Saturday, March 22, 2014

Dodgers Down Under



Over and over and, well, over,  I am amazed at the opportunities I have.  This last one brought some Americana our way…via Australia.

I miss sports.  I miss sports A LOT! I got in the habit of watching ESPN and Sports Center because there doesn’t tend to be much  BAD news there (except if your team is having a season like the Steelers had this past year).  I’ve never really gotten used to watching College football on Sunday, Pro Football on Monday AND drinking coffee during those games ! 

Low and behold, the Dodgers announce they will be “opening” their season against the Arizona Diamondbacks in Sydney!  I mentioned to Corey that we should think about going…after all…Sydney is a mere 9 hours away!  A hop for us compared to those coming from the US for the game…well, mentioned probably is the wrong word…let’s just say I brought it up …repeatedly…you know, JUST in case he happened to have a trip into Australia that … week. 

My mentions (wishing, urging) stuck in Corey’s head…and yes, the trip was a few days before the games were to be played.  He moved heaven and earth to have me go with him from Tuesday – Sunday, but tight flights and my schedule had me going into Sydney on Thursday night.  Corey secured the tickets …airline and game…we were set.  (What a guy!)

Major League Baseball claims they wanted to help expand baseball in Australia.  It had been 100 years since Professional American Baseball had been played there. Others have theories of MLB going to Australia to expand a fan base, a fan base that would buy merchandise (oh boy…was that part right!).

The games were to be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). It is a BEAUTIFUL cricket ground with history and holds upwards of 70,000 people.  Some of it reminded me of the Ironwork around The Ballpark at Arlington (my favorite park)


A cricket field is a pitch. A Cricket Pitch is HUGE!  WAY bigger than a baseball field, so getting this particular field ready was a Herculean effort.  50,000 TONS of sand was brought in from San Diego to make the infield and fill Center Field.  Fences were erected, measurements to somewhat equal a big league ballpark.  Tarps were dropped over seats in “center field” so the batters would not be distracted.  It took 16 days to pull this off!  LORD only knows the money!  Four games were scheduled…two against Team Australia and then the Major League Openers.

Herculean efforts brought Herculean ticket prices:

IMG_3954 The tickets were very dear!  There is very little need for a currency converter here…the AUD is just about even with the USD. So, yep…you wanna SEE baseball?  You’re gonna PAY to see baseball.

Traffic was a nightmare…is that the way everywhere?

IMG_2101We ended up walking in.  It was a good night for it!

Corey was met right away with a few Dodger friends.  WHAT a picture opportunity!

IMG_3956They were so nice to stand by while he posed.

I loved that the ushers and attendants did not keep fans away from the field (pitch) during batting practice.  There was no pretense of “these are not your seats”.  There were tons of us down at the rail (or as close as we could get) snapping pictures, hoping for an autograph.

MY best spot of the night was this one:

IMG_3994a small glimpse of Vin Scully in the broadcast booth!


Some fans got souvenirs.  Most of us settled for being close to the field and grabbing some decent pictures.

It was a perfect night. 


All too soon it was time to head to our seats, hear the anthems and Play Ball!


The Dodgers were playing the Diamondbacks.  So we got to see Kirk Gibson (who was the inspiration for our Kirks naming)


Corey and I had a great time…the Dodgers won!  IMG_4104IMG_4103

AND…nice people took our pictures! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

You know how your mom ALWAYS told you NOT to talk to strangers…

(this could also be called “Almost Shanghaied in Shanghai!

Most of what I have written is about my travels…and most of my travels have been in China.

As a blonde (cough cough) traveller in Asia…I experience what to the Westerners seems odd…but once you consider whence it comes…you learn to accept it.  Now, my brunette and red-headed friends have also been approached…but blondes…well “us” blondes seem to get the most attention.

People want to take their pictures with us.  A LOT.  This tends to happen most in more remote areas of Asia…and when I say Asia…I really mean China.

The Chinese have really just started to travel in the last few years…so coming from remote areas to the “big city” affords them to see things they just don’t normally see…and when I say “things they don’t normally see” I mean fair people…and by fair people I really mean blondes. 

What I know about the gene pool can fill a thimble…but I do know that Asian genes are dominate…and with 1.3 billion dominate people…blonde just is NOT going to sprout….ever.

SO…now they are traveling,..and blonde haired people just stop them in their tracks. 

The first time I really was aware of this was Chengdu.  The ladies I traveled with were inside shopping…the sales clerk had irked me so I left.  I was standing on the sidewalk waiting when a little girl came around the corner slightly ahead of her grandfather.  She saw me and she stopped in her tracks.  STOPPED DEAD.  She turned back to Grandpa…and thankfully, for my self esteem at least, she did not burst into tears. He bent down to her…whispered in her ear…and THEN she turned to me and gave me the slightest wave.

I really think I was the first fair-haired person she had ever seen.

Friends have told me about being stopped for pictures.  It happened to me in Beijing and Harbin…in Harbin I could have charged!  I literally had to step away or risk losing the tour group.

