Monday, May 28, 2007

what a weekend in Hongkong and Macau!

I spent one of the most wonderful weekends in HK and Macau with Susanna. I think the both of us have been having similar living/working environments in a sense we have been starved of REAL company. I don’t mean company as in meeting new people, I think both of us have had no shortage of that. I mean company as in real friends, real conversations, in a language we’re comfortable with.

The trip to HK was interesting. It didn’t take long to cross the border. The bus trip to the Lo Wu train station was only 30 minutes from my place, direct bus some more. Once I crossed immigration, I hopped onto the KCR East Rail. That was when the trip started to get long. I always thought HK was a small place, but the train ride to East Tsim Sha Tsui was about 1 hour or so. And quite ex, the train ride was 36.5HKD, which is about 7 bucks sing. I don’t know about you, but I’m not really used to taking a 7 bucks train ride. And when I changed to the MTR to Causeway Bay I had to buy another 11HKD ticket. All in all it made me feel traveling by train in HK is ex man. But on hindsight, 10 bucks to go to HK, cheap as hell. And it was really intuitive too, with plenty of signs all over the place.

HK is a world of difference from Shenzhen man. The streets are so vibrant, the environment is clean, the people don’t spit, they can understand English, there’s so much to shop and eat! I felt happy being there. It’s like getting back to civilization a bit. And I felt so safe walking there, like I didn’t have to worry about pickpockets and stuff. No wonder Sue wants to work there next time if she can. I can see Singaporeans fitting in seamlessly.

I met Sue after locating a public phone. Thankfully the station staff knew how to speak English! We went up to her room to put my stuff down, and man, her room is SMALL. It’s really cozy, but the floor space was the size of the bed and the attached toilet the size of half the bed. And that was it. But coz I expected it to be like that I wasn’t the least bit surprised. For 500 bucks a month, for sure she’s paying for the location more than anything else.

We set off again on the MTR and found ourselves a nice Mexican restaurant. The nachos and beef was excellently complemented with the jug of frozen margarita. The fajitas were great too, all in all for a reasonable price. We realized the locals we knew in HK and Shenzhen respectively didn’t really drink, so we were both happy to finally have a drinking buddy. Brings back memories when we used to chiong a lot in year 1, just that we’re a lot more chill than jumpy now.

The next day we set off to Macau. The boat ride was about an hour and it was totally comfortable. One thing about the transport throughout the whole trip is the vehicles are sooooo clean, I felt safe to put my bag on the ground. Try doing that in Shenzhen, you might get yourself a bout of rabies for all you know. We found out there was a free shuttle to our hotel, which was a pleasant surprise. As we checked it, we asked the front desk staff for directions to places of interest, and again, I was pleasantly surprised by their fluent English and how the lady was so informative. She drew on a map certain directions to the key shopping district and we were on our way.

Through no fault of the nice front desk lady, we got lost. The map was screwed. It had its orientation of buildings and stuff totally wrong. And we didn’t have a grasp of how near or far the places would be. But somehow after trudging along for a while we ended up visiting a cemetery and the St Paul’s Ruins, which is one of the major tourist landmarks in Macau. The place was nice but a little too “renovated” for my liking.

Found a nice 茶餐厅 for lunch. The portions were absurdly small, so small when both our food came I thought it was all for Sue. But soon we realized there was noodles in her curry, and the plate of dried noodles was mine. But at least the price was affordable. We almost ended up eating at a place selling 10 sing dollars fried rice. We then visited the Macau Museum which was again a little too commercialized. But I kinda liked it. I realized Macau is quite like Singapore because of its international influence. Macau was formally occupied by the Portuguese so you’d see colonial looking buildings next to Chinese architecture. So the museum looked a bit confusing at first, introducing European influences and Chinese influences at the same time, but after a while you accept it’s because the people have accepted both cultures as their way of life.

Both Sue and I liked the fact that we didn’t have to pay for a lot of things, you visit a place, you pay the ticket price and that’s it. Not the kind like “oh if you want to see this it’s another additional 10 bucks”. And most places were walking distance from our hotel, so transport was really cheap. We went back to our hotel, took an afternoon siesta, then headed out again for dinner.

