Thursday, April 06, 2006

Shanghai Taxi

On our way to meet Christian and Helen for the last time (for real this time), pip and I were reminded of how crazy the driving here in Shanghai is. If you've ever watched a Lethal Weapon type movie, where there's a car chase and the cops are weaving through traffic, persuing the bad guys, this is what this taxi ride felt like. Very fast and rather scary.

Driving around in a taxi is both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.. Imagine 19 million people ALL driving like 17 year old male P-platers. Total fucking Chaos. Or so it seem to the casual outside observer. It is so the quick or the dead in this place, either get into that small gap in front of me or get fucked. Being in the front seat of the taxi is also quick disconcerting. Your seated in a place usually reserved for controlling the vehicle, but because it's all left hand drive here, you feel strangely in control but not. You know that feeling when you're leaning on a chair and you think it's about to tip but it doesn't or looking over the side of a cliff, knowing full well you are safe, but getting a nasty case of vertigo? Well, that's what riding shotgun in one of these modded VW Santanas is like.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The bathroom of fear

This story might have happened in international waters 2 weeks ago, but it's worth telling.

It’s day two on the boat, the sea is a bit choppy and everyone on board isn’t feeling 100%. Reading my Chinese guide book takes my attention away from the horizon, making things worse, so I fire up some old Nintendo games on my laptop, only to return similar results. Sleeping supplies relief and is remarkably easy to do on a boat, but there is only so much shuteye one can have in a day. I venture out of my room and explore the ship a little. I find other passengers scattered around, trying other vocations to distract them from the rocking motion of the ocean. I chat to the Brazilian guy, who introduces himself as “I am Jose from Brazil” as if that whole sentence is his name. He’s a friendly guy who’s been studying Japanese in Kobe. He tells me about his two girlfriends. One in Kobe, one in Tokyo. It would seem if you are white and you’re in Japan for any extended period of time, you are going to have at least one Japanese girlfriend. The Finnish guy joins the conversation and admits disappointedly that he had not been nearly as successful with ladies in his 8 months in Japan, and is now returning home.

The Finn

I say goodbye to the lads and continue my exploration, where I find the hot bath and shower room is still accessible. I enter the locker room and hear loud sloshing sounds coming from behind the bathroom door. It sounds like two fat guys are taking turns jumping in and bombing each other, having a grand old time being wet and naked. I open the door to find the floor saturated and the bath empty of patrons and full of violently choppy water, being thrown side to side by the movement of the ship. This looks like fun.

the bathroom

I fetch my towel from my room and race back to the bathroom. I strip off and wash myself thoroughly, whilst sliding around on my little plastic stool. What a lark. Not only have I found the cure for my boredom, I’ve discovered the best kept secret of the ship. And it’s all mine. I jump into the bath, sit down and begin to ride the hot bath rollercoaster. As the water slaps the sides of the bath, I slide along the bottom and lightly tap the walls. It’s like my own version of the sea outside, except warm, shallow and some chance of rescue. After the initial enjoyment of being throw around wears off, I brace myself in one place and relax, letting the hot water dissolve the soreness of the previous two weeks of snowboarding.

The door opens. The Finnish guy with his arse-length blond hair, stands in the doorway naked and is a little surprised to find me sitting in the bath, enjoying his idea. He says hello and ventures over to the showers to perform his pre-bath scrub. We chat about the rough seas and I make a few jokes about being naked, which are either ignored or not found funny. He finishes his wash and makes an attempt at getting in the bath, misses the pole and slips a little. In a split second, the Finn’s expression goes from steely determination to freaked out cat, clawing at any means of grip and stability. He catches himself and relaxes a little, finding the humour in the situation. He takes his seat in the bath and we exchange some small talk and chat about monster rock. We sit in the bath for about ten minutes, and I start to feel the amplified motion of the boat a little disconcerting. I stand up to leave and the sensation of standing up in a hot bath begins. I hold onto the handrail and lower myself towards the row of showers. I only have to make it to the little plastic stool and I’ll be ok. However, this is made difficult by the motion of the boat and the water on the floor. I slip around, naked and disorientated until I finally find refuge on the stool. I’m safe and exchange a joke with the Finn about how we are now even for embarrassing adventures in the nude. The blood from my head continues to evacuate and rushes to my feet. The already rocking room begins to spin and my vision becomes blurred. I reach for the water taps, hoping that a burst of hot water will bring me back from the encroaching darkness. I spray the water, which is cold, on my body and I begin to think about things that aren’t in the room.



“hello? Are you ok?”

A distorted picture of the room appears in front of my eyes. I’m lying on the floor. How did this happen? My head is laying in the water and the room is on it side. Things aren’t making sense. “Are you ok?” I hear in a deep voice behind me. I sit up to find my reflection looking back at me, my face covered with blood. This isn’t good. The Finnish penis to my right comes into focus and things become very weird. There’s something unnerving about waking up disorientated and seeing your own blood covering your face and someone else’s penis hovering about 30 centimetres from your right ear. Adrenaline filled my veins and I managed to regain enough composure to thank the Finn escape to the changing room, where I lay naked on the floor for about 5 minutes. I dizzily dried and dressed myself and left.

I spent the rest of the day snoozing in my room with my boredom and need for adventure coming to an agreement not to have any major accidents for the remainder of the journey.

the scar

ps - I thought I had posted this a couple of days ago, but when I went to check it out it had disappeared. After thinking that an ingenious Chinese government plot to censor stories of naked men in bathrooms had removed my post, i discovered that I had saved it as a draft and not published it. Ahhh.. We can't go on together with suspicious minds