A Travellerspoint blog

In which Judith and Becky consider that age old question:

To bing or not to bing! This post written by Judith. I have shamelessly stolen it because it is awesome.

Ravenous! Starving...energy levels sinking, powers of speech receding...I...need...FOOD...

Finally reaching the shitang - one cannot call it any other way, this Chinese university dining hall which resembles more a barn for feeding the hungry masses than a cafeteria - and there is was: food, glorious food! Or at least it should have been. Except What is there to eat in China, and in a shitang of all places? As a foreigner one is faced with stark choices - overdosing on grease and salt in every meal, or replying on the meagre supplies of pre-packaged supermarket food, sorting through sugary bread, seaweed or blueberry-flavoured crisps and of course obligatory meatfloss - too appalling in appearance to ever consider tasting.

Eating rice and oily, salty dishes for two meals every day for the first two months, it was enough. In class our teacher Wang laoshi had proudly announced that rice - mifan - was "haochi"! haochi? delicious? not this rice, mate! What we got at the shitang resembled more a mushy, grainy stodge with no taste, and on the odd occasion a greasy taste which was even worse. the broccoli, mushroom and egg-and-tomatoe dishes were just getting too disgusting to handle. We had to look for something different, at least for one meal of the day. Dissenting from Chinese efforts to harmonise us into the Chinese student-style of eating, we decided to defect.

For a while my dear companion in "The Search for Food" (a girl from my course who I should share many a crisis concerning the Chinese language, the Oxford university system, and of course BeiDa's own Wang laoshi with) and I while living on the beautiful Peking University campus thought we had found the perfect solution for lunch at least. A bottle of coke, some fruit salad, and Bing - Bing! The sound ringing in your ear like heavenly bells calling out that food - real food - was ready.
Bing you must image as a flat, almost pancake-like piece of fried bread covered in egg. Often it would come hot, golden-brown and crispy, tasting deliciously savoury, which after living in China for a while is a nice surprise when nine out of ten times you bite into a sandwich or piece of pizza to find it crunchy sweet and sugar-coated.
So bing it was for a while - our solution,no Redemption! No more searching for snippets of Western food or something not drowned in oil. We had said goodbye to the times of being overjoyed to have found a 'savoury crepes with cheese' just to be hit by the disappointment over its rancid flavour and revolting texture, and so more often than not leaving with an empty stomach but too nauseous to think of food until the next day.

Or so we thought... soon we discovered that the heavens bing had promised were dark pits of grease, uncooked bread, hunger or bloatedness, and sometimes both. After a week or two of unreserved joy over having proper lunch, we started to notice the draw backs of out bing-fruit salad diet. A piece of bing and some fruit salad would be just pleasant, leaving you not too full, yet not hungry any more. However, after about an hour, maybe two at most suddenly the fruit in our stomachs would turn into water and leave a black hole of hunger behind. With stomachs churning and concentration waning, we knew there was not much to be done until dinner time. During previous weeks we had already ravaged through the different possibilities and shops, but at campus this was a problem as there were no snacks other than sickly sweet biscuits to supplement the meal. So hungry we were until 6pm when finally it was time to return to The shitang. When we took two bing with our fruit salad instead of one though, the result was not more satisfying. At first bloated from the excess of food, swearing to never eat again, then hungry again, only delayed by another hour, we were stuck. To bing or not to bing was the question we faced daily.

Additionally the university had gone into summer vacation mode, leaving us exchange students in small numbers while the Chinese students were leaving like rats escape the sinking ship. The fruit salads, fresh and juicy up till then turned into mushy, old and fermenting fruit that had been sunbathing in the morning before sold being sold to unsuspecting foreigners. Bing-production was reduced so that either none was left by the time we arrived, or it was also old, but in this case cold, greasy and sometimes not completely cooked slices of rubbery bing - inedible in one word. And so the times of bin passed, the question of whether to bing became mute, and we resorted to a less pleasant diet of crisps and coke for lunch for the last couple of weeks.

