Steve's China Blog

Monday, May 30, 2005

Suprisingly, my feet don't hurt

Last week was kind of a blur. Lots to do at work and not as much sleep as I would have liked. This week I start my two week late late shift... 6:30pm to 3:00am. After two weeks I'll go back to my regular late shift. I also found out that funding for my training trip to the US still hasn't been approved, so now it'll be late July or August if we have the training. If it is in late August I might not go home to Maryland until around Christmas time instead of October for vacation. Maybe I'll do some travelling here in October if I don't go home then.

This weekend the city of Dalian had a walkathon. It wasn't for charity, or anything like that... it was just to walk. They invited anyone who wanted to walk 5k, 10k, 20k, or 30k to come out and walk. A little over 100,000 people showed up on Saturday. Saturday's walk was along a scenic route along the sea. We walked the 10k route. It was very crowded, but it wasn't too hot and we had a nice breeze most of the time. There were all kinds of groups there from various companies and organizations. The one that really surprised me was there were a few people from the Nationalist Party there. Maybe that's a good sign!

After the walk Maggie took me to a really nice dim sum place for lunch. It turned out to be the most expensive lunch I have had here in Dalian... about 117 RMB each, but it was really good. After that Maggie wanted to show me the new townhouse she bought, so we went and picked up the keys, and along with some of her friends, we went out to look at it. They haven't finished construction yet, but we could go in and see it. The living room has a large window with a great view of the sea, but if you look around to the right you can see some kind of factory that isn't that great to see. All in all, it should be really nice after it is completed and furnished. The rest of the day was mostly spent wandering around town looking for music and watching movies.

Sunday I woke up with a pizza craving, so I went to Pizza Hut for lunch. Surprisingly, Pizza Hut is almost considered gourment dining here. I think it is just because it is unique and clean. There was a line that went out the door at lunchtime. After lunch I spent the afternoon studying chinese, and helping a friend with their computer. Later on, a few of us went to a co-worker's place for dinner. He's from the Netherlands, but we had chinese food. All the ladies took over the kitchen, so we just hung out, drank beer, and listened to the Rolling Stones and Robert Cray. It was very nice and relaxing.

Found a good Memorial Day article here.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Golden Pebble Beach

This weekend a few of from the office (about 400) went to a resort outside of Dalian called Golden Pebble Beach. First stop was the Hunting Lodge. I don't think anyone does any hunting up there, but they had a small rifle/pistol range and skeet shooting range where you can do a little bit of shooting. I did a some skeet shooting, but didn't do too well at it. I was hoping to do a little pistol shooting, but we were schedule to play paintball, so they divided us up into small teams of about 15 or 16 and sent us out to play some paintball. We only got 10 rounds, so we just played a very short battle. It was pretty fun. I got to shoot all of my paintballs at the other team, and then I got shot in the foot by someone (not sure if it was enemy or friendly fire). I have no idea if I hit anyone on the other team. After the game everyone kept asking me if I had ever been in the military and if I owned a firearm. They were kind of surprised that I owned more than one. I don't think you are allowed to own a firearm here.

By the end of paintball it started raining pretty hard, so golf and hiking were cancelled, and instead we went to a wax museum and a rock museum there at the resort. That wasn't that fun, but it kept us out of the rain. We had a long lunch after that and then went and checked into our hotel and just relaxed until dinner. Dinner was at the same place we had lunch, and was a lot of fun. Lots of food and beer. We did a lot of toasting and got... uh, toasted. Hehe. After dinner we went to some place to party and play games. Maejong and cards downstairs, dancing and kareoke upstairs, beer everywhere. I played one game of Maejong and was beat pretty bad. A few of the ladies dragged me upstairs for dancing, and everyone had a good time. Most of the time I spent talking to co-workers... they wanted to practice their english and I got to practice my chinese some.

Sunday morning the rain was gone, and we were off to some mountain nearby that had a great view of the city and the sea. It was nice to be out of the city and have some nice weather. After doing the scenic view thing we got back into our buses and headed back to Dalian. After I got back I called a friend of mine who had invited me to a cookout/birthday party and she came by and picked me up. We ran by the Walmart to pick up a bunch of food and then she told me where we were going... Golden Pebble Beach! Oh well, I didn't mind all of the travelling. I got to get out of the city twice in one weekend!

The party was a very enjoyable, laid back, beach party with a little grill, lots of food and a few of Maggie's friends. So we laid about, ate, and talked. After awhile the wind started to pick up and it was getting chilly, so we decided to pack up everything and head back to a little pub near where we live called The Box, in Dalian. The Box is pretty nice. The decor is a mix of chinese and american jazz decorations. We played some foozball (sp?) and some pool. Then everyone wanted me to teach them how to play blackjack. I must of taught them well since I hardly ever won a hand. When it started to get pretty late I had to take off and check for calls and email. Oh well, all in all it was a very enjoyable weekend.

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Thursday, May 19, 2005


We had a big ceremony for the opening of our new office building today. They setup a big stage out in front of the building and put up banners and flowers all over the place, and up and down the street. They had important speakers, a chinese drum band, chinese dancers, and even fireworks! Fireworks during the day aren't as spectacular to see, but they're still very loud. I missed most of it, and was just arriving at the office when they we're finishing the festivities. These late work schedules suck. I got home from work the night before at around 11:30 and got called up to help fix a program at around midnight. Worked on that all day from home, and then headed into the office at around 2:00 this afternoon. I can't wait for the weekend.

