One Chapter: Chicken feet.
Trip Start Dec 05, 2010
1Trip End Dec 12, 2010
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Where I stayed
new century hotel, tongxiang
Time to go! I get to the departure gate and go to get my ticket and…hum, not in my bag….I look again….nope…not on the seat I sat in…..oh crap maybe I have left it in the bathroom?? I race back to find my usual stall occupied (what's with that? There are 20 toilets in here lady) and then try not to look to creepy by waiting outside it and dashing too quickly in when she was done (again 20 toilets in here lady…(it's 6am and 19 of the stalls are free…..) anyway no dice, my planner with my passport and tickets is nowhere to be found. It's time to clear customs so I run to an info desk where a woman tells me the airline have it and are waiting for me. Oh, fabulous. I go pick it up from a man who shakes his head, rolls his eyes and tells me to have a nice flight in a way that makes me think he is saying "How did you even survive high school?" And lets be honest, a valid question.
A generic customs clearance (I always get bomb searched and Hong Kong didn't disappoint, I just love the idea that I might be carrying a bomb and about to destroy the world. Or at least, a Boeing) and I was on my way. Dragon Air provided a classically uncomfortable ten inch radius for me to fall into a facially disfigured and muscle cramped state that only the cruelest doctor would call "sleep" for the duration, about 2 and a bit hours.
I would like to say that my arrival in Hangzhou was the stuff of legend, but all that happened was that I came out of the gates and saw a sign with my name on it, and hiding directly behind that A4 was a very small Chinese person, Yomi, who I have been communicating with for awhile, from the company I'm working with out here. She brought James, the owner of the company, James is 38 and has a wife and son and a terrible sense of direction. I wanted to hug them but I thought I might break Yomi and that is not something I want to be responsible for in a country where I can't understand anything except the writing for "meat" and where even the good public toilets make you question the very purpose of life and the existence of a higher power.
Anyway. After about ten minutes of looking for the car, we found James' BMW and got on the road. In China you can pretty much do anything, due to James' aforementioned lack of direction we actually came to a stop in the white median striped area of an off ramp while he tried to figure out how to get back to wherever we were going and made three phone calls. While we were parked in said area, two other cars pulled in, presumably for the same reason. Don't they manufacture the GPS here?
Anyway. We got to my hotel and they had to clean the room, there is a fiberglass convention here this week and so everything's a bit busy and a bit more expensive. This meant we had to come back later so we went to a "typical Chinese food restaurant" which means picking from tables of plastic covered food what you would like to eat and then they make it for you. In Japan this example food is actually plastic. Problem number one I couldn't see any real meat, just entrails and strange scary looking things. So I asked James just to choose. Seriously I would have just been guessing anyway. Weird thing in China you order different foods but everything comes out at the same time and you just eat it all together. My niece Emma would have loved it, she can be eating a taco and then yep, in goes a gummy snake and a spoonful of yoghurt, what? Guacamole? Join the party with some berry cheesecake. Anyway the point is that I was eating some brown tofu thing with fried ice-cream and then a dish of egg custard a la cockles. *shudder* lets never relive that again.
My hotel is pretty nice, I have a desktop in my room (would have preferred wireless but whatever) and it's costing a fair wage but it's convenient and James takes me everywhere anyway so my only real gripe is that China has banned Facebook and Youtube and Twitter and I would like to use this time to say that I don't know much about the Chinese government but anyone who won't let the public watch hilarious videos of laughing babies, sneezing pandas, people doing parkour or impersonating Shakira in the She wolf video, is NOT alright with me. Won't mention that to anyone here though. Might get shot or worse, be made to eat chicken feet. (Seriously. I made a video of the entrails that I ate.)
The last few days have just been me at the factory where the products are made, made some orders for samples and watched two seasons of Ugly Betty. Today I ventured out of the hotel room to walk around town. I had a tiny business card version of a map of surrounding streets and a credit card and camera. First stop: bank. I got out some unknown amount of money ( I haven't spent anything since I got here, James has picked up all the bills woop woop) and wandered around embarrassing myself in new and uncomfortable ways. I kept getting stared at, for one thing. In stores, literally, a girl stood within one foot of me while I was looking through a pile of sweaters. When I walked away she followed me. I kept checking to make sure my wallet was still in my pocket. At one point I had three girls all standing in a 5 foot diameter of me all chewing gum and pretending not to look at me. I literally have to push past one to continue looking at the clothes. Of course no one talks to me because they don't speak English. One lady babbled for ages while I had my mouth hanging open CLEARLY not understanding anything, then (to make it easier for me) she wrote it in chinese characters on the shoe box. THANK YOU. I understand a few characters but these ones had like 27 strokes each!