At the end of July, saddened to leave China and our lovely BeiDa behind, we were not in the least disappointed to finally be having real bread for lunch again.

Posted by rosiescott 07:53 Comments (0)

How to kill a pilot (apparently)

In which the Scott family discovers the secret of international terrorism...all you need is a plastic killer whale

Date: April, 1995
Trip: Axum Airport to Bole International Airport, Addis Ababa
Flight time: 1 hour
Airline: Ethiopian Airlines, Domestic Network
Cabin crew: All devastatingly attractive
Meal: What the pink paste was on those sandwiches I dread to think.
So, if we are all happy with the assumption that as long as we remember to remove our high-heeled shoes when leaving the aircraft we are basically safe from nose-diving to a messy death (Are we all happy? Good. Thought so.), we will move on to pre-flight security checks. As we all know these have become much more stringent in the past ten years since September 11th and other incidents. Almost entirely by the way, the so-called ‘Underpants Bomber’, who tried to blow up a plane over Christmas 2009, was in the class above me at my school in Togo. Make of that what you will. Anyway, now everyone who flies is required to be very dextrous at removing items of clothing; we are now expected to remove shoes (it used to be just boots), belts, coats and jackets, keys and phones and to partially unpack carefully arranged bags whose zips were at breaking point as it was. The problem is, you see, that I remember flying before anyone had a laptop! All this is a minor gripe, however, since I think most people would agree that erring on the safe side in these situations is not something airports can be blamed for. I’m reserving judgement on the x-ray machines until I actually encounter one.
I sometimes feel I have been unluckier than most when going through airport security, until a few years ago I couldn’t pass through a metal detector without it bleeping and even if it didn’t I would be subjected to the pat down by airport security. The most harrowing of these incidents occurred in Amsterdam, Schipol Airport some six years ago when a burly female security officer thought nothing of grabbing the front of my bra and twanging it forwards before letting it go so that it snapped back painfully. Presumably she was hoping something would fall out.
‘Just the usual in there’, I quipped. Not a titter.
I having a sneaking suspicion that my metal-detector allure was due to the fact that for many years I looked a little like a hippy, but in recent years have tried to appear more ordinary. I should perhaps mention the alternative theory, proposed by people who I counted among friends, that I am not called Dozy Rosie for nothing, and that it has taken twenty years of regular flying for me to remember to remove my bracelets, and that getting a much needed haircut had nothing to do with it. Shows what they know.
All this is roundabout way of getting to my maddest airport security story which, as previously mentioned, took place when flying Ethiopian Internal Airlines from Axum back home to Addis Ababa. It had been a hell of a journey already when we were finally able to trudge towards the gate. Our flight bad been delayed for over twenty four hours, which, for a one hour flight, I’m sure you’ll agree, was something of an achievement, and all we wanted was to get back home.
Now I’m sure you are under the impression that a nine-year-old girl is an unlikely hijacker, but apparently not. Alright, my parents might have been over-ambitious to expect to get through with those pots of marmalade, I mean we all know how sticky it can be and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that we might have planned to smother the pilot with it, but how they thought my nine-year-old sister’s plastic killer whale would advance the heinous plot I do not know. Yes, you heard me correctly, a plastic killer whale. About eighteen centimetres long with red eyes and an evil grin the killer whale had played the essential villain in many imaginative games between me and my sisters, a quality which airport security at Axum airport clearly recognised. Puzzled by the unfamiliar shape in my sister’s bag they had her remove it and then spent the next ten minutes passing it worriedly around before confiscating it and finally allowing us through. Of course we have spent many hours trying to understand what they could possibly have thought it was and in what way it could disrupt the flight, but apart from hitting the pilot very hard over the head with it or poking him in the eye with the dorsal fin, we have so far come up with nothing.

Posted by rosiescott 05:11 Comments (0)

Have realised I'm a crap storyteller...

