Monthly Archives: July 2012

Travel woes

This has certainly been an interesting 24 hours.  I flew from Shanghai to Hong Kong yesterday afternoon.  The flight was delayed because of a Typhoon in the Hong Kong area.  When we finally arrived, we were parked out on the tarmac and the flight crew had to give everyone plastic macs to de-plane, which we did into a T8 gale and fierce rain!  It took over an hour for my luggage to come through on the carousel and then I got told that the wait for taxi’s would be over 2 hours.  I decided to brave the train system and 1 hour after that, finally made it to the hotel – 1.30am!

This morning I got a message from the customer that I was suppposed to be meeting, that we were now cancelled because of the Typhoon (everything shuts down in Hong Kong when it gets to a T8+ status, and it reached a T10 last night).  I am only in Hong Kong for that meeting!!!!  The rain was so heavy last night that it sounded like hail against my 28th floor hotel room windows.  The wind was howling and shaking the building…….

I decide to work from the hotel room this morning and then I get a text from the airline informing me that my flight to Beijing this afternoon has been cancelled.  I immediately call our Travel Help desk and they re-book me on a later flight but I decide that I will probably have more luck at the airport (with prior USA experience of being a seasoned air traveller).  Little did I know that the experience of being a frequent flier in the USA does NOT compare to Asia.  At least in America, they are quick to give updates and do that frequently to calm the angry, travel weary person. 

As soon as I arrived at the airport I was booked onto a 3.15pm flight (along with a travelling colleague).  However, as soon as we had moved through security and customs clearance we saw that our flight was cancelled.  (We both have checked bags on that flight).  I have been sitting in Hong Kong airport all afternoon and been transferred to 2 different flights (I have no idea where my bag is at this point).  The desk is so unhelpful because the Airport Authority here do not update their systems!!!!!  So, none of the helpful American style updates here!  Michele and I have been to the desk twice each so far and get different stories each time!  I have witnessed the worst in human behavior with extreme yelling, screaming, crying and threatening physical abuse.  I have to admire the staff across the board for keeping their cool in the midst of all that anger and emotion – these are the times when it must really suck to be in customer service. 

We decided to camp out in DragonAir’s club lounge thinking we would not see so much of the yelling and screaming, but it doesn’t matter where you go, there will always be obnoxious people.

I don’t think I will make it out of here tonight.  I am contemplating booking myself into a hotel and trying again tomorrow.  What a wasted trip all round……

More interesting shopping

Owen took this photo on a recent shopping trip.  The children’s paddling pool is in the middle of the fish section, filled with fresh fish, turtles and frogs.  The woman sitting next to the pool was catching fish with her bare hands.  Fresh fish for dinner has a different meaning here!

Fish, frog or turtle for dinner?

Fish, frog or turtle for dinner?

Furniture moving – the Chinese way

When we first moved into our home here, we had organized for the landlord to rent us some furniture until our container arrived.  The day before our shipment was due to be delivered, we needed all the furniture taken away so we would have room for our own stuff.  Owen assumed that they would show up with a truck, but this is actually how they moved everything:

Sofa - on a bicycle!

Sofa – on a bicycle!

Table, 4 chairs, 2 bedside tables - on a bicycle

Table, 4 chairs, 2 bedside tables – on a bicycle

All the bicycles are lined up ready to remove the rest of the rented furniture – lamps, beds, armchairs, chest of drawers……  Absolutely amazing!

Can you guess what we are?

Couple of Jellyfish

Couple of Jellyfish

June 7th was World Ocean Day and the kids had to dress up as a creature from the Ocean.  It was a last minute scramble to find something a little bit creative for them!  Not knowing where to go to buy fish/mermaid/dolphin/shark/whale costumes, we resorted to making them into Jellyfish.

I was rather pleased with the finished effect – it took me ages to glue all the “tentacles” on!   Both children had lots of fun that day and most people dressed up.  They have also learned a lot about the ocean this term and Isabelle’s class did an assembly on it too.

