I forgot to mention that for some reason, when I view blogger.com, it is entirely in Chinese. Relax, geeks, I checked the language options, I even made sure i was being directed to the English blogger site instead of the Chinese one. No dice. So I'm finding my way around posting these blogs by sense of smell. I sort of remember where all my main buttons are, and if I'm not sure, I can usually tell if I hover over them and read the destination of the link in the lower corner.
Enough nerd talk.
This morning, as you know, I woke up hella-early and blogged. I was on the computer from about 4am until 6am when I started to get ready for the day. We went to the lobby restaurant for breakfast instead of the Executive lounge.
I guess I've not really explained how sweet my set up in the hotel is yet. There are 5 floors to the hotel. I am on the 5th (the Executive Club) and at the end of the hall, we have our own receptionists and a lounge full of free snacks, desserts, and drinks. It's also full of foreign people and a couple TV's with CNN on them but you can't really hear what's going on. I did see a cop taser the hell out of some woman though (check the news, it's harsh but rather funny).
So we have the option of breakfast at the Executive lounge or downstairs in the lobby. The more knowledgeable co-workers that I'm traveling with, that we met up with this morning, said the lobby was a better spread. Boy were they right. They had everything you could think of for breakfast, plus sushi for people who are disgusting and need sushi for breakfast. The guys that Bill and I met up with today are Robby and Steve. They're quite a bit higher up in the company than Bill and myself, so along with my slightly groggy breakfast, I had to put my business face on. They are incredibly down to early guys though, and we had a great breakfast/day with them.
We met up with "Sally" again and another BWBC (Babcock and Wilcox Beijing Company) employee "Maggee" and her 6 year old son "Frank". I almost feel like a jerk using their fake pseudo-american names. If I was them I would likely resent it a little. Steve is around 60 years old and kept making nearly off-color comments about the written language and such (like, "I noticed the license plates are written in regular script"). I would cringe a little and glance to the girls saying in my mind "he means English" but they were not even phased by it. I guess I am the product of one of the most racially and religiously sensitive generations probably to ever walk the earth, so when I hang out with older guys and they start down certain paths in a conversation I sometimes want to climb under the rug when maybe it's not that offensive of a thing to say. It also seems that the Chinese in general have no qualms about acting nearly subordinate to Americans. I just hope a little bit for their own sake that it's an act and they go home and make fun of us for saying things like "regular script". At any rate, Steve meant absolutely nothing offensive by it and the girls didn't seem to notice, so the only one affected at all was sensitive Barry, so who gives a shit.
We arrived at the great wall, and were swarmed by vendors selling useless crap. The funny thing was, from the ground all the way to the cable cars that took us to the wall, there were hundreds of numbered booths, and nearly all of them were selling the exact same products. I just couldn't figure out how so many people could make a living selling the exact same thing next to hundreds of people selling the same shitty T-shirt that said, I've climbed the great wall. One gentleman had an idea of how to "stand out above the crowd" (sited: A Goofy Movie). Now Robby, who is traveling with us is a large man. He probably stands 6'3" at about 230 lbs by my guess. The little Chinese vendor runs up to him with a huge T-shirt saying "I have big big sizes for you. XXXL. You buy from me, big big sizes." He was lucky Robby doesn't seem to be too sensitive about his size because Robby could have probably snapped the guy in half. Being the gentle giant he is, he kindly said no thanks and kept walking. The little guy was not so easily deterred. He followed us much of the way up the hill until he got out a pen and paper and made Robby write his name down for the guy. He signed it "Fred". After a few more yards the guy finally left us alone. To be continued...
We reached the lifts and hopped in. We got to the top and had just a little more climbing to do past some horrid smelling toilets. Finally we reached the entrance to the great wall. It was a large courtyard area filled with families and tourists (most of them asian with some obvious americans and a few Europeans intermingled). At the far side of the courtyard was a small narrow stairway that led up to an entrance to the wall. The wall stretched for miles in either direction (as you've likely seen in pictures and will likely see in my pictures and videos when I return) and for whatever reason, we decided to turn left and start out along the wall. We might have reached the second guardpost (not sure what they're called) when the older guys decided they had gone far enough. We may have gone a quarter mile at this point. I could have gone many miles along the wall if, again, I was there with some of my friends back home. Unfortunately my friends from back home were back home. Still, the girls and little "Frank" (who the older guys kept calling "Fred" which I thought was amusing because they were screwing up his fake american name) and I went along probably another mile of so. I got lots of cool pictures and some video. I was also amazed that I had cell phone reception, so I made a few calls :) The later it got, the hotter, and more crowded it got, which attracted many many bugs of undetermined species. The real bastards were the gnats which were everywhere, but there were also some awesome looking bugs that didn't bother us at all, including a few praying mantises (praying manti? praying mantiseseses?) Eventually Frank and the girls and I headed back so as not to keep the old guys waiting too long. On the return, the gnats were nearly unbearable, so i was actually glad to get the hell off the wall. On the way down the hill (we actually decended down a different trail than we went up mind you so I don't know how this guy found us) the little Chinese guy came running up to big "Fred" (Robby) and telling him to buy the big big T-shirt. I really have no idea how this guy spotted us and remembered the fake name that Robby gave him. Persistence is apparently the key to sales though, because Robby and Steve, after saying no a few times, ended up buying a few shirts from the guy. I was glad for the guy to have made the sale, and yet disappointed that his obnoxious tactics were being rewarded. I over-analyse, it's what I do.
After the descent, we drove to the site where they're building a huge crazy stadium for the Olympics next year. "Sally" said they called it the bird's nest. I'm not sure if that's because it looks like a bird's nest (you'll see the pictures) or because it is sponsored by Nestle (which she seemed to indicate something about, but our communication was not working too well so I pulled the old smile and nod). At any rate, it was an amazing design with very impressive construction. That being said, it looks like a big bird's nest, which looked kinda stupid.
Then came lunch. Wow. I would rather just post the pictures. There was a "lazy susan" style spiny thing in the middle of the table and everyone sort of grabs what they want and eats it. The specialty at the restaurant was duck, which I'm not at all opposed to, but the manner of serving it, and the things it was served with were enough to make me a light eater. One of the plates on the table had the duck's head severed in two. (enjoy!) Another was literally stacked with duck feet. Duck Feet. It wasn't gross though, because for those they removed the bone. There were also whole shrimp, which some of my readers would not be grossed out by, but I was. Especially when all their curly antennae where hanging off the plate into other plates and their little cooked black eyes were staring at me. ("why I can't see no mo?" they asked me) Thank Jeebus there was beef and chicken that tasted like it would in an american Chinese restaurant minus the vegetables. Oh, and we had a few beers (Tsungtao?) that were REALLY good. Like, I would gladly order it when I got back home. Sort of like a Heineken. After food and beers it was about 3pm (3am back home) and Barry was turning into Narcalarry (that one's for Jen and Lacey). We went back to the hotel, left the girls and "Frank""Fred" and split up saying we'd meet at 7:30 for dinner.
"That's enough time for a nap, a workout, a swim, and a little Aida rehearsal" I said to myself. I was awoken at 7pm by a man walking in my room asking if I wanted him to turn down the bed. I covered my half-nakedness and looked around confusedly while answering "no thanks". I was lucky that he woke me up though or else I would have definitely slept through dinner. I went downstairs to the lobby a little early and hit the bar up for a drink with some espresso in it to kick me up a little. (at the Executive lounge I had asked for Red Bull and they didn't know what it was. Then I asked for Mountain Dew and got an equally blank stare. I then asked for pop and they said "what?". I gritted my teeth and asked for soda and they were baffled by my wordage. I asked for a coke and lights went off all over their face. I ended up leaving the coke for the coffee drink at the downstairs bar.) We all met up and walked down the road to a restaurant for a well-deserved american style burger. They had rugby playing on the big screens and pretty but stinky waitresses. It was like I was back home. Sort of. We enjoyed a few more of my new favorite beer, Tsungtao and quickly were presented with our burgers. I, foolishly ordered mine Medium. The nearly raw patty was a bit like chewing on bubblegum without the fun bubbles or the tastey flavor. I didn't dare send it back to the kitchen, though. I just ate around the outside where it was the most cooked and drank my Tsungtao deeply. After 2 beers, we all headed back to the hotel, and the old guys called it a night. That's why I'm here blogging at 10:34 on a Saturday night.
I suppose it's time to go grab a beer and start some adventures to tell you about in the next post. Until then!