Category Archives: Travel

New Orleans 2011

Heather and I took an excellent road trip to New Orleans last weekend. I can tell I have not posted much because the last trip seems to be just a few posts back. Meh…just the good stuff eh?

So, the last time I was in New Orleans was roughly the same time as this year in 2008. February, just before Mardi Gras. The weather was stellar and the crowds pretty tame in both cases. Luckily, we timed it perfect this year for the parade.

The Krewe De Vieux parade is apparently the local favorite. Or at least most of the locals seem to like it. The themes are extremely political focusing on local figures and issues. This time around were many BP related floats as would be expected as well as extremely unflattering effigies of local figures completely foreign to me. I saw “most” because we talked to a few folks that mentioned how adult this parade is. One lady (the greeter for the Catholic Church in the 9th ward) felt that it was no place for a senior citizen. They apparently have been known to cross a few lines.

The style is a bit more traditional as well with its mule driven carts, French Quarter route and tons of bands. The streets in the quarter are pretty small so its a very up in your face experience. Pretty much like a Mardi Gras lite. Dont get me wrong, we saw some epic drunks staggering about…but within 10 minutes of the parade finish, we were sitting at a table having gumbo just a block away.

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After the parade (and gumbo) we went to One Eyed Jacks for the official after party. We still had drinks in hand when we got to the door which points out one of the obvious differences between Dallas and New Orleans.

Dallas Doorman: “No outside drinks allowed…in fact, what are you doing with an open container on the street. I should call the cops myself.”

New Orleans Doorman: “Dump your drink??? I’d hate to see you waste a perfectly good beverage….come right in!”

The afterparty was excellent. We were originally under the impression that there was to be a burlesque show. In fact, when a GIANT yellow feather clamshell was brought through the front door…it seemed obvious. Turns out it was a headpiece for War Chief Juan Pardo. They were there with 101 Runners playing some kinda funk/Mardi Gras music that had an infectious groove you could bug out to.

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Finally, we patted our back for taking a taxi down to the quarter.

We stayed at the St Vincents guesthouse in the Garden District. Its not exactly 5 star accommodations by any stretch. The building used to be a halfway house for unwed teens and dates WAY back so the rooms are pretty small. The building however is very unique and the staff is amazing. They have hostel rooms as well and it appears that much of the work is done by the local homeless. The prices are very cheap and I assure you that every penny is going to the hyper-local economy. Free parking too!!!

A large focus of this trip was FOOD! Dang! We left on Friday night so we could take our time on Saturday getting down there. The beef jerky at Robertsons in Willis Point was a good start, but paled in comparison to the jerky at Krotz Springs. Louisiana is a hunters paradise and just about anything with an even number of legs could be found found in jerked, sausage or bouidin form at Kartchners. On the way back I picked up about 30 bucks worth of boudin, alligator sausage and tasso. The damage was not that bad as they had sold out of the jerky. (note…they do deliver…its not specified on the website, but they do).

Check out the ponce. Yes…thats a pig stomach filled with pig goodness.

Ponce

It would be a long feat to detail all of the meals we had, so here is an overview.

Gumbo and Louisana sampler at the Old Coffeepot was excellent. A little salty, but still amazing. Super friendly staff.

Forget Cafe Du Monde. Its like Disneyland. Get your beignet fix at Cafe Beignet.

Daisy Dukes sounds like it would be a hooters rip off. Its not. Its awesome. Cops eat there. Check out this alligator Po boy. Oh and the nice touches on the red beans and rice.

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We had some sort of Alligator Sausage Hash and Gumbo at Marigny Brasserie on Frenchmen Street.

An excellent lump crab cake (and gumbo) at the Grand Isle by Harrahs.

To top off the food experience, we visited the Southern Food Museum. This is a must. All the history behind the food of the area. Learn why chicory was added to coffee. Gumbo File or Okra (why did they need either at all!!). Absinthe. You get a discount if you tell them your there for a convention. (Make one up).

Since this was close to Harrah’s, I figured I could take advantage of their parking lot. Normally, this costs $30 a day!!! It is free, however, with 30 minutes of casino play on your members card.

I left $40 in the hole. I guess Ill show them next time.

