Beer and Porpoises, Mostly Beer

Earthwatch project, River porpoise research station near Wuhan, China

August 23
Pouring rain. Mr. Wang offered to take us to a deer reserve by boat, including a 2K walk in the mud to get to the deer. I declined but Sharon and Dave went. During their hours away, I witnessed panicked activity among the staff. The big shot, the Director, wanted another meeting. I learned the cause: our decision to leave the project early. When Dave and Sharon returned we strategized on what to say. True to her paranoia, Sharon thought honesty would get her arrested.

The Chinese team sat us, as usual, facing them on the opposite side of the room. They asked our reasons for bailing on the project early. I tactfully suggested that for the next Earthwatch group, scheduled to arrive next month, they might prepare educational material and actual tasks for the volunteers. We also brought up our environmental concerns. I’d seen a farmer empty his pesticide container directly into the oxbow. Sharon spoke about the trash laying around and how some residents of the station were throwing garbage out their windows. The Chinese received this with stone faces but they must have been listening because the next day I saw an attempt had been made to clean up some of the trash.

August 24
Sharon left at 9:00 to catch a boat heading up the Changjiang river to Sichuan province. I went out a final time on the oxbow and, at last, got a view of all five remaining porpoises, this time a bit closer, for all of ten seconds. This would be the high point of my “research.”

During dinner everyone got extremely drunk except me. Dave asked if he could set off the long chain of fireworks he’d bought. I hoped someone sober would light the fuse. Dave drank more than anyone and although he’d shown signs of being verbally abusive before, this night he directed some of his abuse toward me, labeling my semi-vegetarian diet as a form of mental illness. The Chinese understood English well enough to be embarrassed but Dave was oblivious. He went on to began to recite his life history, wanting to tell everyone he’d been married for sixteen years before his wife got pregnant. Apparently believing he had to resort to pidgin English, he phrased it, “My wife and I worked at it for sixteen years.” Yang replied, “It sure took you a lot of practice to get it right,” at which point they all went off in peals of laughter. Being the only sober person at the table and the only female, I quickly changed the subject and was glad when the fireworks ended the evening’s festivities. They went off for at least five minutes, leaving us all temporarily deaf. It’s good luck if the chain of fireworks goes all the way to the end without going out. They did, but luck wasn’t going to favor me.
To be continued…

Mickey Hoffman is the author of the mystery novel, School of Lies and the upcoming Deadly Traffic.
Visit my website at


~ by mickeyhoffman on May 18, 2011.

One Response to “Beer and Porpoises, Mostly Beer”

  1. bravo.

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