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Bartlomiej Owczarek weblog

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Another idea for vacation

Leaving aside the crazy and still ongoing Russian experience – I cannot help but notice that it is getting warmer and more urgent to think about some vacation.

Surely enough there is a classical Mexico option linked to the training thing. And I don’t forget about Japan, to follow the asian route.

But what about horse trip in Kirghistan? Or Uzbekistan, can’t tell the difference yet. A Russian colleague inspired me with very nice photos from there. Seems like a great way to combine both horse riding and beautiful mountains in one adventure.




Moskau

In here for good. And the real winter just started. Our fearless leader, as some called him, got stucked till tomorrow; even though it’s actually because of weather in Warsaw I believe.

Rammstein Moskau:

Moskau

???, ???, ???!

Moskau

????????!
??????? ??? ????,
????? ?????? ????.

Now there will more time to visit the most beautiful city of the world.




In Kiev, again

This week, it was time to go to the Ukraine. It’s been a year.

The purpose was to have a one hour meeting, however, the planes are a mess, and it could not be avoided to spend a night in the city. Also, there were no places on direct flights (I presume), so we had to make it through Vienna.

At least the flight to Vienna was nice.

Flight to Kiev

This time we even manage to have a couple of hours trip through Kiev, thanks to kindness of our hosts.

I’m actually back already, but there is no time for anything. The period before Christmas is rather hectic.

Moscow subway

Descending into the station.

Moscow subway (read more…)

“Oh how I love this place”

“There is so many police, I feel safe”

(song by Happysad)

Not so in Moscow, where police can create lots of problems if you don’t have passport with you. You are supposed to carry it all the time. Otherwise, problems, or give $150 bribe.

On Saturday I didn’t visit as much as I wanted because there were communist and skinheads demonstrations on the same day, and all the squares in the city center were off the limits.

Thousands of the police to be sure that the communists, 15 or so as far as I saw, do not make any hurt to Putin.

Moscow, communist demonstration

But on the positive side I distinguished several kinds of the police. Police girls walking in couples were nice.

“There is so many police, I feel safe”

(Putin)

Greetings from Russia

It’s a pity that I didn’t have time to see much so far, but I’m counting on Saturday to make up for it.

I already made an opinion that people are very nice in Moscow, though. And the subway impresses. Compared to Warsaw is more like a mine than the metro.

Pictures of China

I sorted, described and published the pictures from China, and you can find them HERE.

Kunming kids

Above is one of my favorite pictures, of two Kunming kids in the university area. Below some others that I like. (read more…)

On false economies, or under-paying

Read in FT at Helsinki airport, “Cut corners and the human spirit” by Harry Eyres, quoting John Ruskin:

It’s unwise to pay too much. But it’s worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money, that is all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do.

And:

There is hardly anything in the world that someone cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price alone are that person’s lawful prey.

Just some useful material for afterthoughts on the Chinese shopping experiences.

Blogging in Lijiang

In Lijiang’s cafe I had the opportunity – and an obligatory one due to my table’s location – to observe another blogger blogging.

Blogging in China

There were many interesting things to be observed, the ones that come to mind when you ponder why blogging is taking so much of your time. Like how long does it take to write a post for other bloggers, how much they edit and rewrite, how fast they publish.

So it’s not just me after all. It does take long.

The blog was Spices, Silk & Tea, writing about Tiger’s Leaping Gorge (everyone was on the same route in China). It’s in French.

Home sweet home

One of crisp air, blue sky, and sweet bakery in the morning (bakery again more expensive since I departured, though).

Most expensive tea ceremony, continued

There is a sensational follow-up to the tea ceremony story.

Spoiler warning: be sure to read the initial story first.

I walk home in the evening on the same day, passing again the road near Tiananmen square. When I stop at the lights I meet two Chinese girls who speak English. Funny that they introduce themselves with the English names like “Jessica”, which they think is “cool”. What you were doing all day? Maybe you want to go the old town south of the square? Well I’ve been to this tea ceremony… Oh really? Where was it? We want to go too! But it was expensive, you know – doesn’t matter, they want to go. And they hurry in the direction of the shopping street.

Strange, I think, the city seems to be obsessed with tea ceremonies. And the girls said they were from Tsindao. Capital of beer. Ping and the other also were from Tsindao. But it’s evening and all this thoughts run in the background, while I focus mostly on getting finally to rest.

On Sunday I wait at the airport. I still have some yuans left and decide to spend them on Internet instead of finding exchange office. I open the mail and find message from Ping:

Hello Bartlomiej

Do you remember me?This is Ping.We met at a park of beijing.And we went the tea house together.

I must say sorry to you.Because i cheated you. (read more…)

Most expensive tea ceremony

Wow, I must get out of this country fast, otherwise I will get broke in no time. Today 200$ come and gone.

