Here is a little tangent to Kevin’s adventure. You may recall from one of the previous installments (Kevin in China, part 6 – The Mystery Snake) that there was an evening that Kevin does not remember very clearly, due to great hospitality of his hosts and the high alcohol levels of the wine served at dinner. You may also recall that another American was present at that dinner – Vanessa. Unlike Kevin, she remembers that evening very well and here is her lucid report:
This is Vanessa, the “guest-star” of Kevin’s Pinqian report. He was kind enough to include my name amongst his email list; however, after reading his report, to my dismay, I realized that Mr. Messenger left out a significant portion of his visit to Pinqian (namely Saturday evening, also known as “the night of too many toasts”) so I am here to
fill in the rest of the story.
Ever a gentleman doing his best to adapt to the local cultural etiquette, Kevin never once declined a toast to him during dinner. (To do so, after all, would have been rude. And the research station staff was tremendously impressed with Kevin’s ability to handle snakes… and consume alcohol; thus, 21 toasts and a beer later, the meal concluded.) At this point, Kevin sat back in his chair looking a little dazed while I carried on a conversation (in Chinese) with Xiang Bing (a research station guide). Suddenly, Kevin sat straight up, looked at us, and insisted, “I think I can understand everything you
are saying right now. No, I’m sure I can. I understand all Chinese… right now.” He then sat back again, glowing and looking both satisfied and enlightened (well, as enlightened as one can look with a lopsided grin.) Kevin, Xiang Bing, and I then carried “our”
conversation to the lobby where we pulled out some cards.
We decided to play “Oh Hell!” a relatively simple card game that is like War with a trump. I figured I could explain the rules well enough in Chinese for Xiang Bing to understand, and that that concept of number / bigger number wouldn’t be too complicated for Kevin either. (Please don’t misunderstand, I have no doubts about Kevin’s brilliance, talent, or incredible knowledge of snakes, Jeeps, and Maybelline commercials. I simply figured that since he was having trouble articulating one-syllable words, the simpler the card game, the better.)
Despite my poor Chinese and completely ridiculous use of animated facial expressions and pointing to explain the rules of the card game, Xiang Bing grasped both the concepts and the strategies of the game long before I could convey the same information to Kevin in English. We played the first round open-handed. A 2, a 3, and a 5 were placed on the table. Xiang Bing had laid the 5 on the table, so he won the round. Xiang Bing looked delighted. Kevin looked confused.
Vanessa: Kevin, a 5 is bigger than a 2 or a 3, that’s why Xiang Bing wins.
Kevin: *confused look*
Vanessa: 5 – big number. 2 and 3 – small numbers.
Kevin: *confused look*
Vanessa: “woo bi jiao da de hao” (I tried saying the same thing in
Chinese… just in case Kevin was, in fact, having a lucid moment and
could understand all Chinese.)
Kevin: I have to go to the bathroom. (He leaves.)
Xiang Bing and I waited and upon his return, Kevin sat down, took all of our cards out of our hands (I guess he deemed our game was over) and proceeded to tell us about his glory days back in 3rd grade PE when he first learned how to do magic tricks. He continued describing to us the status of his ultimate coolness in 7th grade when he learned “the best trick ever.” Much to his credit and the delight of the research staff, Kevin then executed these (same three) card tricks for us flawlessly over and over again for the next hour and a half. I believe that if the thought had occurred to them, the research staff would have begun toasting Kevin yet again right then and there for
another amazing skill.
The following morning, the entire community seemed to conspire to rouse Kevin from his slumber, but he would have none of it. From the over-eager rooster that crowed without desisting from 4:30am to 9:30am, to the research staff screaming (truly, they were screaming) up and down the hallway “Eat breakfast! Eat breakfast!” at 7:45am, to
Xiang Bing who literally manhandled Kevin, he could not be convinced to emerge from his room. After Ling San (Kevin’s field assistant) and I ate breakfast, we began our own tactical maneuvers to wake Kevin up. Sometime between calling through the door “I have a Quaker Chewy Chocolate Chip granola bar for you if you wake up!” and “We found a
King Cobra nest with babies!” we heard a slow sleepy mass shuffling to the door. As you can guess, Chocolate Chip Granola bars are nearly impossible to come by in China… and so are King Cobras. Cruelly, our tactics were only half true, and while Kevin did get the granola bar, he, no doubt, would have rather had the cobra. Nonetheless, we were, at last, off to a magnificent day of hiking!
…and THAT is the rest of the story. So if you ever had any doubts, please be assured, mini 3rd grade Kevin was actually very very cool. (And I am quite grateful to have been able to tag along on the herping adventure!)
Previously in this series:
Snakes On The Plain: Kevin in China
Kevin in China, part 2: Three Kinds of Natural Beauty in Jiuchong
Kevin in China, part 3 – The First Westerner in Town
Kevin in China, part 4 – Snakebites as a Daily Hobby
Kevin in China, part 5 – His Legend Preceeds Him!
Kevin in China, part 6 – The Mystery Snake
Kevin in China, part 7 – Bit By Snakes? Get Used To It!
Kevin in China, part 8 – The Dance and The Snakes