• Tag Archives Nanshan
  • An Event to Discover Shenzhen

    Arriving with run-in
    There was an event in August set up for new people and old to meet new people and to discover more about the city we live in, Shenzhen. This event was called a “passport” event, because little booklets with places for stamps were made up for each participant. Each person was given the booklet and a map and sent out to discover these places. We, and many other expats, were very excited for this event. I love the idea of finding out more information about Shenzhen and discovering more places to eat, shop, visit, and enjoy.

    Micah and I had made plans to meet another expat from America at the subway stop closest to where the event was starting. Kara, our friend, and Micah navigated us to the Wanxia street. Thought the sidewalk got a little wonky (the technical term) and so we had to cross the street to the left side. We walked past some random stores and small family restaurants with the lives fish and aquatic animals happily swimming then we crossed back over Wanxia so could cross the bigger east-west road at the cross walk. While we were waiting for the green dancing cross walk man to appear a couple of expat bicyclists heard us debating where to go after crossing the road. The man asked if we were going to the international school for the event and directed us to the end of the second block. Really simple. The blinking man came on and off we went.

    One of the docks near in Shekou, Shenzhe.
    On the other side of these boats is the walkway that we used and where we could smell the wonderful ocean breeze. A beautiful view for sure.

    This road was right on the beach so we could smell the salt in the air mixing with fish and seaweed. It was the pleasant ocean smell that people like. At the end of the block we ran into the woman who was heading up the event, Rose. Rose waved at us with her usual wonderful smile and energy.

    Inside the lobby we got to pick up our starting “passports” and a map. There were a couple of tables already there in case we didn’t want to go all the way over to their locations. Most of the places were a few blocks away but these businesses were farther out then that. We gathered a few goodies, pamphlets and flyers from these businesses.

    Here is Dale (our Chinese friend for the day), posing for an impromptu picture with us.
    Here is Dale (our Chinese friend for the day), posing for an impromptu picture with us.

    Right before we were going to leave a Chinese man came over to each of our group members and asked to walk with us. Proffering he knew Chinese, had baidu maps (a Chinese digital map system) on his phone, and the map that we were all given, Dale stared at me with a bright smile waiting for my verdict. I couldn’t say no, so he joined us.

    Then were off like a heard of directionally challenged turtles
    Armed with Dale, Micah’s excellent directions and a map of the area we headed out into the bright sun. The stretch of bock that continued in the same direction held several of the points we needed to visit to receive a stamp. It was slow going at first.

    Nervously posing with a traditional tea set.
    I think I was suppose to be more stoic, but I am a nervous smiler and a lot of people just showed up as I was posing.

    We quickly went by a few shops and received more flyers, baked goods, and business cards. For instance at a German bakery called Backstube we were given delicious homemade soft pretzel. They were consumed before we could get pictures. At another place we were able to sample some traditional Chinese red tea called Hong Cha (红茶). It was delicious! They even let me pose with the tea set. As you can see its really a beautiful set. The reason I am smiling so big is because I was having a good time with everyone but a load of people showed up just as I sat down. Im a nervous smiler—I smile or scowl when I’m nervous.

    New crew

    We found the board game company, Hasboro. They had several fun statues; here is a duck and cube.

    At another shop down the line we ran into a woman who was alone who became a part of the pack.

    This woman named Alana was on business for a few months from Scotland! It was so much hearing her accent and talking to her about Scotland. I hope I get to go visit her someday as she told me she’d show me around her neck of the woods if we ever made it.

    Along the way we passed by a huge nursery that was going in soon. We had wonderful views of the beach and even passed an area that Alana explained was one of the very first areas built in Shenzhen about 20 years ago. This was a battery factory that had since then been renovated after moving to edge of the city. Presently the block was partly occupied by the Shenzhen branch (or maybe even the China branch if they only have one) of the Hasboro company. Look at all the signs and statues we encountered (The pictures are posted to the right and directly below.)

