It would seem that I have lost access to blogspot while I’m at Martha’s apartment. This could mean one of two things. First, China has blocked off access for anyone in the country or second the connection here really hates me. I do have issues when I use the internet. I’m personally hoping it’s just the connection here and that I’ll have access to it once I’m in Beijing next week.
For the time being I’ve asked one of my friends to post my entries for me. I can still see the replies through my e-mail but I can’t reply to them right away. I do plan on replying to them as soon as I can. This next entry will be rather large as it’s 4 days of my life here.
May 15th - Martha! I can't pee, there's a toilet in the way!
I woke up nice and early this morning and had trouble sleeping for a few hours. I eventually did get back to sleep at around 6 and slept nicely until 9. I dragged myself out of bed and finished packing my things before I went to the lounge for some breakfast. I had some bacon and eggs with toast and banana's which tasted amazing. The bread is so much lighter here. I love it. After breakfast I ventured out to an ATM since I know that they're difficult to find in Hangzhou. The few machines that work for me are difficult to find. Once that was over with I checked out of my room and was on my way to the bus station. I had asked the guy working at the hostel to write down the name of the bus station in Mandarin so the cab driver would know where to take me. She was a very pleasant lady and real talkative even though I couldn't understand a word of what she was saying. She pointed me in the direction of the ticket booth and I was on my way! The bus ride back was pretty uneventful. There was a guy that pretty much stared at me for the entire trip which got really creepy and fast. I figured he was probably wondering how I managed to get onto the bus without knowing Mandarin. It took a lot less time than the way there. We also didn’t get caught in any traffic jams so I guess that made a huge difference.
When I got to Hangzhou I decided to attempt walking to Martha's apartment from the bus station since I had a few hours to kill before she was done work. I've managed to walk about 3/4 of the way before I gave up and got a cab. I wasn't sure how much further it was (the map wasn't very useful) and I'd been walking in the sun for an hour already. I was fed up and exhausted. I could feel some blisters forming and I felt like I was ready to collapse. Turns out I would have had another 20 minute walk ahead of me. I could have managed that especially since the second I got into the cab clouds took over the skies and it got really windy. Go figure. It probably would have stayed really sunny had I kept walking. When I finally did get back to Martha's apartment it was 4 pm. I only had an hour left to wait. My insane mission to walk to her apartment to kill time was successful even though I badly abused my body in the process. At least I kept myself hydrated during the walk by drinking lots of water. Turned out that Martha had stayed home during the day because she wasn't feeling well (and hasn't been feeling well for part of the week). She came down at around 4 and saw me sitting on a bench outside. I was waiting for her to come home from school you see.
We brought my stuff upstairs and went out for dinner. Food was heavenly. I hadn't realized how hungry I was until I walked into Pizza Hut and I could smell the food. We ordered a cheese pizza, some onion rings, and garlic bread. We also got these awesome fruit drinks to go with it. Mine was kiwi mango and Martha had mango. When our pizza arrived the waitress put the first piece of pizza onto our plates, she saw that mine was covered in crumbs (from the garlic bread) so she grabbed my plate and went off to get me another one. I tried to tell her that I could eat off the same plate since it's only some crumbs from bread I've just eaten but alas the language barrier didn't let me. After dinner we've decided to kick back and relax since we were both exhausted.
When we got back to her apartment we decided that it'd be fun to watch Prince Caspian. We started some laundry before watching the movie (since I was completely out of clothing) I'm surprised we managed to stay up long enough to watch and enjoy the movie. After the movie as we were getting ready for bed I ran to the washroom and came out a second later in confusion, the washing machine was still connected to the water pipes on the toilet and I didn't know how to disconnect them so I cried out to Martha "Martha! I can't pee, there's a toilet in the way!" I definitely meant to say that the washing machine was still hooked up to the toilet. She stared at me for a minute as the words I'd just spoken registered in my mind. Being the goof that I am I continued to say more seriously "Yeah, you heard right. There's a toilet in the way." We laughed for so long at that. I think it's going to become a great inside joke between us.
May 16th Mission accomplished!
Today was awesome. I slept in a little and took my time getting ready. I think one of the best parts was warm water! It felt so heavenly. Since I'm a spaz every time I went to rinse out my hair I kept turning off the water because of the way the shower is made (and the limited space in the shower) If I didn't accidentally turn off the water I switched it to cold water. I also dropped my shampoo a lot. I believe Martha must have thought I was dying in there with all the noise I was making. It was still really nice to have a decent shower.
