A Travellerspoint blog

China - Entry 4

Why we're glad we're not Chinese

Before I start this email I just want to give a disclaimer from the last one- sorry for the bad spellings (I know that SWEAR doesn't have a Q but honestly I just don't care enough to edit these emails)....

So out of the many countries that we've visited, there are always some that you come back from wishing that you could really move over there and be a part of (like Brazil or Spain)- I'm not saying I don't like China, I'm just saying THANK GOD I don't have to live here permanently. Here's why:

1) SARS and other pollutants- so today when we checked into our new hotel on top of all the regular luxuries (tea, shoe shiners, pickeled snacks,,,,) there was something we hadn't seen before- a SARS protector mask. No joke. Our hotel room "comes" with one- it;s one of those full bodied suits with a breathing thing like from that movie about the monkey disease outbreak and it's in our hotel room. If there is one item you could put in a room that might scare people from coming back- this may be the item. I mean I know that SARS is a possibility but its not like I need to sleep next to a reminder. (oh yeah and it's not free either- if there is an outbreak (or if you just want to open the box for fun which is something my brother would do if he were here- (u have to pay an extra $50 which is A LOT here!


2) THE BATHROOM SITCH is really shitty from when you are old enough to squat. Instead of having kids in diapers- all their clothing has a slit in the crotch so the kids can literally just squat and go whenever wherever. Not to be judgmental but I think it's disgusting. Isn't that unsanitary? Kerry (public health expert)??? Then as you get older you have other things to deal with- like the lack of toilet paper. Is the toilet paper thing really just an american thing? In our last hotel- which was really nice- they gave each room what they liked to call a "ROLL"- which consisted of literally 20 squares of toilet paper. I don't know about you but Margaux and I can go through that in about one sitting so we kept having to call housekeeping and have them bring up another "roll"- why they couldn't bring us up to is really beyond me. It's like we were staying at a Hilton but they wanted to stinge us on the TP.

Later in life the bathroom situation can only get worse. I mean it's one thing having to squat (for those who don't know the toilets are holes in the ground, no toilet seats...) at 25 but some of the members of our group (actually every one except us and the comic book boy) are almost triple our age and it's not so easy for them to get all the way down if you know what I mean

3) The number "8" is SO lucky that if you want a license plate with the number "8" on it- the plate will cost more than the car itself. And if you want a car with more than one eight on your license plate you might have to pay the price of a BMW in the US (so not cheap).... I just want to hold a forum for the Chinese people and let them know that superstision (okay I cant spell for crap but who cares) doesnt work. My mother has been "knocking on wood" for the past 50 years and it doesn't seem to have done much if you ask me- but at least you can knock on wood for free. (or if you don't have wood- you can knock on paper- my mom called me the other day while I was driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and asked me to knock on paper cause I was in the car.) I love my mom but it was pretty funny!

4) The FOOD- so I know that saying "different strokes for different folks" but let's be honest here- the food is SICK! Okay so there were a few items that Margaux and I could tolerate but for the most part everything is bland and greasy. Whoever said the food is bad in London needs to take a plane to Bejing and test out their local "cuisine." People eat veggis in the US to be "healthy" but here they are dosed in oil. I did come up with a new DIET scheme while I was here- they sell these pickled chicken feet in the market so I was thinking that instead of eating, people who want to diet should just buy a pickled chicken foot and put it in their pocket and everytime they think they're hungry they can just whip out the foot and they will lose their appetite instantaneously. And if that effect eventually starts to wear off they can just pick up a bottle of the local Chinese "lucky" vodka which is real pickled snake and tarancula INSIDE the vodka bottle (and everyone here drinks it for good luck).... Seriously I'm going to write a book about this when I get home.

OH and let's not even talk about "Chinese wine"- after a few days here we wanted a glass of wine and for once they were offering some at dinner. So we got a glass and guess what it tastes like (watered down grape juice no joke)- I mean I know we are lucky to be from California but the Chinese can copy EVERYTHING else (okay I know the climate is different but still)- if they can make me a knock-off of a $2000 purse just right down to the inseam- and they can make a fake ipod that works and looks just the same and comes with the same wrapping- why can't they make Chinese wine that AT LEAST tastes like FRANZIA in a box. Any ideas???

