|Sunday, Feb 20/2005|
|Ok, I just got picked up from the airport. I was met by Ami, her daughter Alexandria, and her brother's friend. We headed to Ami's house to drop off my carry on luggage. She tells me that her mother is cooking dinner for me. Wow, talk about meeting the parents on the first date. Har Har...
Anyway, we arrive at her apartment. I thought the area the she lives in looks worse than the slums of Hastings Street. The city of Shenyang in general is quite dirty. I have dedicated a seperate page on that topic. The building itself looks like a rather old cement apartment building. After getting past the steel entrance door, the lobby is tiled with granite tiles. The tenants have parked their bikes inside. The floor is so dirty with sand and other particles that it was almost slippery to the grip of my runners. I need to walk up several flights of stairs, seven of them. The complex does not have an elevator, most of them don't. The walls are covered in a white plaster that nobody seems to be cleaning, so it is very dirty and shows signs of water damage and condensation moisture damage. The apartment has rather antiquated fire equipment on each floor, a rather flaky motion sensitive light for the staircase, and rather primitive exposed telephone wiring. At the top, we come to a steel green door with not one but two tumble and deadbolt locks on it. Just in side that steel door, is another wood door which enters a very very nice looking aparment.
So, I dropped off all my stuff and we headed out to her mom's place. We walked out to the street and she waved down a taxi. It is was surpisingly cheap for the short distance we needed. The meter starts at 6 yuan and after about 5 minutes ride, it was only 7 yuan. We arrive at her parents apartment which also looks like a dive on the outside, even worse than Ami's. Inside it looks very livable inside. Ami's mother and father lives here with her brother's wife. Her mother cooks very well. The two main stay items that I ate were the soy sauce cooked chicken, dried breaded pork (ie. the nuggets for sweet and sour pork), and pork ribs.
After dinner, I was feeling a little drowsy and so, she took me back to her place so I could sleep while.
|Notes About Shenyang|
|Monday, Feb 21/2005|
|We went shopping today at a market store. It is important that I go out to buy some new clothes since I will be until Wednesday without a change of clothes. This morning I had a Chinese donut and instant coffee for breakfast. The coffee was Nescafe instant with the sweetner built in. Ugh! Now I remember why I hated instant coffee. Anyway, I gotta remember to go buy some new coffee.
So we head out for the market today to pick up some clothes. The market is an interesting mall. On the outside it looks like any other stone building like a bank. Inside is like a big flea market, with the exception that it is in a mall so that each of the venders had a little alcove to be their store. I had to buy some underwear, sleep wear, bath robe, socks, gloves, and a T-shirt.
The market here is like the Richmond Night Market. Some very cheap and obviously knock off stuff can be bought here. Also I noticed the floor is very very dirty. Even for the inside of the mall, I see people spitting on it, I see people who are eatting food throwing their garbage on it. People will push garbage from their stall tables on to the floor and leave it on the floor. In one corridor, some shop owner spent the entire day eating pistacio nuts and he just threw the shells all over the ground. On another part of the floor, someone spilled a drink or something, and the stain is still there, nobody is cleaning it up.
The market is like most, you have to haggle and bargain. The prices are built in such a way, that there is still a little to be made even after haggling. So, it is good that Ami is good at that. I ended up with a bathrobe for 75 yuan, a t-shirt for 10 yuan, underwear 2 pak for 25 yuan, thermal underwear for 20 yuan, a pair of leather gloves for 22 yuan, and slippers for 23 yuan. People say things are cheap in China, now you know what I mean. Yes, SOME stuff is really really cheap in China.
For lunch, we went to a famous noodle place. I started to notice that most places have the equalivalent to meat refrigerator guards on their doors to keep the cold air out. It sort of works. The restaurant was the first of many that have the guards. This place was fairly nice. It has a ordering counter and a series of cafeteria like long tables. Each table has a huge bowl (meaning a 10" diameter plate) of red hot chili sauce. The speciality is a chicken rice noodle soup and the chicken. Yea, it sounds kinda weird. What the soup is like Vietnamese noodle but it is a thicker pulled rice noodle done in a chicken broth soup. Since there isn't any "meat" in the soup, people order the chicken separately. Sounds great but catch is the chicken you get is the one that they cut off all the good meat, and boiled the crap out of it for the soup flavour. So you would think, what do you do with a meatless chicken with all the flavour boiled out of it? Well, apparently, you dip it into the red chili sauce(s) and you suck on the bones and suck off the tasteless meat off the chicken. Ok, what a waste of time for such tasteless food. If I was going to do that, why not just eat the sauce right out of the dish? This makes about as much sense as going to a restaurant to eat the ketcup condiments because that tastes better than anything on the menu. Although, I do have to say the soup by itself was good. Then we headed back home.
