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Apr. 22nd, 2010

Spring!

Here's our front yard, after much reworking. (I footed the bill for the plants to avoid having to actually do the work planting them. :P) It looks especially nice due to the long extended rainy season we've been having over here.

pictures )

link to imageshack archive
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Jul. 25th, 2009

Almost there!

pics from last night )

This morning, finally got the desk all finished and my junk sorted into the drawers/shelves. Am now posting from my desktop PC. ^_^

Furniture stuff still on the list to get/do:
- Have one more bookshelf to put up. Need to make a run to Lowes
- New mattress
- Need a trash can for the room. Also a recycling bin, maybe
- Need more file folders for the cabinet
- Laundry bag holder...thing, since I don't want to keep running downstairs to drop off dirty laundry every time.
- Need to decide what goes in between the shelves at the back wall... CD-rack? Small futon couch? Bean bag? Table? Low cabinet? Suggestions welcome...
- Given the larger desk surface, I'm pondering whether to go for a dual monitor setup. (Yes this is just an excuse to get a larger monitor *cough*)
- Room freshener. Apparently the scent of anything that gets cooked in the kitchen drifts up the stairway and smack dab into the bedrooms. -_-

Jul. 20th, 2009

Photos of new house!

This is pre-moving in the furniture...

http://yfrog.com/4pdsc00054ljx

Apr. 30th, 2008

Trip to China Index (2008)

Journal Entries:
4/7, Day 0 - US Airways
Day 1 - Life Hates Me
Day 2 - Headless Chicken
Day 4 - More Headless Chicken
Day 6 - Internet
Day 8 - Modern Day Boonies
Day 9 - Belated Qing Ming
Day 10 - Island Tour
Day 11 - Wuxi
Day 12 - Buddhist Tourism
Day 13 - Political Tangent
Day 14 - Passports
Day 15 - VISA's
Day 16 - Girls Day Out
Day 17 - Party & Politics
4/27 - Home Sweet Home

Photo Entries:
Zhejiang, 4/15
Zhejiang, 4/16
Zhejiang, 4/17
Wuxi, 4/19

Apr. 28th, 2008

Photos - Wuxi, 4/19

Pictures from Ling Shan (灵山) )

Pictures of the Taihu Hotel (太湖饭店) )

Photos - Zhejiang, 4/17

pics of the Thousand Island Lake tour )

Photos - Zhejiang, 4/16

Read more... )

Photos - Zhejiang, 4/15

Note: I'm not including pictures with people in it out of privacy reasons.

warning: graphics! )

Apr. 25th, 2008

Net again!

Feels like it's been so long since I was last online... *withdrawal*...

Filled in the last few entries. This is probably the last entry I'll make before returning to the U.S.

Throat was kinda sore when I woke up this morning, though it got better after I got up. Did sneeze a few times this morning. Hope I'm not coming down with a cold on my last day here... =_=

Apr. 24th, 2008

Day 17 - Party & Politics

My grandfather's birthday is on the 27th, which is after we leave, so we decided to celebrate today. As one of my cousins couldn't make it, and thus also no need to invite his girlfriend and my other cousin's boyfriend, we decided to just hold the reunion at my grandparents' place instead of eating out.

I won't go into the food except to say we all got stuffed silly. Afterwards there was cake of which pictures were taken.

After that, we all sat down and talked about miscellaneous stuff while waiting for the dinner to digest. After exhausting topics like work and economics, the discussion eventually turned to (recent) politics.

Apparently to them, it's more about the problems with Tibet than about the protests of the Olympics, though I suppose the latter is related to/caused by the former. I learned a new term: "藏毒". Long discussion short (we have parts of it recorded on video anyway), they were very vocal that the whole issue with the Dali Lama, Tibet, etc. was caused by western countries secretly backing them, and primarily motivated more by maintaining power over China than the ideology they claim.


...In a slight tangent, I really need to find out how to convert/edit the videos downloaded from the camera from the camera-specific MOV format to (reasonably sized) commonly readable video formats... Hrm.

Apr. 23rd, 2008

Day 16 - Girls Day Out

Today we began the traditional preparations for our eventual return to the US - that is, buying presents for all the thousand and one people back home. Not to mention picking up all the stuff that friends/distant relatives are asking us to carry to the US for them.

