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Archive for September, 2006

One little envelope

When you want to send something overseas you just rock up to the local post office, pop it in an envelope and send it off, and that’s all there is to it, right? Wrong!

I received a Postpak envelope today from Australia containing a couple of small and cheap electronic components weighing a total of 86 grams. In addition to the usual sender and receiver addresses it had:

  • Non-dangerous goods declaration
  • Air Mail International sticker
  • Signed customs declaration
  • Postage paid stamp
  • ‘Delayed for compliance with Security Regulations’ notice
  • Bar Code sticker
  • Chinese customs sticker that had been stamped
  • A bunch of Chinese writing

Still, I’m sure stuff shipped by the gram always attracts more attention than stuff shipped by the kilo. All of this is keeping someone in a job, for sure.

Chinese Animal Abuse

The Daily Mail has written a brief but shocking article on the Annual Animal Olympics of the Shanghai Wild Animal Park. There is no excuse for this kind of animal abuse. This sort of thing is not un-common here. There are glimpses of it on the local TV channels from time to time. On the one hand you can adopt a panda to “save” it and on the other you can go to the Wild Animal Park and watch someone try and kick the daylights out of a Kangaroo. (

On Sunday I wound up back in Shekou in the same spot that Gail & I were in on Saturday. This was to catch up with a couple of other expats who were from Brisbane and were working in more northern areas of China. We met at McCawley’s Irish pub where the food is bad but they had Guiness on tap.

Shekou area

These guys work for a Brisbane-based Landscaping business. Their reason for coming and working in China is that they eventually want to take their business national within Australia. Huh? Shouldn’t that be the other way around? They explained. They’re working in a sister city to Brisbane providing landscaping services. They can’t compete on a dollar-for-dollar basis with the locals in China yet they still have a tidy business, but that’s not the real reason. They’ve done it because they’re receiving tremendous Australian government support for taking their business international. It’s political. This support comes both at a state and federal level. This government assistance and promotion has brought their business national recognition within Australia for striking out into China. In the near future when they go national within Australia they will have credibility that, in theory, will give them a firm foundation brought about through brand recognition and international status, and consequently a faster ramp-up time. Interesting…

One of the guys was asked to speak at a “Doing business in China” conference earlier this year. He started by explaining the nature of Chinese business meetings and opened his presentation in the following way:

“OK, now I all want you to take out your mobiles. Yes, that’s it. You know who you are. Now I want you to make sure they’re all switched on. Oh, and while you’re at it, please make sure that the volume is set to maximum and the ring tone is on some ridiculous polyphonic attempt at a jingle. Please feel free to answer your mobile at any time during this presentation. Please don’t feel any shame in talking on the phone very loudly, even if I’m making a very critical point, and certainly don’t excuse yourself from your table. Next, any smokers here? Now would be a good time for you all to light up…”

I was in stitches. It’s so true!

Shekou Shenanigans

On Saturday Gail & I were looking to get out of the house so we took our first trip out to Shekou. We weren’t looking for grandiose adventures, just to get out of the house and chill out for a bit. Shekou is on the far western side of Shenzhen and it juts out into the sea. It took us about 1 1/4 hours on the “express” bus to get there, well beyond the reach of the metro system.

Shekou Food square

Shekou also the area in Shenzhen where most of it’s 20,000 expats live. It’s queter and cleaner than the centre of the city, where we live. The high expat concentration means that it’s the area in Shenzhen were there’s the most foreign food places. We went to a fairly central square and we could choose practically whatever we wanted to eat from all over the world. Korean, French, American, Italian, Russian, … most major countries had food representation. We chose to eat at Papa John’s pizza and had one of the best tasting pizzas I’ve ever had. You could actually taste each of the raw ingredients used (the dough, the tomatoes, the basil, etc), it wasn’t dripping in fat and was really yummy!

We wandered around a bit. There’s supposed to be some kind of Seaworld here but it wasn’t really obvious. We didn’t care much. There’s a ship there called the Ming Hua. The most intriguing thing about the Ming Hua is that it’s entirely land-locked! Years ago it became part of the Seaworld attraction and when land was re-claimed from the sea they simply buldozed the soil right up to the hull! The ship is now a few hundred metres from the water in all directions and serves as a hotel, a bar, a restaurant, a shop, etc. Quite strange. Still, better than a one way trip to the scrapyard. Adjacent the ship was someone selling the biggest puffer fish I’d ever seen. These suckers were over a foot long!

Mermaid The Ming Hua Fisherman Puffer Fish

We wandered out beyond the ship, past the mermaid (statue of Nu Wa) and out to the shoreline. Here there was a brace of traditional fishing boats, still in active service. Here, a bunch of more traditional people were making a traditional living from a traditional trade. The peacefulness of the activites combined with the fresh, if slightly fishy, sea air meant that we stayed here for a little while and just watched the world go by.

Fishing Boat

On the clunky bus ride home we went past the 1,301-apartment Mangrove West Coast complex which is significant because I was there during the week for work. Each apartment in the 3-building complex is C-Bus controlled and is guaranteed to have a view of the sea. One apartment could be yours for the princely sum of RMB 30,000 per square metre of floor area. Given that some of these apartments are up to 200 sq. m you’ll be looking at AU$1M to buy one. Who says everything in China is cheap!

Mangrove Apartments

Google Earth coordinates for the Ming Hua are:

  • 22° 29′ 10.83″ North
  • 113° 54′ 42.23″ East

HK Suicides

Hong Kong Apartments

I was talking with a Hong Kong guy today and he told me that the suicide rate for Hong Kong is about 1200 people per year, which is above the global average per capita, and there are 17 men who commit suicide for every 10 women. According to him there are 3 main causes:

  • Financial worries (housing is very, very expensive)
  • Marriage difficulties
  • Unemployment

I suspect that these causes aren’t all that different around the world. All 3 of these things are closely linked. With no job there’s no income to pay the mortgage with, so the stress levels sky-rocket. Stress impacts on the marriage. In Hong Kong it is extremely hard to buy a house on one income so most families have both parents working full time. I have spoken to a couple of HK guys who have decided not to have children because they don’t feel that they could be good parents under the current conditions. Imagine that - housing so expensive that some families can’t afford to actually have a family.

What a Friend we have!


I have a fellow teacher at school who is similar to us in many ways, despite being from America.

It is her practice to do some similar things to us on Sundays, so today she came over and we did them together. ) We also shared a Western-style lunch with lettuce, tomato, tuna and mayonnaise on a French stick.

Her family is from America, with parents originally from Hong Kong, who left the country about 50 years ago.

It was great to meet with a like-minded Westerner in a foreign country, and we look forward to meeting with her regularly, outside of school.

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