Monday, September 20, 2010

Huludao (Iceland something?)

I can't believe that I ran out of things to say last week. At this present moment I am looking at entire sheet of notebook paper filled from top to bottom with notes and occurrences to share. However, many of them will need to wait. More pressing matters are at hand.

This past weekend my AECOM office hosted an "outing." We left the office on Friday and traveled by train to Huludao - near the coast and apparently the words iceland are in it's name. I never really understood. Of course, a cold and rainy front rolled in for our beach weekend, but we enjoyed it all anyway and I managed to take quite a few photos. Since every day here is, well, foreign, I think telling much of the story in photos will be better.

Here we go:

We leave the office in a big bus, everyone chatting and laughing and in a really good mood. Now, while the office contains quite a few international people, everyone on the trip was chinese except for myself and Javier, from Spain. When I realized this I started to get nervous.

Once on the train we ate KFC, which is incredibly popular here. It's a several hour train trip, and we arrived at......

the beach! For you Floridians, like I said: FOREIGN. Where are the white seashells and the bikinis?

After the beach we checked into our "semi-4 star hotel." I couldn't tell if that meant 2-star.
Anyway, the most shocking part about the hotel is........

the bathroom is GLASS. As in, the walls are glass and completely see-through. Plus the shower is simply in the middle of the bathroom, without an enclosure. But, you know the best part?? I have a roommate. Lotus. i.e. Jiang Dan

Who I've known for 1 week. Yeah. I don't know what else to say. It was pretty awkward for me. Not for her apparently.

Anyway, onto the fun part: the food!

That evening we all went out for a HUGE seafood dinner. Dinners here are all, as we say in the US, 'family style.' They bring out dishes, set them on the lazy susan in the middle of the table, which is then spun back and forth throughout the meal. I ate quite a bit of the first few dishes, since I was hungry  and wanted to make sure that I filled up on things that I liked. Only to find that they didn't stop bringing plates out. Over and over and over again. We ended up with 18 dishes!!!!




After dinner we went to a local show, which I'm told is a very specific type of entertainment for the area. It features guy/girl pairs who do stand up comedy together. And then occasionally break into karaoke style singing and dancing. All the entertainers were very young teenagers, but you could tell they worked so hard at their craft. While I couldn't understand a word, my coworkers said it was pretty funny.

It started with this guy....who was wearing a white tank top for some reason.
Then he and this girl went into their routine. She had the highest pitched voice I have ever heard...meaning, i had to plug my ears when she sang.

Then this guy was the star of the show. Just watching him was pretty darn funny. He was outfitted in a fur coat and gold bling, then onto a leather coat and sunglasses. Then his partner came out and they went into their routine. When he spotted me and starting talking about me I didn't like him anymore.

That evening several of us girls stayed up in our PJs playing cards. I taught them how to play 'BS.' Wait, I'm sorry, Mom, I mean 'Lie.' They initially tried to teach me the Chinese version of the game, but it wasn't working out so well, and we ended up playing my version. Hilarious. Some of them are so easy to read that I hard to stop calling BS because I thought they were going to throw me out of the room.

The next day we piled onto the bus and toured around Cucurbit Island and the Old City.

The cold, wet, rainy island visit:

The Old City:

I mean, everything is just so different.

One nice thing about going sightseeing with Chinese nationals: they love their photos. They love taking photos of themselves, of their friends, and of other people who they don't even really know! The best part about it is that I now have some good photos of myself, which are perfect for profile pictures.

Week 2 Top Ten:

1. Our 18 seafood dishes included: An entire fish (complete with head and eyeball), mussels, crab, several mollusks, small lobster-like shellfish, sweet corn saute, tofu, noodles, shredded potato, pork, mollusk soup, cucumbers (which I discovered that i love! cucumbers, that is)

2. At dinner they toasted with 38% alcoholic drinks. In small glasses, I'll admit, but we toasted a lot.

3. Any time I sat next to someone anywhere, I asked them to teach me something. They think it's hilarious, but I have learned how to give better directions to taxi drivers, the chinese names for most of the girls, how to 'dumplings,' and 'why??'

