Wednesday/ going home

My colleague Will and I made it into Hong Kong at 8pm, and went to an Italian restaurant called Pubblico.  It’s on the left in the picture, in the Soho district.  The mozzarella is made on the premises and the mozzarella served with basil and tomato is excellent.  I travel out to Seattle via San Francisco in the morning and I look forward to it very much !

Tuesday/ partners

That’s the translation of my Monday post’s front-page headline :   伙伴  huǒ​bàn​  partner / companion / comrade.   (Sounds good to me even though I am aware that ‘comrade’ has all kinds of political overtones and undercurrents for Westerners).

In China red is the color of prosperity and happiness, so :  New Year’s Tree in the lobby of the Pattaya Hotel, red lanterns in the hallways at my apartment, red New Years’ rabbit on my desk (designed to be hung somewhere with its tassle)  makes me smile and keeps me from going crazy at work.

Monday/ fortune apple

Just two grocery store items for today.  The sun-stenciled symbol on the apple means ‘fortune’ or ‘good fortune’.   I don’t know what the two red symbols in the newspaper heading says!  I will ask my colleague at work tomorrow to translate it.  Any guesses?   We sat in the cafeteria last week as they showed Mr Hu Jintao’s reception at the White House with the band playing the Star Spangled Banner.   It felt great !

Sunday/ Dim Sum brunch at the Peninsula

We made it to The Peninsula shortly after noon for their dim sum brunch.   On the pricey side (of course, it is The Peninsula after all), but very nice.   I recommend it !   Then we walked by the Heritage 1881 plaza (see the rabbits hiding in the greenery?), and on to the Harbor City mall nearby.  It is Hong Kong’s biggest shopping mall.   The Arc de Triomphe is made of white chocolate, part of a display of chocolate artworks.   A sign by it said ‘Please Do Not Touch and Do Not Eat’. (! LOL).   The firecracker billboard is an accurate depiction of the Chinese New Year celebration : plenty of firecrackers going off !

Saturday/ Stanley Market

We decided to get out of the city and go check out Stanley Market.   Stanley is a fishing village on the southern side of Hong Kong island.   To get there, one takes the island line on the MTR to the east most station and then hop on a little 16-seater minibus.  The drive to Stanley is along steep hillsides with lots of curves.  (Marked A on the Google map shot, and shown on the billboard on location there).  The first set of pictures were all taken there.  The temple is Tin Hau temple.   It think the picture of the sea is Repulse Bay, and check out the curved building overlooking it.   It was a very nice trip – the flea market is nothing different from what we’ve seen other places in Hong Kong, but it’s fun to get there and walk around.  I’m sure it’s packed in summer.

Then we went back to get some lunch in Soho, and went tea-shopping.   Expensive tea, not the stuff you buy off the shelf in the supermarket.   Ying Kee Tea Co. is on Queen’s Road in Central.   They sell tea that goes up to US$ 500 for 100g ! Yikes.    Some is sold loose leaf, others sold in big wheels of tea cakes.    The Year of the Rabbit is still on the way (starts early Feb) but I cannot resist snapping pictures of the rabbits in the city.

Friday/ Lan Kwai Fong

Three of us from work made it into Hong Kong on the company bus but we had many delays : waiting for someone before leaving, a random check by police at one of the toll plazas, traffic in Hong Kong.  So it took almost 4 hrs to get here!

We had a nice dinner  in the Soho area next to Lan Kwai Fong (in Central district on Hong Kong Island and also  party central for the expats).  That’s where we found ‘Elvis’, in a 7-11 store.  The Stella Artois billboard overlooks the main raod going down.  The Ice Vodka Bar has a freezer room where one is handed fur coats to wear while you have your vodka!   Yes, that’s a rabbit between the red lanterns.   And back in the hotel room there was a mean game of championship ping pong on the go on one of the TV channels.   That tiny table top might as well be a tennis court the way they play.

 

Thursday/ Tai Koo

(It’s actually Friday already).  Didn’t have time to post anything yesterday because work is everywhere and inside my head all day long.   But here are two very different pictures with the common denominator ‘Tai Koo’.   The first one is a train station’s name on the Hong Kong metro system, the second a brand name for the sugar cubes I use in my coffee here at work.    I am headed to Hong Kong for the weekend, finally ! and looking forward to it.

Wednesday/ dinner in Dameisha

Two of our firm’s partners came by for a visit and therefore we had a team dinner.   When you’re as tangled up as I am in the details of an SAP system design, and you talk to the firm partner, you have to describe the problems you’re dealing with in terms upwards by two or three levels of abstraction.    Example : do not say ‘No more DEV*-300 client workbench transports should be allowed to the QAS*-800 client’ !    Say : we still need to complete the coding so that we can test the final system design.

*DEV is shorthand for Development and QAS for Quality Assurance.   The 300 and 800 clients are distinct copies of the SAP database.

The first picture of the Outlet Mall was taken a week ago.  The reflection looks better than the real thing.   I snapped the neon sign of the Meisha Hotel on the walk to my apartment last night.  It’s hard for me to walk by a bright red neon sign and not take a picture!

