Macau, Millionaires, Mondays & Moon Cakes

Trip Start Jun 30, 2008
Trip End Dec 31, 2009

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Flag of China  , Guangdong,
Sunday, September 13, 2009

WOW!! HOW TIME FLIES!!    We have all now begun to focus on our departure date from China (October 30th) but still have a lot we want to see and do.  Until we went to Macau last week to get our Visas we didn't know if we would get a 30 or 60 day Visa.  If we got at 30 Visa we were planning on going to the Philippians or Thailand although nobody really wanted to go to another country.  It is getting more and more expensive to obtain Visas.  It was costing us half a month’s rent each month to get Visas for our family.  However, as luck would have it, we got a 60 day Visa which means we can stay in China until our planned departure date. 

Now that we know when we are leaving we want to complete our "To do" lists.  Janice is teaching, homeschooling and writing a book.  Sabrina is playing in the Middle School Band, attending a soccer camp for girls, learning Chinese and completing her book.  Sophia is not as active but as part of her studies is working on a book too.

With me completing another book and now having to edit several others (suggesting other write) I will be extremely busy as I am teaching 700 students, re-launching my real estate firm in Canada, working with a group developing a private equity firm focusing on Asia and trying to learn more about China.

 In my meetings and dealings with Chinese I have made acquaintances with (either directly or indirectly) so many 'millionaires’ that I half-heartedly wonder were all the poor people are.  I know you are probably thinking what a ‘pompous SOB’!  I think because we are in a country that focuses so much on money that money has become an idol and that everyone has a ‘rich man’ story to tell as a way to encourage and motivate all others to keep focused on $$.  It so dominates the culture that everyone is looking for a better future and the way they see that is to have a lot of money.  The question that I ask that always stumps them is “how much is enough” or “how much is a lot”?

I am fascinated by the ‘millionaire mindset’ that dominates Chinese culture right now.  What I find most interesting is that ‘rich’ and ‘happy’ are rarely seen as being related.  As I have said I have met many very wealthy people and that is how they are seen by themselves and by their peers - as only ‘very rich’; rarely if ever as ‘happy’.

Later as we talk more and I realize I really can’t ‘trump’ the ‘millionaire or multi multi millionaire’ card I bring out our laminated family photos I carry in my wallet and pass it around the table.  Everyone looks are it very closely, smiles and I say in Chinese “four children” and they always say to me “you are very happy” or “you are very lucky”.  

In the West, this discussion would be very different.  If I drove a fancy car, lived in fancy house, and bought expensive coffee I would be just like everyone else.  If I had 4 children I would be seen as unlucky because I have to pay for them all and for what?  Not only that, I would be constantly asked how many from each wife?  What will they amount to anyway?  How many more years did you say before they are gone?

I have and will always understand the importance of money but I hope I have lost enough hair (and money) to realize that we are very rich and happy.  Happiness is our choice for the choosing AS IS being rich.  Compared to many places we have traveled to we are ‘stinking rich’.  I find that if your wants grow faster than your wealth you will never be happy or rich.

Mondays are upon us again that that means the start of the school week.  I have been invited back to teach and feel very fortunate to participate in the lives and learning of so many wonderful students. I am also privileged to lead the English teacher training at Tao Yuan Middle School every week.

Thursday was “Teacher’s day” (a nationally celebrated day) where all students go back to their primary schools to visit with their teachers bringing flowers, cards and food.  I was brought a flower from a group of students who asked if they could leave class early to go to their primary school and visit their teachers.  When I asked the remaining students “who are you?” several of them explained how much they loved their teachers in their explanation of who they are. 

The reason I mention this is that a student associates who they are with their teachers.  We certainly don’t in the West.  Well, not very often.  We have some very amazing teachers that pour their entire selves and lives out for others and really don’t get any appreciation (beyond a paycheque).  However, as I was listening to my students speak so highly of their teachers (from the past) I thought of two of my primary school teachers (Mr. Campbell and Mr. Charney) that fundamentally impacted my life and made a note to contact ASAP. 

October is a very important and busy month this year.  October 1st marks the 60th anniversary of Chinese ‘liberation’ and the Mid Autumn Festival is on October 3rd.  October 1st is more of a 7 day political celebration highlighting China’s freedom from Japanese occupation that puts on a great display of their military might which we will learn more about as the day approaches.

One thing we don’t have to wait for is the Moon Cakes that keep coming our way.  Moon Cakes are circular type pastries that over take stores restaurants this time of year.  The Moon Cakes represent the 3000 year old Mid Autumn Festival that marks the end of the harvest that brings friends and families together.  We have yet to find a Moon Cake that we can finish but “when in China, do as the Chinese do”.

Okay, now that I have written about each item in the title of our post let me ‘dump’ a few other thoughts and ideas.

-         Learning to swim is a big thing.  Chinese love fish but very few can swim so it is a great accomplishment to be able to swim.  I would compare it getting one color complete on a Rubik’s cube (something I still can’t do!).

         Medical and dental clinics offer full disclosure.  While walking down the street window shopping it is common to come up to a dentist or medical office at street level that has large windows with blinds wide open.  You can stand there and watch what they are doing – it’s like The Discovery Channel live!!

         We visited a local factory that sells ‘dozens of millions’ of button cell batteries for hearing aids.  They are one of the top 3 largest companies in this field in the world.  We were able to walk through the whole process – very interesting.
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