For gifts, the obvious choice would be the Olympic mascots since this year is Olympics year. The official stuff comes from the post office, so I went there with my aunt early this morning to take a look at the prices. They range from about 22 RMB for a key/cellphone chain to 58 RMB for a fan. My aunt said there were pairs of Olympics chopsticks that were very pretty and for 20-something RMB, but those apparently were too popular and were already sold out.

Then, we went out shopping for real, with pretty much the entire household of women sans my grandma - there was me, my younger cousin, my mom, and my aunts (of my two cousins). Estrogen... level... skyrocketing...

Our first stop was Fuzi Miao (夫子庙), which is pretty much the grand the flea market of Nanjing, where you will find a lot of stuff for cheap (and/or fake :P).

Our first stop was a walk-by kidnapping from a teahouse. They had a bunch of girls outside advertising various teas. My mom needed to buy some kind of tea that my dad had told her to get him, so while she was busy finding those, the rest of us tried the various teas they pushed on us. I located the section for chrysanthemum tea - same as that I had when I was still rooming with cashew, so I bought a bag for 24 RMB. As I was leaving the place, they also forced on me a bag of jasmine tea for 10 RMB... and I am just an easy mark I guess. =_=

Then we examined several souvenier shops for (non-official) Olympics stuff, and did end up buying a bunch of keychain stuff to hand out in bulk to more generic contacts (like more distant co-workers). Mom bought four ceramic turtles for her male colleagues, against the rest of our advice that those guys better not know what "乌龟王八" means. ^^;

After picking up a few more pieces of souveniers, we drove over to a mall building for clothing. In general, the prices are much lower than those in Shanghai, but there also seems to be more coats and jackets than there were normal shirts and inner clothing for sale (which was I was more interested in). But anyway, with so many females present, I think we spent more time having people trying stuff on and then arguing about how stuff looks on who than actually buying stuff. *cough* I did end up with one pair of pants, one semi-coat, and one shirt.

It was near dinner time when we managed to make it home. My feet hurt like hell, but at least I got most of my presents done. Now I just need to buy some of the official Olympics stuff from the post office tomorrow for the closer colleagues I have at work (like the managers *cough*).

Apr. 22nd, 2008

Day 15 - Not just a credit card

Got up bright and early this morning to get the VISAs from the Nanjing Entry & Exit Bureau, as that was where the officials in Shanghai told us we need to get our VISAs from (as opposed to the Shanghai Entry & Exit Bureau).

So of course the first thing the officials here tell us is that we should be getting our VISAs from the Shanghai bureau.

After much arguing (aka "explaining") back and forth with my mom, the official finally made a phone call to the province headquarters, who apparently gave them the go ahead to do the VISA from Nanjing (even if he kept saying we should be getting it from Shanghai).

We of course also filled out a form for increased speed in processing the VISA, and we were actually able to get the VISA on the same day. Before the lunch break even!

Possibly as a downside to that, the fee for two VISAs was 1900 RMB, which is almost $300 USD. Not sure if the price was high because of the faster processing or if that was the normal price. After all, getting our original VISA in the US was about $100 per person also.

Wonder how much we've been spending on this whole passport mess altogether... I think it might be upwards of $3-500 USD now...

Cheers!!!

Posting from a webcafe in Nanjing. In short, we got our passports yesterday and were able to get our exit VISAs today. More details will be forthcoming when I get a better chance to backdate more entries. For now, just want to let folks who've been following this journal know the good news.

Apr. 21st, 2008

Day 14 - It's Here!!!11

Mom started calling the embassy starting at 8:30 (when they open) to get updates on our passports. No one picked up the phone. So she started calling them every 10 minutes or so, using all 4 phone extensions on the card we had for the embassy offices. Still no response. AU are can say is the service at the embassy either sucks, or they are busy with something - current political climate maybe?

Finally, when I checked our email again after lunch I finally saw the notifications for picking up our passports. The email timestamps were around 11:57 and I saw the emails around 12:20. We hurried to the Wuxi train station and managed to catch the 1:10 train to Shanghai, arriving at around 2:30. We got to the embassy at about 3 and were able to pickup the passports without any problems. Then we hurried back to the train station in hopes of catching the 3:45 train.

While we did make it before the boarding time, there weren't any seats left for the 3:45 动车 and had to make do with the next available one at 5:30. We spent the intervening 2 hours looking around the shops near the train station. Bought some clothing, hairpieces, and ornaments.

