Thoughts and Reflections of China
Monday, May 21, 2012
What a day!! We’re traveling at 31,000 feet and it is -57 degrees outside right now. Our route has taken us north over Canada, over the Hudson Bay and the Davies Strait – it appears we are traveling north by northeast. We had a real nice dinner and afterwards we were asked to shut the window shades. I guess people are trying to get on a sleep schedule.
We are now at 33,000 feet it crossing the Kara Sea and the Ural Mountains. We have almost 9 hours left to go and already crossed over the polar ice caps. Pretty cool!
We have crossed the Laptev Sea and are down to 6.5 hours to go. My rear end feels permanently flat! They served us a sandwich and cookies and banana….nice snack. Since we crossed the date line its actually Tuesday, May 22nd. From the inflight map it appears we are crossing the Asian Continent. Right now it’s 12:13 AM at home. We are still experiencing daylight…two days without darkness – it’s pretty strange to say the least.
We were served another hot pasta dinner because it is now dinner time in Hong Kong and we are landing soon. We flew straight down through the center of China. I suppose we don’t want to get into Korean or Pakistani air space. We flew over China at 36,000 feet. I can see small islands in the Yellow Sea. Pretty cool. As we’re flying in I can see the Yellow Sea dotted with oil platforms and tankers scattered like toys throughout the Yellow sea. It appears volcanic activity has created an outcropping of “unattractive” islands – not very green at all!
We are here!! It is 6:42 PM Hong Kong time (4:08 AM U.S. time)
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
It’s just midnight and I’m finally tucked in bed. It was a long day. It was so cool to see Jean when we came around the corner!! Seeing a familiar face in a sea of strangers is a welcoming and warming feeling that makes one feel a strong sense of pure joy. We waited another hour, sharing our traveling experiences (mine were not so good between Chicago and Detroit) and listened to Jean fill us in on her adventures thus far. We took a train to the drop spot and then a shuttle thru downtown Hong Kong. Joni almost got left behind by an over-zealous driver!! He tried to take off without her!!! It is crazy!! I cannot imagine navigating around the city. It reminds me of the movies. I’m looking forward to this adventure.
Wednesday, May 23, 2012
We had an incredible meal at the Holiday Inn Golden Mile. Definitely a high class place. Then we took a shuttle to the Ferry. Seeing Hong Kong in the daylight was eye-opening. There are very poor looking sections intermixed with wealth. You wouldn’t want to get lost on a side street. I look forward to returning and going on a few adventures around this massive city.
We arrived at CKS Ferry (our transportation to Zhuhai, in Mainland China) early so we used their free WI FI and touched based with home. The 45 minute ferry ride was a different story. I got so seasick. I thought I was going to toss my awesome breakfast but managed to keep it in. After four hours I was still trying to recover and was probably still green. Not a way to meet my buddies for the first time! Should have taken the Dramamine I had packed (but way too deep in my big suitcase and little access – not smart).
Our Jinan University buddies were at the terminal to meet us. We had to go through customs again to get from Hong Kong into China. Then we took a small mini bus to the Junlin Hotel. Before we left the terminal we were able to get Yuan without any cost at the machines in the terminal – simple process with a debit card.
The Junlin Hotel is definitely old and compact but it worked for us. All we need is “air” and we have it! The walls in the bathroom are glass so Joni and I agreed to stay away while each other are using the facilities.
We went out for dinner tonight with our Jinan buddies. We took the bus there and cab back. Dinner was at a cheap restaurant. It really sucked!! My first real Chinese dinner should have been at a nice restaurant with classic Cantonese cuisine. Everyone in there was laughing at my feeble attempt to use chopsticks. We I asked for a napkin they brought a package of Kleenex. My buddy actually had to pay for it right on the spot. Apparently, napkins and Kleenex are a premium and luxury, rather than an everyday item. My do we take things for granted back home. We also noted that toilet paper is in the same demand….very little of it anywhere so always carry your own!
I am exhausted and glad to get to bed tonight.
(Our hotel in Zhuhai)
Thursday, May 24, 2012
We were up at 4:30 AM. I don’t know if it was the time difference, jet lag, or if it was pure excitement. I imagine a little of both. Since we are close to the equator the sun comes up much earlier here.
We walked to campus this morning which is about one mile and there were signs all over welcoming UWEC. They had a super nice ceremony for us and then a nice tour of the campus. They went out of their way to make a warm and hospitable welcome for us. It was a good sign of what was to come in the next two weeks. These are clearly and kind and proud people and I cannot wait to get to know them better.
(with me, Joni and Greg)
The days’ highlight was our fancy Cantonese lunch – chicken heads and all! There was a large glass lazy susan on the table with many different dishes. I ate prawns and several types of fish and a very large clam – a first for me.
After lunch we were on our own. We shopped a little with our buddies but mostly, jet lag is still a problem. So we rested while the other students went bike riding. I do miss my family but am looking forward to this new adventure. I have to explain my feeble attempt at translation while at the grocery store. We were asking our buddies where the breakfast aisle would be with all the cereal and other morning breakfast snacks. They did not understand what I was trying to so in my zest to communicate in a common language I asked, “do you know Tony the Tiger, there grrrrrreat!!” I guess I said this a little loud because Joni looked around and then proceeded to crack up!
When we returned to our room, the red message light was blinking on the phone. I had expected my family to call and was anxious to hear the message. Unfortunately, everything was in Chinese. After much frustration, I went downstairs to get help. Using a lot of sign language, I attempted to communicate my dilemma to the desk clerk and bellman. They clearly had no clue as to what I was saying or attempting to communicate. I have to wonder just how ridiculous I might have looked. Finally, (and I think due to frustration on their part), they gave up and the bellman came to our room. I pointed to the phone and the light and attempted my best pantomiming. He finally nodded his head, smiled and quickly left the room. I wasn’t sure where he was going but a short time later he came back with another phone. He simply disconnected the phone, hooked up the new one, pointed to the light (that was no longer lit up) and smiled as though he just figured out a complex puzzle. Apparently, he thought the light was bothering me. He has no clue that it was really the message I was after. Joni and I laughed so hard we almost cried!! Now it was really time to go to bed.
