Thursday, June 22, 2017

Olive Garden Restaurant Fail

Today, my friend and I decided to treat ourselves to lunch at OG, one of our favorite places to eat. We arrived promptly at 11 am, were seated, made our selections, and waited for the magic to happen.

My friend's soup 'n salad came to the table, along with a big bowl of salad, so we began by serving ourselves from the salad bowl. There were big chunks of the ends of lettuce, far too many pieces of wilted lettuce, and only 2 black olives in the whole bowl. My friend finished her salad and said she'd wait to eat her soup until I received my salmon. Finally, I summoned the waiter and asked where my salmon was as it had literally been 25 minutes since I ordered it and still no sign of my entrée. He went back to the kitchen to check, and came back to tell me it would be up shortly. I urged C to eat her soup and enjoy another bowl of salad, but we both were grossed out by the salad and didn't want to eat any of what remained in the bowl.

Finally, my salmon and broccoli arrived. The broccoli was plain, no sauce/no seasoning/no butter, and it tasted just warm enough to have been put into the microwave and been heated. He offered to go back to the kitchen and get another serving of broccoli, so I decided to move on to the salmon. The salmon was dry; again, no sauce and no seasoning. I took about 3 bites and called the server back. I told him that so far, my lunch was an epic fail and I had no intention of eating anything else.

The manager came to our table and was polite and pleasant, apologizing for our meal and comping it, which was a good move as I hadn't eaten more than 4-5 bites of anything. My friend left behind most of her bowl of soup, but did manage to eat at least one serving of salad.

I appreciated the response from the employees, but left hungry enough to drive all the way home and fix myself some lunch. I won't hurry back to Olive Garden, but will give them another try ... later.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Hunnerd 'n Wot?

It is challenging to describe to anyone how hot it is when the temp is at 122 degrees. Yes, 122 degrees. Most people say something inane, like "it's a dry heat," not realizing how really hot dry heat is. Want to check it out? Put your face into your oven while you're baking cookies: it's dry heat, too, but still darned hot.

I'm staying inside as the sun can literally burn my skin in minutes. The older I get, the thinner my skin is, and I feel as if I'm holding my arms over an open flame. There is a definite burn wherever the skin and sun meet.

If I had a clothesline, my clothes would be dry before I could finish hanging a load. As it is, I have to run the dryer, which seems ridiculous when it's so hot outside.

My cooler is running non-stop. I have it set at 86 degrees as it's much cooler when compared to the outside temps, and I don't need to refrigerate myself to feel comfortable. There are cooling centers throughout the valley to help homeless residents deal with the heat, which is a necessity in this temp range, not a luxury.

Yep, it really is 122 degrees out, but we're reassured that the temps are cooling down -- expecting 118 tomorrow, a total cooling off trend!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Startled!

I made my way to the dentist office for a cleaning this morning, only to find that I had arrived a day early. Not to worry, I told the receptionist -- I'll go home and come back tomorrow. Arrived home, petted the dogs a bit, then decided to go in and read as I have a book I'm reading for an author as part of his ART, which is his Advance Readers' Team, and I need to comment.

Next thing I knew, I was shooting up into the air as if a cannon were underneath my body, yelling "Shit!", and grabbing for my shoes. I believed it was tomorrow and I was late for my dental appointment. It took a couple of minutes for my mind to clear enough for me to realize it was still today and I had the rest of today until I had to go to the dentist tomorrow.

Jet lag is crazy stuff. I know I was concerned about driving home from LAX on my arrival back from China, and I did, indeed, sleep until noon the next day, having gone to bed at 8 pm the night before. I thought I was over the worst of it, but I guess today caught me unawares and still in the throws of jet lag.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Naked Baby Bath

The one custom I'm not accustomed to is the Naked Baby Bath. Few older residences have what we would call a bathroom, but is often a small facility created in the kitchen so it can hook into the water for the kitchen sink. Most of them have a washbasin and a toilet, with a small, hand-held shower nozzle for a quick wet wash. When the family needs to bathe, usually only once a week or once every other week, they go to a public bath-house. There, mothers wash themselves and their children, scrubbing firmly to remove a week's worth, or two week's worth, of grime. They are quite comfortable with this routine -- and I asked the men and they look forward to it like athletes look forward to the locker room.

