I love kiwis. The fruit, not people from New Zealand. I’m sure people from New Zealand are great, and I’m very grateful for them destroying the Ring and defeating Sauron and all. Right now I just don’t know anyone from there personally yet. Kiwi, the fruit, is just amazing. This kiwi affinity might be something I have in common with New Zealand people, come to think of it; I read once that some people there eat kiwis without peeling off the skin, as if it were peach, or a giant spider abdomen. So they, too, must love kiwis, at least enough for that to become their national nickname. I was going to try eating a kiwi like a kiwi in Shanghai recently, when my kiwi-loving phase started, but the aforementioned-mention isn’t the first time my mind told me a kiwi was kind of like a giant spider abdomen, and so I quickly decided not to eat the kiwi in said manner.
The National Holiday in China was not too long ago. I was in Beijing, working at the China Open tennis tournament. It was a really cool experience – my first time in Beijing, first time to go to a major tennis event, first visit to Tiananmen and the Forbidden City and Olympic Park. I went to a reception where the sponsors got to mingle with the players, and our company’s people arrived a bit early, and my boss and I had our pictures taken as we entered down the red carpet. My boss was telling people I was a tennis player, which is believable because I’m young and my last name is Przybyla. It could be believable that he was my former-legend coach from Spain, and I was a young up-and-coming tennis celebrity; I even looked the part, just like a bushel of grapes might look like Darth Vader’s profile if you squint your eyes, cock your head to the side, and spin around seven times before you look at them. However, you probably would begin to doubt my ability as soon as you saw me actually play tennis, unless you also believed me when I told you that my play was pretty good considering my coach was a blind monkey. And, as James Earl Jones said in a movie I watched at my hotel in Beijing, “Even a blind monkey sometimes finds a banana.”
Did that whole anecdote make any sense? Of course not. Did I write it with the sole purpose of incorporating James Earl Jones and quotes into the blog? Guilty as confessed.
Beijing was doubly a great experience because in my time outside of work I was able to meet up with some old Chinese friends who were once students in the English classes I helped teach at the Baptist Student Ministry in College Station. They gave up many, many hours of their holiday week showing me around Beijing, letting me try all kinds of food, putting up with my broken-but-improving Chinese. If you really want to know all the things we did… email me, I don’t know. Here I’ll just tell you about a few of the things I thought might entertain you.
We went to explore an old part of town made up of the more traditional Chinese architecture, which consists of mostly one-story buildings and narrow, somewhat meandering alleyways. They wander for long distances in one direction, have nothing to hide behind, and have very few exits; all I could think about was how this would be the absolute worst place to find myself if I ever happened to be in the end of Jurassic Park 2*. My two friends told me that in this area you didn’t usually eat lunch but just kind of sampled the different snacks instead. We tried all sorts of things, to the chagrin of my stomach: (<I’ll get you back for this, you know.> <I know,> I reply;<please just wait till we get home?>) The fresh yogurt was one particular highlight. One other thing we bought was this four-foot-in-diameter cotton candy –
– which my two companions proceeded to leave 90% for me to eat alone. I asked them Nimen keyi bang wo ma? (Can y’all help me?) which is a phrase I always thought I’d reserve for situations like, I don’t know, if I was lost and needed directions or maybe bleeding profusely instead of when requesting backup in consuming approximately 13 pounds of sugar wisps. Okay, yes, so it was wonderful. The downside is that (apparently) Chinese cotton candy gives you an intense and uncontrollable sugar high for about 45 minutes. I essentially ate a cloud of pure energy. I began to excitedly tell them how much I liked China, because seriously, China, and Beijing, was the freaking best, rightright? I saw a kid whose cotton candy was, like, not even close to deluxe, Texas-sized like mine and I LAUGHED! This Chinese sugar high made me repeat everything twice, and speak in italics without spaces (Wherewhere?Okayokaycoolcoollet’sgolet’sgo!). In normal, everyday conversation, I’ll average approximately 2.5 ‘yeahs’ when I feel the need to emphatically agree with something; after all that sugar, I was not only averaging around 5.5 ‘yeahs’ per emphatic-agreement, I also agreed emphatically with just about everything. Yeahyeahyeahyeahyeah,let’sgolet’sgo,nono,I’mnothungry,I’mfullofcottoncan-lookatthatdog,there’saDOG!!!
As I was beginning to crash land passenger-plane-in-the-Hudson style, I noticed these big lilly pad-like plants:
I know they weren’t lilly pads, but I wanted them to be, so I could think of funny captions for the picture. (Obviously, I failed on that aspect, as the best I could come up with is above. Don’t judge me) There was some sort of inspiring story to tell about them, but I don’t know what it would be. Something about breaking boundaries, or reaching for the stars, or making people think you are a lilly pad when you are really some other plant, so that when you break the surface of the water and grow up into the air, unknowing passerby will be impressed and inspired by your limitless perseverance and take pictures of you and put those pictures of you onto the internet where your story will be immortalized (even though you’re a lilly pad impostor!!). Something like that.
Beijing was nice. The people were very friendly, which constrasted with the much more big-city, keep-to-yourself mindset of Shanghai residents. I must say, however, that I missed Shanghai; in Beijing, there weren’t dozens of clusters of skyscrapers, there weren’t as many bright lights at night, and there wasn’t a defined, viewpoint-worthy skyline. Feel free to judge for yourself my mental age, but I’ll unashamedly admit that how much I like cities is directly proportional to how much I feel they resemble technologically-advanced tree-house communities (can we combine Endor and Cloud City?). In Shanghai, I can climb countless towers and, from inconceivable heights, view the world from above the canopy, seeing it stretch out before me, its vastness mirroring that of the night sky above. The city is so beautiful, and so bright, that the stars themselves turn off each night just to gaze upon it. In Shanghai, every building is lit up, to the point where it is almost unnecessary; whether the building is “important” or not, it still rocks its lights, celebrating, because why not celebrate?! It is a city that celebrates being! Most cities would ask why you dance; in Shanghai, the question is why wouldn’t we? How could we not? Beijing holds the weight and dignity of history; Shanghai has the sparks, the energy, of simultaneously experiencing and anticipating the promise of what is to come. That’s the kind of music I’m leaning towards at the moment; music that whispers of what Shanghai could be, of the side of its coin that is light. The night is dark here, yes, but hope lives in the dark. (You don’t need hope if your team is up three touchdowns at halftime, but rather when it is down five.)
And now I get to announce something exciting: Friends, I’ll be staying here… for some time.
(We are what we will be, but are we not yet fully who we are?)
*Remember the end of Jurassic Park 2, where the T-Rex randomly gets loose in L.A. (was it L.A.?) and you’re just kind of saying What?? What happened?? I thought the movie was over – did he just eat that dog???? And you just know that the producers were like, ‘You know what? We’re in L.A. The T-Rex should totally get loose here, because that would be crazy awesome.’ And then they realized it didn’t really fit in the movie, but they had the expensive footage already, and it’s not like it’s an easy thing to release a T-Rex in L.A. and film it terrorizing everything and eating extras, and after all the trouble it caused the first time they did it unannounced, it’s not like they could find another T-Rex and unannounced-ly release it again, so they were just like, ‘We can’t not use this footage. Let’s just put it in at the end! It’ll totally fit!’**
**Just like that anecdote. Didn’t fit anywhere else, but it was written and it was about T-Rexes and eating extras which is crazy awesome. DANGER ZONE!