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Thursday, September 22, 2005


As I walked around Harbin today, I noticed some things that I have not seen in other places, or at least not in the numbers that I have seen them here. For example, there are an extraordinary number of small, too furry cutesy dogs running around in the parks and on the streets playing with each other while their owners watch and laugh. As I do not particularly care for this type of dog it makes me feel a little less guilty about eating one of them last night. Well, I don't know what kind of dog it was, and it wasn't all that tasty, but I would rather imagine it being one of the small ke ai dogs instead of a sweet golden retriever (which I might add was the dog shown on the sign next to the door). For those of you who think it wrong of me to eat dog meat, please remember that a dog tried to eat me in Kinmen, so I was just getting some back. [As Alan has related it to me, "ke ai" means "cute" or "adorable," but at least in Taipei the phrase tends to be used in the way that 7th grade girls will fawn over a Teen People magazine swooning, "Oh he's sooooo cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!" It is perfectly applicable to the little yippy dogs Alan describes.--ed.]

Another thing I have seen a lot around here - people wearing army fatigues. I mentioned yesterday there is a noticeable military presence, but it is hard to tell where the real army ends and the people who like to wear camouflage begin. Junior high kids sport them to school, and college freshmen as well. Unemployed men and women sit on corners in their olive green and brown jungle clothes holding up little cardboard signs advertising their skills (this is also the first time I have seen people doing this - at least they are sort of trying to look for work instead of only sitting around, I guess). Young kids sport the clothes with the same frequency as old men, and shops have the army clothes hanging in the front windows. I know what I want to be for Halloween this year: I am going to sport some camouflage along with the oversized sunglasses or tinted eyeglasses every motorcycle rider and man over a certain age seem to wear here (some women, too). [You could probably borrow a pair from mom if you ask nicely.--ed.] I have seen these exaggerated Mao glasses before, but never in such number. They go particularly well with the leather helmets and weaved basket hats some of the drivers wear as well. It's all about the fashion. [Well, it's really about the accessories, but...--ed.]

So this morning I was awakened by a knock on the door, around 8:00. I was up but not wanting to get up, but at a point where I had little choice. I thought the guy wanted me to pay, which was a bit strange at 8 AM but nothing seems strange here anymore, so what the heck...But then he told me that his family was returning to their hometown today and I thus needed to vacate the premises and find a new place to stay. OK, there are stranger things still. I had told the guy the first day I checked in I was leaving tomorrow and either he neglected to tell me about the sudden closing of their little place of rest, or they made a sudden decision to close up shop for the day.

This was not too much of a problem, though I will confess to being a bit pissy at the hassle involved. I walked down the street to where I knew some other places to be and soon a man bordering on midgetness limped by and waved his hand at me to follow. This was the first of not one, not two, not even three, but four -- 4! -- hobbled near-midgets that I encountered today. What are the odds of this? Something in the water here, I wonder?

All of these short people brought back to mind a special night in Prague a few years back, the king of surreal nights in my life. It began innocently enough with some young drunks standing up on a table and dancing and shouting and ended with a chair being broken over my roomate Steve's head. In between was a girl dressed like Sigourney Weaver in Ghostbusters (red dress, same awful hairdo) [Scroll down, she's there.--ed.] doing a sultry dance against a wall on top of a stool. And there were many other sights, all around us, strange people doing strange things which I could never adequately describe. It was a night, though, that the four of us present agreed could have been turned into an IMAX movie (the action was 360 degrees around us) and made a fortune...especially when the golden retriever just waltzed into the bar and began walking around like he was at home.

So why did all the short people today remind me of this one night? The highlight of that night was this: a midget man was doing a sexy strip tease dance on a bar table (I mean taking off his shirt and waving it around and throwing it, etc.) He was doing this for the benefit of a woman who bore a freaky resemblance to the hockey player Jaromir Jagr after a day or two of not shaving (and Dave, if you can provide a link to this...). [Your wish, my command.--ed.] For people familiar with Jaromir Jagr, you will know that the woman in question here was not the most attractive. Anyway, as the night progressed things got a bit more heated between the two of them and we were wondering - could it happen, could these two, the most unlikely couple, couple? We were spinning on our stools trying to follow all the action around us, but at least one always had an eye on that table, ready to report and rejoice at the moment.

And then it happened. The midget, standing on the chair next to Jaromiress was at about eye level, although there was ample cleavage between them. The cleavage could not keep them apart, though...and soon the two of them were kissing and making out as if the world was going to end around them (which we thought might just be happening given the whole debaucherous meltdown going on around us) and they wanted to go out with a bang so to speak.

Ah, the good old days.

On a more serious note, I did have an interesting encounter this evening as I watched the sunset by the river. An older man came walking by and was watching a long train (maybe 40 cars long) pass by on a bridge over the river. He was wearing those tinted glasses and his hand twitched as he stood there, his hands covered by dirty white gloves. Somehow we started talking and he told me his nephew lives and works in America. He asked me what countries I have been to and I told him that Ive been to 30 + places, but I only know how to say a few in Chinese. I asked if he had been to any others and he said no. I said China was a nice country and seeing his reaction, I asked him if he thought so.

"Now, its OK," he said, although without much enthusiasm. "But before, it was awful. Mao Tse Dong. Do you know of him? Life then was very difficult." And watching his distracted manner and his twitches and then his slow and painful walk as he left, I wonder what more he could have told me if I could only speak Chinese better.

One other oddity today. For the first time a Chinese man said my Chinese is bad. He asked the old man with the twitch if he could speak English. Neither can I, the man said. Too bad because his (meaning mine) Chinese is so bad. The twitching man came to my defense and said it was pretty good, but the other man just walked off. He was a bit of a twat, really, but I have to appreciate his honesty. You don't get much of that around here.

And last, and most important...everyone please remember to wish my brother a happy birthday today!


Anonymous Natalia said...

I canĀ“t believe you ate a dog... you homo carnivorous!

8:52 AM  
Anonymous Mom said...

All I could think of was "what would Siggy make of this."

11:40 AM  

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