William Chow's Personal Web Page

This is my first ever trip to the orient in 2005. This is the beginning of my adventure into China.

Week 9 (April 16/2005 - April 22/2005)

Sunday, April 16/2005

Today starts off really early. Ami woke up earlier than I did and she went to the morning market to get fresh Chinese doughnuts for breakfast and a chicken bone for soup. Other than waiting for that stupid Purolator package, we just have the added task of getting that stupid 8cm DVD copied.

Now, here is the beginning of my very long example of how being a foreigner in need of special technical support is a near impossiblity. Partially in part of a few factors, A - language barrier, key precise words need to translated to convey proper meaning, B - technical lingo doesn't translate well except for acronyms like USB, C - technical knowledge of the stuff here is spotty as best, D - trying to find a place that has the parts and bits you need is a total bitch.

Anyway, it is off to computer town to find someone to do a DVD copy. Sounds simple enough, one of the first booths we came across said they could do it. The guy pops in the disc and tries to load directory contents in Windows. Nothing comes up, he concludes it is a defective disk. Now, here you can see where the fun begins. Try to tell the idiot, that DVD which now we look carefully is a Sony DVD-RW 2.8G (double sided), that is from a Sony Handicam and it probably has an incomplete multisession or it doesn't have a Windows readable TOC table. Not to include he didn't even bother going to Nero and try to get some information about the dvd-rw. Great examples of how A+B are coupled with C, just don't get you anywhere. I knew the problem right away was that the guy who borrowed the camera just gave us the unfinished (unfinalized) DVD-RW which means it can't be read by any DVD player or computer. Just like the standalone Panasonic DVD-R recorder E20 I have at home, you have to finalize the disc before it can be used else where. So, we need to find a Sony camera store with a hand-cam so we can finalize the disc first then copy it. We quickly found a Sony Store outlet upstairs that knew of the camera. It is here we find out that Sony double sided media is not very common and difficult to find. Ah... so this where an example of "A". It wasn't that the guy wanted "this exact" DVD-RW back, it was he wanted "this brand" and "this type" of DVD-RW back. Now he might have said that in Chinese and Ami lost the meaning in the translation. When I offered him money to pay for this disc, something was maybe not translated there. Or maybe he did give a price of 400 yuan but Ami refused to pay for it because she didn't listen to the reason why. Or maybe could have said that "this" was a "special type" of disc and it was "hard to find". Again, something was lost in the translation somewhere and important key words were not noticed.

So, after finding out this, she called him on the cell phone to complain. His comment was that he had never used the camera before so he doesn't know about the functions or operations of the camera. Oh great... This was why I wanted to HIRE someone from a photo/video company to do the wedding. Ok, off we went back to met him somewhere on Nan 5 Malu in a cab to grab his camera. From which we then taxied back the Sony store.

Today was a special day with lots of police on the street. Apparently, it looks like the students are protesting something against the government again. It is not an uncommon occurance from what I hear. I later found out it was a government sancitioned protest against the Japanese.

Anyway, the guy at the Sony store quickly figures out that yes, there is movies on the disc, and he quickly finalizes the session. While we were waiting, three German/Dutch white foreigners came into the store to buy a camera tripod. Of course, they hardly spoke any English and virtually no chinese whatsoever. They were trying to negoiate a price on a tripod by typing their price on a table calculator. These poor suckers already should know that the price they were quoted is already jacked up instantly when you walked through the door. So any discount will probably just bring it down to a price you would have paid just about anywhere else. Unfortunately, our problem was fixed and we needed to leave so we couldn't get anymore information on that transaction.

Ok, we go back downstairs and made our copies of the DVD-RW to a standard 12cm DVD-R. I figure I will be able to make use of it once I get home. Yea right. A note for anyone buying camcorders, FUCK Sony! Apparently, Sony has 2 formats you can format your DVD-R into, video mode which when you finalize it, you will have DVD you can play. Then count on Sony to make a stupid propeitatory format called VR format for doing simple video edits with it.,

We then walk back to CarreFour to buy some supplies for Alexanderia. We head back home for the chicken soup that she was brewing since morning. The Purolator package still hasn't arrived. I had a feeling we should have sent it Xpresspost... Over here ChinaPost delivers mail everyday, there is no day offs. It is obvious, that Purolator are a bunch of lazy bum asses. When sending things overseas to Asia, I strongly recommend things that use EMS, if not that, then postal service here does work on Saturday and Sunday.

