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China Trip 1996
Diary and Comments of 2nd trip
by Ed Thelen
sorry - no pictures :-((
Table of Contents
Thursday Sept 19, 20, 21
Sunday Sept 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28
Sunday Sept 29, 30, Tue Oct 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Sunday Oct 6, 7 8 9
My General observations and thoughts, Traffic, Animal life, New Construction
This is for Thursday, Sept 19, 1996
- we actually arrive at SFO at 11:30 Wed evening - Visitors were not allowed into the boarding areas - you had to show a boarding pass to get through the security/x-ray station. (I don't remember if this was the previous rule or not - I am assuming it was the previous rule.) The "increased security" at SFO seemed to be a series of messages repeated every 12 minutes. The first said that illegally parked cars would be towed for security reasons (previously they did not give security as a reason - I had assumed they wanted it out of the way). The second was that they wanted you to go directly to the boarding area (no loitering?). The third was that you should keep track of your packages - abandoned packages would be "confiscated" and destroyed. This was my first trip on Singapore Airlines - and I liked it. Staff seemed friendlier, liked the TV on the seats, very clean, very nice impression, cabin staff very young looking and fresh. Rather comfortable, seats seemed larger on the Singapore Airlines 747-200 than the NWA 747-??? of a few years ago. Maybe more leg room gave that impression, I doubt that I have greater tolerance. Long flight (13 hours, 25 minutes) San Francisco to Hong Kong. TV channel 22 had a sequence of maps and text about our progress and some conditions (local time, SFO time, HK time, outside temp, and a few others). The "interactive game" mode was in-operative on my unit. The progress map showed us flying due west for some hours, than the projected great circle route. I did not ask if this was a presentation error or a real condition. Betty's video did not work, the audio worked just fine. We asked for technical help, the hostess took a note, but nothing happened. I had about 7 hour nap, across the date line ----------------------- Short Thursday - crossed the international date line about 7:30AM and into Friday.
Friday Sept 20
Food was very good - a previous experience with United "pizza" increased my tolerance so that anything that is not soggy burnt is good. After the date line, we seemed to leave the straight west path and begin a great circle - did not ask if this was real or a software "feature". We appeared to fly well south of Japan (the great circle route would have taken us very close or slightly over). Saw the lights of the south tip of Taiwan. A slow sunrise, and on to Hong Kong. Unfortunately the map and technical channel (22) disappeared (along with all of the other channels) about 20 minutes before landing. I had looked forward to this detail of the approach. There is a massive new airport being laid out somewhere near Hong Kong. The British had planned a new airport before being pressured to turn Hong Kong over to the Red Chinese in 1997. (Still curious why the United Nations took no voice in this matter!) As part of the deal(?) the British were to keep working on the airport. I suspect the British being wiser than I said "yes", and pushed dirt around again and again as in any government project. And what could the Red Chinese bureaucrats say to that? Passed through immigration and customs in about 20 minutes (the line was about 19 minutes of that). Airport security was not as evident as 7 years ago. Then guards in groups of 4 with short automatic weapons very handy were always in sight. (There had just been a series of events in Europe.) Two of Betty's cousins were to meet us at the airport. Only one showed up (the other is not regarded as reliable anyway). Talked for a while (waiting) then hurried to cab to the train station. Fare was $35US for 2 hour ride. Since we were really quite late, we could not check the big bags and had quite a wrestling match. Murphy won again, we were to go to car 7, and we got off the escalator at car 1. The floor was very irregular and the suit case wheels useless. The path was very narrow and a bit of a pain to negotiate with big heavy bags in both hands. (All public floors (except for vehicles and major hotels) from this point onward were so irregular that vertically pivoted suitcase wheels were useless.) Train quite neat and clean, with a mid 1900s feel. White doily curtains on the windows. Our car (#7) was about 60 percent full. Very smooth start, and a very smooth set of rails all the way into Guangzhou. Very little side to side sway. As good a train ride as I ever had. There were no bad smells (did not go into the toilets so don't know about them). The Brits tend to keep such things clean. The sights from the train - Oh God - how do you describe a somewhat different world. Lets see: "3rd world" means to me mid-50's border Mexico. (I have to choose border Mexico as it is my only other experience. I spent 1 year of week ends in and near Jurez Mexico.) Lots of people, everything in some level of disrepair, no good paint job anywhere, more people - untrained looking, desperate looking, looking for anything "better", maybe looking for a sufficient meal this month, wide eyes looking. Italy is 2nd world (I guess) and I was only there a few days as a tourist.) Same as 3rd world, except the eyes are not looking so much. Some eyes have longer range plans in them. Some eyes look comfortable, even self satisfied. No saying much - a brutal prison camp might give the same impression. Railroads typically do not go through the best suburbs. And you typically do not see the better side of what ever part of town you are in. You typically see the back alleys and junk yards and the people that work and live there. And we did - both in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong "new territories", the Red Chinese new economic zone, and the towns on the way to Guangzhou. I divide this into 4 zones 1) Hong Kong and "new territories" - most square inches growing something - most people doing something - green rusty junky 2) the border - scalped - a zone of no trees nor bushes along a wide line (apparent border) from an apparent train station. There were big hills so I could not really see far. (I was so surprised that I did not get a good idea of width, watch towers (if any?), etc.) I do not know who wants refugees less. - The Red Chinese seem to try to control the border flow (I presume there is little attempt at in-flow) - Hong Kong has enough people without more, i.e. boat-people from Vietnam. At the border, a thin, disinterested, drab, unarmed solder uniformed looking person walked through, ignored Betty and gave me a small form to fill out. (He should have given us each a form, as it later turned out.) We tried to fill it out as a family form - no good! 3) (the Chinese new economic zone?) I remember the Chinese wanted to ...??? and set up some special zone near Hong Kong, and I heard things did not go as planned. Anyway, shortly after the border, there were lots of new style buildings that looked abandoned. You could see through the buildings, the roads near the buildings seemed grossly out_of_repair, and more meaningfully - unused. I did not see people. 4) The rural Chinese country side - As on the Hong Kong side, green, rusty, junky - but - the land use was much less intensive - and - the people were all on break (Betty said government workers) people sitting by the railroad, sitting by hovels best not described (I don't want to make a creditability gap!) - and - there were hundreds (probably thousands?) of abandoned looking red brick or concrete buildings - "if we build it, "they" will come, but "they" did not? - we started building it but ... - we had a quota of buildings to build, and we did it!! Each building was basically isolated, no building within 200 meters - no road noticeable - no life, often no windows. dead - and - there were so many buildings in various states of construction, and no workers near any of them. Maybe 20 minutes later I saw 3 people working on/near a typical 3 story, 100 foot by 50 foot structure - yes - they were moving! 5) Urban country side As we approached Guangzhou, (a half hour later?) we saw people moving - more and more. Soon they looked more motivated, you know the kind, want to get something done today - or even before noon, maybe even hurry. More and more of bicycles, some scooters, some motor cycles. Hey, there is life out there! --- End of train ride and my zones --- And we roll into Guangzhou station. The floor was like the Hong Kong station - no way those tiny suitcase wheels were going to do the job. The immigration inspector was the usual government zero. We finally found that we had to fill out two forms, separately, and she finally provided us with the forms. We were the last people remaining from the train and her disposition was not improving. Done. And here is Betty's cousin! Smiling! A friend in a strange place! How nice! Her English style name is Christine. Her husband's English style name is Simon. (You will have to forgive me, but my linguistic ability is so pathetic, that I can't even try to give you their proper names - and then my ears aren't so good either.) An old lady comes up with sad eyes and a hand out. We ignore her. A young man hangs around, Betty said later the young man said he had not eaten for days. We ignore him. Simon comes wheeling up in a brand new looking Izuzu van. Hell - the thing even has air conditioning! In we get, and off we go! Oh did we ever go! Into the land that would leave the famed Parisian driver shaking in his boots. No rules are evident to the newcomer. Maybe the Mexico city driver would feel at home. Certainly a California driver is out of place here. California, where there seems to be a stop light on every corner, each with a pedestrian push button so that all traffic stops while a blind grandma has time to hobble safely across 4 lanes of impatiently halted traffic. Pedestrians crossing 4 lanes everywhere, bicycles crisscrossing everywhere, motor scooters and motor cycles weaving in and out, cars - trucks - buses swerving in front of you from every where. The sound is a constant beep beep, ring ring, from all points of the compass. The driver tooting very seriously every few seconds. We slowed frequently, swerved frequently, but NEVER STOPPED. (There were no stop signs, even at major intersections) The right of way seems to be determined by who can occupy the space first, an apparent tie resolved by horns and who wishes to have an unscared car ("chicken" in the US). The streets get narrower, 2 lanes - but no center stripe, we stay mostly in the right half, but that seems to be an unimportant guide line. We are now on a street that is too narrow for convenient auto traffic in both directions. Bicycles, scooters everywhere, we are at bicycle speed, we move to the right and stop in front of a cigarette shop. Everywhere are little shops and street shops (somebody selling from a 2 wheeled cart or from a cloth setup on the sidewalk). We get out of the nice new looking van that still does not have a scar on it and step out into another world. The world of filth. In the US, filth is pictures of people or dog excreta (dog poop). Here, filth is the ever present thin layer above the dirt or concrete that was once living but has died and maybe been partially cooked. It is always wet and sticks to Apple peels, discarded leave of vegetables from the next stall, wet paper wrappers, you step in
A lost day??
It is Sunday evening, the 22 of Sept.
We have just come back from an excursion to the birthplace of Sun Yat-sen, an activist to bring western style government to China. He was born in 18??, died in 1925 of liver cancer at 59, and knew Mao (of chairman Mao) and Chang Kai-shek (of the Kowmingtong) as young men. His was the era of a dying (dead?) dynasty with the "last emperor" as in the movie of the same name. Battling warlords, with words then troops and alliances with any hopefully helpful forces seemed a frequent event. We started at 7:00, not waiting for breakfast. We are living on the 4th floor of an apartment house in Guanzhou (Canton to the out_of_date). We don't need to lock the windows, as there are permanent steel bars discouraging external access. We locked the steel painted (actually wood) front door and then pulled and locked the steel folding fence behind us. We went down the 49 unlit concrete stairs past other steel doors and steel folding fences to the front passage way. This is too narrow for me to raise both elbows at the same time, and is also unlit and the floor is uneven. This leads to the unlit alley way. It is floored with uneven concrete blocks. In theory a car or truck could drive through, by this must be extremely rare as parked bicycles, motorcycles, and street vendors would all have to be moved to clear a path. We walk about 150 paces to another street that is wide enough for 2 cars to pass, but car traffic is actually "infrequent" (maybe once a minute) because dealing with the bicycles, scooters, and motor cycles discourages larger vehicles. We walk about 2 city blocks to a bigger street that has real street traffic, cars, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, (I don't think buses). On that street we walked to a resturant for breakfast, but it was too full. At about the same time, Simon arrived in the van and away we went. (I am presuming the Simon could have parked the van (in this city?) and had breakfast with us, but communication is limited - I do not know if that was the plan or not. "And away we went" means something different in the orient - and especially this city. The traffic must
Monday Sept 23
Got up, measured house, pillars are on about 5 meter centers. Walked to the ??? pagoda, climbed to top. Went to dinner, among other new things, I ate deep fried giant water beetles, fried silk worms .
