Thursday, October 31, 2002

Finished my first set of training the other day. Was 'evaluated' by the class. Don't think anyone who knows me would believe me scoring higher for the 'training ability of the trainer' (4.3 out of 5) than the 'technical knowlage of the trainer' (3.3 out of 5). I guess that those who can't, teach.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2002

"Hello! Chairman Mao watch!". I'm now the proud owner of one of the above.

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Message for Alan (Pam and Rhian may also be interested).

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Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Slept like a baby, thanks for asking.

Think I'll spend some time this weekend buying some warm clothes after looking at the forecast: Cold and Colder. Thought I was ok until I realised the temps are in Fahrenheit

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Monday, October 28, 2002

Shattered today. Need a good sleep.

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Sunday, October 27, 2002

The ship came in.
Picked up Matt from the Shanghai International Ferry Terminal, maybe you can tell that the building didn't quite fit it's grand name.

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Saturday, October 26, 2002

Went on a trip to Zhouzhuang 'water village' in a minibus. Was heaven to get out of the city, see some open space and breathe some fresh air. Village was apparently made famous by a painting done of this (and this)double bridge. Here are some pics (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Almost bought a glass ball that had been painted from the inside ("Hello! Inside painting!") They had one of a globe (without the British Isles for some reason) but it was too big. They fetched me a smaller one which had the words "Europe" "Russia" "America" scrawled across it. I wanted one written in Chinese.
The guide took us to a tea room after we arrived back in Shanghai. They demonstrated how to make and taste Chinese tea. We tasted four different types, Jasmine tea was the most palatable. They tried to charge us silly prices for packets of the tea we’d tasted. I have surprised myself by enjoying the green tea they serve in restaurants. Started off hating it but now find it pretty refreshing.

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Friday, October 25, 2002

Flight home booked for 22nd December.

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Thursday, October 24, 2002

My class had their first assessment this morning. I felt a bit like a teacher at exam time as I paced the room for the first ten minutes after they were given their papers.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

The Chinese fast food place I mentioned yesterday is called "My Warm Day Quick Food". The cute (as in cute, not fit) but slightly annoying girl who works there and looks after us seems to have latched on to one of our group. She bounds after him when he arrives like a dog greeting it's master home from work. She stands next to him while he's trying to eat and asks how to pronounce his name, where he is from, where he works etc. all in soft, excitable and incessant pigeon-English. All he wants to do is eat his noodles. Anyway, today we asked what her English name is, she tells us it's 'Apple'.

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Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Japanese food last night in one of those Sushi bars with the revolving conveyer belt. Enjoyed the sushi and the raw fish and octopus we ordered (although the octopus was very chewy).
For some reason someone ordered an ice-cream for my desert, blatantly disobeying my rule against ordering out of place items from specialist restaurants. For the same reason that you have no right to be disappointed with the steak and chips you ordered from the back of the menu in a harbor-side seafood restaurant, or the espresso and cognac you ordered from the local curry house, you should not expect exotic Italian style ice cream from a Japanese sushi bar. My rule still stands. The small cardboard tub I was presented with contained a grey ice-cream like substance which I was talked into tasting after being told it tasted of cherries. It didn’t taste of anything really, certainly not cherries, maybe frozen tap water with sugar if I was forced to pin it down. I would have been happier with frozen swede.

While I’m on the subject of food, you may be interested to know that we’re having quite some success with Chinese fast-food style places. It’s very cheap and you get rice or noodles, some soup, some meat and a brown hard boiled egg included in the meal. In the place we use for lunch they even know to cut up the saucer sized chicken breast into small strips (after being tipped off by a customer who was fed up watching us struggle to eat with chopsticks on our first visit).

On a slightly different note, I'd like to (finally) welcome my father to the internet. He did something very brave and quite amazing a few weeks ago when he went out and bought himself a computer. Here's to teaching old dogs new tricks. Nice one dad.
Finaly the boy starts his new job in Bournemouth this week so best of luck for that. Hope they don't keep you too long down there else the cats will forget you.

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It had stopped raining so I walked into work this morning. Turned out to be a thirty minutes exercise in obstacle avoidance. Here are some of the obstacles I had to avoid:

Breakfast: There's a little ally next to our building containing about twenty or thirty very active kitchens and eating areas (plastic tables and chairs). Even though there’s hardly any room to walk down this ally with all the breakfasting going on, mopeds still favor the street as a handy shortcut, tearing down it with their hands on their horns.

