Anecdotes from Asia

Streets of Shanghai

My name is Rich Razgaitis. I am in Asia. And I am a type A.

My patience is being tested. Not because of Asia, but because of me. And my type A-ness. Perhaps a surprise to many, I’m easy—if not downright great—to travel with. Live with? At best I’m moderately difficult. But the adventure and activity of travel somehow calms me on the road, like New York City does. Though sometimes I can get tested through some of the seemingly little things. Following are a few stories from my latest trip. Any reference to language barriers is me laughing at myself—as I don’t speak more than two words of either Chinese or Korean.

On trying to get a wifi signal…

I’m at my hotel in Shanghai looking for a wifi network to jump. I found my digs by going to, reverse sorting price “lowest to highest”, and selecting the cheapest one without the word “hostel” or “hotel-like” in the heading. Yes, seriously. It’s called the start-up grind. No more CoEx Inter-Continentals for me.

I walk up to the desk and say “Hi, yes I’m in my room and the wifi doesn’t work. And on it said wifi comes standard. I haven’t connected since I left 24-hours ago and I’ve got to get plugged in quickly.”

The woman at the front desk says “Oh, only in the lobby. Wifi is only in the lobby.”

Twenty minutes later having tried all three network names, rebooting, and repeating the process I approach the desk.

“Hi. The hotel wifi is, ummmm, how should I say it? Ah yes. A nightmare. I need to get online. Pronto. Can you help me?” (okay, I didn’t really say pronto, but I did do that little twirly thing with my hand going upward commonly associated with the usage of the word pronto).

For a split second I feel like she is yelling at me and says “Yes, yes, it works. You do not understand. You need to sit over there.”

I point to a general area of the lobby to clarify. “Over there?” I ask.

She looks at me directly and exclaims “No, no. There. You must sit right there. Right there. Do not move your body.”

And she points exactly to this chair. There is wifi. But only in the lobby. And apparently only in this chair.

 IMG_0074 - Version 2

On plugging into Social Media…

Arriving to the hotel I plopped (this really is a word that should be stricken from the English language) down on my chair, and proceeded to get all my social media updates, forgetting for a moment which sites were restricted.

Twitter? Blocked

Facebook? Blocked

Vine? Blocked

YouTube? Blocked

Pandora? No global licenses

Instagram? Available (for now)

Yes, believe it or not, I get tired of social media so it’s nice to force myself into a break. But I do miss Pandora. By the way, for next to nothing get a much better experience, and support a great company. Go and buy the ad-free Pandora subscription.


On finding a Starbucks…

Me: “Hi, I’m looking for a Starbucks so I can get some wifi since someone is sitting in the wifi seat. Specifically, my seat.”

Concierge: “Nihao.”

Me: “Hi hi, yes for sure, nihao. Starbucks?”

Concierge: “Tour bus?”

Me: Nicely smiling “No no, I’m sorry. Starbucks.”

Concierge: Raising voice and eyebrows “Oh oh, tour BUS!”

Me: Matching raised eyebrows and his tonalities “Ummm, no. StarBUCKS. Bucks. STAAAARRRRR–(long pause)–BUCKS.” Big smile with my eyebrows raised for effect to help increase translatability.

Concierge: Nodding profusely with big smile “Yes, yes, get you tour bus right away.”

I walk over to the front desk.

Me: “Hi, Starbucks?”

Front desk lady: “No, no. No Starbucks. Too far. You cannot walk. So sorry.”

I walk outside, hang a right because I could’ve sworn I saw a Starbucks in the general vicinity on my late night taxi drive in days before. 200 yards later I’m there.There is wifi, but after I order a hyper-customized coffee drink I learn that unless you have a Chinese mobile number you can’t get on. But there is a taste of home. After I’m done with my drink I go next door to Costa Coffee. There is wifi!

I ask if I need a Chinese number to access the wifi. They tell me no number needed, so I buy more coffee, open the laptop whilst shaking with excitement—which could be due to the IV drip of caffeine all morning—to find out that the wifi doesn’t work unless you have a Chinese mobile number. J

On Finding Wifi...

On finding a Doctor…

You don’t want to really get sick in China. Trying to find, schedule, and coordinate a doctor’s visit wasn’t the most fun or efficient accomplishment. Okay, so it was a PITA. But, fortunately “Z-Pack” translates easier than “Starbucks” and after a full afternoon of messing around with this I am purportedly within five-days of feeling like a new man.

