Shanghai, China – Gambei, Sushi, and Smoking a Fish

Shanghai is an awesome city.  It’s huge.  It has a great subway system which makes it easy to get everywhere.  It’s extremely cosmopolitan.  There are tons of food options.  If you are a shopper, you will love the shopping.  A lot of the folks speak, or at least, sort of understand English.  There is all sorts of cool things to do.  I highly recommend spending some time enjoying Shanghai.

After we got our show open and running (see Part One) we had a lot of time to explore all the things to do.  Some of my favorites things included the hidden NY-style pizza joint we found on the second floor of a building in the huge shopping district. (it was a nice taste of home) The tea ceremony that was recommended by several students. (cultural and fun) Our entire group visiting a huge massage parlor and bath which definitely gave us some stories to tell afterwards. (completely innocent, and good massages!)

But on every trip there are always a few highlights that stand out.  One of the most memorable experiences is when our show promoters decided to take all of us out to celebrate Brett’s (the star of our show) birthday.  After our show that day we all got ready for the evening and went to a very nice Japanese restaurant for sushi.

Have you ever heard the word “gambei”?  Well, let me offer you a tip.  If you go out with a group of Chinese people who are hosting a party in your (or someone in your groups) honor, you are going to hear the word “gambei” a lot.  Basically it means “bottoms up”.  In other words, everyone drink your entire glass (of alcohol) now.

It’s really an interesting cultural thing.  And everyone in the party is expected to participate unless you want to offend your hosts.  Now, if you’ve just worked a full day, sweated a lot, and don’t have any food on your stomach, too many “gambeis” before the food arrives can be trouble.  That is what happened to me.

We had a large group of us all gathered around the table.  We were joking around, having fun, drinking, some were smoking, and basically having a blast.  And for a guy who doesn’t drink a whole lot, there were far too many toasts before the food arrived.  I was thrilled to see the food show up, unfortunately it was too little, too late.

Here is what I remember.  I remember picking up a small (whole) fish that was on the table and starting to mimic my friends who were smoking cigarettes.  That’s right, I was smoking a fish.  I had it between my first and second fingers just like a cigarette and even took a few “puffs” of it.  Then I decided to smoke a cigarette with all my friends.  (And I don’t smoke!)

I also remember when the sushi showed up.  It was absolutely outstanding!  It was, by far, some of the best sushi I had ever had.  Then they delivered another whole fish that had been filleted.  We were supposed to reach over with our chopsticks and take little slices right off of the fish.  So we all started to do so.

I was sort of in a daze at this point from the gambeis.  I just started staring at the fish as if I were staring off into space.  Then I saw it!  The fish moved a little.  It wasn’t a lot of movement, but it was definitely movement.  I looked at my friends across the table and said, “that fish just moved”!  Everyone started to watch the fish.  It moved again!  That freaked everyone out who had just eaten a piece of it.  And that was enough sushi for me that day!

Not long after that all the alcohol, sushi, and smoking took it’s toll.  I’d never felt like that before.  I believe it was a combination of alcohol poisoning and tobacco poisoning combined with raw fish.  So…I stumbled my way into the men’s room, locked myself in a stall, knelt down on the nasty tile floor, and prayed to the porcelain gods.

Apparently I was in there for awhile, because at some point while I was laying on the floor of a busy men’s bathroom, one of my best (girl) friends came into the bathroom to check on me.  I remember all sorts of little Chinese guys making a big ruckus and lots of noise as my friend Jen came into the men’s bathroom and told them all to chill out (which I’m sure they didn’t understand at all) because she had to check on me and make sure I was alright.

Fortunately I was alright.  And I re-joined the party.  But not for long.  My other very close (girl) friend Jamie was also looking pretty rough from a little too much partying.  So, we decided that we were done.  Jen, Jamie, and I bid everyone “goodnight” and hailed a cab to take us back to the hotel.

That cab ride was absolutely brutal.  I was sitting in the back suffering, trying not to get sick again.  (And I get motion sickness when I’m in the back of vehicles anyway.)  Jamie was hurting too.

The moment that we arrived, I hopped out of the cab and went straight for the bathroom in the lobby of the hotel and proceeded to have another hurling session with the toilet.  So did Jamie.  Like I said…brutal!

Fortunately after all of that fun, I started to feel better.  I had just expelled everything that I had consumed over the last few hours and didn’t feel like I was about to die any longer.  So we all went to our rooms and tried to get enough sleep to recover.

Here’s another tip for you.  If you happen to find yourself in a cab in a foreign country and the cab driver doesn’t have a clue what you are saying because he speaks a different language, use your hotel key card to get back to your hotel.  Just point to the key card, then point to yourself, and finally point out the front windshield, and he should be able to figure out where to take you.  (This method has worked for me every time I’ve used it!)



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