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Single and Grateful
By Eve Waites

She had peed on her feet, something the taxi driver had no way of knowing. Indeed he had no way of knowing that she had peed on her feet for the first time ever in her life, and had done so while wearing sandals and shorts, in a public convenience with poor ventilation, trillions of fat flies, and all the unpleasantries found in and around popular municipal lavatories at the zenith of summer. The taxi driver also had no way of knowing that her freshly-urinated toes had spiced-up a day that began with insufficient deodorant and, since noon, had been oozing rapidly into an August afternoon of blotchy foundation, sub-sartorial swampiness, frizz, and a hair-trigger mood. Nor did he know that his gravel-in-the-mouth northern accent was grating on my singed nerves nearly as much as his barrage of probing questions about myself, my partner, and our relationship (rather untimely given the circumstances). He could not have known that I had no desire to discuss international relations from his very particular and troublingly nationalistic perspective. He could not have known any of this, and could not have known that I wanted to throttle him.

The fare rang-in at 19RMB, and I slipped him two tens through the gap in the plexiglass shield which - for the past three kilometers - would have impeded my efforts to choke him had I attempted to do so. How, then, to describe my feelings when he forced one of the tens back through the gap, thanking me with a broad smile for a stimulating conversation and congratulating me on my spoken-Chinese and pretty belle?

Embarassed. Humbled. That’s exactly how I felt as I mumbled a string of penitent and ashamed thank-yous and stuffed the tenner into my shirt pocket. The taxi driver could not have known how complex my feelings were at the moment, or that the issue of the pee-feet (for which somehow I was responsible) had not yet reached its climax. Eventually it did, nine months later. This 11 November I will be celebrating Single’s Festival (guanggun jie, 光棍节).

Over the course of my 13 years in China, this would be the first and only time that a cabbie had insisted I take considerably less than the fare on the meter. (Would this happen in any city? In any hemisphere?) It was also one of the few times that I felt genuinely grateful for any courtesy extended to me in this country. I’d said xiexie millions of times, of course, and meant it. But sincere semiautomated thanks-saying is to the expression of gratitude what a McDonald’s cheeseburger is to, well, a cheeseburger.

The Chinese word into which one typically translates grateful is ganxie (感谢), a compound of gan (feeling, as in ganjue, 感觉), and xie (to thank, as in xiexie, 谢谢) -- literally: the feeling-to-thank, or, feeling-of-thankfulness. This is a little different from gan’en, as in gan’en jie, the American holiday Thanksgiving. Gan’en has the same gan as ganxie, and the en (恩, which can be translated a number of ways) approximates favor or grace – the latter in the sense of There but for the grace of the gods go I. Why was I grateful to the taxi driver? Because there was no norm, rule, or convention that required the taxi driver to benefit me – or: to aim intentionally to benefit me. He was not repaying a debt, making good on a promise, or luring me into a transactional reciprocal relationship – odds were between slim and none that I’d ever be in his cab again. He had nothing to gain by being weirdly, spontaneously generous. And that’s what made my last few seconds in his stationary cab so moving.

One thread of enquiry into these sorts of circumstances focuses on the taxi driver’s actions, on his seemingly altruistic behavior. What has long attracted my attention, however, is the other side of the coin: the experience of being the beneficiary of seemingly genuine altruism, and the resulting experience of a feeling of gratitude.

Ganxie consists of two characters which I have known for as long as I have been wrestling with Putonghua and Chinese-languages, and when I arrived here ganxie was immediately added to my new and tiny quiver of poorly-pronounced Chinese words on the assumption that I’d be using it with regularity – feichang ganxie for this, hen ganxie for that. Feichang ganxie is in fact a phrase you’ll hear a lot at the beginning of speeches, public addresses, and in the prefaces to oratory honorifics. But off the dais and in the humdrum of every-day existence, you’re unlikely to hear it being used with the same frequency as the English word grateful. As my language-skills approached proto-conversational, its absence from discourse was conspicuous.

Which is odd. Chinese antiquity – like that of the Occident – consistently celebrated gratitude as a virtue. In The Book of Odes (诗经) we find this: 投之以桃,报之以李 . (Tóu zhī yǐ táo, bào zhī yǐ lǐ. “Don’t forget the good others have done you and seek to return the favor”.) The arrival into China of Buddhism and its subsequent flourishing only reinforced indigenous traditions (folk, Confucian, Daoist), which, in their characteristic ways and in varying degrees, were principally oriented around ren (仁), yi (义), and li (利) – humanity, righteousness, and (ritual) propriety. Whereas yi and li are sufficient for formalized-reciprocity and debt-fulfillment, it takes ren (and lots of it) to get anywhere near kenotic altruism (and debt forgiveness), which are much nearer to the spirit of gratitude. Apparently, it doesn’t take too many generations of strategic and mercenary guanxi-calculation to beat the gan out of ganxie, leaving behind only a hastily-reiterated xie. Ten thousand spoken xiexie’s weighs less than a single felt ganxie.

