It was a long Monday at work – Mondays always seem long! but at least I can post these pictures from yesterday’s visit to the Outside China Town theme park. The first picture shows a walkway with a colorful electronic ceiling, with continuously shifting images. For the rest – Disneyland or Six Flags it is not – but there is a really nice aerial tramway up the mountainside that overlooks Dameisha. (Yes, those are crazy rides built on the edge of the mountainside behind me .. there were not too many brave souls that went on them, and I certainly wasn’t one to sign up, either). I marked up the picture I took from the top of the mountain.
A few of us treated ourselves to a buffet breakfast at the Sheraton Hotel close by – expensive by Dameisha meal standards – but still very affordable at $20. I just had some scrambled egg, toast and some Shumai (also spelled shaomai, shui mai, shu mai, sui mai, shui mei, siu mai, shao mai, siew mai, or siomai!). Gobbled up the first one of the two little critters in my bowl before I took the picture. Shumai is a traditional Chinese dumpling served in dim sum*; it’s essentially a pork and mushroom dumpling. It’s steamed in a wooden basket like the one on my plate.
*Dim sum is the collective name for a southern Chinese cuisine which involves a wide range of light dishes served alongside Chinese tea.
We went to the Dameisha beach afterward (picture below) .. some people out, but it’s only slowly warming up. Still only about 60 ºF (15 ºC), with the sun is struggling to come out. We may go to a resort close by where we live this afternoon with a cable car that runs up the mountains with a panoramic view.
Of course I will take some pictures !
Saturday morning and hey! we saw the sun shine this morning on the way in to work with the bus (we got a little reprieve and left the apartments at 7am instead of at 6.30am). The Daya Bay team is mostly back on site – they were out all week but work today and tomorrow. One of them brought in coconut-flavored coffee instant coffee for us (picture of bag that contains packets). The US team has the day off tomorrow, thankfully. A really busy schedule of system design work shops start on Monday. I am facilitating the discussions for my team .. and we spent this week getting the all our ducks in a row, and I think we are ready. I am sure we will find out !
Friday, and a rough week it was with long work days. It’s the last day of the new year’s week, and hopefully the firecrackers at night will now draw to a close as well (it wasn’t really all that bad, though).
So .. ready for today’s Chinese lesson? Here’s ‘Happy New Year’ in written Mandarin with an analysis. Another case where a combined set of characters mean something special, or different from each one on its own.
I work tomorrow, but I will try to find something interesting to snap with my camera.
新 new, recent, fresh, modern
年 year; new-years; person’s age
好 good / well / proper / good to / easy to / very / so / (suffix indicating completion or readiness)
This metro bus with the giant giraffe advertising the South African Airways flights out of Hong Kong, pulled up across from my hotel when I was there last weekend. No gallivanting around Shenzhen or Hong Kong this weekend : we have to work ! Our project manager ran out to Walmart yesterday and bought a stack of space heaters for the office. Yay! and Thank You! we said.
At the apartment we still hear a barrage of fire-cracker pops and fireworks go off every night as the week-long celebration of the Lunar New Year continues. It was a cold day in the office yesterday – the new building’s heat pump was not working for some reason – and it was cold in the apartment in Dameisha as well. Our $12 space heaters from Shenzhen Walmart were not quite up to the task of warming up the apartment ! With all that in mind, here are the snowy cover pages of the English and Chinese versions of ‘Tintin in Tibet’. Turns out Tintin translates as Ding Ding in Chinese (which sounds silly or odd to the English ear – or not?)
[The following information with thanks from Wikipedia] Tintin in Tibet is the twentieth book in the series. It is said to have been Hergé’s favourite of the Tintin series (previously The Secret of the Unicorn), and was written during a personally difficult time in his life, as he was divorcing with his first wife. The story is unlike any previous Tintin books, before or since: there are only a small number of characters and no enemies, villains, spies or gangsters. This adventure revolves around a rescue mission of Tintin’s Chinese friend Chang Chong-Chen.
It is also unusually emotional for a Tintin story: moments of strong emotion for the characters include Tintin’s enduring belief in Chang’s survival, the discovery of the teddy bear in the snow, Haddock’s attempting to sacrifice himself to save Tintin, Tharkey’s return, Tintin’s discovery of Chang, and the yeti losing his only friend. Indeed Tintin is seen to cry when he believes Chang’s fate, something he is only seen to do three times throughout the entire series (the other occurrences being in The Blue Lotus and Flight 714).