Tuesday/ yes to tea, no to ‘Teabucks’

Although tales exist in regards to the beginnings of tea,  Wikipedia tells me no one is sure of its exact origins.   But with tea plants native to East and South Asia, its use must have originated in what we know today as northeast India, north Burma, southwest China or Tibet.     Tea was already a common drink during the Qin Dynasty (around 200 BC) and became widely popular during the Tang Dynasty, when it was spread to Korea and Japan.    Trade of tea by the Chinese to Western nations in the 19th century spread tea and the tea plant to numerous locations around the world.

SO – all this preamble to say :  I think any purveyor of tea in China should not call itself Teabucks after the coffee company from the USA that has been around for only a few decades !   Both pictures from the weekend in Shenzhen.  Yes.  I like the  Elegant of Tea : ).

Monday/ New Year’s rabbits

So which one of the two perched on my red sofa is cuter?   The rabbit on the left is from the department store Jusco in Shenzhen.  I love the white and red feet.   And the one on the right is not really a rabbit.  It’s a Starbucks bear with a bunny suit – from Starbucks in Shenzhen.

Sunday/ Windows of the World in Shenzhen

Sunday was pleasant enough to spend outside, and since I had to get away from work for a while – and Dameisha –  I took a taxi to Shenzhen’s Luo Hu station and on a whim the metro from there to the west side of the city to ‘Windows of the World’.   Nothing to do with Microsoft! – it is a very big theme park providing outdoor displays big and small of world landmarks, mostly scale models of man-made constructions, but also of natural landmarks.    The first picture is of the entrance (the monorail train car seems as old as the ones we have at the Seattle Space Needle!).  Scroll down and see how many of the other landmarks you recognize.  The answers are at the bottom of the post.

 

 

From the top down :

Eiffel Tower (of course), scene from Japan with koi feeding and Mt Fuji, Stonehenge, Lion Gate at Mycenae (full scale), Quell Park – the grounds of a house and estate in Barcelona that Gaudi designed and built for the Quell family*, African mask, 20 yuan (US$3) for a ride on the camel with the pyramids as a backdrop!, native American totem poles, the little pee boy from Belgium, the ‘official name’ is a little rude! (know what it is?), the Shwe Dagoon Pagoda from Burma, Chinese gate,  the Segovia Alcazar a fortress and magnificent castle from Segovia, Spain, and and Assyrian king Esarhaddon.

*my absolute favorite of the landmarks, trumping even the Eiffel Tower and the gorgeous Chinese gate.

Saturday/ the 15th

It’s the 15th already.   The Chinese coin picture is just for fun.  They are worth 15 US cents and 7.5 cents respectively.   It’s also my mom’s birthday (lots of ♥♥♥! )  – and the 50th of a dear friend in Seattle –  so I added some philosophy gleaned from a write-up in Bloomberg Businessweek about the American fast-food chain Panda Express.   The article mentions that CEO Andrew Cherng (left in the picture) expects employees to buy into a process he calls ‘a continuous commitment to sharpening yourself’.    Oof.    Now that sounds like work !  : ) .. but the article also mentions Don Miguel Ruiz and his famous and most influential work, The Four Agreements.   So I had to look it up (see below), and I like it.    I like number 2 the most!

The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz’s Code for Life

Agreement 1 

Be impeccable with your word – Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

Agreement 2

Don’t take anything personally – Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.

Agreement 3

Don’t make assumptions – Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

Agreement 4

Always do your best – Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret.

 

Friday/ Dameisha 大梅沙 (Meisha) Beach

The weather was nice enough late Friday to take a very pleasant stroll on Dameisha beach,  just a few blocks down from my apartment.     It is out of season, of course – so the activity on the beach is subdued.     But I did manage to catch some riders on a jet ski ( 摩托艇 ).    In summertime there is also parasailing – being towed behind a boat while you dangle from a parachute.

Thursday/ grocery store translation

Here is a picture of a local grocery store called Yun Tian Mei Shi Fang.  I can use the name to illustrate how difficult it is to read Chinese.  I first used the pinyun (second column, the written pronunciation) to look up the Chinese characters on-line.   But that only got me halfway there.

云         yún      (classical) to say

天         tiān       day; sky; heaven

美         měi       America; beautiful

食         shí       animal feed; eat; food

坊         fāng     subdivision of a city

So then I combined the 5 Chinese characters and pasted it into Google Translate from Chinese to English, and that gets us a little closer :

云天美食坊  translates as ‘Sky Gourmet Food’ .. so maybe the translated store name is ‘Heavenly Gourmet Food’?

Wednesday/ take it to the cleaners

This picture is from the Isabella cleaners here in Dameisha.  They dry clean my dress shirts and pants.    I’m sure a trained elephant does not do the ironing, though! – per the picture top left : )

As for the ‘bad boy’ guy with the tousled hair and cigarette that ‘models’ the clothes and the prices* for each garment : apparently he is a familiar face on the internet here.  A movie star? I asked.   No, not really.   And what is he saying?  Something along the lines of ‘Nothing is forever/ nothing lasts forever’ .. perhaps meaning that eventually you will have to wash your clothes!  

