Friday, June 29, 2007

Seven Things

1 - That I have the largest sized feet of any woman I have ever encountered, even larger than my giantess of a cousin. And I'm not even tall! My feet are size 9.5 UK i.e. 11.5 or 12 American i.e. size 43. I spend a fortune on shoes designed to make my feet look 'dainty' but many have discovered the truth on sighting me in a pair of yeti-sized UGGS in the winter.

2 - That my grandmother once considered calling a priest/exorcist (call it what you will) to 'save' me from myself when I was a kid. I was that naughty.

3 - That I sometimes suffer from inexplicable bouts of sadness, some would call it depression. I don't do slitting wrists or self-harm or anything remotely drastic like that, but I do get very sad, and I have been known to cry on occasion - actually you know this already.

4 - That I have doubts about my faith many times even though I know it to be the true way.

5 - That I am the most indecisive person on the planet. At one stage in my life, I was rather ridiculous. I would have 'returning days' when I left my house laden with shopping bags, went from store to store returning ugly item after ugly item, and arrived back home empty-handed. I always keep receipts and always always check a store's returns policy now.

6 - That I have never cheated in a test or exam or anything. Not even in one of those silly 'teacher's running out of things for the class to do' quizzes I had to take in primary school. At first it was because the thought never even crossed my mind, and then because I knew I'd be the one in a room full of 50 cheating students to get caught. But then about a year or two ago this weird 'honour' type thing appeared out of nowhere and I concluded there must be no pleasure in doing well without having earned it.

7 - That I am a geek. You may have worked this out from #6. I like to learn things, it is sad but true. But then I am also incredibly lazy which can make things so frustrating at times.

I have no clue who has or has not been tagged into this thing yet, as I've been rather bad at keeping up with blogs lately. Jaja, I would tag you to get you back for tagging me, but I imagine that's against the rules and would defeat the purpose of this exercise. Hehe! I also don't know of anyone who reads my blog regularly anymore, so this is kinda tough. But anyway, I am now tagging...

Cultural Miscellany

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Poo Poo Poison Poo

From the Great Wall, instead of Shanghai, I found myself headed to the SOS International Hospital. I woke up with a severe case of food poisoning yesterday, so severe the doctor I eventually saw kept insisting it had to be something else - either malaria that had remained in my bloodstream since April (when I last went to Lagos - apparently mosquitoes in Beijing do not carry the parasite) or... wait for it... pregnancy! I should've slapped him round the head for that latter suggestion but at the time I was too weak and too sick to contemplate anything other than lying down on a bed and groaning.

Now I am well, as I have consumed an alarming amount of medication, but on parental orders, and much to B's delight, I am to stay away from Shanghai. I am upset for two reasons. First, because I was looking forward to 'Riding the Iron Rooster' a la Paul Theroux as I have never before traveled by overnight sleeper train, let alone in Asia! Second, because I really wanted to give China's most fashion-forward city a go, as I fear I may have exhausted Beijing's boutiques! There is absolutely nothing left to buy here, and I've been from grotty shops selling copy-cat Chloe and Marni clothing, to massive malls, like the World Trade Centre. Shanghai would've provided a welcome change - Bitchy got bitten by the shopaholic bug when she landed on Chinese soil you see.

Oh and The Great Wall? We took the cable car to the top of the Badaling section of the wall, and then began the trek down. It would've been rather uneventful had B not been slipping and sliding all over the place (apparently she doesn't own a pair of trainers), and had I not rediscovered my fear of heights. Our guide Eva must've been peeing herself with laughter, as we really were a ridiculous sight, but she maintained a professional facade the entire time. Unlike us, she walked the entire thing without holding onto the railings, as she makes the trek round the wall several times a week with tourist groups. The 'trek' (it was more a crawl to be honest, as all the rail-holding meant we moved like snails) also exposed me to more adoring fans, who flagged me down at many a juncture for photos with my gorgeous self.