We went to send off Alexanderia late in the afternoon again. She wanted a MP3 player but only if her marks for English and Math remain high. That may or maybe hard for her. We decided to take a walk afterwards back to her mother's place. She had to return the money she temporarily borrowed off her to do the wedding dinner. At this point, I find out that the wedding dinner costed 4000 yuan. We ended up with about 7000 yuan in red envelopes, so that was a good thing.

We didn't stay too long at her mother's place because it was getting dark. We started on our way back home. However, we got distracted by the fact that the road was closed by the police. We suspect it was due to the student protests and the proximity to the embassys. The strange thing was that it was only the one side closest to the embassy and not the other side of the street. That seemed bery odd since all one would have to do is drive around to the other side. Oh well, I won't speculate who thought of that idea.

Anyway, while walking along the road we saw a Baskin And Robbins 31 and decided to go for ice cream. Ok, it isn't as good as our 200 flavours of gelato in Vancouver but heck it is a little piece of home. I decided to order a three scoop sundae which was 49 yuran. Ami ordered a two scoop one for 28 yuan. i chose Rocky Road, Raspberry Sherbert and Strawberry. She ordered Rocky Road and mango, It was quite good, but then again it was BKR. Now the thing I noticced was the place was absolutely dead, nobody was in the shop when we came in and there was nobody in the shop when we left. It was no wonder since it almost came to 100 yuan just for two ice cream sundaes. It is definitely a place for the foreigners and those who just have nothing better to do with their money.

The other silly thing was by the time we finished eating, it was dark outside. Oh well, a night stroll on a warm and dry day is not a bad thing. We came across a small street night market along Caita Jie.

We stopped in a small grocery store to buy some bread and some more junk food. I decided to try a corn on a cob. Now I had one before when I was in Beijing and it sucked rocks, literally. It was over cooked so the kernals were hard as rock and rubbery like a tire. The only people who make it right was the KFC. We also stopped by the VCD/CD store on Caita Jie. It actually had a pretty decent selection of Japanese and English CDs. However, it was mostly stuff I wouldn't listen to anyway.

Monday, April 17/2005
Today was definitely the busiest if not the most lucky and thus the smoothest day and then thus the happiest day of the entire trip.

Morning starts of with the daily ritual of checking on where the hell the Purolator parcel went. Well, after getting on to ICQ and messaging with Hieu, it was discovered that the letter was handed over to DHL China. Now a few things makes sense now. Purolator has no offices in China so they hand it over to an Asian carrier. I had forgotten those DHL trucks in Evangelion. So, when I went to the Chinese DHL site, and all those "Internationaux" scan points now have a location name for them. The reason that is took so long is because of the all extra routing. Purolator got the thing to Hong Kong pretty fast, but it was then sent to Guangdong. I am gonna guess that is where the international DHL routing office. Then from there it was then sent to Beijing, which again costed another day. Then from Beijing it was fast and sent to Shenyang. Now it arrive there like 5:00pm Saturday. Now if it was ChinaPost (ie. EMS method), they would deliver it on Sunday, but since this is like Purolator, the workers don't deliver on Saturdays or Sundays. So, thus they will deliver it today. It will still work for us, but we have to get it on the first run, which is usually 8:00am to 9:00am if it was a ChinaPost shipment. I snagged the Shenyang dropoff/pickup office number office the web page from them.

When 8:00am rolled around, Ami was on the phone drilling the office to track where the thing was. She managed to get the cell phone number of the truck that had it. With that she called him up and started ranting. Ahh, that is one thing I like about Ami, I love how she has that great mad angry customer mode. It really has been very sucessful with "getting it her way" when she is at a store. Anyway, the driver was about deliver it around 11am or 12 noon. She managed to convince the driver to meet her at the front of the yard with the letter, first thing. So it was a mad rush downstairs and to the other end of the yard. We got there with lots of time to spare. It was about 15 minute wait before a yellow DHL truck came along with the long awaited envelope.