The Greeks and Romans of antiquity were fixated with the idea of gratitude (or rather: ingratitude), and the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca (4bce-65ce) went so far as to say of ingratitude that there was no vice more odious. This was the title of a lecture I gave in 1999 at a very small philosophy colloquium at a university you’ve never heard of. It was based on my research interests at the time, and it focused mainly on a question raised by Seneca in On Benefits (63ce): Can children bestow upon their parents benefits greater than those bestowed upon the children by the parents, on the assumption that the parents “benefitted” the children best and most by creating them in the first place? It is in this context that Seneca gave Western letters one of the earliest explorations of gratitude and ingratitude. My bagatelle of a paper was an incomplete and imperfect attempt to resurrect discussion of a subject which (to my thinking) was receiving far too little attention.

I had no way of knowing at the time, but psychologist Michael McCullough (University of Miami) had been working on a similar topic, and in 2001 McCullough and Emmons (et al.) published “Is gratitude a moral effect?”. Had this paper only helped to legitimate scholarly interest in the phenomenon of gratitude, all would be well; but what it did was yank the subject matter away from belles lettres and philosophy and slam-dunk it into the overrated but fashionable mosh pit of the experimental behavior sciences. McCullough’s long-time collaborator Robert A Emmons (University of California/Davis) explains, in lovely prose, his take on “the new science of gratitude” in his 2008 book Thanks: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier.

Gratitude is an important dimension to our life as we interact with one another in our everyday affairs. It is impossible to imagine a world don’t receive and give gratitude on a regular basis. Binding together people in relationships of reciprocity, gratitude is one of the building blocks of a civil and humane society. Georg Simmel, a prominent early-twentieth-century Swiss sociologist, referred to gratitude as “the moral memory of mankind”. He wrote that “if every grateful action… were suddenly eliminated, society (at least as we know it) would break apart”. We need gratitude in to function in relation to others.

McCullough and Emmons (editors of the 2004 The Psychology of Gratitude) continue to do research in this domain. Both have websites which cite their work and celebrate its importance in the domain they (individually and collectively) helped to create.

My notes from May, 2008: I am sitting in a well-known chain coffee shop which at the moment smells more like scalp and wet Labrador retriever than Arabica beans and cacao. I am awaiting the arrival of a friend, and have just held open the door for an incoming-patron who, due to what she was carrying, would not have been able to open it on her own. She does not say thank you (or xiexie), or acknowledge my efforts, or appear cognizant of my intention to help. This is the rule and not the exception in these latitudes, and although I’m used to it, it still annoys me. It’s not that it’s rude not to say “thank you” -- that’s a judgment based on cultural-norms for etiquette. It is the seeming failure to apprehend a conspicuous intention to benefit that has me wondering about her and her compatriots’ cognitive or visceral amenability to the feeling of gratitude. And I am wondering about the deeper implications of that.

Emmons’ book Thanks! was published in 2008. I didn’t know about it at the time. But by that year I had been thinking rigorously and conscientiously about the phenomenon (and the phenomenology) of gratitude for nearly a decade. As the scalpy smell of Starbucks churned the mocha-caramel latte in my stomach into something unpleasant and unmentionable, I was acutely aware of the fact that - eight years in-country - and I was still finding it very difficult to reconcile what I thought I know about ‘gratitude’ with what I thought I knew about ganxie and with what I thought I knew about human nature. When my (local, bilingual, and wealthy) friend arrived, I asked her what seemed to me to be a simple question: How often do you think about the things for which you are grateful? How often do you feel consciously gratitude? She paused for a moment, masticating the query with what appeared to be embarrassment. Almost never, she said, almost penitently. By appearing as if she is confessing a moral shortcoming, she redeems herself. She also helps confirm a working-hypothesis. She does not know about any of this.

Since 2004 I have been living in what Oriental Outlook magazine rated “The Happiest City in China”. (In 2009 the same publication ranked Chengdu as “The [Second] Happiest City in China”.) I learned only last year that McCullough and Emmons keep the bread of their research buttered with “happiness-studies”, and it occurred to me precisely ten minutes ago those who cut grant-checks seem to like happiness-research nearly as much as they do research related to childhood allergies, addiction, and Asperger’s. “Gratitude”, Emmons opines,

is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research. We are engaged in a long-term research project designed to create and disseminate a large body of novel scientific data on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude. Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being. Through conducting highly focused, cutting-edge studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, we hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept.

This might one of China’s most consistently happy cities – one with an increasingly affluent population, no less – but I don’t hear too many people talking about gratitude or the things for which they are grateful. Superficially at least, this seems a little at odds with core of the McCullough-Emmons hypothesis. I also would have thought that being affluent in a country which, a half a century ago, didn’t have enough kilocalories to go around (never mind Starbucks and Lamborghini dealerships) would be reason plenty to feel grateful, to be brimming over with ganxie-ness. But perhaps none of China’s happy cities are really happy. I’m sure there’s grant money somewhere for asking and attempting to answer that question. But then again, social and behavioural scientists are generally better at applying regression-analysis to data from questionnaires than they are at thinking up the right questions to ask in the first place.

I for one am grateful for many things, and the number of things for which I am grateful increases as I get older. I write, now, from a comfortable chair, snugly warm in a little café, sipping a nice California Merlot and nibbling on cheese cake that the immigrant teenage waitstaff here – in this twee boutique, in my happy city - cannot themselves afford. I walked here at a healthy clip and without the use of a crutch or cane. I have at no point in my life peed on my own feet, or anybody elses, at least unintentionally. I know that gratitude is not a feeling of indebtedness, but a feeling of wonder, and that feeling gratitude – as intensely as I do, as often as I do - does not seem to contribute much to my happiness. (To my eudaimonia? Maybe. To my happiness? No. On the contrary.)

