Sunday, March 23, 2008


Had I not received an email from my mom a few days ago, I wouldn't have known that it was Good Friday. As it is, it was hard to convince myself that today really was Easter. China doesn't know about Easter, although I predict in a few years the non-religious parts of the holiday will seep in, just like Santas are ubiquitous during Chistmas season. (As a side note, I hear that during Christmas, the Chinese have invented what they think is an American tradition during Christmas: hitting each other with blow-up hammers. One American went to the town square and said that he almost felt in danger when the crowd of Chinese realized there was a real American that they could mob with their hammers.)

Our Sunday fellowship was good. I was so happy to be able to say, "He is risen!" and "He is risen indeed!" I met a few people from the international Sound of Music cast who came. I signed up to help stage a Steven Curtis Chapman concert in Chengdu in early May. Pretty standard stuff for a Sunday morning in China.

I ate lunch with a few people, including a guy recently out of college named James who was going to some park after lunch to meet some other professors at the university he teaches at. He was unsure of the bus routes, and I didn't have anything else to do in the afternoon and thought he might like some company, so I decided to join him.

We boarded the 111 and waited until we got to Jinsha Station. We expected that we would be able to take the 366 from there, but then we realized that we had to take the 305 first. All of the 305, from start to finish. The 305 is so long (or popular) that it even has an express bus, and then once we finished with that, we would still have to sit through ten stops or so on the 366. It was already 2:00 and we decided it wasn't worth the effort, so we went to look around the stores near the station.

We stopped into an English school because James was interested in supplementing his job at the university with a part-time job teaching English. He got their contact info and said that he would get in touch once he had his work visa. This must be a really legit teaching place, because no one cares about official work permits. All of us who work at the university are paid under the table, I think.

Then we came to some guys who were supposed to be selling plants all playing cards. I explained the rules of Beat the Landlord to James while we observed their strategy: you deal out the whole deck, one guy gets to be the landlord and gets three extra cards, and the other two play against him. If the landlord gets rid of his cards first, he collects, if one of the other guys do, they win. I said that I was just waiting for a chance to play for money with people. Only three or four minutes after I said that, the guy we were watching stood up and left to go check on something. This was my chance. I sat down, picked up his cards, and played his hand. That's just how it works here. You don't ask to play, you just wait until there's an opportunity.

I thought I had lost the first hand and started to get out my wallet, but the guys said I didn't have to. It turned out my partner had won for us. I was the landlord the next hand, and with some help from the guy who's place I had taken, worked a really good hand to my advantage and won. Then I was on a team with one of the other guys and we won again. I had a little stash of kuai at this point, and felt a little more confident. Half of the fun is slapping the cards onto the table and yelling something in Chinese when you have a great play, and I didn't quite get the slap down perfectly, but I was improving. My hands weren't shaking with exhilaration as the hands went by.

After maybe ten minutes and seven or eight rounds, James said he was ready to leave, so I finished up that hand (we won) and then left, leaving my winnings behind for the guy who had been playing.

I gambled on Easter, but at least I practiced my Chinese doing it.


Sheri said...

This post made me laugh- trying to envision slapping the table with loud Chinese exclamations! sounds like fun.
And the gambling at Easter fits right in to the holiday- just like the soldiers gambled gathered around the foot of the cross. Apparently Jesus' inner coat was valuable- being woven in one piece. Anyway, I'm glad you finally had a chance to play this game-- you've been itching to do so since you saw it, haven't you??
Keep these blogs coming. We're so enjoying them.

katiepenguins said...

That makes me laugh. Happy Easter!

Freon said...

I'm planning on going to Chengdu next fall and have some questions I'd like to ask you about it. I didn't see an email address on your page, so I'm commenting instead. Write me back when you have some time at abenco at gmail dot com.
Thanks and keep up the great blogging.

Sheri said...

Grammie said she got a kick out of your blog. Apparently they have a little system. Poppop prints the blog off the internet when he wakes up. Then when Grammie wakes up, she has your article to read and enjoy. She wanted me to tell you she thinks you're a good writer.

Shawn the Rock said...

hey~dude.I knew that Stephen will come to chengdu.May 8th Chengdu,China Chengdu Sichuan Univ.

Shawn the Rock said...

but can u tell me where can i get the tickets and how much price ?

Thanks anyway~