Friday, June 29, 2007

money don't mean a thing

I had to go to Chicago for a couple of days to attend this "expected but not required" orientation meeting at the American Bar Association (for a judicial clerkship that I got awarded). So, I had to get a hotel for two nights and I really didn't want to spend more than $250 (yes, pricey, but I didn't want to stay in the ghetto). The Boy helped me make the hotel accommodations.

The first hotel The Boy reserved for me was the Four Points Sheraton at Chicago Midway Airport. My flight didn't get into Chicago until 1am, so I didn't want to go too far to get to the hotel. It was a great hotel, even at the $150 a night pricetag. I had a suite, with a king size bed that had down pillows and comforters. Free wireless internet in the room, and 24 hour room service. Too bad it wasn't closer to downtown Chicago, because I might have stayed there for a second night.

The second hotel The Boy reserved for my second night in Chicago was the Allerton Hotel, at $199 a night. Yes, this is over my budget, but The Boy offered to pay for the difference because he wanted me to stay in a safe neighborhood. Isn't that sweet of him? Too bad the hotel's quality didn't meet the price:
1. The room was tiny. It was really, really small for $199 a night. There was a queen size bed, with a sheet for a blanket. Okay, there was some thin little comforter but it wasn't thick and soft like the down comforter at the Sheraton. There was no bathtub. It was only a stand alone shower. There was no separate bottle of shampoo or conditioner but only one bottle of "conditioning shampoo". And there was no free bottle of water.
2. There was no wireless internet in the rooms. The only place to get wireless internet was in the lobby area. Yes, it was free internet, but still. I would have paid $9.99 to be able to use my laptop in the comfort of the bed.
3. There was no room service. Seriously, no room service. No menu to order from. Nothing. Nada. They only had this doorknob hangy thing that you could fill out for breakfast, which doesn't start until 6am. So because I woke up at 5am, I had to wait an hour for them to deliver my breakfast. Come on now, for $199 a night, you should be at my beck and call.
4. I get a pet roach.

Yes, a two inch giant roach -- the kind you only see in Southeast Asia. This is seriously the first giant cockroach I have seen in the US. Too bad I saw it at 5am in the morning. Otherwise, I would have demanded a new room.
Although The Boy paid for the room at the Allerton, he was really glad he didn't have to stay in the hotel because he would have raised all sort of hell to get his money's worth. Well, at least he tried to give me luxury. It's the thought that counts, right?

planes, trains and automobiles

Monday, June 25, 4:00 pm, Beijing
--Air China Flight from Beijing to San Francisco.
--Aisle seat in middle section with an empty seat right next to me. Unfortunately, there was a screaming baby in the row in front of me, two screaming toddlers in the row behind me, and about half a dozen five year olds in the surrounding area.
--Thank goodness for prescription sleeping pills. Otherwise, there might have been some disappearing children on board the plane.
--11 hours later, arrive in San Francisco at 12:30pm on Monday, June 25 -- TIME TRAVEL!!

Tuesday, June 26, 7:00pm, Oakland
--Southwest flight from Oakland to Chicago.
--Due to Southwest's "seat yourself, first come first serve" policy, I decided to seat myself in the middle seat of the third row, thinking that I'll get off the plane quicker. Unfortunately again, there were two screaming babies seated in the row in front of me, one toddler behind me who kept kicking the back of my seat and about a half dozen five year olds in the surrounding area.
--Unfortunately, the flight was only three hours so I couldn't take a sleeping pill. The other two adults in my row, along with myself, were seriously comtemplating how we could make the crazy children disappear.
--Three and a half hours later, arrive in Chicago at 1am.

Wednesday morning, June 27, 1:00 am, Chicago.
--Check into Four Points Sheraton at Midway Airport.
--SCORE for the free shuttle service that was still running after midnight.
--SCORE for the great bedroom The Boy reserved for me.
--SCORE for a wonderful night's rest on a plush, king sized bed.
--No score for the fact that I woke up at 5am and couldn't go back to sleep until 10 am, but then had to get up in order to check out by noon.

