Monday, May 25, 2009

Just because it says it's Western style food doesn't mean it really is...

Even though I’m back in Beijing, I apparently still don’t have access to blogspot. This is rather unfortunate. As I did before I’ve gotten a friend of mine to post it for me.

Days 24 and 25 - May 19th and 20th

Tuesday was a pretty lazy day. I mostly stayed indoors and relaxed. Martha and I did go out in the late afternoon so we could do some grocery shopping. As we were on the bus I realized that I knew the city a lot better than I had originally thought I did. Which is a really good thing seeing as there's no metro.

Before we went to the store we decided to get some dinner. We went to a local restaurant that fortunately had English written down on the menu. Since we weren't overly hungry we each ordered a bowl of rice and shared some mini fried sweet potatoes and scallion pancakes and onions (which are to die for). The restaurant even had a little thingy with buttons that had the words "order, water, bill, and cancel". We realized that it was to help us communicate with the waiters. When it came time for us to get our bill I happily pushed the button. I was expecting something more grandiose to happen when it pushed it so I may have pressed it a few times. Eventually an annoyed waiter did show up. I felt a little bad but really they shouldn't have left something filled with buttons on the table near me. It was like the little red button on Martha's door. I had to press it. Which I did and nothing happened. That too was a little disappointing.
We eventually arrived at Carrefour, an international grocery store that basically sells stuff you wouldn't otherwise find in China. We got some salted popcorn (which is very rare to find here), frosted flakes, and old cheddar cheese. We had fun going through different aisles and looking at what there was in the store. I was nearly out of Q-tips so while I was there I went to the cosmetics to find some since I had no luck in my search for them the other day at the store next door. I found some black Q-tips. Naturally I had to get them. They were about the same price as the other ones so I figured why not? I needed them and they were unique.

When we got back we went to the local grocery store to buy some milk and toilet paper. The less things we had to bus with the better. We fell into our typical routine of watching Supernatural before bed. That show is awesome by the way. I'm going to have to look into downloading the 3rd and 4th seasons for the summer so I can be ready for the 5th one in September.
Wednesday, I pretty much did nothing. I have to say that it felt really nice to sit back and laze around all day. I've pretty much gone out every day that I've been here so it was really nice to be a hermit for once. I know that when I get back home there won't be much rest for the summer with my jobs so this was great. I watched a few clips of Doctor Who and settled in for some Supernatural. We watched the season finale and started the second season. My goal is to finish the second season before I leave for Beijing.

Martha hasn't been feeling well today so she called in sick and kicked back as well. When she took a nap in the afternoon I did the dishes for her and cleaned up a little. I also brought the garbage out to the can. Apparently there's a communal garbage here instead of a garbage day. That was an interesting fact to discover.

Day 26 – Thursday May 21st

I had a pretty lazy day today. There really isn't much to tell. Martha gave me the key to her apartment so I could sleep in (which I did) before going online to check my mail. I saw some friends online, chatted with them (which was awesome) before heading out to walk along the canal. Since Martha still wasn't feeling well when she woke up in the morning she decided that she'd only do a half day so we agreed to meet up at 2 in front of her building.

When she got back we pretty much lazed around and watched more of Supernatural since it was too warm outside. I eventually ventured outside to Dico's to pick up a burger for dinner (Martha got some French fries) and went back to the show. I did spend time figuring out what I'd like to mail home from here and I made that sign for Eni. All in all, it was really nice to do basically nothing.

Days 27 to 29 -May 22nd, 23rd, and 24th

It's been a while since I've gotten a chance to write in my journal so I'll be combining Friday the 22nd up until Sunday the 24th together as one entry.
Friday was another relaxing day. Martha gave me the key to her apartment so I could sleep in again (which was really nice). I lazed around the apartment for a little bit before getting some lunch and heading out to find a bank. The ones near Martha's house wouldn't accept my card and I had a scare that I lost my card in one of them since it took forever to reject and the machine basically froze on me. After giving up on the bank I took the bus to the West Lake. I wandered the area for a bit before I realized that I had to go meet up with Martha. On the way I remembered that there was a Construction bank where my card always seems to work so I went off to find the ATM for it.

My previous scare at almost losing my card must have been an omen or something since this time I actually did lose my card in the machine. There was a line of people behind me and I was starting to freak out. Luckily one of the locals spoke a little English and told me that she would see if the bank was still open. Luckily it was and I was able to get my card back. I did have to show my driver's license as well as my passport to prove who I was to get my card back which really made no difference since the signature on the back of my card is faded anyway because my card's so old. The lady at the bank stayed with me as I put in the password (she looked away while I did it) and when she saw that I could access the information for the card she was satisfied that I was the owner of it because apparently being the only foreigner in the area with a non-Asian bank card doesn't make the owner of it. I can understand her precaution over it which I'm thankful for. I'd rather her be extra careful than just give the card to whoever claimed it was theirs.

