Shisha or Hookah….. Just Not For Me…


Because it is a holiday I have time to go out and check out more of the bars and hang outs in Hangzhou.  My latest destination was Ellen’s Cafe…. Cafe by day … and evidently popular Foreigner’s hot spot and bar by night.

Since it is quite far from where my actual apartment is… I really didn’t look forward to paying the 70 rmb taxi ride to get there… but my quick thinking of inviting two guys to come along with me…. took care of that.   In China the man pays for the woman…. so … two men..were fighting over who would pay…. and I just stayed out of it…. (smile) …… Didnt want to interfere you know.   I  invited my trusty stand by and fill-in husband, Wayne and my newest Syrian friend Rami.

We arrived at the place and met some of my other friends outside the door…. we all got a table and within five minutes of walking in Rami… shouted they have Shisha!!!!   I was like what the hell are you talking about.  He said and all Arabic countries we use the Shisha.    I was still lost.

Shisha or Hookah
Shisha or Hookah: Arabic Water Pipe

Then finally I saw what he was talking about.   The Water Pipe.   I had seen them before in the states but I assumed it was some kind of contraption for taking drugs or something.   So, I had stayed far, far away from it.    But is seemed I was going to get close up and personal with it this night.   Rami quickly ordered it and asked me what flavor I wanted….. I was like.. it has flavors??? ….. My ignorance was clearly showing and I wasnt ashamed.   He took the menu from me and ordered Mint.  He was saying something about sour apple or double apple.. and I  didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about.

For my Chinese friend Wayne, I ordered us Mojitos…. he is always game to whatever I make him eat or drink.  He just wants to experience stuff.  More friends arrived and we went through the photo taking hour…. we always try to take a lot of photos before we get too drunk…. and cant find the cameras on our phones.

some of the crazy people out with us
Crazy foreigners at Ellen’s Cafe

Then came time for the Shisha or Hookah, which is what I had always heard it called.  I saw them all grabbing tips and taking turns taking drags off this thing.  Rami, the Syrian was in heaven.  He had smoke coming out of everywhere.  At least that is what it looked like to me.

Then came the peer pressure.   Yes, even at my age…. so, they started asking me if I had ever tried it.  I said.. no… I have honestly never smoked a cigarette, tried wacky weed, mushrooms, or any kind of drug in my entire life.  I have led a pretty clean life…I actually barely drink… one or two is enough for me.  So this just made them more determined to force me to try this Arabic water pipe.

It started with guilt….. from my Syrian friend…. I have tried your country’s stuff you should try my country’s culture…. then I get the girls telling me… just try a little it wont hurt….(I have heard that before) … even my trusty stand by… Wayne said go ahead…. although he wasnt trying it either.   I kept up a brave front…. against all the pressure…. with a hardy no… I don’t think so…. sorry, I will pass….. that’s okay….. but finally to shut them up… I said I would try it.    I was not looking forward to it.. and it didn’t look like any fun… but what the heck…. I can say I did it … Once.

First  time with an Arabic water Pipe
First time with an Arabic water Pipe

I followed the directions of my Arabic friend since he seemed to be an expert at it… and I was supposed to just take a very small inhale and hold it in my mouth.. then breathe it out…. sounded easy enough.. I guess.   Before I took a swig of this thing all the horrible thoughts of Opium, crack and Meth… came to my mind… and I just scared me to death.   I really had never wanted to try any of those things.. nor did I have an addictive behavior….but I had promised to try it once.. so I couldn’t back out now.   Anyway they all seemed to be acting normal.

So, I took a small sip…. I guess that wasnt the right way… because nothing happened… no smoke, no feeling.. just nothing…. and they were all staring at me.   I was informed that wasnt correct…. and that I needed to inhale deeper….(this was getting a little crazy now) … so I tried it again….. and this time I got smoke… to come out of my mouth…. and they all cheered and clapped…. Wayne broke down and tried it too… but he took a big drag off of it….and then smiled with smoking coming out of his nose and mouth.   He said… he felt a little dizzy…. I was like …really?   I  actually didn’t feel anything.

I saw them passing around the pipes and changing tips each time … so sanitary… but I wasnt getting it.  I just didn’t seem entertaining or even interesting.   I saw several tables in the bar with the same set up just smoking their little hearts away… but I couldn’t see the pleasure in it.

I figured maybe something was wrong with the way I did it.. or maybe I just don’t have a taste for this kind of thing.  I choose to hang up my Hookah shoes for then on.   I learned from this that maybe sticking to my morals and not bending under peer pressure no matter how innocent it is … is a good thing.

I was lucky this time that I didn’t feel or get anything from this…. Minty water smoke…and now I know myself even better.  If in my mind I feel it isn’t fit for me… usually it isn’t fit for me.   But folks I can say I tried an Arabic cultural past time with actual Arabic friends…. and not one time… did they consider me the enemy or that evil American… they just considered me … their friend and we shared our cultures.. and had a good time.   It was  kind ofworth the pressure….kind of

until next time…..

me trying to kill myself
me trying to kill myself
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12 thoughts on “Shisha or Hookah….. Just Not For Me…

  1. I just found your blog tonight and have really enjoyed reading through it. I’m not a cigarette smoker at all–hate the smell. However, I do enjoy hookah once or twice a year, ever since the first time I tried it in Cambodia three years ago. Mint, peach, and apple flavors are my favorites.

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your life in China.

  2. luvmuffins43

    Rose flavour was the most popular for the girls in Wuhan’s Helens, I felt it just left an ashy, kinda rose flavour in my mouth…. Nothing spectacular. Once I found out it was 5x worst then smoking, I stopped Shisha real quick. Although I do like the atmosphere it creates

  3. I tried hookah a few times while living in NYC during my college years. The first time I didn’t get it either because I couldn’t even taste the flavor. I did a few more times while hanging out with friends. I think the third time was the last time because it hurt my throat and I starting thinking about cancer. I wasn’t a smoker and still am not so fear risking my health increased.

  4. Nikos

    It’s still tobacco & carcinogenic, however you slice it… I suppose we’ll all die of something, so we have our pick…

  5. There was a hookah bar spot on my college campus back in the day. I just didn’t get the appeal of it, but I also don’t smoke or like to do things close to smoking. Just not my thing. I’m with you Jiani, just give me a drink, LOL.

  6. pearls

    I’ve seen them here. People smoking outside a Middle Eastern restaurant right next to a health food store I frequent, but like you, haven’t been compelled to try it. Though harmless, I just don’t like the thought of smoking…flavored or other wise. Plus, all that talk about the fruity and tropical bases makes me salivate! LOL

  7. I’ve done shisha once and in the morning, my throat felt raw like it did when I was a child and I was forced to be around smokers. I don’t think you’re missing much to be honest, but then I’m a bit like you in that I’m not really interested in recreational drugs much. I’d rather have my fun the old fashioned way, but every event is an experience I guess.

  8. Oh Jo, you look like you are in agony. I am actually a Hookah Head and proud of it! I like when they have a pineapple base. Oh or when you have alcohol or milk as a base. I love jasmine flavor. I like chocolate,mint and coconut flavor mixed up together. I think the hookah is erotic when shared with a lover.

    1. Yeah.. maybe the mental aspect of me putting something foreign in my body…(that isnt my husband) …. just doesnt do it for me…. everyone has their thing… this just isnt mine. I will take you there when you come visit me though

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