Bowels-permitting I will be visiting The Summer Palace and the Panda House tomorrow, or maybe on Saturday. I also intend to walk in a hamster ball from one end of the lake in the Chao Yang Amusement Park to another without falling flat on my face (which I have been told is impossible) before I leave on Sunday.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Tian'anmen Rickshaw Wang Fu Qing 呆子

The trek from the Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City to Tian'anmen is a short, but painful one when you're wearing the 'gladiator slippers' that're all the rave in London this summer!

En route yesterday, we noticed a queue forming in front of a ticket booth, above which was a sign saying "Tickets for Tian'anmen Gate" or something to that effect. So we joined the queue (as Tian'anmen was where we were headed), and paid 30 Yuan to yet another nasty cow who had begun to yell at me for having the audacity to show her an international student card in the attempt to obtain a student discount. Apparently I should've known from the Mandarin characters for 'Student Discount' that they meant Chinese students and not international ones. I felt like yelling "Oi Dummy, do I look like I speak Mandarin?" She should even have been grateful that we understood her at all! B may be Chinese, but she's spent her entire life in English-speaking Malaysia, and as a consequence, her Mandarin is appalling - It's part of the reason why she's living in Beijing at the moment. Today for example, she finally learned the Mandarin word for 'spoon' after a 20 minute signing and guessing game with a waitress in a cafe!

After our Tian'anmen Gate tickets were thrown at us, we carried on. We went through one gate, walked over a mini-bridge and found ourselves facing Tian'anmen Square. A little puzzled, we looked behind to find that the gate we'd passed through unchecked (and through which dozens of others were passing freely) was in fact the Tian'anmen Gate, as from where we stood we could see the gigantic gold-framed portrait of Chairman Mao beaming down at us! From that point up until Tian'anmen Square, there was no ticket barrier or gate or anything! We'd basically given the nasty lady who yelled at us 30 Yuan for nothing!

That was the first Olodo incident of the day.

Before I move onto the next, I would just like to say that I really did feel my inner revolutionary spirit stirring as I stood in Tian'anmen Square. Obviously I would never be the kind of revolutionary to stand poe-faced in front of a line of army tanks that'd been ordered to squash me flat! But I definitely could be one of those who marches and protests with tons of flags, whistling and singing! The camaraderie would be such fun!

The second Olodo incident crept up on us a lot slower than the first. After a hilarious stint at kite-flying in Tian'anmen, we went in search of a Hutong. A 'hutong' is basically a street or collection of streets that forms part of Old Beijing. Some of the houses in hutongs date back hundreds of years, but in general they provide a look at living arrangements of the factory worker classes in Beijing.

Our taxi dropped us off on a deserted street, pointed to a sign that said 'Hutong' and zoomed off. Being the David Livingstone of the duo, I managed to chase down a rickshaw, which was what my travel guide had said would take us round the "fascinating" hutongs of Beijing. The rickshaw driver showed us a sheet with 8 pictures on it. He pointed at it, said 50 Yuan, and we hopped in.

At first it was very interesting (and perhaps you could even say thought-provoking) to drive round these very impoverished parts of Beijing. Some of the buildings the rickshaw driver pointed out had one or two features that were similar to those in the Imperial Palace, but they really were very few and far between. I also didn't feel comfortable poking my nose into the lives of ordinary people and observing them as though they were a bunch of lab mice to be marveled at! After about 20 minutes, we were completely bored out of our minds as it was the same thing over and over again. We did go to one trade street which had a lot of artwork and fans, silk screens etc for sale, but after that it was snore, snore, smelly pong, smelly pong, and it didn't look like the ride was ever going to stop.

After about an hour and a half, the rickshaw driver announced that the tour was over, and it took a lot not to shout with glee at the news. Our joy was short-lived however, as he then held up a few fingers and said "400 YUAN Pleez!" Apparently when we chartered his fine chariot he had pointed at each picture on his crummy plastic sheet as a way of explaining that a visit to each "highlight" on the sheet would cost 50 Yuan. If you remember, I said there were 8 pictures on the sheet he showed us at the start. Rickshaw-man had then taken the liberty of showing us each and every single one of the snore-inducing highlights, wasting an hour and a half of our precious time, whilst we'd been thinking "Can you just hurry up and get this over with? Oh well, it's only 50 Yuan so who cares." We hadn't even climbed out of the rickshaw at some of the spots for which he wanted to charge us 50 Yuan! Many times when he stopped his stupid rickshaw and told us how special and "velly ancient" the site was, we just nodded and refused to get out of the rickshaw, indicating that he should carry on so we could be on our way!

