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Archive for January, 2007

Fancy a smoke?

Shenzhen having a bad smog day.

For the past little while Shenzhen has enjoyed some clearer weather. Yesterday (Saturday) however, the smog and haze was back to it’s usual tricks. This photo was taken from the top of Bi Jia Shan mountain, a park with a small peak on the northern side of Shenzhen. You can just make out the 69-story DiWang building in the distance.

Wuxi roadside Wuxi produce Wuxi chickens

This was the last day of our visit so it was a wind-down day. We went for a morning walk to a local market where just about any kind of living animal seemed to be sold. “Do you want that chicken in one plastic bag or two? Would you like some nearly-dead fish? How about a pig’s snout? It was a morning of very typical Chinese sights - run-down old trucks, raw produce markets and Chinese men playing Chinese chess on the roadside. These sorts of things really raised eyebrows when we first moved to China. Now they’re almost passe’ and don’t draw much of our attention. Whilst stuck in traffic we also saw this rather optimistic van.

Chinese Chess Optimistic van

The flight back to Shenzhen was only delayed a little bit. Gail had her ever-present book and bottle of hot green tea, so she was set for the delay. Another flight out of Wuxi was obviously cancelled due to the bad weather and the ensuing shouting and yelling from disgruntled travellers could be heard right across the departure lounge, as 20 or so people had to both find and pay for accommodation.

The ground was a sea of lights as we approached Shenzhen. Guangzhou, about 150km away, is a bright mass of of orange and the land remained illuminated all the way to Shenzhen. We managed to catch the last airport express bus back into Shenzhen, followed by one last taxi ride, and made it home soon after midnight. Our first Chinese Christmas was over.

Merry Christmas

Sheng dan kuai le! We took all our presents with us to Wuxi and had a good time opening them and celebrating Christmas in Aussie style. We opened all our presents in turn on Christmas morning and then spent the rest of the day eating an absolute feast that Kiah cooked up, along with another couple of friends who came for lunch (ate with the friends). Tea went by with little more than a passing interest. We rolled into bed that night with bursting bellies.

Us!

Wuxi has a very large and scenic lake called Lake Taihu. We rugged up to brave the 10 degree weather and headed out to take a look. Hmmm. Great view of the fog. It was nice to get out and about for a bit of a walk. Gail rediscovered the joys of sepia photography given the limited natural colour contrasts. Afterwards we went to one of the local Carrefour shopping centres for tea. I organised drinks. With orders for a Coke, an iced green tea, a soy milk and a water I returned with a Pepsi, an iced green tea, a chocolate soy bubble tea and a Gatorade. Close enough. )

Foggy Lake Curved boardwalk Outside the church gate

We spent the evening at the local Wuxi church. I was only catching about every 20th word or so but it was still good to be there. Gail and I both had fun listening out for the words we know. When we left there were a pile of people still desperately trying to get in. The police and security guards linked arms and pushed the crowds back, just like they do when there’s a celebrity trying to get to their car and the paparazzi are trying to get a story. It was a strange moment but we emerged unscathed, grabbed yet another taxi and headed for home.

The Thrash Bike came out of the closet on Saturday. It’s an obnoxiously loud little thing but everywhere you ride it people can’t help but smile. We took the push bike and Thrash Bike out for the morning, swapping back and forth, and had smiles wherever we went. We also had a couple of visits to the local road-side tyre repair dude to fix a puncture on the push bike. We drew lots of attention and had a bit of fun trying to learn some subtleties of the local Wuxi dialect.

The chocolate game

Later that day we had lunch with a bunch of other expats in Wuxi. They have a strong expatriate community in Wuxi. We met at a restaurant serving up some very fine pizza and pasta. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing games like pass-the-parcel and eating chocolate with a knife and fork. It was hilarious to see those not used to using a knife and fork trying to eat chocolate with them. They insisted on trying to jab the fork into the chocolate, whereupon it shattered everywhere. It also was a foreign game to non-Australian/NZers, as evidenced by the pedestrian manner of flipping the coins up and passing them on, or getting dressed up and eating the chocolate. Speed is of the essence, people. Much fun was had by all, with the odd piece of chocolate nabbed at the end by friends who didn’t get any in the game. )

Here in China there are no public holidays for Christmas time. As such, I took some annual leave and both Gail & I headed up to Wuxi to spend Christmas with our good friends, Wozza and Kiah, who live there. We had an 8am flight out of Shenzhen on the Thursday, which meant leaving our apartment at 6am. Gail was a little tired after getting up 3/4 of an hour earlier, and had ’silly energy’ for an hour or so before it wore off. ) I had some reservations about being able to get a taxi that early in the morning but the security guards helped by flagging one down from the main road and directing it into our apartment complex. We then had our Michael Schumacher driver whisk us to the airport in record time on the empty roads. I can tell you that the local taxis don’t feel particularly stable when driven at 130 - 140 kph! True to taxi tradition, it constantly had the brake warning light on. Almost all SZ taxis have this feature, so we think they must learn how to do it in taxi school.

Our plane left on time - amazing in China - and arrived in Wuxi an effortless 2 hours later. In the SZ Daily newspaper Gail saw an article about the CEO of an airline who’s just been convicted of mismanagement and lax safety procedures, which directly contributed to a flight going down and killing all crew and passengers. Hmm. Not what we perhaps wanted to read. Isn’t anyone going to discover a new species of daffodil that we could read about?! (Gail wrote that bit!)

Hugh on Bowling Ball Wozza and Me

When organising a taxi in Wuxi the driver seemed very reluctant to take us, for unknown reasons. He and the guard had a bit of an argy-bargy before he finally agreed. He got his own back by taking us the long way to our destination and it cost us approximately RMB 15 more than it should have. A fleecing was had. That afternoon we went out 10-pin bowling. I went down 2 games to 1. “I’ll get you next time Gadget, next time…” We followed this up with a hot-pot dinner. These feeds are really cool. A big bowl of cooking flavours is put on a hotplate in the centre of the table. You then order all kinds of stuff, chuck it in the pot, and, once cooked, take it out and eat it. With our hunger sated we moved on to a foot massage, something I’ve never really fully appreciated. I think it’s because of the very soft skin on my feet. Gail still prefers back rubs.

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