Been busy these past weekends, here’s a rundown on some of my favorite moments!
LINE CAFÉ: Line is a super popular messaging app throughout east asia. Everyone uses it in japan, Taiwan, and south korea. I love using LINE for its stickers/ emojis, centered around a cartoon bunny and bear who are dating– the stickers and GIFs show the full span of a modern relationship: dating, hugging, blowing kisses, shopping, jealousy, getting into arguments, physical alteractions, and making up. As with facebook and google, this app is blocked in China and inaccessible to 1.4 billion people.
Still, the adorable bunny, bear, and their friends (a duck, a frog, etc) have become a cultural phenomenon in China DESPITE the fact that no one here has ever used the LINE app! It is so popular that there is a LINE café in the trendiest part of downtown Chengdu selling bunny/ bear t-shirts, pencils, plush toys, hats, macarons and ice cream and coffee.. everything! Kind of funny, that an official LINE store can open in Chengdu, but the messaging app is off limits. CAPITALISM WITH CHINESE CHARACTERISTICS
My first banquet: My host grandmother celebrated her 80th birthday this past weekend. The extended family gathered for a wonderful banquet at a very nice restaurant- there must have been 20 dishes that came to our table- much of it organs, and pig ear, and mystery minced meat. The highlight was a SOFT SHELL TURTLE. With his head cut off from his body. And the adults at the table hinted at how pricey this dish was when they ordered it (this is the Chinese way of saying “try it.. you must try it.. take a bite.. we may have ordered this just because you are here”) so, I took a small piece of meat from under his shell. The texture was almost semi-cooked squash, with a very fishy aftertaste. I did not take a second piece.
Chengdu New Century Global Center: it is the world’s largest freestanding building by floorspace- 18,000,000 square feet of space!!! Ironically, the billionaire who built this was arrested for corruption right when it opened in 2013.
There is a monster indoor waterpark inside- with a lazy river, slides, hot spring, Turkish sauna, and massive wave pool. There is also a giant LED screen above the pool, and its content switches between pool safety instructions, clips from Zootopia, and for whatever reason, the 2013 VICTORIA SECRET FASHION SHOW!! (subtitles: wheres Alessandra? I’ve got Karlie! There’s Candice and her $10 million bra! Going live in 3.. 2.. 1..!) I saw lots of parents with their mouths wide open watching these models and their ample, crystal studded breasts bouncing down the runway on a LED screen several stories high. I also got separated from my host family in the wave pool, and it was so, so surreal trying to pick them out of a crowd of one thousand Chinese people with identical life vests, everyone OOOOH-ing and AAAHH-ing as the waves pulsed through the pool, like a scene out of WALL-E or Brave New World
Qingcheng shan: Paley is the host brother of my good friend Zach. Paley (Wang Pei, or as I call him, Pei Pei) lives in a bachelor pad across the street from his parents. He is probably the coolest and trendiest guy in Chengdu, and knows all the right people in town – he has the hook up to anything and everything. On Sunday we got up early to go do something that required neither connections nor VIP passes- we climbed Qing Cheng Shan! It is a sacred mountain in China, and there is a Taoist temple at its peak. We didn’t quite make it to the top, but the view was still incredible halfway up. Great weekend trip, and it was so nice to see nature again.