zhu wo sheng ri kuai le

Monday, Oct 11. 2004  –  Category: ChinaBlog

First off, thanks to Geoff for sending this my way: Torturing Sims.

Hilarious. :-)

How did I spend my birthday? Poorna and I went to “Nameless Highland Bar” (a distinct lack of bagpipes makes me assume it has nothing to do with the Scottish Highlands), where we drank a few beers, and passed time away until midnight officially came, and the singer brought me on stage to serenade me with Happy Birthday. the whole bar joined in, and everyone was singing along to wish the retarded Chinese boy who can’t speak Chinese happy birthday…. in Chinese. ;-) fortunately, our Chinese teacher back at MPK had taught us that one song, so Poorna and I knew it.

It was touching. It was a sweet gesture. and the whole time I was laughing because, quite frankly, the singer was awful. I was half laughing, half cringing.

I laugh to hide the pain.


now that’s an uptime

Sunday, Oct 10. 2004  –  Category: Sun

[stevel@stopit:stevel] 505$ uptime 5:40am up 471 day(s), 11:20, 1 user, load average: 0.14, 0.05, 0.04 [stevel@stopit:stevel] 506$

i thought it was cool grommit had a 160 day uptime… i just found a labmachine (an old sun4m machine) with a 471 day uptime.

grommit, however, is in use every day – all day – by a lot of users. stopit doesn’t do much ;)

playing catchup

Saturday, Oct 9. 2004  –  Category: ChinaBlog

Sun China (SCERI) had the past week off for the national holiday. poorna and i were, of course, heartbroken that we couldn’t work and were forced to have to go on a week-long vacation, so our good friend Canada came over from the states to console us. and what better place to go to drown your sorrows than Shanghai?

we left for Shanghai on Sunday the 3rd with nothing more than our plane tickets. this was, of course, stupid. had we thought about it some more, we might have put some consideration into other things like… which airport are we flying into (Shanghai has two)? how do we get from the airport to the city centre? where IS the city centre for that matter? and more importantly: where are we going to stay?

on the plane, i was sitting next to a girl who couldn’t seem to grasp that yes, we were stupid and decided to go to Shanghai over the national holiday week and not book a hotel. really, it’s not that hard…. there are people that moronic in this world. some of us even get jobs at good companies. go figure.

anyway, after landing, and determining that we had landed at Hong Qiao airport (we asked someone, despite Poorna’s claims that he was sure this was HongQiao airport because he saw a restaurant named HongJing or something). after getting swarmed by calls of “cheap hotel!”, “you need place to stay?” “taxi! 150 RMB!”, we did something that actually made sense: we got on a bus. it was even heading towards the city centre….bonus.

the bus conductor collected our fares, and then asked where we wanted to go.

good question. when we figure that out, we’ll let you know. ;-) we tried to tell her the Bund, or People’s Square, but she kept asking where we were going, what hotel, which part of the city. more frustratingly, she kept asking ME and completely ignored Poorna and Canada. i understand most people will try asking me first, after all, i look (and am) Chinese. what i don’t understand is why they PERSIST in asking me after it’s become obtusely clear (to me anyway) that i don’t understand Chinese. she started getting agitated and kept talking louder and faster.

yeah. that’s helpful. i don’t speak your language, but if you talk louder, and faster, well sure, that’ll help. it’s like SMACK, well DUH…of COURSE i understand you now that you’re shouting at me.

i call this education through intimidation.

it doesn’t exist. anyway, so after about 20 minutes of having her constantly mutter (something about retarded ABC’s who can’t speak Chinese i’m sure), someone finally got on the bus who spoke English and helped us out. we ended up getting off at a hotel, and taking a metro to People’s Square we were proceeded to sit on the curb like a the three (homeless) stooges, crouched over a Lonely Planet guide to Shanghai, a map, peen, and paper calling all the hostels/hotels we could find trying to get a room in the middle of a holiday week at 6pm in the evening.

we ended up getting a room at a local university in the foreign student’s dorm (bonus: it even came with pet roaches….mmm…dinner…), and headed out for a stroll on the major street Nanjing Dong Lu, and dinner (we had KFC, and Poorna had Pizza Hut).

the next day we followed Lonely Planet’s guide for a walking tour of the French Concession. overall impression? neat, a good tour for people watching, but where the heck was all the intriguing architecture and historical sites? while the First Meeting Site of the CCP was cool, the rest was nought more than just some cool people watching. we did, however, see a big construction site for a new apartment complex called Rich Gate. Obnoxious sounding, no? It looked so f-ing pompous, and arrogant it just annoyed me. It made me feel better to see their huge banners proclaiming “WISDOM CREATS WEALTH”. aye…wealth it may creat, spelling…well…that’s up to your own hard work.

along the way, we had lunch at a random hole in the wall restaurant. Canada and I ordered nu rou mien (beef noodle soup), while poorna ordered a random tofu dish. it would have been fine if the random tofu dish hadn’t happened to be stinky tofu. :-D he ate one piece, and nearly gagged. Canada was brave and tried two. i ended up eating the whole plate.

we wandered around Nanjing Donglu to kill some time again, where we had dinner (guess what… Pizza Hut…again), and Poorna got a new jacket.and then headed over to the Shanghai Circus World to watch an acrobatic show. these guys are amazing… i saw a different show a few years ago, so some of the stuff was the same – but it still awes me to see the strength and balance these acrobats have.