    Mr and Mrs Potato Head were there at Hasboro to wave at us.
    Mr and Mrs Potato Head were there at Hasbro to wave at us.
    We were also directed by the "Go" sign from Monopoly.
    We were also directed by the “Go” sign from Monopoly.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Confused moments

    The map showing some other points besides the ones for the event.
    The map showing some other points besides the ones for the event.

    Ever since we left the starting point Dale has been trying to lead us. At first we were perfectly fine with that as we were having a very nice walk, however it became clear that he didn’t really understand how to read the map very well and kept wanting to take us out of the way—way out of the way. Micah started to insist on taking better routes. He even wanted us to take a “short cut” down an alley (don’t worry it wasn’t a dark alley and we didn’t take it). Micah pointed out that it was the opposite direction that we needed to go. This seemed to deflate Dale a little. He stayed quiet for a while until Micah walked right past one of the other places we needed to go. He lit up a little more because he had been of use, poor guy.

    Chiropractor

    Flying topiary out of the subway near the chiropractor.
    Flying topiary out of the subway near the chiropractor.

    There were several places that were quite nice and a couple of restaurants we visited or walked past that we want to try again. The Indian Palace, a restaurant, was amazingly beautiful! I will have to try going there with a friend sometime for lunch since Micah doesn’t like Indian food.

    The next place that we visited that was really interesting was The First Chiropractor of Shenzhen with Dr Steve. He was offering free posture checks to see how much strain was on your skeletal system from built up injuries or from other chronic things. Micah and I tried it along with one of our group. They took a picture of us forward and then to the side and measured our balance weight distribution (how much weight you put on each foot). Our friend had perfect balance and a posture grade of 12 on a scale of no problem being zero and a lot of strain at 30. My balance was by 3kg (more on my bad foot) and a posture scale of 22. Eeek! I didn’t know I was that bad! However, the real plot twist was Micah’s score. He had an imbalance of 5kg and a posture score of 31!!! The doctor looked at him and asked “You don’t have any symptoms, at all?” Micah said he didn’t really have anything other than mild irritation with his knees and sensitive muscles on his back. He does NOT like to have back massages because it throws him out of whack. The doctor just laughed.

    Now for me, I was told by a doc a few years back that I’d have to re-break my foot at some point. My foot has been getting worse and worse over the year, so we decided to ask the doc if he would do this. He told me he would not but would like to look at my feet. Long story short my arches have collapsed completely. He said really about 10% of people that have arch problems have arches as bad as me. When he just looked at me slightly concerned asking about my pain levels, I wanted to blush and tell him “Well I’ve always been a high achiever.” Hehe! Anyway, he told me I would need to get orthopedics if I ever wanted to reduce the pain and try to repair a bit of the damage. So we told him we couldn’t afford them now but would definitely come back to him when we could next year.
    New friends, gifts, new places, and fun

    The Hilton Hotel in Shenzhen has an endless pool over looking the bay with a piano on a marble island in the middle. I have to wonder how they get a piano player up there.
    The Hilton Hotel in Shenzhen has an endless pool over looking the bay with a piano on a marble island in the middle. I have to wonder how they get a piano player up there.

    We crossed paths with Rose again on our way out of the chiropractor’s place. We all waved wildly and shouted across the small plaza. Eventually we made it to the Hilton where we waited for a shuttle to take us to a new medical clinic and day surgery hospital made especially for foreigners but caters to everyone. While waiting we made the acquaintance of a couple. The wife is from Russia and the husband is from Brazil. They were quite fun to talk to! We made sure to exchange contacts.

    There are plenty of English speaking doctors who were trained in places like Australia, America, England and New Zealand. They gave us a tour of the wonderfully bright and beautiful clinic. The woman giving the tour spoke English quite well. However, Dale wanting to feel useful decided to translate her English to us. I have to say I was not very gracious in my annoyance. I never said anything but I should not have been annoyed at him. He must not feel important in his life very much. However, the Brazilian noticed this as well and kept laying the charm on Dale telling the tour guide and other clinic workers that he’s our boss and patted him on the shoulder a few times. The Brazilian earned a bit of respect. When I could not be gracious with this young man, this other man was. I am thankful that he was with us!

