Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Catching Up Part 2: Fantastic Conversation, Famous Ice Cream, Puppy Farms?, and Buluosi Jiuba

My memory of this weekend has already become a little fuzzy, which is really disappointing, but I will do my best to capture what I can remember. I can't remember what was going on Friday evening, but sometime Friday night I happened upon our activities room full of people. I sat down and ended up in an hours long conversation with 白凯丽, 文博's roommate Weiqiang, 余休's roommate Bingnan, and 丽莎. We talked about so many things that I made sure to write myself a list right afterwards so I wouldn't forget: minzhudan/gonghedan/lvsedan (otherwise known as the Democrats, the Republicans, and the Green Party), America's indian problem, American names, airplane companies, conspiracy theorists (Bingnan said "不相信别人," or people who don't trust other people), and religion and marriage. Bingnan kept surprising me with how much American culture he had familiarized himself with; 凯丽 and I were glad to help him fill in the holes. The most interesting one came when we were talking about minorities and - though it took us a bit to realize it - Bingnan was operating under the assumption that American Indians and African Americans face exactly the same problems in American society. We spent a while after that trying to explain reservations, poor political representation, obesity, education problems and the like. But I have to say, I was as amazed by the breadth of our conversation as the depth. Being able to flow from one topic to another without any huge drops in my level of understanding made me really appreciate what the past weeks of living in China had done for my listening ability, and more importantly, my ability to ask the key questions that lead to understanding of a topic or a word I don't understand. I am absolutely not yet perfect at that - I wouldn't even say I'm great at it - but I'm very glad it's developing.

On Saturday, we went to Old Harbin, a district of the city where the old-timey, turn-of-the-century Russian architecture has been preserved (as opposed to the newer Russian architecture up and down the streets...everywhere else in Harbin). Have some pretty pictures and then I'll talk about it:

Mosque in Harbin
The sign said girls in shorts/skirts weren't allowed, but they didn't stop us from coming in to look.
This local Muslim was very glad to talk with us.
We went to a famous dessert place to get ice cream. So. Good.
The market street was packed
An outdoor pet market. All I could think about were American puppy/kitten farms... But they were all so adorable...
The woman put bow stickers on their heads because she said it was good-looking. They are pretty cute.
丽莎's roommate Fengyue (so unbelievably sweet) and fish!

After wandering in this part of the city with 丽莎, her roommate, and 国勇, we went to eat in a Muslim restaurant - it was delicious. I think I've been very spoiled by food in China, actually.
Everything was always so tasty that I think I was desensitized to just how tasty everything was. Going back to the Yale caf will be a little difficult - not that Yale food is bad, just often bland.

That night, I had an adventure of adventures. I finally decided to go out with the group of my classmates that usually went out to bars every weekend - 梅择儒, our elected leader on the weekly quest for bars (we joked about him having a bar-radar), promised me dancing, so of course I was going to go out. And I have to say, I had so much fun I only wish I'd gotten up the effort to go out sooner. We started out at Earth, the bar we'd all gone to together during our first weekend in Harbin. I chatted with two of the new Fullbright student's roommates and had the interesting experience of watching inter-cultural drinking games at the bar - the bartenders filled a bunch of shotglasses lined up along the bar full of beer and then everyone crowded aroudn cheered and counted as the contestant tried to drink as many as he could as fast as possible. There was a lot of spurting beer, but Korea came out on top. Also caught sight of the only gay (possibly) couple I've seen in China - after the victorious Korean guy retreated to the bathroom, he was met on his way out by another guy and there was embracing and talking with faces very close. One of the roommates I was talking to was amazed; he said it was the first homosexual action he's seen in public as well, despite living in China all his life and also having decided he himself is bisexual. As a huge sidenote, I am very, very interested to know about gay culture in China. We had a few gay Americans in our group, and most of the roommates were surprised and interested by it. There wasn't any real prejudice, I don't think, just simple curiosity, or the shrug-of-shoulders, I'm-not-offended-but-I-don't-understand kind of reaction, from what my friend said. I could go on a huge tangent here and talk about our discussion (in English, after the language pledge was over) of Chinese sexuality (another thing I wonder about), but I'll save that for a later post.

Anyway, we left Earth at about 2 am to head to Buluosi (Blues) Bar, which apparently gives free beer to foreigners in order to entice an exotic clientele. They certainly succeeded - at the bar, there were barely any natives, it seemed. We had a booth on the second floor, and my first real impression of the place was amazement at the intercultural minglings on the dance floor. There were a lot of Russians, some Koreans, some Africans, some Indians, some Spanish-speaking peoples, a few English-speakers (I think I heard an Irish accent from one guy?) and probably more. Watching the different dance styles was fascinating. Indian-guy backing off Spanish-speaking-sexpot trying to grind on him, Russian dudes awkwardly bouncing or throwing themselves around on top of the speakers, Russian girls...well, if regular Russian style weren't flashy enough, this bar did a lot of Russian prostitute business, so most of the Russian girls were in stilettos and super-tight/skimpy outfits. A super-short, flowy dress with only a thong underneath? Yeah, bad idea, especially if you let yourself get thrown around on a pole by some drunk Irish dude. There was a stripper pole right in front of the DJ booth, and this one drunk and rather unattractive Russian chick was hanging on it for most of the night. She also kept trying to get anyone and everyone to put on a show with her. I loved the super-young Chinese barkeep who clearly didn't understand her advances at all - everytime she grabbed him, he sort of tolerated it for a minute then moved off to his own corner of the stripper-pole-platform to just bounce happily by himself. Yay innocence?

I had a great time dancing my heart out despite the fact that the DJ only played about 10 or so American songs - and repeated them several times - in addition to weird Russian techno and some good Korean songs. Discovered a great dancing buddy in my friend 英杰 and I plan on going to visit him in New York and go clubbing. Got to laugh at one of the Fullbright roommates who obliviously kept interrupting 梅择儒 and the Russian girl he was dancing with. We danced until the sun came up, literally, although that's not hard at all to do in Harbin, where the sun rises around 3 am. A little past 5 am we had a problem, though. 梅择儒's Russian chick had a boyfriend, apparently, and he was none too happy with her flirting with 梅择儒 all in his face. He kept grabbing her and trying to make her leave, and she was obviously unhappy about it. 梅择儒 wasn't about to let the boyfriend just drag this girl away, so he, the boyfriend, and the boyfriend's much more aggressive friend left the dance floor to exchange words. Sensing a barfight, we all followed, not wanting to leave our buddy alone with these guys. We'd heard stories about nasty Russian barfights and were not eager to leave him prey to whomever wanted to get upset. The chick's friends got involved, the like 5 other people left in the bar came to watch, and the bartenders were unhappy. After making sure that the girl wasn't going to be taken against her will, we all bounced quick at the bartenders' insistence (Fullbright roommate this whole time was still very oblivious to the situation. It was less funny than before, considering). On our taxi ride home in the bright, bright sunlight we passed morning markets already open - old people and their early rising, you know. I passed out for much of Sunday, but it was such a fun night overall. I love dancing.

And that was weekend #...6? Terrifying that school (like, Yale school, sophomore-year school) is starting tomorrow! But I won't abandon this blog for at least two more entries. I need to finish the story!

1 comment:

  1. Harbin intrigues me. I need to make a visit there next time...