Friday, May 25, 2012
Up early again today but I feel so rested. We were off to school by 8:30 but only after eating breakfast. We have a limit of 20 RMB which translates to approximately $3.20 (trading at 6.25 RMB/$1). The problem is that no one could read the menu. We could see the ‘20’ and knew this was our limit but had no idea what it was for. So we ordered one of everything. We had some very disgusting dishes but more than that, not one of them was a breakfast dish! Things like chicken soup, pork and noodles, beef and noodles, rice and fish, were all common breakfast items – something I would have to get used to. Actually, a couple dishes were so bad. I am craving pancakes and waffles though.
We walked to school and were amazed at the sights we took in. The housing units are several stories high with bars on all the windows. I will have to ask about that. We walk under Mango trees on the way to school – now that is cool. We pass the police station and there is a guard who stands like he’s protecting the Queen of England – fully erect, straight back and looking forward at nothing in particular. He doesn’t even flinch when we gawk and take pictures. He probably thinks we’re nuts! Good representation for the United States, eh?
Being day two and walking, I noticed other things that escaped me the previous day: the Cannas were in full bloom everywhere! The streets are two lane with dividers in between and are covered in beautiful cannas. You can smell magnolias all over Zhuhai and the Phoenix flower is blooming from trees all over campus. Incredibly beautiful to behold.
Class started at 9:00 and our first lesson was on the Chinese language. We had class again at 10:00 on the Chinese culture. It was extremely interesting enlightening. One of the things I learned about today was the food. There are 8 different types of Chinese cuisine.
Cantonese Hunan (spicy)
Sichuan (hot) Suzhou
They are all from different provinces. We will be enjoying a Cantonese diet for the most part.Today we also learned about tonation. This would have been nice to know when we were working on our Chinese before we left on our trip. There are four different tones in the Chinese language. I also learned that the Chinese language doesn’t use tense in their language (past tense, future tense and current tense). It is captured in their writing and when they speak, the words convey the meaning based on how they put the words together. There are no transitional verbs in their language.
We talked about Opera in class today and we were told that the men in opera dress like woman, so they don’t use many woman. A man will have the part of both males and females. It was hard to tell when looking at the opera singers.
We talked about the shape of China – a rooster!!. Guangdong (where we are located) is in the belly of the rooster and located along the South China Sea. The Yellow River is called Mother River. And the Yangtze River is the largest river in all eight provinces. Zhuhai is basically a fishing village, although with a population of more than a million people!
Afterwards we went to lunch with our buddies and ate on campus. They took us to their bookstore where I bought a few school supplies and snacks. On the way we got a tour of their dormitories. It’s is interesting to note that every single balcony had laundry drying on it! Yes, they wash their cloths and hand it out to dry. Considering the problems with heat, I imagine that using dryers creates more heat in an area that it already too hot!! And it could also be to conserve energy. They are always conscious of wasting very little. We could learn from these smart people.
(student dorms - notice how they use the umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun)
Our lunch room was a large open area and was similar to any other large lunchroom. We had choices of dishes and were served on large metal trays. The food was terrific.
I made some observations while visiting the bookstore. First, the lights are kept off during the day. I imagine this is to conserve on energy and reduce the heat in the store. There are no real doors to get in. It is very open and accessible. That’s the only way a person can see inside. There was a dim lamp in the back of the store so we could see the items on the shelves but still it was very dark.
Also, when I paid my bill I noticed that the cashier did not use a cash register. The money was thrown haphazardly in a drawer and when I needed change, he simply sifted through the bills all mixed together until he found the ones I needed. I had to wonder about their accounting system!!
Another noteworthy item I should convey. Rather than using air fresheners in the bathrooms, they use Incense and I have to say, it smells very good. I imagine there is little cost to incense and nothing to dispose of.
After all that we went back to our hotel to take a little break and regroup. At 3:00 our buddies came back and Joni, Greg and I, along with our buddies hopped the bus and went to a new part of town where the Zhuhai Museum is located. We spent several hours touring the museum which was dedicated primarily to the history of Zhuhai and the people of Zhuhai. It was incredible. There were rooms filled with large scale photos of people of all ages doing numerous daily tasks and enjoying life’s events. It was interesting to see their own perspective of how they look and behave. It was like getting an inside tip on people. Much of the artistic pieces were ivory carvings. The intricate detail of each carving tells a story of a people who have outstanding abilities to work with detail unlike anything I have ever known before. Afterwards we shopped a little and I was able to find some very nice gifts to take back home. And we found a Starbucks!! The truth be told, the coffee just isn’t that great because of the water quality. It just didn’t taste the same. But it was good to see nonetheless.
I should clarify a few things. At every meal we ate, we would have to take the boiling hot tea and wash our teacups, chopsticks, bowl and plate with it in order to remove any germs or residual water on the dishes and ‘utensils’. Then we would dump the excess tea in a bowl on the lazy susan. Then we would have our tea to drink. This is how everyone in Mainland China prepares to eat on a regular basis. One of our group members got very sick because of the water. Morning tea in China is called “Yum Cha” and considered part of the social communication process. People get together for yum cha. It is typically made from green tea and floral teas in the summer months and black tea in the winter to help keep you warm.
Every hotel room has large electric kettles to boil water. We would pour bottled water (our greatest expense) in the kettle and boil it and then use it to brush our teeth. We could have boiled the water from the sink but we didn’t want to take any chances. We never ran our toothbrushes under the faucet in the sink.