And a massive whinging sesh.

rain

Hello Darlings!
Well aren't you lucky, I've decided to post again after only a couple of days. First spare minute I've had in ages actually, and I'm spending it talking to you, so...you can be grateful or not, I don't mind. X
So I've realised I have actually started and failed to finish a few stories along my way; this is because I generally don't plan what I am going to write, I just sit down and say whatever comes into my disorganised little mind. So, here goes, I am going to finish telling you the story of the bees...
Actually, there's not a whole lot more to tell, it's not really a fun story anyway, as you'll probably have gathered. My parent's friend Janet had unfortunately run in completely the opposite direction from all of us, and through her bad luck had been chased by pretty much all of the bees. She let out an unholy scream as she ran; a less Janet-like sound there has never been, and even now it gives me shivers to think about it. They chased her until she tripped and fell, rolling down the hill into small valley that the stream had made as it trickled down the hill. She hit her head and was stung to hell but luckily wasn't hurt too badly. Needless to say it ruined her holiday and, perhaps worst of all, she missed the chimps the next day, but we're lucky it wasn't worse. It makes you realise how incredibly brave (or crazy) Jane Goodall must have been to live out there almost alone and to trek by herself through those forests.
Second, I remember I promised to tell you all about the BBC and the fun fun times that we had at the St Andrews Open; I'm not sure I've actually got enough bile at the moment but I'll have a go...
I LOVE the BBC. I honestly think they are brilliant and until the Open I would have forgiven them anything, but not now. They were all staying at the inn where I worked as a waitress over the summer. Let me just say at the beginning of that week I was an absolutely rubbish waitress but by the end of it had morphed into a new breed of superhero...Wonder Waitress!
Wonder Waitress!
All our hopes (of getting fed this evening) are pinned on you!
She can clear a table of ten
And she never forgets her pen
Wonder Waitress!
I have absolutely no interest in golf whatsoever. It is a sad, but true, fact that all golfers are dicks. They make unwise trouser choices, they brag noisily over breakfast, they drag their poor wives to dead towns like St Andrews so they won't have to pay for caddies and they then cheat on those wives with ten to fifteen different women. OK, so that's not all[i] golfers. But they are all dicks. Unfortunately the BBC crew reporting on the golf happened to be dicks as well. The restaurant was packed non stop from 6 till midnight every night, which as you can imagine was already quite tiring. However the BBC would [i]without fail turn up every night at about 10.30 having insisted throughout the day that they wouldn't be eating with us and not to worry. Try telling a chef who has finished for the night that, on the contrary, he has to stay on and fix three courses for 20 odd loud, ungrateful, hungry bastards who have been out in the rain all day pretending to care about golf. I think anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant knows that chefs are not the gentlest of people. Stressed chefs are bloody terrifying. They were always always always the last ones to leave the restaurant and yeah, staying till 1.30 is great for the overtime but not for the feet when you've already been on them for seven hours!
One of the most annoying things about the BBC lot (before you ask there wasn't anyone particularly interesting, only ones I recognised were loud, red-faced Clare Balding and Chris Evans, off of he used to be married to Billie Piper) was that they would always ask for a table for two or three people and then would gradually add more and more people to it throughout the evening causing the maximum amount of disruption to the restaurant. People trying to eat around them would be made to move about and listen to tables being dragged across the room while the waiting staff would then have an interesting little quest to find the person whose food they were trying to serve and who had since changed positions. On one occasion the most annoying member of the group (when I find out who he is I will kill him, for now we'll call him Craig because it has been my experience that people with that name generally have the same sort of personality as this guy) had ordered a burger in the bar and had since changed his order from burger to lobster thermadour (who does that for a start??).
'Hey Babe.'
Babe? Facepalm. 'Yes?'
'What was that I saw you going past with just now?'
'That was lobster thermadour.'
'Oh, great, I'll have that.'
'Not the burger?'
'Nope. Thanks, Jeannie.'
'You're welcome, Craig.'
'Um, my name's not Craig.'
'My name's not Jeannie. I'll get that order changed for you.'
The thermador plate was big, heavy and very hot so I picked it up and hurried to the bar, only to find that Craig had gone walkabout. I eventually found him standing in the restaurant putting tables together (pissed of course) and asked him if I should take his lobster back to the kitchen to keep warm. 'No, no' he said, 'just wait there'. So I did. I waited until my fingers had blistered from the heat of the plate and Craig still hadn't found anywhere to sit since he kept changing positions hoping to be nearer to Clare Balding. 'Oooh, can I be nearer to you Clare. Oh that's so interesting Clare. Wow, Clare they let you in front of the camera that must be because you're a wonderful telly person and I'm just a little arse-licking worm!' Wow look at that I did have enough bile. Obviously, though they largely seemed to be engaged in a contest over who could speak the loudest in a small crowded restaurant, they all hung on Clare Balding's every word. Because she is on the telly and therefore better than them. Eventually I put the lobster on the table near to Clare, figuring this would be a safe bet, and went back to the still room to shove my hand into my glass of iced water.
Wow I could go on and on, about the time Craig picked up a singer and took her back to his room having spoken to her for about 45 minutes, about the annoyance of constantly being mistaken for my sister (we don't look that alike!) and being called Jeannie, about Clare Balding saying I looked like a child (I'm 22), about the back ache that I didn't shake off for months and blame entirely on those fuckers...but I just don't have the energy. Also I have a feeling this post is becoming slightly mean spirited and I do NOT want any of you ending up on the side of the big, loud, hundred-quid-wine-buying, pissed, spoilt, rude, patronising, golf-loving nobs that are the BBC.
Love you all
XXX

