Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cindy Stories

With an hour left of a short July 3 workday, I feel inspired to get back to blogging. I mentioned in my first post that I am the sad and often unwitting main character in some seriously embarrassing stories, and I want to get them written down before I forget them.

My first story, to warm up, actually is not about me although I was fortunate enough to witness it firsthand. I thought about it the other day during a visit to Famous Freddie's on the chain o'lakes last weekend. Last year at Freddie's I was re-applying in the bathroom when the DJ took a minute between songs to plug what Freddie's calls the "Love Boat." It's basically a 30-40 person boat you can rent out for parties. The announcement included the line: "rent the Love Boat for a 2 hour cruise for over 20 people and we'll include a 6-foot sub." The girl standing at the sink next to me scrunched up her face, turned to me and asked "who on earth are they going to fit in a 6 foot sub?"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

AndI'mWaldo - Now with Picture Goodness!

Got home yesterday, a little worse for wear but safe.

The Mao's Revenge I alluded to the night before I left Hong Kong was way worse than I thought and the flight home was simply miserable. I didn't sleep at all until the last maybe 1/2 hour of the flight, I spent probably 3 hours of the flight in the bathroom (thank God I was in business class where you don't have to share with as many people) and the almost constant turbulence had me clutching the airsick bag just in case.

My condition improved measurably when I exited customs to find a beaming Jason, bouquet of flowers in one hand, waiting at the terminal to welcome me. If I wasn't so dehydrated I would have cried.

J had planned to take me out to a nice "welcome home" lunch, but there was no way I was eating anything. He took me home, bought me some saltines and gatorade, and made me some soup. I promised myself I wouldn't sleep until bedtime. That promise lasted until 2 in the afternoon, when I crashed and slept pretty much through to 8 this morning (I did get up from 3-6 and watched a bit of tv.)

I'm feeling a little better today but nowhere near 100%. I'm exhausted, probably partially because of jet lag and partially because I haven't really eaten anything significant since Thursday. The upside is I think I'm down about 10 lbs.

Anyway, more importantly, I've finally been able to add pictures to the blog, so take a look at some of the older posts where I've placed the appropriate pics.

For those of you that were following my blog, thanks for taking the trip with me and for your encouraging e-mails, the fact that I had this project during the trip really kept me from feeling homesick. I may even keep it up if I can keep it entertaining.

Friday, January 11, 2008


T-5 hours til we take off. Just woke up and need to take this time to figure out how to get all my stuff back in my suitcase.

We went shopping last night (...that's pretty much what you do in Hong Kong). The whole area by our hotel is mall after mall after mall, all of which are connected through this large underground corridor system. The malls are more like what an American would traditionally expect. I expected the prices to be very high since the goods weren't Chinese knockoffs, but it was actually pretty competitive. (I think they must do after-christmas sales here too because everything was 50% off. )

We also stopped at a McDonald's for dinner. I know, I know. But my digestive system is in such bad shape I may never be the same. Last night was pretty rough, and this morning I'm going to see if Brian's got any immodium.

A couple observations about Mc Do can order your meal with a side of corn, fries come with a packet of seasoning (seaweed or some sort of a bbq) and a shaker bag. They come out tasting like Funyuns, if you've ever had those. Not bad. Also you can order a McFlurry but it comes in a 3-oz cup. It's like a McFlurry shot. Oh and it was a good illustration of the demographic differences between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Hong Kong is much more diverse, we don't stand out at all.

So we walked around outside for a few more blocks and on one block the pestering began again...this time from Pakistani tailors: "I make you nice suit? Come in to my shop!" sometimes there'd be half a dozen of them screaming at once. If we said no they changed their tactic to (come on say it with me)...."Watch? Handbag?"

For my next trip I'm going to make myself a t-shirt that says (In Chinese): NO WATCH, NO HANDBAG, NO DVD. JUST LOOKING. I doubt it will help though.

This is why I turned Siemens down when they asked me to come back...

I'm sitting here in my room, feet pounding, sore, tired and hot from our adventures this afternoon. There's a knock at the door, and it's Brian, delivering me a Guinness.

I have the best boss ever.

Rockin' in the Free World!

I'm back in Hong Kong, and I can finally read my own blog!

The trip back was easy...we checked into the Renaissance in Kowloon again and I have pretty much the same view as before, only the room is smaller more suites for me.

We went shopping at the "woman's market" north of here, it's an open air market that features souvenir-type stuff, bags and watches (but of course), and all kinds of other goofy junk like LED belt buckles. They haggle here too but it's less pressure and more good-natured, so it was actually more of an enjoyable experience than shopping in Lo Wu. Oh, their specialty is slutty lingerie. Sorry J, I didn't get any.

