So what did we really do in China ?
Well Shenzhen to be exact; the poor man’s Hong Kong or Kuala Lumpur is what I would call it. A newbie South Asia city nevertheless , a thirty years new/ old modern urban statement ; one of those special economic zones that just grew up to be a shinning conglomerate of business like Lego blocks dressed in chrome –glass –steel reaching out its metallic talons into the blue and white sky . Somebody stop me I can go on and on and on!!! I was so, so impressed by the monstrous edifices .
So it was not really China at all you see what I mean? Even though we did the “border crossing” which took us three hours ; the lugging of all our luggage from conveyor belt in airport to shuttle to immigration shed to bus to hotel in Shenzhen , (Oh why oh why do I carry so many clothes and pairs of foot wear and my own shampoo and hair dryer and this and that ??? ) it was just from one steel and glass show piece to another!
Any visions of the China I had carried from my long cherished and dog eared Pearl S Buck and Somerset Maugham or even Crouching Tigers and Hidden Dragons were just that – Hidden !!
But to give its due the place seemed the perfect place for a conference – hotels all snuggled together around the snazzy conference venue all walking distances to and fro and a Pizza Hut , Mc Donald’s and Starbucks just around the corner for good measure in case any home sick soul was starving !!
Well our first meal in China was at the Pizza Hut –so do not laugh!!! we were neither home sick nor starving just in a hurry to get lunch over with and get to Registration !!
Clean, neat and tidy; wide roads and orderly traffic and so walking to the conference venue was never a problem except that it was HOT HOT HOT and of course the green light would turn red in all of a minute and half which meant that even before we were two thirds of the distance to the other side of the road vehicles in some mean haste would begin to bear down upon us eager to take that right turn in a great hurry .
But we had nothing to fear for we soon found out that among Pat’s very many skills was this one too – bringing China to a halt !!! More than once Pat with her imperious look and a regal wave of her hand was able to hold at bay any bus ,car or taxi that came in our way , leaving the way safe and clear for us . Halting China in it’s tracks – I like the sound of that and who but Pat to do it with such panache and style !!
The other big rescue act from Pat was when Mei Ching locked herself in the loo ! Futile struggles from the inside did not help and even while Pat was telling poor Mei Ching hey calm down, Viji here will stand guard and watch while I go and get someone poor Mei Ching was already banging on the door in panic and struggling to open the door. Before we had to resort to any heroics or even say Open Sesame Mei Ching herself somehow managed to swing it and she was out !! Oh we had a good laugh all of us for sure !
Walking the length and breadth of the humungous conference venue trying to get to the sessions on time and sitting in those , session after session did wear us out and it seemed right we seek some sustenance at that Mecca of rest and recuperation. So it was not too long before we found our way albeit a bit sheepishly and guiltily to grab a cup of Seattle’s best and sank happily one late afternoon into the welcoming couches at the Starbucks .
When in Rome do as the Romans do and when in China please do not steal their china should have been stamped on my passport. Those who know me well know I can be worse than a bull in any china shop given my passion for collecting cups and mugs so when the poison of my choice was served in this most elegant and distinctive Starbucks mug I knew I had to have it. White, streamlined and with an unusual addition; a delicately detailed leaf in three dimension on the outside just right to twirl tautly the string of the tea bag. Sadly though, I was told this particular style was not on sale. Oh no please I almost wailed and gave a pleading look to the young man waiting on our table. You can imagine my surprise and glee when with a conspiratorial gleam in his eyes, he said that maybe someone would break this mug back in the kitchen that day or maybe even he had never served me my coffee in this mug but in one of those Grande paper cups so would anyone miss it if I just put it in my bag?
So yes, I did walk away with their china ; touched and impressed by the gallant and customer savvy attitude of the staff. He endeared himself even more to us by painstakingly obtaining the address of the Hard Rock Café for us and writing it out in Chinese so our taxi driver would know where to go – though it is another story that we found out it had shut down.
We rode the very efficient MRT to an Italian joint for dinner that night – so my first and last meal, in China were both Italian and what does that say?
And oh one more thing I missed in China – never saw anyone on a bicycle !!! And since we did not get to see the Great Wall of China, they brought the Great Wall to us. If you do not believe us then here are pictures to prove it