Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Eastern Exposure

Apologies to the few people (if any) out there wondering about the latest word from the South- its been a while. I can offer a plethora of excuses - moved to a new house, end of semester hit, and now, I am making a relatively brief sojourn from the South to the Far East. At this moment I am sitting in the "Cradle of the Communist Revolution", the city of Yan'an in Sha'anxi Province, People's Republic of China. Miracle of Miracles, the hotel has wireless! I can only imagine the variety of viruses, virtual and real, to which I am currently being exposed.

I have been attending an "International" Conference on petroleum geology, but the demographic is at least a 3-1 Chinese to Foreigner ratio- which is kind of like getting a glimpse into the future when this gargantuan population starts to spread its wings the coming decades. You can tell I've been here a while because of the extraneous capital letters finding their way into this post.

Needless to say, any amount of time in China is fodder for an array of blogging subjects, and in this case even on geoscience topics. Perhaps tomorrow I'll post a few photos from the field trip associated with this conference. But tonight the majority of my energies must go toward digesting a Chinese Banquet dinner. So I'll post just a few words on what that means.

I've been to quite a few Banquets now in China and they usually involve consumption of a foul liquor called baijiu and recently Great Wall red wine and other beverages. Your hosts may frequently request you to "gan bei"- the equivalent of bottom's up- to chug your drink. Animals or parts of animals that are considered special along with all manner of other special foods- for which it is better to just remain ignorant to their true origin- are the focus of the meal. There's usually a lot of toasting, a continuous arrival of plates of new food, plate after plate after plate, and then usually when the fruit arrives, you know you've almost made it to the end.

Tonight had a little extra- professional karaoke singers (a real job only in China) belting Traditional Chinese songs. Being foreigners, we got to sit in the front row, next to the loudspeakers. It was hard to keep a straight face.

Then, when we returned to our rooms we had a gift waiting - a bag of field clothes, consisting of a bright Red (redder than the Red Army) outfit, complete with shirt, pants and hat.

I am pretty sure this is just overwhelming hospitality, but there comes a point when you start to wonder: are they just messing with us foreigners? Sometimes it is hard to tell, and in the end, we may never know! It is as the Chinese saying goes: You can always fool a foreigner.

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