Tuesday Sept 24
Christine's father bicycled over. He and I went to the nearest pagoda (called a 'top' here). So we climbed to the top of the top. We went to an archeological 'dig' where a 200 BC local king had been buried. Very nice museum with good write-ups. He said that Chinese did not develop much after that because of frequent wars. I disagreed. Most countries have been involved with frequent wars. (I doubt that "civil" or "foreign" makes any difference.) I spouted off with "my" theories: 1) The much admired Chinese civil service, for generations chosen by examination, causes a reactionary layer of government. Who is chosen? Those who grind away, studying past accomplishments so they can pass a paper and pencil test (to help keep it fair). Who is most likely to do well in those tests. People that can best parrot what they have been told the testers want to read. You get a self perpetuating group of intelligent parrots. .... After dinner we went to a more modern apartment. Aunt #4 is/was pharmacist. The wiring is buried in the cement. Very nice, much fancy deco. Forgot to look at the bathroom drains. Hot water for shower from in-line heater, venting into room.
<! ----------------------------> Wednesday Sept 25
Computer down for count. Found a 3 port device on the Conner hard disk card got extremely hot - (thought I would get a blister). After some discussion, took box to a computer center. And center it was - a collection of shops (mostly 5 by 10 meters) on the second floor of a very modern building. All the shops seemed to be selling basically the same stuff. They all had 540 meg, 630 meg, 1 gig,... Seagate hard drives. (You may not love Fry's, but at least you get some variety - a wide selection of options. Saw very little software for sale. Saw many indications that there is probably 1 copy of anything sold in this city. After some price shopping ( all plus/minus 10 %), Christine mentioned she had a friend who worked managed the AST store. We went there, he had one disk (maybe interacts with neighbor if need be. He had trouble giving us a price - I suggested an average price and he put in the disk drive. It came preloaded with Chinese Windows 3.2, but not the correct floppy driver. After some discussion, he installed a CD ROM, came up with an "unauthorized" Windows 3.2 disk, installed the correct mouse driver, and we left to take a taxi home. Christine wants to learn to do DOS menus. I start reading DOS help.
Thursday - Sept 26
Simon came up with a slightly older Toyota than the very new looking Izizu we had gotten used to. Went to the local high spot (Bing Li Mountain?) that also had an aviary. It had a very large 100 x 50 meter netted volume for birds. Nice technology, nice lawns, not many birds. Went to Swan Hotel, Very Classy, wonderful pond with very interesting rocks. Betty said the Belmont Pond builder we had spent some time with claimed to have done that pond. Read DOS help, did menu enough to start WIN Went to see Aunt #4 again, to meet Uncle #9 who is in Chinese name format YU Zhen-Xin Professor of Physics Director, Institute for Laser & Spectroscopy Zhongshan University Guangzhou 510275 CHINA e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org wife's e-mail email@example.com He has traveled abroad extensively, representing China in international laser conferences. He speaks English fluently, and has visited us in Northern California. I had escorted him about in silicon valley, and he wished to escort me about the campus in general and his laser lab in particular. (Great!) We will visit the University Sat Sept 28, at 9:00 main gate
Friday Sept 27
Betty and Christine went shopping, I updated this thing and read physics. About noon we went to the Chen "clan" - place. About 1910, money was collected from Chens around the world. It must have been a bunch as a 50,000 square meter property was purchased in Guangzhou and some really nice structures with very ornate exterior carving were built. We saw the results of years of neglect since the Chinese communist revolution, the conversion to and from factories during the cultural revolution. The painting on the most of the external carving and cement was badly faded and peeled. I was thinking of buying a video tape of the place for Tai Chen, a former boss, but could not get good verification that it was in NTSC format (China and Europe use the PAL format). Leaving the area, we returned down the scruffy lane with large pot holes in the road. I could find no sign pointing a casual tourist to this place. --------end of Chen clan place ---------------------------------- Saw a taxi with a wing mirror knocked off. Driver not present. We are scheduled to go to a moon cake festival tonight. Oh, did we have a time - and we forgot to bring the camera! We took the company van to the water front of the Pearl River. There was a long (200 meters?) flat concrete space. The space was filled with tables (5 wide, with room for parking and strolling). A large brightly lit bridge was just to the east. Overlooking this flat space were different restaurants, with dining rooms 4 stories high, the outsides brightly lit with multi-colored neon sea creatures and Chinese characters, expanded to set up these tables. I am guessing 75 rows of tables, or about 375 tables or about 3700 seats. We had a table reserved, Mr. Chen, Simon, Christine, Betty, Shawn, and me. The weather was warm and balmy (perfect). Attractive waitresses in (traditional?) Chinese costumes took orders and waited on us promptly, courteously and in a friendly manner. We had a giant feast (11 dishes), served within a few minutes after ordering, and while eating the moon came up. A little beer and the conversation became loud and lively. We all ate a little too much and had a great time. We got home, and the TV was showing the affair, and showed a 10 second flash of this area (we recognized the restaurants and signs). A warm and happy feeling.
Saturday Sept 28
We had an appointment to meet Professor Yu, (see thursday) at 9:00 at the main gate of Zhongshan University. Simon drove us to Zhongshan University. We arrived 10 min early but had called ahead on cellular phone informing of early arrival. Zhongshan University seems to have one vehicular gate, one of those expanding things, no room to swing a gate, which closes after each entry/exit. The guards take your id card and give a dog-eared (highly reused) numbered receipt card. I asked Christine why they wanted to take your id card, and she said so that we would leave by the same gate. Maybe? I'm convinced that the gate also keeps the general public out. Sheer population pressure and the apparent desire by all Chinese to set up a shop anywhere would have filled this sparsely populated campus. Professor Yu said there were 40,000 students living on campus - but it sure did not look like University of Minnesota which did have a student load of 40,000! And here is the smiling Professor Yu walking up to greet us. The campus is extensive. The trees sub-tropical. The pace seem from another world. A major break from the hurly-burly incessant horns of the outside world. People drive their bicycles at 2/3 speed, walk 2/3 speed, talk at 2/3 speed. There is time to think, maybe even contemplate. Your mind changes gears. There is no need to quickly accelerate to fill the 1 meter area in front of you, then brake quickly to avoid contact. We drove to Prof. Yu's building. Simon leaves in the van to go back to work. The building is 5 floors, concrete, rather neglected looking - the outside seems unwashed, unswept, abandoned? A sign in front announces in Chinese and English that this is a short pulse laser facility - but one of the letters has slipped and a word is hard to read. The large dusty feeling entry chamber has an empty very used desk and chair, some wooden mail boxes rather vaguely painted, a bulletin board with some typed papers, and that is all. The entry looks abandoned, where is the high tech glitter? We go through some chipped doors into a long central hallway. The 1st floor seems unused, we go to the second floor ... The only class room I saw in the 5 story building had a badly abused Ping-Pong table at the rear. No balls or paddles nor students were seen. My best guess is that there were 20 people in the 50 large rooms in the building. The day was Saturday (a make up work day since the following Monday & Tuesday is a national holiday - similar to the US 4th. My best guess (again) is that the building was at full usual occupancy. I saw my first oil diffusion pump working. Such pumps have been standard in vacuum labs for 70 years. (Shows my level of practical experience.) The oil was boiling as bumpily as any similar bowl of water. I saw an electrically pumped CO2 infra-red laser. It seemed permanently ON in case of a visitor. We of course lit fire to some handy paper. We saw a static display of a saphire-Ti short pulse laser. Apparently this unit can deliver pulses as short as 1x10-15 seconds, pulse length of 3x10-6 meters. (don't quote me, vague memory) These are useful for atomic and non-linear (2nd or 3rd harmonic) work. There was no offer to fire one up and I was too numbed to ask. This work was Professor Yu's specialty (I probably should have asked for a demo??). We saw the mirror/prism polishing room. There were 4 stations of a white material and 4 stations of red rouge. (I presume grinding can take place anywhere.) The professor was both proud and apologetic that in the early days they had to make most of their own equipment. I stated that this was good preparation for students. (He may have worried about time that could have been spent in research or writing papers!) He showed me an optical "work bench" in a room that smelled unused. This was an iron (cast?) about 2 meters by 1.5 meters by 0.2 meters thick. There where hundreds of threaded holes on 5 cm centers. Actually there appeared to be 2 such units connected by iron straps. The professor said that these were locally made as money was even tighter in the past! The lab is seriously looking for commercial work to bring in some money. In another room was a commercially made optical "work bench", I guess made in Germany. This appeared to be more recently used. We saw the vacuum deposition room where they deposited multiple layers of material to make very narrow band filters. He showed me a filter that passed a beautiful blue. All things considered I should have asked for a souvenir! These filters were being made for a US dental supply company for curing plastic fillings in 20 seconds. (I guess the polymer being used is sensitive to blue light.) In another room was an excited He-Ne laser (the kind you buy for fun). The only other laser we was working (or workable??) was a Spectra Physics pulsed as below. The Spectra Physics company laser being used to put identifying marks on motor cycle rings. A young lady was sitting there, placing each piston ring into a fixture, the laser would go snap (making a Chinese character on the side of the piston ring), then she would remove the ring, and insert another ... She could be replaced by a very simple automation project, and the output would be quadrupled. I felt sad that she had such a stupid job, she was happy to have a job. Most rooms seemed 1/2 occupied with optical bench materials that may have been used in the past but looked friendless and unused. ----- end of laser lab ----------------------------- Professor Yu took us on a long walk from his building to the river. The campus is a large relatively open park like area in a very densely populated city in China. We visited a very new looking modern designed building (I forgot what it was for). The building guard at the entrance shushed us (me) saying that there was a class in session. Professor Yu said that a very prosperous alumnus gave the money for the building (and it had his name on it). There were several other similarly funded building. (Sounds like of Stanford?) Betty's father was an alumnus of this university (graduating in physics), but stayed in China, then Taiwan, but did not leave a fortune to anyone. We went to see Professor Yu's wife, Mrs. Leong in her work place in the Business Management center. She is in charge of the computers and the interconnections (Novell internally and Internet externally). We go up the stairs. In the stairwell between the second floor (class rooms) and the third floor (computers) is a big serious wall of steel pipe - not unlike Alcatraz, and a steel pipe door. Apparently security is a problem even in a secured campus like this one. Seems quite handy with the machines. Very vivacious and friendly. I try to send some e-mail to my self in the US, but there is some problem. The e-mail gets queued up. She pings successfully to some server, but the problem is elsewhere. We leave the building and its security behind. We talked of progress, Professor Yu said that when he was an undergraduate, this part of the mall was growing rice. This part of the mall was a bit overgrown. We reached the Pearl River. Talked and looked for a bit then returned to the lab area (1/4 mile?) and to Professor Yu's home. The home is in the