I had lots of fun on Friday night…

Can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but I went to a dinner with the frontline support team – the people who first answer the phones for support issues with Office 365 in the Asia-Pacific Greater China (APGC) region.  This is the second time since I’ve been here that we have dinner in a private room.  Most restaurants here, I’m told, have many rooms like this and to have a private room is much more a common experience with a larger group than to sit in the ‘normal’ restaurant.  They just keep bringing out dish after dish after dish of food and put it on the turntable in the middle.  You take small bits off as things pass in front of you.  Clear off enough from one plate, they transfer it to a smaller one and bring out the next dish.

Believe me, the presentation of the dishes at this place was amazing.  Those with me this time could translate much better into English just exactly what was on the table, but there were a few things that they didn’t quite know.  I’m still curious if they really didn’t, or they just wanted to see what the American would eat.  So far, I have not disappointed and haven’t turned down anything.  Doesn’t mean I go back for seconds of everything…  But who knew jellyfish would be crunchy?  Kind of an oxymoronic dining experience there…

How you begin with dinner at a lot of these restaurants here is going to a line of fish tanks and picking out your dinner.  Lobsters, crab, eel, all kinds of fish…  It’s cooked and brought to the table, most usually with the head still attached, to demonstrate how fresh the meal is.  I wasn’t so concerned about the eyes staring at me as I was the ‘white wine’ that was about to make the rounds.  Moutai – a sorghum and wheat spirit that dates back to the Han dynasty, 135 B.C. (or when Anne was 12) was the offering.  This was a celebration dinner for the team and also introducing me to them, so the custom of toasting each individual with a small shot and a ‘Ganbei’ (literal translation: empty cup) was about to begin.  This was kind of like a greeting line, but with liquor instead of a handshake.

Fierce is the competitive spirit in me, so I was committed to make it through both tables.  The size of the glass, however, is maybe 1/3 the size of a standard US shot glass, so doing quick math on ~18 people I figure 6 shots of 100 proof liquor.  Oh, yeah.  I got this.

My math was a bit faulty because there were several people not drinking.  Some because they simply don’t, others because they were driving.  Drinking and driving is taken very seriously here in China and people avoid it at all costs.  You can go to jail for life if you are involved in an accident where someone is killed if you are above the legal limit.

Fire isn’t exactly the word I would use for what this stuff was like in my throat, but it had a good heat to it.  I did have to keep my tea nearby to wash it down especially for the last few, but I did make it through everyone.  They constantly asked me how I felt – I guess they were worried how they would carry me out – but I was doing just fine.  My new friends were showing a bit more of the impacts, but Jimmy’s survived far too many Tiger tailgates do be done in that easily.

Still looking for more fun after dinner – they called it “Round 2” – we went to a karaoke club.  I know that karaoke is big in the Asian countries.  But this?  Ri-donk-u-lous.  I’m used to karaoke being some guy showing up at a bar in his windowless van and hauling in his karaoke machine and a recycled set of stage speakers at the same night every week.  This place was a palace.  Marble hallways.  Not just the floor.  The walls, too.  This also isn’t a place with a common area where you sing in front of a bunch of strangers.  It is a collection of rooms, varying in sizes, where you go with a group of friends.  You order in cocktails, food, and rent the room by the hour.  I don’t know how many rooms there were in this place total, but our room number was 518.  The room numbers weren’t all sequential, so I doubt there were actually 518+ rooms, but there were a LOT.  And it was full.

Burns from the soup dumplings have healed, but the callbacks from the Moutai were getting annoying enough that I was very happy to have a Bud Ice (did not know they still made that) to make them calm down…  Anyone remember Uzo at George’s?  Same kind of feeling, but minus the licorice taste…  Anyway, we got started with some Psy and Gangnam Style and progressed from there.  It was just basically a LOT of fun, singing, dancing, and in general making a fool of myself.  More food was brought in, but this was very benign popcorn and watermelon slices.  What?  No eel while I sing?  It was in my rider!

For the group at large, it was also a fun night.  I cabbed it back to my apartment, arriving around 1am, which was also kind of nice because it had snowed back in Duvall and I got goodnight wishes from home before dozing off…

You will probably see another few shorter postings here soon.  I’ve been backlogged on a few things and have 3 or 4 of them mostly written in my brain but just haven’t been able to quite get them polished off just yet.  Two more dinners with other folks from Redmond coming in this week and another tour of Shanghai this weekend – this time we’re going across the river to the Pudong district.