Saturday, May 26, 2012
Traveled by King Bus Lines
What a day today was!! Off to Shenzhen!! Today we are taking a very nice tour bus to Shenzhen and then off to Guangzhou – still trying to get the names of these cities right. Breakfast is another guessing game. It we stick with white rice and tea, we’ll be alright.
We boarded our bus at and no one had to share a seat. We were taking King Bus Lines, a coach that appeared to be almost brand new. They were comfortable and we able to just sit back and enjoy the ride.
There is only one main road between Zhuhai, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou and all of Guangdong Province I am told. There are no exits along the 150 mile stretch, like we see in the United States…just a long road through the countryside. It is so different from home. I miss having my husband here to talk about all the beautiful flowers, shrubs and plants that are carefully sculpted along the highway. I have never been anywhere in the United States that took such care and created such beauty along the roadways. It is so pristine and cared for that it’s hard to find the words to describe it. They obvious take great pride in their landscaping and design and put forth a great deal of labor hours in maintaining it. There are plush greens, magnolias, azaleas, and the Phoenix flower, along with many other types of flowers that I’ve never seen before. The beauty is endless and of course, I took tons of pictures.
Perhaps this is a good time to introduce my traveling companions:
Jean Pratt: Our leader with a gentle and kind spirit. Her quiet demeanor and subtle way of handling issues has helped us all feel cared for.
Scott Swanson: He was quiet in the beginning but his sense of humor came out finally!! He is our second leader who is constantly bringing up the rear and ensuring that we all arrive in one piece.
Joni Staack: My roommate and traveling pal. Joni keeps me laughing (along with everyone else) much of the time. She has a lot of energy!! Joni and I have gone through the MBA program together for the most part.
Barbara Arnold: She was not in our class in the MBA program. Barb joined our group and is one of the most knowledgeable when it comes to the Chinese. Barb has a ‘Chinese daughter’ that she hosted back home. She has a curiosity like no other.
Alexis Wong: Our Chinese/American student who knows no Chinese. Alexis is a tall beautiful young woman who has had the unfortunate time of having to tell our Chinese pals so many times that she doesn’t speak Chinese. They just assume she does and they start talking to her in Chinese!
Beatris Mendez-Gandica (Bea): We love Bea! She is such a smart young woman (who has lived a life much older than she should for her young years) who speaks several languages fluently! I wish I had a brain like hers.
Christopher Dressen: Chris is quiet but adventurous. He is a very independent young man who has already done some traveling in his life. I venture to guess that he will do much more before his life is done!
Samual Roedger: Same is a fun young man who seems to be a walking computer. He has a great deal of knowledge about numerous things.
Greg Jaggeman: Last, but not least, my good friend and MBA pal Greg. We have worked together on many projects throughout our degree and it’s like having a little brother on the trip with me. He looks out for me!!
Our group grew on this trip. One of the high level faculty members, Mike, came with us along with the tour guide. I don’t our guide knows English real well. He defers to Mike a lot. Not long into our journey, we stopped along a wayside. There were vendors selling their fresh produce and our guide bought us all a whole bunch of bananas. Now this was a treat like no other. Now I know what a banana is supposed to taste like. The size is much smaller than we are accustomed to but nice and yellow. Bananas are sweet!! I have never had a sweet banana before! We all ate them and had to have seconds. After that, I looked for bananas where ever we went to eat.
Mike (took pictures for us): His real name and title are:Lv Qingwen
Deputy Administrative Director
International Business School – Jinan University
But he just had us call him Mike, which was very nice!
Sunday, May 27, 2012
We are on our way at this very moment to Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province. We just enjoyed an amazing day and night in Shenzhen on Saturday. We arrived in Shenzhen approximately 11:00 AM via a tourism bus. Let me first tell you about this. We have a driver who has never spoken to us or even glanced our way. He is very dedicated to his service and let me tell you, driving here in China is nothing like driving in the US!! These people must be very skilled drivers to navigate the roads here. For example, when we arrived for lunch yesterday, we were on a street similar to a residential street in Eau Claire. Our bus driver was driving up the center of the road with vehicles in the oncoming lane on our left AND right!! Those on the right side of the bus were going both directions depending on whether or not there was space available. The Chinese people truly take advantage of every possible space with NO WASTE!!! Even while driving!! So kudos to our driver!! We have much confidence in his skills!!
Back to our arrival in Shenzhen. We first visited the Shenzhen Museum. It is difficult to put to words the historical significance of this visit. Personally, I am in awe of the Civil War Museums in the United States. But it is nothing like the museums here in China!! Imagine capturing a history more than 2,000 years old. There was so much to see and truly, not enough time. The people of China take great pride in their history and it is reflected in the Shenzhen Museum – a master piece both inside and out.
Regarding the exterior of the building and all buildings here – it is something to behold. There is no such thing as square/rectangular buildings. There structures are carefully designed and we believe (and will confirm later) that it has something to do with Fung shuay. The tops are general rounded or oblong in some way. If the building has square corners then it has rounded/oblong shapes somewhere in the design.
We arrived for lunch at a Cantonese Restaurant. Prior to leaving the Museum we were joined by Melody, a representative from H & T Logistics, Ltd. Lunch was served family style and again, the chicken head sat proudly on the plate. There is no waste here in China. As Melody informed us, it is very important that they serve the animal whole – meaning all parts are used in the meal. The feet may be used in the broth that is served first. Otherwise, it is as though they took a cleaver and hacked it up and then put it on a plate – fully cooked and appealing in appearance (minus the fully intact chicken head).
