Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cindy Stories

With an hour left of a short July 3 workday, I feel inspired to get back to blogging. I mentioned in my first post that I am the sad and often unwitting main character in some seriously embarrassing stories, and I want to get them written down before I forget them.

My first story, to warm up, actually is not about me although I was fortunate enough to witness it firsthand. I thought about it the other day during a visit to Famous Freddie's on the chain o'lakes last weekend. Last year at Freddie's I was re-applying in the bathroom when the DJ took a minute between songs to plug what Freddie's calls the "Love Boat." It's basically a 30-40 person boat you can rent out for parties. The announcement included the line: "rent the Love Boat for a 2 hour cruise for over 20 people and we'll include a 6-foot sub." The girl standing at the sink next to me scrunched up her face, turned to me and asked "who on earth are they going to fit in a 6 foot sub?"

Sunday, January 13, 2008

AndI'mWaldo - Now with Picture Goodness!

Got home yesterday, a little worse for wear but safe.

The Mao's Revenge I alluded to the night before I left Hong Kong was way worse than I thought and the flight home was simply miserable. I didn't sleep at all until the last maybe 1/2 hour of the flight, I spent probably 3 hours of the flight in the bathroom (thank God I was in business class where you don't have to share with as many people) and the almost constant turbulence had me clutching the airsick bag just in case.

My condition improved measurably when I exited customs to find a beaming Jason, bouquet of flowers in one hand, waiting at the terminal to welcome me. If I wasn't so dehydrated I would have cried.

J had planned to take me out to a nice "welcome home" lunch, but there was no way I was eating anything. He took me home, bought me some saltines and gatorade, and made me some soup. I promised myself I wouldn't sleep until bedtime. That promise lasted until 2 in the afternoon, when I crashed and slept pretty much through to 8 this morning (I did get up from 3-6 and watched a bit of tv.)

I'm feeling a little better today but nowhere near 100%. I'm exhausted, probably partially because of jet lag and partially because I haven't really eaten anything significant since Thursday. The upside is I think I'm down about 10 lbs.

Anyway, more importantly, I've finally been able to add pictures to the blog, so take a look at some of the older posts where I've placed the appropriate pics.

For those of you that were following my blog, thanks for taking the trip with me and for your encouraging e-mails, the fact that I had this project during the trip really kept me from feeling homesick. I may even keep it up if I can keep it entertaining.

Friday, January 11, 2008


T-5 hours til we take off. Just woke up and need to take this time to figure out how to get all my stuff back in my suitcase.

We went shopping last night (...that's pretty much what you do in Hong Kong). The whole area by our hotel is mall after mall after mall, all of which are connected through this large underground corridor system. The malls are more like what an American would traditionally expect. I expected the prices to be very high since the goods weren't Chinese knockoffs, but it was actually pretty competitive. (I think they must do after-christmas sales here too because everything was 50% off. )

We also stopped at a McDonald's for dinner. I know, I know. But my digestive system is in such bad shape I may never be the same. Last night was pretty rough, and this morning I'm going to see if Brian's got any immodium.

A couple observations about Mc Do can order your meal with a side of corn, fries come with a packet of seasoning (seaweed or some sort of a bbq) and a shaker bag. They come out tasting like Funyuns, if you've ever had those. Not bad. Also you can order a McFlurry but it comes in a 3-oz cup. It's like a McFlurry shot. Oh and it was a good illustration of the demographic differences between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. Hong Kong is much more diverse, we don't stand out at all.

So we walked around outside for a few more blocks and on one block the pestering began again...this time from Pakistani tailors: "I make you nice suit? Come in to my shop!" sometimes there'd be half a dozen of them screaming at once. If we said no they changed their tactic to (come on say it with me)...."Watch? Handbag?"

For my next trip I'm going to make myself a t-shirt that says (In Chinese): NO WATCH, NO HANDBAG, NO DVD. JUST LOOKING. I doubt it will help though.

This is why I turned Siemens down when they asked me to come back...

I'm sitting here in my room, feet pounding, sore, tired and hot from our adventures this afternoon. There's a knock at the door, and it's Brian, delivering me a Guinness.

I have the best boss ever.

