Friday, 10 June 2016

I Got A Tattoo!!!

Post-Tattoo Happiness

There is something incredibly attractive and sexy about a well-placed tattoo, there is absolutely no doubt about it.

I can honestly say I've always wanted a tattoo. I thought about designs for years, looked at pictures and even considered asking one of my friends to design me a tattoo, just for me. But during all that time dreaming about my very own tattoo I never actually dared to go to a tattoo studio. I was always too scared, too worried, too unsure. Until now that is!

I finally bit the bullet, faced my inexplicable fear and went for it. After all, we live only once and it's always better to live your dreams than to dream your life away.

What with my burn in 2014 and some other unpleasant and painful memories, I wanted to give myself a new start with something I'd never done before, something I'd never dared to do... I wanted to leave a mark, to leave a visible reminder of how much I've changed in the last four years, how different a person I've become, of just how much change I'm capable.

My friend just opened her very own nail art and beauty salon nearby and one of the girls there, Xiao Kai, is a tattoo artist. Just my luck, since finding a good tattoo studio and artist can be tricky in China, even more so than in Western countries. Though I've heard of a few foreigners who have got tattoos in China none of them are my friends, so I didn't have anyone to turn to for a advice and I'm not a fan of asking random strangers.

A few days ago I saw one of Xiao Kai's designs, a simple star, on her forearm near her wrist, she did herself. I was charmed by it and asked to see some designs. I fell in love with one particular design minutes after she sent me some photos and my mind was made up, this time I wasn't gonna chicken out. I bravely made an appointment and stuck to it too.

On the way over I was just a little bit nervous but the butterflies soon calmed down and with my heart set on that one particular design, I asked Xiao Kai to get to work. She helped me to find the perfect spot for my tattoo and after a few photos, I made a decision. Xiao Kai put on her face mask and sterile gloves, cleaned the skin, disinfected it and gently spread a topical anaesthetic gel on the spot we'd chosen for my tattoo.

While we waited for the anaesthetic to kick in we chatted, drank some water and laughed, then Xiao Kai got started. She was professional, concentrated and while I listened to music and half-dozed in the chair, she produced a little masterpiece. At the beginning I didn't feel much, then as the anaesthetic began to wear off I started to feel a light prickling but the gentle buzzing of the tattoo machine and some good music had me in a relaxed trance, so I bit my lips once or twice, grumbled a little and then Xiao Kai was finished. She cleaned everything, then took a picture of her artwork for me to admire.

It was love at first sight! I picked the perfect spot. I can somewhat see my tattoo when I look in the mirror and twist and I can see all of it when I use two mirrors but other than that I just know it's there, I know others can see it and that's good enough for me. I wouldn't want to see it every day.

If you haven't seen my Instagram, you're probably wondering what design I chose, so I'm going to finally reveal it:

The finished work of art!

I decided to go with a rose, my favourite flower, but that's not the only reason. I believe I'm very much like a rose, I have some thorns and if you don't treat me right you will end up pricking yourself, but if you look closer I'm just as soft as the blossoms of a rose, and my passion is as fierce as roses are red. I have passion, I've a fire burning in my heart that might have been almost extinguished at some point but a spark has always been there. I've experienced the pain of tightly embracing a bouquet of roses and despite the bouquets beauty and the delightful scent, I ended up hurt. This tattoo is to remind me that pain doesn't last forever, that a scar is beautiful, that love pricks but is magical too and that I'm no longer who I once was. I'm a strong woman and I won't be put down!

Happiness is Bliss.

Friday, 3 June 2016

About Having Faith in China's Officials

If you're familiar with the Chinese language, or have lived in China for a while, you will know that numbers and their meaning are a very important part of Chinese culture. For example four is a very bad number since its Chinese pronunciation is similar to "death", so naturally Chinese like to avoid this number. Eight on the other hand is a very good number since its pronunciation is similar to "wealth", making it a very auspicious number. The list goes on and on.

