We have now completed our first week at F68, and things are falling into place. We landed in DL and breezed through customs, even with 14 checked bags. None were inspected here, but most were opened by US TSA. Santa Fe met us with our car and driver and an extra van to carry all of our stuff. We packed a lot of stuff in cleanroom boxes that I have collected from the trash (recycling starts at home!) The driver (Bob) took us directly to our apartment, and the Santa Fe rep met us there for a walkthrough and more paperwork than I would have imagined.
The next day as we were heading to the supermarket, Deloitte called and said we needed to meet them at the local government building for registration and work permits. The office keeps passports for 7 days, so make sure you have some photocopies. Deloitte also registered us with the local police. We were led around quite a bit for the first few days; much of it is a blur now. A lot of it was related to trying to get our younger son into a Chinese preschool. That turned out to be a huge fiasco, and it was very involved and time-consuming. Email me if you want BKMs.
We settled in quickly, and our older son started the American school on Monday; the younger started the Chinese school on Wednesday, and they both seem quite happy. There is a bus from our building to the American school.
Getting settled at work has been pretty simple, but I am amazed at the number of things that require some sort of signature or manager approval. Temporary cubes are set up, and the phones work. PC replacement was easy, but don’t get your hopes up for a new one; they are mostly issuing waterfalled HPs (which seems to be a step up from my 5+ year old T43.) The internet connection here is pretty reliable, and we seem to have access to most sites, although I have not gone looking for anything that I shouldn’t J. Most of the local folks ride shuttle busses to and from work, so there is a mass exodus at 5:00. The canteen is a mob-scene at lunch, and they have started asking us to eat at specific times. I don’t know how they will feed everyone when we are fully staffed! They offer “western” and “Chinese” options, but I think “western” may mean “western Chinese”. Free coffee is available all day.
The Fab itself is a huge empty room. Not really sure why we still need yellow lighting, but that’s what we have. Stockers are still being installed, and there is a good bit of intrabay track up already. There are 2 MIK tools in the Fab so far. We seem to be unable to get any basic install supplies on site, so we may have some schedule slips. I have heard that we have no conduit, PVC pipe, or gas sticks. Next week, the bridge and main gownroom will open, which will streamline the entry process.
Office shipments seem to come pretty quickly (2 weeks from Ireland), but household air shipments have been as long as 2 months (including some delay for the holiday week).
If you are bringing any electrical devices, make sure that they are 220V compatible. Terminal strips from the US are not, as they usually have surge suppressors and power indicators that will blow up spectacularly if someone plugs them in to 220v. I emailed Samsung to verify that my laser printer was 220v compatible and they assured me it was. Direct observation suggests that it was not, as it tripped a 30A breaker and emitted a loud pop and lots of smoke. I bought computer speakers locally, and 100-240V power adapters (wall warts) for my headset and Vonage box were easy to come by, for about 45 RMB each. For those who want to keep a US phone number, Vonage works great here, and I have kept my US phone number. I have set my sights on a 220v coffee grinder, but so far my efforts have been fruitless.
Shopping is a bit of a challenge, as all the packaging is different, and very little of it has any English on it, unless it says something like “happy sunny Yum time” or something like that. Bread and rolls are more available than I had thought they would be. There are lots of vegetables here that I have not seen before, and everything seems to be very fresh. I have had many good meals here, although I often have no idea what they are. My kids are struggling a bit, as they are reluctant to try new things, even if they are really good. American music is widely available on baidu.com (sort of like a free iTunes). Beer is widely available and cheap. Metro has wines and hard alcohol at US prices. (I have not found triple sec or Grand Marnier for margaritas yet!)
Bob took me out for a haircut on Sunday, and I am pleased with the results. I was anticipating a bowl might be used. 10 RMB got me a good trim, although I hear 30 is the going rate at a more upscale salon in Kaifaqu.
Fireworks are used here for every conceivable celebration: weddings, shop openings, funerals, Bar Mitzvahs (OK, maybe not…) I have asked Bob where to buy the local artillery, but he hasn’t given it up yet. I’m wondering if he has instructions not to let the Americans buy fireworks? I am amused by the irony that we cannot buy fireworks in the US, but anyone can buy a gun…
Traffic is a real concern here. People will drive wherever they can to get where they are going. There is no concept of right of way, except that anything has right of way over pedestrians. Red lights are merely a suggestion (I watched a fully loaded city bus blow through a red light this morning, and it had been red for a t least 15 seconds.) Sidewalls are often used for parking, and it is not uncommon to see cars doing 30 MPH on the sidewalk. I don’t sense that anyone wants to hit anyone else, but they expect the horn to be fair warning. Collisions seem to be pretty common. As Dalian is a port city, there are lots of trucks ferrying containers every which way. Maybe some of them have our process equipment in them (If so, we are in trouble!) It is wise to keep a constant scan running for cars coming from where they shouldn’t. We have also been stuck in some total gridlock situations, which have been a bit unnerving. The first time, the lights were out, and it took us about half an hour to make it through one major intersection, as all vehicles would advance through every inch of available space, regardless of lanes, so cars were passing us on both sides. The other was last night, and the lights were working fine, but nobody was paying them the slightest heed. Bob was finally able to persuade a crossing driver to back up a couple of feet so we could squeeze through, but we were still late to Will’s school.