And I know, too, that however we analyse, biologize, and demystify altruism it is still a wonderful thing, and that gratitude (whatever the psychologists say) is a feeling of smallness – the kind of smallness that makes one feel giddy, and summons to the frontal lobes appreciation of the fact that most of the best things in one’s life are, in one way or another, hostage to circumstances beyond one’s control. To be susceptible to the experience of authentic gratitude, one must appreciate acutely (and I think chronically, too) one’s fragility, and the ultimate contingency of one’s contentment – or better: one’s lack of discontent.

"Since you are mortal”, wrote Simonides (556-468bce), “never say what tomorrow will bring nor how long a man may be happy. For the darting of the dragonfly is not so swift as change of fortune." I suspect Simonides grasped and understood the essence of gratitude. I’m not sure if the maiden sitting nearish to me now in the café – the one with the iPhone, BV purse, and tuhao bling; the one posting on Weixin pics of her bare milky knees and creamy latte; the one who did not even ritually xiexie waitstaff for serving her the expensive beverage she photos rather than drinks – grasps the essence of ganxie.

But how would I know. She seems to have a nice grip on her latte and smartphone. And she seems happy enough. As well she should.

Still, I hope she accidentally pees on her Pradas.

Eve Waites is the author of a number of books which he has not yet written.

1 “Shiyi shiyi”, the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The series of ones (1 1 1 1) is, I’m told, suggestive of singleness.
2 Emmons (2008) Thanks: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, p.9
3 Highlights from the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness Dimensions and Perspectives of Gratitude, vide: http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Gratitude-Related%20Stuff/highlights_fall_2003.pdf
4 See Lung Hung Chen et al. (2008) “Validation of the Gratitude Questionnaire (GQ) In Taiwanese Undergraduate Students”, Journal of Happiness Studies, vide: http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Gratitude-Related%20Stuff/Validation%20of%20the%20Gratitude%20Questionnaire%20(GQ)%20in%20Taiwanese%20Undergraduate%20Students.pdf. See also http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Gratitude-Related%20Stuff/Chinese%20GQ-6_Joyce%20Leong.pdf, and generally http://www.psy.miami.edu/faculty/mmccullough/Gratitude_Page.htm.
5 See generally Martha Nussbaum (1986) The Fragility of Goodness.

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Hot-Pot King Haidilao Pilots “Do Not Disturb” Service

The Chinese hot-pot restaurant chain Haidilao is known for a lot of things, except being moderate. They will give you a free manicure and clean your shoes while you’re waiting for your table, provide a big stuffed animal to keep you company if you’re lunching alone, and perform an acrobatic dance if you order noodles.

Haidilao is the epitome of the “client comes first” mentality that will go to great length to provide you with first-rate service. However, as experience shows, some clients find that the best service is when they are left alone and not bothered by pesky over-the-top courtesy.

At one time Chinese Internet was replete with articles titled along the lines of “Don’t let Haidilao know your birthday, it’s too scary” where users would detail their experiences dealing with the restaurant’s overblown birthday service that included singing and dancing waiters holding LED lights and more. Some have even joked saying “If you hate your friend, go to Haidilao for their birthday.”

To tackle the problem and better cater to the needs of different groups of customers, Haidilao recently introduced a witty solution. Tables in some of the chain’s restaurants are now equipped with “Do not disturb” flip-boards. Customers who do not want to be approached too often by waiters can use the sign to fend off their insistent advances.

The flip-board also provides other options such as “I’ll serve dishes myself” meaning that the waiter does not need to help with the dishes frequently or “detailed services are not required” telling waiters that they are only wanted to bring dishes and clean the table.

According to Haidilao, the service is still in the pilot stage, and it will be tried in some stores. It will continue to be optimized according to the needs of customers and different situations. Stores and employees will be continuously encouraged to innovate and provide customers with more personalized services.

Though Haidilao's service has always been known as "perverted", but sometimes it is too intimate and it can cause embarrassment. A while ago, a post named "Don't let Haidilao know your birthday" went viral on the internet.

“I went to Haidilao with my girlfriend, we just asked if we could get a discount on birthdays, then a group of people appeared with LED lights and sang the birthday song, they even gave us a ‘Most Beautiful Girlfriend Reward” and asked us to read the girlfriend vows to each other.’

“Two of us went to celebrate my friend’s birthday at Haidilao, we hid the cake in our bag and sneaked some scoops every now and then, just because we were so scared that the waiters would find out that’s her birthday, then we would be the super star of the night.”

“Look at me, I looked so surprised and happy!”

Therefore, for many customers who like Haidilao, the appearance of "Do Not Disturb" flip-board is simply a relief and has been unanimously appreciated by everyone.

Top 10 Easy-to-make Winter Drinks

From a steaming glass of traditional mulled wine, brimming with spices, to an indulgent mudslide cocktail, our winter drinks recipes are perfect for seeing in the festive season. Curl up in your fluffiest jumper with a creamy peppermint hot chocolate, or get the party started with a batch of our marvellous mulled gin.