One thing I can say for myself though is that I may be a spoilt brat but I am certainly not a dumb brat, and when it comes to being ripped off or wilfully deceived by crafty rickshaw drivers after smelly hutong rides, my hardcore Omo Naija mentality kicks in. Even though I was pissed off, I told B we were paying 100 each and that was it! I understood that he'd broken his back driving us around the hutongs, but he had told us it would cost 50 Yuan and we had not asked him to take the liberty of showing us so many things the significance of which we weren't even aware! B, who's always one for giving in because she'd rather be sitting in an air-conditioned room than sweating and fighting with a poor man on the street, wanted us to just pay him and hop in a taxi. I gave him the 200 we had amassed, he yelled "400, 400, okay 300, wan more 100". I groped in my handbag for a handful of notes, tossed him 50 Yuan and then stormed off.

The third and final Olodo moment came at Wang Fu Qing, which is an area that I suppose you could say is being developed as the shopping mecca of Beijing. It reminded me a lot of Lagos - massive and gigantic malls still under construction, with only a handful of them being used under all the scaffolding and saw dust. The two malls we went into were very nice though, but I was starving and all I cared about was food.

After dinner, we went into an electronic shop next door to the restaurant, as I wanted to buy a memory stick for my camera. I wanted a 2GB one and the most reasonably priced one was from some 'Kingston' (a brand I'd never heard of before), at 720 Yuan. The shop lady pulled out a calculator (I have now learned this is a regular trick in Beijing), punched in some numbers and said I should pay 600 Yuan. B, who's motto is, "Buy it, buy it, just hurry up", said it seemed reasonable enough to her, and after making sure the card worked with my camera, I thought, "What the heck."

We left the mall, me feeling proud at being a smartie who buys electronic gear in Beijing thus halving London's ridiculous prices, B looking anxiously for a taxi rank, and then spied a slightly more rundown-looking electronic shop in a row of kitschy shops. I was considering buying a video camera at the time, so we went in to find out how much one of the made in China brands would cost. A 2GB Kingston memory stick like the one I had just bought was shining in the display cabinet, next to one from ScanDisk (a brand I do know). I asked the shop lady how much the ScanDisk one was, she said 380. B and I were like "Whaaat?" I then pointed at the Kingston one, at which shop lady smiled and said "360 Yuan".

Apparently shops inside the malls see foreigners and other mumus like myself, bombard them with promises of air-conditioning and cheesy shop music, and then feel entitled to charge almost double the price an item is actually worth! So to break it down to those non maths wizards out there, I paid over 45 pounds for a memory stick that should've cost only 19 pounds!

The Chinese character in my title can be taken to mean either 'Idiot', 'Fool' or 'Sucker'. Appropriate isn't it?

To The Great Wall and Ming Dynasty Tombs tomorrow, I can only wonder what other experiences await me!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Superstar Brethren Immigration Bitch

I have just tried and failed and tried and failed and tried and failed to leave a comment on my previous post, but seeing as I'm in China, and seeing as there's this thing called CENSORSHIP here, it's been rather difficult.

I don't know what it is about me and this blog now, I suppose learning that people I know (who are neither bloggers nor home-dawgs) had been reading it, put me off a little. I even attempted to start a new one, but I fiddled with the template's colour scheme and it got kinda uuugly so I ditched it.

Yes, Bitchy is a bit of a lunatic.

But in Beijing, she is something of a mini celebrity.

So far I have been stopped twice by people who wanted to take pictures with me. The first time was at the Forbidden City when B and I were looking kinda shitty. Traipsing round the massive Imperial Palace is hard work! And the second time was when we were taking the pedestrian subway to Tian'anmen Square, after we'd decided that the dash across the insanely wide motorway type road thing could only end in death! And then, I was trying on a dress in a shop a couple of hours ago, and when I came out of the changing room to look in the mirror, a gaggle of people were waiting for me, grinning and nodding and waving and all star-struck like!

