Archive | December, 2011

Merry Christmas!

25 Dec

My department had a Christmas party last week.  They asked me to teach them some Christmas songs that they weren’t familiar with.  I chose –

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus

and

White Christmas

I then changed the words to make jokes about colleagues and clients and make people laugh.  But today, that’s not necessary – the songs need no embellishment.  I hope that today you sing with your family and friends.

“May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white.”

Merry Christmas!

Zhongguo Jumble will go on holiday for the week while I celebrate with family.  See you in 2012!

Holiday Spirit

22 Dec

We went to the movies one night and brought the camera to capture some of the Christmas cheer around Huaihai Road.  Even in Shanghai there are quite a few Christmas decorations.  Tis the season!

Deck the Halls

20 Dec

With the holiday season kicking off I decided to decorate a little.

Every time I look at my little marshmellow snowman I want to smile.

Can you find the chopstick?

Happy Advent!

Hopefully I’ll be able to post some of the decorations on the street as well – there are some killer light displays.  We’ll see.

Industry events

18 Dec

In the last couple of weeks I’ve had a slew of dinners and lunches and meet and greets to celebrate the end of the year with our vendor partners.  Recently I was invited to an event by an insurance company.  The invitation said that there would be a cocktail hour followed by dinner which was supposed to begin at 5pm.  I went with another colleague and we got there about 5:45 which we figured made sense.

Well, in Chicago that probably would have been the correct time to show up, but when we arrived, the reception area was deserted.  On a table by the door there was a prominently displayed book where other guests had signed and a copy of a table seating chart with our names.  We looked at each other, signed the book and then headed into the room, rather uncertainly through the large double doors.

There was someone in the middle of doing a powerpoint presentation with six tables of people all attentively following along.  It was definitely not a cocktail reception.  My colleague and I were supposed to be sitting at different tables and my table was the one directly in front of the powerpoint, right in front of the speaker.  As if by magic, someone whom I had never met came up to me and said, “You’re Greta, your seat is up there.” as he motioned to me.

I shrugged at my colleague and headed towards the front.

After we listened to another 45 minutes of speeches, they served a 7 course Chinese dinner.  Throughout dinner people went and toasted other tables, exchanged business cards and did lots of networking.  As one of only three foreigners and the only woman, I was a popular attraction and went through over 25 business cards (which was all I had on me).

I met some interesting people and got home on the early side (around 9).  It was an interesting industry event.  As they say, “When in Rome…”

Exploring – Shenzhen

15 Dec

When Li suggested we go to Shenzhen for a weekend I initially said no.  Twice.  Shenzhen’s reputation as a place to visit was not high on my list.  When I consulted my Lonely Planet this is what it said –

Though commercially successful, Shenzhen isn’t a pleasant city and the extreme imbalance of wealth and poverty leads to an air of desperation.  The crime rate is high and visitors should be wary of walking alone after dark.  Most travellers give the place a wide berth, but it is a useful transportation hub if you’re coming from Hong Kong.

I had been to and through Shenzhen before.  In 2009 I took a train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou which went through in Shenzhen, but I didn’t get off.  Earlier this year I had a work trip where I gave a seminar in Shenzhen, but was there less than 24 hours.  Neither experience resulted in anything wrong, but in terms of a weekend getaway place I wasn’t expecting much. 

Having predefined expectations can be a dangerous thing.  I am very glad that Li managed to convince me otherwise.  Any place and travel experience depends on the people and the weather and the food as well and Shenzhen had all of those in spades.

And I had a great time.

Enjoy the photos of our weekend in Shenzhen.

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Blowing a fuse

13 Dec

Last weekend, I blew a fuse. 

Literally.

I plugged in my computer and a huge spark came out.  Then the light next to the couch turned off.  And the TV.  

After closer inspection, the cord had frayed and nearly split between my computer cord and the plug.  It was no longer safe.  But I still had to do something (other than getting a new plug).  When I had first moved into my apartment there was once that all the lights went out and I had to call the maintenance people to come.  This meant that I now knew where the circuit breaker was, which was in the cupboard above the catch-all by the door.

Over the last several years, that cupboard has filled itself up with my purses, hats, rain gear and all number of things.  I had to pull them out to get to the circuit breaker – which was tripped.  Because I blew that fuse, I got to take another look at my cupboard and found a purse I haven’t used for a long time. 

I think that I must be getting more comfortable here if I can solve these type of problems without calling a Chinese friend or needing a dictionary.  I’d say that’s the best result possible.

Anyone else blown a fuse lately?

Exploring – Kunming, Yunnan part 2

11 Dec

This is about the second part of my day exploring in Kunming.  For details about Xi Shan, please check out the previous post.

The Kunming Cultural Ethnic Minority Town was a unique experience. It was kind of like a low grade Epcot center, where they combined the traditional housing/villages of 25 different ethnic minority groups who come from all over China. It was almost deserted by the time I arrived around 2pm and all of the actors in the park looked very, very bored. I got invited to sit down and talk by pretty much every performer I saw.

