Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day... Home!

Hey, hey, hey!!

Yep. Can't stop now.

I got into the US at 8:45 am yesterday (west coast time), and into
Dallas around 4. Went to Souper Salad for dinner, but at that point I
had been traveling for 22 hours and awake for 25, so I just wasn't
feeling it. Came home and got an awesome "early" Christmas gift- a
beautiful vase-slash-centerpiece from Chris, to hold the gorgeous
bouquet of lilies he gave me at the airport *sigh*. Then got a
massage, which pretty much put me to sleep by 7. I heard scary noises
at 8:30, an had to get up to investigate everything myself cause Chris
was obvi at his place. It ended up being my neighbors playing with
beer bottles or something. Ugh.

Went back to sleep by 9, but sat up wide-awake at 1am. Chris texted me
at 2:30 (I still don't know why he was awake) and we went to IHOP at
3am. I basically love my life. He went home to sleep more before work,
but I was wide awake so I went through all of my purchases from China-
I got a lot of stuff! Anyways. Separated it all by who it's for, that
sort of thing. Got Chris' Christmas gifts ready to wrap, then watched
the news. I just now move back to the bedroom, in the hopes of more
sleeps during the day- cause we've got a big night planned- it's New
Year's Eve!

I'll blog tomorrow about resolutions, you can count on it. Goodnight
(she said, at nearly 8am)!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Day 34

Day 34

I'm packing!

I am glad I have a scale in my bathroom, cause I've been packing and weighing, packing and weighing, to make sure that I don't go over the airplane weight requirements for luggage.  I am doing really good so far, made it nearly 8 pounds under for the large suitcase, and of course have plenty of room for the smaller suitcase—it's going to be way under weight, but stuffed to the gills. 

I had a good day at work today.  Was busy busy busy.  Had three lectures and lots of lab trainings.  The day flew by, but this evening is dragging.  I got proposed to at work today.  One of the guys asked if I had a husband in America.  I said no, I have a boyfriend.  He said he wants to get married, but he doesn't have a "pretty lady"—then he asked if I would be his wife if I came back to China.  I said, "I told you I have a boyfriend!" and he said, "but yeah, you don't have a husband"… haha.  It was funny.  Oh, yeah.  I told him no.  I promise.

I have had the biggest smile on my face all night.  I'm so ready to go home.  I get picked up in less than 12 hours—I so hope that I can sleep tonight.  I still have more packing to get done, but it's just really getting things packed for my carry-on.  I'd like to see how much more I can squeeze into the small suitcase.  Probably at least my purses, maybe another pair of shoes.  Wish me luck!

I sure hope that you've enjoyed being on this journey with me.  I also hope that you continue to tune in!  I don't write every day, but I've gotten used to this and will definitely be writing more often.  Plus, when I'm actually able to access my blog, I can edit the photos much better, and I'm pretty darn fun and creative on it.  I've enjoyed your comments and knowing that you're following me.  It's been fun, hasn't it?  Well, signing off for the next few days.  I'll write again after I have my New Year's and Christmas, to tell you all about it!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Day 33

Day 33

Guess what?

I get to pack my suitcases tomorrow.

That's all I have to say tonight.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Day 32.1

I forgot to say that it was snowing in Shanghai.  Huge flakes, for hours.  It started sticking just a little, and in the picture of me with the umbrella, I'm hiding from the wind and the snow.  It was beautiful, actually.  My black coat got covered in snowflakes, and it was pretty watching it float down.  It's been a while since I've seen snow, I guess!

Day 32

Day 32

Shanghai, part deux.

We took the train to Shanghai again today!  How wonderful.  Also, since it was just Simon and me, we weren't in a hurry to see things, or to get places, and I had nothing left to buy, so we were just there to take pictures and enjoy it. 

We started out getting a taxi to go to the dumpling place, which is a great place to do some tourist-trap shopping (remember, I didn't need to buy anything—and I didn't!) and take some good pictures.  When we were done with the dumplings, we went to Starbucks to get a coffee because it had just started raining.  These British people came in (ugh) and drove me nuts.  They came in acting like they invented Starbucks, and the one man was trying to take a picture of a little kid when his wife (?) started clicking her tongue.  He said, "it's not a bloody dog, Margaret!"—at which point I nearly choked on my coffee because it made me laugh.

Next, we went to the Science and Technology museum, also known as the amazing underground shopping area (below the museum).  Well, no, we didn't go to the museum.  We went shopping.  While Simon was looking at some sweaters, I went to the store next door that had all sorts of Chinese boxes and stuff.  I saw some dominos and was looking at them, when the lady came over and tries to start bargaining with me.  Well, remember, I don't need to buy anything.  Besides, they're not exactly what I want—they're plain on the back instead of having something Chinese-like.  Well, she gets upset that I'm not bargaining back with her, so when I try to leave, she shoves it into my hands and grabs my elbow.  That's what they do.  They grab you so that you don't leave without buying something.  Well, I'M NOT BUYING, so I set the dominos down and tell her no.  As I set them down, she punches me in the head.  I can't make this up, people.  She takes her knuckles and smacks me on the side of my head.  Simon had came in right then, and as I yell "hey!" at her, he grabs me and we leave her store right away.  Serious?  What the heck?!  Simon and I laughed about it later, but it was a little… weird.