Keep everyone's glasses topped up with our favourite festive drinks, and mouth-watering non-alcoholic drinks for every taste. Find top mixology tips, reviews of our favourite products and even more triple-tested recipes in our cocktails & drinks hub.

Spiced Apple Syrup with Clementine & Cloves

Our spiced apple syrup with clementine and cloves will add a burst of fabulous Christmas flavour to any drink. Try adding to hot apple juice or mulled wine for festive fruit and spice. It's even delicious drizzled over ice cream for an upgraded frozen treat. It will keep for about a month, so store it in the fridge ready for impromptu gatherings.

200ml apple juice
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp whole allspice
1 mace blade
2 whole cloves
Small strip fresh ginger
1 clementine, zest finely peeled with a vegetable peeler
100g golden caster sugar

1.    Heat the apple juice with the whole spices, ginger, zest and sugar. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 mins.
2.    Remove from the heat and leave to cool, then strain the syrup into small bottles.

Mulled Wine

It wouldn't be winter without a steaming mug of mulled wine, complete with a glug of sloe gin for a sweet twist. Simply leave your wine, (we recommend an unoaked tempranillo) to infuse with seasonal spices like star anise and cinnamon and a little citrus zest. Keep a batch warming on the stove and let guests top up their glasses. Want to try something different this year?

750ml bottle red wine
1 large cinnamon stick, or 2 small ones
2 star anise
4 cloves
2 strips lemon zest, pared using a vegetable peeler
4 tbsp caster sugar
100ml sloe gin (we used Gordon's) (optional)

1.    Put the red wine, cinnamon, star anise, cloves, lemon zest and sugar in a large pan. Cook on a low heat for 10 mins.
2.    Remove from the heat and cool, leaving to infuse for about 30 mins.
3.    To serve, heat without boiling, stir in the sloe gin (if using) and pour into mugs or heatproof glasses.

Winter Whisky Sour

Warm up from the inside out with our simple winter whiskey sour. Give the classic sour a couple of delicious tweaks and it's ready for the festive season. Add a splash of orange juice to your favourite bourbon, a little sugar syrup, some fresh fruit and some sparkle. Need some more help getting into the spirit?

Crushed ice
50ml bourbon
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
½ tbsp sugar syrup
2 slices of oranges

To decorate:
Honey
Gold edible glitter

1.    Using a small paintbrush (or your finger), brush some honey around the rim of two tumblers and use another small paintbrush to stick edible gold glitter around each.
2.    Fill each glass with crushed ice. Put the bourbon into a cocktail shaker with the lemon juice, orange juice and sugar syrup. Shake and strain into each glass, and serve with an orange slice and short straws.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Nothing says 'indulgence' like a velvety-smooth hot chocolate, made with rich dark chocolate and double cream. Stir our peppermint hot chocolate with a striped candy cane and let it melt into the drink for a refreshing minty flavour. These delectable drinks are hard to resist. Got something.

200g bar plain chocolate, broken into chunks
600ml milk
150ml pot single or double cream
Sugar, to taste
6 peppermint candy canes, to serve

1.    Put the chocolate in a pan with the milk. Gently heat, stirring until all the chocolate has melted. Continue heating until the milk is steaming, then remove from the heat and stir in the cream.
2.    Divide the hot chocolate between 6 mugs, add sugar to taste and hang a candy cane on the edge of each. Pass the mugs round and let everyone stir their hot chocolate with their candy cane – letting as much of the sweet peppermint dissolve as they fancy.

Cinnamon Buttered Rum

Once you're tried our super smooth, gently spiced cinnamon buttered rum, it'll be your drink of choice when the nights draw in. Serve up mugfuls of this buttery brilliance for your next party. Neither sickly sweet nor too citrussy, this perfectly balanced tipple will warm you up in no time. Whether you prefer white or dark, spiced or smooth, we have a rum cocktail recipe to get your party started.

25g butter
2 tbsp golden caster sugar
2 small cinnamon sticks
200ml spiced rum

1.    Gently heat the butter, golden caster sugar and cinnamon sticks in a saucepan until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved.
2.    Stir in the spiced rum, then pour into four small heatproof glasses to serve.

Mulled Pear & Cranberry Punch

Our versatile mulled pear & cranberry punch can be served as a cocktail or a non-boozy version, simply miss out the sloe gin. The beauty of this all-in-one recipe means you can simply chuck your ingredients in a pan, leave to heat, then ladle out as needed. It takes just ten minutes to make, so no need to sweat it out in the kitchen.

1l pear cider
1l pear (or cloudy apple) juice
1l cranberry juice
Good handful fresh or dried cranberries
150ml sloe gin
2 cinnamon sticks
2 vanilla pods, scored lengthways

Put all the ingredients into your biggest saucepan or casserole dish. When you're ready to serve, heat to just below simmering point, then ladle into glasses.

Mudslide

This creamy, coffee-flavoured cocktail is for adults only. Our mudslide is pure decadence, something to be savoured and sipped at your leisure.

