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China

On the way…

To China…

Bye all.

Watch the shop while I’m gone.

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One more time, with feeling!!!

And it’s back to the Middle Kingdom.

True, the anticipation is not what it was the first time I traveled to China, but being that this is likely my last journey to those parts, there remains a noticeable sense of slight giddiness.

In the meantime, I won’t have direct access to Facebook, Twitter and assorted – and often inexplicable – other sites on the interweb thingy. But you will still see what I post here pop up in the other social media since I have set them to automatically do so… nyah, nyah, na-na, nyah, Great Firewall meanies!

So off to travel log mode. I’ll try to post lots of pictures while there.

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Apple and Chinese factories – does anyone care?

Here is a very interesting article on working conditions inside Chinese factories where Apple products are assembled.

… but I wonder how many people would actually change their purchasing patterns if they knew about this. People are lazy and only concerned about first world issues, aren’t they?

And, hell, not even first world issues, most of the time. The focus for a lot of people is on the trivial, superficial and non-consequential. It’s about movie stars, pro athletes and what so-and-so was wearing at the Oscars. I hate to be cynical (well, no I don’t really), but doesn’t our pathetic voter turnout tell us that not only do people not give a crap about non-first world stuff, they can’t even bother to care about vital issues that are impacting them directly!

And hey, I’m just as guilty as anyone else – sometimes. Yes, I do talk about local, provincial and federal political issues, and education and the environment. But I also devote a considerable number of bytes to Don Cherry, the weather, sports, and other things that really do not impact our lives or those of our families and friends. I can be pretty damned shallow!

This is what someone posted on FB in response to an anti-Harper status (and it wasn’t mine), but I thought it well-put:

I don’t understand why more people aren’t standing up to these bullies??!! It’s undemocratic what’s going on! People should be taking to the streets! I don’t underst… Yay! My PVR recorded The Good Wife last night! Gotta watch it now! Democracy can wait another day.

‘Nuff said.

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Trashy in China, 3.0 – a walk along the street

Went for a nice long-ish walk at lunch yesterday. It would have been nicer to have taken a longer walk than long-ish, but we really wanted to finish up the day as soon as was practicable. The beautiful weather here won’t last forever. As well, we Canucks know what the weather is like back home – where we’ll be heading toward tomorrow evening – and we want to squeeze in a little more time denying that the crappy weather will soon be de rigeur

On my walk, I took some pics.

I start in the cafeteria where we have our lunch each day. Decorative, isn’t it?

This is the hotel is the site where Richard Nixon’s famous 1968 trip to China took place.

It is located beside a beautiful forest on ginkgo trees is their full yellow fall colours… breath taking! I love the reds of the maple, but these yellows were brilliant!

Who’s that dapper young guy?

Common way to get around in these parts… but even in the short time I have been coming to China, I notice that there are fewer of these and more cars.

So what could this poor guy be carting on this bike? Styrofoam!

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Trashy in China, 3.0 – How about that full employment, eh?

China, being a centrally controlled economy that is big on international stature and status, pursues a policy of full employment – jobs for all! This would be almost impossible to pull off in a state that does not have central control mechanisms that micromanages the finest aspects of the Chinese economy. This is not a judgement, but a fact. In Canada, for example, the unemployment rate (the percentage of those who were actively looking for work but not yet employed) has been in the high single digits / low double digits for quite a few years. There is a “natural” level of unemployment in a western-style economy. For example, there are those who are in between jobs – folks who have found jobs but not yet started. Plus there are those who enter the work force (e.g., graduates) and who have yet to find employment.

But that does not seem to be the case in China. Almost everyone has a paying job.

But how?

For one, the Chinese impose mandatory military service that takes care of a good chunk of the younger portion of the population. Plus, their standing military is another huge job bank. You can see this on the streets of Beijing. Groups of military personnel are often seen in formation on the streets, performing guard duty outside government installations and in numerous other roles around the urban area.

