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In the Land of Confucian -- Foreigners in China

Week 4 (September 19, 1997)

Contribution from Mr. John Rausch: Karaoke, Bowling, China

Self-introduction from the contributor:

My name is John Rausch. I'm a consulting staff engineer at Lexis-Nexis in Dayton, Ohio. Given that, I escape to the remainder of the world as often as possible. I try to visit a new and obscure place in Europe and sometimes other parts of the world at least twice a year for two weeks or so. The rest of the year, I round up traveling companions (no more than four) to go along for the ride.

I always give myself a challenge of trying to locate something I would like to have on each trip to help make it interesting. For example, I collect mechanical puzzles (http://www.johnrausch.com/PuzzleWorld/) and on my recent China trip, I tried to find old Chinese puzzles from the 1800's in the antique stores and villages. It's amazing how much trouble people will go to help when they realize you are looking for something out of the ordinary. For example, you will get a simple "no" if you try to find Mao Jackets in China. But show them a picture of old candy dishes in the shape of a tangram puzzle and they'll be walking all over town with you. I did manage to find just such a set of dishes which helped make the trip complete.

Another tip for the adventurous types visiting China involves bicycling and the Global Positioning Satellite System (GPS). I took along my Garmin GPS-12 and rented a bicycle in Beijing and Leshan. No need to read the street signs (what street signs?). Just go where you want until you feel like you're about half way finished for the day and let your trusty (you can trust them) GPS receiver to lead you home. Much more fun than planning a route or getting lost. If you have a PC and Encarta World Atlas, you can program in many significant waypoints before leaving home to help you stay oriented. Cities, roads geographic features, etc. -- john@ johnrausch.com


John Rausch went to visit Chengdu, the capital city of the most populated province in China--the Sichuan province (population: over 100 million) with a Chinese man he works with at Lexis-Nexis, Dayton, Ohio, USA. He wants to share his experience with the karaoke bars and bowling in China and other miscellaneous thoughts about China.

My friend's nephew, who lives in Leshan, was our "tour guide" for about a week in the Chengdu area. I was puzzled by the large number of neon signs that seemed to be everywhere and ended with "OK". Seems there are no Chinese characters for the sound "OK" so they have two that sound something like "ka li" and simply follow them with the letters "OK". We went to one with the nephew, who is a sanitary inspector for Leshan (one wonders what that could possibly mean) and is therefore very corrupted.

Not to mention that his mother-in-law is the head of the Agricultural Bank of China for the region, which adds to the influence and corruption. He had the place cleared of all local patrons for the three of us plus two friends (blood brothers in the local version of the Mafia). While we were waiting for the locals to leave, we were seated in a small private room with some tea. It turns out that there are several of these rooms which are used for gambling. Well, the bar was full of "karaoke girls". Two each! They do not proposition you, except to buy them drinks and dance. Other opportunities are available, especially in the private dance rooms! Horizontal dancing, for example. When we left, I saw no money change hands. Very strange. By the way, I did not dance vertically or horizontally.

On one evening, the mother-in-law took us out to dinner at a very nice restaurant. As we were finishing the meal, she asked (my friend translating) if I would like some after-dinner entertainment or activities. Why not? We drive in her new black Honda Accord (with a personal driver) to a place in the downtown area. When we went up the stairs to the second floor I find out what the "entertainment" is - - BOWL-ING! The Chinese emphasize both syllables. AMF pin spotters and the whole nine yards. It seem that bowling is the activity of the wealthy in China. It is very expensive. Much more so than the U.S.

I had many of the same experiences and feelings found in the articles [that Robert Westbrook wrote in My China series--CBW editor]. Ones that stick in my mind are the rip off of foreigners at every opportunity. Nearly everyone who attended a conference in Beijing was whisked away by a private taxi drive at the airport and told the fare was 450 RMB (should have been about 150) to the university. Only those who had been there before managed to escape. And the noise! The Lonely Planet guide suggests ear plugs. I couldn't believe it. I should have. Mr. Mafioso Nephew has 40,000 kilometers on his Honda and the horn is worn out! A tee shirt in Yangshuo had "Peoples Republic of Noise" on it. Even they know!

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