Journal

02/12/04

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Hello my name is John Hill and I am from USA, Texas...

(Oldest entries are at the bottom)

9/5/2003

Back in Shanghai. I've been really tired form jet lag so I haven't gone yet but it's Saturday and I'll be hitting the dirty Lu (Mao Ming Lu that is) tonight for sure. My luggage was lost for three days but it's now safely back in my hands no thanks to ANA or AA. Oh, I've got a new assignment at work too. I'll be acting manager of Engineering Support Services, as well as still supporting the on boarding /development of a manager in test. Sounds like a lot of work! I'm excited about my trip to outer Mongolia the end of September for two weeks.  I'm going with some friends from Shanghai.
 

8/5/2003

Living in Silver Court apartments for over a year now.  I've had two roommates, Simon and Alex. 

Chinese New Wear I took off for Thailand.  As luck would have it, Brian Wallace  from the football team, and Abi Taylor were on that same flight.  We had a great time down there, except for a bit of minor ear pressure issues on the plane.  We had a bit too much to drink on the plane and had a bear of a time finding accommodations.  They turned out pretty good and we spent the night together in BangKok.  The next Day I was off to Phuket, and Ko Pee Pee.  Phuket was pretty cool but also prety touristy.  Ko Pee Pee, an hour are two boat ride from Phuket, was amazing!  I didn't want to leave that place, and almost didn't.  These two Swedish guys needed crew for a 50' sail boat and I nearly took them up on the offer.

I spent Christmas 2002 in Shanghai.  IT was a pretty cool time.  I totally decked out my place with loads of Christmas stuff.  I also cooked a big Christmas feast for about 15 friends.  After Dinner I went to a Christmas party for the Malone's soccer team.  You'll find a few photo's of those guys around here and there.   Actually I really have made some awesome friends that all started in a mar, over Christmas celebrations, some six months ago.

Then in November of 2002 I went back to Austin for a business trip.  I tacked a few days vacation onto the work and had a wonderful 30th birthday. 

I've traveled quite a bit.  For the October holiday in 2002 I spent a lot of time in Manila.  I went with Jens Grukenmeier to this little resort, up a two hour speed boat ride and then on a 5 hour long boat ride.  Check out the pictures for more details.  If you're really interested, I'v got a DVD of the trip I can let you borrow.

 

7/1/2002

Moved out of Portman

Yellow sheet issues

Satellite TV issues

Couch sucks

TV is wrong

No ADSL

Ordered up pizza and wine

 

6/30/2002 Sunday

Sunday started off bad.  I had one hell of a head ache and to top it off there was construction going on in the hotel right below my floor at 9:00 am.  Jack hammers on steel beams!  It was really fun!  I couldnít go back to sleep so I took some Chinese headache medicine and went out for some food.  I went to Taco Poco, a local Mexican food place and had a Chimichanga.  It was the closest thing to Chuyís yet.  Actually really good, and they deliver for a dollar! 

I had told Alex the night before that Iíd go with him to check out some places for him to take the kids in the summer camp to Sunday afternoon but at this point I wasnít really feeling up to it.  I had some breakfast and then went back to my room to lay down.  About 2:30 Alex called and asked if I wanted to go.  I still wasnít able to sleep because of the construction so I said sure.  He came by the place and we set out to explore.  He had several places on his list to visit but we only had to go to two.  We were scouting out roller skating rinks for the kids to go to the next week.  The second one we went to was pretty cool.  It was 10 kuai, a little  more than a dollar for all you could skate.  They also let us play pool and try out the skates for free.  Itís nice to be able to throw around a really big establishments name for them to do business with potentially.  After we had our fill of the roller skating we went on to an Internet Cafť.  It was really amazing.  It was unbelievably cheap with aver 500 computers and 21 inch monitors and tons of Chinese playing games, surfing the web, and emailing all over the place.  Really pretty cool.

Alex had some work to do and since I sit at a computer all day I bailed and got some food and then went to watch Brazil smash Germany.  Alex got back about 7:30 and I went up to his place at half time and finished watching the game there.  After that I came back home and crashed.  It had been a long weekend!