Cars and buses: General rule of thumb for crossing the road here is to follow what the locals do. No walker pays much attention to the ‘red man’ mainly because it’s green friend is not the harbinger of pedestrian safety we all know and love. Green generally means that anything (mainly a taxi) driving directly at you will come at you from an unconventional angle with respect to the intersection, rather than the standard ninety degrees from your right or left.

Bikes: These are everywhere. It’s far worse than Amsterdam as there are no bike paths. They follow the highway code as a car or a pedestrian depending on what better meets their needs at a particular time. They also frequently have trailers or the rider is carrying something comical like a ladder or a pane of glass.

Mopeds: These pretend to be bikes, but travel about 20 miles an hour faster.

Water from above: Mainly from people’s washing that overhangs the pavement. Clothes are hung up anywhere there is space. Normally from frames protruding from upstairs windows, but failing that electricity pylons.

Water from below: My feet got ‘washed’ by the street wetting machine twice.. Once while was off the pavement avoiding general clutter, and once while crossing the road with some locals.

Shops: Many of these are just shop fronts which are pretty full of tat. The general shop activities are then free to spill onto the street. Bike repairing is a favorite.

I turned up for work a little sweaty (although the temperature has cooled considerably) and rather smelly courtesy of the stale water from the street washing machine, and the orange I busied myself with peeling and eating during my journey.

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Sunday, October 20, 2002

Having mixed success with Chinese household appliances. Was privileged to some inside information suggesting program B on the washing machine, clothes seem to have turned out ok. The extractor fan in the bathroom is controlled from a bewildering panel of five switches . Have managed to figure out on/off and blow/suck, but have no idea as to the function of the other three. Kitchen also contains a device that I think was described as a ‘steriliser’. Sits above the sink looking a bit like a microwave. Two buttons on the front panel activate some sort of ultra-violet zapper (not quite sure about the technology behind this, would need small pet to verify) and a hot air dryer. I rinsed a plate, glass, knife and fork and zapped then dried them using this machine. Think I'll just use it as a drier in future.

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Is a particularly miserable day today. Don't imagine I'll be going out until this evening. Had a plan to find an Irish / ex-pat pub (always useful for watching the rugby), but that would mean a one hour walk in the rain as I don't have the address in Chinese for the taxi. Plan to do some work on my presentation for Monday and catch up on some washing.

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Saturday, October 19, 2002

View at night (worked out how to do night pics on my camera)

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Something for your Christmas lists:

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Couple of views from my balcony: here and here . You can guess what they're going to build in place of the houses in the second photo. Was a bit disturbing to see lights coming from a number of these homes last night.

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Friday, October 18, 2002

It rained today for pretty much the first time since I arrived. Seems that Taxis become very scarce when it rains.. had to walk home from the office. Couple of people offered to sell me their umbrellas on the way. Lost the other guys as I refused to stand at the side of the road and wait for an empty taxi any longer (I gave it about 10 minutes), was only a 20 mins walk but I got pretty wet. Am missing English language programming on the TV. CCTV international (China Central TV’s international news program) is on for a few hours in the evening. Now all I can find is ‘Star Sports’ which is showing some third rate motor racing. There are rumors of CNN and ESPN coming to this building by the end of the month.. I await with baited remote. My class were pretty much left to their own devices today. I presented the one remaining slide in the morning and that lasted an hour. After that I left them to get on with practicing what I’d talked about yesterday. I start again with the presentations on Monday. Took advantage of the culture and had a couple of ‘naps’ this afternoon, didn’t drop off but was nice to close my eyes. Glad to see that Martians are being considered for the Welsh team.

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Thursday, October 17, 2002

Have a very sore throat after giving my first full day of training. Spoke v.e.r.y. s.l.o.w.l.y and clearly... They told me I was easy to understand which made it all worthwhile. The picture of Wales and the Welsh flag on my fifth slide went down well. Some had heard that Wales had beaten Italy in soccer the night before, the dragon on the flag also went down well this being China and all, they described it as a 'flying dragon'. Had their project manager in my training sessions which was a bit unnerving. Had just one 'napper', but that was while we were waiting for everyone to arrive back after lunch, not during my speech.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Another aspect of Chinese working life I admire:

Choosing a 'western name' The ability to re-christen yourself for the purpose of doing business with westerners. I would dearly love to decide one day that from now on I was now to be known by such a name as : 'Wilson', 'King', 'Mac' or 'Yankee'*. Of course I am able to (and expected to) pick a Chinese name for myself, probably someone will pick one for to complete some administrative task. I just hope it's pronounceable and that the meaning behind the characters is something other than 'Big White Number One' (as the characters of a colleague’s name were interpreted as).

