Steve's China Blog

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Some events

The Sunday before last we had our IBM Chengdu Annual Party. It was held at the ShangriLi-La hotel like last year. We had a really good dinner of a bunch of different dishes. My favorite was the shark fin soup with crab meat. We also had a lot of entertainment put on by some of the employees of IBM here in Chengdu. There was singing, dancing, acting, etc... I thought the best was one girl who played a Chinese musical instrument. She was very good at it. Of course, I forgot my camera.

On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of last week we had snow flurries. It was very pretty, and luckily the snow did not stick to the roads (or anything else for that matter). The local news shows had pictures of children happily running around enjoying the snow. Some of them had probably never even seen snow before. Who knows.

One evening I went out to dinner and ran into some friends, Dave and Dick, and after dinner they decided they wanted to go to a night club called The Castle. Dave is from the US and was teaching English here, but will be moving to Thailand soon. Dick is a professional bodyguard from Holland and has been living in Chengdu for quite awhile, and is almost always wearing his bulletproof vest. When we got to The Castle it turns out that Dave had a VIP card for the place, and as a VIP the night club had a bodyguard for us.

It was kind of funny to see Dave and I sitting there with a tall Chinese bodyguard on one side of us and a taller European bodyguard on the other side of us. Everyone must have been wondering who we were! Usually I hate going out to Chinese night clubs... they are usually too crowded, and you have to be careful of pickpockets and bothersome hookers. We didn't have any of these problems. No one wanted to get too close to us! We had a couple over-priced warm beers served in small glasses of ice, and then I went home.

On Saturday evening my manager invited all of the people he manages out for dinner. The place we went to is above a Chinese medicine shop, and the dishes are all made from items from the shop. We had two entrees that were large soups. They both had a chicken and a turtle, as well as other things that are considered good for one's health, such as herbs and such. One of them even had a seahorse in it! I don't think we could have eaten the seahorse since it was probably too hard, and I don't think anyone tried.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

2010 Holidays in Chengdu

Jackie flew into Chengdu late on the evening of the 23rd. I had to work on 24th, but worked from home, and we went out for lunch to a little restaurant behind where I live. We had some rabbit with red chili peppers and another dish that had chicken with potatoes and spicy green peppers. The chicken dish was really good! There was a little leftover, so we took that back to my place to save for another day.

Jackie had planned to go get her passport renewed while I worked that afternoon, but even though Chengdu is warmer than Beijing it is much more damp, so she wasn't feeling too good after lunch and decided to go get her passport another day and take a nap at my place instead. By the evening when I finished work Jackie was feeling much better, and we decided to go out to Hooters for dinner. She had never been there before, and we figured it would not be too crowded on Christmas Eve.

A good crowd at Hooters on Christmas Eve

Hooters was very crowded when we got there, and we even had to wait a few minutes to get a table. Jackie ordered a philly cheesesteak, and I ordered a steak sandwich, and we shared a pitcher of Killkenny beer. It was the first time Jackie had eaten a philly cheesesteak and the first time she had drank an amber lager. She liked them both very much!

Jackie with my steak sandwich

For Christmas day we had made reservations at the Kempinski Hotel for a Christmas lunch buffet they were serving, and we were joined by my friend Reese.

Jackie, me, and Reese before Christmas lunch

The lunch was really wonderful! We had turkey, lobster, steak, mussels, pork loin, etc....

Mmm... all you can eat too!

After lunch the three of us walked around Tonzilin Street looking at the shops, and I bought a few new DVDs. After that we took a taxi to a big shopping area near Chunxi Road and we visited a lot of stores there. Reese bought some winter clothes for her mother. Since it was a Saturday it was very crowded with shoppers.