(but again let's be honest, despite how bad it tastes Margaux and I are sitting here right now with a bottle of GREATWALL blend (and we have five more in our room)... one of which was able to help us deal with a long dinner next to the kid that keeps investigating whether or not we are gay.

5) The Teeth- so my dad is really into giving out FREE dental work to people in need (which is a really nice nobel thing to do)... - some of whom are people that he is sympathetic for (greasy hippy guitar players) that don't really hit my empathy button the way that looking at some of the Chinese teeth do. Here if they have teeth they are lucky (aka they paid a lot for their 8s)...

ON A DIFFERENT NOTE- today Margaux and I got our first planned massage (instead of having a guy show up at our door who didn't understand "no thanks" we went to a massage place and got a 90 minute massage for $15 (which was a lot for here I think because our tour took us there- so that means they got a cut and were ripping us off...) but it was great- other than the fact that parts of it were really hard- like POUNDING on our feet- (we could hear people from our group literally screaming in the next room).

TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO CHINA:

1) bring protein bars so that you don't have to eat this junk...- we are DYING for some right now-

2) bring cash (ATM cards are hard to find- like every one in fifty works for us) but DON'T BRING TRAVELER'S CHECKS!!!!!!! All these idiots in our group thought it would be really cool to bring traveler's checks (not realizing that although they were cool in '69 does not mean they are cool today)---- the Chinese people aren't into traveler's checks the same way they are into taking pictures with us so don't bother. There is NO WHERE to turn them in.


OK these emails are long I know- and you might not want to read this much. Does anyone actually read them all the way through? Hmm....at least I know my mom does!

Posted by bjmorris14 09:08 Comments (0)

China - Entry 3

China con....

Hi Everyone!

We are in this town in the middle of NOWHERE in China (supposedly we are in a "mountain" town but I see nothing here yet.... We are having so much fun- it has been very interesting so far. We went to the Great Wall the other day but it was SOOOOO cold and foggy we couldn't see the enormity of it. It was SO cold in Beijing but here in the mountains I'm fine in a t-shirt. In Beijing Margaux asked me what I was going to where oneday and I said, "oh just leggings, jeans, a t-shirt (short sleeve_), two sweaters, a sweatshirt, a scarf, ear muffs, and a hat" and she replied "JUST?" Seriously we were freezing so we bought these HUGE communist hats (the ones with the long furry ears and the red star) and wore them everywhere- it kept us warm and made for some good photo ops...

So we are touring around with 30 people- most of them are old enough to carry sweet and low AND equal with them everywhere (and all have grandkids)- except the one family (who I thought was a cult in the beginning of the trip but who I now really like- BUT their kids (ages 9 and 11) SQUEAR that Margaux and I are gay! They asked their dad, "what is the realationship of those girls," and the Dad said that we were "just friends" and then the kid said "are you sure," and apparently even when their dad told them we have boyfriends the kids didn't believe him so last night at dinner the mother made a point to have an entire conversation about our boyfriends in front of the kids. It was funny. Actually some other woman also asked us if we were "just friends" at the beginning of the trip. Probably because we are the only young ones except one 29 year old guy that is here with his parents but he really doesnt' count because he reads a lot of comic books.

There is SO much construction in China (especially in Bejing for the olympics next year) it is UNBELIEVABLE!!! I have NEVER seen anything like it- I mean every block there is construction of everything- highrises, etc... We went to the Summer Palace which was suppose to be a big attraction but the main part of it was under construction so they put up a banner infront of it of what it normally looks like (a picture of it) and when our tour guides told us to walk around and take pictures we decided it would be a better idea to take some pictures of the people here who are not exactly what you would call "FASHION FORWARD"- I'm not sure what my favorite outfit has been so far but I think it might have been a woman wearing a Burberry face mask (you know the kind they used on 9--11) to keep the dirt out)- which is just plain funny. I'm sure it was REAL!!!

