Jet lag is a bitch! I’ve never really experienced it before. Up until now I’ve flown to Hawaii on one side which is 3 hours earlier, and Dominican Republic on the other side about 5 hours behind, and that’s been the most. Throw in Toronto and Calgary a few times and that about rounds it off. I can’t recall anything like this – my body has no idea when it’s bedtime or when to eat. I seem fine one morning, then by noon it’s a struggle to make it through the afternoon, then I’m wide awake until 3:00am. If I nap in the afternoon it’s a full on sleep, no cat nap, and I wake up two hours later groggy as all Hell.
[Side note: Know where the term “groggy” comes from? It’s a term going back to the days of sailing ships and the rum “grog” sailors drank. When a guy had too many the night before he was called “groggy” in the morning. 🙂]
I had a big workload to catch up on as I’m sure everyone else did as well, and one day after working well into the evening to deliver statements to a client the next day I came home for lunch about 2:00, had two bites of a raw carrot, and made the mistake of laying down. I woke up two hours later – completely confused! I couldn’t figure out where I was or how I got separated from the group, and was concerned about Kendra not being there, I was almost in a panic. Slowly I started to realize I was home but still wasn’t sure how I got there and still wondered where Kendra was?
Then I realized that, okay, I’m home and Kendra’s back in Alberta, but what day is it and what’s the time? I’m dressed in work clothes so it’s unlikely it’s the weekend. Did I get really drunk last night and come home and pass out in my clothes? Sh*t; where’s Frankie? – did I leave him outside overnight?!?!? It honestly took me a few minutes to recall it was a workday and I still need to get back to the office (where Frankie was with my employees). Truly a bizarre feeling.
The jet lag kicked around for over a week too. On the following weekend I went back to Kelowna to get Frankie from mom’s and on the Saturday night I went up to my friends the Ross’s. A few beers in the garage I woke up on the chair I was sitting at with a blanket around me – I fell asleep mid-conversation apparently and Teressa put a blanket on me. It wasn’t until the next Monday 8 days later that I felt normal again.
Frankie survived the bad coffee scene for those who’ve read from the start, and had a good stay in K-town. A week in and he owned the place as far as the (much bigger) cat was concerned who would run away when Frankie came by. He even got dressed up as Robin for Halloween!
I like to think he missed me 😉. He’s back now and everyone in the building is happy to see the little fella. He’s still oddly selective over who he gives the time of day to, and he still gives me the stink eye from his doghouse in the office when it gets passed 7:30 and he figures it’s time to go home.
Some thoughts on the China trip:
First the glitter
China and its people. The parts of China we saw were fascinating. Kendra and I were laughing about how when arriving the Beijing airport and driving to our hotel in the city we all said “other than China flags and licence plates, and the odd car passing us on the shoulder, so far China doesn’t seem much different from home”. In many ways it doesn’t, but in so many other ways it is entirely different. I had expected the people we met to be very somber, the men to dressed in dull grey baggy clothing, and the women to be dressed the same or in grey or black dresses that went to the floor, and all watching every move we make with a suspicious eye. Too many 80’s movies! Most of the people we met were very friendly, curious, and anxious to chat with us and have picture with us or just of us. I think there was a law passed in China that at least one member of ever family must have a selfie stick. We were asked multiple times a day in the major cities for our photos, and young blonde Katie was a bonafide superstar. China is a fascinating country from what we saw, and as much ground as we saw we missed a whole lot more.
One thing that I expected was huge crowds everywhere and zero personal space. There were definitely some huge crowds in the metro and places like Tienanmen square. Dark Mark offered up an acronym for these crowds that a few of us adopted: a “FLOC” – a F#ck Load of Chinks! (Feel bad here for finding that funny). On the whole however, despite being in huge cites like 20 million in Beijing and 10 million in Xi’an, for the most part I can’t say I found the crowds any worse than Vancouver gets.