Really feeling like home now……

Our shipment of furniture arrived in China on May 25th.  The process here is that  you have to then give your passport to Customs so that they can clear your shipment.  They generally hold this for up to 5 days.  Then they check the shipment inventory and ask lots of questions about what you would like to import into China.  This can take anywhere from 2-6 weeks.  They can also open any box or package to physically check for themselves.  Once they have cleared your shipment, you then have them schedule a team to deliver and unpack.  That happy day arrived for us on Friday June 22nd.  We had to co-ordinate with the management office of our compound to remove all our rental furniture the day before.

The team of 8 people arrived at 10am and very quickly got busy unloading the first of 2 trucks that were crammed full of our furniture and boxes filled with toys, kitchen stuff, clothes and other belongings.  We had also packed 2 boxes full of UK items such as teabags, toothpaste, shower wash, shampoo, conditioner, British sweeties and marmite.  Import toiletries are very expensive in China and so we had stocked up on 2 years worth to bring with us!

Day 1 had most of our furniture unloaded, unpacked and placed in the right rooms.  Day 2 had everything that we brought from England in our new house by noon.  FINALLY, Owen had all his kitchen gadgets back: his knives, pans, coffee machine, meat thermometer and all of his utensils.  He was back in action!!

Unfortunately, because our packages, boxes and crates were loaded and unloaded so many times, (UK home -> truck -> warehouse -> container -> China Customs -> warehouse -> truck -> China home), we have a few breakages.  A couple of them are on things that have huge sentimental value to Owen and I, even if they are not worth so much in real money terms.  Oh well, I guess we should be fortunate that it could have been worse and we are covered with insurance.  At least we didn’t have anything confiscated either…….

We quickly realized that even though we had a lot of furniture we still needed some extra pieces to complete our home here.  Luckily it is the season of ex-pat turnover and so lots of families who were moving on were advertising for quick disposal of their belongings.  So many people buy extra things when they arrive and then do not have enough room to take them all home (just like us in 2 years time now!!!)  Owen has been busy hanging pictures to really finish it off so now our home is complete and it is wonderful to have all our belongings around us.

 

A Mixed Week

The positive first:  work has been awesome this week.  Best week since I arrived in China.  I brought some enablement to my team here and the eagerness and passion for something new completely over-whelmed me.  We had 4 workshops so I started my week in Hong Kong, back to Shanghai and then up to Beijing.  Over 150 people enthusiastically throwing themselves in, having fun and learning lots of new techniques.  I am actually feeling very optimistic about being here (and that is the first time in 3 months that I can say that!!)

The downside: Owen, Isabelle and Oliver have flown to UK for 5 weeks and I am left with Tetley here.  I have never been apart from my children for so long and I am wondering how I am going to manage.  Thank goodness for Apple Facetime – it makes such a difference to see them when we are chatting!  The ex-pat community here all go home over the long summer break.  At least the spouses and children do.  There are homes all over our neighbourhood with just the working one left.  I was at the pool last weekend and over heard a conversation between a group of men who had been shopping together, eating together and were now hanging out at the pool together……. a regular new boys club!

I will be heading over to the UK in August so it is not so long to be apart.  And, it will be especially good if I can have a repeat work experience over the next couple of weeks too!  For the first time, I think I am making some progress and having an impact.  My sense of worth is returning and I am feeling positive and upbeat.

Stupid and stupider

A loud scream from the kitchen had me running in to see that Owen needed ice for his hand.  He had been cooking some meat by starting it in the frying pan, then putting it in the oven to finish off.  Of course, it was now back on hob and what do you usually do when you want to move a frying pan?  You pick it up!

I quickly filled the bowl with ice to cool his burning hand down and then take over preparing dinner.  Owen had just finished telling me what he had done with the extremely hot frying pan and handle.  I am thinking that this was a really stupid thing he had done as he had just used the oven glove to take it out of the oven.

He tells me that the meat is ready (his hand is still in the bowl).  What do I do?  I pick up the frying pan and burn MY hand!!!!  What a pair.  Stupid and stupider for sure.  We both spend the evening clutching ice wrapped in kitchen towel and then spraying after-sun lotion to cool our burning palms.  I cannot believe that we both did exactly the same idiotic action – I am even more amazed at my own stupidity after just seeing Owen do it.