Sunday, October 7, 2007

Final Thoughts

I am working on one wrap-up piece that should be up within the next week or so.

Well, so much for that timeframe! (on the other hand, I do have all the photos uploaded to my picasa site, sorted into albums and captioned where appropriate) But here it is.

The World According to the Chinese.

  • There is no part of the animal that the Chinese will not eat
  • When eating meat, put the whole chunk into your mouth, and spit out the things that don't chew very well.
  • There is no dish that cannot be garnished by shallots.
  • Lettuce is to be cooked, not eaten raw.
  • McDonalds and KFC are almost the same the world over.
  • When you drink, you have to get as drunk as you can, as quick as you can.

Construction Techniques
  • A structure built out of concrete and steel can be made to look as if it were built out of almost any other material.
  • (esp. Landscaping and paving, but also applies to others) "Sir, I have finished my task":"How many times have you done this task?":"Twice, sir":"That is not enough. Rip it up and do it again"

  • If you don't have a photograph, then it didn't happen.
  • When having your photograph taken, it is mandatory to give the 'V for Victory' sign. It doesn't matter if you're 3 or 90.

  • The motorcycle is a family vehicle.
  • The dump truck is a family vehicle.
  • Road markings and street signs (including traffic lights) are merely suggestions.

Judicial System
  • "To win a case, you have to give the judge a lot of money".

  • It is always a good time to go to the beach - Winter, Summer, night-time, raining, whatever.
  • In the Summer time, always carry an umbrella with you. It is used as shelter from both the sun and the rain - and there's plenty of both!
  • Street performers don't mind when you grab them for a photograph, even in the middle of their performance.
  • You have to do anything your boss tells you to. Even if this contradicts other things (s)he has told you, or common sense, or even the law.

Also, some other things I learned:
  • I can now tell the difference between a hunk of potato and a hunk of ginger, even if they're covered in the same "gravy".
  • How to shit standing up (actually this is totally untrue - I managed to go 8 months without using a Chinese style, hole-in-the-floor, crapper!).
  • Pedestrian overpasses in heavily traficked areas are a good thing!
  • The Chinese are extremely heirarchical. Everyone has no respect for (and treats like dirt) anyone below them, and everyone is scared shitless of anyone above them (because they get no respect, and are treated like dirt).

There were a couple of others, but I forget them now. You'll just have to trust me that they were just as informative and entertaining as the ones you've just read.

I am looking into the possibility of going back to China (although not with the same company - I will NEVER work for them again) for 2 weeks over the Christmas holidays this year, which should be a much better experience. If that happens, I'll be sure to start up this weblog again. Otherwise this site will pretty much lay dormant until the next time I travel for pipe band drumming.
Until then, join a pipe band, and see the world!
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Home again, home again.

Sorry it has taken so long to get this post up - I've been 1) traipsing around cities near Shanghai without Internet access and then 2) soaking up the Australian culture and language - it's so good to be able to communicate easily with anybody you choose!

So, I've got quite a bit of stuff to talk about, so this could end up being quite a long post.
The final day of performances was great. We went to the bar for the time between our second and last performances, and marched straight to the bar again at the end of our last show. In order to shut them all up, I flung for the crowd (Victor in particular had been pressing me to dance), and everybody had a lot of fun. Our farewell party was a big hit, with a good time being had by all. The clowns did a couple of skits for us, and much booze was consumed (although I managed to stay fairly sober). The muttonchops that I sported for that party ended up staying with me in one form or another for almost a week!
We then had a day or so to prepare for our band trip, which turned out to be an interesting experience in its own right! We had been lumped with two Chinese couples on a Chinese tour, with a Chinese tour guide. Angelina (her English name) was a fairly young girl, so she had had some schooling in English, and the Twins lent her their translator to help with some of the more uncommon words. She actually did a fantastic job - she would sit up in the evening and make out a list of words that she would be likely to use the next day. She showed a willingness to prepare that was unlike any other Chinese person that we ever dealt with, and her English improved out of sight. We spend a night in each of the following 5 cities: Hangzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi, Suzhou and Shanghai. Our routine was pretty much: breakfast at the hotel, go see something, have lunch, go see something, drive to the next city, go see something, have dinner, go to our hotel. There were of course, variations on that, depending on how much time we had, but it was very fast paced. We saw lots of temples (and while they were all impressive, once you've seen one, you've seen them all!). We saw the giant Buddha at Wuxi, and lots of other places that are 'very famourse'.
The food was a bit of a disappointment, though, because it was the same everywhere, and unnervingly similar to what we'd been fed at the slop shop for the past 8 months (10 months for the rest of them). But at least it was slightly higher quality. Unfortunately, Wayne had some sort of allergic reaction to some of the food, and broke out in hives. Even sitting in the same room as us while we ate brought on the reaction - it was KFC and Maccas for him for a couple of days! However, he had got over it by the time we reached Suzhou.
I was most impressed with Shanghai. Even though we only saw the city centre, it was quite nice. Clean (for the most part - the river was brown!), and some of the most interesting architecture I've ever seen - some of the buildings would seem at home in a domed city in the clouds (or some other sci-fi setting). We went out to an Irish Pub for our last night as a band (Wayne and Ashley would not be returning to Shenzhen with us, they would instead continue up to Beijing for some more tourist stuff). That was a great night, and much beer was drunk. We had a couple of sets of pipes with us, so we made sure to give the crowd a bit of entertainment. I, of course, did the Highland Fling, and we all had a good time. For the protection of those involved, I won't mention what happened when I got back to the hotel, interested parties can ask me direct about the 'Shanghai hooker incident'.

It was an interesting experience leaving the country - I was dropped off at the airport half an hour after I wanted to be there, and the flight left half an hour earlier that the time that was printed on the (8 month old) ticket. Thus the relaxing 2-hour checkin that I had counted on was reduced to a mad rush to clear customs etc before my plane took off. On top of all that, I was stung for being 10kg over the baggage limit (about AU$300). On the plus side, though, the seat next to me was vacant, so the flight was quite bearable, once I finally got on the plane.

All in all, I'm glad I went, even though there were times there that I though "if I had my time again I would never have come". It's something I'll remember for a long time to come, and I've met some wonderful people. I don't know when I'll post to here again, but I am working on one wrap-up piece that should be up within the next week or so. I am also busy collating and organising the photos that I've taken, and they should be up at within the week. Although it may well take longer than that.

It's great to be back in the country!

[Update] After some cajolery I was able to get a refund on the excess baggage, so that was good.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

It's finally over

Well, almost. As I type this it is Thursday evening, with 3 more performances tomorrow. But that's all! The reason I'm writing this now is that tomorrow night we are going to be holding one hell of a shindig at the bar here at The Park, and I really don't think I'll have time to post that night, and I'm sure I won't feel like posting on Saturday morning!

