Hey – I was not going to sit in the apartment in Dameisha today, so I got on the Sunday shopping van to Shenzhen with 3 other coworkers.

Pictures from top to bottom –

The store looks very respectable, but sells only knock-off watches.  I’m sporting a classic sqaure ‘Cartier’ I’ve seen many times in print ads in Time magazine.. nice enough for $40, not?  / Remember that the Chinese New Year is not yet here!  (second week in Feb) so the signs for a happy 2010 are all still up / Roasted duck in a Carrefour store – very good, we bought some /  The cute kid was playing with the live seafood in front of him : ), this is also in the Carrefour store (international French store chain, but they are not in the USA).

Saturday trip to Shenzhen

Five of us made another run into Shenzhen, and this time I saw a little more of the city than just Walmart.   Shenzhen -with a population of 12 million already! – is by some measures still the world’s fastest growing city.  There are brand-new buildings everywhere.   I saw ‘digital malls’ as they are called, a little grungy inside, but crammed with 150 cell-phone and gadget sellers.

Pictures from top to bottom (remember that double-clicking should display the picture a little bigger, to take a closer look):

Clusters of high-rise apartment buildings are everywhere in the city/ Our driver parked his van in front of the Casablanca Bar/ Unfortunately sights like these of historic Chinese architecture are very rare in Shenzhen/ One of the main streets downtown, sporting a Starbucks, a McDonalds and Coca-cola billboards, all with an Asian twist.  I love cultural west-meets-east confluences like these! /  My favorite sighting of the day : a colorful Lenovo truck with a cute African zebra saying ‘Let’s open happy’ ! .. it’s almost certainly going to make me buy a Lenovo notebook next.

Friday, at last

Gelukkige verjaarsdag, mammie! Happy birthday mom!

This picture is a scene from out of the bus window I took on the way back to the apartment after work.  That’s a drug store on the right and the big old Buick emerging from the gate is the most popular luxury car in Chinese cities, I’m told – more so than Lexuses, Mercedeses and BMWs.   There are plenty of mopeds, motorcycles and bicycles on the road as well, and the buses and cars honk at them to say ‘Get out of the way!’ or ‘I’m on your left!’ .. we’re all glad we don’t have to drive here !

We have scheduled trips to Shenzhen for this weekend again, so I will report back on that.  Hopefully we will get to go to Hong Kong and even further afield on the Mainland once we have settled in a little better.


I have to submit a picture of a Chinese toilet – amazingly these are found even in the brand-new building we just moved into.   Mercifully each washroom has one western-style toilet as well.   Yay!   We didn’t have those in the building we started in the first week.  An interesting exercise it was to put your feet on the white footholds and squat to do the dirty deed !

Birthday Cake

The birthday cake for a team member was very nice! .. light with real fruit.   By the way : dessert for a Chinese meal is almost without exception fruit such as melon and cantaloupe.


It didn’t take me too long to track down my favorite candy – see?

Also, I thought it is time for the readers of my blog to learn a little more about the written Chinese language, a language of pictographs.  Many basic Chinese characters are in fact highly stylized pictures of what they present, but about 90% of characters is a combination of a ‘meaning’ element and a ‘sound’ element.   A contemporary Chinese person might know and use between 6,000 and 8,000 characters, and a person can get by with as few as 2,000 or 3,000.  The two characters below stand for ‘entrance’.  ‘Exit’ looks like this .. 出口.   And for a space where the door or gate is open, the symbols look like this .. 出入口.   (Remember the symbol for ‘push’ on the door handle on my Friday post?  I’m sure you don’t!  Here it is ..   推).


See the sign Show mercy to the green lives under your foot ? – a very philosophical equivalent of Keep of the grass! (I like it).


We walked down to the beach where the area’s McDonalds is.  (There is also a KFC but no Starbucks).

My McDonalds breakfast consisted of orange juice, hash browns and a spicy grilled chicken McMuffin.

The Dameisha area has some very nice beaches, but it’s quiet at the moment since it’s winter and not tourist season.

Some of the buildings are really run-down or even deserted, others are brand new.   One gets the impression everywhere that construction happens in spasms and not always well-planned.

Visit to Wal-mart in Shenzhen

Well – what can I say? I was Alice and Wal-mart was a wonderland of  Chinese culture from food to marketing to clothing to houseware to electronics.     There we were, 15 of us dropped off with a little bus, looking for household items and weekend food for our apartments.   And did we load up that bus.   Wal-mart being what it is, the choices were cheap and enormous, and of course one found Kraft food products and Coke and Pepsi but there were still some surprises.   Dinner plates were hard to find since Chinese food is served up in bowls, and t-shirts were not plentiful at all.    The food was the most fascinating, from the wet area where one could catch one’s super-fresh seafood (yes, right there in the store – the way the staff did at the restaurant the other night), to teas of all kinds, but a limited selection of good coffee, candy but relatively few chocolate products, noodles of all kinds, milk tea, root vegetables, fresh ginger, eggplant and king-of-fruit.