After a quick breakfast (I had something that was supposed to be corn flakes) we decided to venture off towards the electronics plaza to continue my quest for that legendary compact flash card. The first store we walked into had a 4GB card. I asked how much out of sheer curiosity and they told me 400 yuan! They were out of their minds! I politely said no thank-you and we went on to the next store. As we started to browse one of the staff asked what we were looking for (in English too!) so I showed him my card and he nodded and said that he had some! He asked if I wanted a 4GB or an 8GB I said I'd prefer the larger one and asked for the price of it. It was only 250 yuan! (that's approximately 50$CDN, a card that size costs twice if not more back home)I asked if they accepted credit cards and they said no. Martha being the lovely person that she is, passed me the money for the card. I then asked if we could look at lenses (I've been wanting a more practical one). We quickly found the Canon section and I found a lens that was perfect but being a brand name lens I knew it would cost 3 times more than a different brand so I asked if they had a similar lens but from Tamron instead. Tamron is a good company that sells good lenses (most of my other lenses are from that company, with the exception of my macro). They had the one that I was looking for too, I asked how much it was and they gave me the price. It was much cheaper than back home. I have to say that Martha is an angel. She offered to pay for it and I'd pay her back in Canadian funds (she has difficulty transferring money from her Chinese bank account to her Canadian one so in a way it was doing her a bit of a favor). We got the lens, I must have thanked her a dozen times (or more) while giving her several hugs as we went back to the apartment to drop off the lens before we made our way to the museum. For those of you who are savvy in the way of lenses I got an 18-200mm, it can basically replace 2 of my lenses allowing me to take both close up and wide shots without having to change lenses in between.
Since it was rapidly approaching lunch time we made ourselves some sandwiches when we got back and I put in my new lens to test it out. It works amazing. It took a lot of effort to leave it at her apartment as we went off to visit a museum. As much as I love my camera and even though I got a new card I didn't want to squander all of my memory on museum pictures. I settled with bringing my compact instead and we were off. We went to a history museum (it had the history of the Zhejiang province dating back to 7000 years). It was really cool to see all of the old artifacts. The detail work that can be seen in some of the items is so impressive! Especially considering the time period. I took a bunch of shots throughout the entire museum.
When we left the museum we were getting hungry so we went to one of the restaurant/bars next to the museum and got ourselves some food. It was a rather expensive place to eat so we decided to split the cost of a pizza. It was also one of the only foods there without any meat. We also ordered a fruit salad that came with some sort of sauce on it. It wasn’t the best tasting sauce so we didn't finish the salad. We should have ordered the Cesar salad. The pizza tasted amazing. After seemingly inhaling our food we left in search of either a bus stop or a cab. We eventually came across a bus stop that could take us to our next destination (we had actually gone down the wrong street and I asked if any of these buses would take us, one of them did so we got really lucky).
The bus was really crowded. I was really glad I had left my camera at Martha's apartment because I have no idea how I would have managed to stay standing in the bus while having to hold that extra bag. When we thought nobody else could fit into the bus 4 more people somehow managed to cram into it. I was also very glad that my purse was pressed up against Martha and I had nothing in my pockets because I could feel hands brushing up against my pockets throughout the ride. That could also just be me being paranoid of pickpockets. Luckily the bus did empty out and we were able to find a seat for a few stops before we had to get off. We had successfully made it to the movie theatre! There were 3 movies coming out in May that I had absolutely wanted to see: X-men origins, Star Trek, and Transformers. Since Transformers wasn't out yet and Martha isn't into comics I asked if we could see Star Trek. She said yes because the actor playing Spoc was one of her favorite actors from another show.
When we walked into the theatre we were both a little stunned. It was so awesome! It's located on the 4 floor of a mall. The entire place has this older appearance to it. There's these giant rounded benches with tons of posters from classic movies (such as Gone with the Wind and Casablanca). The floors had giant posters seemingly glued onto them and they had a wall of fame! There were pictures of stars and their signatures and handprints. I recognized a few of them such as Jackie Chan and Brendan Fraser. There was even a bar/restaurant inside of the theatre! I really wanted to take some pictures of the theatre but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't have let me. I might try and ask next time we go (since it was such as awesome experience)
We didn't have too much trouble buying our tickets (and they even have assigned seats in the theatre were an usher shows you the way). We also got ourselves some popcorn and drinks. The price of the ticket to get into the theatre is about the same as back home but the snacks are so much cheaper! For a large popcorn and 2 large drinks it cost us about 6$CDN. Mind you the drinks were warm (as most drinks here are) and they don't have salt and buttered popcorn either. We got a caramel type popcorn since we weren't sure about the other ones. They give you the popcorn in a tub like you'd see in the movies. It was awesome. The movie itself was really good. It was in English with Mandarin subtitles. We laughed throughout the movie and had a really good time. We did have a bit of a scare since all of the previews were in Mandarin (even for Hollywood movies). There was a Star Trek movie in Mandarin playing so we thought we might have accidentally bought tickets for that one. The theatre was also really tiny, it was about a third of the size of the one from Empire Theatres (on St. Joseph blvd) and for a bit we thought we were going to be the only ones there. The seats were absolutely amazingly comfortable! Even better than the ones at Silvercity with more room in them. It was opening weekend here so we thought it'd be a little more packed. We're thinking of going back to the movies at some point this week since there's a local movie that looks really good. It's about this boy who protects an injured baby panda from these hunters and they develop a friendship together. It looks really cute and the panda's adorable. We have to figure out the name of the movie and if it’s in theatres yet.
