Thursday, March 25, 2010

ugh thesis

I haven’t taken any pictures of me with my new hair, yet. I haven’t really told anyone that I have cut my hair besides you guys. I just wait for people to notice it.

Last Sunday it was my uncle’s birthday party. I didn’t really have the time to go but I haven’t seen their new place yet (they moved in Jan 2009) and I just wanted to see the reaction of the family on my short hair (it was maybe this short when I was a toddler).

So I join my parents. We get there. My uncle doesn’t say anything, his wife doesn’t, cousins say nothing. Grams said nothing in the beginning but she was eyeing me, then she says You’ve cut your hair, it’s much shorter now, looks good. Then the others are like You cut your hair? Come on people, I’ve lost 30cm at the back and at least 10cm at the front (it was sort of layered before), how can you NOT notice.

More friends and family enter but no one really says anything.

Then a woman comes in, she is the wife of the previous owner of our company so I’ve known her for the better part of my life, and she’s from Amsterdam, true Amsterdammers are pretty loud. So she walks in – I’m on the other side of the room – and is like HEY NIC, YOU”VE CUT YOUR HAIR LOOKS FABULOUS!! Gives you a more spicier look.
And my mom goes Finally someone notices. The birthday uncle was I noticed, well you didn’t say anything.

And it’s not like I never notice stuff. I will even mention a small haircut, and then I get a reply Ow I didn’t really cut much off, but you’re the first who noticed, thanks.

But anyway I didn’t do bleep on my thesis last weekend. And I’m not really motivated to work on it now. And I wanted to have most of it done by today, but that’s not gonna work so byebye weekend, because I need to have this chapter finished before March ends.

The teacher’s gonna be annoyed with me tomorrow because I’ve been so horrible on keeping up. But really this is the first time ever that I’ve been this flaky and unmotivated. Still want to have it finished before Pentecost. Then I have 2/3 weeks to cross the “t”s and dot the “i”s.

However, if the teacher’s going to complain tomorrow, I’m going to complain too, he never gives content feedback. We only discuss what I still have to do, and I can’t show him anything for that since I still have to do that. And I want content feedback, otherwise I think I’m handing in a perfect thesis and they fail me. No way that’s gonna happen. I’m graduating July 1, no exceptions!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

New look

So I finally was brave enough to cut my hair. I've always gone with the layered or straight on the shoulders look. I wanted something different but it had to be easy enough that I wouldn't have to get up an hour earlier each day to do my hair.

After long discussion with the hairdresser, and her colleagues, I finally choose for a bob. It's not as short as most bobs since that's undoable with my hair (too straight, too heavy and too thick, so I would get obvious stubbles in my neck).

The hairdresser thought I would have to do my hair with a flat iron. But only after I had washed my hair. But when she was done, my hair was already naturally falling the way it should. Go hair!

She did use the flat iron to see the difference, and there was a small difference. But when she was waiting for the flat iron to warm up she had already changed her mind about using it. It would be too much for me to do my whole hair with, so only the top layer was necessary if I wanted to use it. Well...I already get tired if I have to blow dry my hair, that already takes 20 - 30 minutes, so first blow drying it and then flat ironing it, no way.

I don't really have the feeling that my hair is short since the front is still "long" (it's below the chin). And the good thing about this hair, is that when I woke up this morning I looked in the mirror and my hair was already good.

I'll try to post a picture sometime during the week.

ps I'm sorry for captcha for comments, but I've been getting these spam comments lately and I don't want to put my readers or myself in danger if those links contain a virus or anything.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

China: Shanghai

I had planned to have this post up a few days after the last one, but school got the best of me.


Sometime during all these work productive days, we get an e-mail from my mom that one of my uncles will be in Shanghai on Thursday (the same day as us), and that grandma had told him to call us. We give him a text to see in which hotel he’s staying. According to google maps, our hotels were 10 minutes away by car, or 112 min walking.

