St. Paddy’s Weekend – Shenyang, China
(Written by Nick on March 21, 2011… sorry, not the most “grandparent” appropriate of the posts : ) )
St. Paddy’s Weekend – Shenyang, China
Thursday – St. Patrick’s Day
The amount of Irish living in Shenyang is amazing. Up until 1924, Ireland occupied the region, and many of the people living here are offspring of mixed marriages between Leprechauns and local Chinese (hence why they are all so short). Many elements of the Irish culture have been embedded in Shenyang’s heritage: the chinese/irish accent, fields upon fields of clovers, and many more Irish things… Ok, that is a big lie… the only Irish people living in this city are fellow English teachers (if that’s what you call us) and a few engineers who work for the Chinese departments of their Boeing/BMWs/Lucky Charm factories. Luckily for Leah and I, I think it is safe to say that we have become acquainted with every Irishman living in the city limits. They are a jolly old bunch, all very welcoming, entertaining, and skilled at drinking and making stew, if nothing else (we have only seen them in this setting).
As St. Paddy’s day rapidly approached, I was very excited to spend it in the accompaniment of genuine Irishman, and couldn’t wait to see what was in store. This year, St. Paddy’s day celebrations were to occur on a Thursday night, which meant I had training early Friday morning. Hmm… Leah and I quickly devised a plan to eliminate this early morning and it was perfect. With all of the trouble and turmoil going on in the eastern half of the world, we told our boss that we were going to register with the US Consulate early Friday morning (which we both already did on-line) so we would be late to work. Now I know some of you are thinking, “Wow Nick, took you a while to return to your old self.”. But to rebut, I live in China. This is the country where seemingly half the manual-labor force doesn’t return to work after the New Years holiday. It is also the country where two of my ten co-workers had already missed 4 out of 10 days of training (training which is specifically designed for them!) because of unknown events. With this in mind, I didn’t think my boss, would mind if Leah and I were late to work because of our consular activity. My plan had worked! I was free to party in the land of rainbows and pots of gold! That is, until my boss came scurrying up to me in class, or work, or whatever it is, that day and asked me if there was any chance I could postpone my registration at the Consulate because we needed to register to become Residents early that Friday morning instead. Like leaving at 7AM early. Very early. Normally, I would have insisted that our counterfeit registration was much more important than waking up at 6AM to get residency permits (which is a hellish process in China, no matter what kind) but Leah and I have plane tickets bought for Seoul, SK and need to be registered as residents to leave and re-enter the country.
After another “Hmm” moment, I reluctantly agreed to the early morning excursion. It still was better than work and it meant that we wouldn’t have to work at all that day afterwards. So, party on! For St. Paddy’s day itself, our Irish friend Danny was having a party at his house. A house party in China??? Well, as good as it gets… It was actually an apartment party. Blog readers, meet Danny.
Our two English friends Harry and Mackarel met us at our apartment complex so we could share a taxi to Danny’s place. Unlike us American’s, it was quickly made apparent that the Brits did not celebrate St. Paddys Day with the same enthusiasm, or at all for that matter. They were extremely excited to celebrate their first St. Paddy’s day and judging by the green-painted hands and green toilet seat covers they were wearing, I think they were a bit too excited. After we had our laughs, and they removed the toilet seat covers, we headed to Danny’s place. He lived across town, a quick 20 or so minute cab ride, on the 31st floor of one of the bazillion sky rise apartments in this city. This one was a bit different than most though because it was not surrounded by other buildings, creating an awesome view of the city I now call home. It was the first time I really got to see the city from this perspective and it was beautiful.
Just imagine extremely tall, odd shaped buildings covered with an infinite amount of swirling and ever changing LED lights as far as the eye can see. Just as I realized I was having an “Wow, I am really in China moment”, I heard “Jump-Around” being played and was handed a Guinness. This was no Irish Guinness, nor was it even an American Guinness, this was a Chinese Guinness complete with a combination of bad english and chinese characters. It was called Guinness: Real Foreign Extra… but it was still good, and St. Paddy would turn in his grave if I passed up a Guinness from an irishman on his day.
There were 3 other noteworthy substances consumed that night, in the following order: Real Homemade Irish Stew, Homemade Bread, and Bai Ciao (pronounced Bye Jow). The Homemade stew was delicious and only cool because we are in China… and they don’t have stew here, let alone Irish stew. It was also cool that I was most likely at the only place in my city of 10,000,000 people that had a huge simmering vat of Irish stew. Next was the bread… mmm breeeaaaaaddddd. See, in China, there is no bread. Well they have tons of variations of bread… sweet bread, garlic bread, rice cakes that look like bread, but no actual bread bread. Needless to say, I had an extreme bread deficiency at this point in my trip and literally devoured loaves of it (with my hosts permission, of course). It was awesome, and absolutely necessary when considering the amount of Bai Ciao consumed. Bai Ciao is a very cheap, 112 proof rice wine, that I routinely find myself drinking. Even on St. Paddy’s Day I couldn’t escape this Chinese poison. As the night continued, many hilarious events ensued: My group of friends finally learned each other’s second names (which is supposedly British for “last names”), Leah climbed out of a 31st floor window, mannequins were humped, glasses broken, irish music played and the place got sufficiently trashed. I somehow felt right at home… on St. Paddy’s day, in northeastern China, with a bunch of friends who were complete strangers 3 weeks ago.
