Thursday, March 31, 2011

Travel Pet Peeves

Home again to Michigan and I must say it is just as gray and dreary as I remember. There is some sun this morning so I should savor it, they say rain is on the way. Loving the TV and the fast Internet. Loving the pastrami and Swiss my special girl picked up for me. Big Daddy is so jealous I have real food. Speaking of BD he is back at the Best Western and went into the lobby bar for the infamous beef hamburger without beef. The bitch was still there but she did not wait on him, she sent the two girls. BD said they were trying not to laugh when he checked for the beef so this is obviously a story that made the rounds.

We tried to call for a taxi but the front desk never answered so we pulled all the bags to the front ourselves and Mr. Gatekeeper came up to us with the jabba jabba. As he has never spoken before I was in shock and awe. And of course had no idea what he was communicating. Turned out he was helping us get a taxi from the 3 stooges. 2 of the stooges spoke a bit of English so I heavily stressed drive slow and no crazy. Mucho pantomime. That worked out great, better than the child proof lock lessons. This guy for reason was using the child proof locks and was flummoxed when the doors would not open. This happened more than one time.

So I am going through passport control at the airport and I see this Chinese chick very oddly dressed. Well that was because she had her dress tucked into her panties in the back and her coat just barely covered her ass. After watching her awhile there was an opportunity to get her attention just before the security checkpoint where I knew she would have to take that coat off. I casually walked up and asked if she spoke English and thank goodness she responded yes. She thanked me. I hope she understood me.

Waiting at the gate I saw this guy, big guy dressed in shorts and a tee shirt. Well it was not shorts weather in Shanghai nor in Detroit. I was like, WTF. He just happened to be in front of me in the customs line and if me if it was always like this in Detroit. I asked him "like what"? He said passport and customs and I had to tell him it was the best I had ever seen, we were literally flying through. Although the bag carousel broke down 3 times and was still broken when I left. I asked about the shorts and he told me he was flying on to Atlanta. He said Atlanta International terminal was fantastic and very speedy. Who knew. So baggage claim is my first pet peeve, it sucks in Detroit.

I observed the flight crew arriving and I must say I have never seen a sadder looking group of people. Grim looking group. Not a smile to be had. They looked like they were dragging the world with them. And they stayed that way for the entire flight in coach. In B/E they perked up a bit but when they came through that curtain they left their smiles behind. I went back to the galley about 4 hours into the flight to ask for a glass of water and you would have thought I asked for the bitches tacky jewelry. They no longer put out the glasses and water for us scum in the back. When they served the last meal, breakfast, they give you a small styrofoam cup of coffee on request. No refills, none, nada. WTF. I realize water and coffee cost Delta big money but smiles are free. If they hate their jobs it is time to retire. And everyone of them was old enough for social security so what is the problem. Maybe they could just roll them over to be TSA and then they could still be mean but not have to pour the coffee. Pet peeve 2.

Gate lice. The final pet peeve. As in normal in China people started lining up for boarding early. Very early. But I noticed this was the white people in the "Elite" lane. And they stood there forever. And the Chinese chick checked their boarding passes and ok'd them. So when they call zone 1 I go get into the line and I am the last and only one. Hmm. Then I get to my seat, which is an "elite" seat and the bitch that was number 3 in line is in my row in the window seat. With no carry on bags. So why did she have to cheat. Did she think they were going to take her seat out and make her sit on the floor? And a lot of the other folks in the line ahead of me were all back in steerage with me too. And the Chinese chick let them cheat. Grr. Don't get in line until it is your turn.

Well to finish up with this post, as per my usual when I got home the toilet broke. As we are down to one toilet this is a bit of an issue. So yes, me and Mr. Rooter are dating again. He should be here this afternoon. Thank goodness Punkin Head stocked up the wine.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Well, I guess it figures

Waiting for the ayis to come and go so I can start packing and finish my laundry. So I figured it was as good a time as any to check my email and should appear, a response to a job I applied for a couple weeks ago. I need to fill out the assessment form and register and I do not want to start this until the ayis are gone. It takes 30 minutes and I want peace and quiet when I do this.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Finally got out of the apartment, felt well enough and went to the rabbit warren. For salt. You might have heard of the run on salt here in China. Depending on what you hear someone started a rumor and caused "the common people" to buy all the salt in China. Then they went after the soy sauce as it is salty tasting. Rumor has it that the rumor mongers may get some time for this. Don't know which is worse doing time for a joke or that the people believed it and now have enough salt for the rest of their lives. And they don't really use salt.

And of course all this had to happen when I was out of salt and needed to gargle for my poor sore throat. WTF.

After dinner we walked home the back way and I got a new robe from the towel stall. They are cheap but they don't last.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sickness snippet

When I got home Saturday I slept for 4 hours and ate went to bed and slept all night.

