Sunday/ visit to Kaiping hot springs, villages

And here’s Sunday’s pictures of the bus trip.    We stayed overnight at a hot springs resort (building with the palm trees in front)/   The highlight of the stay was to have my feet nibbled by a horde of tiny freshwater fish!  More about that later with a picture someone else took that I still have to get.  The village pictures are in the Kaiping area, a World Heritage Site .. as China’s history goes, they were built very recently, about 100 years ago.    The picture below the one of the banyan tree shows rice lied out to dry; the husks are still on.     The berry fruit grows on the trees in the area,  it is called yellow skin or yellow seed (I will follow up), as does the cute stubby bananas (delicious).    I found the truck with the pigs getting cooled down at a rest stop, and I can never resist taking a picture of a beautiful Chinese gate arch !

Saturday/ bus trip to Taishan

The company coach bus picked us up at 8am and we made our way to Taishan in western Guangdong province.  It is the site of 2 new nuclear reactors for which construction started in Nov 2009.   The units will each have a maximum capacity of 1,750 MW and is a third generation pressurized water reactor (PWR) design called EPR for European Pressurized Reactor, or CEPR which stands for China European Pressurized Reactor.  Two other units currently under construction, one in Finland and one in France, are both facing costly construction delays.

Here is a link with more information

Pictures from the top down :   Typical road-side scenery- these are fish farms with aerators for the water; we encountered several large suspension bridges since we had to cross Shenzhen and the Pearl River delta from east to west; a model of the new nuclear reactors.   The shell is a double layer.  The black cylinders contain the nuclear fuel.   Behind me is the construction site.  There will eventually be six reactors lined up alongside the hillside.   The first two are slated for a 2014 start-up.

Friday/ chinese fuwa dolls

One of our team members leaving the project got a pair of fuwa dolls as a gift (first picture).

The Fuwa in the second picture (Chinese: 福娃; pinyin: Fúwá; literally “good-luck dolls”, also known as “Friendlies”), were the mascots of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.   The designs were created by Han Meilin, a famous Chinese artist.   Check out more interesting detail on Wikipedia’s entry for ‘Fuwa’.

Finally, this also solves the mystery of my March 23 posting.    The Hong Kong picture actually had three of the Beijing Olympics fuwa characters on it.

Thursday/ Dameisha sidewalk food

We had dinner tonight at a co-worker’s apartment .. he had shrimp and beef steak that was bought in Shenzhen, and cooked up potatoes and green beans in a wok to go with it : very good.

I took this picture on while walking on the way back to my apartment.  It is high summer, and people are outside until late at night here in the beach town of Dameisha.   I am not adventurous enough to try the food sold on the sidewalk : ( .. if I could cross the language barrier and inquire about the strange looking items on offer, it might have been different!

Wednesday/ Kaiping and Taishan

To my brother Chris : Happy Birthday!  Wow!  It’s a Big One. Veels Geluk!

The company is organizing a road trip for us out into Guangdong province to Kaiping and Taishan for this weekend.  There is a hot springs resort at Kaiping, and some interesting historical watchtowers, and a nuclear power station at Taishan which we will tour.    Click the map to enlarge.

Tuesday/ the USA pavilion at the 2010 World Expo

So here is (some of) the story of the USA pavilion at the 2010 World Expo.    Since I realized too late where it was, I just couldn’t retrace my steps there on Saturday.    Finding a picture of the completed pavilion on-line is surprisingly hard, and a rendition of it is shown below.   It’s supposed to be an eagle with welcoming ‘arms’ drawing people in.   I don’t know that I see an eagle there.

Clive Grout, the Canadian architect commissioned to design pavilion is on record saying :
“The building is designed here the way we’d do it if it was in downtown Philadelphia or in Los Angeles.    It’s a model for high-density, low-rise development in our cities. We have a very prominent site and it is the USA Pavilion. People will find it. We have not felt the need to do an architectural handstand to get attention.”

[Well blah.  A little architectural flair would have been nice].