Wednesday afternoon, June 27, 1:00pm, Chicago downtown, Magnificent Mile
--Take a taxi from Midway Airport to Allerton Hotel located in downtown Chicago.
--Attempt to check-in to hotel but was told room was not ready. Lug two suitcases downstairs to leave with the bellboy. Go back upstairs to the lounge to find some lunch and was told by the front desk that the room is actually ready now. Was told that bellboy will deliver luggage to room.
--2:00pm, bellboy didn't deliver luggage but can't wait anymore because time to go to the ABA office for the orientation meeting.
--5:00pm, attempting to stay awake at a meet and greet reception hour at the ABA office. Body wants sleep but brain says to keep awake so as not to drop the glass of wine.
--8:00pm, walk through Magnificent Mile back to hotel, in a dress suit and heels, and get dinner along the way. At hotel, call bellboy to deliver luggage so I can change into some PJs.
--crash on the bed.

Thursday, June 27, 5am, Chicago
--wake up at 5am and watch nonsense television until time to go to Union Station.
--8:00am check out of hotel and take a taxi to Amtrak Station at Union Station in Chicago.
--Lug two suitcases down two flights of stairs because the damn escalators are going up and not down, and there is no elevator in sight.
--Get train tickets and board train.
--9:24am on board a train headed for Bloomington, Illinois.
--12:00 noon, arrive in Bloomington, Illinois. Drop big suitcase on your foot and get a bloody toe as a result. That's right, no one offered to help this poor little girl with her two giant suitcases.
--Sit around the Amtrak station in Bloomington and wait for the one bus that leaves for Peoria at 4:45pm. SOmehow manage to find lunch during that time period.
--5:00pm, see the bus and board it.
--6:00pm, arrive in Peoria. Meet the nice woman renting out her spare bedroom.
--9:00pm, see big bed. Crash and sleep until noon the next day.

Yep, two plane rides, a train ride and a bus ride. All that in four days. Plus, a wounded big toe that is still bleeding as I type.

I deserve some sort of medal.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Fridays on a Wednesday

Two of my classmates and I are currently interning at a Chinese law firm in Beijing. This is our last week of our internship. The lunch hours are from 11:30 to 1:30, but no one really takes the entire time for lunch. The interns, aka the Americans, decided to cash in on that two hour window today and had lunch at TGIFridays.

Instead of the usual three amigos for lunch today, there was only two of us. And we ordered A LOT OF FOOD for just two people.

Three for All -- buffalo wings, potatoe skins and mozzorella sticks.

Three flavored calamari.

Tex Mex Triple Tower -- fried jalapenos, quesadilla and nachoes.
Two hours, two beers, two long island iced teas, two spiked strawberry lemonade and a blue martini later....

Yes, all that food was consumed by only two people.

hot pot crazy

"Hot Pot" is a form of cook-it-yourself eating experience that usually results in really good food. However, the process of ordering the raw dishes is just a complicated process, and is even more difficult when language is an issue. I just wanted to pull my hair out after I finished ordering these dishes for lunch yesterday:

Conversation with Waitress who doesn't know a lick of English and Me who only has an elementary grasp of Mandarin:

Me: We want to order mutton and beef.

Waitress: Okay, sounds good. Which kind of mutton and beef do you want?

Me pointing at pictures in the menu: We want one of this mutton and one of this beef.

Waitress frowning: Aww, no, that's not good.

Me: Why not?

Waitress: That's too much food for you.

Me: Okay, we'll just have one plate of mutton then.

Waitress: oh, but that's not enough for three people.

Me: Okay, then we'll have a plate of mutton and a plate of beef.

Waitress: That's too much for three people.

Me: Well what do you suggest we get then?

Waitress: A plate of mutton and a plate of beef.