I mean after all being formally occupied by the Portuguese we thought it would be an excellent place to try Portuguese food right? A Portuguese restaurant was harder to find than we thought it would be, but our perseverance paid off when we finally found a Portuguese restaurant called Cameos. We ordered a nice pot of baked seafood and Sangria! There was a mixed meat platter as well but that was disappointing. The Sangria – Wine with fruit cubes in it – was just simply excellent. We then walked to this open air bar to have a beer and to my surprise a band started to play. The band was excellent, better than the crowd deserved. The crowd was just simply unappreciative, but I really enjoyed myself a lot.
You don’t go to Macau without going to the casinos, and so that’s what we did. We visited the one at Hotel Lisboa, coz the pineapple (黄梨, ong lai, geddit?) loking building was just opposite our hotel. I took Sue through the whole casino, explaining how to play the different games, but Sue I guess is just not the gambling type.

I managed to irritate myself at the casino. I initially won enough to cover more than half of my hotel and ferry expenses, and should have called it a night there and then. But it was only 1am, and I figured I went all the way just to gamble right? So I stupidly went back and blew my winnings, plus another 200 sing. Lesson – know when to quit. Seriously.

On the second day in Macau, me and sue took the opportunity to sleep in a little bit, but woke up just in time for breakfast. We then went goodies shopping! The small cookies and tidbits there were so nice and fresh, you can literally feel the crisp when you bite down. I bought some 老婆饼 and peanut biscuits for my colleagues and I tried the famous Portuguese egg tarts. Ok lah, quite good lah. I can’t tell the difference between good and bad Portuguese egg tarts. But apparently I didn’t eat the famous one at Coloane. Maybe next trip after I get my allowance!

After checking out we decided there was still a bit of time so we wanted to check out the wine museum. Man, that was one silly museum. I thought they’d at least tell me what is good and bad wine, how to do wine-tasting, or at least how is wine made. But all we saw were some lame displays of wine making tools, with hardly any explanations. Quite a silly museum. But at least we tried some of the wine they were selling and sue bought 2 bottles of red. Damn cheap if you ask me. One of the bottles cost only 13 bucks sing. Go figure.

Shortly we braved the rain to catch our ferry back to HK where I simply knocked out for the entire journey. I think I’m just not used to late nights anymore after sleeping at about 12 and waking up at 7 on Mondays to Fridays. We spent the rest of the afternoon finding lunch/dinner and walking Mongkok. I bought myself a cheapo mp3 player coz I found the lack of music in my life absolutely painful to endure. 80 bucks for a 1 gig Phillips mp3 player. Ok lah, for a brand I recognize and won’t spoil after 2 times of using, quite cheap le ba.

I miss HK and Macau already. The atmosphere is just so much more happening/chill than Shenzhen. I think it’s a cultural thing as well. The people are just more fashionable and civilized across the border. Highly recommended to all who are thinking of going on a cheap holiday.

interesting article

An article I just read on the Financial Times. Tim Harford is such an excellent writer.

Dear Economist
Published: May 25 2007 15:53 Last updated: May 25 2007 15:53

Dear Economist,
I am 17 years old and studying A-level economics. A lot of my friends are getting into serious relationships and I’d like to get a girlfriend myself, but I am also concerned about getting distracted from my studies. How does the cost-benefit analysis work out?
Ben, Buckinghamshire

Dear Ben,
A lot of economists have been arguing about this. Social conservatives have recently argued that ”abstinence until marriage builds character and self-control.”

More plausibly, as the economist Joseph Sabia suggests in a forthcoming article, ”if the realised benefits of sexual intercourse are higher than the ex ante anticipated benefits, adolescents may substitute time and energy away from investments in human capital and towards investments in future obtainment of sex.”

In English, that means that sex may be distracting because it is surprisingly fun.

There is little doubt that virgins achieve better grades. Yet is this because sex kills brain cells, or because kids who are already bored at school look harder for ways to amuse themselves? Professor Sabia’s article in Economic Inquiry uses data on the timing of the decision to have sex to show that kids who decide to have sex were already doing badly at school.

Professor Sabia’s results show that a girl does not seem to be distracted at all by losing her virginity - perhaps because young boyfriends are not competent enough to be terribly distracting.

