Archive for June, 2010
Growing up in the late seventies and early eighties, I, like most kids where I lived, discovered the wonders of the Kung fu film. From the ripped abs and piercing screams of Bruce Lee, then into the comic slapstick of Jackie Chan, and finally the fatuous bullshit of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, my house resonated with the sounds of slapped watermelons and badly dubbed English.
As a child I tested my martial arts skills by pulling apart my mothers vacuum cleaner and swinging the pipes around, or putting the mattress from my bed against the wall and giving it a thorough kicking.
My will was iron, my punch was fire and my movements were like a tiger. Then I got in a fight and had my head smashed in by a kid five year older than me and I decided computers were much more interesting than Kung fu.
Despite my new found apathy, one name always resonated throughout the world of Kung Fu; “Shaolin”.
These were the men of legend. They could fly using only an umbrella and could break steel girders using only their testicles. The could climb walls like Spiderman and swing swords with such force that they would bend like they were made of some harmless metal like tin, rather than the hardened steel we all knew them to be. And so, when the opportunity arose, I leaped like young and slightly fat Jackie Chan at the chance to visit Shaolin monastery.
And now, for those of you without my Kung Fu knowledge, the Cynical Traveller Presents… The Kung Fu Styles
Scorpion Style – A style of Kung Fu that gives you the best chance of kicking yourself in the back of the head
Snake style – One of the most versatile styles, as it can be used to attack or to dance to “Walk like an Egyptian”
Northern Boxing – Boxing from the North
Southern Boxing – Similar to Northern boxing, but from the south
Eastern Mosh Pit – As seen on WWE
Western Waiter – Serving suggestion only.
Constipated monkey – For really large bowel movements.
Next week – A full Kung Fu Glossary
(This week, I will be punctuating my story with photographs from various warning signs I have encountered around china. For those of you who think I may be laying on the irony a bit thick by poking fun at Chinglish, please let me point you to the following apparatus)
Initially, upon my arrival in China, I was possibly somewhat careless. This is a direct hangover from 5 years in Japan, where people have been known to leave gold bars outside of mafia dens, only to have some tuxedoed henchman ring their doorbell the next day to say “Excuse me Sir, I think you may have dropped this.”
Upon my arrival in China, I went for a run every night and, despite its reputation as a somewhat dangerous country, I was prepared list the biggest dangers to my health as follows:
1. I pass out due to my own lack of fitness
2. I pass out due to excessive inhalation of diesel
3. I pass out due to excessive inhalation of human excrement
4. I am run over by a truck
5. I am robbed
As you can see, being robbed ranked pretty low on my list of worries. Of course, this is the same person who once thought it was a good idea to walk home from a night club in Lima at 3am, so my personal opinions can probably be treated with a healthy degree of skepticism.
Strangely enough, I find China safer than Australia in many ways. I certainly feel safer when a group of drunk young Chinese men walk past me at night than I would in the equivalent situation at home.
That’s not to say that there is no crime in China. Far from it. I have now lived in China for two years and have had three mobile pones and a bicycle stolen. While this is embarrassing in itself, it is even more embarrassing when the thief returns your phone because it is so rubbish.
Annoying as they are, I have to admit a grudging respect for the Chinese pickpocket. Anyone who has the skill, not to mention the audacity, to steal a purse, mobile phone and remove someone’s underpants without them noticing deserves some measure of respect.
Here is a list of what I consider to be the biggest threats to your health in China and the symptoms they cause:
1. People and cars / Tinnitus – The Chinese like things loud. They talk loudly, they play music loudly, they beep their horns for extended periods. It is entirely possible for two Chinese people standing next to each other to conduct a conversation that could be heard from India.
2. Taxi drivers / broken body – taxis are dangerous to your health whether you are in the taxi or not. Footpaths offer no protection from a determined Chinese taxi driver. The only known protection from a taxi is to hope it breaks down before it reaches you.
3. Restaurants / Dyssentry – I am lucky enough to have a stomach that is made not only from cast iron, but lined with teflon and titanium. That being said, I know numerous foreigners who have partaken in the Chinese meal, only to have it come out their bottoms faster than it went in their mouths.
4. Spitting / tuberculosis – The Chinese love to spit. If you collected the combined spit of the country over a 24 hour period, then, well you’d be a pretty disturbed individual. When I first moved here there was an add campaign that ran, “I’m doing my bit to prevent tuberculosis”. Apparently the bit most Chinese men are doing is to expel the entire contents of their lungs onto the pavement every 5 minutes.
5. Food, Milk, Water/ Melatonin, MSG, Mercury, lots of other nasty things that start with “M” – There seems to be a scandal involving foodstuff every other day in China. But hey, most of the stuff is exported to our home countries anyway, so living here is no worse.
6. Myself / pretty much anything – Despite being fairly well travelled, I still retain an astounding ability to do ridiculous and stupid things. Let’s hope that never changes…