Rockin' in the Free World!

I'm back in Hong Kong, and I can finally read my own blog!

The trip back was easy...we checked into the Renaissance in Kowloon again and I have pretty much the same view as before, only the room is smaller more suites for me.

We went shopping at the "woman's market" north of here, it's an open air market that features souvenir-type stuff, bags and watches (but of course), and all kinds of other goofy junk like LED belt buckles. They haggle here too but it's less pressure and more good-natured, so it was actually more of an enjoyable experience than shopping in Lo Wu. Oh, their specialty is slutty lingerie. Sorry J, I didn't get any.

Me at the woman's market. This is the only picture taken of me alone the entire trip.

Had lunch at the most horrible Italian restaurant ever. I'd eat pig brains any time over that stuff. We did order a PITCHER of coke though, which gave us the momentum to get through the marathon afternoon of fighting crowds and sweating out last night's Hot Pot. I don't know how warm it is here, but it's more humid than the most humid day in Chicago and I can hardly make it to the lobby of the hotel before I'm soaked. But everybody here is wearing sweaters, jackets, parkas, hats...just unbelieveable.

16 hours and we'll be in the air.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A slow boat to Dongman Road

Dilys, Brian and Dilys' mom

Dilys and her mom were kind enough to take us to the Dongman Road area of Shenzhen, a very popular spot for eating and shopping....if you're 14. It's like a mall only in that there are stores and they sell things. It's a group of winding streets, corridors and levels that are very cramped, hot, and easy to get lost in. They carry pretty much the same stuff as the mall in Lo Wu, but are a little less agressive. It's a huge teen hangout place since it sells trendy clothes and electronics cheap. I mean DIRT cheap. Brian got a few Wii games for about 60 cents apiece. I'm wondering if they will work.

We also ate at a very popular "Hot Pot" restaurant called "Little Sheep" (actual translation: "Little Fat Sheep".) Hot Pot is is a dish native to Northern China (I'm in the Guangdong province in the south). It's basically a large bowl of boiling broth (half spicy, half not) filled with (by Dilys' report) 60 ingredients, 59 of which I think were garlic. HUGE cloves of garlic. Peppers, nuts of some sort, onions, all kinds of stuff. Dilys' mom ordered about a 1/2 ton of meat (lamb and beef...they wanted to order sheep brain and I was all for it but Brian vetoed us), as well as something that looked like pork rinds but was made of corn, tofu (much bigger and spongier than what we are used to in the US) and some sort of large lettuce looking thing that for all intents and purposes tasted like lawn. So you dump all this stuff in the hot pot, wait until it boils, then you pull the cooked ingredients out of the broth and eat them (you don't really eat the broth or spices). It was delicious but I fear some serious gastric ramifications a little later tonight (I've once again "borrowed" a bit of Brian's duty-free Seagrams as a means to kill any bacteria in my digestive system.)

The ride over to Dongman was interesting in that Dilys' mom hit a top speed of about 4mph. Ok yes there are stereotypes, but even here people were flashing their brights and honking at her like crazy. The main street through Shenzhen is kind of like an expressway, but nobody goes over 30. Dilys' mom does not speak English so we were trying to figure out how to say "STEP ON IT" in Chinese.

One thing we noticed while driving through Shenzhen at night: Let's say you're a developer who has a new highrise apartment building. How will you advertise it? The paper? TV? Real estate agents? No, not in Shenzhen. Here, you just make the whole building a giant illuminated sign so that you have your phone number taking up 40 floors of the side of the building. I'm guessing that there is no Chinese word for "subtle."

Oh and by the way so much for my track record on Western-style-only toilets. Little Fat Sheep only had squatters, and I had 2 very large Tsingtaos so I had to visit twice. I managed not to hit my jeans but my shoes might have gotten a little damp. Man I just can't figure out how some people, particularly women who wear trousers, would prefer that.

Oh! One other thing, I got my fabulous clothes delivered today. The jacket is very cool...exactly what I ordered and very nice qauality, lined and everything. The pants aren't quite as good but that's my fault. They fit perfectly but I said to the tailor that I didn't want very low rise pants (muffin top you know). So he basically made me 2 pairs of granny pants where the waistband is right about mid-torso. Sexy! They're nice though, and I can just wear them with long shirts.