Be careful, though, because it’s different for boys. Professor Sabia finds that deciding to have sex will knock a few percentage points off your grade. That’s my excuse for doing so badly at maths, and I’m sticking to it.

Updates of my weekend trip to HK and Macau coming soon!

Monday, May 21, 2007

sleeping with the enemy

I didn’t sleep a wink last nite. For the uninformed, I’m living in a villa (ok I dun think it’s a villa, more like a semi-detached house) here in Shenzhen, and I’m occupying the guest room. Here in the guest room there are 2 beds. One is of course mine, while the other is taken by those Singaporeans who stay in Shenzhen on a temporary basis.

Yesterday when I came home from 东门, which is the shopping district, I saw a suitcase and a laptop bag in my room. The suitcase looked familiar, so I thought it was the guy that bunked in with me during my first week. I talked to jac jac for a while, read my book, and shortly went to bed.

I was surprisingly awoken when someone opened my door and shouted “Hey brudder!” In my semi-asleep semi confused state, I awoke and saw a guy. It took me a while to realize that this wasn’t the same guy as the other time. And it took me a while to realize the luggage was his. Then it took me a while to realize the dude was drunk. Shit, just what I need, a drunk roommate.

The dude, asked me my name after every two sentences. At first I thought he was like m, goldfish memory and all. Then I realized this guy was really Dory from Finding Nemo. I shook his hand and told him my name at least 10 times during our conversation. And he said a lot of wiiiieeeeerrrdddd things. For one, I can really tell the dude was unhappy. And I half believe he is unhappy with the company, and unhappy at being in Shenzhen. After a while he left the room.

I tried to go back to sleep but I was just too wierded out. I thought I was dreaming, or I was hearing things. And I needed to take a piss so I got up to go to the toilet. Then I confirmed I wasn’t dreaming. The dude was sitting in the living room, smoking. I took my piss and on the way back, decided to talk to the dude again to make sure our previous encounter was what I thought it was. Again, I had to shake his hand and introduce myself all over. Then he started telling me even weirder things. One of which made me fear for my own safety. He said his goal was to make all the managers lie down, then did the slit throat gesture, then said he’d make them his pillow. I was like whhhhaaaatttt ttthhhhheeee faaaaarrrkkk was that man. The worst part is I couldn’t really tell if the dude was just talking drunk or he really meant what he said. I told myself this is one dude I’m not about to piss off, so I cut the conversation short and went to bed.

I couldn’t sleep a wink. I kept thinking about my own safety. I mean if this dude snaps while I am sleeping the AIG travel insurance I bought is not going to even cover my right testicle. I can imagine the conversation with my parents, “Sorry Mr and Mrs Tan, your son was killed in his sleep, our insurance does not cover this sort of mishap.” Holy shit, I kept telling myself, holy shit. Then while I was desperately trying to fall asleep, I heard the big boss Mr Chow come back. And he got into an argument with the dude. Apparently it was already 2.40am and the dude was drinking alcohol and smoking in the living room. Mr Chow threatened to fire the dude. In all honesty, I was telling myself that couldn’t come sooner. I shouldn’t I know. But I was hoping for anything that would distance myself away from the dude.

Shortly, he came back into the room, and I was on hyper-alert. To my relief, I heard the sheets ruffle a bit then there was silence. I gave a silent prayer to god. Good time to be religious. I found myself making plans. Should I find a hotel for a couple of days? What about my important stuff? On top of my head I told myself bare minimum I need: Money, passport, airticket, wallet and laptop. I made a plan, in the morning while the dude is bathing I’ll chuck all my important stuff in one bag and pass it to Phillipe, the Filipino whom I met on Saturday. He’s the only one I really know and trust in the house.

Who is this guy anyway?

Thursday, May 17, 2007

saturday outing to 梧桐山/大梅沙

I’m quite glad I met Zhao Yi Ming coz on Saturday when he had an ex-schoolmate who just moved over to Shenzhen, he jio-ed me along to go out. I was quite glad for any fresh air other than work and home. And I’m quite glad for more company as well. Anyway, meet Zhao Yi Ming and his friend, Xiao Long.