Following this concept, the 20th of May has become yet another "Valentine's Day" here in China, for the simple reasons that the three numbers - 520 - sound like "I love you" (我愛你, wǒ ài nǐ) in Chinese. During this day loads of girls will receive flowers from their other halves and of course the beloved red pockets. Its not nearly as commercialised as the 14th of February, but it's yet another day were people go shopping because many shops will offer discounts or special deals. Flowers are extremely expensive and restaurants are crowded with couples, families and friends who enjoy a meal together.

I decided to spend my day with a relaxing stroll in the park, followed by a visit to Starbucks. In the late afternoon I met up with a friend who was excited to show me her new nail studio. She'd told me about her plan to open in early June and asked me when I'd have time to come and visit, so I took the opportunity to nosey around and give her some feedback.

After I got the VIP tour from her and her two co-owners we all decided to go for dinner at a nearby restaurant. The restaurant was so crowded that we ended up waiting nearly forty minutes for a table and when we finally got shown to our table we were starving. Having to wait for a table was kind of a good thing though, it gave us the opportunity to read the menu and order our favourite dishes.

What with it being such a "special day" it took forever for our food to arrive and I'd love to say that everything was utterly peachy, that the food was divine and that we gorged ourselves into blissful oblivion, but that would defeat the purpose of this blog post. A picture (or three) on Instagram would have sufficed to get that message across.

Sadly, what was supposed to have been a lovely dinner, took a nasty turn when the food did not agree with myself and I found myself fighting to suppress the urge to puke all other the table. I managed to alarm my friend to my predicament and she reacted quickly, dragged me out of the restaurant and to the nearby restrooms. I didn't actually make it there though, because I lost control of over my stomach contents when we reached the emergency staircase. There was nothing my friend could do but watch me retch miserably, trying very hard to push my stomach through my oesophagus. I finally managed to calm down a little and my friend took me to the bathroom to freshen up when another bout of nausea set in, leaving me with no other option but to run to the nearest toilet cubicle and continue to retch. This was followed by dizziness and breathing problems as well as me puking up some blood.

Somehow my friend managed to only freak out a little and after I tiredly tiled Dr Z's phone number she asked him what to do. He told he to call 120 (emergency services) and hung up the phone. My friend followed his instructions and according to her the paramedics arrived on scene not ten minutes later. They asked me some questions, which I can't remember since I was busy retching, not being able to breathe properly and trying very hard not to faint. This I apparently did anyway though when the paramedics tried to get me out of the restroom and to the elevator. I vaguely remember two strong arms on my left and right but I don't remember how I got onto the stretcher, into the ambulance or to the hospital. The whole evening is still a bit of a blur and I will be eternally grateful to my friend and Dr Z for getting the ambulance to take me to my preferred hospital, something they initially weren't too fond of doing. They did however follow doctor's order and once I got to the hospital the doctors and nurses on duty in the emergency room did a fantastic job on pepping me up.

At some point the urge to retch subsided a little but unfortunately the stomach cramps kicked in. Those then lessened after a while, but that's when the retching kicked in, which is when the doctor decided to put me on a drip. I spend the entire night with a needle in my arm, forbidden to even think about food or touch water. With some TLC from the nurses I eventually managed to get some rest and the doctor ran a few tests in the morning to determine the cause of my sudden inability to stomach anything.

The doctor is still uncertain about the exact cause, but felt inclined to blame the whole thing on a problem with the food the restaurant served. Apparently my stomach is rather sensitive, so where it takes others a couple of hours to feel miserable it only takes me a few minutes. After my release from the emergency room I went and checked in on Dr Z, who was rather stern and displeased about me having him so worried that he spend half the night unable to sleep and called the hospital twice just to make sure I was being taken care of. He then strictly forbid me to ever eat in restaurant again unless under his supervision. I get why he was mad, since I almost gave him a heart attack last year when I ended up with a severe allergic reaction to some food/red wine, but luckily for me he forgave me eventually. A bit of sajiaoing goes a long way with a man, even if he's a doctor!

