Monday, September 12, 2005

The expat scene

I've recently been introduced to Yantai's expat scene. Apparently there are many more westerners here than I had originally thought. I live no where near the downtown district, but rather out in the ETDZ or development zone, and out here westerners are more scarce.

This past Thursday I met Adriano, a half Welsh, half Italian guy that I met on an expat forum on the internet. He said once I got settled into Yantai, he would show me around and introduce me to people. In all of Yantai, do you know where this guy lives? Directly across the street from me. Unbelievable. Yantai covers a huge area, and this guy is across the street.... Harvey Luck, I suppose!

Adriano took me out to some of the expat bars in downtown and over the course of this past weekend I met some very interesting people. Adriano is 25, and in the past five years he has worked for a major airline in Kuwait, started a bunch of import/export companies in the Middle East, China, and the UK, brokered major deals between the US military and some Middle Eastern governments, married an Egyptian lady, divorced her, married a Chinese woman, started two restaurants in Beijing, and is now planning on opening a bar on the beach in Yantai. Oh, and in his spare time he teaches English to make a little extra cash and keep his visa. Adriano's roommate, Graham, is Scottish and has such a thick accent that I even have trouble with it sometimes. He is also my age. Once he finished studying at St. Andrews in Scotland, he came here to teach English for a few months. He is now signed on for three years. Graham grew up within a few miles of the Glenfiddich, Famous Grouse, and Macallan whiskey distilleries in Scotland, so the kid worships a nice single malt. He unfortuantely is going back to Scotland for six weeks. There is Along and his friends... Along is a Frenchman who is hands down the best card manipulator I have ever seen. He can perform card tricks with a regular deck that some of the best Vegas professionals can only perform with specialized trick decks. He is also one of the most physically built people I have ever met in my life. With his poneytail and European looks, he is somewhat akin to a brunette Fabio. He and his friends are doing their MBA at a university in France, but before they can graduate, they have to spend one semester in Asia. They don't have to attend class or do anything mind you, they just have to physically be here. Consequently, they do nothing but party. His one friend looks so incredibly like Leonardo DiCaprio that they tell people that he is Leonardo's half brother and people believe it without question. Oh, and the Brits... how could I forget them. If you are out at the bar and you see a guy who looks like he could break you in half, and he has and English accent, then he is one of the many British 20-somethings studying Kung Fu here (or more accurately, Gong Fu). These guys train so much that they only have time to work as bartenders late in the evening. They spend hours and hours a day punching wooden posts to toughen up their hands... some of them can crush a brick that is sitting on the table, just with their fist.

I am very glad I met all of these people. It is nice to have friends out here now, and also very interesting to hear more and more about these export companies that Adriano has started. Actually, it seems that everyone you meet here has started some type of export company, whether they deal in ceramics, artwork, funiture... everyone has something going on the side which seems to make they all lots of money. Adriano has been telling me exactly how to go about setting up such a thing, and the idea is starting to grow on me. It is really easy.

Oh, one other benefit to meeting Adriano and his friends... the school they work at is two blocks away and they teach Chinese to English speakers. Now that I know the owner, they are going to set me up in a class perhaps next week!