Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Làng Takes China By Storm!

Some of you surely have noticed that, for some reason, I have a real fondness for Mountain Dew. I know, I don't ride a skateboard or ski off rock faces. (I have been known, though, to jump off a cliff here and there!)

I remember, one time, being asked at a meeting just what it was I was drinking. (My Mountain Dew was in a clear plastic cup that day.) The response I got was something like, "Mountain Dew!? I haven't seen that in years!" Yes, it's lonely being the outlier in a room full of Diet Coke drinkers!

Well, it's been even lonelier here in China. Now, don't get me wrong...There are plenty of great things to drink here, things that are just not available back in the States. I have really enjoyed all of the green teas, peach juices, and more exotic selections.

And so there I was, walking with Julie a few months back through this alleyway neighborhood outside the gates of Southwest University in Chongqing. We were both stunned when, in this really small street-side stand, there they were...The first time we had ever seen them in China...A row of bottles of Mountain Dew, alongside the normal offerings of Coke, Pepsi, and Sprite.

The only problem? It was the middle of Lent, and I had given up soda for the season. So I just kept on walking past that stall, thinking my China Mountain Dew experience had passed me by, at least for the foreseeable future.

Desi and the kids, though, had other ideas. Unbeknownst to me, four bottles of Mountain Dew were smuggled from Chongqing back to Beijing. Now, as it turns out, we were spending Easter Sunday in Chengdu, which is way out west in Sichuan, not all that far from Chongqing actually. One of those renegade Mountain Dews was therefore carted back across the country. (Imagine carrying a bottle of soda from Denver to New York, and then back to Denver.) No wonder that bag was so heavy!

Well, you know the rest of the story. I thoroughly enjoyed sipping my Mountain Dew while strolling through the Panda Research Base/Giant Panda Breeding Center. And there were three more bottles waiting for me when we arrived back in Beijing.

Then things just kinda tore loose. The other day, Desi and the kids came rushing into my office, excited that they had stumbled across a rack of Mountain Dew in the Zhongguancun Lu Hyper-Mart. Little did they know, that just minutes earlier, I had had exactly the same thing happen, only for me it was in this little alleyway xiao tanr that principally caters to students of the school across the street and migrant workers constructing the new law school building next to the School of Government. With this level of penetration, it seems that Ji Lang has truly arrived, not just in the sense of being a drink that crazy expats seek out, but as an everyday option for laobaixing themselves.

Perhaps this is just China's way of making a pitch for hosting the X-Games some time down the line...

~Steve

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