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Gareth is an Australian who has lived in JiangSu, SuZhou (Heaven on Earth) for a few years - he is a keen observer of the Chinese people, Chinese culture and the changes that are occurring in China at break-neck speed. He can often be found on his a nightly 'perch' in front of his bar in the famous Bar Street in Suzhou, talking to the locals in his bad Mandarin, teaching the 'flower-selling girls' English, eating street food and smiling at the local chengguan (neighbourhood police). Gareth also has several other businesses in China around Business and English training. His experiences have been varied and interesting and his years in China have taught him to be wary of promises but excited about prospects, not a bad situation to be in!
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Front End Loader... In The Sky    

By Garreth Humphris
2102 Views | 1 Comments | 2/29/2012 12:46:13 AM

I was doing some Internet searches last week - I am creating some brochures for my company so I was looking for happy, smiling portraits of Chinese people. You know, people satisfied with the services I offer, business people in suits that benefit from my limited knowledge, cute girls (without the duck-face pout or the V pose... that’s a hard one!) and handsome boys with slick hair and crisp shirts who become professional corporate ladder-climbers through my assistance... anyway, you get the picture.

And then I came across the picture of the front-end loader demolishing a building! Not so strange you think... you’ve seen it before... but there is a catch... it’s 12 stories in the air!

True, the machine somehow climbed it’s way onto the 12th somewhere in TaiYuan city and started smashing things up...I thought it was photo-shopped - someone was playing a joke but there were more pictures, taken from different angles and different sources which would make it a pretty elaborate hoax!

My brain was boggled - when I asked my friend in Australia who knows about these things, he was surprised but said it was not too difficult to use the hydraulics on a digger to climb... he went into a long technical description of punching holes in the end of the building and leveraging the arm up to the sky... I dozed off. But he added that the guy must have been very brave or very stupid to be doing it because these things can slide and topple if the footing is not secure - ok on the ground but 12 stories up, it’s a long way to slide until you stop. And we were trying to work out what he did with all the rubble he was making...was he pushing it off the side of the building? So much dust, danger and debris!

It got me thinking back to my first encounters with contractors in China... I first got here about 10 years ago to work in a factory. For the most part, the building was completed when I arrived but we had to install the machinery, wiring, piping and lighting inside. This isn't so easy, I was using large mixing tanks that could store 10,000 litres, hydraulic mixing blades that needed cranes to adjust their height and other machines that were 5 tonnes in weight. Amazingly, most of these were unloaded from trucks and installed into location with sheer manpower...people, ropes, swearing, sweat and tears, but luckily no blood.

Fortunately, most of the workers were pretty level-headed but we had one guy who was a dare-devil. If there was ever a situation that made me cringe for it’s sheer lack of care and optimum risk to life and limb, this guy was doing it!

One day I walked around the corner of the factory to see him hanging upside down 2 floors up with his legs wrapped around a pipe - he had a piece of rope tied to the end of another length of pipe that was lying on the ground and he was trying to lift it up to his level - how he thought he could do it, I’ll never know, but he tried...

Another time I observed him from my office window perched in the bucket of a front-end loader being driven across the site - he was bouncing around in it and if he had fallen from the bucket and not killed himself then the tracks of the 3-tonne digger would make no mistakes about it... I realized, to my horror, that they were headed to ’work’ on a temporary power line we had in place for construction - but it was still very much alive so I screamed to my workers to cut all the power to the site - luckily they understood me and did this, so my superhero contractor and his front-end-loader driver buddy were not instantly fried.

When I asked the head contractor not to allow this guy back on the site because the was a severe safety risk, his boss was dismayed. “He’s the most efficient worker", he spluttered, “work so fast, finish many jobs each day!”. Maybe that is true, but I didn't want his death on my hands.

Which draws me to an interesting idea - the difference in the idea of ’risk’ between foreigners and Chinese. Many things that I would consider a risk to life and limb or being a ’preventable situation’ many Chinese view as ’an accident’ or ’fate’. I know I have made fun of it a little in previous blogs about driving with friends in cars, and giving up stability for the idea of love - but there seems to be a general lack of admission that “actions have foreseeable consequences” in China.

An example is a friend who married a “playboy” against all the good advice of her family and friends. She somehow thought that his “playboy tendancies” would disappear. She is now divorcing him, 5 years and a baby after, for being a playboy and seeing other women. I know that it is sad, but even when they were engaged, she caught him with another lady - he had shown his true colors to her early... but she resolutely tells me that it is bad luck, a mismatch of the zodiac, (or the other main Chinese reason, “The government should...”) and not some ’pre-marriage warning’. For me, it was (when they announced their wedding) a fairly high probability that the guy would debunk... given his history... and unfortunately we were proved right!

I’ll explore this idea a little later in another blog, until then, keep safe and try not to take too many risks... that includes crossing the road, eating sewer-oil street food or walking nearby tall buildings with heavy equipment balancing on top of them!

Copyright owned jointly by Author and CyberCupid Co., Ltd. Breach of copyright will be prosecuted.
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#2012-03-01 04:15:29 by bmccull @bmccull

Photos of the excavator generated some discussion on engineering fora a few months ago. An acquaintance was able to ascertain that it is tethered while it is up there but no one could explain how it got there. A great mystery of China!

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