We walked all around the area then, finding new and exciting places.  Places like Coldstone, Subway, and Krispy Kreme.  No joke.  The Hot/Fresh sign was even lit at Krispy Kreme.  Haha.  Well, since we have tons of time, we make no hurry to get back to the train station for our 7:20 return train.  We even get there with plenty of time, so we peek in a Shanghai Special Foods store, which is just like a grocery store.  Simon was looking for beef jerky, and I was just checking out all the different foods.  We stayed in there for about 20 minutes, and when we were leaving the store, it was about 6:30.  I asked Simon to wait, saying I needed to get out my train ticket now.  I got it out and was reading it, and asked Simon where it said 7:20 (our departure time)—and the rest of the conversation went like this:

Simon: Right there.  18:19.  That's 7:20.

Me: No, that's 6:20.

Simon: No, that's 7:20.

Me: Simon.  Take 12 and add 7 to it.  That would be 19:20.

Simon: Um, crap.  Crap.  Crap.  Crap.

Me: So, we missed our train?  Again?

Simon: Yep.

It didn't end up being a big deal.  We found a window at the ticket sales that spoke English, so we were able to exchange our tickets for ones that had a departure of 19:47 (that's 7:47, if you were wondering.  Haha.) and it was still the fast train—remember last time we missed our train and it ended up sitting on the track for something like three hours, because we got the slow train?  Yeah.  Not cool.  Simon kept going off about how everyone should use AM or PM instead of this stupid 24-hour clock.  I tried telling him it wasn't that difficult to read it, but oh, well.

So, I got home not too long ago.  Instead of writing my blog right away, I soaked my aching legs in a hot tub.  It felt wonderful.  Now I'm going to Skype my parents, then go to sleep.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Day 31

Wow.  Day 31, huh?

Had a great morning.  I was able to talk on Skype to my parents, then to Chris and his sister, brother-in-law, and niece.  I love and miss them all!  Then cooked up some noodles for lunch.  The whole time I'm on the phone, it sounds like it's pouring rain and it's hitting my window really hard, but I don't understand because it's really clear and bright outside.  Then I realize its window-washers working above me.  Silly, I think they're working their way up the building, which doesn't make much sense—they finish cleaning a window, then go up and clean the one above it, with dirty water running down to the window they just cleaned.  No matter, it's only my window for another 3 full days!  Wow, can you believe it?  My time here is almost done.

The rest of the day (well, the whole day, really) was pretty boring.  Just took a nap, watched some tv, and read some.  Ate some more noodles for lunch, and broke into the snacks that I bought the other day—all that candy and cracker stuff I brought at the supermarket.  Now, I'm watching Speed Racer (you're welcome, mom).

Looking forward to going to Shanghai again tomorrow!  I'm sure there'll be more pictures.


Friday, December 25, 2009

Look! My boyfriend misses me!

This is what I received via email today, this fine Christmas Day:

Merry Christmas dear Erin, right now  we're apart.
But no distance can erase the love in our hearts.
Right now we can't snuggle, or or even share an embrace.
But in a week from now I will hug you, and kiss your beautiful face!
To be with you now, would be a gift that is great.
But a gorgeous gift like you, is well worth the wait!
To be sad and lonely would be the decision of some,
But I look forward to our new family traditions to come.
So be merry and happy, and smile this day.
Because your boyfriend loves you and can't wait for you to be home to stay!

Merry Christmas darling. :-)


Sent from my iPhone

Day 30

Day 30

AKA Merry Christmas, China

Work was productive.  Actually, really busy.  I spent most of the day in the lab doing training sessions.  Then, I got a ride with people from work (meaning, in a car instead of on the bus) to the restaurant for our work Christmas dinner.  It was wonderful.  I'm attaching pictures from it.  One of the guys gave me a toast and it was really sweet—I wish I'd videotaped it or something, because it was sincere and in good English, and made me smile.  He was saying how he thinks I've made a difference here and he thinks I've been really good for the company.  Awww.

Chinese people drink.  Whoever says they don't tolerate alcohol, well, that's kinda true, but they still like to drink.  They have this tradition where you try to persuade people to drink more, and if you can fill their glass and make them drink it, it's pretty much meaning that you're giving them happiness.  So there were many overflowing glasses.  One guy tried telling me something to get me to drink, I said you can't fool me, you've already made me drink a few glasses—so he replies, "Erin, we have 5000 years of history.  If we have just one tradition for every year, we have 5000 traditions!"  It was funny.  Anyways, they had "wine"—and tried getting me to drink it.  Lemme tell you, it sure as heck wasn't wine.  It was distilled rice liquor.  It was strong, and I might get drunk just from smelling it.  So I passed and drank Chinese beer.

People here love to give the peace sign during pictures.  They also apparently can't hold still while using my camera, so I apologize in advance for the slightly blurry pictures.  I did the best I could.

Merry Christmas, everyone.



Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day 28-29

Day 28-29

(AKA Christmas Eve in Suzhou)

Yesterday I heard from my mom that I forgot to write a blog.  Oops.  Sorry.  There wasn't much to write about anyways.  I had my favorite steamed buns for dinner.  Work was work.  That's all.