50g dark chocolate
Ice
60ml coffee-flavoured liqueur
60ml vodka
60ml Irish cream liqueur
100ml double cream

1.    Put two small tumblers in the fridge to chill overnight. Put 30g of the chocolate in a shallow bowl and melt in the microwave in short bursts. Dip the rim of the chilled glasses in the melted chocolate, then stand them upright so it gradually drips down the sides. Return to the fridge until you're ready to serve.
2.    Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, then pour in the coffee-flavoured liqueur, vodka, Irish cream liqueur and double cream. Shake until the outside of the shaker is very cold.
3.    Put a few ice cubes in the prepared glasses, then strain in the cocktail. Finely grate over the remaining chocolate and serve with a paper straw.

Winter Pimm's Punch

This archetypal English cocktail isn't just for summer. Our Winter Pimm's punch is paired with sweet brandy and light apple juice for an instant cocktail cabinet winner. You'll probably have most of the ingredients already lurking in kitchen cupboards. It can be served warm or cool, depending on what you prefer.

500ml Pimm's
500ml brandy
1½ l apple juice
Ice

2 cinnamon sticks
Apple, sliced
Orange, sliced
 
Combine the Pimm's and brandy with the apple juice in a jug filled with ice, cinnamon sticks and a sliced apple and orange.

Mulled Gin

Looking for something a little different than the standard festive fare? Move over wine, this mulled gin is our new favourite Christmas cocktail. Infuse apple juice with aromatic spices like bay, cloves and cardamom, a few crushed juniper berries and a little honey for sweetness. Cut through rich canapés and sweet treats with this more delicate drink.

100ml gin
400ml apple juice
½ lemon, sliced
1 bay leaf
4 cloves
2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
1 small cinnamon stick
3 juniper berries, lightly crushed
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp runny honey

For the garnish
4 bay leaves
2 lemon slices, halved

1.    Divide the gin between four small heatproof glasses or teacups.
2.    Tip the apple juice into a saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Heat gently until simmering, then strain into a jug. Pour the mulled apple juice into the glasses with the gin and stir gently to combine. Garnish each glass with a bay leaf and half a lemon slice and serve warm.

Irish Coffee

Perk up the after-dinner lull with a luxurious Irish coffee. A grating of fresh nutmeg on top of the thick layer of cream adds some seasonal fragrance. Need some help choosing the perfect dram? Read our review of the 10 best Irish whiskies, from light and smooth to rich and spicy.

2 tbsp double cream
150ml freshly brewed black coffee
50ml Irish whiskey
½ - 1 tsp brown sugar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

1.    Lightly whip the cream just so it’s very slightly thickened, then set aside.
2.    Pour the hot coffee into a mug or heatproof glass, then add the whiskey and sugar. Stir until the sugar has dissolved. Gently float the cream on the top and sprinkle the nutmeg over the cream. Serve hot.

Source: https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/howto/guide/top-10-winter-drinks

It’s Ok to Lose, Just Learn From It

My first encounter with Marco was through my friend’s WeChat moments. I can’t really recall for what reason we added each other, all I could remember were his big muscles and that bright smile hailing from L.A. Later on, we had more contact due to a few common friends who are involved with martial arts and I started to know him more.

Who is Marco

Marco has gained quite a reputation in the martial arts world since arriving in Hangzhou in 2018. He used to train at Checkmat Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in USA, an international academy, competition team, and family of Jiu Jitsu practitioners. Founded in 2008 by Master Vieira, Checkmat now has affiliate academies in thirty-four American cities and sixteen countries worldwide. You can find world-class, hands-on instruction that has been tested on the practice mats and proven on the competition field.

In Hangzhou, Marco started his own brand - Marcola Jiu Jitsu. It offers Jiu Jitsu training classes to people of different ages, whether professional or not. As one of the few black belt holders in China, his classes are really popular. Marco’s lifelong love of competitive athletics has molded him into both a lover and a fighter. His passion for athletics and a genuine desire to help people reach their fitness goals motivates him to continue learning each day, and develop new techniques to challenge himself and his clients. You see doctors, lawyers, students, law enforcers, businessmen and women walk into his class for the same reason - to get better at Jiu Jitsu.

Marco’s full name is Marco Alvarado and his Chinese name is rather cute: 马可乐. His Chinese friends would just call him 可乐, same as Cola. Before we tell you more, take a look at his incredible championship records below, the man is a real fighter.

Bronze Medal at International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Pan American Championship Blue Belt
Gold Medal at North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation All Americas Tournament Purple Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF Pan American Championships Brown Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF World No Gi Championships Brown Belt
Gold Medal at IBJJF American Nationals No Gi Brown Belt
Silver Medal at Jiu Jitsu World League San Diego Championships Black Belt
Gold Medal at NABJJF All Americas Tournament Black Belt


Marco has been involved in many kinds of sports - boxing, taekwondo, karate, running, American football – and also physical rehabilitation. Like many other athletes, Marco’s first coach was his dad who was a boxer. Marco was just 5 years old when his dad introduced him to boxing. It was the classic story, his parents decided to put him in taekwondo and karate training when they found out that little Marco was being bullied in kindergarten. Six years later, he received his first black belt in taekwondo.

After that, he decided to move on to a new sport: running. From sixth grade till he graduated college, he never stopped running and he became one of the US national athletes in track and field.

