My name is Rich Razgaitis.Â I am in Asia.Â 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 easyâif not downright greatâto travel with.Â Live with? At best Iâm 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.Â Following are a few stories from my latest trip. Any reference to language barriers is me laughing at myselfâas I donât speak more than two words of either Chinese or Korean.
On trying to get a wifi signalâŠ
Iâm at my hotel in Shanghai looking for a wifi network to jump. I found my digs by going to hotels.com, reverse sorting price âlowest to highestâ, and selecting the cheapest one without the word âhostelâ or âhotel-likeâ in the heading. Yes, seriously. Itâs called the start-up grind. No more CoEx Inter-Continentals for me.
I walk up to the desk and say âHi, yes Iâm in my room and the wifi doesnât work. And on hotels.com it said wifi comes standard. I havenât connected since I left 24-hours ago and Iâve got to get plugged in quickly.â
The woman at the front desk says âOh, only in the lobby. Wifi is only in the lobby.â
Twenty minutes later having tried all three network names, rebooting, and repeating the process I approach the desk.
âHi. The hotel wifi is, ummmm, how should I say it? Ah yes. A nightmare. I need to get online. Pronto. Can you help me?âÂ (okay, I didnât 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 âYes, yes, it works. You do not understand. You need to sit over there.â
I point to a general area of the lobby to clarify. âOver there?â I ask.
She looks at me directly and exclaims âNo, no. There. You must sit right there. Right there. Do not move your body.â
And she points exactly to this chair. There is wifi. But only in the lobby. And apparently only in this chair.
On plugging into Social MediaâŠ
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.
Pandora? No global licenses
Instagram? Available (for now)
Yes, believe it or not, I get tired of social media so itâs 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 StarbucksâŠ
Me: âHi, Iâm looking for a Starbucks so I can get some wifi since someone is sitting in the wifi seat. Specifically, my seat.â
Me: âHi hi, yes for sure, nihao. Starbucks?â
Concierge: âTour bus?â
Me: Nicely smiling âNo no, Iâm sorry. Starbucks.â
Concierge: Raising voice and eyebrows âOh oh, tour BUS!â
Me: Matching raised eyebrows and his tonalities âUmmm, no. StarBUCKS. Bucks. STAAAARRRRR–(long pause)–BUCKS.â Big smile with my eyebrows raised for effect to help increase translatability.
Concierge: Nodding profusely with big smile âYes, yes, get you tour bus right away.â
I walk over to the front desk.
Me: âHi, Starbucks?â
Front desk lady: âNo, no. No Starbucks. Too far. You cannot walk. So sorry.â
I walk outside, hang a right because I couldâve sworn I saw a Starbucks in the general vicinity on my late night taxi drive in days before. 200 yards later Iâm 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 excitementâwhich could be due to the IV drip of caffeine all morningâto find out that the wifi doesnât work unless you have a Chinese mobile number. J
On finding a DoctorâŠ
You don’t want to really get sick in China. Trying to find, schedule, and coordinate a doctorâs visit wasn’t the most fun or efficient accomplishment. Okay, so it was a PITA. But, fortunately âZ-Packâ translates easier than âStarbucksâ 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 Kolkataâholy shazamâŠ
âDo you like Chinese foodâ my hosts in Wenzhou ask me. âOf course!â I reply, debating in my mind whether Iâll be calorie-splurging on an order of all-white meat extra crispy General Tsoâs chicken with a medium-hot spiciness level, or sticking with healthyâsteamed veggies with a nice soy/garlic sauce and a side of organic tofu.
We arrive at what doesnât look like any Chinese restaurant Iâve 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. âOrder whatever you want!â they offered enthusiastically. I didnât 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 couldnât 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 canât. 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 BBQâa 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 âol 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 Iâm convinced they did this for equal parts experience and hazing. I loved the adventure and Iâll never forget my first really authentic Korean BBQ.
But Iâm 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 ÂŒ teaspoon of wildcrafted vanilla.Â Yes, seriously.
Oh, and I wouldnât mind sucking on a few metronidazole tablets as if they were Ricolaâs, either.
On showering, including with my clothes onâŠ
My Korean hotel was âcozyâ (per hotels.com) 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 âonâ 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 canât 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 âWooohooo, that felt good!â He smiled and nodded, and we were on our way. Sometimes youâve just gotta act like itâs 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 youâd 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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