One of the teaching jobs that I work at involves a 45-minute commute and the subway. I swear that the ads in the subway stops have enough fodder for a soc/anth course or two. There are still a couple of straggling Commie-style propaganda ads which tiredly tout "Vigorously maintain socialism and Deng Xiaoping thought" (Deng Xiaoping being the guy who said "To get rich is glorious"). Unfortunately, these ads are rather drab and colorless, and don't have the kitsch factor that all those ones from the 60s did. Then there are the good old American-style ads for consumer goods. For instance, there's this one all over the place for some Heinz baby formula; the baby (a white baby at that) pictured in the ad looks like the LAPD beat the fuck out of him with ugly sticks Rodney King-style. Then there's another ad with a white kid who is so clean that his skin appears to be shining drinking some packaged milk with the words "100% clean 100% hygienic 100% no worries." all of this of course creates internalized self hatred yaddah yaddah yaddah.
When I was waiting at the train station for a friend before going to Tai Shan during October break, I got into a random conversation with a Beijing lady (random racist joke that applies to her Q: When does a Chinese person go to the dentist? A: Tooth-hurty) and gave her my phone number afterwards. Nothing remarkable about that; I've given my phone number out so randomly that I get calls all the time (particularly at 7:30 AM on Sunday mornings) from people offering me jobs or who want to do language exchanges. Well, I got a call from this woman last week and she wanted to take me out to dinner, so I accepted, never being one to turn down a free meal. So we went to this hotpot restaurant which was probably the classiest hotpot restaurant in all of Beijing (that not saying much). For the uniformed, hotpot is just this propane burner in the middle of your table with a pot of boiling water which you dip raw meat into and scoop out after a minute. Being the just two of us, she has to show off how rich she is by ordering enough meat for a small rural province. Also, she has to whip out her cell phone and beeper and place those in clear view on the table so that every 5 minutes when she gets a call, she can make a big hullabaloo about taking business. So we're eating along, taking our time, which in China involves dragging out the meal to about 4 hours (not exaggerating). Of course, being a Beijinger in the 90's, she has to go on about how she's young and wants to make money. (Damn it. I've read about what it was like in the 80's here and how everyone was quoting Orwell and the CP was on the verge of collapse. Fucking capitalists.) We're on our fifth bottle of Qingdao beer. She starts telling me about how she works for this German ski glove company and she wants to branch out into America and oh yeah I've told her that I'm an econ major and wouldn't it be great if... Throughout the meal we've been scooping chunks of beef out of the hotpot when she suddenly whips out this fish head that's been boiling for an hour or so and puts it on my plate. I don't know when exactly the panic started setting in. Maybe when I saw the fish's eyes, dull and staring askew, or its mouth gaping open. I just realized with a sudden bolt of clarity that whatever I do, just remember - commit to nothing. Soon, I started denying everything. No, I don't like studying Chinese. Beijing is actually rather boring. Business doesn't interest me. It's getting late, why don't we get the bill? I did escape, but she promised me that I should call her sometime so we can go chu qu wanr (go out and have fun).
So you're all probably wondering what my Christmas/New Year's plans are. Well, I plan on going on a wonderful two week excursion to Yunnan province. A stop in the capital, Kunming, followed by hopefully 5 days in the rainforests of Xinshuangbanna. Hopefully I'll be spending Christmas by myself in some random village with some Dai's (random ethnic group). For New Year's I'll probably be hooking up with some London friends who are also going to Yunnan for the sole purpose of getting stoned in the town of Dali, which is this random town catering exclusively to Westerners. Get down party people. Just think when you're all celebrating the not-quite millennium, I'll be asleep thinking "Y2K? That's so 13 hours ago."