After Shenshen we took the plane in Guangzhou to Yancheng (although pronouncing this town it sounds more like Yunchang), we had to meet with another supplier. This supplier was rather standoffish and really quiet. And every time we asked for a price of an item he had to look it up in his computer, which took a few minutes. My dad and I were getting a bit agitated. The suppliers items weren’t anything really special – nothing we hadn’t seen before, maybe just a different colour – and the prices weren’t even interesting. The meeting was over sooner than we expected but at the same time it was a good thing since we were done with the quiet guy. We had to stay friendly though because he was driving us to Shanghai the next day.

If we had known that we would be done so early we wouldn’t have booked a hotel but taken a train to Shanghai. We would arrive late but at least we would have an extra half day. And being in Shanghai in the evening is better than in a town where there’s nothing to do and you’re stuck in your hotel room.

Well...anyway we were stuck in the hotel.

The next morning we were driven to Shanghai (3 to 4 hour drive) and the guy was as quiet as could be. Once we were getting closer to Shanghai, my dad called my uncle so we could meet for lunch (my uncle had an appointment in the afternoon and thus would probably be dining with that supplier).

When we got to Shanghai we first drove past my uncle’s hotel. And I was thinking only another 10 min and we’re out of the car (my stomach doesn’t always agree with cars). But once we could make an u-turn, the guy makes an u-turn. And a few minutes later we’re standing in front of our hotel, which was right opposite the hotel of my uncle. Wow, of all the hotels in Shanghai, we managed to book hotels opposite of each other.

We let my uncle know that we had arrived at our hotel and that we would cross the street to him. We had lunch at the hotel my uncle was staying, and both my dad and uncle were astonished that they managed to not only be in the same city at the same time but also staying just a few minutes away from each other.

After lunch my dad and I started to explore Shanghai. We did the large shopping street and went looking for a fake market. The concierge of our hotel said that that it was somewhere in between east and west of the shopping street. But when we headed into the east side of the street, nothing looked like a fake market whatsoever, so we went to the nearest hotel: Waldorf Astoria. It all looked okay, but I’ve always imagined a Waldorf Astoria to be more grand, can’t really explain in which way. But I digress. We asked the concierge there and she pointed us to go left, said it wasn’t far and handed us a card with important locations (fake markets, tourist attractions, airport) and crossed the name of the place.

After walking for an hour we finally got there – what do you mean it’s not far? – and we got some jade bracelets for my mom (although I wanted to keep them myself). You really have to walk at the same speed, not stopping and not looking sideways but straight ahead. When the sellers see you but even glance at their stand, they are trying to pull you in. If you just keep your eyes straight ahead, they will only try to convince you to come in.

We walked all the way back to the hotel, decided we could go for some food and took a taxi to the Bund. Don’t ask me what that is exactly since I have no idea, but normally you should be able to walk along the boulevard and look at the other side of the water to the skyline of that part of Shanghai. But because of the World Expo it was closed and you could only walk on the other side of the road.

We went for dinner at a restaurant located at the 7th floor, it had a balcony so you could see across the water. I told my dad I would take some pictures after dinner. But once again I had some bad luck (remember the fog in Hongkong), the lights on some of the buildings went out at 10pm. That was before we were finished with dinner.

I had noticed that this time we weren’t the only non-Chinese people, we were not even the only Dutch people. I was guessing that these guys were with my uncle, although my uncle was not there. My dad didn’t think that they were since they didn’t have that vibe (sorry if this is a bit vague but otherwise I have to mention names and I’m not willing to do that). Well....once we were done with dinner, I still wanted to go to the balcony to take some pictures. My dad pulls on his sweater and jacket (he didn’t bring a winter coat since he didn’t think it would be that cold in Shanghai) and we head outside. Immediately a Chinese guy follows us and asks my dad where he got that sweater, it was his sweater, exclusively made for my uncle’s company. So we tell him that we got if from my uncle, and he tells us that he was supposed to have dinner with him but my uncle was stuck in a different meeting, so he was only there with some of my uncle’s employees.