Now, today.  Christmas Eve party here at work.  It was fun!  It only lasted an hour, but they had entertainment and everything.  Some sorta famous Chinese singer who was extremely tacky and a dance group of three girls that would have lost a high school dance competition.  I got video of it.  Oh, and during the guy singing, a girl came and was yelling in my ear, asking if I'd help with passing out candy dressed as Santa—wait, what??  Yep.  That's what she asked me.  So when the time came, she got me and brought me into the back room to dress up as Santa.  Beard and everything.  Then I was corralled to the front of the auditorium and handed stockings filled with Rocher candy—and told to throw them into the crowd.  Everyone loved me for throwing candy!  But poor things—to all of these people, candy and shopping is what Christmas is about.  They don't know the real Christmas. 

I'm attaching pictures.  Simon at dinner last night, me dressed as Santa, maybe some others.

Hope everyone enjoys Christmas.  With your families.  I'll be alone.  No biggie.


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Day 27

Day 27

What a fun evening.  I took the early bus in so that I could take the early bus home.  I had plans with Shusheng and Qizhi (pronounced CHE-jzuh—I had to work on that one) to go shopping.  They wer super excited about taking me to a new store—turns out it's really just a store like Super Target.  It opened about 5 days ago, so it's brand new.  It was pretty neat!  They knew I wanted candy, so they had such a great time finding it for me.  We went to the bulk section and they had fun picking out stuff for me.  I am pretty sure the only people that have more candy than me right now are those who own a candy store!  It's okay.  As long as I can get it home, I'll have a ton of stuff for my friends at work and also for the kiddos at church.  They kept trying to talk me into getting things like frozen dumplings, meat sticks, all kinds of things.  They did talk me into getting a dragon fruit, but just because it's so neat looking.  I'll have a good time opening that tomorrow evening and trying it.  I took pictures again!  Lots of pictures of things just in the store, but also me and the two techs.  They were so sweet to take me out.  Plus, I spent so much money that I got a bag of rice for free—haha.  I gave that to Qizhi, seeing as I don't need it in the hotel room.  They tried talking me into cooking it in my kettle while I'm here  :-)

That's all for today.  It's all of 6pm and I think I'll lay down and watch National Geographic channel for just a while then read before going to bed early.  I was up really early today—remember, I took the early bus.  It was a productive day at work again.  Started a training program that will last a week.  Guess what happens at the end of that week-long training?  I go home :-)

See you soon!
Pictures:  Shusheng and Qizhi, and me with dragon fruit.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Day 26

Day 26

I had dumplings today.  My methotrexate gave me a bad bruise on my stomach.  Two of the techs are taking me shopping for the last of my goodies tomorrow.

I really miss my boyfriend and I'm super glad that we get to celebrate my homecoming, then New Year's Eve, then Christmas all at the same time basically.  THEN comes my birthday and I'm glad it's a 3-day weekend.  Yay!

I leave here in a week and a day.  But who's counting?


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 25

Day 25

You'll never guess what I did today.

Well, if you've been reading my blog regularly, you probably do.  I went shopping :-)

I went to Guan Qian, since I didn't go yesterday.  You know there were still things that I wanted to get for some other people.  Sheesh, I wish that I didn't know anyone that reads this, cause I'd love to tell you what I got!  Instead, I have to keep it a secret.  Anyways, I got another necklace for me, and a bunch of things for other people.  *sigh*  I want to tell you!  Okay, here's what I got—something for my bosses, some things for people at work, and two of the greatest gifts ever for Chris.  I'm happy.  Then I came back to my room and took a nap.  Oh, wait.  I forgot about lunch.  I ate at a Chinese curry restaurant.  It was good.  I had vegetables in curry sauce with rice.

Okay, now back to my hotel room.  I took a nap, then went to eat.  I had the concierge write down "beef", "vegetables", and "rice" in Chinese, and I took it to a restaurant down the street.  I thought I'd get something like stir fry, but I got a divided plate with a section for rice, one for that kind of melon that sort of tastes like zucchini (but more bland), a fried egg (didn't eat that, obvi), beef, and a small section with peanuts.  It was not what I expected, but it was good.  And I can even pick up individual peanuts with my chopsticks.  You'd be proud.

Mom, I got my picture taken today, just like you asked me to!  It is in front of the Hall of Learning, and it's with a bunch of Chinese people :-)  Love you!


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Day 24

Day 24

Hello, all!

I had a great day today.  Had an interesting lunch then took a nap.  Went to stone road with Simon, and bought a bunch of great things.  A wonderful gift for Leann, one for her unborn son, a scarf for me, some chopstick sets, a gift for Mansa, and a bracelet I'd seen a week and a half ago.  It'd been on my mind for that whole time, so it meant to me that I was supposed to buy it :-)  plus, last time I saw it, they told me it was 98 yuan.  This time, when Simon asked how much in Chinese, they said 50.  I'm thrilled.  Just having him there saved me that much money!  We didn't even have to bargain!  It's made of pewter, and I just love it so much.  Might be my new favorite bracelet ever.

After shopping, we went to a Korean bbq place for dinner.  It was an experience, and I took pictures of the food and of the ladies cooking for us.

