Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Well, I clearly didn't get a chance to update last Thursday. Sorry about that, I meant to, but between catching up on work, organizing things from my trip and then playing in a game on Thursday evening (which I was late to because of work) I didn't really get a chance to do any writing.

I'm going to try and go over everything today with regards to my trip to China and I even have some pictures to post thanks to Seth. I think I'll go chronologically through the trip. I'm going to try to arrange this so that the text that applies to the pictures will be below the appropriate pic. Enjoy.

The flight over was incredibly long. I flew from Seattle to San Francisco, then after an hour or two-long layover, I boarded the plane for Hong Kong. Direct flight. 14 hours. Ugh. Due to the jet stream this time of year we couldn't fly directly over the Pacific, instead we flew north (past Seattle), thought Canada, Alaska, over the straights to Russia, then down through China to Hong Kong, which is a lot further south than you'd think. And if you think 14 hours on a plane is a long have no idea.

I was talking to someone at a party the other day and he said his record was 16 hours to New Zealand. I have to admit that New Zealand sounds like it should be much more than 2 hours further away than Hong Kong. Sometime I'd like to go back to Hong Kong by flying over the ocean instead of around it.

Probably the prettiest picture I have. This is Hong Kong at night. If you're not familiar with the area, Hong Kong is divided between Kowloon (on the mainland) and Hong Kong Island. (I wish I had some source material with me so I could confirm that name.) This is a picture taken from Kowloon, which is where I spent all of my time in Hong Kong, looking out over the water towards the island.

I've commented before on how much I liked the city and it really is a remarkable place. It was very easy for my traveling companion and I to get by speaking English and it was a safe-enough city to walk around in at any time of the day. I'm sure there are parts of the city in which that isn't true, but it seemed like it to me. Of course I'm 6'4" tall and not a small guy otherwise.

I spend a lot of the time that I wasn't in meetings for work walking around the city. The image above is of some of the scaffolding that I saw everywhere that construction was going on. It's all bamboo that's held together by twine/wire. Some people think this is incredibly smart; very cost-effective and easy to do, but apparently it's also pretty stupid because pieces fall off fairly commonly and it's not unusual for passersby to be killed -- not to mention the workers who spend their days walking and working on the stuff. Anyway, I thought it was pretty interesting and actually much prettier than metal scaffolding. I have a few pictures of this type of scaffolding, but this illustrates what it looks like the best.

Saturday and Sunday I went shopping in some of the stores and markets around Hong Kong. This is an image of a street just off Mong Kok market (sorry, I don't remember if that's spelled correctly). This is pretty typical of a Hong Kong street. Signs stick out across the road, if the street isn't very busy with traffic people walk down it and only move when cars are coming, and all of the buildings along the way are stores or eateries of some kind of another. It's a pretty fun place to explore with tons to see.

Monday morning I was up early to go into China and see some of the factories that the products that my company poduces are made. I met up with some people, then took the train into the New Territories. The "New Territories" is just a fancy term for "the area of China outside Hong Kong." I've mentioned it before, but Hong Kong and China are considered and treated as two completely different places. When you talk about China, you aren't talking about Hong Kong and vice versa. Almost everyone that I talked to from Hong Kong thought the people in China were lazy, stupid, greedy, and so desperate for food that they ate cats, dogs, and rats. I'm not saying they do or they don't, but it was phrased by the people from Hong Kong as a completely backwards thing -- much like someone from the West would. I thought it was a funny thing for them to say.

The factories I visited were all very much alike. Each produced a lot of products (not just my company's) and the workers all lived and worked there. They also had to wear compnay-provided jackets and hats/hair nets. Each factory employed and housed about 3,000 employees. I mentioned to the plant manager that he had his own city. He just laughed and said no. That suprised me; how could you not look at it that way? Very weird.

I'm not sure, but I think the building across the street is an example of what the dorms look like. Even if it's not, that building is pretty close to what they looked like. Those may be apartments. Note the clothes hung out to dry on every one of the porches. Everyone did that, even in Hong Kong there were clothes hung off the sides of apartment complexes on poles and strings. It certainly made for colorful buildings.

Besides the scaffolding mentioned above, I also loved these "trucks". They were constructed of a single I-beam or portion of a truck frame that had an exposed engine on the front, two front wheels on a very short axel, a steering whell that the driver didn't turn so much as push from side to side, maybe a something to cover the driver, and a truck bed on the back that was usually filled as high as this one is. And the wheels in the back were on a much longer axel. They were very common in China, but I never saw one of them in Hong Kong. Very clever, but I can't imagine how unsafe they are.

Forgive the poor quality of this picture and the next. I took them out of the side of a moving car and my shirt showed up as a nice reflection in the window as an added bonus.

What you're looking at here are the fields along the side of the road. If you look closely you can also make out some darker areas. It's hard to decipher, but those are houses. Hovels, more like, made of corrugated steel tacked on to some kind of frame. The roofs of these places were usually held down with rocks -- probalby to keep them from blowing off in high winds. The picture below is a better image of what I'm talking about, but I think the building shown below is part of a business. Even so, it gives you a good idea of what the "huts" in the picture above look like.

I returned from China on Tuesday evening, had some dinner, then Wednesday morning boarded the plane home. We had a layover in Narita, Japan, then flew 8 hours to Seattle. Pshaw, no problem. This time we were able to fly over the Pacific because the wind was working to our advantage.

Okay, that was the trip. Since then I worked for a couple of days, went to Shana's for a gift exchange with people from work, then went to a formal party at Katie, Kate, and Beth's. It was a fun party, but there were a lot of crazy antics going on, including people passing out on the neighbors front step, people making out in dark corners, and even some party-crashers who had to be removed -- one of them forcibly.

Then Sunday I left for home, had a nightmare flight on American (which I'll avoid like the plague from now on), rented a Mustang in Chicago to drive home because they made me miss my flight, and now I've been home for the past couple of days.

Okay, time to do some Christmassy things.


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