After lunch we went to H & T headquarters where Melody served us tea while responding to questions from eager students. She was very forthcoming in her responses which were refreshing. Afterward she took us to the Yantian Port, the largest port in Mainland China. It was quite an experience. The people that work at this port live there as well. It’s as though they set up their own city in order to be more efficient in accessing employment. Restaurants are stores are everywhere and laborers are moving large containers of fresh fish (some of which we could only venture a guess as to what is).
Following our port visit we checked into our hotel: The Perthden Hotel. It was a very nice luxury hotel and we enjoyed a nice Cantonese dinner family style. By the time we were done, we were all exhausted and went to our rooms. This morning we met for breakfast and are now on the road again. I will check in again later!
Today, Sunday, we had breakfast that included toast, peanut butter and jelly…yeh!! On our way to breakfast there was a man in front of Joni and I who stopped and gobbed a big spit into a spittoon and then entered the restaurant. It was gross!! We had a wonderful breakfast though.
Guangzhou is beautifully manicured with a landscape of magnolias, cannas, azaleas and much more. Grape leaf-like plants cover the cement on overpasses and bridges within the city making them actually quite beautiful. This area reminds me of San Diego. There were three toll booths on our trip. I also noticed people here do an awful lot of honking. We could learn from them.
We stopped at the main campus of Jinan University and took some pictures. It is a beautiful campus from what we could see. Mike bought us key chains and postcards when we visited their Olympic stadium. We had lunch today with Mike Schroeder, Economic Officer of the U.S. Consulate. The restaurant was called “366”. This one actually had real toilets but no toilet seats! Yuck….
One thing that stuck in my mind as we listened to Mike was that the garbage here is very picked over. I had noticed everywhere we went that the garbage cans were very little. Now I know why. The people here will strip everything down and save every bit or garbage, either to recycle or reuse for something else. They simply do not believe in waste. My could we learn from them!
We all went on a dinner cruise on the Pearl River. I have never seen a light show like this before. Every building seemed to participate in the show and even the bridges over the river lit up in a rainbow of colors, changing moment by moment. It was such a wonderful evening and food was great to boot!!
Monday, May 28, 2012
One of the things I noticed today while traveling is that all the road signs are similar to that in the United States. We spend so much time seeing and looking at the differences that I forget to look at the likenesses. They use the same green reflective road signs that we do. You just cannot always read what they say!!
Traveling today is quiet on the bus. As I watch out the window I am struck by the poor village areas. It reminds me of a shanty town. You can see people working hard in their gardens and fishing on the river in their flat bottom boats. The roadway is impeccable and we see many workers along the highway cleaning up the roadways and manicuring the beautiful landscape that surrounds the highway. Back home we would call them master gardeners. It somehow reminds me of the highways in North Carolina during blooming season.
One of the many places we visited today was the Cuiheng Village of Zhongshan to see the former residence of Sun Yat-sen. It was interesting to see his wife Soong Chingling, who attended Wesleyan College in the United States and wrote four articles, published in the Wesleyan Paper “The Four Dots”.
There were bananas hanging in the trees everywhere. It was an entire old village and museum. What a site!
As we traveled, I noticed (or didn’t notice) there were NO BILLBOARDS anywhere! How refreshing! Instead, I could see how into the plush mountainous terrain – so green and healthy and thick that I imagine it would be easy to get lost up there. Also, road construction crews work barefoot!!
This afternoon we visited a park and also the Hengqin Nea Rea, Zhuhai China. That was really interesting. It is supposed to be done in 2020. We ended our day in a park where my traveling companions climbed to the top and road down in go-carts. Obviously, with my fear of heights it wasn’t happening for me!!
We had dinner tonight at the Yue Pin Xuan Restaurant. It was supposed to be our seafood dinner but I think our tour guide took a short cut.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Back to school today. Today’s topic: International Trade with Instructor Guoqin Bu. We discussed Global Production Networks, Knowledge diffusion and local capability formation. Today we also visited Gree.
Gree was an interesting place. The people we met with could not answer our questions at the end of our tour. They took us through the facility and I felt bad for the people working on the assembly lines. They work at the same job day after day and hour after hour. They live on ‘campus’ and work overtime as needed. Everyone was kind to us but I had a bad feeling about how employees were really treated. It was just a feeling…
Tonight is laundry night. Yes, our hotel room looks like a Chinese laundry!! And it’s only Joni’s stuff. I still have to do mine. Fun!!
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
One of the things I noticed about their culture versus ours has to with translation from Chinese to English and capitalization of titles. For example, Mike (Lv Qingwen) is the Deputy Administrative Director; this is what is written on his business card; however, it is written like this: Deputy administrative director. They do not capitalize any of their titles or names of cities and states in the U.S. I noticed that with Gree, when their documents indicated they just set up a business in Tennessee, they did not have the state name capitalized. Most things that we feel as important in America we will capitalize the first letter; but here, the significance fades. It’s as though some things are not important enough to warrant the respect of a capital letter...interesting.
Map of United States and China: We have a map with the US centrally located and the remaining countries around us. While in China, I had to do a double-take on the map hanging on the wall. It looked wrong; that is, until I realized that China was centrally placed with all remaining countries located around it!!
Today we visited Print Rite today and met with Arnold Ho. What an exciting day this was!! My notes are attached at the end of this document but I must say, he is such a cool guy. Mr. Ho provided us with a question and answer forum. He began working at the age of 13; now celebrating 40 years of working. Jimmy Chan is the Marketing Director and he spoke to our group first. The dress code is quite casual at Print Rite. Mr. Ho started in Hong Kong in 1981 distributing stationary and printable solutions. Print Rite can now print on anything!! F (We were given I-phone cases with a unique printing on them including our first names!! Business Philosophy? “Sleep Well At Night”: He indicated that he sleeps well when they do business correctly/legally/tax/environment/people/employees,etc. I took a lot of notes while we were visiting Print Rite. I really enjoyed listening to this mastermind of business. Yes, I was in awe! I am a fan!! What can I say?