More weekend pictures from Hong Kong. First an refresher orientation of the Hong Kong area again .. Hong Kong Island is at the bottom of the picture and Kowloon is across the water at the top. My hotel was at the left bottom corner, but the Mass Transit Rail (red dots) got me anywhere I want to go. It goes under the water in tunnels under the bay. The two roads shown on the map are massive suspension bridges.
The street scene picture was taken late Saturday night in the Tsim Sha Tsui district in Kowloon (top of the map); a street vendor with all kinds of stuffed characters from the same area; a tiger family made from flowers in the fancy Landmark shopping mall back on Hong Kong island; an irresistible dragon motif made me buy this 24 ct gold ‘coin’ at a jewelry store; little propeller fans at the New Years Fair in Victoria Park (corner right on the picture).
Monday and I’m posting more ‘happy’ pictures to take the blah out of Monday after such a nice weekend in Hong Kong. The characters below were on a canvas poster on the street outside the hotel. I just couldn’t tell what they were happy about! And who wants some MeltyKiss with fruity strawberry chocolates? Saw these in a candy store in a Hong Kong subway station and had to take a picture of the box : ).
They do celebrate Valentine’s Day in China, and this year it coincides with the Chinese New Year’s Day – very rare since the new year’s day is late on the calendar this year. It turned out that my fears of masses of people trying to get into Hong Kong on Friday through the Shenzhen-HongKong border was unfounded; I sailed through with no trouble at all. I stayed at a Marriott Courtyard Hotel on Hong Kong Island, very reasonably priced at US$100 per night, a tall 30 story structure with only 6 rooms on every floor (picture below is from my hotel room). The room was very cozy, the bed had six perfectly firm pillows, the glass shower stall a large oversized ‘rain’ showerhead .. and the food in the restaurant was superb. I was so tired Friday night, but sat there enjoying a crisp Asahi beer and fried halibut with jasmine rice and Thai asparagus. Saturday I criss-crossed the city on several missions, to the bookstore, to the jewelry store, to the toy store, and they were all successful. I also learned that the New Year’s parade (another parade other than the January one) and fireworks was only going to be tonight, so I missed that. But I did go to the New Year’s Fair in Victoria Park; I will post more pictures later this week.
These ‘happy happy’ guys are from the foyer of the International Finance Center, an upscale shopping mall (behind me in the reflection picture of me). Not quite my cup of tea, the malls in Hong Kong. Very upscale and designer oriented, all Gucci and Louis Vuitton and all that. The bookstore there, an Australian franchise, only carried English books. I was looking for a Chinese translation of ‘Tintin in Tibet’. The Adventures of Tintin (Les Aventures de Tintin) is a series of comic strips created by the Belgian artist Georges Rémi (1907–1983), who wrote under the pen name of Hergé. Sure enough, when I produced my English language version of the comic strip to the store clerk (bought at the first bookstore), he showed me the Chinese ones. Now I can read them side by side and see if I recognize a few Chinese characters here and there, see? I’ll write more tomorrow, got to go to bed.
So check this out .. I wrote ‘Do not Erase’ on the whiteboard, and then my Chinese colleague wrote it in Chinese next to it for good measure. The second one is a 17 stroke character! Wow. So the amateur very limited-time student of Chinese I have become, had to go look up the characters on my translator .. and voila! wù cā : do not erase!
And this sign says ‘Good Luck’ .. which I hope I will have a little of for my trip this weekend to Hong Kong. I see the New Years Parade was back in January, so I missed that, but even so I am sure there will be an exciting vibe there this weekend. I need it, since I am a little homesick and that after just one week out here this trip.
This message from the ATM machine at the apartments. Please obstruct other’s view when input password to avoid peek .. yes, peek : ) at your password not good !
My roommates and others are going to Shenzhen for the weekend; I am a going to attempt to get into Hong Kong on my own. From the red dot on the far right where the apartments are to the train station dot on the Hong Kong border with a driver all should go without a hitch. Then I might run into a mob scene at the Hong Kong border, with thousands of mainland travelers trying to get through customs (it’s Chinese New Year weekend). It might count in my favor that I’m a foreigner – we have a separate line at customs. Once through customs, I should be all clear since I know how to use the Mass Transit Rail system – but again there might be hordes of people that will want to use the train go to Hong Kong city. I will see! My plan B is to turn around, go back to Shenzhen and stay in the hotel and give up on Hong Kong. But there will be a really big fireworks display on Saturday night to herald in the Year of the Tiger. And who wants to miss a fireworks display from the inventors of it?