The police force as well is a huge source of jobs. Police officers are pretty much omnipresent. On every major corner, in and around stores and markets, doing a sidewalk beat – they are a very visible presence here. And I suppose that is why this City is one of the safest – if not the safest outright – large cities on the planet. I as a foreigner am rarely ill at ease on almost any street in night-time Beijing.

But where else are jobs created in order to achieve the goal of full employment? Some of the common jobs are a bit surprising and are not found in Canada. For example:

  • The vast army of street sweepers, garden tenders, waste collectors… just as omnipresent as the police force
  • You want service at a restaurant? How about anywhere from 3-6 servers assigned to your table of 6 diners? Usually all that is needed is a nod and instant presto! Anything you need is brought to the table! And don’t worry about tipping – not allowed here.
  • The traffic and bus herders… men and women wearing orange hats stand guard at street corners directing pedestrians and at bus stops ensuring that transit riders board their buses in an orderly fashion… nice straight and orderly queues!
  • Stores in Canada are often the subject of criticism due to their lack of staff on the floor… not here! Go into a supermarket and show an interest in something on the shelf and watch how fast someone comes running to see if you need any help. Canadian Tire, eat your heart out!

Plus there are the masses employed in the stalls of the markets, selling DVDs or socks on street corners (the Sock Lady is actually as real pain for us), the girls serving us tea in the meetings, the lady who pours us a Coke at lunch… I could go on…

There IS the odd instance of an impoverished person – presumably unemployed. But it seems staged by the authorities as if to say: “Look… we have social problems too!” This person – or sometimes a family – can sometimes be seen sitting or kneeling on a sidewalk, eyes cast downward as if in shame, with sometimes a written plea for (presumably) help in front of them.

All in all – interesting to see from a Westerner’s perspective!

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Trashy in China 3.0 – around the ‘hood…

An interesting thing about Beijing is that no matter where you may be, there is an oasis of relative tranquility nearby. The neighbourhood around the Jianguo Hotel is a good example.

The hotel is located directly on Beijing’s main thoroughfare, Jianguomenwai Da Jie. The 8 lane “street” bisects the city on the east/west axis. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City are smack in the middle while our hotel lies about 5 km to the west. Five kilometers =40 minutes travel time in this car-loving city (I read in the China Daily yesterday that an average of 1,900 new cars are sold every day in the City!).

All along Jianguomenwai are huge skyscrapers.  Yeah, huge. The footprint of one of these complexes would approximate the same footprint made by all of the towers on Ottawa’s Queen Street.

And it’s crazy busy. Tens of thousands of bikes, cars, trucks, buses and bodies. You have to see it to believe it. And you have to be VERY careful crossing the street. Pedestrians do NOT have the right of way and a car will NOT stop for you. Ever. Picture Stephen King’s “Christine”.  Now picture 10,000 Audis, Mercedes, rickshaws, motorcycles and bikes. Get the image?

But away from all of this is a little place called Ritan Park within which is the temple of the Sun. I was commenting to a colleague on the weekend about the lack of children in the area. Well, I found them. They were all at the park playing games or spending a quiet Sunday afternoon with their parents or grandparents.

There were old men playing cards or some ilk of a checkers game. Others were playing musical instruments and others were practicing Tai Chi. All very refreshing for the mind and the mood.

Oh, and the last one is for Torii.

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Trashy in China, 3.0 – Food! Glorious food!

Happy Halloween everyone!

Topmost of any discussion during our days in Beijing is the question of where to eat that night. Beijing offers a multitude of epicurean choices that cross-cut regions and cultures. No need to ever eat at the same place twice (though we do).

The other night was no exception.

Century eggs. Had ’em at one of our fave duck haunts the other night. And as disgusting as the idea might be, they were actually pretty tasty!

And these were made from yams and sugar. What great presentation!

Last night was dinner at a very good Indian spot just around the corner from the hotel and tonight we may be stopping at a bar high above the Forbidden City. It supposedly has an awesome view and – as a bonus point – serves cocktails made with Baijiu.

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Trashy in China, 3.0 – The Summer Palace

Took an amazing trip today to one of the places in Beijing I had yet to experience – the Summer Palace.