One of the creepiest attractions was the St Roch Cemetery. This is certainly an unusual cemetery with quite a history. Pics are here. So, all the literature will tell you that the cemeteries are a bit sketchy…and they are. This is not in the best part of town….but I doubt that your gonna get shived over anything so bring a cheap camera and you should be fine. This particular cemetery is extra weird as it as an actual shrine for the folk that have been healed. It has many braces, false legs and just creepy medical devices from folks that have been healed or wish to be. I took a lot of pics.

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Check out the “thanks” on the bricks and the statue of St Lucia holding a plate of eyeballs.

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Lightning round of cool stuff:

Saw my first Banksy
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Finally saw Frenchmen Street

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The Sues go to Hawaii

So the Boys Named Sue and the O’s got to do a show in Hawaii for a wedding. Talk about a sweet deal. I gotta admit, its nice to see all those days lugging a violin back and forth between home and Jr High paying off some dividends.

The only thing that went wrong was at the start of the trip. Somehow, someway, my camera was lost. I had it in my computer bag, but the pocket could have been open or something and it fell out. Luckily, I never invest much in cameras, but still…I dig taking snapshots of just about everything.

So, the pics I do have are all from either my phone (crappy) or from a disposable 35mm. Actually, with the ipod hipstamatic being so popular, it kinda seemed like I would get an interesting look. Naw…that whole charging a flash and winding business is just a waste of time.

Looks hip enough to me.

We were in a town called Hawi in the North part of the Island. Truly a one light town.

We got into town from the airport around 8pm. Luckily, there was a bar next to the hotel. Unluckily, last call was at 9:30pm. The motel was nice. It was very low key. No A/C but had fans. Considering the sticker shock of ANYTHING in the state, a place for under 100 bucks a room is a steal. Plus the coffee in the morning was probibly the best I have ever had…and I drink a lot of coffee. If your looking to see the underside of Kona on a budget, this is more your sort of place. If you want a resort and a beach…move on. (wimp)

On Saturday, they have a farmers market.

Everybody was really nice and fed me. I got to try lilikoi…which is pretty much passion fruit. Great in a Mai Tai.


Bananas, Bamboo n sugarcane. Sweet.

It was nice to have an actual tour manager for the trip. Mike took care of just about everything. All we had to do was relax and play music. The wedding party was all weekend so the O’s were on Thurs and the Sues on Sat.

The food part was interesting. The most tastiest dish was a Poke salad served at one of the pre-parties. It was served in a clear plastic storage container and was AWESOME!!!!! From a distance it looked like a big tub of raw fish and onions…and it pretty much was. WOW! I ate about a pound of raw fish right there. The other food at the wedding and pre-party was stellar, but the poke was was about the best thing I ever ate the whole time there.

Mike treated us to dinner at Huggos. The bar faced the sunset perfectly. The food was excellent! If I ever went back to Kona…this is were I would go.

Spam sushi. Yes…this is like the big mac of Hawaii.

Its called Spam Musubi. At 3 bucks at the Airport…its a steal

Fish tacos on the beach at Hapuna Bay. Excellent.

Things to see on the North part of the Island…..well…there is not a lot of beach actually. It was a 20 min drive to the closest beach at Mauna kea.

Party Cove and I did the zip line tour. That was pretty sweet. Well worth it. Also, I did about a 7.7 mile hike around the area. It was interesting, but pretty hard to actually see the coast without a private property sign. There is a public access point…but by the time I found it, I was 4 miles in and tired. Plus it looked to be a 20 min hike…all switchbacks from that point. At this point I figured I needed to get home.

The history of the island was pretty interesting. Lots of cattle. Most of the island seems to be one big cattle ranch. The wedding itself was located on a part of Kona that used to be sugar cane. When big sugar left, the whole side of that mountain was pretty much burned bare. The family that owns the land is reforesting the hillside. Turns out wild cattle do a lot of the work. Cattle love Guava and poop the seeds all over the place.

Guava Guana…coincidence?

Anyways…if anybody has a book on the history of Kona, I would love to borrow it.

More Eating in Beijing

Its been fun eating here. I hope I didn’t end up with any food issues. I generally stuck to places that outwardly looked pretty clean. I only ate from a street vendor once, and the food was in a boiling broth. It was duck blood on a stick, so it couldn’t of been that bad.

