Diary 2013/08/09 – TGIF

Oh my goodness what a full day! Who knew that Fridays in the office could be so exciting? It made the slog of Mon-Thurs worth it.

First, in my efforts to create an interesting private lesson for Angela (which totally got cancelled! Plans changing at the drop of a hat is the norm in China. I’ve had to make lesson plans for this one kid who’s changed his mind multiple times as to whether or not he’ll actually come to our company to improve his English before trying to get a US visa. He’s been rejected twice, and can’t speak a lick of English) I made some interesting discoveries about famous residents of the Edinburgh Zoo. The first was a knighted king penguin called Sir Nils Olav who was the mascot and Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard. What. The second was Wojtek (Voytek), “The Bear That Went to War” for the Polish Army in World War II. He was found in the Middle East, raised by soldiers, and then enlisted so that he could be transported with the troops. He used to help them by carrying loaded artillery shells, and never dropped a single one! He “served” from 1942-1944, after which he retired to the Edinburgh Zoo to live out the rest of his days, dying in 1962. Also, a documentary was made by the BBC and it is NARRATED BY BRIAN BLESSED. Seriously could not have picked a better actor to narrate a film about a war bear. Check it out.

Kill Hitler?

Kill Hitler?

After making the preceding discoveries about those rather remarkable animals, it was revealed that our office was initiating “Afternoon Exercises.” This made me very excited. I hate the 6 hour afternoon as much as the next employee. So for about 30 minutes, we did a few exercises. But no one could remember them! So I was tasked with choreographing the opening and closing exercises. The middle two were easier to remember: one had instructions, the other was a pop-dance.

Then, our afternoon was interrupted yet again by a “Safety Talk.” It was a little different from your average safety awareness meeting. First of all, the “老师laoshi” (teacher) wasn’t just here to instill the fear of proper fire prevention (which he did more than adequately, let me tell you), but also to sell a personal smoke mask, “the best innovation out of China yet” the way he was going on about it. One time use, it would allow you to breathe in smoke for up to an hour. But before he told us about it, he showed us several horrifying images and videos of absolutely awe-inspiring incidents. My least favourite, after the video of the young child being run over by two cars and no one stopping to help, was the video where person after person jumped out of a seven-story window to flee the smoke of a tall building fire. We even saw the pile of bodies at the end of the video. My stomach is weak when it comes to these things, and had to avert my eyes many times. I dislike even grotesque comedies where people accidentally die gruesome deaths in a comic manner. I find it unnecessary at our level of civilisation. However, the point of the presenter’s videos was not just to make us want to move our office to a one-story building made of non-flammable materials, but to show us what happens to people without proper safety knowledge, safety (something, didn’t hear the second word clearly enough), and safety equipment! Emphasis on the equipment.  The talk ended with a form for us to fill out that allowed us to purchase a set of three smoke masks, smoke detectors, and/or fire extinguishers. I wasn’t sure how I felt about this blatant salesmanship, because after the presentation, I was hard-pressed to come up with any good arguments why I SHOULDN’T purchase the lot…

Next up, today I also purchased a Public Transport Card. I was assuming that the rules were the same as Shanghai for these cards, but boy was I wrong. As my two colleagues repeatedly had to explain to me (because I really struggled to understand the first few runs through) that because there are two systems for charging Chengdu’s transportation fares, you have to put two types of money onto your card. The first is for buses, and is ride-based (次序). From my understanding, ¥10 will get me 20 rides, though I can change buses 3 times in a few hours and not get charged, like free transfers on the CTA in Chicago. Air-conditioned buses subtract two rides off the card. These rides, however, expire at the end of the month, at which point you have to add more.  This is based on the old system, which was in use before the metro trains came around in about 2011.  The metro trains, illogically, do not follow this ride-based system. They have a fare-based system, so you have to put money into your “electronic wallet” (电子钱包 dianzi qianbao) on the PT Card and money is subtracted each time you travel on the train. Luckily, if you run out of “rides,” the money is automatically taken from your “electronic wallet” and turned into rides. Also, buses with numbers higher than 300 follow the fare-based system. This all MAKES ABSOLUTELY NO LOGICAL SENSE except for the explanation “That’s how we did it before, there wasn’t a problem then, shouldn’t be a problem now,” a way of thinking that plagues any city or country that refuses to get rid of the old and bring in the new. Frustrating. We’ll see how it all works out this weekend when I go exploring!

Lastly, I took a wander around the neighbourhood after dinner, which was 中麻抄手zhongma chaoshou. I didn’t know you could select the level of prickliness of the 花椒 huajiao (also called prickly ash) in your chaoshou (ravioli-shaped pork dumplings in a spicy soup), and turns out “medium-prickle” is just right for me. I wouldn’t dare try 特麻 tema “especially prickly”! The shop I went to had, after tema, 老麻 laoma (best described as “traditional-prickle”), then zhongma, followed by 微麻 weima (“slightly prickly”), and clear soup 清汤 qingtang chaoshou. After dinner I bought a basin for washing clothes and some washing powder, and wandered down a little street that had a lot of kids’ clothes shops and swimsuit shops for some reason. When I returned to the hotel, I glanced out the window to see some expert middle-aged women doing some energetic Chinese dancing, and decided that I’d try to study it a little in my closed balcony! I had fun. I might go down and join them another day. Unlike some of the other impromptu street dance classes I’ve witnessed, the choreography was engaging, and more traditionally Chinese than Western ballroom or MTV. I also tried to take some of it as inspiration for our office “Afternoon Exercise!” Now it’s time for a shower. À demain!

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