29 June 2009

point 'n' click v. slr, part 2

Last night, I went out at dusk and did some more comparison shots:


Point'n'Click


SLR



Point'n'Click

SLR


and some more extra shots from the SLR:




In low light, the SLR really shines. Lovely!

What do you think?

27 June 2009

point 'n' click v. slr

About a year ago, we bought a Panasonic Lumix digital camera. I had done some research into what kind of camera to buy, and we've been very happy with the camera. The quality of images, variety of settings, and ease of use have been fabulous. I've really been enjoying taking photos in the last year and have recently begun thinking about whether an SLR might be a good investment. Having never used one before, I didn't want to drop a huge amount of money on one without taking one for a test drive. I wasn't sure if all the bells and whistles would be interesting or boring to me. So, I borrowed a colleague's Canon EOS-20D for the weekend.

Yesterday, I took a walk with it and my Panasonic. I took a bunch of the same shots with both cameras, so that I could compare and contrast them. Here are some such shots:


Point 'n' Click


SLR




Point 'n' Click


SLR



After dinner, I set the SLR on a long exposure and took these shots of the Long Beach beach.




My initial thoughts are that the images are fairly similar. I like the colors in my point-n-click better, but that could be adjustable using the SLR software. There's a whole lots more power in the SLR, as evidenced by the visible sand in the photos at the bottom, and even with the lens that came with the SLR camera, the zoom is better than on my point-n-click. All told, I like the SLR a lot. Not sure if it's the time to go shopping for one, though... What do you think?

19 June 2009

17 June 2009

Back in the states (with most of my stuff)

After a long series of flights, I'm back in the states. Two of my three bags made it back. The third one... well, no one at the airport seemed to know where it was. When they found out that the bag originated in China, they exchanged knowing glances with each other, as if to say 'Oh, THAT explains it.'

Regardless, I'm home. Feeling a little tired and a little ill, but mostly glad to be back.

16 June 2009

A Final Post from China

This is my last post from China before heading off on the journey back to
the states. Yesterday, we did the Great Wall. Today, we were entirely
more prosaic and stayed in town. First, we hit Mao's Mausoleum. it's an
impressive edifice that houses a big white marble statue of the old guy.
Then, in a creepy room behind the big statue, in a glass-enclosed
air-conditioned guarded-by-two-guys-with-whom-you-do-NOT-want-to-mess, is
Mao, dead, embalmed, and with a glowing face. Weird.

After Mao, we were headed to the Temple of Heaven when the heavens
themselves opened. We got soaked, and after 90 minutes of wandering
through the rain trying to find the Temple and a nearby market (during
which lightning struck our intersection, zapping out the traffic lights),
we bailed. We grabbed a quick (and surprisingly consistent) lunch at
McDonald's before heading back to the hotel to dry off and change clothes.

With the rain broken, we tried again, this time committing to cabs. We
gave up on the historic sights, considering that trying to see them would
only tempt the rain again. Instead, we went to the Pearl Market, where
you can by lots of cheap and wonderful things. Of high quality, I'm sure.
Benny replaced his lost digital camera. Daryn bought some computer
equipment. I bought some gifts of various aesthetic and historic value.

Then, we zipped over to the 798 Art District, which is definitely the
surpise of the trip. The 798 started out as an electronics factory, but
was repurposed into artists studios. Soon, it expanded outside of the
factory, and now there's a thriving art scene there. Lots of beautiful
work to be seen, including old communist stuff, new modern stuff
(sculpture, paintings, jewelry). I bought some lovely things there before
we zipped away to dinner.

Dinner was at a hard-to-find placed called 'Noodle Loft.' It was another
recommendation from Anthony Bourdain, and we wouldn't have found it if it
weren't for our intrepid cab driver, who made about 12 phone calls, trying
to figure out which side street hid our restaurant. Noodle Loft was very
tasty. We had crispy corn fritters, vermicelli with spicy pork, fatty
beef with mini-cannelloni noodles, egg and pork and fennel, and apricot
pork. Mmmmmm! What a nice meal to end our trip.

Hotel fires and crazy lightning not withstanding, Beijing was definitely a
surprising treat. I enjoyed it much more than Shanghai, and I hope that
the next I come, Sarah can come too!