The park was enormous – walking around was pretty tiring. I imagine if there were lots of tourists there and other activities it would have been a fun place to spend an afternoon, but I had already been on my feet most of the day and very few of the signs were in English.  Perhaps that is why Chinese tourists do not travel alone. However, when I had bought my ticket they had said that I could also go to the “BIG SHOW” at 3pm, so I made my way to the amphitheater – which likely easily could have sat 2000 people and found a seat towards the center.

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The show was a spectacular. There were likely over 150 performers throughout, dancing, singing and re-enacting different cultural dances and traditions. It was a snapshot of the cultures that are fast disappearing throughout China and also an affirmation that despite the single face of China – the Han people who are the overwhelming majority – China has a lot of cultural diversity, if they choose to celebrate it. I fear that most of the performers really don’t know the traditions they are celebrating – the skeptical side of me wonders if these dances occur anymore, but the optimist in me hopes that they are now preserved for future generations to view and remember and morph into new traditions.

After the show, I was ready to head back and put my feet up. I hailed a “black cab” with a very nice driver who skillfully battled rush hour traffic and got me back to the hotel in no time. A good, yet slightly strange day which finished my trip to Yunnan.

Exploring – Kunming, Yunnan part 1

8 Dec

The last day we were in Yunnan I was on my own to explore Kunming, the capital city.  Li had a series of meetings that he had to attend (hence the reason we were in Yunnan at all), but I had taken the day off from work and decided to head out and see what the town had to offer.  My original plan (to go to a place called the Bamboo Temple) was derailed when I got into the taxi cab in the morning and the driver said that it was too far and very difficult to get back from.  My secondary plan, was then to go to a place called Xi Shan (West Mountain), that was closer and also had a transportation link to the Yunnan Cultural Ethnic Minority Town, which seemed like as good as way as any to spend the day.

After just having come from Cang Shan, Xi Shan was not quite up to the same standard in terms of beautiful mountain views, but it did have some interesting temples scattered in the caves built into the cliffs.  I bought my gondola ticket and headed up the mountain with two very nice businessmen who I think were playing hooky from a day of meetings in the city.  We parted ways when I decided to get an electronic guide (in Chinese, but it had a small map on it) and I spent the rest of the day exploring alone.

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Chinese tourists do not do solo travel.  The site of a single woman traveler got me lots of strange looks, questions if I was lost and even some catcalls – Pretty woman, pretty woman, do you understand me? (said in Chinese, over and over).  In Shanghai, seeing foreigners isn’t a big deal, but here, I was special.  The entire day I saw one other foreigner and that was later at the town.

I’ll put the town as its own post as I have hit the limit of the slideshow for this one.

What would cause you to trek to the top of a mountain?  What needs to be at the other side for the experience to be “worth it?”  Is natural beauty its own reward?  Should other explorers have made their mark?  Is it sports (skiing)?  Would love to hear.

Turkey and… lamb kebabs?

6 Dec

Yum! (Full disclosure - this is a US turkey)

For the last several years I have been blessed that my good friends have thrown a Thanksgiving party at their house.  Thanksgiving is a time for friends and family and eating too much.  Since turkey is very rarely seen here in China and apartments don’t have ovens, it also typically involves ordering a pre-made Thanksgiving dinner from one of the many restaurants and grocery stores that provide such services.

This year, similar to the last two, my friend Mike (also an ND alumni), sent me a note inviting the two of us for turkey.  This year however, he said he was throwing a larger get-together and it would be at a karaoke bar near his house.  Li and I were running a little late, so by the time we got there, the party was in full swing.  True to form, Mike had ordered one of the “turkey dinners”, but since there were so many people there, there was also a full selection of typical KTV fare – boiled dumplings, popcorn, lamb kebabs, hot soups and other chinese snack foods.  The rest of the group had focused on the more familiar food, so we filled up our plates with mashed potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing and green beans and perched in the back of the room while the rest of the group sang.

A large proportion of the group was Mike’s coworkers whom we didn’t know, but I knew that in any good KTV gathering each person must sing at least one song.  After finishing my turkey, with help, I selected Abba’s “Dancing Queen” and led the room in a series of twirls.

It was not a traditional Thanksgiving, but sure was a lot of fun.  May your holiday season be as happy!

Exploring – Dali, Cangshan

4 Dec

The second day in Dali we spent climbing Cangshan mountain, spending the better part of 6 hours exploring the hills before we headed back to Kunming for the evening.  Prior to getting there we had to take a cable car for what seemed like close to 30 minutes which heightened the suspense.  It was remarkably uncrowded as we climbed up and down, snacking on pine nuts which are the area’s specialty.  The blue sky and white clouds provided a backdrop that is pretty rare in Shanghai.  Good for the soul.

Enjoy the photos!

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