it's 9:00 at night and i'm already ready for bed. i've got nothing to do but to go to sleep. i don't want to watch chinese television and i still don't have any internet. my life for the next 60 days will be to go to work, come home, hang out at the supermarket, then come home again to go to sleep. i have to get a hobby or something. i hear there's a gym nearby, but i have no idea where. i better get some exercise if i want to shed these pounds. a lengthy sedentary work schedule isn't going to help. also i always seem to choose the noodles for lunch and dinner, which probably isn't good either. but i just don't like rice. maybe i could think about making my own lunch, sandwiches or something. not sure how fresh the lettuce here is, will probably have to wash the leaves with bottled water since you can't drink the tap water. do they even have deli cold cuts? what about mayonnaise? it's hard to eat healthy here. the food at work is oily as well as bland.
i woke up at 6:00 this morning, to get ready for work. the shuttle bus doesn't arrive until 7:30, i probably woke up earlier than i need to, i'm sure i'll adjust and get up a little bit later as time goes on. waking up early means i don't have to rush. i took my morning poo in the squat toilet (i'm getting better at using it now, my legs don't get numb anymore) then had my shower. i boiled a pot of water and made myself a bottle of babao tea for work, letting the rest of the water cool for bottling when i get back home. i went to the pastry shop ms.yu showed me yesterday and got a sponge cake (RMB$4). i got to the bus stop with half an hour to wait so i ended up eating the cake instead of taking it to work.
i saw the bus arrive and climbed onboard. i was expecting to see more people but there seemed to be less than saturday. i figured i'd see ms.yu at least but she didn't show up. i wonder if there's a different bus for upper management? i saw ZK from the window but he never got onboard.
i was worried that without somebody to greet me at the entrance, i wouldn't be able to get through security. but i simply told the guard i needed a visitor's pass and he waved me inside. i saw ms.gu who was taking care of a new recruit. she signed in for my visitor's pass and i told her about my internet issue.
today i had my safety training. i went into a classroom of about 40-50 chinese workers who looked like they were about to step onto the factory floor with their grey jumpsuits. i felt a little out of place and asked if there was a different room for the english training. the english classroom was completely empty. the only other person who showed up was a white guy in his 60's and our teacher, a young chinese man with a distractingly large pimple on his nose. we left the classroom briefly to get our photo taken (canon 550D) for our company identification badge. i tried to give them a genuine toothy smile, but the best i could come up with on such short notice was a smirk.
the other student turned out to be an american. roger the former navy veteran hails from pittsburgh. retired 2 years ago, he came out to do this job because the money was too good to pass up. his speciality is rotating machinery, and seems like he's been all over the world doing this kind of heavy duty industrial construction work.
the safety training is just a formality, so the company can tell corporate that all their employees have undergone the training. our teacher's english wasn't very good, but roger was pretty polite about it. the teacher skipped through a bunch of powerpoint slides, it seemed like we were getting the abbreviated version of the safety training. i learned a few things, but none of it applied to me, since i just work behind a desk all day. things like harnesses and safety gear and knowing where to put the ladder and making sure the scaffolding is correct, not sure why i'd need to learn that for my job. afterwards we had a written test. most of the questions were easy common sense problems. afterwards, the teacher said, "mr.tony, you can leave now." i was a little confused. did i fail my test? turns out he was about to start the height work safety training, which i didn't need to be there for.
i went into the room where earlier i had my photo taken and asked if my id badge was ready. "not until this afternoon," a girl replied without looking up from her computer screen.
back at my desk, one of the lead korean project manager asked to see me in one of the conference rooms. i felt like i was in trouble. for the next hour he explained to me in his thick korean-accented english the intricacies of his change and claim department. basically he wanted me to work on his change order team. but first he had to explain to me the different between an EPC construction project versus an EPsCm construction project. there was a lot of lingo (including fancy acronyms) but i think i managed to follow along. i might not know the stuff, but at least i was learning, and asked questions when i didn't quite understand. it seemed a little scary though, i thought i was just doing proofreading and working on newsletters and powerpoint presentations, but he wanted me to do real work. he also wanted me to pen some english dispute letters, for those times when they don't agree with a contractor's claim. assuming i can do all this, what does it say about their job that they can just take somebody off the streets (like me) and train me to file change order paperwork in just a few days?