Tomorrow I think I'll go down to Guan Qian again.  I still have more shopping to do.  There's people I want to get things for that I haven't found something yet.  I'm looking forward to finishing up my shopping.  Plus, I only have one more weekend after this one!  Can you believe it??  I'll be home in less than two weeks!  I'm excited to come back.  I'm loving the shopping, and that I can have a phenomenal dinner for less than $10.50, but I'm more excited to be home.  I've already got reservations at my uncle's house for cold beer and spaghetti when I return :-)  I also get to have Christmas a week later than everyone else, probably on New Year's day.  Shortly after that is my birthday!  Jan 17, don't forget it!

I'm including a picture of the gingerbread house in my hotel lobby and a statue near Stone Road..  Enjoy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Day 23

Day 23

Today, one of the girls who always seems to have a scowl on her face called me her friend.  That made me happy.  One of the guys was writing down places I need to visit while I'm here.  They're really sweet people.

Now, about me:

1)      At less than a month from age 27, I still sleep with a teddy bear.

2)      I have no idea what color my eyes are.

3)      I'm so much happier staying in and reading than going out partying.

4)      I love to cook.

5)      I honestly don't think I could live if I wasn't allowed to have chocolate ever again.

6)      I dislike British accents.

7)      I haven't seen most of the "key" movies of the 80's.

8)      I don't like turkey.

9)      I like raw fish.

10)   Christmas (meaning the day after Thanksgiving through New Year's Eve) is my favorite season.

11)   I don't believe in sarcasm (if you know me, you get this one).

12)   I love good pillows but can't ever find ones that really work for me.

13)   Sometimes I wonder why double space on my computer doesn't work like double space on my iPhone.

14)   I can't sing.

15)   Tonight I plan on eating Dove chocolate while watching Serendipity from the bathtub.

There's a bit about me.  It's so nice to meet you.


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Day 22

Day 22

Okay.  I've been in China for three weeks now, and have written (almost) every day.  Each day, I've written some sort of "woo-hoo-look-at-me-I'm-living-in-China" blog.  My plan tonight was to write more of an "about me" blog, since I've gotten a few new readers who know I'm in China, but don't know much about me.  *However*… I've had quite a day to write about today.  Actually, it sort of started last night…

I decided to start living (for one day) like I'm actually staying in this phenomenal, 5-star hotel.  I scheduled a room-service breakfast.  I decided not to go with the continental breakfast or with the US breakfast.  When in Rome, ya know.  So, breakfast was rice porridge, jasmine tea, two preserved vegetables, steamed pork bun, and barbecue pork crisp.  Actually, there were some other steamed buns that just came with the meal.  It was… well… interesting.  I would have loved the rice porridge if there was just a touch of sugar in it.  I didn't touch the vegetables (they scared me), the plain steamed buns were delicious.  There was one steamed bun that was filled with something green, and that scared me, too.  The jasmine tea was phenomenal, and I'm super glad that I've already purchased some to take home.  Then, before I left for work, I packed up some laundry and ordered a laundry service. 

On the way to my room, I stopped in the hotel restaurant to order some food to be delivered to my room.  Got the second dinner listed—amazing corn chowder, steamed rice, a sort of garlic chicken (no bones!!), and English tea.  While ordering my dinner, I met a man named Peter who is from Canada, but he's got to be a billionaire or something.  He's taking a trip through China for like three months, and he has a tour guide.  He never picks where to eat, or what to order.  He just goes where they tell him to, takes pictures, and enjoys it.  Wow.  He was quite a pleasant fellow, but I think he had almost an Australian accent.  Not Canadian, so I'm confused. 

Anyways, I got back to my room, and my food was delivered right away.  As I greeted them at the door, I checked my closet and whaddya know—I had a closet full of clean clothes.  That's right, I sent everything out for cleaning.  It's a pretty nice feeling, this livin' the high life.  But that's the last time I do that—I'm saving my money for shopping for tourist things and then for eating salad when I get home.


Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Day 21

Day 21

Nothing news worthy to tell about tonight, except that I bought a music box.  And it's not even Chinese!  It's a Christmas tree, with two teddy bears, a stocking, some presents, and a giant snowflake that is the winder for it.  I love it and am using it for my Christmas tree here in China since I'll be here well past the 25th.  Everyone else is starting to leave.  Tyler left last week, along with Bob and Brian.  Jim left today, and Charlie leaves on Friday.  After that, it'll just be me, Simon and Peter.  But Peter doesn't go out or anything, so that doesn't really count.  Simon and I are planning on shopping this weekend, starting at stone road (the old, touristy area) and heading towards Guan Qian (the upscale place, where I had my coat made).  He wants to walk the whole way, but I'll have to see how my ankle is feeling.  If you remember, I'm still recovering from that horrible tendon accident just a few months ago.