Speaking of knockoffs- China is the BEST for buying everything- I got some really cute tennis shoes for $5, I-pods for $15 (made exactlyu the same and they work) and best of all fake purses! This woman on our trip contacted this guy who has a factory in Bejing where he manufactures fake purses (every brand- Gucci, LV, etc,..., and all of them look perfectly real)- so he came to our hotel and we had a purse party- I even got a Louis Vuitton dog bag that is so cute!!!! Olivia will love it!

The language barrier here is quite a problem- the worst part about it is that in the hotels they pretend to speak english so for example when we asked where the internet was, instead of saying they didn't understand us, they just said "no, we don't have it" and that is their response for everything- even stuff that they do have. Thankfully, Margaux's boyfriend Jesse bought her a small translation book on Mandarin- some of it has come inreally handy. There is an entire section in there on how to get a Chinese person into bed/marry you... including really useful phrases such as "it's my first time," and "EASY TIGER"- my personal favorite.

Today we stopped by a beautiful park where there happened to be a "english corner" where students in this small town (where they get almost no tourists) come every sunday to practice their english- so as you can imagine- they were THRILLED to see us. One girl was talking to this guy in our group who is 60 but looks really young to me and she asked him, "is this group all senior citizens?" He was a little offended so he took her over to us because she wanted to talk to some "young Americans.."

We also spoke to this guy who was a Chemistry PhD who has had articles published in the American Scientific Journal of Polymer Science about the fact that silicon rubber does not cause cancer- we thought his study was for the purpose of people who had silicon breast implants BUT apparently we were wrong because when we started to ask about that his face turned BRIGHT RED!

Yesterday we were suppose to go to the temple of heavan but we told the group that we didn't need to go because we wanted to spend some time in the Temple of Gucci- so we went shopping instead in this mall which had a fish market on the basement floor- which was great because it made the entire mall stink of fish- so while we were buying our knock-off i-pods we got to enjoy the pleasant aroma of live turtles and shrimp....

Everyone on the trip is really nice except this woman Loretta who is here with her husband (who thinks she is GREAT because she got a fake Gucci purse on the street which had GUCCI written in PEN on the purse- it looked SUPER authentic and she would NOT stop raving about it). You can tell they must have a perfect marriage because they have been together for ten years and when quizzed on the bus the other day he did not know her birthday or her middle name. Plus- instead of going to the temple of heavan, they went to KFC (my least favorite place on the planet)...

OKAY, lunch time!!!! Hope life is good in the US!

XOXO,
Sarah

Posted by bjmorris14 09:09 Comments (0)

China - Entry 2

China Day 1

I was just about to start off this email writing about how great "the people" here are (u know how everytime you talk to someone about their trip they always tell you how nice the people are=== when really if you think about it the people were nice because they were getting paid to tour them around, feed them, etc... (maybe I'm just being cynical because I am EXHAUSTED but anyways).... we are in the internet cafe in our hotel where they have a WHOPPING 2 COMPUTERS and these idiots who run the show (two girls to run a shop with two computers) will only let us use 1 of the computers- so poor Margaux has to sit and wait for me because they want to sit on the other computer and PLAY THEIR VERSION OF CHINESE SOLITARE/DANCE PARTY USA- they are literally playing solitare with these dumb Chinese characters dancing around on their computer screens... it's ridiculous!!!

Okay a few things about China:

1) the ABSOLUTE best thing about China is not the sights but its BEING A TOURIST here! I swear to god there is no better place to be a tourist.... This is the same feeling I might get if I was a designer and had my first trip to Paris.... here not only do I feel like a tourist (I have a yellow name tag that I wear everyday) but I we (Margaux and I) are surrounded with 29 other 50-somethings- some of whom DO have fanny packs on... no joke! AND today we went to Tianamen Square and the first thing that happened is all these Chinese tourists ran up to Margaux and I and wanted to take pictures with US! It was SO funny- the tour guide said that these people are from villages and have never seen white people before so they are super juiced to take pictures with us so they can go show us off to their friends. Ummmmmmmm k.... so it was so fun walking around today because not only were Chinese people of all ages coming up wanting to take pictures with us- some of them would come up and hand us their baby and take our picture with them!

