January 20, 2010
A few things have happened this last month. I meet Xiao Yue (Little Moon) about a month before I went to Australia. She can't speak much English and my Chinese is still very bad but she seems to like me anyway.
This was taken on her birthday. There was a bit of a food fight with the cake so we ended up with cream on our faces.
I am now doing some consulting work for a local university. Mainly helping them with the mechanical design of one of their many robotic projects. They have some very cool soccer robots (not the project I'm working on) that use a camera pointed upwards and a conical mirror to give it a 360 degree view of it's surroundings. With 4 omni wheels it can not only see in all directions but also move in any direction.
Now that I have a 1 year visa and a girlfriend I have finally gotten around to getting my own appartment. Next on my to-do list is getting my Chinese drivers licence. The traffic no longer seems crazy to me and I no longer have dreams where I am driving on the wrong side of the road so I think I'm ready.
As I was passing through customs at the Hong Kong airport I herd a voice ask "Is it always this hard?". I remember feeling the same way when I first came to China so while I was waiting for my luggage I started talking to one very tired American named Noah. It turned out he was going to ZhongShan as well but only had vague plans of getting a ferry.
As it was now the middle of the night we could not cross the border into China till morning so we got a room each at the airport hotel to get a few hours sleep. In the morning he came to ZhongShan with me by bus. The bus is slower but it is easier to cross the border and gave Noah a better chance to see what China is like.
Noah is now teaching English in China and having a great time.
18-4-2010 to 25-4-2010
Went back to Australia to visit friends/family and get a better visa.
I spent many years in Redcliffe QLD so I had to go back for a visit.
The Glasshouse mountains is another favorite of mine.
On my way to visit my father I had to cross the QLD/NSW border. The veiw here is great and the drive is very relaxing.
It was a holiday today in China to remember the ancesters. Jack took me to the Tenho temple so we could get out of the office for a few hours. This Temple was damged in WWII and has since been restored. It honours the Godess "Mazu". Apparently many sailors claim to have been rescued from drowning by this godess.
It is a beautiful Temple and was a nice break from the office.
Still catching up on this blog. Last week we went out to dinner to celebrate a friends promotion.We went out to a nice restaurant for dinner and I had a fair bit to drink toasting my friend as well as some new employee's. From there we decided to go to Kareoke. If I had known earlier I would not have drank so much at dinner :(
I took a few friends with me to freak out the girls :D
As you can see my mate on the right was very drunk and needed a hand to stop him falling over. Don't know what the other guy was looking at.
As you can see I had a great time although the feedback from the microphones could be pretty bad even with peanuts in my ears.
Hmm... might have had a bit too much to drink :P
Surprise packages from around the world!
As usual I have been slack and not keeping this blog up to date, usually because nothing happened. Late January I received a surprise package from America! Stevek had sent me a Tyco rebound to play with. These are a great little 4WD cars with a perfect chassis to make an offroad robot with.
I haven't had time to do anything with it yet but after suggesting to Robologist that he get his to write LMR on the pavement with chalk I think it is time for me to put my money where my mouth is :D I think this will be my first Arduino robot to be posted on LMR.
I have now received another mystery package from LMR. It seems Maneuver decided I needed something better than peanuts to put in my ears at kareoke.
I want to thank Stevek and Maneuver for the surpise packages and remind Aussie members of the severe Vegemite shortage in China :P
Well Chinese new year was 14-2-2010. This is China's equivalent to Christmas and as such I played Santa. Children who are un-married receive envelopes with money in them from Adults as a sign of good luck and fortune for the new year. I sat there with my beard looking like Santa giving out envelopes to all the children,
Launching fire works by non-professionals is illegal in Taiwan but the police tend to turn a blind eye on Chinese new years. As a result Jack's mother's neighbour was kind enough to put on a display for us, launched from less than 15 meters from where we were eating :D See the video at the end of this blog.
After dinner and fireworks I played dice with the kids, this is a drinking game in China but good fun to play with kids. If you loose then you need to drink (the kids had water or tea).
