Meeting the team again in Qingdao

After a short visit to Den Helder, I met the UNICEF team again in Qingdao, China. They were busy entertaining local school children on the boat and getting ready for the next leg across the Pacific with the same skipper that took over in Albany for leg 4 to Airlie Beach. The coastal area of Qingdao was redeveloped for the 2008 Olympic Games when the town hosted the Olympic sailing races. A walking tour around Qingdao to see places less affected by the 2008 Olympic Games was therefore high on my list of things to do.

Many skipper changes is certainly not good for any team. We hope that UNICEF's performance will improve with “Cloughie” as he will continue as skipper to the finish in London at the end of July. He is keen to get the team in a more competitive mindset and to get the boat up the leaderboard as he did in the three races of leg 4.

In Qingdao we have experienced the Chinese censorship of the Internet. Facebook and Messenger do not work and many Google services including Gmail can also be difficult to receive. But in some places it does work some of the time. Also a VPN solution seem to solve acces problems in one hotel but not in my hotel. It is all confusing. The good thing is that there is free WiFi in most cafe's, shops and hotels for email and some website browsing.

Food is variable with totally un-identifiable dishes sold in the streets to delights such as Braised Chicken Feet with Albalone Sauce or Stir-fried Pig's Kidney at my hotel. English is not widely spoken nor understood and it has been fun trying to ask for directions, pay entry fees and generally trying to get any information. It involves a lot of pointing and “gesturing”. Therefore ordering food can only reasonably done by pointing at pictures with dishes and holding up the appropriate number of fingers to indicate the number of dishes. The local beer is Tsingtao and ordering that is no problem at all. We may starve but we will not de-hydrate.

Today, I walked around Qingdao, looking for the less “touristy” places in particular shops. Around the Olympic Sailing Centre the shops are all selling high cost designer items. I found an area with local shopping streets where there were no westerners and I certainly attracted funny looks. Then a walk up the hill where there is a 348 mtr heigh TV tower. Took the cable car over the hill to the Zhanshan Buddhist temple which is a collection of 5 halls and a Pagoda. People were walking circles around the pagoda, possibly seven times, not sure why yet. Need to Google this…

Along the waterfront there are a number of small parks. The May 4th square with the red spaceship sculpture was named after a nationwide protest group and there is the Music Square with sculptures of famous composers.

I had seen men playing this board game in Vietnam. They do not place the round pieces in the squares, but where the lines cross on the board. The game is called Xiangqi and is a Chinese chess game: “The game represents a battle between two armies, with the object of capturing the enemy's general (king). Distinctive features of xiangqi include the cannon (pao), which must jump to capture; a rule prohibiting the generals from facing each other directly; areas on the board called the river and palace, which restrict the movement of some pieces (but enhance that of others); and placement of the pieces on the intersections of the board lines, rather than within the squares.”

On Sunday the UNICEF team will be on their way again. A couple of crew had to retire due to injuries but a good number of “leggers” have turned up for this leg and the good boat will be sailing across the Pacific with a good complement of victims sailors. I will be waving them goodbye again and take the high-speed bullet train to Beijing on Monday.
Until next.