Drink with Moderation? Total BS

The excessive consumption of alcohol has been a big part of my family for as long as I can remember, but my role in it has always been that of an observer, and  that of a helper in case people vomit too much (which always seems to happen). But now that I am 17, and in their eyes, old enough to have kids. Simply being an observer was not reason enough to avoid the family fun.

All the adults in the family start out by saying how excessive drinking is unhealthy and that you should “only drink to have fun and relax”, but not to the point of being drunk. Fair enough. But after 3 or 5 drinks, the same reasonable family member becomes a “hey, why isn’t your glass full huh?”, “hurry up and fill it up all the way” kind of person. And all the “we should drink with moderation” talk seems to turn into a glass full of BS, right after about 5 glasses or the equivalent of 7-9shots, which isn’t too much but isn’t a small amount either.

But to be fair, the consumption of alcohol in China is as essential to the culture as the celebration of the Chinese New Year and the usage of the Lunar Calender. It is a quintessential component of the rich Chinese history, and because of that it is very hard to avoid the “drinking scene” in China without being completely disrespectful of rather anti-social.

Thanks to some good genes and practice, a combination of nature and nurture, my alcohol tolerance is high even when in comparison to that of  chronic drinkers.  Now I must go and learn the drunken fist.

I could be a morning person….if morning happened around noon

Back in the days when I still lived in Walnut, I woke up around 6:00 AM and slept around 11:00 PM each day, mainly due to the fact that they sun rises around 6:00-6:30am and that the sun sets around 7:00-8:00pm.

But here in China, in the far western region of Xinjiang, the sun rises at 5:00 AM and sets around 10:30 PM, that a whole lot of sun every freackin day. So as the flexible person that I am, I was forced to adjust. Now I sleep around 2:00 AM and wake up around 11:00AM. I feel really guilty doing this, but hey if the sun sets at 10:30PM, can you sleep at 11:00 PM?

So now i consider myself a morning person, but morning happens around noon for me 🙂

Badminton is a Sport?!

Before today I had always thought badminton was something for the established people, a wonderful pass time activity combining physical exertions with friendly competition. But before today, I have never been exposed to badminton in China (or even badminton en general).

People in China take their small balls very seriously, I am talking about the “ping pong balls”, “badminton balls”, and “billiards balls”. I played badminton for the first time today, and it was one of the most intense physical activities I have experience so far, probably because I played for 4 hours straight, struck every shot like I was hacking wood for a fire, and moved around like a fencer and not so much a “badminton player”.

I am still amazed at the quickness that these “older male players” have when they strike the ball and recover  volleys. The only person from Walnut, who I know of, that plays badminton like a boss is my friend Jackie Ko, who is an absolute beast in terms of badminton. But Chinese badminton players take the word “intensity” to a whole new level, I have never seen people get so riled up and excited about badminton, come on, of all things to get excited about, one would not normally think of badminton as the first option.

The intensity of badminton and its players really drew me to the sport, and I am really liking it. The cardiovascular endurance and the gentle wrist strikes so intrinsic to the sport of badminton, makes it much more artistic and at the same time more challenging than most sports, which generally places more emphasis on brute physical talent and athleticism. By the stroke of simple good fortune, my father apparently is great friends with the Chinese National Badminton Team’s head coach and general manager. Though they typically work more with managing the players and team and less with coaching, both were former players themselves on the team back in the 1980s, and my father agreed to introduce me to them to learn some basics when I visit Beijing in two weeks before finally heading to the Shaolin Temple for my year long training.

I really learned to appreciate new things with this new introduction to badminton, really glad   I met this sport before I became too old to play it 🙂

First Fight ….

So, my older cousin (boy, 19) was treating me out to some late night snacks on this hot summer night, and along were two of his best friends, a girl and her best guy friend (both 18). We went for some nice home-made ice cream, then decided to take a stroll in the city park to get some fresh air and to chat about (life, Lakers offseason, music, and food). Time flew by, and soon it was around 2:00 A.M.