    After the tour they led us to a waiting room where we could rest or wait our turn for an optional health assessment. I already know I’m fat so I decided to forgo that particular information. So what did I do was refill my water bottle and eat a couple of bagels and cream cheese. Once again I am a deprived person but I think that was the first time I was able to have that particular food. I now understand why people like to eat this! It was delicious! This visit to Vista completed our necessary stamps required so they gave us our prize bag. It was filled with a few fun gifts and a huge stack of wonderful information about Shenzhen and China.

    Panorama shot of the gift bag goodies, flyers, cards, and booklets all about Shenzhen.
    Panorama shot of the gift bag goodies, flyers, cards, and booklets all about Shenzhen.

    One of the fun gifts was a bouncy ball. Our new friend, the Russian woman, was not at all sure what it was. She kept looking at it and rolling it around in her hand. We all kept telling her that she should throw it to the ground and she looked at us like we were crazy until someone took out their bouncy ball and showed her. She was quite fascinated with it. Its so funny to see the little things that are present in other countries or not.

    Walking home
    Most everyone took the metro (subway) to other locations. However, the clinic is only a half mile to a mile away from our apartment so we decided to walk. We ate lunch half way home and had a good walk. In the neighborhood where the clinic is, Coastal City, there are so many new buildings being built. We came across some very interesting and beautiful buildings. There was one that had some sort of connection between it and the adjacent building. Though, the connection looked like it had an angle but we weren’t sure if it was an optical illusion or not. Can you tell (see the picture below). Let me know what ya’ll think!

    Im not sure if the conjoining sections of the buildings behind me are horizontal or not.
    I’m not sure if the conjoining sections of the buildings behind me are horizontal or not.
    Here is a close up of the building. Do you think it is crooked or is it an illusion?
    Here is a close up of the building. Do you think it is crooked or is it an illusion?

     

     

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  • Dragon Boat Festival 2015

    This year the Dragon Boat Festival (aka Duanwu Jie) fell on June 21. If you would like to know more about the holiday in general then please check out my previous blog. If you have any questions then please let me know and Ill do my best to answer any questions.

    Micah and I went out for lunch that day and while we were walking home we came across a Dragon Boat Festival event. How about that!? Well actually it wasn’t like we just turned a corner and there it was. We could actually here it from blocks away. So when we took a path across the street we could kind of see what was going on, it just drew us in.

    We crossed the road to the Rainbow mall’s plaza, we were greeted by dozens of people in beautiful costumes, loud music, and a sea of smiling happy faces. Walking over you could see that there were several areas that had different things going on. The first one we noticed was the stage where a man was singing in a rock style (which is not typical for the mainstream pop music of China). I might be wrong but to me it sounded like he was trying to imitate some Western types of singing. Though it was fun to listen to. What do you think?

    The next act was a duet from the two people that served also as hosts throughout the show. They did well. Its really interesting to hear the differences in Chinese singing compared with western singing.

    Third act actually comes in two parts. Partway through the performance the sound cut out. Micah had a hypothesis that it was because it kept overheating. Though we’ll never quite know for sure. After the sound cut out the dancers did a great job trying to continue, but ultimately stopped. I wont post that video in this blog, but I did upload it.

     

    One of my favorite events was a surprise, Gangnam Style (by Psy). The dance also was cut short by the sound but was still fun. It was preformed by a Dragon Boat Festival rice ball called a Zong zi (see blog for more information), a pink kitty, a tiger, and a ram/sheep. After the sound cut out the Zongzi decided she didnt want to wait it out and clumsily found a seat right there on stage while the others tried to look cute and happy to buy some time.

    The next two act were wonderful. There was a solo sung by the male host. he did a wonderful job. He had some sort of ribbon or something on his very red suit that makes him look like the first prize at a state fair showing.

    Then there was a fantastic Chinese umbrella dance. It was so beautiful. The costumes are marvelous.

