Week 2 (Feb 27/2005 - Mar 5)
|Sunday, Feb 27/2005|
|Today was normally a day of rest. We were generally free of errands to run. Alexandria needs to catch her bus at 4:00pm today so that would be our schedule.
We started the day with a cheese melt toast. Alexandria seems to like it.
We went to drop her off at the bus stop. The traffic in that area is a mess. Taxis everywhere dropping kids off, with cars parked all over the place waiting for buses to come in. And of course buses pulling in and out.
We went walking around to various different name brand mall stores. The night market crowd started coming out selling various foods and goods. We went into a really cool mall called the Zhongxing Commerical Building (a long name for a MALL). Anyway, it had lots of cool small stores in it as well as a large supermarket. The real stupid thing about this mall is that the supermarket is on the 2nd floor. So, we went in bought enough groceries to fill a shopping cart, and guess what, we had to lug it by had down a flight of stairs to the ground level. Now we were at ground level, we come up to a one way street. The side of the street where the mall is, there is a line of available taxis. However, we could not board them, we have to walk across the street to board taxis. I am not sure why such a bylaw was put in place but then again, here is a place where pedistrians don't even pay attention to red and green lights, let alone the one way and/or the left or right side of the street.
|Monday, Feb 28/2005|
|Today, we would wander around the market. We need to drop by the pharmacy to pick up some anti-fungal cream for my foot. I was curious to see if any of the Chinese stuff will do anything. Besides, Ami needs to buy some cold capsules and some antibiotics for Alexandria's fever. The 20mg tube of stuff was 16 yuan.
We were going to meet up with one of Ami's friends who loves to play MahJong. She showed us her place. It on the outside looks worse than the dive that her mother lives in. However once you are passed the bad neighbourhood and the dirty building, the inside of the apartment is very clean. Her friend is a very young looking 44 year old. She doesn't work, but her husband takes care of her. The layout of her apartment is like Ami's mom's place. We didn't stay too long since we have a 5:00pm dinner with her friends from the works yard.
The restaurant is a karaoke dinner box. The second floor is full of small rooms with computers (running windows 98) powering a small karaoke. The room is big enough for 10 people with a large table with a rotating centre piece. Her friends showed up a little late. There are two men, one quite verse in English actually. The other is older but very strong. The third man showed up, his wife later showed up after work. Dinner was interesting. Crab was normal, but they were small thus not much meat on them to eat. There was a noodle, which was quite good. There was some kinda raw fresh fish which when we got it the fish tail was still wiggling. It looked weird when we got it but later found out that the whole one side of the fish was already cut off and made into slices for us and served in ice. The fact the fish was able to move at all was amazing. The next dish was a roasted lamb but the top of the lamb was just covered with that red chili sauce stuff. Man did that ever kill the taste.
Other than that we were six people. They ordered a local beer called Tsing Tao, each bottle was 640ml, 5% alcohol content, in the store like Carre Four it sells for 3.5 yuan at the restaurant it sells for 6 yuan. We went through almost 2 cases (thats 12 bottles in a case) of the stuff. Man, her friends drink like fish. But when you factor in that a 2.25 litre bottle of Coke Cola costs 5.5 yuan, it is not hard to see why so many people drink beer.
After dinner we started singing songs on the Karaoke machine. I tried to pick songs that an older generation might know. The English friend tried to find "Take Me Home, Country Road" by John Denver but they didn't have it. I did do "Careless Whispers" by George Michael and "We Are The World" by USA For Africa. The older man with his wife, was really good at the old Chinese classic songs because he had a good voice. The other man kept shaking my hand and he squeezes really hard. I guess he was testing me. Either that or he begins to behave funny when he gets drunk. I suspect that it is the latter. Although the room was a nice carpetted room, I noticed that people will still spit on the ground (the carpet). Hmm... I guess it is a bad habit that adds to the dirty enviroment.
We go to another Karaoke place after dinner. The place uses a Windows 2000 system as well as a Korean KTV system (the same that is in the Karaoke in a box). We ordered a lot of peanuts and almonds and pitsatio nuts and even a weird bag of microwaved popcorn with chocolate milk powder as flavouring. We polished off another 7 bottles of beer here too.
After a bit we called it a night. Which was good because my head hurt and my stomach hurts. So I went to bed. I don't handle much liquer, but at least I am a quiet drunk.
|Pictures from Week Two of Shenyang|
|Tuesday, March 1/2005|
|This morning was a stiff morning. At least I didn't have a hang over but man my stomach felt weird and I felt really stiff. However, a good cup of coffee and some breads and some cakes, I felt a lot better.