So my dad calls my uncle and asks him why he’s never on time. And then explains that we ran into a few of his employees. My uncle was a bit annoyed that his other meeting ran late and thus couldn’t have been there. Again dad and my uncle were amazed that if he was on time that we would have run into him. Lunch was planned, but dinner, not so much. And then choosing the same restaurant, that’s just hilarious. How big is Shanghai? We’re not even able to see each other in the Netherlands and then you run into each other at the other side of the world.

The next day the weather was horrible. So we had to take a taxi to see the jade Buddha, which wasn’t very interesting. You could take pictures of anything except the jade Buddha, and you could only see him from the other side of the room.

For lunch we went to the same restaurant as the evening before since I still wanted to take pictures of the other side of the water. Unfortunately it was foggy, ugh. Then we took the sightseeingtunnel to the other side. We thought the tunnel was a glass tunnel where you could see the fish in the river. Nope, it was a tunnel with lights, rather disappointing. We did walk around but it was pouring so hard that it wasn’t funny to be outside (even though we had umbrellas).

In the evening it was time to fly back home. When it was time for boarding we couldn’t board because there was a technical problem, and it would take 45 minutes. After a few minutes they changed the board of “Getting ready for boarding” to “Boarding”, and I asked if that was correct since I thought that it should be changed to Delayed. Well... we were allowed to board, but once we were all on the plane, they said that they had a technical problem and that it would take 45 min. Argh! Why let us board? After 45 min they said it hadn’t been solved and that it would take another 45 min. In the end we left 2,5 hours later than planned.

And then the next morning we were back home.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

China: After Hongkong before Shanghai

After Hongkong we took the boat to Zhongshan. Because the tickets were too cheap, my dad bought “expensive” VIP tickets.

Ow about cheap tickets, we took the ferry from Hongkong Island to Kowloon, and the tokens were 2 HKD, I was like This ain’t right, but it was, only 20 eurocents!

But back to the boat to Zhongshan. The stewardess was looking at all tickets and was sending everyone onto the boat at the same level. We were send up the stairs, another stewardess checked our ticket and said Left at the front, she didn’t gave us any seat numbers, so while walking to the front my dad said Just sit down on the front row (leg space). But I thought it was weird that she hadn’t given us any seat numbers or rows. At the front I look right, and see two small doors with a sign VIP on top, so I take another step forward to see if there are also doors on the left, and there were. We had a small “room” to ourselves. It consisted of a small space with 4 comfy chairs, 2 going forward and 2 backward, and a table in the middle).

We were picked up by a supplier, they took us out for lunch and that was my first “meeting” to Chinese food. seems I haven’t told everything from Hongkong, because now I remember that we’ve already had eaten with chopsticks, but that was Sushi, and we were the only non-Chinese people in the restaurant. Most of the time we were the only non-Chinese people everywhere, and for Chinese standards I’m tall (I’m 1.66m, that’s 5”6 I believe), so I’m a tourist attraction everywhere I went in the first few days. Also in Zhongshan and Shenshen.

Back to lunch. If people would just show me how to use chopsticks like they use them, I could copy that. But because I’m left-handed, they put the chopsticks in their left hand and then do not manage the chopsticks left-handed themselves so they don’t even bother explaining it to me. Well...sometimes I could do it, at other times I cheated and cut the part up in smaller pieces (I had no problem playing with chopsticks and peanuts). Later during the trip, when we were having a Chinese lunch with yet another supplier, that supplier doesn’t try to explain the chopsticks (the first few times I’m always failing) but tells me that if you’re able to use your chopsticks with your left hand, that means you’re very clever. Well...that may be but I’m unable to manage the chopsticks in my right hand, so what does that make me?

Chinese food is okay, as long as you just choose what you want. I’ve tried almost everything but certainly didn’t like everything. During this first lunch we also got a small plate with a bird on it, including its head. I quickly picked up my plate gave it to my dad to remove the head and then hesitantly ate it, the Chinese people were laughing.

I don’t mind eating animals (except for bunnies/dogs/cats) but I don’t want to see their (little) heads. I’m sorry vegetarians.

