Friday, 8 April 2011

Everything's gone wrong today

Thursday 7th April 2011

MP3 track of the day: Love the way you lie – Eminem

Weather: Intermittent rain showers with heavy fog.

Last night I proceeded with my usual internet stuff, which included uploading my blog. When I typed my blog address into 'Firefox' an 'unable to connect' message came up. I tried again. The internet was working fine as I had been able to access my Hotmail account. I tried again. It then hit me that China had blocked 'oneotteraroundtheworld' from the Chinese web.

I laughed about it and saved my blog entry into a word document before going to watch TV.

If only that was true.

It's a good job that Chinese people don't speak a lot of English because, for the next five minutes or so, I openly discussed exactly what I thought about 'The Peoples Republic of China'. I sighed and inserted my memory stick into my netbook. On said memory stick sat a piece of software, given to me by a fellow British traveler, to help me get around such 'blocking' problems. I installed it but alas, it didn't work. Never mind, I thought to myself, I had downloaded a similar piece of software before I left the UK; now was the time to put it into action. I installed it and, yet again, it did not work.


For the next couple of hours I surfed the many pages of the internet to find a solution but, if a page had a solution, it was blocked. I don't like giving up but, as the time was 9:45pm, I but my 'Matthew Otter Vs The Peoples Republic of China' fight on hold and went for a long shower before hitting the sack. It had been a very long and a very annoying day.


Unusually for me I had a lie-in. I went to sleep around 11pm and I found myself awake around 9am. Yesterday had been a very long and tiring day; everything I saw, smelt and eat (well maybe not the last one) had been new and so I presumed that's why I had slept so well. In my battle with 'China' I had forgotten to pre-book accommodation within Hong Kong. I was starving and so I decided to get some breakfast before returning to my PC.

The only problem with my hostel was that there was no restaurant, or free breakfast. I therefore found myself on the streets of Nanning, around 10am, heading in the direction of town. Yet again it was raining and foggy but still the old Chinese men were again playing dominoes within the park. They were also dabbling in another board game however, due to it being in Chinese, I couldn't tell what it was (though I've seen it before and I do want to learn). There was only one place that I wanted to go and that was MacDonald's.

Ordering a 'Pancake breakfast' went better than I had anticipated as I got everything I asked for, first time. Again it was remarkably cheap and so, with my breakfast on my tray, I picked it up and sat down. I had just removed the top from my hot chocolate when a Canadian guy introduced himself. He said that, if I wanted to, there was a group of English speaking gentlemen over in the far corner that I could join. Better than eating on your own I said thank you and walked the way his finger pointed. Three Canadians, one American, one Kiwi and a Brit sat around three MacDonald's tables. I sat down and introduced myself. The thing that connected all of my fellow English speakers was that they were all married to Chinese ladies and that, for part of the year at least, they lived in China. They were all retired and, overall, were very nice people. I chatted to them and they were very interested in my travels, especially the Canadians who wanted to know where I had been in Canada. As I really didn't have anything planned for the day I chatted to them for a while before inquiring if they knew where a supermarket was. A Walmart was close-by and, as it happened, the American had to go there so he said that he would show me. I said thank you and goodbye, with the possibility of speaking to the group at breakfast tomorrow.

I followed the American into the rain and the cold; we went to the area I had searched yesterday and, just one street further up, stood a great big Wallmart. I said thank you but I did not follow him in; I didn't need anything at the moment and so I returned to my hostel. I went into my dormitory, rummaged around for my PC, and headed downstairs to pre-book accommodation within Hong Kong. Well that was the plan however my PC had other ideas. For some reason my PC just wouldn't respond; at first I though the software, that I had installed yesterday, had corrupted however, after two restarts, I found out that it was because my hard drive was almost full (with a third of the total capacity taken up by photos). I thought back to when I had last cleared space on my PC ... Vientiane, Laos, back in mid January. I tired to plod on, without removing any data, however it was no good. Minutes turned into half an hour … half an hour turned into an hour … an hour turned into two and all I had done is removed a couple of progammes creating little space. It was already 2pm and I had achieved nothing. To stop myself throwing my PC out of the common room window I shut it down and, realising that I needed more disk space, I went in search of another memory stick.

I headed back out into the cold and back, ironically, to Wallmart ... the shop that, two hours earlier, I didn't need to visit. The supermarket was spread over two huge floors; connecting them was a 'flat escalator' that was positioned at a vertical angle. I wondered why the store hadn't used a conventional escalator only to realise, moments later, that shoppers wouldn't be able to push their trollies up a conventional stepped escalator … clever that. On the second floor I found a technology area full with mobile phones, video cameras and plasma TV's. However only a choice of four memory sticks were on display. I inquired into the 'Kingston' memory stick and asked how big it was. '8GB' was the answer however I wasn't sure. I purchased it fully expecting to return later.