Ok Xiao Long is not 小 in any way huh? Anyway, our first stop for the day was to go 梧桐山. While I said I was glad for any fresh air, what I failed to mention was on Thursday I went for a jog – my first jog in like eons (Hey, when you’re that bored, you’ll find things to burn the time ok?). So my leg muscles were aching like crap even before we started climbing. But the more we climbed the more my muscles warmed up and the aching subsided. As for Zhao Yi Ming and Xiao Long on the other hand these two were just simply unfit, so the three of us kept taking breaks in between. Xiao Long needed a cigarette at every stop. Think they completely dun exercise. At least I have Sunday soccer.

Anyway after much panting and resting we finally reached a 景点 or scenery spot. Here are some pics I took.

There was more to climb actually, but the other two really couldn’t make it liao, so we detoured and came to a temple in 仙湖. I realized the reason why we climbed the whole way was because the last time Zhao Yi Ming (btw, the Chinese like to 联名代性 one, so I’m just doing as the Chinese do) went to the place he realized you dun have to pay an entrance fee if you entered from 梧桐山. I thought that was strange pricing, like if you work hard enough and enter the place through the backdoor via a hill, you dun have to pay, if you are lazy and entered from the front door then you have to pay. But guess what, I think somebody realized this was weird pricing too, so decided to start charging if you enter from backdoor as well. So after all that hardwork of climbing the hill, we still had to pay anyway. Zhao Yi Ming was PISSED, but I just found it plain funny.

The temple was by no means impressive, but I guess you dun go China without visiting a temple at least right? Anyway, they got hungry so we exited 仙湖, which I thought was even funnier coz we didn’t even see the 湖, which made the entrance fee even more boh hua. But I guess hunger rules them all.

Lunch was dirt cheap, and the food was good. I’ve come to the conclusion Shenzhen food is good even at the shitiest of places. The place can really look like crap and really rundown but the food is always good. We were hot as hell so Zhao Yi Ming suggested we go to 大梅沙, which is essentially their beach and soak ourselves. Cool I thought, except we took such a long time to get there. Not because it was far, but coz there were so many stopovers. First I wanted to go back and change into something more comfortable and bring a change of clothes. (Ok lah, more importantly I really needed to pang sai and I dinch wanna do it outside. If you must know, the sai was long and hard ok?) Then the other 2 guys took so long to meet up again coz Xiao Long took a shower. Why you wanna take a shower before going to the beach is simply beyond me. Then Xiao Long’s friend, Li Mei, wanted to tag along so we went to her place first before going down together. But before we left, Xiao Long said he had a telephone interview coming, and was worried that there would be poor signal if we were on the road, so we waited at his friends house, which was odd, coz both me and Zhao Yi Ming didn’t know her at all, but she had no qualms, so of course we went with the flow. We chatted with her while waiting for the phone interview to be over. I found out Li Mei is doing what Jasmine does, she sells clothes on the internet, except she takes it to another level, she doesn’t sell on ebay and stuff, she has her own website and all and is apparently doing very well. She put some ideas across to Zhao Yi Ming and made him interested to get his own thing going. It made me realize she can do it because of the sheer market size of China anyway. Jas girl, if you’re reading this, brush up your Chinese and start a Chinese website man. You’ll be rich!

Finally after the phone interview was over we were on our way. By the time we reached it was 4 plus, which means we took 3.5 hours just to get there. We met more of Zhao Yi Ming’s friends there. The place was nice, except I wish I could see more of it. I couldn’t see a lot because of the sheer number of people there. Disappointing, coz there were hardly any chio bus. Not that I was on the look out, but it’s just an observation. There were too many obasans man. Which got me thinking and I realized I haven’t seen a single chio bu in my entire time in Shenzhen. Maybe I really dun have a thing for China Chinese girls. They just look too… Chinese for my liking. There are not even passable ones man. But on further analysis ok lah, the guys are not exactly Manhunt candidates either. 4 words can summarize them all – Si beh ah tiong.

The sea was a little crazy man, the waves were so big. That made it a little more fun, especially seeing Zhao Yi Ming trying desperately trying to learn how to swim. It was impossible to swim, even for me because the waves were just that huge. You can take ten strokes and a single wave will push you back to where you started. Zhao Yi Ming ended drinking more sea water than learning how to swim. I told him he was better off learning at a pool. At least the water wun be salty.