When we got back to Martha's place we were both still a little excited from the awesomeness of the movie so I got myself some bubble tea (without the pearls since I don't know how to ask for them). A cup of the latte tea only costs 4 yuan (that's like 60 cents). It was really good! I may try the strawberry one next. The store for it was practically next door and it was on the way from where the cab driver dropped us of (it had started to rain so we thought it would be in our best interest to hop in a cab instead of finding the right bus stop). We then watched Mulan (which Martha had downloaded the night before) and after Mulan we started to watch Supernatural. Martha's computer area is covered in posters of it (and Dr. Who) and Supernatural looked pretty good. We watched the first 4 episodes before heading to bed (since by that point it was almost 2 in the morning).
Days 22 and 23 – May 17th and 18th Lotus root is not fake pork.
By the time this gets posted it'll be a little late but Happy Birthday Cory!
The past 2 days have been very quiet. It’s been really nice. It's also gotten pretty cold (it went down to 30) so that's been a little odd to be outside in. The skies are mostly overcast while its very misty in the morning. In the afternoon the wind tends to pick up while you can smell rain in the atmosphere but it doesn’t rain. It did rain Saturday night but it was clear again in the morning. I'm not complaining at the lack of rain, I consider myself quite lucky that the only rain I've gotten has been at night. I'm just a little tired of the constant appearance of rain. I'd like it to warm up a little.
Sunday morning we slept in. I woke up at around 11 and did the dishes before writing some stuff for the blog and Martha eventually woke up at 12.30 (I was about to wake her up too). After eating a quick breakfast and showering we ventured out into the city for lunch and in hopes of seeing the West Lake Museum. By the time we got to the museum it was closed. It takes forever to bus anywhere here because of traffic. When I'm back home if I ever complain at a traffic jam or in a crowded bus just say "China" and that should shut me up. The crowded buses and the traffic jams at home are nothing compared to the ones over here. Even during the OC strike the traffic was nothing.
Anyways, before we went to the museum we decided to grab some lunch. We didn’t have much for breakfast so we were quite hungry. Martha's been asking me to try out this vegetarian restaurant for a while now and since I promised that we'd go we went to it. It was a rather lovely place on the second floor of another restaurant. I ordered a massive container of orange juice (I didn't think it was going to be that big) and some fake pork. I thought it was going to be tofu. Turns out it was fried lotus roots in some sort of batter in the sweet and sour sauce. The roots were way too crunchy and the batter wasn't that good tasting so it's turned me off of eating anymore lotus root. Martha's meal on the other hand was amazing. She ordered thinly sliced potatoes with some kind of fake meat on it (that actually tasted like meat, I can't identify the type of meat but it was awesome!) She let me steal a couple of slices and since she wasn't too fond of the potatoes I got to have some of those. They were heavenly!
After lunch we walked towards the West Lake and discovered the museum was closed, it was almost 5 in the evening so it was understandable. (It took us over at hour to bus out there in the first place) Since we were on the West Lake we walked around it a bit before grabbing some ice cream (which we ate sitting next to the lake, it was quite lovely). As we were eating our ice cream and gazing into the lake at the giant gold bull I noticed these 2 little girls with a fish net and an old Fanta bottle. They were trying to catch some of the fish! They had actually caught a few of them too. When their mother came I thought she was going to lecture them but instead she helped them catch the poor fish. The bottle didn't even look clean (the water was a little orange from the pop). I felt really bad for the poor fish and secretly wished them luck in escaping the net since I couldn’t speak Mandarin to talk to the mother about at least giving the girls a clean bottle for the fish.
