Friday, November 6, 2009

Team America

Back in Beijing and full of duck, but I thought I'd put in a little entry before bed. This is my first time trying to email post from China. Mom, if you can read this, please email me.
The train back was full, but the ride proved interesting. Around 3 in the afternoon - in the middle of nowhere, still hours from the border - James and I headed to the dining car, craving amusement more than food.
And that's what we got. The moment we sat down a drunk Estonian plopped down beside us. We only understood about half of what he said. At one point he winked at James and said in Irkutsk, "There are some girls who are very good at holding their breath underwater." Then he invited us to join an international omelet-eating contest at 4. James rather reluctantly accepted the offer (they needed an American).
 A portly guy the Estonian introduced as "Slovak bastard" showed the dining crowd the prize - a portable shower apparatus he'd carried in his backpack for weeks to no use.
Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Slovakia, Mongolia, South Africa, England, Australia, China, Singapore, Scotland and then James. The waitress said there weren't any omelets. So the contest became a soup eating one instead. The hour arrived, and James took his position amidst the beefy, boisterous crowd of mostly Europeans. The Slovak passed out shots of vodka from a liter plastic bottle as contestants requested. Two older ladies - one from Chicago, one from Prague - judged. The Estonian implored the Chicagoan not to show favoritism to James.
But there was no need - James killed it in the  first round. No one was even close. "Make me proud, baby! AMERICA!" It felt almost unsportsmanlike as I was cheering: The men from South Africa and Norway were still blowing their spoons as James scraped his bowl dry.
Everyone clapped. Four continued to the final round - James, Mongolia, Australia and a European. There wasn't any more soup. The Estonian decided it had to either be a cracker-eating or a beer-drinking round. James voted for crackers, and he told me I had to make a point that he isn't usually one for drinking contests, but beer won the vote. And James won again! Australia came in a solid second.
It may have just been a friendly multinational game conceived out of boredom - taking place somewhere in eastern Mongolia - but we play to win.
James gifted the shower bag to the nice overseas Chinese lady from Mongolia in our cabin. We didn't want to carry it around for a month.
Other cool thing - this time we got to stay on the train as they changed the bogies at the border. Interesting stuff! Pictures next month.

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