Before we begin today, let me introduce you to the Dragon Fire Fruit (its real name is Pitaya), or as it’s known in China 火龍果 (huǒ lóng guǒ).  Every morning for breakfast I’ve been enjoying this white, juicy delicacy and have remarked at how similar to kiwi it is in texture.  Lo and behold, I looked it up on Wikipedia and it’s actually a cactus fruit.  They say that apart from Southern Asia it grows in Mexico, Central, and South America, which surprises me because I’ve never once heard of or seen this thing.  If you ever get a chance to eat it, don’t pass it up because it’s very tasty.

Day 6: Return to Consumer City

Today I decided to do something bold.  Actually, that’s a little bit of a lie.  I had no intentions of doing anything today.  It is Sunday March 29th, 2009 and soon I will return to America.  My time in China is winding down and that makes me a sad panda.  Shortly after breakfast this morning, I cleared out my work inbox of any new messages and helped with an issue on Athena (our most profitable and highest volume non-blade System X product).  Once that was taken care of, I tossed some dirty clothes in the laundry sack and filled out the corresponding paper work before I threw on some clothes, grabbed my camera, my monies and my Chinese cell phone.  I felt like taking a journet.  I had no idea where I wanted to go, but I just felt like walking.

My only real purpose at this point was finding those signs that I snapped pictures of on the way home from work.  The pictures, as expected, turned out very blurry so I made a mental note of their general direction from the hotel and tried my best to track them down and get proper, clear pictures of them.

I walked out of the hotel lobby and headed left.  I had wandered around the block that the hotel is located on previously, and today felt very similar.  It was overcast, and everybody that I passed stared at me as I passed.  I guess I really just looked like a fish out of water, but I love to experience new things, so it did little to deter me.  After two blocks I stumbled across the first sign that I had intended to recapture, so I felt good because I was going the right direction.  The sign read, “New Wet Square of Snooker” and had a man in the process of what appeared to be a billiards shot.

What?

What?

Snooker is apparently much like pool.  If you want to read about it, knock yourself out… here’s the wikipedia page.

I knew that the other sign I had intended to re-capture was near an exit ramp to an expressway so I traveled a few more blocks towards a high traffic area only to find an exit ramp that appeared to be very familiar.  I couldn’t see the sign, but I was on the wrong side of the expressway.  I traveled a block to the left before finding an area to cross the street without needing to hop a fence, and then traveled back in the opposite direction.  As I approached the intersection I could make out the sign ahead, however it was still across the street from me.  Once again, I headed a little ways down the block until I could easily cross the street and then doubled back to round the corner and find my prize.

But you’ve already seen it!  Yes, it’s the CRAZY sign that began yesterday’s post.  Hope I didn’t ruin all your hopes and dreams by not showing it.  If you REALLY want to see it you go here.  I hope you’re satisfied now, because after I got that shot I was feeling rather fulfilled.  I decided to keep heading in the direction that the CRAZY sign was pointing (if you can imagine the C being the tail and the Y being the head of an arrow), and started passing a very non-touristy section of town.  The people here looked even more surprised to see me than those that I had passed earlier in my journey, and the buildings were noticeably more decrepit.

Sometimes, when you’re walking and you pass an alley that’s full of rubble and garbage you’ll see a dirty old man shambling around in circles and think to yourself, “I think I should turn back now”.  This probably should have been one of those times except I just felt like I needed to keep going.  I don’t know what it was, but it was like I was being drawn towards some greater purpose.

I walked past numerous little eateries that were barely more than a hole in the wall.  Literally.  Some of these places only had a single table inside, while others would be lucky to have enough room for four tables.  There were also convenience stores that took on the appearance of newspaper stands, as well as shops that seemed to be filled with nothing but pipes, nails, screws and rolls of some unknown material.

After about ten blocks or so I came around a corner and came face to face with a mountain.  Okay, so not quite face to face, but I could see a mountain, and it was behind some buildings and a large concrete wall but still.  A mountain!  I love mountains, and I love conquering mountains.  This had to have been my purpose.  My spirit always guides me towards mountains and I truly feel at peace when I am perched at the peak of a mountain, looking down upon the hills and valleys below.  I am at one with the mountains of the Earth and for this, I am thankful.  While today I may have been drawn towards a most splendid mountain, my situation could not have been any worse.

Apparently, this mountain just so happened to lie within the limits of Hong Kong, meaning that in order to get anywhere near them I would need to find a customs gate, and in a sense I’d be leaving the country.  This meant that upon returning to Shenzhen, it would count as another ‘entry’ into the county, of which I only am allowed two as a first time visitor.  I could not risk losing my last valid entry into the country of China on the off-chance that I need to come back within the next six months, and further more I didn’t have my passport on me anyway.