Me at the woman's market. This is the only picture taken of me alone the entire trip.

Had lunch at the most horrible Italian restaurant ever. I'd eat pig brains any time over that stuff. We did order a PITCHER of coke though, which gave us the momentum to get through the marathon afternoon of fighting crowds and sweating out last night's Hot Pot. I don't know how warm it is here, but it's more humid than the most humid day in Chicago and I can hardly make it to the lobby of the hotel before I'm soaked. But everybody here is wearing sweaters, jackets, parkas, hats...just unbelieveable.

16 hours and we'll be in the air.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A slow boat to Dongman Road

Dilys, Brian and Dilys' mom

Dilys and her mom were kind enough to take us to the Dongman Road area of Shenzhen, a very popular spot for eating and shopping....if you're 14. It's like a mall only in that there are stores and they sell things. It's a group of winding streets, corridors and levels that are very cramped, hot, and easy to get lost in. They carry pretty much the same stuff as the mall in Lo Wu, but are a little less agressive. It's a huge teen hangout place since it sells trendy clothes and electronics cheap. I mean DIRT cheap. Brian got a few Wii games for about 60 cents apiece. I'm wondering if they will work.

We also ate at a very popular "Hot Pot" restaurant called "Little Sheep" (actual translation: "Little Fat Sheep".) Hot Pot is is a dish native to Northern China (I'm in the Guangdong province in the south). It's basically a large bowl of boiling broth (half spicy, half not) filled with (by Dilys' report) 60 ingredients, 59 of which I think were garlic. HUGE cloves of garlic. Peppers, nuts of some sort, onions, all kinds of stuff. Dilys' mom ordered about a 1/2 ton of meat (lamb and beef...they wanted to order sheep brain and I was all for it but Brian vetoed us), as well as something that looked like pork rinds but was made of corn, tofu (much bigger and spongier than what we are used to in the US) and some sort of large lettuce looking thing that for all intents and purposes tasted like lawn. So you dump all this stuff in the hot pot, wait until it boils, then you pull the cooked ingredients out of the broth and eat them (you don't really eat the broth or spices). It was delicious but I fear some serious gastric ramifications a little later tonight (I've once again "borrowed" a bit of Brian's duty-free Seagrams as a means to kill any bacteria in my digestive system.)

The ride over to Dongman was interesting in that Dilys' mom hit a top speed of about 4mph. Ok yes there are stereotypes, but even here people were flashing their brights and honking at her like crazy. The main street through Shenzhen is kind of like an expressway, but nobody goes over 30. Dilys' mom does not speak English so we were trying to figure out how to say "STEP ON IT" in Chinese.

One thing we noticed while driving through Shenzhen at night: Let's say you're a developer who has a new highrise apartment building. How will you advertise it? The paper? TV? Real estate agents? No, not in Shenzhen. Here, you just make the whole building a giant illuminated sign so that you have your phone number taking up 40 floors of the side of the building. I'm guessing that there is no Chinese word for "subtle."

Oh and by the way so much for my track record on Western-style-only toilets. Little Fat Sheep only had squatters, and I had 2 very large Tsingtaos so I had to visit twice. I managed not to hit my jeans but my shoes might have gotten a little damp. Man I just can't figure out how some people, particularly women who wear trousers, would prefer that.

Oh! One other thing, I got my fabulous clothes delivered today. The jacket is very cool...exactly what I ordered and very nice qauality, lined and everything. The pants aren't quite as good but that's my fault. They fit perfectly but I said to the tailor that I didn't want very low rise pants (muffin top you know). So he basically made me 2 pairs of granny pants where the waistband is right about mid-torso. Sexy! They're nice though, and I can just wear them with long shirts.

This is why I have huge amounts of respect for my team.

My team. I'm the one on the right.

Knowing no Chinese at all, particularly in written form, I thought I would use babelfish to translate a thank-you note in Chinese to my team before I leave. I typed the note, entered it into babelfish, translated it into Chinese, then translated the Chinese back to English to see how it would read to them. Here's what I got back:

Your good team, we enjoys our visit here extremely, thank you to be hospitable and to join us for the supper in Wednesday night. Thanks and your unusual persistent and hard-working work. We hoped this year completes the work and you. We hoped again visits, with and hopes Jacky the visit to Chicago in March. Please with us relates if you have any question or the care, we pledged all helps you to complete your best work. Thanks with very quickly sees you completely, Cindy

Needless to say I didn't send it. Even the least experienced speaker of English in this office can do a better job than that...and that's a computer.

So props to you, Shenzhen team!