We were just about to exit the park bound for home, when my older cousin bumped shoulders with one dude from a group of two boys walking by (high school juniors, i later found out), when they suddenly turn back and started to scream a plethora of profanity at us. He called out “You little bi@ch with the glasses”, so at first I thought the anger was directed at me, in an attempt to avoid trouble in a foreign setting I began apologizing earnestly, but he did not stop and his temper only grew as he approached me fiercely. I later discovered that he was talking to my cousin who was also wearing lenses, but at the time i was totally clueless as to why he even turned around to shout at me.

As the boy continues to berate our group with insults, spit, and cigarette bits, the best guy friend of that girl did something that “the Jerry from 6 month ago” would have done. He shouted back in even worse language, and the boy (drunk and drugged I later knew) snapped in a heartbeat and charged at us. I quickly moved the girl out of harm’s way about 20meters away, and came back to break up what had then turned out to be a 5 on 1 fight. Apparently, 3 other friends of the two guys we bumped into (also drunk) had just bid farewell to the two, and sprinted back upon hearing the shouting. And now they were all ganging up on boy that had shouted back. I ran towards him to save him, getting socked and kicked many times along the way, before finally getting him out of there. But I was too late…..

The best guy friend had already been kicked in the face twice with blood streaming down his eye. By then, the fight had stop (for now), apparently drunks get tired easily and apparently the boy that my cousin bumped into was one of his childhood friends from the same apartment building and they had just recognize each other. Remember it is almost pitch dark with only park lights and they are drunk. Everyone had stopped shouting the, and all had backed away, all except one boy (a high school sophomore) who continues to shout at the already beaten best guy friend, saying “you better not call back-up”, “gonna beat the shit out of you right now”, and etc. Before I could stop him, he launched a tornado kick right at the best guy friend’s face, sending him a few steps back. I quickly ran towards him to cover him from further punishment, i was so rushed my glasses fell off.

I was very distraught and angry at the moment, somewhere between a “smh so hard at stupid teens” and a “someone is gonna get it hard” mode, so I suddenly stood up and lunged forward to pick up my glasses. It was then that the “hoodrats”, what we call these delinquent young boys here in China, pulled their Taekwondo friend back and told him to “stfu” and “gtfo” The TKD boy then came and apologized, in a very very fake way, saying “oh, I just broke up with my gf of 2 yrs so I am pissed af” and “do you need to go the hospital”. We said “no need for that” and headed off as the other hoodrats ran off, and from the sounds we heard, found another innocent victim to take out their own insecurities, issues, and imbalances in life.

We went to a store, the only one open at 2:30 A.M called “All-Nighter’s” and bought an ice cold Sprite that i held to the best guy friend’s head, while wiping his dripping blood. My heart was pounding fast, I felt very ashamed for not stepping in to parry the “blows”.With the combat training I have, I could have at least taken 3 guys (for they were skinny, drunk, and ill-fit). And he would not have ended up this messed up. Looking at his bludgeoned face, I felt guilty and blessed. Guilty that I couldn’t take him out of there sooner and blessed that there were no large switchblades or broken bottles (the two most common weapon of choice by these drunk hoodrats). I told him to “let it go” and not “seek revenge”, for he was about to call his whole group of friends to back him up. Luckily, I was persuasive enough and his phone bills, unpaid enough.

I then walked the girl home first for it was late, she is the daughter of my mother’s best friend from HS so I took care of her. I then took the bludgeoned boy home soon afterwards. Walking home with only my cousin, he got a phone call from an unknown number, apparently the hoodrats from earlier had got a hold of his number. Turns out that my cousin is tight with the head of the local gang around here, and they had called to apologize, making sure that no serious damages were caused. At least that was what my cousin told me.

Anyways, that was 1 hour ago, and this is prime time writing with no edits. I will try to stay out of trouble, for I only have 3 more days in this boarder town of Tacheng. Hope y’all didn’t use up too much of your precious time reading this whole thing. Really hope the best guy friend dude is alright, and doesn’t need further attention, he will be in my prayers.

Stories from the Family Farm

Today I went to the old family farm that I use to hang out at when I was an annoying little kids, well I still am, just older. It was truly an amazing culinary, soothing, and nostalgic visit.

