Tuesday/ litchis 荔 come from China

A friendly co-worker gave me some litchis; they are in season here for the next month or two.   The word in Chinese has its own character.

Britannica online encyclopedia : Litchis are fruit of Litchi chinensis, a tree of the family Sapindaceae, believed native to southern China and adjacent regions.  The handsome tree develops a compact crown of foliage, bright green the year round. The leaves are compound, composed of two to four pairs of elliptic to lanceolate leaflets that are 50–75 mm (2–3 inches) long. The flowers, small and inconspicuous, are borne in loose, diverse terminal clusters, or panicles, sometimes 30 cm (12 inches) in length.

Monday/ Memorial Day

It’s a somber day in the USA with the remembrance of fallen soldiers in all the wars we have fought.  I found the wall of flowers at the Bund Promenade in Shanghai, and I am posting the words to the folk song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” (1961).    The first three verses were written by Pete Seeger in 1955 and the rest was added by Joe Hickerson in May 1960.

No political statement intended with the song, it’s just such a beautiful sad song that also says to me that what was lost once may come back to us in another form.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls picked them, ev’ry one.
When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young girls gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young girls gone?
Gone to the young men, ev’ry one.
When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone, long time passing?
Where have all the young men gone, long time ago?
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers, ev’ry one.
When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the soldiers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards, ev’ry one.
When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone, long time passing?
Where have all the graveyards gone, long time ago?
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Gone to flowers, ev’ry one.
When will they ever learn? Oh, when will they ever learn?

Sunday in Shanghai

Just a few pictures from Sunday, since it’s Monday morning and the work is stacked up on my desk (figuratively speaking).

1.  This underground mall at a Line 2  metro station says Everything you need, nothing you don’t.

2.  The exit at People’s Square station shows a beautiful Art Deco style building (the brown one – but you knew that, right?).  The crazy UFO top building is a Radisson Hotel.  One cannot be an architect in Shanghai and be bland : that would be a mortal sin.

3.  To translate People’s Square into Chinese, go 人民广场 rén mín guǎng chǎng or man – citizen- wide – open space.  Note the cell phone bar code image next to it.   My phone cannot read it.  Boo-0o!  I need to trade in my business-like Blackberry for a Google Droid phone !

4.  I stood in line for 30 mins to get into the Shanghai museum, similar to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, maybe a little bigger.   There were lines inside the museum for some of the exhibits as well.   This is an ox-shaped wine vessel or zun from around 500 BC.

Saturday in Shanghai !

Well,  after Friday night I had an action-packed weekend in Shanghai!   I will let the pictures tell the story.  The weather Saturday was just perfect.

The Renaissance hotel was next to the Yuyuan Gardens, which was my first stop on Saturday.  The garden is really a set of buildings, pavilions, walkways and ponds.  It used to be privately owned but was donated to the city.

Next up was trying out the Shanghai metro system.  It is one of the newest and fastest growing with 12 lines and counting.  A Shanghai Public Transportation Card similar to Hong Kong’s Octopus Card is a must.  Line 10 that stopped by hotel is brand new.   The metro stations are not filled with ATMs, 7-11s and shops the way the Hong Kong ones are (with some exceptions).

The next picture of the World Cup 2010 billboard is on East Nanjing Road, one the main drags for shopping.   Interesting, the Anime/ cartoon style of the picture.

A tourist like me gets mobbed with offers for iPhones, ‘Louis Vuitton’ bags and ‘Rolex’ watches on Nanjing Rd.  No thank you, no, no, not interested.   Since I had the metro figured out,  it was time to take it to the Longyang stop for my jolly ride to Pudong International airport and back on the maglev train.   In the picture the train arrives at the Longyang station.   The ride and the acceleration is very smooth – not that I was thinking it would be otherwise! – but at one point something went PFOOF!! making the windows rattle.  What was that?! I thought, then realized it was the other maglev train shooting by at close range.   There is a display in the car indicating the speed, showing that we topped out at 300 km/h (187 mph).   So evidently they capped the speed of the beasts, given that they can go much faster .. awww : ).

Mission accomplished, I was headed for the Pearl Tower, so I went back to the Bund.  There I found a rail tunnel they built to ferry people underneath the Huangpu river to the other side – the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel.  To make it interesting (and charge more money) they added pschychedelic lights into the tunnel wall.   The next picture with the people in the rail car shows that the track dead-ends but there is a rotating mechanism that swings it around on a section of track for the return trip.