Some of the more notable dishes I had were found in an area North of center by the Drum and Bell tower. This was one of the more interesting parts of town. I did not see any tour groups which was a start.

Probably the best wings I ever ate were found here on Gulou Dongdajie (1 km SW of Andingmen station where Nan Luoguxiang drops out). The menu had them billed as chicken “Swings”. I was just going to look at the menu but was swiftly sat at a seat. The swings were grilled on skewers as were the shrimps and mushrooms wrapped in tofu noodles. A good snack at 28 RMB.

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Another cheap and tasty surprise was a Shaanxi restaurant on Dianmen Dongdajie (55-2) where Beiheyan Dajie intersects it. (1km NE of JingShan park). CHEAP eats. Jia Mo is the first thing on the menu. Its what they called a hamburger, but its a thick unleavened bread bun (like nan guess), crispy and filled with shredded pork. 7 RMB. A big bowl of homemade noodles was 12 RMB. Total bill under 3 bucks for a meal that lasted me till breakfast. Shaanxi is the breadbasket of China and most everything is wheat based. Noodles and breads. Many items were vegetarian too.

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The last day of work, we were taken to another hotpot. This one was very good. The service was amazing. Again, I got to try duck blood and esophagus. This is easier to eat than it sounds. We also had noodles made fresh right at our table. It was a fairly athletic display.

Noodles made to order

Noodles made to order

The spiciest thing I ever ate was at this place north of the 3rd ring just off of Andingenmen. Im not really sure where it was. It was not HOT hot, more of a continuous simmer really. The kicker was the fennel. You know that bowl of fennel seeds you chew on when you leave an Indian restaurant? There is that crunchy stuck in your teeth texure. This dish had it.
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Fennel, Red pepper and sesame. On a bed of Cilantro for good measure. Very crunchy texture.

In addition to that dish I ordered what I thought was minced pork and green beans. This was my safe dish. Nope, these were not green beans…but peppers. Again, it was not like stupid hot, but the spice content was a little over the top.

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Bowling for Soup

I had seen a few posters in the music stores for Bowling for Soup. In fact, they were the only American band that I ever saw a poster for. They were getting good promotions for their new album. The music stores catagorize pop music a little differently here. First by country (China, Japan, Korea, other, US+Uk) then for each of those it goes bands, songstressess and finally male singers.

Turns out that Bowling for Soup had a show on Sat. I was not sure if I could rock-star my way into it as there was a considerable language barrier, but that whole crowd are best friends with Elijah. I had set out for the day early on…so it turned out there was a ticket arranged for me at will call, but I didnt hear about it until I got home. Nuts.

Still, the best part was seeing a two story high poster of Bowling for Soup. As I walked around the building I was eyed eagerly as a potential member. I could see a lot of puzzled looked as they where discussing if I could be one of the members.

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The weekend had some of the best walking. If your ever in Beijing and are looking for some off the beaten path adventures…this is what I did.

First I went to the zoo to see the Pandas. Its a big zoo, but you can cover what you want quickly.
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Go to the subway and take line two to Guloudajie. This is the station just north of HouHai and the Bell and Drum Tower. YOu can walk past all the Hutongs till you get to the tower. Its a steep stair climb. From there, go due east on Gulou Dong Dajie. (the names are easier than you thing.) It went on for what seemed a mile and a half of endless stores. Much more interesting as in kitchy. Some live music venues. Tons of places to eat and about 20 music stores.

When you hit Andingenmen, go north to the gate (subway). Again, its a much more interesting stretch of road. Tons of smells, tastes, sights.

Sunday I hit the Dazhalan area. This was even better. I had planned to see the Tongrentang. Its a herbal drugstore that has been in the same address for 300 years. It was several stories and had all the deer heads, $100000 Ginsing roots and jars of whatever that you would expect to see. They had an exchange center and several payment windows too. They were not too keen on the pictures though.

This is the street where you will find your cheapest jade or jade-like materials. Dirt cheap. Is it jade…dunno. Prices were all over the place, but there was a gift for every budget.

The most exciting part was when I headed due west into the Hutongs. Its a whole different world. You have to just pick an alley and get lost. Tiny alleys with small stalls are dotted with random businesses, bakers, snack vendors, internet cafes and people just doing whatever they do. Its not uncommon to be going down a dark alley and peer into a door that houses a modern pharmacy. Plenty of toilets too. It was just neat!