When we hit the showers, we had a choice of hot water or cold water. Of course I would have chosen the hot water if not for the fact you’d have to pay 6 sing dollars just to do that. The alternative was 6 yuan, so the math simply didn’t add up. The sign was totally wrong man. It was not hot water or cold water. It was cold water or ICE water. I barely showered. My years in NS didn’t even prepare me for this.

After much struggling and trying not to get my stuff wet, we finally headed for dinner, which turned out to be the highlight of the day! Li Mei brought us to this restaurant to eat pork leg soup and oysters. Again, at the risk of turning my blog into a food blog, here are some pictures.

The oysters are covered up by the 东粉 but trust me they were the bomb. I usually like my oysters fresh and uncooked, but the way they barbequed their oysters were simply awesome! This has got to be the best meal I had since I set foot in Shenzhen. But I think you can only eat lidat when there are many people to share. Either way, the damage was only 50 yuan or 10 sing. DIIIIIRRRRTTT CHEEEAAAPPP!

To end this post off, here’s a hilarious pic of Zhao Yi Ming in his trunks at the restaurant. Cockster thought he brought an extra pair of shorts so he went into the water at the beach in his shorts without changing into his trunks. Hence he had no choice but to wear his trunks and walk around after he showered. Sexaaayyy!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lost Handphone

TMD!!!! I lost my handphone!!! KNNCCB, how could I have been so careless?!! Anyway peepz, I lost all your numbers, so I'm really sorry. Could you kind souls please drop me an email at with your contact numbers? If y'all need to contact me, I can now only be contacted via my China mobile phone @ +86 15818538590 Thanks peepz. Grrrrr...

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The misscapades of the first week in Shenzhen...

My experience here in Shenzhen has been kinda wierd I admit. The wierd part is it's not wierd because of the locals, the locals are fine. In fact they've been really helpful and friendly. It's the Singaporeans I'm staying with that is making the whole experience wierd, and a little lonely to speak the truth. The Singaporeans here hang out alone. They dun even hang out with each other, which is a little strange if you ask me. Here they are in a foreign land with hardly any friends, you half expect that they would be hang out with each other since they would understand each other better. But noooooo, they are loners I tell you. Which in turn makes me a loner too since they are so unapproachable.

Day 1
Most of them move in and out on a temporary basis, but there are four main characters. There is I-don’t-do-anything-but-watch-TV-man, there is I-don’t-do-anything-but-hide-in-my-room man, there is I-don’t-do-anything-but-fly-overseas man, and I-don’t-do-anything-but-go-out man. Put them together and you can just picture the most happy bunch of colleagues in the world. So what's been up for the first three days? Well at the risk of making this turn into a food blog, I have some pics here that might paint some sort of story... Day 1 I arrived at the airport slightly ahead of schedule, but thankfully the driver was oredi there waiting for me. The drive through the city of Shenzhen reminded me of Chengdu - Like Singapore in the 80s and early 90s, which was fine by me though, just that you know people always say how advanced China is now, I half-expected to see newer, taller and more modern buildings.

Anyway I arrived at where I'm supposed to stay (will take pics soon) and it is not exactly a villa like they told me lah, it's more like a detached house. But it's within walking distance to the factory where I work.

I met the housemaid. I call her 陈小姐. Apparently here in Shenzhen it's ok to call 小姐 leh. It's not taboo like what people told me. Miss Chen has been really nice. She'll cook lunch for me everyday and do all my laundry. Cool huh?

Miss Chen brought me to the where the one and only supermarket is around the area to have my lunch. There was a KFC there, but I opted for the 面点王 instead. It was pretty ok, just expensive, even for my standards. I one person ate 25 元 which works out to about 5 bucks. But I had 饺子 AND 炸酱面lah, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.

I swung by the factory and it reminded me of Sundtrand, where my dad worked at, during the 80s. It seemed a little run down, but I wanted to reserve my initial impressions, because it was just a quick pit-stop.