I, however, have some body issues right now, including the fact that I am easily 50 pounds overweight and sagging in all the wrong places. Did not matter how many times I declined going to the bath: the routine was set and I was part of it, so off we went. I cannot begin to tell you how uncomfortable I was to remove my clothing in a Chinese bath-house!! It's a very nice facility and quite popular, judging by the number of women enjoying their baths, but all eyes were turned my way. Ugh. I had to suck it up and go with the program as there was no way to say "no, thank you, but I'll pass" with a roomful of women watching my every movement. I did not represent well for American women on this age-old tradition.

First, I showered. This is the first step in removing the grime, but just the start. Next, one relaxes in the whirlpool, which is really nice but would be better not naked. Then came my special treat, called the "naked baby" bath, which means someone else vigorously removes all the dead skin and dirt from one's body, beginning at the toes and ending at the top of the head. The abrasion burned like hell on my really delicate skin that is more so since I'm aging, and it brought tears to my eyes. Of course, having someone else "bathe" me just wasn't comfortable for me, but the sooner I sucked it up, the sooner I could get my clothes back, so I just closed my eyes and went with it.

After I was deemed clean enough, I was given some shorts and a matching top and sent off to the meditation room to wait for the massage-giver to come and give me a massage. It was heavenly having my feet and legs done, and then my back, and I actually felt myself relaxing after the humiliation of the naked baby part of the treatment.

I was quite happy to be back in my own clothes and on my way home after my nice, relaxing spa day. But, when Auntie asked me to go with her to the bath before I left for home, I politely declined. Repeatedly. It's the only time she gave into my wishes the whole time I was living with her and boy! was I ever glad she listened. I don't know if I could have survived another naked baby bath!

My Trip to China 2017

Visiting China is exciting, exhilarating, and interesting above all expectations. There is so much history for today’s residents and visitors to see that it’s challenging to see it all in a mere two weeks, so I’ll just highlight some of the events.

The Forbidden City at The Emperor’s Palace in Beijing is almost a spiritual place, filled with centuries of history on display. The actual buildings have been maintained well, and several of the individual rooms have been used to form a museum of artifacts from past Chinese dynasties. Jewelry, weaponry, pottery, and some almost unbelievable clocks are part of the displays and create a feeling for the opulence of past centuries. There are also rooms set up to capture the feeling of where the Emperor slept and his concubines lived, as well as some spectacular jade pieces on exhibit.

While in Beijing, we also visited the place where President Obama and China’s President exchanged gifts. We saw a display of past gift exchanges, featuring exquisite hand-made ladies’ purses. At this venue, we also climbed two towers: 60 steps on the first flight, followed by another 15 steps, all of which were as steep as ladders almost did me in, but I made it! Adjacent to this historic site is the original “city” of Beijing, which includes building so old and decrepit that’s it challenging to believe people still live in them. Y hired two bicycle-powered carts to ride us through this old city, which is teeming with people and industry in the form of small businesses.

Taking the bullet train to Beijing and back to Shenyang was fun and a quick ride. I noticed how much of the land adjacent to the train tracks is cultivated. Seldom is there a property that is not growing something, even in the most challenging venues, such as the sides of the mountains. Y’s Auntie, the woman with whom I stayed, has planted a variety of veggies and fruits, such as strawberries and eggplant, on little pieces of dirt within the confines of her apartment building, keeping to the tradition of growing as much of what the family needs to eat because there is little money available to purchase from the vendors at the street markets. The saving of whatever there is option is very much part of the Chinese culture.

