Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Boxer Hash #79

Last Saturday we went hashing for the first time in Beijing. I'm going to assume the bulk of you have never heard of the Hash House Harriers, so here's a quick summary. Hashing is a "drinking club with a running problem." The idea is two hares get a fifteen minute head start to lay a trail with flour. The pack of hounds (all remaining hashers) try to catch the hares by following the trail. Along the way, the hares lay false trails and decision points to throw the hounds off the trail. Hilarity ensures. At the end, everyone is rewarded with cold beer followed by a circle where they sing lewd songs and make each other drink. Established hashers get a name, which is generally funny or perverse and relates to their occupation, a scandalous escapade, or a personality trait. My name is Tubed Meat, as in, i don't eat them. Hashers without a name are referred to as "Just (name)" or "No name (name)." Kennel's exist all over the world and every major city likely has a few. More information on Hash House Harriers can be found on the intertubes.

This was Just Therese's first ever hash run and my first outside of the Boulder Flatlanders HHH. Beijing actually has three different kennels, but the Boxer Hash is the only one that leaves the city. After meeting at Tim's BBQ and meeting some hashers, we boarded the bus and headed north. Our destination was north of Huairou and actually fairly close to where we camp at the wall.

The hares for the day were Kiss My Maple Leaf and Stick Massage. Almost immediately, it was obvious this would be a legendarily crappy trail. The trail started by leading the pack through trash. Twice.

For the bulk of the trail, we were lost on a newly tarred highway with rock slides on each side. We were high from the pollution and fumes of fresh construction. It wasn't long before tragedy befell us. I slipped down a landslide and a rock cut up my right hand, while Artsy Fartsy got himself attacked by one of the many dogs lurking in the village.

We cleaned ourselves up as best we could, but Artsy was worried about rabies. And rightfully so. I can think of no place to worry more about a dog bite than in a dirty, rundown, rural Chinese village, surrounded by garbage dumps and construction. Artsy and Mini Me found a minibus to take him to the nearest hospital for shots. ELEVEN of them.

The pack pushed on. However, the full crappiness of the trail would soon be evident, as it doubled back on itself, leaving us contemplating an infinite loop. Were we running the trail forward or backwards? There was no way to know. Only by calling the hares on a cell phone (after 45 minutes of searching) were we able to continue the trail.

For hours, we cursed the hares, one botched checkpoint after another. More phone calls were made, dogs were avoided, locals got concerned. We even tripled back over our infinite loop from before. Dry Hole and Silky Fag were heroes to us all, leading the pack to safety. Truly, it was the best trail ever. Eventually, it even felt like it. The last two miles were a beautiful run through the forest with a clean trail, obvious checks, a steep uphill, and some cool terraces.

Just Therese, just happy to be out of the construction and garbage.

The post-hash bash was at a pristine riverside location with a beautiful location for circle.
Some circle notes:
  • Hairy Crack, who just received his MBA, was presented by Dry Hole a copy of "The 10-day MBA", which sells for $16.95.
  • Just Therese and Bunzilla were appointed the beer lackey's for the circle.
  • Tripod and Breakfast Included tried to survive the circle unnoticed.
  • Tubed Meat went back across the river, around the restaurant, and up the hill back to the road where the van was to retrieve Just Therese's tequila, before realizing there were stairs leading directly from the circle to the bus.
  • The Hares were allowed to sit in chairs which were an appropriate metaphor for their crappy trail.
  • Since Kiss My Maple Leaf wasn't drinking that evening, he had to abide by the age-old tradition of "If you don't drink it, you wear it." And since he was a hare, he wore a lot of it.

There were also ducks and a great dinner. Artsy Fartsy returned from his inoculation and mild surgery just in time for dinner and a lot of beer.

Maybe Just Therese's hash name will be Quack Massage someday? But probably not.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Two Years and Counting

My two year anniversary of arriving in Beijing passed May 13th, and today is the anniversary of this blog. It's been an incredible ride and fantastic learning experience. Thanks to everyone for the love, support, and friendship. It literally would not have been possible without you.

Special thanks to...
Therese - Thank you for shaking up my world and showing me there's so much more to this city. Thank you for taking me out of my comfort zone and helping me into a different one. Thank you for reminding me to eat slowly, to look both ways when crossing the street so i don't die, and to get more sleep. Thank you for loving me and letting me love you. Thank you for forgiving me when i make mistakes and for appreciating me when i do good. Thank you for saving kittens and loving all living creatures. Cockroaches excluded. You're amazing and beautiful. Yay.

