Recommended Listening: Opeth – “Windowpane”
Well, thanks to some highly annoying computer issues that happened over the weekend, I’m a bit late on this post. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but my computer now takes just a hair over 17 minutes to go from powered off, to booted up and usable. Technology… here on this earth to make our lives easier… or something. In addition to this, the wireless card in this computer went completely stupid and now won’t connect to anything. After hours of messing with it, I finally threw in the towel, and on Sunday afternoon, walked down to the local electronics store to purchase a CAT-5 cable. More on this later. But this is a good time to warn you, this is a bit longer than normal. Now… where did I leave off?
Saturday morning started much like every other Saturday morning here in Beijing for us expats. Wake up at the crack of dawn, grab a quick breakfast, and dress warmly. Tee time at 8am, and it takes over an hour to get to the course. Now you may say to yourself, “Golfing? It’s the end of November, and Beijing has the same basic climate as Northern Ohio. Are you nuts???” The answer is, yes… we most certainly are. At 8am, when we arrived at the course, it was a brisk 28 degrees. When the course is that cold, you’re in for an interesting experience. The tee boxes are covered with straw mats for you to stick your tee into. The ground is so hard, that anyone trying to penetrate it would instantly break their tee. First up was the president of the company, Paul Li. I’ve golfed with Paul before on my last trip, so I know his capabilities. He’s a good amateur golfer with highs and lows. First drive… skied, 50 feet in the air. I believe it went higher than the distance it traveled. Now there’s a way to start a golf day. Next up was Roger, whom I’ve also golfed with on my last visit to Beijing. Roger is a LONG hitter. It’s not unusual for him to smash a 280-300 yard drive, and land in the center of the fairway. Today… duck hook, right into the ditch. Another not so great start. Next up was Fred, a new Beijing expat from home, and a lefty to boot. This has potential to be interesting. Fred is at my skill level, I’d estimate. We have our good games, but we are pretty consistent with higher scores. We just enjoy the game. His shot… right over with Roger. Bummer. After seeing these first 3 “drives,” I must say… I was worried about how I was going to hit it. Line up… feel comfortable, and away we go. Beautiful contact (even though it felt like I just put my driver into a boulder), right down the center of the fairway. Apparently, I’m here to play. Good thing too, because it’s customary for our golf group to play for money. Depending on how many are in attendance, it could be playing skins, or the game Sixes. Today was a sixes day, and the first pairing were to be the two best drives. Since both Fred and Roger put theirs OB, it was Paul and I paired up for six holes. After those six holes, pairings were determined by closest to the pin on hole 7. After another six holes, the final pairing. If a group of six holes is won outright, and the other pairing can’t catch them, then the next pairing starts early, and holes at the end of the Sixes game become skins games. Another point to mention is that it is customary for the guest to lose their money, because no money won by a guest can go back to the US. So now the pressure was on. I didn’t want to lose money, and I also didn’t really want to win because then I’d just have to lose the money some other way. Goal: break even, any way you can. I could go on and on about this golf game, but I’m sure you really don’t want to hear about it, so I’ll give the quick and dirty. We were all playing rather unpredictably. Greens are hard as a rock, so nothing stops on them. You can’t feel your hands, and the ball is hard as a rock, so each shot stings. In the end… I lost. Yep, I can’t say I threw the match because I had some pretty darn good holes, and golfed right about at my handicap, which is pretty good in my book being cold and a course that I don’t remember well. I paid my dues, and off we went in search of our next adventure.
Paul had his own plans, so he had his car come and pick him up, leaving Fred, Roger and I to head downtown for some lunch. Wait… what’s that? Oh… Roger has other plans as well, so we dropped him off at a subway stop on the way downtown. And then there were two. Fred, being somewhat new in town hasn’t really been able to explore the downtown area and find some of the pretty cool restaurants that I had found during my last assignment. We did some shopping for DVDs to keep us sane during the week, and ventured off to a place called The Tree. The Tree has won Best Pizza in Beijing for the last 7 or 8 years, and also has one of the most impressive Belgian beer selections I’ve ever seen. Score. After a nice relaxing meal (and a 10.5% ABV beer), we headed back toward the apartments. Along the way, Fred realized that he had to stop at Sam’s Club, which is pretty close to the apartment. Now, I’m sure you’ve seen the forwarded emails that have been passed around about WalMart and Sam’s Club in China. Yeah, they’re pretty much all true. You can buy anything there. Of course, I opted to not buy any fishheads or octopus leg, or anything like that. In order to tell our Chinese drivers where we want to go, you kinda have to talk to them in code. Mr. Lu knows some English, but not really a lot to hold a conversation with him. You can tell him where to go, when to pick you up, etc. In order to go to Sam’s Club, you have to say the words “War Mart.” Do you realize how long this took us to learn? We would say “Sam’s Club” or “WalMart” or something like that, and we’d either end up at a restaurant, or at Wu Mart. Ironically enough, “War Mart” means Sam’s Club. As funny as it was to me at the time, I was just happy it worked. After a quick bit of shopping, it was back to the apartment to relax and watch some of the DVDs I bought.
Sunday was deemed a lazy day once I woke up. I had intentions of catching the subway down to the Military Museum for some sight-seeing, followed by another scenic destination. I had been on the run since arriving here in China, and my body told me “Nope. You’re going to hangout at the house.” Sometimes, it’s not a bad thing to do. I just wish I had brought my xbox with me… Around noon, I started to get stir-crazy. Nothing was on TV, I had already ran the battery on my tablet down while playing a game on it, so it needed to charge, and I didn’t know what else to do on my lazy day. Wandering around the apartment, I spotted the trusty camera, and remembered that there were a few scenic spots rather close to the apartment. I bundled up, grabbed the camera and started on my way. I walked north to the Sculpture Park that’s full of, well, you guessed it, different sculptures all through it. I took a number of pictures, walked around a bit and proceeded to head to the next stop. About an hour into my venture, I started getting pretty darn cold. High of the day was only around 35 degrees, and with the wind that’s here, much colder feeling. While not in a hurry, but not wanting to see the same sights twice, I decided upon taking a few roads that eventually end up at the apartment, and also go past the electronics store. Knowing that I needed to pick up a CAT-5 cable for the apartment, this made the most sense to me. Stopping at the electronics store was a bit more of an adventure than I anticipated. I easily found the CAT-5 cable, but didn’t know that the millions of sales associates on the floor there really don’t do much more than unlock what you want to buy, write down the item number on a piece of paper, and tell you to go to the cashier. So I took my little piece of paper, caught the escalator up to the 2nd floor, paid my 28 RMB for the cable (about 4 bucks), and then took my receipt back down to the immensely helpful sales associate in order to get my cable. A process that should have only taken 5 minutes took 15. While mildly frustrating, and completely confusing, I didn’t really mind because I had nothing better to do today. At this point, I had had enough exploring for the day and just wanted to get off of my feet and relax with some Game of Thrones episodes that I picked up at the DVD store. A weekend well spent, I think. Next weekend I’ll spend more time exploring and sight-seeing as it sounds like it may be too cold to golf. We shall see.
Until next time!