Coming back to the USA

Well I am on my way back the the USA after being gone since April of 2011.  I came back in 2011 for my sister’s funeral and except for that unhappy chore, I haven’t been back since August of 2010. It is surprising that I can type this in tonight because I forgot the wire to my old IBM laptop.  Here in Shanghai I had to go find one and buy it.  It’s an IBM Thinkpad, R31, which went into production just after the dinosaurs died off. The cooling fan is broken and can’t be replaced so I decided that if I can’t find a wire . . . forget it.

I am in the China Southern Airline Hotel, which is about as far out as you can get, and still be in Shanghai.  It only costs 300 rmb a night, but they say I need a taxi to get to the subway.  I took the bus and noted the stop where I got on the subway. After riding for about 20 minutes on the subway I was back at the spot where I got on.  The subway went to the terminal station and returned to where I got on.  I was supposed to get off at the terminal and run across to get the train going the other way. Most places this would tick me off, but in China, it is typical.  The speakers were so weak on the subway that I missed the announcment.

I’m getting ahead of myself.  I went to Shanghai to meet my friend “Beibei” pronounce “Baby” with an American accent.  She likes that pronounciation.  She is in sales, and couldn’t have dinner with me because she lost an account and had to work that night.  I decided to get the wire to the computer at Xujia Hui station, the Shanghai center for computing. Actually I found the wire right away but  they wanted 300 rmb.  I explained that I wasn’t a rich American, just a poor teacher. I got them down to 125, about $20. I walked away after thanking them for their trouble.  I was ready to throw away the laptop. It weighs about the same as a brick, and I am trying to travel light. One of the salsman guys followed me and eventually got me to come back.  He found one for 75. That’s about right, a little over $10.

With the wire in hand, I tried to leave, but it was a maze, an amazing maze.  This is THE techy gadget destination in Shanghai and I had trouble leaving.  It was not only big, but very interesting.  Me in a techy shopping center is like an alcoholic locked overnight in a liquor store. I finally bought a USB 3.O box for my notebook hard drive.  I’m sure I’ll throw this old Thinkpad out someday (soon) and the box will accept the hard disk from the Thinkpad. I was lucky to get out that cheap.  These computer techies don’t speak English well, and I don’t speak Chinese well, but we both speak computerese and it was fun tryhing to communicate.

After leaving the Xujia Hui shopping center, I backtracked to the correct train station. I changed trains properly (this time) and I found my way back to the bus stop.  I realized that I had missed dinner and decided to buy a couple beers and make it an early evening.  There was a little vendor with three customers in a little garage door shop that had beer for 3 rmb a bottle and I decided to buy three. They were surprised that I could negotiate in Chinese and were very friendly. The main business was selling little pancakes with a bean sauce inside, cooked on a grill and rolled into a kind of taco.  They wanted 3 rmb and I decided to buy a delux, with an egg, lettuce, and pepper sauce ( I told them I was from Guiyang). About that time they told me that if I wasn’t going to drink there beer on site, I was going to have to pay another 0.5 rmb for each bottle. One of the men decided he would pay, not only for the bottles, but for the three beers and pancake as well. He bought a beer for himself, and two more pancakes, one for him and another for me, and we had a little competitive drinking.

I met a very resourceful girl there too.  She was a little overweight, but very friendly.  We couldn’t get the beer bottles open and there was no opener.  Finally the man tried to open it with his teeth. He failed.  The girl grabbed the bottle, pop !  No problem.  Pop again !  She opened both beers with a molar and that was that.  As it turns out, she rode home on the same bus as me, but I couldn’t invite up to the room.  It was already late and I wanted to try out my new computer wire. Also, I only had two beers left.

Tomorrow I meet Beibei for lunch and fly back to the USA at about 5:30 pm takeoff.  I land in Traverse City at 9:30 pm, the same night.  That is 4 hours by the watch, and 13 hours time shift differential – altogether about 17 hours traveling from Shanghai to TC.