Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Snap-happy in Beijing

Reminder to self: When it comes to shopping, women can take care of themselves.

Spent a week in the Beijing office with three other colleagues from the Manila office, two from the Thailand office, and one from the London office. The trip was an eye-opener in that it demonstrated how different men and women are: the old Hunter-Gatherer difference.

There we were in Beijing, seat of one of the most ancient civilizations on earth--the Chinese were living in cities when the Europeans were still living in caves--and I was looking forward to seeing the sights. I had them all lined up for the weekend, like a hunter choosing his hunting grounds. I combed the place for an English language map which was surprisingly hard to find for a city that was to host the Olympics in two years. But we got lucky and found a travel bookstore. The grounds were then laid out in front of me and I planned the hunt. We only had Saturday to do all our sight-seeing, to bask in the city's ancient charms, so I laid out an itinerary: Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and if we had time, we'd go find a bar in a Hutong somewhere. I had the place written in Chinese by a colleague and all we had to do was show it to the taxi driver. What I didnt count on was the girls' gatherer instincts.

What did they want to do? Go shopping. They asked our Beijing colleagues where the good shopping was in the city, but almost invariably, the places they told us about were the malls and department stores, not quite what the girls had in mind. It wasnt until Thursday that we found a place to their liking. It looked like Divisoria with all the little stalls selling everything: clothes, cosmetics, jewelry, electronics, leather goods, household items... In short, everything that you can find in Divisoria except for the winter clothing. We agreed to go back there the next day since the place was closing when we arrived.

Friday night we arrived there early so the girls can do their shopping. I find shopping to be the most boring activity ever invented for humans, so our colleague from Europe and I decided to go to the department store across the street to do some research; he wanted to find out how much portable MP3 players cost in Beijing as compared to London so he can report it back to his mates. Right here you see a difference between hunters and gatherers: hunters have a definite quarry; gatherers just pick up whatever's useful that's available with no definite idea what that might be. We agreed to meet up in front of McDonald's at 7:00. We figured an hour and a half worth of shopping was enough. Boy were we wrong. At 7 pm sharp we were dutifully standing in front of McDonald's, freezing our nuts off. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour. We took turns going inside McDonald's to thaw while the other stayed out to wait. Finally, I decided to go look for the girls. An ill-advised plan, but it's better than standing around doing nothing. I walked through all 6 stories of the building, trying to cover every corner of each floor (Hey, an electronics section! I could go tell European colleague.), til I said, screw it. I went backto McDonald's. Euro-colleague wasnt there! I figured the girls showed up and they all went to look for me, so I went back in. And sure enough there they were. Apologies, a small token to appease me, and off we went to the shops. It seems they needed more time. We went to the fourth floor where all the electronics are so Euro-colleague could do some more research. "This is a good, find, Jego," he said. But he never found what he was looking for, a multi-gigabyte flash drive of some sort or another. I bought a tripod for my camera, so it wasnt a total loss. (Shop owner sees my ancient Olympus and goes, "That is a good camera.")

Place closed at 8:30 as scheduled and we went to a Pizza place for dinner. We talked about anything but work, as it should be. We talked about British comedy: Benny Hill, Mr. Bean, and Ricky Gervais. Euro-colleague didnt know Ricky Gervais used to be in a rock band in the 80s and that he had a huge hit in the Philippines. We talked about Islam (he's Muslim), Judaism, and Christianity to round out the evening. We then went home. Shopping all done, I looked forward to my date with Chinese history and civilization the next day. I even bought an extra roll of film. Wrong again.

First stop was Tian Nan Men square and the Forbidden City within its gates. Lots of tourists, a veritable cast of thousands from all over the world. Unfortunately, parts of the Forbidden City were under renovation so it didnt make for a good photo opportunity with all the metal scaffolding and blue galvanized iron fences, but it had enough going for it. The girls, however, looked bored. Their minds were somewhere else, and I had a pretty good idea where. By the time we finished with the Forbidden City, I knew where the rest of the day was headed: back to the shopping place. I dont get it. They sell exactly the same things in Divisoria at probably even better prices, but they had a need--a need--to buy the stuff from the Beijing shops. And me, in my misguided macho sense of being their protector, decided to go with them. To see to it that nothing happens to them. Sheeeesh, is the only word that seems apt right now. They needed to gather, and since I wasnt hunting, I stood watch. And that's where we ended the day. We travelled all the way to Beijing, skipped the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, to go to Divisoria.

