Liuzhou Laowai

Random thoughts on life in Liuzhou, Guangxi, China

Lift up your glasses and sing

It was entirely my fault, but I’m going to blame sister-in-law anyway. It was her idea to have a birthday!

Mrs Laowai is away on business, so it was only me. Sister-in-law calls.

“Come to dinner. 6 pm.”

I didn’t get to live this long by ignoring the commands from the in-laws, so off I went.

Dinner was pleasant  – the usual suspects – plus a few of SIL’s friends/ colleagues. A beer or ten were consumed, “ShengRi KuaiLe”  was sung (That’s “Happy Birthday” in Chinese), and SIL and I fought over the last bit of spicy crab (an old family tradition!).

After dinner, and a few trips to the matriarchal sanitation facilities to drain extra beer, sister announces that she and her friends will now depart to ‘play’.

“Play” is one of my favourite Chinglish expressions. I will never forget back in 1997, walking along a country road in Hunan, when a rather beautiful 19 year old girl rushed up to me and asked in perfect English, “Would you like to play with me?”

“Yes please!”

To my great disappointment, it just means hang out, go out, do some kind of leisure activity together (but not that one). We, and some of her friends ending up having a picnic.
Anyway, I take this as my cue to leave Mama’s house, too. We walk to the end of the road. I plan to go straight ahead for the simple reason that this is the direction to my home. They plan to turn right to hit some bar.

I say,  “Goodnight!”

“No. You come with us!”

I really don’t want to, but don’t want to hurt the birthday girl’s feelings, so I go along with it. She is a sweetie! (Better cook than the wife – I always tell Mrs Laowai that I married the wrong one. I went for pretty rather than dinner!)

So, we arrive at some bar. There we find about 10 or so of SIL’s workmates. All male. All determined to drink beer with the Laowai. I’m sure I must have mentioned before that beer drinking in China is a different concept to that in the west. Here it is a competitive sport.
I’m utterly convinced Chinese men don’t like beer! They have to dare each other to drink it! They have many elaborate games in which the punishment for failure is to have to drink some beer!

After the dinner beer and competition with SIL’s friends’ beer, I’m feeling a bit woozy. So I have done my duty, put in an appearance and made my excuses. Time to leave.

That is the last thing I remember.


I wake up around 7 a.m. as usual. I’ve always been an early riser. Well, an early waker – I might lie for a while trying to rise!

After all the years I have navigated this planet, I have found that I have an unerring instinct for getting home. Wherever home happens to be. So, I’m not surprised to be in my bed in my home! I also have an unerring instinct for removing my glasses and placing them on the bedside table. Always!

Except this time!


Bats see better than me. I cannot function at all without my specs! And I can’t find them. How do you look for them when you can’t see? I have work to do which requires seeing! I spent three hours, crawling around my fairly large apartment trying to feel spectacle like objects. No joy.

Finally, I give up and call good friend! HELP! Friend with eyes arrives and searches. Glasses are nowhere!

From the bar to my home is about a 15 minutes walk – maybe 25 minutes stagger. Somewhere en route I have discarded my glasses? Highly unlikely, Clearly, I was abducted by aliens who stole my glasses! Only sensible explanation!

Now I have to urgently acquire new vision aids, so with aforementioned friend, I head off for the local spectacle emporium. Actually there are hundreds of local spectacle emporiums, but I have totally irrationally taken a liking to one of them in particular.

Maochang Glasses Emporium
Lovely people! My friend leads me carefully to the shop, tells me to sit down and someone begins to test my eyes.

“Read the chart!”

“What chart?”    <<Chinese Eye Chart>>

Ophthalmologist goes off for a brief lie down and a sedative and eventually returns with her collection of extra strong lenses. After a bit of experimentation, we find a combination of lenses that enables me to see – sort of.

“Oh! That chart!”

The major vision dysfunction among Chinese people is short-sightedness. I am long-sighted. That throws her! Really I need one set of specs for reading, writing nonsense on this blog, etc and another for walking along the street. What I want is Varifocals. That’s what the aliens stole!

No problem. They can do that. But not here in Liuzhou. They have to be made in Guangzhou. Takes one week.

So, I order a pair of Guangzhou Varifocals and take home one pair of reading glasses (made in Liuzhou in one hour), so that I can at least read and bore you! But can’t function otherwise. Miserable week.

Moral of the story? Never get married!

You just end up with sisters-in-law who get you drunk and then invite aliens to land, abduct you and steal your glasses before depositing you back in bed!

. This entry was posted on Friday, September 29th, 2006 at 3:38 pm and is filed under Stupidity. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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