After the shock of everything, I got in touch with my friend (who is incidentally also my lawyer) and told him the story. He was beyond shocked and disgusted and he told me to get a stamped receipt from the restaurant, have a friend take a video while getting it and gather all the receipts from the medical treatments received at the hospital, as well as the bill for the ambulance. With all the evidence in hand he found me the contact information for the China Food and Drug Administration and told me in no uncertain terms to complain about the restaurant, while my friends told me to drop it and not look for trouble. I followed his advise, got everything together and contacted the CFDA via their website. One day after my complaint they called me to ask for further details and yesterday morning they asked to meet me at the restaurant. They interviewed me thoroughly, spoke to the boss, inspected the kitchen and storage areas as well as took photos. Then they requested that the restaurant compensate me, which left the boss unable to look me in the eye. He eventually offered to refund me what I'd paid for the meal. The two guys from the CFDA gave him a sharp look and after swallowing hard, he offered that he'd cover half of my total expenses. This did not sit well with the guys from the CFDA and they asked him for a private chat in another part of the restaurant. When they returned the boss miraculously offered to compensate me in full.

After signing a paper to state that I'd received the money, the guys from the CFDA made sure I got my money, walked me out and left themselves. I told my friend about my success and he simply said "You did what had to be done," and congratulated me. A small victory but it made me feel good about living in China and has only strengthened my belief in the medical system, emergency services and the fact that China tries hard to improve. They do things at their own pace and in their own way but they are trying, yet there are too many people out there who don't give them enough credit for that.

Most Chinese people wouldn't do what I did, because they don't believe in getting justice and they also don't want to make trouble or cause trouble for themselves. I talked about this with my friend and he told me that's the way China works, "trouble" is something you avoid at all costs because it takes effort and might lead to frustration. However what with him being a lawyer he disagrees with that way of thinking and so do I. Sometimes the right kind of "trouble" doesn't lead to frustration but to victory and justice.

Justice was what I got and it made me happy. Unfortunately most of my Chinese friends failed to see the point and simply told me that I got justice because I'm a foreigner, which I found hurtful to say the least and I told them so. Contrary to popular beliefs I don't get special treatment in China because I'm a foreigner, I get it because I ask for it, because I believe it to be my prerogative. People might agree to do things for me on the basis of me being a foreigner but I believe that they do that because they care about me, because they want to do something for me and maybe because they think it's easier to do something for me than enter into a lengthy discussion. Getting justice where justice is due is something you should never put of as "troublesome" and unworthy. Sadly many Chinese do but I hope things will change in the future, and people here in China will be more trusting.

If you have a problem with food or medication you can contact the China Food and Drug Administration online: http://www.sda.gov.cn/WS01/CL0001/, however since every province has a different sub-site and contact details you might have to ask a Chinese friend to help. Don't hesitate to ask for help if you think you deserve it and don't let anyone tell you that it's a waste of time.

我信任中国!

大概两周前,5月20号,我在武汉中北路凯德1818商场5楼的绿茶餐厅跟朋友们一起吃了饭。可惜食物有问题,发生了严重不良反应(呕吐,呼吸困难,头晕),让我的朋友很担心,但是她很冷静的打了120。


我之前听很多人说 “有急事,不要以为打120他们就会马上送你到医院,打的还靠谱一点”。我求你对自己国家的紧急医疗多点信任,好不好。我朋友跟我说她8点过4分打了120,8点15分救护车到现场,8点40分钟我就到医院了!请你不要跟我说这是因为我是外国人,这是因为选择做急救的工作的人,认真真地工作!所以我信任中国的急救医疗服务!


进医院以后,医生马上对我进行了抢救,护士对也我很好。观察的时候医生与护士都经常来看我。请你不要跟我说这是因为我是外国人,这是因为一个人选择做医生或者护士是因为他/她想减少你的痛苦保证你的健康!所以我信任中国的医疗体系!


出院后我联系我一个好朋友,跟他讨论一下发生的事儿。他一听到我的故事,叫我找食药监部门(CFDA)投诉那个餐厅,忙的时候还抽时间告诉我投诉的电话号码,网站地址,等等,耐心的回答我各种的问题,提了建议。在我想放弃的时候还鼓励我叫我处理好这个事儿。这不是因为我是外国人,而且因为我的朋友对我真心,因为他在乎。当别人说 “别搞,麻烦了” 他还坚持说 “必须处理好,一定会处理好”。


投诉之后,食药监局也第一时间就联系了我,打电话问清楚了到底是什么情况。确认了我的投诉后,他们亲自去调查,还叫我过来跟餐厅的老板当面确认。他们认真调查了厨房的情况和食材的质量,耐心地解释,回答了我每一个问题,帮我叫老板赔偿了我的医疗费救护车的费用与事发当日餐饮的费用。请你不要跟我说这是因为我是外国人,这是因为食药监局履职尽责,因为他们认真工作!所以我对中国的食药监部门有信任!