*shirt ¥14 ($2.12), sweat shirt ¥22($3.34) ..

Tuesday/ Laba Festival

The majority Han Chinese have long followed the tradition of eating Laba rice porridge on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month.   This year it falls on January 11th.   Laba rice porridge contains glutinous rice, red beans, millet, Chinese sorghum, peas, dried lotus seeds, red beans and some other ingredients, such as dried dates, chestnut meat, walnut meat, almonds or peanuts.   Much more than just rice !  Picture from http://traditions.cultural-china.com.  

Since this is the start of the Chinese New Year celebrations, I’m posting two pictures from my desktop calendar here at the office.   Hmm, yes – sailing on a brilliant blue summer day.   The January picture is of course of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant here viewed from the water.

 

Monday/ Dameisha outlet mall

These pictures are from yesterday after I had returned to Dameisha from Shenzhen.    It is an outlet mall here that suspended its operations a year or two ago, and has now reopened (for some ‘happy’ shopping as the first picture suggests).     There is a nice collection of stores – all the brand names such as Nike Adidas Samsonite Levi’s Gucci and more – but not many shoppers.    Earlier Sunday had been a nice day but late afternoon the winter monsoon wind picked up again making it unpleasant.

The goddess in the chariot is Venus – the Roman goddess principally associated with love, beauty and fertility.   I suspect the 2007/08 date on the plaque is when the outlet mall first opened.

P.S.  The shooting incident involving congresswoman Giffords in Arizona was covered for several minutes on the national news TV channel CCTV today.

Sunday/ walking around in Shenzhen 深圳

Here is a selection of pictures from today.   Four of us took a taxi to Shenzhen.  First stop was at McCawly’s Irish Pub for lunch (shepherd’s pie with a beer for me, yum).  The next picture is from the Tequila Coyote Cantina next door, a Mexican restaurant also run by the McCawly’s owner.   The ornate front of the Lili Marleen Bar is on the other side.

Done with lunch, we headed to a dept store called Jusco in the Coco Park Mall.  2011 is The Year of The Rabbit, so get ready for many more rabbit pictures from me until the Chinese New Year celebrations are behind us in February.

 

Done with Jusco, but not finding the charcoal Dave wanted for his outdoor grill at the apartment, we now head to another Jusco with the Shenzhen metro rail system.  The picture above is a romantic version of it as far as I can tell.   The one below is a 3D map of our exiting station’s surroundings.   It was hard to navigate to the second store.  The cutie pie kids are from a billboard in the station and the green Shenzhen Tong card is the equivalent of the Octopus card in Hong Kong, and the Orca card in Seattle.  I love the name of the Internet Cafe Lu Lu.

The kids on the street are looking at a dead rat.  A street vendor is getting her baked potatoes out .. a hard life, I hope she sold all of them!   Watch out for the snake coming at you in 4D  (hmm – not sure what the fourth dimension is!).  Rabbits in the stuffed toy machine, and – at last! – we found the charcoal in the second store.     Not sure what kind of building the leaning building is, this picture taken from the Citic Plaza 中信广场, as is the tall building under construction.   I don’t know why, but it made me think of the 1985 ‘We built this City’ song by Starship :

We built this city on rock and roll x2
Say you don’t know me, or recognize my face
Say you don’t care who goes to that kind of place
Knee deep in the hoopla, sinking in your fight
Too many runaways eating up the night ..

 

I believe this billboard is of Deng Xiopeng : a Chinese politician and leader of the Communist Party of China who as a reformer led China towards a market economy.   He was in office for some 13 years until 1992.  The last picture is just of a tall apartment building on the way back to Dameisha.

Saturday/ time out from work

This little park is here in Dameisha and I stopped there after the bus dropped us off  (took the picture with the camera’s timer).   The Saturday worker group treated themselves to dinner at the Sheraton’s Italian restaurant .. great food and even if it’s on the expensive side, we agreed : well worth it.    The other two pictures of the LED striped buildings are from the short walk back to my apartment.   The colors change and then the new color runs across the building from left to right.

Friday/ but not really Friday

.. because we have to work tomorrow.   The second round of system testing is scheduled to start in a week and it feels as if we have 3 weeks of work to do before then.

It reminds me of these words from a report about the 2010 Commonwealth Games :  “Two years before the Games, I had told the organizing committee that time was not your friend,” Commonwealth Games Federation president Mike Fennell told reporters after an October meeting of representatives in Delhi. “And now, one year before it, I say, time is your enemy.”

It feels to me that we are there : time is our enemy.  It rushes up at us, a week at a time and it never ever stops.   Pictures from this morning : Bright Oil company’s pipeline out to the ships, shops and restaurants in Da Peng close to where we work open early, new office building under construction nearby; and that’s a Starbucks orange juice I grabbed at Hong Kong airport when I came in Monday night.