2) Another thing I was really happy to see was Chinese tourists going to all the Chinese sights because while I thought we were super cool wearing our yellow badges and following a yellow flag around all day- the Chinese tourists actually were in groups where all of them were wearing matching hats. I squear to god I could not stop laughing all day because there would be groups for example like one where there were 80 Chinese people of all ages wearing Red Nike caps- I was OBSESSED with them because they were the only group of people that didn't seem to give a rats about us--- so I tried to take pictures with them and they weren't even interested. It made me feel like crap but then I just figured it was probably because they were elderly and didn't think us Westerners were "cool" like all the teenagers coming up to us wanting to hang with us....

3) Last night Margaux and I ACCIDENTALLY GOT A MASSAGE- so we called the hotel massuse to ask if we could make an appointment for tommorrow but apparently nobody here really speaks english that well. So we hang up the phone and two minutes later this guy shows up at our door with two pink wash clothes and a tub of yellow lard looking stuff. We tried to get him to leave and told him to come back tommorrow but the language barrier wasn't really working for us so we just said "F IT" and decided to get a massage- it took a few more minutes for him to realize he couldn't massage both of us at once so he called up some woman to our room. Needless to say- the massage was a good way to spend 1 hour and $20 bucks

4) 4 STAR TOILETS- so today we came across a lot of toilets- all of them were the really cool kind where you have to squat into a hole in the ground. Once we got to the Summer Palace (which summer palace- I'm not sure because I wasn't paying attention because I was having too much fun laughing at everything and everyone around me) we found a "4 Star Toilet" literally- no joke- there was a sign outside this bathroom that said that the "Beijing Tourist Bureau" had rated it "4 stars"- once I went inside I couldn't really see why to be honest but it made me feel better knowing I was in a 4 star establishment. The only thing I was wondering was why that toilet was 4 stars and the one at the place we had dinner wasn't. The bathroom at our resturant for dinner should have been at least 4 stars- it was clean AND the toilet maid (lady who stands in the bathroom) was SO cute and SO nice she "did everything but wiped your butt for you" as one of our co-tourists put it. She literally walked into the bathroom with you- like into the actual stall and took off your purse, hung it up, closed the door, gave you soap, wiped your hands, etc... It was unbelievable.....

5) 5 STAR RESTURANTS- tonight before we got off "the bus" our tour guide "Frank" a man who told us today when we asked "do young people usually come on this tour" he said "No. It's mostly seniors..." told us that quote un-quote; "TOMMORROW NIGHT WE ARE GOING TO A FIVE STAR RESTURANT, I'M NOT KIDDING!!!" and he said it TWICE- so when he asked if we had any questions after the tour- I wanted to reiterate how many stars the resturant was....

Okay so there is one computer here, 5 tourists waiting to use it (including this woman who is here with her husband and two kids and it looks like they are about to join a cult when they leave this tour---- literally- I mean the family looks like the people from Heavan's Gate (I would know because Brett and I watched a special on it last week--
PLUS this woman's son is on the tour and he decided to assume the role of flag bearer so he waves the flag all day- it's annoying...)---- so I gotta go....

More fun later (I have a million and two more funny things that happened today but no time to tell them)- all I have to say is that if you want to go somewhere to laugh harder than you've ever laughed before- this is the place to do it!!!!

XOXO,
Sarah
'
PS- today we also saw the Forbidden City, and some other things but it's hard to remember what we saw when all I can remember is the people I came into contact with who seemed just as happy to see us as we were to see them- I guess its because normally I go places and want to take pictures of the people even if they don't want to be photographed (like once a lady in Morrocco threw rocks at me for taking pictures of her walking her goat) BUT here the LOVE IS RECIPROCATED TEN TIMES OVER- it's like they want to take pictures with us more than we want to take pictures with them. It makes us feel good and it's just so damn funny!!!

Posted by bjmorris14 09:05 Comments (0)

China - Entry 1 Arrival

CHINA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hello friends!

Just wanted to let you know that Margaux and I are going to China for spring break (okay spring break plus I'm missing a week of school for traveling- but that's the usual-I gotta do it now while I can before the corporate culture sucks me up...) and it is an AMAZING deal. We are getting round trip airfare from San Francisco (non-stop too), all four star hotels, all our food, and tour around some of the greatest cities in China for $1100 all inclusive! Amazing!!! Brett and I agreed that my 2 week trip to China is going to be the same price as his one weekend in New York with his friends. Crazy, huh?

