Two things from my kitchen counter top this morning to brighten up the cold Monday .. General Mills’s latest Cheerios flavor is chocolate, with real cocoa.  Hmm, so there is such a thing as imitation cocoa? and how much is ‘real cocoa’ and how much brown food-coloring?  It tastes so good that it makes me feel guilty, though.  I should eat oatmeal or Pronutro instead !

The other picture is of one of three cuts of silk fabric I bought in Hong Kong (now making its way to Stellenbosch, South Africa).


Saw this on the sidewalk on the way to Starbucks to get some coffee this morning.. hmm !

So I don’t have to go to China to get sum (some) dim sum, see?  Chinese translation and all.  And yes, they say ‘eat me’ and they are delicious, the little dim sums! : )

Friday late

The rhododendron in front of my house is in full bloom .. the only color that I have in my small front yard at this point.   I will have to do something to it, but of course not being home a lot makes it complicated (sigh).   Bed-time for me, I got a fair amount of sleep last night and I hope to do even better tonight.

Thursday afternoon 6pm in Seattle

Below is the Boeing 747-400 bird that brought us across the Pacific sitting patiently on the tarmac.  (Notice the phalanx of apartment buildings in the background?)  The flight and connection in San Francisco went fine; I made it in around 2pm to my house.  It was a beautiful day in Seattle, sunny with some clouds, 60° F (16 °C) and the trees on my street are full of spring blossoms.   I see construction has started in earnest on the light rail station here on Capitol Hill (where I live).  The newspaper says Starbucks is stuck in the crossfire for allowing guns in its stores. I am not sure if this was a change in the previous policy, or how the controversy came about.  (Gun ownership by citizens is illegal in all of China.)  I will have to catch up with the local and national news here !  And catch up with my sleep.

Thursday morning

I am going downstairs for a nice breakfast and then the hotel shuttle will take me to Hong Kong airport.   I snapped this picture looking back from the van that brought us here from work yesterday.  It’s one of the two suspension bridges that runs across Victoria Bay and connects Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.

Wednesday/ all packed up

Below is another ‘spot the translation faux pas‘ picture, of a paper shopping bag on the counter at the dry-cleaners last night when I dropped off some shirts and pants.    Those of us that go home are all packed up for our trip back to the States already, since we’re going to stay overnight at the Hong Kong airport hotel.   Always, always check the Big Three : passport, wallet and Blackberry.   Then almost as important there’s the cell phone charger, computer, charger, medicine, iPod and Bose head phones !  (Yes, I know – I have too many gadgets).


These pictures from a car parked here at work ..  the Chinese bumper sticker equivalent of ‘back off!’.    My colleagues tell me the second picture (same car) is more rude than the first one, roughly translating into ‘I was a bad boy at school so watch out for me!’.   To look up these characters on my translator is a mini-project : I have to scribe it the right way with the stylus, and some of them are just impossible to get right.

Monday/ countdown to Thursday

Monday is over and only Tuesday and Wednesday stands between me and Thursday.   I’m going home on Thursday! I can’t wait!

This picture was taken in the Tsim Sha Tsui district in Hong Kong on Saturday night.   An Indian restaurant, a kitchen house ware store, 24 hr internet cafe and .. hel-lo!  Van der Merwe’s Camera and Video Shop!  South African flag on the sign and above the sign, see it?  Background note to non-South Africans :  Van der Merwe jokes make fun of Afrikaners , Van der Merwe being a stereotypical Dutch name.

Is this joke too risqué?  Too late, here it is.   The doctor wanted to go hunting, he calls his assistant Koos van der Merwe and tells him ‘Yes Koos, I am going hunting tomorrow, we don’t want to close the clinic, and I ask you to take care of our patients’. ‘Yes, doctor …’ answers Koos.
The doctor goes hunting and returns the next day and asks:’So Koos, how was your day?’
Koos tells him he took care of 3 patients:
The first one had a headache so I gave him TYLENOL.
‘Great Koos, and the second one?’ asks the doctor.
‘The second one had an upset stomach and I gave him MAALOX, doctor’ says Koos.
‘Yislaaaaaaaik Koos you’re good at this and what about the third one?’  asks the doctor.
‘Man! I was waiting for more patients and suddenly the door opens and a woman enters hot and bothered, she undresses herself, and lies on the table and shouts: HELP ME! For 5 years I have not seen a man!’
And what did you do Koos?!’ asks the doctor.
Koos : ‘Why – I put some eye drops in her eyes!’

Another weekend in Hong Kong

I need a t-shirt that says ‘I love Hong Kong’, because I really do !

Here is a rundown of the pictures :

Bowl-shaped viewing deck of the Peak Tram BUT there was only FOG to view (co-workers Vic and Karl with me); we had a good laugh about that!  The view has been like this for two weeks, said a guide, so that made us feel better.   The Bank of China building in the Central district on Hong Kong Island is spectacular up close.   Orchids on Flower Market street in Kowloon, they go for  US$10 for a flower pot with the plant spectacularly in full bloom (I saw South African proteas for sale as well).   Birds in cages in the bird market right next to it.   A mind-boggling array of street vendors selling brand names, off-brand names, wanna-be brand names in t-shirts, toys, gadgets, underwear, housewares, electronics, you name it, it’s there.  The t-shirt with the kitten character Marie from the Disney classic Aristocats flanked by Thomas and Friends and others.   Goldfish in plastic bags outside an aquarium store.   The high-end stores have stunning neon-lit displays of sea anemones, sea cucumbers, star fish and even coral for sale that matches the best scenes I have seen anywhere!  A park off Nathan road in Kowloon where retired men played Chinese checkers and mahjong.