Charlie and I went to the dumpling place for dinner, then took the long way home, looking for shoes for Charlie's wife.  Along the way, we were peeking inside windows of restaurants, and at one, there were some guys walking in the street and they said, "no, no, no!"—so we took that to mean that wasn't a good restaurant.  In reply, we said, "xie xie" (thank you!).  I'm proud to have known that!  Anyways, on the way home, we of course stopped at the kedi.  Charlie got sodas and I got a Dove chocolate bar.  The ladies in there were really excited about something when we walked in, and kept smiling at me, trying to make hand gestures to say what they wanted to say—but they kept making it look like they were laughing at my hair or something, so I asked Charlie and he said my hair was fine… I'm still confused, but they seemed happy, so I'm okay.  I love that there are a few places around here that already know me—of course, they're places like the kedi and the dumpling restaurant :-)


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Day 20

Day 20

Chinese hospitality rivals Southern hospitality.  For reals.  On the way home tonight, I stopped at the local Kedi.  Kedi seems to be like a 7-11 or something.  This one's actually called 942, but I call it "the other Kedi".  They've started to know me there, as I often stop for drinks or a noodle pot on the way home.  A noodle pot is just a really big Cup O' Noodle.  Well, today, it's stinkin' cold.  I mean, see-your-breath-freezing-rain cold.  Brrrr.  Today, as I stand in front of the wall of noodles (seriously—they have about 40 different flavors, and I can't read a single one.  I just try to get a different color each time) the one cashier with cute hair came and picked one out for me.  She tried telling me something, but I obviously didn't understand.  She spoke Chinese, duh.  Anyways, she took it to the front, and as the other cashier was checking me out (I also picked up some "Mexican Tomato Flavor Lay's"), the first girl started opening my package.  I figured she was going to try to tell me how to do it.  Nope!  She made it for me!  She added water and then microwaved it.  It wasn't worth arguing with her, trying to tell her I'd do it at home.  Plus, carrying the warm noodle pot for half a block ended up being much better than keeping my hands in my pocket, with the temps being near 30 and the whole freezing rain stuff.

It's spicy.  I'm eating it while I type this.  It's good.  I'm looking forward to trying the chips a little later.  So far, the flavors have been pretty interesting.  I say "so far", but I've only had "French Red Meat Flavor Lay's".  Haha.  I love the flavor names.  I haven't gotten brave enough to try the blueberry or kiwi flavor potato chips yet.

I had a meeting with my boss while I'm here today, and he said that the techs are having a really great reaction to me being there.  With the whole cultural-differences thing, I'd been a little nervous about my reception.  They like me more than the trainer that was here before me, he said.  It made me really happy, since the techs aren't very emotional at all, so you really don't know what they're thinking.

I suppose that's all for now.  Since I've been here, I learned that my gramma got rushed to the hospital for heart failure.  She got out of the hospital last night (today?  Dang time change) and mom says she's doing much better.  She has oxygen at home, but only needs it at night so that's a good thing.  Also, I'm getting sick of watching National Geographic, because that's really the only thing on.  Well, the only thing in English, besides HBO and Cinemax, and they don't ever have anything good on.  Scratch that.  I just turned to HBO and 10,000 BC is about to start.  I think I know what I'm doing tonight.  Night, all.


Monday, December 14, 2009

Day 19

Day 19

What I've learned so far in China:

1)      Don't look at what you're eating if you're really hungry.  For that matter, don't chew it.

2)      Overseas Dragon should be called Magic Dragon because it's delicious and they have a menu in English.

3)      Just because they say "yes" doesn't mean they mean it.

4)      If you don't learn to eat with chopsticks, you will starve.

5)      If you do learn to eat with chopsticks, you will lose 10 lbs.

6)      Some of them speak better English than they imply.  Be careful.

7)      $2.00 for dinner is a lot.  Shop around before you eat!

8)      If you don't say something with the right pronunciation, they won't always correct you.  You have to ask for that.

9)      50 degrees really means 30 degrees and freezing rain.

10)   Chinese are fast.  They are also cheap.  This does not necessarily mean they are efficient.


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Day 18

Day 18 (AKA the halfway point!!)

I had a pretty chill day today.  Woke up early, got to talk to mom and dad and Brian on skype, then talked to Chris for a while also.  Went back to bed (sorta—laid there and watched tv til noon), then went on a walk.  Headed for the dumpling place for lunch, and had fried dumplings and wonton soup ($1.20).  It was a little different wonton soup though—there were itty bitty shrimp in it.  I mean, about ½ cm long.  I didn't even realize I was eating them til halfway through.  They still had eyes and everything.  It was a little weird.  Then I took the long way home—stopped at a convenience store and got some snacks ($2.00), then found a fruit market and got three oranges for $.02.  Two cents.  Amazing.  Found a candy store and grabbed a few fruit snacks, then some sweet rolls from a bakery.  Came back to the hotel and watched more movies.  I just finished Zombieland.  It was pretty funny!  I enjoyed it.  And now, it's all of 7:15pm, and I'm fixin' to call it a night.  I'll turn on some tv for a little while, or maybe just read instead, and get rested up for another wonderful week.


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Day 16-17

Day 16-17

I realized when I was laying in bed last night that I never wrote a blog!  Oh, well.  I'm catching up today.  Not much to write about yesterday anyways.  I ended up going on a walk, and sort of getting lost with Charlie, while we found a dumpling restaurant that has a menu in English.  It was phenomenal.  AND, it cost me all of $1.50 for dumplings and soup.  Yummy.

