The Last Month: Abridged Version

by Michael Ujifusa

In case anyone was wondering, I am still in fact living in China. Heres a brief recap of the last month, for anyone wondering how western holidays work in a communist country.

A “Red” Christmas

I could go into some detail about celebrating my first Christmas away from home, on the other side of the world, but that story is far too bleak and uninteresting for the common netizen. Lets just say driving around on the 24th of December and not seeing twinkle lights, garish plastic Santa’s and herds of blinged out wicker deer, dampens the spirit. What I can tell you about Christmas this year is that I sang Silent Night in front of 1000 Children with the REAL SVL and then proceeded to dance around the group clasped hand and hand with a little boy…

He asked me to dance...

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love gave to me, 1000 Chinese children wearing red stocking caps.

Photos courtesy of Sarah Vanlandegan, the fire-breathing, amazonian, shieldmaiden of Guilin.

Hong Kong Travels

The day after Christmas I left for Hong Kong to pick up an old friend from the airport.  After the “short” 14-hour train ride, Chinese customs, Hong Kong customs and the hour-long subway ride to the Wan Chai district, I arrived at the hotel. The first aspect of Hong Kong that shocked me was that I was able to order McNuggets in English. Up until this point, I had only been able to order in English at expensive restaurants in Beijing. At every other restaurant I have relied on the linguistic competency of my companions or a complex system of nonverbal communication. The second impression I had, was the impossible scale of the buildings in the southern metropolis. My camera was not able to handle the pictures I was taking. Hong Kong can best be described as an urban forest of monstrous metallic redwoods confined into a ridiculously compact space.

Photos are incapable of capturing the outrageous scale of these buildings.

The “New Year”

After a few nights in Hong Kong, Ashley and I headed to Guilin to celebrate the New Year. Let me first clarify that the Chinese do not celebrate the New Year on January 1st. They follow the lunar calendar where the Year of the Dragon officially kicks-off on Monday, January 23rd. The celebration of the Chinese New Year coincides with the Spring Festival, the biggest holiday in China that is basically Christmas combined with the 4th of July on steroids. There is expected to be 2.8 billion rail journeys  during the Spring Festival this year, but I digress. All you need to know about the night/morning of December 31st/January 1st is one thing. The Laowai’s of Guilin ate an entire goat. Memories of the rest of the night were clouded by alcohol, but I can say with some confidence that we did in fact eat one deliciously tender, slow-roasted goat.

"Et tu, Brute?"

A Week of Reflection, Still No Zelda

For the past week I have been reading my students “term papers” and entering grades. I cannot tell you how relieved I am to be done grading 180 papers for my Intercultural Communication’s class. If I have to read one more, “as we all know, when  in Rome…” I’m going to strangle someone*. But thats neither here nor there, here’s an update of the on-going Zelda saga. When my mothers package arrived with the long-awaited Zelda, prudency and intelligence momentarily left me. I plugged my Wii into what I thought was a voltage convertor, only to experience tragedy. When the Wii, which is meant for 110v, was plugged into a Chinese outlet, which is set at 220v, something very terrible happened. There was a sickening electrical pop, followed by a burning electronics smell, followed by tears. Hoping that the electricity had only fried the power cord, I had my father throw in a Wii power cord with a Christmas package he was Fedexing to China. This package was supposed to arrive on December 21st. Unfortunately Chinese customs deemed my package a threat which resulted in a whole logistical debacle that ended in the package being returned to the United States. As a result, I still have not played one minute of the Skyward Sword and I still don’t have long underwear. Why China??? WHHHYYYYYYYYY???????

*3 maybe 4 people will understand this reference

Southeast Asia HO!

But on a more positive note, today, Friday the 13th I will leave for Ho Chi Minh City via China Southeast Air. If you’re superstitious, please rub several horseshoes for me. After Vietnam I will travel to Cambodia, Laos and Thailand on a month long expedition into the unknown.

I cannot express how happy I am to be going somewhere warm. Guilin is in the darkest depths of winter. I can see my breath in my apartment and I’ve unplunged the fridge, its services are not needed at this point in the year. I still cannot believe that is was warmer in Minneapolis than it was in Guilin last Tuesday, what the fuck? But I cannot complain, while you’re returning to school or work, cursing about the lack of  a remote car starter, I’ll be in a tropical paradise, loaded on drinks garnished with exotic fruits and tiny umbrellas. But I’ve bragged enough, it’s the only way to make myself feel better about the lack of snowmen in Guangxi.

(NOTE: I will be out of contact until the middle of February. Also, if you get a call in the middle of the night from Thailand, please answer it. )