No such thing as normal

I think we can all admit Boulder's a bit ... odd.

Walking to a lunch meeting on Pearl Street, I nearly ran into a woman playing bagpipes while staring at a man strolling by on a pair of stilts. Rubber ducks race down a local creek every year to the cheers of dozens. It's tradition to kiss a stuffed buffalo head.

But China? Not a day goes by I don't stop and marvel at the utter strangeness of this place.

Land of the fleeting trends

After just a month in Beijing, I started to notice sprigs of green cropping up on locals' noggins.

Behold, the Leaf Clip Trend of 2015. Folks were buying plastic leaves and pieces of grass attached to hair clips and nestling them in their tresses. Men, women, children — I was surrounded. I was also baffled.

"Why?" I asked my friends as I gaped at a whole forest waving behind a young woman's bangs.

"China, man," they muttered back.

And then, a few weeks later, poof! They were gone. Nary a twig or shrub in sight.

Of course, most things don't fade as quickly. I still can't figure out why animal ears are sewn on trucker hats. Leather pants seem wildly uncomfortable. I'll always shake my head, confused that they're unaware the words on their T-shirts are English obscenities.

(My coworker's student kept showing up to class with the F-bomb emblazoned on her cap. After a week, he had to ask: "Do you know what your cap says?" She took it of and took a closer look ... and then it clicked. Horrified, she looked up. "Teacher, I had no idea!" Oops.)


'Just drink some hot water'

Anyone a "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" fan? Throughout the film, the father insists that all ailments can be cured by spritzing Windex on it.

Well here in China, hot water is the cure-all.

"Oh, you've got a cold? Sip some hot water." "Your back is aching from toting heavy boxes all day? Nothing a mug of hot water can't fix."

The ’V’ sign everywhere, in typical Asian fashion.
The 'V' sign everywhere, in typical Asian fashion. (Alexandra Sieh / Colorado Daily)

Four months after my bike accident, my knee was still giving me trouble. So I had another doctor take a look. As it turns out, things beneath the kneecap were much more strained and twisted than they'd thought. So what does the doctor prescribe? Hot water and warmer pants. (He also muttered something about how stupid foreigners were for not knowing that already. I left muttering about how stupid it was to think heating my water would heal strained ligaments. But I digress ...)

Peace Out, Man

I'll always call it the "peace sign,"— when your pointer and middle finger make a "V."

Well, it's everywhere here, from selfies on my WeChat feed to my students as they celebrate a correct answer. I can't snap a photo with my Chinese pals without it showing up. In lieu of getting a clear explanation why this is a trend, I figure if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Peace, everyone.

Worlds apart, it's amazing how rapidly my sense of what's "normal" is changing. Just as "the Republic of Boulder" has its eccentricities, so does Beijing.

All you can do is embrace the strange.

Read more of former nightlife columnist Alexandra Sieh's adventures overseas: Stalk her: