Sunday morning felt great for some reason. After the fears of dying subsided, I just had a great morning. I think it's because I'm getting used to my routine. I hate day one in a hotel because I don't yet have a routine, and EVERYTHING takes so long to do when you're figuring it all out. Especially for me, because I'm the type that will spend a little extra time deciding how to do things the first time so that they are more efficient every subsequent time I do them. For example, brushing my teeth here is a rather labor-intensive task. I don't use the sink water, so I have to find my toothbrush, paste it, dribble bottled water on it, brush, rinse the brush with sink water, pour bottled water in glass, rinse brush again, sip from bottle, rinse mouth, spit. If I'm groggy it would be easy to accidentally suck down some sink water, and while it probably wouldn't really hurt me to drink a little, I would be so mad that I went to such great efforts not to and then accidentally did.
The point of all that rambling is that yesterday morning I got my routine down. I now, wake up way too early, blog, get cleaned up, check my work email, and head down to breakfast. Here's where I really became a pro. The breakfast spread is so big that the first time I went I couldn't possibly have done it right. But sweet sweet yesterday, I ordered eggs from the egg dude, ordered a waffle from the waffle lady, then made some toast for myself all in immediate succession so they all were ready one after the other. I also am strangely intrigued by porridge of late. Grossies? I know, but it's kinda good.
We were met by a new cast of Chinese tour guides from our sister company after breakfast, one with a new fake american name. Zhong Yuming and "Cassy" were waiting for us in the lobby as I came back from a last email check in my room. Off we went to the forbidden city. I must say that most of the forbidden city was not nearly as cool as the Great Wall to me. We saw Tiananmen Square and lots of big red buildings. This place was a palace for the Emperor, and no one but his servants were allowed in it. It was seriously probably a mile long and a quarter mile wide surrounded by a moat. It was ridiculously big and every building in it pretty much looked the same. Even the room with old musical instruments didn't turn my gears too much. The one moment of relief that I had from red, gold, and blue paint on huge buildings was near the back of the palace in the garden. I can't describe the relief I felt walking through the last red wall into a lush green and brown area. I was assaulted with fresh growing smells and twisting old trees, which was so different from the smell of old bricks and dusk. Some of the trees were 300 years old. That's older than the United States for you history buffs. Insano. But just as I was starting to enjoy the Forbidden City, my old colleagues were ready to go. Sigh. The other thing of note were the beggars. These were not New York City beggars that have a quirky sign like "Who am I kidding, I need a drink". These were people with diseased and crying children with obvious physical ailments on display and outstretched hands. It was one of the more horrible things I've seen. Then some guy that was missing a hand started hitting us up for money. Dude, did you see the kid with boils? Get outta here, lots of people have no hands. So yeah, that was all weird.
I realize I haven't yet described the air in this city, which has had a huge effect on me physically. Let's put it this way, any car that you walk past that has been parked for more than a day is caked with a layer of god knows what. I've been told it's just pollution. They have little to no regulations on what they put into the air, and it really shows. We drove past a power plant in the middle of the city yesterday. A coal burning power plant, right next to a seafood restaurant. Yum! I have been riddled with sinus issues since I got here, and hack like a smoker a couple times a day. It's pretty awful. It really affects the amount of time it takes for me to be done with outdoor activities. Some people walk around wearing masks on their faces. I don't blame them, and if I were staying for a long time I would probably do the same. I sometimes pretend those people are singers and they are protecting their voices. Sorry, it just make me happy, don't judge.
We went to lunch at a different restaurant next. It was so good. I don't know if it was especially good for me because I better described to our guides what I wanted to eat, or just luck of the draw. Either way it was the best meal I've had in the city. Let me describe restaurants in China as I now understand them from having been to 2. I don't know if they're all like this, but both of ours were. You pull up to the front door, and the building is literally the size of a hotel. There are many rooms on different floors and they each have 1 to 5 circular tables in them with a "lazy susan" type spinny thing in the middle. Your party sits around the table, and the one who sits at the plate with the napkin sticking up is the "host". They are also supposed to pay for the meal. After someone orders in Chinese for a long time, food starts to come out. A plate of food of questionable origins is placed on the spinny thing and spun to be in front of the host. He then dishes for himself and spins to the next person. This goes on and on as more plates of crazy looking food are brought to the table. No exaggeration, yesterday I think we had 15 to 20 different plates of food. Most of which were really good. It's a very different way of eating that lends itself much more to conversation. You only eat a little at a time, and then spin and take a little more, then eat a little more. It's a nice change from the way americans eat, but I wouldn't want every meal to be that way. There was a plate of broccoli, a plate of noodles, and a plate of spicy beef that were all very good. I just didn't understand why they were not all mixed together on my big american plate so I could chow it all down and stop talking so much. Confusing. Oh, and on the way out of the restaurant the leader of our team of servers stopped me and said "Excuse me sir, you speak Chinese?" I said no. She then gave me a card that was in Chinese and said "My name is Liu Jinli" pointing to is as if I could read it. Then she flipped it over and it was English on the other side, or I wouldn't have remembered her name, silly. She then pointed to the number and handed it to me. I think I got my first Chinese digits, but she could have been trying to get me to by her child, I really have no idea. I said "xie xie" (si-eh si-eh) which means thank you and boogied outta there.
We left the restaurant very full and I began my habit of slipping into a comatose state. It gets to be about 3 in the morning Ohio time with a full belly and a few pints of beer in me. This usually means that it's time to crash. But instead we headed to the Pearl Market for some shopping. I was intrigued by the idea of 5 floors of haggling, so I woke up quickly when we got there. Most of the items were pretty forgettable. There were lots of knock-off brands like fake puma shoes and fake iPods. (I really wonder if they work at all) As I walked down the shoe and bag isle, I couldn't keep a straight face. Young girls were yelling from every direction at me and pulling my arms to look at their crappy fake shoes and bags. It was just so weird and funny I literally laughed the entire time. I couldn't even look at anything to consider buying it because of the assault. "HEY! You buy from me, I give you best price. HELLO! What you buy from me?" It was just funny, until I passed a girl that didn't make a sale and she got a very harsh glare from her mother. Sigh, and in comes the downer. All in all I spent probably $20 and bought a T-Shirt and a fake Diesel bag. Not too shabby. I had no interest in the pearls or fake Rolexes, because I have no interest in pearls or real Rolexes. Supposedly the pearls are real though and are very cheap. Bill got some for his wife because that's what men do. They buy things for their wives, even when it doesn't make sense, because it makes them happy. This is a life lesson I really need to swallow, but I've never been good at it.
Off we went to the hotel, and my afternoon nap. We planned to meet at 7:30 again for dinner. The guys called me at 7:45 and woke me up asking if I was coming. Then they said don't worry about it, they weren't that hungry anyways. So, I just kept sleeping. That's why I woke up at about 12:30 and started typing this post. Dammit. I need to fix my sleeping patterns.
So today is the day of reckoning. The day I pay the piper. They day I earn my keep. The day I prove it was worth it for the company to send me here. I must say I'm nervous because I don't really know what the work day will entail entirely. I'm nervous because I'm afraid they will ask me things that I can't easily answer. Most of all, while I'm unloading my insecurities, I'm nervous they will look at me with a face saying, why the hell did you travel thousands of mile to come here if you can't answer my questions. I think these are all irrational fears though, because the truth is, I know a lot about my product. I'm actually very glad for ever time I asked questions back home to the point of annoying my seniors because I wanted to understand something. It's a part of my nature to try and define something entirely in my mind, sometimes to the chagrin of my explain-er. But it's because of that nature that I know a lot about my product and will be able to confidently answer questions. Hopefully.
Anyways, thanks for travelling through my yesterday with me. It wasn't as exciting as the hookers for me either, I know. I've not really gone out drinking since I've been here and hope that after work today some people will want to go out. Then I will have grande stories of great drinkiness. So, pray for me as I earn my keep today, and know I'm fondly looking forward to seeing all your smiling faces again :)
Your Weary Traveler