loren introduced me to the company's IT guy, a twitchy young man who seemed to play the part nicely. i wanted to reinstall the system on my office desktop to english instead of chinese. lee the IT guy seemed to have found a fellow nerd in me since out of all the people he's met in the office, i seemed to be able to speak his language. he also got a chance to practice his english. while installing a fresh version of XP (using a ghost disc instead of the actual installer disc which takes much longer), he told me if i wanted to he had a secret way of accessing facebook (facebook, twitter, google, and sometimes wikipedia are all blocked in china). while he was there he also installed a bunch of other software, like a better chinese input, qq, and e-mail app (chinese foxmail).
lee came with loren and me to lunch. i went with noodles yet again, although i could feel the carbs beginning to take its toll. afterwards lee told me something that i should've been informed of when i first arrived at the company. an hour after lunch is the traditional break period. people can do whatever they want during that time. i saw people taking naps or watching streaming videos. lee told me that's usually when the company internet is the slowest.
lee also took me to the human resources department so i could get a company issued chongqing SIM card for my phone. if i was a hired employee rather than a contractor, the company would pay for my phone card (as well as a phone). in my case, not only do i have to purchase the card itself (RMB$50), i also don't get a free phone. the company will reimburse monthly, but only RMB$3. it's cheaper than my shanghai SIM card, where every call i make here counts as long-distance. with this new card, even long-distance calls are just RMB1¢/minute. i'm going to miss my shanghai number. not that i ever bothered to memorize the 11 digit number, but it served me well through shanghai and shenyang.
today passed a little faster than saturday. maybe it's because i had that long meeting with mr.lee and then discovered i had an hour break after lunch. i used that time to quickly upload a few weblog postings (minus photos) since i brought my laptop today.
when 5:50 came around, we all stopped for dinner. i passed by ms.yu on her way home (i don't think she's the sort of girl who stays around late to eat sloppy cafeteria food), i don't think she noticed me. i think i would've rather preferred we'd never been introduced in the first place, so that i don't have that one awkward person in the office i'll be trying to avoid for the next 2 months.
they had noodles again for dinner, and i was unable to resist, even though my heart just wasn't in it. anyone who thinks the food in the cafeteria is good has very low standards, even though for the past few days i've seen crowds of people happily eating the stuff. the problem is there's no other option, unless you pack your own food. there are no restaurants or convenience stores nearby. nothing but desolation. maybe desperation makes bad food tastes good.
the sky looked menacing grey when we left the office to get on the shuttlebus. it was completely full, so i figured i could just stand, but apparently that's not allowed (this is china, right? where anything goes?). i was ready to get off the bus and wait on the last shuttle to leave, but 2 guys in the front seat scooched over so i could have a little space to sit. we struck up a conversation, they lit up when they heard i was not only from taiwan but america as well. NBA seems to be the common language for many chinese men, fortunately i speak it fluently. i also showed them my taiwan-china visa, just to give them an idea of what i really look like, when i grow out my goatee. they were shocked that i was 39 years old, because they were both born in the 1980's but look much older (each one had some degree of balding). they asked if i knew andy, since legend says he's originally from taiwan as well. i told them yes, and that he lived in america for a while, which further fueled the legend.
it began to rain midway through our ride home. not a little drizzle, but pounding death-to-all-humans sort of rain. hopping off the bus i hurdled a puddle but it was so wet my shoes still got a little soaked. i had an umbrella but it was pretty much useless against the deluge. when i finally got home, my pants, my shirt, and parts of my bag were soaked. i dried my shoes in the bathroom with the heat lamp.
later i changed into some shorts and my tank top and went outside with flipflops to the large supermarket to get some sponge cake. it's probably one of the only few delicious thing i've found here since arriving. the rain had mostly stopped by the time i returned home.
back at home i did some laundry again, washing everything i wore to work today (except my pants), including the white shirt which had some ring around the collar stain. honestly, with this washing machine, i only really need a change of 2 sets of clothes. and as we approach autumn and it doesn't get that hot anymore, i won't even have to wash my clothes everyday.
the lights on the fiber-optic cablemodem weren't blinking anymore when i came home. i immediately plugged in my computer, excited that i might finally be able to go online. excitement turned to disappointment when i realized it still wasn't working. later i plugged in that portable wall-charging router bought in shanghai. when i did a search of local networks, i was surprised to not only see the portable router, but a mysterious wirelessnet access point as well. turns out that's actually the cablemodem - the cablemodem has wifi, even though those 2 guys who installed it said it was just a cablemodem. it says wifi right on the box! but it has 4 ports, like a router. i asked about my internet access 4 different times in the office, they said they'd call, not sure if it made any difference. given how shitty the chinese service industry is, i wouldn't be surprised if i don't get internet access until next week, where i have to waste another sunday waiting for the cable guys to show up.