It's 11.00pm here in Beijing. I'm up at 4 to finish packing before our
long long trip home. Talk to you then!

15 June 2009

The Great Wall, Nest, and Cube

Yesterday, after we recharged from the hotel fire, we hit the road in
search of Olympic venues. We took a cab to the north of the city,
where we were able to tour both the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube.
Both sites were amazing.

The Bird's Nest is smaller than it looked on tv, but no less
beautiful. We were able to walk right onto the field, where a crew was
loading in what looked like a big opera. The Water Cube was also
stunning. We hung out by the pool where Michael Phelps got his 8
golds. Really beautiful structures.

Today, we met our guide at 8 am for the two hour ride to the Great
Wall. We went to a section called Simatai, which is less popular with
tourists, owing to it's very steep paths. The walk was fierce, but the
views were stunning. Four local farmers joined our quarter, offering
information and advice as we huffed and puffed up the wall. After our
walk, to show our appreciation for them and their friendliness, we
bought overpriced books and tshirts from them. For the last leg of our
descent, we took a zipline over a resovoire (sp). We all had a great
time, but poor Benny dropped his camera in the water during his zip.

After lunch was a two-hour ride back to the hotel, where we are
currently enjoying a siesta.

Tomorrow is our last day. Plans include Mao's tomb, Summer Garden, and
some last shopping for gifts. Whee!

13 June 2009

We are all okay.

Last night, at 2am, we had a fire in the hotel. We were all evacuated,
and the UCI people are all fine. Lots of smoke.

Jaymi and I evacuated the hotel together, and after some frantic
searching, we found Benny and Daryn. There were fire trucks
everywhere, but no one spoke English. We helped reunite a Midwest
family that got separated.

After a while, we were escorted to a new hotel for the night. This
morning, we went to the old hotel and collected our thigs. None of our
stuff was damaged, but the hotel is definitely uninhabitable.

Don't know what the plan for today is. We'll play it by ear.

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...you ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow!

Well, Beijing is a great city!

After we got to the hotel and had breakfast, we chilled for few hours,
showering and relaxing. I skyped with Sarah. That was nice. Jaymi
booked a Great Wall tour for Monday.

Then, off to Tienamen Square. It's huge, with big ugly buildings on
all sides and a vast expanse of concrete in all directions. We tried
to figure out where the tanks and the students engaged in their
standoff, but to no avail. We did, however, see the big portrait of
Chairman Mao.

After T Square, we hit the Forbidden City, which was incredible.
Beautiful buildings and gardens! Then, the Jing Shen Park and a steep
climb to the pavilions that look out over the Forbidden City.

For dinner, we wanted Beijing Duck, but after seeing the bad reviews
of Anthony Bourdain's recommendation, we decided on a different place.
It took us a while to find the place, but after some stress, we ended
up having an amazing dinner! Duck, veggies, and beer. Mmmmmm.

Now, we are in for the night. We will all meet up tomorrow morning to
check out the Olympic venues (Bird's Nest and Water Cube) and maybe
Mao's tomb.


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12 June 2009

Goodbye, Shanghai. Hello, Beijing!

Yesterday was our last day in Shanghai. The night before, we all went
out with some festival staff and artists from Japan, The Phillipines,
New Zealand, and Vietnam. We drank too much.

Yesterday morning, after we checked out and stored our bags for the
day, we headed off for our last day in the city. First, we headed to a
computer store so Daryn could scope out computer parts. Then, a long
cab ride back to the Bund to take a short river cruise. Unfortunately,
the river cruises were all evening cruises, so we had to pass (we'd
miss our train).

Instead, we went to a massage parlor. We intended to get cupping, but
the shop couldn't accomodate all for of us for cupping. Instead, we
all had foot massages. Those were NICE.

Next, a short trip to a rooftop bar on the Bund. We each had an
expensive drink and took in the lovely view during our last hours in
Shanghai.

A quick cab ride back to the hotel followed (our cabbie's daughter
worked with Presidents Clinton and Howard {Australia} and had
legitimate photos to prove it!) preceded one final meeting with
Michelle as she accompanied us to the train station for our overnight
to Beijing. We said goodbye to Michelle and boarded the train.