My first clue.

Sunday I was achy and tired.

I have the flu.

Wednesday night my throat was really sore and raw and I remembered hearing gargling with salt water helps this.

The only salt I could find was Himalayan pink salt I brought back from St. Augustine, Florida. That or the truffle salt and I had to weigh the cost factors.

So Big Daddy is in Shenzhen and goes to the Watson's at the airport and pantomines his throat and hurting. This Chinese guy that speaks a little English takes him down and aisle and points to this herbal concoction.

It is not bad.

It amazes me that we have been here so long and only know a few Chinese words and manage to get by. As a contract employee we get no benny's and cannot afford to take lessons. Somehow we get by.

And the taxi drivers correct my directions everytime.

The train

It was early when we arrived at the train station. The first shock was no parking. No problem, our driver just drove the Honda Accord into this little spot between the buses next to the cement entrance. Which was about 8 inches high with no steps. And it was raining. He help us get our bags up to the door so we could wait under the overhang for the station to open.

This was the first thing I saw. This man. In his olive green plaid sport jacket, half on-half off, over his purple quilted pajamas with his red socks. Now I am used to red socks at Christmas in New Orleans worn with Gucci loafers. This was not the same look.

Inside the station we sat down to wait and a lovely Chinese family sat down near us. The toddler was adorable. Until he decided to sit next me and really looked at me. And screamed. And ran. His eyes were huge. Bugged out in astonishment. I don't think he thought I was pretty.

We finally boarded the train and found our first class was the one with cubicles that seated 6 people. The seats did not recline. There was much ado and I sat where I was told. I sat next to the man with the plastic bag full of clams and dirt. 20 minutes later we were in Ning Bo and new people joined us. Mr. Hall Monitor wanted my seat. I said no way dude and showed my ticket. He pointed to seat directly across from me. With a fat Chinese guy sitting in it. Then the games began, he re-arranged the entire cube and kicked 2 people out.

Lesson learned, Chinese buy standing room only tickets and then sit where they want. If you are a "lou way" (sp) or foriegn white person they just stare at you like you are stupid if you tell them to move. It takes a Chinese hall monitor to fix this shit.

Then at the next stop we got ma and pa Kettle joining our merry cube. First problem is that etiquette in China accepts that people find it perfectly okay to crawl over your head, your lap, your feet or whatever is in their way to get where they are going. Which is when I get to teach them a new English word. As it is usually of the cursing variety I do think I help them with the ESL exams.

First ma Kettle decides to eat an orange. Now this makes me cringe. Oranges are messy, sticky fruit and I believe they should be eaten in a garage with the door closed. Nope, ma Kettles peels her orange and throws all the rinds in a pile on the communal table between us. Then she picks open each little section and eats the inside and spits the membrane on the pile of rinds. The entire time she is babbling and pa Kettle is reading the paper and ignoring her. Then she pulls out some ointment and starts rubbing it on her various body parts. Then she does some Chinese weird shit rubbing herself. Then she puts some cosmetic eye patches (the kind that are for facials) on and goes to sleep. I am now exhausted just watching this shit.

But there is an encore. Shortly before we get to Shanghai it is time to eat noodles. Ramen noodles in some paper tub. Pa Kettles prepares them, you open a bunch a weird packets and dump them in the tub while ma Kettle puts the forks together.  Then pa Kettle gets to learn a new English word as he tries to get out of the window seat with the 2 tubs to go get hot water. Then I got to learn a new thing. The ramen noodles will not cook unless you hold your hand over the lid. It must be like a little human micro-wave. I cannot describe the slurping or the smells that followed.

A good thing did happen. The Kettles learned enough English words that they did not try to get out of cube before I did.

Ning Hai

This guy sat in the restaurant all night hand making marzipan figures. That is a live bird on the table.

I am guessing these are not for consumption, only for decorations. What do I know.

The Howard Johnson was actually a very nice hotel. Very new and very clean. Great gym. Peculiar though, on the televisions in the gym you could not get CNN. Think it is because you can pay to use the facilities and they don't want the locals watching or seeing that "they" shut it down all the time whenever China is mentioned in a not so friendly way.

We found out why the first dinner was so crazy, the locals eat there and eat early for some reason. The smoking section was packed, kids running all over, bread plates used for spitoons, and these tiny people packing it away. And like many buffets in the U.S. huge plates of food with half of it left to be thrown away. I was surprised the Chinese acted like that, wasteful. And a lot of the food was cooked to order, especially the fish, which was alive when you picked it out. They also had a guy handmaking noodles which I had the third night and they were great.