Eventually, he knew he needed to find another new sport to challenge himself. One day, he went to a free Jiu Jitsu class at his college. Someone caught him in a choke, he had no idea what to do and that got him really interested. He wanted to know how it happened, how he did it, and how to do it back. He was 22 at the time. 10 years later, he won the Gold Medal at North American Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation Championships.

It’s Ok to Lose, Just Learn From It

As an amateur boxer who has only been training for 4 months, there was a question I really wanted to ask so I brought it up when we were having a lunch break at Blue Frog. “Before you had your first fight, how did you overcome your inner fear?” Marco took a bite of his big, juicy burger and said “My first Jiu Jitsu tournament was six months after I started training, I was very nervous. We sparred every week in college, so I learned how to deal with the fear, but this time was different. I knew who my opponents were, but I didn’t know what was going to happen. I got destroyed badly in two fights, one guy caught me in the armbar in 20 seconds, the other guy beat me so bad like 20-0. I left deflated and frustrated, but I wanted to do it again, I wanted redemption. This gives you more motivation to go back to train harder and learn from mistakes. In the fights later on, I started to get into my rhythm and started doing well. Sometimes maybe you don’t want to tap and lose in practice, because it hurts your pride for a day or two, but you come back for more training. It’s ok to lose, just learn from it. That’s an important life lesson.” During Marco’s career, his arms were almost broken a couple of times, he tore some ligaments on his knees and he got two broken teeth. With all these injuries, he had to learn about physical therapy in order to fix himself.

“Martial arts is more about avoiding problems than anything else. These days, there are always those untrained people or the ones who watched too much UFC and are looking for trouble. If you trained a little, you’ll have respect for your body. This stuff is no joke, it can really be dangerous.” Marco continues, “My teacher used to say if there is a fight, he’ll just run away, because he would feel bad for the guys once he’s had enough. He would turn around and fight.”

Why Hangzhou?

Back in L.A, Marco was teaching in a big chain gym where he soon became friends with a Taiwanese trainer. He followed his friend’s journey that brought him to Hangzhou to continue teaching for Checkmat and he became aware that there are a lot of blue and purple belt holders who opened Jiu Jitsu schools in Hangzhou, but there were only 2-3 with a black belt teaching here. Marco thought that he can bring people more advanced technique and professional training. So in June, 2018, Marco came to start his first job in a gym in Xiaoshan, teaching conditioning and creating a Jiu Jitsu program.

MMA vs. Traditional Chinese Martial Arts

I couldn’t help asking what Marco thinks about this outspoken Chinese MMA fighter Xu Xiaodong a.k.a. “Mad Dog”. Mad Dog has made it his mission to expose fake kung fu over the past two years by pulverising fraudulent traditional martial arts “masters”, but his actions have drawn the ire of Chinese authorities. “In my point of view, Bruce [Lee] was the first MMA fighter in the history of martial arts, because he was always so open minded about everything. He took things that he thought were useful and added on something unique of his own. I think Xu Xiaodong’s mission is to show that not one martial arts is dominating. If you know a bit of everything, that is more effective. I think Jiu Jitsu is very useful and complete, cause you go from standing to the ground, you can also go back up to defend yourself, knowledge is powerful. Martial arts is changing, and you need to keep yourself updated. Back home, some guys can use their chi to make someone fall. This is not video games, we call it McDojo.”

The Distance Between China and the World

Many are also immersed in the joy of Zhang Weili who won China’s first Gold Belt in MMA. She is now gearing up to defend her UFC strawweight title against the former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk on March 8, 2020. Marco thinks that China has started to close the gap with the other western countries and now there are more and more young Chinese fighters in UFC. Marco told me, “With Jiu Jitsu, specifically, China is a little bit behind. Brazil and US now are the two countries with the best fighters. There are a lot of 15-18 years old kids that have been training since they were 5. That means they have over 10 years of experience on the mat which is more than me. They have all those tricks that I have never seen, the level is just incredible. Even though China has a lot of catching up to do, they are doing a good job.”

How Did My First Jiu Jitsu Class Go?

I joined Marco’s class at R8 a few weeks ago. I was not only impressed by his superb Jiu-Jitsu skills, but also his passion in coaching. When a fight moves down to the ground, it can be quite brutal, especially in Jiu Jitsu where there are so many different kinds of chokes. It seems that getting bruises, breaking teeth or arms are normal in this sport. Plus, did I mention that if you are practicing with a guy, you’d better get used to some rather odd positions? Even Marco himself admitted that Jiu Jitsu positions can sometimes be awkward. 

So I didn’t go in with a lot of confidence, but Marco’s explanation and demonstration of each move made everything seem possible. It is a grappling-based martial art where the central theme is the skill of controlling a resisting opponent in ways that force him to submit. Due to the fact that control is generally easier on the ground than in a standing position, much of the technique of Jiu Jitsu is centered around the skill of taking an opponent down to the ground and wrestling for dominant control positions from where the opponent can be rendered harmless. All those awkward positions can be very effective; the basis behind it is all about leverage. It’s about using the whole body on another body part, even if your opponent is a bodybuilder, he can’t win. If you are skilled in Jiu Jitsu, you can definitely hold yourself against 95% of the population; most people don’t even know how to fall down properly.

