Friday, July 22, 2011

So long, China!

I'm off to the land of killer grocery stores and instantaneously loading YouTube videos. Hoo-ray!

It's the Communist Party's 90th burfday this year, so all around town their are dear posters like this one (I did not take this photo, a friend did). In honor of the momentous occasion, there's some awful movie at right now called The Founding of a Party and the gov't is making us all wait to see Harry Potter because they don't want to have to compete against it at the box office. So in other words, I couldn't have picked a better time for vacation.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bad China Day #2 turns out that in addition to your passport, work visa, alien employment permit, employment agreement and proof of regular income - you also need to go to the tax bureau and get your tax papers in order to buy more than US$500 per day from a Chinese bank.

Did I mention it takes no less than half an hour to process and stamp all the paperwork for changing money, no matter how small the sum?


Sunday, July 17, 2011

The week in review

I've been so busy catching up from my Xinjiang trip and preparing for my two-week vacay (!!!), but here are a few interesting bits that happened between the work overload:

This week one of my co-workers was writing something and posed a question to the room: What was the name of the occupational Japanese government in Shanghai? I turned and ask my assistant (who is a Shanghai native and majored in history). She shook her head in disbelief. As if I'd just ask what the name of the occupational Martian government was, so I sent her a link to the wikipedia page. She was blown away, had never learned about in school.

We're babysitting my boss' rescue dog. This is a trial weekend (since I'm allergic to dogs). But it's gone well so far and we're thinking we'll keep her on while he returns to Australia for five weeks. I always see plenty of Chinese people out walking their dogs, although usually they're teeny little rat dogs or big fluffy white purebreds, not scrappy mutts. Nevertheless, I was surprised when I took her out for a walk the first time. Some people would bend over, coo, say something nice, and then roughly an equal number of people would grumble and/or recoil in fear, making a big deal about giving her a wide berth. She's very calm and sweet, and she's not very big, so it's odd.

On Friday night I went to a party on the Bund and this guy came up to me and told me I was the Russian lady in some exercise video. I said, "No, sorry, that's not me." And then he got really indignant and maybe a little angry, "Yes you are!"

And that's all the bizarre China shenanigans for this week...

Monday, July 4, 2011

Ready to go home

Phew, it's been a long nine days. Finally, this is my last night in Wulumuqi, we fly home tomorrow. After I got food poisoning, it was hard to re-muster enthusiasm. I've been ready to go home for several days now. It also didn't help that they put us on a crazy schedule. Our days were packed with long bus rides between factories, railway stations and wholesale malls (we're in some of the most beautiful country China has to offer - and that's where we spent most our time). Once we got to these brilliant locations some Han Chinese guy (almost without fail it was a Chinese man) would introduce the place, in the foyer or whatever, we usually didn't even get to look around much - something that could've made it interesting - and then we'd hop back on the bus. It was essentially a heap of driving to obtain info that could've been relayed in press releases.

On Saturday the PR guy for one county squeezed in an extra business park and so our drive was delayed to the next county and we didn't sit down to dinner until 11pm.

All day Sunday was boring business visits, then we had an overnight train, then breakfast in Wulumuqi and then a meeting where we went around the table and told the provincial PR folks how much we liked the trip. And I was all, "Meeting?! I haven't showered or changed my clothes in 24 hours!"

So I peaced-out of the afternoon activities with a couple others. Our team leader tried to bar us from leaving the hotel as a small group because it's around the anniversary of the Xinjiang riots, which was totally over-the-top, so he eventually changed his mind.

In my first free afternoon in more than a week I had KFC for lunch, the most delicious KFC of my life after all that Kazakh/Chinese hotel food. Then we went shopping and walking around (did see a few SWAT teams posted about).

At dinner they were going around doing bai jiu shots. They only had three glasses, so they were making people take turns. Gross alcohol on top of gross hygiene. I only finished half of mine and poured the rest out into my empty soup bowl because it practically made me dry heave. The guy serving told me I was being rude.

We got back to the hotel (after 11) and our team leader says "Everyone come to my room so I can download all your pictures and upload them in one place!" And honestly my pictures are not that awesome (there were a bunch of pros on this trip), my camera was acting up and my throat hurts. So I didn't go. I can see where some people will think I'm being standoffish. Maybe I am, but after 9 days of non-stop, forced togetherness, I'm going to give myself a pass.

If I had it to do over again, I still would. We drove through some great countryside and I got to take a picture of the Kazakh border. However, I think I've filled my state-run tour and Chinese grain alcohol quotas for a good long while.