I never really thought China was on my must see list (at least not on the short list) until I took a class on it and watched a PBS special called Inside China met a friend named Hin Lee and found out random facts such as the fact that one of the ways the government controls the number of children you have is by keeping track of women's menstrual periods on a board in the center of town (because if they do that what other wierd stuff is going on there that would be interesting to learn about?).

At first Margaux and I were a little iffy about taking one of those organized tours where all the tourists get off the tour buses with their fanny packs, visors with mini umbrellas attached on top and camera packs bigger than the one my dad owns but hey... if there is anywhere to be a "tourist" in the real sense of the word, I think China is the place. If nothing else, it will be hilarious! And although in all honesty I might be a little embarrased to step out of a 30 person tour bus with a fanny-pack clad crowd in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, I have a feeling I won't feel that way in China... ya know...


Check out this article below- we are going through China Focus which got great reviews:


http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/01/11/DDGNLNG0QA1.DTL


Here is our trip:

http://www.chinafocustravel.com/hc07.html

It looks amazing- I'm SO excited!

XOXO,
Sarah

Posted by bjmorris14 09:00 Comments (0)

Living in London for the Summer - Entry 6 More Great Trips!

Egypt, Spain and Scotland

Hi everyone,

I'm still on the road to recovering from a lack of sleep and one of the most jam packed (wow- JAM packed- that phrase bothers me) weeks of my life. On Wednesday I got to work- worked for 20 minutes on a really rough assignment researching on Google. Then I went on a tour of Lloyd's of London (a live insurance exchange floor- similar to NYSE) which was actually quite interesting. Although most of the British associates who came on the tour with us thought the place looked like their own version of hell- I thought it looked really fun (I guess because it was a somewhat chaotic, social atmosphere and a little bit of chaos always seems to make life more exciting then just sitting at your desk all day in a law firm where you feel like your computer is your best mate). All the underwriters sit around at tables negotiating the best deals and there is a bell that is rung everytime there is a shipwreck or other disaster (like 9/11).

Anyways- after a firm lunch at a resturant on the river I got my second taste of the luxurious corporate lawyer lifestyle on my trip to Egypt. As if it wasn't exciting enough for the firm to take me to Poland, finding out 2 days in advance that I got to go to EGYPT of all places was like my own version of winning the lottery (especially because I
won and Gabe lost- as he didn't get to go on the trip). I got even more excited after realizing that this trip might be quite a different business experience (culture wise) because of the fact that I am not exactly your typical muslim woman and something in the pit of my stomach told me that the Egyptian company executives were not going to
have a lot in common with me. My presumptions were confirmed when I got an email from the firm listing a bunch of shots I was suppose to get (yeah like I REALLY had time to get shots considering the internal doctor sent me this email just hours before my trip- thanks man....) AND some things to be aware of (like terrorism and being targeted as an American in Egypt AND cultural norms for doing business and getting round. Here are some of the highlights from my instructions:

This was an email from someone in the firm who is in charge of telling us what to do when traveling for business:

ABOUT HIRING A TAXI:

After you get in: . If you get in, it is appropriate for a single female to sit in the back, and a single male to sit in the front. Expect to be sharing the taxi (Hmmmm..... so maybe this explains the wierd sitch we encountered at the airport later when I got mistaken for my boss' wife (which may have not offended me had I not been with 2 men- one of them who is only 8 years older than me- and my boss who is MUCH older than me. Why did I have to be the wife of the older guy- is that just the way things work. Needless to say- I was sitting in the backseat!)

CULTURAL DOs and DON'TS:
Use someone’s title when addressing them, as Egyptians place greater stock on their position than Westerners. Also, bring a gift to any meeting – this gift should not be too expensive or gaudy, and should not be anything related to religion, dogs or women. Expect to receive a gift in return, and be sure to say thank you. (After reading this I wondered what they would get me... a camel or maybe a hot head wrap-- ha ha.... at least I knew this trip wouldn't be a repeat of Thailand where I tried to bring a dog back to the US!)

