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Archive for March, 2006

Getting out and exploring

Mark mentioned that there was this Japanese-based department store called Jusco only 1 train stop from the Diwang. We arose a bit earlier this day and set out to find it. After walking around for about 45 minutes we found it. Very much like a Harris Scarfe’s in Adelaide.

After that discovery we went out to Nanshan province by train (30 minutes) to search for the biggest Wal-mart in Shenzhen and found that too. We bought more stuff like crockery, tea towels, dustpan & broom etc here. The poor checkout guy didn’t know what to do when I presented him with my Visa. After some discussions with other shoppers and other check-out operators he disappeared off to try and organize payment. It was a nervous 5 minutes whilst we waited as the little Chinese man had vanished with our Credit Card but he eventually re-appeared and was happy that he’d processed the payment. The lesson learned was that China is still a cash-based society. Don’t leave home without enough cash in your pocket for whatever expenses you’ll come across that day.

The Nanshan district has the best air quality anywhere in Shenzhen. I suspect it’s due to its close proximity to the coast. Both Gail & I were able to breathe discernibly easier out there. We also bumped into an American couple in their 50’s who had been living and working in Shenzhen for about 3 months. They were quite unwilling to offer any help or tips for living and working in China, which was disappointing. Maybe we’ll have more luck if we can find some Aussies.

We managed to discover a tiny internet café on the ground floor of the Diwang building today and used every bit of our allotted 30 minutes to fire off emails to family and friends letting them know that we are here and OK. This was our first opportunity to contact family back in Australia and it was refreshing to be able to communicate with them all again. We also bought some more food and started to get our apartment in order. We checked out a 5-storey book store (all in Chinese of course) and braved a few taxis, but more about the taxi drivers another time. It’s taking some time to get used to this pollution thing. We’ve both been feeling light-headed and lethargic all day.

We’re on our own

Today we are on our own! No chauffeur, no Chinese/English translator, just the two of us vs. the big city. We headed straight for the apartment to off-load our bags and do some shopping for food. Across the road from the apartment complex is a Marion-style shopping centre called MIXc which has a very western style supermarket. This is accessible by walking underground from the Diwang building. We successfully found some familiar meat produce in amongst the chicken’s feet, sheep stomach and tripe, just past the tanks with live fish, eels and prawns. In fact it seems that every single part of any animal is available, all nicely shrink-wrapped on a Styrofoam tray! Shopping is limited at this stage to what we can carry. It’s not like we can exactly back up the car and load everything in!

Our Apartment

Here’s a photo taken of the apartment complex with our apartment marked out. We’re on the 24th floor out of 32. For context please read yeseterday’s blog entry.

Today the dizzy spells and pollution sickness really started to kick in. Mid afternoon I was having various head spins and at one point I had to grab onto something to keep myself from toppling over. Gail too was noticing the general physical effects from the pollution, although for her it was mainly a lack of energy coupled with the odd dull headache every so often.

Let’s get started!

First day visiting the office today. Good to see some familiar faces that I remember and they remembered me too. The good news is that we’ve got the apartment we wanted. Yay! That was to be our first stop after the office. They’d made some of the changes to furniture we requested but they also took lots of stuff out and left a very uncomfortable couch. We managed to get 2 desks back and various broken things in the apartment fixed before we farewelled the Diwang Real Estate crew. Other than that it is just an empty shell of a place to live. Clearly we need to go shopping.

After lunch in the Friday Café downstairs we headed for Walmart with one of the secretaries from the office. Did you know that Walmart buys more goods from China than all of Australia combined? Random but Amazing Facts 101. After zero success at a groceries-only Walmart we headed further a field to the Walmart in the Futian district where we bought a range of home goods such as cookware, manchester, and a bunch of other stuff. Lucky they take Visa.

Shun Hing Square
Here is a model of the complex we’re living in. The whole lot is called Shun Hing Square. The tall building is called the Diwang Commercial building. It’s the tallest building in Shenzhen which makes it a handy reference. Our apartment is on the very left-hand end of the apartment complex.

By the end of the day there is no way that the apartment is ready to live in so we organize another night in the hotel, complete with the funky 70’s green glass walls in the bathroom and towels with even bigger holes than yesterday. After further trips back to the apartment, back to the office and back to the hotel we’re all feeling well and truly zonked. But not so much that we didn’t enjoy a lovely dinner with the Adelaide crew. Already I’m starting to crave stimulating conversations in English instead of the broken English of the Chinese, and that’s only after 24 hours!

