So, I got back from China a month ago, and I realize I still havent blogged about my time there. And I think it’s pretty important to. So, here it goes: I was there for a summer internship, and I recently returned back to Boston for school.
However, I’ve come back a changed man.
I feel more confident now. More sure of myself. Stronger. Wiser. and…. Well… I’m trying to figure out why.
Don’t get me wrong. I love this new feeling. I love feeling like I’ve somehow reached a new milestone in my life. A new “breakthrough” as the physiology world would like to call it.
And I think I’ve discovered what happened:
I was teaching English with this program. The program was horrible. The other Americans there were racist against Chinese people. They hated China and thought it was so “like totally weird” as one girl put it. And so, I had no choice but to breakaway.
I taught my class. I had to obviously. It was how I was making my money in China. But after the schoolday was over, I left. I didn’t hang with the Americans at all. I needed to escape their toxic, and frankly, disgusting fucking attitude towards the world. I still get mad just thinking about it.
Like when my boss…my 35 year old boss who chose to work in China picked up a pair of child scissors, and then said “I wish they made full-sized scissors in this country, but Asians have these damn midget hands” ……
There are so many problems with that, not to mention that my classroom had full-sized scissors, so my boss had either gone his entire 3 years in China using only child scissors, or he just didn’t respect Chinese people (and apparently little people either).
And that was just one of MANY…. Don’t even get me started on the time when my boss brought the two African American teachers into a classroom and said, “We’re doing a scavenger hunt for the students and one of the tasks is to take a picture with someone born in Africa, so they’re probably going to come up to you and ask for pictures… is that ok?”
FIRST OFF: THIS IS COMPLETELY TRUE. PEOPLE, I SHIT YOU NOT.
AND SECONDLY, WHY SAY THAT WHILE I’M IN THE ROOM? HOW STUPID ARE YOU? So obviously, when the two black teachers went and told everyone what he said, I was there to back their story up.
OK. MOVING FORWARD. MY BLOOD PRESSURE IS GOING OFF THE CHARTS JUST THINKING ABOUT THAT FUCKING PROGRAM.
So there I am. In China. I don’t know much of the language. I don’t know a single person. And the one thing that I’m sure of is that I want nothing to do with anyone in my program. I signed up for that program being promised a great way to visit China, make some money, and have a group of friends to explore with.
That wasn’t going to happen…..
So, I ventured out alone. I had no other choice. I couldn’t handle being around a group of people who went, “Squat toilets? OMG EWWWW LIKE, WHERE ARE WE, THE JUNGLE??”
I joined a gym. Gyms are a great way to burn off energy, meet people, stay healthy… and hey, if all else failed, and I literally couldn’t find anything to do, considering I was now in China alone, I could always bum around at the gym for hours.
So, I went to the nearest gym (which was three subway stops away at the China Art Museum Station). I walked in and held up my translation app. I tried showing the words, JOIN, GYM, MEMBERSHIP, WORKOUT, and EXERCISE, but nothing worked. The women at the front desk didn’t understand.
So I mimed the actions of lifting weights. Then I pointed to me. And then I pointed at the ground. Trying to show Me, workout, here. Finally, the women understood. They went and got a trainer to give me a tour. The trainer, named Tommy, was hot as all fucking hell.
PEOPLE LISTEN TO ME -> The young men of Shanghai are like the fucking Asian Adonis.
They’re way taller than any Asian stereotype. They gym like crazy. Their skin is perfect and hair always impeccable.
I stared at Tommy and shook his hand. Oh my god his biceps.
He didn’t speak much English, and I didn’t speak much Chinese. We toured the gym completely using translate apps.
He would speak into the app: “1,000Rmb for the summer.”
It would translate it to English, and then he would hand me the phone.
I would then say, “1,000 is too much. Make it lower.”
Then it would translate it to Mandarin, and I would hand it back to Tommy.
Something about haggling with an app, rather than face-to-face emboldened me. It was much easier to demand a cheaper price when you didn’t have to look the guy in the eye when asked.
Finally, after much back-and-forth and such, we arranged that I would pay 600Rmb for the summer. A good 400Rmb cheaper than the original offer. After I paid, Tommy, my new gym buddy, had me add him on WeChat (which is like the Chinese WhatsApp…and Facebook…and Instagram…and Apple Pay…it’s kind of like everything, really)
That night, I felt proud. I had just walked into a gym and managed to get a membership and haggle the price, even though I hardly spoke the language at all.
Then, I got a message from Tommy. It was in Chinese, but luckily WeChat has a mode that translates it.
He said he wanted to hangout. He could teach me Chinese and I could teach him English.
Obviously I said yes. How could I turn down a hot straight gym guy who wanted to hang out with me?
I told him yes.