 

6/29/2002 Saturday

Wow, What a day!  This was probably the best time Iíve had since Iíve been here.  I slept till about noon which was unusual.  Usually I had been woken up by stomach aches by this time, but today it didnít happen.  A good start!  Today was the big American Chamber of Commerce 4th of July celebration.  Yeah, it was on the 29th of June but at least it was supposed to be booze, bbq, and lots of Americans!  I got there right when it started, 3:00pm and walked around the place.  It was pretty cool.  They had tons of booths set up with all the American restaurants providing free food.  Well, almost free, you paid 200 RMB for a ticket and got food coupons and a bag with some goodies in it.  They had lots of games set up for mixers and there were close to 3000 Westerners there.  I met up with Ken, my boss, about 3:30 and was spending time with him and the people from his church.  We ate a lot and played a game called Kings.  The other card players were the head of the US visa department at the consulate here, his daughter, a freshman at UTSA, Ken, and a guy that owns an import/export furniture business.  Heís going to have a couch custom made for me and help me coordinate shipping it all back to the US when I leave.  He told me about a guy that he helped purchase five different custom made bedroom sets with six pieces of really nice furniture, and a custom living room set, and have it shipped back to the US all for only $11,000 US dollars.  Anyway, he agreed to make me a couch and then agreed to thrown in an autumn if I gave him my hamburger food coupon, so I did.  The game went on for a while and then I got bored and went to get some food.  None of the group I was playing with drink so that was another reason to need to move on.  It just wouldnít be the 4th w/out BBQ and beer. 

I went to get some Pizza and in line met Lucinda, Alex, and Allie.  We didnít talk too much there but I ran into them a bit later and Alex and I hit it off really well.  Heís from Denmark and has been studying in Wunan for the past two years, so he speaks Chinese pretty well.  Heís now the Director of the Childrenís camp at the Portman, the hotel where I have been staying.  Lucinda is his roommate and one of the camp councilors.  The rest of the day was a blast.  Alex knew several people and introduced me to them as we went on through the day.  I met his boss, Karen White, the Director of Customer Relations at the Shanghai Center, a really large office / residence complex, I met one of the VPís for GM, and several other Americans that do various things in Shanghai.  We spent the rest of the afternoon eating, drinking, did I mention all the beer and Bacardi Breezers were free, and listening to bands.  I almost felt like I was at Aqua Fest but with free drinks.  It was great.  My only complaint was that there were no fireworks.  Thatís one of my favorite things about the 4th and youíd have thought that in China of all places the fireworks would have been abundant.  I still havenít seen any.  That evening was the 3rd place game for the World Cup.  It was a really good game.  Turkey won over Korea 3-2!

Check out all the pictures of the event!

The 4th celebration was over at 10:30 so we headed back to the Shanghai Center to get ready to go out.  I got cleaned up and went over to their place and met two other girls, Alexís roommates from Wuhon, an Italian and a Finnish girl.  They were both really amazing.  All three of them could speak 4 or 5 languages and to each other they would switch in mid sentence between languages.  It was unbelievable.  Well we got ready to go out and were headed to check out this place, The Stage that was rumored to have 5 kuai shots of Jose Quervo Especial, Repasado, and 1 kuai pints of beer.  Thatís 12 cents a beer and 60 cents a shot!  Thatís what Iím talking aboutÖ..Well I guess you can figure out how the rest of the night went.  The only part that isnít obvious is that there was this Chinese girl there that was buying us drinks.  Alex and I that is.  She was also very forward and very flirtatious.  Because family is reading this thatís where Iíll leave that story, If you really want to scoop, you gotta call to find out the rest.  (From the US thatís 001, 86, 13838389023)  Letís just say that about 1:30am Alex and I figured it outÖ.

About 2:30 we decided weíd head to another place, closer to home.  A dive bar called Windows.  It was down in the subway station about two blocks from the hotel.  It was actually a pretty cool bar.  We stayed there till about 3:30 and then headed home to bed.

