Friday, September 26, 2008

Sofas ahoy!

The title of this post looks vaguely like something from a different language.

But! We got our sofas in today, and I thought I'd post the pictures. This first one is mainly to let you see the art we're going to be using along that wall upstairs. That couch isn't going to be there--under the art will be four tables with chairs.

And then, here you can see the two sides, and then the overall view of the couch area by the window. This part is basically finished--it should look the same when we open.

We went with dark brown and light yellow for the couches, which match the dark wood trim/brown ceiling and the light yellow floor. We also got a few small red pillows for accents.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Renovation Pt. 4

Lately, all the work I've put into the coffee shop has been really... draining. I've been tired, and it seems like at the end of every day, there's more work, not less. More problems I don't know how to solve. (In honor of this, here's a picture of Mark looking a little down.)

However, the past couple of days, things have really been moving. It was awesome getting our speakers installed so that we can play music now while we work, we got the last of our lights installed, and the place is really cleaning up nice. Our sofas are supposed to come tomorrow, and tables and chairs should be maybe this weekend.

And overall, I'm proud of how it turned out. It's really not easy to do renovations in China. Basically I had to choose the dimensions, the design, the style, etc., for every single thing in the shop. For instance, for the bar, I needed to decide the height of the first level of the bar, the height of the top of the bar, how wide, how long, I had to draw the curve for the corners, decide what the top (as in, the part toward the ceiling) of the bar would be like, how far it would come down, how tall that part would be, what materials all these things would be made out of, draw the shelving behind the bar, etc. All using the metric system, of course. I'm lucky the place doesn't look like something out of a bad dream.

Not only that, but I had to decide every material that we used. As for wood sheets, do we buy the ones that are 40 yuan, 65 yuan, 70 yuan, 90 yuan, or 102 yuan? In case you're interested, we went with the 90 yuan ones. And I had to decide that for everything: both types of ceiling materials, the darker wood we used to overlay everything, the colored metal we used for our sign and part of the bar, the stone we used in the kitchen, the glue we used, plaster, everything. We picked it out, bought it, had it shipped to the coffee shop, and sometimes hauled it in ourselves. It took us four days to find paint and have it made, for goodness' sake (including three hours when they didn't get it right of saying, "Okay, add a little more red to that one. Now a little more green to the other one. Okay, let me look at them.").

Anyways. I thought that I would put up some more pictures, in honor of the renovations being almost completely done. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

KFC Throwdown

Okay. So I was the bad guy in KFC today. That happened.

Basically, I had just finished hauling an eight hundred pound box of pots and pans on and off of buses for like four days, okay? It was like a tunnel of buses that you get on and off of. And then at the end of that tunnel, the shining bastion of hope in that dark night of miserably crowded buses was a KFC that I was going to grab a quick bite at before I came back home (this was all in the big city).

So, I went in, lugged the box of miscellaneous cookware up the stairs, put it down, and went back downstairs to order. I got two chicken sandwiches, an ice cream sundae, and a coke. This is a meal to relax to. This is a meal that you order in preparation for some serious sitting and doing nothing. The addition of the ice cream sundae basically makes this fact a no-brainer.

Well, I took my food back up the stairs, and sat down at the only table that I could find--which is right in the middle of the room. It's fine, but honestly, I just don't like to be so public when I'm eating Western food. You can disagree with me all you want, and talk about vanity blah blah blah, but there's no one who looks good eating a chicken sandwich slathered in mayonnaise. Maybe in the next life.

Anyways, I sat down, and immediately this guy, probably eight feet away, is staring at me. Like, no break of eye contact whatsoever, he is focused, his eye's on the prize. The prize of watching me eat that ridiculous meal. I don't know if you guys know this about China, but if staring at white people was an Olympic sport, China would have won it every year since they started participating, and in acknowledgment of this the countries that won the medals before then would have to also give them up, all the way back to their inception in ancient Greece. It is shameless. I bet if a foreigner were packed into a huge box, everyone would be staring at it as it was wheeled down the street. No one would know why. It would be all instinct.

Unfortunately, being on the receiving side of this isn't always awesome. Most of the time it's fine, but there comes a time when it is not okay. This light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moment was one such time.

First I did the most polite thing, what I normally do: look directly at them, for a few seconds. When they actually see that you're staring back at them, they know that you know that they're staring at you. And usually they get a little embarrassed, and you can give them a polite smile (yes, I know, you were blinded by that rock star quality that I seem to have--it happens in America, too), and it's all over.

But this guy had clearly not had enough. I guess he thought, "Oh! The foreigner looked at me!" And he got all his friends to stare at me, too, but they thankfully weren't so mannerless--they glanced, but then resumed their business. He, though, kept it up. I gave him pleading glances, lowered my hat, slumped down in my chair. Through all of this I was still trying to eat. But I was getting more and more frustrated.

Finally, after seriously not looking up for about twenty minutes, I glanced up, and he was still staring at me, absolutely shamelessly, without even glancing away. So finally I threw my arms up, like, "What do you want from me?" And he just smiled that irritating smile, and so I absolutely bellowed at him, "HEY, I'M NOT AN ANIMAL!" (My Chinese isn't good enough to say anything much more interesting than that.)

SO I WAS SO SO ANGRY AND SO I GOT UP AND I SNATCHED UP MY TRAY AND MADE A BIG DISPLAY OF STORMING OVER TO A DIFFERENT TABLE WHERE HE COULDN'T STARE AT ME but actually then I saw that there were no other tables and I could only move to the other side of my table where he could only stare at my back. Which was somewhat embarrassingly anticlimactic, but it worked well enough, I guess.

They left soon after, and I was happy to see that the guy didn't glance back at me as he was leaving. I guess he got the message?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Signs and Wonders

A few days ago, an old man sitting on the side of the road, smiling out from under his broad-brimmed hat, blew me a kiss. 

Fifteen minutes later, in a restaurant, a two-year-old boy did the exact same thing, exact same gesture. 

I smiled and smiled. 

Yesterday, a stranger stopped me in the grocery store and asked when the coffee shop is going to open, and we chatted for a minute. 

In fact, a lot of people yesterday appeared to know who I am, or at least were much more friendly than normal. I felt very known, and wanted. 

Monday, September 1, 2008


For those of you who weren't aware, today was the beginning of Ramadan--a pretty important time for our little city here.

I took a walk tonight and took pictures of a couple of mosques near my home. They didn't turn out very well, but I think you can get the idea.