Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dear China, Thanks For All The Food!!

Dear China,

Regardless of the recent debate we had in how to run a society of 1.3 billion friends, I have to tell you: You have some awesome food.

Not only that, but you should know that our relationship deepened because of two things: 1) The awesome food, and 2) that the awesome food was paid for by others. Nothing on God's green earth (can I say God in China? Only in state-sponsored churches? Well that's barbaric too...let's discuss that later over some cucumber juice and dumplings) makes food taste better than when it's paid for.

My main dining experiences were at the endless buffet at Le Royale Meridian hotel. I could choose from Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, and American. Although, the choices were so grand, I never even tried the american food

Here's my first breakfast:

Notice the sushi. For breakfast!! I loved you, China! Your international acceptance is an amazing thing. Another morning I had poached eggs, and one morning some sort of morning dumpling. Yumm-o. 

For my first lunch, I was in the middle of Shanghai and ventured into what seemed like a fast food Chinese place. I pointed at some meat dish, and iced tea. 

What I got was a Chinese noodle soup thing with lots of meat, a side of seaweed, and not iced tea, but hot tea...with what looked like dandelions as the ingredient. It was fantastic tasting!! Oh, and my 'slurpy bad manners' in America? Completely acceptable in Shanghai, and even looked as a sign of respect. Did you feel my respect with each slurp? I hope so.

For my other lunches, we had daily buffet at the hotel. That was ridiculously delicious.

Now China, I love your food, but when you offer Indian curry dishes in the same buffet along with your Chinese flair, and round it out with some dessert-fruit combo thing, it makes me want to hug something.

I had two outstanding dinners...both out on the town. Shanghai doesn't have a whole strip of restaurants, but are kinda tucked away...you really have to find them...as opposed to the massage parlors and pearl warehouses. What's with that?

The first dinner was in a restaurant hidden in a huge mall with my IBM China colleagues. They ordered for us, and it was fantastic! We had all kinds of dumplings, some salted fish, and chicken soup...with chicken necks and feet in there (OK, so while I had the soup, I did not partake in the solid contents...it reminded me of when my wife makes chicken stock...delicious liquid but crazy weird parts of the chicken). We ended the night with "Rose" ice-cream. Flowery and Weird.

The second dinner was an accident. We were told of this fancy-dancy restaurant and walked 30 minutes to it...only to find they don't take reservation and it would be 1.5 hour wait. We were too hungry to wait...so we walked to a place where the only English was the subtitle "Grandmas". Sounded inviting!

Here's how inviting:

Yes, it was large and cheap and refreshing. Much like you, China (was that crass? I'm sorry. Get used to it)

The menu had pictures with some English...I became adventurous and had the Cuddle Fish. (those crazy squid-like things that change into a rainbow of colors). And to be technical, I had BABY Cuddle Fish. Yes. Cry all you want...doesn't make them less tasty.

Just in case you wanted to see, here's a close-up of one. 

To be totally honest, there were some queazy moments when I realized they were not stuffed with cheese...but stuffed with Cuddle Fish innards (Mmmmm...not yum)

BUT, in the end, we had a delicious meal, and a fantastic night.

The final day I explored the city myself and walked through very traditional Chinese neighborhoods. As I walked through the 'old city', the pungent smells from the food vendors were very strong, and made me want to experiment, but was afraid. It's true, China, you are a mystery, and I did not want a living souvenir in my guts to bring home only to discover 3 months later. Although, the lines for the dumplings and 'everything that walks' on a stick were long, so obviously the Chinese tourists liked them.

In the end, I just decided to finish my walkabout in a coffee shop near my hotel. I ordered a latte, and sat down.

All of a sudden, I overheard someone say, "Yes, a Tiger on tap". 

Oh. My. How. Refreshing.

I decided at that point that my China adventure was done, and came back later for dinner to enjoy the pub, write a patent, and have probably my most satisfying meal:

Amazing. Not sure if it was how it was made, or just the fact that it was sooo familiar...down to the fries...but I have never been so satisfied with a meal than I was at that moment.

China, thank you. your food has made me enjoy many of our memories together. 

Until next time...keep the dumplings warm, and thanks for all the Cuddle Fish!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dear China, We Need To Talk

Dear China,

We just spent our first week together.

Now, I know you're supposed to be 'all that and a jelly sandwich', but before we continue our relationship, there are some things we need to discuss and get out in the open...some things I need to work on, and some things you need to work on.
Walking on the Bund

Can we talk? Does your silence convey agreement?
Okaaay, let's begin:

Don't Assume
Me: I shouldn't assume that you speak English. I know that now, and will work on learning enough Chinese to purchase food, find "el baño", and get back to my hotel. Although the hotel's 'tip sheet' was quite a nice backup.