 

6/28/2002 Friday

Friday night Sam came by and we went out to Dinner.  He had been bragging about this place to go eat beef for a while. Itís a Brazillian place called Brazillian Beef.  I figured, ok, maybe it will be good.  I had been passing it every day also and it looked like it would be a good place to eat.  Anyway, I was a little disappointed when I first got there and found out it was an all you can eat place.  It was 88 kuai, about 11 bucks.  I was hoping for Sullivans and I got Jimís.  It was an interesting concept of a place though.  All you can eat and the wait staff come round to your table with the meat grilled and skewered and slice it off right in front of you.  I ventured out a bit too and ate something I wouldnít normally eat.  Actually, I misunderstood the waiter and thought he said Chicken Hawk, probably not even such an animal.  Actually what he said was Chicken heart!!!  I got three of them and before I realized I had eaten one.  I can now tell you why those things are in the little nasty white containers in the grocery store and are used for fish bait.  Yeah, thatís right, all you trot-liners out there know what Iím talking aboutÖÖIt sucked!  Needless to say I wasnít that impressed with the food.

 

6/27/2002 Thursday

Network link back to Austin is down all morning.

 

6/26/2002 Wednesday

Wednesday morning I woke up early to call into a conference call for work.  That would have been fine normally but the reason I work up was because I was nauseous.  I wonít go into the gory details but letís just say I didnít leave the bathroom for very long that day.  I guess the food at that restaurant yesterday was really, really, bad.  I was able to make it down to the local supermarket in my hotel to get some juice, crackers, and some medicine, but only to find out that they can no longer sell medicine.  Actually, they were never supposed to sell any medicine.  The government wonít allow them to and evidently they had gotten caught the day before and fined.  They did actually still have some though, it was just hidden in the back room.  I got some stomach medicine and went back to my room to bed.  Oh, on the way back I stopped by the American Chamber of Commerce and bought a couple of tickets to the 4th Celebration ticketsÖ.Itís on the 29th!  What up with that?

 

6/25/2002 Tuesday

Today I decided that I was going to try to find out where to get my custom made couch built.  I want to get one made of the same type of leather that I have in Austin.  Maybe a different color, I havenít decided just yet.  I want it to be really big though.  Iím thinking it will be about eight feet long with four feet wide cushions.  Iím not sure how wide that is with the back included but pretty big I think.  Anyway, I had an address of the place but no phone number so I jumped in a cab and off I went.  I wasnít able to tell the driver how to get there of course so I just pointed to the address.  It took a while to get there but eventually we got to the address.  I got out and walked around a bit but I couldnít find the place.  I was even brave enough to ask a few people and they pointed in the direction of where the numbers in the address lead me to but it was just a large warehouse looking place.  That could have been it but definitely not what I expected.  I couldnít find anyone that spoke English there so I gave up.  While I was in the cab on the way home I noticed I was on the West side of that road and maybe the place was on the East side. 

Well, going to the place didnít work so I called the lady I had gotten the book with the address in it from and she gave me the guys mobile number.  Iíll try to get in touch with him again soon.

I was still feeling adventuresome after my trip to the furniture place I couldnít find so I thought Iíd try one of the places around the office for lunch.  Thatís it in the picture (restaurant2) with the red dot on the front.  Before I could eat there I had to get there.  Look at the roads under in the other picture (restaurant1) that I had to cross, and no, there arenít any cross walks or crossing lightsÖÖOnce again with the traffic I take my life in my own hands.  Well, I got there and there and the place was huge.  I got seated and they gave me a menu.  It was in English and it had pictures.  Well, I looked through the menu and couldnít find one thing that I thought looked good.  There must have been like 80 dishes and they almost all scared me, pickled pigeon, fired duck chin, and so on and so onÖ..The pictures in the menuÖI wish I had them all to send to you.  It was frightening.  The pickled pigeon was a whole pigeon, head and all, sprawled out on a plate so youíre looking at it from the top.  The fried duck chins were exactly that.  They were ducks chins from the neck to the end of the bill, stretched straight and deep fried.  Well, I was pretty hungry and was being adventuresome, right, so I picked the one thing I though might be OK, chicken with chili peppers.  It looked tame enough in the menu.  I also got some cucumbers with some sesame oil on them.  When the chicken arrived it looked like it was enough to feed all of China.  It was a huge cooking pan, like the ones you use to bake turkeyís in filled with whole red chilies peppers, sliced garlic, sliced ginger, and chicken.  Well In China when they say that typical saying from McDonalds, parts is parts, in reference to the food, thatís what they mean.  They take the whole chicken and gut it and then they chop it up, bone and all, some shit about the meat nearest to the bone being the best tasting.  Thereís nothing like a mouth full of splintered chicken bones youíre your chicken meat.  Well, like I said, I was hungry so I at what meat I could find off the bones, picking out the feathers, or was that hair?  I got done rather quickly because there wasnít much in the way of actual meat in the bowl, just tons of those red chili peppers.  I donít know if I was supposed to eat them or not.  I didnít.  All in all it was a pretty bad lunch.  I paid and made my way back across the many streets to the office.