faculty (western) side of the campus. It is on the 5th floor of a six floor apartment building. As usual there is no lift (elevator to you non-Brits). Not fancy! More peeled paint. Professor Yu explains that in this part of China, paint tends to peel. Second Son can play the violin, and we are to ask for a demo later. We start to play on the computer when a phone call invites us to a lunch with Professor Yu's old mentor, a lady of some 82 years, Professor Emeritus Gao, who had been very active in infra-red spectroscopy. She is entertaining the daughter of the governor of the province, the young lady has just been married and is about to leave on her honeymoon in the US. Would we like to attend this lunch? You bet! Off we go! We walk to a faculty restaurant (it turns out there are 2!) and into a private room and are greeted by Professor Emeritus Gao, her son, the daughter of the provincial governor, and the daughter's new husband. Professor Gao had done her graduate work at the university of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and still speaks fluent English. She is a lovely lady, has survived the cultural revolution, and seems to speak revolutionary slogans that cause her younger friends to wince. She speaks of how not to get "picked" by the Red Guard. The food arrives, a feast! (I find later that the bill is 1/2 a professor's monthly salary, who paid for it?) I am fascinated by the old lady who holds court in happy style. She speaks of the new generation as being stronger waves pushing the smaller weaker waves of the older generation. That she is no longer active in laser research, her student has taken over. I ask if she helps make decisions, and Professor Yu starts to cough gently. I probably talked too much (me?) but the old lady seemed happy to talk with me. Of course one has to keep track of the new bride, especially if she is the daughter of the governor! She is a very attractive - lovely, quite tall (5'9"?), sweet appearing person. She speaks good English but does not push into the conversation between the old lady and me. She was the only one who stood up when Professor Yu's wife had arrived at the lunch separately. She mentioned she works in Hong Kong. I inquire how she travels, to and from, she says by train. I mention that the road bed seems very good and that the ride is excellent. There is some kind of flicker - I don't know if good, bad, or other. (Betty said later that the young lady worked the Chinese government travel agency in Hong Kong - possibly not a stressful situation) The lunch slowly breaks up, the young couple must leave - taking Professor Gao with them (returning her home?). The young lady runs ahead to a car parked by itself along the road under some trees. She drives up to pick up the professor and her husband. The car is a Lexus! ... Very slowly (hours - days -) it dawns upon me what power that must represent! A Lexus in Guangzhou, driven by a young lady. 1st - my god, what if the Lexus gets scratched? a) We decide that it isn't hers, as in having to pay for repairs, insurance, up keep, etc. It probably belongs to the government - and she can check it out when she wishes - with no worries of ownership! Simon, our host, can check vehicles out from his "company". "Company" has a somewhat different meaning in China. Simon does not have to pay repairs, nor gas, nor ... b) If you see a Lexus in Guangzhou, do you want to scratch it? Just who must be in it? A VIP, a real VIP, and trouble like that you just don't need. Don't swerve in front of that baby, don't tailgate that precious jewel, best stay a reverent distance and leave the horn alone! c) So, she probably has little idea of the pressure of traffic that so fascinates me. I bet traffic stays a very respectful distance. 2nd - some what later - a) Hey Mao, is this the purity of the Marxist Revolution you dedicated your life to? Was the death of tens of millions of Chinese, the tumult that left so many other lives scared, the suspension of (non-political) education in China for over 5 years just another useless episode in Chinese history? b) Hey Mao, are you sleeping well? or are the starved and torn souls of tens of millions of people sticking pins into you? Ya, roast in hell! Betty and Christine split to visit a friend and my self and the Yu's head back to the Yu's apartment. Professor Yu has a little CCD camera attached to his computer. We take some pictures and print them but one of the pins of the dot matrix printer is not working or something, there is a periodic white streak. Just then Betty calls that her friend's husband invites us to their house and then a tour of the Life Sciences area (Great!) We head out to a new, much nicer looking very tall apartment building. The host has ......... 8th floor etc. We visited a professor who worked in a department heavily funded by alumni. He lived on the top floor of an 8 story apartment house of campus. We walked up the stairs to the 8th floor. I think I have the secret of the thin Chinese - they are always climbing stairs a) if they eat well, they will work it off, b) why eat too much if A well off professor (worked in a rich department) had a young lady as a house keeper - the house keeper was working for 300 rmb per month (about $40 US) and this did not include a place to sleep. The young lady was trying to help a younger brother go to college. The young lady served us tea, and was very polite. Betty gave her a most generous tip of 20 RMB ($2.50 US), which was greatly appreciated.) In summery, the building looks as though the attempt to appear filled to prevent someone else from claiming space. (parts of the central mall are mowed Seeing
<! file diary2.txt -> Sun Sept 29
a day of rest, We went to Aunt #4's house for a special dinner about 6:00 On the way Christine shopped for some grapes so we would not arrive empty handed. We arrived and sat down. The fancy large ornate overhead living room light was adjusted for the correct level of illumination, and we started to talk ( well OK, they talked and I looked for something to read. Found a newspaper, found a section with lots of time sequence graphs and tabular information. Ah - a stock market report in the heart of Marxist Land? I check the front page to see if it is from Hong Kong, no, this capitalist style financial news is indeed from Guangzhou! Oh Mao, if you could only see this! We go to the table for the special meal - abalone soup, fresh yet. I had seen some astronomical prices on the street. Betty explained very expensive. Soup is served, I notice Betty and I get lots of abalone, the host and hostess get some abalone, daughter and grandson seem to get very little or none. Being a VIP has its privileges. I explain, and Betty translates that I have had abalone before, but never in a soup. Very delicate and delicious. Some more favorite dishes, dung_goo (mushrooms to you) stuffed with meat, chicken and walnuts, tofu stuffed with meat, on and on. Then the piece_de_resistance - winter melon soup. I have been in fancy Chinese restaurants by never had winter melon soup. A melon is cut in half, emptied of seeds?, then stuffed with good things, then cooked in a container that helps the 1/2 melon keep its shape. Again I thank the hostess, explaining that this is a new thing for me and that I had always wanted some. Again delicious! - - the guest's dilemma - - On one hand: I had heard that a guest should bring a hearty appetite in order to demonstrate proper appreciation for all the good things. (No problem for me!) Multiple helpings show appreciation. On the other hand: If the VIP guest eats all the good things, nothing is left for those less honored. I requested a second helping of the winter melon soup and as it was being served I saw a look of horror from the daughter. She had not been served this treat in the first round, and had looked forward to the leavings. Not knowing what to do, I ate with tempered relish - and wonder what to do if there is a next time. - - - - - - - - - After dinner, I went back to the newspaper to see what patterns and conventions I could pick up. There seemed to be a lot more moving average information presented, looked like a 1 week and 1 month type moving average in the stock price graphs. Marks for daily highs and lows are shown for the past 3 weeks, daily volumes are on a separate axis lower down along with some graphic trends that I could not interpret. Betty may have been worried that I was bored, so volunteered my services the fix the water valve in the toilet (WC for you Brits). So off to the toilet I went, to see what I could see. Apparently the valve would not turn off. So the hose was disconnected and the wall pipe end had been capped off with a water valve. A replacement water source for the WC was a rubber hose with a near by hand valve. I presume not many Guests_of_Honor at a very special dinner finish up by trying to fix the WC. Disassembling the WC valve, I discovered that the parts were hardened by age, and I was not the first darned fool to play around in it! So I suggested we go to the store for parts, and the host said maybe tomorrow.
Monday Sept 30 ---- Chinese national day eve --like the 4th in the U.S.
The Motorcycle Ride I showed considerable interest in the fireworks show for tonight. Simon said he would give me a ride on his motorcycle to help find the best place to view the fireworks show tonight. We re-sized Shawn's helmet (there is a helmet law for motorcycles!) and Shawn led me out the door, down the alley, to the street to where Simon was already waiting on his motorcycle. He looked impatient. After I found the footrests, and grabbed Simon's waist, Simon tooted the horn and off we started. And did I get a ride. Simon is a young man full of "piss and vinegar" and naturally very aggressive in most situations. In addition, I think Simon had three things going on in his head: 1) he was impatient from waiting (adjusting the helmet in the house had taken longer than expected - while he was waiting on the street) 2) it was a new day, and he wanted to test his reflexes (always good to know how well your body is performing) 3) give the newbie to motorcycles something to remember (we had been sleeping in HIS bed for 9 days). As the streets got bigger he could go faster, and the complexities of situations increased. It had been bad enough to have Simon betting the fender of a car he did not own while I was a passenger. Now he was betting my elbows and knees that the other drivers would not do anything stupid - and that his machine would work as he predicted. I had read the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Repair" and had gotten some appreciation for the motorcycle, and its culture. In an auto, things are not so personal. Metal and glass "protect" you from the feel of nature, you are in a cocoon, your own space. On a motorcycle, you are much more involved. - You hear everything, no glass, rubber seals, sheet metal insulation. - You smell everything, the stink of the garbage can being dumped goes right to your nose - no averaging with the air in the car. - The passing wind stream swirls around your head, not the car body. - The road surface is more directly coupled straight up into your body from 2 skinny tires, not bent around in the auto body from 4 big balloon tires. - Your rear view mirror is right by your hand, not distantly at the end of some remote control system. About 6:00, Simon and Shawn go to the Sha Mian park to buy tickets. We get a phone call from Simon's cellular phone about 7:30 saying they are at the street, come on. Jamy, Ed, Shawn, and Simon get into a cab and finally arrive at a very crowded water front White Swan hotel about 7:50. We go into and out of the White Swan to evade another crowd, and arrive in the Sha Mian park at 8:00. Scout for a good place, and relax a bit. We have the binoculars and spot the 3 barges. The associated boat has a mast with a tiny white light on top and an equally tiny red light somewhat below. No sign of action. Promptly at 9:00, the 3 barges start flickering flame, the sky lights up, and the show is on. WOW - I am used to quite modest displays. The show at Milpitas had 354 4" to 6" tubes, and maybe 30 3" sets of 5, with some boxes of smaller things. This show was advertised to have 80,000 pieces - however you define "piece" - but the difference was spectacular. In the Milpitas show, the tubes were mostly fired one at a time, maybe one per second with the beat of the music, and supporting 3" and boxes for special effect and grand finale. The show lasted about 20 minutes, with a big effect at the end to mark the end. In the Guangzhou show, there was no way you could count anything. The projectiles left the barges in streams. For tens of seconds maybe 5 to 7 flickers per second sent streams sky word. There were occasional lulls in the action for you to catch your breath, then the sky would fill in what would seem to be another final burst. At 9:30, there was a long pause. Where were the 5 goats? There was no "ground display" nor any final blast to signal the end. The audience waited around for about 5 minutes then started to drift out the gate.