THIS IS WIERD:

Eye contact is good when dealing with Egyptian men, as it signifies honesty. Also, shaking hands is the preferred method of greeting, unless you know the person well, in which case you will shake their right hand with your right and kiss them upon the cheek. It is advisable to wait for the Egyptian man to start this, so as not to be over familiar. Eye contact with an Egyptian woman is considered too intimate, as is shaking hands – again, take your lead from her if in doubt.

(I have LOTS of good critism about this cultural norm- coming up in a minute)

Do not show the soles of your feet, or your shoes, to anybody – always try and sit with your feet flat on the ground. Also, the use of your left hand for greeting and interacting is considered rude, as this is the hand used for personal hygiene ("personal hygiene"- this section of the email kind of scared me for
some reason- I don't know why)

AND I WAS ON TOP OF THIS ALREADY (getting info from my boss on what kind of suit would be most appropriate for an Egyptian board meeting):

Women's concerns

There have been some reports of women running into trouble with sexual harassment in some areas of Egypt, particularly if they are not adequately clothed (by Muslim standards). There are also problems with women being unaccompanied and getting unwanted attention from males, especially in remote areas. If travelling alone, which is not recommended, women should try and wear a veil or headscarf to try and blend in with the rest of the female population, and should also cover hair and wear loose clothes. This will deflect attention away from them, and also discourage Egyptian men from making unwanted advances ("some" trouble with sexual harasment turned out to be right on the money).

Okay- so traveling with a partner turned out to be a little nicer than I had expected- for starters instead of getting in a regular cab to get to the airport we had a driver with a Mercedes (thank god, cause that made me feel RIGHT at home). Then we got to the airport- hung out in the business class lounge for awhile- then got on the plane. We got to fly business class which was a HUGE PLUS!!! Now I already LOVE traveling and honestly don't mind how I get somewhere or where I stay as long as I'm there (as evidenced by my accomodation in Spain a few nights later- a park...) BUT if only I could travel like that everyday... I got onto the plane and instead of my usual economy
experience (cramped seating, sitting next to psychos like the couple I sat next to on one plane journey to London who wanted to know if I was coming to London for an arranged marriage (yeah I know I look like the type but jeez) I was suddenly turned into a special customer. I got into my BED (yeah that's right, BED)- with my own little curtain so it was almost like I had my own room and immediately took advantage of something entirely new to me- free champagne on the flight. I was so excited (but maybe it was just because I am in London and have learned to live with the drinking culture AND had just finished reading an article in my Elle magazine titled "WHAT KIND OF SUMMER DRINKER ARE YOU?"- now I doubt the US version of the mag had that same article....I ordered one champagne drink and didn't really like it- so I just asked to have a different one. I figured someone was paying $4,000 for my flight (the client) so I might as well use their money wisely. I was enjoying the plane ride so much that I tried not to fall asleep on the way over there. Knowing that I might not have this experience again for awhile I was trying to soak it all up!

Okay on to the interesting fun facts about the trip- when we got to the airport we had to look for a sign of our hotel without our names on it (for security purposes our driver could not list our names on the sign-which made me feel SUPER safe)! The airport in Cairo was hectic, even at 1am. When we finally found our driver (who thought I was my boss' wife because even though I was wearing a suit it's not like I had a real brain and would be doing real work in Egypt- (actually I didn't end up having to use my brain much there but anyways...) and got in the
car we were awaited by warm hand towels and cold bottled water (it's the simple things in life that really get me excited)! On our way to the hotel-the Four Seasons on the NILE!!! (hey...) we came across some
interesting sights:

1)Donkey-drawn carts (is that the right thing to say?) literally ON the freeway in the slow lane, along with cars and people crossing the road)

2) one of my favorite observations- EGYPTIANS hangin tough in the islands (which sounds cool initially but actually means that there were people just hanging out in the islands in the middle of the roads-sitting, doing whatever, as if they were at a party of something-strange. I wanted to stop the car and ask them why don't they just go to the pub or at least a park or something- or is there something really romantic about hanging out in an island in the middle of the street- OR is it that Egyptians like to live on the edge (ok some of them do- like the bombers or the people that drive donkeys on freeways) and their religion doesn't allow for too much crazy partying so they just like to take risks by engaging in activities that increase their risk of being hit by a car.....