This was the Germany and Korea soccer game.  I went to an American bar, Malones, and had chicken fajitas.  Oh how I wish I was at Chuyís.  They were OK fajitas.  After dinner I stuck around and had several pints of beer with a couple of the other Expats that were in the restaurant and watched Germany beat Korea.  It was a really good game.

Finally about midnight I made it back to my hotel room and crashed for the night.

 

6/24/2002 Monday

A friend Iíve made, Sam, invited me to dinner at his place.  He works for the relocation company Iím using to get my stuff over here.  Heís pretty cool to hang out with.  Thatís good because itís rough not having people here that you can relate with and talk to.  Heís in his 20ís and from England.  Heís been in Shanghai for a couple of years and speaks Chinese really well.  Anyway, we hang out a good bit. Tonight he offered to cook dinner.  I was starving as I had worked till about 7:30 and lunch is still no good.  He made some dish with pasta and sauce and broccoli and eggs all mixed together.  It was a little sweet for my taste but loads better than most of the stuff Iíd been eating.  After dinner we watched Diabolique.  I had never seen it and it was really a pretty cool movie. 

 

Sunday 6/22/2002

I went into the office today.  May, it gets really hot in there over the weekend.  Evidently Dell is too cheap to keep the AC running in the evenings and over the weekend.  Itís off at 8:00pm every day and on at 8:00am, except on the weekends when itís off from Friday till Monday morning.  Iím going to have to work on getting this changed.  I spent a few hours in there reading through some documentation and scrubbing some test processes.  I also called back home and talked to Graham and Justin.  I think Graham may have sold my Jet Ski.  Thatíd be pretty cool if he has.

After Iíd had my fill of work I jumped in a cab and tried to get to a store around the corner.  No luck.  The driver finally understood the name of the store I wanted to go to but he started taking me to the wrong one.  I finally told him no and the just forget it and take me to the hotel.

After I got back to the hotel I had a really expensive, not so great turkey sandwich and a 7up.  I was still pretty bored so I decided I was going to buy some shoes.  I mustered up all the determination I could find and headed to the mall.  I found an Athleteís foot and luckily a salesman that spoke English.  They only had one or two pairs of shoes in my size.  Evidently size 11 isnít that common in China.  Go figure, all the little short people over here donít have big feet.  Who would have though?  Well, I got my shoes and got back to the hotel and worked out for about an hour.  My two main goals are to be under 200lbs and in decent shape, and to have published all this stuff to a website with photoís by the time I return home in September.

 

Saturday 6/21/2002

 The past few days have been pretty trying.  But I guess they have also had some good moments too.  Iíve come to realize a few things about living and working on the other side of the world.  First of all, I realized that I need an organizer.  When I was working in the US it was easy to keep up with my schedule but now that I have meetings that happen at odd hours, so the hours are reasonable for both China and the US, it more difficult to keep track.  Iíve decided to get the Nokia 9220.   Itís a cell phone/PDA all in one.  Itís slightly expensive but I think it will be worth the expense to not have to carry both a PDA and a cell phone.  It also works as a test message pager so that eliminates another device also.  I left work early on Friday to watch the Brazil world cup match.  I went to the Long Bar for a burger and a beer and to catch the game.  It was a pretty good game and Brazil won.  After that I figured Iíd try to find my new cell phone.  I set out after asking general guidance from the concierge at the hotel and was on a mission.  I went into the first mall down the block and it turns out, they donít sell cell phones there.  The next one was no luck either.  Then I saw a Nokia store across the street.  Great, I went over and they had the phone I wanted.  When I tried to talk to them though they walked off and acted like I wasnít there.  I guess they didnít want to try to speak English to me and my broken Chinese just isnít good enough for a purchase like this.  OK I thought, Iíll go on down.  I went into the next mall and found another Nokia store but they wouldnít talk to me because they didnít accept US credit cards, or so they said.  Then I went across the street where there was another Nokia store.  They were nice enough but they too wouldnít take a US credit card.  I was pretty frustrated by now so I was going to head home.  On my way out I noticed a lot of China Mobile, the local telecom company.  Well, they couldnít speak English either.  By now I was just frustrated and not feeling too well, my stomach was starting to churn, I decided to go home.

