Friday, December 14, 2007

A Day Like Any Other

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A visit to the Port of Hong Kong is a surreal experience. An average of 11 container ships leave there each day, carrying roughly 7000-12000 containers each. Containers are stacked 6 tall and 20 deep as far as the eye can see.

When I first started buying from Asia I felt that the 30 containers I move per year were Big Time. Come to find out there are companies like Phillips/Magnavox that will move 80 containers of a single item PER DAY.

The sheer mass of stuff departing from this port alone (the 3rd busiest in the world) is mind blowing.

The process to load one of these ships is amazing. One guy sits at a computer in a building and selects which containers will go on his ship. The cranes are all automatic and will go out to the "yard" and pick the applicable container and ferry it to the ship. The average transfer time is 1 container per minute and they assign 6-8 cranes to a ship in order to get it loaded and out.

Maybe the most impressive thing to me was the casual execution of a seemingly overwhelming task. The workers are very competent, well trained, and very efficient. Maybe our ports could take a page out of their books.

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Day Off

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For many Filipiano women, Hong Kong is the Land of Opportunity. Almost every household of moderate or greater means hires a woman from the Phillipines as a housekeeper.

These women come to Hong Kong by the thousands and work for money that most of us would consider insulting, putting in 12 hour days, Monday thru Saturday.

When Sunday comes it is time for them to let loose and kick back. The scene from this picture is common on any flat surface in downtown Hong Kong. Blankets are layed out, picnic lunches are distributed, and for 10 hours these ladies sit and enjoy the company and the language of their fellow country(wo)men.

I was amazed at the sheer volume of these ladies or all ages spread throughout the city. On the few Sundays I have been able to walk around I have encountered tens of thousands of these small gatherings, always talking, playing cards, or just napping on their small island of cloth.

I am always impressed by their good humour, their lively discussions, and their desire to be around each other.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Banned in China

I grew up during the Cold War. The word Communism evoked visions of bread lines, Gestapo-style police tactics, checkpoints, and harsh oppression. I pictured all Communist countries to be like Moscow in Firefox.

My first entry in to China was exactly as I had pictured. We were taking a private car across the border between Hong Kong and Shenzhen. At the border we all had to get out of the car and walk in to a large processing building. Inside were armed guards and lines of people getting there Passports and Visas checked. Unlike 90% of the world, to visit China you need to apply for and receive a special Visa. This requires letters of invitation, etc... and you are limited to how many entries you can make in to Mainland China (most Visas are only good for 1 year).

The real shock comes once you are processed and are actually "in country". When you walk out the back door you are greeted by huge billboards for every kind of product and service.

I never really got a feel of being behind the Curtain, so to speak, until I went to visit some of my favorite Blogs.

China has a very high-tech Censorship group. Yahoo and Cisco have both been accused of 'helping jail China writer' . I was also aware that certain things were "edited" out of the web, specifically any reference to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Riots. What surprised me was that the enitre Blogger domain is blocked as well. I tried to go to a few sites that I KNOW contain no references to anything political, but to no avail. This was the first time that I really understood that I was "inside" the belly of the Beast. I would be reminded of it again in the very near future, during a visit to Tiananmen Square, but that's another post.

So, for all of you who use Blogger, you can proudly say that you have officially been "Banned in China"