This is why I have huge amounts of respect for my team.

My team. I'm the one on the right.

Knowing no Chinese at all, particularly in written form, I thought I would use babelfish to translate a thank-you note in Chinese to my team before I leave. I typed the note, entered it into babelfish, translated it into Chinese, then translated the Chinese back to English to see how it would read to them. Here's what I got back:

Your good team, we enjoys our visit here extremely, thank you to be hospitable and to join us for the supper in Wednesday night. Thanks and your unusual persistent and hard-working work. We hoped this year completes the work and you. We hoped again visits, with and hopes Jacky the visit to Chicago in March. Please with us relates if you have any question or the care, we pledged all helps you to complete your best work. Thanks with very quickly sees you completely, Cindy

Needless to say I didn't send it. Even the least experienced speaker of English in this office can do a better job than that...and that's a computer.

So props to you, Shenzhen team!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Crunchy Frog!

So much for dry white toast. We decided to risk it again and head to the Cafe Marco in the hotel for more food adventures. They had more Chinese type food this time than we had for dinner the other night.

For you Monty Python fans, yes they did have Crunchy Frog. Braised frog and vegetables the card said, but I'm not sure there was any frog meat in it. Basically just bones and breading. I spit it out as soon as I put it in.

Snails were better last night.

Oysters and abalone were very good.

My stomach is going to hate me.

Another interesting observation on elevator etiquette...there is no talking to strangers on the elevator. Brian struck up a conversation with an Aussie at the hotel while Dilys and Chris were visiting and I thought Dilys was going to die of embarrassment. "We do NOT do that here," she said.

The Blues Brothers diet

"IHOPE" that the food here doesn't have bones in it...

I'm going to do a combo Jake and Elwood thing at lunch and have dry white toast and a coke. Never mind the 4 fried chickens, although KFC is quite popular here. (Side note...people here eat their KFC with little plastic gloves. Touching your mouth here is very rude, so "finger lickin' good" is not an effective slogan.)

A couple other things:

Last night at dinner one of the guys asked if I was cold. I said "no, actually I'm quite warm, why?" and everyone at the table got these shocked looks on their faces. I realized then that everyone in the restaurant was wearing sweaters, wool coats...Brian and I were the only people in the place with short sleeve shirts on.

Like Ireland, people here are very concerned with American politics. They asked if I followed the election and who I planned to vote for.

The mirror in my hotel is a "skinny mirror" like my living room mirror at home, and the lighting is amazing. The mirror in the elevator is a "fat mirror." It's an emotional roller-coaster just to walk to work.

The hotel has a perpetual loop of a Michael Buble CD going on in the elevators, club and lobby. I'm starting to enjoy it.

Take a picture, it will last longer!

Ran across the street to spend some quality time in my 5-star bathroom. Whew. But the good thing was that I took the opportunity to call home and talk to Dad for a bit (sorry mom, I forget it's Wednesday there).

During the 1/2 block trek back to the building, it was again very obvious how different I am here. As I was crossing the street, a man crossing toward me walked right up to me, staring. I walked around him and he turned and followed me back to my building entrance. Then standing in the elevator lobby, another guy stood right next to me, very close, and just *stared* until the elevator came. I rode up the elevator with another woman, and since the inside of the elevator is all mirrored I got to look at our reflection...I had to be at least 2 feet taller, 150 lbs heavier, and 74 shades lighter than her. It was like we were different species.

I like China more than I thought I would, but I'm tired of standing out, tired of feeling self-conscious, tired of not knowing how to communicate, tired of having to point out food to order it, and then spitting most of it out when I get it. I think I'm ready to go back home, or at least back to Hong Kong where I can focus on important things like shopping.

And nobody thought I was well-adjusted...

I actually OVERSLEPT today! I didn't wake up until 7:50! In your face, jet lag!

So why am I so tired?

Unsurprisingly, I'm also feeling a little gurgly again, a bit of the Mao's revenge. I thought I was doing ok but even tums and soda aren't really doing me much good.

In fact...maybe I'll just write more later, time to take a walk.

