Zima, back from the dead and now available in China

Remember Zima, that lemon-lime alcoholic beverage from the clear drink craze of the early ’90s? Coors Brewing Company stopped producing it in the U.S. in 2008, but it’s found new life in Asia.

The 7-Eleven near my apartment in Beijing began stocking it recently, and just for the sake of nostalgia I bought a bottle. Zima was a staple at house parties when I was a teenager, a drink forĀ girls who didn’t like beer or liquor. Jolly Ranchers, a type of hard candy, were often added to “improve the taste.” Continue reading

The grandson from China

I recently returned to the U.S. to attend my grandfather’s funeral in northwestern Michigan. My grandfather Ed was well liked, and friends and family came from all over — Nevada, California, Ohio and even Canada — to pay their respects.

Perhaps it’s because I live so far away, but I was repeatedly introduced as “the grandson from China,” which led to a lot of questions. Isn’t China becoming more capitalist? (Absolutely.) Do the Chinese celebrate Christmas? (Only in a commercial sense.) Have you eaten dog? (No.) But would you try it if you were served dog? (No, really I wouldn’t.) Continue reading

Smile and say “CT”

Before moving to China in 2010, I had always been a model of good health. Not overweight. Perfect blood pressure. I drank beer and rarely met a pizza I didn’t fall for, but almost always balanced it out with exercise and more than enough sleep.

Something changed in Beijing. Exactly what, I still can’t put my finger on. Dishes here tend to be on the oily and salty side. The air, water and streets are dirty. That can’t help. And I work nights – 5 to 12 most evenings – whereas most of my jobs in the U.S. were day shifts.

Whatever the cause, my body’s changed. My blood pressure runs high, and because of that I feel anxious. I find it harder to relax, and I spend more time worrying about what could be wrong with me instead of thinking about what to cook for dinner or what to buy my girlfriend for her birthday. Continue reading

A capital idea? Hardly!

For most of my life, China has been a bit of a mystery.

In primary school, I learned about European royalty, the plight of the Native Americans and the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln. In high school, I had an animated history teacher who worked himself into such a frenzy during lectures that his stories became more like theater. I could close my eyes and, with his vivid descriptions, picture a stumpy Napoleon riding horseback into the teeth of a thousand bullets.

Sadly, Asian history was boiled down to just a few major events: a country that bombed us (Japan, at Pearl Harbor) and a country we bombed the hell out of a couple of decades later to stop the spread of communism (Vietnam). In college, I bought a book about a World War II mission to rescue US and British POWs, including some survivors of the Bataan Death March, from a Japanese camp in the Philippines.

So it wasn’t until I moved to China in 2010 that I began to understand the country’s history. I didn’t even know that Beijing was not always the national capital. In April, I traveled to Nanjing, the seat of power from 1368 to 1420 during the Ming Dynasty and again in the early 20th century, before the Communists “liberated” China in 1949.

The Jinghai Temple.

A ceiling inside the Jinghai Temple.

The Linggu Pagoda was built in 1929 to honor soldiers who died in a war between the Chinese Nationalists (Kuomintang) and local warlords.

To third Ming emperor Yongle, who moved the capital to Beijing in 1420, I’ve got to ask: Dude, what were you thinking? Beijing doesn’t get much precipitation, so it can be brutally dry. It’s prone to sandstorms in spring, which leave a red film over everything unfortunate enough to be left outdoors. The winters are long and, when the winds whip down from Siberia, bone-chillingly cold. And unlike many major cities in the world, it isn’t located near any large body of water. Continue reading