Since my grandpa’s passing, we have left the farm in the care of trusted friends who happen to be beast farmers and gardeners and their skills were evident in the abundance of flowers and fruits tree all around our court yard. They planted an additional 80 fruits trees to the existing area which I call “Fruit forest”. The whole place is now filled with apple, plum, peach, pear, and olive trees of various size and age, but all share a common trait of unexpected health and vigor.

The vegetable garden where I use to stroll through and trip all over the place remains its old flourishing self. We took fresh veggies right off the vines and stems and I proceeded directly to cooking them (yes, without washing), because there is nothing much to wash off, for they are all grown in the natural, undisturbed, uninterrupted way.

After lunch, grandma started teaching me more cuss words in her native tongue (our Xibe ethnic language) and some family history. Apparently our people use to be the head of the Manchurian 8 flag army (the one that ruled China during the Qing Dynasty for 300 yrs), for Xibe people (our ethnic people) were known for our uncanny skills on the horse and with the bow and arrow, while also being top navigator and top translators. We were original in the northeastern region of China, in Manchuria next to Korea and Siberia. But the Qing Emperor decided to sent all our family and homies to the other end of China, the Xinjiang region to defend the boarder against the last great Tzar of Russia. What a nice gesture, sending your most valuable assets to the middle of nowhere.

Then we played majong, and being terribly bored of playing 1 yuan or 5 yuan, I recommended that we boosted the price to 100 yuan and 200 yuan to create more incentive to play better. I proceeded to win 1, 800 yuan in the next hour and no one ever wanted to play with me again.


Many Chinese are extremely hardworking………..in a very Lazy way

Since the day I arrived in China, observing my surroundings and understanding its intricacies have become habits (mainly cuz I am bored). From my observations, I noticed a similarity between what I saw and the common Asian (in my case, Chinese) stereotype that “Asians are super duper hardworking (in every endeavor they attempt)”.

With that said, not much has been said of the value of this “hardworking” industrious behavior, because most immediately assume a positive connotation. But the more I look around, I began to see much more of what I call “lazy hard-work”.

From a societal standpoint, people work very hard at what they do, but few are creative with what they do. Few attempt to venture into the unknown, to “work hard” to find innovative options and ideas. Most are content with the same level of production, the same way of life. This complacency mixed with some insecurity leads to the inability acknowledge the existence of alternatives, in my normal careless tone, I call this phenomenal not “narrow-minded” but  “simple-minded”.

From a commercial standpoint, most are content with “working hard” to COPY others, to counterfeit the popular brands, to reproduce the same script, instead of rewriting their own destiny. Companies work “very hard” to produce the same products already on the market, with the only goal of lower prices with unfair labor pays. This is a very lazy way of production, emulation implies not only lack of creativity but also lack of “motor” or motivation to create originality.

From an educational standpoint, students spend every waking hour (literally) working their butts off, but only to conform to rotary memorization of stiff concepts. They “work hard” at memorizing materials, but are lazy in looking for alternative (much healthier) study tactics and methods, ones that do not entail all-nighters for 2 yrs studying for that one College Placement test.

There are many reasonable and, in the short run, unchangeable causes for these above instances. But for now, I am only making observations and serving it up with my own spices of bias. Grant me some time, for it has only been 10 days, and I will understand the causes.

ABridged Version: “To work hard is easy and lazy, to work hard and smart is hard and difficult”


What the Heck Am I Doing Here?

If y’all are wondering why I am travelling in the middle of nowhere in the far western province of Xinjiang. It’s not only because I am a weirdo who seems to enjoy travelling to exotic places, but also because this is the place where my mother grew up.

It still amazes me how my mother was able to embark from such an isolated and desolate region to the top university in Shanghai and later to other great schools in Beijing and Hong Kong, while at the same time still keeping in touch and visiting every year she can to tend to her mother and family. Which is also why i continue to come back to this place of harsh extremes (in terms of weather, cuisine, and cultures), to stay in touch with family and history.

When I first came here the main form of transportation was bikes and horses on the streets, nowadays there are paved roads and brand-name imported car all over the places. The tallest building back then was 3 stories, today it is 30. But despite all the change I still ride my bike, half-naked of course, all over the place, much to the dismay of the citizens here. But hey, who said I care about what people think.

Thanks for reading, check back for some social commentary and updates soon 🙂