Be aware, Gentle Reader, that there are things I’ve forgotten to include in my story thus far. A team member losing track of his passport for over a day. Another person losing his wallet. The discovery that our Chinese teammates are going through our bags, pulling out catalogs and reading them. We start to forget that each of us is not alone in our ability to speak English, and we start pantomiming our sentences to each other because we forget we share a language. Every day contained some sort of crisis; no day contained more than a few moments of down time.
So. It’s a new day in our surreal resort paradise and our buffet restaurant decorated with living animals. We decide that C and S are going to go to the park and start working, while J and I will go back to the business center and try to order some video players for the haunt.
J hasn’t really experienced the frustration that is censored internet access. He cannot access his AOL email account, so he can’t get to the things emailed to him the night before. I guess (correctly) that Amazon.com probably has a Chinese counterpart; however,the player we need is not available. I jump over to the US site and find the item. As we wait for the torturously slow connection to progress through the order, I also find the website of the made-in-China videoplayer J wants to order.
We order the player on Amazon, but we can’t have it shipped to China. We also can’t find a direct contact number for the manufacturer. J is confused and frustrated; I am becoming snappish and frustrated. We give up and just walk to the park, where I take him to the only entrance I know….and he loses sight of me because he’s on the phone and doesn’t see me go into the security office to ask for help.
We get into the park. He’s not seen the decor I posted photos of in my last entry. Of course, I’ve not seen the progress at the haunt, which is impressive. I sit and work on yet another costume, sewing a latex chest piece into a robe, and I perform a few fixes on broken props discovered as the guys keep working.
I think it’s at this point that we start to realize that certain people seem to be assigned to each of the guys. (I’m a girl, so I don’t count. Also, no one cares about someone hot gluing and sewing shit together.) There’s also a LOT of guys trying to ‘help’ us, even when we beg our interpreter to please only give us two people, not twelve. (In hindsight, it seems very possible that this was a classic example of how China claims to have such a low unemployment rate. The helpers may not be helping, but they’re certainly on hand and ready to help. Maybe.) There are literally so many people milling around the build site that, when J walks past me, I chirp out, “Yaaaaay! It’s a PARADE!!”
On most haunt builds, the person in charge struggles with not getting frustrated by having too many people that want to help but can’t, or need constant supervision. This project is worse because not only do you have 12 people all wanting to help, they are also working independently of your wishes, they do not speak English, and because they keep messing with things, they keep breaking things. So all of the projects are taking three times as long as they need to because the guys have to keep going back and fixing things.
At one point, I notice this:
Huh. So popping bubble wrap is universal. I then notice that if the helpers aren’t using their hands to pop bubble wrap, they’re walking on it. (Well. To be fair, they walk on EVERYTHING. They don’t care what it is or who it belongs to..if it’s on the ground, it gets walked on.) At some point, I suggest to J that he give the helpers a new job: Pop all the bubble wrap. He comes back to me later and says, “You’re a genius. That kept them out of my hair for a good ten minutes!”
At this point, I’m distracted by the sight of people walking on my costumes again. I excuse myself, walk around to get a lot of concrete dust on my boots, and I go find some of their stuff to walk on. Yes, it’s petty; yes, it made me feel better.
I finally get to help with the haunt a little by hanging curtains to hide actor access areas in the haunt, which J promptly starts to use to hide from his ‘helpers.’ I also start helping propping out parts of the haunt as the guys keep plugging away at animations.
One corner of the haunt has a huge free-standing air conditioning unit in it. These units are not uncommon and are easily over 6′ high. They also generate a lot of condensation…which is starting to pool up in the haunt…which is already starting to warp the panels in this area. It occurs to me that maybe I should have allowed the workers to let the floors not be level back here after all…
We’re informed that tonight is going to be a dress rehearsal. The client wants to see the zombie shoot-em-up attraction up and running, with actors, sound, and video all operational. We still haven’t revisited the trains, but no one’s mentioned it again. We discuss what needs to be done over lunch. Well, the boys eat. My stomach tells me in no uncertain terms that lunch should not happen, and so I announce to the table, “Nope. I’m done. I can’t do this anymore.”
Back to work. J is asked to go show the actors how to be zombies, and he demonstrates how most good haunt actors in the US would play the role.
He’s told, “They will never do that here. People do not like to get close, and our actors cannot be as aggressive as you’re describing.” When he tells us this, I reply, “I call shenanigans. With as close as these guys are in the haunt? They’re so close to you guys they keep tripping over each other! Just tell them to do THAT and it’ll be scary…”
The goal for the end of the day is to finish up, get back to the hotel, eat, and get back to the park by 7PM. I am still pretty full of nope. Honestly, all four of us are frustrated, hot, and suffering from blisters on our legs and feet. It’s about 97 degrees every day, and we all feel isolated from our loved ones. It’s just..hard. But I can’t keep up with the guys. We do get to see some of the park gearing up for Halloween as we leave, though, and it’s every bit as great as one might think.
…Why are there no more photos, you ask? Because we’re really trying to hurry, and because the guys are pretty sure there will be opportunity for more photos later that night. I wish I’d gotten pics of the stage show being worked on and the costumes and and and…
The guys get further and further ahead of me as we make our way to the front part entrance, where we find that the gates are closed and we almost can’t get out. And the guys just keep going and…I am very very full of NOPE. I’ve walked so much that I’ve broken the worst of the blisters, but I’m just not willing to hurry up and injure myself further.
This means that they go the wrong way and I can’t tell them to turn around. I hobble my way back to the hotel, where I not only beat them there, I also have a good ol’ pity cry for myself and I get to realize I still have S’s room key rather than my own. So I have to wait for them in the hallway.
Meanwhile, they realize they’ve lost me and that they themselves are lost. They ask a cop for help, but the cop – who has clearly been trained in Philadelphia – not only has no idea where the resort hotel directly across from the park is located, but has no idea how to help the lost Americans find their way. Then J sees a landmark I pointed out to him that morning and is able to get everyone back to the hotel.
We head down to dinner and J realizes he’s left his ID tag back in his room. I tell him I”ll get it, they just need to go to dinner. And as I get his badge and start back to the restaurant, I realize I can’t do this. I can’t eat dinner. I can’t go back to the park. I can’t be around people.
I drop the badge on their table, I go back to my room, I climb into the bathtub, I cry some more, and I text my pain to my dear friend Heidi, who helps me calm down. And I go the hell to bed. Forget Halloween, forget adventure, forget everything except bed and a cup of tea and a granola bar.
By the time the guys get back from the preview show, I’m calm enough to be talked into going to the bar, where I consume way too much wine on an empty stomach and then go the hell back to bed.
I do try to explain to J what’s going on with me, but I can’t really articulate it. I still can’t. I’m honestly still disappointed in my inability to just keep pushing on. But hey, now we’re into the final push to get this project done and get the hell home..