3) all of the hotels had dogs sniffing each and every item in every car entering the hotels for bombs (which also made me feel really safe).

When we finally got to our hotel at 2am- it was GORGEOUS (I immediatley knew it was a nice hotel because although I saw the Hilton and other good hotels scan their entereing guests for bombs using DOGS, our hotel
had a legitimate BOMB scanner machine which was way more of a luxury item in my opinion than a dog bomb detector)! Other than being stopped for a minute to scan all of my personal belongings for bombs- I felt great (especially knowing I was just a stone's throw away from the Nile (god I hate phrases like "stone's throw" but I had to add it in because that was what was in my mind at the time)!

The next morning I got my 8am wake-up call and my room service (I ordered an "Arabic breakfast" just because I had no idea what any of the included items were and I thought it would be fun to surprize myself that early in the morning). About 15 minutes later I got a knock on my door and peered out to find 2 men in hotel uniforms who asked me to open the door. Feeling safe after going through a car bomb inspection, plus walking through a metal detector to get into the hotel, I thought it would be safe to answer the door. When I did- 2 men asked me "are you awake?" Yeah you idiots what does it look like???? "Are you sure?" they asked. "Yeah, I'm freakin sure- what does
it look like?" As they walked away I thought that they were just checking to make sure I was awake because it was a really nice hotel but later I realized I was the only member of my group to get such VIP treatment. And why would 2 guys need to come anyways. DODGY (god I love that word, it sounds so much better than what everyone says in
California- "sketchy"- )!!!! Basically they came to check out the American woman staying alone without a head wrap- which was really unfair because it was too early to put my head wrap on- (I did bring
one but it was still in my suitcase)- I'm not joking either....

Okay, so that expereince prepared me for my next Egyptian highlight-the meeting. Due to confidentiality I can't really expand on the details but what I can tell you is that the meeting was very INTERESTING to say the least. I walked into a board room with Todd and Tom, to be greeted by the world's most welcoming set of Egyptian muslim men ever! Although everyone was wearing suits, the CEO was wearing a PINK shirt opened down to practially his stomach so that I got a good glimpse of around a square foot of hairy chest (which coincidentally was just what I was in the mood for at that hour after being the novelty item at my hotel). Maybe it's an Egyptian thing, but I didn't
really get it! Casual elegance.... He later apologized for not being appropriately dressed and went to get a tie (which he didn't put on, but just put in front of him)....

Some of my favorite things about the meeting:

1) although there were 40 muslim men and 2 women in the room- all the women (except myself) got to sit BEHIND the board room table (which only kind of made sense to me after reading the email about women having to sit in the back of taxis)- but luckily I got to sit at the table and feel like a first class citizen

2) during 4 hours of presentations the Egyptian men didn't seem to really follow the cultural norms about looking into women's eyes as I was warned about in my firm's email- here's a reminder: "Eye contact with an Egyptian woman is considered too intimate, as is shaking hands – again, take your lead from her if in doubt."
-Being perfectly fair, I don't look like an Egyptian woman, but at the same time I didnt' really expect for the meeting to be conducted so that every SINGLE person who spoke at the meeting (other than my boss and one other man) ONLY made eye contact with me and NOBODY else! Literally- like they were starring at me the entire time- which I thought was a bit odd considering that I didnt' even get to introduce myself (because my boss didn't want me to say I was a summer associate-obvisoulsy the company may not have been too happy about paying $6,000 for an intern to attend their meeting). But it was a VERY strange experience.

3) The CEO's presentation was my favorite part- he said their "business model" was "we want to run this company like a ballerina because a having a fat company is like having a fat lady- it's horrible. They can't move properly and it's just a mess." UMMMMM K! I don't think I would have heard that from an American CEO but I guess you really never know.