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Yaxiu Market

Tonight I went to the Yaxiu market. It this point im not probibly going to buy anything. Im not too impressed by the clothing and the watches are not all that good. There are a few more locals at this market it seems, but for the most part its all same stuff. One lady started her pitch for a watch (Rolex) at 550 Yuan. Her “no scratch” test on the face with a plastic tool was unimpressive. Still, it was actually a better place than the silk market. I was interested in a green laser
that was REALLY powerful. Ill bet its probibly illegal in the states. Seemed kinda dangerous.

When I got to the center, a lady approached me with a secret stash of something. “Socks?”

Hmmm. Five feet later another lady came up to me with the same product. “Socks!!! Good ones! Cheap”.

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Again, it was getting late so I ran up to the food court to get some grub before closing time. More Korean stone pot. Its like thats the hamburger of the east. This pepper beef thing looked pretty good, but it was hard to tell what it really was since the display was plastic. The vendor insisted that it was very good…then he looked at the display in a very surprised manner. There was some yelling in the back and forth until a fake plastic egg (sunny side up) was tossed to the front and slapped on the display. That clenched the deal!

All the beef out here has been processed a strange way though. Its all very tender, but Jeffery says its been treated a bit with baking soda to soften it up. I dont suppose it could hurt me to eat it a few times…but Ill start to avoid beef. Actually, you dont see a lot of beef around here. At least the ribeyes, sirloins, roasts and prime stuff. Organ meats, tendons and this processed skirt is plentiful. Im sure its all availible…just higher end.

Oh…and I saw that dish I ordered before. It was pig liver, not beef liver. Upon leaving the store I was attacked by more ladies selling socks.

Sanlitun and the silk market

Went out again by myself to check out the Silk Street. We dont really have a lot of time after the cab ride home from work. By the time I get to the hotel, its 6:30. Shops close at 9, so I generally have 90 minutes to explore and eat.

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I didnt really plan on buying anything. I just wanted to look around. I walked to the subway. Its about 20 mins walk from the hotel, and from there its 2 RMB (30 cents) to get anywhere. The subway is fast, clean and cheap. At rush hour its probibly a headache though.

The market is interesting. All about the hard sell.Prepare yourself for some in-your-face tactics. They yell at ya, grab ya and silk scarves are thrown in your face to get your attention.

China is supposedly cracking down on knock-offs. Big name fakes are not blatently displayed, but its all there. I suppose it legal to sell overstock, one-offs and defects. Why not. Most appears to be just that. Thats the same approach as Marshalls and Ross right? Still, I looked at a several “Rolex”s and “Polo” shirts. The opening price for a fake Rolex was 550 RMB (like 80 bucks). It was not a good watch…even for 10 bucks. Factory seconds at the Fossil outlet in McKinney are a better deal. All the watches were poor. The Mao one was kitchy, but no…no watches for me.

I was offered some sweet Air Jordons at 15 bucks starting price. I doubt they would accomidate my flat feet.

Your best bets though are with the tailors. There is tons of silk and wool. They will stitch up a suit right there…and there were plenty of folks lined up for it. Im still thinking maybe its time for a new suit.

Afterwards, I fell prey to one of the scam artists I read about on the web. Basically, it was the tea scam. We had also been approached by the art student scam before, but we blew them off easier.

This girl started walking with me and engaged in small talk. Her English was very good and she knew a thing or two about Texas. “Yippie get along little doggies”. Well…close…good effort at least. The scam is that they get you to sit and talk with them over tea. They are in it with the vendors and you end up with a large bill. Even worse, its large enough that you might use a credit card which could just end up badly.

As I was walking, she kept on asking to stop for coffee. I kept on instisting that I only wanted to walk around and see stuff. I was neither hungry nor thirsty. I tried to duck into shop to avoid her. Turns out it was a tea shop. She then did a half-assed translation of the teas and wanted to sit down for tea.