     

    Last but least was a final solo from the female host. Out of all the songs this one was my favorite. I can understand a bit of the song and can hear a lot more of the individual syllables through beautiful vocals. I know these types of vocals are not every one’s cup of tea but I hope those that dont like it can experience this as a sample of China and appreciate her training and effort. This song is one I have heard before; it is named Yue Hao Yue Ling. It speaks of how things will get better and better, quite a nice sentiment for sure.

     

    In front of the stage was an area where I think  you could hang wishes and also an area (paid area) where you could make the Zongzi with family beside where kids could decorate canvas. Some artists painted beautiful water colors and while we watched a cameraman filming the event decided to film us watching. We both got nervous so I’m sure we weren’t that interesting. Below are those additional pictures.

    Till next time,

    May the road rise to meet you.

    Hanging wishes
    Its quite customary for people to write down prayers or wishes for a holiday or time period. I think that is what this is.
    Families making Zongzi together
    Making Zong zi is part of the holiday, but it is a family part so you can see a mixture of 3 generations making it together.
    Videographer filmed us watching the event.
    There were so many people surprised that we were there, even the camera man.
    Beautiful hand painted pictures.
    Beautiful hand painted pictures.
    Hand painting of a character
    This is a representation of a character, i believe from some ancient stories.

     

     

     

     

     

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  • Dutch Flower Town

    I have been wanting to plant and grow some culinary herbs since I tend to use a lot in my cooking. In America you can easily get herbs at reasonable prices fairly easily, but it’s not easy here for several reasons. The most obvious reason would be the language barrier, but the herbs I use are Western, which are not typical in Chinese cooking. With one exception, coriander (cilantro) are available anywhere there are vegetables being sold.

    I had seen some dried herbs at a few stores that stock many import products; however I was not happy with those prices. Asking around to other expats and some Chinese friends didn’t yield much, but an acquaintance did suggest the Dutch Flower Town, though she was unsure of where it might be. So I did some research and found that there is a flower market a few blocks north of Micah’s work. We thought there was a good chance that it was the Dutch flower town. Our original plans got delayed when I came down sick, however we went the next weekend.

    The overpass boundary, covered in vines.
    The overpass marking the farthest north I’ve been and separating the two areas.

     

    It was beyond hot and humid, almost oppressive, but the sky was beautiful. For a quick, easy, and cheap lunch we went to McDonald’s and then proceeded to walk the few blocks to the park where the flower town was at.

    One Step Farther From Home

    Once we passed the intersection right north of Micah’s work place, we reached the farthest point north I had ever been on foot. The fact that this “line” was at an intersection of major roads was actually inconsequential, based on functionality. North of the intersection the area didn’t seem to be particularly useful to me as it didn’t hold many shops or stores. It was really interesting to see the difference in our surroundings once we passed under the highway. The highway that crossed the northbound road went over creating an underpass covered in vines and a path for pedestrians to safely cross. It’s really interesting to live in a city that hasn’t been specifically designed for pedestrians, but still facilitates walkways and paths for safe and relatively easy commuting on foot or bike.

    As we stood under the overpass, we couldn’t help notice that the intersection seemed to mark more then just the crossing of two roads—it also seemed to be the border between two distinct areas in the city. The difference between the two sides is fairly noticeable.

    On the south side, you can see a very prominent bustling, urban center with skyscrapers on either side of the road held back by a row or two of trees and bushes. Nature still holds a huge part in the area’s atmosphere. However, on the north side it is less developed, I suppose, because of the park and similar areas which all create small wooded areas. On this side, it is rather cement and fences that seem to be holding back nature from overtaking the pedestrians.

    On the way we pass some girls in short flowy skirts who are selling flower hair bands with long ribbon tails and some men wearing aprons selling street food. The whole sidewalk has been squished between overflowing nature on the left and the line of trees on the right (between us and the road); so when the sidewalk ended at a plaza our line of sight completely opened up revealing the plaza on the other side of a descending road into an underground garage. In the center of the plaza is a display of a Dutch wooden shoe and windmill letting us know that had arrived.

