Thursday, January 25, 2007


I had a delightful conversation with an elderly foreign man lastnight.

It's so strange to call white English speaking people "foreigners" but that is the reality here. So I was extremely surprised to see him walk into KFC while I was indulging in a delicious sandwich (I never eat KFC in Canada but since being here I've become an addict for various reasons). Cass and Andrea dared me to go speak with him and because I'm not really scared of anything, least of all a kind looking older man, I went up and interrupted his dinner and shook his hand. And I knew right away that he was a gentleman because he stood up and insisted that I sit down before he did the same. His accent was heavy as he was originally from Scotland, but now he resides in London. I cannot express to you how strange this meeting was for me. The only 2 people I can speak regular English with (without slowing down my speach in a major way) are Andrea and Cassandra, and to finally add a third person into this equation was just too surreal.

So what was this man doing in such a city as this? After 5 minutes of him speaking in his heavy heavy accent, I discovered that he is here for the grand opening of a Ramada hotel in the neighbouring city, YiWu. Turns out he is the vice prez of Ramada Hotels in Asia. Impressive. He's obviously loaded and it showed. What with that fine looking trenchcoat of his and his gold rings. Tres impressive. Of course I tried to get a deal out of him when I stay in Shanghai next time, but he forgot the name of the owner at one of the Shanghai Ramada suites so .... no deal. But what I did get out of him was an indepth 30 - 45 minute conversation about the world. Two people that are so far from home; the conversation always veers towards that subject. It's so big and accessible. I just thought I'd let you know how blown away I was by this epic event. And this is coming from someone who will be in Canada in approximately 48 hours. Surrounded by blonde haired blue eyed "foreigners".

I've been thinking that the lack of attention that I get in Canada compared to the loads I get for being blonde haired / blue eyed in China will crush me. I have gotten so used to the stares that I'm sure I'll miss them. Rejected, downtrodden, Dejected, etc will be my state of mind 48 hours from now.

And what's with women watching pornographic movies at this internet cafe? The men never do, only women! What is up with that?


Saturday, January 20, 2007

What have we been up to?



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Land of Oz

It's not that I'm going through culture shock or that I dramatically roll my eyes and knock my head against the wall everytime I venture outside my door.

It's just that nothing that I could have learned in any culture and customs classes could ever have prepared me for the status quo in China. Especially in such a city as Dongyang that is so isolated from the rest of society. It's great that China is attempting to open its doors to the world and prove what a developed country they are, but even speaking for open minded people everywhere, I boldly state that China has a long way to go.

It's weaknesses are its strengths and vice versa - but how twisted it all seems when I take a step back and compare this country to my own, Canada.

Example number one: The Bank. This girl is going home in less than 2 weeks, fact. Don't tell anyone, but I have a large sum of money, not dirty, that needs to go with me. And it's in cash form. And it's quite thick. And like everything else here it has Mao Zedong's mugshot front and centre. Naturally my options would be to open a bank account with the Bank of China and wire this money over to my Canada Trust account, or to exchange it to Canadian funds and bring it over, or (as Cassandra suggested) buy a huge ass fanny pack and stow it away under my clothing on the 17 hour flight back home and pray no one steals it. I see a problem with every one of these options.

Firstly, I was informed today through an interpretor that wire transfers take one week and cost 200 yuan per. Let's take into consideration the fact that I'm leaving very soon and don't have 7 days to sit and wait and see if my money finds its way home. Plus I'll take into consideration the fact that absolutely no help can be found on the spot and takes about 4 days to line up and schedule and reschedule, I hope you will come to the same conclusion as me: I simply can't wire my money back home, by the time it "get's there" I will already be on a plane and chances are something will go wrong on the Chinese side and it'll be too late for me to make things right.