Parents - Thank you for all the support over the years. You've always allowed me follow my dreams, choose my own path, and define myself. You even come to visit me on my adventures, which shows me you are proud. Thank you for being the best parents you can be. Thank you!

Family - You will always be my best friends, no matter where we live. It's easy to get lost in this new world, and i don't ever want to forget where i come from. Thanks for teaching me all the awesome things you love... drums, skiing, music, beer, traveling, food, and love of family and friends. Let's never forget we're connected, and please forgive me when i lose touch.

Ray the GeGe - Thank you for coming to visit me in my new world. It was amazing to share it with family. The support from home means so much to me.

Beijing Friends - You have made jumping headfirst into Beijing's unknown look easy. I couldn't ask for a group of friends with more fun, creative, crazy, hilarious, and spontaneous energy. Thank you for being awesome. Woot.

Larry and Scarlet - Thanks for everything. This wouldn't be possible if you didn't take a chance on me.
As for my plans now, my two-year contract is up with US/Grant. Larry, Scarlet and I have all been happy with the progress and decided to extend the contract. There's no set end date, but there have been a few changes. We've negotiated an agreement to allow more vacation time to travel and relax. These past two years have been a lot of fun, but they have been extremely hard work too. I'm really looking forward to a break, the first of which will be in July and August. Three weeks of traveling someplace tropical like Indonesia or Vietnam and Laos, or The Philippines. Or Nepal and Tibet. Or Thailand?

Year three is shaping up to be really great. Look forward to new adventures both home and away, as well as positive energy in general.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Mad Men Party

Why do we look so stunning? Saturday was the Lisa and Tim's Mad Men party, based off the TV show on AMC. You only need to watch one episode to understand the basic premise: the show features advertising executives in the 1960's, captures the style and culture of the times, and portrays men at work, women as secretaries or housewives, and lots of gossip. Also drinking. There is plenty of drinking.

Always eager to hit Ya Show for a new suit or dress, therese and i were understandably excited for this party. We each bought a new outfit for 300 RMB, around $85 for the two of us. And damn, we looked good. Therese even got her hair done.

The party itself was fantastic. The bar was serving era-appropriate drinks like Manhattans, Tom Collins, Screwdrivers, and Sidecars. The attendees were classy, well dressed, and well mannered. In college, my favorite kind of party was always a cocktail party. This was no exception.

A few awards:
  • Best Hair: Nina (first picture below)
  • Most Creative: Jehan (a waiter, also wins Best Sense of Humor for that one.)
  • Best Looking in My Hat: Hsing Hui (she always steals my fedoras.)
  • Most Likely to Actually Pass as the Cast of Mad Men, Until You Hear His English Accent: Warren. (side note: could also pass for Dilbert)
  • Best Finger Food: Tied, Ellen's Bacon Wrapped Pineapple, or Hsing Hui's Pita with Josh's Mexican Queso Dip. (I was drunk and ate a lot of each.)
  • Most Creepy: Jeff (He got kicked out for "leering.")
  • Most Gorgeous: Therese (no question)
  • Best Suit: Me (Hey, i'm making the awards)
The outfits turned out pretty great... Enjoy the pics!

Joe and Jim posing in front of some Mad Men.

Hsing Hui making my hat look good AND ruining my serious pose.

Therese and Warren

Mike and Divya

Ellen and Lisa, the host, with Tim in the background.

Good times.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Five One Success

Beyond the chaos of this weeks possible deportation scare, (complete with a ride in a police car and a videotaping of my apology) it's actually been a pretty good week. Most of the goals i set out to accomplish became a reality. I didn't end up seeing Alice nor did we make it to Nanlouguxiang, but we did have a pretty awesome holiday.

When i last wrote, we were preparing for Chaoyang Park. We had a small picnic, played lots of frisbee and several rounds of Beer Fris, during which Jehan proved he is a dominant force. The Chait and i lost our first game against Jehan and Matt and won the second. In both games, we were down 10-6 (game to 11, win by 2), before tying the game to force overtime. In the final game, as the light faded, we were down 11-10 before hitting a 3-pointer to win 13-11.

However, for once, us foreigners with our frisbees and our beers and our weird games and big noses were not the center of attention. It was instead a group of Nordic (Dutch or Swedish, maybe?) Funkercisers, which google tells me is a term i just made up. That would be exercising by doing funky dance moves to music. I caught it all on camera. There were just three to start, but 30 minutes in, they had a following.

