All about the bling

I spend a lot of time shopping since I’ve moved to China. I’m not really sure how that happened because I was never much of a shopper in the States. I think it may have something to do with the fact that there is so much cool stuff that is so cheap. I’m a big bargain shopper and I love to hunt for a deal. I really have a hard time passing up something cool that is absurdly cheap, even if I don’t really need it. The other day I bought this pair of shoes for $1.50. I probably won’t wear them but a couple of times, but really… $1.50?! Pretty sure I’ll get my money’s worth if I wear them more than once. There is no shortage of deals to be hunted in Shenyang.

The other reason I enjoy shopping in China is the amazingly interesting sights you come across. Continue reading

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The one that almost got away…

Eating in China
Photo by benketaro.

The food here is different than it is in the US.

Sometimes it’s just a little bit different, but sometimes it’s a matter of life and death – literally. For example, I was at a seafood restaurant with a bunch of my Chinese colleagues. It was an all-you-can-eat buffet, hot pot style. Hot pot is a lot like fondue back in the US but instead of oil, they use broth. Usually you order lots of raw foods and have them delivered to the table. But at this buffet, you could go grab whatever you want and come back and throw it in the pot of boiling broth on your table to cook it.

So, I happened to be one of the last ones in the restaurant and when I got to the bar, most of them were heading back to their seats, plates loaded down with food. (It is really no wonder the Chinese guy always wins the eating contest.)

I grabbed a plate and walked up behind one of the guys. I noticed he had a crab on his plate and was picking up another one with some tongs. As he dropped the second one onto his plate he turned toward me with a look of panic. When I looked down at his plate, I realized that he was desperately trying to twist his plate around like a tilt-a-whirl trying to keep both crabs on there…

They were both desperately trying to make a break for it!

I’m not sure what the next three seconds means but you’ll have to judge for yourselves. My reflexes led me to reach my empty plate out just in time to catch the crab on the front in midair as he jumped off the plate. My colleague instantly reached down and grabbed my plate. In one smooth motion, he flipped it over, slammed it (and the crab) down on top of the other crab on the original plate. We stood staring at each other for half a second and then he grinned, gave a quick “Xie xie” and walked back to the table.

Only in China…

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I was the seafood…

A little story from the Left Brain of this operation:

Last weekend the company hosted a workshop/retreat for my department. Part of the deal was getting to visit some hot springs a couple of hours outside of Shenyang. First of all, nearly every other guy there was wearing a Speedo (or the Chinese equivalent). It was a little awkward. But that’s to be expected. I already stand out like a beacon just being American, having on my bright orange board shorts didn’t really make much of a difference.

So we’re going around trying out these different pools and I realized that they add stuff to all of them for different therapeutic purposes. I hopped into a coffee bath, a red wine bath, a beer bath, and a milk bath. They kept reminding us not to drink the water.

Really? You’d have to be pretty desperate to get buzzed off a hot spring but whatever. Apparently someone must have tried it at some point or they wouldn’t need to warn you, right?

In one of the other rooms, I jumped into a mint bath and an aloe bath. Then, we’re getting ready to head up to the lounge and grab some food when we run into one of the other German expats. He tells us we need to join him in the “Fishbowl”.

Now, I’m not sure what the “Fishbowl” is. It sounds pretty harmless, right? Probably just a big pool that’s got glass around it so everyone can see you or something. So…of course I agree. In the month we’ve been here I’ve already learned that this is a very dangerous thing to do – agreeing to something you don’t understand. Bad idea. I should have listened to my gut.

In this case, the “Fishbowl” turned out to be a pool…

Full of fish.

That nibble on you.

Traveling China: the fishbowl
Photo credit to Pilotgirl

First thought – “Oh, that’s not so bad – it’s like scuba diving.”

Second thought, “The fish don’t bite you when you scuba dive.”

Third thought, “How the heck can I get out of here?!?!”

Now, it should be mentioned that there are 2 other Chinese guys and 3 Germans in this group. And as I’m looking for an escape route, one of the Germans proceeds to pay for all of us to use the “Fishbowl”. For half an hour. Fantastic. All hope of escape just went out the window.

I figure, what the heck, I’ll just dip my feet in or something. So I sit on the side of the pool, trying to look inconspicuous. Which works for about 45 seconds. Until one of the Chinese guys asks when I’m going to get in. I figure I can’t play it off for another 29 minutes so I bite the bullet.

Up until this moment, I’ve never in my life had a fish bite me before. This changes very quickly. These fish are like flesh-seeking missiles – with teeth. So, the first few bites are kind of interesting. It’s like a puppy nipping at your finger or toe. But after you’ve been in the water for a few minutes, it’s like 101 Dalmations all nipping at your fingers, toes, legs, back, stomach, etc.

Not so interesting anymore.

More like horrifying.

As if all this isn’t bad enough, think back a minute and remember that I’m an American. So, unlike all of the other guys in the pool, I’m not wearing a Speedo. I’ve never been so jealous of a Speedo.

I spent the next 25 minutes clutching my shorts to my legs with a death grip.

Eventually I realized that if you keep moving, they don’t latch on as much and will move to easier targets (aka my work colleagues). I start doing laps. Not really, but let’s just say I’m not really sitting still most of the time.

Finally our time runs out and I jump out of the pool. Just to be certain I don’t get roped into anything else, I head over to get some food.

I figure that whatever Chinese food they have has got to be better than the reverse, where I am the Chinese fish food.

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