Drink this for your yang

What: there’s a lineup of huge glass jars of whole snakes, lizards and deer penises soaking in booze on the drink counter? Well what did you expect to find there? This is China; China’s a whole nother version of normal.

Our preschool staff had Teacher’s Day dinner at an extravagant BBQ buffet, which included all-you-can-drink beer and traditional Chinese health tonics:


Lizards, snakes, various roots, gǒuqǐ berries (枸杞), etc. of various combinations soaked in hard Chinese liquor (白酒):


These kinds of tonics are not uncommon in Chinese restaurants around here. They’re usually intended to 补阳 (supplement your male qualities).

These things aren’t especially notable within China, and all the ingredients are available at the nearby traditional market (photos!), though this is the first time I’d seen these traditional drinks lined up in a ritzy buffet right next to the Coke and coffee machines. But if we’re talking outside of China… there’s just no end to the stuff around here that would raise a few eyebrows outside of China.

Honked Awake (first time to call the cops in China)

It’s last Friday night and I’m dreaming a China dream. We have fellow foreigners for guests and they’re taking showers full blast, not realizing that using our first-floor apartment’s full water pressure will make the hot water run out in less than ten minutes. Alarms are going off because the hot water’s almost gone, and the alarms keep going and going and going, any second now there’ll be no hot water, wow I can’t believe the hot water hasn’t run out yet, don’t they hear the alarms…?

…and then I wake up and realize it’s not the shower. It’s 2:30am and some dipstick is outside laying on his horn, I don’t know for how long. It’s echoing off the buildings all through the neighbourhood. I think surely he’ll quit soon, but ten full minutes later he’s still going strong. So I get up and run out in my coat and plaid flannel pajama pants, wishing I had a paintball gun or eggs or something less damaging and illegal than the bricks that are always strewn around and temptingly handy for times like this.

I can hear other neighbours yelling about it to each other from their balconies as I walk. It’s not hard to find the offending motorist, obviously, a couple buildings over. One guy is standing near but a little ways away from the car. I ask him what the driver’s problem is. He doesn’t know.

“Has anyone called the police?”
“Maybe not.”

Maybe not? I stand where the driver can see me and call the police: “We’re in XX neighbourhood and there’s a crazy guy. You hear that noise? He’s been doing this for 20 minutes straight and has woken up everybody!”

I let him see me take a photo of his license plate. Then I knock on his window, which he rolls down.

“Hey what’s the problem? People are sleeping here! I’ve got a baby and a three-year-old at home. What are you doing?”
“Someone parked in my parking space! What else can I do?!” He rolls up his window and continues honking his horn.

I knock on his window again, and as soon as he rolls it down far enough…

“Don’t take my picture!”
“Then don’t honk your horn.”

I’d be happy to make that deal. But someone seems to be having trouble comprehending cause-and-effect, and it’s about to cost him.

One of my students’ fathers, Mr. Zhang, shows up. He knocks on the window, gets the same answer, tries to reason with him and gets nowhere. A third neighbour shows up, with his hoodie pulled tight around his face. He knocks on the window, gets the same answer. Then he starts yelling and cursing and kicks a huge dent in the front driverside door before bouncing a brick off the back window and running off into the night.

The driver starts yelling at us not to leave and gets out his phone like he’s going to call the police. So we leave and Mr. Zhang calls the police. They’re almost here. They find us and we lead them to the driver. The door-stomping brick-throwing hoodie-wearer shows back up to watch, grinning at me and chuckling.

The cops don’t even try to mask their incredulity. One repeatedly turns to us with an exasperated look as they listen to the guy’s explanation. I double-check with Mr. Zhang that they’re for sure taking him in for an alcohol check, and we walk home.

Mr. Zhang seems to think this is all rather humourous. Or maybe he’s laughing at my pants. Either way, we have a good time chatting on the way back to our respective beds. The End.


Pronounced: bái jiǔ
Literally: “white alcoholic drink”
Means: baijiu, the infamously strong, horribleuniquely tasting and ubiquitous liquor distilled from sorghum or other grains that is deeply imbedded in key areas of Chinese culture.

For more, you can browse our Baijiu (白酒) topic, or see these highlights:

Wikipedia has a handy entry on it, too.