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rambling anecdotes

Shenzhen could potentially be a great tourist destination if Hong Kong weren’t so close by.

It’s 6am and I think my body is now overcompensating for the time zone. We arrived on Monday morning at about 6:15 and I went to sleep at about 4pm, then 5, then 6, then managed to stay awake long enough to eat before crashing at 8. On Tuesday night I had a very normal sleep but last night I was awake until midnight and now it’s 6am and I’ve been awake for about 45 minutes. Wtf china?!

I realize now it’s not the language barrier that is the problem in another country, that can be overcome with charades, sign language, pointing. The issue is understanding the protocols, the “this is how it’s done here”. Once you have done something once, it’s easy to keep doing it and not have awkward moments of smiling sheepishly at each other. We have been experiencing culture clash almost since stepping off the plane in Hong Kong – attempting to use public transport when you actually have to traverse two countries with different rail systems and different currencies is quite tricky when neither one speaks the others language. I had assumed English would be spoken everywhere in Hong Kong’s airport…but I imagine it’s only spoken in places they expect English speakers to go and the public rail system isn’t one of them.

After much faffing about we got to our hotel in Futian, Shenzhen at about 10:30 and went straight out to explore the neighbourhood after showering and changing clothes. The are malls and cafes all around us and a MTR (metro) station directly below the hotel…handy! Starbucks was our first stop and the server came out and stood with us at the cabinet so we could point to what we wanted…red bean danish, yum. I went there again yesterday and the place was full of American engineers here for an automation convention.

On Tuesday we went further afield, catching a taxi to Guangdong on the other side of a mountain to see an old Russian aircraft carrier, the Minsk. It was a massive rusting hulk in the bay, with awesome Chinglish signs everywhere and a labyrinthine interior over several levels so we couldn’t find our way out. Eventually we escaped the Russians and taxied to Luohu to eat lunch at the Kingway (Jingwei) brewery’s beer garden. The beer garden was closed (maybe because it was a weekday?) so we chose a nearby restaurant whose picture included fish, snake and dog. I am so pleased I can, if nothing else, recognize the characters for different meats so I could spot the beef, chicken and pork items on the menu. Again, it had photos of the dishes and the host recommended some for us too…so we had beef with peppers (om nom nom) and a whole barbecued duck chopped into sliced with a cleaver, bones and all. It tasted awesome but we spent more time picking out chunks of spine than actually eating. And of course we had the Kingway beer, which was yum. It comes in 750ml bottles which seems to be the norm…so the next night our server was bemused when we ordered a bottle each, where normally you’d share one before ordering another.

After our not too adventurous lunch we braved the metro for the first time and headed to Dongmen to shop. There’s a huge pedestrian shopping precinct which is a blend of modern clothing shops with tiny stalls crammed down alleyways. In the modern shops, clothing is maybe slightly cheaper than in New Zealand, but all the exciting shopping is in the market stalls, where you can buy “licensed” clothing for whatever you can haggle. There are toys, clothes, suitcases, millions of electronics and accessories, and women walking around hawking manicures. I successfully bargained for a new handbag using a calculator to show prices…the seller’s English was limited to “this best price, good price!…THIS best price!” but I managed to demonstrate the right amount of reluctance and didn’t back down from my offer until she met me at 5 yuan above it (NZ$1) so I was quite pleased.

After blatantly acting like tourists all day (there’s no point trying to blend in and look local) we headed back and met Mike’s boss from the UK and went for dinner…Korean BBQ cooked at the table. Pretty sure there was no dog in there, either.

By Tracy

I used to have a cheesy intro page written in the third person, which always felt lame. I am a mother in my thirties working full time as a teacher, blogging for the sake of filling in time and spending too long on the computer when I could be cleaning.

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