The experience was still way better than the time I had to go to a hospital in Kolkata—holy shazam…

On Finding a Doctor...

On eating…

“Do you like Chinese food” my hosts in Wenzhou ask me. “Of course!” I reply, debating in my mind whether I’ll be calorie-splurging on an order of all-white meat extra crispy General Tso’s chicken with a medium-hot spiciness level, or sticking with healthy—steamed veggies with a nice soy/garlic sauce and a side of organic tofu.

We arrive at what doesn’t look like any Chinese restaurant I’ve seen before, and upon entering I see a buffet of what looks to be creatures that must have dividing cells, but none of it I can place. “Order whatever you want!” they offered enthusiastically. I didn’t recognize one thing, let alone could I name any of it. A friend told me one of those items in the picture is silkworm. Which sounds eerily close to tapeworm.


So when I saw these little fried guys, disturbingly open mouths and all, I couldn’t help but jump at the chance to order a plateful (you eat the whole thing, bones, head and all).


Alas, we ate family style which means we shared everything, but I dug into every single item on the table. There is a pretty high probability that I had some funky stuff, but it all tasted good. And the conversation was amazing and quite humbling to hear as an American. I wish I could share the content, but I can’t. I met some great people there.

Days later in Seoul, my other hosts (also equally delightful) took me out to Korean BBQ. Woohoo! I love Korean BBQ—a little kimchee, grill some beef or pork and wrap it in lettuce and throw it down with an Asahi or a little soju. Easy peasy!

But did you know that instead of ordering the plain ‘ol boring pork or beef options for Korean BBQ, you can get it with cow heart, stomach, and intestine instead? Yes, you can! And we did.


I gnawed down that cow heart, stomach, and intestine (and I preferred them in exactly that order) like the Paleolithic-caveman-eating-long-haired-Californian that I am. Perhaps too enthusiastically, because they ended up ordering as a third course Bibimbap, which I generally like, but subbed the tofu for more cow stomach. I hung in there like a champ, though during dinner I also justified more-than-normal amounts of soju (still within reason).

A fun night, which I’m convinced they did this for equal parts experience and hazing. I loved the adventure and I’ll never forget my first really authentic Korean BBQ.

But I’m ready to get back to my traditional fare. You know, like a breakfast consisting of 2 tablespoons of grass-fed Kerrygold salted butter blended for 95 seconds into my nitrate-free coffee with 1.5 tablespoons organic MCT oil and ¼ teaspoon of wildcrafted vanilla.  Yes, seriously.

Oh, and I wouldn’t mind sucking on a few metronidazole tablets as if they were Ricola’s, either.

On showering, including with my clothes on…

My Korean hotel was “cozy” (per meaning I could do a 360 turn in my room if I pivoted on my heels just so. My tiny washroom also contained a wedged-in toilet; for a minute I thought they forgot to give me a room with a shower. Then I saw the showerhead resting above the sink. Basically, you just washey washey right in front of the sink, somewhat next to the toilet. Everything gets soaking wet but it all seems to work out.

The last morning between meetings I hustled up to my room to check out; I am obsessed with germs, specifically keeping them off of me, so I tend to wash my hands whenever I can (read: compulsively). After packing up I decide to wash my hands up one last time.

Standing in front of the sink wearing my suit I turn the water on full blast, not realizing the shower lever was still switched “on” from hours earlier. You know in the States when you have that little shower lever on the tub faucet and you lift it up, and how it is SUPPOSED to drop back down once you turn off the water pressure? Well, that should be an International standard. J

So as I turn on my sink full blast, the showerhead hanging right above the sink and is pointed right at me kicks into gear. It takes more than two seconds to break free of the disbelief of my predicament, soaking most of my suit and even dress shirt underneath it in the process–though you can’t see it that clearly from this picture.


I walk outside pretty much dripping, say hello to my host and simply exclaim with as much confidence as I could muster “Wooohooo, that felt good!” He smiled and nodded, and we were on our way. Sometimes you’ve just gotta act like it’s all part of the plan.

(repeating to self) Life is an adventure. I am on an adventure. Everything is okay. I am happy. I am smiling. This is funny. Laugh at yourself.

From this post you’d think all I did was work, sleep, and try to get on wifi. And you’d be mostly right. But I had some fun along the way.


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