Now were back to Nanjing. Next step is of course getting the exit VISA Hopefully that will take only a day (best case scenario) and not five (worst case).

Apr. 20th, 2008

Political tangent

Did some circumspect questioning of my relatives. My grandfather, despite religiously following the CCTV news every night, has no recollection of news regarding political demonstrations in several major countries using the Olympics as an excuse to protest the thing with Tibet.

There was also a short snippet mentioned on the news tonight about some French government representative expressing that the Olympics shouldn't be politicised and France has nothing against China blahblahblah... From the words used by the TV announcer, it sounds like the whole shebang has been marginallized to the Chinese public as a few unruly disruptions of the Olympic torch ceremony by random kooks and radicals.

Something quite different from the news I was seeing in the US, where even the morning radio would often have something to say about the demonstrations on SF, France, etc. in conjunction with the typical American media view of the situation in Tibet.

Apr. 19th, 2008

Day 12 - More Buddhist tourism

This morning we headed out for a little sight-seeing of Wuxi. We drove out along the banks of 太湖 (Lake Tai) into the 马山 (Horse Mountain) area.

According to historical records, the land used to belong to a retired general during the Tang Dynasty, who was a good friend of the monk Tripitaka. After Tripitaka returned from his trip to India, he was invited to visit his friend. There, Tripitaka noted that one of the hills there very much resembled the sacred mountain he visited in India (灵山) and expressed interest in buying the land to build a monastery there. His very generous friend instead gifted him with the land to build the monastery.

That monastery was later burned down either during WWII or the 50s (I couldn't hear the tour guide clearly). Then in more recent years, reconstruction was begun on the hill now called 小灵山. The last time I visited this area in Wuxi, only the front gate was done, and the huge statue of buddha was under construction. Now, the front gate had been taken down/changed, the huge statue is complete (along with a lot of other things), and the only part that's still under construction is a school (for studying buddhism) somewhere in the back.

The huge statue supposedly has an elevator inside that goes all the way up to the eye level of the buddha statue. But only VIP visitors are able to get in there and be able to "look out the eyes of Buddha". Most regular visitors can only get up to the level of the lotus flower that the statue is standing on.

The other point of interest there is the huge fountain presentation of the "太子" statue. We got there in time to see one of the presentations and I was able to capture it on video.

Pictures are of course forthcoming once I get access to imageshack.


We left the place early as it started to rain heavier and heavier. For lunch, we just went to a restaurant nearby my aunt/uncle's place. We ordered some pretty tasty stuff: white shrimp (said to be a specialty from 太湖, roast goose (now said to be healthier than duck for anti-cancer properties), sea snail (海螺), crayfish, a multi-fruit & 锅巴 dish... Mm... (Have I made anyone hungry yet? Be glad I didn't include pictures. :-P)


Addendum @ 20:24 - just came back from dinner. My uncle had reservations (through connections) at a local five star restaurant/hotel 太湖饭店. I liked the crab paste (made with real crab instead of the imitation crap we see so often in the US), the crispy fried honey eel, the cuttlefish, and the white...somekindoffish (白鱼), said to be one of the three specialties that 太湖 is known for (白鱼,白虾,银鱼). Also had sea cucumber, which was a first even though I didn't find the taste especially of note. Am stuffed though.

Apr. 18th, 2008

Day 11 - Over to Wuxi

Our party left Jiande early this morning and drove to Wuxi where my aunt/uncle (and other cousin) lives. The ride was fairly smooth - Chinese highways aren't too different from US highways (except for the drivers :P).

We arrived in Wuxi around 1 PM in time for a late lunch (late by Chinese standards). We ate at the most famous place in Wuxi for 小龙包 and I stuffed myself silly.

I'm now posting from their place where I once more have access to IJ. However I'm using their computer to post instead of my laptop because it's more complicated to move the internet connection cable here. So no posting images to imageshack any time soon either.

Also, no word as yet on the passports and it's already Friday. Our flight is for next Saturday and who knows how long the VISA will take. I'm crossing my fingers/toes/eyes/etc. for Monday...

Apr. 17th, 2008

Day 10 - Island Tour

We took a tour boat out onto 千岛湖 (Thousand Island Lake) today. Our tour covered the major southeastern islands in the lake, which are mainly scenic spots, as opposed to some of the islands toward the northwest area of the lake which are known for its animals (there's an island dedicated to monkeys, one to snakes, and one to ostriches of all things...)

