Thursday, December 26, 2013

Of Trans-Oceanic cable cuts, Chengdu, and our first Christmas in Hai Phong....

My desktop computer was suddenly just taking fooooorrrrreeeever to load web pages a week ago!  Ran it through ALL tests, and nothing seemed to be working to fix it!

Checked the Wi-Fi with my cell fone and another computer, and it APPEARED to be a BIT better, so figgered THAT wasn't it!  Gave up and tossed my computer into the local repair shop!

SHORTLY THEREAFTER - I am told that there was a cut in a massive underwater communications cable stretching between Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and California!!!!  This really, really fucked up SouthEast Asia's Internet communications and made things like VoIP fone calls to The States impossible!

So, in addition to not being able to fone my brother and my sister to wish them a Merry Christmas, I now know that, while there's really nothing wrong with my computer now that THIS cable cut has proven too be the issue, when I await my computer's return tomorrow from the repair shop, I'll no doubt be told that there WAS something wrong with it and I'll get bitch-slapped for anywhere between 200,000VND to 800,000VND (ten to forty buxx) to bring it home to The ManCave.......

C'est La Vie......

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So, Tam and I took a brief vacation to Chengdu, China this past week.  Fun began shortly after arriving at Ha Noi ready to take off when Tam mentions that she forgot her glasses!  NO optical shops were anywhere to be found ANYWHERE in the district of Ha Noi where we were staying (at my friend Petey's apartment in WestLake) when we got there in early evening, so we figgered that we'd try our luck in Chengdu!

After much miscommunication at the Chengdu Airport, we finally hook up with the ride from the serviced apartment we'd rented and roll into town around 7:00PM.  We hop their tube and cruise out to a district with several Western restaurants and grab some really awesome curry at an Indian place!  Then head back to the hotel and crash!

The next morning, we have brekker at an Irish pub with an extremely unique name - The Shamrock!  It is there where we meet our first English Language speaker in Chengdu, a sweet Chinese girl called "Lisa" who had been studying English for the past year.  She advised us of an optical shop just 200 metres down the road!  COOL!

Well, Tam had indeed taken Mandarin for a coupla years at University, but, man....uhhhh.....I don't think that in Chengdu they spoke HER kinda Mandarin or some shit like that!  

Now, whenever I attempt to speak tiếng Việt to a Vietnamese person that I DO know fairly well, they will giggle politely and simply cover their ears.  When I attempt to communicate with a Viet person whom I DO NOT not know, usually blood comes pouring out of their ears and they beg me to take what little money they have and please stop hurting them!

But, Jesus Christ!!  When TAM tried to speak Mandarin to these Chengdewians, it was so Goddamm bad that their heads exploded!!  No shit - it literally was like something straight outta the movie "Scanners" - later, I would discover that there was a hotly-debated count amongst Chinese linguists as to WHOSE Mandarin (dis)ability got the most "what the FUCK????" looks from the Chinese citizens that they encountered over a three-day span:  My sister Ren in Shanghai in April, 2008 or Nguyen Thi Tam in Chengdu in December, 2013!

So things were looking dodgy as we walked towards the optical shop.  As we walked in, I took command and pulled out the really awesome translation app on my fone and showed the translation of "My wife here is not Chinese [because EVERYBODY in Chengdu would simply ignore me and automatically start speaking to Tam in Mandarin], she is Vietnamese and she left her glasses back in Viet Nam!" to the kind gentleman who greeted us at the door!

The gentleman began to smile as he read this and called (what I presumed was) his assistant over and then the assistant and Tam started to smile as she and the assistant were chatting like they'd known each other for years!!

APPARENTLY, the gentleman who owns the shop had married a Vietnamese lady (whom I had mistaken for his assistant) from South Viet Nam (that Tam could mostly understand despite the strong differences in dialect) and they set Tam up straight away with a pair of sexy nerd glasses that had her seeing clearly for the remainder of the trip (and beyond).  I though about taking the opportunity to make several sets of ears bleed by blurting out something like - "NEE-HOW!  Shey-shey!  Toi Khong Thich Banh My!!"  (CHINESE - "Hello!  Thank you!"  VIETNAMESE - "I don't like bread!!"), but thought better of it as I was in a foreign country, so I sulked outside and grabbed a smoke instead.

After the optical shop success story, we jumped the tube Southbound to thee world's largest building (as measured by area square feet) and went on a shopping trip that seemed to last forever.  The Global Centre is basically a mega-mall to end all mega-malls combined with offices, apartments and a couple hotels and, in total, is supposedly twice as large as The Pentagon!

From the outside, it IS intimidating as all hell.......

After that, went BACK to the far North end of town on the tube to yet ANOTHER mega-mall (complete with a Wal-Mart and a Toys-R-Us inside), shopped some more, ate a really bad steak at Chengdu's take on a Bavarian BreuHaus, then called it a night!

Next day, went on a five-hour shopping spree at Chengdu's biggest street market and got some really neat gifts for friends and family.  After that, we FINALLY had a chance to grab REAL, AUTHENTIC SICHUAN FOOD!!  Thee moment I'd been waiting for! was amazing, but let's just say that a Sichuan hotpot is.....uhhh....a special kind of hurt.....

Final day - ended the trip by grabbing some more toys for Christmas for the brats, Chinese ciggies for me and some Chinese whiskey and Chinese beers as a gift for Petey for letting us crash at his pad whilst he was back home in Ireland for the holidays!

Thoughts on Chengdu?

Well, it IS what it is advertised as - veeerry friendly, with very laid-back folks!  People there bitch about the pollution, but I myself didn't find it any worse than Hai Phong's!  With extreme fog (they say that Chengdu gets the least amount of sunshine in China), the entire thing reminded me a lot of an over-sized Portland!

Not a bad place at all......if shit gets outta hand by the end of next summer with no luck on the job scene in The States and if potential clients are still being locked up by the Public Schools and the Universities here in Hai Phong.......MIGHT just head up there with the fam.......China supposedly has a major demand for English language instructors, sooooooo.......we'll see.......

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Got back to Ha Noi last night.  Today, had a local shopkeeper wrap our gifts, and with my micro Christmas Tree (kindly shipped from Rapid City by my friend Ann), celebrated (a late) Christmas this evening at home in Hai Phong as Emily and Minh Tuan opened their gifts!

Chengdu pics in the next day or two.....with this cable being severed - it takes an absolute eternity to upload pics to this blog, so please bear with me!

Enjoy your holidays!


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