This morning, I woke up and got to talk with Chris on the phone.  Not for long though, because I had a day out with Charlie and Jim.  We went to the Suzhou Silk Factory and it was so fun.  We somehow accidentally found the one woman there that spoke English, and she took us on a tour of the embroidery areas, and explained how they do it.  The Master Embroiderers have worked on this for decades, and the work they make is amazing.  People in Suzhou are famous for their embroidered cats and fish.  What they do is take a thread of silk, about the size of regular thread, and they use their hands to make it into 48 pieces.  Meaning, they cut it in half however many times.  In thickness, not length.  So they end up with *super* fine pieces of thread to use in the embroidery.  It looks like paintings.  No kidding.  I bought an embroidered picture, goldfish, that was done by an apprentice.  I also got a coin purse that's embroidered silk, and something for my aunt and uncle for Christmas.  I can't say it on here, because they read this and I want it to be a surprise :-)

After, Charlie and I went to Guan Qian, which is a pretty great shopping area.  Charlie went to look for Christmas gifts for his son, but ended up getting his wife more jewelry :-)  it's pretty funny.  He can't stop buying her jewelry!  She's going to love him taking this trip.  I got something for mom, something for Chris, and a bunch of tea stuff for me.  Some ceramic canisters for fresh tea, and a bit (well, a bunch) of loose-leaf tea.  Some jasmine tea and some special Suzhou green tea.  The only place that this tea grows is on a tiny island in Suzhou, and I had some at dinner with the VP.  It's good.  I tried asking them for a tea ball, that stainless mesh thing to put tea in, but wasn't too concerned because I have one at home.  I did end up with a glass mug that has a sort of built-in filter so you can put the loose tea in it with hot water and drink it is all.  Oh, I found a donut store called Sweety Donuts.  They had flavors like seaweed, fish, and "fluffy hot".  It was a little scary.  I got a few, just some normal flavors like strawberry and chocolate.  The chocolate isn't as sweet as I'm used to.  And after a while, they start to smell funny though.  Not sure why.

Then we came back to the hotel, where I sat down with a movie.  Which movie, you ask?  Well, a little flick called… um… what was it?  Oh, yeah.  2012.  What?  You say that's not out on DVD yet?  Hahaha—I'm in China and we don't have rules about that stuff.  I have a bunch more movies also, because Tyler left them with me when he left yesterday.  I love it.

I've included some pictures again.  Mostly the silk factory, people working, the gardens there, and me in front of some Christmas decorations.  Enjoy!


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day 15

Day 15

I have a really short blog tonight.

I am still feeling homesick, and I'm almost halfway done with my trip.  Almost.  I picked up my coat tonight, and it's beautiful.  I love the silk I picked for the lining—I was worried that the colors wouldn't really match, but it looks good.  If I could do it over, I probably wouldn't get the cotton liner inside it.  It's super duper warm.  I won't even have to wear a sweater with it!  Well, Chris says it's cold in Dallas, so that's good.  Cause it's not too cold here, but still cool enough in the mornings for me to wear it.  It'll look really cute with my Burberry purse, I tell ya.

Okay.  It's all of 8:00, and I think I'm going to go to bed.  I'm just really worn out tonight.  Sorry so short.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Day 14

Day 14

Today was great.  But I'm tired and so I'm not going to tell all of it.  Maybe I'll catch up on it later.

My kiddos did great in their day 2 of the study, and they had 6 techs along with 4 sponsors and the study director in the room.  Didn't even flinch.  I was so proud!

I trained people on dog stuff.  I missed dogs.  They did great also.  They have good technique, we just have to get them to speed it up a little in some areas.

I trained with Charlie on monkeys.  Ooohhh-eeey.  Monkeys are interesting little creatures.  They aren't mean, or aggressive, but they're stronger than any man, and squirrely little things.  Which means, I'm a great doser, but I absolutely SUCK at catching them.  I let the first one get out—and we chased it for about 7 minutes, all while Charlie and I are both covered in monkey poo.  That's right, monkey poo.  You haven't lived until you've been covered in monkey poo in China, I'm tellin' you.  I caught the second one successfully, then let the third one loose.  Crap.  This one was much harder to catch.  At one point, a tech had climbed on top of the cages to catch it, but the monkeys can jump from cage to cage, then go down behind them, then go under them, then jump back to the top of the other set of cages… basically, this one just wore down, so we were able to catch it.  Then, Tyler made me prove that I had caught one before he came in to see, so I have to catch the fourth one.  I was so terrified—I was NOT in the mood to chase another one!  Well, I grabbed this one good from the start, but he started chewing on my thumb.  Luckily, I'm wearing these welder gloves, so it's thicker leather and it just feels like a little pinch.  I got him out, and totally looked like I knew what I was doing.  But truth be told, it was fun and I'm just fine dosing and not catching them.

For dinner tonight, I went to the hotel restaurant.  Had a nice conversation with my waiter—he said that Christmas here in China only started really a few years ago, and it's more a holiday for boyfriends and girlfriends than for families and kids.  And of course, not church-related at all.  Anyways, I ordered spaghetti.  Someone, please send a memo to China and let them know that there is supposed to be tomatoes in spaghetti, k?  Thanks.  (PS, Uncle George?  I am requesting your famous spaghetti for when I return and visit you guys that first weekend)  :-)


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Day 13

Day 13

Today, I helped a study day 1 go off pretty darn well.  After it, one of the girls came up, asked me if it was my first time in China, how I was liking it, then put her arm around me and said, "don't go"—it was terribly sweet.  I felt like they didn't really care for me, you know?  I mean, they already know the functions; I'm just teaching them better processes.  In other words: stepping on their toes.  So to have her say that, it meant a lot.  Like I'm really making a difference here.