I now have some more concrete plans as to what I'm doing next. The band trip will last until the 7th of September, then I'm coming back to Shenzhen and flying out on the 10th. I know I mentioned last time that I would spend some time in Beijing, but at that stage I thought my flight home was on the 11th, and even that would have been pushing it a bit. With the loss of that day, it becomes really impractical to go to Beijing, and I don't really want to postpone my international flight - I just want to come home. So I'll have to leave seeing the Great Wall until another time (criminal though it may be!).

The Company and the Army have come to an agreement and the shuttle taxi service has resumed (some say it never actually stopped!) which means that someone paid up, and no; The Park didn't close down again - though one wonders how long it can last as a viable business entity.

I think that's all for now - I'm going to go and shave off my beard.

See you soon.


Thursday, August 23, 2007

1 week to go.

Well, it's coming to a close - I can almost taste the celebratory beers when we march straight to the bar after our last performance on the last day.

We've been pretty much trapped up here at The Park for the last couple of days, since the Army (who have an checkpoint at the bottom of the mountain, and stop random cars from heading on up, causing no end of problems for, say, the Head Chef, who is waiting for his shipment of condiments [or whatever], which has been held up and not permitted up the mountain) has declared that the taxi-busses (white mini-vans) that shuttle Park residents up and down the mountain are dangerous and illegal - at least that's what we're told. We suspect that something went wrong with the bribing (someone decided he wanted a bigger cut) so they shut down the whole operation, leaving us effectively stranded (There are a number of other ways down, but they all involve walking!). The Park management claim to be working on a solution, but I'll believe that when I see it, and not before.

It looks like this trip that our agent was planning to take us on is going to go ahead. We will be city-hopping up the East Coast to Shanghai, which is about half-way to Beijing. I then have about 4 days before my flight home (assuming I don't change it, which is always possible) that I plan to spend in Beijing. I would consider it almost criminal to come so far and not see the Great Wall! So, as things stand, I'll be back in Australia on or about the 12th of September.

We also hear rumours that The Park is going to be closing again in a couple of days, which would 1) not surprise me at all and 2) be fantastic, not having to work for the last few days of contract. We have heard that The Park has had nowhere near the number of visitors that they were planning for (banking on?), and that budgets are being slashed. This I can believe because some days it seems that there are more performers/cleaners/workers at The Park than there are tourists! However, the folks at the Hotel have heard nothing of this - indeed they consider themselves to be open for good. I therefore will wait and see what transpires.

See you in a couple of weeks!

Friday, August 17, 2007

2 weeks to go

It seems like only yesterday that we still had 2 months to go!
Nothing terribly interesting has happened since my last posting, although we did celebrate the birthdays of two Russians, which was nice (let's just say there was a lot of vodka involved!), and we finally checked out the Gothic Bar. This bar is located just off the lobby in the Hotel. It is large, cathedral-like and for the most part, empty. There is a trio from Bulgaria (guitar, violin and voice) who play there every night to nobody, and they sound really good. I had two glasses of port, and it cost me 100 yuan (only about $15, but I'd get a whole bottle for that back home. Probably says more about my taste in port than it does about the expense of the bar!) but that's what you expect at a 5 star place I guess.

I went a little bit crazy with my camera today so I've got lots of photos, but I don't like my chances of having them online before I get back, so you'll just have to wait.

See you all soon.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

3 weeks to go.

Well, what a week.
Last Sunday, our latest new bandsman arrived (I would have mentioned this earlier, but I didn't believe that they'd actually bring someone out with only a month to go - nevertheless, he's here for the month!). His name is Michael, and he's from City of Blacktown, the Sydney band I went to Scotland with last year [thinking about it, that trip was one whole year ago - doesn't time fly!]. He's 15, and should have a blast. It does mean our repertoire has been slashed, until he can learn some of the tunes that we play, but until then, it's going to be a lot of Scotland the Brave/Amazing Grace etc. Still, we have enough between us that we can cobble together a show.

On Tuesday, we had a visit from a friend of Wayne's from Melbourne. Also called Michael (which caused no end of confusion), he came over for the week, just to liven things up a bit - his dad works for Qantas, so he can get mad cheap airfares. He left last night, and was suitably impressed by The Park. For a short time, it was good to have the Aussies out-numbering the Canadians!

On Wednesday afternoon, we were asked to stay on-site for the night, because of a typhoon warning. The evening show at The Park was canned, anything light enough to be lifted with one hand was either tied down or brought inside, the all the banners along the side of the road (the long skinny ones that hang down from the light-posts) were rolled up and secured and other such preparations were made, and we thought that we were in for a mad storm. Unfortunately, all we got was a bit of rain - not even the road-turning-into-river that we usually get when it rains hard (although that's probably saying more about the drainage of the roads here than it is about intensity of rain!), so that was a bit of an anti-climax.

On Thursday, we took Michael (both of them!) out to the Irish Pub that we went to on St Patrick's Day. We had just got out of the taxi and were walking towards the pub, when Micheal (Wayne's friend) wondered where Wayne's pipes were (Wayne had brought them along, just in case the patrons wanted some entertainment). The pipes were, of course, in the boot of the taxi we had just vacated, and which had already driven off looking for a fare. Wayne set a new record in the 100m thonged dash to try and get back to the taxi stand in time, and the rest of us started up the road, flagging down every taxi we could find and checking in the boot for the elusive black pipe-case. After the cause appeared to be lost, we headed back towards the taxi rank where Wayne had stayed while trying to telephone our interpreter to find the number of the taxi company to see if maybe we could track down the pipes that way. On our way back, though, we met Wayne who had come after us to tell us that our taxi driver had realised that we had left something in his boot and had returned to see if we were still there! Phew. After our heart rates had returned to normal, we proceeded to have an enjoyable night at the pub. Wayne played, I flung, and a good time was had by all, instead of it being the most expensive night out ever!

Friday it drizzled all day, so we didn't end up playing at all that day. Saturday, being Micheal's last night in Shenzhen we went out to dinner. I also took the opportunity to get measured up for a tailor-made suit (jacket + 2x pants = about AUD$80. Bargain!). We'll see how that one turns out.

I think that's brought us up to date. Oh, there's one other thing that I keep forgetting to mention. We're everywhere. By that I mean that there are posters of us all over the park and around the city - all of them derivatives of this photo (sorry, I couldn't find a better version on their website, as it's all in Chinese, and I don't yet read Chinese). It's weird walking past a 7-foot tall likeness of yourself as you go for supper!

Anyway, that's all for now. Only 19 days to go!

Saturday, August 4, 2007

4 weeks to go

We've been kept pretty busy, playing every day. We haven't had a full day off in 3 weeks! (we're taking two days off this week though, to compensate).
There are many new performers that have arrived over the last couple of weeks, from all over the world. It's been interesting seeing these people from many different backgrounds interacting with each other, trying to find a common language (many of the Europeans speak several languages).
Yesterday we had some high-profile government officials visit the hotel here at The Park. This in itself is not out of the ordinary, but it meant that The Park had to look its best. Including the bar. How do we artificially increase patronage of a drinking venue? Free drinks of course, and make sure all the foreigners know about it. So we drank ourselves stupid last night courtesy of The Park. We were drinking with people who spoke English, Chinese, Polish, Spanish, Bulgarian, Russian, Moldavian, and French. There are also folks here who speak Portuguese, Turkish and others.
See you all soon - less than a month to go.