The restaurant, we had our lunch at the next day, had a living kitchen (except for the crocodile), which even included cute little turtles. Looking at the fish, I had no clue what was what. For me salmon is orange/pinkish, it doesn’t have a face.

Except for suppliers we didn’t do much because the places were in the middle of nowhere. The factories are all in the “smaller” cities and not in the city centre but in small towns around the city, comparable to the suburbs. (Shenshen was small with only 2 million inhabitants, well...since the Netherlands is small, our biggest city has 800.000 inhabitants.)

We did have a foot massage at one of the hotels. Which wasn’t completely funny or relaxing. It was relaxing until the end, were the masseuse took out a small barrels, with a flame removed the air, and stuck it on your feet or leg. Oh my god, that hurt like hell. My dad was sitting next to me, laughing his head off, he already had these barrels on his feet but he hadn’t complained. Normally when you even point at my dad’s feet he’s screaming in pain, they’re that sensitive, but he didn’t complain so I thought it wouldn’t be that bad, ugh it was. But his were placed differently, one was on the bottom of the heel, the other one the (inner) side, and one just underneath his toes. Mine were on the (inner) side of my feet, on my leg, and in the arch of my feet, ouch! That was pulling my skin and muscles all the wrong way. A few days later, after I had a full body massage, I discovered I had a huge bruise on my foot (I was wondering why she only massaged one foot), and I still had those circles from the barrels on the side of my feet and on my legs.

Other crazy stories to shared about this part of the trip. If you have a death wish, cross the street in Zhongshan or Shenshen. It’s one crazy chaos. Red lights doesn’t seem to apply to mopeds or taxis, and they all use their claxons constantly.

To be continued....

Thursday, March 11, 2010

China: Hongkong

So I’m back.

China was amazing. We started in Hongkong and saw the lasershow on our first evening. It was cloudy so I believe it didn’t do itself justice (at least I hope that was the case since there were only a few (green) lights shining from left to right). Our hotel was in Kowloon, so we had a good view of the skyline of Hongkong Island (room was on floor 28).

The next morning we had an appointment with a supplier. Normally my dad’s company doesn’t do trading men, because once you’ve placed an order they go shopping around for a cheaper price, which is most likely also a lesser quality product, which isn’t good for our buyers. However this guy was a trader but he didn’t have much to show. He showed us a catalogue of a factory that they already have connections with. The meeting ended sooner than we expected, he just didn’t have any interesting products. And instead of having only one day to explore Hongkong (going to Victoria peak) we suddenly had a day extra.

We went to Shantau Island to see the big Buddha (apparently it’s in gold). We didn’t do an excursion because that was rather expensive and we didn’t want to visit the other sites of that excursion. We took the subway to the cable carts and bought tickets for the crystal carts (had a see-through bottom), and the sales guy told us the carts could be a bit shaky because it was windy. It would have been kind to mention that it was also foggy. In the beginning we had a good view over Hongkong (well...Shantau Island) but then we went over a hilltop and all of a sudden it was If you look left you see white, if you look right, forward, backwards or below, you’d also see white. We went up all the stairs to see the Buddha, but we could only see its outline, the only part of the Buddha we could actually see was the lotus he is sitting on. It was a bit of a shame, but at least we tried.

The last cable carts were leaving at 6pm, because it was so busy on the way to, I told my dad we had to be there earlier than 6 because what if there’s this big line? We get there at 5ish and see a massive amount of people standing in line. We choose our path (crystal carts) and followed it, thinking we’d hit the line of people just around the corner. Nope we could walk right through and we didn’t even have to wait for a cart because it was already there (there are 2 normal carts and then 1 crystal, then 2 normal, 1 crystal...), so with paying a bit more, gave us no waiting line.

