Ni Hao - Hong Kong, Shenzhen & Zhuhai, China
Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
80Trip End Dec 31, 2009
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We arrived late into Hong Kong. The flight and late night arrival did not faze us because we were very excited to finally be in China. I think the whole family was sick of me talking about China all the time and that now finally they could see China for themselves.
We got up early and rode the double-decker buses from side to side and top to bottom getting a cursory view of Hong Kong. Hong Kong is very clean, organized, and expensive as we discovered during our mall visits and daily meals at McDonalds. As we had not planned on staying long in Hong Kong we boarded the subway to Shenzhen which is the closest city on the Chinese Mainland where prices are much more affordable.
We had planned on going to Shenzhen to meet with the English Teacher recruiting agency as well as do some shopping. As we arrived at our stop we asked a police man for directions to our guest house (hotel) but instead of pointing us in the right direction he used his cell phone (everyone has one) to call our hotel and then proceeded to escort us the 15 minute walk right to the front door!! You wouldn't find that kind of service just anywhere!!
The next morning we met with the requiting agency and after a fascinating discussion of China and the USA with the owner (a black American from Tennessee) and the normal paper work we set out to do some shopping at the world famous shopping district where everything can be purchased at bargain prices.
Our expectations were soon squelched after wadding through thousands and thousands of people only to find we haven't really gone anywhere. I enlisted the services of a young couple celebrating Valentine's Day together from Hong Kong to help us shop as they spoke both Chinese and English. We got one item then realized that it was so crowed because a good part of Hong Kong's 7 million people have discovered this place and now come here for their shopping as it is so much cheaper. I felt bad because I had promised everyone that we would buy all new clothes and new toys replacing our old worn out ones and yet had to delay our shopping longer. This little stunt cost me another trip to McDonalds!!
On the economic front, things certainly don't look slow. The stores and shops were packed like our malls at Christmas with people carrying everything from plasma television sets, and laptop computers to bags and bags full of fashion clothing.
Next to the guest house we stayed at for 3 nights was a fitness court (typical all over the place) that was like an adult's jungle gym. It has a dozen or so exercise stations that required your own weight to use. It didn't matter who you were or how you were dressed both young and old came here and exercised for 15 minutes or so and moved on. As I attempted to lift and turn my own overloaded body weight I watched people arrive in jogging suits to dress pants and running shoes to high heels. It was like watching the warm up for a mini Olympics as they twisted, lifted and swung themselves all over the place.
Zhuhai (pronounced Jew hi) is the city of about 1.2 million I had researched before leaving Canada and where I have now committed to renting an apartment. I wanted to find a 'small' city and one that would make our transition into China the smoothest. Zhuhai is at the mouth of the Pearl River, boarders Macau, across from Hong Kong (7 million) and an hour ferry ride from Shenzhen (11 million).
As we rode in the taxi from the port all of us were a little anxious what our new home might be like and where it would be located. I had to have my friend (Ivan Mao) thousands of kilometres away near Shanghai communicate with our landlord as she does not speak English. We committed to this apartment while in India 'site unseen' nor did we know where it was located within the City.
We arrived at our 10th floor apartment of the 25 story building among 5 others in the gated complex to find our 'newly renovated' was done a year ago and no one had been in it since and so was very dirty. Our feet got black as we walked in and checked out the rooms. Using Ivan to translate on the phone from inside a movie theatre near Shanghai we all agreed that our family should go do some shopping for the apartment as a cleaner came in and washed and cleaned the apartment. Going out with our landlady was very much like the 'blind leading the blind'. Here we were going to buy things for our new apartment being lead by someone who could not communicate with us. It became very clear that we needed to learn some Chinese.
While in India I kept thinking to myself how flexible the Indians were because they did so much on the floor and that it would be good for all of us to spend more time on the floor and gain that same flexibility. Perhaps I thought about this too much as we find ourselves without any chairs and that we now have to either eat standing up hunched over our kitchen counter or sitting on the floor. Either way, it's going to be an adjustment.
I was not able to find shoes large enough for my size 11 feet so I have been wearing $2 sandals that make any long walks and running very difficult. I have looked day after day but have finally given up hope to find them here in China. The largest shoe size anywhere has been 10.5 and that is too small as I found out the hard way in India with blister scares to remind me. I have decided to give up and when we get internet I will try eBay and have a pair sent here.
On another fashion note, you know all those low cut pants and shirts that are slightly embarrassing at the best of times in North America? Well, the clothes we wear in North America that don't fit worth a darn look great on any of the Chinese. The girth of my right thigh is the same as the average Chinese waist!! Most Chinese dress as though they are going or have just come from a fashion show catwalk.
It seems strange to set up a new home as we have one in Canada yet have been constantly moving from country to country for many months. We have ordered high speed internet, opened a local bank account, got a cell phone, bought bedding and many other incidentals required to start life here in China. Janice is 'pounding the pavement' looking for a teaching job.
Once again, I left my bank card in the last city and when I called our bank to cancel it they cancelled our back up card instead. So we were stuck with a lost card in another city and a cancelled emergency card that is now useless. We were then completely broke as our rent was overdue, we needed food and supplies and very few places take credit card. My friend from Shanghai had made arrangements to wire us some money but we were able to find a vendor that would charge our credit card and give us the cash for a service charge.
It seems strange how difficult it is to use your credit card here but I guess that is why they don't have the same cash flow problem that is facing us in the West. Another first was when I went to the bank machine to deposit some cash it would not let me because the machine was full!! At home the bank machine often was out of service because the machine was empty.
One morning while Sabrina and I went on a walk we went and looked into the kindergarten in our complex. We got a tour of the school by a kindergarten teacher named Bella who has now become our Chinese teacher. We now get lessons from 7-9pm Monday to Friday during her free time as well as time on the weekends to go on field trips to the mall and restaurants. We offered to pay her but she refused and said "this is a very happy day for me and you are my very good friends". We have never seen Monique get so excited to learn or see a teacher was we do with Bella as she is a great elementary school teacher. Each night I have a list of questions that I ask Bella from how to wash dishes with cold water to where to find shoes my size. Bella has been a great start to our time in Zhuhai.
Each day we meet more and more people who welcome us into their lives so we are learning a lot about China and the people.