For dinner we decided to go out to the super market to go and buy some food so we can eat at home. When went to a big market called "Carre Four". A French chain apparently, which carries most of the modern conviences that a big store like Safeway would. It has mixtures of foriegn name brands as well as local name products. Many of the market items are very cheap by our comparison. If it is an import or something that is out of season, it is expensive. But if it is something domestic, it can be very cheap. We ended up with pork. It turns out that I like the "red" meat of pork (the lean) and she likes the "white" meat (the fat). We also grabbed some ground beef, which interesting enough, is government inspected, and the way you know it is inspected, is that the meat is "stamped" with the words approved by government blah blah. Now, I am assuming that this "ink" they use is actually washable or edible... I would hope so...
|Tuesday, Feb 22/2005|
|Today in the morning, I have to teach Ami how to make toast without a toaster. I also have to teach her how to make coffee (unfortunately for me it was instant coffee). For some reason, almost all the stores I have seen, nobody seems to carry coffee beans or ground coffee or coffee filters or even coffee machines. Everything is instant, blah! Today for lunch, I ate the left overs of pork from yesterday. Unfortunately, things like onion and celery turns to crap after re-heating.
Anyway, for dinner we went to a famous Korean BBQ place. It was kinda neat because all the hostesses wore the traditional long Korean dresses. The waitresses wore a green maid waitress outfit, real cute. It was pretty neat how they do things but still not very safe. Ami has no concept of cross contamination of meats. We ordered squid and beef and pork for the BBQ grill. The grill was heated with coals, which a waiter with heat gloves brings to the table in a big metal tin. So, even after getting extra chopsticks to cook with and to eat with, Ami still got her sticks all dirty. Now, the neat different thing I noticed was that to prevent cross contamination of the grill, the waiters come around every 10 to 15 minutes to swap out our grill. If we had stuff on the grill, they would transfer it to the new grill and take away the old one. That was a new concept. The other new concept I saw was that they have bags which are used to cover your coats from the sprays from the grill. That is a good idea too. Now the other rather interesting method for cleaning, I observed as I was eating. They clear all the major dishes away. Any small food bits or paper or dirty or water from the table, they will use a wash cloth to push it all on to the floor. Which is fine, because it is a tile floor which everyone walks and spits on anyway. Then they use mops to wipe up the floor. Sometimes two of the waitresses will team up and put their mops together in a curling formation and they take turns pushing the mop back and forth.
Now, enough about the restaurant itself, what about the food? Well, it is just like your standard Korean BBQ where you order plates of raw food and you cook it yourself. There are a whole pile of side dishes that came on the table. Many are standard like hot sauces, red chili sauce which is pretty standard, some cabbage stuff (kimchi), seasoning salt, lotus root, but they also had sushi made of bolonga (sausage), popcorn, the thin apple biscuits, fresh cabbage, green jalpeno peppers, ice cream, watermelon, and cherry oranges.
As we were leaving, I noticed there were like a soldier posted inside and two soldiers posted outside the restaurant. Interesting.. We decided to walk home afterwards to work off the food. We stopped by another big shopping mall call HyMall. I found some VCDs of and more small foods.
|Wednesday, Feb 23/2005|
|Today in the morning, I have to teach Ami how to make a cheese melt sandwich without a toaster. After that, it was a quick ride downtown to get my luggage from the ANA office. It wasn't all that easy to find. Nobody really knew where it was including the stupid bell hop nor the attendant behind the information desk. Fortunately, with a quick phone call to the number, an attendant from upstairs came down to fetch us.
