For those of you who are panicking that I wasn't able to return to Beijing - I did so - YAY! I've spent all day today (Friday) basically recovering from that and from the unfortunate even that you'll discover at the end of my post. And I've been helping Julie doing some baking and cooking as they were having their small group over tonight. I've discovered she's a majorly better cook than myself as the dessert I made for the group to help her - was not a help and turned out scary :( I've learned I shouldn't quit my day job...
The other night (and I told Julie this was going on the blog!:) we were watching a movie and when it finished, she was rather contemplative and started talking, making the initial statement "Why is it that we're so incontent" and then the rest of what she said was "blah blah" until I finally couldn't resist and asked "what was that word you used?" But the best was when she identified the word and said "isn't that a word?" LOL - so now its my new go-to word! I'm trying not to be incontent! Not to be confused with incontinent! Good word...bad word!
So my day of trying not to be incontent started at 6:30 a.m. Thursday when I got up.... Got picked up a little before 8. Went to the Beijing train station and was led around blindly by one of the guys from the company who speaks NO English. And I walk fast, but this guy was speedy Chinese Gonzales! I couldn't keep up with him - and it doesn't help that the goofy Chinese floor tiles are kept EXCEPTIONALLY shiny and ergo slippery and the shoes I was wearing - I was pretty sure I was gonna wipe out. Thankfully I kept up with him - I felt like it was one of those movies where the little kid is following their parent around and they can barely keep up. But, if he was trying to lose me he didn't. And we made it to the ticket line where we were pushed and shoved and knocked around as ALL of Beijing is trying to escape the city for their 6 day holiday thanks to APEC!
About 15 minutes after we got there, the rest of the team (Icy, Tom and Leo) joined us and we had time to get a sad coffee until Tom informed me that there was a Starbucks down the hall. I told them I'd be back and I didn't even wait for a response - I just took off :)! And I was so happy that I got a venti latte (unfortunately no other country besides Italy seems to do breves...) and made it to the train with a big smile on my face - ready to face the day in which I had no clue what was in store for me.
We took the high speed (aka Bullet train) and it was pretty crowded but the seats were pretty spacious, although not completely comfortable. I did some reading along the way and Icy actually had a conference call with my company about some of our shipping details that I have not clue about.
|Leaving the Beijing station|
|Passing fields outside of Beijing|
|Bao ding dong? My favorite station EVER! :)|
|Pulling into the station - bullet trains lined up|
Jumped in a taxi and went over to a pretty nice hotel where we met the head nurse in one of the little private dining rooms they have so often in Chinese restaurants. She ordered all these dishes from their region which, thank goodness, were basically vegetable based - even though the vegetables were things like "lotus root" and "juju fruit". But its from the earth and so I'm happy with it. There were a few dishes that had some strange meats in them. Oh - one of the dishes was this kind of jerky, freeze dried patty of meat and fat and cartilage and other little bits of something and I'm not sure, but I'm pretty sure it was horse. I choked that down with some water - score. And then the piece de resistance was the soup. Its a soup that they served up to us out of this big pot. And in China, when you take drinks or eat some stuff from what they've served you, they just fill it back up again. So the key is to just not eat anymore if you don't want anymore. Anyways - this soup thing, you could tell there was cabbage and some stuff in it and there was definitely meat. I ate the first bowl down, the meat was disgusting as it had the skin and the fat still on it. The second bowl she filled, I started to eat a little and then came on these wads of veins or arteries or some big bundle of grossness that was ripped out and boiled up. I couldn't even do it so, it was time for me to put my chopsticks down and back off from the bowl. And the kicker of the soup was, they kept on trying to get me to eat it and then they said "this is wedding soup! It is soup that brings good luck and makes you happy!" It did not make me happy! :( Lunch done!
BTW - Thanks Rach for the awesome picture of Chinese eating culture! This is a MUST see!!!! :)
The head nurse was extremely extremely nice and welcoming and so excited that I came. Very hospitable - and did not speak a word of English except "goodbye". She felt really bad that she had this meeting to go to and she wouldn't be getting done until "later". I felt it was going to be a long day... And it was already 2pm.
She went her way and we got another cab and went over by the hospital, but directly across from the hospital was this really nice park that they decided we were going to stroll around in. It had the old city walls and the palace in it so we would get to visit that "a little later" :) I'm loving using these phrases because this is exactly what I was being told.