When I first got here, I saw places like McDonald's, KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut… and thought, who the EFF would eat at a place like that?  You're in frickin' CHINA and you're going to eat a BURGER??  Well, I'll tell you who eats at those places.  *this girl* does.  I had Pizza Hut for dinner, and it was phenomenal.  I'll liken it to eating hamburgers every day for two weeks—you'd want a change, right?  Perhaps some Chinese take-out to spice things up?  Well, I'm in the opposite boat.  I've had Chinese food every day for 2 weeks (except for my chimichanga day—but we don't talk about that), and I wanted a break.  I also bought a piece of French chocolate cake to have for dessert tonight.  I'm stoked.  If I have to eat it with my fingers, I'm going to.  You can bet on it.  Thing is, being in China shrinks your belly.  I ate two pretty tiny pieces of pizza and I was STUFFED.  Charlie, too.  So we split the leftovers (two more pieces each) and I'm totally looking forward to cold pizza for breakfast!

I also bought a few things for Boyfriend tonight!  I'm so excited.  He was the hardest person to shop for.  But I did it!  I finally started finding things for him :-) and it makes me happy, too!  But while I'm looking for his souvenirs, I had a really hard time tearing myself away from these gorgeous engraved metal bracelets… for me… so I had to remind myself who I was shopping for.  A number of times.


Monday, December 7, 2009

Day 12

Day 12

Work was productive.  My favorite part of the day was when I was in the lab, because for a minute, I forgot that I was in China.

After work, Tyler pointed me in the direction of some places to eat.  I must have walked over a mile before I found what he was talking about.  I kept looking in the windows of places because I was hoping to find one with a lot of pictures so that I could just point at what I want.  It's difficult to communicate with anyone outside of shopping in Shanghai, or just my hotel lobby.  As I'm not finding a place to eat, I found a pharmacy instead.  I went in and coughed for the girl, and she gave me some medicines.  Two, actually.  But the problem is, they're all written in Chinese!  So I have no idea how to take them or anything.  I will continue this part of the story later.

I started heading back towards the hotel, and passed what Tyler called some kind of Chinese fast-food.  Figured I'd try it out.  No one there spoke English, they didn't have a picture menu, and they didn't have a menu in English.  Well, that's easy to figure out—I just handed them 15 yuan and shrugged my shoulders.  They pointed to a table, then brought out my food (see, I told you this would work).  I ended up with a sort of spring roll/ egg roll, a bowl of rice, and a soup that had pork, clear jellyfish-style noodles, I think squid, a few kinds of seaweed, and some other things that I couldn't identify.  It was pretty darn tasty, actually.

More heading towards the hotel, and I stopped in a super market.  They sold everything from bath products to chocolate to purses and bras.  I picked up some lavender bath milk, some "milk teas" (not sure what they are, but they look tasty), a dove candy bar, and a gallon of orange juice to add to my vanilla protein-style mixer that Tara gave me.

Finally, I arrived back at the hotel.  I went straight up to the counter and asked the cheerful guy there how I should take my medicines.  Well, one is actually Levaquin.  If you know anything about pharmacy, that's a pretty awesome antibiotic.  I'm not infected like that, so I'm hanging on to that one.  Who cares that it's not really FDA approved? Ha!  The other is called Fufang Jiegeng Zhikepian.  It's for cough, and the boy told me to take 3-4 pills three times a day.  He was so cute.  He kept apologizing while he looked up words to tell me.  He said he was so nervous because he has bad English—it was great English!  The people down the road don't speak any!

I have a busy week planned.  Back to Thousand Year Road tomorrow, then to the tailor on Wednesday to pick up my coat.  I still need to buy a few things for people back home, and then I'm saving the rest of my money hopefully.  I'm a bit homesick.  If you read this, leave a comment.  Sign it, if you do it anonymously.  I need to know there are Americans still out there!  Plus, I miss everyone tons.  TONS.  And I miss my doggies.  And my boyfriend.  Chris, thanks for taking care of my pups and my house while I'm gone.  Can't wait to come home and have a belated Christmas with you.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go try out my lavender bath milk, eat a dove bar, and read a book in the bath.  Ahhh… what a tough life I live…


Saturday, December 5, 2009

Days 10 and 11 (part 2)

More pictures.

Days 10 and 11 (part 1)

Day 10
Went to Shanghai today.  Without telling the story of the whole day, I ate dumplings, went shopping, went shopping, had dinner, missed my train, sat on a train for 2 hours, then came home 3 hours after planned.  Instead of writing much, I'm just attaching a bunch of pictures :-)  I did do some shopping.  Bought myself a pearl ring, a Burberry purse, and a silk scarf.  Got a few other presents that I can't talk about on here because the people they're for read this.

Day 11
I'm still sick.  So, I'm staying in the hotel room today, watching National Geographic channel and reading in my pj's all day.  Going to have some chicken broth for dinner.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Day 9

Day 9

Today is the first day I was truly homesick.  I must have had a bad dream or something—cause even waiting on the street corner for the bus, I felt like everyone was staring at me, like I didn't belong.  Well, doesn't help that I'm still feeling sick.  I was actually excited to see my British friend, because I knew he wouldn't stare. 