On the last day the front desk told Big Daddy they wanted to take our picture. I figured they don't see many white people. That is what they call us, white people. Sure enough when we went down for drinks this lady runs up with the camera. She said she wanted my picture because I was so pretty. Isn't that sweet? I think she had never seen a blonde with bad Farah Fawcett hair before. I had a problem with the curling iron.

The hotel has a fabulous coffee service in the lobby so the morning we checked out, very early, I headed down for the coffee. Everyone wanted to chat and when I got the take-away cup I started to walk to the area where smoking is allowed' they chased me down to grab my roller bag so I would not be burdened with pulling this bag 20 feet.

And once again when I was leaving I saw the best thing, they were having a silk convention and it was in a tent about 5 minutes from the hotel. Oh well. No silk for me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Just a quickie

New binoculars work great. I see some future entertainment coming my way.

Have pictures and stories to post from the hotel and the train. Will do this Monday.

Smog has lifted and I can see clouds in the sky.

Next time I fly I will think twice about saving a hundred bucks to transfer in Narita.

Taxi home yesterday was a BYD, Build Your Dream, bad copy of some General Motors vehicle that in Audit would have had thousands of OOPs stickers. I have never seen such bad fits and surface finish defects. The tool drool alone was astounding, one was 6mils wide by 4 mils tall. WTF.  And the driver had black velvet gloves on, don't want to know.

Applying for a job later today. Ya never know.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I have had it, just had it

Must have woken up on the wrong side of the too hot and sweaty bed today because I feel like I am gonna blow.

Latest indignity: I cannot do the NYT crossword. They say I do not have access and need to set up an account. Those MF's have been taking my money for years and now they say I am dogshit. And I have logged in with my account to get this nasty little message. According to my American Express statement they  got some 'splaining to do and they are lucky I am far, far away right now. Don't fuck with my puzzle. It keeps me sane. So I guess this is what sent Charlie Sheen down that path, the NYT crossword.

I cannot regulate the heat in this room. Tried the snowflake icon, tried the sun icon, does not matter it just keeps getting hotter. Turned the damn thing off and have the window open. Next will be the hall door. Would call them for assistance but cannot take the friendly jabba jabba right now. Afraid I will bite them.

China must be really lively or really paranoid because CNN is off more than usual. I would not know as the NYT is full of shit and not telling me.

We are in podunk, bfe also known as Ning Hai. It is an hour drive from Ning Bo which is also bfe but with bigger slums. When we drove in the sun was red and it was really smoggy. Could have something to do with all the open fires I saw. It also appears to be one of the capitals of stone work as there were many places selling stone statues of animal that were 30 feet tall.

Hotel is really nice, the Howard Johnson, very new and quite friendly. Friendly in the Chinese way of wanting you to know they speak English. Incessantly. Insultingly. The Chinese of have no concept of western style manners and civility. They are actually worse than the Austrians and they shocked me at what they will say and ask. And they never shut up. When we arrived we needed a smoke and accordingly went to the outdoor ashtray stand before we went inside. 3 people asked us 7 times to go inside with our luggage. And they are impervious to the steam beginning to leak from my ears.

At the check-in there is the usual cluster, taking 3 people to check us in, Big Daddy has to call his supplier get them to talk to the hotel, and then Mr. Shithead (as I named him) wants to know our entry date to China. We tell him and he has the passport in his hand. He can't read it. BD is trying to help him find it and the steam coming out my ears is getting larger. IS IT ME, or if your job is to read dates from passports shouldn't you know how to do that? During this entire debacle we got the lady bringing us tea and hot towels at the counter and now I am thinking about shoving the towel down Mr. Shithead's mouth. Thirty minutes later I go to the room with the bags and BD goes to get me some wine.

The room is very nice, pictures to follow, and the bell boy keeps jabbering about God knows what and telling me if I need anything to ask him. Now keep in mind, the bell staff in China never shows you the lights, heat, TV controls, nothing-they put your bags in the room. So he is hanging around doing nothing and telling me to ask if I need anything and I tell him, yep, I need ice. He is flummoxed. He does not know ice. I show him the ice bucket. He is aghast that I would want ice in the ice bucket. He tells me to call zero. So much for his help.

BD arrived with the wine, someone arrived with ice and now it was time for dinner. I cannot describe dinner right now and do it justice. For one thing I took no pictures. Also I was exhausted and surely it was not as bizarre as I recall. Dinner in the room tonight and a nice bath and I will take a fresh look tomorrow and post pictures.

Now I am freezing so need to play with the thermostat some more.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Back on an even keel

Went to the Shangri-la for dinner at the Sports Bar, very good but very expensive. Met a guy from Leeds, dull as dishwater.

Then we went to LoWu market and found the eCigs and powerful binoculars.  Now I can pretend to be Jimmy Stewart and watch the neighbors.

Bought a cheap quartz bracelet and a cheaper garnet bracelet. The lady somehow communicated to me that they would help my aches and pains. Might as well go with program and see if it works.