And here is a blunt assessment of a Chinese journalist (I lost the name of the person and the publication) : The lack of enthusiasm in America has something to do with its national traditions.  America has traditionally pursued isolationism and is only concerned with itself rather than the outside world.  Even though things changed after the Second World War, on the whole, Americans still believe devoutly that “all politics are local,” and congressmen only care about things that affect their own district.  Naturally they do not approve of allocating money for this Exposition.

[Funding for the pavilion had to be raised from private donors, due to legislative limitations prohibiting the use of appropriated funding for an American presence at World’s Fairs unless expressly authorized by Congress].

Monday/ I am so late, I am early

There must have been a black storm cloud hanging over my head in Shanghai because another severe rainstorm with lightning broke out just as our in-bound flight was arriving, forcing it to land at Hangzhou airport an hour away.   It took a very very long time for that plane to make it back to Shanghai.  We eventually left at 2 am (scheduled departure was 6pm), and arrived into a closed Shenzhen airport at 4 am Monday morning sans luggage.   The bags are still in Shanghai.   But I had a lucky break in that a colleague from the China team was on the same late flight, so she could help me at the Lost Luggage counter, and we hunted down literally the only available taxi at Shenzhen airport that morning.   We had to walk through a dark terminal to get there.   So as I arrived here in Dameisha at 6.15am, I begged off going into work this morning, and will go in only this afternoon.

So – Polite language and no noising, please (sign from a line at the Expo): I need to get some sleep.

Sunday/ happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!  I am at Shanghai’s Hangqiao Airport waiting for my flight to Shenzhen.   The sequence of symbols is from Google’s homepage (I love it) and below that is the closest I can offer to a fireworks picture : the view from my hotel last night over Shanghai with the blue LED glow underneath one of the freeways (it gets switched off at 11pm).  The Marriott at Tomorrow Square is unusual (for me at least) in that its lobby is on the 38th floor of a skyscaper building.  My room was on the 45th floor, and the lounge is on the 60th.   Consider that the Bank of China building has 73 floors and that 100 floors is pretty much as high as skyscrapers go.

Saturday/ 2010 World Expo in Shanghai II

Alright .. more pictures.  The iron oxide -coated (rusted) exterior is of the Luxembourg pavilion.   Latvia takes one on a hot-air balloon tour of the country.  Then Russia, Algeria and South Africa – which had displays and arts and crafts inside such the baskets woven from telephone wire and the husse met lang ore*. The rest of the continent was housed under the Africa pavilion.  Then the UK pavilion, Poland and Spain, and a somewhat scary baby.   The cute fishes are on the Pacific Pavilion, the figure from the Solomon Islands.  Then Singapore, Malaysia and .. drum roll ! the giant red China pavilion (which had a really impossibly long line of people trying to get into it).   Finally, the Saudi Arabia pavilion and a building for Asia.   And a Find the Willem picture to end with.

*Husse met lang ore = Afrikaans for ‘curious’ things or creatures with ‘long ears’, used as a reply to someone, usually a child,  asking ‘what’s inside?’ or ‘what’s that?’

Soo .. you may ask : what about the United States of America pavilion?   Is there one?  Yes there is! – but I did not get to it because it was a little out of the way, and I knew what it looked like.  I will write about it tomorrow.

Saturday/ 2010 World Expo in Shanghai I

So .. what does one do in Shanghai if it’s 36 ºC  (97 ºF) and steamy outside and you wanted to go to the World Expo?  You go anyway.    There was a massive downpour with lightning during my visit as well ! We had to find cover for 40 mins and the public announcement said to stay away from tall structures and not to touch any metal.

So what is the Expo?  It’s a modern world’s fair – countries were invited to host a pavilion and put content inside which should illustrate the theme of the Expo : ‘Better Life/ Better City’ and sustainability.    The Expo is actually as much about that, as it is about putting Shanghai on the world map and attracting visitors from all over the world.

But I will let the pictures tell the story.

Top to bottom : The entrance to the Expo from the Shanghai Metro station .. very convenient since there is a stop across the street from my Marriott hotel.
Artwork in the ‘Expo Axis’, an elevated walkway,  a totem pole of animal heads.   (By the way: I treated the entire expo more as an outdoor and architectural exhibition.   Most pavilions had very long lines, and it seemed a better use of my time to walk around outside).

