Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Welcome to The Clubhouse

Today I get you a membership.

Obviously, one of the reasons you read this blog is how connected it instantly makes you. The insider tips on living in China, the little lessons in speaking Mandarin, and the coupons I mail my followers each month. Today, I give you the lowdown on one of Jilin's hidden gems. 
It's a barbecue restaurant with a fantastic deal: all you can eat and drink for 35 yuan (about $6 CAD). Now usually we go there after another restaurant because for that price you figure the food can't be great, but we went and had dinner a couple nights ago and I was pleasantly surprised. You can pick as much meat and vegetables and fish and tofu and whatever else as you want, throw it all in your frying pan at the center of each table, and away you go! After that, there's a random and constantly-changing assortment of cookies and snacks that I can't easily identify. 
Coolers full of food to cook, shelves full of snacks, and a make-your-own-sauce bar.
The Clubhouse earned its name for being an extremely relaxed and fun place to spend several hours. It just builds friendships. We've often stayed into the night, and it's an environment where we're free to yell loudly, and sing our favourite songs from Disney's Mulan even more loudly. Not only that, but our frequent visits have led to a friendship with the guy there, which has led to discounts on what's already the cheapest deal ever. He knows us pretty well too; for example he knows that I can be a heavy drinker, so the other night there were 5 bottles of Pepsi waiting for me at the table before I even sat down. The man just gets me. 
Just the clear ones are mine.
Whenever I hear we're going to The Clubhouse, I'm in. I've never not had a good time there, and I'm always down to go sit, eat way too many frosted peanuts, and drink enough Pepsi to keep me up all night. There's the time I got enough free ice cream for everyone by making friends with the next table, that strange moment when a man who clearly didn't speak English inexplicably warned us "DON'T SWIM!" and then disappeared into the night, or the time a Chinese stranger and I stood side by side to pee outside in the winter when the restaurant's one tiny bathroom was occupied. It's always an experience.

But you may be wondering: Is this place legit? How can they just give away food and alcohol like that? Is it actually a money-laundering outfit for the Chinese mafia? 

You ask too many questions. Be quiet and eat some more.

Monday, March 10, 2014

A Chinese Workout: 5 Differences

Well, we are over 2 months into your New Year's Resolution; how's it holding up? In case you're still heading to the gym, here are 5 differences between that gym and a Chinese gym.

1. No Rules
There aren't really any rules at the gym, and the few that exist are pretty relaxed. For example, there's no smoking allowed in the gym, but in the locker room is fine. (Ah... evidently there's nothing like that first completely naked smoke after a workout.) You also aren't supposed to take your shirt off, but it's ok if you're SUPER hot on the treadmills or you want to check out your pec progress in the weight room mirrors. If flexibility is one of your goals, a Chinese gym has you covered.
Re-racking your weights? Not a rule, not a thing.
 2. No Wipe Downs
I see people complaining about others not wiping down their machines at Western gyms, but my gym doesn't even give you the option. There's no disinfectant or paper towels anywhere, and the full-time cleaning staff has their hands full with constantly mopping the floors to keep them forever slippery. We call that Priority Training. As a result, the machines have enough DNA on them to spawn a super-human, and the heart-rate readers will still sense a heartbeat with your hands in the air. 

3. Cheaper than Being at Home
Although a Chinese gym may come with some drawbacks, I just remind myself that being a member is dirt cheap. It cost me $100 CAD for a full year! For a fully-equipped gym that includes classes, that's the cheapest thing I've ever heard. Plus... it comes with a free locker! No more quarters! There is no Chinese quarter!
I had to crop all the nudity out.
4. Alternative Workouts
On any given evening, two of the most popular pieces of equipment will be the ping-pong and pool tables. I had never seen these offered in a gym before, but people here REALLY get into them. (Those stereotypes about amazing Chinese ping-pong players? They're true.) Anyways, these options mean that sometimes you'll see a person come and put on gym clothes to play pool for some reason. 
I'm too scared to challenge these guys.
 5. Gym Fashion
Speaking of gym clothes, the workout outfits might be the most interesting part of the gym. So far I've found that Chinese fashion includes ANY article of clothing, in any circumstance or combination. This remains true after people hit the locker room, meaning that I've seen everything from a denim jacket to matching pajamas. The strangest one I saw happened last week: a guy on a treadmill wearing leather pants, a shirt with a massive Union Jack, and a fedora. He brought a gym bag with him too... so who knows what he changed OUT of.