The park was actually really beautiful. Honestly, Handong was a pretty beautiful city and this park was meticulous and clean and happy. It put me in a much better place in my head and I think it helped turned my ook into something a little more positive. In hindsight, it definitely fueled me through the rest of the day - well, until I really got to the end of my rope but that didn't come until a little later.
I did like working with this group before, but I actually really enjoyed just hanging out with them. They were funny and extremely kind and our conversations, when we weren't talking work came pretty easily.
|The old city walls and palace|
|Icy was trying to read what he was reading, I think its like old people graffiti that fades...|
She did say he has beautiful writing
|I'm sure they've touched up this paint, but the colors and detail were absolutely gorgeous!|
|Pagoda tree and "wishes" tied on ribbons around the tree|
The tall white building in the distance is the new #1 hospital that we worked at. Since its built in the old district and across from the old city walls, its not allowed to be taller than than the old palace so it could only be eight floors. Which is still a pretty tall palace!
|Icy - Alison :)|
And this is what you get from hanging out with Asian people at tourist attractions.... They want to take pictures of you - and the person taking pictures fancies himself a photographer so it was "stand there" "come here" "come here" "step over here"....
Which resulted in about 40 pictures taken from slightly different angles in slightly different poses....
|This is actually a different picture than the one above - but I was supposed to come forward three steps to get a different angle? Not sure if it worked?|
|Looking down from where the king would have stood to talk to his "peeps" :)|
|Tom, Leo and Icy (yes, these are not their actual names, but they're their English names)|
|I love this picture of a grandpa and his little granddaughter... I couldn't figure out if he was trying got get her to jump through the hoop though?|
|Looking down on the park|
I was reading on the train and so Icy was telling me that no one in China reads. She said they all play games on their phones or sleep. So when we were walking through the park and saw this guy - I had to point it out and we all had a good laugh - and Tom said "he only has books because he not afford phone". :)
This park was so full of older people - and heres another one of those "dancin old people" groups! I love it! They had this whole choreographed thing and they worked on it the whole time and then would take little breaks where they did stretches and drank water. So intensely awesome! I seriously am gonna start one of these groups when I get old in America! It will be revolutionary!!!!
And here's the best - if you look to your far right, theres a little woman in a brown sweater. She must have forgotten her drums and ribbons that day, but she had the routine down. So she's banging on her imaginary drum and waving her imaginary ribbons and I thinking - weirdo - and then I thought - you know what, you go girl! Be loud and proud and don't care if people think you're crazy because at least you're old and out there moving it!!! I'm actually the crazy one standing there laughing at you when I haven't even done anything remotely "exercisey" in the last 2 days! I should join in with my imaginary dance wear!
And then - I love that the playgrounds in China - they aren't playgrounds for children - they're for old people. They all come and just converse and do exercises and all play around on the equipment.
We finally did go over to the hospital around 4:30 or 5 pm. And continued to sit there and wait for the head nurse who would come "in a little while". We sat around and talked about Beijing and APEC and pollution meters and all kinds of things. And finally the head nurse came and brought two of her fellow directors from other local hospitals with her. We all donned up and then went back for her to proudly give me a tour of her whole department. It was amazing! It was amazing because - I'm not saying that American standards are the best, but they definitely have a lot of positive things that made a department better if you follow them. Its really up and coming standard wise. These are not the standards of China. However, this head nurse was definitely working at making her department up and coming. It was quite impressive that she was coming up with standards for her department and she didn't really know our AAMI guidelines. She was so proud of the department and every time I would act impressed with something or laud her for a creative approach to something, she would just beam and smile. Oh - I should add, that this whole time, on top of these other two ladies, there was an entourage of like 4 people who were circling us and just taking pictures. I felt like I was famous or something, but I'm quite sure the don't really see westerners that much this far from Beijing. It was quite unnerving as I was trying to listen or comment or look at something as there were flashes and snaps happening continuously. I finally gave up trying to stay on my best "photo behavior" and just acted normally so - who knows what kinds of pictures are going to wind up in the Handong Hospital #1 newsletter this coming month.... :)
|Tom with his messy English was even laughing at the two last words.... I won't spoil the surprise for you...|
|You've got to love a country where they even have to put these signs in a hospital! I am honestly so sick of the sounds of people pulling up all their phlegm and spitting it out. Ack! Welcome to China!|
We got to the dirty side, where my product is being used. We had a great tour there and then they started asking questions. And BOY do the Chinese ask some questions. They ask really ridiculous questions and they can't take an answer but just keep on asking the same question a million different ways unless they get an answer they want. Another point of my personality that I'm finding is that I am extremely defensive and they tend to word things very personally so it felt like my immediate response was to want to go off - but I had to swallow and just pray, God help me be patient. And when they kept on lambasting my product, I'd start off nice and then after the same question 10 times later, I was really really trying to be nice and keep my patience. I don't think I did. I felt my answers and they weren't very diplomatic :( They just don't take "let me check and I'll get back to you" as an answer.
