Raiders of the Lost Chinese Ark (Beijing, China, 5/21/2009)

Our mission was, actually, to locate 2 shipments and verify the contents. They sent us to a dusty warehouse near the Beijing airport. Being Sunday, the staff were outside lolling on the sidewalk, smoking and one guy had his arm around what looked like a 18mo old baby. The young wife was hanging around too with another kid, turned out they were twins. My colleague told them we were the ones requesting access and the whole retinue made its way over to the dirty, cramped office. There were a few couches in the office, covered with suspicious stains. A TV was blaring some Chinese period drama. The staff searched the computer for a long time looking for our shipment. They led us to a big crate. Aha! They set about opening it. We were in the main building and I noticed the racks were full of HP printers toner and boxes. I realized we were in the HP warehouse. The racks were guarded by an extremely vicious german shepard, the largest dog I’d ever seen in China (usually I only see small mongrels). He was barking up a storm. It seemed like he barked the most at me. “HP dog”, said my colleague Charles.

Finally the crate was opened but it was not the plotter we were looking for. Hmm. In the meantime the two babies were running around the warehouse filled with standing puddles of water, piles of debris, loose screws, paper scraps, and a few mm layer of dirt. One of the kids had a humongous filthy screw in his hand that he would periodically gnaw on. This same kid ran towards the german shepard which caused the dog to go into a frenzy. The dad caught him before the dog broke free from his chain.

After another 15 min they located the other shipment in another building. This building was in much the same condition but contained mostly sales gifts such as manicure sets, frisbees, and wok utensil sets, all with the HP logo on them. Many of the boxes were open with contents strewn about on the floor. I saw an E-size DesignJet plotter that obviously had not survived the shipping process – the crate and foam had distintegrated and the plotter was tilted and falling out. This was sitting on top of our crate.

The guys opened the crates by removing the screws with wrenches. The only reason there was a 2nd wrench was because I brought one. Otherwise we’d have been there all day. In America we would not have touched a job like this without power tools. Of course there are no power tools here. “Only china man power” said Charles. No wonder things take so long in China. The guys vaulted themselves to the top of the 5ft tall crates like they were ex-olympic gymnasts. Perhaps they were. I was like “wow”. As I was helping them extract screws I suddenly felt like I was in an Indiana Jones movie, handling the Ark of the Covanant. What would we find when we looked inside?

We had been asked to unpack and turn on the equipment but these things were 7ft long, 4ft high and weighed 90 and 120kg apiece. And were wrapped like king tut’s mummy. Thank god otherwise we’d have all been vaporised. Took a bunch of pix and closed them back up. Looked like they were in good condition and extremely well protected.

In the meantime the kids were being shuttled around the yard in a handmade bamboo cart with 4 wheels from 4 different sources, that was reinforced with leftover marketing collateral stickers. It was the most pathetic little thing you ever saw. On the other hand, it was a masterful use of resources and spare parts. 

There was one more shipment to find and it was at the back of the main building. We stepped on a bunch of boxes at the far end of the aisle to go around the dog but when he saw we were behind him, he lunged at us again. I was positive he was going to snap his lead. I was genuinely afraid. The guy said something in Chinese and Charles said “he says the dog has bit several men.”

As the guy was getting the boxes down, he dropped one from about 4ft onto the ground. Nice. But all this stuff was ok too. As we came back, Charles asked the guy a question and looked towards one of the side doors. The guy also looked towards the side wall and responded. 75pct chance he was asking whether we could escape out a side door instead of passing the dog again. I predicted the question correctly (body language tells most of the story), but the answer was no.

Mission accomplished and time to head back to town. Of course no taxis so we had to take the city bus. Suddenly I felt a pain in my shoulder. A small yellow ladybug had bit me. I still have a mark 4 days later.

An hour later we disembarked at the bus terminal, then took the subway over to Qian Men which was an incredibly stunning recreation of China from the 20’s, that is if Walt Disney had gotten a hold of it. It was sort of like a Chinese version of Disneyland’s Main Street, for those of you whose frame of reference is all things Disney. 

We had an incredible Peking duck dinner at QianJude duck restaurant, the best in Beijing, therefore the best in the universe. 

We had 2 kinds of wrappers, flour and tortilla (oh yes! Some things are universal), and they brought us extra slivered onion (Charles argued with them over why such a tiny plate of onion was considered a Large order.) They also brought slices of tiny green and red peppers which was a really nice touch with the oiliness of the duck. Between the two of us we ate an entire duck including the head. So very delicious. We received a card saying “this is duck #115,452,786 served at this restaurant”. A great conclusion to a busy day. 

Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant

32 Qianmen Dajie Chóngwén, Beijing China

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