Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weeks 21-30

See you all soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Many happenings continued

This is part two of my latest post, which, confusingly, will be displayed above part one. So before you read the rest of this entry, scroll down and read the previous post first. Also, for those avid readers, I apologise that this is so long after posting part one. There was a night of beer drinking and talking shit until 5:00am that got in the way!

Now where was I? Ah yes, great fun at Happy Valley. I must make sure to go there again before I leave here, preferably on a weekday, so that the queues will be considerably shorter - to get to the big inverted coaster, there were two queues, a queue for the ride, and a queue for the queue for the ride!

So what else has happened? We've lost one band member. Casey, our newest recruit, has fled the country. She was really miserable here, and decided to just up and leave. She told everyone that she was going to Hong Kong for the weekend, and Wayne recieved an email on Sunday night saying "I've left China, sorry to mislead you all.". So if anyone knows of a piper who wants to come to China for a few months, let me know (pretty quick smart, they want a replacement ASAP)! It's a bit of a shame, as now I've got one less running partner, but it was something that she had to do.

I have spoken to the woman who pays us (she came up to The Park, probably to make sure we were all still here) regarding the closing date of my contract (I was contracted to play until Jul 19, but she meant to write Aug 31 into the contract instead). I agreed to stay the extra few weeks, but on better money - I've got an extra US$200 to play with for the final month! Not a great amount I know, but it'll help.

Next on the list of happenings was last Wednesday night. The ANU Alumni Association put on an event in Hong Kong that I went to. I was able to bring Wayne and Ashley along as guests, and they were able to get me to Hong Kong in record time - we left The Park as soon as we could, at 4:00pm, and we were in the city by 6:10 or so, and at the hotel only half an hour late (the function started at 6:00). The cocktail party was to be held at the Island Shangri-la, reportedly one of the world's best hotels, on the 39th floor (the lift took us all the way up there in about 20 seconds [actually, I have no idea how long it took, but it was quick - at the end of the evening, we took the elevator all the way to the top to see if we could see the view, and my ears popped twice!]) in the library - the room had elegant bookshelves around the walls, and they actually had one of those ladders on rails! It looked very nice. There was more finger food than you could poke a skewer at (and it was gooooood), and as much as you could drink (that is, if you wanted to drink red or white wine, orange juice or soda water). At about 7:00, they ushered us into the room with the podium, where speeches were given by the Hong Kong Consulate-General (an ANU alumnus), as well as VC Chubbsie. There was a flute performance given by two other alumni, both principals at the Hong Kong philharmonic orchestra, which was magnificent (the performance that is - I can't speak for the orchestra!). Afterwards, we were able to go back to where the food was to continue 'networking'. I spoke with Prof Tim Brown, dean of the Faculty of Science, as well as several other former students, including Ben Pang, of B&G fame! I really didn't think I'd find anybody there I knew, but there you have it. He says Hi to everyone, especially Tim. He really remembers Tim! (of course, how could anybody forget Beardy!). Speaking of B&G, there was gross injustice done in the slide presentation that was running in the background all night. Each slide dealt with one of the aspects of ANU. The slide titled Research, for example, had a photo of Graduate House, and the Phonomics building (that green monstrocity on the edge of South Oval). The slide titled Living, however, had 3 large photos of Bruce Hall, and only small images of the logos of B&G and Ursies. Poor old Fenner didn't get a look in at all! Bloody Bruce. :-)
We also talked quite a bit with one of the organisers, who simply couldn't believe what we were doing (pipe band playing in Interlaken Town, one section of a tea-themed Park, in China etc) - she says that this had been the most interesting conversation she had had all night! She was also chuffed that we had gone to the effort of coming all the way from Shenzhen to Hong Kong just for this event, and insisted on aquiring for us some 'doggie bags' to take home some of the fabulous finger food. It was a nice gesture, as it meant that Thursday night, when we were not very satisfied with the slop they served us at the canteen, we were able to chow down on that.
After the event was finished, we went out to one of the drinking areas of Hong Kong with Greg, one of the chaps we had met earlier in the evening. It was incredible. This area was a street (and possibly more, we didn't really explore too much) that was wall-to-wall pubs and clubs. Nothing else much to describe - we sat at a table in one pub for a bit, and then we went home. By the time we got back into China proper, it was apporaching 2:00am. I was very irritable, biting the heads off the people who were offering taxis, hotels, porn and hookers to the new arrivals from Hong Kong. By the time I got home to bed, it was 3:00 in the morning. This began what was to be a series of late nights, to be elaborated on in the next paragraph.

Thursday night, I found that I wasn't really very sleepy at my normal bed-time (this perhaps was because I didn't get up until the afternoon), so I sat up until 3:00 with my Wii, reading How much is Inside?. Friday night, Wayne and I started to play Civ IV, and kept going until there were no other civilisations. This was at about 4:00am. Saturday night (last night) was the Potato Peeling Party (I'll get to that shortly), and once all the vegies had been peeled, we were able to get stuck into the beer. We sat up until after 5:00am talking shit (as one does).