 Well, I got back to my hotel room (yup, still in a hotel room.) and I really wasnít feeling well.  I guess that burger I ate, or maybe the one I had eaten the night before at the Hard Rock, that was probably the one, gave me a mild case of food poisoning.  It didnít last too long though so I spent a few hours (some people call it the two hour flu so I hear) in my room in pain and then it was pretty much gone.  I ordered up some room service, watch the US get beat by Germany and went to bed. 

Saturday I figured Iíd give it one more go at trying to get a phone.  Well, I went to a big French department store and was determined to get a phone.  I was walking around the store and then decided to compare some prices on the televisions so I got out the phone Dell had bought for me to use itís calculator and it was gone.  CRAP!  I thought that maybe I had left it in my room but I hadnít.  It had fallen out of my pocket in the cab and was gone.  I tried calling it several times but to no avail.  I called my admin from work and she said not to worry but I felt really frustrated now.  Even though she said she had lost three in the past year, I have never lost one.  Well, she called and had the number disconnected and I told her I would replace it on Monday.  I just couldnít let go though.  As mad as I was I was determined to get a phone.  I went back to one of the places that didnít speak English and found someone that could help.  I actually bought my new Nokia.  I was really happy, even though it cost me a good bit of money, I had the phone.  Well, I got back home and since the damn thing is a PDA also it has an operating system and it turns out that the one I got was in Chinese!!!!!  I bought the 9220c and the picture I showed the person helping me buy the phone was the 9220i, the English version.  Well, I didnít take it back and finally got them to understand the predicament and got a refund but it really sucked.

Enough with the phones.  I canít believe how difficult something so simple can be.  I definitely need a personal assistant that speaks both languages.  That or I have to learn Chinese.  I think Iíll have to get the assistant in the short term though.  Iíll get a phone on Monday!

I got my pants that Iím having made fitted and they look pretty sharp.  I also picked up my two shits I had made.  They are really pretty cool.  I canít believe Iím actually going to start dressing up for work!!!  I still have to get some shoes.  My dress shoes are in my air shipment on itís way over and so is my belt.  Maybe I can try to go buy those items tomorrow.  Weíll see how it goes.  Thatís about it for now.  Iím off to find something to do.  Iíve got to do something fun tonight to make up for the miserable day Iíve had!

 

Thursday 6/20/2002

The day started out with my medical check.  Itís basically a physical required by the Chinese government to allow you to obtain a residence permit.  All pretty routine stuff.  It only took about an hour.  The y did standard measurements of height, weight, blood pressure, EKG, chest X-Ray, sonogram, and some other stuff.  The only part that was really bad was the drawing of my blood.  They want to make sure that no one coming into China has any STDís.  Thatís all well and good but the reason behind this is because a few years ago China collected blood and pooled it altogether, prior to testing it for AIDS.  Then they gave this blood back out to the public.  Well that caused quite a massive AIDS spread in the country so they are fairly paranoid about more cases coming into the PRC.  Well you sure couldnít tell they were paranoid by the practices at the clinic.  Iím fairly sure the needle was clean.  Iím not sure it was a new needle.  You know how they open needles from sealed packages in the US and carefully dispose of the needle, the gloves they wear, and wipe down the area.  Well, the needle they used on me came from a trey or needles.  All they did was take the cover off the needle.  It could have been reused is my point.  Then, they used the same sleeve to attach the needle to that they used on everyone.  It didnít come in direct contact with the blood, I donít think.  It was still pretty unsettling.  I tried to say something but the girl didnít speak English.  I hope it all works out.