Tuesday Oct 1
A sleepy start - We are scheduled to be picked up by one of Betty's ex-co-workers Mr. & Mrs. Ling and Mrs. Lean. We get a cellular phone call that they are in the city - then a cellular phone call that they are in our street. We go down the 3 floors, out the narrow inter building walk, down the smelly 80 meter alley, to the street. And there they are, happily waving beside a "double cab" pickup, you know - with 2 bench seats - can hold 5 people legally. We cover and tie the bigger suitcase into the back, and Mrs. Lean wants to hold the "carry on" bag, and off we go - the Zhou Quin. I find that not all Chinese drivers are like Simon. Mr. Ling is even a little tentative in questionable situations - he does not necessarily drive into where angels fear to tread. Betty is in seventh heaven. The ladies are all old friends, and 2 of them introduced the third to her now husband. The husband was a very popular classical actor, now involved with making radios for export. We drive along happily - except for a 1/2 mile strip between 2 highways the takes 20 minutes. We get to the mountains near Zhou Quin, see many fancy apartments, and are told that they are not selling, (too far from anywhere?). It is about noon. We pass a strip of 15 fancy looking restaurants (with dirt/broken_pavement parking) with unkempt inviters waiving us in. Looks as though they have had no success even though it is noon. We get to a lake, and there in Zhou Quin, across the water. On the left are some more fancy apartments 500,000 RMB - which are not selling. Along the lake and into town - my god - what a change! There are colors other than dull blue, dull green, and dull brown. The stores have useful items in them (in broad daylight!) There are neon signs! People smile and look hopeful. The little three wheeled trucks with dull green canvas covers are gone - replaced by much spiffier looking 4 wheeled very small vans. Seem to be 2 colors, solid white and solid blue. There are still bicycles everywhere, carrying literally everything (even 20 foot rebar between 2 bicycles!), but there are also lots of motor scooters, some pickup trucks, frequent Izzuzu bigger trucks, Honda and Toyota sedans, and I saw a Lexus. This is not the Zhou Quin I almost cried for 6 years ago! A different town. The Ling's house is on the 7th (seventh) floor of an 8 floor apartment house. It has a 2 meter x 2 meter shower room w French toilet. There is a large tank (6 ft x 1 ft x 1 ft) with overflow pipe connected into the water system with manual valves. The entrance is a step up of 1 foot, and the floor slopes back for good drainage to a corner drain. The French toilet has 3 cm high white marble pats with chevron pattern grooves. The tile is reasonably attractive and the higher paint is relatively unpeeled. The toilet is hand flushed by a flexible water spray, or a large 1 ft high 2 ft diameter bright red plastic tub under a convenient water tap. The shower water is on-line heated by a hand adjusted gas and water valve arrangement - but you can easily get the water temperature you wish! The furnishings and wall hangings are very stylish, same as found in a comfortable furnished American house with Chinese decor. The kitchen is again equipped with the gas cylinder. 4 meters x 1.5 meters? 2 burner "upgrade?" stove, shielded fan vent (5 inch?) to outside. Tiled 6 ft up. The Ling's have a very serious son. Studying hard for next July's 3&2 exams 1) Chinese, 2) Math, 3) English ------ 1) Physics, 2) Chemistry -------------- 3 other exams are important but ? (already passed? very confident?) Geography, Biology, oh god, I forgot We talked for at total of 4 hours about things of interest - he is very proud to be Chinese - China only wants to defend itself (did not discuss actions about "breakaway provinces") - Smoking, drinking, (he made some sort of promise which he will keep) - people that drink too much - we read the not complicated stories in a senior English book - "How Karl Marx Studied Languages" was the first The Great Wall, Lincoln, Aristotle and Galilieo, The silk story - The top 10 universities in China - He thinks Clinton is not a man (something wrong)
>!-----> Wednesday Oct 2
Breakfast at the Lotus Garden Went to see Des's Helen's mother. I took a nap. For lunch, Helen's parents mother, Helen's father, Betty's & Helen's mother's co-worker. Very nice apartment. The balconies were opened and incorporated into the main house, giving much extra area. Husband helped explain the building. They had two birds. --- time sequence problem --- Betty's friend leaves. Says she is going to Guangzhou by taxi. I am very curious why by taxi, why not by train or bus. Betty says not to worry, she is rich, and that it will cost about 250 RMB. I still wonder why - even rich people do not waste money - some are more careful than poor people (like me!). She says that the train station is not pleasant (beggars), that there is no bus service at the Guangzhou train station, and it is not particularly safe at night. --- end time sequence problem --- At 2::00 we went down stairs to see Aunt #7 and her nice man husband. They had 2 daughters, Daughter #1 has birthmark, has serious boy, and husband. Daughter #2 has husband, and government green Toyota Camry XLE They again had a very nice apartment. A Sony stereo with frequency amplitude display. Again, the balconies incorporated into the main house. They had a real piano, electric piano, and an unused computer which I connected, updated the date, added a config.sys & autoexec.bat. We went to the Star Lake Hotel for dinner, I went as a motor cycle passenger. The others went in a Toyota Camery XLE. The car "belonged" to the husband of one of the daughters. The young man has offices in Hong Kong and Zhou Qing. All loans into the Zhou Qing area go through his hands! The place and service were very fancy, the guests reserved. After dinner we were driven in the fancy Toyota to see Father side cousin, the man and wife, a son Steven (going to local college to be a lawyer), and daughter Winnie (teaches kids from 7-10 to dance and sing). Street level apartment, narrow old style, definitely not beautiful. Has narrow rickety stairway (with tied cat) going to bed/computer room. Another rickety stairway goes to unvisited third level. Spent whole time on computer games, I taught them the rules of Minesweeper and then watched Steven "ski" and drive space roads. Returned to Ling's 7th floors house, talked with the young man about stories in his English class. Then collapsed.
Thursday, Oct 3
Got up to take shower, could not find pump switch. It turned out to be attached to a string behind the curtain. With out the pump working, the water pressure was extremely uncertain, sometimes a little pressure, sometimes no water at all. Mr. Ling served me some tea, very dark, very bitter. I remember thinking that drinking tea like this, on an empty stomach, would make Betty sick. I think he drank some himself. My stomach did feel a little upset. Off we go for breakfast at the Swan Lake Hotel. Very nice, as expected, lots of attention. Went to see #3 uncle at his motor scooter shop (to save time to visit factory). It was 3 door shop, which is rather big for a Zhou Qing motor scooter shop. (His wife killed herself near the end of the "Cultural Revolution" when her husband was arrested.) Daughter and son-in-law showed up. Betty gave them some presents (including a carton of authentic Winston cigarettes). I read a Japanese motorcycle parts catalog (text in English and Chinese!). The visit lasted about 1/2 hour, then we went across the river on the new (double decker) bridge. In the good old days, you had to wait in queue for up to 4 hours for the ferry, now you pay a 5 RMB toll and are in East Zhao Qing. We cruised about then went to the radio parts factory where they make ceramic capacitors. Many years ago, in college, I worked briefly at Globe Union, then making ceramic capacitors. I never got to see the whole process as I was on night shift. Today I saw the following steps - A mixing stage of the white polycarbonate clay into a 2" dia extrusion - (not in action) An extrusion stage into a white flat sheet 4" wide, and heating (drying?) on a fiber belt - (not in action) A punching stage into circular discs - a thickness sorting with 2 upward rotating offset cylinders into 5 buckets - (an electric furnace heating seen up) seems the sorted discs are stacked about 2 cm high in stackable ceramic containers 10x10 cm - unable to see how electrodes (deposited?/formed?) onto discs - saw wires formed in "X" in tape carrier, "X" reversed to give pressure - saw tape carrier clipped into units of 25 - saw electroded discs inserted into "X" units, vacuum pickup - (did not see) "X" units dipped into epoxy resin - saw baked epoxyed resin units - saw printing of values on units - saw stamping of baked epoxyed resin units, and removal of carrier - saw 3 QA operations - (sampled) disc characteristics (pf, Q?, ohms) - (sampled) final (pf Q?, ohms) - go/no go of (all?) units I was told that the young ladies doing the operations earn between 200 and 300 RMB per month. (At the official exchange rate of 8 RMB per $, that is between $25 and $37 per month. I questioned the quantities quite carefully, but was told these were real numbers, the young ladies lived at home, could walk or bike to work, and that food was cheap. This was from a source independent of the professor's house keeper at 300 RMB per month, living at her mother's house, taking meals at the residence. And would you believe the factory was not at full production? Part of it was shut down last year due to the "slow world economy"! - - - - - - - - - - - Went to see the country south of the river where Betty put in time working in the fields during the "cultural revolution". took pictures of water buffalo plowing, saw NO mechanization (other than sprinkler heads about 7 feet up) in the fields i.e. no tractors, cultivators, ... just hand labor (hoe, shovel, basket, yoke, ...) for miles and miles. Betty pointed to a man carrying two sprinkling cans from a shoulder yoke, and wanted me to get a picture. She said she did that as part of her work. went to Guangzhou, started to feel queasy in stomach ate at so-so empty restaurant, came home to find Simon on motorcycle in street by alley, seemed good to be "home" with Simon, Christine, and Shawn. Simon served tea, and we sat around and relaxed. He then served some 5 flower "brew" that Guangzhou people use to help the digestion. I drank my share! Shawn wanted some help with his English class assignment. He had a question about adverbial clauses. I had to find out what an adverbial clause is. There are two types, time and conditional. Time - when, before, after, ... Conditional - if, while, ... "When Betty and Ed came to Guangzhou, Shawn was in school."