Posted by rosiescott 06:10 Archived in Scotland Comments (0)

Quick catch up.

I really shouldn't be doing this but...

rain

Hello, I missed you all. I know, I was gone ages but I have been very very very busy. By my standards anyway. In fact I shouldn't really be writing this now because I have an essay to write and I have to finish it today. It's about D. H. Lawrence and Thomas Hardy so is a tad on the dry side.
Anyway I just thought I'd quickly tell you all about the day that Jeannie and I went on the catamaran, mainly just to cheer myself up.
Basically it was a really good day, apart from the weather. I couldn't believe how crap it was, I mean this is Mauritius for God's sake! It rained pretty much none stop; the kind of sharp, angular rain which actually hurts your face, especially if you are already on a boat (is it wrong to call a catamaran a boat?) going pretty fast anyway. Needless to say I dealt with it by starting on the vodkas and coke at about 11.00 (don't judge me most people started way earlier!) and allowing the gentle alcohol haze to warm me up. Poor Jeannie feels the cold a lot and so was a bit miserable for some of it. At one point we actually decided to go swimming in the sea to warm ourselves up. This may not sound so weird because the Indian Ocean's supposed to warm right? Wrong! It was freezing the whole time we were there. Even my mum who comes from a family of dedicated campers, hikers and outdoor lovers in the miserable English summer was wimping out and saying, 'No, it's too cold, I think I'll just go and have a mint infusion instead.' WUSS!
Anyways (Why do I keep saying that), the fish were amazing, I think the best I've ever seen in Mauritius. I love to creep out the really big, slow-moving ones by continuing to swim directly above them. We saw one that was ENORMOUS! Of course I love the really big ones and the diddy ones the best. There was a school of tiny ickle bickle newborn zebra fish, each of which was about as big as my thumbnail. On several occasions I had that frustrating moment that snorkelling often brings when you see something so gorgeous that you want to tell the person you're with about it, and they're really not that far away from you, but yell as you might you can't get them to hear you. It's a very odd sort of world, really. The way you can just be treading water at one point and be deafened by radios on the decks of the catamarans and by groups of people getting more and more drunk, and then suddenly you plunge your head into a silent, slow-motion world where it's not raining and there are no waves, just a slightly insidious drag that every so often you realise has taken you far away from your boat while you were mesmerised by the colours of the effortlessly graceful fish. Wow that was along sentence! Breathe now.
Anyway that was that. We swam, we snorkelled, we ate seafood by the bucketful, we had embarrassing photos taken of us in our cozzies and then I ended by tipsily joining in with the (yummy) captain on a duet of 'Hey Jude'. Yes ladies and gentleman that, as they say, is the life!
XXX