Damn, lost again!
Just got back from the Spielwarenmesse International Toy Fair in Nuremburg, Germany. We had our own stand and made some good business contacts. It was a long trip there and back. with 3 flights, a bus and a taxi both ways. It was clear skys all the way there which allowed me to get some great photos despite the small dirty window I was looking through. Here are some photos from 10.7Km up.
And here are some photos from the fair. I did not bother with the stuff for little kids too much. There was one hall devoted entirely to baby toys and more lego / meccano imitations than you can poke a stick at.
I think this guy must have got his costume from a nearby stand
And of course there were robots, starting with our stand
Jacks wife Sandy came to China from Taiwan recently to give us a visit and deliver some warm clothes for my upcoming trip to Germany. Even though it is a bit early we decided to have a birthday party for LMR as we were also doing an early Chinese new years celerbration before some of the workers head back to their home towns to be with their family.
About 45 of us headed to a favorite restaurant where we took up 5 of their biggest tables. A 6th table was used for the cake.
We had two volunteers to blow out the candles :D
And then Jack and his beautiful wife Sandy did the honours of cutting the cake.
Here's a few photos from the restaurant:
These girls are my translators, sitting from left to right is Linda, Sophia and Claudia. Standing on my right is Angela and on my left is my assistant Rose.
This is Big John, he used to play basketball for China, now he runs a successful courier business. He is hunched down a bit in this photo, normally he has to duck walking through the doors. He is the only man in China I look up to (literally)!
Every one drank to LMR!
We took up 5 large tables in the restaurant, 6 when the cake came out. After demolishing an 8 course meal we went on to Kareoke for singing, drinking and having a good time.
This was the first Kareoke room we were in but as people arrived it was obviously too small.
As you can see, Jack is a pretty good boss and knows how to relax and have fun.
So then we moved to the biggest room they have!
I'ts a bit hard to see but I have peanuts stuffed in my ears as the singing was bad and the feedback from the microphones was worst!
I had to Macau yesterday to re-new my visa for China. Fortunately Angela did a great job with the paperwork so I only had to stay in Macau for one night while the visa was being processed. As Jack's passport was in the German embassy waiting for a German visa his uncle AmenQ was kind enough to take me to Macau. I call AmenQ "The Sand King" because his company imports sand from China to Taiwan for all the construction there.
On the way to Macau we stopped at a local ship yard to see how repairs were going on one of his smaller ships that had been in a fender bender with another ship.
As you can see, the Shun Fa is just a mere baby at 3600 metric tonnes. With a crew of 10 plus the captain. AmenQ's business partner nicknamed "Mr. Money" is standing in front of the ship.
Just a few small patches and she'll be good as new :D The outer hull is 10mm thick steel plate.
According to AmenQ those soccerball sized dents were where he was banging his head after seeing the repair bill.
It's amazing to think these small brass propellars are what push that huge ship through the water with tonnes of sand or rock onboard.
AmenQ, the shipyard boss and Mr. Money discussing the repairs. I considered going up for a better look but didn't think much of the bamboo ladder.
From the shipyard we went on to Zhuhai where AmenQ and myself took a ferry to Macau. Macau is a special administrative region of China like Hong Kong.Although China is responsible for their defence and foreign affairs but other than that Macau is virtually a small country with it's own money, legal system etc.
Although Macau has it's own money, Chinese yuan (RMB) and Hong Kong dollars are also accepted as currency although due to exchange rate your on the loosing end if you pay in Chinese yuan so it pays to convert your currency if you plan to spend a lot of money there.
When AmenQ and I went to the Chinese embassy we hoped that I could get a visa straight away as we had documents showing that the Chinese government had already aproved it but like any other bureaucracy the Macau Chinese embassy loves to drag their feet so I had to stay the night.
As AmenQ had business elsewhere and had already spent a lot of time helping me out I was on my own without a translator once he had helped me get a hotel room. This can be very intimidating being in a strange country where you don't know anyone and can't speak enough of the language to be usefull.