* This probably leads back to my wish for a temporary American style name such as 'Randy' or 'Trent'. I'd already given myself a Starbucks name of 'Chuck' while I was in the US (I gave up using 'Geraint' in such situations after I noticed they'd written 'Jean' on the paper coffee cup), but it never took off outside the world of fast food and beverages.

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Finaly we moved. my new home, unfortunatly I'll only be there for 2 weeks. The kitchen contains a rice machine and a electric water cooker (I made the assumtion that this was the kettle when checking the inventory list).

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Tuesday, October 15, 2002

Some of the habits and customs I could get used to:

Sleeping on the job: I'd love to introduce this practice into our working culture. Wherever you go working people are fast asleep at their posts. In the office it's common to find one or two people at any one time with their arms folded on desk and supporting their lifeless head. Shopkeepers, stationary taxi drivers, you’ll see many examples while walking along the street. I once walked past a restaurant window to see a table of six employees all napping in this way. It’s a nice idea that whenever you think to yourself during the day, “I could just do with a little nap now”, you can just go ahead and have one. I'd take some pictures, but I'm always scared they'll wake up.

Spitting anywhere and everywhere: ... rather the extremely loud and unnearving "phlegm-ing up" that precedes the ejection. You'll hear such a duo of sounds every minute or so while walking down a busy street. Ok, it's pretty disgusting, and I myself have never been able to follow through with the whole act (I struggle to preserve moisture as it is). I have found it extremely satisfying though to at least pretend to spit in response to an action from another human being. Say someone pushes past you in the street, or a colleague of yours says something to annoy you; where you may otherwise have cursed them under your breath, it's now possible to make one of the most loud and disgusting noise your body can voluntarily produce, and have them none the wiser to your intended meaning. It's also rather humorous, and can therefore serve to defuse some tension from the situation.

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Here is itinerary for next month's trip:
03-11-02 Depart Shanghai
04-11-02 Arrive Beijing
16-11-02 Depart Beijing
17-11-02 Arrive Mongolia
20-11-02 Depart Mongolia
22-11-02 Arrive Irkutsk
26-11-02 Depart Irkutsk
29-11-02 Arrive Moscow
03-12-02 Depart Moscow
04-12-02 Arrive Shanghai
Those of you on my postcard list had better prepare your postmen.

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Monday, October 14, 2002

People seem to be missing my food posts. Was hot-pot tonight where a large bowl containing a couple of sauces (in which are contained a multitude of small food items, savory and novelty) is placed on a burner in the centre of the table. Uncooked meat, fish and vegetable are then yours to drop, dunk, drown and retrieve with chopsticks and ladle. Could have done with a tip sheet listing food item vs safe minimum boiling time. Will tell tomorrow. Anyway, as you may have guessed, am a huge fan of interactive food.

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Saturday, October 12, 2002

Finally found some deodant here . Family name coming up trumps. Cost me about 8 quid by at least I no longer stink of expensive aftershave. Walked solidly for 5 hours today, am knackered. This city is huge! Didn't move hotel, can't say I'm that surprised.

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Can't wait for my hero to arrive in Shanghai. The Chinese characters under his name can be translated as "devoid of personality"

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Some pics from my b-day. Nice of some many locals to turn out on the street to celebrate with me (it was a national holiday). Presents were a very welcome blow up novelty purple mallet and flashing florescent green necklace. Here, the hammer man about to attack. more peaceful times

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Friday, October 11, 2002

Have run out of deodrant and can't seem to find any here (Matt can you bring me some). Am taking three showers a day and changing my shirt twice a day but I recon I still stink. Will try the western supermarket.

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Am forcing myself to eat a rather sour grapefruit; have lost my vitamin tablets and am starting to worry about contracting scurvy. Considering that I am traditionaly a '5 apple a day' man, this trip must be something of a shock to my body. The only variety of apples they have here are huge, funny looking and not particularly tasty. I still don't like bananas. Bought some grapes once, but gave up on them after disturbing an average of one living creature for every grape I pulled from the stem.