Friday, Oct 4
A day of rest. Stomach just fine. Maybe it was the tea, maybe it was too much food, maybe ... . Tried to get a 7 disk Backup file into Christine's computer. The restore program complained of FAT error. CHEKDISK complained about 5 of the seven disks. Christine said (through various levels of translation) that a virus checker had been run on the floppies. (and maybe "viruses" removed?). In any case we gave up. Daughter of #3 Uncle called to say she was coming by bus about 1 PM. About 3 PM she showed up - lots of loud talk. About 8 PM we walked her to #4 aunt, dropped her off, and went to the Pearl (Do Jung) River (by the Moon Cake area) for evening all your can eat DimSum. After a slow start the food started coming and we had a good time. Shawn is becoming a world class eater (will be very fat soon!). Betty mentioned that maybe they (the 10 children) could get the deed for her grandfather's old house. Un-believable. Well, it turns out that if foreign people had land confiscated by the revolution, they can make a claim for it. And several of the kids were/are now foreigners. Simon gives the project 1/3 chance of success.
Sat Oct 5
Got up early, took taxi to "Guangzhou Restaurant" - famous for dim-sum breakfast. Christine, Betty, Ed, Betty's work friend, husband, daughter is piano player. Very good! We walked through old Guangzhou, reminded me of old New Orleans. Very narrow winding alleys, water faucets being used by people on street. They have 2 houses - this house is 60 years old, no toilet, has running water. Betty says they have another, nicer, house (apartment?) from the government which has some furniture but is unused. That they are using this because it is near the school which the young lady is used to. Betty used the public toilet. They had electric piano and a computer in the small, narrow living room. I do not go into the tiny kitchen which does not look inviting. They invite me upstairs. The stairway is very narrow and steep. The steps are maybe 14" x 3". Upstairs is a small room with a partition. The front "room" has a bed with mosquito net, and barred windows. (All Chinese windows, even on the eighth floor, are barred.) The young lady played several selections - Hungarian Dances by Franz List, a Chinese fishing song (kind of a tone poem, sunrise, monotonous work, festival. We turn on computer and the electric power goes off. I suspect the inrush current has tripped the house fuse, the host is sure that the neighborhood is out. We talk for We went to West Guangzhou Park, 2 RMB entrance fee, very nice with lakes, paddle boats, little display buildings, one each for flower arrangements, strange root shapes (turtle, dragon, monkey,...), rocks. We walked and talked slowly, had a good time. They left and we went into "Ban Xi" restaurant, a very famous dim-sum restaurant for lunch. VERY FANCY. Beautiful private room over the lake in the park (complete with refrigerator and large screen TV, beautiful chairs and table, wall to wall window, the works! After a bit, #4 aunt, husband, daughter & grandson arrived. They are the hosts. Then #9 uncle, wife, 2nd son arrive with CDROM full of Chinese software. The feast soon started. The dim-sum was "hand carved" i.e. little pigs, turtles, butterflies, egg plants, squids, chicks, bau looked like hedgehogs or porcupines. I hate to think what that meal for 10 of us cost. I gave a little speech. I said that the host treated us like a president. When they come to the US, I might not be able to treat them like presidents but that I would treat them like governors. We said good bye, and husband of #4 said they might not be able to get into the US, but they might be able to visit Canada. I said that I had good friends in Seattle, we could visit Seattle and Vancouver and see them. We returned in a taxi, Betty took a nap, and Shawn helped correct this diary. I fall asleep while Shawn plays with "paint", and wake up at 6:30 feeling with stomach feeling poorly. Thank god that we don't have a fancy dinner coming. ... Oh, the departure is coming. Simon and Christine have gone to the train station to buy tickets for tomorrow, and find the departure time. - ah, the train leaves from the new station at 10:20. Simon has to do something about a law test or something, so he will not be with us at the station. We will leave here about 8:00 to allow plenty of time. I want to take plenty of pictures on the way out, and hope nobody will mind. Selling vegetables on the ground seems so unsanitary, and the meat in the open air. (I have not been sick yet!) Must remember to take plenty of film. Think I will clean my files from Simon's machine. Best not get anyone in trouble. The backup is packed, and I will carry this. Good Bye
--------------------------------------------------------------------- <! file diary3.txt -> <! this floppy records the third week ->
Sunday, Oct 6, 1996
We woke at 6:00, all but Shawn left house at 8:00 Ed, Betty, Christine to the train by taxi Simon to a law test by motor-cycle Got to new train station about 8:15, near active looking bus station. This station went into service a week ago, while we were in town. (Old station had poor bus service) Big (too big?) blocky building, Cement in front is already poorly patched, making rolling suitcases a difficult exercise. Cement on inside floors looks properly done. Very high ceilings. We hear there is a chance to catch the 8:37 train to Hong Kong rather than wait for the 10:30 train. Let's go for it! You gotta be kidding - we must go to the 4th (count em) floor to buy the tickets! Christine, having no business here, must say "good bye" here on the 1st floor. We have 2 big suitcases, 1 medium suitcase, and a carry on bag to struggle with. Escalator from 1st to 2nd floor works. Escalator from the 2nd to 3rd floor not moving - the bastards - shades of Denver International airport flash through my head. I say some foul words which causes the guard to look, and carry the bags up the stairs. The escalator from the 3rd floor to the 4th floor mercifully works. The high enormous place seems empty - no one in 30 meters. Fortunately the cement on the floor is OK and the suitcases roll OK. We hurry 50 meters to the row of ticket windows. The long row of ticket windows (30?) are marked for different functions in Chinese and English. There is one other small group of people at a window much further down, the place seems empty! We (Betty) buy 1st class tickets this time (280 RMB rather than the 250 RMB for second class). The official exchange rate is about 8 RMB to the US dollar so that is about $35 each. OK, time is fleeting. Run, Run, Drag Suitcases, Run! Down we go! I am so hurried that I forget how many floors, but the escalators or whatever work. A guard helps put a suitcase on an escalator. Here we are at the passport control. 10 stations - we are the only passengers here - and maybe 15 guards and functionaries. The far right station is the only one open to pass us through. Run Ed Run. The functionary is the living dead. No kidding, he is so slow that he must have died last night. Oh God - he does not understand something - are we that complicated? A supervisor strolls over to see what the problem is. I decide this is going to be a very long day - including a 2 hour wait sitting on the concrete floor for the next train. (No chairs have been seen in this building!) Finally we get passed through - it is 8:36 - Betty says not to worry, "they are holding the train for us" - sure, you gotta be kidding! Somehow we are on the train platform. I no longer look at the concrete - look at that long train, we are at car 1 and have to get to car 7. I am frantic, huff puff, pull push, car 5, each car has an un-smiling young lady standing by it's door. There are people on the train - where did they get their tickets? Surely not where we bought our tickets?? Past car 6, huff puff, and drag our suitcases into car 7. What seats? 39&40. Half way down the car, drag, drag. There is a skinny unkempt man sitting in our seats. I stand there, huff puff. The man moves to the end of the car. I throw the little suitcases up into the overhead and wrestle the big ones up there. Collapse! WE MADE IT! The world starts to move! No, the train is moving, smoothly, like oil. The 1st class seats are more like aircraft seats, individually recline, with trays which fold out of the previous seat. About 1/3 of the seats are occupied! Where did these people buy their tickets? Surely not in the empty hall we used! And how did they pass through passport control. Surely not through the portals of the living dead we used. I am tempted to ask, but then start that they got to the train station at a reasonable time, did things at a more reasonable pace, and have been sitting patiently for 30 minutes waiting for the train to start. And that this is the only train departing for the next several hours. That seems to be the only rational explanation for all of the clues - so I do not ask. The un-smiling young lady from the door passes out 2 small cans of a juice product to each passenger in a sloppy way. How can this simple act seem so offensive? She is clearly signaling that she is above this station of life. OK already, get on with your life, don't share your private humiliation with me. Hell - I cleaned toilets for some months myself, so what?!? Or maybe she is stuck here for the rest of her carrier!! There is much less mobility (up or down) in this society than ours. The scenery rolls by - I decide to look for the Chinese atomic power plants said to be between Gaungzhou and Hong Kong. The farm life seems typical. I had wondered if the tourist bureau might have sweetened the life along the tracks to give the tourists a more pleasing view - I don't think so. Housing from sub-Appalachian hovels (not for pigs, as the little woman has hung out the laundry) to rather spiffy village apartments (presumable for the rich farmers who sold their land to developers.) I see a red 2 wheeled cultivator in active service! It is the only engine powered tool I have ever seen in the fields of China! I look for a repeat, there is none - just water buffalo, hand hoes and shoulder yokes everywhere as far as the eye can see. The people are working! Yes, when we came in, 15 days ago, all the people had all seemed on permanent break - and now most of the people seem moving - very few are in the oriental squat - nothing but feet touching the ground. A strange thought - the view on the other side of the train, as we had come into this land had been filled with partially completed 3 story buildings. This side seem very agricultural! Is the north side of the track considered the lucky side? The Chinese have strong ideas about lucky and unlucky situations! Is this the result of a government edict? Is the track between two planning zones? Am I going nuts? There is another track for trains going in the other direction. A total of two trains go past. There are other tracks - they seem to be a narrower "gauge" - distance between tracks! Our tracks are very wide - distance between tracks. Are we on Russian style tracks and the other tracks are the European (or maybe American) width? No one about looks as they would be interested in this - and the train person probably would regard it as a state secret and turn me in as a snoop or spy. ---------- The land slowly goes from flat to 5 meter hills to steep 50 meter hills. Agriculture stops. We get into the strange land of the new economic zone - non functioning modern looking buildings (grass in driveways), terrible streets - big pot holes -, slummy looking housing, trash every where. Some big ( 1 meter, and 0.5 meter) pipes parallel the track. These must carry the water from water rich China into water poor Hong Kong, of course for a political and economic price. Is that a big hill, scalped of trees and bushes? Did we just pass a railroad area? ------------- There is a cement truck!! Is this automation or did we slip unknown across the border into Hong Kong? I decide that the lack of the stop and the strolling uniform was that the border appears different in different directions. More casual in this direction. A junked car - rusting - yes, this must be Hong Kong. On we roll, I privately celebrate - don't want to be pre-mature - about getting out of China with diary, and not getting sick on the toilets of China. On into the metropolitan area. Tall (40 & 50 story) apartment houses - none of this 10 story limit because we don't want to install an elevator business of China. Off of the train at Kualoon, (technically, Hong Kong is the island part) - it seems so simple - and the train station looks so much better than just 16 days ago. Did they rebuild or clean it? The concrete floors do not seem so bad. Seems very nice! On to passport control. Hong Kong immigrations has an employee contest - with user input forms - for being helpful and civil! And into the main lobby and a taxi to the Hotel Concourse. Registration, nice enough room (for $140 per night it is standard I guess) and we crash. What an adventure. Calls to relatives and ex-class mates inform them that we are here. We book and pay for dinner tour. Son-in-law of aunt #?? calls wishing to take us to dinner, we explain tour, and schedule for tomorrow night. We take the Grey Line dinner tour - a bus about the city and heights of Hong Kong, a ferry boat ride with a very nice buffet dinner, and a bus ride back to the hotel.
