Steve's China Blog

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Vacation planning

I started thinking about my winter vacation when I got back from my trip to the US. There are a lot of great places to visit, and I generally want to visit countries that I have not been to before. Initially there was not a lot of information about flights leaving and entering China online, which I think was because they do not update their flight databases as quickly as other countries. Eventually though I could find enough information online to make some decisions.

Initially I had 2 destinations at the top of my list that I wanted to visit... One is Bali in Indonesia and the other is Australia. Now I do not know who comes up with flight plans and schedules for flights around here, but looking online I found some really terrible options to get to these destinations. There was one flight path that was like ChengDu to Beijing, then to Tokyo, then to LA, then to San Francisco, then to Sydney... forget that! One round-trip flight to Bali was to fly from ChengDu to Shanghai, then to Singapore, then to Bali, then to Perth Australia, then to Hong Kong, and then to ChengDu. I did try to figure out a vacation where I could stay in all of these places, but the amount of time flying was just too much.

I was leaning toward going to Bali, but then started reading news articles (such as this one) about a lot of volcanic activities in Indonesia recently, and since I had heard of Krakatoa before (see history here) I decided Australia would be a safer bet. I decided on a flight that would go from ChengDu to Shanghai, and then on to Auckland New Zealand where I could visit some friends during Christmas. After that I could fly to Sydney and then on to the Lindeman Islands in Australia where I would spend New Year's, and then to Singapore for a few days, and then back to ChengDu.

Now for the fun part... buying the tickets. I am not sure if I mentioned it before, but they have a screwy system here where you can not buy domestic tickets and international tickets at the same time. Most agencies can only do domestic flights, there are a few that can do flights to and from China from other countries, and very few that can do international flights that originate and end in other countries.

Anyways, after spending too much time calling too many travel agencies I actually found one that can do all of it for me (I hope). It's called TUI China Travel and they have an office in Beijing. I think they are a German company, so they can do all of the international travel stuff. I am now waiting to see if they can put together something nice that won't cost too much. I'll let you all know how that goes later.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What goes around - comes around

What a cool story....

What goes around - comes around

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Laundry and movies

I have not posted anything in awhile. Not much has been going on. Mostly getting up to speed on the new project. This weekend I am doing a lot of laundry... clothes, towels, sheets, etc. Since my washer/dryer is kind of small it all is taking longer than I thought it would.

The weather last week warmed up a little. All week it was hazy/foggy/smoggy... I am not sure which, but I think it all trapped a little heat for us. We did not have much rain, which seems a little unusual, but it is raining a little today.

I saw this article about some anti-communist films were made in Hollywood during the late 40s through the 50s. I had seen one of them (The Women on Pier 13) late one night when I was in the US. The others I had never even heard of. I looked out on eMule and found Pickup on South Street and Hell and High Water. Some of the others were out there, but not in English. I watched Hell and High Water the other night, and although it was a little goofy sometimes it had some exciting parts. I imagine it was both exciting and a bit scary when it came out in 1954.

I also found a program called TVU which you can use to watch TV shows from all over the world over the internet. That's been kind of fun when I get time to play with it.

Now I need to do some more planning for my winter vacation. I will post about that later when I have more details.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Too busy

I've been very busy trying to catch up on all of my work since getting back from vacation, and have not had much of a chance to post anything in awhile. I do not think things will slow down much until next year. I've only been on this project for about six months, and am already tired of it.

The weather here when I got back was a bit chillier than I thought it would be. It took me a little while, but I figured out the settings on my remotes for the heater/AC units in my apartment (which are in Chinese) and now I have a warm apartment. The thing is the heaters make a lot of clicking and creaking noises as they expand from the heat, and it tends to wake me up all of the time. I hope it's just because they are new and they'll quiet down after awhile.

On Saturday I got together with a few friends from India and they fixed a big lunch of Indian food. We had chicken curry, raita (yogurt with vegetables and Indian spices), a spicy mixed vegetable dish of potato and cauliflower, a pasta dish with Chinese curry, and rice. It was really wonderful. I ate so much that I did not need dinner that evening.

We have about a half a dozen people from India here at the office now, as well as someone from Norway. We had one person from Canada, but he is left on Friday to go back to Canada. We have some people from the Philippines coming later this week also. Now we will have enough people to arrange for Chinese language lessons.

I think my foreign co-workers are expecting me to set up the classes, but I'm too busy. Actually, I am probably too busy to attend classes. I've been too busy to even study the little Chinese I've learned since getting here. It would be nice if we could have IBM pay for our classes (especially since they keep me so busy I can not keep up with my Chinese studies), but we do not have any business justification for it. Sucks, huh?

Update: Due to a budget cut I will be leaving my current project on Friday. Yeah! :)

Monday, October 08, 2007

Back in ChengDu

Back in ChengDu now. The vacation was very nice and relaxing. It feels like I spent most of my time eating... I had fajitas, burritos, pastrami sandwiches, steaks, Italian style chicken, pizza, BBQ pork, smoked turkey, oysters, crab cakes, Thai food, sushi, Chinese food, pasta, roast turkey, BBQ ribs, turkey sandwiches, pie, ice cream, cookies, etc... After some meals I was so full my stomach hurt.

One night we went out to eat and I met this lady named Crystal. She was very lovely and we seemed to hit off really well. I was hoping that we could get together, but unfortunately we did not get a chance.

My favorite meal was an early Thanksgiving dinner I had with my parents. We had roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing with oysters, green bean casserole, gravy, cranberries, biscuits, white wine, and for dessert we had a cheesecake/pumpkin/pecan pie. It was all very delicious! We even had the Redskins/Eagles football game playing which my father had Tivo'd, and that helped make it feel much more like Thanksgiving day.

On the Saturday in the middle of my vacation I went to the Maryland Renaissance Festival with some friends. The weather cooled down some that weekend and it was a perfect day to go to the faire. We watched a few shows, visited a lot of shops, and did way too much chatting. I ate a lot there too... oyster shooters, crab cake sandwich with fries, smoked turkey leg, frozen banana covered in chocolate, and a few ales. It was great to see my friends in the Pyrates Royale too! I have not seen them in two years.

Greg, Lynn, and Les at a pub.

The Pyrates Royale play some tunes.

Johnny Fox prepares to swallow a sword.

A cute bubble maker.

The jousting field.

I flew out of Washington Dulles airport on Saturday afternoon, and arrived in Beijing on Sunday afternoon. Boarding the plane was silly as usual since, even though the plane is suppose to be boarded by sections, most of the Chinese just rush the gate as soon as the first group starts boarding. The flight was a little late taking off too since there were people who wouldn't sit down after they got on the plane, and the crew had to keep making an announcement in Chinese that the plane would not take off until everyone was seated. Anyways, I got to Beijing and went through immigration and customs without any problems, and then caught my flight to ChengDu.

The flight to ChengDu was a little late arriving (imagine that), and after a little confusion my driver and I found each other. I got home at around 9:00 and took a shower, and then I went and met up with Phyllis and her sister Jessie at a little teahouse near my apartment. It was great seeing Phyllis and Jessie... I had not seen Phyllis since May, and I have not seen her sister Jessie in about 2 years. We ate some fruit and drank some tea and chatted for a few hours. At about 11:30 we called it a night and I went home and got some sleep.