The lake itself was formed sometime in the 50's due to the construction of a dam/reservoir/hydraulics station downstream. So technically it's a man-made lake. Now it's also a pretty famous tourist spot.

First island we visited was 桂花岛 (Osmanthus? Island), known for the flowers its named for. Unfortunately, they bloom around August, so all we saw was a lot of greenery. The rocky area near the beach, also known as 石林 (stone forest) was kinda cool, though also a death trap to navigate over.

Second stop was at 黄山尖 (Yellow Mountaintop). We took the tram up (and down) to the top where you can look down on a whole bunch of small islets (300 is the number claimed by the guide). Also according to the tour guide, when looking down from the view at the top, the islets sort of form the characters for 天下为公.

Third stop was 天池岛 (Heavenly Pool Island), formerly a quarry during the South Song Dynasty. There's a pretty pretty koi pond where the sales guy was saying that you have to pay to take pictures there. *rolleyes* There was also a rope bridge that charged 2 RMB to cross, supposedly for luck/longevity. *double rolleyes* Probably the only interesting thing there was the corridors with the different ways of writing 龙 (dragon) and the Song mural.

Last stop was 密山 (Secret Mountain), the main part of which was just a buddhist monastery. There was also a 财神 (god of prosperity) shrine in the back, which I don't think is buddhist, but whatever. According to the map, there were more scenic spots further up the mountain, but apparently we ran out of time on the tour, so we couldn't go up and look unless we wanted the ship to leave without us.

One more thing of note was that, in the lunch that was included on the boat trip, each table had a dish of 螺丝 (from the lake too, and pretty clean), which I haven't had in such a long time. Mmm...

Apr. 16th, 2008

Day 9 - Belated 清明

Early this afternoon, we headed up the hillside to where the ancestral gravesite on my maternal grandfather's side is. There we engaged in the regular 清明 (Qing Ming) activities such as sweeping/clearing the area of overgrowth, burning incense & paper money, set fireworks (though that was a new one to me), etc.

Yes, I'm aware that the offical date for 清明 was on the previous Friday, but I figured the original plans were for us to be in Jiande by then and it's only due to the passports problem that everything was delayed...

The gravesite area is next to another river (forgot the name) and the scenery is pretty nice too. I played camerawoman once again and took various videos/photos that I will eventually put up.

On the way back, we stopped at a 亭子 next to the river. It was apparently built in honor of an ancestor for some politically related reason or other around the time of the cultural revolution. We also stopped at a small town on the way, which used to belong to the Zhu family prior to the cultural revolution that took it away from all the dastardly landlords. Not much of the past remains in the town however, since apparently much of it was rebuilt following a flood some time after the transfer of property to the government.

This evening, even more distant relatives joined us for a huge family dinner. I counted 19 seats, not including the two kids that were with us. The food was pretty good, though a lot of it a little too spicy for my (and my mom/aunt/grandfather's) tastes. Actually, I notice that food in general all over China, especially the more expensive/upper class kind, seem to have become more spicy... Is spiciness some kind of symbol of wealth that I'm not understanding?? o_O

(Also, I think I might be gaining weight from my stay in China... =_=)

Apr. 15th, 2008

Day 8 - The Modern Day Boonies

Jiande, Zhejiang, CN

Today is the first day of our travel to where my (maternal) grandfather grew up, in 浙江省,建徳市. Supposedly we're in the boonies, though you wouldn't think it looking at all the modernization in progress in the city. Heck, the place we're staying at (how our hosts are related to us is a little too complicated for me to figure out at the moment; all I could tell is that the eldest male in the house is a brother of my grandfather) is more "modern" than the place my grandparents have in Nanjing. (Of course, that's also partly cuz my grandparents haven't bothered to modernize a lot of their stuff). They've got a TV per bedroom for 3 bedrooms, internet connection (but which can't reach IJ), and hot water.

We arrived here by car. Let me backtrack... Last night, my aunt and uncle (my mom's sister & her husband) drove over to Nanjing from Wuxi. They have have 2 cars, but apparently swapped with a friend's car as it was more comfortable for the trip. This morning at 6 AM, we departed for Zhejiang: my uncle, aunt, grandfather, mom, and myself.

