As I get older around my birthday, I feel like I should have some knowledge to show for it– and of course, to share. The problem is as you get older, you feel stupider and less creative. Another one of life’s cruelties: when you want it you can’t have it and when you have it [...]
Posts Tagged ‘shenzhen’
So I have a British-American friend who lives in China (Hangzhou via Shenzhen) who looks exactly like the fellow in the picture below getting a free drink:
I tried to relate this to a handful of mutual Chinese friends (“Hey look at what a LEGEND Adam is!”) and their response was about the same as this:
(“He won’t do it”)
But I mean, it looks exactly like him. And he drinks the cheapest liquor he can get his hands on in China!
Why can’t they see the joke?
Because China, they say. Anyhow, my friend Adam looks like the dude sneaking a drink here and if none of my Chinese friends get it, I hope you get it. Felix would get it.
I have no friends in China anymore…
I met Felix in November of 2009. I was in Shenzhen, China doing business and I met a girl. He was her best friend’s boyfriend.
“Felix”, she said ( she pronounced Fell-icks), “Speaks good english. You will like him”
And I did.
Felix was my archetypal Male Chinese Friend. When I talk about Chinese Friends I talk about Felix. There was the time I tripped and fell in the Cantonese Barbecue restaurant on 中兴路。 Felix told the waitress (in Mandarin) “That there was some problem with the floor”. I didn’t fall because I was drunk, I fell because the floor had some problem. Welcome to the beautiful freedom of Chinese friendship. I can’t tell you how comfortable this feels. Get as blind stinking drunk as you want and trip over a flat floor like it’s an obstacle course and your good friends will blame the floor. This is classic Chinese friendship.
The waitress said “We’ll fix it tomorrow”. Haole (好了), Felix said, meaning “Ok, it’s good”.
Felix was from Hong Kong, which at the time he was born was a far-flung British territory, although still markedly Chinese. While Hong Kongers know they are Chinese they also have a sense that they are something else. It isn’t a pride or an overarching awareness, just a small sense. They are quiet about it. Mainland Chinese are loud about it. Most Hong Kongers think they’re better, according to mainland Chinese. If Felix thought he was better, he never showed it.
He moved to Shenzhen, and lived there for years. Finally, he bought an apartment there, 50% to appease his girlfriend who seeks the House, Car, Savings (HCS, or HSBC) and 50% because he had adapted to the rough and tumble ways of living in China.
Hong Kong felt too sanitized for me, and for Felix too. We preferred Shenzhen.
We ate oysters. Raw ones. Of all the friends I ever had in China he was the only person I could eat raw oysters with. And we did. 2-3 times per week. If you’ve ever wanted to order beers later than you should, meet Felix. He’d order them until your face and mouth and body said “No more, let’s go”. Otherwise, he’d say “What’s the problem, you’re in China”. Fuck, we were in China.
In Classic Chinese fashion he fought me to pay the bill. Every time. Even if he would only have 200 RMB on a 275 kuai bill and he’d fight me. In the west we fight paying the bill not so much out of honor, but out of shame lest others think we cannot pay the bill. Felix paid it from the same set of morals that made him blame the floor for my missteps: let him feel comfortable; he’s far from home.
Felix loved diving, fishing and spear fishing. It was always something I wanted to do with him but never had the time. These trips take 10-14 days. I always hated when he’d be on these trips because sometimes i’d be in and out of town, and his trip would overlap with my in-town time and we couldn’t hang out. He’d call me and tell me to delay it so we could hang out.
Fish around the world can breathe a sigh of relief. He would take Chinese tourists to Indonesia and teach them how to scuba dive and spearfish. He would always tell me funny stories about how Chinese people were afraid of dangerous oceanlife, until they tasted some of it.
“This old lady man, after I cut her a small piece of the poisonous sea snake and she tried it, the next day she was trying to grab one with her bare hand in the ocean, man. I told her to be careful for it’s teeth it will kill you. Man Chinese people go crazy for sea snake”.
Felix said “Man” a lot.
Living as a foreigner in China is lonely. All of the other foreigners are either maladjusted, very focused womanizers or get-rich-quick types. Felix brought a sense of normalcy to my life in the otherwise bizarro world of Shenzhen. He was a regular dude. He visited his daughter every weekend. He had morals and ethics. Friendship mattered to him.
