The more things change, the more they stay the same

I was discussing my overheating laptop concerns with a friend back in the states when the subject of classic games came up. We were testing the transfer speeds between the U.S. and China with older games while we simultaneously tested our laptops for heat ceiling limits (we have identical laptops, but because mine is overheating I have a nice 85c GPU instead of a normal 62c GPU...).

While transferring a few select programs and games, we both simultaneously (I must be in some weird synced/multi-tasking twilight zone day today...) messaged each other about flashbacks from the mid-90's when we were with another friend at his home trying to transfer Doom II over a 14.4 modem Internet connection. I recall something about a couple of dozen floppy disks, two nights without sleep, and a lot of complaining in between.

The Internet connection in China is usually slower to International connections (they really should call it ChinaNet or something), thanks mainly to the "Great Firewall of China". The connection speeds we were reaching hit a ceiling at about 8 or 9 KB/sec. We were testing a 540MB file too. Knowing something bad was going to happen at some point while I was sleeping, I had my friend split up the file into chunks. 100MB chunks each at this rate will only take three hours or so. Now we're getting somewhere!... Oh yes, and before you ask, I have no FTP site to upload or download from, nor does my friend. And any bitorrent-like transfers do not work with our connections either. It's the 90's all over again...

Flashing forward a bit, earlier today while riding my bike to the park I decided to stop at a nearby Starbucks for coffee. This is the first time that I took a serious look at a Starbucks here in China. I figured they were all the same, but perhaps the prices were less since I was, well, in China... I thought wrong, on both accounts.

I walked in and was warmly welcomed by the staff, who immediately found me a table and asked what I wanted to order. I did some quick math on my cellphone when I caught site of my favorite latte, coming to a simple equation between U.S. Starbucks and Chinese Starbucks prices... 1:1. Give or take 5% of course. I was shocked that a coffee at a Chinese Starbucks still costs me the same as in the states, while not three or four shops down I can get a local blend for cheaper than it costs me to buy a bunch of bananas at a street vendor (six bananas cost about .75 cents).

After having my $5 latte I proceed around the corner to get my haircut. Entering the barber shop I was greeted by a dozen men in pink skirts waiting to help me at every turn. You see, China here is absolutely and completely opposite of any barber shop system I have ever seen in the states. Before you raise your eyebrows, burst out laughing hysterically, or quietly whispering "WTF...", please allow me to explain. I will bullet point for simplicity and effect:

1) All barber shop workers are male
2) All barber shop workers either wear a pink shirt, black skirt, or dress up their own hair in various wild ways. Not the boring same 'o I see in the states.
3) Shampoo (3x) and massage are all included, not exclusive...
4) There are at least two or three workers assisting the main hair stylist at all times.
5) You walk away with a haircut and a nice massage for less than the price of, oh say, a $5 latte at Starbucks.

Oh yes, the explanation, almost forgot... Chinese in some ways are much more open culturally than Americans are. Pink is OK for guys, as clearly are some occupations, and hairstyles. When expressing feelings of affection, concern, or pity for another, Chinese tend to be extremely shy. The styles of their clothes, where they work, is all a part of how they express their emotions and attitudes. Do we not do the same in the states and all around the world? Just maybe not with pink shirts, or skirts...

Last, but certainly not least, when I'm in a Chinese pub (its all British English here baby...) it is completely up to me which women I want to pick up. They are all apparently interested in me, as I frequently hear from my accompanying cohorts. They are just shy in making themselves known to you. Once they know you, however, they quickly warm up and are quite friendly (unless underneath they really don't like you, in which case they will not say of course, but instead just stop calling you suddenly with no explanation whatsoever...). In the states it can be more neutral in this respect, although generally the male still has the dominant role. Either way, it's a real pain to find someone you not only are interested in physically, but emotionally, and sexually. Is that not also the same in the states, and elsewhere?

The more things change, the more they clearly stay the same. At least in my case here in Chinaland.

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