The Pearl Tower drew me like a magnet, but I had to be patient because there was a long line.   The security check point swiped my bottled water.   The view of the circular walkway with human ants on is from the second pearl at 260m (850 ft).  Yes – they’re not done building skyscrapers by a long shot in Shanghai.

Next I went down to the first level, this one is at 90m (300 ft), and it has a wrap-around glass floor.  I stepped onto it gingerly as if it was made of egg-shells, and look straight down.   A creepy feeling, and after that I was ready to get out of there!

Back on the Bund side, here is Pudong skyline basking in the late afternoon sun.   But by now my feet were killing me and I commandeered a scooter taxi (three wheels, open cage at the back and no belt so you had better HOLD ON to your belongings.   It was a wild ride but got me back to the hotel.   (I couldn’t take the metro because the new line running to the hotel is not fully in service and had closed at 4 pm already).  The Chinese gate picture was taken from the back of the scooter.

The final two pictures are my cue for going to bed!   They were taken late Saturday night on the Bund (it means the Embankment) Promenade.    Got to love that gaudy glitzy boat decked out in LED lighting !  I will post a few more tomorrow.

Friday night

I made it in, but there was a delay at Shenzhen airport of two hours for our flight.  Luckily Shanghai Airlines is a Star Alliance member so I could use my platinum Continental Airlines card to get Samuel and me into the lounge.  (Now I sound like George Clooney’s über frequent flyer character in Up in the Air).

The terminal at Shanghai airport is brand new.   The line at the taxi stand had at least 200 people in, but the sea of available taxi cabs made it move very quickly.   Here is a glimpse of the city at night from the taxicab.   Looks like I was mistaken if I thought Hong Kong was the only city with neon trimming on its buildings!

Friday/ Shanghai上海 in my sights

My trip to Shanghai is on!    I still have jet lag, but I spent the money buying air fare and a hotel room, and there in no backing out.

Shanghai is split in two by the Huangpu River (黄浦江 Huángpǔ Jiāng).  On the west bank is Puxi (浦西 Pǔxī), the older city center, while the newer sky-rise development on the east side is called Pudong (浦东 Pǔdōng).  Does the skyline of the Pudong district not look like a colony on Mars? That’s the Pearl Tower, the one with the spheres and I want to go check it out up close.

My other mission for the weekend is to travel on the magnetic levitation (MagLev) train.   During testing in 2003 it achieved a Chinese record speed of 501 km/h (311 mph).   In everyday use on the short track from the international airport it still reaches speeds of 450 km/h (280 mph).    I arrive from Shenzhen at the domestic airport tonight, so I will not use the train tonight.

I will visit the World Expo on another weekend.   It’s right there in the city as well.

Thursday/ nuclear power avenue

This is the street sign we drive by every day on the way to the office.  Don’t know why, but it reminds me of the Eddy Grant song ‘Electric Avenue’

Down in the street there is violence/ And a lot of work to be done/ No place to hang out our washing/ And I can’t blame all on the sun, oh no

Chorus – We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue/ And then we’ll take it higher/ Oh we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue/ And then we’ll take it higher

I forgot to mention two interesting statistics reported in the South Korea news paper yesterday.   1.  The individual savings rate has dropped to an alarmingly low level to just above 30% the last year (in the USA it briefly reached 5% in 2009).   2.   A large majority of Seoul residents – 75%  ! prefer to live in high-rise apartments to living in a house.   City officials want to reverse the trend to make the city more livable with open spaces, and will provide more community resources typically found in high-rise aptments,  such as day-care centers, health clubs, and the like.

Wednesday/ back at work

Back at work!  It’s been a lo-ong day.   Lots of work the next two weeks, and I have so much to catch up on.   I may very well have to work this weekend but maybe I can dodge it and stick to my plan to go to Shanghai.

Pictures :

Checking out the Korean Airlines jets at the gates from inside the terminal/  The simple bunny-ear layout of the Incheon airport with directions; Korean text on the left and Chinese and Japanese text on top of the English/  Checking out of the Marriott Skycity this morning, banana I grabbed at breakfast downstairs in hand

Tuesday/ midnight at the Skycity hotel

A quick post because I have to get to bed!  I’m at the airport hotel in Hong Kong.  The border is closed this time of night so the driver will pick two of us up in the morning and we will go directly to the office.