There are several classes of overnight trains, and Jaymi booked us in
the second-from-the-highest, called the 'soft sleeper.' The four of us
are sharing a small cabin in a sleek ultramodern train. TVs for each
bed, a locking door, and a bit of privacy. We ate dinner, punched our
tickets, and drank a toast to Shanghai as we pulled out of the station.

The train ride takes 10 hours, so we were able to chat a bit and still
get a good night's sleep. As I type this, it's 6.30am, and we're due
to end our journey in an hour. I got out of the cabin and saw a
beautiful sunrise over the Chinese countryside. Soon, we'll be at the
Beijing station. From there to the hotel, and then our first day in
the capital of the last communist power on the planet!

Update: We are safe and sound in Beiging. Very hot here, but not as
humid. Plus, there's blue sky!


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11 June 2009

Thank you, Anthony Bourdain!

This morning, I tried to ship my 55lb road case back to the states. Turns out, that's not going to happen. I'd have to divide my package into two smaller boxes, and the cost would be over $1000. This is a disappointment, but we'll be hauling my road case through China for the rest of our trip. Bleh.

However, the rest of the day was great. Benny, Daryn, and I went on an adventure to a DVD store, where we bought some movies for cheap and some music for cheap. Sarah: I got a nice two-disc set of Mika music, including some acoustic versions. I'm waiting to listen to it with you!

After that, the four of us went downtown to the Urban Planning Museum. The whole museum is dedicated to the brilliance of the Shanghainese when it comes to city planning, and the highlight was the third floor - a scale replica of what Shanghai is expected to look like in 2020. Wow!



After that, we took a quick stroll through People's Park before lunch:



Then, thanks to Anthony Bourdain and 'No Reservations,' we made our way to Wujiang Lu, a side street known for its amazing street food. It was there what we found Yang's Fried Dumplings (specifically recommended by Tony):


...where we ate some incredible fried soup dumplings (see last night's post for a description of soup dumplings):


Also, we ate whole and cut-up grilled baby octopus. Yes, whole. Yes, with the head. Yes, it was delicious!

After lunch, we walked down Nanxiang Dong Lu (East Nanxing Road), which is a pedestrian-mostly shopping district. This is the Rodeo Drive of Shanghai, with high-end shops and such:


After our afternoon on Nanxiang Lu, we came back to the hotel for a little siesta before we go to see a show tonight. After the show, we're all going to meet some other people at a bar for a great last night in Shanghai!

Tomorrow, we have one more day in Shanghai before taking an overnight train to Beijing.

10 June 2009

Yu Gardens, the lame Bund, and Pu Dong

After our siesta, we headed back to Yu Gardens for dinner at Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant. I saw the restaurant featured in a TV show I watch called 'No Reservations,' so I dragged Jaymi, Daryn, & Benny along for the dinner.

Before dinner, we did a little shopping. More gifts for people, and an erhu for me! Wheee!

Yu Gardens at night is beautiful:


Dinner at Nanxiang was a bit of a challenge. To begin with, the restaurant does NOT cater to non-Chinese. No English menu, no picture menu, and the staff speaks very little else besides English. Fortunately, the menu is very limited. Two kinds of dumplings, beer, and soda. We ordered the smaller of the two dumplings. The dumplings at Nanxiang are called 'soup dumplings.' The filling is pork, spices, and gelatin. When the dumplings are steamed, the gelatin turns to liquid, creating a nice soup inside the dumpling. You have to be careful when you bite into the dumpling lest you spill your soup! Having seen Anthony Bourdain eat this on his show, I knew how it was done, but we all had to muddle through a few dumplings before we got the hang of it. Still, these were definitely the best dumplings I've ever had!

After dinner, we wandered over to the Bund. The Bund is the nickname for the old section of Shanghai that sits right on the river. It's full of old buildings like this one:


Unfortunately, the Bund is under major renovation in preparation for the world expo in 2010, so the promenade was shut down, as was the bar we were looking for. Instead, we headed under the river to Pu Dong, the newest section of Shanghai, and one that is quickly becoming the center of high finance in China. To get to Pu Dong, we took a kooky underground tram that had a sound and light show to accompany it! It was definitely the weirdest thing we did tonight:


After going to Pu Dong and back and finding that the Bund was not going to satisfy us, we returned to the hotel for a relatively early evening. It's now 11am in Virginia, 8am in California. You're getting up. I'm going to bed. Goodnight!

