Wherever you go, there you are.

That's what they say, and it's true, obviously.  But sometimes it's hard to believe: "Wouldn't I be at least a little bit different?" you might think, or at least I did. 

I'd like to revise it a little too: "Wherever you go, your body comes with you."  I thought some of my body's problems would go away, or at least lessen a lot when I came here, especially my frequent neck pain.  I also thought, or hoped, that I'd lose weight like I did when I lived in Taiwan.  Maybe I'd have more energy from all that exercise I'd get here too.  But my body is the same body that I brought with me on that 12 hour flight over so many months ago.

But this is isn't a sad blog entry about my almost 40 year-old body, let me clear that up.  Actually I think I have lost ten or fifteen pounds, my neck pain is easier to manage since I don’t have to work at a full time job, and I do get more exercise walking, although maybe not as much as you'd think.  I'd also like to add that, according to feedback my wife gets, I'm considered pretty good-looking here, handsome even, probably due to my looking a lot more like Brad Pitt than the average local does.  Brad Pitt and I are both what we'd call in America "white guys," no one could tell us apart.  Actually I haven't heard anyone use the name "Brad Pitt" here, I'm not sure why I'm comparing my looks to his.  So, the point is, even though my body looks the same to you and to me, here in China, it has a different exotic "Westerner" look to people.  So this isn't a sad blog entry, just another weird one.

Last night, at about 10:15 PM, I was standing in front of the little elevator door on the first floor watching the tiny orange LED screen between the up button and the down button.  The lights in the room kept going off, as they tend to do here, so I had to clap my hands or stomp my feet several times to turn them back on again.  I really need to time the delay on the lights so that I can blog about it properly, I think it's twenty seconds.

When I first got there, to that room, by myself, the little orange screen said "6" with a little up arrow indicating that the elevator was going up.  I could faintly hear it's doors opening then closing through the elevator shaft behind the door.  Then it went up another floor and made some more noise. 

"That's odd," I thought, "It seems kind of late for the elevator to be this busy."

By the ninth floor I had recognized a pattern to the sounds echoing down the elevator shaft: it was stopping at every floor opening it's doors, waiting for someone to get on, then closing it's doors and going up the next floor, which it did all the way up to the fifteenth floor.  I couldn't help but laugh a little bit to myself when I realized it was doing this.  Only a young boy would cause an elevator to do something like this, or in this case an young boy trapped in my brother-in-law's 39 year-old body, Enoch, he pushed all the buttons in the elevator.  After I congratulated him on his prank he told me he didn't realize that I was behind him, he saw me still watching a little green bug when he left.

Both of our wives and his two kids were still back on the sidewalk watching a little green praying mantis trying to climb a brick wall. It was the first time my wife had seen a real live praying mantis.  Enoch stuck around for about five minutes watching this funny aggressive little green bug attack the flashlights on our cell phones, then he announced that he was going back up to the apartment.  I only lasted another two minutes, then I went back too.  I think I'll blame my "almost 40 year-old body" for my impatience and lack of interest in little green bugs.

Actually my disinterest extends beyond green bugs to things like Uno, the card game.  It was not even an hour before we encountered that green bug, that I was waking up to my own snoring noises in the living room of our friend's house where I was sleeping behind two people who were sitting on a mattress pad.  The mattress pad had been pulled into the little living room to accommodate the extra guests who were all, but one, me, sitting around a little low folding table on the floor playing Uno with plastic, water-proof, Uno cards. 

"Huang Se!" I kept hearing as I'd drift off to sleep, which means yellow in Chinese.  If I remember right you're supposed to call out a new color when you play a wild card in Uno.

As I've been turning into an old man I've found that I really like napping in the same room while people play games.  I guess I like people enough to want them to be around me, but maybe not enough to want to play the game that they're playing.  When I was young I didn't understand why anyone would not want to play a game, games were fun.  But now that I'm turning into an old man I don't understand why I would want to sit on the floor, with an aching back, bending my fragile neck and leaning over a tiny table to play cards that were randomly assigned to me from the shuffled deck.  I remember my dad saying "I don't like random games, I like strategy."  Well I guess I'm a chip off the old block, but I've found that even a strategy game "accomplishes nothing" in the end.  So there I lied, accomplishing a nap while everybody else played Uno and got to know each other.

Another thing that shows my advancing age is my indifference to what people think about me, at least certain aspects of me, like my snoring.  When I was young I would have been depressed at the idea that I might snore, and even more embarrassed that someone might hear it.  But now I just think it's funny, it was my gift to the room so they could have something to laugh about while most of them lost at Uno.  Only one person wins, randomly.

There are a few things left to enjoy in one's twilight years, and probably the biggest one is food.  Thank goodness for the delicious food here.  Before we were playing Uno, or before *they* were playing Uno I should say, we were all sitting at a long narrow table in a restaurant building what I've been calling "Northeast [Chinese] Burritos,"  or "Dongbei Burritos."  They are made out of thin "spring pancakes" and you pile on shredded (crunchy) potato, scrambled eggs, sweet and sour meats, bean sprouts, raw onions, and a delicious brown sauce.

I've also become impatient.  Ten of us were sitting at the table for about thirty minutes waiting for the last person to show up.  We were waiting for someone who works long days six or seven days a week and probably deserves to be waited for.  But it didn't take me even fifteen minutes to loudly say that it was silly to wait for anyone this long because our food was getting cold.  Irene Rice, who was there, laughed and said that she was glad that I was there because I always said the thing she was afraid to say before she said it. 

Saying the thing other people are afraid to say, because saying it would be rude, is probably not a good habit of mine, but it's increasingly difficult to control when I'm thinking more about the food on the table than the people sitting around the table.  I like people, don't get me wrong, I love them actually, but since I've chosen to live in a foreign country for this part of my life where apparently my hearing isn't so good anymore, and most of the time people are speaking a foreign language, I tend to focus on "the little things" or at least things that I can eat.  It keeps my attention occupied.

So that's where I am in life, my crazy life, I'm a rude, food-obsessed foreigner, that thinks he looks like Brad Pitt, and goes to people's homes to eat their food and then snores on their mattress pads while everybody else, with any manners, plays games.  Apparently I was talking in my sleep too.

Needless to say, our friends here are so friendly and so awesome, they even seem to like me to come to their homes for some reason.  Just think how much they'd like you if you came to visit.