The Beauty of Jiu Jitsu

Marco has about 30 tough students at the moment and he’s determined to stay for a much longer time. Recently he took 7 people to attend the Shanghai Tournament and got 10 gold medals, this shows that this tiny team is going in the right direction. For the next step, Marco wants to create a kids’ program. He wants to share what he has with the next generation.

"It's important to stay focused and keep an open mind when it comes to learning Jiu Jitsu." The Jiu Jitsu lifestyle goes beyond just training. It's about taking care of yourself, making friends, and striving to put your 'best foot forward'. Setting your mind to learning and improving every week will help you to improve mind, body and soul. His over-all team goal is to improve at least 1% every week and this requires a positive attitude.

Ten Hard-to-Find Bars and One Restaurant

While there might be a certain amount of irony in writing an article about hard-to-find bars. I decided that the value of sharing these unassuming venues far outweighed the underlying irony. After all, each of the bars listed below have gone without the usual crowd-drawing tactics (flashy look-at-me signs, foot traffic-orientated locations etc.), surviving instead on their good work. That makes the following bars more than just a collection of hard to find bars, but also one which features some of the best tasting drinks in Hangzhou.

Using Didi? In most cases I would write the bar name in English, otherwise I’d copy and paste the Chinese address into Didi for either language version.

Coordinate: East
Dr.Ink S
(Same name for Didi)

Shop 3-4, Building 13, Maozuo Plaza, 95 West Genshan Road 
艮山西路95号茂宸金座13幢底商3-4号

Once you’re inside though, see if you can spot the hidden guest rooms and bar. Usually the English service is excellent and for an awesome variety of highballs OR a serious list of twists on the classics, Dr.Ink have great service and style. (There is also a Dr.Ink at 168 Nanshan Road but you have to go upstairs to find it!)

Coordinate: North
Jason's Library 杰森图书馆
(Same name for Didi, might display 杰森图书馆)

Shop 529, Building 4, 515 Yuhangtang Road
余杭塘路515号矩阵国际4号楼1楼商铺529

This Jamie Oliver inspired venue is more restaurant than bar but they serve good drinks too. If you haven't been here yet - it's worth a visit. When you enter the main entrance of the complex, turn right and next to Mona Vale Café, pass through the library shelves for awesome Scotch Eggs, delicious roast beef or a very well prepared Beef Wellington as well as my favourite lemongrass Mojito and chili gin tonic.  Spoken English is very limited BUT language doesn’t affect service, food or environment.

Jason's Recommend Drinks:
Boys - Gentleman
Girls - The Windsor Gardens

Coordinate: West
Show Lounge 秀 Lounge
(For Didi paste秀 Lounge could display 杭州秀酒店 SHOW HOTEL)

B1/F, 381 Wen'er Road
文二路381号秀酒店B1楼

The first time getting here can be confusing so use the WanTang Road entrance of the SHOW HOTEL which is close to the corner of Wen'er and Wantang. When you pass the lobby, head downstairs to the basement where you will probably see the highest back bar anywhere. English service is usually ok. 秀 (Xiu or Show) often feature guest bartenders and regular singer songwriters.

Show's Recommend Drinks:
Boys - SHOWTIME
Girls - Midsummer Night Dream

Coordinate: Downtown
Spy & Smuggler
(Same name for Didi)

Shop A20, B1/F, Can High Centre, 208 North Huancheng Road
环城北路208号坤和中心地下一层A20

You want to find the steps down to the Water Bus Terminal. It’s easiest to walk out to the main road being Huancheng North Road. Walk beneath the pedestrian overpass and turn left at the driveway for Can High Centre. In Can High you can take an elevator to the basement or use the outside steps down to the wharf. At the wharf level, facing the canal, turn left to find Spy & Smuggler’s “gallery” of ill-gotten gains. Twist the correct “ornament” to open the secret door to one of two hidden bars. Spy & Smuggler have excellent English and their menu features fun and interesting twists upon classics.

Spy & Smuggler's Recommend Drinks:
Boys - Old Fashioned
Girls - Bees Knees

Coordinate: Downtown
Crossroads Whisky Bar
(Same name for Didi)

468 Yan'an Road
延安路468号

At the crossroads of Fengqi and Yanan, (Fengqi Station exit D4) you might find limited spoken English but the excellent menu, service and drinks more than make up for it. My sweet tooth loves their Foaming Midori or for a strong drink Crossroads has Myrcia and star anise flavoured bourbon with Drambuie. Head 100 meters down the driveway towards the hospital and you will see the Crossroads sign on your right. Lift the telephone to enter.

Crossroads' Recommend Drinks:
Boys - Rio de Janeiro
Girls - Nan Shan Road

Coordinate: South
染*Mist
(For Didi paste 染 mist 西湖礼物)

89 Nanshan Road
南山路89号

The car park and buildings might look very dark, it’s the address of the West Lake Museum. Go to the driveway on the right hand side of the museum building and walk 200 metres to the rear of the building where you will find Mist another 50 metres away on the left. English service is excellent and the bar offers tea in the day and a cocktail programme at night.

Mist's Recommend Drinks:
Boys - Like You For a Long Time
Girls - I Love You Too

Coordinate: South
Quarter
(Same name for Didi)

591 Qingtai Street
清泰街591号

When you go inside, don’t go to the “café counter” on the left but go through the dark narrow doorway straight ahead to reveal the candlelit stairway. Push the panel at the top to enter the century old Apothecary. Not always confident in English but the room, drinks and service are warm hearted and personable.