Zhu Jia Jiao, an amazing lunch, Yu Gardens

Today has been a great day, and it's nowhere near over. At 8am, our group, some Japanese, some Vietnamese, and some Koreans met one of our staff helpers, Allen, to hop a charter bus to Zhu Jia Jiao.

It's hard to explain the town well. Parts of it seem ancient, with very narrow streets, post offices that date to the Tang Dynasty, and small junks. Through the ancient-ness, however, is a thriving market scene, with lots of souveniers, foods, snacks, toys, etc. to sell. The shopowners are shameless about calling you into their shops, and we all bought some nice things. The first part of our tour went through the ancient gardens of a rich family:


After wandering through the gardens, we got to hit the market for a while before lunch. Here's a shot of the river that runs through town, from atop a bridge.
After the market, we were treated to an amazing lunch. Our group dined with Allen and the Koreans, and the meal was basically an endless parade of tasty dishes. I tried everything. Here are some photos of the table after the meal:

This dish was pork and pork fat barbecued and wrapped in a heavy leaf. You don't eat the leaf, but the pork was amazing:


Here's a plate of teeny shrimp. They were just longer than an inch. Too small to peel, so yes, we ate them whole:


Here's our lazy susan at the end of the meal. Dishes, clockwise from the bottom: white rice, greens in vinegar, egg drop soup with tomato, chicken with peanuts, stinky tofu, a tabouli-like greens dish, thin rice noodles in sauce, whole river fish, boiled chicken, some other yummy greens, stewed eggplant (behind the coke bottle), dumplings, shrimps, sweet starchy tomatoes, beef in a red pepper sauce, scambled eggs with baby shrimps, and the final dish was stewed sticky pumpkin. Yum!


After lunch, our group piled into six boats and caravanned down the river back to our starting point and the bus back to Shanghai.
Back in Shanghai, we hit Yu Gardens, which is less of a gardens and more a ridiculous shopping experience. Hawkers were hollering at us to buy their wares from stalls, Starbucks was readily available, there was a McDonalds AND a Burger King.


We did some shopping at the Yu Gardens and then came back to the hotel for a little rest before our night on the town. We're heading back to Yu Gardens, then to the Bund!

Before I left the states, I downloaded the Shanghai and Beijing episodes of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations. In the Shanghai episode, Tony talks about the Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant and Stinky Tofu. Well, today, I had stinky tofu, and we're going to Nanxiang for dinner! Mmmmmmmm.

09 June 2009

Our weird evening

Tonight, we went to see a show by a Japanese group. The blurb in the
program said that it was about sex fetishes, so we were looking
forward to something interesting, and a little daring. What we saw was
daring, but not quite interesting.

The preset for the show was one woman on a toilet. Nothing obscene or
grotesque: just your average woman on a toilet. Then, for the next
hour and three-quarters, we watched pairs of actors have conversations
with each other. Without blocking. In Japanese. It was horribly
boring. In between scenes, members of the cast would throw things at
the audience. Candy. Water. Coins. The house sat about 200. We watched
at least 40 leave during the show. Michelle pointed out that as bad as
we thought our performance last night went, no one walked out. At the
end of the Japanese show, one actor took her shirt off. That was
enough for some of the Chinese to be in awe, but for he Americans,
nudity is a bit passé. We weren't moved.

After, we bought some beers and hung out in one of the hotel rooms.
Nice and relaxing.

Tomorrow, we will go to an 'authentic' Chinese village. Will report
more then.

Oh, one more thing I forgot to mention about yesterday: I was shocked
with 220V three times.

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Massage and a day down

After the disaster of yesterday, we wanted a break today. Michelle
took us for massages, and then we had a nice lunch. Now, everyone is
taking the afternoon to themselves before we go to the theatre tonight.

I tried to take my road case to the FedEx office to ship back to the
states, but it turns out that first I have to get a customs office.
What a mess.