Thursday, May 31, 2012
Today I walked to school alone. And I got the crap scared out of me!! I think it was a chameleon. I got pictures after my heart returned to normal. We have certainly seen some interesting sights here in Zhuhai. I Hope I can return someday.
In a million years I could never have envisioned how this day would end for me. It was life-altering but not in the way I would have thought. Let me explain. Macau is like a combination of Las Vegas meets Portugal with a Chinese city intermixed. It is a gambling mecca with hotels and casinos that match and surpass, in size, their counterparts in Las Vegas. They have the Winn, MGM Grand, and the Sands along with many more. This is a Portuguese village, if you will, with a population of more than 4,000 – very small in comparison to other places we’ve been. It is considered a SAR (Special Administrative Region) and this have significance later on as I explain. Macau maintains its own legal system, police force, monetary system, customs policy, and immigration policy.
Our journey started when Greg, Lexi and I shared the cab ride of our lives. I am talking grand prix! This driver flew through the streets of Zhuhai at such a high speed I was sure he would get pulled over. The streets were two lanes in each direction and most of the time he was in the fifth lane!! In the middle of the road! ! You could either laugh or freak out so Greg, Lexi and I laughed our butts off!!
We arrived at the gates into Macau alive and met up with Barb and Scott along with Manny, our Zhuhai buddy. WE met up with Roland, our local Macau buddie…he lives in Macau and goes to the University of Jinan so he travels back and forth on a regular basis. So why didn’t everyone go? Well, Bea is from Venezuela and her VISA wouldn’t allow her to go to Macau.
We had a grand time going from historic site and tourist sites one after another. We took so many photos of beautiful places along with the goofy poses that we had all become accustomed to taking (self-entertainment?). We ended up at the MGM Grand at the Starbucks of course! After relaxing over some good coffee and dessert, we felt it was time to head back. It was after 11:00 after all.
By 11:30 we were at the checkpoint to come back into Zhuhai. Everyone had passed through but me and Scott. And then it happened. I got flagged and was not allowed to pass through. After some yelling in Chinese (I had no clue) and some assistance from Manny (Roland’s English was not very good), we figured out what the problem was. I had only one entry into China on my VISA. Everyone else had selected multiple entries because the cost was the same. My advisor had told me to select one since I was not returning to China again within the next three months. At this point, I did not even know that we left Mainland China. But as I mentioned previously, Macau is a Special Administrative Region and apparently, separate from Mainland China. They were not going to let me back in.
I felt a flood of emotions as I stood there is a secure zone, staring out at my friends who had already passed through. The look on their faces said it all – they were scared too. They were scared for me and for leaving me behind. I am sure they were all thinking “I am glad it’s not me” and I wouldn’t blame them. I would have thought the same thing if I had been in their position – but I wasn’t.
My mind raced and came to terms with what was happening to me. I could not go back. There quite simply was not a damn thing I could do about it. Scott didn’t know what to do. His hands were tied. So he went through and joined the group. Roland, our guide, looked at me and said, “I brought you here. You are my responsibility. You will stay with my family tonight”. Keep in mind that I had just met Roland briefly the previous night at dinner. So I knew nothing about him. He was a college student who help his youth well – he looked like he was about 14 years old.
As I waved goodbye to my traveling companions, I had to smile. I smiled because if I didn’t, I knew I would cry. And the look on their faces showed the fear I felt deep inside. I knew I needed to let them feel I would be alright. And the only way I could do this was to smile. And they were gone.
There I was in the middle of customs with a strange young man who was speaking rapidly in Chinese on his cell phone. Apparently, he had called his mom and said he was bringing an American woman home to spend the night. Can you imagine what she thought? He said he was parked below in the underground ramp and I was relieved to know we didn’t have to catch another cab or take the bus. However, my relief was short-lived when I saw my ride – a high speed motorcycle! I hadn’t been on a motorcycle in years. He had two helmets so I put mine on, said a quick prayer, and got on. I had my backpack with my camera in tow, a sweatshirt and the clothes on my back. Off we went. I guess in China you don’t put your arms around your driver – you grad the little bar on the back of your seat and hold on tight!
Macau’s landscape is no different than that of Mainland China – enormously steep hills (felt like mountains) and we zipped through traffic, in between cars and buses, at a high speed. I closed my eyes and thought “DeeAnne, you can have the biggest anxiety attack of your life, or you can pretend you’re 25 again and grab life by the horns and enjoy”, and that is exactly what I did. I surprised myself in that I remembered how to be a good rider on a motorcycle. There was a time in my younger years when I spent a great deal of time on the back of a Harley Davidson.
We stopped for water and for me to get some more Macau cash. Yes, there is Hong Kong dollars, Chinese dollars and there is Macau dollars. Talk about confusion!! And we headed to Roland’s house.
It was an apartment several stories up. I followed Roland up many flights of stairs and then we arrived at the door. It was first what we would call a screen door only theirs had bars on it and it was made of a heavy steel. When he unlocked the screen door, the next door surprised me. It was a beautiful, large ornate wooden door that you might find on a million dollar home in Eau Claire. It was beautiful and heavily locked. We entered and were greeted by this petite woman who clearly had worked every day of her young life and it showed on her face. The first thing she did was give me a brand new toothbrush! Can you believe it? And then she spoke Chinese to Roland who then translated telling me he would sleep with his dad, his mom would take the ‘couch’ and I could have his room.
The entire place was not more than 400 square feet – a three bedroom apartment. My bed was plywood with bamboo. Roland had a small desk with a laptop that he kindly allowed me to use to communicate my dilemma to the outside world. No, I did not have a phone or any numbers to reach anyone. I let my family back home know I was stuck in a foreign land and could not return to China. I imagined what their thoughts might be. Thankfully, they didn’t get the message until after I was safely in Hong Kong. Roland’s mother brought me her slippers before she went to bed.