It's Official...

I can finally say I've eaten true Chinese food.

We took the team out to the restaurant in our office building, very well known for Guangdong food, and let them order a feast for us. Among the selections were tongue, pigeon, snail (my favorite!), little shrimps that you eat with the shell on (they're better than you think), bean curd (I liked it, not sure why I avoided it so much in Taiwan), fishes with the head on (the only thing I didn't like) and more typical dishes like chicken, beef, noodles. I hold to my theory, however, that the Chinese cannot do a proper dessert, and I've pledged to bring homemade brownies for the next trip.

I finally feel like I have gotten a chance to know the team. We talked about everything: the weather of course, travel, the spring holiday (Chinese New Year), and even verboten subjects like politics and religion ("Chicago is very corrupt, yes?"), confirming yet another theory that beer builds bridges (thanks, Tsingtao!)

During one part of the conversation I think it was Brian that said he was going to go somewhere, and without thinking I replied "Do what you want, it's a free country." I don't think anybody appreciated the irony of that, but I thought it was pretty funny.

Speaking of a free country, I'm not sure who's still reading this but I myself cannot. I can bring up Blogger to create and edit posts, but I cannot view the actual blog when I'm in China. Many sites here that we can access from the US are unavailable here. (Pandora, internet radio, parts of Yahoo, Wikipedia...) So I can't wait to go home and read my own blog. I also have pictures but I'm having trouble posting them. I haven't taken many, and I have none of myself at all, but I hope to fix that when our test lead takes us around the city tomorrow night.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

No, seriously...after you...

Ok I'm posting a lot today but I'm feeling a little overwhelmed work-wise and this is a good way to get my mind off of that (and the increasing heat and noise).

I'm happy to say that I'm on Day 5 of Avoiding Squatting to Pee. There are both eastern and western-style toilets here, so I haven't had to worry about that yet. (I also haven't had to worry about toilet paper, because it's been stocked everywhere, but that isn't to say it's not an issue here, because everyone's desk sports a roll of toilet paper right next to the coffee mug.)

Close call today though. After lunch I walked into the ladies' room just ahead of another girl. When I saw that the two western-style stalls were taken, I gestured for the other girl to go ahead of me. She insisted that I go first and there was an awkward couple of seconds before a western-style stall freed up and I hurried in. Whew!


I try so hard not to be the Ugly American when I travel, but I can't help desperately needing a big cold Diet Coke at least twice a day. Diet Coke is rare here, in fact when I brought one into the office from the hotel, several people mentioned that they didn't know such a thing existed in Shenzhen. So if I'm desperate I'll order the Real Thing of the Real Thing. Today we went out with a very nice lady from the Shenzhen office who up until recently was working out of Chicago. She took us to a steakhouse (figuring that we were sick of Chinese food, even though since most of our eating takes place at the hotel club bar we still eat quite a bit of western food) . She taught me how to order a coke (WITH ICE!). I was going to be all cool and write the phrase here but I seem to have forgotten it already. Oh well, back to pointing and gesturing. Most of the restaurants have picture menus (in fact our restaurant today had menus rivaling the size of the original Ten Commandments) so pointing is very effective.

The menus are also American-inspired in terms of drinks...maybe too much so. Our drink menu at lunch actually featured the items "Blow Job" and "Orgasm". At $28 RMB (about $4 US), that's quite a bargain!


In the 80s my favorite outfit bore the phrase "Such the Uniform." It didn't make sense but the outfit looked good so I didn't care.

Now I know the clothes must have been designed in China.

Girls here wear oversized t-shirts as dresses, bearing slogans such as "DOUBT THE SMILE" and "REAR YOUR FAIR" in big block letters taking up the whole front of the tee. It seems odd until you recall that back in '84 we were all wearing t-shirts that said FRANKIE SAY RELAX.

Thank You Mabel! (Or: No, there was no Happy Ending.)

Had my spa night last night...oh my god...amazing! I fell asleep on the table, snoring and everything!

Just a quick warning for the bigger gals...bring your own robe and don't even bother with the little cheesecloth underwear they give you. Even if I was a size 10 those things wouldn't have been close!