First we spent over an hour trying to figure out how to get onto the freeway from Nanjing. Chinese highways unfortunately lack both prominent road signs and more abundant number of on/off ramps to the highway. Midway, we also spent maybe an hour at a rest stop trying to fill up gas. The problem isnt' that there was a lot of automobiles competing - the problem was that there were also a lot of huge trucks waiting in line for nearby nozzles, thus blocking the way for small cars to get in and out of the single station when trying to fill up gas.

WE passed Hangzhou around noonish, then stopped a little past there at a rest stop for lunch. We ate stuff that we brought with us, though it appears that Chinese rest stops also come equipped with cafeterias, which I'm told actually has decent food as well. The place was certainly clean enough - even the bathrooms, which I daresay is cleaner than the US counterparts (except maybe for the lack of toilet paper).

At any rate, we got to 建德 (Jiande) around early afternoon. Took a small tour of the area, including the banks of the 新安江 (Xinan River) nearby. I took a few photos/videos (which I'll put up after I get back to the US and have a better connection to imageshack).

We had dinner at our host's house. All of it is indigenous foods. I like the various bamboo dishes the most (the bamboo is directly plucked from the wild and grown in the fields, not processed/canned).

Apr. 13th, 2008

Day 6 - Finally! Internet!

Spent most of today at my uncle's place. They have net access, which allowed me to finally log online and relieve some of my net-withdrawal.

I took the chance to post the last few entries I kept, and to follow up on a few forums. Also replied to the return email from work to update my manager on the current status of my passport/VISA issue. (As an addendum to that, this morning we also dropped by the local police station in Nanjing to get our proof of temporary residence papers, which are yet another stp needed after we get our replacement passports and before we can get our replacement VISA.)

We had lunch & dinner at their place also. A little before dinner, my cousin took me out to buy some DVD's. There was one show I wanted to get this time around but couldn't find - 泪痕剑. Looks like eMule may be my only solution for that one. (There's also another show playing right now with the same actor in it - 魔幻手机, but I don't think that's even available on DVD yet.)

Also, we played around with the Zen Creative (4 GB) that I got my cousin as a gift this time. Uploaded a few songs that I had on my portable hard drive that he liked by just drag 'n dropping. Also tried to upload a video (avi) but we couldn't get it to play. Not sure if it was because of the file format or because of the dimensions of the movie. Unfortunately, the user guide is located on the software installation CD and I didn't bring my portable CD drive along.

Anyway, this was a fairly productive day for me. And best of all, Murphy finally gave me a day off. Now if only this will last...

Apr. 11th, 2008

Day 4 - More headless chicken

7 PM local time - At the Shanghai train station

I will refer to the adage about how plans never last past the first engagement of the enemy. We'd thought we'd had everything planned out for today ahead of time. But apparently we were wrong.

Firstly, while exiting the training in Nanjing on Wednesday night, we'd thought ahead to buy the ticket back to Shanghai on the Friday morning 8:00 train. Once we got there at 10:15, however, we found we'd miscalculated how much time we'd spent on the road/subway to and from the Entry/Exit Bureau. By the time we'd finished obtaining our loss reports and getting our passport photos taken, and hurried over to the embassy, it was already past 11:30, which is when they close for the lunch period from 11:30 - 13:30. So we also didn't get a chance to even ask the questions we had regarding the passport application.

Secondly, because we couldn't get clarification for the application process, we didn't know if we also needed to provide proof of citizenship like the forms mentioned, and what date on the plane ticket would qualify us for an emergency passport (which could be issued in a day). In order to be safe rather than sorry, we ended up spending the next 2-3 hours: (1) making a very expensive long distance call to my dad to find our certifications of naturalization, scanning and emailing them over along with the e-ticket confirmation of our return tickets on the 26th; (2) then finding a web cafe to print all this stuff out. (Also took the chance to send a quick email to my company while we were at it to let them know there might be delays on my return. No, didn't get a chance to do anything online other than that since we were pressed for time, so I'm still experiencing net withdrawal.)

Thirdly, the above ultimately turned out to be a waste of time and money as the embassy clerks didn't ask for proof of citizenship, and told us we didn't qualify for emergency passport. *hates* Although they did take a photocopy (of the photo-printout) of the certifications when offered, which made me feel slightly better.