Located in the northern-west part of the city, the Summer Palace is a UNESCO world heritage site that was first established in 1750 during the Qing Dynasty. Most of the grounds are comprised of the beautiful Kunming Lake upon which pedal boats scurry about. There is a very long boardwalk, an amazing pillar bridge and dozens of breathtaking buildings. The colours are so vivid and the architecture is awesome!

And today, I shared this experience with three of my colleagues and about 150,000 other close companions. It was a busy and beautiful Saturday in China’s capital.

But what a BEAUTIFUL day! I have not yet seen such blue skies and clear air. It was a bit of a taxi ride – about an hour (cost – about $15! What would that set you back in Ottawa? More than a C-note, I’d guess!) – but the ride was worth it.

Take a look for yourself. If you ever happen to be in this part of the world, I would definitely recommend this locale!

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Trashy in China, 3.0 – First full day = zombie day!

I have gotten used to the fact that the first full day in China is spent in a state of semi-consciousness. The 12 hour difference kicks in an you spend the afternoon waiting for bedtime. Usually I come over 2 days before the meetings are set begin to give our bodies one day of acclimatization so we are in a bit better shape when we have to work.

Of course, due to the election, I flew in here on Wednesday afternoon with the meetings starting this morning at 9 am… so no down-time.

I was surprisingly better that I had expected until 3 pm hit and I felt like I was in a real bad dream where I was being forcibly kept awake in a dimly lit, poorly ventilated meeting room as a form of torture for losing the election. And everyone was speaking Chinese!

But I made it through the wall and was actually sort of productive.

By the time I actually got back to my room, I was starting to wake up cuz the ol’ natural rhythms were saying “yo! it’s morning!”

I hate those natural rhythms.

So, as I was waking up quite nicely, I hit the Silk Market to order  few shirts. Of course the very persuasive sales girl tried to sell me three suits, 2 pants and a tie in a pear tree – but I wouldn’t bite… want to see how much cashola I have left after I buy shoes, purses and what not.

Then it was off to my fave Szechuan resto on the planet – South Beauty. Hmmm… spicy lamb chops, tofu made at the table, chicken and peppers… hmmmm… Eat yer heart out Joe!

Tomorrow is the traditional banquet – which were told is a “surprise” this time. Not sure if I should be looking forward to this or to assume a fetal position in a far corner of my room.

I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, enjoy your morning / afternoon / evening!

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Trashy in China, 3.0 – Back in the Middle Kingdom

So here we go again…

I felt and feel horrible about the timing of the trip this time around as I left the morning after the election and the RLG was obliged to drive around Ottawa picking up the election signs – have to be removed within 48 hours, doncha know.

I’m not entirely sure what recourse the City would take if they found a sign outside of the time frame… maybe send out a crew of 4 to remove it and then bill me? Yikes!

In any case, the timing did suck and I owe big time! I’ll be doing the single-Daddy thing for a week later in November, but 5 nights versus 10 nights? No comparison.

It’s 2:57 am as I’m writing this as the usual time zone zaniness kicks in. Went to bed early so i did have a pretty good sleep, but if don’t sneak in another 2 or three hours, I’ll be wiped by tonight… especially after a full day of meetings.

The trip over went pretty smooth. The flight from Ottawa to Vancouver was turbulent, but I’ve seen worse. And the leg to Beijing was uneventful save for the jerk behind me who kept opening his window shade while I was trying to nap!

I think the shopping segment of the trip will commence tonight. On my list are shoes and a purse for my RSD/Campaign Manager, a purse for T, and Xmas gifts for the kiddies. I’ll also snag a new leather jacket for myself if the price is right… and of course the obligatory tailor made shirts, pants and maybe a suit for me!

If you have read any of my posts from earlier trips to China, you will know that while I , in general, despise shopping, I love it here!

On tap for the weekend… up in the air, but there was some talk last night over dinner (which was yummy and so inexpensive – I never get over the price of food here!) about a trip to the Summer Palace – haven’t seen that yet. I’d also like to get to Mao’s tomb if there is time.

OK – back to bed… nite-nite.

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