Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Birthday in Hong Kong

Last week I got the chance to go to a consular conference in Guangzhou - it's a big city in mainland China about a 2-hour train ride north of Hong Kong. I used to think conferences sounded incredibly boring, and I always wondered what people did during them, but it was so much fun! I met a ton of peeps from other consulates/embassies all over China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, etc.

We were able to see an adoption ceremony, which was the cutest thing ever. Here's a pic of the ceremony, which took place in the consular section. There were about 10 couples there, and the consular section holds a ceremony about twice a week -

The conference lasted from Wednesday through Friday, and then I took the train to Hong Kong, where I spent the weekend with my mom, who came over for my birthday! She had never been to HK before, so we spent the weekend doing fun, touristy things. Here are a few pics from walking around:

Us at Victoria Peak:

We took a sampan around the bay at Aberdeen.
More pics from the bay:

Then the tour guide took us to the obligatory jewelry factory, where no one bought anything.

My birthday cake!

The next day we took the gondola out to Lantau Island, which has a giant sitting Buddha statue. It was really beautiful, although my mom only told me on the way back that she hates gondolas.

Here's the statue from below -

At the top, there were a few other smaller statues surrounding the Buddha:

I know this sounds ridiculous, but I loved how green everything was! I think I've already spent too much time in Shenyang, because I'm already missing stuff like this:

I couldn't stop taking pictures of all the plants and flowers, because there's really nothing like it in Shenyang.

On Sunday night we flew back to Shenyang, where my mom stayed with me till Wednesday morning. She was trying so hard to find positive things about Shenyang, so when we took a cab ride around the city, and she saw the building in the background of this picture, she said, "Oh! Well that's a pretty building! Finally!"
It was the North Korean consulate.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nighttime in Snowy Shenyang

About a block from the Intercontinental Hotel, which is where I live, there's a square with a giant Mao statue in the middle. It's a pretty freaky blast from the past, so after work I took some pictures. Also, it snowed about a foot last night, so there's tons of snow in all the pics:

The taxi drivers say he's hailing a cab. Also, ironically, the Japanese hotel is right in front of him.

This is the giant shopping area a few blocks in the other direction. There's an Isetan, which is a Japanese department store with a mochi ice cream store in the basement. There's also a McDonalds, KFC, and Starbucks. and a Rolex store. although that last one might be fake.

so. much. snow.

There's also a giant 7-story mall right next to the Isetan. It's the year of the Ox (which is me!), so there are tons of oxen paraphenalia everywhere -

So the weird thing about this mall is that, on the ground floor, it seems incredibly amazing. It has everything from Hermes to Burberry, Armani, Lacoste, and a million other expensive stores.

But then, strange things start to happen...As the escalator climbs higher, the stores start to look oddly familiar, and yet somehow different...

Burberry on the first floor, and Boebofry on the fifth floor? Hm.
Also, Lacoste on the second floor, and "Cartelo" on the sixth?

Yup, definitely in China.
But at least the mall itself is clean and shiny!

And somehow I don't really feel like Haagen-Dazs today...

There are also lots of little hole-in-the-wall restaurants all over town. I passed by this one on the way back home. It looks pretty gross, but I bet the food is actually pretty good, considering the number of people inside. By this point, I was fairly unfazed by the number of stares I was getting, so I felt okay taking a picture of the place. But then, as soon as I took the picture (without flash!) the entire restaurant put down their chopsticks, turned around, and stared - I mean really stared - at me. I ran.

This is the street right behind my hotel.

There was so much snow everywhere, but strangely no snowplows. Even more strange - they loaded some snow (but not all snow?) into dump trucks and carted them away. We have no idea where they went. However, I heard that it only snowed here because the mayor of Chaoyang decided to seed the clouds, i.e. make it rain. Yes, the mayor of Chaoyang can actually make it rain. Apparently their crops are having a bad year. So we all have to suffer.

More pics of the street:

Chinese New Year occurred a little less than a month ago, so people still had signs on their doors to celebrate. Those signs are the Chinese characters for luck, but the signs are upside down, so that they can be read by those in heaven. awwwww

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Local delicacies?

These are some of the pictures I want to enter in the photo contest:

Beijing, Tiananmen Square, 2005 - Chinese Independence Day:

Kyoto, Japan, 2005:

Infirmary of Japanese prison in Dalian, China:

North Korea, as seen from the Yalu River:

Building painters, sitting on buckets. View from my apartment:

Down the street from the consulate:

Underpass in Shenyang:

Yang's Fried Dumplings, Shanghai:

The Pearl TV Tower, Shanghai:

Field outside Fushun, Liaoning Province, China:

On the bund, Shanghai:

Window washers, Beijing:

Tibetan monks on the bund, Shanghai:

Window washers, Beijing:

Laborer in a field, beneath the Great Wall:

Seoul TV tower, Seoul, South Korea:

I just got this email this morning from one of the FSNs (foreign service nationals - local staff employed by the consulate). It's the consulate cafeteria's menu for the next 2 weeks. I think it speaks for itself:

Feb. 17-20
红烧肉炖白菜干豆腐 拌咸菜
Pork braised in soy sauce with cabbage and dry tofu Pickled vegetable
炝莲白 炸烹刀鱼
Sichuan style stir-fried rutabaga Deep fried hairtail
烧麦 二米粥 萝卜丝咸菜
Shaomai (kind of Baozi prepared with non-fermented dough) Rice and millet porridge Pickled radish
炒三丝 辣爆鸡丁
Stir-fried carrot, potato and celery Spicy chicken breast

Feb. 23-27
苜蓿胡萝卜片 香辣肉片
Scrambled egg and carrot Spicy pork
家常豆腐 红烧鸡块
Home-made tofu Chicken braised with soy sauce
包子 粥 小拌菜
Baozi Porridge Pickles
葱爆素鸡 爆鱿鱼花
Pressed tofu rolls stir-fried with Chinese onions Stir-fried squid
葱油豆腐丝 红烧小丸子
Dry tofu shreds cooked with Chinese onion Braised meatballs

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