And how about this whimsical Picasso-like blob with legs?  Like it?  : )

Next two pics of the Taiwan pavilion, then Nepal and India.   The flying saucer is the Expo Cultural Center.    It will stick around after October (most other structures will be torn down) and has a concert arena, movie theaters and restaurants inside.

It provides a nice view of some of the pavilions.  The giant red upside down tapered one is the China pavilion.   The Korea pavilion (perforated 3D surface) is where the rain storm hit, and I huddled under a canvas umbrella there for a long time.

The rain stopped (sort of) and here are the Israel, Pakistan and Jordan pavilions.   The ‘Urbania’ pavilion was one of the themed pavilions, with colorful artwork outside.

This is a coconut milk stand outside the Phillippines pavilion, followed by Thailand, Australia and Portugal.  Then Bosnia & Herzegovina and the Republic of San Marino (‘the oldest and smallest republic in the world’ its tag line), Norway beautiful wooden structure, the Ukraine, Turkey and Iceland’s ice cube.   Sweden (also the picture with the red horse), Latvia, Germany (a very engineered construction – and we wouldn’t want it any other way) and the Netherlands.

Friday/ winter melon

Yesterday’s lunch .. pork and winter melon,  noodles and flat bread.

[Picture and text from Wikipedia] The winter melon, also called white gourd, ash gourd, or “fuzzy melon”, is a vine grown for its very large fruit, eaten as a vegetable  when mature.   It is the only member of the genus Benincasa. The fruit is fuzzy when young.  The immature melon has thick white flesh that is sweet when eaten.   By maturity, the fruit loses its hairs and develops a waxy  coating, giving rise to the name wax gourd, and providing a long shelf life.   The melon may grow as large as 80cm (30 in)  in length.   Although the fruit is referred to as a “melon,” the fully grown crop is not sweet.   Originally cultivated in Southeast Asia, the winter melon is now widely grown in East Asia and South Asia as well.

Thursday/ big 大 man人

Our newest American team member is 6’4 and therefore a big man | dà rén |大人,  as indicated by the label on his chair : ).   The head on the first Chinese character is bogus, but one can see why it is tempting to draw it on there.

I thought I would not be up to it – but I am – going back to Shanghai this weekend to see if I can get to the 2010 World Expo.   It’s a challenge to get into the big pavilions, those for China and the USA.   I hope I will at least be able to admire the weird and wonderful structures from outside.

Sad news from the Overseas China Town (OCT) theme park right next door to Dameisha : 6 people were killed and 10 injured in a terrible accident on Tuesday on one of the rides that malfunctioned due to an electrical short circuit.

Wednesday/ at work

The blue water bottle is new –  it’s summer and I need plenty of water.  The blue notebook is old – no electronic note taking in meetings for me, thank you.  Cannot type fast enough, cannot draw, cannot doodle on the computer.  The three symbols on the purple sticker says ‘Dameisha’, and the wireless mouse is about to get new batteries.   Hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go!    Recognize it?  Scroll down ..

It’s from the song from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.   Here’s more : ) .. it ain’t no trick/ to get rich quick/ if you dig dig dig/ with a shovel or a pick/ in a mine (in a mine)/ in a mine (in a mine)/ where a million diamonds shine/  we dig dig dig dig dig dig dig from early morn to night/ we dig dig dig dig dig dig dig up everything in sight/ we dig up diamonds by the score/ a thousand rubies/ sometimes more/ we don’t know what we dig them for/ we dig dig dig-ga dig dig ..

Tuesday night/ in Dameisha

I made it in .. my journey was off to a rough start with a bee-atch of a headache on the Seattle-San Francisco flight, but after I took some Advil that took care of it.   (I have a mini drugstore in my computer bag).   Then I lucked out and got upgraded to first class for the long flight to Hong Kong, and boy, did I use that seat to just lie back and snooze.  I needed it.

The border crossing into mainland China is always a little chaotic, and my colleague and I walked through separate from our driver, who used the vehicle crossing.   We lost him for 20 mins or so, but he found us.

The alphorn picture is from a Toblerone chocolate display stand at Hong Kong airport.   The alphorn has natural harmonics (unlike the vuvuzela!) and can actually produce melodious sounds in the hands of a alphornist.