I took Tylenol Cold this morning, and I felt great until about 11:30.  Then I started feeling sick again.  I still feel sick.  I feel like my head is about to explode, and I have a horrible, deep cough… want to know the secret to making a free trip to China suck?  Get a cold while you're there.  All I want is crackers and chicken soup.  And mindless tv.  And I have none of that.  I'm going to put a movie on my laptop and eat chicken-flavored ramen.  I even left work early to rest tonight, opting out of dinner with everyone else.  I have to get my rest, because tomorrow's going to be a 14-hour day; we are going on a shopping/sight-seeing trip to Shanghai, and there's no way I want to miss that.  It's all of 4:40 in the afternoon, and I will probably (hopefully?) be in bed by around 7 at the latest.

Work was good.  For the first time, when I walked into the room, two techs greeted me with "Hi, Erin"—it felt really good.  Some of them that weren't speaking much English to me in the beginning are now speaking more.  They understand more than they let on.  Sometimes you just have to go a little slower with them.  I'm getting to know their names.  There's Li Shusheng, Wang Fuqiang, Hu Xuan, Xue Bin, Mei Min, Pan Huaqing, and a girl that I can't pronounce or spell her name.  I don't' know the names in Chinese characters, just in English letters for now.  I'm working on it.  I figure with them knowing my name and saying hi to me and all, I better make a good effort to know who's who.

That's it for today.  I'm off to early bed with hot tea and a movie.

I miss everyone.  For real.


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Day 8

Day 8

What a day.  Well, actually, what a NIGHT!!

The day first.  It was more clear than yesterday.  Well, it was basically impossible to not be, after yesterday's fog.  It was a good day.  I had a bunch of meetings and wasn't in the lab as much as I'd hoped to be.  I had a meeting at 10 with the VP of Toxicology.  After two people heard I had this appointment, they made a point to come to my office to sort of warn me about him.  Well, after the meeting, I could tell about some of the stuff they talked about, but mainly I saw that the guy is straight-up business.  He invited me to dinner, and, well, I had to accept.  You don't turn down the VP of Tox.

I rode to the restaurant in his BWM with his driver.  Totally felt like I was getting special treatment, as everyone else got on the bus to go home.  We actually ate in my hotel.  I was skeptical, as I'd heard that the restaurant isn't that good.  Well, we went to the upscale, upstairs restaurant.  And that wasn't good enough, so we got a private room.  We ordered enough food for approximately 10 people, and it was just Brian, Charlie and me.  And, see, I couldn't even use the "there's starving kids in China" line.  You know, since I'm in China… nevermind.

It was great.  We had: wonton soup, fried fish, salted preserved shrimp, marinated beef, lamb and yams, tofu skin noodley-things, a big plate of veggies (eggplant, pumpkin, corn, edamame, and mini blue potato things), hot fish soup, and eel with garlic.  I'm pretty sure I ate a bulb of garlic.  That's right, not a clove, a bulb.  And the eel was interesting.  It looks like single ribs, about 2" long.  But it was eel.  Skin on and everything.  So when you're done eating it, there's a giant backbone in the middle of it.  It was yummy, but really weird.  And the restaurant was so fancy that as soon as my plate got just a little dirty, they exchanged it for a brand new plate.  Hmmm.

Anyways, that's really all I have to say tonight.  I'm super tired and would like to take the early bus tomorrow.  I miss home, and my Christmas music just seems so out of place; I may as well be listening to it in June or something.  But tonight, in the hotel lobby, they'd added Christmas-style glass bulbs (big ones though) and snowflakes to their interesting lighted chandelier.  I was a bit happier after seeing that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Day 7

Day 7

I woke up and opened my curtains like I do every morning.  This time, I was met with a wall of white.  Not snow, fog!  It was so horrible.  When I finally got downstairs to head for the bus stop, I saw that everything above the 7th floor of the hotel was covered in fog.  Driving, you couldn't see probably 50 feet in front of you.  It's amazing I didn't pass more accidents than I did!

Notes forgotten from past blogs—

1)      The "squatty potty" is way more prevalent than I imagined it would be.  There will be a nice restaurant, and it has a squatty potty.  If you don't know what that is, google pictures of china toilets.

2)      Why the heck did mom send me some 200 travel packets of Kleenex??  Oh, yeah.  I use them for tp at the squatty potty, because they don't have any, and also the change in climate has really messed up my nose.  Thanks, mom :-)

Sometimes I really think communication is getting better between me and the techs.  They respond a bit more, and some who really didn't speak English when I first got there, well, I'm finding out that they do in fact speak some.  Then, they'll break off into Chinese between themselves, and I can't help but wonder if they're talking about me some.  You know what I mean?

I'm starting to get a cough :-(   I think from the weather.  It's cold, humid, and polluted.  It's mainly a tickle in my throat that makes me cough.  Not like coughing spells, just random throat-clearing small coughs, you know?  Boo.

I didn't go out for dinner tonight.  Didn't do anything special, really.  I took a short walk after work to find a hairbrush cause I forgot mine, and this hotel comb just isn't cutting it.  I also picked up some sweet rolls (they're really just like mini hoagie buns) and a tube of oreos.  So right now, I'm dipping oreos in hot cocoa.  I'm all ready for bed.  Just waiting for Chris to get online so I can say hi.