Before leaving I got some more chocolate; yet again it had to be 'Dove' (Galaxy) as Mars bars don't seem to exist within China (My mate Alan would never be able to survive). It was 2pm and it was time to get some food. I'd already decided to make my dinner the biggest meal of the day as I expected my 'PC problem' to take a while to fix. Yesterday I had asked the Irish couple if they knew anywhere good to eat. Their reply was 'Pizza Hut' as there didn't seem to be any good native restaurants around. I actually quite fancied pizza and so I went into the 'Pizza Hut' I found yesterday.

I fancied Pizza even more when I opened the door to find a beautiful Chinese lady, with a big smile, greeting me. 'Chinese' she inquired, hoping that I spoke the native tongue. I lowered my head a little and shook it slowly; her smile widened and she asked if I was 'eating in' or 'takeaway'. I looked at the rain outside and decided to stay. There weren't any tables free and so I had to wait ten minutes; once seated the lady gave me a menu and I ordered a pizza and a Pepsi. I hadn't gone for my top choice of pizza; I had gone for one that wouldn't leave me in the position of asking the waitress if the chef could remove mushrooms … I would probably end up with a plate of them.

I was told that my pizza would take twenty minutes to cook, which was fine by me. My Pepsi was brought quickly however I left it alone, waiting on my food. As I looked around I noticed that most people were eating anything but pizza (and they would stare at me periodically); I flicked through the menu to discover that pasta was a lot cheaper than pizza and I decided, if I come back, I'll order a pasta dish as it would make a rather cheap meal. I continued my search through the menu which, eventually, lead me to the dessert page. Cake was everywhere and, even though it was all a little expensive, there was a chocolate cake that looked divine.

My pizza was brought out to me by a different, rather more rounded, Chinese lady. My lady came over just to make sure that the pizza I had been given was the one I had ordered. She smiled at me and I smiled back indicating all was well. The pizza was lovely; the chicken was a little spicy however, considering that the last time I had eaten pizza was November, it was mouth watering. Once finished I decided to order that Chocolate cake dessert. It took forever to arrive and, unfortunately, the one delivered was the incorrect cake. With my Chinese lady out on her lunch break I didn't make a fuss and I just eat the 'Chocolate ice cream cake' that had been put in front of me. It was nice but too cold for a day like today. 80 Yuan (£8) later and I left the restaurant, thankful that the rain had stopped.

I got back to my hostel a little while later. Given that sorting my PC would require a lot of waiting I put the film 'The Kite Runner' on while I went about fixing it. I lifted all my saved photos onto my new memory stick (which was 8GB) and then I decided to have a little tidy up of my system and the memory sticks that I already owned. I was a little annoyed to find that two of my memory sticks were full of data that I didn't need anymore; this meant that the £15, that I had spent on my new memory stick, wasn't actually required. I sighed and just shrugged; at least I wouldn't need to purchase another memory stick for a while.

The kite runner was okay, though not as good as I thought it was going to be. Once it had finished I got my PC working. I went online to pre-book accommodation within Hong Kong. The list of places was endless, however most were booked. In fact only two hostels, with dorms, remained. The cheapest was £15 per night and so I breathed in, and pressed the 'book now' button. It was situated on the main island (cutting down traveling costs) however £15 per night! I haven't paid that amount since Canada. I was glad that I was only spending the three nights there as it looks like it's going to be expensive. After this I got down to sorting out my blog.

With no way of getting around the internet block (well not yet anyway) I had to find an alternative way of blogging. In the end I uploaded my blog onto an email and sent it to my parents. That's right, currently my blogs are coming to you live, from Derbyshire UK. Hopefully, once in Hong Kong, I'll be able to speak to fellow travelers and find a solution (it's a bit quite here in Nanning) but the whole process makes me mad. Why China does this is completely ridiculous. As I've proved there's always a way around so what's the point. In Japan I didn't have to put up with this rubbish.

As the day was almost ending I reflected on what I had achieved ... very little, I sat within my hostel and continued to watch films. Today hadn't gone as I had planned but I was glad that my PC had broken down here and not in Hong Kong. Here there is little to do whereas Hong Kong has a lot to see. I still have two days in Nanning and so, hopefully, tomorrow I'll photograph the city.

So not only are my parents my accountants, and sponsors, but they are now my publishers. Soon they'll want paying!

Toodle Pip!

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