I went back to where I stayed, and yes, after an entire week here I still don’t know what the compound is called. I managed to determine it’s at the junction of 国威路 and 畔山路 and it is in the 连塘 district. But that’s all the clues I have for where I stay. There are no major landmarks around here except for a few sleazy 休闲中心s if you would consider them landmarks. I spent the day in my room unpacking and hooking up to the internet. Then I watched House until some of the Singaporeans came back. I half expected them to ask me to dinner, but of course being who they were, it didn’t happen. So I eventually ventured out on my own, only willing to keep my route straight for fear that I might not know how to make it back. Anyway I thought what the hell right, I should try to eat at the most lok-kok looking place and experience some “culture” and boy oh boy there sure weren’t short of candidates. Some of these places looked like the cooks would spit into your food or there would be mice and cockroaches crawling around as you ate.

But anyway I settled for this place that sold roast duck rice. I ordered and to my surprise, it wasn’t just roast duck and rice like what we get in Singapore. There was a whole plate of fried vegetables and a big bowl of soup too! I wanted a drink too, but to my surprise (again) they didn’t sell drinks, and told me to help myself to a free flow of mineral water. Strange business plan huh? I thought selling drinks was the most profitable. Hmmm… Anyway the entire set cost my only 12 yuan, which is like 2 bucks. Sure the duck was boney, but I’m not about to complain man. The fried vegetables were actually quite nice.

I wandered more along the same straight route coz I wanted to find some breakfast for the next day. I went into several convenience stores but could only find biscuits, so I had to keep going further. But my patience paid off because I found a nice little bakery that made nice breads much like breadtalk. Cool, I don’t have to worry about the lack of breakfast ever again.

Day 2
My first day at work and I met some people. I spent the entire morning waiting for this MIS dude to configure my laptop and it was painstaking man. He was doing a ton of things at the same time and still found the time to IM with random people. But I didn’t complain, I wasn’t in a rush, I had three months of doing nothing ground-breaking or world-changing, so he could waste as much of my time he wanted. I spent the rest of the day reading procedures and rules in Chinese. Actually I’m quite impressed with the company. They have everything documented because of ISO, so most of the basic stuff of the company was available online.

When lunchtime drew nearer suddenly occurred to me I didn’t have any lunch plans. I was about to settle for anything nearby liao, but the lady that picked me up on the first day at the airport asked my if I had any plans, and when I said no, she told me to go her hostel where she and a bunch of other workers lived. They cooked and ate together everyday and she asked me to join them. I was paiseh at first, but I really wanted to see their living quarters, so I said what the hell, lead the way.

I met her boyfriend there and some other workers. The place was nice and cozy and I really enjoyed their banter. I had a pure vegetables and rice lunch, which made me realize how much these people loved their vegetables. I had only one bowl of rice coz I was paiseh for intruding their lunch but by the time it was 4pm I was regretting it coz my stomach started to growl.

I realized they knock off at 5.30pm because lunch was 1 and a half hours. That’s cool by me, I didn’t care if they made me work till anytime. I had nothing much to do anyway. After work I sniffed my way to where the 面点王 was coz I figured there would have nicer places to eat.

I settled for this joint that sold claypot porridge. It’s so unlike me because I dun usually eat claypot, but the place had aircon and looked clean. I wanted to eat their frog porridge but they didn’t have enough so I settled for a bak-kut rice (I figured if I ate porridge I would have to find supper at night). The meal confirmed their fascination with vegetables coz it came with a plate of fried vegetables again. I’m seriously not complaining, I love their vegetables. I think maybe their staples are rice and vegetables. Anything else is a bonus add-on.

I swung by the supermarket to find breakfast, and to my surprise I managed to find cornflakes! I bought a muesli with raisins and nuts – No more breakfast worries for a few days. at least.

I came back and realized my internet connection at my place is totally unreliable. I get cut off at random times and can’t reconnect. So if you MSN me and I don’t reply, most likely it’s coz I’ve been cut off. I’m really sorry about this.

