Friday, April 26, 2013

Married or Single? Depends on the Cab

Once again, I apologize for the randomness of these posts. I think I might have another one or two on my laptop at home about China and I know that I have one on my iPad about this trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – yes, I am here now.

I have taken 3 cab rides so far while I have been here in KL (for the most part I have been taking public transit) and each time, my marital status has been questioned.  Just for the record, I am single.  I have been asked if I was married. If I was single. Did I want a Malaysian boyfriend because he is looking for a woman just like me. All of sudden, I had an imaginary fiancĂ©. :-) My diamond ring comes in handy sometimes and I just casually slipped it over to the other hand in case he looked. I was asked if I was allowed to travel alone? Why wouldn’t I? One cabbie asked me if I had kids and then asked if I was 28 years old. When I told him that I was turning 39, he told me that I’d better get busy on having kids (who said I wanted them!) I have really learned that nothing is off limits with the cab drivers here. And they are the most enterprising bunch. They have all asked me if I need a ride to work or from work each day – I don’t because I have now bought a KL Myrapid Pass and take the LRT to the Sentral Station (their spelling, not mine) and then catch the Shell Shuttle to the office. So far I have spent a total of €2 on travel to and from work – talk about cheap!

As mentioned before, I can be a bit of a picky eater – meaning that I am sensitive to new tastes and particularly textures, so Asia is generally a challenge for me. But not Malaysia! Unlike China, there doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite for “parts”. I think that might have something to do with the fact that is predominantly Muslim here and they avoid pork like the plague. So much so that when you order anything with “sausage”, it is usually some sort of chicken-type product or mystery meat. As for bacon, and we know I LOVE bacon, they have what they call “crisp” here, which is like chicken or turkey bacon. Not the same and not as good, but at least it meets the nitrate laden meat product craving.  As per usual, I have managed to find some Mexican food – at the mall. Last night I had nachos with cream cheese (cheese sauce) and a beef and sausage taco (aka chicken hot dog). Didn’t like the taste of the sausage so I took it out. I haven’t really discovered any street food here as I currently staying in a more upscale area, so there aren’t many vendors but I am hoping this weekend to find a food stall or two where I can have some more local fare. Haven’t have my requisite McDonald’s yet but I am sure that it is coming. Hell, I can’t come to Malaysia and not have McDonald’s! Oh and yesterday when I was out getting my passport photos taken (another story for the next blog), I stopped at Starbucks – yes they are everywhere here, and got to chatting with the girls. Turns out one of the girls working there is moving to Ontario in August and will be going to Waterloo to take kinesiology – what a small world!

Now I know that most of you think that I have this glamorous life of travel, but it isn’t a glamorous as you might think. Yes, I will be the first to admit that I do get to travel a lot and lately, the locales have been a little bit more spectacular than Fort McMurray. With that being said, I need to clarify or set something straight – travel for work, isn’t all that glamorous. Yes, I get to fly business class if my flight is over 4 hours; and yes, I generally get to stay in a 4 or 5 star hotel; and yes, lately I have been going to cool places. So I know that you are sitting there saying “so what isn’t glamorous about that?!” Well for the most parts what I see of a new place is what I pass on my way from the airport to my hotel to the office, and usually anything I see of the actual place, is in the dark and at night. Couple that with the fact that most of my flights lately have been 12+ hours and a 6-7 hour time difference, I usually have jetlag, so going out after work usually loses out to sleep! Throw on top of that living in a hotel for a week and not having any creature comforts. Then the kicker – I am here to work, which takes away all of the fun (and time) of being a tourist. So in essence, I am just moving my work location over to another country – so really, not that glamorous. I do try and build in a little time on either side of my trip, but given that my travel time is now so long, it is hard to build in more time without totally losing my weekends.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

It Doesn't Smell Like Chinatown

I know, I know, I am a little behind on my blogs about China - my apologies.  In fact, I have found a bunch of draft blogs saved in various places that I need to/will post.  You know the one thing that I noticed about China is that it didn't smell like Chinatown.   It seems as though it doesn't matter which Chinatown I have ever been in - Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, The Hague, Chinatown has that smell and China didn't smell that way at all.  For a bit I thought that it might be because of the pollution - you could definitely smell that, but I think what it is is that Beijing is so big and there weren't a bunch of markets all squished into 4 square blocks all selling food stuff.

And speaking of pollution, the pollution was beyond the "hazardous" level for most of the days that I was there.  The measure something called PM2.5 (particulate matter 2.5) and normally in a city like Calgary it is something probably under 10?  In Beijing, it was consistently over 400 while I was there, with the exception of one day when it seemed to blow out over night.  What surprises me is that trees and flowers and the like all seem to grown regardless of the pollution - I guess they have adapted, just as the people have.  I was given a face mask when I first got there - no, I didn't wear it except to take some pictures of me with it on, but I also limited my exposure outside.  You did see a fair bit of people wearing them and you can also get them all blinged out.  Mine, unfortunately looked like a standard home improvements type of mask.  I can say that by the end of the week though that my lungs were sore - it almost felt like I was just getting over a cold and they were kinda phlegmy.

So that is that on pollution and China.  I am going back shortly and it will be interesting to 1) see how the trees and the grass are and 2) see I'd the pollution is as bad in the spring.