In the evening we went to a fake market. I bought a Dennis & Gill bag (I normally don’t do (fake) designer stuff but I just liked the bag), although I think I’d could have gotten it for a better price. The sales guy started with something and I started very low, wasn’t completely sure yet if I wanted to have the bag, and of course I didn’t want to pay too much. I’m very persistent when it comes to bargaining (at least at fake markets). When normally the sales person says 500 HKD (hongkong dollar) and you say 100 HKD you’ll end up at 300ish. Well...I don’t do that. The guy started at 600 or more, and I said 100 (yes I know I’m evil) and he went down to 400, I went up to 150, he went down to 350, I stayed at 150, he 300, I 150, he told me I was crazy, my dad said well...make it 200, and he said sold, ugh.

We also walked a stand with fans, these huge fans you hang on the wall for decoration. I really like them and want to place one above my bed once I get my own place. I did see a nice one but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted (I want a sunset something, this was with flowers, it was beautiful though), but I had to know the price. What if it as so cheap you just couldn’t leave it there? Yup women (I’m normally not like that but when you’re on the other side of the world, you just don’t go back there next week). So the lady starts at 800 HKD (btw I believe that 100 HKD = 10 euros so approximately 13 US dollars?), since I just sort of only wanted to know the price I went in really low, 100. I believe I ended up with the lady agreeing to 160/180 or something (yes I’m evil, I’ve already admitted that). Because the fan is hanging on the side of the stand, she has to get it down, it falls. Doesn’t rip but it has some severe wrinkles. I ask for a new one. Not possible. While she is packing I’m talking to my dad, he has been witnessing this whole thing from a few feet away, this time not interrupting, and he asks what I’m going to do with it? First I’ll put it in storage and then I’ll use it, but will it match the rest of my decorating then? And I decide not to get the fan, which I tell the lady (the one I’m picturing will fit any interior design, I just know it).She tells me she can get a new one, hmm curious since she first told me this was the last one. But I really don’t want it anymore. While unpacking she murmurs crazy, my dad goes Women! I buy some pretty chopsticks and a magnet for my mom (I think she’s getting a new white board for mother’s day, this one is getting packed with all the magnets she has collected so far).

While we were in Hongkong we’ve also hired a tailor to make us some suits. My dad had already been to this guy’s shop 5 years ago (the last time he was actually in Hongkong). I’ve always hate suit shopping. The shorter, fitted jackets really stand out at my hips, it looks really nice on top but when you get to my hips all of a sudden it sticks out. So for the jackets to not look weird at my hips, they need to be longer. But then it looks like I’m wearing my dad’s jacket, it just looks huge on me, even though a smaller size doesn’t fit. So a tailor-made suit it was. And I look good in them. One is charcoal grey and the other is a bit darker (don’t believe it’s actually black) and has a line in it, very subtle. The tailor said that one skirt is Prada and the other Louis Vutton. Well....I’m not one for designer clothes (mostly because of the price tag) so I took his word for it.

BTW speaking about designer names. There was street where all the designer shops are located. And it was Chanel (with a waiting line outside), Prada, Cartier, Gucci, Louis Vutton, H&M, Burberry. Euhmm...hold on! back! H&M? That so doesn’t fit the list. Looks more like cross out which one doesn’t belong in here, and explain why?

The next morning we slept in, well...we were out and about by 10am. Today we would go to Hongkong Island and to Victoria Peak. We took a train up to the peak, only discovering we were sitting on the wrong side of the train (the other side had the views, we remembered this for the way back though), and of course like we couldn’t see anything but white on the cable carts, it was foggy today too. Bye bye beautiful scenery pictures.

My dad remembered he had taken a bus tour so many years ago and at the peak they sold bus tours, but that included the ticket up and down the peak (euhm...and you’re selling this on top of the peak?) so we could get a discount because we already had the train ticket, but it was still too expensive. When we’re back down, we thought we walk a bit and maybe we could find out where the bus tours were. All of a sudden we see a tour bus stopping just a few feet away (I’m sure it was a random stop for them since we never passed it again),we bought tickets for 110 HKD for 2, this included two tours of the island. One of the east side of the island and going past modern buildings, the other of the west and going through more historic buildings. Good times.

We had fun in Hongkong. To be continued...