Dang! I was trying to be polite and just blowing somebody off does not come easily to me. Its just not in my nature. When it became obvious that I was not interested she flat out asked for 20 RMB so SHE could have coffee by herself. This was after at least 10 minutes of me trying to shake her. Any normal soul woulda considered that a cheap price to buy their freedom (like 3 bucks!). For me, well, asking for money is where I cross the line for politely dodging the issue. I still am never mean. I will always acknowledge a panhander rather than treat them as invisible. I have no problem looking them in the face, acknowledging their existence as a person, and simply saying no.

I just stopped and asked her what direction she was walking because whichever direction it was, I was going to walk the opposite direction. I said OPPOSITE loudly too because Americans think that saying things loudly rather than slowly makes people understand you better. Opps. Ok, I almost lost my cool. Deep breath!!!

She chose South, which worked out pretty well because I north was a mall that was just stupid big. It had this big overhead pavillon like the screens in downtown Vegas, only BIGGER.

I just sat down and watched the screen for a few minutes while drinking this kinda nasty “sports drink” that caught my eye.
The next night I thought I would check out the Sanlitun district. I didnt really want to stop at any bars. Besides, by this time, I had heard all kinds of horror stories about fake booze. In China, there are a few beers that are cheap and this horrible rice stuff. I tried a nice sip (like 1/10 of a shot) when Jefferys friends took us out. It was obvious that what they had was high dollar. It still pretty rough. Anything else is western, expensive and probibly fake. I stuck to some beer with dinner and Diet Coke (coke lite).

The cab dropped me off by the Kempanski building. In that mall is a German place where all the staff dress up. Fun to see natives in German costumes.

Walking around, I saw a cafe that sold coffee and Birthday cake. Thats what the sign said. Coffee, Birthday cake. Pretty sweet if all they sell is that. Do they id you or what? The picture didnt come out so good.

Sanlitun felt more comfortable to me. There were not at many barkers hounding you to check out their bar. Still the same number of lone guitar playing crooners and the occasional kareoke singer. If your an American looking for a good place after 9pm, this seems as good as any. Lots of Expats running around. Its the embassy district. Some embassies are guarded better than others. The German one had big fences and the Chinese guards were very attentive. The Canadian embassy was huge. Togo looked a little more laid back.

One guy did follow me for a few blocks trying to get me to go to his bar in HouHai.

Him: “You want booze? Beer? Jack Daniels?”
Me: “No”
Him: “You want Lady bar?”
Me: “No”
Him: “China girl much different. You like? Cheap Beer!!! Cold. Americans like cold beer”
Me: [ Ok, smart pitch with the cold angle. Its been two weeks since Ive had an ice cube...but..] NO!
Him: “You want a cookie?”
Me: ….[huh?]…umm…[wait..thats probibly bad]…NO!

We reached the end of the street. He gave up and I turned the corner to another Mega mall easily twice the size of the galleria.

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Some you tube videos are here taken by other people.

Donkeys and the Great Wall of China

This weekend, we were shown around Beijing by some family friends of Jeffery. I enjoyed the sites and tastes they offered and am in debt for the hospitality. Friday night they picked us up right after work and took us to dinner. I’m still not sure if they are part owners, or have and interest or what, but we were treated very well and had a meal that apparently you just don’t come by everyday.

The restaurants specialty was Donkey! And just like the duck night, they treated us to the whole animal.

Poor little donkeys

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We started with a cold cut of donkey. It tasted similar to beef. Not gamey as I had feared. The dipping sauce was excellent.

Cold cuts of donkey with dipping sauce

Next was a gelatinous dish made from the skin. Apparently donkey skin is very good for your health and is a valued part of the animal. In fact, just about everything you can eat in China has a purpose or value or some kind of benefit. These are a people that are in touch with what they eat.

Donkey Jello

A pot of Donkey Soup was served next. I’m getting spoiled with real soup. The only other time I get real soup made from bones is when my girlfriend makes it. The simple stock that was not salty complemented the meal.

Donkey Soup

Next we fired up a big bowl of stew. The meat was tender and mixed with carrots, root vegetables, mushrooms and many other things. Not very hot spicy, but seasoned nicely. Seriously, it would taste great to any American too.

Donkey Stew. Amazing

Then the waiter brought in the plate of meats that I feared. Weird stuff. I had a feeling that when we were told we were eating the whole donkey that I would see this. Guess what cross section of the donkey this is from?

