Not really too much to say about today, it was spent working. Started the day out right with a grande Hot Chocolate from Starbucks (the world being flat and all) and had the normal commute in the normal morning traffic. Perhaps the highlight was an opportunity to tell the taxi driver to turn left when he wasn’t sure which way to go. My response came naturally, perhaps a decent indicator that I’m making some progress with my language.

Had lunch on a nice little side street blocked to cars and dedicated to restaurants. Our place had a Santa Fe club sandwich on the menu, an interesting name considering there wasn’t much Santa Fe about it. I had a spicy Thai beef wrap which was all those things.

Dinner once again at the 1221 restaurant, a western style chinese food establishment that is quite popular with expats and known for its excellent food. They even called a cab for us which we managed to walk past when we left. Didn’t matter because we ended up sitting in it for 5 minutes being blinded by the headlights of a minivan trying to jam its 15 foot size into a 12 foot space.

Thought I share a few pictures of the Christmas spirit, such an odd presence in a country thought to be religionless. I guess the emerging capitalism trumps all as the spirit here is even more commercial than it is back on the other side. But it’s still fun and I can’t imagine anything more bizarre than standing in the taxi queue over here listening to Bing Crosby singing “White Christmas” through a giant amped boombox.

The first shot is the world’s largest Advent Calendar, every night they draw a business card and some lucky guest wins the price behind the dated door. T’m told that there once was a larger one here in town. Apparently Siemens turned the front of their office building into one a couple of years ago and every day they would throw gifts out of the appropriately marked window. Doesn’t seem like getting hit in the head with a DVD player tossed out of the 4th floor would feel particularly seasonal. In the case of our calendar, Silvio the manager told me that they can’t leave the prizes behind the little doors because because some one was stealing them. This is why all the doors are closed despite the date, and therefore in strict violation of the entire raison d’ etre for Advent Calendars. One of our party won tonight’s round – a free massage in the spa.

The sax playing Santa is trapped in an alcove in the giant rotating entry door. He travels around and around backwards all day long plaintively playing Christmas songs for chain smoking hotel guests. At least he has some snow in there to keep him cool.

The other two shots are just a sampling of our cheery decorations.