This weekend we're suppose to go some resort about an hour outside of Dalian. We get to play some golf, go hiking and/or play a little paintball. Quite a combo. It should be a great time! Most of us are staying overnight at some of the hotels there. Plans are for Kareoke, cards, chess, etc... in the evening. A bunch us of decided we're going to drink beer and play Maejong!... or I'll catch up on my sleep. One thing I want to do while away from Dalian is go outside at night and see the stars. I've been in the city my whole time here and the city lights are bright enough to obscure the stars. Of course, the way my luck is running something will come up at work and I'll miss it. I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope I can go.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Will work for beer

Not too much happened last week. We returned to work after the long holiday and started working in the new office In the evenings I have gotten a little time to explore some of the area around there. There's a college right next door and there are a lot of students that live nearby, so a lot of the businesses are geared toward them. That's nice since the prices are lower, but a lot of the places are real dives too. It kind of reminds me of Morgantown when I was in college.

We're setting up some new work schedules here, so my sleep schedule is going to get another workout. I don't think it will be as bad as when I first started and had to deal with a schedule change, time zone change, jetlag, etc...

Saturday was a normal day of laundry, house cleaning, and playing on the computer. I was thinking of going out Saturday night, but that evening I had a headache, so I stayed home and watched a movie. Good thing I didn't go out, since I got called into work at about 1:00am and didn't get finished until after 7:00am. Now that I think about it, I have not gone out to a bar or pub for a few beers since I've been here.

The chinese language classes are going well. We're still learning Pinyin, but are also learning some things that will come in handy in every day living, such as asking if that white stuff is sugar or salt, asking for the bill,... stuff like that. After Friday's class our instructor took us out to a resturant and we got to practice talking about food. This week we're suppose to go to a pub and talk about beverages, but I have a conference call that evening so I probably won't go. Don't you hate it when work gets in the way of real life?

Monday, May 09, 2005

Back to Work!

The holidays are over and I didn't get to do as much as I had hoped, but I did the important thing... caught up on my sleep! I did get to explore Dalian some. I went shopping at a bunch of different places and bought some nice shirts. All I packed to come here were winter clothes, so I really needed some lighter shirts now that it is getting warmer. I also ate a lot of steak, pizza, and cheesburgers. No fajitas though.

While wondering Dalian I found a place called China Tobacco Store, but they were either closed for the holidays or closed early in the afternoon. I'm hoping to go back there and see if they have any good cigars. A Fuente Hemingway or a Partagas Rojito would be real nice about now. They'll probably have cuban cigars, but I promised myself I would wait until Fidel died before having one of those.

One thing I really enjoyed doing was just watching people in the city. It is interesting to see what people are wearing, especially the young people. The clothes people wear are sort of like an example of self-expression and creativity. Up until about twenty years ago everyone was restricted to wearing the same clothes. Now they not only wear eastern clothes, but mixes of western and eastern, western, or even things made up with no way to identify if it's eastern or western. It makes me wonder what other things will change here. It will be interesting to see.

We moved into our new offices this weekend. My office is on the 8th floor of the new building. The view is very nice... we can even see the Yellow Sea (also called the Sea of Korea) from up here. The floors are carpetted, so I don't have to worry about everything I set on the ground getting dirty. It's clean, and quiet, and the TP is much softer than the sandpaper that was used in the old building. What else could you ask for?

A few of us also started our first chinese language class today. We've starting by learning Pinyin. It is sort of like phonetics, but more of a transcription system since chinese is not phonetic, but more of a symbolic or ideographic language. I think we're going to be learning Pinyin for awhile.

Monday, May 02, 2005

On Holiday!

The Chinese Labor Day holiday started yesterday here, but since I had to work yesterday and today my holiday starts tonight and runs until the 9th. I've been talking to people who work here, and visiting other blogs about Dalian, and have some ideas of things to do during my week off (besides catching up on my sleep). There's suppose to be some parks with some impressive statues and some scenic places that I'll try and see, as well as an aquarim, zoo and bird sanctuary. Those will be nice to visit since the only animals I ever see in the city are cats, dogs, sparrows, magpies, and lots and lots and lots of people.

There are a couple of pubs here where foreigners like to hang out that I want to visit. The one that is close by is called JDs, which is described as an American/Russian/Chinese Hip Hop-like club. That's kind of hard to imagine, so I'll have to go check it out and see what it's like. One of the other places is called Dave's Bar and is suppose to be the big hangout place for foreigners living in Dalian, but it's all the way across town. Someone told me about a place here called Green Beer Garden which is a quiet place where people play chess and drink beer. Sounds kind of strange since I've always tried to have some active brain cells when I play chess.

There's also some resturants I want to visit. Someone said there was a place called Fat's Cafe that is nice. A Japanese friend of mine who works here told me about her favorite resturants... an Italian place called Le Cafe Igosso and a Japanese place called M'An (or something like that). Now I just have to find these places.