Friday, October 7, 2011

The Not-So-Merry Ferry

The word safe in China, as you may know, should be taken with a grain of salt. A country that has constructed hotels in a week’s time, that allows workers to drill pipelines on the sidewalk as pedestrians amble by, and that is infamous for injurious railway collisions certainly cannot truly understand the meaning of safe

“Gladstone, get out of bed, don’t you hear your alarm? It’s been ringing for the last hour!”

Letting out a husky groan, I roll onto my back, reaching my arms way up over my head. I rub my eyelids, making them aware that I must start the day. I had been out until four in the morning the previous night. It was now eight o’clock. I certainly knew what I was in for today.

Taking the elevator down to breakfast, I’m pretty sure I look like death, and it takes the first person I see – my friend Andrew – to confirm this notion.

During breakfast (I couldn’t tell you a single thing I ate or said during that meal), I receive a pleasant surprise. The rain from the previous night was only the beginning of a typhoon that had swept the area. As a result, a level 8 warning was issued, meaning all ferry rides, including ours from Hong Kong to Macau, had to be postponed.

So, I slept. And slept. And slept. It wasn’t until around four in the afternoon that the waters were finally deemed safe to navigate.

Soon after finding my seat on the boat, an attendant came around handing each ferry passenger a barf bag. As I took one from her, I thought “Oh, that’s a nice gesture. Though I doubt anyone will need them”. Boy was I in for a surprise.

I put my ear buds in and turned on my iPod, anticipating a relaxing boat ride to Macau.

30 minutes later, I awake and realize I had drifted off to sleep. I open my eyes and feel a sharp throb in my head. I notice an unsavory scent in the air. I start to sense the rocking side-to-side motion of the vessel. I conclude that this turbulence has been present for quite a while now.

I look out over my seat and find a scene so absurd and laughable that I can only find sanity in a single gratifying thought. I have to write about this in my blog.

All around me I hear the sounds of coughing, crying, and vomiting as people hold onto their barf bags for dear life. I see the attendant frantically running around answering the calls of passengers who demand seconds and thirds of their beloved sickness bags. With every big wave that the boat strikes, a chorus of screams echoes from the upper deck of the ship. I glance over at my friends Mike and Dustin, both of whom are Texas Tech students. As the boat hits a large bump, I hear the roar of “Yee-haw!” fine-tuned with their familiar southern drawl. I imagine devil horns growing out of their nonexistent cowboy hats.

Moving my head to the left, my eyes land on my good friend Kehoe. Pressed in between two Chinese women whose barf bags were no more than an inch from their sickly faces (undoubtedly two of the attendant’s best customers), Kehoe slowly raises his laptop into the air for public viewing pleasure. He has a word document open, and in large typeface it reads “ZHEN DE MA?” [REALLY?]. I burst out laughing.

Kehoe, sandwiched in between two troubled passengers.

The next hour or so is much less comical. For the remainder of the trip, I am overcome with nausea and struggle to fight back the urge to join the many others who have spilled their guts. When the ferry finally comes to a stop, I feel I have pushed my body right up to the limit it can endure.

As we gather outside the Macau customs terminal, I leave my bags with the group and make my way over to the nearest bathroom. I find a urinal. Within a few seconds, a Chinese man approaches a urinal to my right and begins to take a leak. I hear the cacophonous, guttural sound of someone coughing up a loogie. Using my peripherals, I catch sight of the man as he bends slightly forward and opens his mouth. Instead of a large wad of spit arrives a violent hurl of vomit. My mind jumps back with shock but my body remains still, intrigued by this stomach-turning sight. Wrapping up my pee, I skip my usual third shake, wash my hands quickly, and scurry out of the bathroom.

I return to the group and find my bags. I consider the last hour and a half of my life. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. I felt like there was someone to blame. Someone who allowed us all to board that ferry knowing how miserable the ride would be and how so many people would get sick. But then I put things in perspective. I’m totally fine. The whole experience was, after all, pretty hilarious. I start to get excited for Macau. I glance over at my friends. I feel happy. I feel relieved. I feel safe.

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The Bad English Translation Picture Gallery

Thank you to give me free moist towelette

And... there goes my appetite.

Entry from The Encylcopedia Gladstonnica
China drip – Any small drop of liquid that falls on a foreigner in China. Often times, one cannot locate the exact location from which such liquid has fallen, but research has hinted that awnings, drying laundry, and sewage run-offs are among the most likely sources. China drip can also occur indoors, especially after heavy precipitation, in restaurants and in buildings with poor piping systems. While the content of this drip is variable and cannot be known for sure, many people conjecture that water, acid rain, mold, dirt, and rat feces may make up its composition. Natives of China are wholly oblivious to this phenomenon, given that they have experienced such wetness since an early age and are unaware that liquid landing on a person’s face while he is enjoying a bowl of Kung Pao chicken is preventable and should be frowned upon. 

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