The Asiana Airlines flight went well .. the stewardesses are very sweet : ), the seats are not quite as nice as the other airlines I have flown so far, but the food was great.   I took a snap of my traditional Korean dinner :  bibimbap which  literally means “mixed rice.”  Bibimbap is served as bowls of warm white rice, and namul  (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang  (chili pepper paste).    So I added the rice to the veggies, added some sesame oil and the pepper paste and stirred it before eating it.   (My dish had ground beef, I saw online it could have egg in as well).  Very good.

The second picture shows us as we are heading out of Seoul on the Korean peninsula to Hong Kong.   (South towards the bottom of the picture).  I will post a few pictures of the Incheon airport in Seoul later.   It’s compact, much much smaller than Hong Kong’s airport of course.  But very nice inside.

Monday/ at Seattle airport

I’m at Seattle airport’s South Terminal in the Asiana Airlines lounge.   People dress so strange, I thought as I checked them out on the shuttle train .. one guy had shorts and flip-flops on (I would never fly with flip-flops), another wore black aquatic toe-sneakers (like a glove, only for feet) – making him look like the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Here’s a new sign that made me smile on the way to get my Starbucks coffee this morning early : for a ‘Designated Canine Defication Area‘.   Hmm.  1.  Defication should be defecation  2.  Could the sign not just say ‘Let your dog poop here’ ?.  3.  Not sure why a designated area is needed .. dog owners in Seattle are generally very good at picking up after their dogs.

Sunday/ packing for trip no 5

Sunday is racing to a finish (I thought Sundays were meant to go by slowly) but I have most of my things together for my trip tomorrow.   The Asiana Airlines website wouldn’t let me check in on-line, so I will go to the airport a little earlier (I did confirm the reservation on the phone).   It will be interesting to see what the inside of Incheon International Airport in Seoul looks like, where I connect to the flight to Hong Kong.

The cat is the neighbor’s, it slipped into my garage at one time and the neigbor had to come ask me to open the garage door.  So watch out! kitty kat, don’t go in there.  I did have a spare house key made, and I put it in a ‘secret’ place.


Here’s a series of cell phone pictures I took yesterday on my walk down to the gym.  (I promise I will post glamorous Hong Kong like night-time pictures of Seattle at another time!).

From the top down :

Time to take in my Stradivarius to the violin shop?  If I had one I would surely not take it just any old violin shop! These famous violins were made in the ‘golden period’ in 1700-1720, and they sell for $2million – $3million at public auctions.

Construction continues on the Capitol Hill light rail station and tunnel.  Slated only for opening in 2016, though!

I have never stopped in at the Queen Sheba Ethiopian restaurant to sample their cuisine.

Traffic on the I-5 Freeway surprisingly light in the downtown area for a Friday afternoon but I assure you it’s heavy going up north and down south ..

.. so why not ride your bike to work, Friday being Bike To Work day?  F5 provides IT infrastructure to other companies, and just for fun I checked in to the ‘Now Hiring/ F5.com/careers’ on the billboard.  The one business analyst position available in Seattle says  ‘Experience with CRM applications, specifically Clarify is a plus’.  I have no idea what Clarify is or does, but now I am going to find out!


My morning coffee comes in a fine china mug by Noritake, and I used the photo to show a bone china bowl I bought at the same Sogo department store in Hong Kong.   It’s beautiful, I said of the bowl to the salesperson, but what does one use it for?  Oh, anything, you can drink tea out of it as well, she said.   I will have to try it for tea, then.  The tea can just not be too hot.

Since the opening of the 2010 World Cup is 3 weeks away, I thought the picture from the fresco in the train station in Cologne, Germany is in order.  I cannot name all the soccer stars but the two guys in white could be David Beckham (England, of course) and Michael Ballack, German star that announced just this week he cannot play due to an injury.

Thursday/ searching for my Chinese name

Seriously.  For our China work permit applications which we are finally getting.   Looks like Willem translates to William translates to Wēi ​lián (symbols below).

威   Wēi   which means power/ might/ prestige

廉   lián   which means honest (very nice, I will try even harder to live up to my name !)