Friday, July 27, 2007

5 weeks to go

Well, The Park is now open. They've had us practicing for that damn parade all week (making us dress up each time - what? they don't know what our uniform looks like?). Every time was done differently, and the last 5 runs through were each going to be the last time, but it went well enough, considering. They had some opening ceremony/ribbon cutting thing that they wanted us to play for. We were to march across the town square, play some music in-between speeches, and then march off to join the other performers in preparation for the parade. What they didn't plan for was the hundreds of people crammed into the aforementioned square, so first we were going to just play where we were standing, then we were told to abandon that gig for the parade. We still don't know what a typical day will entail - we are kept perpetually in the dark as to what we will be required to do until a few hours before we are to do it! The chaps in charge here couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery! I'm currently waiting to find out what time our performance will be this afternoon. That's right, they can tell us that we'll have to play, but they can't tell us when!
34 days and counting.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

6 weeks to go.

And then there were 6. Not only weeks to go, but also players in the band. You see, Robert (our ex-pipe major) had never really got over being shafted from his leadership position, and for the last few weeks had been making life rather difficult for us - not listening to instructions, not learning the tunes etc, and just generally being a Richard Cranium. Eventually, it got so bad that something had to be done. There was a band meeting held with our employer, (which Rob promptly left as soon as he understood what the meeting was to be about, thus robbing himself of the chance to defend himself), and as a result he had his contract terminated. As Casey hasn't yet been replaced after she left, Rob's departure has left us with 6 players, but we all get along much better, and there's much less tension in the air when we rehearse or perform.

We have also had members of the public up here at The Park for the first time since February - the customers and staff of The Construction Bank of China got to come up and see the place before the grand opening on the 28th (There was something that happened on the previous grand opening [the 18th], but that seemed to be confined to the golf course).
We were out there all day, playing our 4 x 25 min sets, with not enough time in between to really do anything. We did christen the new KFC at lunch time though (it's going to be deadly having a fast-food joint with us on the mountain!). The highlight of the day, was when a little kid (about 5 years old) was posing in front of us for a photo, in a karate pose, with one arm stuck out horizontally in the plane of his torso, and the other arm in the same plane, but with his fist over his head. Then the call of "quick march" came, and the sudden (loud) sound of the drumrolls scared the crap out of him, and he ran to mummy. This drew giggles from the crowd, and I had to concentrate on not laughing myself.

They've had us do a dress rehearsal today for the big parade they're putting on on the 28th, and it was clear that the bosses had never organised a parade before, it was such a gagglefuck. (It means just what you think it means!). There was no need for us to get dressed up, but they made us do it anyway - the poor puppeteer had to lug all his stuff around, for no purpose. It should be interesting to see how it all comes together (or falls apart at the seams, we'll see!).

We will be playing quite a lot over the next 6 weeks, but I will try to keep the weblog posts coming.
See you all later

Friday, July 13, 2007

7 weeks to go.

It looks like all is going to be ready for an opening of The Park on Wednesday - it just goes to show how much can be done in a month!! I am beginning to dread this opening, because even though it will give us something to do, I fear that we (the band) will be hopelessly mis-managed. Again. A perfect example of this mis-management was yesterday. We were told the previous evening that the power would be off from early in the morning until the evening. We then find out that almost all the rest of the staff have the day off. At about 2:00, after having been asked "Why are you not down the mountain on your day off?" by someone who would know that we had the day off, Wayne (our pipe-major) goes to see Richard (our interpreter, and chief mis-manager) to find out what's going on. "Oh yes, day off, day off" was his reply - fat lot good that does us now.
Also, being the 12th of the month, it was payday. Now, Wang Fang (who gives us our money, but doesn't live at The Park [even though she has a room here - a story for another time perhaps]), was seen the previous evening with a great wad of bills in her handbag, but of course, she won't give us our money until the 12th. That morning, she's still at The Park, but doesn't come around to pay us. Wayne rings her up to find out what's going on. Apparently, she'd gone back to her house (a 2-hour drive away) 'to change her clothes'. At least, that was the excuse that she gave. She then told us that she'd be back at 4:00 with our money. 4:00 comes, and goes. 5:00 comes and goes. 6:00 comes, and , you'll never guess what, goes, all without our money. Finally, she shows up at 6:30, with some crappy excuse about heavy traffic or being very busy that day or some bulshit like that.
So, instead of having a plesant day in town with money to burn, we have an unplesant day stuck up on the mountain with no air-conditioning (it was rather warm yesterday), while we waited to get paid.
I wanna go home!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

8 weeks to go

The countdown is on. Only 9 days to go now until The Park is supposed to be open. We hear rumours that members of the public won't be allowed up here until the 28th, though, so as to give the workers time to put the finishing touches on the place. We still don't know what our role will be after the opening, but we've been kept busy lately doing photo and video shoots, presumably for advertisements. [by the way, I've seen the ad mentioned in this post, and it's not too bad, except for the fact that I'm caught looking at the camera, something I made sure not to do this time around!]

One ancdote that I neglected to share with you, my readers, regards an event that took place on the eve of the great feast. We (Wayne, Ashley, the Twins and myself) were in the Twins' apartment peeling vegetables, when in walks Richard, our translator, to tell us that there was a 'possible' job the next day. Now, that next day, being a Sunday, was to be our day off for the week, and the Twins had planned on having that time to prepare the food for the night's dinner. We told Richard that we weren't going to play in the morning 1) because it wasn't even confirmed that we were needed and 2) because that's too little notice for us to play on our day off - we could already have gone to Hong Kong if we had wanted to. So Richard had to go tell his boss that there would be no pipe band the next morning, whether they were needed or not. He came back a few minutes later to warn us to stay inside the next morning, because he'd told his boss that we were all in Hong Kong!!
It turned out that the President of the company was considering coming out for a visit, which was why they (may have) required our presence at the train station. As it happened, he did visit, but apparently he was in a good mood that day, so it didn't really matter that there was no band to meet him.
Until next time.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

