Guangzhou – January 18, 2007

20 01 2007

2007-01-18 (Thursday)

My morning routine has become a bit better. I have found that having a few beers down at the lounge before going to bed really helps cut the 0400 jet lag wake up πŸ™‚  (Although it probably isn’t helping my waistline).  I’ve got the timing down so that I now don’t waste quite as much time hanging out looking hopeless in the lobby in the morning.  My Western restaurant hostess and waitresses have come to know me (by “Sir” of course), but they are more willing to try to strike up a conversation now (albeit with their weak English and my non-existent Mandarin a very LIMITED conversation). The Van pool seems to be arriving a bit earlier now, closer to 0830.  That’s good, it gives me a bit more time each day to try and get things working “just so”.  I don’t recall if I mentioned the drive to work is about 10 minutes if traffic is good, and 20 if it’s bad.  We haven’t really run into a “traffic jam” yet, and everyone seems content to simply weave in and out among the different lanes (like driving the 401 on crack).  We’ve come within millimetres of trading paint with buses, trucks and cars at different times.   I try to just ignore it, and talk to my colleagues on the drive.

At work we had fun.  I got some PC’s online and shortly after we lost power to half the building.  It was a nice (even if it was unplanned) test of my UPS for the servers.   After much testing, the electrician was blaming my UPS.  I said “My money is on the building wiring”.   By the end of the day I won that bet πŸ™‚  All ended well, and I got most of the staff using their new PC’s and the applications that they would be using to connect with the central server.  Things were actually working well!

Lunch was better today.  If you leave a bit earlier, you get there and get HOT food πŸ™‚ 

When I got dropped off at the hotel that night, it was abuzz with activity.  There were many cars (nicer than the usual cars) and a couple of “tour buses” parked around the entrance.  As usual, once the van stopped the bellhop and bellgirl(?) jumped out and opened almost every door.  I got out and went to the front door.  As I entered the front door, I found myself on the “red carpet”, with more than a couple of eyes looking at me.  I smiled nervously and scuttled back to the elevator to get to my room.

Once back at my room, I set up the laptop to start syncing email and files.  I headed back downstairs to figure out what to do for dinner.  I ran into “Bodie”, one of the floor managers.  I asked him the usual question – “Where do you recommend I go eat dinner”? 
He was in the midst of directing me to the western restaurant I had just tried the other night, when I stopped him and said, “Local, Chinese food.”
“Ohhhhhh”
I got directions to a local place from him, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t find it. It sounded a bit complicated to get there.
I went on my way, and found the place.  It was definitely a “local” restaurant.  Most of the vehicles parked in front were scooters, and there was a more normal 1 waitress to 20 guests ratio, and they were running off their feet.  The joint “Excellent.”, I thought to myself,  “Another restaurant that doesn’t have a lot of caucasian clients.  This’ll be fun.”

Through my broken cantonese I manage to get my table for one, and then proceed to look at the pretty pictures on the menu.  I picked two dishes that I thought would be good, with the idea of supplementing the somewhat bland lunch the next day.  My waitress looked at me with great confusion when I ordered from the pictures and I later found out that she was asking me, “What ever?”  because I certainly didn’t order with any kind of real conviction.  A little later she comes back and explains that one of the dishes I ordered isn’t available… what are the odds?  So, I order a different picture.

My dishes showed up, and I performed the customary dish washing and settled in to sip on my hot water and watch the locals while they watched me.  It was interesting to watch people get their scooters parked and see all the little compartments.  One for your helmet, one for your bags and coat.  Quite the spacious little bikes.  There were guys offering “scooter taxi rides” to people and the customers that rode, would don these little “helmets” that looked like cheap batters helmets and highly unlikely to save you in the event of the highly LIKELY forthcoming accident.  Off they would zoom into the night to continue their nocturnal adventures.

Food appeared fairly promptly. One dish was beef slices with a long green vegetable with a skin texture similar to green peppers.  The sauce was spicy, and it was quite good.  My second dish followed along behind that.  It seemd to be little rubbery pieces of meat sliced.  The shape of the slice really had me thinking “Chicken hearts” or something along those lines.  The vote on this dish… 2 thumbs down.  Oh well 50-50.  Not bad, but I wouldn’t be supplementing lunch with that πŸ™‚

After dinner I went for a bit more of a walk, over to an area of a street which was closed to traffic, so it was a pedestrian mall.  There were little stalls set up along the length of about 4 blocks, ala Mong Kok, but the only items being sold were clothing.  Lot’s of it.  A lot of it crap.  I saw a pair of “NIKN” sweat pants, that I was tempted to buy, if only for the horrible job of trying to avoid Copyright. (Cause the “Swoosh” underneath didn’t make that too obvious)  It was an interesting walk, and interesting to see many of the vendors just hanging out playing cards together until a customer walked into their booth.  Pretty laid back… Way different from other stores in China where the salespeople practically try to drag you in πŸ™‚  It was good to get out and stretch my legs, but I figured I should probably head back to the hotel.

On the way back to the hotel, I passed a little corner store.  I stopped in and grabbed a couple bottles of Coke (500ml = 3RMB), and my bill came to 6RMB.  Unfortunately all I had was 100RMB on me at the time, and the clerk didn’t look too happy about giving up most of his change.  He did though, and I was now the proud owner of a small stack of Chinese small value bills.  Lucky me.  One odd thing about my Coke.  I took it from the fridge, only to realize that the fridge is actually being used as just a cupboard with glass.  Warm Coke.  Won’t be drinking that as I walk πŸ™‚

Back at the hotel, I ran into Bodie again and he asked how dinner was. I explained my 50-50 result, and told him I was glad he directed me there.  It was fun to eat locally.  I asked him what the big gala at the hotel was about.  He explained that Nissan was having a big “Do” and that there were Chinese celebrities here.  He pointed out one walking out the door, and rattled off a name (no idea) and also pointed out that she was quite good looking.  That was an easy statement with which to agree.  We both laughed.  I headed up to my room to start cooling my Coke, and then went back down to the lobby bar to have a couple of drinks before bed.

Through the girls in the band, I learned that the table next to me was a group of Canadians as well.  Small world.  They were in from Windsor and were marketing tools to companies here.  It was nice to be able to carry on conversations without hand waving and trying to explain myself. πŸ™‚   Headed off to bed around 2300, and slept well.

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