Today, I met Brendan O’Kane (Bokane). He showed me around the city a bit. First we got a meal at a Sichuan place, then we hit a local punk concert, and after that we went to a popular hangout for “intellectual lăowài”, and got some Xinjiang food. It was a great day!
As I’ve previously read and added some of his Chinese writing to my delicious links, I knew Brendan’s Chinese would be good. I was completely unprepared for how good it would be, though. All I can say, is that guy is an animal! Not only does he read and write great Chinese, but his speech sounded just like a local Beijinger’s, at least to my humble ears. Not only that, but I hear he can do a pretty convincing Uygur accent!
I’ve known quite a few foreigners who speak better Chinese than I do, but Brendan was something different. Not only were there no communication difficulties, but his speech and demeanor seemed to put people to ease. When we were in the cab, he and the cab driver were using so much 兒音化 (Beijing “R” pronunciation) that I could barely follow them. What was clear though, was that he didn’t know exactly where we needed to go, and that the cab driver was smiling and happily dealing with route changes and our confusion. That stuff normally pisses cab drivers off. I swear the guy will be fending off CCTV show offers with a stick if he keeps this up much longer.
The Sichuan meal absolutely blew away any Sichuan food I’ve had in Taiwan. It was a nice restaurant, it was the first time I’ve been served genuinely spicy food in a Chinese restaurant outside the US, it was tasty, and it all cost the equivalent of about $150 Taiwanese dollars. A similar meal at a restaurant in Taibei would be at least $600, wouldn’t really be spicy and would be corrupted to suit the Formosan palette. Beijing definitely wins hands down when it comes to food.
The punk concert was also something very interesting and different to me. In my experience thus far, nearly all Taiwanese and HK songs I’ve heard were either wussy love ballads, wanna be hip-hop, or rap. That isn’t to say I don’t like some of it. I do. A-mei, Cai Yiling and Wubai, in particular, have some songs I like. But this was a totally different animal. Beijing has rockers; guys that come here with nothing but a guitar, 100RMB, and a dream; girls with green hair and piercings; foul mouthed announcers; and most of all, harder music. No wonder so many Beijingers think southerners are wusses. I sure felt like one.
The Xinjiang food and the intellectual lăowài gathering was kinda cool too. I met David, of Adsotrans, Joel of Danwei, some long haired translator guy, as well as some others. All in all, the food and the company were both great. It was an enjoyable ending to an enjoyable day.