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Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China by Tom Carter
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Unsavory Elements Quotes Showing 1-30 of 91
“No wonder prostitution is so rampant in China, I mused as I watched the four girls watch us: why stand on your feet all day for slave wages when you can get rich on your back?”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“Not sure how much longer she can continue her fight for the children or how much more of her there is to give, she pledged to keep going until she no longer can.”
Kay Bratt, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“Why was I still traveling? Was it purely because it was better than turning around and going home, where I would have to make grown-up choices about my future? Or was I waiting to happen across a place that would tell me to stay?”
Pete Spurrier, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“That’s the thing about Chinese mothers: hidden behind their maternal expectations and critical diatribes are women who will fight to the death for you. As soon as I called her Mama, Li-Ming would be my strongest ally for the only months I knew her.”
Kaitlin Solimine, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“It reminded me that gossip in China comes less from what people say than from what people see and then infer. Even if Jun and I weren’t touching or holding hands in public, anyone who merely saw us together might soon spread the word that we were dating. Would that mean it would only be a matter of time before his professor really knew where he – we – lived? And if so, would it mean the end of his graduate school career in China?”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“The rural Chinese in Henan Province mixed alcohol and business like you wouldn’t believe. Perhaps as a result, they also had a charming nationalistic blind spot: they honestly believed they could out-drink everyone else on the planet. As an Irish-American who outweighed them by 50 pounds, I had come to find this both amusing and useful.”
Matthew Polly, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“I needed an adult female wearing a tight sleeveless cheongsam mini-dress to help me learn Chinese. All my senses would have to focus; otherwise I would end up knowing nothing. Tracing each Chinese character upon the small of her back with my index finger was only proper way to begin a lesson.”
Matt Muller, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“As the sole occidental, it is comforting to be given no more special attention than my companions. To these good people I am just another gaunt traveler with a belly to feed and questions to answer. Here up high, all are foreign, but all are welcome...as long as who come, come in peace.”
Jeff Fuchs, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“I hit him as hard as I could. His hands were full of my belongings, and every time I punched him he dropped something. I slugged him and my camera popped out; I hit him again and there was my money belt; another punch and my shorts flew up in the air.”
Peter Hessler, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“She was sitting on the street, brightening people’s lives with a sincere smile – something you rarely see in any big Chinese city these days. But out in the provinces, there are a million like her for every heartless member of the nation’s elite.”
Nury Vittachi, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“I thought, recollecting what one of my Chinese tutors had explained to me: China had laws for so many things – just in case someone needed to enforce them. Indeed, there is a law requiring foreigners to carry their passports “at all times.” But it was a law few of us actually observed, reasoning that the risk of being pick-pocketed was greater than the risk of authorities demanding that we produce our passports.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“You Russian?” the driver asks. This is refreshing; farther south in China I am usually assumed to be American. Up here, you also just might be called “old hairy” (lao maozi), the name the locals had given the Russians back in the day, instead of the usual “laowai,” old outsider.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“I had arrived on a drafting table, not a city. Here, airport, here cropland, here – running graphite along the edge of a ruler – the highway into town, here the city itself, at the heart, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen. Around that the city wall. Don’t want a wall? All right, let’s erase it. There!”
Michael Meyer, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“no native speaker could ever misinterpret his words as an intentional “confession,” but the Chinese could accept his prose with its critical vocabulary. “I am sorry that the police felt I interfered with them, and that I broke the Chinese law that said I should carry my passport, because I was afraid of having it stolen after my wallet was taken last week.” 30 minutes later, the police agreed that the confession was good enough. “You should go home now,”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“That car, as with the rest of Mr. Mao’s lifestyle, was brand new. He had gotten rich, and gotten rich quick. But like the rest of his generation of Chinese Jay Gatsbys, the source of his wealth was murky.”
Michael Levy, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“Abo produced a flask of dark liquid and poured everyone a glass. It was a homemade paojiu, baijiu infused with who knows what kind of medicinal herbs, spices and animal parts.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“So how’s life?” I asked him in Mandarin when he hung up. “Bu cuo,” he replied – a phrase that literally means ‘not bad’ but actually means ‘pretty good.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“when Jun brought me to his family home in rural Zhejiang province to meet his parents for the first time. The moment we walked through the weather-faded red couplets hanging beside the open doors of his family home, Jun hid his feelings for me, the way we hid our own bodies beneath layer upon layer of clothing to survive the winters in central-heating-less Shanghai. No kisses, no holding hands, no touching, not even a single flirtatious look or glance. He was as cold as Shanghai’s concrete-block buildings.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“Face is a perplexing aspect of Chinese society for Westerners, although it sounds simple enough at first: give face to others and don’t force them into situations where they will lose face.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“They didn’t hug and kiss, nor touch hands and swap smiles, nor even link arms while walking around, like my own mom and dad used to. No, Jun’s parents seemed more like a couple of friends running a family business; two people who just happened to share the same bed and also have kids together.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“The highway spoke of New China. Of progress and pollution, of snarled traffic and the unwillingness of Beijingren to ever use their blinkers when turning. The hutong out back, however, was about Old China. Of families and traditions and culture and history.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“For most of China’s history, the role of a drinking hostess – pouring glasses and encouraging the menfolk to drink – was the only function permitted to women at the alcohol table. Yet today women are among the most formidable drinking combatants.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“Regular baijiu strips your sinuses and tilts your vision back an inch when you swallow,”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“Ordinarily I would have been petrified at the thought of being pulled over by the police, not just for driving under the influence, but for being a foreigner without a Chinese driver’s license, yet with the Zhous there was nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a neat sheaf of red RMB.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“Operating in the interstices of communist China society was at once exhilarating and uncertain. There were no rules. Or rather, there was only one rule: that nothing is allowed. But the corollary, which reveals the true genius of China’s love of the grey – in contrast to the black and white of the West – is that everything is possible. Nothing is allowed but everything is possible. It’s just a matter of finding the right way to explain what you’re doing.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“The problem was not that I entered the contest with a losing strategy, but that I had deluded myself into thinking that there is such a thing as a winning strategy where baijiu is concerned. There are only varying degrees of defeat.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“But then I had to pay. This was the part I’d been dreading. I knew my kuai and yuan and reminbi, though why there were three names for the same Chinese currency baffled me. It was just that I didn’t always recognize the numbers when they got yelled at me.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“The display cases were for the smaller cuts of pork and beef, plus the brains and lungs and livers and hooves. all the working parts of the animals laid out like a small banquet. It was the dead ducks, hanging by their necks, that always got the boys. They’d stand under the birds and stare up, creeped out by their limp heads.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“You can learn more about someone after three shots of baijiu than in years of sober tea sipping. And a friend made over sweet sorghum hooch is a friend for life. Chinese social intercourse is lubricated with baijiu, and if you want to see the more intimate side of China, you must drink. There is a physical price to be paid for such excess, but much to be gained.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China
“At one point, I remember looking around at the girls, the men, the drugs and the money, and wondering how long this utopia could last: the Chinese dream, in its second, prodigal generation.”
Tom Carter, Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

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