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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Strube

Cafe Con Lee

Youtube. Facebook. Grade A movies. Quinoa.

These are luxuries that have yet to seep into the Middle Kingdom. The crimson curtain is a strong velvet barrier that only allows the finest of actors to hold center stage. Every night, through the crackle of my television, I scroll through one of my 8 English channels, hoping for some kind of inspiring art to come billowing through my 300 pound television.

And every fortnight, I see Bruce Lee whipping his ripped left leg into the air, kung fu chopping the commercials into oblivion.

Yes, that’s right. Bruce and I spend romantic evenings together. And yes, that’s right. There are no real commercials in China. The former passed the litmus test of acceptable international propaganda and the latter didn’t.

 Bruce is the flaming feature here on the Discovery Channel. Sadly, I get no Shark Week. No oceanic poltergeist scares me out of swimming away in the East China sea. Instead of Jaws’ salty flippers, the DC here airs:

Bruce Lee — How He Changed the Cinematic World.

Nearly every night.

The other nights are reserved for the high thriller program: Asia’s Deadliest Snakes. 

When you are not in the mood for martial arts or serpents, there is HBO, which airs great artistic hits such as Honey I Shrunk the Kids. If 80’s Rated G flicks don’t do it for you, don’t worry, there are lots of Grade B horror movies for your viewing pleasure, stock chock full of Grade A actors. I mean, did you all know Gwyneth Paltrow starred as a vampire once? Don’t tell anyone, but I do say she looks quite ravishing with blood dripping out her teeth. I wonder if she lists these films in her IMBD record, because I’m quite sure Rotten Tomatoes would give this a .2. The film didn’t even justify a whole fruity point. (Because tomatoes are fruits, people. Gwyneth named her child after a fruit as well. Just google the word Apple.) 

Just when I began writing an editorial column for People magazine entitled “The Hidden Nightlives of Hollywood,” I saw Gwenyth’s projectile blood as a sign of hope. All great artists start small, and small normally involves a large cult following in Asia. 

And lots of bloody coffins. 

Perhaps if this blog doesn’t get me evicted from the country, I could have a roaring success as a writer/vampire. I could write by day and vamp by night. Granted, a 24 hour workday would require an IV drip of caffeine, but no problem there. The Middle Kingdom allows caffeine. Yes, move aside banned Youtube and no no Facebook, but Grande Decaf Macchiato? Ascend your throne.

Now riddle me this: How did Starbucks enter a country that doesn’t allow quinoa? Coffee is not a national drink. Tea, well, well, that necessitates a whole sacred trail over the Himalayas. Tea houses abound everywhere, with some herbs bragging up to 60 pours. Yet, Starbucks has punctured the red carpet of Shanghai wearing nothing more than a Prada dress and a porcelain mug.

And I go there to gossip in Spanish.

When in China, and you can’t speak the language, you need something to boost your ego. I suck at Mandarin. When I say my own apartment to the cab driver, he takes me to the wet market. I can only pronounce 1 of the 4 vowel sounds correctly, and my lips don’t seem to hover like the Mandarin medivac needs to when rescuing your tongue. XXXXia…. Sh…. KShuh…. I can’t do it. But I can speak Spanish. So, on Wednesday nights, me and 5 other disgruntled expats meet for lattes and Latina power. Together, we are Australian, American, Canadian, South African, Argentinian, and a Brit — all deported into the Redlands, all wretched at the local language, all in need of foreign art. 

So, we gather to speak Spanish. At a Starbucks. In China. And discuss facebook. And quinoa. And Frida Kahlo in our best Rosetta Stone accents. It’s about as cosmopolitan as it gets. Minus the extra foam froth. So yes, hold the whip, slather the Mandarin, and pour me your best cacao brew. Welcome to multinationalism. 

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