... and in Xin Dong Li bind them.
Wow. What a completely surreal night. **Disclaimer: this is not a censored post by any stretch of the imagination**
Aside: my classes were good, but the kids were a tad rowdy, and my afternoon class of intermediate teens… I had to run them, literally. I had them doing running dictation: race to the board, get as much info as they could from dialogue cards in 5 seconds, then run back and dictate. Did that for 30 minutes, until one team finished the exercise. They loved it, and it got what I needed across. Two of the girls from my other 11-14 year old class followed me again during the class break in the morning. It’s just starting to get a little disturbing.
Okay, so back to the surreal night and the no-doubt attention-grabbing subject line. Alistair and I headed out around 10pm to meet Michelle and Nick at Han Re (“Hon Ray”), a kind of western-ish bar nearby. (western as in the hemisphere, not music style) We ran into two of the teachers from the other ESL school in Tang Shan, and Nick does… well, Nick-like things. Such as licking spilt alcohol from the table (Hepatitis A, B, C, D, E, F and G anyone?). In doing so, he undoes the button (purposefully) of his shirt to show his nipples. Some guy was leaning against a pillar near our table and Nick gives him the seductive eye and bares his nipple at the man, and continues to soak up the alcohol.
… the guy was the fucking owner of Han Re. He comes over, orders us all another round of beers, sits down, and proceeds to toast us and engage us in conversation. For some reason, he chose me as his primary interlocutor, despite my constantly looking to Alistair to attempt to translate and converse for us. We got across that we’re lao shuan (teachers; “Wumen lao shuan something something”), and he says he owns the place. Given how he ordered us a round quite quickly, didn’t pay anything, and had long conversations with various workers there, I’m disinclined to be incredulous.
Throughout this, Nick is off talking to the two other ESL school teachers, leaving us to the misery he and his nipples of doom instigated. This guy was offering smokes and pulling friends and workers over to show them that he was sitting with us, three foreigners. He then invites us upstairs, which apparently is just a KTV (karaoke) place. Wifey shows up and drags him off. We flee the scene within 3 minutes, heading to Xin Dong Li.
Xin Dong Li. I really don’t know how to describe it except how I did to Aaron in an email: it’s a cross between Barrymore’s (tiered levels), the Mercury Lounge, and a 3-ring circus exotic-dancer club. I mean if Cirque de Soleil had pole-dancing, weird-ass Michael Jackson-dancing 3-pitchers-of-beer drinking shows… it would look like Xin Dong Li. It was just… befuddling, really.
We showed up as some guy is downing a litre of beer on the dance floor, and suddenly the Star Wars theme blares, reverberating in our ribcages and this guy in ‘Thriller’ Michael Jackson wear saunters down and blam… goes to town. He starts downing beer, doing flips while singing, kipping, walking on his hands, etc… then proceeds to chug 3 pitchers of beer within 20 minutes. I figure at this point (4 hours later as per the time I’m writing this), he’s dead in an alleyway, having succumbed to alcohol poisoning. I think he was actually poured yet another pitcher as he was wrapping up. The entire place was clapping and chanting “yi, er, san, si!” (yee, are, san, suh… “1, 2, 3, 4”) as he drank. Oh, and there was a half-ring of fire at some point.
Then he finishes up (I seriously thought he was going to just drop dead on the stage/dance floor) and techno/dance music starts up and right there in front of us is a girl in a two-piece pink sequin-y skimpy outfit, pole-dancing. It was just staggering. Simultaneously, another dancer takes the dance floor a la some kind of twisted square-dance caller and goes to town. Half the bar empties onto the dance floor and starts to… well… see my description further down*.
Girl in front of us finishes up, and goes to another pole at a different bar counter, and a guy takes her place (one that I was there to judge for Michelle, giving her a “sober second opinion”, obviously minus the sober at this point). Then another girl switches in, then identical twin 1, then identical twin 2, etc. It was just crazy. The entire staff behind the bar minus one were all dancers, swapping in and out.
The odd thing is… no one paid much attention. It wasn’t perceived as sexual or alluring at all, despite their get-up and the nature of their performances. It was just freakin’ weird. Maybe it’s a shame-culture thing.
*By the way, born-and-bred Chinese people can not dance. White men can’t jump, and the Chinese cannot dance. It was like watching Dawn of the Dead to techno with a strobe-light. The dance floor itself moves, up and down. It’s like a movement stimulant, or a means of disguising how unresponsive they are.
The entire Xin Dong Li experience was just plain mind-jumbling. Now I understand why the other teachers kept saying “We can’t explain it - you just have to see it”. Indeed.
Oh, I now have a decent Chinese name, as the other teachers arrived at a concensus for my super-hero name last night: the Roving Monk. In Chinese, that’s liu lang de heshang, so that’s my Chinese name. Katy, one of the TAs, wrote it out for me in Chinese, and I copied it with crayons (I was Angie-inspired) and adorned the back of my office chair with it. Laminated to boot. Katy was raving about how I should do shu fa, Chinese calligraphy - she pulled in the cleaner to inspect my work as well. Apparently I did a good copy job. I credit the blue crayon and my muse, Angie.
So now everyone has a super-hero name: Alistair is the Flaming Duke (I swear he was saying the Flaming Jew because of how the Brits pronounce it ‘dee-uke’ - Michelle nearly pissed herself laughing), Michelle is Princess Blacksnake, Duncan is The Aceman, I’m the Roving Monk and Nick is… Little Miss Moist. He walked out in the midst of the democratic process a few months back, and thus was stuck with whatever name they saw fit to give him. We also gave some of the TAs hero names: Ema is the Wise Dragon, Lily is the Inquisitive Sorceress, Katy is the Fiesty Fox and Sophia is the Dizzy Diamond.
Anyhoo… it has been one helluva 24-hour period. I need sleep, and badly. I think images of that guy in a gossamer loin-cloth thingy will haunt my dreams… It just ain’t right to see a guy pull himself up a pole to the ceiling and then do acrobatics down it to a techno beat.
I wish I’d taken pictures of Xin Dong Li (especially for Aaron)… it defies description. Sorry, not much censoring in this post. I may as well not have written anything had I attempted to skirt the reality of this evening.
[I had to post this in the morning, as I couldn’t get to my blog to post.]