Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Little Friskies

As further proof of the rare culinary habits of the Guangdong people, I offer the following article from Xinhua:

Activists protest against cat eating in Shenzhen

www.chinaview.cn 2006-06-18 13:35:09

GUANGZHOU, June 18 (Xinhua) -- A restaurant specializing cat meat in Shenzhen, south China's Guangdong Province, was forced to close Saturday after the protest of some 40 activists that drew a large crowd including children.

Isobel, founder of a cat-protection website based in Shenzhen and organizer of the protest, and other activists started the protest at 4 p.m. with a white rose on the chest in memory of the slaughtered cats, holding banners and handing out handbills to denounce eating cats and dogs.

Isobel, in her 30s, told Xinhua over telephone on Sunday that they chose the restaurant Fangji Cat Meatball because it slaughtered cats in the street and "it is very bad for the students from nearby schools".

One of the banners read "cats and dogs are friends of human being. Have respect for lives by stopping eating them please!"

In many parts of China especially the southern regions, people take cat meat as their favorite diet. Previous reports said that in Guangzhou alone the citizens ate 10,000 cats every day in the winter season.

The activists, mostly women, poured into the restaurant demanding its owner to set free the cats. They burst into tears upon finding a skinned one in a fridge.

There were no live cats in the restaurant as the owner, according to an eyewitness, relocated them to other places on Friday night.

"I cannot go on with my business, and I will not sell cat meat any more," the restaurant owner said after removing his shop sign from the wall. However, he persisted in Guangdong there is a tradition in eating cats.

"We will continue to protest if this restaurant still sells cat meat," Isobel said.

To her satisfaction, many students on the spot told Isobel that they would keep a close watch on the restaurant and report to her if anything happens to cats.

Eating cats and dogs is often seen in Guangdong, but "you cannot keep eating only because it is a tradition," Isobel argued.

Miss Shenzhen for the year of 2005 Gao Haiyun also went to the restaurant to protest, calling passengers to "stop eating cats and dogs and become civilized".

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Thank you for the soap, BUT...

One thing I have come to expect here is that you never know what to expect.

I went to the bathroom here at work today, "did my business" and proceeded to the basin to wash my hands. I saw that for once there was soap in the soap dispenser. I thought I was lucky, extremely lucky. This was going to be a GREAT day. I was actually going to wash my hands at work with SOAP. I dispensed more than a generation portion of the thick, gooey, smelly soap into my hands and prepared to "scrub up" like a surgeon.

True to Chinese style the unexpected happened...someone had turned the water off to the wash basin leaving me with a double handful of soap and no way to get rid of it. I ended up using the water from the drinking water dispenser to rinse my hands. Chinese boss, thank you for the soap, but if you can't give me water to wash my hands then I'll just use your expensive bottled water from the drinking water dispenser. Maybe next time I'll check and make sure there is water coming from the tap first.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

No Problem

Today the morning was ushered in with some of the loudest thunder I have ever heard in my life. Scared the crap out of me, followed by the rain coming down in buckets, a regular "toad frog strangler" as daddy would have said. So the lightning fireworks, the thunder and the rain prompted me to hobble out of bed this morning an hour early, 6:00 AM. I "hobbled" out of bed because I am dealing with yet another recurring bout of the gout.

Called Stan, my trustworthy Chinese assistant and asked him if the car would be on time this morning. It was 8:00 and he sounded like I woke him up. The answer, "Oh I thought that perhaps you would take the day off since you were having problems with your foot". Now how many times have I told him NOT to think for me, that western minds are NOT LIKE Chinese minds? He told me that he would call me back and let me know when the driver would arrive and I asked him to please ask the driver to come INSIDE the apartment complex and wait for me in front of my building because of my hurting foot and the torrential downpour. I was clear, VERY CLEAR about this. "No problem", says Stan.

Let me do a little translating for you. "No problem" means just the OPPOSITE of that in Chinese. It means we are going to find a way to make it a problem for you. We are going to take something very simple and turn it into something very complicated. I could write for days about this and give endless examples of how "no problem" always becomes the biggest inconvenience you can possibly imagine.

Calls back, car will arrive in 30 minutes, this means 8:30. 8:30 go out on the balcony and look. No car. Fortunately the rain had quit but my foot was still throbbing. Go downstairs, limp to the front gate of the apartment complex and there sits the driver eating breakfast, parked in his usual place with no intentions of following Stan's directions, that is IF Stan told him the directions at all. I was fuming! I practiced my best Chinese all the way to work with the intention to blast Stan once I saw him. Things like "how can we communicate complex things when you can't even get simple things straight?" or "What part of in front of my apartment don't you understand?"