On Monday, we spent the better part of the day hiking Phoenix Mountain (Fènghuáng Shān), in northwest Beijing. We met Andy and Talia in Wudaokou and began the 1 hour journey by bus. It's hard to imagine Beijing is surrounded by incredible wilderness and natural beauty, and doesn't take long to escape the insanity of the city center. Apparently, locals know this as well, as there was no solitude to be found here. Hordes of people gathered here to hike on the holiday weekend. Still, it was good exercise, and the mountains were beautiful, but it just didn't feel right. Maybe it was the dilapidated buildings at the base of the mountain that remained in view, no matter how far you hiked. Or maybe it was all the yelling.

We never found out why, but for some reason, when the Chinese go hiking, they need to occasionally shout at the top of their lungs. Of course, if one person does it, many more join in. Soon, you have a chorus of Chinese people who sound like they are all in distress, shouting whatever important information they need to convey to everyone within earshot. We found this puzzling.

Anyway, beautiful place, might not go back, but glad we went.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Apologies and Guanxi

When i was just a wee kev and was perchance caught misbehaving, my mom always made me say what i was sorry for, not just that i was sorry. China makes you do the same thing.

My visa expired this Sunday, and i completely forgot about it. I've been so busy lately with too many things. My mind has been scattered at best, and this one slipped through. Friday at about 3pm, i realize my mistake and run to the agency, only to find i need my Alien Employee Permit renewed first. Fail. I would need to do that next Tuesday, as this weekend is Five One. However, they did agree not to kick me out of the country. In exchange, i was forced to apologize. I wrote something like this on a blank sheet of paper:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am late renewing my Residence Permit this year because i did not know i needed to renew my Alien Employee Permit first at a different location. I thought i could do it all at the same time at this location. I will not make this mistake again.

Kevin Reitz

Now, technically that isn't an apology, it's an admittance of making a mistake. My mom would not have accepted it. My colleague who translated it for me into Chinese realized as well. She took some liberties in the translation and it ended up something like this:

To Whom It May Concern,

I am so sorry! I was very busy at work and cannot believe I failed to follow the simple rules of the visa renewal process. I have truly learned my lesson and have brought shame upon myself and family. Please allow to stay in Beijing as I continue to make this a better place and give back to the community. I promise to never make this mistake again.

Kevin Reitz (sorry!)

I had to sign it too and it goes into a permanent file for me. I have some friends who have made this same kind of error and have "apologized" for it. Only in China would losing face be the appropriate punishment for an illegal alien. In the United States, we deport.

Tuesday. I learn a valuable lesson about Guanxi. Basically, if you know the right people and possibly offer a small gift of gratitude, you can move things along really fast. Today, GG and Scarlet worked miracles for me and i may have a new visa as early as tomorrow. In a situation whose worst outcome means returning to the USA immediately to reapply AND getting smacked with some hefty fines, i'm getting off pretty easy.


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Happy Five One

Therese and i both desperately needed a break, and this weekend we are getting one. This is from my GChat status on friday:
i just want a lazy 3-day weekend with no traveling, a gourmet dinner on friday, movies relaxing with my girlfriend, the option to sleep in, slow breakfast and coffee, a little bit of frisbee and exercise, some really cheap drinks saturday night, some beer fris in chaoyang park, bike rides to nanlouguxiang, maybe alice in wonderland in 3-D, some hiking somewhere awesome, no real obligations and certainly no work. is that really so much to ask?
I immediately learned it is not, in fact, too much to ask. So far, everything is coming true. This weekend is the May Day holiday in China, locals wish each other "Wu Yi Kuai Le" or Happy May 1st (Lit. Five One Happy). We had an awesome gourmet month meal at Ganges Indian, then slept in, then had a hard workout with Big Brother on saturday followed by two hours of one kuai Mojito Martinis at Fubar. Then today, we slept in again, met some friends for brunch on the patio of La Taverne, and are preparing to hit Chaoyang Park for picnic, frisbee games, and sun enjoyment.

The weather this weekend almost couldn't be better. It's a perfect 82F, a light breeze, and a little sun. I guess the only downside is that the trees are in mating season. Nina was telling us that Beijing decided to plant a bunch of trees a few years ago to help the scenery. Someone failed to research the trees they chose and these cottonwood trees spawn billions of cotton balls every spring. They cover the landscape, obstruct your vision, and latch onto all your mucous membranes. Today at brunch, it didn't even seem real. It was just like sitting in a Colorado snowstorm, but we were all in t-shirts.

Pictures and a short video. Nina, Ellen, Warren, Therese and I at La Taverne.

It's a good thing i'm not allergic to pollen.