9 Weeks to go

Last weekend Wayne, Ashley and I took a small holiday. On Saturday after 'work' we caught a bus out to the airport, and flew out to Guilin, about 500 km to the northwest, situated on the Li river. We were met at Guilin airport by Clive, our tour guide for the trip, and were driven directly to our hotel. After a walk around the centre of the small city, we picked a likely looking drinking establishment and had a few drinks before turning in. We had ordered a Western breakfast for the Sunday morning (it had been some months since I had seen breakfast of any kind!), and we set off with Clive at quarter to nine (15 minutes late, but so what, we're on holidays).
We were driven out to the port, and got on one of 8 large riverboats that would travel in convoy down the Li river to Yangshuo - a journey that was to take some 4 hours and pass through some of the most breathtaking scenery that I have ever seen. If ever anyone who is reading this visits China, it would be almost criminal to leave without taking a Li river cruise from Guilin. Photos will be posted, eventually. Probably.
After the cruise, Clive took us on a bicycle tour around Yangshuo, which was incredible in that the roads we took were flat as a pancake, but all around us were these towering cliffs and hills. It was crazy how there was nothing in-between near-horizontal ground and near-vertical ground! The day was fine and sunny, and quite hot - Wayne was wearing a singlet, so he got madly sunburned, but I think it looks worse than it actually is. We were driven back to Guilin, we had dinner at a steakhouse (mmm, steak) and then boarded the train for the 13 hour homeward journey (there being no flights at comvenient times, for we had to be back in Shenzhen for 'work' on the Monday).
One thing that I noticed about the traffic around Guilin and Yangshuo is that there were very many bicycles, motorcycles and funky 3-wheeled trucks, which had the engine mounted on top of the front wheel, driving it directly, and steered as though it was a billy cart, with the whole front section turning. Weird.
The most memorable quote for the trip came from our tour guide, Clive. He was talking of the difficulties in being a lawyer in China. He says "to win a case, you have to give a large sum of money to the judge". That should make study of the law very interesting indeed!
This trip was used to test out the services of an agency called China Highlights, who are organising a tour for us (again Wayne, Ashley and myself) at the end of our contract. We will spend a week seeing Beijing, Xi'an (where the terracotta warriors are) and Shanghai. Should be good fun.


I didn't end up going with Wayne and Ashley to Beijing and Xi'an, but I did see Shanghai on the band trip.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

10 weeks to go

Hi all.
Just lettin' youse all know that I'm still alive and kickin' in China.

The only happenings of note of late is that we've been joined here at The Park by a group of motorcycle stunt men from Columbia - they're actually pretty cool, one of the chaps brought his (pregnant) wife and two small girls with him, and (oh my god I never thought I'd catch myself saying this but) they are soooo cute!

Must go now and reassert my manhood.
[tits and cars and guns and stuff....]

Sunday, June 10, 2007

12 weeks to go

Well, eleven and a half, actually, because I've been a bit tardy on the posts of late.
By the way, I do apologise for the brevity of that last post, but it was done by request (you can thank Xavier for that)!

So the latest news on The Park being open, is that they're heading for a July 18th opening, and it looks like they're being serious about it. That said, it wouldn't surprise me if they didn't, but nevertheless, they're working for that date. We (the band) don't yet know what our role will be after that date, as it is surely going to be a soft open - there's no way they're going to get everything done on time, but they put up lights at night, so that work can continue after dark (I don't know if they work round the clock, but I wouldn't be surprised!)

Aside from that, all here is as usual.
Carry on.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Weeks 21-30

See you all soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Many happenings continued

This is part two of my latest post, which, confusingly, will be displayed above part one. So before you read the rest of this entry, scroll down and read the previous post first. Also, for those avid readers, I apologise that this is so long after posting part one. There was a night of beer drinking and talking shit until 5:00am that got in the way!

Now where was I? Ah yes, great fun at Happy Valley. I must make sure to go there again before I leave here, preferably on a weekday, so that the queues will be considerably shorter - to get to the big inverted coaster, there were two queues, a queue for the ride, and a queue for the queue for the ride!

So what else has happened? We've lost one band member. Casey, our newest recruit, has fled the country. She was really miserable here, and decided to just up and leave. She told everyone that she was going to Hong Kong for the weekend, and Wayne recieved an email on Sunday night saying "I've left China, sorry to mislead you all.". So if anyone knows of a piper who wants to come to China for a few months, let me know (pretty quick smart, they want a replacement ASAP)! It's a bit of a shame, as now I've got one less running partner, but it was something that she had to do.

I have spoken to the woman who pays us (she came up to The Park, probably to make sure we were all still here) regarding the closing date of my contract (I was contracted to play until Jul 19, but she meant to write Aug 31 into the contract instead). I agreed to stay the extra few weeks, but on better money - I've got an extra US$200 to play with for the final month! Not a great amount I know, but it'll help.

Next on the list of happenings was last Wednesday night. The ANU Alumni Association put on an event in Hong Kong that I went to. I was able to bring Wayne and Ashley along as guests, and they were able to get me to Hong Kong in record time - we left The Park as soon as we could, at 4:00pm, and we were in the city by 6:10 or so, and at the hotel only half an hour late (the function started at 6:00). The cocktail party was to be held at the Island Shangri-la, reportedly one of the world's best hotels, on the 39th floor (the lift took us all the way up there in about 20 seconds [actually, I have no idea how long it took, but it was quick - at the end of the evening, we took the elevator all the way to the top to see if we could see the view, and my ears popped twice!]) in the library - the room had elegant bookshelves around the walls, and they actually had one of those ladders on rails! It looked very nice. There was more finger food than you could poke a skewer at (and it was gooooood), and as much as you could drink (that is, if you wanted to drink red or white wine, orange juice or soda water). At about 7:00, they ushered us into the room with the podium, where speeches were given by the Hong Kong Consulate-General (an ANU alumnus), as well as VC Chubbsie. There was a flute performance given by two other alumni, both principals at the Hong Kong philharmonic orchestra, which was magnificent (the performance that is - I can't speak for the orchestra!). Afterwards, we were able to go back to where the food was to continue 'networking'. I spoke with Prof Tim Brown, dean of the Faculty of Science, as well as several other former students, including Ben Pang, of B&G fame! I really didn't think I'd find anybody there I knew, but there you have it. He says Hi to everyone, especially Tim. He really remembers Tim! (of course, how could anybody forget Beardy!). Speaking of B&G, there was gross injustice done in the slide presentation that was running in the background all night. Each slide dealt with one of the aspects of ANU. The slide titled Research, for example, had a photo of Graduate House, and the Phonomics building (that green monstrocity on the edge of South Oval). The slide titled Living, however, had 3 large photos of Bruce Hall, and only small images of the logos of B&G and Ursies. Poor old Fenner didn't get a look in at all! Bloody Bruce. :-)
We also talked quite a bit with one of the organisers, who simply couldn't believe what we were doing (pipe band playing in Interlaken Town, one section of a tea-themed Park, in China etc) - she says that this had been the most interesting conversation she had had all night! She was also chuffed that we had gone to the effort of coming all the way from Shenzhen to Hong Kong just for this event, and insisted on aquiring for us some 'doggie bags' to take home some of the fabulous finger food. It was a nice gesture, as it meant that Thursday night, when we were not very satisfied with the slop they served us at the canteen, we were able to chow down on that.
After the event was finished, we went out to one of the drinking areas of Hong Kong with Greg, one of the chaps we had met earlier in the evening. It was incredible. This area was a street (and possibly more, we didn't really explore too much) that was wall-to-wall pubs and clubs. Nothing else much to describe - we sat at a table in one pub for a bit, and then we went home. By the time we got back into China proper, it was apporaching 2:00am. I was very irritable, biting the heads off the people who were offering taxis, hotels, porn and hookers to the new arrivals from Hong Kong. By the time I got home to bed, it was 3:00 in the morning. This began what was to be a series of late nights, to be elaborated on in the next paragraph.