In the morning I had no money so I changed the first 100$. I wanted to go to the Forbidden city. I was actually going there when I reminded myself that I’m still a bit sick and I needed more coca cola to cleanse the stomach. But in this annoying town you cannot buy coca cola or even water anywhere near the Mao’s corpse storage.

While I was walking looking for a drink and more and more pissed with the city, I met two very nice Chinese girls. Only one, Ping, spoke usable English, though. She said that they were going to the tea ceremony so I joined.

The tea ceremony was ok and I learned couple of new things, even though there seems to be a discrepancy of opinions as to what tea exactly should be made using a clay tea pot. Here they use it only for green tea. In Yunnan they told me that the pot is good for anything but green tea, which should be prepared in porcelain cup instead.

Tea ceremony scam

After the ceremony I bought the tea pot. 300Y together with a porcelain one, after some bargaining. The girls bought some tea without asking for the price.

In the end we get the bill – 2000Y! Tea ceremony was no exactly for free, it seems. And the tea costed 1000Y.

Suprisingly, the girls are little moved by spending 1000Y on the tea. Ping buys from me another 100$ note just to show off with her friends (she’s never seen dollars before). We found bookstore incidentally and I buy lots of textbooks and CDs for learning Chinese. Fortunately, the store accepts credit cards. Then suddenly it gets late and I miss Forbidden City, again.

But I come back to the square in the evening to walk around and make some pictures. Near the big gate with Mao on top of it I am approached by two girls who are art students and have their exhibition next doors. I go with them, after declaring that I’m not going to buy anything.

Inside I buy the lacquer painting of old Chinese master. The master wants 1000Y in the beginning, but it ends on 600.

Packing of painting

My new piece of art is very big and I don’t know how I will smuggle it to the plane on Sunday.

Update: read unexpected follow-up to this story.

But got poisoned with bananas

Not dog meat, snails, worms, or whatever, but the bananas from the train station in Beijing – ironic, no?

The three bananas were the only things I ate in like two days, so at least the problem is isolated, to put it this way.

I chill out in the hostel and drink my puer tea. I bought quite a couple of different teas and puer I like particularly. I hear that it’s good for this and that so maybe it’s also good for stomach, or at least I hope it doesn’t kill me now.

Survived hard seat to Beijing

There were no hard sleepers from Xi’an, or maybe I just asked poorly, because I pointed a specific train, and I don’t know if the cashier checked also the others leaving that evening. Anyway, I had an opportunity to test almost all Chinese means of transportation.

After the plane from Kunming, which I appreciated a lot, I thought my opinion of the local logistics will take a hit after this 12h journey. But I was positively disappointed.

People were not smoking nor spitting on the floor. There was no problem with luggage, even though initially I took a seat in the upper deck while my place was in the lower one, so I was the last one to have a seat.

But yes the seats make sleeping almost impossible, even if Chinese manage somehow. But I survived and it was the last long distance trip I will have in China this time.

Chinese meal in Xi’an

I thought the snails of two days ago will do as the most challenging dish of the trip. But no, today I did better and the snails were in fact easy in today’s perspective.

When I was entering this obscure Chinese restaurant the staff displayed signs of shock to see the foreigner in their premises. But I walked decisevely because it was already 6pm and I hadn’t eaten since previous day and had been walking in this Xi’an museum for a whole day. So I just entered and sat at the table despite the look on their faces.

The menu was only in Chinese. I did not understand much so I asked them for a chicken with rice, the two being some of the few things I can convey easily in Chinese, maybe with some sketching on napkin involved. But the staff was appaled even more by this choice and started to discourage me from it, again in Chinese. Then one of the customers also joined this weird conversation, criticized the chicked too and suggested something else, which I accepted.

Soon on my table appeared a scary number of dishes, a boiling pot with some kind of soup and a frozen pack of strips of meat, like one of the frozen things from the supermarket. I had no idea what to do with all of it but at that moment there were five restaurant people standing around my table plus this helpful guest and they all started to show me how to mix the things in one pot, then put frozen meat to the soup but not let it slip into the soup, then from the soup to the mixed stuff, then from there to the rice and then finally eat it.

Hot pot in Xi'an

In the end you drink also the soup.

When I was already quite confident with my dish, it turned out that they did not cancel the chicken thing and it, too, landed on my table. And they were right, it was no eatable. Not because it was spicy, but because the chicken was in form of pieces – but pieces cut through bones and everything and then roasted. Disgusting altogether. Try to eat the thing with chopsticks. I gave up after two tries.

I finished the dish, more or less – they probably thought that I wasted most of it – and asked for the bill. The chicked appeared to have been considered a cultural misunderstanding and was not billed. I paid 20 yuan and had a goodbye exchange with everyone inside before leaving.

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