Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hotel in Bangkok

we get to Bangkok from our luxury hotel in Shanghai. I expect another good place but arrive at what David, number 2-3 son, calls Hotel Sketchy. It is in an alley. When we get to our room, I ask for a bed for my son and they bring a crib. Ah no he is 33 years old. Then they bring a cot.

  #2-3 son is an inveterate traveller so they first thing he does is check for bugs in the folds on the side and finds them! Husband #1 refuses to check our bed saying "What we don't know won't hurt us." After 13 hours of travelling at midnight I am inclined to agree.

 David informs me to NOT OPEN MY MOUTH during his interaction with the staff. He says this is Thailand and these are people  who are Buddist and gentle.He calls the management and they come  to our room with housekeeping trailing behind. All transactions are followed by a prayer sign, fingers pointing heavenward, and a bent nod. David does the same points his hands heavenward and explains about the bugs and says that he wants a new mattress wrapped in plastic. They nod saying they are very sorry they don't have one. He begins the conversation again saying exactly the same thing. They both bow and it starts over. ( It's like groundhog day in Bangkok) They say they don't know what he means. He does not explain and simply says for the 5th time, "Could you kindly bring me a mattress wrapped in plastic that is new."  David pretends he is asking this for the first time.  Everyone pretends they haven't heard it before. No one refers to the previous times it was mentioned.

Finally they all smile and say suddenly "Of course" and then a new mattress wrapped in plastic arrives. Everyone bows and smiles we all go to bed. 

Welcome to Thailand,

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cricket market in Shanghai

Today we went to the cricket market in Shanghai. It was filthy and David, (son #2-3)  who lives near therewarned me not to wear sandals as filth could rise to ankles. I told him he was nuts. When I got home I had to wash my feet. I permanently had to file the sandals for Hong Kong.

So you walk into this long narrow building in a working class area and you are shocked by the loud din of Crickets. Some are tiny in glass cases. They are for wearing in your pocket so you have a cricket sound when you walk. I guess that is so you are quite cricket. ( Who would say "Here comes a man making cricket sounds, I may faint" How irresistible is that?) I guess it is no stranger than Old Spice.

Then there are large crickets 2 inches by one inch in breathing jars. ( check out picture. some are larger.) They are  bought for gambling. You put the two male crickets on the table and then they fight to the death and you bet on the winner. There were thousands upon thousands of crickets and hundreds of men were carefully combing over them to choose a winner. Most of the men were middle aged with rugged faces.  There were no women there.

Then there were five foot high piles of maggots for sale for bird food. All live insects were on sale as well. Also mice and gerbals were for sale for those who have birds of prey in their tiny apartments. How weird is that?

Gambling is illegal in China, so the government  does not  want tourists to see the huge markets of raw material for gambling. There are gambling dens all over Shanghai in underground places.  Apparently Gambling, not alcohol, drugs or sex, is the major addiction in China.  Cricket wars are the new Opium. Get ready for the cricket wars.

The guide says he is shocked that people are talking to us so much and are willing to be so friendly.  We think this is hilarious because we don't see people as particularly friendly. 

Off for a boat trip. Hope it is a junk and not a cruise line.

Cathy #1 wife.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Shanghai GaGa

Continuing on my journey through China, yesterday I was on my way  on foot to  the Shanghai National Museum. There are so many people in cars and so many pedestrians that no one can cross the wide downtown streets. They make you go underground to cross each street which entails walking down steps and then again up steps at each corner. While underground people grab you and try to sell you useful items like Curious George slippers and little kitty sandals. Underground there are snaking malls that are packed with people.

  Since I have a torn meniscus in my knee, I was in pain on all the steps.  At one corner, I didn't see that much traffic so I decided to make a break for it and dash across the street and hope for the best. Husband #1 and David  son number # 2-3 ( he is a twin) warned against it saying this was a really repressed society and they would catch me. David, who live in Hong Kong and  knows more than I advised against it. Still I dashed across and low and behold two men in traffic uniforms emerged from the bushes and I was dragged back by the men in grey and yellow uniforms, which are different from police and other official uniforms. They dragged me back to the curb screaming at me the whole time.  I screamed back and adults who passed me shook their heads at my appalling lack of ability to follow the law. I get it -- I was wrong. But I didn't expect people to run out of the bushes in uniform.

