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.



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