The last thing I wanted to mention in this most mammoth weblog entry, is the dinner that we're having tonight.
The twins are cooking for us. Us and about 50 other people. The idea is that the band is putting on some western food for the Chinese, so that we can say 'thanks' to all the people that have been a part of our time here, and have tried to make us feel at home. Now, despite saying the things I've said in the past (and I stand by those things) there have been some people here who genuinely have made this place bearable, so it's good to be able to do this for them. To this end, we have 30kg of beef to roast, 30kg of potato, 20kg each of carrots, sweet potato, apples and flour. we have over 5kg of butter. Aragorn is planning to make 60 or so apple pies, and John will be roasting the beef and most of the veggies (some of the potatos will be mashed!). We have four cases of beer, a case of wine, and a case of vodka, so there'll be plenty of food and drink! I suspect that this will end up being night number 5 of post 3:00am!

Ok, I think I've said all of the things I wanted to say, so I'll sign off.
Until next time

My my so many things have happened since my last post

A couple of weekends ago, the band members went out to celebrate Sunny's birthday (Sunny is Susan's adopted daughter). That in itself was not weblog-worthy, although it was a good night - dinner at a local restaurant we about twice as much food as we needed, then back to their place for a few drinks, and then out to a local night club, that while really nice, was rather expensive (AUD$8 for a beer - not that pricey at all, you say, but consider that a beer from the shop costs about AUD$0.80). Wayne, Ashlely, Casey and I stayed overnight in town, and then on the Sunday, We went to one of the other theme parks operated by the same company, which meant that we could get in for free. This one, called Happy Valley [I would link to the website, but it is all in Chinese], is full of roller coasters etc. Unfortunately, by the time we had all roused ourselves from sleeping off the beer from the night before, got dressed, had food and found our way to the place, it was well into the afternoon, and we only had a couple of hours there. We made it worthwhile though, with a visit to the 3D cinema (it was actually a 4D cinema, where, for example, if there's wind blowing on screen, a fan blows air into your face, if it's raining on screen, you get sprayed with a little water etc, but as we were some of the last people into the theater for that screening, we had to sit right up the back, so we missed out on the extra 'dimension') That's right folks, one sentence, 9 commas. I like commas.
Anyway, we also had fun on the dodgem cars - I had forgotten how much fun they can be. After that we went on one of those 'river rapid' rides, where you float along a course in an 8-seat ring, and get sprayed with water at every opportunity. They were selling plastic ponchos for the patrons, but we would not be slaves to consumerism, so we purchased one between us, to protect our valuables from a soaking, and we let ourselves get saturated. It was a hot day, so we didn't mind. Next on the list of must-rides was a train-style roller coaster. That was pretty cool - quite scary because the tunnel entrances were not much larger than the train itself, and it felt like there was going to be a horrible accident.
The only other ride we went on (being a Sunday, the queues were sub-optimal) was the showpiece of the park, an inverted coaster. That was madness. I couldn't walk in a straight line for several minutes afterwards. It was great! I do have photos, but they'll have to wait until I get around to uploading them. Based on previous experience this could be several weeks yet!
Speaking of photos, I did finally sort/caption the last batch I uploaded. Find them at picasaweb.google.com/captainowie.
I am about to go down for supper, so the other things that I had planned to write about will have to wait until the next post, since this one seems to have gone longer that I had anticipated. The upside is that I have Victor's computer to myself tonight, if I so choose, so I can hopefully get the rest typed up within the next few hours.
See you in a bit.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Photos, missed photo opportunities and imperial visits.

Finally, I've uploaded my camera to the Internet.
New photos can be viewed in the new album at picasaweb.google.com/captainowie
I haven't yet had time to go through and delete the useless photos (Victor sometimes 'borrows' my camera), nor have I had time to apply captions, but I will get to that in the near future.

As to the missed photo ops, there's been some work done here at The Park that almost defies belief. The powers that be decided that the pavement in the main town square needed regrouting, so they got a bunch of guys with angle grinders squatting on the ground grinding away at the grout. It was quite amusing to see them all there, in their little groups, with power cords running everywhere, and great clouds of grout-dust billowing away downwind. Then, of course, we saw them replacing the grout, with their tiny little trowels (I thought of them as 'jeweller's trowels'!). The crazy thing is that it looks a lot worse now than it did before!
The other photo I wish I had taken when I had the chance, involved some new construction that's being done adjacent to where we practice. They put up the 'vertical' support columns, and although their bases line up nicely, no three of their tops are on the same line! When they put up the cross-beams, it made a zigzag pattern! One beam was too short, and they had to weld an additional bit to make it reach!

Other than that, we played today for someone really high up the pecking order. I'm not sure exactly who it was - I've heard variations from "the governor of the province" to "the heads of all the OCT parks and the CEO of the entire company" but you'd think it was for the emperor or something, with all the fuss.
They had us do a rehearsal, much like last time (see Week 9) but they went to the effort of replacing all the flowers around the place, they made sure that all the windows and curtains in the flats were closed (you can see into our flats from the train), there were two trains worth of entourage and all The Park staff were scared shitless - bossing people (us) about and generally being panicky. It was a big deal, but we got through it.

Hope all is well back in the Land of Plenty.