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travel

Ottawa’s taxi system is bush league…

… in what is supposed to be a big league city.

A few examples…

  • No empty cabs at 6 pm in the Market last Saturday. 6 pm. The Market. Really?
  • Waited for 30 minutes after having called for a cab to arrive a few months back to take me to the VIA station. At 9:00 am. After the early morning rush. And I don’t live in the boonies like Barrhaven.
  • Last time we got a cab as a family to get to the airport for a vacay, I expressly asked for a van because of our luggage. I was assured – “yeah, no problemo”. What shows up? An Impala. We’re sitting on luggage and luggage is sitting on us. Unsafe as hell, PLUS dude does 110 down Conroy Road despite my telling him to slow down.
  • Finally, just the other day, my wife has a 7 am to Toronto; meaning being at the airport for 6 am to avoid any hassle. She called a cab at 5:10, just to be safe… called again at 5:20… and at 5:30. Each time being told that a cab was on its way. 5:50 and still no cab (note – we live about 15 minutes from the airport if the traffic is light). 6 am, 6:10 and she comes upstairs (where I’m still in bed), and I jump outta bed and speed her off to the airport (just lucky that the eldest was there to look after our littlest that morning)… but it wasn’t in time, she missed her flight and it threw her off her whole day of back to back to back meetings.

Come on Ottawa taxis! get your act together?

And yes, there will be an official complaint once we figure out to whom to bitch.

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Dirty hotel rooms…

… are everywhere!!!

CBC’s Marketplace released some findings of a health study done on a variety of low and high-end hotel rooms across Canada.

Warriner (the researcher) tested common “hot spots” in hotel rooms using an adenosine triphosphate (ATP) measuring device that determines microbial contamination on surfaces.

A scan of any surface gauges the level of contamination with a simple numerical value, employing a scale used in similar tests in schools and offices. An ATP level under 300 is considered a “pass,” while anything between 300 and 999 is in considered to be in the “caution zone.” An ATP level over 1,000 is deemed a fail.

Marketplace’s test found that bed comforters, bathroom faucets and TV remotes were the top three dirtiest spots in hotel rooms.

The article goes on to note how some of the better hotels; the Fairmonts and the Sheratons, for example, scored worse in some categories than lower end places.

Is anyone really surprised by these findings?

The housekeepers have a quota of number of rooms cleaned per day. They have to meet this quota as a condition of their continued employment. So they may not have enough time to throughly clean every room assigned to them; especially if a couple of rooms are especially dirty and need extra attention. The hotel managers are trying to squeeze every last cent from them to lower their own costs, so the chances of the housekeepers being assigned fewer rooms are pretty slim.

In any case, I for one will be a bit extra vigilant the next time I stay in a hotel room… and I won’t be pulling the comforter all the way up to my neck!

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Trashy in China, 4.0

… the I’m outta here edition.

All packed. Ready to grab one last bite before the mini-bus picks us up at 2 pm. Then it’s the waiting game… 6:10 flight to Tranna and a 8:20 to YOW.

Looking forward to going home and seeing C and the kids. Ten days is a long time. I cannot imagine how folks in the Forces do it for months at a go… guess they just do… it’s part of the deal.

In all likelihood this will be my last trip to China. The project is coming to a close and considering the austerity culture in the PS these days, there will not be a lot of international travel for years to come save for the select few.

No matter, this has been quite the experience for the ol’ Parry Sound boy. When I was growing up in that small Ontario town, I often dreamed of seeing far off and exotic places like China – and I have done exactly that.

China has a beauty that is unlike anywhere else I have visited. The natural and built beauty of the Great Wall to the beauty of its people and culture and food (esp. The Food!). I will miss these things but I am am fortunate to have experienced them at all.

And who knows? Maybe I will make it back one day! I do know that my travel bug has not been squashed and I want to see and I know I will see many more wonders and experience many more cultures before I turn to dust. The world is a mighty varied place and it would be a disservice to myself to not endeavor to see even more of what it has to offer!

谢谢

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Trashy in China, 4.0

Some of my fave non-food-related pics since I started coming here in 2009.

Part 1.

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Trashy in China 4.0

Food, glorious FOOD edition! Some of my fave food shots from my trips to the Middle Kingdom.
Some North Americans tend to avoid the real Chinese places… I’m not one of them.

Peking duck

VERY spicy lamb chops!

Best green beans on the planet

Dan dan noodles

100 year old eggs

Ate these bad boys!

Xiao Wang's... just behind the hotel.

Duckies

Feast

Yummy... duck!

Chicken and chilies - but more chilies than chicken!

I don't remember what this was...

Grouper

Píjiǔ

Szechuan pork ribs on a bridge.

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The sounds of Beijing…

… through a third floor office window…

I’m writing this on the way back to the hotel after a good and productive day. The A/C hasn’t yet been switched on for the building – or any of the government buildings, we are told – so the windows were open all to provide at least some measure of relief from the heat and humidity.