Thursday night, I found that I wasn't really very sleepy at my normal bed-time (this perhaps was because I didn't get up until the afternoon), so I sat up until 3:00 with my Wii, reading How much is Inside?. Friday night, Wayne and I started to play Civ IV, and kept going until there were no other civilisations. This was at about 4:00am. Saturday night (last night) was the Potato Peeling Party (I'll get to that shortly), and once all the vegies had been peeled, we were able to get stuck into the beer. We sat up until after 5:00am talking shit (as one does).

The last thing I wanted to mention in this most mammoth weblog entry, is the dinner that we're having tonight.
The twins are cooking for us. Us and about 50 other people. The idea is that the band is putting on some western food for the Chinese, so that we can say 'thanks' to all the people that have been a part of our time here, and have tried to make us feel at home. Now, despite saying the things I've said in the past (and I stand by those things) there have been some people here who genuinely have made this place bearable, so it's good to be able to do this for them. To this end, we have 30kg of beef to roast, 30kg of potato, 20kg each of carrots, sweet potato, apples and flour. we have over 5kg of butter. Aragorn is planning to make 60 or so apple pies, and John will be roasting the beef and most of the veggies (some of the potatos will be mashed!). We have four cases of beer, a case of wine, and a case of vodka, so there'll be plenty of food and drink! I suspect that this will end up being night number 5 of post 3:00am!

Ok, I think I've said all of the things I wanted to say, so I'll sign off.
Until next time

My my so many things have happened since my last post

A couple of weekends ago, the band members went out to celebrate Sunny's birthday (Sunny is Susan's adopted daughter). That in itself was not weblog-worthy, although it was a good night - dinner at a local restaurant we about twice as much food as we needed, then back to their place for a few drinks, and then out to a local night club, that while really nice, was rather expensive (AUD$8 for a beer - not that pricey at all, you say, but consider that a beer from the shop costs about AUD$0.80). Wayne, Ashlely, Casey and I stayed overnight in town, and then on the Sunday, We went to one of the other theme parks operated by the same company, which meant that we could get in for free. This one, called Happy Valley [I would link to the website, but it is all in Chinese], is full of roller coasters etc. Unfortunately, by the time we had all roused ourselves from sleeping off the beer from the night before, got dressed, had food and found our way to the place, it was well into the afternoon, and we only had a couple of hours there. We made it worthwhile though, with a visit to the 3D cinema (it was actually a 4D cinema, where, for example, if there's wind blowing on screen, a fan blows air into your face, if it's raining on screen, you get sprayed with a little water etc, but as we were some of the last people into the theater for that screening, we had to sit right up the back, so we missed out on the extra 'dimension') That's right folks, one sentence, 9 commas. I like commas.
Anyway, we also had fun on the dodgem cars - I had forgotten how much fun they can be. After that we went on one of those 'river rapid' rides, where you float along a course in an 8-seat ring, and get sprayed with water at every opportunity. They were selling plastic ponchos for the patrons, but we would not be slaves to consumerism, so we purchased one between us, to protect our valuables from a soaking, and we let ourselves get saturated. It was a hot day, so we didn't mind. Next on the list of must-rides was a train-style roller coaster. That was pretty cool - quite scary because the tunnel entrances were not much larger than the train itself, and it felt like there was going to be a horrible accident.
The only other ride we went on (being a Sunday, the queues were sub-optimal) was the showpiece of the park, an inverted coaster. That was madness. I couldn't walk in a straight line for several minutes afterwards. It was great! I do have photos, but they'll have to wait until I get around to uploading them. Based on previous experience this could be several weeks yet!
Speaking of photos, I did finally sort/caption the last batch I uploaded. Find them at
I am about to go down for supper, so the other things that I had planned to write about will have to wait until the next post, since this one seems to have gone longer that I had anticipated. The upside is that I have Victor's computer to myself tonight, if I so choose, so I can hopefully get the rest typed up within the next few hours.
See you in a bit.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Photos, missed photo opportunities and imperial visits.

Finally, I've uploaded my camera to the Internet.
New photos can be viewed in the new album at
I haven't yet had time to go through and delete the useless photos (Victor sometimes 'borrows' my camera), nor have I had time to apply captions, but I will get to that in the near future.

As to the missed photo ops, there's been some work done here at The Park that almost defies belief. The powers that be decided that the pavement in the main town square needed regrouting, so they got a bunch of guys with angle grinders squatting on the ground grinding away at the grout. It was quite amusing to see them all there, in their little groups, with power cords running everywhere, and great clouds of grout-dust billowing away downwind. Then, of course, we saw them replacing the grout, with their tiny little trowels (I thought of them as 'jeweller's trowels'!). The crazy thing is that it looks a lot worse now than it did before!
The other photo I wish I had taken when I had the chance, involved some new construction that's being done adjacent to where we practice. They put up the 'vertical' support columns, and although their bases line up nicely, no three of their tops are on the same line! When they put up the cross-beams, it made a zigzag pattern! One beam was too short, and they had to weld an additional bit to make it reach!

Other than that, we played today for someone really high up the pecking order. I'm not sure exactly who it was - I've heard variations from "the governor of the province" to "the heads of all the OCT parks and the CEO of the entire company" but you'd think it was for the emperor or something, with all the fuss.
They had us do a rehearsal, much like last time (see Week 9) but they went to the effort of replacing all the flowers around the place, they made sure that all the windows and curtains in the flats were closed (you can see into our flats from the train), there were two trains worth of entourage and all The Park staff were scared shitless - bossing people (us) about and generally being panicky. It was a big deal, but we got through it.

Hope all is well back in the Land of Plenty.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Cricket World Cup Final and other shenanigans

Ok, so we (we in this case being Wayne and I) wanted to watch the final of the Cricket World Cup (Australia vs Sri Lanka), but we 1) weren't able to watch it on the local telly and 2) didn't want to go out to the Polo Club, because we would be roosted probably before the first innings, due to the fact that the match was scheduled to run into the wee hours.
Instead, we opted to try to get a live broadcast on the computer. However, this turned out to be more difficult/expensive than we anticipated (fortunately, we weren't missing any of the action because of the rain), so what we finished up doing was watching cricinfo's 3D virtual cricket and a live-updating scorecard, and listening to a skypecast of two Indian chaps live from Bombay. They were obviously amatuers, calling the cricket from their computer, but they didn't do half bad.
We went to bed at the end of Australia's innings, so we missed out on all the controversy, but it was a good night all the same.

In other news, we played this morning for the head dude in charge of Finance in China (so, a big shot). He arrived at 11:00, which would be fine, except that we were told to be ready for 8:30! And we found this out last night at 10:30! Craziness.
Can't wait to get home.