Ami immediately flagged a cab down and we were off to the marriage office, I started to open the letter and noticed that it was opened by DHL, but everything was fine, although they did cut a little deep and nicked the outside of the envelope that I had all my immigration papers in.

We arrived at the marriage office at about 9:00am, and she went up the person her government friend of a friend of a friend referred her to. She was the international passports person on the second floor. It was small room with a long desk with four women working on forms. There was one woman working as the cashier, one was suppose to be for Hong Kong passports, one was Korean passports and one was for international passports. So, after we submitted our forms, we got the paperwork started. Ok, now we had to pay a little bit for something. I, later found out that they have to photocopy your passport and ID and Hokou (Family Register Book), and YOU have to pay for the copies... Hell, there is a great money making business right there! YOU having the pay for the paper beauracacy, what a great concept! Anyway, we got sent upstairs to the third floor. Here was another counter with a couple women processing forms, a cashier, a guy standing in front of a photocopy machine (gee, I wonder what he does, eh Rob>?!) , and the other end of the counter has few computers and a mini photo studio set up.

Ok, we run up here and we need to pay many fees, marriage fee, more photo copy fees, and probably photo processing and lamination fees. I am not sure what all the little slips of paper are for but I all I tell was there were a lot of 100 yuan bills being counted.

I was looking around the office, there was a foreign couple in front of us. The woman was from Australia, State of Victoria; with a weird Slovac or Eurasian name. The man was Chinese but his hokou had many many pages used. The book is like your passport, the more you travel the more stamps you get. I guess this guy has "travelled" many women....! There was a younger couple behind us. The tall white guy stood out like a sore thumb of course. His young wife, looked cute enough, but obviously they were in the office to fix something because the office probably screwed up, apparently not uncommon with foreign marriages... Heh, you wonder why... hmmm...

We filled out another form on the third floor and went back down to the second floor again. A few things were done here and there, and were sent back up to the third floor to have our pictures taken. The camera was a Digital Nikon that used SD memory. Their computer setup was Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and they were using an Epson 280U to print the pictures out onto photo paper. They need passport sized pictures for their files, and the marriage book. They need three pictures, together, hers and mine.

Ok, after this was all done, Ami called her friend of the friend, person which I now learn was some leader of their section or something. Anyway, high enough to have the influence to have our forms expedited from the usual 3 or 4 days worth of processing to a same day around 3:00pm pick up. Wow, impressive! I also found out that with a there was a little talking between friend of friend of a boss of a worker of a friend (yadda yadda), our bill dropped from 1300+ yuan down to 800+ yuan. Hmm.... Something interesting creative accounting is going on here but I am not going to argue.

We went away to go home so they could "do" what they needed. We got back and started look over the package of forms. It was evident that we were gonna need to photocopy some more ID, get 8 passport pictures of Ami, and I was gonna need paper clips and envelopes to put this stuff in. So I had to make a quick lunch of two hotdogs, well, if you can call it that. In China, they label all those kinda meats sausages. So, it could be mystery meat hot dogs, or it could be ham, or pepperoni, or salami, or pork sausages, or bologna; here it is all just refered to as a sausage.

We walked out to the copy shop to do the papers, and get a box of paper clips. The shop was very close and right near the elementary school. It was past 10:00am so it was the school excerise recess. The students of the school was all lined in the yard, listening to anthems, and doing aerobic exercises. I couldn't help but to mock and mimick the poor saps that have to go back into class after they were done. Har Har!

We then went to a small passport photo place to get the 8 pictures for Ami's processing. The shop was a narrow closet with a small backdrop. They also used a Nikon digital camera using compact flash. She used the computer to load up Photoshop 7.0 to arrange the 8 pictures into a sheet and print it out on this hard card stock like paper. Hm... you'd figure they would have used photo paper or something but no, it was just an Epson 380R printer. Oh well, I won't worry too much about that. If they question the picture, then I will probably know why.

Ok, the next errand was to go downtown to go pickup the wedding pictures book and the Macromedia Flash presentation of the pictures on CD-R. When we got there, they only had the flash disk ready. The book was not going to be ready for another hour. Ok, so we needed to kill some time. We walked across the street to go to the stationary store to buy envelopes. Strange that we couldn't buy letter sized mailing envelopes, so we just a few larger envelopes with the string flap closer.