Also, I neglected to mention that it's hot and sticky here. Today, it
has been raining off and on all day. Gross.

Also, since my computer died, I am now blogging, in part, from my
iPhone. So, posts may be shorter.

08 June 2009

Diz. Ass. Tuhr.

Today was an awful, awful day.

As of our 7.15 breakfast, this was the schedule:

7.15: breakfast

8.15: call at the theatre. Hang lights, set up sound

11.00: actor call. Space through the show

1.00pm: lunch break

2.00: performance 1

3.15: relax

7.00: performance 2

8.15: pack

8.30: celebrate.


Here's what actually happened:

7.15: breakfast

8.15: call at the theatre.

8.30: be reminded of cultural documentation regarding the different pace of westerners and Chinese.

9.00: short out one circuit in the sound booth (still not sure why).

9.10: on advice from house electrician, plug our transformer plug into another outlet

9.10:01: create very loud sound coming from the power strip. Then everything stops working.

9.15: Realize that we are very VERY screwed.

9.30: Take laptop to shady computer consultant.

10.00 consultant tells me the computer is broken. Suggests we buy a 2.5" enclosure for my laptop's HDD and abandon the laptop itself. Shows me the scorched motherboard:

10.30: buy 2.5" hdd enclosure.

11.00: pick up Jaymi's 3-year-old laptop (our 'backup computer')

11.30: return to the theatre. Realize that since Jaymi's computer has no FW800 port, there's no way to get important data from an important drive. On the plus side, realize that the HDD from my laptop works fine in the enclosure. Begin to discuss cancelling the 2pm show. Realize that the power problem came because the 'hot' was connected to the 'ground.' Entirely not our fault. Feel a bit better, but not really.

12.00pm: still no love on the FW800 front. Management fighting with us about cancelling the show.

1.00: Have discovered that some crew members have dismantled my FW800 drive, against my explicit instructions. Have a bit of a cow. Yell.

1.10: Cancel the 2pm show.

1.15: Staff tries (unsuccessfully) to connect my FW800 drive to a Windows XP computer. The FW800 drive is formatted for an Apple, so it naturally doesn't work. I tried to tell them, but they seemed to think they could make it work. They fail.

2.00: One staff member goes out to get a USB2.0 ATA enclosure for the FW800 hdd.

2.45: staff member returns. FW800 drive works on the USB2.0 enclosure. I am relieved that no hard drives were destroyed during the nastiness earlier in the day.

3.15: stary trying to see what I can salvage from my work. Turns out, not much.

3.45: abandon the old software and start rebuilding the show in new software. Discover that software copy protection is attached to the machinery of a device, NOT the hard drive or the software.

4:35: Complete the hamstrung LIVE session the QLab show. Begin tech.

5.55: Complete tech.

6.45: Actors on stage.

7.15: go. The show feels like a disaster. The audience isn't laughing as much as we expected. They don't seem to 'get' our piece. We all feel pretty terrible about it. The sound is at 30% capacity. Only the bare bones of the design are there. All of the nuance is missing. Here's Benny & Daryn at the the preset:


8:15. curtain. The audience leaves.

8.16: strike.

8.30: visit with actors. commiserate.

9.00: leave the theatre. drop things off at the hotel. Bar.

9.30: Chat with Michelle, our Chinese student/host/guide/watchdog, who tells us that she thinks the audience liked the show. She says that Chinese culture witholds exuberant expression (applause, laughter, etc.) in most circumstances, which explains why tonight's audience was quiet. Also, she says that Chinese audiences routinely walk out of shows they don't like, and as we had no walk-outs, we should view it as a success. I don't think Michelle could BS that well in English, so I'm inclined to believe her. Still, we're all pretty bummed.

10:45: leave the bar for the hotel.

So, there you have it. Today was a real mess. I didn't take many photographs, such was the extent of the catastrophe today. Also, I have no computer any more, so blogging may post a bit of a problem.

Now, to bed!