the next day we woke up with the intent of catching the train to Hangzhou, a city renowned for its beauty (both landscape and girls), its silk, and its tea. it’s a 2 hour express train ride away from Shanghai, so we planned a day trip. evidently, so did everyone else in Shanghai. the train was packed! we ended up sitting on the floor for the whole ride, meeting Benny, and his mum, and keeping the rest of the guys around us amused with our hideous attempts to speak Chinese, and Poorna’s occasional breakout into song .

we finally arrived in Hangzhou. we took a bus to the east shore of the West Lake (the centrepiece of the city, really). we then followed the lake around, trying to find a place to rent bikes from. we kept asking people “wo yao zu zixingche” (we want to rent bicycles), and they kept pointing us in random directions leading us walking around the lake. we finally found a place to rent the bikes we wanted, short stubby foldable bright yellow bikes with a rear shock. apparently you can buy these for < $40 US here. i want to buy one so bad...they're awesome. they're such fun little things... 3 gears, a rear shock, and a bell. okay, well, in Canada's broken bike's case: 1 gear, no bell, and sometimes you don't get to steer either. we took our sweet time peddling around the lake, taking lots of photos, and seeing the sights.

at one point, we had parked our bikes to walk along an area off-limit to bikes, and buy some drinks and snacks. Canada and I were getting back on our bikes when he made some remark about how he always liked girls in uniform. I said something like “be careful, you may get your wish”, and then lo and behold…the 3 girls he was commenting on started walking over to us. Apparently, they just wanted to chat and see what country we were from. I’m still not sure what exactly they’re supposed to be…. security guards? tour guides? information officers of the communist party? who knows… they wore badges saying “English Service”, but they could barely speak a word of English. In any case, Canada was smitten…but alas, we had less than half a day left, so we went on our way.

We rode on, coming to a series of causeways, and a park in the middle. The park was really neat…people had basically just pitched tents on the grass, and were spending the day lazying about. We sat down, had some skewers (mmmm….meat on a stick, does it get any better than that?), and just people watched for a while listening to covers of 70s and 80s pop music.

After getting back on our way, we kept riding as dusk drew closer. We came to the Six Harmonies Pagoda, and decided to try and race up the stairs to get there in time for the sunset. And wow…what an amazing sunset it was. Absolutely stunning… I watched the sunset for a good 20 minutes I think. On the way back down, we took our time and read the amazing wood carving stories that were inside the temple. These are, by far, the most intricate wood carvings I’ve ever seen…. the depth of detail in these 3d carvings is insane.

After that, we realised we had to book it in order to get everything done we wanted to get done. We had to buy silk gifts, tea, and then get our asses back to the train station in time. So we hopped on our bikes and took off, racing through the traffic. This was a blast….we ignored people, ignored cars, and just wove in and out of all the traffic…. everything was going well until I smashed into a taxi going full speed. I was riding on the wrong side of the road (whoops), and a taxi pulled over so I tried to squeeze in between the curb and taxi, and the backseat passenger opened the door on me. I smashed into it with the front of the bike, popped up, the reflector broke off, the door slammed shut on her, and I decided to keep peddling on since I was okay.

Anyway, after that excitement, we just went to a silk market, and I got both my tea and silk before heading to the train station to grab some dinner (mmm….stinky tofu from a street vendor!), and head back to Shanghai after a full tiring day.

On our last day in Shanghai, we decided to head to the YuYuan Garden area, and just walk around the Old Town market area. We took the subway, and saw a really cool fight. (this was the 3rd fight we’d seen in China…the ‘fish-fight’ from Qingdao being the first, and the plunger fight being the second. We dubbed this one the ‘mobile melee’ since it happened at a cell phone store). Anyway, the fight was between the cell phone vendor (a younger guy), and a customer (an older gentleman). We have no idea what it was about, but all we saw the old guy going for the young guy’s throat and pinning him against the wall. They had a lot of angry yelling and shouting, and then things started to calm down so we turned around to leave. All of a sudden we hear a roar from the crowd, and the old guy has literally picked up the young guy and carried him out of the stall. They fall to the ground and are punching each other in the gut, and then the young guy’s girlfriend joins in the fight and promptly gets flipped over and punched by the old guy. Anyway, security eventually came and did nothing as other people/rubberneckers pulled the two apart. Pointless, and a useless fight, but fun to watch.

After arriving at the Nanjing Donglu station, we realised we had lost Canada’s Shanghai Lonely Planet. Doh. This was a slight problem, since we now had no idea how to follow the “Old Town Walking Tour” we had planned to do. ;-) Our best guess is that Poorna left it on the subway somewhere. Oh well…whoever has it now, enjoy the book.

We ended up buying a map from a bookstore (and another cheap guidebook), and finding our way to the Old Town area. Since we didn’t have the broken down list of the Lonely Planet walking tour, we decided to just bum around the area and browse. Poorna and I bought a big Chinese flag to hang on our wall in between our offices in MPK, and I spent the whole afternoon buying random food from street vendors (including the best custard tarts I’ve had in a while). After a lazy day of just walking around town and not doing a whole lot except eating and people watching, we headed back to the Hongqiao airport (this time by taxi! we had had enough of misguided bus adventures), and caught our flight back to Beijing.

Phew… okay, that was ridiculously long, and took me 5 days to write – but it’s finally done. Maybe I’ll fill in more details if I recall them….anyway, just go look at the photos. :-P

And if you actually read all the way down here, leave a comment…. cause damn, that’s an achievement to read this whole damn thing.

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