Me: But I just showed you a plate of mutton and a plate of beef and you said that was too much for three people!

Waitress: No, this plate of mutton is okay. But this plate of beef is for seven people.

Me: Okay fine, just a plate of mutton then.

Waitress: That's not going to be enough for three people.

Me: Well then why don't you just get us whatever you think is enough for three people to eat. Whatever amount it is, we want mutton and beef.

Waitress: Okay, I'll get you this plate of mutton and that plate of beef.

Me: Okay. Done.

Waitress: Would you like some vegetables? Mutton and beef alone isn't enough for three people.

And this is when I start pulling out my hair and pounding my head on the table. After another fifteen minutes, the waitress and I finally agreed on an appropriate amount of food for three people. And it was way too much food.

Mutton on the left, beef on the right, and peanut satay dipping sauce on the bottom.

Live shrimp! If I knew how to do it, I have a video that shows the shrimp were still moving.

In the center is the "hot pot" where you put all the raw food in it, mutton/beef/live shrimp, and cook it until it's ready to eat.

I am eating so much good Asian food that I think I will go into withdrawal when I return to the states.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

most expensive cell phone bill ever

My cell phone works in China.

My cell phone is on only for emergency calls. Primarily for my mom because for some odd reason every Beijing phone number I give her doesn't work (she claims she can't dial it).

Emergency calls also include calls from The Boy.

Cingular charges me $2.99 a minute for "roaming internationally."

Cingular emailed me a phone bill today. It wanted $179.89 for the last month's usage.

And that doesn't even include all the money I spent on phonecards for the last month.

Only two more weeks in China....only two more weeks in China.

Friday, June 08, 2007

wild jujube drink

[conversation in Chinese]

Me: Is this wild jujube drink good?

Waitress: I think it's very good. You want to try?

Me: What does it taste like?

Waitress: Sweet and sour. Not like soda though.

Me: What the heck, give me a bottle of Wild Jujube.

Ten minute laters, the waitress brings out this bottle (looks like a root beer bottle) with a straw in it. I take one sip and immediately realize that I just ordered prune juice.

Prune juice to go along with a beef steak lunch. Yummmmmy. Not.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

time for some food pictures

This is snake wine. I think I saw two snake heads so I'm assuming there are about two snakes in this bottle of wine. The guys drank it. The girls did not. The girls kept clicking on their cameras as they squealed in disgust. The guys said it tasted like rubbing alcohol (and then proceeded to take a second shot).Alright, now that the weirdest thing is out of the way, on to more normal looking food.

----- ----- -----

A banana split. Yes, they do exist in China. Except, this only had strawberry and vanilla ice-cream, no chocolate.

Have you seen those GIANT martini glasses or those huge glasses that are usually used to make a giant size margherita to share among the table? Well, here's a giant size champagne glass and it had some fruit cocktail concoction in it. Nope, didn't try it.
This is a sticky rice "dumpling" wrapped in banana leaves.
To keep your hands from getting sticky with the glutinous rice, they provide you with these plastic gloves.
See, use glove to peel off banana leaves and your hands are sticky free!

Food art. Broccolli for the bushes and the tops of the trees. A tomato for a sun. Rice as the chickens' bodies. Carrots, sausage and duck made the mountains. It was so pretty, no one really touched it. Or maybe it was because the sausage tasted funny.

Here, the infamous fish dish with head attached. How would you like to eat something that kept staring back at you? Well, you get it all the time here.
According to the menu provided, the name of this dish is "Mountain of herbal scallops." Let me tell you what it really was: the fried stuff around the white mountain is fried fish -- I think; the white stuff tasted like whipped egg; and the red stuff inside the mountain is really shrimp covered in tomato sauce. Not sure how all that equaled to "herbal scallops."
Mini meat patties. It was popular at my table. All the Americans were eating it.
Can't forget dessert! This is an ice-cream sundae, which tasted as good as it looks.

atypical shoe person

Guy: So, how many pairs of shoes do you have now?