07 June 2009

Day 1: A walk in town, meet & greet, workshops, and more

Sunday, 5.00pm

Breakfast was at 9am sharp, and was a buffet in the hotel restaurant. There were lots of western dishes there (eggs, bacon, sausage, etc.), but I made a beeline for the Chinese food. On my plate: brown rice soup, dumpling, sweet bean bun, fruit, kimchee (I know, I know. not really Chinese), hearty wheat bread, fried noodles, and grilled sesame flatbread. Mmmmm.

After breakfast, the four of us wandered around the hotel, peeking into shops and getting a lay of the land. Here's a lovely Chinese fire hazard:



At noon, we met a new hostess (Cynthia), who took us to the Academy cafeteria for lunch. Lunch was okay – bock choy, cucumbers, chicken, and, of course, rice.


Lunch and Dinner is provided by the Academy, but I have a feeling that since we’re in a new place with such a rich culinary tradition, we will be spending our mealtimes exploring other food places.

Next, we went to tour the Shanghai Theatre Academy and see the venues.

Then, an afternoon of workshop performances. Our performance was supposed to be one of the workshops, but it got too big for the space, so the Festival organizers kindly moved it to a different venue. We were supposed to see four pieces, but the group from Vietman cancelled, leaving just three. The first was a group from New Zealand, doing a piece based on Caucasian Chalk Circle, which was really interesting in the way it incorporated geography. After them were a few pieces by a group in the Phillipines, which were basically retellings of plays with a south Asian dance vocabulary. Less interesting intellectually, but more beautifully in performance.

Then, a walk with Michelle, our student host, to the lovely Jing An Temple in downtown Shanghai. There were some striking architectural features to it, but the most amazing part was the full Buddhist shrine in what was basically a cement-lined warehouse room. Weird.

Benny, Michelle, and Jaymi:


Michelle dropped us off at our hotel and we went to grab a bite before the evening show. We had dim sum at a little café. Here’s the spring rolls and fried wontons. Sarah, you’d LOVE these fried wontons.

Then, the show. It was a production by a group in Vietnam, and it was disappointing on many levels. The way the show was described in the program led us to believe that we’d be seeing a fully-fleshed-out play. What we saw instead was a bit of a mess of a dance piece. It was 35 long minutes. We left as soon as we could...

...to head out to find some dinner. We didn’t find dinner, but we did find two bars. One was awful – lousy with teeny pop, expensive drinks, and some stunning beautiful people (eye-candy), but the other was just right! It’s called Jam’s Bar, and it basically has seating for 12 people. We were the only ones in there, and we talked to Lola, the owner. A nice time, though morning will come quickly.

Tomorrow is our performance day. Jaymi and I are getting breakfast at 7.15 to be at the theatre at 8.15. The actors are coming at 11. We have shows at 2 and 7.15. Will post more then.

Oh, one other thought. When traveling in Europe, I’m always aware of how much I do or don’t look like a tourist. I try to be conspicuous with my photo-taking, English-speaking, etc. Here, in Asia, where it’s very obvious that I’m not a local, I don’t feel that concern. My camera’s out, I’m speaking the English, hoo-wee!

well, so much for a good night's sleep.

It’s 6.15 am.  I woke up at about 4.30 and couldn’t go back to bed.  I tossed and turned for about an hour before giving up.  Now, I’m up!  I finished unpacking my bags, checked to make sure that none of my gear was stolen during the trip, and plugged my rechargable batteries into various outlets to give them more juice.  

Our hotel, JinJiang Shanghai, caters to western guests.  Almost every piece of text here is in both Chinese and English, and the power outlets are built to receive both Chinese plugs and American Edison plugs.  So, that’s nice.  The guide book has this to say about the hotel:  “Once known as the Cathay Mansions and the scene of some important political events, this famous garden hotel in the French Concession has restyled itself for the 21st century.  Rooms are elegant, facilities numerous, and the surrounding area houses a number of superb restaurants.”  

What kind of ‘important political events?’  Can someone do a little research and let me know?  I’m curious about what has happened in this hotel!

I’ve got a few hour now until I’m supposed to meet the other four for breakfast.  Today is a bit of a relaxing day.  We’re meeting at 9 for breakfast.  At noon, we’re going over to see the big facility.  At 4, we’re meeting our student docent/host, Michelle, who will take us over to see our venue for tomorrow.  Later, who knows?  We might see some shows, or go find some authentic Chinese food!  Don’t worry, Aunt Laura, I’ll post photos.