Donkey Meats

Yep Donkey dong.

Guess what cross section of the donkey this was

Pretty chewy…again, the dipping sauce is key. Kidney was good, so I had a few pieces. Liver was ten times better then that dish I accidentally ordered…but I didn’t have too much of it.

Finally a salad and donkey dumplings with a vinegar dipping sauce. An amazing dinner. Its going to be hard to top that one off.

Donkey Dumplings

Saturday, we went to the Badaling Great Wall. There are several sections of the wall all over the mountains around Beijing. Stretches of it go on for as far as the eye can see. As it was raining in the morning, the air was actually pretty clear. It was nice to just be able to drive to the wall as opposed to have to deal with a tour bus and all that junk. This was the way to go. Again, I am in debt to Jeff’s friends for taking us.

The Badaling wall is one of the more popular wall sections. Its views are stunning. We took a cable car to a point almost to the top. From there, we climbed to the top. Again, China has a different viewpoint when it comes to liabilty. The steps were STEEP and there were sections that were at 35-40 degree angles without steps. It was crowded, but not as bad as it could be because of the rain.

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When we finished, we stopped in store for tea. The really expensive kind. It was served on a special table made from a tree root and we had a personal server that kept everybody’s cup topped off. I had the green tea but tried the (expensive) black kind. Very earthy tasting. Its getting more difficult to accept teabags.

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After tea we drove back to town (still like 45 mins away) to the Ming Tombsite.

Before heading in though, we had lunch. More food. This time the featured dish was a fish egg thing with green bean noodles. The roe was cooked in a pepper oil. It was hard to explain, but tasted excellent. Additionally, we had a kinda kung pao shrimp and bitter melon/taro root/pumpkin salad.

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The ming tombs were interesting too. A bit touristy it would seem. I still cant get my head around how powerful the title of Emperor really was. A most excellent time indeed.

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Nortel in Beijing

So Ive mentioned before that Im here in China on business to train the folks that are taking over my project. If your not up on your Nortel News, its part of their plan to transition jobs to lower cost centers. They are not cutting jobs….just moving them. The end result for me is the same. After a free trip to China, its time to dust off my resume.

Previously, the Nortel site in Beijing was located pretty centrally next to the Wangfujing shopping district. For whatever reason, they moved to a new area just Northeast called the WanJing Technical Park. The complex is nice, and it has many of the telecom players. Motorola, Ericsson, Sony-Ericsson, Agilent Systems, Alcatel-Lucent. And there is space for more buildings Im sure.

Nortel

Its strange to look out the window of a high tech building and see folks cleaning the streets with wicker brooms and lugging goods on the back of bikes. Inside its really nice. They have cubilcle like offices too, but the walls are only 4 feet high so there is less privacy….and perhaps more productivity.

They have this strange indoor conference rooms too. Not many. But they look neat.

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Work starts at 9 because this is when the majority of the shuttles roll in. Most people take shuttles from various pick up points across the city. Its not like you can just move to a closer apartment in Beijing. Just getting an address is an ordeal. Its easier to take a 1+ hour shuttle ride every day. There is a subway system, but there is not a stop too close to WanJing.

Lunches seemed at first to be subsidized because a huge helping from the cafeteria is 14 RMB ( 2 bucks). They have many selections. Pretty decent stuff. Then again, I have seen other meals around the city for less….but as Im trying to avoid stomach issues, I have not taken too many chances. A meal at a food court in a mall is typically 20-25. Twice as much. A Starbucks espresso is 25 too….just the espressso!

After lunch, its not uncommon to see folks taking a nap at their desk before 1pm. There are a lot of pillows. At 5:30, it all wraps up as the shuttles leave.

They team taking over the project are all pretty smart. Im not worried about them. I put a lot of work into the training and they seemed to absorb the material pretty well.

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One of the strange things is that EVERYBODY is young here. Not just Nortel, but all over. Jeffery says that its easy to just fire somebody that seems to be getting old. There are tons of fresh graduates every year and the competition is fierce. All service industy jobs are driven by young faces in the city. Older people that dont have a business for themselves seem to be outta luck. Glad I dont have to look for a job out here. Then again, if I did, it would more likely be as an English teacher.