Getting here

After a 4:30am rise-and-shine we headed for the new Adelaide airport with Mum & Dad. I nervously put the larger of our 2 tavel bags on the scales hoping it would be under the 25kg limit, havinig weighed it at home to be ~24kg. It read 24.9kg! Just! After checking in we were met later by Mark, Janet & Bethany, Kerry & Nathan and Dave. A particularly stellar effort by all concerned to make it by 6:30am as our boarding call was at 7am. Kudos to you all. I hope brekky for those that hung around was good. ) Flight was mostly smooth, except for some significant turbulence about 1/2 hour after leaving Sydney. This left me feeling quite green but I managed to grab 3 hours sleep whilst Gail passed the hours on the laptop. I didn’t even watch a full movie.

Touching down in Hong Kong on dusk met us not with some tropical idyllic orange sunset but rather an irksome grey/blue haze. After being re-united with our luggage and passing customs I tentatively stuck my brand spanking new Visa into the first ATM I saw to withdraw some cash. You’d think I’d have tried it out in Australia huh. Success! HK$1000 (HK:AU 6:1) withdrawn and we’re on our way to Hong Kong Central on the Airport Express. A walk to catch the MTR subway to the Tsim Cha Tsui station (That’s Chips and Chewy Dave B!) and a further short walk to catch the KCR (Kowloon-Canton Rail) East Rail train to the border. After the mandatory upgrade to first class (HK$500 each, giving us forward facing padded seats instead of side-saddle aluminium) we’re off on the 55 minute train ride to China. The entire rail system is shown on the inside of every train carriage. If it wasn’t for this I’d have no idea where I was or where I was going.

Crossing the border into Shenzhen really is a Change. Hong Kong is clean, neat and very western. Shenzhen is similar but a lot more dirty, more smokers, more grit and grime everywhere. We turn right as we head out of the customs building and are inundated with Chinese men saying “Taxi! Hotel! Car!” These are private drivers and always on the lookout to rip off unsuspecting westerners. Wrong way, go back. Better off to head straight towards the Shangri La hotel along the concrete promenade towards the main road and hail a taxi there. We catch the first taxi and present him the address of the Luo Hu (pronounced Lo Wu) hotel in English from an email from one of the secretaries in the Clipsal office. He clearly can’t understand. Hmm. He starts to drive and points at the Shangri La hotel. “No no!” we cry, “Lo Wu! Lo Wu!” He pulls into the Shangri La despite our protests and gets directions from the smartly dressed Chinese men out the front as to how to get to the Luo Hu hotel. He seems much happier now and off we speed to our hotel, dodging busses, cars and other taxi drivers in our silver and red sleigh. With no seatbelts of course.

While checking in to the Luo Hu hotel who should walk by but Leang, Kevin and his wife Brenda from Clipsal in Adelaide! They are here for the week and Kevin & Brenda are moving to Shanghai soon. It certainly was pleasant to see some familiar faces. Once in our room, we scope out the 70’s lime green all-glass walls in the bathroom, the towels with holes in them, the rock-hard bed, the clear glass wall between the room and the shower(?!) and ponder what the Chinese mean when they call it a “superior room”. But none of that really mattered. We nipped back down the 15 floors to the Western restaurant in the hotel, nearly dozed off during the short wait for our dinner, downed a quick feed and zipped straight back up again. After a 21 hour day we hit the sack (ouch!) and slept as solidly as the bed we were lying on. Better get used to it, this is now home.

On the ground

Well, we’re here and safe in China. No phone landline or mobile yet, or home internet access, so we will contact you all properly once we get them. Blogging will also resume at that point in time. Currently we’re using an internet cafe, for the price of two hot chocolates. It’s on the ground floor of our Di Wang building, and are $3 each, so quite expensive, but we really wanted to use the internet.

It feels really isolated and cut off from everyone at the moment, being without technology. Despite being on the border of China, there are very few people who speak English, and our phrase book is getting quite a work-out. But we are well. We are also exhausted. everything is hard at the moment, and Shenzhen is such a big city that no-one knows where anything is, apart from the square km around where they live/ work. We want to go to IKEA, and no-one can tell us its location! ( Oh well. But here we are and we are also safe and sound. ) And in our apartment. There is tv, but only 2 English channels in cable out of 77. That would be ok, but one is a ‘news’ channel broadcast by the Chinese government, and that should be enough to let you know the content, and self-promotion. Some of the others are blocked. We don’t know why, because Andrew has only just worked out how to change the language of the set-top box to English. If this is what the other channels in Chinese are like, no wonder every Chinese person thinks that there is little more to the world than China. Oh well.

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