I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth. When I entered I noticed the first item – a round washing machine. It didn’t take up much space but that was a good thing. Next came the bathroom sink but no running water in it. Then the toilet which also didn’t operate. Beyond the toilet was the shower. It only came up about three feet off the ground. It was open and you had to fill a bucket to dump into the toilet to flush it. Water is like gold in China. It is very costly to use so people are wise about it. The bathroom was also the storage place for all the kitchen cooking and prep materials – bowls and such hung above the shower on the walls. They make use of every little piece of space available.
The kitchen was basically a cubby with a hot plate and toaster. The living room held a large storage cabinet with lighted candles and a catholic statue and incense – obviously a place for them to worship and pray. The ‘couch’ was a wooden bench with storage underneath and about four feet long. I felt bad thinking of his mom sleeping there. And then there was another table with a large flat screen television on it. It was such a paradox – what appeared to be a poor home had a high tech television.
(Ruins of St. Paul’s Cathedral: The only thing left standing after a fire is the façade)
Well, back in Hong Kong. Jean, true to her word, brought my entire luggage and the two of us, with an escort all the way to the boat by Roland, took a Ferry back to Hong Kong. It was a long day and I had little sleep. Jean and I had the luxury of traveling my high speed ferry so the ride wasn’t as bad on the way back.
(This is Roland. While we shopped that morning in the market I bought myself a t-shirt. I had slept in my clothes and really needed to put something else on. What a perfect shirt!!)
When we finally arrived at the hotel, we were exhausted. I took a shower and crashed. Around 7:00 Jean woke me and we went down for dinner – a delicious, succulent meal and the hotel restaurant. I had been starving!! I was so glad to be safe and sound in Hong Kong but my heart was with my friends and buddies who were, at this very moment, having a goodbye party and exchanging gifts. I am thankful that Joni was able to take my gifts and give them to my buddies. I was sad that I couldn’t say goodbye myself.
Friday, June 1, 2012
I slept little that night thinking of what I needed to do the next day. Roland had thought we could go to the consulate around ten but I wanted to be there when the doors opened. Turns out people don’t get up so early in Macau – the doors didn’t open until nine. Anyway, the next morning I brushed my teeth, sent out some emails and went out to the living room. I passed Roland’s sister’s room and it was just big enough for a single bed and space to walk out. That was it. His father was busy doing laundry in the living room. It had been washed and he was painstakingly putting it all on hangers. Then he went out on the veranda/deck (completely barred in) and began to hang the clothes out there to dry.
Roland was finally ready to go and had made the decision to take me to a local restaurant – the best in Macau but unknown to tourist. It was a local hangout. When we arrived (by cycle) we went upstairs to eat. I experienced for the first time in my life what it feels like to look different from everyone else. The stares were many. I stood out with the only white face, tall, and blond hair. People openly stared but smiled all the while. That’s ok. But now I know that I will never do that again!!
We had the most delicious pastries that just melted in my mouth and a cup of coffee! Yes, coffee!! And then Roland took me to all the back markets of Macau where the local bought and traded their wares. The produce was like nothing I had ever seen before. There were seafood markets, poultry markets, clothing markets, and more, all outdoors. We walked and I gazed.
After we had killed lots of time we headed to the Chinese Consulate so that I could purchase another VISA to get back into Mainland China. After all, it was Friday and tonight was our big going away celebration and the time to say goodbye. I surely didn’t want to miss this event. My buddies had grown to mean a great deal to me. But it wasn’t meant to be. The consulate was not going to give me a VISA until Saturday at 5:00PM. They said if I were from the U.K. or Austrailia, I could have gotten a VISA today at 5:00. But I was an American and therefore, I had to wait an additional 24 hours. What does that say about us? So I made the decision to go on to Hong Kong by myself. Roland called Jean on his cell phone. I bought him time on his phone for all he had done for me.
Jean had said, in no uncertain terms, that she would join me and together we would travel on to Hong Kong. Joni was going to pack my suitcase and Roland would meet Jean in a couple hours at the customs gate and help her bring my things through. In the meantime, we had a couple hours to kill. So Roland took my on a sight-seeing trip of Macau and the historical sites. There were times that my knees almost touched vehicles and city buses as he maneuvered through traffic on that motorcycle. We went back to places our group had visited the previous night but couldn’t see well in the dark.
What started out to be a scary event ended up being the adventure of a life time. I am so glad to have had the opportunity to be a part of the true culture of Macau and the Chinese family. I will be forever grateful to Roland and his family.
Saturday, June 2, 2012
Jean and I got up early and went down for breakfast. Yes, we were back at the Golden Mile Holiday Inn with their incredible breakfast!! I had pancakes piled high and sausage and waffles too!! It felt great to eat a real American breakfast!
I couldn’t wait to get going. We were catching the train and heading to the ferry to meet the rest of our group. I knew they had all been worried about me and I couldn’t wait to let them know I was safe and just as happy to see them too!! I have to say, the underground train system in Hong Kong is quite amazing. You can get anywhere is a very short time. It’s all color-coded so there is no way to pick the wrong line. But the escalators are another story. I am not much for heights so having to get on escalators that are as big as three stories is a little scary for me!!! But the city if full of them. They use escalators instead of elevators (although they have elevators). I assume that with the population, if they didn’t have escalators people would be spending half their lives waiting for elevators.
