Salsa and Swing concoction brings local boy life-enriching epiphany

So much has happened in the last few days, or even hours. It’s 4h12 in the morning, Saturday morning, and I just finished a very cool Friday night. Since being in the taxi on the way home, I’ve wanted to sit down and write a blog entry. I haven’t done that in a while.

I started the evening in the afternoon. After researching what needs to be done to get me a new passport, I headed over to Qiao Ying’s tea house. I spent the afternoon drinking tea and speaking Chinese with her and my friend Zhang Hua. Sometimes Qiao Ying gets in these moods where she refuses to speak English. So I played along and I didn’t speak English either. It’s really good for me, actually. It really helps. I went through three kinds of teas during my stay there, met a new friend of Qiao Ying’s, and then left to join Mandi for her farewell dinner. I didn’t have far to go, and traffic wasn’t bad, but there were no empty taxis. I waited, changed locations, and then waited some more. So I eventually took a bus.

It was a direct route that I needed to follow, just 2 or 3 km up the street. And the trusty Route 120 took me there. I met my friends at Ya Show market near San Li Tun Bar Street. Most everyone was late (like I was—even I was the second person there!) cause traffic was really bad. It ended up being a party of 18 and then some, and miraculously we managed to find a restaurant to house us. Even to pick a restaurant. I was impressed. It was a Xin Jiang Muslim restaurant. Very good food, roasted lamb and such. I had my first Budweiser beer that night. The restaurant ran out of the local beers, so that was all that was left. Damn expensive and not very good. (Sorry, he says to his friend Karen who works for Anheuser Busch.)

On the way to dinner, Joanne pointed out to me that my backpack was open. Did I leave it open from the tea house, all the way on the bus ride? Or did someone open it while I was walking or talking to Paul in front of Ya Show? Yikes! I didn’t find anything missing until later. My minidisc was still there as well as my USB sound card and Palm Wireless Keyboard. (Yes, my backpack is an arsenal of geek electronics. Go Darren!) It was only after dinner that I realized that my $300 Etymotic ER-4P earphones were missing. I’ll never see them again. The disappointing thing is that the new owner will have no idea the true value of their new prize. Damn. Back to el-cheapo $10 earbuds for a while. At least the Etymotics are well coated with a couple month’s worth of my ear wax. Hope the new owner doesn’t actually use them.

I skipped out on Mandi and drinks on San Li Tun at 22h30 after dinner cause I wasn’t in the mood. It’s really not my scene. Adam and the gang were going to be at The Big Easy a few kilometres away, so I decided to join them. I wasn’t feeling so hot, actually. Mostly just tired from being sick all week with the flu. But I found myself telling the taxi driver to go there, so I just went with the idea. The Big Easy was alright, but nothing too great. The band was swinging a bit so Adam and River danced, and I got one dance in with River. I would have liked to spend time chatting with Adam and River, but an impromptu business meeting between them and the owner cut our time short. The belly dancer gave a couple of performances, but I wasn’t impressed. I just couldn’t get into it. Besides, her hair was dirty and her costume (what little costume she was wearing) had big food stains all up the front. Pretty yucky.

But, during one of the belly dances, I looked up at the balcony and, to my surprise, saw my friend Cheng Lei there. So I immediately left my friends and went and said hello. This is the second time that she and I have met “by luck” in this area. The other time happened at Latinos, next door to The Big Easy, about a month and a half ago, just before I left Beijing. (And I never go to Latinos.) So we were quite happy and surprised to meet like this again. It made the whole evening worth it. Plus she smiles so nicely at me. We chatted for a while until Adam phoned me looking to see where I was. I literally had disappeared on the group without a trace, so they wanted to know where I was. I felt loved. So we came down and said hello to Adam, River, and John for a few minutes. Cheng Lei had friends over at Latinos, a Brazilian dance performance group that was in Beijing for the week, so she invited me to join her over there. I hesitated, but finally agreed. I have never felt comfortable at Latinos, especially since Latin dancing/music isn’t my thing.

But I’m so glad I went with her. Although Cheng Lei likes dancing (she’s a salsa teacher, even) she just wanted to watch the others dance. But when I told her that I wanted to dance with her, she invited me to dance Swing to the Latin music. I was surprised that it even worked, but I guess it can be done cause we did it. And it was fun. She made me feel so comfortable there that I had no problems being there, dancing my own way, and enjoying myself. We met up with her friend Julia, and after the Brazilians left, the two of them decided the music at Salsa Caribi would be better. So, back to San Li Tun, and I got to try out a new club. Since I never dance Salsa in Beijing, they’re all new to me.

Salsa Caribi seemed not too bad. An acquaintance, Mustafa, was there outside the club, so already I had a friendly face to welcome me. The two girls, Cheng Lei and Julia, took to the dance floor immediately, so I just waited at a table. I saw my friend Irene dancing there too, and eventually discovered that all of my friends of Irene were there: Karen, Maple, and Christine. Seeing them was a treat, especially Karen since I haven’t seen her in so long. She’s been busy with work-related travel for many months now.

I had the best time with Cheng Lei and Julia at Salsa Caribi. They were dancing pretty hard, and when I joined them, I started dancing hard too. We danced and danced and danced. Some of it was Swing (but not to Swing music). Some just disco, and lots of Latin. I started to figure out the arm thing, twisting you and your partner’s arms in and out of pretzel contortions. Lots of fun. We played with it a lot, sometimes doing the pretzel thing with all three of us holding hands.

A very sweet night. I’m really feeling blessed by the whole thing, how it all turned out. I’ve been dealing with a lot of internal struggles and realizations lately, stemming from events in and related to returning from Canada. (I can only post weblog stuff when I’m being outgoing and external, which is why my posts are as infrequent as they are.) So I think tonight’s events have corrected my thinking in various ways, helping me to keep on the correct path that I need to follow. It’s what I needed.

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