Me: Hmm...well, including this pair of flip flops I bought in Beijing, I have three pairs.

Guy: Only three?

Me: Yep.

Guy: Huh. That's very atypical.

Me: What? Atypical?

Guy: Yeah, you're an atypical kind of shoe person.

Me: I'm an atypical kind of shoe person? Well, how many shoes did you pack for this trip? I didn't want to pack my entire closet of shoes, although I really wanted to.

Guy: Ohhhhh, you only have three pairs of shoes in Beijing?

Me: Yes. Didn't you ask about how many pairs of shoes I have right now?

Guy: I meant how many you had at home, back in the states.

Me: Oh. Well, in that case, I think I have about thirty pairs of shoes, which includes everything from dressy to summer to running shoes.

Guy: That's a good amount.

Me: Am I still atypical?

Guy: No, you're just a normal girl now.

not that kind of massage

I've been hearing rumors that you can get an hour massage for around 100 yuan (the equivalent of $14 US). So one of my classmate/apartment-mate and I decided to go get a massage after dinner. I have not been able to explore the area around our new apartment in Beijing and was relying on my classmate to lead us to the massage place. He wanted a female to come along with him so that the people at the massage parlor didn't think he wanted something other than a real massage.

Little did I know he would take me to a "massage parlor, " if you know what I mean.

First of all, there was this HUGE, FlAsHiNg sign that had "MASSAGES" in English and Chinese. You could see the sign from blocks away, so we should have been skeptical when we were not able to find the front door when we reached the location of the sign. But we looked further into the adjoining hotel, saw another flipboard sign that said "Thai Massages, Deep Tissue" and thought "Score!" and high-fived one another. However, we still couldn't find the entrance to this massage place, so asked the first guy we ran into -- who happened to work at the "massage parlor" -- and followed him down a set of stairs leading to the basement As soon as I walked through the door, my alarms were going off and I knew we should have ran out of there as quickly as we were being shoved inside.

Clues that this massage parlor was meant for "happy endings":

1. As soon as you walked through the door, a wave of cigarette smoke washed over your entire body.

2. There were only men in the waiting area, and only men came out of the door leading to the other rooms, and only men were going in and out of the bathrooms.

3. "Full Body Massage", "Resting Room", and "Help Bath" were among the options on the actual list of services.

4. The other men in the room kept staring at me with a sick, icky smile on their faces.

5. When asked if we could see the rooms, the manager said that my classmate and I could have our massages "together."

6. When we saw the actual room where a massage supposedly took place, the room looked like a hotel room, complete with a king size bed, bathroom, body oil and other stuff. Even better was that there was a guy changing out the sheets to the bed.

So yeah, after we saw the king size bed, we ran out of there. Along the way, we saw a few scantily clad women walking down the stairs into the massage parlor. I think they were the providers of the happy endings.

But, our night didn't end on a sour note--a very weird kind of note I guess--because we walked to a "Beautyful Angle Face" salon and inquired about their body massage services. They looked more like a spa than a house of prostitution, which made me a lot more comfortable in negotiating a price with the manager. For some odd reason though, they have different prices and services for females and males. My classmate, the male, was able to get the 60 minute full body massage for 100 yuan -- but he had to keep his clothes on and he had to stay in the small massage room on the ground floor.

I, on the other hand, was taken upstairs into the floor of paradise. Once inside my own personal massage room, I was instructed to strip down and take a shower before lying on the massage table (the real one with a hole on one end for her face), and then I actually got a hot oil massage. The tiny, little lady who did my massage was super strong in kneading my muscles because now the muscles in my shoulders and back hurt as if I had an extra hard work-out. The final difference was that my hot oil massage lasted only 40 minutes and it cost 120 yuan. It felt damn good so I'm not complaining.

The manager told me that for a female, a 90 minutes full body hot oil massage is only 480 yuan, roughly $62 US. Sold! See you next week!