After our ice cream we ventured off to the shopping street because I wanted a shoulder bag to put my camera in. With my new lens it's a little pointless to carry around my big bag with my other 3 lenses in it. The strip malls here are awesome. They're all connected from the inside. We walked into Levi's and as I was about to leave the store Martha was like "You idiot, it connects to the next store." That really amazed me so we walked through store after store after store and I couldn't find anything. We started to make this loop when we walked into a Mickey Mouse store and I quickly went through it. They had bags but I didn't want a Mickey Mouse bag. I found my bag in the next one. It was a darker themed store and I'm rather embarrassed that I hadn't noticed what it was at first. The store was mostly black and orange for Halloween with a few pumpkins hanging around. At I was looking through the bag to see about the pockets, straps, and space Martha told me that this was the Nightmare Before Christmas store that I was so eager to see while I was here. I looked up at the walls again and noticed the designs a little more. They had that cliff in the movie painted on the walls. As excited as I was I did have my goal to accomplish too. My bag. I glanced at the price and wanted to cry. It was way too expensive but then the guy who worked there showed me this sign which showed the price at way below half off. I had found my bag and it was on sale! After buying my bag I quickly browsed through a few shirts and saw some wallets which I wanted but I resisted the temptation and walked out. Martha said we could go back at some point. Yay.
Once we got out of the store I examined the bag some more while putting my purse and my giant bottle of orange juice into it ( I wasn’t able to finish it at lunch so I took it with me). The bag itself is half in jean fabric and half in this velvet-y fabric. Its orange/burgundy/brown. The inside of the bag has faint pictures of Jack Skellington and that hillside while there's an obscure image of Jack on the hill on the side of the bag. It's awesome and doesn't really look like a Nightmare Before Christmas bag. I also found out that Martha got her purse there too! She has a Zero bag (for the dog) there's even a picture of Zero on it. It's so cute. We're thinking of possibly getting Robynne one so we can complete the circle.
When we got back to the apartment we went to the grocery store next door to buy some water and some dinner for later. I got these bread filled with god knows what. They didn't taste that good. I also bought some more bubble tea! I got a strawberry latte and it had pearls! Oh the joy I felt when I got to have some of those tapioca pearls. Interesting fact for you bubble tea lovers, they call it Milk tea here.
Monday was a little slow. Martha and I got up early (she had to go to school) and I was being kicked out of the house since it was apparently such a nice day. It was misty and overcast but it did turn out to be decent. I walked over to the bus stop to take the Y8 to the West Lake so I could walk around for a bit. It felt a little weird taking a local bus to see a local site instead of jumping onto a long distance bus or a train. I got several odd stares from both locals and this foreign couple coming out of a hotel as I made my way to the bus stop. I guess they thought I was living here or something.
When I finally arrived at the West Lake I went into a 24hour convenience store and bought myself a drink. I think it was lime flavored water or possibly lime juice. It had extra vitamin C, D, and something else in it. It was awesome. I also bought what looked like fruit by the foot except it was made by Trix so it was something else. It tasted really good and actually does resemble fruit by the foot. They were grape flavored. I may buy some more for the next D&D session since Geebs occasionally likes to buy them for us. When I go grocery shopping with Martha I'll see if there's other flavors there. I also bought some breath mints. I think its spearmint.
Since I hadn't had a chance to grab some breakfast before I left I grabbed a bit to eat at a restaurant around the lake. Big mistake. The prices were rather expensive and I couldn't exactly walk out after glancing at the menu. So I got the cheapest thing there (which really isn't that much in Canadian dollars) ate and went on my way. I walked a bit on the lake before I sat down at a really gorgeous spot and pulled out a book to read. The skies being a little overcast weren't the best for photography so I wasn't going to use up my precious memory on that (which by the way my camera has me puzzled, it keeps switching my file formats on me whenever I turn off my camera. I don't want to take JPG's I want RAW! So that's getting a little annoying. I'm going to have to look into that). I got a little too into the book because before I realized it, it was time to go. It took me 2 and a half hours to get back to Martha's apartment. I told her I'd be back by 5. I got there at 6.30. I left the lake at 4 figuring that I could catch a cab. 6 drivers slowed down and turned off their lights as they drove by me and turned them back on again afterwards. 1 of them stopped 20 feet past me to pick up a local. 3 drivers saw where I was going and said no. It wasn't that far. I finally gave up and went off in search of a bus stop that would take me home. I eventually found one and it took forever. The bus was so crowded we were like sardines in a can. We were so squished it was getting difficult to stand properly and breathe since people were pushing into you. At least if you lost your balance you weren't going to fall because everyone else would support you.