Monday Oct 7,
Tuesday Oct 8,
Morning Noon Escort Betty to Ex-classmate's office. He is the second in command of the Chow Ching origination. If you want do interact with the Chow Ching government, it is a good idea to talk with him first. We arrive at the 12th floor office - see 5 or so men sitting, facing to one side of the office, and I leave. About an hour later, (1:30) Betty calls to say that she is going shopping - is that OK? I'm deep into a Windows 95 book, just fine with me. About 5:00, there is a call from a non-English speaker. I get his phone number. Betty arrives, checks phone number, it is son-in-law of aunt number ?? who has the good government connections. Betty calls and he wants to take us out for dinner. Evening - ride in white BMW to top of Hong Kong mountain. Betty has told people I like mountains, and I am getting the royal treatment! We go to the ".." restaurant with the worlds largest expanse of glass? Very wide restaurant with very wide view of Hong Kong and Kaloon and there are no supports visible for the roof - like window frames. The whole overhead appears unsupported! And that great width of glass and that great view! If the air had been clearer, we could have seen forever! The light in the restaurant is subdued, very little internal reflection to interfere with your view. Spectacular. And a very nice meal - thank god its not a buffet where I will eat too much!
7:00 we are to see short uncle - he arrives at 8:00 with young (8) kid. We call Class mate who meets us for dim sum. noon I think we took a break, cannot remember a thing Evening Dinner with classmate, wife and 2 kids. Wife wants me to talk English with the kids. Girl is "Wendy" - very shy, does classical ballet, says she likes science. Boy is "William" and does not seem interested in talking. After some prodding by all adults, he says that he likes basketball (he is tall for his age Chinese) and says something that is interpreted as "technical science". He studies the window intently.
Wednesday Oct 9,
Morning about 10:00 , while deciding what to do xxx calls and invites us to tour some houses he is building. We check out, luggage into an off lobby room. In the lobby is xxx, he has the white BMW waiting, double parked in a side street with some idling buses. And off we go. We go back over the hills to a little town, seems like creeping suburbs. New housing being constructed next to very active agriculture. Two blocks off of a bus route and a school and down a beat up tar road is a group of 15 3 story apartments being built. This is the project out host is supervising. Each floor is one 700 sq. foot flat. Very compact by California standards. This size seems to be the Hong Kong and China standard. I ask why they quote in square feet in their metric world - but do not get a usable answer. There is no inside parking? No - no garages at all. Where to park? The construction is all re-bar re-enforced poured cement. A new house has a hole dug like for a 5 foot basement for the footings. After the footing is poured, the "basement" is back filled, and the rest of the building walls and floors poured. I did not see how the floors are re-enforced. The top story is most expensive, (about $300,000 US) having roof privileges. The roof is flat, with a 4 foot cement wall - little kids are safe as long as they don't climb on something to get over the wall. There is a fairly pretty pink tile applied generously about the exterior of the buildings. The bottom 2nd most expensive (about $250,000 US), having yard privileges. I do not see any "privacy" fences so popular here. I presume they will go up shortly. I forget if the windows are barred. The 2nd floor (about $200,000) least expensive. The outside doors to the upper stories is very substantial looking nickel or chrome plated iron. Again there is no provision for: gas, hot water heater, shower, garage, central heat, central air conditioning. However there is wiring in the walls for power, telephone (one jack in house), cable, and separate TV antenna. There is no insulation (just 4 inches of concrete) The plumbing is all external. You see the water pipe for each house. You see the common 4 inch plastic drain pipe (with vent sticking up about 4 feet above the roof line (actually the walled in roof area). You see the separate 4 " roof drain. We drive over some hills to a bay on the ocean. We drive past some water front houses that remind one of a moist Nice France, or some other Mediterranean resort. We go on a one way road, past many houses, several backups into parking areas when faced with cars and a truck, to the Hong Kong Shelter Cove Yacht Club. Near the entrance is some unused land, apparently enough for 3 more 3 story apartments, which are the next project. about 10 million HK Noon We go to office to meet the real-estate partner. She is a vivacious, friendly, open, oriental looking lady (30?) named "Cheary" whose formal and slang English flows just as freely as your local American real-estate agent. The office is compacted (like all of China). A reason that there are few computers in offices and homes could be the space requirement. Is the desk space worth the usage? There are 3 people in the bottom floor, in an office area for really one. A visitor can sit in front of a desk or stand, but if you stand other people will bump you as you pass. There is a second story - in one corner of the office is an almost vertical stair (about the same angle and size as a step ladder) with a railing. This goes up to a tiny area holding 2 more desks, then a low (padded) overhang, into our host's office. This office is more generous sized 3 visitors could sit comfortably. Off of this office is a tiny triangular toilet room. This office complex (like most) would probably be illegal in the US due to: ... and the Americans Disability Act. There is no way a person in a wheel chair could get into the front door! Cal OSHA would certainly condemn every thing about the place, not the least the internal stairway, the office space, the low over hang, everything. From out of a tiny refrigerator comes a coke - I must have looked overcome. We go to a Thailand restaurant, they seems to be regulars. We try sitting on the roof - lovely view of Shelter bay. A lovely Tai meal. The cellular phone rings - the host disappears for about 5 minutes. Cheery's husband was English born, had been a Hong Kong policeman. He left the police force for a carrier in cellular phone security position when England promised to turn Hong Kong over to the Chinese. Seemed like prudent move. We talk of many things - family planning, politics, ... The host returns - briefly looks worried and joins in the talk. After a few minutes he says he regrets that the afternoon tour will have to end about 3:00. We drive to the top of some main land hill. (It has Wilson walking trail on it). A spectacular view of Koloon, the air port is way down there. We seem to be on a cloud almost above it. Looking up at the hill from the hotel seemed to be at an angle of like 30 degrees, looking down from the hill seemed to be at 60 degrees! On the winding almost one way road down, Betty and Cherry are uncomfortable and quiet. We go to the hotel, and say "good bye - great journey - thank you so much". Ex-class mate checks in - says he would like to take us out for dinner. A few hours to kill - we sit in the lobby - some people set up for a hotel publicity video - a desk is moved in - a sign "assistant manager" is placed on it - the lights come on - a smiling young lady sits down and says her thing several times. Where is the mike? We decide sound will be dubbed in later. Ex-class mate shows up with son, and we take taxi to airport, check in, and go to airport restaurant for dinner. I ask about tonight's horse race, thanking the host for taking care of us instead of watching the races. The host show me 6 or 7 betting tickets for tonight's race. Seems like a high roller, seems to total about 3000 $HK ($400 US). He shows me the figures he would win if there were winners. Good grief - this is fancy - a man comes out with a portable table and big chunk of dough. He is a noodle puller. He starts to work/play with it. Repeatedly pulls the dough into a long tube, twirls the tube about - reminds me of a trick skip rope jumper except the tube never gets within a foot of the floor. I go over to look closer - the tube is now many strands of dough. At the end of each sequence of twirls, he cuts off the part held by his hands, doubles the "tube" up and goes through the sequence again. The little strands of dough making up the tube are now about 15 to the inch. (just checked a ruler) and he stops. The little strands are each about 1/15 inch diameter and about 5 feet long - very uniform - no lumps - amazing. There is applause. The un-speaking son arrives with the camera, tells me in good English where to stand - and I get my picture taken with the noodle puller and noodles. Soon the food starts arriving. What is that - sharks fin soup - $35 US per bowl - and very good it is. (I'm more use to paying $35 for a dinner for 4 my self). The host disappears for a few minutes, returning looking a little pleased. I comment he must have been checking into the races, and is doing well. He says he will call us in the U.S. with the results. We have a big happy meal. (oh - I forgot - the host speaks no English, and his son does not speak.) Betty keeps me informed of the goings on. Time for the plane - they help us to the immigration door - say good bye. On the plane - baby cries lustily, frantic father walk the baby - all over, blessing us all with the shrieks. He finally gets put down, I notice later that mother is giving baby some natural food. Why the hell didn't they think of that sooner - or is that the mother or somebody else drafted into service? The airplane starts to shake and quiver, Betty gets very worried. I try to convince her that it is nothing at all - I have been through a lot worse, it does not work. We are home - feels good - what an adventure! Thank you world!
Dear Diary, you carry my General observations, thoughts, and ravings.