He would call me at least every 2 or 3 days, invite me to go somewhere. “They have nice oysters there” he’d say. Or “This place has the beer made from the mountain water, spring water beer, man”. He knew how to convince me. One time we had an argument about something. He was acting like an asshole for some reason. I knocked over a beer bottle and left, got into a cab, went home. He called the next day “Hey, man. I was a real bastard last night, I won’t do that again, I wanted to call and say sorry and ask you if you want to have dinner tonight”. So direct, so simple, so effective.
Pay attention here people. Pay attention here Andy.
For a period of 3 or 4 months we discovered bowling. There isn’t a lot of recreation in China and Felix always overdid everything. He was a perpetual overdoer. I would talk crap about his bowling game and he would just go practice all the time. He surpassed me and was bowling around 200 for awhile. One afternoon he went to the bowling alley and played 10 games. He kept calling me and texting images of his score with his face smiling to get me to go down there. He suffered an injury to his leg doing on the day he bowled 10 games and had a slight limp and could not bowl, smoke or drink for some period of time.
Felix was one of the best male karaoke singers I’ve ever met. Even though he sang with the Cantonese accent that pronounces English like ↑↓↑↓ his tone and voice was perfect. He could sing pretty much any song from the 80′s but especially loved Phil Collins. He sang so seriously and earnestly. His voice was so deep. Until I moved to China I didn’t know that non-native English speakers could tell if someone was singing an English song badly— I mean my pronunciation is good. “You’re really bad, man”, Felix told me. Good to know!
Felix studied in Canada and Australia. Living in Canada was a low point on some levels for him.
“It was cold and boring and everyone just thought I was some Chink from the village” he said, before laughing with his laugh that was loud and overbearing. If you were thinking “oh that’s so sad”, Felix would laugh over it in order to force you to laugh too.
When I talk about my “Chinese Friends” I talk about Felix, the others were auxiliary characters and were minor. There was this other episode where I had to move. As a foreigner in China you realized how bad you were being cheated on your rent in six-month increments. Luckily that’s how long the leases lasted. Each time I needed (needed!) to move I would tell Felix. Most of the time the landlords were Guangdong people (Cantonese) and I asked him to help talk to them for me. He would argue with them forever. It sounded like nonsense to me.
I would always tell him how I needed to be out early. Whether he was hungover, got home late, or didn’t get home at all— always at 7AM he’d be there with a man with a handcart.
“Let’s get you moved” he’d say, while I was in boxers and hadn’t packed a thing.
I met Felix through a girl, which is how most things happen for foreigners in China. He never mentioned it and also, he kept me honest. A good friend will pick you apart. One time my girlfriend found out I had been seen with another girl. “How could you let her find out?” he shouted. “Why didn’t you protect her?” he asked. I’ve never felt more embarassed in my life. Him and I were best friends, but she was his friend too. I hurt his friend and I lost my honor by not doing the right thing, but more by being so arrogant to let her find out. This isn’t some cultural relativist shit, this is basic pragmatist social structure shit. I fucked up. She knew. He knew. All my friends knew. They were ashamed of my behavior. A good friend will pick you apart.
The last time I talked to Felix was through Facebook. He was mad that I didn’t tell him that after my business in China I was going to the Philippines for a few days and then back home. Explicitly. I never said it. I left that night and said I’d be back later and he made sure I got into a taxi and I went with Rogier. I woke up and went and checked out and then went to the Hong Kong Airport. Felix’s airport.
I don’t want to talk too much about how Felix died or if he died doing what he loved, which he did. He loved diving, he did. He was always challenging himself, in the same way that he bowled 10 games in one day. He always caught these ridiculously huge fish and he’d talk about how certain tuna would pull you down 30 meters after you shot them. There was a point, he said, where you had to cut the line and let the fish go, or it would take you too deep.
“Did you ever cut the line?” I asked. “Not yet” he said, and then cue that loud laugh.
This was the last conversation we had, and it was through motherfucking Facebook. He posted a picture of a beautiful beach. He would later dive there, and dive for the last time there:
Andy Foxwow looks beautiful, where is it?November 2 at 7:57pm ·
Felix TsangThis is where i used to dive, Its on the google map. Why u left without telling me.November 2 at 7:59pm ·
Andy Foxi left the day after we went to the bar with Rogier and after rogier’s passport got stolen after sleeping over at the rub and tug placeNovember 2 at 8:00pm ·
Felix TsangI mean philiphine man, i though u gonna return…November 2 at 8:04pm ·
Andy Foxoh no, that was the end of my stay in China, that night. It was a good night though. Thanks again. Your freind was cool tooNovember 2 at 8:10pm ·
I have no more friends left in China. So long Felix.So long China. I won’t go back again.