I eventually got off the bus at the wrong stop but instead of jumping back onto the bus I decided to walk. It was only 3-4 blocks away so it didn’t take too long. When I did get to Martha's place this lovely lady let me into the building and I went up to her door. She wasn't there. A few thoughts ran through my mind, she went out grocery shopping so she'd be back eventually. She panicked and is outside looking for me. She's in the washroom be patient. I didn't want to go back downstairs in case we were on different elevators and we'd miss each other. I was getting pretty hungry so I had one of the little snacks that I took from the apartment while waiting for Martha. I didn't have to wait too long maybe about 10 minutes at the most before she came down the hall the look of relief on her face. I'm pretty sure I looked the same way. I apologized and explained my troubles getting back. She was going to give me until 7 before she called her co-worker and asked what the procedure was on filing a missing persons report or how long she had to wait to do it.
We both decided that it was too late to go grocery shopping and since the place was virtually out of food we went to Grandma's kitchen for dinner. It's an inexpensive local restaurant. We waited a bit for a table and when we did get our food it was amazing. We ordered some little breadball/cake things that were covered in sesame seeds and had a hint of garlic, deep fried potatoes with little faces, noodles with onions, and tofu wafer cracker things. It was all so good! We tried to get the leftover noodles as takeout but the waitress misunderstood us so we left noodle-less.
For the past few days we've been wanting to go to a bakery to buy a cake. Martha wishes to celebrate my birthday early over here. She gave me a part of my birthday gift (I can't remember if I mentioned it or not) chopsticks! They were designed for the 2008 Olympics and had the fire mascot on them. They're so cute and pretty! I love them so much. Martha has a set with the Earth mascot and she gave Robynne some with the water one. It's tradition for us to get each other elemental themed gifts or if one of us gets something we tend to buy another for the others. The 3 of us will totally have to get together some day with our chopsticks and eat because we're just that crazy. I'm probably going to have enough trouble adjusting to using a fork and knife when I get back. I'm so used to these chopsticks! I get a fork or a spoon here and I'm like "uh…" as I awkwardly use it.
Back to the cake, so we went to a bakery that was still open at 8.30 at night and found ourselves some lovely cakes. We saw a Doraemon cake which was adorable! (For those of you who do not know Doraemon it's a children's cartoon in Japan about a blue ear-less cat from the future. It came back in time to help a boy and a girl. It has a stomach where it can take out useful items for the children. We used to watch a couple of episodes of this in Japanese class to help us with our Japanese) It scared Martha a little bit. There was this one green cake with these creepy faces on the side of it that scared both of us. We finally got this gorgeous cake covered in fruits. We asked if we could get that one and the lady explained that it was a fruit cake. We blinked at her confused and then stared at each other before looking longingly at the cake. We tried to take the cake out of the fridge but the lady stopped us so we stared at each other and the cake and the lady again. This process of blank staring repeated for a few minutes before Martha remembered the Mandarin phrase for "I'd like this one". The lady smiled and nodded and took the cake out of the fridge for us and wrapped it up to go. They put it in this styrofoam container and gave us a bag with a knife to cut the cake, some plates and little forks to eat it, as well as a candle. The candle came in a giant box and it resembles a lotus flower. Apparently when you light the candle the flower is closed and it opens and this thing of fire shoots up a little. We decided that even if we had matches it might be in our best interest not to use the candle in the apartment. We're going to wait until July to use it with Robynne (yes, Ribbons I'm stealing you for a sleep over in July with Martha).
So we got back and I took a few pictures of the lovely cake before we decided to dig in. We ate the fruit first and then cut it open and finally understood what she meant by a fruit cake. There were chunks of kiwis and mangos on the inside of the cake in the middle filling. The icing was actually whipped cream. It was awesome. We didn't eat it all so we put the rest in the fridge. Near the end of the week we might get the Doraemon one just because it's Doraemon (we're also hoping to get another awesome candle).
As we ate the cake we settled into our routine of watching the Supernatural before bed. We've been watching a disk a night so that I might be able to see the first 2 seasons before I leave for Beijing on Monday. Martha also showed me an episode from the 4th season because it involves the 2 characters discovering that there's books on them. I had somehow managed to figure out some of the information before I saw the episode so Martha was a little shocked that I wasn't as confused as I probably should have been with the characters and plot. I got the spoilers from her wall but when she looked at the wall we couldn't figure out how I came to the conclusions that I did. How do the words "dark side" equal "demonic blood"? Either way, it was an awesome episode which I think I might steal so I can show Nora a clip from it since they discuss slash. She'll love it.