Title - an intimate visit to historic Red China by a hypochondriac, running dog, capitalist (I prefer descriptive titles) Organization: - General Observations, Thoughts, and Ravings - Week 1 (10 days starting Thursday Sept 19, through Sat Sept. 28) - Week 2 ( 7 days starting Sunday Sept. 29, through Sat. Oct 5) - Week 3 (? days starting Sunday Oct 6 through Thurs. Oct 10) (we actually arrived back on Wednesday, but had about 6 hours of Thursday before crossing the Date Line) Terms: I suppressed usage of very subjective terms such as "3rd world". (My Speak) (New Speak, Chinese terms) ---------- ----------- "1960s Political Purification" "Cultural Revolution" "Conquest" "Unification" "Occupied Tibet" "Province of Tibet" "Imperialism" "Defense of Borders" "Red China" "Peoples Republic of China" "Threatened Nations" "Break Away Provinces" Currently - Taiwan, Manchuria, Soon? - Japan "Censorship" "Chinese News" Limits: 1) Three week visit to a small, westernized area of China. 2) I do not speak/read Chinese. Wife and some people we visited with were bilingual. 3) I visited 2 Red Chinese cities near Hong Kong. The cities are - Guangzhou (was Canton), (about 6 million, including suburbs) - Zhou Qing, about 600,000 Summaries ------------- News - it is controlled Both have Hong Kong television on their cable systems. Apparently a local area phenomena. (There was active blanking of British speech about plans for Hong Kong) Inter-net They think they are on the Internet - but, I could not get access to some areas I tried http://www.sas.org (Society for Amateur Scientists) rec.ponds (a usenet group) And e-mail I sent to myself did not arrive (Waiting letter notification to see if e-mail I send to them arrives) Work - Both cities I visited are near Hong Kong Many people work in Hong Kong and support families in China. Construction - Activity Lots and lots - most agree that there is a gross over building of office and factory oriented buildings - but many (lots!) of apartment building are going up - and many people are living much better than ever - When I returned to Calif., I really missed the building activity. It looks boring - The old housing reminds me of Bourbon street in New Orleans - being quite rapidly replaced in the cities. Community water spigot, community toilet, a lockable shelter, better than nothing. Residential Apartments - current construction, same since 1950 except every decade the style is 2 stories higher. Fits the New York expression "walk up cold water flat". I would call the bare capability "Spartan" but many people have surprising upgrades. 0) Families live in 700 square feet - compact, sinks, appliances, etc. are very compact - many "made in China" clothes washers, (with no source of hot water!) did not see any clothes dryers - lots of internal and patio laundry lines. 0) Strong security. a) Apartment building has strong bared door, electric buttons, intercoms, lock release b) Apartment door generally has supplemental folding bared door c) Apartment windows and patios almost always have strong looking welded bars protecting all openings. 1) No elevators, University Department Chairs living on the 8th floor walk up and down just like anyone else. There is a story that no apartments over 10 stories are being built because the government requires elevator access above that point. 2) No insulation - straight concrete walls - no particular problem a) No central heat - No central air conditioning b) individual rooms may be heated with gas or cooled with an air conditioner (lots of these in the middle class!) 3) No hot water tank. These is (usually?) an instant hot water heater that heats shower water on demand. This unit hangs from the wall in the shower about head high, hear the rubber hose for the shower head - about the size of a dish pan - 14" wide 24 " high, sticks out 5". The exhaust gas vents into the shower area - probably not a problem as the surroundings are not congenial to lengthy showers, and the bath room windows are often open a bit (generally no exhaust fan) 4) No central gas - ever - always a propane tank about 8 " diameter and about 30" high - feeds gas from regulator through red rubber hose to instant water heater for shower and to the 2 burner kitchen stove. 5) Water pipes comes up the outside of the building a) old apartments have water meter in apartments, new apartments have water meters in a common area on street level b) apartments above about the 4th floor usually have an inline supplemental pump. Manually turned on when showering. 6) Sewer lines also are external to the building. Common pipe about 4 inches 7) Stairways - long - raw concrete - sometimes smell "biological" Lit in old apartments by 2 small bulbs in series (very long life) with about 1 candle power - takes a while for the eyes to see. Newer apartments usually have more light, with a timer thing on each floor to restart the timer - seems about 1 minute. Political control Both are remote from Beijing. The residents claim more freedom of political and economic action. Both are getting heavy investment from Hong Kong and Taiwan people. (I would guess heavier than most due to easy access) - Many of the buildings in Zhou Qing (especially luxury housing) - The restaurant we ate at Oct 4 turned out to be Hong Kong owned - Simon's job involves getting investors for various projects, he did not elaborate. - Many units are joint owned by the government and outside investors. 4) In the above cities, I visited 12 "middle/upper class" families. Accountants, university department heads, "investment" agents, teachers, in general, the types Chairman Mao tried to "re-educate". No one works with their hands and they have upgraded apartments, access to "company"/government vehicles, Sony entertainment systems, much better than what I only imagine is the working class life. Apologies 1) I have no illusions that life in modern Fremont CA is the only way to have the good life. I spent my early summers on an old American farm, complete with outside privy (toilet to you city slickers). We also used a "chamber pot" when outside was too cold or had too many mosquitoes for comfort. 2) Please excuse my fixation on the traffic. Traffic here has such a different flavor, texture, intensity, rules and enforcement than in "free" California. Since we spent about 2 hours per day in traffic, and it is so different, it got examined carefully. The apparent anarchy that is Chinese city traffic (when compared with regimented California traffic) seems to: flow faster (more people moving at a higher average speed), utilize scooters and bicycles much more effectively, yield fewer bad tempers, curses, and "flip-off"s, and require less time in police efforts and courts. As of day 14 (bloody Thursday?), we have seen these accident sites: - day 2, motorcycle down, damaged, no car or victim seen - day 4, 2 trucks, little damage seen, big argument - day 14, rock truck, rear wheel came off vehicle, rock over most of road - day 14, bus & car, fender bender, - day 14, motorcycle down, parts on roadway, big crowd, did not notice auto or truck involvement. A possible down side is that the level of skill, reaction time, and attention necessary to drive an auto probably disqualifies most older, slowed drivers from driving an auto. (A 70 year old person drove his bicycle across town several times to visit us. "No problem. Is that unusual?" He did take the bus the evening of the moon cake festival. He was concerned about the level of traffic, and I presume sobriety.) 3) You may notice that I do not regard Soviet style Marxists with favor. Since the Soviets have been drifting about, the Chinese regard themselves as the last of true Marxists. However, I am trying to make this documents as accurate and uncolored as practical. I was very careful to take representative pictures of the world I saw. I especially want to avoid the "Hey kid, throw a rock (so that I can sell a picture to national television)" type of journalism. The Chinese postcards show carefully cropped pictures of major hotels. I was in a few, and two were indeed stunning. But I lived and visited with the middle class, the accountants, pharmacists, trade managers, physics professor, etc. I lived off of a street that does not exist in your town, off an alley you would not believe, where the entrance to the apartment in a dark spot on the wall 1.5 meters wide (you frequently miss it even when looking for it), in a third story apartment that was built in the 1980s. The apartment does not have piped in gas. Butane tanks provide the gas. >>>>>>>>>>> housing I would like to remind the reader (me) of Winston Churchill's famous saying - approximately - Democracy is a very messy form of government, but all known alternatives are much worse. 4) Without a spelling checker, I write like Daniel Boone (the American frontiersman) "i kilt a bar heer" Explanation of Title - Intimate visit Most visits by my friends to China could be summarized as: - group flies typical American airplane to next place to visit - land at typical airport - typical local bilingual guide greets group in English - take typical hotel bus to typical western style hotel, - take hot shower in typical western style shower - eat some westernized local food in a "safe" restaurant - see the town's government approved tourist sight - group flies typical American airplane ... To me, this is worse than useless, you have peeked and think you are wise, but you could have learned more from a good guide book. Also to me, the Great Wall is lasting evidence of a tragic blunder exceeded only by the unlasting evidence of the "cultural revolution". My wife had 10 uncles and aunts. Most survived Chairman Mao's "cultural revolution" and most are still in China, so we had lots of different people to visit. All are near Guangzhou (Canton to us with old atlases). A three week stay should permit a comfortable pace to see more local conditions and interact with more people. The caste of characters appears in an appendix Historic Recorded history of China is about as old as recorded history in Egypt. Both had early eras of great glory and great inventions. Both are now trying to catch up with "western" civilization. The wheel was used in China more than 2,000 years ago. Paper, printing, and gunpowder used there first. Then came dark ages as static and fixed as the European dark ages. The wheel was abandoned, can you imagine, people carried people! Paper was used only by bureaucrats and poets. Paper and books for the people were unknown. Other than political upheavals, time stood still in China for almost exactly 2,000 years until armed European trader/pirates tore down the walls. The only "progress" since 214 BC that I know of are: - a closer approximation to PI in about 1000 AD - the loss of usage of the wheel by the masses. Is there a lesson to be learned if we look about for a bit? Red China Why kid ourselves with fancy phony propaganda names? Blood red is the color of the Marxist revolution, chosen by the Marxists themselves. Multiple tens of millions of people lost their lives, as a result of Marxist efforts. Many more lost large parts of their lives because of their efforts. The Marxists are not ashamed of it, they are very proud of it! When I was growing up, the Marxist claimed "You have to break eggs to make an omelet." I believe the statement is not in current propaganda. The present Chinese flag is 95 percent blood red. Lest we forget the lessons of the past, with the exception of show case Cuba (with people fleeing every day), all countries that have been taken over by Marxists have had really severe blood baths preceded by and followed by severe repression. Not my idea of "progressive". "people's republic of" Present day mainland China is governed by Marxists who are not about to share their power with anyone, particularly not with the Chinese people they have so bloodily and unsuccessfully attempted to convert to their views. They have conducted a "cultural revolution" at least as terrible as the inquisitions by the roman church in medieval Europe. The little exercise at Tieniman square is just a recent example of their continuing determination. Hypochondriac I was properly brought up. "There are dangerous germs everywhere". Most bad bodily conditions (except broken legs) were associated with what you ate. A medical doctor uncle died of typhoid, (a water borne disease) in super healthy Minnesota in 1936! So here I am in China, where 50 percent of my friends who have visited here have come down with either or both - long lasting very inconvenient "upper respiratory" problems - severe gastrointestinal "flux", that causes you you to be painfully toilet bound for days. A physician of my choice (no thanks to Hillary) has given me advice about what to do and not to do. Recommended liquid Pepto-Bismol if I get distressed. And I am carrying a prescription drug if the condition is not cleared in a day or two. Running dog I grew up in the early cold war. Russian atomic (later H) bomb, Russian grab at Berlin, Russian breaking of all inconvenient promises, ... Then the Russian armed and supported North Koreans over-ran almost all of South Korea. Russian piloted Migs and American jets fought almost daily. A largely American "police action" pushed the North Koreans way up into North Korea toward the InChon reservoir in the winter. Red China surprised the American forces (or at least General McArthur) by attacking from across the Red Chinese border, badly mauling the Americans and forcing a bloody, frozen retreat. Several of my high school friends were killed in these "incidents". I was drafted near the end of this non-war, and met people with interesting tales of survival, heroism, and cowardice - their own and others. I trained under those who had been in combat and were serious about not getting killed by stupidity. The translations of the Red Chinese statements during these years called the Americans "running dogs". And Chinese being frequently hungry realists, eat dogs just like any other item with calories. Capitalist I believe that I am a good judge of what is good for me, better than some bored functionary 3000 miles away who is much more interested in achieving his/her private goals. As such I want to influence the production of what I like, such as a superior mass telephone system, or personal computers. I am willing to study harder, work harder, pay more for such. These vastly improved products have never been produced as a result of some "5 year plan" imposed by some usually unimaginative, out_of_date, out_of_touch, uncaring, "manager" in some distant office! -------------------------------------------------------- Innovation (discovery) vs. Product for the People Clarify meaning Innovation - done by many people for fun or altruism or fame 1) a telephone (help deaf people?) 