Friday, December 8, 2006

The Jade Bracelet

...Krishelle's bloody wrist. So, last night we arrived in Hong Kong to spend the final two days of our Chinese adventure trip. After checking into our high-rise hotel in a residential area on Victoria Harbour, we took to the streets for a late-evening stroll amongst the street vendors. Now confident with our abilities to negotiate well with the Chinese and only purchase what we really want, we wandered into the six-by-two foot store of a tiny Chinese woman selling typical crafts to tourists. She immediately crabbed a jade bracelet that Krishelle wasn't even looking at and started shoving it onto her hand. It wouldn't fit, so she pulled Krishelle behind the small counter, held her forearm in a headlock-style grip while she grabbed a bottle of water to lubricate the wrist and try shoving the bracelet on... meanwhile, Krishelle was silently begging me for help, but it was all happening so fast, I couldn't do anything but stand there in disbelief as I saw the woman, next, reach for a bottle of dish soap and squirt it all over Krishelle's wrist and then lather it up with some more water, then lean backwards into Krishelle as she pulled the jade bracelet onto her wrist. Then, she turned around and stretched her little hand out to Krishelle for payment (obviously, because she knew that bracelet was stuck and was now Krishelle's for keeps!). Oh, and as the woman was shoving the bracelet onto Krishelle's wrist, Krishelle moaned out loud in pain. I feel bad, yes, but it's a really funny story... and, to make the story even more funny, I have video recorded on my digital camera a scene of Krishelle at dinner tonight trying to cut the bracelet from her wrist using a butter knife.

The knife doesn't even scratch the surface of the thing.... she also admitted that the reason she was in the shower so long this morning was because she was trying to get the thing off her wrist using shampoo, bar soap, hot water, etc., etc. I think it's there to stay. After several failed attempt to free herself from the jade bracelet, she suddenly smiled when she remembered that later this week she is going to visit grandpa in Brawley and he can probably take her to his shop and put her wrist in a lathe or something to cut it off. She says she's too embarrassed to go to the E.R. for help. She also says that she doesn't even like the bracelet because she doesn't have anything that goes with it... but, I reminded her that, in fact, she does have something that matches it.... which brings me to our next most ridiculous purchase of this trip -- Krishelle's and Bridgette's matching green suede alpaca-lined waffle stompers they bought in Shanghai on a whim... And, if memory serves, I recall Bridgette saying as she looked at them in the store that she would pay "however much they cost" because she loved them so much! Green Suede Shoes: The only way to describe these shoes that the girls couldn't leave China without is something maybe you'd see a farm boy in 1978 wearing to a High School football game on a cold Friday night. There is nothing lady-like about them, except for maybe the comfort (they are lined with delicious-smelling alpaca wool). The girls were so excited about them that as we walked around Shanghai they kept talking about how they couldn't wait to get back to the hotel to try them on again -- Bridgette took them out of the bag about 17 times that day to admire and worship her new purchase! ...later that evening when we got home, they put them on, stood in front of the full-length mirror and immediately realized what they had done -- Krishelle from the knee down looked like a heavy-equipment operator with horribly ugly new shoes and Bridgette just looked wrong. They were sooooo incredibly sad and kept trying to come up with outfits that would go well with their new ugly shoes, but failed miserably. I, on the other hand, sat on my bed in hysterics and literally almost wet myself... then, they turned on me and asked why I didn't stop them from making the purchase to begin with... but, there was no stopping them, they had put them on in the store and were marching around in them, creating quite a spectacle of themselves... it was great. Okay... enough about the shoes. (Jeff & Eli -- be warned -- you may be getting a souvenir of green shoes from China). Back to the bracelet stuck on Krishelle's wrist. As our time in Hong Kong was drawing to an end, we started thinking of the probable reality of our ankles and wrists swelling to enormous sizes during our marathon flight back home (as had happened to me on the flight to China), and the likelihood of the jade bracelet cutting the circulation to Krishelle's hand somewhere over the north Pacific, causing her hand to slowly turn purple, then black, and then fall off. We decided things were getting serious and we had to do something... So, in a moment of brillance we shoved washclothes from the hotel bathroom between the bracelet and her skin, then, I had her lay flat on the floor with her arm extended straight out in front of her along the ground, and I took a desk chair by the legs and whacked the bracelet until it shattered into four pieces.

Thursday, December 7, 2006

China stories...

