Rats of the Sky

Down the seemingly hopping pub street from our hostel in Guangzhou was a decent-looking restaurant. We were hungry, and there were a few other patrons in there. The hostess seats us and brings over an empty, sort of dirty, medium sized bowl.

We were a little puzzled, but Caitlin said that a few of her friends warned her that in some places, they do a weird dipping thing with the eating equipment. Finally, when we flagged our waitress down, Caitlin asked what to do.

The lady then opened our little shrinkwrapped package of china (because China is obsessed with shrinkwrapping things), and proceeded to pour a cup of tea. Then she dipped the spoon in the tea, poured the tea into the soup bowl, then dipped the lip of the cup into the bowl, then poured the soup bowl onto the chopsticks into the big waste bowl. Quite a process that we would have had no idea how to do on our own.

Anyway, I wanted to be adventurous, so for my meat dish, I ordered pigeon. It came like this:

From China: Trainventures

I ate it:

From China: Trainventures

And it left like this:

From China: Trainventures

Not surprisingly, it was quite delicious. I don’t know exactly how it was prepared or seasoned, but it was definitely greasy and better than if I caught a pigeon off of a statue in the park and cooked it up myself.

From Xi’an to Guangzhou

One of the cool things about our hostel in Xi’an was that the walls were covered in notes and drawings from the people who had stayed there. As we were leaving, we felt it was necessary to leave notes of our own:

From China: Trainventures
From China: Trainventures

Of course, it’s all true.

One of the differences between China and the US is that while we base child discounts on age, they base them on height. Which in itself is pretty funny, since Asians are notoriously small people. It’s also pretty funny when Caitlin tries to be under the height limit:

From China: Trainventures

Our train ride was the longest so far, totaling 27 hours. We had a difficult time getting tickets, so we ended up with a bottom and middle berth. This proved to be an interesting experience, since several of the guys around us were friends, and the rest quickly became so, resulting in constant card games, which turned into gambling, which led to illegal smoking and selling of train tickets.

It actually surprised me quite a bit how friendly people are on trains. Within the first ten seconds of us being in our bed area, someone already struck up a conversation with Caitlin. It was the usual conversation about how yes, I look Chinese but don’t speak the language, and she is white but does. It was a conversation that was repeated for every newcomer, but thankfully our early friends knew we had already had the conversation so many times, they answered a lot of the questions for us.

Once the train started rolling, our new friends wanted breakfast, so they convinced us to come along. They even paid for us and insisted that we didn’t need to return the favor. I think this was the first sign they thought Caitlin was cute.

It became kind of a theme, at least for me. Since I didn’t understand any of the conversations except the few things that Caitlin translated for me, I was left for hours, looking at the scenery, interpreting facial expressions and gestures.

There were a lot of guesses about us, many of them unreasonable. They seemed to think I look 15, and they didn’t quite know what ethnicity I was. One guessed I was Mexican, another said that Caitlin and I could be siblings. We think that was just a desperate hope that she was available.

By the time they were to get off the train, they were so friendly and hilarious, they made us all exchange contact information and wanted pictures with us. The trains are cramped, so we did our best:

From China: Trainventures

Also, I’m not sure if that’s the usual peace sign or bunny ears.

This guy wanted a picture just with Caitlin so that he could show his wife. I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that.

From China: Trainventures

Once that large group left, we had plenty of conversations with the others around us. One man had limited English, but he was excited to have the chance to practice, so we got by when Caitlin was still sleeping. He mentioned he was in the military, but I was still surprised when I woke up and saw this man:

From China: Trainventures

Turns out he was in the navy, and they’re really envious of the beautiful uniforms the USA gets to wear. Also, Caitlin apparently likes the backlight.

Despite being such a long train ride, it was really fun. When you’re stuck in an enclosed space for that long, some interesting conversations are bound to happen.

Potty Training

I have a fear of toilets that do not have seats. Up until now, all of the toilets we have encountered (aside from those on the trains) are western style toilets — you know, the kind that have two lids and a button on the side or top. I can handle that. Take away the seat, actually, take away the entire toilet and replace it with a hole in the ground, well, I’m a little less comfortable.

Within the first few days of my arrival in China, Caitlin and I had the discussion that you just don’t have to “go” as much here. It seems to be the general consensus among Americans staying here for a while. Number two stays inside of you.

With that in mind, once I saw that our current hostel features gendered holes in the ground, I just figured I would wait out our three days here and go once we left. Of course, we have overnight trains to and from here, so that’s turning into five days of backing up.

I thought it would be fine to slip by Caitlin, but once she noticed my fear of the toilets here, she insisted that I face the inevitable. Eventually (very eventually), I succumbed to her insisting and decided to stop resisting.

Twice after taking a leak, I secretly got into the position I thought I was supposed to use, and I just held it there. Soon, my legs started burning. I had my feet on the little sides, and I was in the ready position, but something just wasn’t right. Fortunately, with Caitlin’s off-site coaching and advice, I figured things out.

Then, last night it struck. I was feeling a little full down there, and it seemed like it was time. I took the slow march down the hall, and got ready. I kept my shorts near my knees like Caitlin told me, and I squatted. And waited.

In that time, I realized I was pretty much in a squatting fetal position — the same sort of position I use when I have really bad cramps and am trying desperately not to let anything leak. The position I was forced into by using the toilet is the very position I use to prevent me from going.

Adding to the problem was the fact that they didn’t want you to put toilet paper in the hole, so I noticed there was a little trash can that started smelling more and more like human feces once I realized what it was for.

Combine all of these ingredients with the fact that I guess I didn’t really have to go, I had to leave the room with no treasure left behind.

Of course, I figured the time would be right again. This time, I was feeling a little crampy — always a good sign. I informed Caitlin of the news, and she held me back, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I believe in you.”

Well, I’ll spare you from all the particular details, because this post is not at all detailed in that respect. Just know that I achieved my goal, and that [China’s food] + [holding it in] = [weird colors].

This post was not approved by Caitlin.

Posted in TMI