Friday, January 26, 2007

It makes me so angry...

Yesterday I went on a day-long business trip to Shanghai. I had to fly in for a morning meeting at the Hilton Hotel and fly back to Yantai in the evening. I took the plane down to Shanghai looking very dapper (yes, I used the word dapper... that must be my English Grandmother's influence). I was wearing a suit, tie, and my nicest black leather shoes. I arrived at the hotel a few hours early so I walked around the neighborhood to find a place to eat.

As I came back to the hotel, I passed a man on the street offering to shine shoes. He clearly was a shoe-fix-it guy (I suppose also known as a cobbler), and he called me over to shine my shoes. Sure enough they needed it, and when he told me 5 kuai for a shine, I said ok.

I sat down and took of my shoes. He made quick work of polishing them and while he worked we had a simple conversation about where I lived, etc. Before I had a chance to object, the man pulled out a machete and sliced off the heel of my shoe!! I yelled at him, "No!", but he showed me with my other shoe that the heels were worn and I needed new ones. Sure enough, he was correct, but I didn't appreciate not being consulted on the matter first. He knew I had to go along with it because now I had one shoe sans heel.

I watched as he expertly applied the glue, attached a new heel, trimmed the sides, and nailed it in. He did a fantastic job and when he was done, my shoes looked quite nice. When it was time to leave I asked how much.

He immediately started telling me a long story about how these were Italian heels and on Nanjing Road they cost 400 RMB ($50) for just the heel. I knew I was in for a ripoff, so when he told me he would give me a bargain at 250 RMB ($30), I yelled at him. I told him that he didn't ask if he could do it before, that he was cheating me, and that we both knew those heels were not "Italian".

Problem was, he was still holding one of my shoes. I offered to pay him 40 RMB, what I believed the service was worth (a co-worker later told me that 40-50 was a fair price), and he threatened to rip of the work he had just done on my shoe! I'd be in real trouble then because I'd have only one shoe with a heel. He finally went down to 120 RMB, but by this time a large crowd had gathered around to watch the laowai yell at the Chinese guy.

Since I didn't have anything smaller, I threw a 100 RMB note in the opposite direction, and as he scrambled for it, I yanked my shoe out of his hands. Much to my satifaction, the whole incident had attracted a police officer who asked to see the man's permit for working on the street. The man didn't have one, so he was charged a 100 RMB fine! It made me quite happy that he didn't get to keep any of my money, but I was still so angry. Being a foreigner in China is often an invitation to be ripped off. The Chinese even have a saying for it, "Cut the fat off the foreigner."

Pisses me off to no end.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


In China when a new store opens, a couple is married, or someone takes a breath, the citizenry will bless the event with a fireworks display (more accurately, the set off lots of dynamite). They believe here that setting off a gargantuan pile of M-80's will bring customers to their store, or ensure a happy marriage. When I first moved to China, I woke up one morning thinking that a nearby building was being imploded. I looked out of my 20th floor window trying to see the building come down. Alas, all I found was yet another DVD shop.

In case you don't believe me when I say "gargantuan", see the pic below of what the store looks like after a roll of 150,000 firecrackers goes off.

Monday, January 15, 2007

New Toy

So, I've been struggling for ages, trying to decide what new toy to spend my hard earned money on when I came back to the US. I had originally set my sights on the new Nintendo Wii. It seems like such a great gaming system, that I just HAD to have one....

...until I remembered those days, leaving the chem lab at Houghton International everyday, rushing to the video game store, and dumping $50 dollars for a new game. Fifty-smackeroos!! That's a lot of money people, especially when it becomes a bad habit.

While shopping in Yantai a few days ago, I made a discovery. In China, you can buy Playstation 2 game copies for 4-5 yuan each ($0.50) just like you can buy DVD copies. And since the PS3 is out, the price for a Chinese PS2 has dropped significantly.

Anyway, long story short, I spent 32 元 ($4.00) on games that would have cost me $400 in the US. Who cares if its the previous generation of hardware and out dated. Ripping a demon in half in God of War for PS2 is still great fun, even if its graphics aren't up to PS3 standards.

Re-naming a drink

I know I haven't been blogging much recently. I'd like to say it is due to my busy schedule (which is busy, but not THAT busy). I think rather that it is because I have not had much to blog about. After being told by Louise that my last blog entry was "lame", I decided I should put something up before I loose all four of my readers.

On Christmas Eve I attended a dinner with the Vice-Mayor of Laishan. At that dinner I met a young guy named Gaerath (sorry if I spelled that wrong) who has been living in China for seven years. His Chinese level was amazing and put us all to shame.

After dinner a group of us headed downtown to go and say hello to my friend Adriano who has been working at the Baby Face Club. First we had to pay a 60 元 cover charge because it was X-mas Eve. Upon entering the club, we placed our orders and waited. And waited. And waited.

I've been in this club once or twice before, and my friends and I had had trouble getting served then too. At first we thought it was shoddy service, but Adriano explained it to me. I couldn't believe my ears.

When someone places and order for a drink:

  • The bartender writes it down
  • Gives the paper to the bar manager who copies the order onto a form with carbon paper
  • The bar manager gives the forms to the floor manager
  • The floor manager signs the form and gives it to a messenger who runs upstairs to the office.
  • In the office, one form has to be signed by the accountant and one by the club manager
  • Both forms are then stamped with the Chinese red chop stamps that are needed for absolutely anything in China
  • One copy of the form is then sent by messenger back to the bar
  • The floor mananger checks the form, gives it to the bar manager.
  • Once the bar manager has checked the form, he/she gives permission to the bartender to pour the drink.
And you want to know what the real kicker is?


If I order a Long Island Iced Tea, they must take SEVEN forms up to the offices (vodka, gin, run, tequila, triple sec, sour mix, and Coke)!!!!

I hereby propose that we replace the Coca-Cola in a Long Island Iced Tea with grenadine, and call the drink "Bureaucratic Red Tape".

Monday, January 08, 2007

Long time, no see

Wow... its been nearly one month since I posted. Sorry about that. I'm really busy right now, so I have no time to tell you all about my Christmas and New Year's, but I'll get to it eventually. For now, I'm going to leave you all with a description of London's most expensive sandwich (and most likely the worlds), which is making my mouth drool. Its more expensive than the Dom Perignon & Buffalo Wings meal at Hooters ($150) and 50 times more classy.

* 600 grams (that's 132 lbs)
* over 2500 calories (the RDA by the FDA)
* cost: 85 pounds sterling ($164 USD)
* available at Selfridges deli counter

For those eager to recreate this ate home, the ingredients are:
* Two slices of freshly baked sourdough bread
* Roquette dressed with avocado oil
* Confit of sweet peppers and grain mustard
* Unpasteurized Brie de Meaux
* Sliced English plum tomatoes
* Fresh lobe foie grase (duck liver... yummy)
* Wagyu beef (Japanese breed of cattle, similar to Kobe beef)

And I wonder why I'm tubby...