A Travellerspoint blog

My last evening at Hotel Q.

In which....zzzzzzzzz.

Ahhhh, ennui. Between extended bouts of lounging in solitude, one fellow "guest" remarked to me that she was appalled to realize that she had no desire to do anything anymore. We no longer sit outside. I have stopped trying the crossword puzzle, and that killer 16 x 16 sudoku that I gleefully began days ago sits unwanted in my bag. I haven't even been able to sit through a whole movie. One of my colleagues refers to this as "Big Brother Syndrome" and we've all got it, and got it bad. What a relief that we get outta here tomorrow!!

Tonight was our final tai chi class. We have learned the first of twenty-four movements of one tai chi form. I can't imagine what this week would have been like without two tai chi breaks per day. We presented our instructor with a certificate and letter of thanks for all his patience and instruction, and took lots of pictures. Oddly, even while wearing a mask, we all smiled for the camera!

A new cohort of inmates arrived today to the sight of ranks of masked foreigners doing tai chi under a huge red sign reading "Thank you for your understanding and wish you good health." A new sign appeared today stating "Wish you our love and best wishes for your trip! Bon voyage!" (Bon voyage in Chinese is "a peaceful road.")

Posted by ucpegasus 06:11 Archived in China Comments (0)

Routine

In which...I am bored.

Breakfast.
Thermometer time.
Tai chi.
Lunch.
Long stretch of boredom during which the New York Times crossword puzzle kicks my butt (thanks, Will Shortz).
Thermometer time.
Dinner.
Tai chi.
Bed.

Rinse. Repeat.

I did have a delicious big mac for lunch today. Thanks, Matt! :) (Just what I should be eating while sitting on my rear all day every day for a week!)

I get paroled on Monday, 8 June at 14:00. Yay!

Posted by ucpegasus 01:46 Archived in China Comments (0)

Tai chi, ninja-style

In which I'm starting to feel like I'm on a cruise ship that visits no ports of call.

Early Afternoon, 4 June
This morning, a sign appeared informing us that we'd have tai chi lessons twice a day for the next several days. It turns out that one man on staff is a student of tai chi, and agreed to teach us. Staff are also quarantined to the hotel for the duration of this excitement (and are probably not receiving hazard pay), and I'm so glad that he's agreed to share his interest with us. So about 15 of us gathered, masked, in the lobby (so...close...to the outside....) and, as gracefully as we could, stepped and pointed our toes and moved our arms in slow circles. It was great, and would make an excellent cover story for the China Daily. ("Quarantine Guests Enjoy the Best of China.")

Lunch was good! I suppose that when I was the only "guest" there wasn't much emphasis on quality. There were about 27 coated and masked bandits against me. Now that the ratio is about even, the food has improved markedly. I had hot and sour soup, pea pods with pumpkin slices, stir fried broccoli and chicken curry for lunch. Green vegetables that are not bitter green leafies! This improves my life drastically! I won't say the food is fantastic, but definitely edible now. :)

Secret discovery: In the bathroom, there a sign that says, "小心地滑“ which means, "be careful, the floor is slippery." (Ok, it actually says "little heart floor slippery," which is why I love Chinese.) The sign also features a man slipping to his demise trapped inside a bold black triangle. A plastic sticker is attached underneath the Chinese, and reads, "Caution: Wet floor." In my boredom, I peeled off this sticker to read what is written underneath: BE CAREFUL OF LANDSLIDE!!

Posted by ucpegasus 22:48 Archived in China Comments (0)

Quarantine Cuisine

In which terrible slowly evolves into edible.

Afternoon and Evening, 4 June
In a startling advance in meal service, we’re now allowed to go down to the dining room to select our food choices, have our meal boxed, and then return to our rooms to eat. I thought this would make a difference in my culinary satisfaction. But, it turns out, the names of the dishes are much more appetizing than the actual dish. The food is nearly inedible. I’m not a picky eater. Those of you who have seen me eat (and if you have ever seen me, I was probably eating) know that I will consume all types of food in large quantities. The Hotel Q does not provide palatable meals. I rushed down to dinner at the first possible second, mainly because I wasn’t exactly busy, and selected the best looking dishes: sauteed cucumber and carrots (labeled as celery and mushrooms?), sweet and sour pork with pineapple, chao mien (American translation: chow mien), and a dish of sliced fruit. The fruit was the only edible portion of the meal. The “hot” dishes were room temperature, tough, old-looking and tasteless. Where is this food being cooked? When? By whom? I’ve lived in China for two years, and I eat Chinese food with great frequency. I eat at the school canteen for at least lunch everyday, in cheap restaurants in the village several times a week, and in moderately priced restaurants all over the city. I am not new at Chinese food. This food surpasses the canteen meals in poor quality by quite wide margin.

