Wednesday, November 21, 2007

China Trip

Last week I took another trip to China for work. I visited 8 Cities in 7 Days racking up 58 hours on planes, buses, and cars. It kind of sucked a little bit.

After landing in Guangzhou, Percy (my friend in China) picked me up from the airport and we headed to the hotel. The weather was nice. We ate traditional Canton noodles at my favorite noodle house and spent the remainder of the day recovering from the flight.

I spent some time with Percy at his factory. We went over some minor changes and discussed new products. In the afternoon, I headed back over to the airport to catch a flight to Wenzhou.
On the flight, I sat next to two young boys who were pretty excited to be sitting next to me. They spoke only a few words of English. Luckily, there was a young girl behind us who's English was good enough to get through some minor conversations. On the plane, we played games that didn't take too much explanation like tic-tac-toe, the game with the grid of dots and each player takes turns hoping to form a square, and another game they knew. We didn't have much paper so we were using the barf bags to draw on. With the help of the girl behind us interpreting, I learned that the boys were on their way back from Shenzen. They were Latin Dancers and they had participated in a competition there. They told me that they didn't win because their partners messed up.
I landed in Wenzhou and was picked up by my factory. They drove me to their city (which I don't recall the name of right now) which was an hour north of Wenzhou.
From my hotel, there was a lot of activity in the streets below. Younger guys were driving up and down the streets on Honda scooters with blasting music as the girls stood on the sidewalk. And, every hour on the hour, the sky would fill with fireworks. This went on until 1am.

Starting at 6am, I heard singing with an occasional noise that sounded like a sort of muffled popping. I went over to the window and saw a bunch of women dancing in the square below. As they danced, they would quickly open and close large hand fans. I could see across the square, the men were doing slow-mo karate with lots of jumps and turns.
At 7am, the fire works started up again. They were still popping off when I left the hotel at 9am.
In the car, I asked my friend why the fireworks were going off. He told me that either there's a marriage or a funeral. Or both.
There, I visited two factories. I took this picture while walking to the second factory.

After the factories, I went to a restaurant for lunch. I personally don't like going to restaurants in China. It's tough because, the factories are stoked you're there and they want to show you a good time. The problem is, in the restaurants, they want to get expensive food. Which translates to exotic. The protocol is always the same. You walk into a room full of live animals and uncooked food. You then pick out what you want to eat. At this restaurant, snake was on the menu that day.
No, I didn't eat it.
That afternoon, I caught a 3 hour bus ride to Ningbo. No bathroom on the bus.

I knew that in the afternoon, I had a 6 hour bus ride with no bathroom. And after doing a practice 3 hour bus ride the day before, I thought it best not to eat too much and not to drink anything before getting on the bus. Unfortunately my Ningbo factory treated me to one of the best meals I've had in China. It was small and simple, prepared by some local women.
Afterwards, having used the bathroom 3 times within the space of 10 minuets, I boarded the bus for Nantong.
The trip wasn't too bad. On the way, I had another chance to see some of the beautiful China countryside.
I got in the shower at my hotel and read this sign: I thought it an excellent example of a typical English sign in China. Nantong is a beautiful city. I'm sorry that I didn't think to take any pictures. I was larger then I expected with rivers running all through the city. With each river, there were these ornate bridges with carved stone fences. There were also large fountains in the rivers with beautiful lights coming out of the water. It made me think of pictures I'd seen of St.Petersburg or some other beautiful Russian city.
I spent the morning at the glove factory. This was my first visit to this factory.
In the afternoon, the factory offered to drive me 3 hours back to Shanghai. On the way, we had to cross a river. The crossing took about 30 min.From Shanghai, I caught a plane to Zhengzhou. The flight was nice but what I didn't know until we went to land was, there was a huge storm in Zhengzhou. As we came through the clouds, the plane started swaying back and forth. The plane was rocking so badly that I thought the wingtip would hit the runway before the wheels had a chance to touch down.

Zhengzhou was freezing. Of course, I didn't have a coat. The factory drove straight to a second hand store and bought me a Chinese Army coat. It was really warm.

When in Zhengzhou, I always stay in the Presidential Suite. Why not at $30 a night. I had a little more time the usual so that factory didn't want to pick me up until 9am. That morning, I started to get bored waiting so I decided to do a series of photos of me in the hotel room.

At the factory, every one had a good laugh at the irony that I was wearing a Chinese Army coat and the factory's engineer, Dr. Mamoun was wearing an American Army coat. That's just what he wore that day I guess.
That afternoon, a car came and picked me up to take me out to Changyuan County. I wasn't feeling very well - plumbing wise. If you haven't had the opportunity to use a toilet like this one, you're really missing out. In my case, I am not accustomed to squatting for long periods of time. So, when ever I have an extended visit to the restroom, it's necessary for me to remove all clothing from the waist down because I have to squat, feel the burn, stand. Squat, feel the burn, stand, etc. Another interesting note, in China there usually isn't any toilet paper. Everyone there carries those little blocks of travel tissues. Pray you don't run out.

During the trip, we came across the Yellow River. The bridge was new and beautiful. You'll notice from the picture that there are no cars on the road. I've noticed that about China. Unless you're in the city, there are very few cars on the road. However, everywhere in China, they're busy building these massive highways. Very similar to the United States. In fact, having come from a back ground of road construction, it's interesting to me that the roads are built exactly the same using the exact same machinery. It's a very familiar sight in a very non-familiar place.

In Changyuan County, we were traveling at night and we came across this beautiful section of road. the street lights were like illuminated flowers. They were beautiful. I was told that this particular section of the city is where the government buildings are located.
Saturday I had no factories to visit. I was finished although I was still very far from home. I had a little bit of time before my car came so I decided to take a walk around the city.

You know that you're deep in China when no one at the hotel speaks English, the people nearly crash their bikes, scooters, cars, etc. because they're staring so hard, and no bank in the city can exchange RMB to U.S. Dollars because they don't have any. Once the car came, I began my trip home which was;
3 Hours by car, 4 Hour wait, 2 Hours by Plane, 2 Hours Wait, 13 Hours by Second Plane.


Kimberly Bluestocking said...

Thanks for the glimpse of China. Love the picture with the kids on the tarmac.

Amy said...

Your days seem very full, but I bet they are a bit lonely too. I know how much you are missed at home while you are gone. I can see now that you are definetly not livin it up over there. And anyone who grew up with you knows how much you live driving in the car. And how the whole no potty on the bus- its amazing you survived!! Glad you are home safe.