A little about Shenzhen

A couple shots of my office building in Shenzhen. Notice that the windows open.

I've had a lot of overhead manager-type work to do this week, which is unfortunate because I'm missing time to spend face-to-face with the SZ team, which is the whole reason I'm here. So today I decided to sit with my team lead and just chat without the framework of a conference call or team meeting. It went really well, we got a lot accomplished and were able to discuss topics both related and unrelated to testing, and got to know each other a bit better. I asked her about some things I had read about Chinese culture (i.e., it's offensive to gesture while having a conversation) and she laughed saying that's the first she had heard of any of it. I apologized for cracking too many jokes and she apologized for not getting them. She said that she practices her English understanding by watching Desperate Housewives and Ugly Betty, so I should catch up on my viewing so we have something else to talk about on our weekly status calls.

I had asked her yesterday what she does for fun and she actually said that leisure activities really don't exist in the area. She said "we work during the day, we cook at night, and then we sleep, maybe on weekends we will go shopping or see a movie." It's true...I have yet to see a movie theater or club (lots of restaurants though) and while I expected to see many karaoke joints like in Taiwan, I haven't seen any. The population of Shenzhen is overwhelmingly young, I'd guess 80% or more of the population is in their 20s...not even very many children since the people here are just getting old enough to have them. Also 80s fashion is the rage (big sweaters and belts over leggings and boots)...I feel very out of date in my flared jeans and danskos.

Tonight I'm taking advantage of the spa services at the hotel and getting a massage and facial. ..very excited about that. Tomorrow I am interviewing 2 candidates for open positions on the SZ team, and going out for dinner with the team at night. Thursday I'm going to do some training on basic QA principles and our team lead is taking us out to see the sights in the city.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Sweep the got a problem with that?

Against Brian's wishes that we avoid the hassle of figuring out what we're ordering/eating and just go to McDonalds for lunch, I insisted that we go here:

It wasn't because of the food (it's Chinese fast food, not at all like American/Chinese fast food but still decent), and it wasn't because I wanted to try something new.

I wanted to go because Jason would think it was cool.

The Code is Insane!

Wrapping up my first day in the office in SZ. We were hoping that the workday was over at 5pm, but apparently not because usually the day ends in a mass exodus and nobody is leaving yet. Well, except for Brian who has ditched me for the hotel treadmill because it's too hot in here. I'll continue to hang out here, thanks. Yes it's warm but I "forgot" my running shoes. Such a shame!

Today's lunch can be officially counted as my first True Chinese Meal. Our building houses a very well-known Dim Sum restaurant that puts anything I've had in the states to shame. I enjoyed everything that our team lead ordered for us, and was very proud of myself for being adventurous until she confided to us that she ordered all of the "American-Friendly" dishes. So no chicken feet yet, but maybe I'll see later in the week if they do curry cuttlefish as well as they do at Happy Chef in Chicago's Chinatown.

Also conducted a meeting with my team here. English proficiency varies from person to person so I tried to keep it simple. My spiel was met with a mixture of nods and blank stares, which is pretty much par for the course for me anyway. I'm getting better at not speaking in idioms or using sarcasm, which means I pretty much have to strip my personality entirely if I want to be understood. When one analyst phrased a question he had for me in Chinese first to the team so they could help him ask me in English, he seemed embarrassed and apologized to me. I tried to make him feel better by assuring him that his English is still far better than my Chinese, a comment that I have said many times to try to get a laugh or at least a smile but I haven't gotten one yet.

When the meeting was over, I said "ok that's all I have, thanks everybody," which in America means "Class Dismissed" and usually initiates a stampede. Here everybody just sat and looked at me. So either they really didn't understand a word or they were expecting me to leave first.

The rest of the day has plodded on along with the soundtrack of jackhammers outside, which I really don't mind, they're far enough away to be ambient noise, and noise and "fresh" air from outside does remind me of summer, which is probably why the heat inside the building doesn't bother me so much. I say that to stir up a little jealousy to all of you still in the cold, except I hear it's in the 50s and maybe 60s over there...figures!

I think it's time to head back to the hotel and wash the grease and pollution off my face.