At a certain point in the night it became apparent that most of the alcohol was gone and according to Harry and Mackarel, it was Bai Ciao time. I don’t know where these two kids always make this nasty stuff appear from, but appear it does and drink I do. There is a system for drinking this rotten liquid, which Harry demonstrates in this video:
Video didn’t work…
With the “Sprite Method”, it is too easy to consume a lot of this stuff and, as if it were some oriental medicinal miracle, it doesn’t even leave you hung over. After a few swigs, I must have become very tired because I don’t really remember the rest of the night.
Regardless, I woke up at 6:00 am in my bed ready to head to registration. Feeling contempt that I awoke on time, I decided I could snooze the alarm once in order to get the final minutes of my beauty sleep. Well, I guess I didn’t press snooze because the next time I woke up was 6:56 and I was getting picked up in 4 MINUTES! Leah and I were ready and out the door in 7 minutes, only to find our ride (thankfully) running late. Hoping I didn’t reek of rice wine, I enjoyed the 1.5 hour car ride playing Snake on my chinese cell phone. We ended up not getting registered that day… typical
Friday – Pub Crawl
In case we had to work early on Friday (which we did) or if we just felt like celebrating St. Paddy’s day again (which we did) our friend/owner of our favorite bar, Casey was throwing a Pub Crawl! These words excited me as I had not been on a proper pub crawl since my days in Europe, and there was no doubt that a Pub Crawl in China would be hilarious if nothing else. The cost of this event was 100Y (15$) and included coach busses to all the bars, a free drink at every bar, all you can drink on the busses, drink specials at all of the bars, and free pizza at our final stop. Laughably cheap, but hey, it’s China. We started at one of our favorite hang-out’s: Lenore’s, than quickly loaded onto the busses. They were definitely straight-up coach busses, and I don’t think people partied on these busses routinely, if ever. The Chinese driver seemed weirded out by us, and more than the usual weirdness that the Chinese view drunk foreigners with. The bus ended up being the most fun part of the evening. While the bus was moving, I did some of this:
Thanks to Casey for making me break my one Bai Ciao induced rule of the night: No liquor drinking from the bottle. At least I am making friends, right? Our group of friends invaded the back few rows of bus #2, serenading all of the other strangers with our newly learned British drinking songs. Using Leah as an example, the most popular of the songs goes like this: Leah is the captain of our ship, of our ship, Leah is the captain of our ship, of our ship. Our ship has an anchor, and Leah is a wanker. Leah is the captain of our ship. The point of this game is to finish your drink before the song is complete, which usually leads to drawn out “wanker”s until the person is nearly finished drinking. Add a dozen british accents and all the rest of the bus can hear is a bunch of people yelling WANKAAAAAAAAAAAAA over and over. Very amusing, but trust me, it gets old fast, even when you are doing the singing. The Brits kept asking Leah and I to sing some of our American drinking games, to which I replied that these were in fact called “songs” not “games” and are probably one of the reasons we left the mother country. Here are some of our English friends.
We travelled over most of the city, stopping at an empty bar called “Giggles” to enjoy 5Y ($.75) beers and frenchman dancing on tables and then finally to the foreigner-favorite The Green Mile. This is the pub that our friend Casey is a part owner of and it is a great place. It is one of the few legit pizza places in town and the pizza is outstanding, even by American standards. Beers were enjoyed, pizza was devoured, and we continued our second St. Patrick’s day party late into the night.
Saturday – Phoebe’s last night in Shenyang
Well we met an English girl one of our first nights out in China. Her name is Phoebe and she is the one standing on the chair.
She is a really nice girl and introduced us to a ton of the kids we are friends with now. To make a long story short, her teaching program wasn’t all it was hyped up to be. She ended up with a not-so-good job, in a not-so-nice apartment with a not-so-cool roommate and making close to nothing. She decided to quit her job and move to Cambodia. With a friend leaving, this was a perfect excuse to hit the town a little bit harder than normal. Nights here seem to always start as most nights do, but always end up a little strange in some way or another and this night was no exception. We started at Green Mile which has our favorite happy hour in all of Shenyang. As of now, it is the only happy hour that I know of in all of China, but it is every night until 10:00 pm with buy one get one free drinks of any sort. They have lots of American spirits so its always nice to get a taste of home. Here is a picture of the beer selection:
Common practice is to hang out, play cards, order a ton of drinks before 10:00 pm and then plan the rest of the night. Tonight we decided that it was necessary to go to KTV. Karaoke in China is something that one must experience in order to really understand the Chinese people. Unfortunately, I did not get to experience this because for some reason we decided against the idea. What we did instead was much more of a trip… Our friend Casey constantly demonstrates the benefits of being friends with the part-owner of a foreigner bar. On this night, we decided to head to “Party 98”, cleverly named after its address (There is also a club 97 close by, named for the same reason). We have only been to this club on a handful of occasions but it is always fun because there is an American bar tender.
For those of you that have travelled, you know that it is 100 times easier to make friends with Americans abroad than it is at home. This fact works nicely when this new friend is the person working the bar at the club. Combine this with our bar-owner friend, we ended up quickly getting moved into the VIP room. I was excited to have our own private area to sit in, complete with flat screens and away from the monotonous, annoyingly loud electro music. What I didn’t know at the time was that this room came complete with two bottles of Johnny Walker, a few plates of some sort of liver or other misc. animal’s organs… pickled, I believe, and a giant fruit plate. The fruit plate was actually pretty epic with its elegantly cut watermelon and chinese tomato-ish oranges, but at the time I decided the pickled liver was much tastier. My friend Jon and I took turns on the pickled organ and the Johnny Walker… a combination which I would not recommend.
Overall, it was a great weekend, with great people. Hopefully this serves as a taste of the nightlife here in good ole’ Shenyang!