Pictures from top to bottom :

Entrance/  shampoo for lovely luscious black hair/ dragonfly silk jacket/ cute-sy character humidifiers/ Look! I found some long-lost ‘Sugus’ candy from my childhood again!/ some eel for dinner?/ you get the whole chicken, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g/ lid on a lip-licking good sauce jar/ oodles of noodles in aisle 12

It’s Friday ..

.. so we’re getting out of here ! Woo hoo !

The highlight of the weekend is the team’s planned visit to WalMart in the city of Shenzhen .. my internet access at the apartment is not up, nor is the central heating working, and we will finally get some pots and pans, knives, forks and extra towels.

But it was not a bad start at all.

Thu night dinner

The team went to a nice restaurant and boy! did we have a sampling of diverse dishes.   The picture shows our dinner (fish, jumbo shrimp) being ‘caught’ in the wet area which has many many more seafood items than just lobster to choose from for one’s dinner plate.      The fishy stuff aside, the signature dish of the restaurant is pigeon (a nice gamey taste, a little like duck).   We also had lamb ribs, the fish that was ‘caught’ – Jeff the project manager got to eat the eye (eww) – jumbo shrimp, green beans, spicy cucumber, soup, a warm corn ‘smoothie’ (nice), oolong tea and Tsingtao beer (very nice).

Today’s Lunch

Chicken with bok choi and green beans with red chili peppers.  That’s rice bread in the bowl with a dash of soy sauce, and the white grape juice has bits of grape in it.   I wanted to take a picture of the pig’s ear strips on the plate of the guy sitting next to me, but that would have been rude !

First lunch

Just back from the cafeteria from our first lunch, what an experience! I ended up with (clockwise on the photo) steamed rice, beef and beans, spicy chicken and green peppers, bean sprouts-corn-red chili peppers (do NOT bite!), orange juice drink.   All were delicious.  No forks or spoons to cheat with, I will HAVE to learn to use chopsticks.

Arrival in China/ Wed morning

I lucked out and got upgraded to FIRST CLASS from San Francisco to Hong Kong (so abandon any sympathy you might have had left for me for the 15-hr flight and think personal pod with entertainment, flat-folding seat and five course meals!).

Saw two movies, had two meals and two naps, got in Tue night at 7 pm at Hong Kong airport.  Customs and baggage claim at the airport went very smooth, but there was a loong wait to get processed at the China mainland checkpoint with the two vans, 10 people and all our luggage.  Some of us also got scanned for a high fever.   The drive in to the aptments where we are staying was interesting, we made our way through several high-rise buildings with gaudy neon signs, and several tunnels.   The area is very hilly.

At San Francisco airport

Everything going smooth so far – I was at Seattle airport so early that United put me on the 6am flight (original schedule was for 7.40am). My bags are stuffed with Starbucks coffee and decadent Western snacks such as M&Ms, hopefully they won’t confiscate it in Hong Kong !

My bags are packed ..

.. so I should try to get some sleep.   The taxi will show up at 4 am !  I want to be at the airport early, so that I miss the Monday morning business crowd.    I will add another post as soon as I have access in China, but it will probably not be until Wednesday.

Oh, a little correction is in order : China time is 15 hrs ahead of Seattle, not 9 hrs ‘earlier’ as I stated in my previous post !

Preparing for my first trip to China

I’m gearing up for my first trip to China for work.   I think I all have the important stuff all done and ready : my shots for tetanus, typhoid fever and diphtheria, my passport with visa, Visa card, wallet, business-casual clothes, computer, mouse, cord and China adapter, medicines, multivitaimins, Starbucks coffee, South African tea, iPod, Blackberry, camera, batteries and chargers, and extra business cards.

I leave Seattle on Mon Jan 4 at 7.30 am .. so that is going to make for getting up very early.   Plenty of time to snooze on the aircraft though!

Scheduled to arrive at 6 pm on Tue Jan 5 at Hong Kong airport where a van will collect all of us arriving from the USA and drive us to Daya Bay.

Seattle to San Francisco is 678 mi and will take 2 hours.  San Francisco to Hong Kong is 6,913 mi and will take 15 hrs (oof).  En route the plane crosses the International Date Line (meaning the date changes as one flies across it east to west, or west to east).  Crossing the IDL travelling east results in a day or 24 hours being subtracted (so the traveler repeats the date where he came from!), and crossing west results in a day being added. The exact number of hours depends on the departure and arrival time zones.  China time is 9 hrs earlier than Seattle (and the entire China squats in ONE time zone even though its territories extend far beyond 15° of longitude!).

Seattle-San Francisco-Hong Kong on United Airlines (click map to enlarge).