We then had to come back to Ami's place to drop it off. I passed out for a bit. I woke up in time for lunch which was the left over pork, onions and celery from yesterday. Of course, the pork was the only thing there worth eatting since cooked left over vegatables. After this, I worked on the computer for a bit. At around 3:00pm, we took a cab over to her mom's again for dinner. This time she had made dry pork bits, pork ribs, and chicken. She added a really nice meat nut soft rice ball.
We walked all the back to her place because it is common to walk "100 steps" for good luck today. So we walked back today and she showed me some of the nice lit buildings as well as see all the people lighting off fireworks.
The city this night was a fucking war zone. It is the last day for fireworks so they were going off everywhere, every corner and alley way all over the city. The price ranged from 1 yuan for a single bang fire cracker to a few 10's yuan for hand held roman candles, to a few hundred yuan for a multistage rocket. So, this would be the pyro-manaics dream here. One guy was lighting off the single back firecracker chains, however he had enough to block a 3 foot area of sidewalk preventing anyone from walking through. His light show, lasted almost 2 minutes of blasting. At another location in front of a hotel, three of the ushers were lighting and setting off firecracker chains by the light poles right in front the hotel. Walking down the street to the corner, someone was using the parking lot for an apartment complex to launch rockets. At first, he fired mortars (the ones you hear fire into the air, no trail, and then they explode) . They flew about 15 to 20 stories into the air and explode. What was scary was that it was so close to the building the bang of the fireworks will be deafening loud to those who live in the 15+ stories of the building. Also some of the arms sparks from the explosion also bounced off the concrete building. He later launched rockets off (the ones you see trail and explodes). Also just a loud, nobody is sleeping in the apartment!
I kept walking and saw down an alley that some guy must of had an accident and started a fire in some alley way. A real dangerous firework is the hand held roman candle style. It is long rod which can be held and contains about 10 balls that shoot out the top and glow as they travel. One idiot was inside his home on the ground level shooting these out of his house across the sidewalk on to the street. He was aiming for passing cars, cyclists on the sidewalk and of course pedistrians. We had to wait until he was out of ammo before we could run past him. When we got closer to Ami's place, we could look up to the sky and there would be like three to five to ten light shows going on depending on which direction you look around you. There was so much to see. I could see myself going pycho with the stuff. The air was thick with that burning thick smoke smell.
Heck even as late as 1:00am people were still launching them off.
|Thursday, Feb 24/2005|
|Ok, Today's breakfast is cheese toast. Todays travels was going to be sight seeing.
I was introduced to one of her co-workers from the goverment as an electronics engineer. We decided to have lunch at a hotpot restaurant. It is like a lot of Korean hot pots. They let you order lots of raw foods to throw into the soup and cook it. They also did things like have coat covers to protect them from splashing. The soup bowl was divided into a hot side and and not hot side. I choose the not hot side. It was very good soup. We had chinese mushrooms, lamb, shrimp balls, fish balls, pork and cabbage. We also had fish but I avoided that since it was too much work trying to clean the bones out of it.
After that, it was a tour through the King's Palace. For lunch, we had to go to the Shenyang Walled Summer Palace of the King. (see picture link to the right). I took several timered shots until my camera started running out of battery power.
We headed back afterwards to get some rest before going back out again. In the evening, we went to BeiLing Park where there is a famous lighted walk path. However, today the nights were broken so no light today. Lots of people were there, and lots of street venders selling night market crap. Many people were complaining that they were being cheaped out and that someone should hurry up and fix the lights tonight.
|Friday, Feb 25/2005|
|Breakfast was going to be interesting today. I tried something a little different. I was going to try to make french toast. However, I got mixed up and I put the egg into the pan first rather than putting the bread into the egg then into the pan. Oh well, it was cool, it is still edible.
For lunch, we went to a big mall, and I had "food court" food, Korean noodles and Korean sticky rice. Ok, the Korean noodle for the most part was a thicker soy sauce chinese noodle and the sticky rice was essentially the same as the green leafed wrapped chinese sticky rice. It was very good and very filling.
