Saturday, August 25, 2007

China continued

Well, so much for quickly posting about the rest of my adventures in China. I collapsed for most of the day after posting that last entry and yesterday I just couldn't get into gear. I'm still not 100%, but I think that's because I've got some nasty post-nasal drip crud going on so sleeping is fun. (I'm truly hoping it's just my body getting rid of all the crud I was breathing in China, nothing more serious. I don't feel lousy in any other way.)
No, I don't have my pictures off my camera either. How come, even though we've all switched to digital for that instant gratification thing, it still takes us ages to actually get them to a shareable point?

Anyway, the last entry I wrote was while at lunch on Monday. It turns out that I was right, the rest of the day was a bust. Everyone else got called off to do some commissioning work for the unit.
No, the unit is not finished.
Yes, I was doing the training now.
No, they won't remember a darn thing when my part finally gets installed.
No, I wasn't training the right people anyhow.
Yes, this is nothing new or unusual.
When I went back down to the office, the older guy who was in charge was aghast that I hadn't had any time to see anything and that I was leaving on Wednesday. He and one of the other office girls were bound and determined to take me out and show me Shanghai that evening. I was mixed on this. I wanted some company and a decent meal, but I didn't really want to go traipsing about the city all night either. I was tired, I wasn't breathing well and I was feeling out of sorts. I accepted their offer though, but I'm not sure I had much of a choice. They were taking the bus back with me to the hotel and we were going to leave from there.
Let me tell you something about the air in and near Shanghai, and probably most of China for that matter. Don't breathe it. Especially if you're an asthmatic like me. I don't mean because of the dreaded Bird Flu or something like that. I mean because it strongly resembles LA.... in the 70's.... on a bad day. This is why I think my sinuses have revolted. Way too much gunk. Oh, yeah, and there's not really anything resembling rules about not smoking indoors or things like that and everyone smokes, at least the men. I haven't looked it up, but I'm almost certain the leading cause of death would be lung cancer.
Anyhow, back to my outing Monday evening. Remember, the weather is like that of southern Florida right now. Also remember, that I'm still wearing my office clothes. Even though the younger people in the office all wear jeans and even more casual clothes than I wear to my very casual software office, I wasn't. We start out walking, my guide figuring we'd either catch a taxi or take the bus, whichever came first. The bus won, but only after several blocks of walking in 90 F/30 C humid weather.
On the bus, my guide decides to tell me stories about Shanghai and some other things. Now, for anyone who watches anime and knows Ranma 1/2, this will be even funnier. Every story this man starts begins with "10 year ago..." or "too-tousan year ago..." or the like. I honestly thought that part in Ranma they were exaggerating. They weren't. His stories were good, when I could understand his English and hear him over the noise of the bus.
Eventually we end up at the restaurant they'd been wanting to take me to. It wasn't too far from People's square, where I'd been the day before. It was now dark though, and the other life of the city was emerging. I don't mean scary underbelly kind of life, just the nightlife as opposed to the day life.
The food was mostly good. I've noticed though, that food in China is very greasy. They use about 10 times the oil for cooking and things than we do. But, all in all, I met only a few overweight Chinese, and most of these were older men who probably had slowed down. I'm guessing because of the quantity of food that is usually eaten along with the fact that you have to walk or ride your bicycle practically everywhere helps. The oil was just too much for me. I don't remember everything that we had, but most of it was good enough. What made me laugh though, was the fact that my host ordered not some exotic Asian beer, but a Budweiser. Yep, you heard me, a Budweiser.
After that we walked along one of the walking streets of shops and food vendors. It was quite impressive and intimidating at the same time. The next thing I knew, we were getting onto the subway and going a few stops down to one of the other areas so they could show off that big CN tower that is the 'big thing' about Shanghai, like the tower in Vancouver or the Empire State building in New York... that kind of thing. The plaza was very impressive and lit up at night. I said I was getting tired so we hopped back onto the subway and back to the main walking road (I can't remember the name, sorry) that is full of people, neon, shops, more people and still more people. It was quite impressive. We walked along for a few blocks and then found a cab. Mind you, the cab ride should have been about 80 RMB since we were around where I caught the cab the day before. Well, when all was said and done, it cost 94. That's because my driver drove around in circles for a while because he didn't understand which hotel I was at or where it was until I handed him the card I had. I don't think it was on purpose, he looked genuinely confused and not sure of the area. I wasn't in downtown or just outside of downtown, so I can understand.
Tuesday went about as well as Monday, except I had people most of the day. Most of what I had to teach them they really didn't need or care about. And what they needed to know, I couldn't teach them because it was all hardware related or needed a working system to show them and my demo wouldn't cut it. My guides wanted to take me out again that night, but I begged off. I still wasn't breathing right. I was tired and cranky and just wanted to go home. That and the night before, even though they were with me, I felt almost as alone as the day before. They both know English, yet most of their conversation was between themselves in Chinese. I don't think they were trying to be rude or anything. I'm just a quiet person, especially when I'm not breathing, and they didn't know what to talk to me about and I wasn't asking tons of questions. I didn't need to feel isolated like that again. I was going back to my room to pack up, read a bit and crawl into bed. I didn't even bother to go to dinner because I'd eaten two lunches. (There was a mix up and a lunch got delivered to both my classroom and to the office downstairs... they were both edible...)
I would say that the flight home Wednesday was uneventful. I'd be lying. The flight was a little late leaving Shanghai. This meant that we were late getting out of Tokyo. So of course, now I'm running late in Detroit and since I'd checked luggage, I'd be running even later. (Yes, I know, I wasn't gone any longer than usual when I don't check luggage, but I had too much to fit easily in just the suitcase and my work bag for the two bag limit.) The people at Northwest though were nice enough to presumptively book me on the next flight into Philly. This would have been OK, except I was now scheduled to leave about the same time I was going to get home in the first place. Then the flight got delayed by about an hour.
Have I ever told you that I hate the Philly airport? Well, I do. It's loud, noisy, grungy and feels very third world. I mean, it looks like an unfinished underpass or something. It looks almost like I'd imagine an airport in Israel or the Middle East somewhere to look like, minus the guards armed to the teeth. Anyway, I got to sit in the noisy baggage claim area for an hour while waiting for the shuttle bus I'd reserved to come pick me up. Then about 45 minutes to the hotel near my parents and another 45 to an hour to my place. Instead of being home at around 7 or 8, it was now 10:30 and I was beyond exhausted. But I was home, so all was good.
I didn't go into work Thursday. I did a little work from home. Yesterday I went into the office because some things there needed doing. Today I'm being lazy and just playing around here.
Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some pictures for you.
I'm glad I went to China but I don't think I'll ever want to do it again. Sorry Steve, your home country just doesn't sing out to me and call me back to visit.
Peace to all and may you have adventures you'll remember.

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