4.  On the train ride back all of the girls gathered in one area. Not really sure how it started, but they began, one by one, to open up their makeup bags and go through every little thing, discussing what it did, if it worked, etc etc. They were amazed at how big mine was, and that it contained just makeup. Where were my skin care products?!?! I looked blankly at them for a minute. 'Oh. I use some neutrogena face wash, is that what you mean?' Not so much. They have eye cream, hand cream, face wash, regenerative cream, moisturizer, collagen lifters, wrinkle cream. Which is crazy, since they are all pretty much under 30!

5. I can't seem to buy the right toilet paper. The first time it was paper towels. The second time it was toilet paper, but without the tube in the middle. Who need toilet paper with the tube in the middle?

6. I also purchased things that were not hand soap, towels, or kleenex.

7. One of the most interesting things I had was my first traditional Chinese breakfast!

- porridge (watery rice without ANY flavor)
- hard boiled eggs
- sliced sausage
- a variety of spicy veggie or meat dishes
- doughy bread ball things
- doughy bread ball things with sesame paste inside

- i think i prefer waffles with strawberries and syrup.

8. Everyone seems shocked that I like Chinese food. They hesitate to ask me out to lunch and sheepishly ask if Chinese food is okay. Um, yes. Are there many other options?

9. I'm getting better at the squat pots. They are much more common than I originally thought, and I'm just learning to carry tissues and hand sanitizer around with me. Which, local people definitely carry around tissues with them (which they use for the bathroom and as napkins when eating. There are never napkins at the tables, just a box of tissues).

10. Our address!!! We would absolutely LOVE to receive mail from any of you. And, since my birthday is coming up.....just kidding. Wait no, i'm not. I want chocolate chip cookies.
The best place to mail everything is to the office so, as listed below:

Leah Chambers
F24, Tower 1, China Central Place
81 JianGuo Road, ChaoYang District
Beijing, China 100025

That's it for the day, folks, hope you enjoy!
~much love,


  1. I smile reading through your blog entries. I hope you find the willingness to continue throughout your stay.

    1. The fish prepared this way is very common. When it comes to meat of any kind, not much gets left to waste. I'm glad to hear you've been adventurous enough to try these dishes.

    2. "but we toasted a lot." I laughed out loud when I read this. Very cute.

    6. Dare I ask what they were then?

    7. The porridge is called "jook". And yes, much of it is bland, but flavored with all of the other things you listed. In some places, you can get "gai jook", which is flavored with chicken broth and shredded chicken for a bit more flavor.

    8. KFC, right? ;-)

    9. Now you know why they make the toilet paper rolls without the tubes. Makes it easier to carry around? :)

    10. Yay for international mail! Not sure how the time difference is going to work out, but I'll be sure to add you to my Skype.

    Enjoy the adventure and thanks for sharing.

  2. hey kok wan!!!

    thanks so much for commenting, all of this is just so new and different. It's really good to have someone (ie you) be able to explain some of it.

    1. i've definitely made an effort to be adventurous. I don't really like fish, but I decided to give it a try and discovered that it's pretty good. In small bites. :)

    6. I believe I came away with some sort of shower wash (they called it gel water), wash cloths, and this little tiny things that i think are for makeup removal but are sold in a kleenex-like box and call face puffs. In my mind puffs=kleenex!

    8. definitely KFC.

    10. definitely skype us! we have leah_chambers (when i'm at work and can only type) and orlando.chambers (when we're at home and can type or video chat)

    thanks for reading, i'm sure my writing style has changed quite a bit since paris!!

  3. LEAH! (and brian). So glad to see you've gone on your first trip and with your colleagues. Such a great opportunity and interesting one at that one for sure. Gotta love the rain. Nothing like wearing a jacket on the beach, right?! The pictures are great and you definitely are getting some good "facebook" style photos. I'll enjoy reading as you keep posting... i keep procrastinating on my studying (i have my first essay test tomorrow in 6 years?!!). Weird!

    Anyway, look forward to hearing more and we'll chat soon.

  4. You are SO amazing!!! I loved reading this! You are the right kind of person to travel the world! You will try anything once, whether it be food or an activity! I love it! way to be!