Ganbei’d in Dongdaihe

“Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water.”


I have a pretty low tolerance for corporate bollocks. I recently “lol”-ed my “a” off when I saw an online advert for something called ‘netbonding’, which, the slogan assured me, was “even stronger than networking!” The advert raised an important question for me, which was “why don’t you piss off, right now, and never reappear in my life?”

Another kernel of corporate shite that I can’t stand is the idea of ‘team building.’ It’s fair to say that I feel the same way about ‘team building’ as I feel about One Direction or intestinal parasites: proof, if any be needed, that there is no god. I am deeply suspicious of any company that has so little faith in their ‘team’ that they think getting together for a walk in the woods, or a game of laser tag, or slapping each other on the back while building an exact replica of a little Lego house before an egg timer goes off, is going to help ‘build’ them.

With such strong opinions on these matters, I’m sure you can imagine how thrilled I was when the principal of my teaching centre raised the suggestion of spending our weekend off taking a ‘team-building’ trip to the seaside town of Dongdaihe. I was so thrilled, that I almost introduced her to a famous English saying that begins with “no” and ends in “fucking way is that going to happen.”

Even so, I climbed into the rented SUV with an overnight bag for a three hour drive to Dongdaihe, China’s answer to the town from Jaws. It was, surprisingly, almost exactly the same as any English seaside town: inflatable turtles, beached fishing boats, lots of casual racists. As if that wasn’t enough to remind me of home, it was absolutely pissing it down with rain.

Upon arrival we all went for lunch, which was made up of enough sea life to fascinate Jaques Cousteau. The octopus was quite good, but when I finally extracted a snail from its shell, it flopped onto the table judgmentally, looking like it had just burst out of John Hurt’s chest. I’m now considering vegetarianism. Seriously.

After lunch, it was suggested that we all hit the wet and freezing cold beach, but I displayed my team spirit by making it clear that the only thing I was hitting was the sack (I was up at 4.30 for a 5.30 start, and I didn’t get much sleep in the car).

When I woke up to everyone returning from the beach, I was roped into some games, including one where we all stood in a circle passing a football to each other while a man banged a drum with a chopstick. It made about as much sense as any English ‘team building’ I’ve done, so I went with it. I even found, eventually, that I was having something that, by some stretch of the imagination, might be referred to as ‘fun’.

In the evening, I explored some of the town with a handful of colleagues. There was an onshore amusement arcade, including a mini-circus that I avoided like the plague after realizing that animals were involved. I stopped in a shop to see if I could use their toilet, only to be invited into their home! I could tell, from my limited Chinese, that the shopkeeper was excitedly telling his wife there was a foreigner in their toilet.

We had a seafood dinner and then retired to our rooms until a seafood breakfast. Unfortunately my friend and roommate was sick as a mo fo all night (probably with seafood poisoning), so neither of us got any sleep. The following day, we went down to the beach. I fell asleep in the sand (most of which returned to the hotel with me) and scrambled over some rocks. We had a seafood lunch and then had ‘free time’ until our seafood dinner, which was spent with a group of other poor bastards from another teaching centre who had arrived for their own ‘team building’ adventure.

I was approached by a pretty young lady who suggested a ganbei competition. Ganbei is the ancient Chinese art of downing a beer in one (although I’ve started using the term “ganbei’d” in casual conversation as a synonym for “clusterfucked”). She only had a small plastic glass and I only had a little left in my bottle, so I acquiesced. I was horrified, though, when she returned with two 500cl bottles of Yanjing. So, with everyone responsibly whooping and hollering at us to “ganbei, ganbei, ganbei”, I started to ganbei. She had swallowed the lot and spewed it back up before I even got to the end of the neck.

It was a result I was perfectly happy with.

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