I got a haircut today.  It wasnít even really all that hard.  Iím sure I paid more than the typical Chinese but at least it was a good experience.  It cost about $15.00 US which is pretty cheep for what all I got.  They first took me to a room to shampoo my hair and gave me a hair massage and a condition.  Then, a stylist spent almost 45 minutes literally sculpting my hair.  She really did a great job.  After she was done they took me back and gave me a rinse to get rid of all the extra hair, something most places Iíve gotten cuts at in the US never did.  Finally, she took me back to the stylist where she again proceeded to sculpt my hair with a blow-dryer and some gel into a fairly decent looking cut.  Altogether it took about an hour and I got out of there fairly satisfied.  Not too bad for a $15 dollar cut.

 

6/19/2002 and before---From previous emailÖ

Just wanted to write you all to tell you how things are going.  Today starts the rainy season over here.  It rains (drizzles with a little thunder and is always overcast) 4 out of the seven days of the week for the next month or so.  It makes for a really beautiful Shanghai. 

Iím still struggling with my immigration process.  Iím got to go get a medical check tomorrow and then apply for a residence permit and then a work visa.  Then Iíve got to get an import license to bring in my personal items.  I had already shipped my work system over but since it is for personal use it is stuck in customs until I get all this paperwork doneÖ..fun stuff.  Luckily, because customs charges a storage fee, I didnít ship my other personal items yet.  They are still in Austin.  Hopefully Iíll have all my items of this nature squared away by the middle of July. 

Only one more month until I can really settle into my apartment.  And speaking of my apartment, Iíll be able to move in there at the latest, July 1.  After considerable negotiations with the landlord and the rent going up twice now before signing the lease I think that is finally settled.  I hope.  Itís a really nice place.  I canít wait for you all to come over and check it out.  Especially Lynn and Karen so they can but some antiques to help furnish the place.  Itís on the 26th floor in a corner of a high rise with lots of windows and balconies.  Iím still working on the Aye (maid/cook) but hope to have one soon. 

 Iím learning a little more Chinese every day.  Itís not an easy language but itís coming along.  Most people are really helpful.

 The food situation isnít the greatest.  I miss American Chinese food.  I could also use a dose of Chuyís right about now.  So far the food has just been OK.  I really havenít had a bad experience but it hasnít been great either.

 The taxiís arenít too bad if you donít mind taking you life in your own hands.  I am keeping count of the near death experiences I have.  Iím up to 10 so far.  At least they are cheep.

 

I could really use some pants.  I didnít bring enough with me.  I tried to go buy some yesterday and it was an experience.  All the pant sizes are metric and I donít really know my size there.  Also, they are all the same length so you have to get them all hemmed.  Thatís ok for Chinese because they do it in the store, even in places like Wallmart, but I wasnít able to communicate with them about this so I just gave up.  I did find some jeans in US sizes in the ďFriendship StoreĒ  The government run, store for foreigners.  It used to be the only place westerners could shop, until a few years ago.  I would have bought them there but I just couldnít bring myself to pay almost $200/us for a pair of jeans.

 

Some weird things that are really just kind of different.  The hand dryers are all extremely hot.  You know how those at Mother of Pearls didnít blow at all and were not really hot?  Well these are like hair driers on steroids.  This little figurine (attached picture) showed up in the window next to my cube today too.  Itís really kind of odd.  Itís maid of clay and still wet and Iím still not sure what purpose it serves or who put it here.

 

Well thatís about all the time Iíve got today.   Iíll email you more later.  Sorry this is a bulk mail but it was easier that way.

 

All of you dell folks need to install exchange instant messenger so I can talk to you online.  Keith Fafel will add you to the IM program at Dell.  Just send him a note.  For you folks outside of Dell, or servers block instant messaging from work to anyone outside of the Dell network.  Iíll have it set up at home soon though so I can talk to you from my home account (middle of July.)  So even you non Dell folks need to get IM setup.

 

 

Iíve got a Cell phone now so you can all call me there.  Country code is (86) then dial 13818189023.  Give me a call!

 

 

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