Could it be because I'm so incredibly stunning? Or because I'm black?

B insists it's the latter. Apparently many Chinese people are tourists in their own country. They come to Beijing on holiday from regions like Hainan and Xian, and most of them have never seen a black person in real life before. I wonder if they will show my photo to their grand-kids? Teehee, I'm an idiot! But it really is such a refreshing change from the nasty uppity looks I've received in other parts of the world.

I arrived in Beijing on Friday at like 1am. My first actual chat on Chinese territory was... wait for it... with a Nigerian! Actually I wouldn't call it a 'chat' per se as I was really rather stand-offish. He was delighted to see "one of his sisters", as he exclaimed on the plane, whilst I was rather un-delighted. I see Nigerians all the time, big deal! He said he lived in Guangzhou, and from the 'Ghana Must Go' he was carrying, I figured he was a trader.

After the stony reception I gave him, I felt a little guilty and resolved to be more pleasant to the next set of 'brethren' I encountered. I spoke too soon, as the line I joined at immigration/passport check might as well have had "Nigerians" emblazoned in red above the desk rather than "Foreigners"!

I did try though... I smiled when they cracked silly jokes about my scruffy attire making it so obvious that I was a student, blah blah blah har har har.

At the immigration desk, a stony-faced Chinese woman snatched my passport out of my hand. She eyed me up and down without the slightest "Hello" or "Welcome to China" I'd heard other travellers receive from officials nearby, and gave me one of those, "If I had my way, you'd be heading back to the jungle" looks. In my head (obviously not out loud, I didn't want to have to fly all the way back) I went "What the hell did I do to you, you silly cow?" Like 20 seconds later she flung my passport back at me (mind you my passport is a British and not Nigerian one so I really couldn't understand what all the hate was about) and made the 'Shoo Fly' gesture with her hands. Before I left though, I decided to get my own back. Between where I stood and where she sat was a console that said "Rate My Performance". On it were 4 faces, the one on the far left bore a grin and said "Excellent", the one to its right had a half smile with the caption, "Very Good", the third said "Not Bad" and the fourth said "Poor".

Clutching my passport tight (that thing is precious), I slammed my thumb on the "Poor" button and glared back at the mean official. Unknown to me though, when you give an immigration official a bad rating at the Beijing Airport, the console lets out a loud beep! I froze for like a millisecond as her glare intensified into a look of utter outrage, and then scuttled away as quickly as I could, lest she revoke the stamp approving my entry into China!

Baggage reclaim, exit protocol, a scary incident with an unlicensed taxi driver shoving his "I.D. Card" up my nostrils, and I was on my way to B's in a taxi driven by a man who spoke absolutely no English whatsoever.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bitchy... c'est qui exactement?

Parting is such sweet sorrow,

Every blog has its day, and a different blog was birthed today.

Teehee! Am I poetic or what?

Something has happened to me in the last four weeks, and I can't say for certain what it is, but I fear I might have changed.

Or perhaps I've gone full circle? I think I might be right back where I started... not exactly, but you'll see what I mean in a minute.

I wrote my first ever post the week before I started at Law School. At the time, I had absolutely no clue which way my blog would go. I knew nothing about Blogsville, or about the thousands of people like or unlike me, sharing their experiences with friends and family and total strangers. I never thought anyone other than my best friend would read my blog. I never thought strangers would read my blog, or that they would like it, or that I would develop friendships with them and even meet some of them in person!

Tonight I'm off to Beijing, beginning my whirlwind (yeah right) tour of the globe.

Ever the diva, I am not backpacking, neither am I going away for three or four months at one go. But I've made arrangements to visit places I'd always dreamed of visiting over the next 9 months - Cuba, India, Argentina etcetera - and I intend to implement every single one of those plans.

In March, I will start the job I debated on this blog many a time, and by then, I imagine (and hope) I will be a completely different person.

I am already a different person from the one I predicted I would be back in August... I do have a life, I have love, I do not have an alcohol addiction, and I am not overweight!

Har Har!

Farewell blog friends.


Bitchy Xxx