On my own in Beijing

For the last two nights, I decided I needed go about exploring Beijing on my own. Its been really nice having Jeffery around (a Shanghi native) to communicate and explain things. His experienced pallate has made for some of the most excellent food selections, despite the fact every place we have eaten at was choosen at random. There is a certain skill to guessing whats the best thing on the menu. Ill give him that.

Still, I HAD to get away and do some exploring for myself. Im sure he felt the same way too. You have to realize that he a pessimist’s pessimist. Everybody at work teases him for this. (and he knows it!) Some folks are half empty types, he worries about the glass breaking. If you correct him that your glass is plastic…well…even worse. Plastic has been known to cause cancer blah blah blah….you get my point.

When I heard him talk, I kept on hearing the same word over and over again. It sounded like “Mayo Mayo”. Turns out that was Méiyou, Chinese for “No”. It would come to nobodys surprise that THIS was the first word I picked up from him.

First off, I went to the supermarket close to the hotel. This market is in the basement of a large building. The experience was better than the first time I hit central market. Everything was strange and new. The fruits and veggies we exotic. The meat section was eye opening. The smells were wonderful. I think its just the Asian markets in the US that are stinky because this market was awesome!

I bought a few things based solely on the packaging.

Qoo, an apple flavored drink featuring a perpetually frustrated cartoon character is probibly the best tasting “non-apple juice” apple juice flavored drink I have ever had. It was a let down to find out it was a Coke product.

Pocari Sweat was exactly what I imagined a “salt and Glucose” drink would taste like. The name reminded me WAY to much of Steve Polcari though. A Dallas musician. Kinda unfortunate name.

The best stuff was pineapple flavored beer. Its .8%, so its 1/4 the kick of Oklahoma beer. It tasted like pineapple soda.

The problem Beijing is that the majority of the town closes up at 9pm on the dot. After leaving the market it was 8:20, I had to get a leg up. I picked a place that had a menu with pictures. Now I realize that these are not actual pictures, but suggestions….kinda like the posters on the wall at barbershop. I picked a dish with mushrooms (always a safe bet) and one with what looked like beef.

I probibly got beef, but it was most likely liver. Im still not sure. The texture was gritty, but the flavor was good. I ate it, but I dont think Ill be ordering it again.

Thursday I had hoped I could better. I was thinking about checking out the Sanlitun district. This is one of the more popular entertainment districts. A co-worker suggested I instead go to the HouHai area. It was supposed to be more “arty” with singers instead of just bars.

The ride down was interesting. I had a lively conversation with the cab driver using hand signs and vocal gestures. It went something like this.

Driver: [ holds a mike in the air and sings a few bad notes] Are you going to Houhai to sing Kareoke?

Me: [shaking head] No

Driver: [Makes a drinking sign followed by a stagging sway to his shoulders] Oh…you are going drinking?

Me: [ Making camera gestures and noodle eating moves]. No, Im just going to take pictures and perhaps have a drink.

Driver: [ Waves hands and sings into an air mike again] Oh, you really must try the singing. Its fun.

Me: Méiyou, Méiyou (Hey…I Jeffs pessimism paid off).

Driver: [Shrugs and sings again] You dont know what your missing.

Me: [Point to throat with tapping sign then I make a violin playing gesture]. Im not really much of a singer. I play violin though.

Driver: [Nods Head] Oh…impressive.

Driver: [Points to wrist] ???? (At first I thought it was a time thing)

Driver: [Points again to his wrist then my arm hair....then my head and his head and laughs] Your arms are so hairy and head bald while my arms are baby soft and I have a full head of hair. Ha Ha

At this point I was at a loss of words in a situtation that didnt really require any in the first place. But the ride was over, so I paid the fare and set out to see the city.

It was nice to look at, but MAN every three feet had a bar barker asking if I wanted to step into their bar. The majority of these were just shacks with a sofa. Many more people stopped me asking if I looking for a lady bar or who knows what. My suggestion is to check this place out during the day so you can safely explore the alleys around the lake. The bars themselves do not really look all that exciting. There were lots of people singing with guitars and kareoke, but…well, there was a whole seediness too it that I just creeped me out. Plus I didnt want to drink and lose my edge. It was enough of a rush just being there. I took my pictures and walked a few blocks away to find food. It was ok, but not as good as stuff I had before.

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