History and historical achievements. It is an incredible experience to walk on stones that have been in place for thousands of years, and hiking the Great Wall and hiking up to places like the Shaolin Temple is awe-inspiring as to how these immense structures were built… then think about the fact that there was no electricity, internal combustion engines, or telephones for when a problem occurred. The terrain is treacherous! Those two parts alone are worth the trip, never mind the Terracotta warriors or Longmen Grottoes or any of the many other fascinating things we did and saw.
Traffic. The traffic in mainland China is perhaps the most fascinating of all of it to me. It is utter chaos at first glance but it is as highly organized as chaos can get. All the drivers seem to be on the same page and everyone seems to know their place and what to do. The right of way appears to be given to whoever needs it the most without someone needing to be first or deciding “screw that guy, this is my lane”. Splitting lanes is quite acceptable as is driving in on-coming lanes; vehicles coming at you simply move over without yelling or F-you honking. Oh but the horns do honk – early and often – but just as a tell that someone is coming. Pedestrians and cyclists seem to know the drill too and the rule is pick your line and don’t stop. Cars, tuk-tuks, and scooters have it timed out to the second when the walker will pass and they are a foot behind that; if you stop to give the right of way you’ll likely get run over. Not to say no one gets in accidents, we watched the news of clip after clip of people GETTING clipped, but the traffic system works far better than you would ever imagine, especially seeing it for the first time.
Travel companions. The group we traveled with was can be summed up in one word: wonderful. It was a pleasure to meet every one of you and I humbly thank you for putting up with Jen … err, I mean with me! Other than Kendra I hadn’t met any of the group, and none of team Canada knew who we would be paired up and had no idea it would be people as fabulous as the members of team GB! I look forward to seeing you all again in my travels, and to (in no particular order because it’s not a race other than team Canada is purposely taking the silver here) Robert, Sue, (Dark) Mark, (Bald) Mark, Katie, Hannah, Rachel, Rufus, Lynn, Bob, Jennifer, Trudy, Tom, and last but not least Debbie, Kendra and I wholeheartedly thank you all for everything, wish you all the best, and can’t say enough positive things about each of you.
Now a little less shine
Dirty. Most of what we saw was dirty, including cars, sidewalks, hotel rooms, and especially washrooms or toilets. No surprise but especially in the big cities like Beijing. I don’t know if it is a water issue or if as westerners we really need to adjust our standards but there was a layer of dirt atop everything and every window really really needed someone with a bowl of warm water and a Shamwow (I have a thing with windows). The bicycles really struck me as odd too; every bike I saw was covered in crud and the drivetrain was a dark dirt-greasy mess. I was also taken aback with the cavalier attitude the Chinese took with trash. The Great Wall had heaps of trash along the bottom from people tossing empty bottles and wrappers over, and along the Shoalin Temple path which was dangerous enough to walk along, they would drop empty bottles and wrappers as they finished them, steep steps and all with no concern that it could cause someone to step on and twist an ankle or possibly cause them to plummet to their death hundreds of feet below. I even watched a park ranger cleaning the trash off the trails by putting the rubbish into a plastic bag then toss it far over the cliff. Not to say that littering isn’t a problem at home, or that it was a constant disgust in China, for some reason I was just expecting things to be cleaner.
Smog. This ties in with dirty since it’s essentially dirty air, and probably a big part of why everything is covered in dirt as it falls out of the sky all the time. Beijing was by far the worst; on our last day in Beijing it was so smoggy you could barely see the building across the street. And forget seeing the mountains, visibility couldn’t have been more than 3 kilometres from our 14th story hotel window on the best day we had. It made throats sore and eyes burn a few times, and with my contacts in it was immediate relief to take the out at the end of the day. It does make for pretty sunsets, but I really hope China and the rest of the world can figure something out that will drastically reduce or even eliminate the pollution.