4) The CEO also assured us that one of the strengths of the company was that 1/3 of the Egyptian population was under the age of 14, which assured the company a GUARANTEED cheap labor force. Now I didn't think much of this comment until a few minutes later when after the meeting, we got a tour of the company- and although I can't go into details what I can say is that it made me sick to my stomach. Our "company" was running a bunch of sweat shops. Now I had always wanted to see a sweat shop- but I had always thought I would get to see one more along the lines of a human rights context- like going in as the good guys saving the poor workers- not the other way around. It was ESPECIALLY nteresting though because I think I got the real experience, instead of lying about the "good conditions" in there- we got to see everything (which made me lose my appetite) and got all the real info. I even got to take pictures!!! I don't know if my co-workers thought it was a good idea but the woman touring us around (who was also JUST starring and talking to me throuhgout the entire tour) said it was okay and I just couldn't resist....

Basically, we walked into a few rooms where these muslim women and young girls were slaving away to produce products that I can guarantee you (and I will have to tell you all when I can in a few months) that you use everyday (I know I have the same brands and so do my friends). They looked absolutely miserable- I tried to smile at a few of them and they were either too miserable to smile or they gathered around looking at me cautiously- giggling (maybe that I didnt' have a head wrap on or that they probably hadn't ever seen any American women). It was about 100 degrees in those rooms and I can't even imagine how hot it was with a full muslim outfit on- working who knows how many hours a day (don't worry the factory is open 24 hours a day). All I could think of was how crazy it was that they ended up there and I ended up where I am- it was really disturbing and an experience I will never forget.

The worst part about it was that I couldn't say anything= like, wow, look how disgusting this is- because we were workign for this company. It was just so odd thinking that this same company that paid literally $6,000 for me to be in Egypt for one day to attend a meeting (not to work, just to go to the meeting) would not even pay to air condition
the rooms their employees worked in (which was really bad because all the end products were put in air conditioned rooms but the workers were not).

When we walked back into the board room, the CEO who I initally found to be endearing- suddenly seemed evil. It was a really strange feeling and I don't know what to think of it. I guess part of me felt sick at the time but looking back- maybe life would be worse for those women if they didn't have any job at all- I don't really know and I still don't know what to think of it (although I'll admit that now that I'm working on this transaction I have been doing a little side research figuring out how much these people are getting paid per day- it's all in the financial info I'm working with- and the results are not very good...)

At the end of the day we got back into our luxury vehicle with more hand towels and cold water (the air conditioning had been running in our car ALL DAY for 5 hours so that it would be PERFECTLY cool when we got in the car- just the opposite of the factory workers).... What am I suppose to make of all this? I don't know....

After that we went to the pyramids of Giza- and saw the pyramids and the sphinx which was all really amazing- then went back to the hotel, had some of a chocolate buffet and then went to dinner at a resturant outside on the Nile which was really nice. The next day I got back on the plane, had some more mimosas and a really good nap and got back to London. As soon as I arrived in London I had to go to another airport to get to Spain (so friday I took a cab to the airport in Egypt, a plane to London, a cab to a train station, a train to another airport in London, a plane to Spain, a bus to another city in Spain, a cab to another bus station in Spain, and a bus to Pamplona---- so after
traveling for literally 19 hours I arrived in Pamplona at the Running of the Bulls- which now I'm too tired to write about- but basically it was really FUN!!! Your typical Spanish festival, with people dancing, cheering and drinking everywhere.... I also got a good spot in the front of the fence to watch the Running of the Bulls and I will have to send some pictures. It was really good fun the only thing was that it was a little rough to go from business class flights and staying at the Four Seasons to Ryan Air (which was fine other than the fact that you can't even push your seat back 3 inches- which really bothered me for some reason) and NO HOTEL (so we had to sleep in a park)....

Then Sunday I woke up in London after a few hours sleep and flew to Scotland- which was good but uneventful. A beautiful town with Georgian buildings and FRIED FOOD CENTRAL- a city where the life expectancy is a mere 55- the lowest in ALL of Europe- also the wettest city in Europe. In the summer it was not nice so I can't even imagine the weather in the winter- no wonder they eat FRIED MARS BARS (no joke- they take a Mars bar, dip it in batter, then fry it)- and they wonder why they are all dying young.....

Okay, that was enough for now..........

Posted by bjmorris14 12:05 Comments (0)

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