Posted by rosiescott 01:39 Archived in Mauritius Tagged trip! catamaran Comments (0)

In which Rosie gets hot on a bus and cold on a plane

Hop, skip and a jump to Mauritius

sunny 22 °C

Hop:

Bus from St Andrews to Glasgow.
Honestly I wouldn't normally even include this section of the journey but it was actually one of the worst sections of a basically twenty four hour journey. It was only about 2 and a half hours, but you wouldn't think so from the amount of whingeing that went on by my adorable sister. I admit, I was uncomfy too, it was way too hot and they had the heating on so I couldn't put my feet on the floor. And I'm a fidget at the best of times. But Jeannie (my sis) panics about travel way more than she needs to. And even though I had left about five hours for us to get to airport before our flight she was still panicking about us arriving late.

Skip:

Glasgow to Dubai.
Again really hot and sweaty. Unusual because planes are usually freezing. We were flying Emirates, yes! I will recommend Emirates to anybody who asks. I have, somewhat depressingly, been on about four planes a year for the last twenty years but have NEVER been in Business class or First Class. But on Emirates that's ok. You get your own little telly screen with loads of films to choose from (okay they were mainly shite but I blame Hollywood for that, not Emirates) and the leg-room's not half bad. The meal was actually pretty good though why they give you so many little lids on things I will never know. They are all liable to fall off the tray at some point during the meal and disappear under the seat in front of you. Of course having your meal tray out you can't move an inch and have to become close friends with the elbows of the person next to you if you want to so much as spread your marge. Once the tray's removed however you still can't get at whatever's fallen under the seat unless you A) are a contortionist (I actually considered this for a while when I was about 8 and I could put both legs round the back of my head) B) are Barack Obama (he has quite long arms. Also he probably has small people who will just reach things for him if he wants them) or C) give a shit.

Jump:

Dubai to Mauritius
By the time we arrived in Dubai I was, I admit, in a very bad mood. I was very hot and Jeannie's constant worrying about whether we were going to make our next flight (we had 3 HOURS before it took off) was beginning to jar. If that's how you spell jar. I hate being mad at her anyway, it's like kicking Bambi. Or Elmo. Yes, we had a small fight. I wanted to go and find showers where I could make myself feel a little more human and she wanted to go to the gate. In righteous fury I did as she had wanted and arrived at the gate an hour and half before take off. This gave me plenty of time to fume while I sat in a deliberately uncomfortable position with steam coming out of my ears while Jeannie kicked off her shoes and relaxed with her iPod. All ended well however as I nipped to the bathroom to splash water on my face (and possibly my underarms if no one was watching) and quite by chance found a shower that I could just walk into. Little tip for you, people (possibly the only useful piece of information you will ever get from this blog), there are showers in some of the bathrooms in Dubai Airport that you can use for free. Yey!
The flight to Mauritius might have been good, bad or indifferent, I wouldn't know. In a rather sweet way Jeannie and I forgot our quarrel and within ten minutes had settled down to sleep on each other's shoulders. And there we stayed, she for about four and half hours, me for about five. Thank you, Nytol. Probably the less said about the breakfast the better; let's just say I don't think omelette should be steamed.

Well now I'm here I'm sure I'll have other things to tell you about endless beautiful days relaxing in the sunshine...my tan is already looking rather good.
Gotta love and leave ya now
Cheers X

Posted by rosiescott 05:39 Archived in Mauritius Tagged plane journey Comments (0)

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