Friday, April 27, 2007

ANZAC day and the Sheraton.

Hello again from China.
Well, the last few days (evenings) have certainly been busy.
Wednesday was, as you would know, ANZAC day. To celebrate, the Aussies here (and Ashley, because she's Wayne's girlfriend) went out to dinner at the Polo Club. I thought I had written about this venue earlier, but looking back through previous posts I can't find it, so that must've been in an email to someone. Anyway, the Polo Club is what we in the band refer to as "the Aussie pub" or "the Aussie restaurant", as it seems to share the double theme of Polo (with the horses, not in the pool) and Australiana - it is an expat who owns/runs it, his name is Philip, and more on him later.
After a great meal (Bruschetta entree, Roast lamb with veggies [possibly the best roast pumpkin I've ever had, and potatoes that were actually roasted, unlike those at one particular establishment in Dickson!], apple pie and Lamington for desert, and a beer [BV of course - not the best beer in the world, but at least it's not Fosters!] to wash it all down with), Philip silenced the music (a Phillipino cover band - they seem to be everywhere here!), and called me up to read The Ode, which I'd like to think I did with grace and dignity. It was quite an honour.
We met some other Aussies that night, and made some new contacts in Shenzhen, which is always good to have. At the end of the night, while talking with Philip, he mentioned that he had tickets for the grand opening party for the newest Sheraton hotel in town, and would we like to go? Of course we said yes, as who could refuse such an offer (and we didn't have anything else to do anyway!).
We went home that night, and continued to pay our respects with some Wii bowling, further drinking and Cricket World Cup Semi-final, and of course, some sombering thoughts.

We arrived to the sounds of a bunch of 40+yr old musicians doing Rock 'n' Roll covers from their youth. Philip from the Polo Club was one of the MCs, the other being a Chinese woman. Of course, the usual contrived banter ensued. Other acts included a bunch of acrobatic plate-spinning and hula-hooping kids, some Indian dancers (that would be Chinese people performing dances from India, not Indian people dancing), some singers that were, frankly, terrible, and other 'international' style dance acts. There was no food to be had, and the only drink was beer, but apparently it was pretty bad (I didnt' have any myself), so we went out for dinner afterwards. All in all, it was a fairly good night. Something a little different.
Anyway, it's time for me to go

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Weeks 15 and 16

Ok, so I'm getting a little ahead of myself with the Week 16 bit, since I'm only half way through the 16th week, but I'm sure there's not going to be anything of note happen in the next few days (ANZAC day is coming up, but that can wait until next time).

I thought I had quite a few things to write about, but now that I sit down at the computer, I find I've got nothing really to say. Wayne, Ashley, Casey and I have been fairly seriously getting into the regular exercise thing - we go for jogs about every second morning, and I'm already starting to feel fitter.
Other than that, I'm still in China, and I'm not dead yet.
One of these days I'll upload the newer photos. It'll be cool.
Play On.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Weeks 13 and 14

Hi once again.
Sorry it's been so long between drinks, but I don't seem to be able to get to the computer as often as before.
Anyway, I've kept on keeping on. We played probably our best gig the other week - it was for the local branch of the National Security Force (or something like that) who were given something of an evening out. They came out to The Park in the afternoon, we played them off the train, and then they went up to the golf course for an afternoon of driving (and presumably also the real thing - not sure about that) and other entertainment, including, you guessed it, us. But, while we were waiting to play, and after we played we also were allowed to go to the driving range too! They put on a BBQ, which we ate (I'd never before seen a chicken wing on a skewer until that night!) This was the best meal I'd had courtesy of OCT!
The highlight of the night, however, was watching them collect all the golf balls at the end of the evening. Do you think they came out with a machine or something? Of course not. This is China! They sent a bunch of dudes out with baskets and golf-ball-rakes and picked them up by hand!

The other big news is that Casey (Geoff's replacement) has arrived and is settling in. She's finding it a little hard at present, but I'm sure she'll cope.
The Wii is getting plenty of use, Victor is practically addicted to the bowling game, and is getting quite good.
That's about it for now.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Week 12

Well I've now been here for just on three months, and it looks like I'll have the option of staying on for another month or so afterwards (coming home around mid-September) It seems that this is when everyone else is due to leave, and they wanted me to stay until then, but didn't fix the dates in the contract! I haven't yet decided whether to stay on or not, I guess I'll see if they're willing to offer me more money, which I'm sure they are, because Geoff (who, unfortunately, had to leave us early due to his wife contracting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in her hand, and having need of dental surgery) was offered more money to stay. He didn't go into negotiations, because no amount of money would have convinced him to stay, so I'm not sure how much I'll be able to squeeze out of them, but I'll see how I go.

Other than that, I'm just having to keep on keeping on. I'm utterly disapointed that I'll miss seeing my sister getting married, which will happen this Saturday. Congratulations Leanne, I'll be thinking of you.

Until next time

Friday, March 23, 2007

Week 11

Nothing much happened for the first part of the week, and then it was St Patricks Day!
A few of us took the journey deep into Shenzhen (bus down the mountain, then another bus into the city, then the subway, then another bus to the place - almost 3 hours!) to an Irish pub. Wayne bought his pipes, and was a big hit. After a few beers I was able to be persuaded to do a Fling, and that was less of a hit, but a hit nonetheless. After many drinks there, we hit the Maccas around the corner, and then took a taxi home. We got home a little after 6 am!

We have also had a change in management within the band. Our (now ex-) pipe major wasn't doing a very good job of leading the band, so we held a meeting with our boss, and the PM/band manager position has passed on to Wayne (who is the next-best player, despite being the youngest member of the group!) who I'm sure will do a much better job

The other big thing to report is that my Wii arrived yesterday (Xavier purchased it for me, and posted it over) so there was much rejoicing, and much playing of games! At last now I have something to do when we're not playing/rehearsing that isn't crosswords!

Carry on

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Week 10

I don't really have much to say this week, I've been playing a lot of computer games with Wayne and Ashley (Civilization IV, Command and Conquer - Generals, Age of Empires III and, of course, Worms world party!) often staying up until almost sunrise.
We're back playing again, despite still being on "days off", although we're just playing at the Station for the official visitors. This morning, though, the train arrived and there were about 4 people on it, so I suspect that we're playing just for the sake of it. Still, it's a job.
Can't wait until my Wii arrives (I've had it shipped from Aust. so that when I get home I don't have to import games)

The weather here has been very humid the last week or so. Trying to get laundry dry has been a nightmare! Right now, I've got linen hanging up all over my room, with the heater on full, in the hope that I have something to sleep under tonight. Also, it means that it's been very foggy, so there's no decent views to be had (unless you count standing at one end of a bridge and seeing it disappear into the fog). Consequently there's been no motive to go for walks, which is about the only form of exercise I get. Consequently I've been feeling fat and lazy. Oh well, such is life!
Carry on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Week 9

We played today for someone really special (The vice president of China, or someone of about that importance). It was obvious that the managment of The Park were going to extra lengths to make a good impression - they had us do a rehearsal (which consisted of us sitting around for a couple of hours without being told what was going on, then doing exactly the same stuff we do every time a dignitary comes to visit), and then on the day they brought out the red carpet etc. And you knew he was important because of the size of the entourage he had with him!