It is interesting to see the hundreds of very high-rise buildings along the railway. There is no way the buildings are all occupied as the standard of living for the majority of Chinese cannot afford the high rents, and I'm sure there aren't enough businesses to ensure even 50% occupancy. When we went to the southern part of Shenyang for me to stay overnight before getting on the plane back home, I was totally amazed at the hundreds of huge, empty buildings just sprouted from the earth as if clusters of trees in a forest. It creates a look of wealth that simply is not the reality for the majority of the residents in this part of China.

We went to the wedding, held at a venue that does nothing but wedding productions. It was very staged and almost phony in its presentation, but the groom and his bride were obviously happy with the entire process. One reason so many of the young people stage marriages is that the only acceptable gift is a red envelope with a cash donation. They aren’t into bridal showers and/or bridal gifts. This couple had already been married in a civil ceremony, but his father is very ill and in the hospital, so they are short on cash; hence, the red envelopes filled with cash to help with medical expenses. The couple is living with his mother, which cuts down on their personal expenses.

We left when the couple came to our table and the bride poured a glass of wine for the women and the groom lit cigarettes for the men at the table. I’m not sure why this is part of the wedding tradition, but being in a very large venue with a whole lot of smoking going on is not workable with my asthma, so we made our apologies and departed the event. I did bring back the metal canister that housed the wine and one of the empty bottles, the same as I did during my last visit to Shenyang.

I was invited back to visit the kindergarten that I visited the first time I was in China. The woman in charge of the program told me how much the children enjoyed meeting an American teacher, and she wanted me to come see how much the program has grown. We went to a newer site this time, and I was very impressed with how much visual stimulation there is for the children in colors, shapes, and pictures on the walls. They have mock stores, post office, bank, first aid station and a restaurant for student role-playing, which totally impressed me. I donated a bag of coins I had brought for the student bank, and the kids freaked out over American money. One of the boys pulled out the shiniest pennies and clutched them in his closed fist, unwilling to give them back to the teacher! We sang some songs, I was touched by a lot of Chinese children’s eager hands, and we left feeling totally uplifted by the visit.

For my birthday, the family had a huge celebration at Auntie’s, where I stayed during my visit. There was so much food and 10 people packed around her table that usually sits 4. Lots of beer-drinking going on, so it got noisy, but it was fun. Auntie had bought a birthday cake, a pink and white confection that was 2/3 sticky sweet icing and 1/3 white cake that was not sweet at all. Chinese don’t generally like sweets, so I think I only served 4 slices of the confection, but Auntie pretty much polished it off the next day.

I did have a chance to go back to the large exercise venue and watched the men/ women doing their routines. I also played on all the various pieces of equipment for personal training, and it was fun. Because the people in Shenyang don’t get many American visitors, I became an instant celebrity, and had to pose for dozens of pictures before I could leave the park. If I ever win the lottery (I know; I have to buy tickets to have any chance at all of winning anything), I will donate the money to have one of the family exercise parks built in my community as they are such a good idea. I could hire some Chinese to come to the opening event and demonstrate the series of exercises that make up the well-being program, and then appoint some locals to carry on with the concept. If I ever win the lottery, that is. …

My plane back to California left an hour later than scheduled and I didn’t sleep at all on the way home. I watched 3 videos, which is unusual for me, but I became pretty good at watching vids with close-captioning on Auntie’s TV during my two weeks with her. My ride was waiting for me and took me to my car, but before I left for home, I took him and the woman at whose home my car was garaged for the two weeks I was gone, out to dinner at a local … Chinese … restaurant. Yes, really, Chinese food for one last hurrah before coming back to the Hispanic desert scene. I had horrendous traffic issues on the way home, stop and go all the way from LA to San Bernardino, but made it home in time to greet my very happy to see me dogs. I went to bed at 8 pm and didn’t wake up until noon the next day!!

It’s hard to express how much I enjoyed my visit and on so many different levels. The Chinese are wary of strangers, but receptive at the same time. When I was asked if I will come back, I promised to do so for my 75th birthday, provided I am still alive and on my own two feet!