In the meantime, I’m going to be a little chill.  Maybe grade some papers or read my book.

06 June 2009

safe and sound in Shanghai

I’m writing this at 10.21pm, on Saturday, 6 June.  We’ve just arrived in our rooms and have settled in for the evening.  The journey was long, but good company made it pass quickly.

LA:  This morning (5 June, technically), Sarah and I had a nice breakfast together before she dropped me off at the airport.  I was a little nervous about the trip, but she pepped me up.  At the airport, Jaymi was just ahead of me in the check-in line.  We checked in and sent our bags through security, but we waited to go through security until Benny & Daryn arrived.  They arrived, and we all got to the departure gate with some time to spare.  

LAX – NRT:  The flight itself was about 12 hours long.  Jaymi, Benny, and Daryn all shared a row. I was in the center section, across the aisle from them.  We ate Japanese airplane food (which is significantly tastier than American airplane food), drank Japanese beer (Sapporo and more!), watched movies (I watched four!  Valkyrie, The International, Gran Torino, and Revolutionary Road), played video games, and read (four magazines!).  I tried to doze off, but even with a Dramamine in my system, my body clock wasn’t going to let me sleep much.  When we arrived in Tokyo, everyone on the plane had to stay seated while masked medical people walked up and down the aisle, eyeballing everyone to make sure no one had H1N1 symptoms.

Tokyo/Narita:  The Tokyo airport is beautiful.   Big windows, high ceilings, everything very clean.  Being well-fed on the flight from LAX, we didn’t buy any food, but I noticed that the prices did not always reflect the ‘very expensive’ reputation that Tokyo has.  You could buy a rice ball for 110 yen (about $1.50 US), and the price of coffee wasn’t much more than at a Starbucks in the states (and the quality is MUCH better!).  True, a glass of beer cost about $9, and a hot dog cost $7, but what the heck are you doing ordering a hot dog in Japan to begin with?

NRT – PVG:  This flight was much shorter (3 hours), but by the time we got on this flight, we were feeling pretty tired.  We had a bite and a beer on the plane, and we filled out multiple forms so the Chinese government can know where we’ll be and how we’re feeling.  When we arrive in Shanghai, we again had to wait for medical professionals to walk the aisles, but this time, they were much more thorough.  They had a little device that shone a red light on everyone’s forehead.  I don’t know for sure what it was for, but I suspect it was there to check temperature.  The person in the seat behind me apparently had a higher-than-normal temperature, because the medical people had to have a mini-conference before they’d let this guy (and the rest of us) off the plane.

Once we were off the plane, it was surprisingly easy to get our bags, go through customs, and meet our hosts.  The only hangup came from Benny, who looks significantly older than his passport photo.  The customs officer didn’t believe it was him, and Benny had to show two more forms of ID before they’d let him through.

We met our hosts outside the main gate at the airport, and they drove us the 45 minutes to our hotel, the Shanghai Hotel.  We checked into our three rooms (Jaymi and I have our own rooms.  Benny & Daryn are sharing) and agreed to meet at 9am tomorrow morning to go to breakfast.  

Now, it’s 10.37pm, Saturday night.  In LA, it’s 7.37am, Saturday morning.  Which means that I’ve been up for 24 hours.  I’m going to bed.

I don’t yet have internet access, but as soon as I get it, I’ll post this via email.

04 June 2009

so long (possibly for a few weeks)

Today is the last day of classes at the U, and I'm getting ready to wrap up my quarter. I've got three classes today, and it's a relatively light day, considering. We're hearing final projects in two classes, and the third class is part lecture, but part listening to new music. In between, I'm going to try to cram as much grading in as I can, so I don't have to take as much stuff with me to China.

At the end of the day, I'm going to go home and pack. Tomorrow, I leave for a week and a half in Shanghai and Beijing. I'm not sure what the internet situation will be over there, but I'll try to update my blog regularly. I've got a system set up where I can post text via email, but to post photos, I have to log into the web browser, which may be tougher to do. We'll see.

Alright... back to the school stuff. Hooray for completing year 2!