Me and Chicken in a Chinese Train
Zhan Hu Tribe
Erik on the Chinese train
Taking press photos in China
Well quite a few of you lovely ladies have asked questions about my Survivor experience. I have told the story so many times over the past few years that I feel like I can recite the story by heart. And I should probably take the time to write it all down one day. But I haven't had the chance. In the meantime, I came across a short story I wrote for a descriptive writing class at Carolina and it summed up my first week in China pretty perfectly. It is a little cheesy, remember it was for a descriptive writing assignment, but it is already typed and ready to go. So I decided to copy/paste it and post it as a blog entry. Please excuse its length. It was hard to condense that crazy first week into a "short story" so it is a little long!
Fear is a feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence of imminent danger. It is a reason for dread or apprehension. On June 16, 2007, fear took over my mind and body. I was sitting in silence and scared out of my wits. We were flying on a Boeing 757. It was the largest airplane I had ever been on. The flight attendants instructed us to keep the window shades down. But I had to sneak a peek. I pulled the shade up a few inches. A bright stream of light poured in. Hefty rigid glaciers and a blanket of snow went on for miles. The North Pole was extraordinary.
"Close you window, please," whispered a petite Asian woman in a navy dress. I snapped back into reality. I stretched my arms and looked behind me. I wanted to check out my competition. Most of the other passengers were of oriental descent. My group stood out like a sore thumb.
Some of the cast!
Fifteen hours and ten packets of peanuts late we landed in China. I felt like a schoolgirl as I lined up, single file, and matched outside to our bus. We were under a "gag order." We could not speak and were not supposed to make eye contact with each other. This was pure torture for me. I was so curious. Where were these people from? What were their names? I did not receive the answers to all of my questions for an entire week.
We arrived at our hotel a few minutes later. They brought us into a conference room. It was the first time in my adult life that I felt completely powerless. The producers came in and introduced themselves. They explained what we would be doing for the next two months of our lives. One producer in particular caught my attention. His name was Doug and he described the danger we would undertake once we arrived at our island. This was no joke. Apparently China is full of poisonous snakes. We would come across Bamboo Vipers, rattlers, and many insects that were completely foreign to me. What the hell was I getting myself into?
Crazy Chinese bug!
I spent the entire week in silence. We stayed in quaint cabins for most of the day. The view of the lake was spectacular. I had never seen anything like it! The water was royal blue and small green hills rolled into the sky. I would lie on my back, listen to my Ipod and gaze into the distance. I was intrigued with the Chinese countryside. Locals would paddle on small wooden boats. Every night I looked forward to a lightning storm. I would sneak outside on the balcony and put my face into the water. Pellets of rain would sting my face. I stuck out my tongue and caught rain on my lips.
Our cute cabins!
I woke up one morning with an eerie feeling in my stomach. We had been in China for about six days. I had a feeling the time had finally come to start my adventure. Sure enough my instincts were right. I went to breakfast and knew I needed to eat as much as possible. I started to stuff my face. I shoved large pieces of fatty bacon into my mouth. I doused my pancakes with syrup and butter. I started to gorge. I continued to eat five eggs, seven pieces of bacon, three pancakes, hash browns, and watermelon slices. Little did I know, this would be my last real meal for twenty days.
We loaded onto an old fashioned military truck. They sat us in a circle. I was next to the handsome curly haired boy so I was happy and content. The truck started to trudge through the mud. A helicopter flew overhead. It was so noisy I could not hear myself think. My hair blew wildly in the wind. I looked at the others and snickered. The Chinese locals waved and cheered as we drove by. I felt special, almost famous. This was the beginning of my fifteen minutes of fame.
We arrived at the Buddhist temple. They gave us our luggage. I had a fifty-pound black and white polka dot suitcase. They instructed us to head up the stairs. There were about five hundred and fifty stairs in all. We were allowed to speak as soon as we walked up the first step. I was thrilled. I could finally talk. I ran to the first step and introduced myself to everyone, "Hey yall, I am Jaime Dugan. I am from a small town called Spartanburg, South Carolina." The other fifteen people were all from completely different walks of life. There was a gravedigger, a lunch lady with a mullet, and a WWE wrestler who is also a Playboy Playmate, a hot musician/model, a sassy New York waitress and even a gay Mormon flight attendant. And there I was, the college student. I felt out of place. These folks were so unique and bizarre and I felt so normal.
About half way up the stairs, James the gravedigger offered to carry my bag. I handed it right over. By the time I reached the top I still felt winded. The Buddhist monks gave me a cloth to drape across my chest, cleavage was not allowed in the temple. We walked in a line. Men were on each side of us. A gong boomed every few seconds. The monks hummed a strange tune. They welcomed us to their land.
About 25 cameramen surrounded me. They continued to document my experience for the next twenty-one days. When I woke up in the middle of the night, a camera was hovering over my face. They followed my every move and recorded every comment we made. Initially the cameras were overwhelming, but after a few days I didn't even realize they were there.
After our welcoming ceremony we lined up on the steps. Jeff Propst, our host, began our initiation to the game. He informed us that were were leaving all of our luggage behind. We would only have the clothes on our back. That posed a huge problem in my case. I was wearing a full-length neon orange dress and a thong. Then another problem came to mind. "I am not wearing a bra!" I exclaimed. I thought they might feel bad and let me grab one out of my suitcase. I was wrong. Propst just replied, "Well I am sure that will make you a lot of friends." I was mortified.
We were directed to find our canteen and bag with our name on it. The bags were red and yellow. Each color represented a tribe. I had a yellow bag. I was a member of the Zhan Hu tribe. I looked around to see my other tribe mates. We gathered together and Propst yelled, "Survivors ready!?" My crazy Chinese expedition was on its way. We loaded onto our rowboat and paddled until we reached our deserted island. I spent the next three weeks trying to outwit, outlast, and outplay the other contestants. Luckily, I managed to survive!