Friday, April 13, 2007

What's so Funny?

One day while in Yangshuo China sis, the German, and myself had a throughly entertaining lunch at a hostel/restaurant called Lisa's. We chose this particular establishment because our Lonely Planet described it as a local institution whose owner had a penchant for wearing Mao jackets. Based on this description there was no way we could go wrong!

We sat down, and started thumbing through the menu. As a hostel/restaurant Lisa provided a number of services meant to help their guests enjoy their time in Yangshuo. Most of the services were simply making booking for tours and transit, which is actually a pretty valuable service in a country where you can't speak the language. However when we read #7 both sis and I started laughing for obvious reasons. Granted they meant Laundry service, but in the land of the "special massage" you never know what kind of service they could offer sis and I. . .

As all of us start laughing at the Landry service, our waitress comes over and goes "What's so funny?" We try to explain the joke to her, but it flew over her head and she looked at us like we were crazy gweilos. Another example of how humor translates poorly. . .

Well moving on from the services page we start noticing intresting things like dog, snake and bamboo rat intermixed amongst the standard chicken, beef and pork. For those of you not familiar with a bamboo rat, let me provide a visual aid:

Sis, recently arrived into China, started looking very squeamish at some of the options available before her. The German and I were not so squeamish and figured when in Yangshuo do as the Yangshoians and decided to order something exotic. Sis put her foot down at the dog(as a former subscriber to Dog Fancy magazine I can't imagine why) and bamboo rat, but we were able to convince her to order a snake dish along with the more normal chicken and pork.

We get our chicken and pork dishes pretty quickly, but the snake is taking a long time to come. Just as we were starting to wonder what was going on this guy comes into the restaurant with a bag that is moving. Apparantely when we ordered the snake an employee went to the local market to buy our lunch. Our waitress sees this and goes "Your snake is here, would you like to see it?"

Well, Sis instantly turns green and goes "No, no, no, no!!!!" The German and I of course say "Yes!" and start laughing as Sis shoots us a death glare. This was enough for the waitress and she fishes the snake out of the bag for our inspection.

Sis squeals and cringes since she is actually afraid of snakes. This of course causes the German and I to start laughing hysterically which prompts another "What's so funny?" and puzzled glance from our waitress. . .

Well shortly thereafter the snake arrives on our table. The German and I dig in. The snake was actually only okay, it tasted like a boney chicken with a squid like texture. . . Sis, only takes a couple of bites before she calls it quits. The German was more than happy to eat her share.

After stuffing ourselves the three of us decide to hit the bathroom before we leave. There were only 2 bathrooms, so I have to wait while the German and Sis do their thing. As I hear the toilet flush I hear sis squeal. Then I hear the German go "Holy #%#%" in his room. He comes out and goes "watch out for the flush on that thing mate." Sis comes out and confirms that the toilets erupt like a geyser when flushed. Apparently this caught both of them by surprise. . . Well my curiosity gets the better of me and I decide to test this flush mechanism before I do my thing. Sure enough it's a verifiable Old Faithful that hits the garbage can with its spray. . .

Again we all bust a gut and our waitress sees this and again goes "What's so funny?!?" We point to the toilet which only gets us a blank look from her.

I guess misspellings, slithering snakes, and exploding toilets are only funny to crazy gweilo like us. . .

My pictures

So, I've given you a taste of my pictures from abroad through my posts. However if you want to browse the motherload point your browsers to:

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I passed!

Well, I just got my grades for my time abroad. . . 2As and a B+.

Damn it, I worked too hard in Asia!!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Back Home

Well after 3.5 months of traveling, er I mean studying, I'm now safely back in Chicago. I have to admit it's kind of weird being back and
  • Being able to eavesdrop since I can understand the language being spoken around me.
  • Not seeing teeming masses of humanity on city sidewalks.
  • Not being a minority anymore.

It's now back to work. . . I had a case due yesterday for the first day of class, 2 classes today, and a case due for class tomorrow. No easy rentry for me, damnit!

Anyways, I've fallen a bit behind with the blog and have quite a few destinations I still need to write about. Provided that classes don't get in the way I'll write about them as I have time. . . I may be home but the stories will continue.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Adding to the collection

Well as promised, here is a continuation of the sign collection with some of the signs sis and I found in Yangshuo. . . Enjoy!

While I find them funny, I give mad props to the Chinese for trying. Even though they're not perfect, they do get the point across. All of us greatly appreciated the effort in making our navigation much easier.

