Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Asian Wrap

A few rambling final thoughts on my recent trip to China:

- It’s not a nice thing to acknowledge, but it’s time that we just accepted the truth: we’re fat. You really don’t appreciate just how prevalent this problem is in the US until you spend some time around people who mostly aren’t on the heavy side. There’s no judgment or assailing the decadent American way of life here. Just owning up to the simple fact that people in China aren’t as fat as we are. I don’t pretend to know why: diet, exercise, genetics, not being guilted into overeating by being reminded of the “starving children in America.” Whatever the reason, the reality is that when you walk the saturated streets in China you just don’t see nearly the same number of people who could mix in a salad as you would in America.

Duck tongue
However, there is a ray of hope for Americans worried about we measure up to China when it comes to our respective waistlines. The younger generation of children in China (generally spoiled, pampered, and overindulged as they are the sole apples’ of their parents eyes) appears to have more than their share of chunky monkeys in development. Again, I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s their access to the same type fast/junk/overly-sugared foods that are blamed for America’s increasing obesity.

- At times, when you see the McDonald’s, Pizza Huts, Cold Stone Creameries, and people walking around wearing Kevin Garnett jerseys and SpongeBob t-shirts, it’s easy to forget that you’re in the People’s Republic of China controlled by the authoritarian Communist Party. But there are also reminders that you’re not in Kansas anymore. The internet is probably the most obvious example.

It’s relatively easy to get access to the internet if you’re in your hotel room or at an airport lounge. However, your ability to access what you want to with that access is sometimes limited. For instance, for most of the trip I wasn’t able to get on Twitter. “Quelle horreur!” you might say, how did you possible survive going eight days without the wit and wisdom of the masses expressed in 140 character outbursts? And it’s true that access to Twitter probably isn’t one of the leading factors to determine quality of life. But when you don’t have it available, it does lead you ask questions like “why?” and “who?” and the answers aren’t going to be reassuring.

Blogger was likewise limited. At times, there was no issue getting to the site. At other times, I couldn’t access it even though I could get to other internet sites. At times, these limitations or restrictions seem a bit arbitrary. For example, I had no problem reading about the horrifc stories of forced abortions in China, something that you would think would be a sensitive matter.

- On one of my first days in Nanjing, I witnessed an impressive display of Chinese military aviation. A large formation of PLA (People’s Liberation Army) helicopters were conducting maneuvers over and around the city. There were upwards of forty in action, both what appeared to be attack and troop transport helicopters. I asked one of my Chinese colleagues if they were flying out of the same military airfield that we went by on the way to work where you could see rows of fighter jets lined up. He explained the he didn’t know as that sort of information was not something that someone in his position would be able to know. Basically, it was we don’t know and we don’t want to know.

-As much as the Chinese could use an outburst of democracy and freedom, they are also in dire need of a revolution in beer. I didn’t post a Beer of the Week entry while in China and one of the reasons (other than sloth) was that there aren’t many Chinese beers that deserve any recognition at all. Tsingtao is probably the best know Chinese brand in America and their beers are decent, but pedestrian. Harbin and Yanging are also lagers that are drinkable yet mostly unsatisfying. Bestly Black Beer from the Lanhang Brewery is one of the few Chinese beers that I’ve found that breaks out of the lager mold and its probably the best one I’ve yet had. Which isn’t saying much. Snow is the best selling beer in China (and the world for that matter) and the best thing I can say about it is that the taste fits the name. It’s completely bland and almost flavorless. 1.4 billion people deserve better beer. After Surly gets their destination brewery finished here, they should look into some kind of joint venture over there.