My last name is a problem, since there is no direct translation available.   I will call in the help of my Chinese colleagues.   A person’s last name is actually used to address the person in everyday conversation in Mandarin, and the last name goes first.  So a person we would know as Keng Wang will be  addressed Wang-Ken (pronounced in proper Mandarin it sounds more like Whung- kuhh).    So I have a little more legwork to do but I will let everyone know my full Chinese name, rest assured !

Wednesday/ North Korea & South Korea

A five-country committee announced Thursday morning in Seoul that they had concluded a North Korean submarine fired a torpedo that sunk the South Korea warship in March.  The White House backed the report issued Thursday in Seoul, saying it “points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that North Korea was responsible for the attack.”  North Korea would have nothing of this, and reacted belligerently.

Why do I keep my eye on it?  Well, I get to Hong Kong on Monday by flying from Seattle to Seoul and then on to Hong Kong.  The two Koreas sit on a peninsula between Japan and China.  (One would think that North Korea cannot afford to throw its military weight around, but it does).   Double-click to enlarge the map, courtesy of Google, of course.

Tuesday/ unhappy 30th anniversary..

.. of the eruption at Mt St Helens (archive photo below).  The eruption occurred at 8.32am on May 18th, 1980.  57 people were killed and the ash plume went up to 80,000 ft, encircling the earth in 15 days.  Strangely the reports today mention nothing about it disrupting air travel the way the Iceland volcano still does.  Maybe the Mt St Helens ash was very high (commercial aircraft fly at 30,000 – 40,000 ft), maybe everyone back then was blissfully unaware of the potential dangers of the ash?  I’m just speculating.

I ran more errands today, bought a short-sleeve shirt for work in China (don’t have enough of those), checked out the iPad at the Apple store (very nifty, but more than one person remarked ‘I thought it would be bigger’) and checked in at a store that sells bookshelves (we call them book cases here in the USA, for my South African readers!).  Of course they can only deliver it when I am away again.

Monday/ around the house

Here is a table runner I bought in Hong Kong.  It’s silk and a good thing I remembered the dining room table is 8 ft long so I could get the right size.  There were gaudy greens and pinks and yellows to choose from but I went with the toned-down brown and gold .. looks nice, not?   Of course the runner can be put on top of a table cloth as well, to dress it up.

Sunday/ copper river salmon

Copper river salmon is here! It’s available only 3 or 4 weeks per year, and it’s very expensive (3 times the price of other salmon).  What is special about it? The Copper River flows in the state of Alaska; almost 300 miles in length, it is a wild rushing river that empties into Prince William Sound at the town of Cordova.  Salmon that originate in these pristine waters are challenged by the river’s length and its strong, chill rapids.  So Copper River salmon are strong, robust fish with a healthy store of natural oils and body fat – making them among the richest, tastiest fish in the world.

So I felt obliged to get some, and here is my dinner : ) .. I like my salmon plain : sans even butter or lemon juice.   I didn’t have green asparagus that I usually stir-fry as the veggie to go with it, so I threw in some potato bread toast with marmalade.

Saturday/ a coincidence

Life is strange .. I flipped open the TIME magazine this afternoon that landed in my mailbox, and lo and behold : of all the properties the Starwood company could advertise in my TIME magazine this week, they picked the Sheraton Hotel in Dameisha, China. My aptment is 1/4 mile from the hotel, and the concierge there sells me the bus ticket to go to Hong Kong.   It’s a gorgeous property, on the beach and well-kept.  I took the picture below in January.  I can definitely recommend the hotel but the surroundings is not nearly as great as say – that of the Sheraton on Nathan Road in exciting Tsim Sha Tsui area in downtown Hong Kong!  But then a visitor to Hong Kong instead of Dameisha would not be able to walk over to my place for a TsingTao beer! .. aww.


The jungle out front has been tamed (I mowed the lawn and trimmed the edges).  I also picked up the mail, got some groceries, swept the deck, took the car to the car-wash and filled it up (thinking of the on-going disaster in the Gulf of Mexico as I did that) and took a 2-hour nap!   Tonight my ‘home buds’ and I went to one of our usual watering holes, the Elysian Brewery on Capitol Hill.

Below is the Bombardier turbo-prop that brought me to Seattle from Vancouver.  The sky was again as blue and cloudless today, as it was yesterday.