The Twinkie Times

The life and times of a Chinese American. Born a Jersey boy, lived the expat life, attended boarding school (Lawrenceville), converted to a frat boy (Sigma Pi), got an MBA (Columbia), returned to China, and back to the East Coast now trying to carve out an identity and life as an Asian American dad (gulp) in the midst of a "tertial life crisis" ©

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Episode 1: Commentary

SPOILER ALERT - if you have not seen Episode 1 yet please click above


Hope you enjoyed the first episode.  We were both very impressed with how it was edited, of course we also had to relive the embarrassment of literally and figuratively unraveling to end up in last place.  I can already hear the ridicule but in my defense, I was never in the boy scouts, my work area was uneven so the bamboo supports kept sliding, and I was too pumped with adrenaline to realize that the ropes were of different lengths.

Excuses aside, we survived and it worked out in our favor because we got a lot of airtime in Episode 1!  There were several story-lines (and behind-the-scenes action) which did not make the final edit and since there was little else for us to do during our off-days I wrote copiously in my little journal that I packed.

Opening Sequence
     We climb aboard the logo bus at 5:20 AM and once inside find that all the windows are blacked out so that you cannot see where you are going.  Clutching our giant 25 pound backpacks we sat in the dark on what felt like a massive rolling casket as we proceeded to the Race Start.  We were forbidden from speaking to any of the teams so everyone just eyed each other suspiciously trying to identify the weak links and contenders. 

     The Amazing Race bus came to a halt and we were instructed to sit tight and stay silent.  After an hour, we were allowed to disembark and discovered that we were still in Shanghai at the historic Bund.  They had closed off a section of the iconic riverside for filming and initially this was very exciting but we ended up being there for over 10 hours!  The camera-mounted remote-controlled helicopter was really cool but by 3 PM most of us figured that the real Race would not start on this day.  We had been baking in the sun with barely any food provided but we were thrown for a loop when the host Allan Wu told us that we would be starting shortly and this season there was a slight twist: 1 team would be eliminated after the first challenge.

     Hold up, what?  We were a 15 minute taxi ride away from our apartment.  It would be mortifying to get sent home before even leaving Shanghai.  While we were still reeling from the announcement 11 cameramen and assistants materialized to fasten on microphones and provide quick instructions.  Jenn was still in shock but I looked over at the Malaysian twins next to us and Khai Sheng's eyes met mine.  He asked me if I wanted to form an alliance and I extended my hand to shake on it.  After the challenge was explained to us we agreed that if either team found the right flag we would help the other.

The Race Begins
     This time when Allan Wu said "Go" it was for real.  I held back from running to the front and let 2 other teams go ahead of me making a mental note of which flags they chose.  I randomly selected a different one and ran back to Allan.  All 3 were wrong, ok 7 choices left.  As I waited for Jenn to catch up, I lingered by the judge to watch the other teams.  Surprisingly, the Taiwanese Models got it right on the 1st try and before they took away the flag, I caught a glimpse of the Chinese character and sprinted back to find the matching glyph.  That character is still burned into my memory and I immediately found it.  Jenn was still lagging behind so I looked around for the Malaysian twins.  As we headed back towards Allan, I spotted Khai Sheng and told him to look at my flag and memorize it.  We ran back to the judge and were rewarded with 1 of the coveted passes for the 1st bus comfortably in 2nd place.

     From that point on, both of us were fully energized and in race mode.  Little did we know that the bus ride would end up being 16 hours long!  They didn't tell us anything so we thought the bus could stop any moment and we would have to continue the race.  Remember that the windows were completely blacked out so we had no idea where we were.  Eventually we risked small naps here and there but there were so many toll booth stops that we constantly awoke with any sudden jolt.  By 1 AM we assumed it would be too cruel to do anything else so we tried our best to settle in on the uncomfortable bus.  There was no bathroom on-board so I had to improvise with a water bottle and I told Jenn not to touch the "lemonade" container.

     At 6 AM the morning after we had begun this adventure, the bus finally came to a stop.  We were parked on the side of the road in front of a toll booth and told that we had 20 minutes to get ready.  The ladies ran behind bushes to relieve themselves and others dug out their toothbrushes and made do with bottled water.  The toll indicated that we were in Shanxi province, 4 provinces (States) away from Shanghai.  After we did a microphone check, we boarded the bus again and they instructed us the next stop would be the continuation of the Race.

Monkey Mountain
     Since we presented an interesting story for TV they aired most of our adventure on that first leg of our journey.  We arrived to the final Road Block challenge in first place thanks to our speedy taxi driver with the Trainers hot on our heels.  They don't tell you what the challenge is but simply present some type of riddle: "who wants to monkey around?".  We interpreted this to mean something to do with monkey bars or some physical challenge so of course I chivalrously volunteered.  When we received further instructions and I saw the sample bamboo swing I set aside my worries and doubts and focused on building this thing.  Jenn went to the bathroom and then rummaged through our packs to find a snack.

     The Road Block stipulates that only 1 person can participate and the partner can only offer advice but with Wei Wei, the super-soldier, right behind me building the legs for his swing under the tutelage of his mentor, a ropes course owner/instructor, I was getting frazzled.  Then I hear a loud shriek from my wife and I look down to see 3 monkeys on her back.  She had returned with a bag of trail mix but had under-estimated the aggressiveness of the hungry monkeys.  To help appease them and aggravate the contestants, crew members were also throwing peanuts into our work areas so monkeys were constantly darting to and fro looking for snacks.

     The rest is reality TV history.  I eventually did manage to build the stupid monkey swing.  Jenn noticed that all the other teams had used large rocks to help prop up the leg supports so once we had a stable foundation, I was able to complete the challenge inspired by her words of encouragement.  As we made our way to the Pit Stop, we trudged along silently and I muttered a simple "I'm sorry".  Jenn's tears on the mat almost ensured our 15 minutes of fame and we were both relieved beyond words that it was a Non-Elimination round.  Stay tuned to see what happens next!

Image courtesy of Khai Shing

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Friday, August 17, 2012


We just attended the Amazing Race China Rush Press Conference and got a preview of Episode 1.  It looks fantastic and renewed our excitement over the show as we got a chance to relive our experience.

As another teaser, here is a behind-the-scenes video that one of the contestant handlers had shot of our opening sequence.  The Olympics may be over but the Amazing Race China Rush is only just beginning!

A reporter from CNN International was also there and wrote this story on the show:

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