Here’s a nicer red-lantern picture from the apartments. These are much bigger than the ones in the earlier picture. (I finally figured out how to use the bracket function on my camera to slightly over-expose the image to make the lantern ‘glow’). Next week is going to be quiet with no one here at work; our laundry place and some restaurants and stores are closing down for the week as well. Help! I may have to wear some shirts more than once – not the end of the world.
A picture that was sent to one of our team here by a friend. Yes : if you can’t find the book you are looking for, you are probably at .. the Wong Fook Hing book store! Is the picture photo-shopped? Is it a tongue in cheek name, and the store run by an English person? It’s still funny! : )
And more evidence of the coming new year here at the entrance of the building where we work .. the tangerines are real ones, and will get plucked and eaten, is out impression.
The Year of the Tiger is coming !.. (a crouching tiger waiting to jump us?) Next Monday the 15th is the start of the lunar new year. The entire country stops working for a week (but not us .. boo! Boo! ). We will prepare for the next phase and set up the SAP system. I took the photo tonight here in the complex, the red lanterns along the pathway here is a nice touch.
Yes, home it isn’t but it will do, right? Only three of us got picked up by the driver tonight at Hong Kong airport; the rest will come out tomorrow due to the snow storm that closed the airports out east. My friendly little teddy bear piggy bank was waiting on my desk in my room for me, so that cheered me up (aww LOL) ! The flight went very well; the sore throat I started with even cleared up somewhat. I reconfigured my wallet (out with the greenbacks, in with the red 100 yuan notes) and computer bag, so I should be ready in the morning for the bus at 6.30am.
I got put on the earlier 6am flight to San Francisco again, which is good – gives me a little more time to make the connection to Hong Kong. Dry and clear here, no sign of rain and snow. One could almost think winter is passing us over this season, but I don’t believe that !
Oh, and the two canisters of powdered Parmesan cheese pasta have been tested for explosives by security at the airport ! My roommates and I had better enjoy them, since I will not packing powdered parmesan cheese into my bags again.
I’m packing my bags and shipping out in the morning (flying out, that is). Not so for most of the team since they are on the east coast and there is a massive blizzard moving in! (picture source : cnn.com). They will have to wait until Sunday or Monday. The picture of the Great Wall of China is from my visa that’s pasted into my passport .. very nice, and maybe some time soon I will get to see it for real.
Finally, a little peek into the goodies that go with this time : lots of chocolate and coffee, Dove soap that I couldn’t find there, and just some snacks for work. Oh, and a BIGGG old can of parmesan cheese for the pasta we cook in the apartment! No parmesan cheese in China could be found so far by us. (Not a surprise since the Chinese palate is not fond of cheese at all). Nothing I cannot survive without, but hey, it’s just nice to have little things to remind one of home when you’re in a country as foreign as China.
I had to go pick up my passport at the office, and so here is a picture I snapped at the bus stop two blocks from my house. The Newcastle Brown Ale (British beer) truck must have delivered some beer close by : ).
Below is the view of downtown from my desk in the office. The square brown building is a Macy’s dept store, and the low triangular blue one in front of it is Westlake Center with the monorail train at the bottom. The monorail train runs between the Space Needle and Westlake Center.
A rainy day this morning that cleared up later. I don’t mind the rain at all. We are Rain City, are we not? (Jet City when Boeing was still headquartered here, and the Emerald City for tourists. I’m sure we cannot be Rain City for tourists!)
It was a somewhat busy day, but not too hectic. I bought a Mandarin phrasebook (cover picture, yes, it’s the inevitable panda on the little guy’s shirt), a Hong Kong book and a Chinese character study book. Sounds like I’m serious about learning some Chinese but all I hope for is to make a start with, 200 characters !
My passport and multiple-entry visa will arrive tomorrow (the first one only allowed two entries, and I used both), but I went ahead today and applied for an ‘enhanced’ drivers license that can be used to cross the border into Canada and Mexico by car, ferry or rail (or foot!). Just in case I have to send in my passport and I want to go up to Vancouver for the weekend. I was allowed to smile see? : ) which surprised me because I thought smiling distorts the biometrics (likes between the eyes, nose and mouth) on the picture.
Tonight I went to a nice neighborhood bar for cocktails, beers and pub food with my very good very best friends (you know who you are! thanks! it is such a treat to hang out with you).