Jean and I made it to the ferry early and waited…and waited…the excitement was almost too much!! It wasn’t long and our tour guide joined us. Yes, we were traveling throughout Hong Kong today. And he was taking us. So he was there to meet all of us and was surprised to see Jean and I already there. After a long wait (they had to go through customs when the ferry arrived) our companions finally arrived. I held the sign up high that our tour guide had that said “UWEC” and waved it in the air!! When they all saw it they laughed and you could see the relief in some of their faces. As they made their way to the entry, I was greeted with many hugs and some tears. I knew I had discovered a new family in these people I had been traveling with – they had all become my friends in the truest sense of the word. We were all back together again and ready for another adventure – as a group!!
We all hopped on a bus and headed to our hotel where everyone got registered and put their bags in their rooms and then we were off to see Hong Kong. We went to Victoria’s Peak (I didn’t walk around the outside but stood, feet planted firmly, right outside the door on the rooftop and gladly gave my camera to Bea to take pictures for me.
We went to Repulse Bay and the Stanley Market. And then went on the Aberdeen with Sampan Ride. That was cool. Boats were packed in the bay, side by side, as though it were a neighborhood. You could see that people lived there because there was laundry hanging (common indicator) and decorations all over.
It was becoming a long day. We ended up with dinner at a downtown restaurant and once again, enjoyed a typical Chinese meal. Following dinner we ran down to the water the capture the night light show in Hong Kong. But it was raining at a pretty steady pace. We were troupers. We stood there for at least 30 minutes before we decided that it was time to head back. We were wet, tired and ready to go to bed.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Today I had the opportunity to meet with two people who live in Hong Kong. I arranged this visit prior to leaving the United States. I was going to meet with Ben Furneaux, Strategic Director - Global HL&A, CIGNA International Corporation and Natasha Hung, Analyst, Bloomberg. Along with two other MBA students Joni and Greg, we shared a lunch with Ben and Natasha (as we were advised to address them) at The Royal Garden, a luxurious restaurant in the center of Hong Kong. They shared their stories of what business is like in Hong Kong and Mainland China. We enjoyed hearing about their lives and how they ended up in China. It was great!! I am so grateful to them for sharing their time with us.
I should make note of a few things I noticed in Hong Kong. There is no such thing as pedestrian right of way. In fact, there are bars alongside sidewalks as though they are intended to keep people from getting pushed out into the street.
Today we are on our own. Once again, we traveled the underground trains and in the station you see signs like this everywhere!! Yes, spitting is a problem in China and Hong Kong. It is such a problem that we are given disposable slippers to wear in our hotel rooms. Each day we get a new pair!
Monday, June 4, 2012
Today we visited the ICAC. They handle all the fraud and corruption in Hong Kong. Too bad Mainland China doesn’t have something similar. I have to say that I really enjoyed this place. I loved learning about all they had accomplished and the challenges they faced. I could have spent all day here!
We went for lunch and afterward headed to our next stop: the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. We had to kill time so we walked around the waterway. I got to see the Batman building over the harbor in Hong Kong. It is the building that Batman fought the Joker in the movie. It is a cool building!! We learned that there is a landfill area around Hong Kong harbor. Victoria Harbor is getting smaller. Our tour guide filled us with tidbits of information. December too hot and July through August is the rainy season. We were seeing signs during the day as we traveled through town: “Drug Driving may be Your Journey to Death”. They don’t mince words here!
Notice the next photo. They use bamboo here for building and construction. It is what they climb on to get up many stories. How scary?!
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Ocean Park! Greg, Bea, Chris and I spent the entire day at Ocean Park. I did not want to leave China without seeing the panda bears. This place is like Disneyland, Marineland, Valley Fair and Seaworld all rolled into one enormous park. It was a truly fun and enjoyable day. I have included a panda photo for your enjoyment!!
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Streets of Hong Kong:
I went to the local 7-Eleven store. I say local because there are probably 12 of them within a block of this hotel in each direction. Anyway, I was on my own and took a wrong turn. I ended up in a dead-end ally and to be honest, frightened for a moment when I took in my surroundings. It was dirty and the odor started to assault my senses. I quickly turned and went back the same way I came. I just couldn’t get my bearings. When you follow a group of people for days on end, you forget to pay attention to the details of your surroundings. Although I had been to the 7-Eleven many times I had never really paid attention to my location as it related to our hotel. I went back to the hotel and went out another entrance. Again, I could not find this store!! I was hot and frustrated and it was the first time I was completely alone in the city. I went back to the hotel and asked a bellman to tell me where to go – quite simply it was straight out the door one block, turn left and you’re there!!
I bought my soda and M&M’s – the plain ones do not taste the same so I opt for peanut and then purchased a Coke ‘Light’. On my way back I realized that there were bars along the sidewalks everywhere you go in Hong Kong. They reminded me of guardrails in Wisconsin only much taller and in lengths of about 12 feet. I imagine they are there to keep people from crossing the street in the middle of the block rather than using the crosswalks; in addition, with the millions of people in Hong Kong it would be very easy to accidently get ‘pushed’ into the street – and let me tell you, oncoming traffic does NOT STOP! And you are sharing the street with quite literally millions of people!!
At this moment, I am attempting to catch up on homework and notes for the week. The week in Zhuhai left me with little to no internet time unless I wanted to stay up until my roommate finished. So I opted to go to bed. Trying to recall all the moments of this trip will be very difficult.
I am also waiting for room service to change our room (again). The room we are currently in is the second room this week. The first room was horribly wet and damp and cold!! So they told us they were moving us in a newly renovated room. Well, imagine our surprise when we found out that the ‘newly renovated room’ had a television set that was 18” DEEP!!! Very old model!!....there was nothing even remotely new about this room other than the bedspread (they changed color to a navy blue sash across the bottom of the bed). So our last night here (and I cannot wait to go home) is dedicated to packing and moving to another room only to pack up and leave very early in the morning. Oh well.
Now we are moved into our new and improved room (ha!) It has reading lights and a flat screened TV and a nicer bath. Other than that, there are no real major improvements except space and a better view. There is more space and the one thing that stands out for me in China is the lack of space!!!