Oh one last thing. Even though this is a very modern building, the floors are raised and seem to be made of cheap plywood which literally bows under people as they walk, also the chairs are a little rickety. Anybody want odds on whether I end up through/on the floor by the end of the week?

Sunday, January 6, 2008


Well, sort-of. It's definitely the Cindy Show at the Shenzhen office. I feel a little bit on display. I figure if they're not asking me if I want DVDs I can handle it. The office here is pretty nice, very modern, even more so than the Chicago office, but don't quote me on that til I visit the bathroom (I'm holding out as long as possible.) The office itself is pretty quiet but the windows are open and there is a lot of construction noise outside (Shenzhen is growing so fast that there's always a new skyscraper going up.) I actually like the open windows and the ambient noise, but it makes me want to take a nap. After my post last night I was feeling lonely, called Mom and Dad, and then Jason (finally got the VOIP to work), and that helped a lot (thanks guys and I love ya). Finally fell asleep at about 5:30, got the wake-up call at 6, ignored it and slept til 7. Just like at home!

Only major event today is I flooded my lovely bathroom. The shower has a glass door but apparently water just flows right out of it into the bathroom. All my towels are soaked. Houskeeping's gonna love me.

I'm also a little uncomfortable with the whole pampering thing that comes with staying at a 5-star hotel in Asia. We Americans are pretty independent so it was a little odd to have hotel staff standing behind me with my coffee as I visited the buffet, so she could walk me to my table. They also all know my name ("Hello lady, Miss") which is odd to get used to. Don't get me wrong...I plan to be a pro at this whole elite traveler thing by the end of the week.


Having a Lost in Translation experience at the moment...jet lag has gotten to me, it's after 3am and I can't sleep. When I do sleep I dream of being followed around by deaf Chinese people.

Nothing much on TV..."Braveheart" with subtitles and lots of bad overnight programming. I'd call home but for some reason the VOIP dialing I used earlier today to call Jason isn't working any more.

I'm a little anxious about going into the office tomorrow, it's like starting the new job all over again. I may treat myself to a spa night one evening, that might help me relax. The spa services are relatively inexpensive here.

One quick "Cindy Story" I forgot to mention earlier...when I was shopping in Lo Wu, if I stopped to look closely at something the shop workers would bring me a little plastic stool to sit on so I would be comfortable to stay and browse. They would insist that we sit, and I always said "no, no, it's ok, just looking." Invariably they'd get this look of understanding and stack several stools on top of one another and offer again..."here, now they won't break." I gotta take off some pounds before coming back.

That may be pretty easy actually, the fried rice was all I ate today (except for a couple of bites at the hotel club) and I'm not really hungry.

Ok, 3 more hours til my wake-up call, I'm going to see if I can sleep for any of it.

Hello Lady! Lady!

Crossed over into Shenzhen today. About a 45 minute train ride to Lo Wu (or is it Wo Lu?) where the border crossing is. Crossing was a piece of lines, no big crowds, unlike what I've heard. O'Hare is worse. Cabbed it from Lo Wu to the hotel, which gave me a good overview of the city. It's more sprawling than I imagined...dozens of high-rise apartment buildings that ranged from ramshackle to palacial. I was expecting Eastern Bloc kind of industrial ugliness, but it actually looks a lot like Miami. Everything is clean, lots of pretty landscaping, and it doesn't hurt that it's a gorgeous day (just don't look at the horizon, where that blue sky turns gray with pollution). The Marco Polo is lovely.

My Room

Props to Brian for booking us on club floors - still quite a bargain though!

The experience of the day was shopping at the mall in Lo Wu. Brian had warned me about getting pestered by salespeople, but even he was surprised at how we were accosted. Holy mackerel, it was like hundreds of mosquitoes...if you stopped for a second they were all over you: "Hey Lady! Sunglasses? Gucci Bag? DVD? Manicure?" I was very nervous and nearly lost it when a group of 5 teenage boys basically surrounded us and started grabbing us. We hung in there though, and learned to answer all comers with a smile and a "No Thanks," "Just Looking," and the winner: "Sorry no more money." So Mom, the next time we're accosted at Woodfield, I'm not even going to sweat it.

