An All-American, Chinese WAL-MART

China Wal-Mart

When it comes to world-colliding-goodness it just doesn’t get much better than visiting a WAL-MART in China. Same WAL-MART smiley faces, same greeters, same low prices, but oh so different.

The deli has an alligator on ice.

You can buy snakes too. They are alive and squirming all over each other. I’m not sure how you get them without getting bit. Do you pick them up with your hands? I don’t see any plastic tongs.

The fish in the tanks aren’t to take home as pets.

There’s karaoke.

There are samples. Whatever happened to samples in the USA?

The toy aisle is kind of small. The only action figures they have are Transformers (cool) and some guy named UltraMan who looks like a…

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Synergy Barbie


80% of couples who adopt children from China stay at the White Swan Hotel. And every single one of them gets a “Going Home Barbie.”

So told to me by a manager at the hotel:

“Most of the children are adopted are girls and Mattel sees this as an opportunity to attract potential clients. We are on our 3rd series of Barbies. Some families who have adopted multiple times have collected all three.”

Now that’s synergy – a toy company working with a single hotel catering to a very unique niche of guests….

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Happy Birthday Garfield!

Garfield's Birthday

I don’t remember birthdays. Sorry if I missed yours. But this is one I remember each year. I don’t know why. I just do.

Garfield is about 9 months older than me. That makes him 29. I own every Garfield collection of comics from 1-35. I have several that have been autographed by Jim Davis, Garfield’s creator, who I met when I was about 8 and who, incidentally, lives just outside of Muncie, Indiana, where Annie and I bought our home.

I also have a Garfield pajama bag that would be one of the first things I grab on the way out in the event of a fire.

I know you were all thinking that I was uber-manly, but now you know I…

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Wal-Mart Crusade: Take One

There are Wal-Marts in China.

I have to go. I love seeing world’s collide. Besides, I’m out of shaving cream and I’m on the last page of my notebook.

2:10 – The quest to find Wal-Mart begins. I set one rule: I’m not allowed to say anything other than “Wal-Mart.” All I have is an address and a vague idea – very vague as it turns out – of where it is.

2:13 – Return to hotel. Forgot metro card.

2:18 – See two school girls on a teeter-totter wearing matching uniforms and eating popsicles – a perfect photo op. After I snap a few photos, they offer me one of the seats. I teeter-totter.

2:22 – Head for metro.

2:30 – An old woman…

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I gots to have my internet

My requirements for accommodation on this trip have been real simple:

I want the cheapest room possible with internet. I don’t care what the bathroom smells like or how hard the bed is, just give me my internet!

Every time I venture off into the world, I’m always amazed at how much more plugged-in it has become since my previous trip. I’ve hardly gone one day without in-room internet. I’m sure some of you think that I’ve gone soft, but constant access has allowed me to swap emails with local individuals and organizations, call home (I use Yahoo!’s call out service for 1-cent/min), backup my notes and photos, and update this blog regularly.


I pay $3 more for a room with internet. The first…

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Chopsticks neither chop nor stick. Discuss.

“Where did you learn to use chopsticks?” Huang says. It was part question and part accusation.

A boiling dish of peppers, steak, mushrooms, crab, and a lot of other things sit between us. Chongqing is famous for this dish known as hotpot because it’s boiling hot and lethally spicy to anyone from the Midwestern United States.

I don’t eat Chinese food very often at home. When I do, I don’t use chopsticks if there’s a fork within reach. I’ve always kind of thought that using chopsticks in Ohio was kind of silly. Like I was trying to be someone I was not. Besides, I have trouble enough using a knife and fork.

Where did I learn to use chopsticks?

I remember.

It was on the island…

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Real Men Play Ping Pong

Ping Pong Training

Some come to China to study Kung Fu with the masters. Not me. I came for the ping pong.

I went to Chongqing Universtiy to find a translator, which I did. I also found two PE teachers who specialize in ping pong.

As it turns out, I’ve spent the first 28 years of my life holding the paddle completely wrong.

Before I can even think about my last shot, Chen Li launches another ball at me. He is armed with a plastic basket full of balls.

Old habits die hard and Chen Li is a ruthless killer.

Ping. Ping. Ping. Pong. Pong. Pong. There are at least a dozen balls bouncing and rolling around the room. I’m working on…

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Some are uniquely ours. Some aren’t. I share many of mine with Annie.

While I’m chasing down my clothes, she’s holding down the fort in Muncie, Indiana (voted America’s most American city). We bought it in March and shortly thereafter I left for Bangladesh because my underwear was made there.

On one hand buying a home is a very mature, sensible thing to do. On the other, the underwear thing is a bit weird.

Annie has painted the walls, planted flowers, and done many other things that I probably won’t know about until I return. As fort holder-downers go, I reckon she’s a keeper. But there’s one thing she couldn’t do: keep our air conditioner from dying. Now, I’ve only owned a house for…

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Dam Happy

Public works should not have mascots. They shouldn’t need them. The benefits of the works should speak for themselves and not need to be praised by happy cartoon characters.

The Three Gorges Dam, the largest public work in history, has two loveable mascots. Here they are…

Dam Mascots

Creepy, huh? But effective. I talked with a handful of people today who live near the dam. When I ask where they lived before the dam, they all pointed down the bank into the water. Some of the families had lived in the homes for generations and were forced to move. The government compensated them up to $10,000/person, built them good roads, and provided them with reliable utilities. But the…

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“Spit Propaganda”

Reasons China shouldn’t change: The fact that we are discussing “spit propaganda” in a comment thread. And have a real life scientist (at least she claims to be) weighing her spit on her university’s dime.

Without China and all of its spitters none of this would have been possible. Different is good, China! Ignore all of the anti-spit propaganda. You live in a free country (kinda). You should be able to hack up some phlegm and spit it out whenever you darn well feel like it.

I hope I never see the day when China stops spitting. I’ve never been to Singapore, but a country that will punish you for spitting on the street is not a country I care to visit. I like…

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