Bathrooms. If you think you’ve seen messy smelly bathrooms in Vancouver or London, and I’m sure you have, they don’t hold a candle to toilets in China. Not that I suggest you hold a lit candle in a Chinese bathroom – that would be explosively foolish! The public toilets make me glad I’m an outie and can discretely use a shrub or back alley, it saved my nostrils and psyche from potentially irreparable damage. Again, what’s the reasoning behind (see what I did there) a squat toilet? An outhouse I’d understand but this squat business still uses the same amount of water but with the risk of slipping and landing on a surface you clearly don’t want to land on and/or going #1 all over your pants without proper positioning. For all the achievements China has made over the centuries they clearly are at the bottom of the bowl when it comes to toilets! Speaking of toilets and bathrooms, who’s the brainiac behind “the showilet”? For those that don’t know, in most of the washrooms we had the shower simply was a shower head off the wall with no tub or enclosure, it drained thorough a drain on the floor, and usually the room was small so that the toilet was just out of the main shower, but with not too much effort you easily could use both at the same time. On the face of it it seems ingenious! However, if you aren’t the one showering, or simply need to go in the bathroom after a shower and get to stand in standing water or just on a still wet floor, the flaw in the ingenuity becomes immediately evident.
Spitting. Gross, unabashed, and plentiful. The Chinese hoark is everywhere in mainland China. Without a second thought Chinese men young and old hawk up a juicy luggy and offer it to the floor for your immediate inspection no matter where they are. For the most part it’s kept outside, but sidewalks, train platforms, covered waiting areas, they’re all fair game. Hong Kong doesn’t allow it but mainland China has no reservations about it at all. I don’t understand it, although to each his own, just do your best to avoid me with the spray please. And in trade, keep it in China, spit in Canada all you need, but keep it discrete and off the walkways please.
And something Humorous: “Chinglish”
You know how you do your best to speak Spanish after one too many margaritas at the swim-up pool bar in Mazatlan, kinda-sorta get by with the bartender, and a few tequilas and many cervezas later you find yourself sitting at the bar chatting it up with some actual Mexicans from Durango all night long until Kendra drags you back to the room at midnight? That’s “Spanglish”, and not to brag but I was pretty fluent in it that night. China has its own version of this called “Chinglish”. There weren’t any poolside bars were we were but the Chinglish is alive and thriving, and unlike us trying to talk to them, in China it is them trying to communicate with us. Let’s be honest before we poke fun – many more of them know a second language than we do, and as funny as it comes out the point trying to be conveyed can usually be figured out. That said, we had a lot of fun reading signs! Most times deciphering the meaning was immediate, such as “Cherish fruit of labour” meaning “Stay the f#ck off our rice fields please”. Some take a bit of reading between the lines to figure out what is being asked or said – see the photo of the sign (compliments of Bald Mark and Katie) of how you are much appreciated for certain acts of behaviour in the washroom and pool at the gym. However, other Chinglish still has us wondering: One cop car had “… to enslave” on the back doors that we think was a bad translation of “to serve and protect; and one lady had a full length robe with “guilty parties f*ck my life” emblazoned across the back; any guesses on that one?!?. So many signs, so little time to sit and ponder the true meaning …. Rufus promises a calendar to be released for 2016!
Good “Chinglish” Sign.
Would I go back? I’ve asked myself this a few times now. Short answer is “yes, if there’s a reason too”. With so many other places on the globe to see why go see the same thing again, and as the saying goes the fist time is always the best. I’d hate to go see the Great Wall again and have the feeling that I’ve already seen this and the magic being lost. The trip we took was go go go, and I loved all of it, but it wasn’t a relaxation trip, no beach or pool with a swim up bar. It might be nice to go back one day and see some things we didn’t see the first time, or get to explore a city like Beijing on my own without a schedule to stick to. And then I think about Central and South America, and Europe, and Chicago and Newfoundland for that matter. If you’re buying, I’m in for another China trip. If not, I’m keeping all the great memories of the wonderful trip it was and I’m movin’ on!