Wednesday/ ready for the Escape from Alcatraz

Take a look at this Hong Kong subway picture.    Remember the controversy over the ages of the girl gymnasts at the 2008 Beijing Olympics?   So how old are these girls in the picture?  1.  Hard to say.  2.  2016 is a long way off, and of course they only have to be the legal age at that time.     But are they really happy?  And will they look back much later and find out the hard work was worth it?

We are working a full day here until 6 pm but a van will take three of us to the Marriott Skycity tonight.  My mates will have cheeseburgers and I will have grilled salmon – just to get me tuned into the Pacific Northwest state of mind.   I would have been there already (in my mind) if it were not so hectic here at work.   It’s not a prison, of course !  but boy – it gobbles up time and energy that leaves me completely ready to just leave it all behind, and just say ‘See ya, you’re on your own for awhile’.

Tuesday/ very hot

Lay’s chips have been around since 1932, and are marketed as a division of Frito-Lay, a company owned by PepsiCo Inc. since 1965.     So in China .. Lay’s translates into Lè​shì​  乐事  which means ‘happy matter/ incident/ event’.   The rest of the symbols were hard for me to find in my translator, but 麻 means numb and 辣 means peppery : an indicator that there’s probably some Sichuan pepper in the potato chips.

So does the Numb & Spicy Hot Pot Flavor make for a happy event?  Yes.   The chips are tasty and do not set one’s mouth on fire.  Sichuan pepper has a unique aroma and flavor that is not hot or pungent like black or white pepper, or chili peppers, but has slight lemony overtones (says a website! My tastebuds wouldn’t say ah! lemony overtones, hmm)  and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth, caused by its 3% of hydroxy-alpha-sanshool chemical.     (P.S.  No – the handsome young fella is not a Formula F1 driver).

Monday/ a few little food items

I discovered the Sogo department store’s food section in the basement of their store on Saturday in Hong Kong, but it was so crowded with people and the check-out line so long.  So when I spotted the cash only-5 items only line that was short, I grabbed the 5 items from left to right : )  .. 10 liquid packets of Miso soup concentrate (just add boiling water); a tin of loose-leaf jasmine tea with Japanese caramels on top of it, pear jam also from Japan and ta-dah! black sesame seed dessert mix.   The second picture is the back of that package .. looks easy enough : add milk and heat, put in the fridge to cool and then when it comes out the ground black sesame seed will have settled on the bottom (or does it float on top? I guess I will find out! ).

Saturday

Tired of Hong Kong yet?  I hope not, because I am not!  I made it three for three weekends.  But fear not.  I will go home to Seattle on Thursday, stay there for a week, and the first weekend after I come back to China for my next trip,  I plan to go to Shanghai.

The pictures : Victoria harbor Waterfront from the Kowloon side and the Hong Kong Art Museum on the left; the Peninsula hotel partly obscured by the IMAX theatre in the same area – this is looking north towards Nathan Road; 7-11 truck leaving after delivering refreshments to the store in the Mong Kok area; the Langham Place mall right there is all steel and stone and glass; artwork by famous Chinese avant garde artist Wang Guangyi; back on Nathan Road the Chinese banyan trees brush up against the storefront structures; little respite area in Kowloon Park was a very welcome break from the teeming masses on the street;  the public swimming pool was surprisingly empty, but it may be because it just opened for summer (it’s not free, and has locker rooms and everything – it’s on my list for next time!); modeling my new Umbro soccer shirt (yes, it’s an England shirt, they didn’t have the South African shirt in the Asian XL size that I am).   The Kowloon Hotel’s rooms where I stayed was all of 300 sq ft (30 sq m) so it was quite snug.  But the hotel is cheap and RIGHT BEHIND the Peninsula Hotel and in a really great location :  the lower floors form the Seibu department store, with a Starbucks in the basement.   And the bell boys wear white pill box caps, which makes one feel very – colonial.   Hmm.  And is it OK to feel colonial?

Friday/ a kind dentist

Mr. Happy comes to you from a storefront in Kowloon, Hong Kong, taken last weekend.  (And he does look happy! Iam happy too that it is Friday).   It was such a stormy night last night that I did not get enough sleep, and I took the late bus for the first time.    Then this morning waiting for the bus, it was still raining and I was sweating under the umbrella because of the humidity outside.   We really are in the jungle out here.

The second picture was taken in Shenzhen.  See if you spot the name of the dental clinic.  Yes, I want a kind dentist – definitely not the kind that Steve Martin portrayed in Little Shop of Horrors!

Thursday/ another wedding, and lunch

Today’s lunch : noodles with peppers, cabbage, a giant dumpling and yogurt.   I’m sure my readers know noodles are an essential ingredient and staple Chinese food.  Did the Chinese ‘invent’ noodles?  Yes, that certainly seems to be the case.  In October 2005, the oldest noodles yet discovered in the world were found in Qinghai, China, at the Lajia archaeological site, during excavation of a Neolithic  Qijia culture settlement along the Yellow River.   The 4,000-year-old noodles appear to have been made from foxtail millet and broomcorn millet.  Today, millet  is not a commonly used ingredient in Chinese noodles.

