Nearing my hundredth day away from central Texas and the United States my honeymoon period continues. Each adventure of each day continues to excite me. Last week contained a bit of stress related to work. Monday, the 19th of July I flew to Guangzhou for several factory visits with vendors and (mostly) potential vendors of products I may (or may not) purchase. As I prefer, I woke at 5am to catch the 8am direct, non-stop to Guangzhou in order to not waste an entire day on travel. My first factory representative picked me up promptly at the airport, fed me an excellent lunch that included crabs, shrimp, and some other items before taking me for a tour of the factory. I realized at my hotel later that evening that all eight of the factory visits I planned on squeezing into two or three days would end up being three or possibly four different factories. Day two of the trip (Tuesday) had Sunny, from the stand factory picking me up at 10am. At 9:30am I received a text from Sunny about her 30 minute late arrival. At nearly 11am I hopped into the car with Sunny before heading to lunch on the one hour car ride to her factory. Once I arrived at the factory, we exchanged business cards. I asked to see the products that I had already ordered and paid for. Sunny explained that I had nothing on order and I had sent her no money. I looked at her card again and realized that she was a different Sunny. Woops! I quickly recovered, kept talking and decided that it was my time to head to Hong Kong to get my passport stamped for 90 more days in China. During the early hours of each morning and late hours of the afternoons leading up to the woopsy with Sunny I learned that I did not need to visit anymore factories. The folks I have been attempting to deal work very differently from me.
Hong Kong will be much better next time when I take a travel companion with me. It fascinates me how they get so many people into such a small area. There seems to be a Circle K or a 7-11 every 25-30 yards. The buses are all 2 stories and my hotel room was tiny. I enjoyed walking around and the shopping boggles me. The number of clothing stores overwhelms the serious shopper! I can’t wait to go back for several days.
Saturday hiking is still the highlight of each week. We hike some seriously challenging mountains outside of Beijing. The heat definitely assists in the level of difficulty. By far, the people I hike with make my world so wonderful. I have met some of the most kind, giving, wonderful, friendly people I have ever met in my life while hiking each Saturday. I can not say enough wonderful things about all of my new hiking buddies.
Tonight, Sunday, I finally made it to a swimming pool in Beijing. FANTASTIC – I know better than to go on a weekend. Oh well, I did go late in the day and by 7:30pm the crowd dwindled and I had a big chunk of pool all to myself. For a little less than $3 per person, the fantastic pool at Chaoyang park entertained me for well over an hour. My swimming companion and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. I found it fascinating that almost every single Chinese man at the pool had nearly the exact same swimsuit on. It’s almost like they stopped on their way in and received a uniform.
The quick update consists of two massages at the same place, a Canada day celebration, a new Tex-Mex restaurant, another networking event, lots of soccer matches (on tv,) a bar named “juicy spot,” hiking, a trip to Shanghai, Suzhou, lots of Mandarin lessons, a house party, the Beijing zoo, and life in Beijing.I left out a few visits to different parks, lunch outings, and dinner outings with friends. My favorite Tex-Mex spot is La Bamba at the Wudokou subway stop.
I refer to people by name and sometimes they get descriptions:
Sharon, a friend (similar in age to me) from hiking, who almost her entire adult life in California and Canada is back living in Beijing with her young daughter. Sharon introduced me to a great new (to me) massage place with no frills. They mean business here and I actually enjoyed the second massage. Nobody in the place speaks English and my experience lasts about an hour each time.
June 26 I skipped the hike for a Canada day celebration at the Canada school with Tracy, Sharon, Elizabeth, and David Shan. I placed fourth out of ten in a hot pepper eating contest. We met Miss New York 2009 randomly. She spent a few months in Beijing interning at CCTV from New York. I ate 21 peppers which was only five fewer that second and third place finishers. Next year I will aim for first place with 50 peppers. After polishing off twenty-one peppers I inhaled three containers of yogurt in an attempt to avoid what some may call monkey butt. I call it the “red-ass.” I recommend entering a pepper eating contest. We were allowed to drink nothing until we had finished as many peppers as we were going to eat.
Pete’s Tex-Mex something or other sits fairly close to my home and really close to the Silk Market. It’s a bit difficult to find without asking for directions. After searching on the internet for every single Tex-Mex restaurant in Beijing, this restaurant screamed (through reviews) at me to give it a try. I enjoyed a burrito, iced tea, beans, and rice while my breakfast companion, young Chloe, a non-Texan, ate a burger and a milkshake. I will go back for more Mexican food and to try the chips and salsa. The atmosphere of the place made me feel like I was back in the ATX.
The Purple Jade Country Club hosted a multi-country chamber of Commerce networking event. Around one hundred different people – mainly from Europe and China- attended. I believe that including me there were two Americans at the event. I always enjoy myself in a room full of people. Many of the people attended other events I had been to. Hiking still trumps any social event for me.
World cup 2010 ended with a victory by the Spanish team. Everyday everywhere people glued themselves to television sets at bars, restaurants, and private residences to watch the excitement. I have seen more soccer (football) in the past month than I ever thought I would watch. The most fun match occurred while attending a birthday party for Ping at her home. Brazil came in second place in the match that night. A few people from Brazil yelled, screamed, and cried right next to me at Ping’s party. That definitely raised the excitement level of that match for me- a non sports enthusiast.
Last week I spent three days exploring Shanghai by day while getting work completed early mornings and late nights in my hotel room. The last day of my Shanghai trip, Friday I took the 190 mph train from Shanghai to Suzhou for 34 minutes to visit a possible factory for products for my Partymachines.com business. I spent two hours in Suzhou and then caught a train back to the airport for a flight home to Beijing. The very new train station in Shanghai could double as a disaster shelter for tens of thousands of people because of it’s massive size. The self service ticket machines made my experience painless because of the “English” button and simple instructions. The Suzhou station is nearly as large. It is so new that they are still working on it. Shanghai is alive and full of culture. I prefer Beijing because my world is there. I believe Shanghai trumps Beijing in land size and population.
Not including Texas, Shanghai is the center of the world. Their subway system is MASSIVE.
It is simple to navigate. There must be thousands of shops to walk through as well. I lost track of time while exploring shop after shop after shop.
The trip to the Beijing zoo may take a little mental preparation for the foreigner. I’ll start with the positives: The size of the zoo may intimidate. The number of different animals absolutely impresses zoo fans. They have panda bears! The aquarium is huge and impressive.
The zoo visitors throw things such as water bottles at the animals to get them to react. I find it odd and sad and bizarre. I watched a guy putting popcorn into a fish tank and laugh as the fish ate. Their level of respect for the animals in non-existent. It is on par with many other differences in Western and Chinese culture.