Day 3
I started to have lunch at home by getting 陈小姐 to cook. It’s too much of a hassle to figure out where to eat lunch everyday and it’s free anyway, so I figured why not right? I realized her cooking is really not bad. Feels good having home-cooked food. Anyway the after work activities was slightly more interesting. I spent the whole day at work looking at maps of Shenzhen. I got a little frustrated along the way coz I simply couldn’t find where I was, so I thought perhaps I should get a map or something. After googling around I realized there was a 书城 or “Book City”, so I thought there must be some good maps there. I took a cab there. It was when I determined that the standard of living in Shenzhen is 2.5 times of Chengdu. When I was in Chengdu, the flag-down rate for a cab is like 5 yuan, so we took a cab to EVERYWHERE. Here in Shenzhen it was 12.50 yuan man. I spent almost 30 yuan on the cab fare, made me think wah liew, quite like Singapore ah.

Anyway I made it to the Book City and bought 2 books – a detailed street directory and one with a general map of the whole of Shenzhen and included some sight-seeing places and food recommendations with it. The two books totaled 35 yuan or 7 bucks Sing, so I thought what the hell, small price to pay for not getting lost ever again.

There was a nice shopping center opposite Book City, so I thought I’d go there for food. There was a nice food court upstairs, but the prices were Singaporean prices. I was starving by then so I ignored the prices and ordered a hotplate fried noodles. There was, as I expected, more vegetables than noodles and it was nice, though on the oily side. It was waaaay too much for one person though. It came with soy bean milk and soup – these Chinese sure like to make an entire meal out of things. Singaporean food vendors ought to be ashamed of themselves for being so ngiao.

I figured I have to pay 6 Sing to get back, might as well explore the area and make my money worth it. When you’re walking alone for an extended period of time, you start realizing your thoughts to yourself are louder. I wanted to find a café with desserts and I expected to find one coz the place was buzzing with people and nice shopping centers. I also told myself if I find a supermarket I would get a beer. I got the beer (3 yuan, or 60 cents Sing peepz, read and weep!), but not the dessert.

Day 4
I got transferred to the training department, which was great coz that’s my expertise, and the department was small and cozy. It had only 4 people, in a separate place opposite the factory, so the people had lesser inhibitions and were more chatty, unlike the main building where everyone just kept to themselves and their work. I immediately felt more comfortable, even more so when I realize the guy I was sharing a table with was just a year older than me and he also just joined the company a month ago. His name is 赵一名 (Zhao Yi Ming), and we chatted a lot and I realized he’s a cool dude. I attended some training sessions for new workers, half of which I didn’t understand coz it was all technical jargon – IN CHINESE. Strangely, I enjoyed it. It made me realize their training programmes are quite well planned and well thought out. I sure know a hell lot more about resistors now.

In the afternoon I started translating a powerpoint about teambuilding, and it was a self-actualization exercise. I only translated 7 slides the whole afternoon. My Chinese just simply sucks lah. My best friend is now called babelfish. He gives me the answers that I need in life. I managed to translate goals into 目标 and objectives into 目标, groups into 小组 and teams into 小组. How do you say these things in Chinese anyway? And what’s the difference between 队友 and 组员? Screw the differences lah, fuck it lah fuck it lah, it’s the same lah.

Apparently from Monday to Thursday after work, workers and staff members (there is a difference here: Workers work in the factory, staff members do administration) can attend a 20 minute English lesson at the training center on a voluntary basis. By English lesson, it was actually watching a video that claimed to be 新概念学英语, loosely translated to “a new way of learning English”. Curious in this “new way”, I sat down and watched the thing. New my ass man, this has got to be the worst way of learning English I’ve ever seen. The people who come to listen don’t get to practice, they just listen. And the video goes so fast I don’t think they caught anything. I also realized that everyone is on a different page. Their standards of English are so different depending on their education. Some crappy flash animation is not going to help these people improve one single bit. I told Yi Ming what I felt (of course not so directly) and he came up with a brilliant idea of me becoming an English teacher there. Apprehensive at first, but I think I’ve found my purpose in this company.

I went back and went for a jog coz I wanted to start keeping fit. I had nothing to do anyway, but the jog did make me feel really lonely. Anyway I thought a lot about what I could do to teach English and started to get excited about it. I wonder if this thing is a serious thing or a just say-say thing. We’ll see.