Anyway I've managed to get my pictures uploaded. Check out I haven't yet had a chance to get captions to them all, but bear with me, I'm working on it.
I did end up going to Hong Kong (photos not yet off the camera - sorry) with Aragorn and John. It was very confusing, because people there drive on the right side of the road (the right side being the left side), and people China drive on the wrong side of the road (the wrong side being the right side). So after spending the last couple of months dealing with trafic on the wrong (right) side of the road, I go back to dealing with traffic on the right (left) side. It's got to the point where I no longer know which way to look when crossing the road!

While I was there, I took the time to check out the Hong Kong Science Museum - the equivalent of our Questacon. That was quite an eye-opener! They had a big exhibit on Operational Health and Safety (make sure you wear your hard-hat at construction sites kiddies), in their "human body" section, they had diagrams indiciating the acupuncture points, which I never would have expected to see at a science centre (1,2,3 Reaction).** But one of the coolest things is their "Energy Machine" (like the thing with the billiard balls in the lobby at Questacon). It is huge. It towers 4 floors, and is apparently the largest such machine in the world. (The balls are much bigger than the ones at Questacon though, and it's not nearly so densely packed). The downside though, is that once you look at it a little closely, it's not quite so impressive - the various gates are computer-controlled, and they'd shut off a couple of parts of track. The set of chimes was not actually struck by the ball, but the ball going past the chimes trips a sensor that plays a recording of chimes! and little things like that.

Victor, my roommate, the Texan, has just acquired for himself a Confederate flag. He actually has a song on his computer whose chorus goes (and I never would have believed it had I not heard it for myself) "Some niggers never die. They just smell that way". But he's a nice enough chap.

Oh, and I remember what it is I was going to write last week. The metro system in Shenzhen is really good. It's clean, it's easy (if you know what station you're going to) and it's fast. When the train pulls out of the station, it accelerates at a rate that is, I would say, akin to moderate acceleration in a car - you can feel somewhat heavier, but you don't have difficulty moving. But it keeps this acceleration up for fully 20 seconds! That might not seem that long, but when you think about it, it's quite impressive! (think how long it takes to get up to speed in a car from a standstill, and that's not even at constant acceleration).

I think that's about all for now. Tune in next week for another thrilling instalment.
Cheers, Owen.

**The Twins (Aragorn and John) have this game they play, called 1,2,3 reaction, where they make a potentially explosive comment, to try and fish for a reaction. It can be quite fun to watch!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Week 8

Well, The Park is closed again - no more tourists. We have been working fairly solidly for the last three weeks. First they had us doing 3x30 minute shows every day, then they made us do 4x25 mins (what was in our contract anyway, so no complaints here). But this wasn't enough, so they split us up into two micro-bands, to put on a 25 minute show every hour for 8 hours. Apparently the public really loved us, so after a few days of that they wanted to split us into 3 groups and have us do 12 shows a day, but we refused, on the grounds that two pipers does not a band make. They countered with what we ended up doing for the last few days. Each group would do a 4-hour shift, playing 10 mins on and 10 mins off. This was acceptable, as The Park wanted to put us on show while we were tuning, so basically ever hour we had 10 mins of tuning, and 20 mins playing, which was on a par with what we were doing before. It's very tiring, but I enjoyed it.
We now have some 10 days off, so I'll probably be able to scoot over to Hong Kong for a while, although we'll be on call for some of those days, in case some dignitary want's to come visit. On the other hand, I don't have anything in particular that I need to do there - it'll be going for the sake of going, but it should be cool nevertheless.
Yesterday I went to one of the other Parks operated by this same company, the Window of the World ( which was cool. Lots of photos were taken, and I am working on hosting them somewhere online, so hopefully I should be able to share them soon.
There was something esle I was going to mention, but I've forgotten what it was, so until next time
Cheers, Captainowie.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Week 7

It seems that New Years celebrations go for the whole two weeks. Each of the last several nights have seen fireworks displays etc.

Funny story (all right, not that funny, but cool nevertheless).
We had been given tickets to what we were told was a banquet - good food, plenty of drinks etc, that was to start at 7:00. However, due to some misinterpretations, the tickets were actually for a free drink to have with dinner which is between 5:00 and 7:00. We rocked up to the dining room at 7:00, all dressed up, and there was nobody there but the cooks, servers and cleaners. So we got our meals (dregs) and sat down to eat, all despondant, thinking that we had missed out on the party (we did have our one drink each though!). Then the cooks came and offered us the leftovers (still dregs, but it was not all bad, and a nice gesture on their part). so we invited them over to sit with us. Now, the language barrier means that communication is basically reduced to slapstick and fart jokes, but we made do. Then the cooks brought out a bottle of spirit, opened it up, and threw the lid away (just to make sure of a good night!). They proceded to pour it out into bowls, about 100ml in each bowl, and distributed them amongst themselves, but including John and Aragorn, who from our group were the most conversational. Bottoms up. Then they brought out another bottle, and made us all try some. Bottoms up. It was strong stuff (at 46% alcohol), and about 3 shots worth at a time meant it wasn't long before things started to get really interesting. We bought a case of beer that went in a flash, and they came up with another bottle to give us as a gift, but we decided to share it with them. Bottoms up. Another case of beer, and the party was in full swing. Aragorn went home to fetch his pipes, and we gave them a bit of a show. Some of the Chinese had a go, and a couple of them even managed to sound the chanter (not an easy thing to do, as a matter of fact), I danced a Fling, and a good time was had by all.

Oh, and I've finally found out how to change the settings so I can read the menu item for my weblog site. It turns out that all I need to do was hit the "Change language" button. Unfortunately it was written in Chinese, so I didn't know about it!


Sunday, February 18, 2007

New year's eve

Last night was Chinese New Year's Eve, and it was the best New Year's night I've had for ages, Chinese or otherwise!
Myself and most of the rest of the band went to visit Susan (an Aussie expat who teaches English to Chinese executives) and her daughter Sunny. She lives on the 18th floor of an apartment building, with commanding views over the surrounding area. We ate roast lamb with vegies, we drank red wine and beer (that is to say, some of us had wine, and some the beer), and all through the night (and especially at midnight) we heard and watched various fireworks displays that people were putting on, despite the fact that fireworks are apparently illegal (and this despite the fact that the Chinese invented them in the first place!). A good time was had by all.

Also, it looks as though The Park is open only for the 3 weeks surrounding New Years, then it'll be closing again and construction will resume, for a re-open in May.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Week 6

Well, what a week!
Firstly, I should report that Victor has his computer, and this is what I'm currently using, so with any luck, updates should come more frequently, assuming I've got anything interesting to say! (although, that doesn't seem to have stopped many of the bloggers out there!)