Our evening ended with some gold old fashioned shopping. We walked for miles and went up and down the streets of Hong Kong at night. We had a blast on our last night of fun. I will miss this place.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Homeward Bound!!! Leave today and arrive today but after 20+ hours of travel I get home 7 hours after I leave. Basically, I am going backward in time. Greg and I took a cab together but were on different flights as he was going to Japan for the day. I was excited but not looking forward to the long journey home. It took a long time to board my flight. I had lots of luggage to go through - mostly gifts for my family. I should have purchased another suitcase.
We are about 30 minutes into our flight and according to the map, we have already flown over Macau (been there, done that) and Guangzhou, one of our weekend destinations and Shenzhen. This moving map in the back of the seat in front of me is great! I am sitting in the same seat (41A) as I was in coming here. But this time no one is next to me. I am hoping to see the Great Wall as we fly over. We are traveling straight over Beijing at 950 KM/hr. and 31,500 feet up. Amazing. We are traveling over the country itself and not the water.
It’s noon and our first meal is arriving. I am so tired I’m afraid I’ll sleep over the Great Wall.
OK, I saw it!! Unfortunately, from this height it is just a thick line over the mountains of Northern China. But at least I saw it. We flew north over to Russia dn east over the Sea of Kotosk. It appears we are heading right over to Greenland again.
We are now flying over the Sea of Okhofsk. I will have to look these places up when I get home!! I have never heard of most of them.
Now is it -68 degrees outside – darn cold!! We’ve had some bad weather a few times and the pilot made us put our seatbelts on. It now appears we are heading toward the northeast most corner of Russia. I am thinking we might come over Alaska on the way back. Everyone on the plane is sleeping and all the windows must stay closed – darn.
Update: We just flew over the Russian city of Magaden, located on the coast of the Sea of Okhostk. I can see the ice caps on the map and cannot wait to see them out the window. I slept through that the first time.
Update: We are now headed straight toward Siberia. We are almost to the East Siberian Sea just on the other side of Russia. We have about eight hours left. The landscape over Russia appears so barren. I noticed a hole in my window!! OMG! It looks like a bullet hole. I called the stewardess over and she wrote down my seat number. I hope it doesn’t break and I get sucked out over Siberia! Well, I guess I’d freeze before I ever hit the ground!!
Our mid-flight lunch is being serviced. To our right is the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea. You can see the little strip of land that almost connects us to Russia (Alaska). Also, we can see the Isles of Aleutians. WE have just over seven hours to go.
Update: We are now across the Siberian Sea and the large masses of ice are absolutely incredible. There’s an island in the middle of the sea and it is mountainous with lots of snow and nothingness. That must be where the bad guys go! I can see Alaska on our map and the city of Bethel. However, we are flying up and over the top of Alaska.
Update: When you see the United States on that map in front of you it is a wonderful feeling – home. It sounds so good. I cannot wait. I feel so fortunate – particularly after having been held by the Chinese Government and now allowed to access the country and friends. That was so scary.
We are now in North America and almost home. We have flown over Alaska Brooks Range, the Chukchi Sea and over Wainwright, Barron and Prudhoe Bay. We’re above the Yukon Territory ( I know a song about that). We are over the Beaufort Sea and flying over the top of Canada. I don’t remember many of these places in my geography classes.
Note: The bullet hole is getting bigger and ice is building up on the inside of the outside window!!
Well, another flight with no darkness. We are headed into Detroit. Home…How blessed I am.
June 14, 2012
Read today’s Volume One Magazine, Page 6. It was story about one writers (Kinzy Janssen) time in China and the appreciation of our democracy. I was thinking, “how timely”. I couldn’t’ wait to read the article. The author had spent a year in China and was talking about the control the government has over everything, including Google. She speaks candidly of the issues that the Chinese people and students face. But the purpose of the story is really how fortunate we are to have a democratic nation. We can disagree, speak our minds and live our lives according to our faith, beliefs, etc. without government intervention and attempts to change our beliefs. There is free speech. I just couldn’t believe the article’s timing. It is a good read if anyone is interested. Check it out.
July 4, 2012
I know the trip is over and there are no longer requirements to keep a journal; however, today is Independence Day – July 4th. We just got home from watching the most impressive display of fireworks I have ever seen in my life. These fireworks were sponsored by our local Lions Club here in Altoona, Wisconsin. They started 15 minutes before Eau Claire’s and last 15 minutes longer.
But that’s not what I’m writing about. While I lay there on my blanket staring up at the beauty overtaking the sky above me, I really thought about today – Independence Day. Although I have been home from China for almost four weeks now, China is still a part of my conscious brain every day. And tonight that was all I could think about as I watched the firework’s beauty above me. It reminded me of just how fortunate I am to live in this country, where I can speak my mind if I choose, peruse the internet without my government blocking my attempts to visit different website, and practice my own religion if I so choose. These are only a few of the liberties I enjoy each and every day and yes, I take them for granted; but not anymore. My friends in China are not as fortunate as I am. Their government watches everything they do on the internet. They are not allowed to openly practice their religion in most places. They do not enjoy the liberties that I have so often taken for granted or simply forgotten about.
I also noticed the moon. Although no longer a full moon (waning) I recalled the night in China when I looked up at the full moon and realized just how connected we all are. I stared at the moon that night knowing my family was looking up at the very same moon. And tonight, as I looked at the moon low on the horizon, I was reminded that my new friends in China were looking at the very same moon. How close we all really are!! It’s simply a matter of perspective.I am left with some thoughts to share. First, the people of China are the most kind and gentle people anyone could want to me. They out of their way to ensure we were happy and cared for. I will miss them terribly. This trip has been far more than I had ever expected or could have imagined. I am grateful and thankful for having had this opportunity.