Monday, December 23, 2013

Oh, hello there...

It's almost as if China heard me, like the country was monitoring my blog or something... after I raged against the winter-in-Guangzhou machine yesterday, because of my personal annoyance at building block after block of apartments that have stupid wall-mounted air conditioners for all but no heat sources, and my extreme annoyance at having to live in one of said apartments now that it has turned cold, and having to do so for four more weeks -- well, less than that, really! woo-hoo! -- and after that led me to further rage about the many ill-treated and restrained animals, including 'pets,' here in Guangdong, not the least of which are the cats and dogs caged and starved and maltreated and then slaughtered for the just-this-side-of-forbidden cat-and-dog-meat industry that operates in shady fashion with illegal transport and stolen domestic animals, and the connection between this cold winter and the total assholes around Guangdong who proudly 'eat anything that moves' and think winter is a good time to eat cat meat to stay warm (what the holy actual bleeding fuck, you monsters!) ... well, after all that blog rage, the very next day on my walk from workplace #1 to workplace #2, I was treated to the delightful sight of two - count 'em two! - cats who were not scraggly, not tied on a leash or god-!@%&*ng-forbid in a cage, and who were hanging out with their humans in their respective storefront. One man beckoned me over when he saw me looking at his big furry black and white cat, so we could scratch the kitty's head together, language barriers aside. The next cat, a few doors down, was enjoying a snack. I was so happy to see two cats who could just be normal, and have  'masters' who obviously actually like them. It was like a little reward from the universe.

I still want to point out that we need to save all the animals in the world that are currently locked up, and worse. Because, really, we need to not be assholes. Is that so much to ask of humans, that they not be assholes?

But maybe this was my Christmas present from China...?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

It's cold at winter solstice time!
But perhaps colder in the hearts of humankind

In Guangzhou right now, it's 40 degrees Fahrenheit. That's also known as not quite four and a half degrees Celsius. The high today was 52 degrees Fahrenheit (11 Celsius) and the low tonight is 33 degrees Fahrenheit (.5555556 Celsius).

These are not temperatures at which it is reasonable not to have a heat source in your house.

And yet, oh, Guangzhou, that is how you have chosen to live, with no heaters, no central air, no vents, no radiators, no ondol floors (god, how China makes a person miss Korea!), no, nothing. Block after block in this city, this city of 12+million, this third-largest in China, this booming, fast developing, "modern," crowded, international (!), high-rise-filled, mad-for-big-business city, you will find apartment buildings crammed together, rising from the dirty streets in endless rows and patches like whitegray tile 20-floor stalagmites, and perched next to nine out of ten windows you'll see dirty mounted air conditioners because oh-my-god-whine-whine-whine-it's-so-hot-here in the summer, but inside we freeze.

I hate this mentality. I hate it with a feverish (feverish! I wish! would that I could feel so hot!) disgust because it's so pathetic. I do not understand why people, when faced with a choice of doing something that makes things better or makes things worse, choose to make things worse.  Why do you rapidly industrialize and build cities that you cannot properly heat? It's not even cannot. It's more like choose not to. The people of fucking southern China and its weird-ass habits drive me up a wall. "Ha ha ha," they laugh, "we don't like spicy food. Ha ha ha, we can't travel to Hunan province with all those fiery dishes. Ha ha ha, we eat frogs and snails and puppy dogs and anything that moves. Ha ha ha, we are the local people, and aren't we so cleverly Cantonese and quirky. We don't like hot air. We like fresh breezes."  AS IF, Guangdong. As if any breeze in this province retains a modicum of freshness. You're pathetic.

No, willful coldness INSIDE buildings is not as bad as eating cats and keeping every cat, dog, rabbit, etc. in sight in a cage. Because of the ways I have personally with my own eyes seen cats restrained, and because I know that some of these mother fuckers I have walked by/seen spit in front of me/been jostled by in the subway support the nasty, shady, sub-legal, violent-fringe cat-and-dog-meat industry, I will never call this bullshit not-having-heat-in-apartments the worst thing about Guangzhou/Guangdong. But willful coldness INSIDE one's home is a valid reason to be annoyed. And annoyed I am.

I am also cold.

In one of my offices, everyone bundles in jackets and hats except for the two people who have brought in space heaters to place next to their chairs.

My other offices are not frigid, because the international company that owns my institute has managed to do one thing right, apparently, although they're incapable of putting a decent bathroom in every location.

I have been wearing sweatshirts, socks, hats, and the like at home for the last week and only been warm when under the covers. Forget showering on days I don't go to the gym! I pick up my cell phone and it's cold to the touch. And no, I'm not running out to buy a space heater because we are leaving this godforsaken place in less than four weeks, and we'll have two out-of-town trips in the meantime (to Macau for Christmas day and Shanghai for New Year's), where I hope I'll enjoy a reprieve.

Stupid. So, so stupid.

I really wish I could save the cats on my way out of this place.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Down the Road From Hong Kong

For nearly a year (gulp! yes! that long!) we have been living and working in Guangzhou. While this has its ups and downs, and while on any given day Brian and I might expend just a tad more energy lamenting the downs (because: bodily functions. Just, no. Get it together, China) one distinct "up" is that Guangzhou is a great launching pad for travel around Southeast Asia and the southern parts of East Asia. Including that ever-fascinating, sophisticated jumble of islands, skyscrapers, hills, international finance, Cantonese, waterfront strolls, food, happy hour, and more that we call: Hong Kong!

If you still haven't quite registered where exactly Guangzhou is (I mean, really, would it kill you to look at a Google map?), we have been residing in the far southeast near the coast of China, in the Pearl River Delta, which means we are a hop, skip, and jump from HK. In this case, the hopping and skipping is generally done via T-class train from Guangzhou East Railway Station, which shuttles us to Hung Hom Station in Hong Kong in a mere hour and forty-something minutes, or slightly longer if there is a delay due to traffic/rain/some guy out to lunch/whatever other inexplicable thing makes the trains not run on time. (We did  not take this trip during any of the typhoons that have been on offer from the South China Sea this year, so can't blame that.)

Hong Kong has also been handy for flying: we used the airport to arrive from Phoenix via Los Angeles in the first place, back in January, and we used it again for a cheap roundtrip to Manila for our Philippines vacation during the Spring Festival holiday. But the really good times are not in the airport (though it's a fine airport), but rather, in the city, wandering the streets of Kowloon, Central, Admiralty, Tsim Sha Tsui, or Causeway Bay, riding the tram, riding the wonderful subway with our Octopus cards, walking ! up the escalators in the subway stations, looking at the water, and soaking up the sights and sounds and smells (food, naturally) that are so Chinese but so not really like China.

Hong Kong being its own (mostly)autonomous region since the handover from Britain, it has different currency and we have to pass through immigration on these jaunts. But, I grudgingly admit that it doesn't really count as another country, although I'd like it to for my tally. (It counts if I am doing the inspired-by-a-flight-attendant-acquaintance aviation-defined countries/territories count, because that list has nearly 300 places and aviation rules and regs clearly divide up the world differently than the U.N. But that's not the point for the moment.)

This week, we're heading to HK on our "weekend" -- which happens to be Wednesday/Thursday, because those are our days off, as we work Friday through Tuesday -- and it's going to be our last time! Now that is a strange thought. I've got used to Hong Kong being down the road. What will it be like to return to normal life where it's a far-off city, where the images of unbridled financial deals, dining and dim sum, light shows and ferry boats, all of those images regain their exotic tinge because one can't just spontaneously decide to head there for the day?