Sunday, April 3, 2011

First Impressions of Beijing

**Preface:  I am blogging via email because China will not let me access  Nor will it let me access facebook(.com).  heh.


It is REALLY peeving.  I think the thing that gets me is that China doesn't even have the balls to tell you that they're not giving you access.  You just get a vague message that the server dropped the connection.  B*llshit, China!  YOU ARE REFUSING ME ACCESS.  And you can't even tell me that directly?!  I kept getting the vague dropped connection message until I figured out what was really going on.**

(That said, now let's see if this actually gets posted...  heh)

Oh yeah, the below was written a few nights ago.


Every time I return to China, I realize how not fond of China I really am.  (The pushing, the nose picking, the water that tastes of glue…)  I was excited to come to Beijing, since it's a new city for me.  How was it different?  What was its character?

My first impression is that it is quite blase.  It's like a less-interesting Shanghai.  It is spread out and not so walkable and it's a challenge to get around without Chinese-speaking colleagues.  (Even in the hotel, I get many blank faces in response to my English.)  I have not been to any sights yet (that is for this weekend), so this is strictly my impression from going to and from a fabric show.  

The good thing about traveling to China from France is that it's only a 9-hour flight.  It's so quick!  It almost made me not mind that I didn't fly business (I really wish I had a t-shirt that says, "I usually fly business… now where's the lounge?") and I sort of reveled in seeing how the hoi polloi wing it to China.  

(Sort of.  I was trying to have a good opinion about the whole thing.)  

First, if you're going to fly coach on an international flight, may I recommend Air France?  All of the booze--including champagne--is free, even in coach.  Most U.S. airlines used to have free booze for international flights, but now I think they all charge you to get your relax on.  I changed seats to an aisle seat (I get majorly stressed being blocked in.) that happened to be in the last row of the plane, which was fine by me because the seat next to me was free!  Until some Italo-French dude (I swear, he said "scoo-zee!") was brought in to "see" the video on the screen next to me.  Bummer.  So then it was the two of us together in the last row.

The other interesting things I noticed while flying coach to Asia (take note from your perch, my business-flying friends, here is what happens behind that curtain…) was that people are especially grabby.  Like, when the food or beverage cart is within reach, they grab whatever they want off of it.  You should have seen it!  The guy diagonal from me took THREE extra rolls!  He had already been given a roll like everyone else, but the cart was within reach, so grab he did until it moved!  (Check it:  one dude, four rolls.)  He also took an extra mini-bottle of wine, as did two other guys I saw.  

How can I explain why this bothers me?  First I think taking things without asking is rude.  But it also offends the part of me that feels like I am being cheated because I am not a grabber.  I may have not wanted an extra roll (I didn't) but I feel like these grabby guys are cheating the rest of us who keep our hands politely to ourselves.  I mean, what if there was a limited number of rolls and they ran out early because no one had planned on people being so grabby?  (Maybe this happened on the first flight to Asia.  Now the numbers must be padded to account for grabbers because the rolls never ran out.  But still.)  

This bothers me in the same way that I feel a burning hatred for anyone who refuses to put their seat in the upright position for take off.  I want to write up every flight attendant that misses one of these assholes.  If I can spot it, so should they--it's their JOB.  I barely see the value in the "lounge" that putting your seat back provides, but dammit, if I've got my seat up and the RULE is to have your seat up, then why do you think you can have your seat back for take-off?!?  Do you have a doctor's note that you must be in an obtuse angle at the moment of flight??  

The two guys in front of me did not put their seats up for take-off or landing.  And you know how they got away with it?  Because they BOTH did it.  Yeah, that's right.  So their seats were at the same angle and the attendant couldn't tell, damn them to hell!  I almost ratted them out with a silent finger above their heads, but instead I sat there, seething like an awful grade-school tattle-tale.  I knew they knew just what they were doing… and they got away with it.  I never realized how much of a stickler I am for the rules.  (Or how infuriating the life of a grade-school tattler must be.)

Oh, and the other thing that happens in coach on a flight to China… lots of stand-up hangouts.  If I spoke Mandarin, it would have been a real par-tay.  When the first guy got up right after take-off to help himself to hot water for his tea bottle (oh, the ubiquitous plastic tea bottle… I don't like to think about all of the germs and filth built up on the average one of those… I don't think they even start out clean when you BUY one), he kicked the whole thing off.  

There were huddle parties everywhere!  I felt like I was up-in-the-club every time I had to snake my way through people just to use the bathroom.  There were huddle parties at the front and huddle parties at the back;  I have never seen random people so social on a plane.  Maybe they were celebrating all of the extras they were able to grab off the carts?  I could see how it would bring people together.

What else about Beijing?  The air is horribly dirty and tastes bad.  (That's China for you.... again, let's see if this gets posted what with all of my praise for China)  The haze is low, just above 1-story buildings and assumedly all around at lower levels.  I cough and my throat hurts.  The military presence makes me uneasy.  (Side note, if you're going to invest in having "soldiers" all over, wouldn't it be nice to have their uniforms fit properly?  I have never seen so many ill-fitting uniforms.  Clearly, they are standard issue with limited sizes, making most of these military men look like boys dressed up in their daddy's uniform.  These are the most un-dashing soldiers ever.)  Are they afraid there is going to be an uprising at the fabric show?  Has the price of cotton brought us to that?  

Oh, and another thing, if you're going to put in a flushable plumbing system with fancy porcelain squat basins, why not just put in toilets?  It's really the same thing, just different positioning.  I know this is a cultural thing, but still, I must ask the question.  Also, I learned today how important the water is to a good-tasting Starbucks latte.  Bummer that my one coffee of the year had poo-poo smelly water as its base.  Yes, poo-poo smelly water.

So, my jury's still out on Beijing.  I'll get back to you after I see the sights.  Oh, and I'm having internet woes here, too.  Thanks for nothing, Beijing.  

**I may try to post some pics separately, but this whole blogging-through-email thing is new for me.**