请你别老说我是外国人,所以我在中国获得特殊的对待,别人会愿意为我做一切。这是不客观的。请你也不要怕应该维权的时候找别人麻烦,但然后怪这怪那,这是没道理的。什么都怕麻烦,觉得得不到公正的对待,然后违法的人得不到惩戒,让有道理的人一切不利后果,然后再怪自己的国家不够好。


你怎么样,你的国家就会怎么样!

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Finally Back In Hong Kong

Beautiful Hong Kong harbour

Crossing the "border" from Shenzhen over to Hong Kong ended up being easier than I'd imagined, although without my friend's guidance I'd have probably wasted loads of time on looking for the right way. A short trip on the subway, a long walk, some queuing, filling out departure and arrival cards and a stamp or two later my friend and I stood in Hong Kong, glancing back at Shenzhen. We were about to snap a selfie when the security guards reminded us to keep walking and so we did. Simplified characters gradually changed to traditional ones and before long we were queuing on the platform, waiting for the subway train to take us further into Hong Kong.



"I have Facebook!" I shouted with delight and the guy beside me, who was in the middle of the phone call, grinned at me. My friend, never having used Facebook in her life, looked rather unconcerned, however she was possibly slightly worried about my mental state.

It didn't take us long to find our way to the hotel, though my friend did get us lost when we came out of the subway. I managed orientate myself pretty quickly and found the hotel in no time. There is order in the tons of signs plastered all over Hong Kong's streets.

Free upgrade to the junior suite

Much of our time in Hong Kong was spend eating, some time was spend arguing, some time was spend queuing and some time was spend shopping. I somehow managed not to splash out on a new camera, even though that had been something I'd planned to do while in Hong Kong. Since I restrained myself this time, it just gives me another time to go back for more.

Food, food, food.

FOOD!!!

MORE FOOD!!!

Whenever I am in Hong Kong all I care about is Pacific Coffee.

I'm a huge fan of Guangdong cuisine, especially with a Hong Kong twist and despite spending fives days eating, I still managed to lose some weight, which made me rather happy and my friend complain of sore feet. We had some fun walking around Hong Kong, getting lost on purpose aka just following our nose and seeing where that would lead us. I also finally got to take the Star Ferry again, which was a blast. There's just something about taking the boat across the harbour that you can't get from taking the subway. The latter might be faster but the former has more flair.

I also caught up with an old friend from my time in Ireland, and it was lovely to sit down for a chat with her and gorge on mouth-watering, authentic Dim Sum. I was so busy eating that I completely forgot about taking pictures to savour the moment. You can get Dim Sum here in Wuhan, there are plenty of restaurants scattered all over the city, and while some of them serve some really good stuff, it's still not the real deal.

We also queued for way too long to take the tram up to The Peak, since my friend had never done that before, with the very intention to enjoy a bird's eye view of the harbour at night, a sight I enjoyed before and loved. Sadly heavy mist thwarted our plans and by the time we got up to the top we could barely see further than thirty metres and the wind was crazy. It wasn't extremely cold though and we still had a great deal of fun. Most of the time my friend and I chatted in English, which was a great experience for her too, or so she told me later.

I can't say we got up to something crazy, unless you consider waiting for your friend in Kowloon Tong when she clearly said Kwun Tong crazy. It was entirely my fault, since I read the subway map wrong and got us to the wrong place, resulting in complete loss of face.

The view was that good!

Mai-menging!!!

Posing by the tower.

Love this tower!

More cuteness!

My bestie is really good at posing.

I spend enough time in China to know how to act cute (maimeng)

Messing around in Hong Kong

I honestly can't get enough of the view behind me.