A second Chinese team member got married and everyone here got to receive another little candy gift.  The first wedding was back in January – the little box with the teddy bear.

Wednesday/ Hong Kong tram report

I never did report back on the tram ride from Saturday so here goes.    This picture I took from a pedestrian foot bridge in the Causeway Bay district.   There is another tram track right next to the Alfred Dunhill tram; the clearance is 3 or 4 ft, which seems even less when the other tram rushes by.  Watch out!   Hands and heads inside.   The seats upstairs give a nice view of the streets and stores and in addition the windows are open : perfect for a snap-happy photographer like me.    The tram stops at traffic lights like buses and cars, sometimes for several minutes at a time because there may be another tram or two ahead of it.   So it’s not as quick a transport method as the sub-way trains, but it’s fun.

Tuesday/ plenty to drink for ¥29

It’s getting warmer and I had to replenish my supply of liquids last night, so I stopped at the grocery store.

Two 250 ml soybean chocolate drinks, 1 liter full-cream milk, 1 600ml Gatorade, 1 gallon of bottled water, 1 600 ml of bottled water, 1 450 ml apple juice drink, 2x 180ml Nescafe iced coffees .. all for ¥29 (about $US4).  Not bad!

Monday/ May Day at work

Nobody from the China team is at work today .. Saturday’s May 1 holiday having been shifted to today.

A little history (it’s Wikipedia that’s so smart, not me) – Labor Day is the first Monday in September in the United Kingdom, Unites States of America and Australia and Caribbean  nations originally from 1887.    But in 1921 Communism took it over as International Workers’ Day in socialist countries.   In Europe the day has older significance as a rural festival as well.   The holiday is international and several countries hold multi-day celebrations including parades, shows and other patriotic and labour-oriented events. However, in Northern Europe, Walpurgis Night is celebrated on the preceding night and this holiday merges with the Labour Day in some countries.

The pictures were painted on a wall in a clothing store in Hong Kong.  I like the dragon and the turtle ones the best.  They certainly apply to the daily grind here at work!

Sunday night

I am back in Dameisha and since the Sunday night blues are setting in I picked a cute bill-board picture from the Hong Kong subway to cheer me up.   Yes, I need to go from : (  to  : ).  The poster is for a clothing store chain in the city.

When I came in today they were filling up the swimming pool here in the apartment complex .. not sure I will exhibit my lily-white bod there in the pool, though.   I will scare all the local residents!   Outside there is a loud croaking audible from froggies here in the area;  hopefully they are not in the swimming pool !    When the doors and windows are closed the sound is muted and not a problem, though.

Saturday/ Shanghai’s World Expo is open

I made it in to HK last night with the bus.   (Some co-workers asked – you are going there again?  Well, yes.   What’s the matter with going back several times to a place with history and culture and lots of people?). Last night marked the opening of the Shanghai World Expo that will run through October with a ceremony that the newspaper reports rivalled the Beijing Olympic Games’ opening ceremony.   It’s seen as Shanghai’s bid to re-stablish itself as a world city; they expect 7o million visitors.  The first picture is from Google’s Hong Kong home page.

The three sharply dressed Asian girls are from a billboard in the subway: the people on the bus are on Yee Wo Avenue where this weekend’s hotel is (the Marriott Courtyard was full!);  that’s the mirrored ceiling in the hotel lobby I used to take an impromptu picture, and there’s a map of the Hong Kong trams. 

This weekend’s mission is to ride on a tram.  Hong Kong Tramways is a tram system in Hong Kong and one of the earliest forms of public transport in Hong Kong. It is notable for being one of the three tramways in the world that have regular operation of double-decker trams—the others being Blackpool tramway, in England and the Alexandria Tram system in Egypt—and is the only system that runs exclusively using double-decker trams.

It’s Friday

The first picture is of the Shatoujiaou Port right west of Dameisha on the Hong Kong side.   There is a border crossing into Hong Kong right there which is now my preferred route of going to Hong Kong.  (Yes, I will go there tonight).   The other way – through Lo Wu train station in Shenzhen – could make one end up in a big-city traffic snarl-up, especially on a Friday night.

The second picture is of one of the dozen or so tunnels dotting the road between Shenzhen and Dameisha.    None of the tunnels are very long and it seems preference was given to keeping the road straight and flat, instead of making it curve around the hills on the coastline.

Thursday/ the Chongqing nuclear cave

Location of the Municipality of Chongqing within China

Here’s a note I got from a colleague here.   The 816 underground nuclear plant in Chongqing’s Fuling district, named by some media as “the world’s largest man-made cave,” opened for the first time in more than 40 years to visitors, the Chengdu Daily reported Monday.

The plant, totally hidden in Fuling’s Jinzishan mountain, saw its construction work start in 1967, but in 1984 when it was almost completed, the country called it off due to a favorable international environment for China. The plant was declassified in April 2002.

It is more than 20 kilometers (12 miles) long and has a total building area of 104,000 square meters (26 acres). It also has 18 large main caves and more than 130 roads, branch caves, tunnels and vertical shafts. More than 60,000 people have worked for the plant during its 17-year-long construction.

