Big Expat Weekend

Friday 5:28 pm.   Company-wide email arrives, thanking us for our office’s charitable collection for the Shanghai Red Cross, for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake.  In addition to the grand total, there is also a list of donations BY INDIVIDUAL, including the amount they gave and the order that people contributed.  All the foreign staff were shocked, across the board.  I tried to think of how I could explain this cultural difference to my Chinese friends, but in the end I don’t think it’s worth the trouble.  Gross, though.

5:30 pm. The academic teams uncorked some Bordeaux Grand Cru to toast the launch of FrenchPod. There was bread and cheese (chèvre, Roquefort, camembert…) which later became some very excellent mojitos… L makes good mojitos. There was some chatting in the kitchenette, some amiable banter on the rooftop, and a wild dance party in the studio suite.

8:30 pm. We arrive at PartyWorld, where we had reserved a big karaoke room. When we didn’t step to the counter at 8:30, they gave our room away at 8:31. Because they are BASTARDS. I stood at the counter and opened a can of beer, and, smiling, encouraged the idiot who assigns rooms to get us another room. My Chinese friends mockingly asked me, “do you think that helps?” I said, I don’t care if it helps or not. S stayed on top of the situation, in Shanghainese; E did the annoying beggar routine; me I just sipped my can of beer and periodically said, I hope our room comes up soon! which confused everyone.  Who gives a shit; if shitty disorganized, asshole, karaoke scheduling tyrant is going to pretend we’re invisible, I’m going to act like prick.  Why?  BECAUSE I’M NOT FRACKING INVISIBLE.

Dear Middle Kingdom:  Assembly-line style efficiency is just another form of ignorant, inefficient, bad service.  Customers are not Model-Ts to be assembled.  It may be culturally accepted, but it is backward.  I happen to hate the service here, and it’s not because I’m an imperialist; it’s because it wastes everyone’s time and money; the businesses, the clients, the government, and ultimately the taxpayers.

Saturday 2:00 am:  pizza at the Velvet Lounge, to the horror of the Europeans.  It was a margherita, topped with arrugula, served less than a meter from the oven. That’s fresh.

11:55 am: Super slow wide right turn girls, doubling on a bike, turn into me as I’m speeding past.  Is it my fault, for passing on the right?  Not technically.  The girls act traumatized for a moment, and tell me it’s nothing it’s nothing.  So I ride off with a bent basket and a scraped knee.

12:00 pm:  Lunch at Element Fresh.  Craving strawberry pancakes, settle for salade niçoise.

1:00 pm.  Two hour massage at new massage place.  We book in advance.  After first hour, A is told that her masseur has a two o’clock appointment; she says fine, give me someone else.  They say, ok, but you won’t get the discount two-hour rate, you’ll get double the one-hour rate.  Oh no.  Oh hail no.  Seriously, you have to be a stupid person to think of that, how can you even say that out loud?  And then send someone to come tell us; aren’t you ashamed of your stupidity?

3:15 pm show up for jazz rehearsal.  There is a tv crew there to tape us.  Ooh, forgot about that.  The tv crew’s director is not that needy, but he does try to count us in with the cameras.  Ha ha.  Note to non-musicians:  you don’t get to count off the band.  You don’t get to cut us off, either.  The tv director talks to C the sax player as if she’s the leader… and ignores our instructor, who was

  • nominated for Best Bass Player in Canada by Maples Blues Awards, an organization of the Toronto Blues Society.
  • awarded Best Acoustic Bass Player in Canada in 2003, by the international blues magazine, Real Blues,
  • awarded by Toronto Blues Society as the Best New Artist in 1999

I was starting to get uptight that they seemed to be ignoring our instructor, but if you know any bass players, you know that it’s not in their nature to care about who’s getting all the attention.

He told us later that they had asked us to play a sad song for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake.  Although it’s a worthy cause, it’s a) a gross mis-estimation of the cultural and emotional function of jazz, and b) terribly presumptuous that we would want to take part in such a crass exercise in audience manipulation.

Later: bought pork chops (from the store) and a slow-cooker (off the street); Cotton’s for drinks and Lapiz Lazuli for dessert…. an orange soufflé.  I identified the waiters as Pinoy when I noticed they were 1000 times more attentive in very subtle ways; they way they seated us, they way the handed us the menu… they were too soft spoken for the accent to be a give away, but the clincher was that the waiter called me “sir.”  I thought, he called me sir! so I immediately asked, “pilipino ka ba?”  and the answer was “yes.”

I need to get back the PI.  Soon.

Tonight:  dinner with the whole gang.

2 thoughts on “Big Expat Weekend

  1. Yes, Filipinos abroad have excellent customer service. They are polite and very respectful. Here in Vegas, whether at the doctor’s office or at the restaurant, they address us with respect such as ate or tita or kuya or tito. We always tip them well, even the bus person or the host. Yea, we hand the tip to them secretly sometimes so that they don’t have to share with the whole crew. When we come back, they treat us even better, like VIPs. Hah!


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