While we have been fortunate with Bob’s English skills, I am keenly aware that my success in the community will be determined by my ability to speak a basic level of Mandarin. I look forward to getting a routine for this and getting some basic vocabulary. For me, Rosetta Stone was not much use. I hope I can carve out some time for some lessons and vocabulary building.
More to come. Feel free to forward.
We have been here about 5 weeks now, and I continue to be amazed at the things I see on a daily basis. Shopping and riding in the car make for much of this entertainment. Shopping invariably brings culinary oddities (some beyond the pale) and driving makes me wonder how there are so many surviving Chinese.
The supermarkets are filled with very fresh produce and meats, as well as most of the more mundane sorts of food we are accustomed to in the states. The markets that we frequent feature live and frozen fish, eels, crabs, crayfish, a variety of mollusks, frogs, turtles, (all live), and the ever-popular squid. We went to another store that had different kinds of dried sea products as far as the eye can see You can also buy fresh meat from half a pound to a side of beef or whole (and I mean whole) pig. We ate at a restaurant the other day with ducks in a cage out front. (We didn’t eat any of them, but I don’t think they are just pets.)
Most of the products that we buy in the states are available here, but they tend to be simpler and a bit down-market to be saleable to Chinese who make much less money than most Americans. A good job here pays 1500-2000 RMB a month, about $220- $290. Not much, but food is cheap, as are most necessities, but a car is out of the question for folks in this bracket, even a Spartan little microcar. The noodle shop downstairs makes a good noodle soup lunch for 5RMB; less than a dollar. A lot of the durable goods seem to be quite high quality, and is made to last. There is some real junk, usually sold at discount stores, but finding reasonable quality items is not difficult. I found a store that has individual shops (flea-market style) that sells only tools and hardware. Nuts, bolts, casters, plumbing and lighting supplies, welding equipment, and even a few booths that sell machine tool accessories and tooling. I could spend some RMB in there! Liza found a nice large wooden trunk for about $10. She has been working on the finish and it has cleaned up nicely. I think it is destined to hold toys.
The list of stuff we haven’t found here is quite short: real maple syrup, Kraft mac & cheese, and Rose’s lime juice for gin gimlets.
The traffic situation fills me with a mixture of entertainment and sheer horror. Lanes are a rough guideline; stoplights are merely a suggestion. If traffic is moving too slowly in one lane, the drivers will add more lanes until things are going again. These added lanes may be the breakdown lane, the sidewalk or the lanes usually used by oncoming traffic. The road that we drive Will to school on is marked as one lane in each direction, but I have seen up to 4 lanes going in one direction, with more traffic still going the other way. After we drop Will off, there is a T intersection that we enter from the base of the T. I regularly see cross traffic that blows right through the red light without even slowing down. These vehicles are sometimes large trucks, but usually are fully loaded city busses. Fortunately, our driver Bob expects this sort of thing and acts prudently. Americans would make assumptions about what other cars should do that would get us all killed here. There is also no concept of right of way here. It’s more like “I need to get there, so I am going now”. Oncoming traffic regularly turns left in front of us. Merging traffic merges on its own terms. It amazes me that nobody seems to mind. The horn is used to indicate “I’m here; don’t hit me” more than “get out of my way”. Road rage doesn’t occur to anyone. There are no American-style hand gestures either.
The weather has been increasingly cold and often windy. This morning it was 19F and windy with moderate fog/ haze in the air. Yesterday morning was warmer, but very foggy, so we drove to work with the flashers on. We have had almost no rain, but we usually have some fog or haze in the air. At first I thought this was pollution, but it really seems to be tied to temperature and humidity, and we have had some very clear days too.
The kids are fine and they are both comfortable at school. Both boys are learning some basic Mandarin counting an vocabulary, which is more than I can say for myself. (I need to start my lessons, but time is a key factor.) Neither of them is remotely adventurous about trying any Chinese food, which really limits our mobility. Western style food is rare, and western style food that the boys will eat is even harder to come by. Robby surprised me tonight at dinner; he tried and liked the fish that Yini had made for dinner. (I told him it was “fish sticks”.) Neither would try the delicious lamb skewers. Robby’s school has had some outdoor physical activities, and Will’s school has an indoor wading pool area that they go to at least once a week. Tomorrow (Thanksgiving) Robby has the day off, but we don’t. We have a parent conference at his school that we will go to just before lunch. We have been walking over to a place called Five Color City, which was built to cater to Japanese tourists. There are lots of restaurants, bars, clubs of various types, and little inexpensive hotels (some of which may be used for sleeping, I think.) There is also a band shell with a huge stage, and lots of amusing architecture. We may try the roller rink when the weather warms up.More photos:
This site was last updated 11/25/09