Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Week 8

Well, The Park is closed again - no more tourists. We have been working fairly solidly for the last three weeks. First they had us doing 3x30 minute shows every day, then they made us do 4x25 mins (what was in our contract anyway, so no complaints here). But this wasn't enough, so they split us up into two micro-bands, to put on a 25 minute show every hour for 8 hours. Apparently the public really loved us, so after a few days of that they wanted to split us into 3 groups and have us do 12 shows a day, but we refused, on the grounds that two pipers does not a band make. They countered with what we ended up doing for the last few days. Each group would do a 4-hour shift, playing 10 mins on and 10 mins off. This was acceptable, as The Park wanted to put us on show while we were tuning, so basically ever hour we had 10 mins of tuning, and 20 mins playing, which was on a par with what we were doing before. It's very tiring, but I enjoyed it.
We now have some 10 days off, so I'll probably be able to scoot over to Hong Kong for a while, although we'll be on call for some of those days, in case some dignitary want's to come visit. On the other hand, I don't have anything in particular that I need to do there - it'll be going for the sake of going, but it should be cool nevertheless.
Yesterday I went to one of the other Parks operated by this same company, the Window of the World ( which was cool. Lots of photos were taken, and I am working on hosting them somewhere online, so hopefully I should be able to share them soon.
There was something esle I was going to mention, but I've forgotten what it was, so until next time
Cheers, Captainowie.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Week 7

It seems that New Years celebrations go for the whole two weeks. Each of the last several nights have seen fireworks displays etc.

Funny story (all right, not that funny, but cool nevertheless).
We had been given tickets to what we were told was a banquet - good food, plenty of drinks etc, that was to start at 7:00. However, due to some misinterpretations, the tickets were actually for a free drink to have with dinner which is between 5:00 and 7:00. We rocked up to the dining room at 7:00, all dressed up, and there was nobody there but the cooks, servers and cleaners. So we got our meals (dregs) and sat down to eat, all despondant, thinking that we had missed out on the party (we did have our one drink each though!). Then the cooks came and offered us the leftovers (still dregs, but it was not all bad, and a nice gesture on their part). so we invited them over to sit with us. Now, the language barrier means that communication is basically reduced to slapstick and fart jokes, but we made do. Then the cooks brought out a bottle of spirit, opened it up, and threw the lid away (just to make sure of a good night!). They proceded to pour it out into bowls, about 100ml in each bowl, and distributed them amongst themselves, but including John and Aragorn, who from our group were the most conversational. Bottoms up. Then they brought out another bottle, and made us all try some. Bottoms up. It was strong stuff (at 46% alcohol), and about 3 shots worth at a time meant it wasn't long before things started to get really interesting. We bought a case of beer that went in a flash, and they came up with another bottle to give us as a gift, but we decided to share it with them. Bottoms up. Another case of beer, and the party was in full swing. Aragorn went home to fetch his pipes, and we gave them a bit of a show. Some of the Chinese had a go, and a couple of them even managed to sound the chanter (not an easy thing to do, as a matter of fact), I danced a Fling, and a good time was had by all.

Oh, and I've finally found out how to change the settings so I can read the menu item for my weblog site. It turns out that all I need to do was hit the "Change language" button. Unfortunately it was written in Chinese, so I didn't know about it!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

New year's eve

Last night was Chinese New Year's Eve, and it was the best New Year's night I've had for ages, Chinese or otherwise!
Myself and most of the rest of the band went to visit Susan (an Aussie expat who teaches English to Chinese executives) and her daughter Sunny. She lives on the 18th floor of an apartment building, with commanding views over the surrounding area. We ate roast lamb with vegies, we drank red wine and beer (that is to say, some of us had wine, and some the beer), and all through the night (and especially at midnight) we heard and watched various fireworks displays that people were putting on, despite the fact that fireworks are apparently illegal (and this despite the fact that the Chinese invented them in the first place!). A good time was had by all.

Also, it looks as though The Park is open only for the 3 weeks surrounding New Years, then it'll be closing again and construction will resume, for a re-open in May.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Week 6

Well, what a week!
Firstly, I should report that Victor has his computer, and this is what I'm currently using, so with any luck, updates should come more frequently, assuming I've got anything interesting to say! (although, that doesn't seem to have stopped many of the bloggers out there!)

Secondly, I am pleased to announce that, much to my surprise and despite the construction work still going on, The Park is open to the public. For the past week or so, we've been playing 3 shows a day to crowds of anywhere between 0 and about 100 people. On the one hand, it is good to finally be doing something, but on the other, that uniform can get awfully uncomfortable by the end of the day!

It is so cheap to do things here in China - a feast at Maccas (the Canadians insist on saying "Maccers" for some reason) will cost about AU$5, and you can get a haircut for $4 (but this takes the best part of an hour, because they'll wash your hair and give you a scalp massage as well, prior to actually cutting it!)

I think that'll about do me this session - it's lunch time, and I'm hungry. To give you all more of an idea of what I'm up against (and to bitch about the food some more!) it'd be nice if the ratio of meat to non-meat animal product (fat, bone, cartilage, skin etc) was reversed! Also, tofu seems to be used here as a meat supplement, rather than a meat substitute - there is meat in the tofu dishes! Bad luck if you're a vegetarian. On the other hand, it is usually quite tasty (relatively speaking, of course).

Ok, see you all next time
Cheers, Captainowie.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Week 5

Once again, I must apologise for taking so long to update this weblog. Fortunately Victor (the fellow I'm sharing the flat with) is pretty keen on getting a computer after the next payday (the 12th), so after that, I should be able to post more frequently.

Today we've made our acting debut - we played in front of the camera for some commercial, and then we were asked to change into civvies and pretend we were tourists. They had us, and the russian dancers, and not an asian person in sight - a bit of propaganda methinks!

For those who've been waiting weeks to hear my great bargaining anecdote, here it is. But first some background.
One of the twins, John, is a very keen chess player, so he was delighted when I was up for a couple of games. Well, we played quite often, so we decided to purchase a quality set (nice large board, weighted pieces etc). The set he had seen in a shop was priced at 980 RMB (AUD$1=6RMB). So we go in there and look at the set up close, feel the pieces etc, and get down to the issue of price. Now, to overcome the language barrier, bartering is done on a calculator - he types an offer into the calculator, and we make a counter-offer in the same manner. So he types 980 into the calculator, we hit clear, and try for 800. He says "no, no" and types 980*0.9= 877. We say "how about 850". Again it's "no, no", so he drops the price to 85% (instead of 90%). Now the mathematically inclined amongst my readers will no doubt realise that this will come to 833, less than what we had offered! He hit clear straight away, but realised that we had both already seen it, so had to settle on 833!

I'm trying to find a way to put all my photos online, and give them captions, so you can see them all - as you've no doubt seen, the photos I have put here have been cropped. If anyone has suggestions as to a good site, please let me know.

The food continues to be atrocious, but plentiful. There are some days that of the half-dozen or so dishes on the menu, it's the boiled cabbage that's the most appetizing!
I'm told that even the chinese people don't like the food here, so it begs the question, who are they catering for?!?

Anyway, I must away.
Until next time.
Cheers, Captainowie.