Early Monday morning:
My daughter, Sophie, has often regaled me, over the years, with stories of how much booze she drank the night before. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but it would be along the lines of: “We ‘pre-gamed’ last night and I did about 10 shots of tequila and then we got to the bar and started on the vodka shots.” I would listen with a sense of horrified bemusement, wondering how someone barely five feet tall and 100 lbs could possibly drink so much liquor and still be alive to tell the tale. Beyond the sheer amount she could apparently consume, I would warn her, time and again, ” Don’t mix different types of alcohol.That’s the worst thing you can do.”
I’m sure you know where I am going with this.
Last night, swept along in various “team building” exercises, I got the answer to how she can drink hideous amounts of various types of liquor and still be alive ( more or less) the next day: she’s my daughter.
You don’t have to go too far back in my blog posts to read how I planned to excuse myself from participating in engaging in a night of drunken revelry. Suffice to say, my head is pounding as I pound out this missive of, well, a night of drunken revelry on the part of yours truly.
It has been years. Years, I tell you, since I consumed so much liquor. Hence, the title of this post. Beer, rum, whiskey, wine, and the most notorious of all: baijiu. What the hell is that, you ask? It’s the national drink of China and it can be of the cheap “rotgut” variety or quite costly. Like vodka, which strangely enough, was absent last night- which is probably why I’m still alive, thank Ceiling Cat- the cheaper it is, the more deleterious the effect it has on one’s body. We were drinking the five dollar a gallon variety last night (see picture). On the plus side, that was offset by the highest quality rum, refined from cane sugar and not cane syrup, which comprises most rums. Who knew? That stuff went down all too easy. The whiskey, by the way, was delivered via a water-gun, I kid you not!
The day after: Baijiu
Now that I’ve established the end of the evening, let me start at the beginning. Saying that, I am reminded of Winston Churchill’s famous refrain: “Now this isn’t the end. It’s not even the beginning of the end. But perhaps it’s the end of the beginning.” Given his famous proclivity for drinking copious amounts of alcohol, quoting him makes eminent sense, actually.
The bus ride from Beijing to Peach Blossom Valley took less than two hours. I was told it would take, over three hours but traffic out of the city was light. It was, after all, Sunday. The passing scenery, at times, reminded me of parts of Sonoma County. Lots of wide open vistas with hills and pastures, sans vineyards. Then, out of absolutely no where, a mini city appears, like Las Vegas, with plenty of neon and electric signs (see pictures).
The ride out of town
You wouldn’t know you weren’t in California.
After settling in to our shared rooms at an inn of sorts (more picts), we gathered for some serious nomming. Dish after dish arrived as you can see from the photos. As I mentioned previously, the food isn’t dramatically different than the Chinese food in San Francisco. The one thing that is different is the Chinese don’t favor cold beverages. In fact, hot water is often a standard accompaniment with a meal. As I like my beer or soft drinks ice cold, I find it annoying to be served room temperature beverages.
Walking to the Inn where we stayed for the night.
As you can see from the pictures, karaoke has not gone out of style here. In fact, it’s immensely popular to the point that there is a chain of karaoke clubs called KTV. My few experiences in the past with karaoke involved making a fool of oneself in public by singing to a room full of strangers. At KTV, you rent private rooms with your friends so as not to make a public spectacle of yourself which, as you can see from the pictures, that’s exactly what I did. By that point in the evening I could have been talked into trying to take my pants off over my head. I’ve prided myself over the last three years that my drinking had diminished almost to zero. I am hopeful that last night was a “one off” and not the start of “The new Brian, Mark-four” (Another “Spinal Tap”reference.) Given how I felt when I awoke this morning, I have full confidence I haven’t regressed to my days of twenty-something inebriation as I am reminded why I really don’t drink alcohol anymore. I don’t like hangovers. Really, I no longer even like being inebriated. I just got carried away by the moment last night.
Later Monday afternoon:
I have recovered a bit and again, I’m writing this in “real time” rather than rely on my memory when I get back to the hotel. We all piled back into the bus for a short trip to Taiyuan Valley Park to hike, relax, engage in attempting archery with an emphasis on “attempt” and otherwise, “chillax.”
We headed back to the Inn for lunch. As you can see, lunch isn’t too much different than dinner in terms of types of dishes as well as the amount of food served. I didn’t even mention breakfast as I was in no condition to eat anything. The one familiar item we Americans are familiar with are eggs. Markets in the US usually offer two types: white and brown. Here, the markets offer an enormous variety. Far more than I see necessary although Chinese would probably say the same thing if were to walk down the cereal aisle of any large American market.
I’m writing the last entry of this post on our way back to Beijing, after lunch. Fortunately, most everyone is crashed from the 12 course meal, replete, once more with lots of booze. Mercifully, that means no more bus karaoke which was the requisite activity on the drive here.
I got back to the hotel early Monday night and expected to have this post up. I couldn’t upload the photos. I thought it must be a software issue. I tried it again this morning and all of the pictures loaded without difficulty. This suggests that somehow the internet connection was the issue. Internet stability, Wi-Fi or through a cable, is notoriously unreliable everywhere. Connections drop for a few minutes to much longer and there’s nothing you can do. It’s endemic at the EF office where you would think measures would be take to ensure continued connectivity. It’s just another thing that you have to deal with, living here.