Fourthly, by the time we were finally done at the embassy, it was about 3:30 PM (their closing time) and we still hadn't eaten past breakfast. So we grabbed a bite to eat and wandered around a few stores/bought a a few more clothes/etc. In retrospect this was a bad idea as we forgot to account for the much higher number of people travelling long distance on Fridays after working hours. As it turned out, by the time we got to the train station at about 6 PM, there were no fast (two hour) trains left for anywhere, and the tickets we ended up buying were for the 9:00 PM train which also takes 4 hours to get to Nanjing... meaning we'll be getting home at 1:30 AM. Joy.

Karma owes me. It really does.

Apr. 9th, 2008

Day 2 - The Headless Chicken Impression

7 PM local time - On the train from Shanghai to Nanjing

So early this morning we made calls again to the taxi company, etc. But by the time we were heading out the door, we didn't bear much hope of getting our passports back. In retrospect, it seems much more likely that they were pick pocketed during the short time we got off the bus from the airport and before we caught the cab to the hotel.

Anyway, theft is the story we're sticking when we headed to the embassy. There they told us that to file for replacement passports, we'll first need a loss report from the Entry/Exit Bureau. They also said that it will take around 10 (business?) days for a new passport to be issued.

So next we headed to the Entry/Exit Bureau to get the loss report. There they said that we wouldn't be able to get the report once we filed the forms until Friday. They also said that it could take anywhere from 1-5 business days to get the VISA to leave China once we get our replacement passports.

This presents the possibility that we won't be able to get the VISA in time for the time on our return plane tickets. Worst case scenario, we may be stuck in China for an extra week. In which case, we'll also need to inform our jobs. This kinda sucks since I don't have enough leave time for an extra week of PTO, so I'll need to borrow the time from future work hours. I'm sure my colleagues will not love me for this, but well, there's not much I can do at this point.

Anyway, once we got out of the Entry/Exit office (which is also the place that does VISA's), we dropped by the train station to put our other carry-on luggage in holding. Then we headed downtown for some lunch and shopping while we waited for the time to call the airport about our missing luggage from yesterday.

At about 3:30 PM we called the airport, and they told us they'd already mailed the luggage to the address we gave in Nanjing. So at least we didn't have to spend another 2+ hours on the road to/from Pudong airport. At that point, we finished up shopping and headed back to the train station to book a train to Nanjing.

(No, we decided not to spend another 2 nights in Shanghai waiting for the loss report on Friday morning because there is a huge hassle for us to book a place anywhere without passports, and the place we stayed in last night was... less than comfortable, I'll leave it at that. What with the two-hour trains between Shanghai & Nanjing, it would be simpler just to take a train back to Shanghai on Friday morning to file for the passport.)

Special thanks must be extended today to the family friend who we'd contacted last night. She came with us the whole day today and was a huge help in navigating the public transport system in Shanghai - eg. the bullet subway train thing. (I still kind of boggle at the problem my mom was having with the ticketing and entry/exit system the subway used even though it's almost exactly like BART.) She was also instrumental in preventing my mom from buying some really fugly clothing and attempting to make me try some of the same. *hugs and kisses*

I did end up buying 3 pairs of pants (they adjusted the length in-store for me), one skirt, and a shirt or two to match 'em.

Once we get to my grandparents' place in Nanjing, I expect much nagging and scolding from my grandma on the stupidity of losing our passports. Fortunately, my mom will most likely be the recipient of the sermon, so I might be able to slip by on the radar. *crosses fingers*

Other than that, I hope to be able to take a real bath (shower) tonight and sleep in a real bed. (Did I already mention that our changes of clothing and sleepwear are all in the luggage that's now supposedly going to arrive by mail in Nanjing tomorrow?) Unfortunately, at this point, I still rather prefer to be living my average day at work than be in China with all the hassles that lie waiting in the near future.

Also, I miss internet.

Apr. 8th, 2008

Day 1 - Life hates me with the burning passion of a thousand suns.

9:00 PM local time, Shanghai, CN

Life hates me with the burning passion of a thousand suns.

First, it lulls me into a sense of false security on the flight from Chicago to Shanghai. Because the flight wasn't booked full, there were lots of empty seats to the back where you could take up the full aisle for sleeping. Watched "Enchanted", "Waterhorse", "National Treasure" and the sequel in between naps. Pretty good ride overall.

Then, after we got to Shanghai at about 2:30 PM local time, everything that could go wrong, did.