On the day after Christmas Jackie and I spent the day hanging out at the apartment relaxing and watching Poirot DVDs. For lunch Jackie fixed the leftover chicken dish from Christmas eve, and she added some thin clear noodles to it. It was wonderful! That evening we cooked dinner for Reese and her friend Anson. Jackie cooked some chicken curry that a friend of ours from India had taught her how to cook, and I cooked some jambalaya. They were both rice dishes, but hey! We're in China so that's ok. With the two dishes we had a bottle of beaujolais, and everything tasted wonderful! There were no leftovers of that dinner.

On Monday Jackie went to get her passport renewed, and we had planned to meet for lunch afterwards and then go visit a place called Kuan Zhai Xiang Zi, which means wide and narrow alleys, and is an old neighborhood that has been remodeled for tourism. I had woken up with a cold, so I decided to stay home and try to get some rest. Jackie went to Kuan Zhai Xiang Zi, but she didn't spend the whole afternoon there. In the evening we went to visit my friend Kitty and after showing Jackie her little store we all went to a hotpot place for dinner. The hotpot was really delicious, and was very good for my cold.

On Tuesday Jackie took a bus to the nearby town of YiBin to visit her parents. I gave her a really good bottle of BaiJiu, which I had bought during a charity auction some months before, to give to her father. I do not drink BaiJiu, but I remembered that she had told me that her father liked it. I asked her to tell her father that the gift was really a bribe so that if Jackie and I decided to get married he would give us his blessing. When she told him he laughed, and said, "I'll think about it".

I spent Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday, and the first half of Thursday at home getting over my cold and playing Everquest II. On Thursday afternoon I got together with a friend of mine named Cindy who is from Tianjin and was in Chengdu visiting friends. We went to Wanda Plaza and did some shopping and had dinner. We had hoped to go see the latest Harry Potter movie, but it was not showing at the theater there anymore, so we decided to go back to my place and watch a DVD. We watched the movie Star Trek, which Cindy really enjoyed.

Friday was New Year's Eve and Jackie returned from YiBin and we went over to the Shamrock Pub, along with our friend Kitty, to celebrate New Year's. The theme of the party was The Wizard of Oz. Not sure why they chose that, but it was a lot of fun to see so many crazy foreigners dressed up as their favorite characters from the movie.

Some of the Wizard of Oz costumes

Jackie, Dorthy (Ivy), and I

There was a few contests, like the best Dorthy costume...

Some contestants for the Dorthy contest

Dorthy (Ivy) gets checked by the Wicked Witch of the West (Penny)

... and a live band that was pretty good...

Singer of the band

More of the band

Kitty liked the band

After the band played then a DJ played music the rest of the evening. This was both Jackie's and Kitty's first New Year's Eve party and we all had a great time!

My friend Cindy was there too!

A good sized crowd for the party

Dance, dance, dance

Jackie and Kitty take a break from the dancing

Kitty, me, and Jackie at the party

On New Year's Day I had to go add some money to my phone and we had lunch at a little restaurant nearby my apartment. It was a nice simple lunch of rice porridge and some dumplings served in a spicy broth. For dinner we were joined by Phyllis, and we all went back to the restaurant where we had gotten the chicken dish on Christmas Eve.

Having dinner with Phyllis and Jackie

The chicken dish was not as good the second time, but the company was excellent! It was really great to see Phyllis! Even though she lives and works close by to me I do not get to see her as often as I would like.

On Sunday morning Jackie and I went over to Chunxi Road to do some shopping. Jackie wanted to buy some things to take back to Beijing. We had lunch at a Japanese noodle place and wandered around looking in shops. Jackie was hoping to buy some spicy rabbit heads (a delicacy here in Sichuan), but we didn't find any. In the afternoon Jackie flew back to Beijing.

In the evening Cindy came over to my apartment and I fixed some spaghetti for us. We watched the movie The Blind Side on DVD while we ate dinner. It was an enjoyable evening. On Monday I spent the day playing Everquest II, reading a book, relaxing, and watched the last episode of the 12th season of Poirot... Murder on the Orient Express. A nice way to end a long holiday.