Today, there was not much to do so I spent most of it catching up with this travel log. For the afternoon, since it was so nice outside, I went for a walk with Ami. We walked all the way through the park along the river almost to the computer district before we doubled back to go to Carre Four. I wanted to buy some more VCDs since they were so cheap. I found a set of Disco Dance DVDs with Final Fantasy characters on the front of it. It was called DJ Disco volumes 1-5. I figured it was at least dance music even if it is all in Chinese, and they were only 8 yuan. I later found that the music was club and techno dance music with the video begin computer CG rendered characters dancing. I also needed more ground beef for the spagetti sauce. We also need some more spices since I seem to notice that a good variety of spices very limited and lacking here. Unfortunately, there isnt much choices except for a few peppers, various salts, there was a pak called 5 seasons salt and other one called 18 seasons. The 5 seasons was a pepper salt for meats, the 18 has more variety.
For dinner, we went to a KFC. Ami ordered the hot chicken burger combo for 15.7 yuan. I ordered a four piece of chicken with fries and drink combo for 21.5 yuan. The 4 pieces of chicken were like 2 wings and 2 drum sticks the size of the appetizers you get a bar for 99 cents on wings day. The fries was normal size and the drink is regular size, 375 ml (it is marked on the outside of the cup). The nice consolation behind all this was that it was very crispy. I also tried breaded fish sticks with a dill dip sauce, very tasty. I also had a chicken burrito, which tasted ok, but didn't have any hot salsa to add to it to bring up the punch. I suppose they could have added that red chili sauce stuff, yuck...
|Wednesday, March 2/2005|
|Breakfast today was many different types of buns. I had a beef bun. Much the same way a pork bun is made but this one was pan fried and had a beef ball inside it.
Today's errand was to replace all the burnt out light bulbs that Ami had in her apartment. She has lived lonely life without a man around the house, so small little things have accumlated one of them being not replacing burnt out bulbs. Her living room was the killer since it uses small two prong halogen lights, lots of them! At least 7 of them were burnt out, and one of the three my bedroom was blown. That one was easiers because it was like a Christmas tree E14 threaded bulb. Her Living room was missing 2 of the 11W energy efficent florescents. So we went out back to Carre Four to do shopping for light bulbs. I also bought a hook for the door in the washroom so I could hang my bathrobe on it so it won't touch the floor and get wet. We ended up buying a toaster oven because a Philips 2 slice toaster was 199 yuan, yet the whole 2 shelf mini oven was also 199 yuan. So needless to say, since you can do more with the oven, we picked one up. I also wanted to fix her light switch in the living room because it really tough to turn on. However, I didn't pay attention to the modular design of the button so I bought the wrong one. Oh well, it is like 13 yuan.
Tonight was my chance to make something a bit normal, spagetti sauce. However, lacking many of the key ingredients like tomato soup mix or even half the spices like orengano, basil or even seasoning salt for the meat, and even the spagetti ; were all impossible to find over here. So I had to improvised. The tomato, I had to use ketcup and tomato paste as the base and used extra tomatos for the rest. I got something called 18 spice seasoning mix which was a lot more a saltier than spicer. I had to use the wide rice noodle in place of pasta. They also didn't have corn starch for a thickener but she had flour. In the end, I made of a tomato soup rather than a made tomato sauce.
|Thursday, March 3/2005|
|This morning was the first morning to test out this toaster oven thing. Well, it takes bit to toast bread brown, more than 5 minutes at 200C. I also threw a deep fried twist in there too but that turned out really good, nice and crisp just like when it was bought new. Well, sorta since the market actually deep fries them, not bakes them. I also cooked up a pak of bacon. Now that was good.
For lunch we had to go over to her mother's house again. This time she was with the friend that played MJ a lot. Interesting outfit that she wore, almost reminded me of Sango-chan's suit. Anyway, we had a hot pot lunch.
We went shopping a bit to find that last halogen bulb and a wall plate. We were looking at some of the places of the night market and we did manage to find a 4 panel switch which can be used to fix that light in the dining room even though it didn't exactly match all the others she had in the house. I also found a round stone with a lot of holes in it. I think they call it basalt. But it will serve as a good washing stone clean off dead skin from my athelete's foot.
