Thursday, January 10, 2013

The middle of the beginning

  We went looking for a place to eat in the airport in GZ (Guangzhou). Shockingly, the sight of a McDonalds had Kate almost in tears. She HAD to have a cheeseburger and I desperately wanted a caramel mocha. She was able to have her burger, I've still yet to enjoy the mocha I've come to depend on to get through my day. I did have a chance at something similar about an hour after dinner when we began to realize that the airport in GZ is not heated. I knew they didn't heat their orphanages but it never dawned on me that heat was a luxury below their version of the Mason-Dixon. 

I would later discover that it's only a luxury to the people. It's not an expensive commodity they just don't feel the need to bother paying for it. For those businesses and residents who want heat they get an "all or nothing" amount. The government is the thermostat so many Chinese actually spend much of their winter with their windows open. The more I learn about how the government works the more curious I am. 

Once we finished our hot drinks, including my ten dollar unsweetened caramel mocha, we began to walk toward our gate having less than an hour of our four hour layover left before we were to board our plane to Haikou, Hainan Province. The more we walked the more we realized it was really, really cold. Then the worst news ever stared us in the face as we looked at the large departure board... Our flight had been delayed by hours... Yes HOURS. We had been flying and waiting for more than a day's worth of hours and on the last leg of our trip we were grossly delayed. Why, you ask? Because there was some form of plane trouble at some distant airport which set it back by hours. There was no suggestion of replacing the plane, just waiting until it was repaired and arrived at the gate. Our layover immediately went from 4 hours to 6 hours and then finally to 7 hours. As the sun began to set the airport, with all its double pained windows became colder and colder.  We tried to find solace in Venti-sized hot tea and hot chocolate from a surprise find, Starbucks... But that was only going to warm us up for a short while and we couldn't spend all our money on hot drinks while we waited to board our flight. It soon became clear to me that I was going to die there. There was nothing available to warm Kate and I up enough. It was over an hour into my shivering that it dawned on me that the seats were all metal under the very thinly padded vinyl cushion. Standing up would actually keep us warmer. 

Of course I did not die there and we eventually boarded our plane for Haikou where a very pleasant Mrs. Hu met us at the airport. She told us her American name (which many Chinese have) was Lydia. She led us out to where our smiling driver Si Fu (sure foo) loaded our bags and we began our death-defying drive to our hotel. I learned very quickly that looking out the window while we rode around the city would not be in my best interest. I mastered the art of pure ignorance while in the van every time we rode. I did learn to trust him completely and to realize that what I saw as a life threatening lane change was actually just a minor inconvenience that Si Fu managed with just a blow of his horn. A three lane road became 5 lanes when drivers felt the urge and pedestrians and scooterists (of which there were thousands) would have to find their way whenever it appeared the most safe. Traffic lights are rare and laws are almost never enforced. It's very much an "every man for himself"  mentality on the road and it's pretty much that way for most all Chinese. In many ways I understand that for the average Joe but it is much the same in many businesses. Our hotel experience here in Haikou has been less than stellar in spite of the prices we have had to pay. 

I was shocked to see the amount of English printed below the Chinese on store fronts, menus, and other public signs. I discovered that to the Chinese English is fashionable. Just as an American would tattoo a Chinese character  onto his/her body even though they have no knowledge of the language. Just because there is English anywhere doesn't mean anyone can speak the language in any way. This includes in our hotel. I cannot understand why the room service menu has each choice in Chinese and English and yet not one of the hotel staff can understand enough English to take our order. Even worse is the impression they leave you that you will receive your order in due time and yet an hour later you find they never even took it and had no intention of cooking it. Thankfully I had been given great advice to carry some Ramen noodles along for the trip for Elli. It was the evening of Gotcha day that we all ate a very late dinner of Ramen noodles. We chose not to try to order from room service again. 

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