I am using my unlimited personal time (that is, the time that is not taken up by body temperature checks) to devise a plan of attack regarding a complaint. I have finally identified which of the pink-coated and masked ladies is in charge of ensuring that the “guests” don’t mutiny. She’s the one constantly surrounded by Betty and Louise Tourist who have worked themselves up into a froth trying to reschedule their tour and insisting they need deliveries of their medication and favorite nutritional fruit juice from home. (Yes, this is why they tell you to travel with medication for double the number of days you think you’ll be away from home!!)

There is a bulletin board near reception that informs us of that day’s weather and tips on staying healthy. One section informs us that, because of the warm temperatures, it is permissible to wear “frivolity clothes.” Someone bring me a monokini, because I am NOT about to miss out on this opportunity!!

Early morning, 4 June
Word is that we get the results of our throat swabs today.

Thank you immensely to all my family and friends who have called, emailed and texted!! Your thoughts, jokes, pictures, stories, questions and silliness made yesterday go by quite quickly!

In a shocking twist, breakfast was edible!! I had French toast and scrambled eggs and coffee and yogurt. It was all distinctly better than yesterday. Yay!! I made sure to tell the Chief of "Guest" Satisfaction that I was happier with the food. Oh, how they fuss over you when you go to pick up your meal: suggesting what you should have, spooning a little at a time into your portioned plastic try until you have exactly the amount you want, wrapping your coffee cup in napkins so it's not too hot to carry, tying your plastic bag just so for the short ride up the elevator!

New "guests" appeared in the breakfast line this morning, including a group of students from New York who were here to study Chinese, and my seat mates from my flight. My neighbors, a mom and her little boy, were just picked up last night. The students flew in on an Air China flight the same day I did, and spent two days touring Beijing before being taken away - and were expected to account for every personal interaction they had in those 48 hours!!

Posted by ucpegasus 17:05 Archived in China Comments (0)

Passing time

In which I pass time.

Early morning, 3 June
I woke up at 4:00 am. This isn't ideal in the Big Q, because sleeping would be an excellent way to pass the time. Upon waking, I realized that my toilet had been running all night, and wouldn't flush. Fixing a toilet seemed like a good time-use project. So far, I got the thing to flush, but now it's running again. I think I shall use part of my morning to study toilet anatomy diagrams and try to fix the thing.

Mid-morning, 3 June
Any noise in the hall sends me scampering to the peep-hole. We’re allowed to leave our rooms, masked, to socialize with other quarantees, to roam the halls, use the computers in the business center, and to sit outside on the patio. However, I find myself in the minority being a resident of Beijing, not a tourist. I generally don’t get on well with the sort of people who take tours, if I may generalize, and all the other “guests” are from the same tour. They spend their time complaining loudly and scheming about how to get on Oprah. They vacillate between wanting to get the heck out of China and trying to get their tour company to place them on the next week’s tour. I can’t blame them for their reaction: China isn’t a familiar place, and quarantine is not exactly what they imagined upon setting out to the Middle Kingdom. The food isn’t great, our hosts speak English poorly, and this isn’t the five star accommodation they were expecting. If I were in their shoes, I’d feel and emote similarly. But for now, I’m enjoying the bathtub and the HBO and the feeling of success that comes with figuring out how to get the fan to stay on for more than a half hour at a time.

Thank you to my wonderful friend and language partner for interviewing me over the phone and providing interesting conversation, to my family for Skyping, and to my colleagues for your wonderful, silly and fun emails and texts! You've all made my morning!

Did you know that the word "quarantine" comes from the Italian for "forty days?" In the 17th century, ships coming into port in what is now Croatia were made to wait for forty days before passengers and crew disembarked to help stop the spread of the black plague. I am SO glad that I am dealing with neither black plague nor forty days of quarantine!

Posted by ucpegasus 21:21 Archived in China Comments (0)

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