We still had time to kill so we went into Europaer again to get lunch and claim our free coffee from last time. We both order sirlion steaks (48 yuan), a basket of fries (10 yuan) and a beef pizza (19 yuan). Unfortunately, the waiter from last time did something weird and screwed up our coffee coupon so that didn't work. They gave her a paper coupon voucher for a personal pizza and a cake for next time. I wrote on their survey comment card that they screwed up our free coffee coupon, and suggested that they better knives to cut steaks with, because using butter knives with no teeth totally suck for the job. I also circled a spelling mistake on their form, "Please return this form to our STUFF". I ended up eating my 8oz steak and about half of Ami's, we finished our fries but we didn't get too far on the pizza. We had to take that in a pizza box.

Now, back to the photo place across the street again, to check on the book. It was nice large sized red book and a smaller red book and a nice surprise, they had our Photo-CD ready for us, which was something they said was not going to be ready until the 28th. As we were leaving, another woman was looking at a wall scroll picture and arguing about something. I just sort of stopped beside it and had a quick look, and turned to her and gestured a thumbs up, and said "It looks nice". Then turned away to leave, Ami was a bit embrassed that I keep playing around, especially in THIS store... Apparently, the staff seems to recognize us.

Ok, it was getting around 3:00pm so it was time to head back to the marriage office and see if our marriage book was ready. We saw the same special people, and we got our forms vailded with our red thumb prints. We stood at a small altar with the date on the front of it and we put our prints on the forms.

Now, another set of wedding pictures in front of this altar while a staff reads us a few words. These pictures are then loaded up into Photoshop an drinted out. The pictures were laminated and put into our wedding book. The printer guy screwed up his paste of one the layers so he had to print another set of three of the pictures. We get the book, it looks nice with holers for the wedding books and hokous but the presentation and pictures look cheap. I can see why many couples go to studios to get real books made up.

Ok, we were done, we go home! We are done!

The only problem I have this evening is packing! How am I gonna get all this junk back to Canada?! A hint of forshadowing help, pack your stuff well, especially CDs and DVDs. I will learn something about them tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 18/2005
Today was the final day in China. Ami has been dreading this day ever since probably ten days ago. She wasn't as bad of a wreck as she was before, but is because now we have a done what we can to have a future together. I maybe leaving, but I assure you, that it will only before a short time. I can only hope she remains strong when I am gone. These last two months have been very special for the both of us.

Her mother and her quiet friend came along to say goodbye at the airport. She had asked her airport friend to come give us a ride and help see me off. He unfortunately went to his mother's place, while her mother was already at my place. We were short of time so we took a taxi to the airport, it costed us 50 yuan, which is quite a bit since the usual rate is 7 yuan is the starting price and you and travel pretty far on 1 yuan. Besides the guy didn't really turn on his meter until it was kinda late and the total only came out to about 32 yuan according to the meter.

We got there and I proceeded to the check in. Now they have something new here, a customs check before even the check in counter. This customs check, I got stopped on my big bag. They were looking for CDs, and that was the bag that had the majority of them. The search was a little different in that I have to open my bag and pull the contents out, I showed him to the VCDs I bought, and the computer software I bought, and the DVDs I bought and the Japanese CDs I bought. A woman noticed the entire set of Snoopy I bought, but this was not stuff they were looking for. They did however take notice to the empty spindle of CD-Rs that I had left over. I had put some 20 left over Maxells and TDKs CDRs that I didn't use plus some of the cds I bought on my last days into an empty 50 spindle and just packed it. They took the spindle away and sent someone to inspect it. I sifted through the rest of the stuff I had, including the VCD boxes of Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors Boxes and the DJ Music Mix CD box, but he had no interest in those. I even showed him the CD-R of wedding photos from the red wedding book, but didn't care about that. I started repacking everything, he saw some of the action figures I had, and he took a closer look at some Gundam Seed figures I had. I guess that was more PERSONAL interest there. Anyway, the guy came back with the spindle and it said ok. I don't know if he took anything but I am not going to sit there and count them. Just as I got the ANA line up counter, Ami and her mother with her airport friend waived past the customs check and met up with me. She was worried why it was taking so long and she was worried about all the DVDs and VCDs but I told her that was not what they were looking for. It was the CD-Rs. Her manager friend help us with expediting the luggage check in. I was unfortunately unable to transfer the luggage from San Francisco to my plane in Vancouver because of the all the enhanced security checks. So damn, I am going have to claim by stupid bags in San Francisco and recheck them back into Canada when I get there. That is going to heavy without a cart.

