March 31, 2013 @ 12:27 pm - posted by Drew Charles

Its been one of those winters. I quit a highly enjoyable and well paid job to take a career break and now I don’t know if I’m self-employed or unemployed, sometimes on this Career break they feel like they’re the same thing except I’ve got all the costs of self-employment and all the income of unemployment, I have to focus on the end goal of my Career Break….

Drinking in Chengdu

I learnt a valuable lesson at my leaving party from work, which is never let a Polish friend take over proceedings. We ended up in a dodgy bar in a dodgy part of East London with scantily clad females wandering around (I was in the state where that had no effect). The night ended with us pulling two young traders out of a fight with the bouncers (we may have been drunk, but we were good Samaritans).

Following a definite sayonara to stable employment it felt only right to start life with a break in China, Korea, and a last minute dash to Paris.

The nice thing about being away from home is it gives time for reflection. My life philosophy has always been “get happy or die trying”, but I need a road map, so I’ve decided “Default to yes” which basically means I’ll say yes to anything, unless I have a good reason not to. Defaulting to yes does seem to be the root cause of my adventures, my troubles, and my good fortunes, who know’s how life might have turned out if I had had the sense to say no more often….

Communist Drinking

The most news worthy night of note was also the night that damned near killed me. I don’t care what anyone says, the Communists are a good bunch to drink with and in Chengdu I once again stumbled into this experience.

Anshun Bridge in Chengdu

I got barred from entering my friend’s grandparents house after an unfortunate incident where her grandparents (who used to be “party” senators) got concerned I could be a pathetic imitation of James Bond and decided it best not to let me in. I pointed out that I’d previously passed a background check to work in a secure zone at Heathrow airport, and my friend rightly pointed out that the fact the British government had already approved a background check would do little to ease the concerns of ageing communist grandees.

If only they’d known how poor my Chinese abilities and inability to keep my mouth shut, they’d never suspect I was some globetrotting James Bond wannabe. Never mind, getting barred from a house with armed guards was not the worst way this could have ended.

My friend felt guilty (she really didn’t need to), and took me out to meet other friends and family of hers. After drinks at one place, we went on to quite a fancy bar. A few incomprehensible words of Chinese later and we were led into a private backroom inclusive of its own bathroom, karaoke, and buffet feast. At one end of the room was a stout, comfortable looking man with a huge fat Cuban cigar, and a friend who was like a mini-version of him.

“What drink would you like? I’ll introduce you to the boss”

“Tequila shot” I said naively.

“Nah, we’ll get you the bottle” – Communist drinking hospitality has no bounds. Out comes a bottle of tequila, but only one quarter-pint glass. I poured a shot into the bottom

“Keep going”.

I poured a double.

“Fill it to the top”

“Serious?”

“Yes, I’ll introduce you to the boss” he reminded me. I was lead with my quarter pint of tequila to meet the boss. A couple of translated introductions, and we got to the point where we must do the obligatory drink. ‘The boss’ downed his half pint of beer and I took a sip of my tequila.

“You must finish the glass, show respect to the boss, he’s in the Party, he runs a city of over 4 million people”. This was a communist stitch up. Drink or be humiliated.

I obliged. The tequila was fake, it lacked that classic tequila kick, the good news was it was mildly weaker, the bad news was that it left an aftertaste of anti-freeze and the purity of the alcohol would probably not be good. Over the next 10 minutes I was made to pay my respects to other people at the party by downing 2 more half pints of beer, I’d drunk enough unknown liquids to half kill a man, I felt wrenching my guts out might be the safest thing to do.

My following hangover lasted 2 days, and I got a cold soon after. Communist drinking, lots of fun, but too many side effects!

Other highlights included the Korean mud-festival, studying Chinese (I am now slowly learning the lingo), and catching up with and making new friends all over the place.

About Drew Charles

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