I get to work, no Stan...he took the day off. I guess he wasn't counting on me working today so he decided he would slough off. If I had known this I WOULD HAVE taken the day off. NO PROBLEM!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bye-bye DaVinci Code

The Chinese government, bowing to pressure from the Chinese Catholic church, has pulled the DaVinci code from the screens of all Chinese cinemas. The movie was about to overtake "Titanic" as the highest grossing film in Chinese history and had already earned more money than any film in China this year.

I guess the only way that I will get to see the movie now is to buy a $1.00 pirated copy of the movie from one of the street vendors. While the government is successful in pulling the movie from the theaters it is less successful in stopping DVD piracy.

Who says religion does not have a voice in China?

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Weekend in Guangzhou

Guangzhou...known to many as 'Canton' it is the capital city of Guangdong province and the home of 10 million people.

I may be moving there soon, so I decided to go and have a look around.

The place is huge! The best way to get around is the subway. The subway here reminded me a lot of the subway stations in Tokyo but a little less confusing to navigate. The subway was clean, cheap, fast and fortunately not too crowded. I suspect that this was due in part to it being the weekend. My guess is that on weekdays that the subway is very crowded.

I took the subway from the FangCun bus station to the TianHe district of Guangzhou. Guangzhou is divided into 12 different districts. TianHe is the 4th largest of these districts and has a population of around 1.10 million people. TianHe is the district where I may be working and is also home to all of Guangzhou's computer stores and a gigantic shopping center called Grandview Mall. Grandview Mall is 6 stories high with each level about the size of the Mall of Georgia.

I was more interested though in the places to eat than the shopping area. Inside the mall was a McDonald's, Pizza Hut, KFC, sushi restaurant, Brazilian steak house (like Fogo de Chao but not as fancy) and a Las Vegas style buffet restaurant, just to name a few. Saturday night I ate at the sushi restaurant and it soon became very obvious to me that the wait staff in Guangzhou are not as friendly as the folks in Zhongshan. All of them seem to have a "big city", snotty attitude. This proved true both at the Hunan restaurant that I visited and the Brazilian steakhouse as well. Taxi drivers were also a pain to deal with. People here are just not as friendly as the folks in Guzhen.

Came away with mixed emotions. Certainly a nicer place to live than Guzhen...more to do, more convenient to get around but none of that hometown atmosphere that Guzhen seems to have. I will be going back in a couple of weeks to look at apartments. Hopefully the real estate people are a little more friendly than the restaurant and taxi folks.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Dear Mr. Chinese Businessman

You need a lesson in entertaining and manners. I have lived here for over a year now and I have a few observations:
  1. Just because you like to eat snakes, pigeons and waterbugs does not mean that your customers enjoy the same delicacies. Most of them would prefer eating beef, pork or chicken rather than turtles, frogs, snakes and sparrows. Worst case scenario they would prefer KFC or McDonald's to some of the items that you expect them to eat when they come here. They are not impressed that the plate of conchs or the whole pigeons cost 150RMB. They are disgusting to look at and disgusting to eat. Save yourself and your company some money and take your customers to a Hunan or Sichuan restaurant where they can at least enjoy some decent beef or pork instead of the other critters that you want them to try.

  2. Turn off that damn cell phone! They are here to spend money with you, not listen to you rant for 20 minutes on a cell phone in another language. If you must, absolutely must talk on the phone, then excuse yourself, leave the room and have your discussion. Apologize when you return, then turn it off! That is much more impressive than continuing to take calls. Everyone knows you are busy, everyone knows you are an IMPORTANT person but make your customer feel important. After many of them have been on a plane for more than 20 hours to meet with you.

  3. Quit the hocking and spitting. It is gross as hell and nobody likes to hear or see this. Would it hurt to occasionally discretely SWALLOW that junk instead of making such a production of this?

  4. Stop trying to get them drunk. It's not funny and most foreigners do not 'slam' alcohol the way you think that they do. We do not do 'shots' in business settings. Most customers would prefer a good glass of beer or wine to cognac or baijiu. Most of them would rather sit back and ENJOY that glass of beer or wine rather than try and compete with your Chinese drinking prowess.

  5. Let them rest. Many customers that come to China have been on planes for more than 10 hours. The customers from the US, South America, and Canada have been traveling for more than 20 hours. Give them a break and let them rest. Make an early night of it for them and they will thank you tomorrow. Trying to keep them up by eating until 9:00 PM and then taking them to sing karaoke until midnight does not do you or them any favors.
Just remember, the people that come to visit you and your factory are your CUSTOMERS. They do not come here to entertain you but rather to spend money so you can afford to live in that nice house and drive that Mercedes or BMW. Calling them fat and stupid is not cute, some of them do know how to speak the language.