Coordinate: South
Xanadu
(For Didi paste品 Xanadu)

255 Zhongshan Middle Road
中山中路255号

You’ll see a large Muslim restaurant to the right of a narrow alleyway. Go into the alley a short way and turn left at the large white entrance. Play the arcade game Street Fighter to open the door to the stairs. Xanadu open a little later than other bars, usually from 8pm. There’s a fantastic range of spirits and creative cocktails based on your suggestions as well as excellent conversational English at all times.

Coordinate: Binjiang
Harbour Island Bar 哈珀酒吧
(Same name for Didi)

Shop 31, Chunjiang Licheng, Binjiang
滨江春江郦城31号商铺(春江郦城东门旁边)

To unlock the door, don’t spend your time spinning the wheel but put your attention on the world map. Upstairs you’ll find a well appointed bar with great service and reasonable drinks. If you end up heading (accidentally) to 324 Fengqi Road in downtown Hangzhou, don’t be alarmed – the similarly named bar HarBour is also a speakeasy – press the anchor to open the door.

Coordinate: Binjiang
MILL7
(Same name for Didi, might display MILL7酒吧 滨江店)

4317 Binsheng Road, Binjiang
滨江滨盛路4317号

The photographic art studio and gallery opens to a large whiskey and cocktail bar. This is spread across several floors including a hidden terrace bar. Try a drink from the secret menu if you feel game enough to ask. Service is always warm and personal. Look out for one of  Mill’s many other venues across Hangzhou.

MILL7's Recommend Drinks:
Boys - Why Women Kill
Girls - Macha Grasshopper

Coordinate: Xiaoshan
Siren
(For Didi paste SIREN 塞壬酒吧)

890-2 Jincheng Road
金城路万象汇890-2号

At the end of the Xiaoshan MixC Mall is a beautifully designed bar. The menu is creative and features twists on common elements. English might be reasonable depending on who is working. In any case, service is personable and friendly.

Get Lost in the Maze-like Concentric Rings of Buildings "Tulou”

Uncover the Secrets of the Fujian Earth Buildings

T I M E 


Tour Signup Deadline: December 20th
Tour Date: December 21st – December 24th

V E N U E 

Xiamen, Fujian
福建,厦门

T I C K E T S 

Price: 1,999RMB/adult
(Min 10 Pax, Max 16 Pax)

There’s no doubt – if your destination is Fujian and the south-east, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you miss these mammoth World Heritage wonders! Take four days to visit the Tulou closed settlements (pronounced “two”-“low”) for an encounter with China’s ancient Hakka culture, then let a local guide you to experience the real heart of life in Xiamen.

Highlights

1. Explore the Tulou and discover why these mammoth communal dwellings were deemed precious items World Cultural Heritage – study their wisdom to get a unique look into Hakka culture!

2. Spend the night in comfortable Tulou tavern room lodging at the Hongkeng Tulou cluster’s Renquan’yuan Lou, ‘Square’ Lou or Wufeng Lou.

3. Get lost in the maze-like concentric rings of buildings inside the “King Tulou”, or seek out the ‘slither of sunlight’ in the Gaobei Tulou cluster. Had enough of Hakka Tulous? Then explore a different mystery in the Da’di Southern Min Tulou groupings in Hua’an.

What's included

1. 8 Meals (Including Breakfast x3,  Lunch x3, Dinner x2)
2. 3 Night’s Stay in Comfortable Hotels(Double occupancy, for single supplement please add 550 rmb)
3. Activity costs and admission fares for all items on the itinerary.
4. All transportation costs for the itinerary (Airport and Station pickup not included)
5. Full travel accident insurance for the duration of the trip.
6. Full bilingual guide accompaniment.

Not included

1. Transportation costs to Xiamen and Xiamen Plaza Hotel
2. All additional costs incurred by the individual not mentioned in the itinerary above.

Important Information

1. This is a coupled Chinese-foreign tour, meaning your tour group will include both Chinese natives and foreign expats. There is a minimum 10-person (maximum 16-person) signup threshold that must be reached for this tour to go ahead. If you sign up and the threshold is not reached, the cost of the tour will be refunded in the means by which you paid.

2. Want to come? Signup can be completed through the TA mini-program. Once the group reaches the minimum number of attendees you will receive a message from TA customer support confirming that the tour will go ahead.

If after successful payment and signup you become unable to attend your booked tour, your refund will be processed minus deductions as per the following scheme by the Trendy Adventurer Financial Affairs team:

- 14 or 14+ days before the activity date: 1% of the signup cost;
- 7 or 14 days before the activity date: 10% of the signup cost;
-7 to 3 days before the activity commencement date: 40% of the signup cost;
-3 to 1 day(s) before the activity commencement date: 55% of the signup cost;
-Within 24 hours of the activity commencement date: 70% of the signup cost.

Refunds will be processed within 5 working days after the date of conclusion of the tour.
(if the air ticket is included in the itinerary and the air ticket has been issued, 100% air ticket loss shall be borne, because the group ticket cannot be changed or refunded)

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