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Working from home again today, am quite lonely here on my own, but unable to get any real work done from the office as I always get pulled aside to help other people out. We're supposed to be moving to new appartments on Saturday, that would make this our last night here.

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Was offered "Chinese Lady" by a scruffy looking pimp last night. Thought it would never happen to me, others had been offered "massage" by a woman outside Starbucks, or had been woken at 6-30am every morning for a week by a phone call offereing "mash-arge!".

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Thursday, October 10, 2002

Views from the gym in the hotel, I spend lots of my time here. Sorry about the reflection but the whole room is full of mirrors. On this one the tall building on the far left is the office where I work (we're on the 6th floor). This one is of the other side of the river

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working from the home (the hotel) today.. Went into the office for a while but there is too much going on and I need to get cracking on these presentations (start next Thursday).

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Wednesday, October 09, 2002

Ordered a whiskey with my after dinner coffee tonight. Ten minutes later the waitress came over an asked "Do you want rock?"

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have added a guest book.. Least I think I have

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Have this world clock running on my desktop.

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Thankfully the temperature has cooled this week.. is now around 22C in the middle of the day. All the guys are back in the office this Tuesday after a week's holiday. Air-con is working fully. The IT guy here has fixed our problem with internet access, some registry hack to change the packet size. As a result can now access Hotmail in work, so no need to use my work address any more.

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View from my hotel window, also

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Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Found my former favorite waste of web time 'Am I hot or not' still exists (and is not blocked in China) as http://www.hotornot.com (thanks to the banner ads on this very site)

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Looks like I'll be back in Shanghai for some work in December. I'll probably fly back from Moscow on the 3rd of Dec to start work on the 5th. Back to the UK for Xmas around the 21st. Will keep interested parties informed. Crossing my fingers that Aeroflot flight from Moscow to Shanghai is fully booked and I get to fly Air China instead.

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Birthday card from Auntie Babs arrived. Reminds me that it's about time to send some postcards.

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I'm in charge of front seat Taxi direction this week as our regular man has left for the US. Even though I'm presented with a zero star driver as my first assignment, I feel I do OK. I'm still not convinced of the merits of the star rating system (star's appear underneath the Drivers ID on the front dash), two star drivers seem distinguishable from the one or zero star guys only by their age. We have to negotiate a number of taxi middlemen when locating a taxi in the mornings, and they invariably direct us towards a low star guy after seeing the locality of our destination (I assume they save the rich fares, airport runs and the like, for the senior guys). We've twice had a three star driver, one deserving of his rank as he wore white driving gloves and kept his cab chilled to at least 10C below the stifling heat outside - so welcome that we didn't want to get out.

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Was taken out for lunch by the manager on the Chinese side yesterday. Best local food so far, very spicy and tasty. Managed at least a couple of chews of 'Chicken's foot' but no one else from our group would agree to allow our guest to order the dog that they had on the menu. Glad we didn't get it in the end as it would have spoiled the rest of the meal. Went out for some drinks in the evening and a meal (all I seem to be talking about recently is food) at an Italian restaurant. Had eaten loads for lunch, so decided just to share a appetiser in the form of a selection of cold meats and cheeses. Subjected myself to considerable mental torture as I tore the synaptic pathways that had been created over the last week of retrieving food from the centre of the table using only chopsticks. We asked the owner for some, but he refused, reminding us that this was an Italian restaurant. Not only did it seem alien to use a fork for this purpose, but it also took much of the fun and interest out of the activity. Food items would not be merely presented and consumed, a period of intense study and appreciation for many qualities of the food item not normally consciously considered such as texture (will it be too slippery to pick up), compressibility, viscosity of the sauce it is contained in (will it drip), colour and size (if I drop it, will it make a noticeable mess on the table cloth), would take place before a chopstick retrieval was attempted. Considering the food in this way before it came anywhere near ones mouth adds considerably to ones appreciation of it.

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Monday, October 07, 2002

Here is picture of current hotel btw.
First day in work.. first (and probably last time I wear a shirt and tie).

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[Sat again]
Did some sightseeing. Tunnel under the Haung Pu river , observation deck of the third tallest building in the world , metro (very clean and modern), People’s square, main shopping street in Shanghai: Najing road and here.. very busy.

