I am back. And what a ride it was. So much to say. I don’t even know where to start. 2 days in Shanghai and 4 days in Beijing. And so different from what I expected. I should have known better. Much better. The world isn’t black and white. And neither is China. But let’s start with the heading of this blog…
Please Mr China. Please unblock my blog. Yep. My blog isn’t for public consumption in China. For some or other reason you just can’t open it over there. Blocked. I hope it was just my computer. And the computer of the few people who tried to read my blog. But it seems as if the Chinese government decided that it is better that my blog be blocked in China. Come on. It isn’t that much of a blog. Pretty middle of the road if you ask me. Just a few questions and observations on life, love and the universe. No need to block it.
Okay, so I wrote a piece or two on China. And maybe they were slightly critical. Okay, maybe more than just slightly critical. Comparing China to Zimbabwe might have been over the top. At least from an Olympic perspective. And maybe I shouldn’t be so critical of tyrants and other non-democrats when I created an Oh-Limp-Pic Games to celebrate tyrants everywhere. Maybe it just wasn’t fair. But hey, life isn’t fair. Live with it.
So please unblock my blog.
Also. I have some good news to tell about China. My week there has been awesome. What an eye opener. So many stories to tell. So many things observed. Too many surprises I never expected. But let’s start with why I was there in the first place.
It was all about disasters. And specifically because of the earthquake that hit the Sichuan province in China on May 12 of this year. So far almost 70,000 lives have been taken by the disaster. And they expect it to rise to at least 80,000 by the time they close this chapter. I was asked by the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs and other partners (let’s not name any names) to speak at two conferences and chair two sessions on how to prepare for disasters and how to develop effective public-private partnerships. One was held in Shanghai and one was held in Beijing. Yes, the Angry African was invited to go there. But under my real name.
I won’t bore you with the details of the conferences and meetings. It was amazing. But I am sure you don’t come here to read about that. Let’s just say that they are way better prepared for disasters than I expected. And way better organized than what I have seen elsewhere in the world. I think I learned more from them than they from me.
Let’s also say that I really did not want to go. I tried everything to get out of it. Delayed my travel plans. Moaned and groaned. Bitched and threw my toys. I just don’t like flying anymore. I am not scared of flying. It’s just boring. I would rather spend time with my wife and kids. They are the most important things in my life and I would rather be with them 24/7. But, alas, I got the visa the day before I had to fly off so I ran out of excuses. And there I went. Flying off to China.
It didn’t start off that well though. I had to fly American Airlines. You know, I have flown some weird and wonderful airlines in my life. It comes with having flown maybe 1,000+ times in my life. I mean really, I have flown Air Cameroon and made it to my destination. Eventually. So American Airlines should be a breeze, right? Nah. They are by far the worse airline I have ever flown. Crappy planes. Crappy food. And just… crappy. I mean really. Why the hell do they block off the aisle and window seats right until they are about to take off? It meant that I had to take a middle seat because I had to fly via Chicago and couldn’t change my seat at either Logan (Boston) or even online. Jeez. So backwards. Even Air California (Mexico) had a better system in place.
And, of course, I had to be squashed seated next to a guy with the worse breath I have ever (EVER) had the pleasure to smell. Not that I wanted to smell it, but he fell asleep with his head almost on my shoulder, mouth gaping wide open and snoring away. And breathing on me. I can’t even explain how bad it was. Let’s just say that I have seen grown men cry when facing this. It is even banned in Guantanamo Bay because they believe that this kind of torture would be crossing that invisible (but smelly) line. I had to go to the toilets a few times just to get fresh air. It was not a pretty sight or smell.
And the food was crap. Of course. Imagine Chinese food made by a pissed of dude in downtown Philly. Well, I would love to have his version rather than what they gave me on the plane. Cold noodles. And warm water. And a soggy bun with plastic ham and a year-old lettuce. Let’s just say that they did not impress me with their culinary skills. I am sure the guy with the stinky breath flies American Airlines all the time or might be their official food taster.
And the “in-flight entertainment”. Mm. What entertainment. Movies and programmes to fit in with their food service I guess. College Road Trip was never funny. And neither is Definitely, Maybe. It’s not even that romantic. And Spiderwick Chroniclesis really not my cup of tea. And the music and television offered nothing better. Sad old programs to fit in with the sad old plane. My general feeling about their in-flight entertainment? Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn… I had my iPod and a few books. The books also helped block off Mr Smelly Breath.
So I wasn’t a happy camper. I didn’t want to go to China. And I didn’t want to sit in the crappy plane. But here I was. Stuck on the plane and hurtling towards Shanghai. Man. I was not into this at all.
But what a surprise when I landed. China made my crappy flight worthwhile. And that is a whole new story.
Tomorrow: To China (with love) II: Man, the Chinese are funny