He responded with: 哥们
I translated it, and it read brothers.
I didn’t immediately know what it meant, but I imagined that it was probably the Chinese version of calling someone “Bro”. The idea that a hot guy called me bro made my heart beat fast… also, it got me a little horny.
My gym was in Pudong, along with my work. So I started visiting areas of Puxi a lot (the other side of the river). I did a lot of exploring around The French Concession, Shanghai’s trendiest area. It’s tree-lined streets, cafes, and mega-malls were always fun. And it was there that I made another group of friends. I wandered into a bookstore/cafe called The Mix Place.
I was walking around, flipping trough books and magazines, blown away by cool this place was. Then a girl next to me, very shyly informed me that the books here are all in Chinese.
I smiled, and said that it was fine. Then I complimented her on how good her English was. She blushed and acted shy. She told me studied a year in America, in San Diego. Then her friends, another girl, and a guy (who of course was fucking hot as hell. How do these Shanghainese guys stay so fucking fit?) We got to talking. I told them about my love of Asian food, and how I fell in love street food like Jianbing and baos.
They were all impressed that I, an American, had ventured into the realm of Shanghai street food. We all swapped WeChats.
Flash-forward a few days, and we were all hanging out again. Running amok all over the city. Imagine one of those movie montages where a group of friends are running around town, eating all the food, laughing, walking through the city lights, and there’s all that fun music playing to much fanfare, hoo-ha, and pfeffernusse.
We tried foods I wouldn’t dare alone. Stinky Tofu, century eggs, Chicken stomach.
We also got amazing treats, like milk tea, bubble tea, duck jerky, soup dumplings, and the list went on.
It was a culinary bender of epic proportions.
And we did this A LOT! It wasn’t just once! These people became good friends of mine. We hung out a lot, and It was amazing. They showed me Shanghai. The ins, the outs. The wonderful, and the even more wonderful.
On the train, where to next? The options were endless.
BUT DON’T THINK I STOPPED GOING TO THE GYM! I gymed 5 days a week.
And Tommy was a big help with that. Being able to walk in and get a high-five from that sexy motherfucker was a huge incentive. Then we’d say hi and ask each other how we we’re doing. Then there was this one time when I saw him in the locker room. After his shifts, he would work out… and I saw him in his underwear! (squeal!) Oh my god. I don’t know what else to say besides that he was just a beautiful work of art.
And then came the day when we actually hung out. We got coffee (but both of us ordered tea) We did a lot of talking through WeChat translate and Google Translate. He always gave me a look though… A look that made me think maybe, just maybe… he wasn’t straight. I never asked him, I liked the silent, multi-language game of cat and mouse we had developed. Was I his bro? Was he just a super confident and sexy-as-all-hell man? … or was he secretly wanting me as much as I wanting him?
Through Tommy, I was introduced to more of the Shanghai gym bros. And I have to admit, I developed crushes on all of them. And here’s the best part: Shanghai has 24 million people. There isn’t much room to have personal space. To solve this problem, the folks of Shanghai just stopped caring about personal space. (How easy is that?) It was totally normal for one of the gym bros to see me in the locker room, while he was completely naked, just chillin out naked, cuz why not? And then just start chatting with me. My eyes would always wander southward… glimpsing at the pecs….the six pack….the adonis belt…. OMG HOW DO THEY DO IT?
By the end of the summer, between my French Concession friends, and my gym bros, I had a very full social life in Shanghai. More full than here in America actually…
Is that kind of sad? Naw.
Anyways, it’s like this: I realized that I built a life for myself in a city I didn’t know, learning the language as I went along. It was a crash course in life. But I did it. I survived.
Nay!…not survived, I thrived!
I said fuck you to the all douchebags around me. They spent their entire summer experiencing “China” only by clubbing with other Westerners in the tourist clubs until 4am, coming back to campus, having to wake up at 730 to “teach”, after class they’d go take their naps, so they could be ready to hit the clubs again that night.
They ended up loving “China” by avoiding China. They stayed in their groups of 10 or more Americans, keeping each other safe and in a bubble that would never be questioned. They were weak.
On the flight home, I thought of Tommy, and the other sexy as fuck gym bros.
And then I thought of my French Concession friends. And how much fun I had running all over the city, eating everything in site.
And that’s when I realized I had balls. 4 years ago I was collapsing from agoraphobia in Australia. The depression I was trying to fix, alone, for the past ten years had finally broken me. The depression brought anxiety, which brought panic, which ultimately led me to lock myself in my apartment, afraid to experience more panic attacks in the outsides world..
But now, I felt like the King of Shanghai.
How time flies right?
~ The Dark Horse
(PS- I’d like to thank Harry Shum Jr. for standing in as my “Tommy” visual representation.)