Anyways, I consider this payback for how my HK friends laughed at my attempts in Cantonese and Mandarin. See it's a 2-way street! We all get a kick out of non-natives trying out our native tongue. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

3 signs of beauty

So, Sis, one of the germans and myself are in Yangshuo China admiring the scenery and having a very good time. A full travelogue will be forthcoming when I can add pictures, but here was today's gem:

We all went on a daytrip to see the dragon's backbone rice terraces 4 hours north of Yangshuo. Really beautiful and well worth the trip. On the way there our guide explains thet the terraces are the home of the Yao people and goes on to explain about their rituals and customs. She then goes on to explain the "three things that make a wife attractive to a husband in Yao culture:"

  • "Big Feet so they can climb up the mountains easier."
  • "Big Voice so that they can call their husband down from the top of the mountain to eat. this was before cell phones."
  • "Big Ass because it means lots of babies."

Of course her choice of vocabulary caused all of us gweilos to laugh. We would have used wide hips. . .

Sunday, March 11, 2007

30 Hours in Disney with the Death Penalty (Now with Pictures)

Our hopscotch through SE Asia ended with a 30 hour layover in Singapore. Plenty of time, according to many here in HK, to see a city dubbed by many to be the "Nanny State" or "Disney with the Death Penalty." When I asked people in HK to give me their impressions of the city the first words out of everybody's mouths was "It's so clean!" Not a ringing endorsement for the city in my mind. I mean Milwaukee and Omaha are clean too, but this does not make them awesome tourist destinations.

All in all, Singapore lived up to its reputation and hype. Indeed it was extremely clean, and it did indeed feel like a giant Disney World. That impression began forming immediately when the immigration officer noticed I was staying on Jeslan Basar street and recommended I visit a computer market near my hostel. Normally you're lucky if an immigration officer responds to your hello, let alone act as a tourist information service.

Once we left the airport it suddenly felt like we had entered a British Commonwealth Epcot with Indians, Chinese, Malays, and Gweilos all represented. It's a very diverse city but, in the interest of keeping things orderly, everybody has their own neighborhood (like Epcot!) where they recreate a touch of home complete with restaurants and architecture.
  • Little India is filled with Hindu Temples (sorry didn't take pics)

  • Arab Street (Yes there is an Arab Street) has mosques,
  • Chinatown (which is the cleanest Chinatown I've ever seen) has a roming group of Chinese musicians and lion dancers.

  • Colonial District has all the old british colonial architecure and western hip restaurants

Yes, many other cities, including Chicago, have ethnic neighborhoods. However it all seemed a bit artificial, a bit too planed and very sterile. Plus we would never name a street "Arab Street"

However there was more than just Epcot!

There was Animal Kingdom in the form of the Singapore night safari, which is incredibly nice and fun but incredibly touristy. The main attraction there is a tram tour where you can see nocturnal animals actually doing something, while the guide narrates in a cheesy way. Thankfully she didn't say "lions and tigers and bears oh my!" but she got damn close a couple of times.

There is the Magic Kingdom in the form of Sentosa Island, filled with modern tourist attractions like a skyride and motion simulator rides, but we skipped that part.

Continuing the Disney theme, the city had an imaginary "mascot" in the form of the merlion (half fish and half lion) that guarded the waterfront and posed for tourist pictures.

After visiting the above sights, I notice that the Lonely Planet Singapore (bought on the streets of Vietnam for US$2) wrote up the GSB's Singapre Campus as a tourist site because its in an old chinese mansion with beautiful roofs. (goes to show how little there is to see huh?) Curious about our campus, I drag the reluctant Spaniard to check it out. For some reason he had no desire to visit the Asian Exec MBA campus for a school he didn't attend. I can't imagine why. . .

Well LP was right, it's a great building with beauiful courtyards and roofs. However, more importantly we both got to check our email and get a couple of drinks for free in air conditioned comfort. Free internet and pops made the Spaniard suddenly glad we made the stop. He even picked up a cople of copies of Capital Ideas and GSB magazine for the plane ride back.

After our stop at the GSB our layover came to an end and we went back to the exit gate of the park, er I mean airport, where we were treated to a bit of Singaporean propaganda. We were flying Tiger Airways, an Asian version of Southwest, so we had to fly out of the "Budget Terminal"(yes that's what they called it). Basically it was an old hanger that they made into a bare-boned terminal with few ammenities. Think old Midway with a couple of layers of bright paint. Despite providing an inferior product, the government tried to work the PR angle by plastering the slogan "Budget Terminal . . . Enjoy the Difference!" all over the building.

It was kind of insulting really. At best the governement thought people were stupid enough to think they were getting something better. At worst they were rubbing our noses in the fact we were flying budget carriers and didn't deserve anything better.

Oh well, I did "enjoy the difference" from HK that Singapore offered, but I was still very happy to get on a plane to return to my more character-filled home of the last 3 months. One can only take so much Disney before they need to leave.