We went to the mall where on the top floor was a full kids amusement area. This was very interesting since the floor was totally customized for kids to hang out in. It had carnival games like fish pond, dart throws, archery, pellet guns and stuff. It had computer terminals with kids softwares loaded up. It had dog pet room, It had a caged bird zone. It had an area were kids painted. It had bumper cars and it had those riding horses. It had play area with slides and the big ball bin. It had a laser tag area. But most importantly to me, it had an arcade. It was like 40 yuan for a cup full of 40+ coins.
They had crane games, push the coin games. They had shoot'em Up games like Time Crisis 3, Ninja Assault, LA Guns, Virtual Cop, Point Blank (mostly 4 coins each). A pile of Street Fighter, King of Fighter, Sango Fighter, and etc.. games (2 or 3 coins each). They had some driving games like Sega GT but many of the driving wheels were screwed up mostly (3 or 4 coins each). And the best part, rythmn games mostly DJ games but they had drummania but it was turned off, and they had an EZ-Do Dance game. Well, since nobody was playing, I started it up and I gathered a crowd. I guess it was the "wow somebody actually plays this game" and the "Wow, that old guy can dance." I was a bit rusty, but yea was the same game they had at the Rush Arcade. The rythmn games are mostly 4 coins each. Ami was impressed that I could dance as well as some of the kids who tried the game afterwards. Mostly girls, including one who could do all 10 sensors. I did two games and that was enough to make me all sweaty.
We continued with more window shopping in the computer tech area. I didn't know which kinda fan she had in her computer so I left that for tomorrow to take care of. I did some looking around for routers, since it would be nice to have both computers accessable to the net and if I can figure out Windows XP Pro Chinese networking, I might be able to set up a shared folder.
Dinner tonight was going to be some fried chicken. However, Ami didn't cook the chicken long enough. Oh well, next time.
|Saturday, Feb 26/2005|
|Breakfast today, I tried to make an omlet. Of course, there is lots of things that I was missing but that is ok, I improvised. The omlet didn't flip right so it ended up more like egg foo yung. Oh well, food is food.
Today, we have to go and pick up her daughter Alexandria from the bus stop. She gets to come home for one day this week. So we went out early to do some shopping to kill some time.
I stopped by a shop which carried the little Japanese figures in a box. I saw some nice Gundam Seed figurines and a set of Dead Or Alive figures that were cute too. They weren't cheap by normal standards, but they were a reasonable price that I would have paid for in Richmond so I bought a few of the Gundam Seeds on a ball for 10 yuan each. I bought a larger 500 yen Gundam Seed for 68 yuan. We went to the computer store mall, to pick up a new socket 370 fan for Ami's computer for 25 yuan. I picked up a 4 port router by Netcore for 120 yuan. And since I was getting ready to pack and reprocess CD-Rs/VCDs, I figured I will buy a spindle of CD-Rs and the envelopes for them. They didn't have the paper envelopes that I was looking for so I had to settle for the plastic sleeves. Still pretty cheap 10 yuan for about 50 sleeves. The CD-Rs were Maxells Glow In The Dark coloured ones for also 10 yuan.
After we grabbed all the computer things, we headed to her moms place. She was making some meat pies. We just dropped off the crap and went to the market to buy some small things and to buy bleach for my socks. After we left the market, it was getting to be around 4:00pm, so we walked over to the bus stop area (kinda like a big bus exchange). It is here where I learn a bit about the transit system. They have certain defined routes throughout the city. They have newer cleaner and working buses which cost 2 yuan to ride but they have nice seats and flat screen TVs for your entertianment. The regular buses are the well used buses, still pretty clean and still working. I also noticed that people also spit inside the bus on to the floor. The last type are what I will call the Welfare Bus. This bus is so very old it sounds like it is falling part, the body is bashed in, rusting, graffitti all over it, windows broken, and very dirty bus. I am guessing the lowest of income people take this bus. Price unknown.
We picked up Alexandria and went back to her mom's. We ate the meat pies she was making. They were like the deep fried peanut donuts that mom makes. The major difference is that she replaced the peanut or red bean paste, with meat instead. Very good, but they have a bad habit of leaking lots of water out the bottom of it. This is especially true when it comes out of the cooking fresh.
Headed back home to have fried rice and chicken nuggets. Alexandria noticed my stack of VCDs that I bought and she spent a good part of the evening listening my MP3 CDs and VCDs I bought. She seems to like S.H.E. too.