Saturday, January 17, 2009

It's funny. In the two weeks that I've been back in China, I've managed to revert back to the old forgetful, absent-minded, irresponsible Alan. We're talking about the Alan whose locked himself out his car, house, dorm, apartment, etc, multiple times. In fact, it's all happened so many times that I've just stopped counting. My family can vouch for me on that one. (My personal favorite incident was the time I left my keys in the ignition and locked myself out of my car while at Lake Tahoe.) You know, people asked me how I was going to survive in China; it certainly didn't help any that I could hardly speak the language when I first got here.

It's been rather amazing that I made it through the last six months perfectly fine. Not once did I lose something, get lost, lock myself out of my apartment, or forget something at home in the US. I felt that living on my own in China had made me a more responsible, mature adult. And I had a nice little streak going. Note "I had a nice little streak going."

Yes, in the last two weeks, I've managed to do all of those above mentioned things. I left my ATM card at home in the United States. I lost a Chinese language book of mine on the plane. [It's been two weeks. Something tells me they aren't going to find it :( ] I got lost last week when I got off at the wrong bus stop and I had no idea where the hell I was. But today/yesterday takes the cake; I don't think it could have gotten any worse.
Yesterday I was supposed to fly from Hong Kong to Taiwan. My flight was to leave Hong Kong Airport at 4:05 P.M. Now I don't actually live in Hong Kong; I live in a city in China just across the border called Shenzhen. The travel time from to the airport is about 1 hour and 40 minutes. That means I would need to leave my place by at least 1:30 PM (that would get me to the airport about 1 hour before my plane departs.) Piece of cake right? It's not like I had to go to work or something. I had the whole morning to pack and relax.

And that's where it gets bad. I'm actually kind of embassed to write it, so I'll just throw it out there:

I locked myself out of my apartment, forcing me to miss my flight, slept in the airport, and took the next available flight the following morning.

I wish I was kidding about that, but here I am at airport.
So how did I lock myself out of the apartment? Well I left to eat lunch and when I got back, the door was locked. The door can only be locked from the outside with a key, so I couldn't have locked myself out; someone else must have locked the door after I left. Since I was the last one to leave, my maid must have come to clean and locked the door while I was gone. And of course I didn't bring my key because I figured the door would still be unlocked. I tried some MacGyver stuff using just a shovel, the neckstrap of my camera, and two rose stems, but it was no good. (I was able to open the inner door, but the locked outer door was still no good.) I went searching for a locksmith, but they didn't have the certification to unlock my door. I called my housing manager but he had already left for home for Chinese New Year.
It came down to my apartment-mate coming home from the factory just to open the door for me. (Note that it's about an hour drive from work to my apartment.) He came home as fast as he could and I left right away. It was about 2:30 PM at that point. With a travel time to the airport of about 1 hour and 40 minutes, there was no way in hell that I was about to make this flight. I got to airport at exactly 4:05 PM and my flight left exactly at 4:05 PM.

My only option was to wait in standby. Now note that next week is Chinese New Year. It's the world's largest mass migration of people during this time of the year. Everyone, including the everyday laborers, get to go home for about a week. So basically, my chances of catching a flight on standby where zilch. My number was 140. You should have saw my face when they announced they were called number 35. Ugh, a complete nightmare.

Since I already had a ticket, I just had to re-booked for the next available flight with an open seat. Turns out it was the following morning at 10:35 AM. So why did I have to sleep overnight in the airport then? Well the shuttle service I take from Shenzhen to Hong Kong Airport doesn't start until 9:00 AM, and there was no way in hell that I was missing my flight again.
Sleeping in the airport was interesting, and by interesting I mean bad. Thankfully Hong Kong Airport has these free "Lounge Areas" with recliners. Check it out:

Trust me, it's more comfortable that in looks. I tossed and turned all night because I couldn't find a comfortable position. I must have woken up every hour. The recliners are made of this like semi-hard plastic material. And the worst part is you can't control how much they recline. It's set at this weird angle that's not sloped enough to sleep in. Plus, it was freezing with all that air conditioning. I would have killed for a blanket. I don't know how that "The Terminal" guy did it.