Secondly, I am pleased to announce that, much to my surprise and despite the construction work still going on, The Park is open to the public. For the past week or so, we've been playing 3 shows a day to crowds of anywhere between 0 and about 100 people. On the one hand, it is good to finally be doing something, but on the other, that uniform can get awfully uncomfortable by the end of the day!

It is so cheap to do things here in China - a feast at Maccas (the Canadians insist on saying "Maccers" for some reason) will cost about AU$5, and you can get a haircut for $4 (but this takes the best part of an hour, because they'll wash your hair and give you a scalp massage as well, prior to actually cutting it!)

I think that'll about do me this session - it's lunch time, and I'm hungry. To give you all more of an idea of what I'm up against (and to bitch about the food some more!) it'd be nice if the ratio of meat to non-meat animal product (fat, bone, cartilage, skin etc) was reversed! Also, tofu seems to be used here as a meat supplement, rather than a meat substitute - there is meat in the tofu dishes! Bad luck if you're a vegetarian. On the other hand, it is usually quite tasty (relatively speaking, of course).

Ok, see you all next time
Cheers, Captainowie.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Week 5

Once again, I must apologise for taking so long to update this weblog. Fortunately Victor (the fellow I'm sharing the flat with) is pretty keen on getting a computer after the next payday (the 12th), so after that, I should be able to post more frequently.

Today we've made our acting debut - we played in front of the camera for some commercial, and then we were asked to change into civvies and pretend we were tourists. They had us, and the russian dancers, and not an asian person in sight - a bit of propaganda methinks!

For those who've been waiting weeks to hear my great bargaining anecdote, here it is. But first some background.
One of the twins, John, is a very keen chess player, so he was delighted when I was up for a couple of games. Well, we played quite often, so we decided to purchase a quality set (nice large board, weighted pieces etc). The set he had seen in a shop was priced at 980 RMB (AUD$1=6RMB). So we go in there and look at the set up close, feel the pieces etc, and get down to the issue of price. Now, to overcome the language barrier, bartering is done on a calculator - he types an offer into the calculator, and we make a counter-offer in the same manner. So he types 980 into the calculator, we hit clear, and try for 800. He says "no, no" and types 980*0.9= 877. We say "how about 850". Again it's "no, no", so he drops the price to 85% (instead of 90%). Now the mathematically inclined amongst my readers will no doubt realise that this will come to 833, less than what we had offered! He hit clear straight away, but realised that we had both already seen it, so had to settle on 833!

I'm trying to find a way to put all my photos online, and give them captions, so you can see them all - as you've no doubt seen, the photos I have put here have been cropped. If anyone has suggestions as to a good site, please let me know.

The food continues to be atrocious, but plentiful. There are some days that of the half-dozen or so dishes on the menu, it's the boiled cabbage that's the most appetizing!
I'm told that even the chinese people don't like the food here, so it begs the question, who are they catering for?!?

Anyway, I must away.
Until next time.
Cheers, Captainowie.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Week 3(cont)

More pictures to follow:
owen 002.jpg
This is a close-up of the walkway in the main part of town. The reason I think this is funny, is that instead of purchasing dimpled pavers, they had someone go around with a hammer and chisel and actually ping them in by hand!!

owen 003.jpg
This is a (possbily sideways) 'tree' on the top of a hill. I say 'tree' because it's actually a China Telecom radio tower. The even more remarkable thing is:
owen 004.jpg
They put in fake roots!! The only people who are going to see them are the Telecom workers, and maybe some badgers, or whatever they have here in China.

Must go, more later about mad bartering deals, and whatnot.
Cheers, Captainowie.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Week 3

Sorry it's taken so long to get this updated, internet connections are hard to come by.
Anyway, we've had our first performances, and what a joke they've been - we played for some dignitaries who arrived, and then walked away. We played for about 5 mins total! We then did the same thing the next day, except it was cold and windy. That normally wouldn't bother me, but the kilts they've given us are cheap and light, so blow up really easily, and don't keep the warmth in. But such is life.

I have some photos uploaded, I will try to display them here now, but the language barrier may prove difficult.
owen 001.jpg
If this works, you should be seeing a photo of a model of The Park. (Or 2, or perhaps 0)

Friday, January 12, 2007

Week 1.5

I've been shown the website for The Park (
Our show will be performed in "Interlaken Town", and "Tea Stream Valley" is very close, and very beautiful.
I have taken loads of pictures, and as soon as I find a satisfactory way to upload them, I will post a selection here (presuming I can find a way to do that, the Chinese thing again! - to make matters worse, the computer I'm on now has the Chinese version of XP loaded, so all the menu options are unreadable!)
There is not much to do, given that The Park is still not open - I'm really regretting having left my crossword and puzzle books at work on my last day :-(
Anyway, I'd best be off - things not to do, places not to go!
Cheers, Captainowie.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Week 1

Ok, so there's a resort being built in the Southern China city of Shenzhen (Just across from the border with Hong Kong) I've been here for a week and I still don't know exactly what it's supposed to be, but it seems to pay homage to tea - there's certainly lots of it around. Anyway, this resort has a house Pipe band (it's the Chinese, who needs a reason?), and I'm a part of that band.

I had intended to make regular updates to this weblog (weekly or so), but Internet access is sporadic - I am currently using Wayne's laptop (Wayne is another Aussie, which is nice to have someone else who thinks everyone drives on the wrong side of the road!), but it would be a bit rude to keep using this all the time, so another solution needs to be found. In the mean time, a brief rundown on the week or so since I left Australia.

The flight from Sydney was long but uneventful, then a 2-hour drive from the airport to (what will be referred to herein as) The Park - there were no flights into Hong Kong available.
When we finally arrived, I found that my bed had no linen - so I basically slept in my jacket, on this bed with no mattress. Well, I say no mattress because the thing on the bed base hardly qualifies it was that thin and stiff (I've since purchased a foam mattress to go on top, so I can acually sleep at night!).
I was introduced to the rest of the band (Robert, the Pipe Major from Canada; Aragorn and John, the twins also from Canada; Victor, the drummer from Texas, and my roommate; Ashley from Canada, and Wayne and Geoff from Australia) over the course of the next couple of days, and they have shown me around Dongmen (the city), Dameisha (the beach area) and The Park.
The food here is very repetitive, and I've heard some horror stories of what's in some of the dishes, but there is always rice (and it's a good thing I like rice!) and usually some veggies that don't taste half bad. I must remember to thank Mum and Dad for giving me the opportunity to practice using chopsticks.

The music I'm required to play is quite difficult - certainly compared to anything I've played before, but I'm getting the hang of it slowly. Fortunatley The Park doesn't open for another month, so I've got plenty of time to practice. I'm going to be a damn good drummer by the time I'm done here.

Anyway, if I write any more, my fingers are likely to fall off.
Until next time.
Cheers, Captainowie.