Guangzhou – January 17, 2007

20 01 2007

2007-01-17  (Wednesday)

Work has become pretty routine.  I don’t think I’ve told you about lunch yet though….

The office is in an industrial park, and there is a “park” canteen.  If we let them know ahead of time, they will serve a plate for each “reservation”.  Cost per person…. 7RMB.  Yup $1CAD for lunch.  This isn’t the “overstaffed restaurant” kind of lunch though..  No.  They put your lunch out at 11:50, whether you’re there or not.  If you take too long it’ll be cold.  Your tough luck.  Lunch consists of usually 2 meat products, and 2 veggie products as well as a bowl of soup, and all the rice you can handle.  It’s on a metal tray, so the longer you take to get there, the quicker it will cool… Cold bland food – not so good. 😦  It definitely is a “working man’s lunch”  Nothing fancy about it.  It’s decent fare though, and it’s close and convenient.  My other colleague who is over from Vancouver with me just devours it.  I’m a bit slow on the pickup…more of a “pick and choose” eater.   Perhaps by the end of my stay I’ll attack it with a bit more vigour.

Today I just went out for a walk from the hotel.  And with all due respect to someone who cares about me very much, I wasn’t robbed, killed or even threatened.  I DID get lots of strange looks as white guys are about as common as hen’s teeth around here.  Some couples turned, others tried not to stare.  You really get an interesting reaction when you turn and smile at people when you hear them saying “Guay Lo”…LOL!  They look quite shocked that you know they are talking about you.  I went about 4 blocks away from the hotel before the life on the street started to die down, which was a signal to me that it was time to turn around (See… I DO care about my safety!)  On the return I saw a place up on the second floor (most restaurants seem to be on the second floor over shops) called “Focus Coffee” which advertised Chinese and Western food.  Back home that’s an invitation to disaster..usually neither the Chinese or the Western food is good. 

I figured I’d roll the dice and see what I got.   I was greeted by the classic red gowned hostess (will have to get a picture for you) who spoke just about ZERO English.  I could feel another challenge coming up!  I was seated at a nice booth by the window, which afforded me the opportunity to watch the local folk come and go on their little scooters.  Quite the little devices….more on that later.  I sat down and got my menu.  It was a typographical nightmare.  Every English word that was supposed to have an “A” had a an “H” instead.  I looked over the various beef options, but I somehow didn’t feel like having a steak  (better on the Barbeque at home), and continued looking.  During this time, my VERY attentive waitress sat RIGHT next to my table and watched my every move.  I felt quite a bit of pressure to get my order placed.  Chinese people must have an immunity to it. Me… not so much.  I decided to go with something on the Chinese part of the menu that looked like portuguese style baked pork chops.  I chose my item, and my waitress dutifully repeated the name “Hoisin Fan”? Of course, she could have been offering me cow dung, so all I could do was nod my head. In my poor Cantonese I asked if it was beef or pork, and the manager even came over to try and help explain what it was.  Nope. No luck. Hmmmm.  She asked if I wanted a drink.  I always like to try the local beer, so I had a beer listed underneath Bud and Heinekin.  I figured it’s Chinese, and it’s in the beer column.  I’ll give it a whirl.

Shortly after ordering,my “beer” showed up.  “Purple Goanna”.  Definitely NOT beer 😦  Urgh.  This can best be described as a kind of grape koolaid flavoured cooler.  It had 5% alcohol, but it tasted like a bad bottle of koolaid. Oh well.  You live… you learn.  Some time later, my hoisin fan showed up.  What was it?  Baked seafood on rice.  Just like you’d get back home at Gloucester cafe.  LOL!  It was quite good, and I took a bit of time to help my waitress learn the words “Baked Seafood on rice”.  She seemed genuinely appreciative of the fact that she now knew one more menu item in English.   As with most dishes, one was more than enough to fill me up.  So as I finished it, I recalled seeing that they had Bailey’s on the menu.  Sweet.  When she came back, I ordered a “cup of coffee and a shot of “Bailey’s”.  That was the cue for more hilarity.  She looked at me like I was from Mars. 
“What kind of coffee, sir?”
“Just plain coffee.”
“Just one moment please.”
Uh Oh….
My waitress returns with the menu.  There’s no such thing as “Just plain coffee”.  You have a choice of “Brazillian, Java, Italian, etc…”  I quickly scanned the coffee options.  “I’ll have the Italian” (it was the cheapest). 
Then she paused for a moment and asked, “What did you want with that?” (In much less clear english than that).
“Bailey’s Irish Cream”
Quizzical look, “One moment please.”  Away she goes. This doesn’t bode well.
A minute or two later she comes back with the manager, and exchanges a few words with him.  He turns to me and asks, “What would you like, sir?”  (Always with the “sir”!)
“Bailey’s Irish Cream”
“Irish Coffee?”
“No.  Bailey’s Irish Cream.  It’s in the menu.”
“One moment please.”
He comes back with the menu, and I proceed to try and find where I saw Bailey’s.  I see an entry for a B52.  I tell him, it’s one of the ingredients in the B52. 
He looks at me like I’ve got 3 eyes and am growing horns, “I don’t understand”.
After going over the menu 3 times, I finally find the entry for “Bhiley’s Irish Crehm”  (Which explains why I couldn’t find quickly).
“Oh, yes sir.”
They both went away, and I awaited my cup of coffee and shot of Bailey’s.
About two minutes passed when the manager sheepishly reappeared and said, “Sorry sir, but we have no Bailey’s Irish Cream.”
Sigh….  I was determined to have an alcoholic coffee, as the cold weather that had set in that day made me want to warm up a bit.
I managed to end up with Coffee and Kahlua.  Nothing like coffee flavored liqueur to go with your coffee!  LOL.  The coffee was very strong, and drowned out my Kahlua pretty badly.  After finishing that, I paid my bill, and was on my way.  A pretty inexpensive meal still, but not as good a deal as I had a the Sichuan place.  I headed back to the hotel, and was in a pretty determined mood to have my coffee with Bailey’s. 

The lobby bar had about 4 people in it, so I got pretty quick service 🙂  I knew this time that I’d have to choose my type of coffee.   I chose the cheapest coffee I could find (25RMB!) and my shot of Bailey’s (25RMB). It was nice, if not a bit expensive.  There was a band playing (2 female singers, and guy on the piano).  They played various cover songs, and were pretty good.  Between sets, they came by and said “Hi!”  Nice folks.  We chatted for a bit. 

After my second Bailey’s and coffee, I headed back to the room, and took advantage of the first night that I actually had semi-half decent Internet connectivity to get some email done before Vancouver woke up.  I still woke up at 0300.  Sigh.  Tomorrow is Thursday…time is ticking to get everything done… Excitement at the prospect of a deadline and jet lag contributed to the middle of the night wake up I think.



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