Then we walked south on Nathan road,  and Karl bought some pearl arm bracelets;  I bought more gold (yes, another one, somebody – stop me! .. it was a very small item, though).   Then we were accosted like the tourist guides all warn, by the tailors that solicit business on the street.  What an interesting experience to go into the tailor shop – a long story, but I ended up ordering three custom-tailored shirts which were delivered at the hotel and run all of $40 each.  They fit very nicely.

Further south is Salisbury Road on the Kowloon waterfront with Hong Kong designer Vivienne Tam’s store 1881 about to open (the heart-shaped flower display in the picture); a store at that plaza sells Vacheron Constantin watches – which I have never heard of – and a stunning gold and diamonds watch with a dragon design was on display.  I had the nerve to ask the salesperson the price.  It goes for a cool HK$ 546,000 (US$70,000).    The next stop at the Chinese Center for Arts and Culture is the one and only place any visitor to Hong Kong must go to.    Pictures are forbidden, but I took the one shown of a carving, maybe it’s a block of jade,  I don’t know.   Some of the antique carvings in bone and ivory there make the word exquisite fall completely short as a description of it.

Next we got on the Star Ferry to cross Victoria Bay back to Hong Kong Island (skyline from the ferry).   The tall building is Two International Finance Center, the tallest building in Hong Kong.    The next picture shows two of my favorite night scenes : a tram and a building outlined in neon.  And as far as I can tell the O’Fama group is a local band.


This morning a blanket of fog enveloped the whole area; it is amazing how warm and stuffy it got from just one week ago when we were sitting here in the office building shivering from the cold.    The marble floors and door thresholds – and even windows – in the building ‘sweat’ – all the moisture condensing on it.    (Bad to have slippery marble floors, so they had to put mats in all the lobbies and hallways).   Yesterday a few of us walked up to the reservoir close to the office building here where we work (picture below of the gray and black office building on the left with the nuclear power station behind it).

The ‘Kellog’s Special K’ character behind me translates  to .. water !   shui = water  / river /  liquid  / beverage /  additional charges  or  income  / (of clothes) classifier  for  number  of  washes

But hey! it’s Friday and I have a Hong Kong weekend ahead.   The Courtyard Marriott hotel room waiting for me there is the Lap of Luxury, and I am going to SNOOZE in that king-size bed with the six pillows !


Thursday, mercifully the week is drawing to a close.    We have an ‘all-hands’ meeting this afternoon which means I get to sit on my tush and not stand up front trying to control a discussion with a room full of 20 people.   The blurry picture below is of hundreds of building skeletons we see each morning on the way in here .. which seems like a shockingly inefficient use of capital given that there must be plenty of people in China needing housing, businesses needing infrastructure, communities needing schools and hospitals and all that.   The picture below that is of the Bird’s Nest-like entertainment stadium from the Outside China Town theme park where we were just this weekend.   I snapped the picture from over the wall of the apartment complex when I went for a walk one night : it’s that close to us !

I’m going to Hong Kong with 3 colleagues from work; our objectives going to the city are very different (big dinner at Ruth’s Chris steakhouse versus eating local food, going to all the touristy place versus just discovering stores and sights while walking the streets, the choice of bar to go to for a beer on Saturday night !) .. so we’ll see how that works out.   I don’t want to be unsocial, but I do need a break from the people I work with and room with.  I really do!  Go away! : )


Beautiful dog here at the complex — I have to confess I thought Chinese people were not really dog-lovers, but there are quite a few to be seen with dogs here in the apartment complex.

And put some PREMUIN ONLY fuel in your car! .. sticker spotted on a car here.

Tuesday/ more work sessions

Another day of work session facilitating for me – half of it in Chinese with me waiting patiently for the Daya Bay team animatedly discuss some design issue before them.  Then I get a translation from the team lead or my Chinese colleagues, and depending on my answer back they settle down or debate it a little further : ).     It’s tough for me, and tough for them : some are seeing SAP for the first time – in English – and they are not familiar with the terms or the processes.     But as always it’s packaged software, offering some choices but not total freedom to redesign it, which helps me to just say :  ‘Well.  We cannot change it, that’s the way the Germans designed it”.

The picture is from Sunday on the mountain, of course.    A little walkway over the cliff with a glass floor.  Tread carefully !

Monday/ Outside China Town theme park pictures

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.

Sunday/ In Dameisha

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 night/ more information about the Coconut Coffee!

Here’s the cute translation from the back of the coconut coffee bag .. I had to wait until I got home so that I could take a high-resolution picture.

Note the creative breaks in the words This (wow) and summer, and – The taste will be better when it is hot drink in winter. Gotcha!  :).

Saturday/ Coffee with Coconut

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/ ‘Happy New Year’ one more time

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.

new, recent, fresh, modern

year; new-years; person’s  age

good  / well /  proper  / good to / easy to / very /  so  / (suffix indicating  completion or  readiness)

Thursday/ a Giraffe on a Bus

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.

Wednesday/ Tintin in Tibet

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).