Saturday, August 06, 2005

Typhoon Matsa

I am still in my hotel today because the city of Shanghai is semi-shutdown due to an oncoming typhoon. I've been told that they are relatively common here and not really a big deal, but this one is supposed to be the largest one in over a decade. The wind has started blowing quite strongly to the point that it is difficult to walk against... we'll see how much worse it actually gets. Many people here seem to have the same distrust in weather prediction as we do at home.

My first day working at the factory was very interesting. The people are very nice and some speak English quite well. It is such a large facility that it is basically a city in and of itself. I'll talk more about work later.

I had dinner last night at Papa John's Pizza. Yes, that's right. My boss wanted some American food, so we went for a walk. It is funny... everything is so cheap over here except for foreign stuff. Consequently, Papa John's costs the same here as it does at home, which makes is an expensive restaraunt where people go for a nice sit-down meal.

Breakfast is a little hard to get used to, but it is very good. It is basically the same as other Chinese food, but revolves alot around tofu, soy milk, and egg. The soy milk is served hot and is very good... I never liked the stuff at home but it is growing on me here. There are many things in my diet here that I just don't ask what they are. I figure that it tastes nice so why ruin it by knowing what it is. There are some foods that I have never heard of... yesterday for lunch I had steamed lotus root. It looked like slices of cucumber with lots of holes in it and tasted a lot like sweet watercress.

My company had a bunch of business cards printed up for me. Business cards are a big deal here... everytime you meet someone a formal exchange of cards is expected. There is much etiquitte surrounding this action, rules must be followed: you always give and receive a card with both hands, when you give a card it must be oriented so that they can read it upright, you never put the card in a wallet but rather a business card holder. The reason for this last one is that your wallet is generally in a back pocket and then you sit on it... you'd basically be signifying that you think they are below you, literally. Anyway, the reason I brought up the business card thing is that one side is English and the other Mandarin. When translating your name, they write out the Chinese characters that most closely sound like your name. Can you see where I am going with this? That's right... all of my Chinese coworkers now know me as "Nico Habi". Since I go by Nick at home, everyone calls me Nico here. Kind of neat, but hard to get used to.

My translator Ngee Siew is supposed to be taking me out in Shanghai today for some shopping. One thing that I am a little annoyed about is that I am not allowed to go out without Chinese Houghton escort. Even my boss isn't allowed out, although we did both leave the hotel last night to get pizza. Don't worry, we're not going to get arrested or anything... its not a law. The Chinese Fluidcare manager, QP Lu, is basically responsible for our well being. If something were to happen to us, it would be considered his fault and be a great shame to him. He would have a heart attack if I left the hotel without Chinese escort because he worries too much about us. Maybe after a few weeks he will be a little more comfortable with the idea of my exploring... Ngee Siew lives half an hour away, so if I want to just walk down the street I have to call him and impose upon his time, which I feel bad doing.

Well, I'd better get off my phone modem... I'm expecting a call anytime soon from my boss.

Zaijian (goodbye)