2) a gasoline engine 3) an airplane (the Wright brothers silly hobby) 4) the driven artist, writer, ... Product for the people - seems repetitious work by people who need to be fed and housed and who would rather be fishing, dancing, drinking, loving, ... 1) a telephone system - digging copper ore by the ton, smelting copper, - making miles of copper wire, covering the copper wire - sticking miles of telephone wires onto poles - "number please" from 12 midnight to 8 AM - putting the 123,456th dull black phone together - ... do these examples help? 2) Drilling for oil, refining, selling, fixing 3) pouring cement to make a runway for the airport 4) cutting trees, making tons of paper, transporting tons of paper, printing tons of paper, carrying tons of books, selling tons of books These products_for_the_people (me) are usually made by greed motivated people who are trying to make their own life better and who choose not to rob others (probably from fear of the social penalties of unsuccessful robbery). If they make a better product cheaper, and can market it to others, and are allowed to keep and spend some of the proceeds, they can live a style better than imaginable just a few years ago. ------ start rant mode ------ This includes Soviet style and Hillary Clinton style planning. Hillary, I wish to choose my own doctor and treatment priority! I am willing to work harder and pay more for the privilege. And because you don't know or care shit about computers, I don't want you or yours telling me how much of what I can have. ------ End of rant mode for a while ------
Oh did we ever go into the land that would leave the famed Parisian driver shaking in his boots. No rules are evident to the newcomer. Maybe the Mexico City driver would feel at home. Certainly the California driver is out of place here. California, where there seems to be a stop light on every corner, each with a pedestrian push button so that all traffic stops while a blind grandma has time to hobble safely across 4 lanes of impatiently halted traffic. Where tooting your horn is a ticketable offense. Where police cars are frequently seen - ready to ticket you for: - commute lane violations, - seat belt violations, - 37 mph in a 35 mph violation, - center line violation, - left turn violation, - wrong way in one way street violation, - jay walk violation, - cross walk violation, - tail gating violation, - bus stop violation, - high light violation, - stopping in a no stopping zone violation, - no bicycle on this road violations, - no pedestrians here violations, - bicycle helmet out of specification violation, books and books of violations, all rigidly enforced by our seemingly ever present police ... Here, in the land of "repressive government controls", there seems to be complete freedom of movement by anything on the road! Pedestrians crossing 4 lanes everywhere, bicycles crisscrossing everywhere, motor scooters and motor cycles weaving in and out, cars - trucks - buses swerving in front of you from every where. The sound is a constant beep beep, ring ring, from all points of the compass. The driver tooting very seriously every few seconds. We slowed frequently, swerved frequently, but RARELY STOPPED. (There were no stop signs, even at major intersections) The right of way seems to be determined by who can occupy the space first, an apparent tie resolved by horns and who wishes to have an unscared car ("chicken" in the US). The streets get narrower, 2 lanes - but no center stripe, we stay mostly in the right half, but that seems to be an unimportant guide line. We are now on a street that is too narrow for convenient auto traffic in both directions. Bicycles, scooters everywhere, we are at bicycle speed, we move to the right and stop in front of a cigarette shop. Everywhere are little shops and street shops (somebody selling from a 2 wheeled cart or from a cloth setup on the sidewalk). We get out of the nice new looking van that still does not have a scar on it and step out into another world. The world of filth. In the US, filth is pictures of people or dog excreta (dog poop). Here, filth is the ever present thin layer above the dirt or concrete that was once living but has died and maybe been partially cooked. It is always wet and sticks to Apple peels, discarded leave of vegetables from the next stall, wet paper wrappers, you step in We started at 7:00, not waiting for breakfast. We are living on the 4th floor of an apartment house in Guanzhoe (Canton to the out_of_date). We don't need to lock the windows, as there are permanent steel bars discouraging external access. We locked the steel painted (actually wood) front door and then pulled and locked the steel folding fence behind us. We went down the 49 unlit concrete stairs past other steel doors and steel folding fences to the front passage way. This is too narrow for me to raise both elbows at the same time, and is also unlit and the floor is uneven. This leads to the unlit alley way. It is floored with uneven concrete blocks. In theory a car or truck could drive through, by this must be extremely rare as parked bicycles, motorcycles, and street vendors would all have to be moved to clear a path. We walk about 150 paces to another street that is wide enough for 2 cars to pass, but car traffic is actually "infrequent" (maybe once a minute) because dealing with the bicycles, scooters, and motor cycles discourages larger vehicles. We walk about 2 city blocks to a bigger street that has real street traffic, cars, bicycles, scooters, motorcycles, (I don't think buses). On that street we walked to a restaurant for breakfast, but it was too full. At about the same time, Simon arrived in the van and away we went. (I am presuming the Simon could have parked the van (in this city?) and had breakfast with us, but communication is limited - I do not know if that was the plan or not. "And away we went" means something different in the orient - and especially this city. The traffic must have rules (there are an enormous number of drivers in all types of vehicles. I must include shoes as vehicles as you are always interacting with pedestrians. The basic rules in order of importance seem to be: 1) Don't hit anybody or anything 2) Go as fast as you want 3) The right hand side of the road is preferable, unless there is a better chance on the left 4) You have the right of way unless somebody beat you there. 5) Don't waste time yelling or flipping the bird, the second you waste will cost you a fender or worse. 6) Assure that pedestrians and others are aware of your right of way by using the horn liberally 7) Do not move to the side quickly, there is something there, and you my not have established your right of way. 8) Do not slow down quickly, the person tailgating you may hit you. 9) Don't worry about the cops unless one is standing by a sign such as "no u turn", (I saw 2 of these signs in 3 days of touring) 10) When in doubt or when starting to move, hit the horn. 11) (by popular rumor) If you do make contact, a) start shouting before anything else b) expect fists to fly, hit first Oddly enough, it seems to work fine. (Unless Darwinism or sheer fear has removed you from the pool of drivers.) I don't remember any women car or truck drivers (wasn't looking either). Our hostess does not drive - As a matter of fact, there seem to be few restrictions on anything to do with the road. Maybe, the lack of ability to affect government policy and certain (apparently declining) personal freedoms is balanced by almost complete freedom on the road. It has to be seen to be believed. The following are interesting items. 1) in 3 days of touring a city of 6 million people, I have seen 2 intersections with traffic lights (counted 3 stop lights, 2 were the same intersection from different sides). 2) "Jay walk" seems to have no meaning, as there are no apparent restrictions on pedestrian movement other than the ever present horn and the threat of bodily harm. 3) There are no air horns here, all autos, trucks, and busses have the standard small car sounding horn. 4) In California, sounding a horn is rare, and probably illegal. There, something is desperately wrong, like you took "my" lane you so_and_so and if you stop, we will have serious words or more. Here, sounding a horn is as casual and as frequent as blinking. No apparent stigma is attached. A toot can mean so many things: - Move your shop out of this busy street, all these horns will drive away your customers (to an enterprising street vendor) - I am coming, watch out, stay awake (to bicyclists and pedestrians) - I'm over taking you, be careful of lane changes (to motor vehicles) 5) I never saw anyone in traffic yell at or flip-off another. Darwinism may be at work here, as anyone so distracted will probably cause an accident within 3 seconds. There is no time for such frivolities.
Noticed the following animal life in Guanzhou during the first week: - saw no cats, no pigeons in the streets - heard but did not see a bird singing vigorously some mornings - saw two dogs in Sun Yat Sen's home town. They caused some comment. - saw 1 mosquito, a bunch out of town - saw maybe 1 fly per day - saw so many dragon flies that I asked if the government raised them to eat other flying insects (was told no). - saw no cockroaches, saw one "silver fish". Week 3 - saw 1 ant, in West Guangzhou Park
New (Residential) Construction - as of 1996 - written from memory in Sept 2011
You can buy an "unfurnished" apartment quite inexpensively. (In China, food seemed relatively expensive, housing relatively cheap. In the U.S., food seems cheap, housing seems expensive,.) Lets discuss your new "unfurnished" apartment - as of 1996 - in say Guangzhou where it doesn't freeze You buy so many square meters of concrete floor, often with a little balcony, walls with window holes, and a main door opening with no door. Also, no plumbing (no toilet, sink, shower, hot water heater, ...), no electric wiring (no switches, lamps, outlets, ...), no room heater or cooler or ... (Employees of some factories may have other arangements.) So - what to do? Likely you and your friends will add the usual "requirements". So, 1) You buy a strong (steel covered?) front door with frame and using cement nails, install it. 2) Many apartments have bars in the window opening to inhibit unwelcome visitors - so install them. Let's install windows now. 3) Ask your neighbors what side is used for the sewer connection, pick a small room on that side as a bathroom, and drill a sewer hole in the wall down by the floor. 4) Install your sewer piping on the bathroom floor with connection out the sewer hole, taping into the common sewer going down the outside of the building. 5) Find the water system outside of the ground floor. Install your electric pump down there, to supply enough pressure to get up to your apartment. Install a pipe from your pump up the outside of the building up into your apartment. 6) After plumbing the bathroom, with a drain pipe from the kitchen area, pour in sufficient concrete to raise to floor to bury the plumbing. (Everyone had a raised bathroom floor to cover the various pipes.) 7) You probably want hot water for bathing - install an "instant" gas hot water heater about head high in the bathroom. You may or may not want hot water for the kitchen. ... 8) Ah - the gas - no gas distribution in the apartment building either, You can hire a guy with bicycle to keep you supplied with tanks. Part of the deal is that he carries them up the stairs to your apartment. Did I mention that buildings lower than 9 stories are not required to have elevators? Now you can understand why there seems no fat Chinese - and so forth - a real serious do-it-yourself operation. n) Oh - yes - electricity - 220 volts - but no electrical codes to worry about. Somewhere there must be an electric meter for your apartment - you get to completely wire your apartment, maybe tastefully hiding the wires in little white tubes or other means. If you don't feel fancy, you can have bare wires leading to un-enclosed knife switches ... And yes, you need to wire your water pump at the ground floor area. x) so many details to think of It is good to cultivate friends in China, - help you complete your apartment - help with civic problems - no civil police are evident, no Judge Judy