And along the day, the sounds of the northern capital stream through the windows. In many ways, they are sounds not dissimilar from urban sounds in many other cities. There are, of course, car and truck horns. But they are far more plentiful here than in Ottawa, Toronto or Montreal. The car horn repair business must indeed be lucrative here; as it likely is in cities like Paris and London. The same would go for brake shops.

Squeaking and squealing brakes, gears shifting, the roar of diesel engines… all are common here and again, are to a more or less degree, common elsewhere as well.

But there are sounds from the Beijing streets that are different from those I have heard elsewhere.

  • Chants from soldiers or other groups… Occasionally one hears a very firm and loud chant from street level sounding like many men shouting in unison.
  • Loud speakers repeating patriotic sayings… on a previous Mission I had asked one of the interpreters about what was coming out of loudspeakers on a bus or perched on a car. I was told that Party faithful from time to time drive through the streets of Beijing playing popular Communist party sayings or pearls of wisdom.
  • Yelling. Lots of yelling. Men yelling back and forth to one another…. yeah, yeah, you get this elsewhere… but not to this degree! It sometimes sounds like a rumble is going to break out any time… but it’s usually only one bud yelling across the street to another.

It IS so very different here in many ways.

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Trashy in China 4.0

Day 7… forgot to take melatonin edition. Dammit!

Up since 4 am so it’s gonna be a loooonnnnggg day… oh well… last full day of meetings and discussions. We have a half day (hopefully) tomorrow to wrap up and then leave on Thursday.

Had the traditional banquet last night. It was a nice affair… not over the top, but nice. They held it in an old – and massive – greenhouse that has been converted into a restaurant / wedding venue / big party type place. And being that this is the last Mission, this was the last banquet.

Nice place, but I wasn’t thrilled to see these:

No worries – I didn’t eat any of that!

That’s about it for now… time to get moving!

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Tiannemen

 A short vid of the drive through Tiannemen Square

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Trashy in China, 4.0

Some pics… I’ll post more later this weekend after some sight-seeing.

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Trashy in China 4.0

Day 2 – sleep, or a lack thereof…

The amazing thing about sleep pattern shifting is that you can achieve an almost altered state of reality without having to resort to pharmaceuticals! This is especially noticeable during the first couple of days of arriving in a drastically different time zone. Beijing, is 12 hours ahead of EDT at this time of the year. This means that your internal clock which governs not only your sleep patterns but also the expectations of you digestive system is turned completely upside down. Day is night, night is day. Breakfast is dinner and noon is midnight. People often complain about the time differences between, for example, Australia and Canada… which can be anywhere from 14-16 hours. But, in reality, this change is much less severe than the 12 hour gap as really your body is going through but an 8-10 hour shift.

Everyone tries to mitigate the effects of the change differently and everyone experiences different side effects both symptomatically and in terms of severity and duration.

For my part, the second sleep and second full day are usually the worst of a ten day trip. I use melatonin to offset some of the worst symptoms, namely interrupted sleep at night, but there remains shiftlessness and nervousness accompanied by a moderate headache, dry mouth and upset stomach. I have learned to not gorge myself or drink lots of booze on days two or three… both of which exacerbate the symptoms.

But by night number 4, I start to feel myself again and I am on an upward slope until day 8 or so… and then a funny thing happens – I go downhill at light speed! On the last mission, for example, I was feeling pretty good and my body had finally decided to accept the fact that we weren’t in Ottawa anymore when WHAM! I hit a wall at about noon on day 8 and felt like I had just been simultaneously Tasered, punched in the gut and had my head bashed into a wall by Chcuk Norris! It was next to impossible for me to stay awake and in the room that we were meeting our Chinese colleagues.

And then, that night, I felt fine again and had a nice 8 hours sleep! It was like my body had to “snap” that last bit into place. Weird.

Of course, this happens right before our return flight home, where we have to re-accustom ourselves from square one. And for whatever reason, it is far more difficult getting back to normal on the return trip to which I have found no solution. At least in this case, I am home, in my own bed and eating familiar vittles.

So, if you are going to travel distances that require multiple time zone jumps, like China or Japan, I advise the following:

  • Take melatonin. At least 2 or three pills starting the night before you leave on your trip.
  • Stay awake until your normal bedtime, in the destination time zone. Eat a good meal, but not too much and not within 2 hours of your bedtime. And keep the booze to a minimum! That applies to the flight over as well.
  • On the first full day, chill. If your trip is for work, you may not have this choice, but if you do have a say on the scheduling of meetings, save the intense stuff to later in the trip and front load the easier topics. Try to start later in the day and end earlier if possible.
  • Expect to hit a wall around day 8. But maybe that’s just me.
  • Upon return, try not to do anything that involves concentration or coördination for a day or two if at all feasible. The first time I returned from a trip to China, I thought I was ever-so-cool upon my return and a-OK to pick up my kids from school and daycare in the afternoon. It wasn’t until I blew through the second 4-way stop that I realised this was a bad idea.

There ya go. Take it for what it’s worth!

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