I walked to the next stop which is the passport, which went very well with the help of her airport guy. He got them past security for a "tour". I got a guy who was really analyzing my passport very carefully. He shone it into the light and was looking at all the watermarks and stuff. I guess he was just showing a newer and younger solider some much needed some tips on a foreigner passports. He tried asking a question of me, I just responded, "Could you ask me that in English?" Then he didn't bother with the English, and waived me through. Lucky!

The manager guy is pretty high up the ladder, as he was able to go one of the duty free shops and ask for three Japanese oolong teas from one of the booths without any problem. He is a big manager guy is some kinda properity manager so he could helped me throught customs. However, it was good that he wasn't there since I don't want him to get in trouble.

I fly off, an hour late, in heavy fog and lots of turbulence while flying out of China. Once we got out over Korean air space, we were able to gain some higher altitude and clear skies. However, after a half and hour, I was already air sick and felt really bad. I tried to pass out for while and I did nod off for a bit and that seems to help a little. They served us a Japanese hamburger steak with yokisoba. I switched on the TV and saw that they still the ANA presents Best Hit USA : Time Machine Special. This month they had Ray Charles, "Get It On" by T-Rex, "Heaven" by Bryan Adams, "Final Countdown" by Europe, and more. The selection was not as rock'in as last month's picks.

We landed without too much of hitch but man, I didn't feel very good. I got to the hotel and just passed out on the bed for a couple hours. That felt much better. However, it was getting real close to 11:00pm and I was hungry for a late snack or in this case more like a late dinner. Unfortunately, the restaurants in this hotel close at 11:00pm and the Narita airport is such a hole in wall, isolated booneyland place, there was no sign of life or population around the area so food choices even out of the street was gonna be hard. The hotel staff were useless as always, they may work for years at the hotel, and they can still not know a single thing about their neighbourhood.

Ok, I go into roaming mode and start walking towards the Narita airport area and see what I can find. Well, other than the highways are really poorly lit, the area is almost all hotels, car parking lots and airport service offices. However, I came across a Family Mart across the street from the Hotel Holiday Inn Tobu Narita. Unfortunately, it also closed at 11:00pm. It did have a cluster of vending machines, but they only vended coffee, juices, soft drinks, teas, and of course cigarettes. No solid food whatsoever.

I continued walking for almost 2 hours until I came across an old man police officer. "Konbanwa... Convieni? 7-11? Doku dese ka?" He started jestering to go down to the Hotel Grand Nikko Winds Narita, and then take a right at the road there. "Arigato Gozimashita!"

I followed the road and sure enough, there was a "Mini Stop" convience store right across from the JAL Nikko Narita Hotel. They were like an AM/PM, with a few items of their own like fried chicken, wings, and stuff. I bought some items from the deli section, beef don 500¥, a 500ml bottle of Coke 147¥ (comes with a Shonen Jump action figure), Tonkastu plate (3 pieces) 280¥ and a yakisoba 298¥. They had a small eating area so I sat down and ratified this new information on my map of the area while I ate my food.

I started walking back and quickly got back on to route 295 back to the Ana Narita Hotel. I arrived back at the hotel around 2:00am. So in short, it wasn't that far away, as long as you knew where it was... hahaha... Incidently, I found another stop called "Sun 'R' Us" across the USA Parking lot.

Anyway, I finished catching up some notes on the this computer and then went back to sleep.

Wednesday, April 19/2005
Today, I headed down to the first floor for the complimentary breakfast that comes with my stay, since my flight doesn't leave until the afternoon. The restaurant was called "Ceres".

It was mix of a western all you can eat and some other influence food. You had whole bunch of juices including grapefruit, and tomato juice. Soups included congee and chinese doughnuts. Entrees included spagetti in tomato sauce and pancakes. There was smoked bacon, weiners, and eggs (prepared your way by the chef). I ate this stuff while writing the updates to this page.