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[on Sat]
Woke up at 9am and turned on my mobile to find that Rhys had sent me the Swansea – Turks rugby score.
Hoped the day would improve.

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[On Friday]
Went out to for a meal in a Cantonese restaurant.
Discovered that local tend to eat reasonably early here.
We turned up at 9pm and struggled to find waiter to pay the bill to at the end of the meal as they had all gone home for the night.
Restaurant was in a shopping mall, very modern area, many white shopping centers and trendy shops.
Walked around a bit and found the ‘Silver Court’ apartment building (where we’re planning to move to next week).

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Friday, October 04, 2002

Thankfully air-con has spluttered into life this afternoon, as a result I have stopped perspiring. Lunch was a walk to the 'Alldays' supermarket for some water and an ice cream. Tried to get an explanation from Michael, the manager here, as to why beer was so expensive in a bar / restaurant (> $5 for a can of TsingTao) compared to the shops (< 50 cents for the same can); no resonable explanation given.

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Thursday, October 03, 2002

Still haven’t managed much Chinese food, still only used chopsticks twice (I was quite good though). The canteen for work has been closed all week because of the holiday, and there are only small cafes in the area around work – some kitchens are literally on the street. Ashamedly I even visited Mc Donald’s on Tuesday (it was pretty discussing), KFC yesterday (although I couldn’t bring myself to eat anything there), then The Hard Rock Café and Starbuck last night. We also found a western supermarket in one of the large hotels.. I bought some Chinese beer and grapefruit (was disappointed that there was no Marmite – I thought I could take a pot up with me to breakfast every morning). I have managed to buy some skewered meat off the street, and some nut cake / nougat which was cut from a metre square slab sitting on the back of a bicycle (both were very good, and I still have loads of the cake left). Holiday seems to be winding down as the evening road blocks have been lifted, so was were able to get a taxi home last night (we have been forced to walk though thousands of celebrating locals and half the PLA during the last few days). Work yesterday was almost unbearable, it reached 88F outside and we were in room full of computers with no air conditioning; clothes are practically sodden after a couple of hours. Not sure if AC is switched off to save money (due to the holiday) or for maintenance. I suspect a combination of both. Watched some Chinese children’s programs when I got back, one of them was designed to teach some English words to children, we seemed to skip ‘Hello my name is Ken, I live in Shanghai’ and plunged straight into ‘Peoples hero’s’ (pee-poles hero’s), ‘Liberation’ (Lib-ration), ‘People’s army’, ‘Chinese communist party’ (Chinese commune-ist) and most bizarrely ‘relief sculpture’.

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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

[Mon 30th]
Get to bed before 10pm. Wake at 5 and leave the hotel for a walk at 6-30. Walk along the river towards where I believe the office to be. Many Chinese people out this early - all are exercising mainly practicing Tai-chi (sp) in groups or dancing to various styles of music. Lots of arm waving and stretching.
Also many men flying kites over the river.
Walk for 30 mins, but then it starts to get warm (sun coming up), so turn around for the hotel and breakfast with the others at 8.15.

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Tuesday, October 01, 2002

[Sun 28th]
woke up at 5am to watch the golf.. left the hotel around 11-30 for the airport. Flight was long (12 hours 30 mins), luckily was a business class seat. Slept the last 3 hours. Not for the first time in my life I opened the travel kit they give you and smeared my face with touthpaste (mistaking it for the tube of moisture-iser)

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[Sat 27th]
left the hotel at 8. Got to the airport before 10, was too early really as it was only a local flight. After we boarded we were told there was fog in San Francisco, and we'd be in the air one hour late. This was a bit worrying as we only had 40 mins to make the connection to start with... were told to stay on the plane though as they would hold the next flight. It didn't happen. Stayed in San Francisco overnight to catch the same flight the next day.
Ran in to a large push bike demo in SF, 5000 people on bikes protesting at motor use by blocking off the centre of downtown. Quite amusing to see the car drivers getting annoyed.
Was wearing my traveling clothes (Welsh Rugby shirt), as they wouldn't let us have out suitcases back from the airport, and was spotted by a group of four from Alltwen - had drunk a bit too much to make much sense when talking to them... they didn't believe I was Welsh from my accent.

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[Fri 26th]
football was painful.. Was out of breath from the kick off.. Didn't help that we were playing 3 a side. Not sure who won. Went looking for business cards and failed. Went back to the hotel and to bed.

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