"Here in Yongzhou... we have... a wine culture. It is... a very good culture."
Yeah. I could have guessed, actually. Maybe it was the bottles of 53% alcohol our hosts were downing by the half-dozen at the banquet they threw us our first night here. Maybe it was the homemade rice wine they store in giant barrels and drink by the bucketful at lunch. Or the bottles of beer they pop open with glee.
Have you ever seen a Chinese man go red? I mean REALLY red. Sweat-running-down-their-face-and-turning-to-steam red. I have. Oh, I have. Try our principal, our dean of foreign languages, our head of English department, our translator (who is also a teacher), another teacher, and last but not least, our driver.
Now the driver hid it better than most, so we didn't know for sure if he was drunk or not until he stood up and looked us in the eyes. And then we knew: he was just as smashed as the others. Ryan thought it might be fun to ride with him... I was definitely more hesitant. Somehow, though, he managed to not get us killed, or even injured (which is a feat of heroism on Chinese streets under any circumstances).
Never have I been more grateful that I don't drink. And that Ryan does not drink. They told us how normally they try to get the foreign teachers drunk, and how the guy from India got so drunk they had to get him a room at the hotel above the restaurant. The guy from Ghana apparently drank the Chinese people under the table though, and they loved that just as much.
One of our favorite moments came when Mr. He, our translator, leaned over and said, in a very slurred voice, "One of the foreign teachers, he told me when I am half-drunk my English is not so good. But you understand me, and I am not just half-drunk!"
Yes, Mr. He, we understand you. You are saying that you are VERY drunk! But we could have told you that.