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Archive for February, 2007

Back in the land of…

Qantas tail

Gail & I are back in the land of clean air, a land free from over-crowding, a land where the roads are wide and the cars are few, a land where you can hear the birds, a land where you can even hear your own breath. We are home…

Right now is the Chinese New Year festival. It is estimated that 300 million Chinese will travel within China during this holiday week, back to their family villages throughout China. Today (Saturday) nearly half a million Chinese are expected to cross the Luo Hu border in Shenzhen between Hong Kong and China alone. It’s a terrible time to be a tourist in China. So what will Gail & I be doing for the next 2 weeks? Chilling out in Australia, that’s what.

Shenzhen is a city that has developed very rapidly. In 1979 there were 20,000 people living in Shenzhen, now it’s somewhere around 10 million (estimates vary wildly). Whilst these days the city is full of buses and cars there was a time when the city was full of bicycles. Whilst the majority of people use the buses or the Metro, there is still a strong contingent of bike riders, both electric and pedal. Fortunately the footpaths have been designed to be wide to accommodate this. In some areas the bike is still the primary mode of transport, as you can see in this bike parking lot.

Push Bike Parking Lot

To ease the mobility of the populous, at many major intersections there are underpasses for pedestrians which include a ramp for bikes. These H-shaped tunnels under the intersections mean no more waiting for a little green man to tell you that you’re now safe to cross the road at your own risk. They really do work well.

You wouldn’t dare smook here, would you?

Don't Smooking

How to spend the booty

Last Saturday we spent a day out and about with 20 of our colleagues. I had been part of a group that performed a song at work’s New Year Dinner a week or so earlier and we won joint-second prize. Rather than split the winnings amongst the individuals it was decided that we’d have a small adventure day out, free (practically) for those in the prize-winning groups and 50 RMB (AU$7) for others.

We awoke early, packed our lunch and set out to meet the crew and our bus (an ubiquitous Toyota Coaster). We travelled about an hour and a quarter east of Shenzhen onto a small and quiet peninsula area called Yang Mei Ken, singing songs and playing games as we went. We were hosted by a couple of guys who are called ‘donkey friends’, which is a Chinese term for people who act like mini tour guides. They are familiar with an area somewhere, so they provide a bus, know what to do and how to do it within that area, act as entertainment, organise games and help out with all the practical details.

Once arriving at our destination we saddled up on tandem bikes (RMB 10 per day) and set off on a ride of a few kilometres along the coastline, sea on the left and hills on the right. The morning air was crisp and the air was sea-fresh, just lovely. Gail was reminded of Australia. When the road ran out we ditched the bikes near a bay and trekked across a few hills where we perched ourself on top of a hill for a spot of lunch. We had a lovely view out to sea, up a mountain and back across the peninsula along the coastline.

Lunch Time

The Chinese do love their food! We brought a packed lunch of sandwiches, some fruit and some biscuits. Out came all kinds of sausages, mandarins, chilli tofu, biscuits, salted preserved vegetable, beans, preserved fish, instant noodles, even some chocolate and a whole range of things that I can’t remember or pronounce. They really do like their chicken’s feet too! Everything was shared and everything was fun.

Water flow Us! Mountain meets the shore

After lunch we played a card game that we would call Mafia. Everyone sat in a circle and vigorously defended themselves whenever they were accused of being the murderer. It was a little trickier for us because we required translation, however we were still able to join in the fun.

Fishing Boats on the Beach

After lunch we headed down to the beach where we had left our bikes. Various fishermen were sorting through their catch, kids were running around and people were eating. It was quite a ramshackle affair, small rooms cobbled together from old tarpaulin or sheets of corrugated iron in amongst the lowly-limbed trees near the shore. There was this public toilet there, however we all had to pay 1 yuan (RMB) each time we wanted to use it. Gail & I were both quite a bit taller than the rickety walls!

Toilet 1 Toilet 2 Youngling

We spent the afternoon playing some group and team games on the beach, mixed with some free time roaming about. The locals really got stuck into the games. As we strolled along the beach just for a moment it seemed like we weren’t in China any more. Our scene could have been from anywhere in Australia or in the world for that matter.

Sand castle time Ben vs Wave Beach ball game

As it became late we biked it back the few kilometres. During the ride our chain came off. Practically before I could get my hands on the chain one of our companions had stopped, grabbed a reed from the edge of the road, wedged it in against the chain, gave the wheel a spin and popped the chain back on the sprocket. He’d certainly done that before!

We took the bus into a nearby township where we planned for a seafood dinner. A few capable colleagues entrusted themselves with organising dinner, so off they went to buy the food and arrange with a restaurant to cook it for us. We were left to wander the dried and fresh seafood markets, examining sea cucumbers, urchins, octopi (kept in bags so that they don’t crawl away!), eels, fish and assorted crustaceans in their respective tubs. Tea was a usual Chinese affair of plate after plate of seafood being put on the table, lots of noise, lots of mess and everyone talking about how wonderful the food was.

Team Photo

One of my strongest recollections from the day is how friendly everyone’s interactions were. These people were more than colleagues, they really treated each other like friends. They could have simply pocketed the prize money but chose instead a much richer experience. No-one baulked at the games we played, no-one winged or whined and everyone had a really great time, even us.

PS: Some of these photos were taken by others on the day.

A Chinese test

In our Mandarin lesson yesterday our teacher explained that in China different animals and things have different meanings in your life. We played two small games to demonstrate the concept.

Game 1
She asked us to place in order 5 animals from the favourite one to the one we liked the least. The 5 animals were; cow (career), lion (confidence), sheep (love), horse (family) and a pig (money). My order was; lion, sheep, cow, horse and pig. Apparently it means that I’m a confident person that doesn’t care too much about money.

Game 2
For this game we had a dog, a cat, a mouse, a cup of coffee and a picture of the sea. For each of these things we needed to use an adjective to describe them. I used the adjectives ’strong’ for dog, ‘fluffy’ for cat, ’small’ for mouse, ‘warm’ for coffee and ‘relaxing’ for the sea. The dog symbolises yourself, the cat symbolises your lover, the mouse symbolises your enemies, the coffee symbolises your sex life and the sea symbolises how you view your life as a whole.

One of our classmates used the adjective ‘flat’ to describe the cat (as in “a good cat is a flat cat”). I don’t think his other-half would have appreciated that!

Minsk Engrish

Because we live in a sea of Engrish a lot of it goes unnoticed or I simply can’t be bothered carrying my camera everywhere to record it. Sometimes, however, I spot a few really good examples that are worth reporting. Whilst at Minsk World last weekend these two instances in particular took my fancy.

Annihilator Turbine Engrish

I think this fire annihilator must spray liquid oxygen or petrol, rather than foam or water. As for the TB3-117 turbine used in some Russian helicopters, you make up your own mind.

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