While I was bummed that I couldn’t access the mountains, I did notice something peculiar… as I walked along the red path way that you can see in the above picture, I noted some grey spots on the mountain that looked like tiny cities… I wasn’t sure what it was, and I snapped a few pictures, one of which you can see below.  After getting back to my computer and seeing the area blown up, I believe that I was looking at cemeteries.  See for yourself, and if you have a better explanation, please share it:

After passing this area, the pathway led me around the back of a rather large building and I saw a heavy traffic area up ahead of me.  As I got closer to this area I noticed an escalator with a large sign on it that read, “Welcome to Consumer City”… I had wandered randomly and managed to end up in the exact same place I had been the previous day!  How bizarre!  Within seconds I was approached by a man, who I assumed would serve the same function as our ‘Store Guide’ from the day before.  He asked me if I was looking for anything in particular and I responded truthfully, “I don’t know?”, because really, I had no idea.  I hadn’t intended to buy anything, but I mean I was already here, so why not?

He led me through the interior of this crazy mall.  We turned a quick corner and ended up in the exact same store that I had been in the day before.  The exact same people were working, and they gave me a look that was somewhere in between bewildered and excited.  After getting over their initial surprise to see me again, they asked if I was the same person and where my friend went.  I took this as a sign that they would try to take advantage of me, as Tony helped a great deal when we were haggling the day before.  After taking another stab at their catalogs I decided to buy myself a proper piece of luggage, as up until this point in my life I’ve always traveled with duffel bags, and every rolling duffel bag I’ve ever owned has fallen apart on me after two or three trips.

I selected one of the suitcases that was on the shelf inside the store and asked for the price.  The initial offer was 1162 Yuan, and I could only scoff.  This was moments after the woman said that since I was already a customer she would give me a good deal.  This price was not only ridiculously expensive (expensive even for the real product) but it was offensive.  It only took about three rounds of haggling, but I was able to get the woman down to 450 Yuan after attempting to walk away from the deal when she wouldn’t go below the 800 mark.  That was a great feeling.

After handing over the money I was feeling pretty good and decided I should let my feet rest by taking the subway back towards the hotel.  I rolled my new suitcase down into the metro station, found a touchscreen ticket machine and fumbled my way through the screens in Chinese… Surprisingly I managed to get a token and all of my change back without looking like an out of place tourist (although I’m sure having luggage with me didn’t help the cause), and I proceeded down into the tunnel below.

I hopped on the subway and went from the Luo Hu station back to the Mao Gua station, before finding my way to the ‘B’ exit and eventually back to the hotel.  I was extremely proud of myself for getting not only a great deal on my suitcase but also successfully using the Shenzhen metro system and making it back to my hotel all in one piece, retaining all of my personal belongings too!  I didn’t make anybody angry (as far as I know), I didn’t offend anyone (again, as far as I know), and I even managed to take a few pictures along the way.  I rolled my new luggage up into my room and gave it a test spin.  I threw a bunch of stuff in it and tossed it around the room trying to simulate as best I could the “tossers” (that’s what they call baggage handlers at the airport, at least in Fight Club it is…).  My tests proved pretty successful and my luggage held up well.  I had already tested out all the zippers and pockets for integrity while I was sitting at the shop before I bought it so I knew those were good, and I also gave the wheels a pretty good trial rolling it through the metro station and through the hallways and lobby of the hotel, so I knew those were good and silent (nothing makes me angrier than plastic wheels that click on every single tile that they roll over).  Like I said, I was feeling pretty good.  This caused me to take another picture of myself modeling my new suitcase (and for good measure my sunglasses too), which I will allow you to see:

Nice, right?  High fives on my successful day!  It was already pretty late in the afternoon, and soon after checking my work email Tony called me to go grab an early dinner.  We went to some little hole in the wall place across the street and in an alley way for some real local food.  The prices were very cheap and the food was good (I had a ball of rice and a few slices of barbecued pork for about 12 Yuan).  After dinner, we returned to the hotel and called it a night.  We both knew that with the following day being one of the last two days of the quarter, it would probably be a stressful and eventful day, so we didn’t want to risk being out late.

A little bit later, I was surprised when I got a knock at the door and had my laundry returned to me in an elegant wicker box that was lined with satin or silk or something…

And with that, my sixth day in Shenzhen China came to a close.  Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed my story.

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