Commercial City in LoWu - For all your Pirated DVD and Designer Knockoff needs...

This is not to say that I wasn't sucked in. Back at the Christmas party Brian was showing off his tux, made to order at the mall for about $100. So he wanted to visit the tailor who made it (Tony the Tailor...look him up if you're ever here) to make up a sportsjacket. Tony asked if I was interested in anything and showed me a book full of ripped magazine pages loaded with images of designer clothes. Very mean I can have a designer coat/pants/whatever, made in *MY* So yeah I had to do it. He's making me a silk jacket (Jackie-O style) and two pairs of pants and delivering them to my hotel Thursday. I'll keep you posted on how that turns out. If it does, the next time I come back I'm bringing my measurements, a copy of Vogue, and my life savings.

So I dropped a few more bucks on a designer knock-off bag and wallet. This will be IT for shopping for me. It's probably the only chance we would have had to do it in Shenzhen anyway so I'm glad we fit it in. I was also glad to go with Brian...he knows the lay of the land pretty well, likes to shop, and bargains like nobody's business. He'd go up to other Americans and say "Watch? DVD?" just to see the looks on their faces, and then they'd laugh. You could tell from their nervous expressions that they were as shell-shocked as I was.

Also had my first real Chinese meal, but played it safe. Fried rice with ham and shrimp. My stomach's a little gurgly so hopefully there won't be any major ramificaitons to that. Suffice it to say I'm happy our hotel is across the street from the office...I can come back here in an, um, emergency.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

An American Girl in Hong Kong

Well, I'm here...not even tired really, even though it's nearly 11PM and I've been up quite a while.

The plane ride was surprisingly easy for a 15 hour jaunt. I watched movies for 8 hours (thumbs up to "In the Shadow of the Moon" and "Resurrecting the Champ," thumbs down for "The Nanny Diaries", also watched "3:10 to Yuma" which was probably good, but I don't like either Westerns or Russell Crowe), slept 5 hours, and the last couple hours were a breeze.

I love Hong Kong so far from what I've seen of it. Clean, gorgeous (tons of neon and lights but more of an air of sophistication and civilization than, say, Vegas...) and nice and warm after dealing with 0 degrees in Chicago last week. It's about 68 here, a little humid, but kind of like a really pleasant summer night.

Everyone seems to speak English here, except, inexplicably, the cab driver, who had no idea of what "Renaissance Kowloon" meant, even when we told him the street name and showed it to him on a map.

I have to say, if you have the means, travel on an expense account if at all possible. Business class made the flight tolerable, and this room...very nice. We got suites on the club level, meaning lots of room and free drinks. My room overlooks a large neon sign that, on last glance, said something in Chinese, and for the last few minutes has said SINOPEC. Brian got the room overlooking the harbor, which is a much better view. We took a quick walk down by the harbor, which is made up to look like a Chinese version of Hollywood Boulevard, with stars and handprints of all the famous Chinese actors. Jackie Chan's was the only one I recognized.

So is it wrong that the theme song for "Hong Kong Phooey" has been going through my head ever since we started making our descent?

No food adventures yet...grabbed some sushi at a grocery store adjacent to our hotel. Surprisingly, not very good. Brian got some duty-free liquor on the way here so we had a few 7 and 7s to try to make getting to sleep easier, but frankly I'm wired and don't feel much like sleeping.

Tomorrow it's a bit of sightseeing and shopping in Hong Kong, followed by a train ride and the border crossing into China.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

15 a row?!

I'm leaving tomorrow for Shenzhen and haven't even seen a suitcase yet. I'll be up all night packing, which is ok because I'll have 15+ hrs on the plane to sleep.

For those of you who I haven't bored with this story, my blog title comes from a Kathleen Madigan bit about visiting China: "The whole country is like a "Where's Waldo" book...and I'm Waldo. " As a relatively tall, extermely white, non-petite blonde, this is pretty much how I anticipate feeling over the next 9 days.

As some of you know (ok, mostly you, Kevin), even my everyday life is full of "Cindy-stories," all laughs at my expense and useful warnings to others. I can only imagine what's in store for me in Shenzhen.

I'll update this as soon and as often as possible...wish me luck!