I explored the area more in search for dinner, and after seeing more 休闲中心s I settled for this place that claimed to sell dumplings. It turned out the cook was sick, so there were many things on the menu that was not available. I settled for a 狮子头 which was really a meatball soup in claypot. When it came I was shocked because this was so not a one person meal. 4 people could eat this one dish and there would still have been leftovers. The meatballs were so friggin huge I started to feel full by the time I finished the first one. There was plenty of tang hoon and, yep you guessed it – Vegetables! Vegetables must be dirt cheap here man. That’s the only logical explanation for their fascination with it. It’s a good thing lah, vegetables are healthy anyway.

I went back and watched House since there was no internet again. This is damn sad, and I do feel I’m wasting a lot of time not exploring the area and experiencing the culture. But I’m just making the best out of my situation I guess.

Day 5
I finished translating the powerpoint I started the previous day and that burned the whole morning. Time flies when you have something to do. In the afternoon, I went to their version of OBS. It’s a place to teach leadership and teambuilding and I thought this was really great. I think their people could do a lot of learning from these activities. It will sure help develop a generation of managers at least. I find to many of them are administrators, but can’t really cut it as managers because of their lack of knowledge of leadership and teambuilding. Places such as this could really take them to a new level. Yi Ming was definitely interested to have this training, but I was trying hard to tell him a half-day thing won’t do anyone any good. 2 days 1 night at least, 3 days 2 nights the best. But I guess there’s always budgetary and time constraints. The other girl, 张灿 (Zhang Can), who came along, was far more critical about their techniques because she felt too much time was wasted organizing everyone and explaining rules and regulations. I tried hard to explain to her they absolutely have to do this to cover their arses, but I guess she still didn’t really get it. Either way I found she was pleasant to chat with and easy to get along. I felt happy I was slowly finding more people to talk to. We took a bus back, which made me realized their buses are a lot better than I expected – air-conditioned, clean, and had crazy drivers with no regard for speed-limits, just the way I like it.

I had dinner with Yi Ming at this place near 面点王, and it was better than the bak-kut place I had the other time. I had this 木桶饭, which literally translates to “wooden bucket rice”. It had, come one everybody, say it with me – RICE AND VEGTABLES! Different style of course, this one had so much green and red chilli it was like somebody pissed off the cook so he needed to burn someone. It was still nice, after some painstaking removal of a large portion of the chilli. These dudes do delivery! I got the pamphlet, so next time if I got no dinner plans and don’t feel like going out, I’m just gonna call. Oh wait, I just gotta figure out how to tell them to come here. Damn.

I quick shout out to my baby for keeping me company on MSN the first few days, what would I do without you dear?

Friday, May 4, 2007

A Special Entry for My Dear Jac Jac~~

To my dearest jac jac,

And so a period of mixed feelings - looking forward to my overseas internship, but yet not wanting to leave your side - is coming to an end. It is finally time for me to go already. Time really flies when you don't really want it to huh?

But baby, this is not goodbye forever, it's merely farewell, I'll see you again soon. And though I know it will hardly make up for my absence, we have promised to Skype. Hopefully the zhu zhu I gave you will give you something to hug at nite as you go to bed too. And if there's anything, ANYTHING at all, please call me or give me a msg ok? I promise not to go MIA, and to be readily contactable too.

Thanks for standing by me and trying to spend as much time as you could with me during this time before I have to leave. I'll miss your head rubs, your hugs, your kisses, your laughter, (ironically) your suanning, your deh-ing, (also ironically) your sharpy-asses. I'll miss pinching your cheeks, running my fingers through your hair, moaning to you and just acting plain silly in front of you. Promise me you will have all your meals, and also you'll get enough sleep. Work hard at your internship, but enjoy it at the same time. This is a good time to do things for yourself too: Watch your shows, catch up with friends, have more dinners at home and become jac-torrent once again.

This is but a test for us right? And I'm sure we will come through it with flying colours, just like when you were in Japan. I WILL miss you, more so since I miss you whenever I'm not around you anyway. I can't imagine how I'm going to survive this period without you, but I guess I'm going to have to try. You must be good girl ok? And I promise a big BIG surprise for my good girl when I get back!

Lovez you always, forever and ever,

Your baby.