You: Don't assume that because I'm an American, and walking by myself exploring your city, that I'm 'looking for massage' with 'sexy lady'  who is 'clean and treat you well'. To be frank, if you HAVE to clarify that she's 'clean', it probably means she isn't.

Don't Deny
Me: I won't deny that you are a force to be reckoned with. The technical insight I saw was quite impressive, and the people I worked with are quite smart. Your cities are growing and everybody seems to be working hard.

You: Don't deny me access to Facebook. Or YouTube. I know they didn't help that Libyan guy, but I find it really hard to believe that your culture is all that filled with unrest. My guess is that your citizens will find happiness in keeping in touch with their friends and colleagues from around the world, and laugh at all the 'cute kitten' videos they're missing.

Oh, and it didn't work anyway. A simple VPN account to a PC outside your country gave me unfettered (but admittedly slow) access to fill my Facebook needs.

Don't Limit
Me: I won't limit my customer interaction and co-worker networking to 'the west' and work to include my Chinese colleagues and their customers in my ideas, designs, and conversations. They are a fantastic bunch and are eager to work to make the world a better place.

You: Don't limit my Chinese colleagues to only have one child. How barbaric. When I talk of how my daughters train for gymnastics, and they assume a translation glitch and that I was really talking about my single daughter, it makes me sad. When I'm asked how old my child is, and I say I have 4, ranging from 8-15 years old, and they respond with "We are only allowed one", it makes me sad. Not only is it barbaric, but illogical. Yes, you have a lot of people, but your economy is awesome, and from what I can see, you still have lots of room to fill. Oh, and a tip: A man with the responsibility of providing for a large family is far more motivated to work hard and be responsible. You might be surprised at how your economy...and your overall quality of life...improves by just removing this legislation of stupidity. 

There. I feel much better. Do you? I hope so.

Why are you so quiet? Did I hurt your feelings? 

Wait, what? Why are you walking away? 

Well, I hope we can still be friends.

Until we next meet...


Friday, February 3, 2012

I Hate You...I Love You

I Hate You...I Love You
Inner turmoil between a Hinter and his thoughts

I hate you...public bathroom Hand Dryer

I look at you with disgust. You represent all that is wrong with the world. I want my paper towel. With a paper towel I can receive instant gratification...one swipe...only damp. two swipes...dry. With this multi-purpose rectangular bastion of absorption, I can dry my hands, refresh my face, and, most importantly, open the exit door without actually touching the handle.

You? You 'save trees'. I've got plenty of trees on my land I'd gladly donate. Besides, what do you run on? Unicorn blood?

I hate you Hand Dryer

I shake my hands like a wet dog...knowing that whatever I shake away shortens the time I stand shivering while the initially cold air blows uselessly over my wet hands. I look left, then right...hoping I somehow missed the paper towel dispenser.

No. I must look straight ahead at the object of my derision. 

I hate you Hand Dryer

I consider exiting with wet hands. Surely my jeans will dry, but my default drying location most likely will result in damp dollar bills in my pocket. I could use the cuff of my jeans...they're mostly wet anyway from the sloppy snow. 

But then I remember the exit door handle. If my hands are wet, they'll pick up 45% more germs than if they are dry. Or will they? What if the germs are stuck in the viscosity of the water and then I wipe my hands on my pant cuff immediately after I leave? All germs would be gone from my hands! Ah, but then someone's icky-germs are now on my pant cuff all day.

I hate you Hand Dryer

I 'rub hands together vigorously' while scowling at your double-entendre-filled instructions. They're wet, and cold, and while the water seems to be evaporating, it's making my hands clammy. When will the torture end!?! 

And then...

...the heating coils finally kick in...

Warmth emerges from your gaping maw...it is not wrong.

My hands are no longer clammy...in an instant they warm up...they become dry...not just dry...almost a silky dry. 

I linger...no longer in a hurry. 

I playfully rearrange the instructions' wording in my brain. I snicker. My arm-sleeves need warmth, too. They are lapping at the warmth...enticing the warmth up the arms.

I do not resist...

The warmth continues to my chest...down the neckline of my shirt...I am completely bathed in warmth...completely at peace with the world...

...and then you stop. 

It seems you've made your point.

I stand back in utter conflict. These last moments of sheer bliss are not expected. The disdain beforehand has now turned into something else...a new-found emotion...no, it couldn't be...but it's true:

I Love You Hand Dryer!

No. I hate you. I must hate you. All the logic coursing through my brain requires I hate you.

But my heart...and the warmth...and the freezing car that I know awaits me...

I love you. I hate you. 

Until next we meet, Hand Dryer. 

Until next we meet.

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