Tonight we will take our punishment at the hotel buffet. Maybe have a massage.

Tomorrow Ning Hai and the Howard Johnson's, a new photo op and new experiences to be had, maybe a shampoo. The shampoos are the weirdest.

Oh, customer relations called to thank us for our many stays and to inform me we were getting complimentary fruit. She asked if everything was wonderful and well, I had to tell her about the hamburger incident. I made her pull it out of me, not bitching just huge sadness at our experience. I really milked it. When she asked for the bitch's name I told her she took her name tag off when she started arguing with us. It was great. We went to the lounge after the shopping and she wasn't there so don't know if it was just her night off or what. Will check tonight for her as I have nothing else to do.

Hey Clara, Where is the beef

Once again in Shenzhen supposedly on a 7 day trip, includes 2 weekends so Big Daddy can continue doing the work of 3 people in a sort of half-assed way. Half-assed because you cannot do the work of 3 people in optimum conditions, which is not here, and the bosses keep saying "Just do your best." In China that is the "It ain't happenen, dude" phrase. If a Chinese person tells you they will do their best it really means that there is no way in hell that is going to happen. Nuh huh. Never. Dream on.

Trip started out pleasantly enough. Taxi ride to Hongqiao was not too scary as it was a Sunday morning. Which if we had thought this through meant we did not have to leave at dawn. Security did make us take off our shoes, a first, and when I refused to go get the used flip flops to wear the officer and went and got me the nasty, torn, falling apart plastic K-Mart type flimsy basket to put my shoes in. Okey-dokey.

We got to the hotel in one piece and I only had to introduce Jesus Christ to the taxi driver once. It was not his fault, he was going about 70 mph and an asshole in the far lane decided the exit ramp was his appointed turn off. So the asshole pulled across 4 lanes and stopped sidways to on-coming traffic so he could wait to make his exit. Statistics say there are 8000 accidents here everyday. They do not publish fatalities.

Once at the hotel I proceed to the bar. Mr. Green was not there. 30 minutes later BD finally shows up. I inquired as to why this check-in took so long. BD was confused as the first room did not have a walk-in shower. THIS hotel does not have walk-in showers. OK, so BD is getting hotel confusion. We order lunch. This particular hotel is not known for the food so you go with what you know is edible, cheeseburger and fries. I know, not healthy in other places but here is it the best of the worst. Just to clarify, as the wait-staff will ask you repeatedly, beef hamburger with cheese. I told the new restaurant big-wig I wanted mustard and ketchup at the same time I got the beef hamburger as this has been a previous issue.

Everything is soon coming up roses, she sets the table, she sets out mustard and ketchup, I spread the mustard on the toasted bun (remember that, toasted bun) and take a bite. Actually looked great and had to be the best condiments ever. Except now BD and I noticed something was not right. There was no hamburger. Nope, nada, none, not a scrap of beef hamburger to be found. So I call over "Missy" and tell her, no meat. BD chimes in as he does not feel I communicate properly in English. That is another story. A few minutes later she reappears with a plate of Chinese bacon which is always served partially raw. Now of course I am trying to be nice and do not say what is on my mind, I simply inquire, why are you bringing me bacon? Missy does speak English but she starts to babble. As I soon tire of the babble I ask for a Manager. Missy says no she can fix this. Missy babbles more on the telephone and at me. BD and I have taken the entire "burger" apart to show her, NO MEAT. She looks and babbles.

And that is when the evil demons came out and I gave her the famous "eyeball look" and told her I wanted a manager NOW. So the manager came over and I asked him he saw any beef in the taken apart "burger". Being an intelligent man he said no. Running the tape forward he had Missy get me another burger, verified well-done on the meat, verified 15 minutes to food and all is well. Not. Get the burger, Missy is hiding and when I pick up the burger theyre is more blood dripping than at a slaughterhouse. I am now done with trying to eat lunch and this fiasco has taken 1 hour and 40 minutes. I left. And Missy told BD it was all because I ordered a cheese sandwich. Which is not on the menu. And someone decided it should come with a toasted bun?  Manger had to come back again to fix it. The bill, cause Missy thought we should pay for all this fantastic food that we did not order and could not eat.

Went across the street to the Shangri-La and had lunch. A burger, more than perfect in 15 minutes.

When we came back to the hotel and plugged in the laptop all the electricity went out. In our room only.

*Missy took off her name tag when things got ugly.
** 3 maids and a housekeeper tried all the switches and then Shemp came with a ladder and fixed something in the ceiling.
***Maid tried to vacuum today and could not as the stupid plug does not work.
****I forget how frustrating it is here, TV now going going off about 2X per hour whenever CNN talks about "things" going on in the world.