I always go to the bar with a purpose like helping single girl friends meet men but otherwise, I’m not much of a bar-goer. This time, I had a purpose. I was looking for foreigners who lived in Dali — not the tourists who were only passing through but long-time residents who could answer questions that were taking away my peace of mind by remaining unanswered.
Lo and behold, the first foreigner I chose to say the Jedi mind trick secret code word, “Hello” was none other than Carl Oakley, co-owner of the Bad Monkey, touted as the best bar in Dali. Not only did he generously share information I desperately craved, he shared stories of his life that would make a great book.
He’s a half Scottish, half Jamaican English man, one of thirteen children who left home at the age of fifteen and ended up doing every sort of job you can imagine from delivering milk and newspapers to fixing roofs and cars, opening bars in countries including Jamaica and Thailand, has lived in Africa and Afghanistan and also in a boat navigating the canals of England, earned loads of money by auctioning cars, has worked in a medical marijuana farm in California and this run-on sentence can run-on forever and run-in with the grammar police, but the fact remains, this man has lived a pretty damn exciting life and it’s nowhere near over because he’s aiming to open twenty more bars in China and expand the Bad Monkey bad ass brand rock and roll beer which is brewed in Kunming and Dali.
Aside from his colorful, fearless life, we discussed about education. He has a three year old son and like me, Carl is concerned about his son going through the Chinese education system. If he can’t find the school that he thinks would be good for his son, he’s determined to set up his own school by getting together parents in Dali who want something better for their children. He’s already in touch with somebody who has pioneered non-traditional education in Kunming. He showed me pictures on his mobile phone of a recently initiated school in Dali where the children hike up a forest as part of regular class. You can imagine what a dream come true this conversation is for me.
Carl is a sort of Jedi Master. Listening to him, I feel I want to keep absorbing all that I can learn from his wealth of experience. By the way, the pacifier in the picture belongs to Carl’s son, Nicolas who visited his dad around midnight wearing a black leather jacket which perfectly matched his mom’s.
I told myself that these 3am blog posts are getting toxic but I can’t seem to stop.