(Story 3) Bullfrog's (AKA Gordy Snyder) really great world tour

Home | Story 1 | Story 2 | Story 4 | Story 5 | Story 6 | Story 7 | Story 8 | Story 9 | Story 10 | Story 11

“Gān Bēi!”

The Chinese people are very friendly. Teenagers yell “Hell-o” and wave as we walk along the streets. Curious children stare at the people with strange faces. I wonder what they are thinking: “Who are these people?” “Where are they from?” Parents try to get them to wave. One boy gave me a huge smile; his two upper-front teeth had fallen out. Reminded me of when Brian and Beth lost their teeth and putting the teeth under the pillow for the tooth ferry. The boy wouldn’t pose for a picture. Middle-age adults don’t pay attention. Older folks really don’t pay too much attention, either, but do smile when you smile and wave at them. People are the same around the world.

After the 5 hour wait at the Changsha airport and the 2 hour flight to Shenyang, getting to the hotel and into bed couldn’t happen any too soon. The Intercontinental is part of the Holiday Inn group of hotels. The services offered and amenities provided have earned it a 5-star rating, and it showed.

During the early 1600s, Shenyang was home for two founders of the Quig Dynasty, Nurhachi and Huang Tai Ji. “Shenyang Palace is one of the two remaining ancient palace complexes preserved in tact in China. It was build between 1625 and 1636 and was the imperial residence up to 1644, when the Qing capital was moved to Beijing.” (from purchased source material.) The palace occupies an area of about 15 acres and consists of over 100 buildings; the most recognized being the hexagon-shaped Dazhengdian Hall. This is not a famous tourist destination (like the Forbidden City in Beijing,) but worth the visit. Not being crowded, you could really take time looking, reading, discussing and imagining what it must have been like to live here in the 1600s when emperors ruled with iron fists. There’s a marvelous museum of priceless antiquities; wood carvings, gold, jade, clothing, “Banner” flags, weapons, porcelain, and painting to name a few. You could easily spend 2 or 3 hours at a leisurely pace admiring the buildings, the diverse range of architectural style and art. Our visit was cut short by a sudden rainstorm that lasted for about 30 minutes. Getting a cab during foul weather is a matter of being at the right place at the right time; we jumped in with two other gentlemen who were headed in the same direction. By the time we reached the hotel, the storm had passed. There were a variety of restaurants in the hotel. Ms. Sun and I selected to walk down the street for a “typical meal at a typical restaurant,” good food at very affordable prices.

Being on the road for 2 months is not easy. I lug-along two large suitcases, a carry-on bag with wheels for camera equipment and a hand bag for the laptop and work related material. The two suitcases get checked at each airport; total weight is about 37 kilograms. As happened last year, I brought too much. Keep up with hand wash in the hotel room; send shirts and pants out to the hotel laundry service. It comes back the same day smelling fresh and clean. I’ll be sending shirts, sox, extra work cloths and an accumulated “stuff” to home next week to lighten the load before leaving China. I must admit, I’m a packrat. Thank goodness for the hand-carts at each airport; they’re everywhere and they are free, not like Pittsburgh where a cart costs $3.00.

Monday morning we arrived at Benxi after a pleasant 1 hour cab ride through gently rolling hills and farmland still barren from the long winter. Shortly, the fields will be alive with the green of new life.

So what brings me to these far-away lands? My employer, Bricmont, Inc. is a world-wide engineering company for large industrial furnaces used in steel and aluminum industries; some can heat upwards of 400 to 500 tons of metal per hour. My responsibilities include selling spare parts for the furnaces and taking “commercial quality” photographs of our equipment. We use the pictures for display in our Canonsburg, PA office, present copies to the customers and in promotional material. So, on this trip, in addition to discussing the supply of spare parts, pictures of three Chinese projects were taken. A fourth project is in the early stages of installation. Completed-project pictures will be needed next year.

Benxi Steel employs over 100,000 people at its sprawling plant complex. (I doubt that any one person knows exactly what goes on in every area of the plant on a daily basis.) People come in and out of the plant at all hours, day and night. Some even live in “shacks” built on company property. By foot, by scooter, by bicycle, by car, by bus, by whatever means of transportation, people come and go. Vendors gather outside the mill, hawking a wide variety of merchandise. One big problem is dust, fine reddish dust every where. It contributes greatly to the local haze and smog problems.

It’s a tradition that company dignitaries and invited guests attend the ceremonial “First Operation” of new equipment. With cameramen from the local TV station, reporters from the local newspapers and hundreds of employees looking on, the first 15 tons of steel was produced. The place was a beehive of activity the entire afternoon. In celebration, as is also tradition, the vendors were invited to join Benxi employees that evening for a huge banquet, complete with speeches and fireworks. There was enough food and drink, Gān Bēi!, to last a long time. Seated at Bricmont’s table were the furnace supervisor and several other key furnace department engineers in addition to 6 Bricmont employees. There must have been 200 or more people at the banquet. The following day it was my turn for meetings and pictures.

No matter the time of day, Internet connection from the Ming Zou Hotel in Benxi was so slow, it would take minutes – it seemed – to connect to the web by Ethernet and even longer to open web sites and download and send email. It literally took hours to work through a day’s worth of email. I was at it all hours; it was very frustrating. Sometimes the connection would “time-out” it was soooooo slow.

For railroad enthusiasts, Benxi Steel would certainly be the place to visit. They use a variety of steam, electric and diesel engines to haul material around the plant.

There were a variety of restaurants in town. A Chinese-operated, Korean bar-b-q or Shaokao, filled the bill Tuesday night.

 Hot charcoal was placed in the middle of the table and covered with a grill. Meat, veggies, shrimp, clams, everything was placed on the grill to cook. When done, pick it off, dip in one of several sauces and eat. Using chop stick, of course, what else. Add to that some wine and beer … what could be better. Joining us that evening were two engineers from Great Britain, both working on the same project but for a company that engineers hydraulic systems.

I got to tell you about the wild driver and the car with Army ID. Come back again in several days. I’m taking the weekend to visit Hong Kong.

Just down the street from the Intercontinental Hotel in Shenyang, China stands a statue of Chairman Mao

Within the Forbidden City of Shenyang is Dazhengdian Hall (background) and Pavilion of the Ten Kings where audiences and imperial ceremonies were held.  Say, where did the hat come from?

the Class of '61 derby makes an appearance at a Chinese restaurant.

the breakfast buffet at the Intercontinental Hotel, Shenyang.  You can order off the menu if you wish.

workers gather to talk in small groups at all times of the day

electric, steam and diesel engines are used to haul material around Benxi Steel's sprawling plant

even the plant fire department was on hand for the celebration

Gān Bēi!

a typical steel mill lunch consisting of boiled shrimp (complete with eyes,) cooked veggies and rice, all eaten with chop sticks, of course

some workers even live in houses on steel mill property

steam engines parked in the rail yard

the glow of embers at the Korean Shaokao

eggs are cooked to order by the expert chief at the breakfast
buffet of the Ming Zou Hotel, Benxi, China

departure lounge shops at the Shenyang, China airport

fish, meat, seafood and veggies are cooked on the grill, dipped in a variety of sauces in small saucers and washed down with a "liberal" application of adult beverages

the banner in the banquet hall recognized the Hot Commissioning Start Up of the new production equipment