I finally did meet up with Martha but I was a little late due to the whole bank card scare. We were both absolutely starving so we decided to go to the Western restaurant at our meeting point. Unfortunately they didn't have too many vegetarian dishes so Martha had to get a fruit pizza. It was interesting to say the least. The dough was made of some sort of pastry so it was sweet while the sauce was sweet as well. There was plenty of cantaloupe on it with some other fruits. There were 2 pieces of that strange white with black speckled fruit on top of the pizza. To make it even more interesting it was covered in melted cheese. The pizza was warm. I didn’t try any of it since I was too full from my own meal. I had ordered a bacon flavored rice casserole which was really bacon stir fry on white rice. The bacon, at least I think it was bacon was way too salty so I couldn't eat much of it but there was plenty of vegetables on it too which I rather enjoyed with the rice. It also came with some sort of salad (which was warm and soggy), that strange soup from before (Martha enlightened me that the white flaky stuff was actually egg even though it tasted nothing like eggs) and some kind of dessert that tasted pretty foul in itself. For a Western restaurant the food certainly wasn't remotely close to being Western. It was an experience.

After dinner we wandered around the lake for a bit which was gorgeous to see at night with the lights. We saw a bit of a concert/show thing in the park which was really cool. Some of the performers had these really neat costumes. We had no idea what was going on but it was cool to see. As we were heading home we decided to stop by McDonalds (it was right there) to pick up some fries or something since we were still a little hungry from that non-Western food Western restaurant.

Saturday was fun. We both slept in and took our time leaving the apartment before we went to the West Lake again. Before we went off to the lake we found our way to the post office so I could mail some things back. I had some clothing that I wouldn't be wearing anymore as well as items that I knew I wouldn't need so it was pointless to keep them. It would only make my bag heavier (speaking of which it now weighs 18.5 kilos, it used to weigh 15 kilos. I'm doing really good since I can still easily lift it)

After the post office w were going to attempt to get to the West Lake Museum but once we got there we realized that it was closed for renovations. That was mildly unfortunate. We'd also decided since it was a fairly rainy day to go to the movies in the afternoon. We went off to see X-men Origins: Wolverine. I personally loved the movie but Martha wasn't too fond of it. We got ourselves some popcorn (this time we tried the multicolored one, turns out that each color is a different flavor: blue = blueberry, pink = strawberry, brown = chocolate, purple = grape, I've yet to identify the flavor of the yellow and white ones). We ended up bringing the popcorn back with us.

When we got back from the movies we went out for dinner and then went back to the apartment to finish watching Season 2 of Supernatural. We also started Season 3 (I left her halfway through the 3rd season, she let me put the rest of the episodes on my laptop. YAY! If I don't get a chance to watch them in Beijing I can watch them on the flight back)

Sunday was a nice day. The sun was out and the rain clouds were gone. We went out for lunch to a Japanese restaurant located at the bottom of a large hotel. It was a really nice place. I ordered some chicken curry (and was pretty surprised to still find some of the bones in the meal) while Martha ordered eggplant tempura and some noodles. Since we weren't using any of the sauces that the meal came with the waitress came up to us and prepared the sauces for us before dipping the food in to show us how to properly eat it. That was very reminiscent of my first meal in Beijing. It was awesome. For the noodles there was this brown sauce that looked like soya sauce. She mixed in some horse radish and a quail egg before dipping the noodles in. The tempura had some of the similar brown sauce where you just mixed in some of the horse radish and soaked the food into the sauce. It was really good. Martha let me try some of the eggplant. At least we knew how to use chopsticks properly. We were also confused on what language to speak. When we walked into the restaurant the staff greeted us in Japanese and they spoke some Japanese throughout the entire conversation so we were like "Do we say shishi or arigatou?" it was pretty funny since we had no idea what to do. We ended up talking about the fun times in Japanese class while we ate.

After lunch we went off to the lake again to do a boat tour of it. I love boats. After we boarded the boat and found a seat Martha thought it was relevant to ask if I got seasick easily or if I had a fear of boats. I asked her that if I did would I have taken 2 ferries in Europe? We got off the boat at one of the islands and wandered around it for a bit before catching the boat to another section of the lake. As we wandered that section I realized that it was the same section we had first wandered on my first day in Hangzhou 3 week earlier to the day. That got me a little sentimental since it was my last day in Hangzhou with Martha. We realized that we were quickly wandering towards the bad side of the lake (for catching a cab back home) so we turned around and decided to start making our way back since it was already almost 4 (it's always taken us a while to get back).