"It's no problem to exchange Chinese Yuan to Canadian Dollars," they say with a smile on their faces. And the exchange rate is 100:66 according to the board on the left, which makes me a rich woman - sort of. But upon coaxing and coaxing the bankers for an answer they inevitably come up short: they have no Canadian Dollars to buy, only US. Big surprise and actually I'm sure if pushed on about US funds, they'd eventually have the same answer for me. I must make an appointment to exchange my money so they have the opportunity to import the Dollars from Shanghai. Something tells me this will take 12 days when all is said and done, and yet I only have 11 to spare. No chance.

But why don't you just take the RMB with you on the plane and be safe about it? Well Doctor, my answer to you would be that despite the fact that hair bands and giant scrunchies (relics from '92) are still wildy popular in China, I have yet to spot a fanny pack, even a pink one. And this money just won't fit inside my money belt, it refuses, it's that big. Plus I'm even unsure of the legality of this procedure. I've been told many times that it's illegal to take any Chinese Money outside of the country, unless of course you have a permit or permission or whatnot. Many people seem to think so, especially Chinese people. I don't wish to take this sort of risk.

So there is my gaint, stuffy dilemma. If only China's (or at least Dongyang's) policies regarding foreigners and their money weren't so primative. You should have seen the look on these bankers' faces, honestly. It's like they had no clue what they are getting themselves into. I'm sure most of them had never even been faced with a remotely similar situation in their lives. And yet they work at an "international" banking institution. Interesting.

But really, how can I blame them? Is it their fault that a huge amount of people are leaving the country and very few people, oddballs like me and some others, are coming into it? They have very little opportunity to experience the ways of other countries and their people. I on the other hand have daily reality checks that teach me "there is a whole other world out there more different than you could have ever imagined, and everything is backwards and forwards at the same time".

Like my good friend Andrea says to me: "we aren't in Kansas anymore". It's a little cheesy, but be my guest and visit China for a few months and you will heartily agree.


Saturday, January 13, 2007

New Laundry

Don't get bitter, be creative. Just like me. Look at me, not being bitter about losing months of precious work. Couldn't care less, right here.
And as a special tribute to joyful nonbitterness, here are some fun pictures from a couple weeks ago.

At XiShan Park: a bumper balls project where your goal is to be the King of the water arena and knock around the other balls. My only two fears were a punture in the soft plastic leading to a leak and then drowning and death or lack of oxygen leading to suffocation and also leading to death. Fortunately neither of these things happened and I discovered my new favourite sport (which would never ever happen in Canada, silly!).
And some cleverly photoshopped photos from Fri Nite Hotpot

Andrea and Cassandra eating various witch-like foodstuffs. Mmmmm Octopus.

And for those of you who really have nothing else to do, take a look at my bare bold room, all blue and stuff. This is where I sit and contemplate Chinese-type things; I've become quite a little philosopher thanks to the lack of visual distractions in my domain.
I'll be home in Canada for a one month vacation two weeks from today at midnight. Please don't bother me for 4 days after that as I'll be recovering from extreme jetlag and I'll probably be flaunting that fact because it sounds oh so continental.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Fall of my Life

This could be a guidebook designed to keep you sane and breathing. But. In reality I'm only trying to make my story even more fantastic.

There I was. At the Internet Bar as per usual. I was eating Ramen Noodles and my mother in Canada informed me via MSN that Mr. Ramen passed on. So, not only was I sidetracked with this heartbreaking news, but my friend RL who works at said Internet Bar was speaking to me about how many sisters he has (24).

When all of the sudden there was a flash fire. Right there in the middle of the internet cafe. Infront of me I had several hundred pieces of paper, all with memories and pictures and video written on them. I had been working on this volume for quite some time but my mind was elsewhere. Fire. Sisters. Ramen. All too much to bare. The sprinkler system kicked in just in the Nick of Time. Pandemonium was avoided. But. At the expense of my Several Hundred Sheets of Memories. Firstly they were skorched by the fire. Then they were waterlogged and washed down the drain.

100 memories lost forever.

And thus begins the rebirth of this blog. Long live techonology and the accidental deletion of months worth of painstaking sarcasm.