For dinner we consumed the rest of the tomato sauce with rice. I had a beer called Hatepi beer. It is no where near as smooth as the Shenyang brewed stuff or the Singtao stuff from the other day. This one was really bitter and it gave me a stomach ache.
|Friday, March 4/2005|
|Well, it is an another morning, I am over the stomach ache from the stupid beer. Today, we have a lunch with a friend who mother and daughter just came back from Beijing. The daughter was applying to enter the music school there, but she didn't pass the qualifying tests. She will try for the one in Shenyang and later the one in Shanghai. Their apartment is realitively large with an extra room for a study and another room to store foods. The only real unusual thing I saw here was that the kitchen was not the exterior room, that was used for storage which is kinda dumb since things like rice don't take the condensation very well. Oh well, don't ask me why they haven't shot the designer for the place. Anyhow, we went to a restaurant famous for their Peking Duck. The way they eat it is similar in many ways to how we eat it in Canada. You start with a BBQ duck. They have chefs on carts that will cut the prepare the duck up by slicing it in small pieces. The slices are served with strips of cabbage and a dipping sauce and a wonton like wrap to wrap it up in. In Canada, the wrap is usually the cabbage rather than wasting the flour based wrap. Meanwhile the rest of the duck is used in a miso like soup, and the bits are seasoned up with salts and served as bone suckers. Ie, there is so little meat left on the bones, you are literally licking and sucking the spices off the bone. The place is also aims to be a very clean place. I notice before you are seated, they pour hot tea on your cup, then pour that on to your dishes to sterilize them. They also use the clothes bags to cover up your coats while you dine, a very nice touch.
Later that evening, we have a dinner appointment with some of Ami's government workers including the previous mayor of Shenyang. We went to meet him at his apartment. Very nice granite tiled floor and walls. His building had an elevator. The entrance was much the same as everywhere else I had seen, but his steel door had a very "wooden" look to it. His living room was huge. Three bedrooms, a walk in washroom, a separated kitchen which was not the exterior room, and and extra exterior room for plants and a study with a computer. Very nice, definitely fit for a high ranking person. Anyway, we went to an upclass restaurant kinda like the karaoke box that we went to before. The rooms had their own TV and computer for the karaoke. The added touchs were that each room had their own standing attendant to serve food and drink and to operate the Karaoke machine.
Now, dinner was again, too much food, fish which I only ate a bit, abolone with shrimp, some noodles, and a lamb hot pot, and some hot beef strips. All of which we still had lots of left overs at the end. Again, we had 6 people, goverment worker from the hot pot lunch earlier, the guy who owns the shop with all the small dogs, the mayor and his wife. We ended drinking 14 bottles of Snow beer, 675 ml and one 500 ml of white wine that was served in a plastic sports like bottle. I only had half a glass but that stuff was pretty lethal for wine at 44% alcohol content.
Anyway, they sang a lot of dedication song for us. The guy with all the dogs was a excellent improv karaoke singer. He kept on dropping into this sort of preaching philosphical state like a reverend which I am sure sounded very inspirational. Even the Mayor and his wife who are in their late 60's could sing very well. The selections of English songs sucked so all I could do was "Careless Whispers" by Wham and "Right Here Waiting For You" by Richard Marx. The group today did not know any English, but the mayor was really good at coined Japanese because he would use words like "Dozo" when boarding the elevator and "Kampai" or "Gambatte" when we were drinking, and "yoreshuku" when shaking my hand. So, I would add Japanese honorifics for him.
Ami's friends really liked me and were happy to see that she is finally happy again after such a long time. Again, I drank too much and I felt sick for most of the night. I suppose nothing that lying in the fetal position for a few hours won't solve.
|Saturday, March 5/2005|
|Today was a rather normal day. We had to drop by the bank because Ami's cell phone got cut off because she didn't pay the bill. Ooops.. After that, we had to walk to a small mending shop to have the stud button on a pair of Alexandria's jeans restamped back on. Then we headed to Carre Four again, to pick up some breads and cakes. We dropped by the meat department to look at meats, but I told Ami we had too much food in the fridge already. The service lady for the sausages recognized us and joked with Ami in regards to the fact we have been by Carre Four three times this week buying food. Anyway, we needed to buy milk and junk food for Alexandria. By the time we were done, we had 4 bags of groceries. We still had to walk to the bus stop in front of the Shenyang stadium to wait for Alexandria's bus.
There was an underground pedestrian underpass to get across the busy highway, however, some winner of an engineer forgot about finding a way to drain the water out of the underground tunnel. As a result there was almost 3 steps deep of solid ice that filled the bottom of the passage.
Lunch was simple yet too much again, as we had meat pies, fried chicken using a spicy roasted chicken using a crispy tempura like batter; and a flour pancake like thing with some vegatables inside. It was bit boring the way it was served so I took it to the toaster and put a like crisp golden brown coating to it.
Dinner was an overly watery congee. Ami also made pork dumplings, those were good.
Late this evening, I was helping Alexanderia with her English homework when she saw my new pile of new VCDs that I bought this week. She sifted through a few of them but the one that soon caught her eye was the one of Britney Spears Live Clips. It basically was various TV show clips where Britney showed up in. The most funny ones that she found and that she watched over and over again and over again. I believe it is a Saturday Night Live clip, where Britney is auditioning dancers for her upcoming tour. Two guys come and do some weird farting gay dance for "Oops I did it again" and they cross-dressed in girl's school uniforms and danced around.