The flight over was very smooth and uneventful. It landed an hour early and the baggage was ready by the time I went to the bank to change dollars into RMB. I made my usual stop at Jenny Lu’s for soy milk, eggs, cereal, orange juice and wine. I then set up the house. Mung had done a good job preparing the house for my return and it felt good to be back.
I set up the outside lights. Everything went smoothly, except for setting up the Internet on my laptop.
I followed the exact procedure I used before, but it said that my domain name and password did not work. Last time that was all set automatically so I would not have to do it again. On a hunch I tried my Blackberry which uses Verizon. I was told that Verizon does not work in China, but apparently its Internet feature does so I was able to receive incoming e-mails that were sent to my office address. There were only two problems with that solution. First, any attachments are minuscule and I have not yet figured out how to enlarge the font. Second, although I could reply I do not know how to originate e-mails.
I spoke to Li Gang, who was uptight because his one-man show was opening on Saturday. I wished him luck. We agreed that we would discuss the work he was to do to help me set up the equipment in the metal sculpture studio after his show, and after I returned from Bashon. Laurens Tans had left a message for me, so I returned his call. He was leaving for Australia the next day, decided that he needed a break, and would come over to my place for drinks, followed by dinner.
Before he came over, I rode my electric bicycle to the local village to look for a bicycle repair man to pump up the tires. There was one on the same corner where the gypsy drivers meet and play cards while waiting for a fare.
I got home 10 minutes before Laurens arrived. We opened a bottle of chilled white wine and talked. He was going back to Australia for a short visit before traveling. He described his second home which is a mile south of Sydney and overlooks the ocean. Next year he is coming to the United States for five months. Most of that time he will spend with Peter Lewis in Massachusetts and South Orange, New Jersey. Somehow, with me driving my electric bicycle we made it to the Beijing duck house, about a mile from my place. A special roast duck, some spinach and Chinese beer was a welcome and robust first meal in China. Our conversation continued. We look forward to seeing each other in Beijing when I return, if he is in Beijing at that time, or when he comes to the United States next year.
Reheated Beijing duck with scrambled eggs was an excellent start. Professor CZ Wang and his wife picked me up to take us to the Eastern Railroad Station for a high speed train to Bashon in Shandong Province. This railroad station makes Grand Central Station in New York City look like a deserted island. It is extremely crowded, but Professor Wang knew exactly where he was going. I would never have found the train. We had assigned seats. The high speed trains, with speeds in excess of 200 kph are clean with free water and relatively clean restrooms. There is also food service which is either served airplane style while in your seat or you can go to the dining car. South of Beijing the land appears to be much more fertile, but it is still extremely flat. As we approached our station, Zibo, small mountains appeared in the distance. After leaving a very dark, area we were greeted by hundreds of taxi drivers imploring us to use their cab. We took a taxi to Bashon. The area has suffered through some reason economic downturns, but there are a few isolated beautiful parks and historic areas. The ride to the hotel took about an hour.
After unpacking, we were to meet Mr. Sun, the owner of the factory, and Mr. Fang Li, from his glass factory. The plan was to have dinner first and decide how to accomplish my sculpture project. They had some excellent ideas, but were unfamiliar with the use of graphite spray. One of their ideas was to build out a flange around the sides of the steel mold to prevent the glass from curling under. Bashon is also the ceramics center of China. There was a local high temperature clay that was ideally suited for this purpose. Next, we discussed the possible problem with some small open areas on the top of the sculpture. We then had an excellent dinner at the hotel restaurant. Professor Wang and Mr. Sun are old friends and have worked together on a number of his sculpture projects. One of those projects was a large glass sculpture in the shape of the Chinese character for old which is just outside the Zibo railroad station, and which we saw on our way to the hotel. When Professor Wang pointed out this sculpture from the taxi, I suggested we take a closer look, but he said we did not have time.
My Chinese is improving. I understood many of the words, and had a general idea of what they were talking about. Mr. Sun's factory is doing a very good business with the glass sculptures made by his lampwork group for the Japanese market. These are small pieces that are done by hand. The lower cost of labor in China put most of the Japanese factories that did this kind of work out of business. Business was doing well, and he was looking forward to working on a difficult technical project, which was far different than the work normally done by his glass blowers.