All is good now though. My flight leaves in about 2 hours and I'm definately at the airport. At least there's no chance of missing my flight again.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I'm finally about to do some major travelling around Asia. (It'll be nice to finally see something other than Southern China.) Here's a look at my travel intinerary for the upcoming month:

Jan 17 (Sat): Departing for Taipei, Taiwan
Jan 24 (Sat): Departing for Seoul, Korea
Jan 30 (Fri): Departing for Tokyo, Japan
Feb 4 (Wed): Departing for Taipei, Taiwan
Feb 15 (Sun): Departing for Shenzhen, China

So what's up with the sudden travel plans you ask? Well my factory will be closing for an entire month for Chinese New Year! Unfortunately, I won't be getting a whole month of vacation. Since I already had my two week holiday in the US, I'll only be getting two more weeks.  The other two weeks of the Chinese New Year break will be spent working in Taiwan. I'm not bummed out at all though. It's still going to be really exciting to work and sightsee in another country, even if I've already been there before.

And as for Korea and Japan, I figured I might as well do some traveling around Asia rather than heading home again to the US. I mean how often do you get a free 12 day vacation after you start working? (Note that I'm not burning up any of my personal leave or accured vacation time for this!) And since I'll already in Taipei, Taiwan, it not that expensive to head a little more north to Korea and Japan.  I've never been to either of those countries before, so it'll be fun.

I'm currently in the process of planning out my sightseeing.  Any tips, suggestions, or other input are more the welcome.  And if you have any requests on what you'd like for me to bring back, just let me know!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I've been back in China for about a week now. Today, I was initially going to write about some random musings from this past week. However, after I started writing, the post took on a life of it's own.  So I decided to just go with the flow.

I know that I shouldn't bad mouth my mother country (esp. considering that the Gr3at Fi12ewall is monitoring my internet), but the etiquette here never ceases to amaze me. It's crazy what will pass as acceptable here in China. Having just come back from the US, I'm finding a lot of these things particularly shocking. Here are some examples from just this week:

1)  There was a banquet for the entire department this week. It was alright. Everyone was drunk, the room reeked of cigarette smoke, the food was barely passable, and they were raffling off red envelopes for Chinese New Year [in a raffle that I couldn't take part in :( ]. Sounds like a winning combination right?

Now there were two things in particular that bothered me. The first thing was I saw a girl pour out a full cup of beer onto the floor. I'm dead serious. She needed a cup to drink out of, so she took the cup and just poured it all out onto the floor. I'm not sure, but maybe this is just a lack of common sense.

The other thing was that people were just spitting onto the floor of this indoor restaurant. Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with spitting. In fact, I'm unfortunately beginning to pick up this bad habit. But I would never spit on the floor of an indoor establishment. It's called a napkin, use it. Heck even a rice bowl or cup would be more acceptable.

2) Also, on the walk home today, I saw a mother helping her toddler pee in the middle of the street! I was walking down the sidewalk when I noticed her squatting there in the parking lot. She had her child sitting on her knees with the boy's legs spread apart. At first, I couldn't figure out what they were doing. It struck me as weird, so after I passed them, I turned and did a double take. Low and behold, after they got up, there was a wet pool on the ground. At least he wasn't defecating...that makes it okay, right?

Speaking of which, I did see a mother helping her child poop out in the open in public. There he was squatting in the middle of the walkway. And his mother even wiped for him! I feel bad for the poor worker who has to come along and clean up the streets. It's a shitty job, but someone's gotta do it. 

Now don't get me wrong, I know that I don't have the best manners. In fact, when I was a kid, my parents used to theaten to send me to an Etiquette Program/Cotillion School. (I wish that was a joke.) And every time I walked it front of someone to get around them, my mom would ask, "Did you say excuse me?" But still, I just can't help but cringle a little when I see things like that.

Eh, in six months I'll be used it. As long as I'm not pooping in the street when I get back to the US, it'll be fine.