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Archive for April, 2006

Twelftree's Calendar

Just before leaving OZ some friends of ours gave us this great calendar. It’s been made as a fund raiser for the Tintinara and districts history club. It’s particularly useful because it helps us keep track of what holidays are happening in Australia. We have it hanging on the wall in our main living area. It’s a sweet reminder of home, bringing back many memories.

Originally black and white, Gail decided that it needed some colour and this is the result! Click on the picture to enlarge.

Wear sunscreen

Hong Kong Tram

Apart from the fact that you should wear sunscreen, the following are helpful hints on how to enjoy your first unaccompanied trip to Hong Kong. )

  • iPods are a fantastic accessory.
  • Meandering in markets and having a good squiz at the inventive and noisy toys that you are never going to be persuaded to buy is good for your health.
  • Maccas/KFC = bladder relief. Highly unsanitary, but relief nonetheless (I think someone before me either had the runs or didn’t know how to use a Western toilet).
  • Haggling should be limited to once a day.
  • Taking an impromptu bus trip is a great way to see the island.
  • Spare a thought for really fat people who perspire more than you do in the humidity.
  • Learn to recognise who the slow customs officials are, and their identity numbers, for future avoidance.
  • Get used to delays caused by excessive questioning of Africans in customs.
  • Be thankful you are not an African going through customs.
  • Stash a book about your person for any sort of trip of any description. There will inevitably be delays, and you will be less annoyed because you’re actually doing something useful.
  • Also stash a pashmina in your bag; the convenient light jumper-substitute for heavily over-air-conditioned trains, buildings. Can be also used as a head/shoulder-covering in case of rain.
  • Fill in your entry/exit cards before you leave home, so: a) you can be sympathetic to those who are at the front of the line who are told they don’t have the right card and then have to go and get one then go to the back of the line again, or b) when told ‘this is the wrong card’, you can say, ‘hang on, I’ve got it here’, to the delight of the customs official who doesn’t have to see you again.
  • Laugh with the Japanese man directly behind you in the customs line, who has just put the batteries of a toy guitar into the item, whereupon it sings very loudly, ‘Old Macdonald had a farm, EIEIO Moo’ before he manages to take them out. I guess you could try to ignore it, but it was a very long line, I had been waiting 1/2 hour already, and I wasn’t going to deny myself the laugh.

The Ghost in the machine

Shennan Road

Shenzhen is an interesting city. It’s obvious that the pace of development has taken precedence over the quality of development. For example, the building which our offices are located is … er … well … let’s just say it has it’s quirks.

The men’s toilets have the usual little rotating indicator to say when a cubicle is occupied or not. Why then is the colour-coding back to front? Who on earth did that! The indicator shows red to indicate that the cubicle is vacant and shows green to indicate occupied. I actually thought that this might just be the colour-coding that the Chinese like to use and I embarassed myself by attempting to enter a (thankfully locked) occupied cubicle when visiting a supplier factory! It seems that the Chinese do follow familiar colour-coding rules, just not in our office building.

The water just stops running for no aparent reason. I can be washing my hands under a steady stream and then all of a sudden all the water pressure vanishes and I’m left with thin air. The return of the flow can take between seconds and minutes, sometimes with little warning that the pressure (if you can call it that) is returning. I now routinely turn on the water before getting any soap from the dispenser and this has saved me from soapy hands several times already. Weird.

In the basement of our building is a supermarket and this is quite convenient. On the first 7 floors there are supposed to be a range of shops, arcade style, but there is nothing but 7 floors of closed roller doors. Maybe they didn’t meet some government regulation? Maybe they’re a secret stash of copy merchandise? Maybe that’s where the illegal copy DVD’s are made for the Luo Hu markets? Who knows. All I know is that there’s meant to be 7 floors of shopping and all that’s there is 7 floors of dust.

There is a large water feature outside the front of the building - minus water.

The door into the engineering area has an electronic latch that is opened with an ID badge. The door has a sign saying push on one side and pull on the other. Curiously the door swngs both ways. Even more curiously the door only swings both ways if you push forward slightly on the side that says pull and pull slightly on the side that says push! That seems to release it some how. It took me a week to get the technique just right.

Yesterday the entire office space became filled with the pungent smell of polyester resin. There was no escape from it anywhere. I suspect that it came in through the air conditioning somehow. The smell gave me quite a headache and I ended moving to another area on the same floor to keep working.

There always seems to be a lift that is out of order. Maybe it’s a rolling strike by the lifts trying to get a better building? Interestingly at quiet times of the day there can be more than one lift that is out of order. Either the lifts are unreliable or they have a heavy maintenance schedule. Maybe, just maybe, one of the lifts is being used to ferry goods in and out of the first 7 floors…..

1 + 1 = 1

Talking with a Chinese woman the other day and I learned a great deal more about the China one child policy. It would seem that it was introduced in the late 1970’s, so she was just able to have a sister as she was borne before it was being absolutely enforced.

Children at Litchi Park

The consequences for breaking the rules are severe. The penalty for someone living rurally is 10,000 yuan (~AU$1,666) which would amount to about 1 years wages. If the family was unable to pay then in years gone by the government would come in and either take over or destroy their home, leaving them nowhere to live. These days they generally just tax the family until the debt is paid. In the city as well as a fine to the family the second child would not be able to get a residency certificate for that city. This would mean that the child would be unable to go to any kind of school or get a job. If the child left the city it would be unable to re-enter without the necessary permit.

Currently young people are encouraged to delay marriage. The designated age for ‘late marriage’ is 24 for men, 22 for women. Benefits include an extra 3 months maternity leave (bringing the grand total to six months). The Chinese lady who told us this was surprised that Australia has 1 year (unpaid) maternity leave, and didn’t seem to think this was necessary, whereupon we explained the custom of not living with one’s parents and grandparents, thereby eliminating the free child care they enjoy in China.

International dining

Australia  Singapore  France  Hong Kong  Germany

I went out for lunch today with some of my colleagues as well as some people from a visiting company. We numbered 8 in total. As we were eating lunch it dawned on me that between the 8 of us we represented 5 different countries. Even more suprising is that we were eating in China yet there was not a single Chinese person among us! Talk about cultural mixing!

See if you can get all 5 countries correct. )

Indian giver … in China

Shenzhen city and Hilton Hotel

Here in Shenzhen after any building has been erect or any land has been owned for 50 years it automatically becomes the property of the Chinese government. Given that Shenzhen is about 25 years old that means that in 25 years time the government is going to start automatically inheriting the city. It seems that property values are steadily declining as the 50 year deadline for their transfer of ownership is emerging on the horizon. What state the buildings are in and what they’re worth in 50 years time remains to be seen.

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