The digital camera is a perfect gatherer's camera, and that's what the girls had. With it, they can take pictures of everything since they won't run out of ammo. It all depended on the size of the 'bag' they were carrying, whose contents they could unload into the laptop so they can gather more photos. They took photos of the food we ate, including McDonald's burgers and fries, the doormat, the beds, the trains. I had an old-fashioned film camera, so like a hunter, I chose my targets, some of which Ive posted below. I used Fuji Superia 400 film. (Two English gentlemen, one of whom carried a high-tech digital SLR camera saw me lining up a shot and the one with the camera said, "Look at that old camera. That is so cool." This to me confirms my camera's snob appeal, which I confess was one of the reasons I bought it in the first place.)

Our scanner has a few kinks in it. Sorry about that.

Red flags in the square

Los soldados Chinos

Inside the Forbidden City

Little baby. His mom was taking a picture of him on the bench and I asked if I could take his picture too and she was only too happy to let me.

Figures carved in stone. Also known as I need a lens hood.

Tour done. Off to Divisoria we go.

Didnt have time to reload the camera so I borrowed Heartbreaker's
point-and-shoot digicam for this picture of a tired old monk.

This too is from HB's digicam. Some jabroni taking a picture with his antique camera.
HB took this shot and the next one.



grifter said...

cool pics. you just figured out that shopping principle? aren't you older than me? and more experienced?

with your fandangled Olympus (and another one on the way), i guess you are now a ... snobbie!!! nyhahahahahhaa!

dkny.ca said...

great pics!! i liked #2, 3 and 4 the most. heartbreaker's b&w pic of you was great too - surreal effect of the light.

gosh, BEIJING!!!! and you went to divisoria!!!! jego, if i was there, i'd have been hunting those places down with you!

why was your stay so short?

btw, w/c hotel did they hole you up in this time? any 'incidents' ;)

Jego said...

The trip was just a week because they just wanted to show us the parameters for one of their projects that would form the basis of the next Bank Model.

We stayed at the a 4-star hotel just 100 meters away from the office. And of course there was an 'incident'. Except it was of the amusing kind.

Since there were three girls and me from Manila, and only 2 rooms (tipid mode), one of the girls would have to bunk with me. That extra-fortunate soul was HB. We're pals so we didnt have any problem sharing a room.

So we get there and register. The 2 other girls were on the 5th floor and we were on the 6th. The rooms on the 5th floor were nice and spacious, with 2 beds. We go to the 6th floor to our room, and lo! One big bed! We gestured to our Beijing colleague that we needed separate beds and he said 'No' and he had an explanation that none of us understood. The bed was king sized so HB and I were fine with it and just laughed the whole thing off.

grifter said...

at sa showbiz balita po ngayong gabi ...

Jego said...

with your fandangled Olympus (and another one on the way), i guess you are now a ... snobbie!!!

What th-?? Dont worry, Im stopping at 2. I dont think I can compete with this fella right here (page opens right in this tiny window):


Jego said...

Ooops.. It didnt. Anyway...

The Euro-colleague stayed in the room right across the hall, but he didnt say anything. Nyahahaha.. Proper English gentleman that he is, I didnt expect him to. He'll just gossip about it back home. Nyaaahahahahaa!!!

dkny.ca said...

jego, the other 2 girlashes could've stayed in the room w/ 1 big bed ... but then you won't have an 'incident' so i guess that's fine.

inggit pa rin ako. BEIJIIIIIIIIING!

Jego said...

For some reason, that wasnt possible. Part of the explanation we didnt understans. It had something to do with some sort of law. Seeing that our host had severe difficulty expressing the intricacies of the law to us in English, we decided not to rock the boat anymore.

Time Bandit said...

remove the pic of the baby showing his peepee. child pornography yan. baka makulong ka niyan.

dkny.ca said...

egad! time bandit, di ko napansin yon ah. won't 'it' freeze and fall off?

grifter said...

it should be taken in context of the post. let them try. morons.

Jego said...

Nyahahaha.. Delphi, you seriously need to see a psychiatrist.