Monday, February 23, 2004

Ahhh….sorry folks! I've been meaning to get to this blog and get something going but can't seem to find the time. It's funny when I think of the comparison of my life in the U.S. and life here in China. I'm a totally different person here and much busier than when I was living in the U.S.

My latest news is the purchase of a cell phone. I was one of those stalwarts who swore I'd never purchase one of the things for a variety of reasons, but life here almost demands the use of one, so I purchased a used one. Equipped with text messaging and voice capabilities, I can be reached wherever I am and can reach out and touch anyone I want.

Of late, I've picked up some extra work around Phoenix City and Guangzhou. I now do some private editing of documents, brochures, menus, price lists etcetera at the local five-star hotel here and I am also teaching privately in downtown Guangzhou on Saturdays. All this is bringing in a sizeable amount of money, which allows me a little bit more of a luxury lifestyle.

Friday night I ate at the Vienna restaurant inside the Phoenix City Hotel. Very, very plush, but not so expensive and really not all that good by Western standards. I ordered a salad with lettuce, watercress, bell pepper, cucumber, tomato, almonds and Thousand Island dressing, which was probably the highlight of my meal. My entrée was called, "The Vienna Mix," and included a pork chop, steak, veal and sausage with a mushroom gravy sauce and rice. The rice was cold, dry and lumpy. The steak was quite literally raw when cut and the "sausage" consisted of two tiny hotdogs cut in a rosette pattern. All told, dessert included (honeydew melon ice cream in a glass with watermelon and cherry tomatoes), came to 138 RMB.

"So what?" you say. Well, in my six months here in China, having eaten out at least three times a week at many varied restaurants, sidewalk cafes, barbecues and holes in the wall, I could have eaten three really delicious meals for that price and thoroughly enjoyed myself. So, although I occasionally enjoy eating out at the really fancy places, I find I much prefer eating at the little crappy, run-down, scary looking places because the food is consistently wonderful.

Yesterday, after teaching my class in Guangzhou, I met my friend Derek and we went shopping. I had my shorts repaired by a local seamstress who sewed my shorts so perfectly we almost couldn't find where they had been torn. The cost? Five RMB, which is roughly about 75 cents U.S.

We ended up eating at KFC, which was enjoyable and an interesting time just people watching. Guangzhou is like New York City on steroids. You have never seen so many people in one place in your life, I guarantee you. The first thing you do when you enter either a McDonalds or KFC is go to the counter and decide what you want to order. Then you go try and find a table. This may take you anywhere from a couple of minutes if you are lucky to upwards of half an hour. Then, your partner plants themselves in the selected spot and you go order the food. In China, you get used to eating whilst crammed next to somebody else. Privacy does not exist, as Westerners know it.

Also worthy of mention here are "lines." Here in China, the buzzword is "queue." But, just because China has a special word for getting in a line, doesn't mean they actually get in lines. They don't. When you walk into a McDonalds or KFC, it's every man, woman and child for themselves. If you are polite by Western standards, you will never get served in China. You have to learn the expertise of "politely" shoving and pushing your way to the counter to get what you want. After six months here, I am slowly becoming acclimated to this method and I'm actually less annoyed by it now.

Well, that's all for now. I promise to try and get more postings on here as soon as I can but things are a bit hectic right now. Thanks for your patience.


Thursday, February 05, 2004

My pal Tanka…

Hello to all, from Guangzhou, Guangdong – China.

Thanks for visiting my site and helping to keep it alive. I especially want to thank my moderators too, for helping me to post here as the Great Firewall of China won’t even allow me to view my own blog, let alone see any of yours.

This is my friend Tanka. He is from Katmandu, Nepal and works at the five star Phoenix City hotel here. Tanka came to Guangzhou looking for better work opportunities, with his sidekick Bala, whom I will post about in another bloggy.

No, he doesn’t dress like this normally. This is the garb he has to wear while working at the hotel. Unfortunately the picture doesn’t show the curly pointed shoes he has to wear, which I always make fun of.

Tanka is a fun guy. We often go to Xingtang together with Sebastien and Bala to hit the sidewalk barbecues, shop the markets or just go sightseeing. Recently we went out for barbecue amidst the fireworks and hoopla of Chinese New Year and this is the funny scenario that transpired….

Tanka is Hindu so he is seriously limited in what he eats. At the barbecue stands are also an area where you can design your own noodle/soup bowl. The table is filled with bowl full of raw vegetables, several types of mushrooms, potatoes, bean sprouts, fried tofu…you name it. You gather what you’d like and give it to the woman to fill with water, noodles, spices and boil.

It’s delicious!

I’m up to the table gathering raw vegetables, mushrooms, fried tofu and the like for my dish, when Tanka looms over me and points to a bowl full of something that looks like congealed blood squares.

“Try these, they are good!” he says.

“They are good?” I ask.

“Yes, they are good!” he repeats.

“What do they taste like?” I ask.

“I don’t know!” Tanka says.

“Have you ever tried them?” I ask.

“No!” he says.

So I crack up laughing, looking at him with tears in my eyes and saying, “You’ve never tried them but you want ME to try them and say they are good…!!!”

Tanka just grinned his big dopey grin and laughed at me.

What a pal.


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