I got back to my room and cleaned up and spent some more time repacking everything. I finished early and I decided depart a little early, I got down to the lobby at around 1:40pm. I asked the bellhop, when the bus was due. Well, apparently it was 1:30pm. Anyway, he was so sorry that I missed my bus, so he called one of the other bellboys, to take the hotel car and give me lift to the airport. Wow, now that is what I call service!

Our flight out of Narita was delayed almost an hour due to the rain but we got through the security without any issues. What was neat, the Japanese had a special machine to scan fluids. They had to scan my open bottle of Coke separately on this machine. It passed, of course.

I went to the gate and looked around. Another great convience at Narita is that they had two computer desks in the waiting area. It gave you a nice chair to sit in, it had power outlets to plug your laptop into and it had a wireless point all ready for you. Now, I didn't have my Airport Wireless Card for my iBook, but that was ok, I don't need the internet to update this web page.

This time, I took some anti-air sick medicine, Gravol. It worked very well. We got off the ground close to around 6:00pm, over an hour behind schedule. This was making me worry since it will make my connection very tight.

I watched the cycle of the music videoes on "Best Of Rock : Time Machine Special". Then I switched to a Disney Movie called "National Treasure" followed by the movie "The Incredibles". I then switched over to the SNES emulator they had and played "Shanghai Mahjong". Between the falling asleep and playing I managed to use up all the 9+ hours sitting on the plane. One nice thing was that the plane caught up the 1 hour behind schedule while it was flying. It landed in San Francisco at around 10:30 am which was about right on time. Also interesting note, I travelled back in tine...

It was about now when I realized that my ears popped due to the altitude change and the Gravol that I ate is not allowing me to unpop them. I tried the gum technique, sneezing and yawning. But all this didn't work. I ended up walking off the plane in a sort of deaf stupor.

Now going through US Customs was interesting. They divided up US customs to do the idenification check, and then a baggage taxation check. So here I am with just about everyone else who just got off the plane waiting in line for clearance to catch my connector flight to Vancouver. Now, the indefinactaion was easy, scan the bar code off your passport, left index figure print, right index print, and an eye scan; then off to the next set of checks.

Now here was the interesting thing. There was a sign that said "US Residents" to the right of me, "Foreign Vistors" in front of me; and "Connecting Flights" on the wall to the left. Well, I just walked to the left since I was going to catch an Alaskian flight at 2:00pm. Well, I followed this hallway, and kept going. I realized that this hallway goes all the way from International Terminal 2 to Domestic Terminal 1. Not only that, once I arrived in Terminal 1, there was the front door to my left hand side that leads to outside San Fransico. I just stood there stunned for a minute or two, just amazed at how useless "Homeland Security" was. Because, if "I" was some other kinda of "person", I could have walked in and bypassed all the measures with my bags full of "goodies" and I would be on the streets of San Francisco right now having some "fun".

Sorry, I digressed from actual events to theoretical events. We already know that the Americans suck. Anyway, I was wandering around the waiting area, and I ordered a raspberry Snapple. Well, on the topic of sucking... They must have really changed the recipe for Snapple or this "drink" just sucks in the US. I guess I will add this to the list of drinks to avoid drinking in the USA along with US Coke Cola, US Mountian Dew and ANY US beer.

I went to check in my baggage, and first they just recently just banned lighters on the flights now. So it was a good thing I didn't pack that Fists Of The North Star lighter I got from Matt. The other new hassle was that Alaska will not accept or check in any baggage if it is locked. Interesting.

My Alaska flight was again, very very empty. It was also quite uneventful as they don't have all the nice on board entertainment like the Japanese flights. Anyway, I landed in Vancouver on time. Immigration and customs was a breeze and I quickly got ready to leave.

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the lobby, nobody was there to pick me up or greet me. Oh well, I had to take a taxi home. It was too bad because in rush hour, it costed me $35 to use the cab.

Thursday, April 20/2005
It is good to back home!
Friday, April 21/2005
Home sweet home!
Saturday, April 22/2005
God, why would anyone want to live anywhere else other than Vancouver?