After walking out of the station I should have paid some money to go to a hostel I read about online. But when I talked to the taxi driver, I instead said Shenyang Shi Fan Da Xue – Shenyang Normal University, where I used to live. It was dark and I was giddy. We pulled up to the gate and I leapt out. There’s the gate I hopped over on my first night. There’s that huge building that I went streaking across with a Nigerian girl on a foggy Christmas night eight years ago. And there is the foreign students dorm, just like I remembered except with new flags in the front.
I walked in and asked the lady at the front desk if there were any open rooms in the dorm for one night. She said yes, it would cost 140 yuan. I usually never like to pay more than 50 butttttttttttt come on, for old times sake? Sure. And where did they put me? Same room on the third floor that Ren and I used to live in. Nostaligia was pumping through my veins, and there was no one to express it to, the halls were deserted. I went back down and sat in the lobby, planning to head out and wander the streets inside the University walls in the freezing weather. I heard some footsteps behind me and turned to see a handsome man in his mid twenties on his phone. He had dark hair flowing to one side, a dark trim beard and light skin. He was wearing a long tan coat and black scarf. He looked like Timothy Dalton on the cover of The Lion in Winter (look it up y’all!). We made eye contact for a few seconds, nodded at each other, and then he came over with his hand extended. He introduced him self as Azer, from Azerbaijan, when three other people came into the room. There was a large Russian looking man with a huge brown coat and darker skin, a Korean man, and a beautiful woman with jet black hair and white skin who was clearly descended from Slavic Royalty; she was gorgeous. The large man and girl were both from Azerbaijan, like Azer, and after simple introductions they invited me to go with them to a party. What type of party? An Azerbaijani party! Yeah, sure, just excuse me while I go change my underwear real quick.
I went through a short Azerbaijan phase last summer, where I became fascinated with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Region; it belongs to Azerbaijan but is landlocked between Armenia, Iran, and a slice of Turkey. It caught my attention when I was reading that certain countries won’t allow you entry into their country if you have that region stamped on your passport. Plus, I get turned on by countries that I know nothing about, and Azerbaijan is up at the top. How many times can I make you try to pronounce Azerbaijan in your head? I’ll try to write it as many times as possible here.
We hopped into two cabs and headed to the bar. The language spoken between us was a sort of Chinglish; they had been at the university since September but had a decent grasp of English and Mandarin. At the bar there were another thirteen people all from, where? Azerbaijan. The country only had nine million and I was here in Shenyang, China with 16 of them. Kaboom. A fat, older, dark-skinned man sat at a table smoking a cigarette, we looked at each other and I remembered him. And he remembered me. I used to go to his club eight years ago in Shenyang. We shook hands and he hurled me off the wagon by demanding we take a few shots of Jager. One thing I noticed, the men sat at one table, and the eleven other women sat at a nearby table. Some of the Azerbaijani men would go over once in a while to say a few things and make jokes, but when I also stood up, I was greeted by an Azerbaijani who would put his arm on my shoulder to turn me around, make a joke, and buy me a drink. “It’s one of our women’s birthday.” Hmmmm nice emphasis on the “our” there. I get the point. Our, our, our ,our.
“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour‘d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths”. . . . . . .mmmm he’s good.
The Azerbaijani women were off limits even to talk to. The bar was owned by a man from Tajikistan, there were some Russians, some Germans and I was the American. For some, I was the first American they had ever met. And then I heard an announcement of a beer chugging contest. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. I’m aware that this is my own blog and I can write whatever I want but I have to stress that I make every attempt to let the truth shine through in all of it. So, everything I’m about to say should somehow be predicated on that fact.
No one has ever drank beer faster than me. Ever. Like, not ever. I can do this weird thing with my throat where it opens and it’s basically like you’re pouring beer down a sink. Stop thinking about that you guys! Well, everyone is on the spectrum somewhere. . . ANYWAY, the alarum had sounded, and I heard my calling. I walked over and saw the gauntlet laid out before me, six pints of Tsingtao (Qingdao beer), a German, a Russian, two Azerbaijanis and a Korean. Outchugging men can be dangerous, especially when you’re an invited guest and no one actually knows who you are, so I would have to be careful. I was going to win, obviously, but perhaps not a blowout. Oh what the hell, I’m back in Shenyang! It turned out to be a slaughter, by at least four seconds. And my prize? Six shots of tequila.