The Blue Sky

By Bryan • china, life, nanjing, personal • 16 Oct 2004

Last night, Annie took me down to Hunan Road which, I am told, is the ‘place’ to be on weekend nights. Somewhere, I don’t know exactly (despite being a geography grad and surveyor) along Hunan Road is this massive pedestrian boulevard. This storefront and building lights here are incredible. That, coupled with the sheer number of people wandering around, creates a level of energy which, frankly, doesn’t exist in Canada. Hunan street is a little on the expensive side, so we just walked around and had some cheap dumplings before heading back to NNU.

Tonight I was on my own, and after climbing the local mountain in the afternoon, I was absolutely desperate for a huge meal (not the shit at the cafeteria). I’ve also been feeling like a child this past week, as I have had to ask for help even for the simplest things, like doing laundry, or going to the store. The language barrier is huge here. I hate asking for help. I really do. I vowed that I was going to find my own restaurant, on my freakin’ own.

So I took off into the city by myself. In all honestly, I was very terrified. Not off crime or anything like that, but of getting smeared by a car or a bus. Traffic here isn’t like traffic back in Canada. When one crosses the street here, one really does take their life into their own hands. Cars won’t stop for you…you pretty much have to weave your way through them (kind of like that scene from Gattaca when Ethan Hawke and Uma Thman cross the highway). If you are lucky, there might be a controlled crosswalk. I found that the best way is to stick close to some locals.

After my traffic navigation confidence increased I began to look for a decent place to dine. A Mexican place looked rather nice, but also looked very expensive…and I had doubts about how ‘Mexican’ it actually was. I passed a lot of interesting looking places, but I began to realize that this was probably a bad idea. For I knew exactly what was going to happen. I would walk into one of these places, not knowing any mandarin, and the servers would probably have little English. Frustration would ensue, and I would walk out rather embarrassed. Chances are that there was probably some sort of English menu available, but cursing around on my own was a big adventure for tonight. In retrospect, I probably should have just bought something off a vendor.

I was getting really hungry by this point…really hungry. I wanted a huge meal…something western. I didn’t exactly want to stoop down to KFC or McDonalds, but it was looking like that or noodles back in my room.

On my way back to NNU (there is a McD’s near it…I had decided by this time) I found the Blue Sky. The Blue Sky is an expat bar and grill. I walked in immediately.

The place is priced for foreigners (ie. Western prices), but I really didn’t care. I ordered the biggest burger on the menu, introduced myself to Carlsberg beer and watched Formula One racing.

I don’t think I’ve ever actually walked into a pub alone and sat down at the bar. A very interesting perspective presents itself when one observes while alone.

Everything I have read about money, women and sex in China materialized before my eyes at the Big Sky expat bar. I estimate that there was probably 20 patrons in the establishment during the time I spent there. With the exception of myself and a three or four young backpacking/TEFL looking folk in the corner, everyone else was over the age of 50, all overweight, all quite loud, struttin’ around like they owned China….and all male. From what I could hear, most appeared to be from the British Isles, and I would hazard to guess that they were all engineers of some sort.

I’d say about four or five of them had women companions…none of which could have been over the age of 22. All absolutely beautiful. The three men, who walked into the bar after I had arrived, all had a Chinese female companion. I learned a lot just sitting at that bar. Money is King. But more importantly, I realized that this is the sort of image of the West that is being shot into China. While there is a substantial number of young westerners (TEFLers and student)…the people who get noticed are the type I saw in at the Blue Sky.

I’ve only been here a week to the day, so I feel like I am going out of league in generalizing and furthermore, I know two older men with substantial Sino experience who do not fit this model at all. I also don’t know the guys at the bar either. But from where I was sitting, what I saw disgusted me. It was the sort of thing I would have expected from colonial times. The wealthy, older English traders whoring it up with the local ladies in Hong Kong, Shanghai or Yokohama. It is interesting to point out that Nanjing was once a treaty port along with the above mentioned cities, under the European powers during the 19th century. It would appear that some things never change.

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