It did take us a while to find a way back home. We ended up walking towards a bus stop and took the bus to another part of the city (where we were supposed to be able to catch a different bus but we couldn't find the stop so luckily we got a cab). As we were wandering in search of the bus stop I grabbed some watermelon on a stick. The pre-cut slices looked really good and fresh but the one he cut for me on the spot tasted pretty funky. I chucked it after a few bits since I didn't want to risk getting sick off of possibly bad food. It was really slimy tasting and didn’t even smell like proper watermelon. I wasn't too upset over it since it only cost me 2 kuai to buy. I also encountered a man with a bunch of caged bunnies for sale. I felt so bad for the little bunnies! They looked so tiny and frail and scared in their mini cages stacked on each other. I sincerely hope they were being sold as pets and not food even though I know it was probably for food since they sell live turtles in the grocery stores for 120 kuai each.

When we got back to the apartment we watched Supernatural while we ate some leftover pizza (just plain cheese) and then I started to pack my bags to go to Beijing. It took me a little over an hour to pack them since I had to take everything out and figure out how to pack my parasol (it's gorgeous). I also had to empty out the purse I bought and refit things into my camera bag since I was only allowed 1 carry on and 1 checked bag for this flight. My backpack had gotten heavier and when I was checking in my bag I discovered that it had gone up by 3.5 kilos. It's really not that much weight which is really good. I'm hoping it'll stay in that range when I fly home. I'll also probably have another bag when I do fly home to help spread out the weight (I'm allowed 2 checked bags on my flight back plus technically 2 carry-ons. A purse and a camera bag/laptop bag. It's awesome that I have a professional camera bag.)

I went to bed relatively early since I had to get up at the crack of dawn to catch my flight. It was a little strange knowing that when I'd leave on Monday I wouldn't be back on the Friday.

Day 30 - May 25th

I woke up at the crack of dawn to get the last bits of my stuff ready so I could head out. My flight was at 10 am and I had to be there at least an hour or two before it departs. I left Martha's apartment at 6.45 am (after waking her up to say goodbye) and went off to the street to find a cab. I had gotten Martha to write down my destination in Mandarin, unfortunately it didn't work so well this time. The driver had a bit of trouble reading her handwriting. He flipped the paper over and saw the writing for airport shuttle and understood after making gestures like he was a flying airplane. I had wondered if he thought I wanted him to take me to the airport or just where the shuttles were so I could buy tickets. He took me to the office to book the tickets and I was in the bus by 7.10. It left at about 7.20 and arrived an hour later at the airport. I had no problems finding the check-in counter and was on my way through security. I really love small airports. It's so easy and fast to get around, it's awesome.

The flight itself was uneventful. I tried to sleep throughout most of it which was nice. I got a thick fluffy blanket (which was awesome since they had the AC on high) and pretty much curled up next to the window. I did wake up for the mini snack, a cheese and chicken sandwich. The cheese was all melted and the chicken warm so it was amazing. I hadn't realized how hungry I actually was until I ate it. I did have a bowl of cereal before I left but it was ways off. The flight arrived in Beijing at noon and it didn't take me long to get my backpack and jump into a cab to get to the hostel. I booked a bed at the hostel I had stayed at with Kevin since I already knew the surrounding area and it would be easier to simply jump out if the driver didn’t know where it was. He got most of the way there and when it pulled up in front of the hostel he looked confused. I guess he was expecting a large hotel and when I pointed at the building that I was staying in he seemed a little shocked before smiling that he had found the place. It was a little less than when I first came with Kevin so that was another nice surprise. I saved enough money for a bottle of water. Score!

When I walked into the hostel the staff still remembered me (why wouldn't they, it's only been 3 weeks). It was nice to see them again. We talked for a bit and laughed as they were checking me into the hostel. I'm staying in room 205 again. This time I have the bottom bunk. It's under the bed I had previously so that's pretty fun. I really lucked out with this bunk. I even have a table next to the bed so I can put my watch on it when I sleep. There's a little slot between the night table and my bed that fits my camera bag rather nicely and I can put my big backpack in the way. It's perfect. The beds themselves are rock hard but I got used to them in Suzhou so I'm sure they'll be just as comfortable by the time I leave Beijing in a few days.

I've a few goals to accomplish while I'm here. First, I'd like to return to the Summer palace, Forbidden City, and the Llama temple. I'd also like to visit the zoo, botanical gardens, and quite possibly the aquarium. Can I do all of this in 3 days? We shall see. I'd also like to go to the Silk Market again to buy myself Go. I'll have to break everything up and figure out which metro stops are associated with which place. I'll also have to get up at a decent hour in the mornings too. Which won't be that bad of a thing since I'll be working with Parks starting Monday. I need to get used to this up before 8 thing again.

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