Hello everyone! It's been a few days, we know, but we haven't been around a computer for a few days (and it's been so nice!). We wrapped up our stay in Kunmng by attending Bridgette's school's "Olympics", which was attended by.... well..... us. And, all 2,500 students participated. They marched around the Olympic field and chanted and carried flags and then lined up by class or age group for a bunch of rambling in Chinese that we didn't understand, but we clapped from time to time, and then the games began.
There were some relay races, that were run in their school clothes that are only washed once a week (Bridgette informed us... which explained the smells). We visited Bridgette's classroom and saw how dirty all four walls are from about two feet up from the bottom -- all the kids feet marks (and an occassional foot print about three or four feet high on the wall, which was hard to explain). The boys and girls bathrooms are "trough-style" -- not just for number 1, but also for number 2. You definitely want to avoid ANY public restroom in China. The nicer ones have individual stalls for number 2, but still are just squatters (hole-in-the-ground) so you have to have really good aim. Fortunately, Bridgette's apartment has an actually sitting toilet (though, at the airport, it's spelled "toilts" in some places), but that didn't keep me from dry-heaving when I went in there... the sewer system is really antiquated... so much that she and her roomates have duck-taped the entire bathroom and plumbing together so it kind of works (to keep the smell from getting too overbearing). After leaving the school and the olympics we went to our hotel in Kunming -- the Dianchi Garden Spa International -- and it was very, very posh (for US $53/night for our triple room). There was a wedding going on in the courtyard right outside our balcony and we watched the whole thing -- there were two flower girls wearing miniature wedding dresses with big feathered angel wings -- the cutest flower girls ever! The spa was nice and cheap, but the girl's feet were as tender as well-roasted meat from the scalding buckets of water they had to soak in before their spa ladies would touch them. I, on the other had, opted for a Thai Massage that involved my spa lady swinging from bars on the ceiling and karate-chopping my back and legs with her feet... I never slept better after that experience. It was 90 minutes long and she asked if I wanted to add on another 45 at the end... NO thanks, I said (I think, I said it). I just left. The girls were already home watching Chinese MTV.... bridgette was singing along.
To get to the airport in Kunming we got a cab. The cabs here are pretty much like anywhere else, expect for the cab driver has a security cage around him only -- kind of like the bullet-proof window in most US cabs, but it's only around the driver and has a lot of open slats in it.... so, we're not quite sure of it's purpose. It's really wierd. But, fortunately, all cabs have meters in them, so it's not easy to be ripped off. The cab rides, however, do make you fear for you life the entire time, unless, of course, you are on the verge of vomitting from the swerving and skidding to stops at every intersection, or from just being grossed out from the constant hacking up of loogies from the drivers (even the female drivers, which was the first loogie hacking I experienced in China). It's not a quiet little hacking either, it's a full-on farmer-style hacking with a giant spit to follow at any time or any place during your drive. And, it's not just on drives, it's while you're shopping, eating, ordering dinner, eating... etc., etc., etc.
The flight from Kunming to Shanghai was uneventful, other than all the American tourists who were standing in line for the bathroom at the back end of the plane... they were standing in line the entire time and it wasn't just a few of them, it was about 50 of them and they created a line that started at the back of the plane where the bathroom (and our seats) was and went almost all the way to the first class section. It was embarrassing, so we said we were from Canada (as we usually do when we see Americans doing stupid things). It was a big tour group that we think may have had an unfortunate dining experience at a previous stop.
Our hotel in Shanhai was AWESOME! It looked like Batman's hotel on the outside -- it was really old and had a HUGE round logo on the top of it, that, from a distance, looked like the Batman emblem... but, it just said "BAYER" (as in the aspirin). It was called "Broadway Mansions" and it kind of was like a mansion (though, Krishelle says it reminded her of "The Tower of Terror"). Our room was a suite for US $100/night and had views on three sides and a walk-in closet and two TVs with HBO (Chinese-style... old movies we've never heard of). The hotel was right on The Bund, which is the famous drag in Shanghai that has all the great shopping and views of the main riverway and modern part of the city.... and by "modern", we think it's fair to say that Shanghai looks like what most cities in the world could look like 50 to 100 years in the future. The architecture is incredibly modern -- every high-rise has a multi-media presentation on all sides all hours of the day and night... also, there are riverboats showing gigantic ads on gigantic plasma TVs on all sides, at all hours of the day and night.... this is all mixed into the existing pagodas and Chinese people running around with funny hats and large packages on their backs and also the rickshaws... It's a crazy fusion of past, present, and crazy future. And, in the middle of it all, there was a "jumper" perched on the ledge of the 50th floor of the "Peace Hotel" being talked down by some woman and a bunch of firemen from the top floor's window. We had to stop to watch the event because Bridgette informed us that she "had never seen this before." Implying that she was under the impression EVERYONE else HAS witnessed this before at some point.
We never got to see the guy actually jump, though, we did have time to buy some ice creams (gelato, actually, from an Itialian who just opened shop on the Bund and never remembered us even though we were regular daily customers), watch no less than six American tour groups walk directly underneath the jump area while following their clueless tour guides who were holding those big flags on poles so the tour group doesn't get lost in the crowd of billions of Chinese running around the streets here, and, we also got to see the giant stunt-type air mattress be set up underneath the jump area (in the event the guy actually didn't get talked down.... which we don't know because after an hour of waiting, we felt we should head to the airport to catch our flight to Beijing). We've been watching the news to see the outcome, but haven't seen anything yet... It was all kind of surreal and nutty, and ironic that of all places to witness a suicide in the works it was at the "Peace Hotel."
All in all, Shanghai was fantastic and we have so much more to write about, but the internet lounge we're in is extremely expensive (charged by the minute, if you can believe that), so we're going to cut this short and try to find another cafe where the fee is reasonable and then continue our stories...
We're all healthy and happy and safe. No worries for Nona and parents. We're in Beijing for a few days now and having a blast! The shopping is incredible!!!
Love you all.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

China, China, China... this is how we lived!

One of the few foods we ate in China were giant "cup o' noodles", Chinese-style. You never knew for sure what flavor you were getting, because everything was written in Chinese, so we would just look at the picture on the container and make our best guess... This particular meal was "enjoyed" in the Kunming, China airport as we waited for our flight to leave for Shanghai. You can tell by my expression that the flavor was "Super Fire Hot Chinese Fire Noodle" in a bucket. I'm holding a baggy of Chinese-style TP in my left hand because my nose began running immediately after I took the first bite... but, I was so hungry, I ate the entire meal.

China -- Kunming, Shanghai & Us

Waiting for the track meet to begin.