Hey, remember that rainy, lingering winter month way back when… you know, the one we all wish we could just remove from the calendar? February. Yes that one. Sorry if you wanted to forget that month, because I’m about to take us back there. But it’s going to be great. I promise.
And actually, let’s begin by discussing this blog. Kaci’s blog that is. The picture-filled adventure book full of witty remarks and brilliant descriptions of strange foods, new faces, fireworks, pig's blood, costumes, and all of the other shenanigans that illustrate life as the only foreigner in her corner of the world.
Well friends, I’m here to tell you that THIS SHIT IS REAL. All of it. Kaci is a real life bad ass and she not only ate the crazy food she was blogging about, she EATS that food. Present tense. In her real life. Every day. Without a break for pancakes or coffee or even toast! Ever.
So this is the title and the subject of my blog: KACI LIVES IN CHINA. THIS SHIT IS REAL. And I apologize in advance for some of the four letter words. It really is the only way to convey the depth of my amazement at all of it: Kaci’s life, the lack of safety regulations, the food, the people, the pollution, the cab drivers, the massages, the boiled water that had me sick for an entire month after returning … All of it.
So grab yourself a nice Western snack and settle in, because you’re in for a wild blog ride.
Confucius Say: You can sleep when you’re dead (and other sacrifices we make for progress).
While this mini-chapter title might imply some wild story about our arrival adventures and the planes/trains/ automobiles required to get us to Libo on our first night (and trust me, there was much in those first 24 travel hours that was blog-worthy)…that is not actually what this chapter is about. This chapter category is really called “What we sacrifice for the sake of progress”. Subtitle: “comfort schmomfort,” “warmth is for wusses”, or “the toilet is out back, and this floor is cement, but smile! Let me take a picture of you with my iPad and then my extremely expensive Canon camera … and don’t mind the rooster walking in the hallway as you walk out”.
We as Americans make sacrifices for the things we care about--Sleep for fun, sleep for progress, almost anything (sleep, quality, quantity) for convenience—and we don’t think twice about it. Our highest values are can I get what I want, when I want it? And we want a lot of things. I want a doctor’s appointment tomorrow. I want food right now. Not just food—I want ice cream. No, Thai Food. Ehhhh.. Maybe pizza. Doesn’t matter—we can get it. Even if it’s midnight. Where there is a will there is always a way.
Some might call this the pinnacle of progress. We have secured all things that are necessary—life, liberty, housing, cars, —and we can now focus on the pursuit of happiness. We have become SO efficient in our pursuit of progress that we can focus not only on production, but quality and worker safety, and convenience, and things like…building tree houses in work places to promote creativity. Like I said…Pinnacles of progress.
"Jurgis heard of these things little by little, in the gossip of those who were obliged to perpetrate them. It seemed as if every time you met a person from a new department, you heard of new swindles and new crimes. There was, for instance, a Lithuanian who was a cattle-butcher for the plant where Marija had worked, which killed meat for canning only; and to hear this man describe the animals which came to his place would have been worth while for a Dante or a Zola. It seemed that they must have agencies all over the country, to hunt out old and crippled and diseased cattle to be canned. There were cattle which had been fed on “whiskey-malt,” the refuse of the breweries, and had become what the men called “steerly”—which means covered with boils. It was a nasty job killing these, for when you plunged your knife into them they would burst and splash foul-smelling stuff into your face; and when a man’s sleeves were smeared with blood, and his hands steeped in it, how was he ever to wipe his face, or to clear his eyes so that he could see? It was stuff such as this that made the “embalmed beef” that had killed several times as many United States soldiers as all the bullets of the Spaniards; only the army beef, besides, was not fresh canned, it was old stuff that had been lying for years in the cellars."
Yup. That filth was America. Oh how far we’ve come.
So somehow you were able to read that last paragraph with your eyes closed (see instruction #1) … so I know you are all cheating and have your eyes open now. SO NOW … close your eyes again and imagine living in filthy, stinky, industrializing New York City during the time of Gangs of New York. Where things like plumbing and heat and private space were luxuries. Where out-houses were common place and all of these foreign people who just arrived in this strange land from their home countries were cooking all of their crazy nonsense in their small crowded kitchens, and the smell of their Old Country cuisine permeates through their crowded, shantily built quarters in one very consolidated industrializing area with pollution rising from the factories where they all work across the river. Comfortable, right? But hey—it’s progress!
Okay, so is this image burned into your brain? Okay…good. Now place Kaci in that image. In the rainy cloudiness of February. In a foreign country, speaking a foreign language, with foreign people, eating chicken feet. Image burned into your brain? Good.
To Kaci! Gan'bei!!
Below are some more pictures of Meredith's adventure in China. Thanks for the awesome (and very flattering!) blog post, Mere! You're welcome back in China any time ... if you dare ...
Monkeying around in the park: