So much for frequent updates. As previously stated, I planned to post more often with videos and pictures, but I recently lost my camera. I had been carrying in my laptop bag. I took it out to make a video of a cop directing traffic like there was no tomorrow, and I haven’t seen it since. It is entirely possible that it will turn up in my room somewhere, or that it was stolen out of my bag. In conclusion, I will not be creating any multimedia content for the time being.
However, my friend Steven is visiting this weekend from Seoul. We went to UGA together, and after he graduated, he went to Seoul to teach. He has been there for almost a year now and will return to Atlanta in August to go to film school at Georgia State. He will certainly bring a camera, and I will try to take some of his pictures from our escapades this weekend.
In trying to decide what to do when Steven comes, I started asking my friends what they have enjoyed doing in the Shanghai area. I’ve been too busy with work to really know how to maximize a weekend trip in Shanghai. On top of that, I’ve held off on going to some of the big sites knowing he would come; this way I wouldn’t have to see things twice. I asked a couple of friends over dinner if I should take him to Chongming Island, and in asking this simple question, I heard one of my favorite China stories yet.
My friend Etienne, who recently returned to France, had been to Chongming Island, and he advised against going for a weekend trip to Shanghai. The island is in the middle of the mouth of the Yangtze River and is not very developed. There are still villages, and there is a bird sanctuary on a large portion of the island. To get to there, Etienne had to take the subway to the end of the line, then a motorcycle taxi through traffic, and then a ferry. The time it takes to get there is the main deterrent.
Despite being relatively undeveloped, Chongming Island is still a popular weekend tourist destination from Shanghai. There are advertisements for the island in the elevators at my office (many elevators in Shanghai have advertisements, including the elevators in my apartment building). Etienne and his friend were staying at a resort hotel on the island. They decided to get a massage. While relaxed, naked and vulnerable, five Chinese men bust in the room. They are drunk, and they want to fight.
Why would five Chinese men want to fight two naked French men you ask? Relative penis size, of course.
The men busted in the room yelling, “Go home foreigners. Your penises are very big, and ours are very small. You come here and fuck our women, and they don’t want our little penises anymore.” Because nothing good can come of fighting five, drunk Chinese men in terms of the outcome of the fight or explaining the incident to police, my friend and his compatriot refused to fight the Chinese until their anger subsided or their penises became larger. I’m not sure which occurred.
For a country that is extremely closed to sex on an official level, the lines between sexual propriety and promiscuity are blurry. The government blocks Internet pornography and other illicit material in an attempt to maintain a pure society, but there a degree of openness to sex in some ways that we would find impermissible or at least contradictory to the desire to maintain a pure society.
Although I have not personally verified it, I’ve heard that there is a sex toys market in Shanghai. Many karaoke bars, massage parlors and saunas are known to offer prostitution, and as far as I can tell, no effort is made to shut them down. Our office building has a sauna of ill repute. The office building next door has a karaoke bar with a sign on the outside that says “Renaissance Bar: Gentleman’s Club”. I seriously doubt ‘gentleman’s club’ means strip club; on the contrary, I imagine Chinese who frequent these places would be appalled at idea of a bar where the women take of their clothes and you are not allowed to have sex with them or even touch them.
I went to dinner with Fei’s friend Ming and some of his colleagues last week. He started teasing me about going to the Golden Pond, a well-known purveyor of services near my apartment. I denied it and told him that its not very accepted in America to partake in prostitution. He asked if this is because you can meet a girl in a bar and have sex with her. I thought this was a very astute observation. I replied that this was probably true and added that you are looked down upon if you can’t get sex for free and had to pay for it. I do think that this accounts for the difference in approach to prostitution between the two societies to some extent. In a society with more repressed sexual urges, there is greater need for organized channels to satisfy this desire and less social stigma attached to doing so.
I’ve been a little stressed out by work lately. I was given an absurd issue to research by Dr. Liu, and I have started to work on a business plan for Graham Earnshaw. This have left me feeling a bit overwhelmed and unable to really enjoy Shanghai. The research is finished, and I’ve made progress on the business plan, but there is still much to do in my last three weeks here.
I’ve tried to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me, and I’ve learned that this strategy will not be prudent for my long term happiness. Additionally, this work has come at the expense of studying Chinese, and had I developed this skill in advance, I would have been able to get much more out of my time here. Maybe I could have parlayed this summer experience into a job next summer or after graduation.
On a positive note, both the articles I’ve been working on are finished and going to print as of this moment. By August, the PDF files will be posted online, and I’ll provide links to access them. My writings have been published; its exciting.
I expect my next post to be more interesting because I will actually be doing things this weekend with Steve. Write me an email, please.