As I write this, I’m catching my breath on the upper deck of the Ming Hua, a former cruise ship which now sits landlocked in the heart of Shekou “Sea World.” (See my previous post for explanation.) I’m sipping a German Pilsner that was brewed not only in Shenzhen, but in fact on this very vessel. And among other recent events of note, I find myself reflecting on the sheer surreality of the Oktoberfest celebration that I attended here one week ago. 

The evening began with an introduction to the brewer himself, who was the only Westerner present besides my small group of friends. As he approached our table, he exuded the vibe of one who not only brews beer but perhaps also concocts MDMA. With a face-splitting grin, he repeatedly bellowed, “my name is Stephen, and I am the brewer here! I give you my card!” (He would truly have handed each of us several business cards if we had allowed him to.)

Then, the live music began, followed by drinking games the likes of which I’ve never seen before. This was my first true night out in China, other than one lovely dinner date with my lady wife. So, while I certainly had no fixed expectations, Latin performers in the German restaurant on a dry docked boat in Shenzhen did come as something of a surprise. 

And the games! These were a far cry from flip cup and quarters, and their true purpose remained unclear to us even after extended roundtable analysis. However, at least one was easy enough to decipher, as it appeared to be a simple competition to see who could keep their arm extended 180 degrees longest whilst holding a full liter of beer. (Those glasses are heavy, which is part of the fun of drinking them.) If I understood correctly, the winner was to chug his liter – presumably for free – while the losers returned to their seats to purchase their own next round.

All in all the evening was a blast, and the beer and pretzels both quite tasty. However, as I walked home, passing a number of stumbling Chinese fellows along the way, I did wonder how much our experiences mirrored those found at Oktoberfest parties in Germany. As I’ve said before and will surely say again, everything here in China is at least slightly off-kilter.   

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