There are roads for cars, wind tunnels, drainage channels and warehouses for storing weapons and food. In order to prepare for potential wars, the cave can withstand 8.0-magnitude earthquakes and atomic and hydrogen bombs, said a tour guide.

Now only the nuclear reaction hall, which is the largest cave in the plant with a height of 79.6 meters but accounts for only one-tenth of the whole cave, is open to the public, said Hu Lindan, a person in charge of the plant’s maintenance.

Although the cave is open to visitors, there are strict limitations. There are soldiers standing guard at the entrance, and visitors are allowed in only when they have required certificates.

Wednesday/ feeling a little bullish? moo!

It’s actually a little ox about 3 inches long and 2 inches tall representing the Year of the Ox,  my birth year.

I bought it at the Chinese Arts and Crafts Center in Hong Kong after some hesitation – it was not cheap!   It is made of a colored glass called lazurite glass.     The mineral lazurite in its pure form exhibits  intense, deep, azure-blue, violet, light blue, or greenish-blue colors.

Tuesday/ the elusive blue laser pointer

The coolest color in laser pointers is blue right now – just out for commercial use reportedly after 8 years of research.  It uses a gallium nitride crystal to produce a 473 nanometer blue laser light which is sure to make all other laser pointer owners green with envy – those with green ones as well as the red ones which are so cheap now that I picked one up for ¥20 /US$3 in Shenzhen some time ago.

Our project manager has found a shop that sells blue laser pointers in Shanghai for ¥500 /US$80.   Should I get one?  (Should I get you one? Let me know by Friday).    I see the website thinkgeek sells them for US$500.

Monday

Just a few more pictures from the weekend before I dive into the work week.   A colorful mushroom from an art gallery on Hollywood Ave in the antique district; I only discovered the area this weekend.   The Peninsula has been voted the world’s best hotel on several occasions, and is widely regarded as one of the region’s legendary properties.    New glamorous wall poster of a chic Asian gal clutching her HP notebook computer designed by Vivienne Tam nearby the Peninsula.

Sunday/ weekend pictures

I will let the pictures tell what I was up to this weekend.   I finally found the best way to get to Hong Kong : there is a luxury coach bus that leaves from the Sheraton Hotel and lets all of us go through the border, and picks us up again on the other side : very convenient.   Yes, it costs a whopping ¥75 (US$10) compared with ¥12 (US$2) for the municipal bus, but it’s worth it.

Pictures from the top : second visit to the Peak station, this time provided a very nice view of the city below.   Artsy display with T-Rex and Vitamin water at Peak station store; not sure what the connection is though.   Got me some Marmite at an international grocery store in Kowloon.  It was positioned between the American equivalent, Spam spread (didn’t know there was spam spread) , and the Australian : Vegemite !   How about some black-skinned chicken?  What makes the skin black? I don’t know.   Yes, the iPad is for sale here even though Apple says it is not : ).   It runs HK$5,000 (US$625) – too pricey to take a gamble on and buy here.  And the packaging looks a little suspect.  Poster from the department store SOGO.  It’s their 25th anniversary.   The two symbols for the Chinese ‘Thank You’ (third from the left) is pronounced  ‘shee-shee’.   Blurry over-the-heads steal picture I took in the night club Volume on Saturday night.   The dance floor was actually too crowded for any dancing.  You just drink your beer or cocktail and ogle all the people.   And listen to Lady Gaga singing Pokerface.

Friday/ black sesame

How about a black sesame green tea latte?  (The sign is from Starbucks at Hong Kong airport).  So!  I wondered : is there even such a thing as black sesame? Well, there is.   Black sesame soup is a popular Chinese dessert that can be widely found throughout China and Hong Kong.   In traditional Chinese medicine black sesame is thought to be beneficial for the liver and kidneys.

Since there is a rumor that we will start working Saturdays from next weekend, I’m heading out to Hong Kong tonight.  My friend Doug from Seattle will be there to say hello to, as well a group of people from work.    My Chinese colleagues chided me for going to Hong Kong when I could have gone to Ghangzou (4 hrs by train from Shenzhen) .. well, it takes preparation and some extra time to tackle that for a weekend travel project.     It’s been a rough 4 days at work with more to come next week, so it will be nice to go to the Marriott Courtyard and its neighborhood that I know well by now.   I love the little 7-11 store downstairs with its great selection of snacks and drinks, and some English newspapers and magazines to boot as well.

Thursday

Happiness at home is a clean kitchen, right? .. and sharp-eyed readers will notice that I cheated and smuggled in some ‘Post’ Great Grains cereal from the USA (gasp!).   It’s on the fridge in front of the microwave oven.

I took the photo below my stroll outside on the street last night.    The bright white sign is a new LED sign at the supermarket.   I was sad to see the neon sign that it replaced go, since neon signs of Chinese characters are interesting to see up close.    It takes the art of bending the glass tubes to a new level !   I’ll dig up some pictures from Hong Kong and post them.