The day started similar to yesterday. Screeching sound and annoying tune cutting short my much needed sleep. But it was fine. I had woken up in China! But had work to do... My first task was to get to Shenzhen (population 10 million) ASAP. It was a two hour trip on a regular train, or a 30 minute trip on an express fast train. I chose the latter. My second task was to purchase a Chinese mobile phone and 3G card. My third and most important task was to meet Lei, my contact form the Harbin University Graduate School, Shenzhen. She would pick me up at the Shenzhen High Speed Rail (HSR) station at 9.30am. I HAD to be there, and had three hours to get there. Breakfast would have to wait - Time to get moving!
30 minutes later I won the argument to get my hotel deposit returned. Their reason for not wanting to give it? "Sorry sir, I do not speak English. Bye Bye..."
2.5 hours to go...
30 minutes later I found the Subway station, bought a ticket, and arrived at Guangzhou South HSR station. Good going!
Two hours to go...
One hour later I boarded a HSR train in the absolutely MASSIVE Guangzhou South HSR station. I know it was MASSIVE because I had to walk from one end to the other over and over looking for a place to buy a ticket.
Note to self: the rumours are right. Most Chinese will sooner give bad directions than admit they can't help you. It's difficult to know who actually can help, compared to who just wants to help (but in fact does the opposite).
One hour to go...
30 minutes later I stepped off the train onto the platform at Shenzhen North HSR station. So I was at the right city - but the wrong station! (Deja vu from last year...) I looked for somewhere to get a Simcard. Nothing. So I could not ring Lei to tell her where I was. So I did the only thing I thought I could do... I boarded the Shenzhen Subway system to arrive at the agreed station.
30 minutes to go...
Within 15 minutes of waiting in line I knew I'd made a big mistake. The Subway was all but frozen, choked with passengers. I asked a few people if it was normal and they replied "Yes, but never this bad". Fan-bloody-tastic... I'd managed to pick the single worse day ever to use the subway. I tried to beg, borrow or steal a phone from someone else to call Lei with - but all of our communication had been via internet, not phone. We had not shared phone numbers yet!
One hour late...
I finally got to Shenzhen HSR station, but understandably didn't see Lei waiting for me. "Idiot Westerner", I'm sure she would have been thinking. But on the bright side, task #1 was now complete. Task #2 beckoned. Get a Simcard URGENTLY.
You know how when you need to buy something you can never find one? Welcome to China, where that's amplified about 10 times, even before language problems. I actually normally find this fun - but under the circumstances of completely mucking up my pick-up from Lei, I was... not finding it fun.
I finally found an electrical store that had Simcards, but a young guy serving me that was completely uninterested in serving me at ALL, let-alone in a panicked hurry. 30 minutes later I finally had my Simcard. And got her phone number from a text message. Task two complete!
1.5 Hours late...
"Wei?", said Lei.
"Hi Lei this is Peter from Australia, I'm so sorry - there was big problems with the train, and I could not call you either".
"It's okay - welcome to Shenzhen. But I have had to cancel many things I had planned for you. It's unfortunate. Where are you now?"
With that she drove her new white Volkswagon Golf to pick me up from the shop ("do not leave the shop please"). It turned out that she was actually much closer to the NORTH Shenzhen HSR station (you know, the one I'd initially arrived at), and if I had spent more time shopping for a Simcard there instead, I could have contacted her from there and it all would have fine... Lesson learned? Getting a way to communicate should ALWAYS be task #1!
So - a green building tour had been cancelled, along with a university lunch for me to be introduced to many of the architecture and planning academic staff. But Lei's alternative was also good. Lunch with her to chat about sustainable development, then a tour of one of China's most award-winning green buildings.
The food and company was great, and the tour went even better than expected. My tour guide was a Chinese Texan who started out as a builder like me. We hit it off immediately. The building itself was called the BR building and was a great example of how to build in a warm-humid climate zone like Shenzhen. In a word - it breathed. Oh and had stunning decorative AND edible gardens embedded throughout its 16 stories. It really did feel alive. 50% of the Western facade being solar photovoltaic panels and the roof completely full of solar hot water was nice too.
After thank you's and the obligatory awkward and embarrassing photos (which are of course essential - in a "photos or it didn't happen" kind of way), Lei dropped me off to my hotel, which was amazingly good for its $50 per night tariff. I had dinner in the equally punch-above-its-weight restaurant, complete with some of the nicest waiting staff I've ever had.
Then it was time to go back to my room to do some work, but I... feel asleep (collapsed). It was 10pm.
Tags:Travel Business & Jobs Health & Environment
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