, when I’m feeling generous, I treat myself to this:

4008 517 517. It is my favorite number, and it should be yours, too.

In my Married Friends’ apartment, I get to eat this:

Chinese New Year Feast: one married couple making food, a bunch of hungry single people sitting around eating their food.

No contest.  Luckily for me, my Married Friends are not only great cooks but generally awesome people as well.  Needless to say, they belong to the exclusive club of the happily married crowd.  This has many many advantages and one ginormous disadvantage for the rest of us.

Advantages:

  • Aforementioned: food, comfort, broken-in furniture.
  • Married people always have electricity.
  • Married people always have hot water.
  • Married people always have toilet paper.
  • Married people always have slippers for you when you come over.
  • Married people always have clean glasses for you when you come over.
  • Married people know where and how to buy things like pillows, comforters, ricemakers, humidifiers, air purifiers, cleaning supplies, bowls, and luggage.  Sometimes they will order these things on Taobao for you if you just leave a pile of cash on their kitchen table.
  • Married people have things like: stuffed animals, board games, mahjong tables, and picture frames.  All the warm fuzzy things in life that say, Hey, we’re not moving around for a while.  Meanwhile my greatest worry in life is, If I buy yet another pair of shoes, will it or will it not fit in one of my two suitcases when it comes time to haul ass out of here, whenever that may be?
  • You can do a lot of extra whining in front of married people.  They will look at you with benevolent pity, as though you’re a mildly retarded child.  Going too far with whining in front of non-married people will get you shunned, because they don’t want your loserishness to rub off on them.
  • Married people can sometimes be a heart-warming reminder that you can genuinely care for another human being without having to go home feeling like a sucker.

Disadvantage:

  • High risk of rose-colored illusions for single people.  Especially Type 3.

My Married Friends are two of the happiest people I know.  They are always running around doing gross things like eating off each other’s plates and saying disgusting things like, “My life is like winning the lottery.”  It sometimes makes me want to choke on my own vomit and die.  Other times it makes me want to write about their story here on this blog, just to balance out my overall negativity.  But they won’t let me do it, because they say I’m too negative and will make their story sound like crap.  Luckily, the Internet allows me to stalk my friends behind their backs, and it turns out that they already wrote their own story and posted it on the wonderful world wide web, saving me all the time and trouble:  The Only Positive Story You’re Likely To Read On My Blog.

Hanging out too much with these people can sometimes mess with your head.  It makes you think that you, like these super lucky people you know, will one day also find someone to go around your apartment and pick up all your snot-filled tissues when you’re sick and crumpled in a bathrobe.  Somebody who will sleep on a KTV couch at 4AM because you still want to sing, even though everyone else has left.  Somebody who will follow you around 15 hotel rooms until you find one you’re kind of okay with, and then listen to you complain about it some more.  And that such one day will come soon.  I can’t even count the number of people who take a look at these Married Friends and then go out to date some loser/bitch/swindler, hoping to turn swine into princes/ses.  Come on, guys.  It is exactly like winning the lottery.  That day may come, but it might not come soon and it will most likely not happen to you.  What I recommend is hanging out with people like me, after which you will be in such low spirits that finding a 5-kuai bill on the street will put you on cloud 9 for the rest of the day.  (I am happy; the jian bing lady is happy; everyone is happy – except the poor sucker who lost his/her 5 kuai.)

Second (I know, you think I forgot all about this whole Chinese New Year post I started writing), you might step on an explosive and die any second.  Or a sizzling fireball might come flying toward your eye out of the dark corner of nowhere.  In Cambodia, hundreds of people every year get their limbs blown out from stepping on a mine somewhere.  This gets tons of international coverage and have loads of people all riled up across the globe, and major de-mining efforts have been undertaken and major progress made in past decades.  In China, though, people embrace loud, dangerous explosions.  It is basically the only fundamental human right they’ve been guaranteed.  I heard that a few years ago, the communist party tried to take away this right, and for once democracy was victorious in Beijing and firecrackers resumed their rallying cry.  This year alone China boasts “more than 11,000 fires during the holiday, killing 40 lives, leaving 37 injured and causing damage of more than 56 million yuan (US$10.8 million),” according to the Ministry of Public Security (this exists?).  “The figure does not include a firecracker-triggered blaze that engulfed a five-star hotel in Shenyang in northeast China’s Liaoning Province, on February 3, causing 3 billion yuan in damage.”  (Source)

Look man.  If a measly firecracker can blow up a five star hotel, my no-star flabby limbs have no chance.  So my advice to you is, during the next Chinese holiday (apparently next Thursday, something something lantern?), when you encounter a scene that looks suspiciously like the one below, run away, not towards.  We are not UNICEF village children; if a photo of our maimed faces appears on the news, people will just laugh at us for stupidity, not send us lunch money for a year.

Remember, in the battle of man vs. fire, fire always wins.

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