I found a supermarket which sells pretty much just the weirdest stuff. Most of it is plum based. But I found some Lays chips which were blueberry flavored and I'm not even kidding. Of course I bought them and plan to bust them out tomorrow. Or take them home so that everyone can be equally as intrigued. And possibly disgusted.I bought 6 seasons of HOUSE today for $8. There were a few different seasons of lots of things but nothing I really wanted and 40% of the english ones the guy had were various kinds of porn. I think one had something to do with an Orangutan, I'm just saying. In other news, I ate cow stomach...I just said, OK don't tell me what this is until after I've eaten it." And they didn't. It wasn't that bad, but why would you eat that when there are so many other delicious things in the world?
We went to Karaoke one night which was really funny but horrendous at the same time. My contact lenses started to freak out midway through because of all the crazy smoke. It was OK though because I rocked two Mariah Carey songs (no Evanescence???WHAT??) so it was Mariah and Avril all the way. I am now famous in some Chinese circles (I know that doesn't matter, but still…) and didn't even care about all the hotboxing that went on. Although I did smell SO BAD after. Hotpot (what it sounds like filled with everything you cam imagine…seriously. We had chicken feet, liver, heart, cow stomach, pig brains and more….SICK but also good things like tofu and prawns.) Hotpot makes you smell REALLY BAD and even worse is when you go to play pool after and then start to stink of smoke because everyone smokes in China. The combination of the two bears an uncanny resemblance to human bile and does not come out of your clothes and hair easily.
Yomi took me to Wuzhen which is kind of a water town but to be honest though it is beautiful it's just a tourist place and I got bored in like an hour. Got like 3 pictures before my camera ran out of battery (seriously the best time for me to have it. Typically I forgot to charge it the previous night because I was enthralled with the latest Ugly Betty scandal…) anyway the place was OK and we got the bus back which was interesting. We ate KFC and I had a shrimp burger with some chinese sauce and some kind of an egg pie?? WEIRD! But not bad. At Wuzhen while strolling past a cafe I heard a song that went (seriously) "Hello, hello, how are you, I'm fine, I'm fine, how about you, I'm fine I'm fine how about you??" And repeated that over and over in a pleasant singing voice, played from a loudspeaker. You would think that more people would be saying hello to me with that kind of motivation but nope, just the weird stares. Being in China makes me want to go back to Japan. Again, I am a giantess. I feel like Godzilla. Small children cower as if they're afraid I might eat them. OK they don't but I wouldn't be surprised if they did.
China is not my favorite place, but I had a good experience there. It was only an industrial zone town, I'm sure a big city like Shanghai or somewhere would be pretty cool.
On Saturday I woke up and went to the factory to pick up my samples, and Yomi said to me, "your flight today or tomorrow?" and I kind of thought OH CRAP and ran downstairs to check my itinerary. Sure enough, I was leaving that very afternoon !! And of course hadn't packed anything..so we went back to the hotel and packed my stuff, with a GARGANTUAN bag filled with napsac covers, I'm talking massive. Laughable. We checked out of the hotel and wrestled it into the back of a taxi (it weighed 27kg, about 60 pounds?) and went to the bus station so I could get the bus to the airport. After some creepy guys begged for coins and someone in a uniform shouted obscenities at us (I guess that's what they were. When I asked Yomi to translate she said "they yell very bad word. You don't imagine" I thought it was just a bit rough just because I didn't take their pamphlet written entirely in Chinese…apparently the only English word they knew was "YES" because they kept yelling it out randomly in between bursts of Chinese. Anyway we were lugging the planet sized bag between 3 of us and struggling, but we made it into the bus station and Yomi waited with me until it was time for the bus to come. Fairly uneventful trip but when I got to my check in counter my bag was way overweight and I had to do a bit of negotiating with the guy who was surprisingly really nice and after a bit of rearranging, I was ready to go!
I got bomb tested again and watched Ugly Betty while we waited for the plane. Unfortunately mid flight my battery died and so I was stuck with a dead laptop in Hong Kong because all the plugs are the wrong size! Hong Kong airport is so massive and reminds me a bit of that scene from the Labrynth where there are masses of levels and stairs everywhere. I counted 5 levels in some places and stairs, escalators and conveyor things everywhere you look, I half expected David Bowie to turn up with his goblin entourage. Sad that he didn't. Anyway the flight back (because of the spin of the earth) was an hour shorter and it really felt it. Other than the Chinese girl next to me who kept chattering and the fact that they ran out of the chicken before they got to me, not so bad of a flight. Upon my arrival in Auckland I waited for an hour at the baggage carousel talking to an eight year old about Minnie Mouse whilst wondering if my low-quality fabric bag had somehow split open mid flight and spewed its contents throughout the cargo hold. After confirming that Princess Ariel was better than Snow White, the bag turned up in the oversized luggage bit and I made a dash for the x-ray machine hoping my mum hadn't given up and gone home.
Long story short, she hadn't. And I was HOME.