There is no Google for they have blocked it, no facebook or twitter so that there can be no 'Arab spring' and no utube. All are blocked and only information that is approved can get through.  All the protests here are never reported and the government  gets away with it. They have prospered and they are out of the dark ages, but at a cost. 

At the museum things lighten up and I am at the Mogolian exhibit and a gaggle of teenage girls come in wearing little red scarves, sort of Girl Scouts for the party kind of thing. They begin to take pictures of me and touch my hair which is pale blond or white and ask all about it. I say "I was born this way" which I have now learned from my friends is a line from a Lady GaGa song. When I say it the girls start laughing and then sing as loud as they can in the museum the Gaga song in English and in Chinese. They raise their fists and scream the whole song. A few verses follow:

I'm beautiful in my way
'Cause God makes no mistakes
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way
Don't hide yourself in regret
Just love yourself and you're set
I'm on the right track, baby
I was born this way, born this way

Yeah, they made a break for it. They gave voice to individualism. The guards came over and went crazy and then the teacher appeared and the guards yelled at her and she in turn yelled at the girls. She was furious. 

Wow Good for Lady GaGa. They block out the news and the info from the west, but no one anywhere in China could block out the words of Lady GaGa. She deserves a medal and so do those teenage girls.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Shanghai visit

 I tried to hook up to facebook in Shanghai to post my 'impressions' and found that all of google is blocked in China! The Chinese government had a huge fight with Google saying they had to block porn sites and all anti chinese government sites. They don't want a situation like Arab Spring. Google said no -- they are into freedom of information as that is what the internet is for-- China said fine and blocked all of google and facebook.  So all of Shanghai has been Shanghaied  by their own government. Don't get me started.

Yesterday in Shanghai  David,( number 2 son as they say in China-- actually number 2-3 son since he is a twin),  Michael, Number 1 husband and I go with a guide for a tour. He takes us to a place called Chinatown. How can there be a 'Chinatown' when we are in China?  It is full of shopping crap and tourists. So David says that we have to read the riot act to the guide and let him know that we want to see only things where there are Chinese people and the real things that Chinese people do. No tourist crap. 

David  is now living in Hong Kong and knows that not losing 'face' is the name of the game. He said we can't criticize the guide  because then he will just do whatever he wants and freeze us out with smiles. So David  goes through a long song and dance about how we are strange people and we like to see strange things that have to do with Chinese culture. He said do not take this personally because we are this way at home.  WE ARE JUST WEIRD. It works --the Open sesame.

First stop -- Marriage market in public park on a sunny Sunday. We are the only whites there. The people who are not looking for a spouse do not appear. Only the parents. The parents in China make all the decisions. The parents who come from far and wide  turn umbrellas upside down and sit on the long park walkway. On the umbrella is a picture of a son or daughter  and information about them. Other parents approach and then they barter. Do you own an apartment? Do you have an education, etc?. What are your savings? What is your son's height?  Height is crucial since many people are short and tall is a 'scarce resource' as our guide explained.  If your kid is foreign educated then a flag of that country flies over the umbrella. Totally fascinating.

 Then people approached us thinking that we were parading our son David, who is 6' 5" around the marriage mart. 

A gorgeous girl approached us saying she is an English teacher and wants to work on her English. After five minutes she asked about David and if he was available. I said, no. She never thought of asking him. It all goes through the parents. I said he had an unattached twin and she wanted to know if he was also tall.  After an hour we were swarmed. Michael, ( Husband #1) kept saying to each of them, 'I'm available'.  He was of course kidding but  the guide  had to stop him  because this was no laughing matter and he had to put a lid on it. 

Finally there was a circle around us asking questions, such as , "What if your son wanted to marry a girl you didn't approve of?" When I said that it would be none of my business there was a shocked sound that reverberated through out the park. Word spread and more people came up to us.

 We had a great time and I learned more about Chinese culture in an afternoon than any book could have taught me. The guide said he was shocked at how open people were with us and how inquisitive. He also had a great time.

There are not enough university positions, jobs and apartments for everyone so marriage is about securing these things. As one pretty girl said, "Love cannot enter into it." It is about survival and getting ahead. If you don't do it, there is no room in the society for you.  When I told her I married for love,  and my husband's mother forbade it and I'm glad I did it, she had a little tear that fell down her cheek.