First, the only piece of luggage we checked in didn't appear. This is most likely due to the last minute transfer we had on our first flight to LA. Who knows where it is right now. Sadly, we'd thrown away the booklet thing that the checkin lady gave our boarding passes with, the same one that included the tag numbers for the luggage check in. The only bright side was that AA was able to locate the check-in numbers in their database. But we still have to drop by tomorrow for the next AA flight to Shanghai to see if the luggage will arrive by then. This whole ordeal with the baggage claim people took about 30 mins to settle.

(This was also the beginning of a domino effect. If it weren't for needing to pick up luggage the next day, and due to the fact that it was raining too hard to motivate any shopping the same day in Shanghai, we would have taken the bus directly to the train station and gone to Nanjing.)

Then, we took the 5th line public bus from the airport to where our booked hotel was. When we got off, due to the fact it was raining and because the bus lady wasn't too sure of the hotel's exact location, she advised we take a cab the rest of the way. As it turned out, the hotel was actually within walking distance of the bus stop; but that is hindsight speaking. The bus trip itself was a hellish (read boring) ride of over an hour from Pudong Airport to (downtown?) Shanghai.

When we got to the hotel, that was when my mom discovered that our passports were missing. Most likely not theft, since her wallet and other misc junk in her other pockets were still there. The passports most likely fell out of her pocket in between the time we were on the bus (when she remembered checking for them), and the hotel.

(Minor note - Mom also apparently booked the rooms for the 7th and the 8th. Unfortunately, she miscalculated the time difference including the international date line. It's right now the 8th. =_=)

As for why the hell she had just the two passports in her pocket... I really rue not pushing harder when coming out of the airport, I was already prepared to put away my passport into my backpack. But Mom asked for it since she said we'll need them soon again when we got to the hotel. Well she was right about that... but she also didn't have them anymore. So we also don't have anywhere to stay for the night anymore.

In the end, after some frantic calls back home to my dad in the US, and to relatives in Nanjing, we found a friend of my mom's in Shanghai who was able to book another hotel for us under her name. The place is kinda... seedy... and is farther away from where all the places we'll need to go to are... but beggars and choosers and all that.

We tried everything so far...

* Called the cab company. But we didn't know to get a receipt of the ride, so who knows if they've been able to get in touch with the right cab driver. Our best hope is that the passports fell out in the cab ride, in which case, they can discover it when the cabbies turn in for the night. But, this is looking more unlikely by the minute... *cry*

* Called the bus company. Also didn't keep the receipt for the bus ride, so only could give them an estimated boarding time of around 3 PM. They said they'll call us back.

* Contacted the local police station. But they can't really do anything other than call the above places and also give us the address/number of the lost & found department, and the embassy.

So tomorrow we'll need to contact the lost & found police division, the US embassy in Shanghai, and also find the time to pick up the remaining luggage piece if it comes it. And also buy a cellphone... since it looks like we're gonna be needing it.

You know, it's crap like this that makes me never want to travel more than car/BART distance from home (and that's home as in Fremont).

Lessons learned:

* Always get a receipt and don't let Mom throw everything away when she feels like it.

* Paranoia over convenience.

Apr. 7th, 2008

Day 0 - US Airways

Chicago O'Hare - 7:48AM CST

So the flight itinerary goes from SF to LA to Chicago to Shanghai. The flight from SF to LA got canceled so we got moved to a different flight. This resulted in us wandering around dazed and fuzzy in Chicago at 5 AM PST. Our expected arrival at Shanghai is 2 PM local time. God knows when/if the luggage is going to make it.

Speaking of luggage, note to self, it's not a good idea to carry gifts in the carry-on suitcase if the gift consists of liquid/gel such as perfume kits. We had a little scare at the security checkpoint in SF until the security lady was nice enough to find us a large zip-loc bag, so we could take out the bottles and put them in the bag for security check-in, and put them back once we get to Shanghai.

Well, at least the nice thing about the fact that all 3 flights are AA means we don't have to do another security check-in. On the way back, we'll just have to remember not to buy and liquid/gel type gifts. =P

Another scare at the SF airport... I was going to try and scan for wireless networks, and nearly freaked when I noticed that the power light wasn't going on indicating the laptop battery was charging, even though I'd plugged it into an airport outlet. For a while there I'd thought I'd brought a defunct adapter, and would have to buy another one in China (at least Lenovo is Chinese manufacture now). But fortunately I decided to try again at O'Hare, and this time the battery is charging, so I guess it was just back luck with a broken outlet back in SF.

Anyway... 3 more hours to go until the flight gets here... Zzzz... =_=

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