Monday/ trip#6 for Mission Impossible

And here I am in the United Airways lounge at Seattle airport.  It’s the Seattle-San Francisco-Hong Kong route this time.    It’s always a scramble to get packed, get some work done, and just GET OUT OF THE HOUSE !  It helps if the Yellow Cab has shown up already.   Sometimes one needs a little pressure : ).

P.S.   Please know that the Mission Impossible reference for my project in China is tongue-in-cheek.   I wouldn’t be here if I thought we couldn’t do it !   If the project is building a house – and we have started building the house aka the  new system – we were looking at moving some rooms around on the ground floor yesterday.  (Not good).  But in the end we backed away from it.   The client is again happy with the rooms on the ground floor.

Sunday/ Seattle LGBT Pride Parade

This post is late! It’s Monday already, and I am at Seattle airport.   PriceWaterhouseCoopers sponsored a group to march in the Seattle Gay Pride Parade, and I felt compelled to take part.     And there I am, see? (second picture .. thanks for the pictures, Bryan).  Our green shirts said *be yourself which is a great message.   (Unless you’re an axe-murderer, right?).

Saturday/ in Seattle

Like the African soccer motif on my t-shirt I wore today?  I bought it in South Africa last December.  Turned out Africa was it with Ghana over the USA in the World Cup match this morning and going to the last 8.   As the coach said afterward : ‘We know we have to be better’.  Still, it was disappointing.

The Hammerhead Ale is very tasty – an American pale ale beer by McMenamins Pubs and Breweries, a brewery in Portland, Oregon .. had it at sunset with my friends close by.   Life is too short to drink Budweiser Light – right?

Friday/ Starbucks price comparison

[^Click to enlarge]

As I am sifting through my receipts from the last trip out to Asia, I found three different ones for Starbucks.  Since I always get the same beverage : a 12-oz soy vanilla latte, I thought it would be interesting to compare the prices :

China .. 30 Yuan, which equals US $ 4.41

Hong Kong .. 31 Hong Kong Dollar, which equals US $ 3.99

Korea.. 5,100 (!) Korean Won, which equals US $ 4.32

and then there is the USA, of course!  .. US $4.53

When I travel the coffee is a treat, but I have to say that nowadays I find the 4 bucks excessive (a psychological effect of the recession?), and have resorted to buying the little packets of ground Starbucks Via instant coffee instead for my caffeine fix.  That comes out to about $1 .. or $2 if one figures there are two shots of espresso in the latte. Much easier to swallow!

Thurday/ thimbleberries

It’s late but here is today’s post.  At lunch time my friends Bryan, Steve, Paul and I went walking along Lake Washington’s western shoreline (Lake Washington is in the metro area of Seattle, separating the cities of Seattle and Bellevue, and Redmond where the Microsoft campus is).   The picture shows a platform that is used for hanging out and jumping into the water in summer.

The thimbleberry picture comes from right there next to the lake; I never knew there was such a thing, and I ate one today.  The shrub is 2.5m tall and has no prickles – very nice for animals and humans foraging for berries – and it produces a tart edible composite fruit around a centimeter in diameter, which ripen to a bright red in mid to late summer. Like other raspberries it is not a true berry, but instead an aggregate fruit of numerous drupelets around a central core. The drupelets may be carefully removed separately from the core when picked, leaving a hollow fruit which bears a resemblance to a thimble, perhaps giving the plant its name.

Wednesday/ go U.S.A. !

What a game! – this morning’s World Cup Algeria-USA soccer match, of course.  (I have no shame : I stole the first picture of Landon Donovan from the Yahoo home page.  It so captures the joy of scoring that goal a in the 90th minute).  Never say it’s over – until it really is over.

ESPN briefly cut to the Atlantic Crossing Pub here in Seattle after the broadcast to show the fans.  The pub opened well before 7 am in the morning.  Yeah!  Seattle is arguably the USA’s most enthusiastic soccer city.  Our own soccer team is called the Seattle Sounders. (Sounders from Puget Sound*, not for making noise! Or maybe it’s a word play on both?).

*An estuarine system of interconnected marine waterways and basins separating the city of Seattle from the Pacific Ocean.