The other crazy time I’ve ever seen with Chinese Nationals being enthralled by blondes was in Jiuzhaigou and Chengdu (the second time).  Most of our group was blonde:

1467203_10152365846884129_1580128745_n This is literally my favorite pic of the trip!

…but Becky Wong was approached relentlessly.  She was a good egg and took many pics…smiled her beautiful smile, and took it all in stride.


SO…what’s this all got to do with our title?

Fast forward to Shanghai.  Now…this city gets LOTS of tourists…cruise ships…so tons of westerners and tourists from inside the country.

I like to travel with Corey.  I like to travel with Corey which means I get to tour alone most of the time.  I can do whatever I want…go when I want…come back when I want…selfish maybe…but it just works!

Today I decided to take a walk on the Bund (I will write about this another time) and take a river cruise. 

There were 15 of us on a boat that held 100’s.  I was the only blonde…hell, I was the only westerner. 

It was windy and cold (not Harbin cold…but the wind chill was impressive).  I stayed outside the entire time…hoping to capture “that” shot of Shanghai

IMG_3652 IMG_3666

Yea…that didn’t happen…sigh

So we cruised for 50 min…and at the very end I was approached by a young couple who wanted to take a pic with me.  I obliged.  Two snaps…off I went…they took TONS of other pics…I didn’t think anything of it.

My other goal today was to walk the Bund.  ALL OF IT.  Well, I thought it was longer than it was b/c my Active Link is being STUPID (it’s telling the truth)…and I only earned 3 activity points so far…

As I walked…I was approached by a young lady who wanted me to take a picture of her w/Mao.  “Make SURE you get the statue”  Ok…whatever…

IMG_3742(here he is)

After I took the picture…she starts to chat me up…Also not super new b/c students like to practice their English.  She goes on and on…and I chat back…I’m from HK…here for 5 days…nothing terrible.  She talks about how her friend has not time for her b/c she is working and she is from Harbin (I’ve been there!)…She asks what I am doing today (meeting my husband LIE).  She asks what I have planned (lunch with husband LIE) Then she tells me she has made a reservation for a tea ceremony and would I like to go? “Come with me”…and goes to take my arm. 

SEE ABOVE NOTE.  I like to be alone…and well, seriously…I’m going to follow a stranger in SHANGHAI (have you NEVER seen a Bonanza or Big Valley episode people…they barely got Nick back alive!)? I don’t’ think so.

I decline…move away…off I go.  About 30 minutes later (still walking stupid active link…) and I am approached again by another young couple.  Yes, I will take a picture with them.  He asks me where I am from…do I speak Cantonese (no…)and the girl goes…I kid you not…”What are you doing…we are going to a tea ceremony.  Come with us" 

HUH?  I’ve lived in HK 3 years and I’ve not been invited to tea EVER…let alone a tea ceremony in a new place…let alone twice in 30 minutes.  I decline and move on.

I finish the walk…start making my way back to my hotel.  I am stopped one last time by an older couple and yes…I will take a pic…he flashed the “peace” sign…and thank me and off they go.

SO…I walk along and walk some more… stop in to see if the tunnel from this side to the other is work 70 Mao's to use…I see a curious sign about not believing “tour guides” and the “coMsumption trap”…and my mind starts to work overtime.  What is WITH all of these invitations? 


I get back to our beautiful room with a view, download my pics (sigh again…just nothing great today)….Well…I DO like this one….

IMG_3750 I couldn’t capture it …but all the flags…straight out, being whipped by the wind…on top of all of these old buildings…it just looked cool …

And I do a GOOGLE search.  Yes, you CAN do GOOGLE searches here…I’ve been able to find answers for things I want to know…but I’m not looking for anything too interesting…

I search  “Tea Ceremony + Scam + Shanghai”  (no quotes and YES KIRK I KNOW…I don’t need the “+” anymore).

In .26 seconds I get 1000’s of results.  Yep…my instincts held true…being a “glass half empty” person served me well…Mom’s training came in handy.

These overly friendly strangers are indeed scammers.  They take you over the river, through the neighborhoods to a tea place (the one girl called it a festival)…where you taste 3 cups of normal tea…then get the bill for 100’s of Yuan.  I guess the deal is the scammers and the tea place split what is paid b/c people are afraid to rock the boat in a foreign country…so they pay, escape, and kick themselves all the way back to their hotel. Some report paying upwards of 50-100 (or more) USD….for 3 cups of tea! 

There ARE reports of people getting the police and finding their way back (the police stand by…really don’t get involved)…but most of the stories just say “learn from me…learn from my lesson”

Here’s what I’ve learned:

***Your gut is good to follow.  If it feels wrong…it probably is. 

***Do an internet search for scams in the city you are visiting.  I have NEVER done this before…but I will from now on.

***When people want a picture with me…they just want a picture…not a conversation…those that want a conversation…want something else…

***Signs on the main tourist walkway that don’t’ seem to make sense….WILL make sense…you just need to mull it over Smile