|The head nurse of Handong #1 Hospital - the "dirty" department that was 100 times cleaner than most US dirty depts!|
And the epitome of a great question that the Chinese ask. One of our enzyme detergents is green and the regular detergent is like clear or straw colored. The question was "why is one product yellow and one green?" which the answer is, so you could tell the two products apart when you look at them. "But why is it yellow?" Diplomatic answer... "But why did you chose the color yellow?" Diplomatic answer "But why did you make this product yellow instead of another color?". Can you see how a slow spiral would start happening here :) I admit - I do not have the responses of a loving and kind person and I don't like that at all. I've definitely got to figure out how to respond to these people when they ask these questions and I'm feeling the frustration I am. Its good to have things to work on, right?
Around 7:30 pm I finally decided I should be asking what the plan is considering that we had a 2 hour train ride back to Beijing. When the question was translated to the rep, he said that we probably wouldn't get back to Beijing until around 11 pm. AHH! Its just the fact that I was NOT prepared for that. If they had told me at the start, you'll be back very late, I could have mentally prepared and I could have gotten keys for the apartment, etc. But as it was - I was not mentally prepared and no keys meant I was now ready to snap and Julie was going to have to sit up and wait for me so she could open the door. I let them know that I needed to get back - that I wasn't prepared to be out this late and so the rep rushed off to see what tickets he could buy.
Thank goodness, there was a train earlier than 9pm so he got the tickets for 8:15 but that meant we had to literally run/speed to the train station. The nurses were so sad because they had thought we would all sit and have dinner together so they had sent one of the CS guys out to buy McDonalds :) They were so very sweet and thoughtful and just so nice. It made me feel bad I was in such an ooky place. They packed up our stuff and sent us off to the station.
|Its not an illusion!!!! Its my ride HOME!|
I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a train!
It was the most beautiful thing I think I've seen!
We got on the train, which was almost empty because no one was going IN to Beijing. We took our seats and just decompressed for a few minutes. And then one of the guys started giving everyone their McDonalds... It sounds so weird - I don't eat McDonalds so I feel like I'm such a bad person for eating it! :) They had gotten us fries, which were now very cold. and then these grilled chicken sandwiches. Sounds safe right? Especially since I've been eating donkey and horse and duck feet. I thought - what could go wrong with McDonalds. The first bad turn was the bite that revealed that there was a layer of straight up jello-y skin and fat sitting on top of the chicken. Then there was some spice that kind of burned a little. So I tried to get the skin off and got most of it down because I actually was a little hungry. I got most of the fries down. And then I started feeling a little yucky. I tried going to the washroom (which good news, was not just a hole in the floor like other countries trains!). Came back and was still feeling yucky and now I'm starting to do that sweating thing. I found a mint and thought if I put that in, it did seem to help a little so, thank goodness I had a roll with me and I just kept on with them in my mouth.
|The speed of the bullet train - can we go any faster????|
I'm happy to say, we made it back to Beijing. I kept my chicken in. I bonded with Icy. I had a car waiting for me and I was actually home by 11:30 p.m. It was a very LOOOONNNNG day, but I did it!
|So happy to see "my" room! Even happier to see "my" bed!|
And then the wonderful completion of my day - that wasn't even in the actual adventuresome day. About 3 a.m. the chicken came back up to visit me - it was the best feeling ever to get it out - and thank goodness, I'll never have to worry about eating that again because we don't have skin coated, fatty chicken grilled sandwiches at McDonalds at home - even if I did eat there.
The day that kept on giving...
And by the way - Kim has been trying to get my to pay attention to this Enneagram thing and with all the stuff Zach and Julie have been going through she's been talking about the enneagram and let me borrow a book of hers but told me I needed to take the test quick first so I knew basically what I was. If you take a look at this website - if you happen to care about knowing more about your personality and how you deal with things and how you SHOULD deal with things -- theres a free test that will take about 5 or 10 minutes and its pretty easy. And I have to admit, once taking it, I'm amazed at how much I totally agree with what it says. SO - if you happen to have some free time after reading this blog post and watching Rachel's shared YouTube video and if you have't taken the enneagram test... check it out!