    Behind the windmill is the large gate arching over the enterance with a clock tower over it.
    There the gate behind it the windmil.

    We crossed the plaza to look at a very unhelpful map—we couldn’t even find where we were and I’m pretty sure the roads weren’t even in a correct orientation. Behind the center piece stretched a gate with the sign which read “Dutch flower town”. The first thing I noticed as I approached was that we kept hearing a recording played repetitively in a short circuit. I’m always a little weary to approach recordings just because I can’t understand the Chinese on speakers and do not wish to go anywhere I shouldn’t. Though Micah figured out it was from the guard tower advising visitors to have good behavior. This seemed to be verified when we found a much more helpful map of the area with a long message about following the rules.

    Finally! A helpful map!
    Finally! A helpful map!
    The message on the map encouraging everyone to have good behavior.
    The message on the map encouraging everyone to have good behavior.
    A section of the middle stretch inhabited by a large painted cow.
    A section of the middle stretch inhabited by a large painted cow.

    Running straight back from the arch was a strip of green, trees, benches, and décor running down the center of the main stretch. On the right and the left were two or three cafes interspersed with small shops jam-packed with curios, special succulent pots, various decorations, and several small plants. They were all cute, small and crowded. Chinese are great at making the most out of a space; it’s actually an incredible skill to see.

    The place looked temporary almost like a fair or expo with huts and small buildings that are simple in their construction. Though you can tell it is more of a permanent place.

     

    We started out by looking at the row to the right, but quickly saw these were more curios and gifts, which probably didn’t have what we wanted. However, a few yards down we saw several alleys running deeper between even more small buildings spilling over into the alley with flowers and plants.

    There were shops with many of the same plants and planting supplies, however there were also several unique shops and plants. Somewhere in the middle of the town was a beautiful garden area with lattices overtaken with flowered vines. The roof was completely covered over which created shade for the interconnected maze of walls and scattered benches. I think it was more crowded inside the shade than outside. Most of the people were young Chinese people who, as a past time, love taking selfies in beautiful or unique areas.

    A row of small simply built, and very crowded shops.
    A row of small simply built, and very crowded shops.
    The other row of cute shops on the other side of the main walkway.
    The other row of cute shops on the other side of the main walkway.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Now for the Hunt

    A shop over flowing with beautiful flowers and plants.
    A shop over flowing with beautiful flowers and plants.

    The more we walked the more we uncovered small alleys with crowded small buildings overflowing with flowers and even some trees spilling out into the walk ways. It was absolutely beautiful.

    My plan of action was to take my list of desired herbs which I had written in Chinese and English and go from place to place asking if they had any of the listed plants. After about four or five places I found basil and rosemary. Feeling positive after finding these two plants, we continued on shop after shop after shop with no more luck. Along the way I did buy a few pots but didn’t even find any seeds.

    There were quite a few shop owners that could speak English and towards the end there was several Chinese (and maybe a middle aged Japanese woman who spoke great Chinese and English) that tried to help me. They had a hard time trying to figure out what the remaining herbs I wanted was; but they couldn’t quite understand the difference between mint and basil and oregano. The Chinese for these were very similar which created even more confusion since they are from similar plant families. But they sure did try. It was an odd mixture of Chinese, English, and Chinglish. I really enjoyed the encounter, because the women were so upbeat and determined to solve this problem. We all had our phones out using the internet with translators and dictionaries and even some pictures. In the end, they concluded it was a lost cause to find them in the little flower town but wished me luck none the less.

    Another quaint shop with overflowing flowers.
    Another quaint shop with overflowing flowers.
    Another quaint shop with overflowing flowers.
    A very crowded shop with hanging and stacked flowers out front.

    Since there was really just one more alley we hadn’t gone down, we finished the remaining alley and headed out of the flower town to head back home. By the time we got home I was exhausted from the walking, the sun, the heat, and my burden of a few pots, two new plants and the first sunburn of the season. Though, despite not finding all the plants I wanted and being so tired it was a really good day at the Shenzhen Dutch Flower Town.

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