Since I had a nice room with a 40inch widescreen TV with some english channels I decided to relax and make the most of it. Room service was expensive but I decided that steak with pepper sauce and a few Guinesses was worth it. After 6 months of rice, noodles and strange things of which there is no english translation for this was money well spent!
Next morning I picked up my passport without any problems and went to a nearby tourist attraction I had seen yesterday to take a few photos for you.
This is "Fisherman's Wharf" in Macau:
As you can see, everything from traditional Chinese, to volcanos to a replica of the Coliseum. Looks like an interesting place to visit if I have the time. Oh well, got what I came for (new visa), back to the office.
That's when Murphy decided to pay me a visit. After catching a taxi to the ferry terminal I found that the ferries had been cancelled, as I can't speak the language I don't know why. The girl behind the counter just showed me a message written in english on a piece of paper telling me to go to another port. I rang Jack to let him know about the problem and noticed my phone battery was almost flat! DOH!
Jack told me to take a taxi to another port but my hearing is not very good and my accent is hard for Chinese to understand. I tried to pronounce the name of the port and pointed to my passport showing him my Chinese visa to indicate I wanted to go to China.... He took me back to the Chinese Embassy (forehead slap!)
After some more hand gestures and poor pronounciation of Chinese words I finally got to the right port. I've done enough border crossings now to get through without any problems but now I had to get a bus ticket back to ZhongShan. Once I found the bus terminal this wasn't as bad as I feared.
Even though the girl at the counter couldn't speak english she seemed to understand my pronounciation of "ZhongShan" and showed me her computer screen so I could see the price and the time of departure. The price was what I expected, so far so good.
After a while a minibus driver came in and checked our tickets, He gestured for me to hop in the minibus, this had me confused but it turns out he was just taking me to the main bus terminal and to the right bus. Chinese bus terminals are huge and often have 20-40 busses all lined up at any one time.When you can't read Chinese it is a great help to have someone take you to exactly the right bus at the right time (I hoped).
The bus left half an hour earlier than the time indicated on the girls computer screen so I could only hope this was the right bus. About 45 minutes into the journey we were going through some mountains I didn't recognise. Admittedly I had only been to Zhuhai by bus once before and didn't pay that much attention but as this was my first time making this trip alone with no translator and relying on strangers to guide me I was concerned I was going to end up in the wrong city with a flat phone battery.
Just as I was trying to decide what I was going to do if I ended up in the wrong city we passed a big memorial park that I had been to before and I instantly knew where I was. HUGE sigh of relief. The bus even dropped me off just down the road from Jack's appartment so I could have a shower and change clothes before heading off to the office :D
From time to time I will go out with some friends from work to have some fun. A while back I took some of the guys out to Kareoke for a boys night out. To be fair I promised to take the girls out to dinner at a nice restaurant.
As I am still learning my way around ZhongShan I let the girls pick what restaurant they wanted to go to. Claudia and some of the others come from other provinces so they let Angela who is a local to choose.
We ended up at a huge restaurant that had foods from all over this province (Guangdong). There is nothing better than walking into a big restaurant with five beautiful women even if they are all just workmates.
Like most large Chinese restarants, the food is live in tanks and cages until the customer chooses to eat it. I only had a crappy phone camera but you'll get the idea.
Not many western restaurants have snakes, birds, giant mollusc's etc. for you to choose from but this is perfectly normal in China. What got me at this particular restaurant was the mens room. Can you guess what this is?
Yes it's a fishtank with goldfish in it but.... see those buttons on the floor?
It's the mens urinal and those are the flush buttons!!
No the fish don't get flushed, they are decoration below the urinal. I've seen some weird loos on TV before but this is the first one I've actually used.
I'm starting a new Blog for 2010 as the other was getting quit long I am now putting the newest entries at the top. New years was a bust as it was just another night in China. I ended up in front of the TV with a bottle of wine. No matter, Chinese new year celebrations are not far away and I'll be in Taiwan for them.
My old blog can be found here: http://letsmakerobots.com/node/7719