December 19, 2011

Reminiscing Asia (2): standing in the fog in Shenzhen

Foggy Shenzhen
Originally uploaded by macchi.

Last year I was in Beijing for a few days, and wanted to see at least a little bit of a new part of China. So, I flew to Guangzhou to tour Guangdong for a day with a colleague. Guangdong is a province which is part of the Pearl River Delta, the most important economic region in China. A LOT of the things in your home will have been produced here (or components of it are).

We took a whirlwind tour of the area, and my colleague had chosen the various stops to show me the extremes of Chinese development. Shenzhen, for example - which is where the above picture is taken. A town that was barely a fishing village in the late '70s and has grown to a city with over 10 million inhabitants in just over 30 years.

Starting out as a Special Economic Zone for a wide range of production facilities, it has now moved away from the very labour intensive production to high tech and innovative production. It is also home to some of the countries best known high tech companies, such as ZTE, BYD, Huawei to name only a few.

So, why this picture in my series of Asian moments? We were standing here with a group of people on an urban development tour, and an architect from OMA was explaining their current project, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange on the other side of where I was taking the picture. It was very foggy - or maybe part pollution? Many Chinese cities, including Beijing, are renowned for the levels or air pollution. But the speed at which everything is still being built and developing is enormous. Very impressive. And this isn't even the fastest growing region in China. You'd have to go much further inland and I'm sure the amount of construction cranes will be double there. That feeling of evercontinuing development, construction, etc is what has stuck with me though and why this picture is here.

Later on that day we visited the other part of Chinese development, the South China Mall. Which made the day all the more fascinating.

[it may seem as if I only know Asia through work, but much of the other stuff was in the pre-digital camera!]

December 04, 2011

Reminiscing Asia (1): late night Kuala Lumpur

late night supper with sweet milktea/KL
Originally uploaded by macchi.


Following my earlier post I've been looking at some of my Flickr series of trips to Asia. And I'm going to share some of my most memorable moments during those trips with you here.

First up: Kuala Lumpur, where I visited for work in June 2008.

It was my first time to this country, and I only spent a short week there mostly working. But I'd convinced my boss that I should really arrive on Saturday to be rid of my jetlag by Monday to be able to do that work well.

And that gave friends of mine the opportunity to drive up from their city in southern Malaysia to KL to come and meet me. I never cease to be amazed at how these friendships can stand years of irregular contact; and yet some people will drop everything to come and see you.

I had the best introduction to KL that I could've wanted: starting with amazing Chinese food, then being taken around the city to go up KL Tower and have an incredible view of the city, finishing off the evening with the above - a late night snack with milk tea. And of course, the whole night accompanied by my friend and his wife and 3-yr old daughter.

Sitting outside on a terrace at midnight, in warm balmy tropical weather, sipping milk tea and chatting to friends after a long day of travelling - bliss.

Some thoughts on work (1)

One of my colleagues asked me maybe a year ago "how I know so much about the countries I work on". At that time the question struck me as odd. Sure, I might know a fair bit about the geographical region I deal with in my job but isn't that supposed to be normal?

The question keeps coming back to me over the last few months, also because of comments other colleagues have made to me. Such as that I always read every document there is, know what it is about, and can comment intelligently about it. The first isn't true in my perception so these comments are always a bit mysterious to me.

But I think I know now why this is - why people see me in this way. What I do in my job links for a large part to something that is a part of my live and that I am immensely interested in and fascinated by: Asia, more specifically China right now and Japan in the past.

Just a few examples:
> I have travelled extensively in the Asian region, mostly in Japan. And would love to see more and more.
> A third of the books I've read for fun in my spare time this year were about China, with another third on that other topic which I find increasingly intriguing: sustainability. I don't read these books out of a sense of compulsory reading to keep up with my field. I read them because I enjoy them, I love reading about other people's experiences about these places, or about current developments etc.
> I follow several blogs about these countries and topics, because I'm genuinely interested.
> I happily go to debate evenings on any of these topics.

And to be honest, I don't think many of my colleagues do the same about their respective countries/regions.

So it's no surprise that I do actually know a lot. And that I can comment on a certain topic or development without having read the full 80-page report on it. That actually has nothing to do with how hard I work, but everything to do with having found a job which engages me fulltime with those issues that I find personally fascinating and worldchanging. It also doesn't mean that I've made my hobby into my work - because what I do for a living I wouldn't want to do for free. But it does feel like a pretty close ideal situation.

No wonder I'm having trouble letting go of this particular job. Though I also know that whatever comes next will ideally include the same topics and issues - and that shouldn't be too hard considering the growing importance of the region worldwide!