I just got back a couple of days ago from doing three back-to-back presentations over three days in China: Beijing, Guangzhou, Hong Kong.
This was my first visit to mainland China in 13 or 14 years. My initial visit was in 1986, when Mao coats and caps were still in fashion. Things have changed a lot! To say the least.
My first talk was in Beijing, at one of the facilities in the complex built for the summer Olympics in 2008.
The venue was fantastic! It was spacious, with high ceilings, lots of space for hanging prints, plenty of seating for the audience of 130 people or so, a nice projector, and a great audio system.
Everything worked perfectly. Though many in the audience understood English, I had to be conscious of avoiding slang and excessive use of informal language that might be difficult to understand. Fortunately, my friend Richard translated perfectly, making up for deficiencies in my explanations.
A lot of work went into preparing for this event, much of it done by people I had never met until I arrived in Beijing to prepare for the talk. I have to say I was impressed by how smoothly things went, and how organised the entire process was. Prints framed, delivered, hung, chairs in place, sponsors, media attendance, even a proper Master of Ceremonies to run the proceedings. Wow.
Of course, I ate a lot while I was in Beijing (what else is new, right?). The night before the talk, for instance, friends treated us to a feast (such an understatement!) that involved delicacy after delicacy, with the primary feature being Peking duck.
If you're going to have Peking duck, what better place than in Beijing?
After Beijing, we flew down to Guangzhou, where I did my humpback whale talk at the Canon showroom. This talk was arranged by Sandy, who runs a travel and u/w photography business in Guangzhou. She was kind enough to pick us up at the airport and feed us more excellent food (hurray!) at a restaurant featuring Hakka cuisine before the talk.
Richard was so familiar with my spiel by this point that I barely had to say anything. He did most of the work!
Freed from the anxiety of wondering whether Richard would find it difficult to understand what I was saying and translate my thoughts, I couldn't resist inserting a joke here or there (the strain of behaving in an almost mature manner for so many days was unbearable!).
When people started laughing before Richard's translations, I realised there were enough people who understood my nonsense that I could wing it a bit more than I had in Beijing, saying silly things from time to time.
Poor Richard had to stay on point and convey the serious bits while trying not to crack up.
Guangzhou is often referred to as the epicenter of great food in China. We had a couple of amazing meals there, including a wonderful brunch of dim sum with Gary, a friend who has traveled to Tonga with me in the past.
There was a lot more food than pictured below, but once the treats started arriving at the table, things got serious and there was really no time for snapshots.
From Guangzhou, it was on to Hong Kong, with a stop at the Nauticam factory near Shenzhen, where we had a chance to see the impressive machinery, processes and teamwork that goes into making Nauticam's range of products.
Taking a tour of the facilities gave me a new appreciation for how much time, effort and investment go into the production of every housing, port, and even the smallest of parts.
And finally, we reached Hong Kong that evening just in time to hook up with fellow photographers Stephen Wong, Takako Uno, and Yoshi Hirata for dinner (yes, more food!) and sharing of photos with a terrific group of divers and photographers...organised by Nauticam.
I figured I would be whaled-out by the time I reached Hong Kong, so I polished up a presentation I did in Singapore earlier in the year about underwater photography and gave that talk. I asked to speak relatively early in the evening as I was exhausted from travel.
When everyone was finished, Stephen asked me to do my whale talk. I wasn't as tired as I thought I'd be, and it was a great group of people, so I ended up doing my humpback presentation as well, thus forcing the dinner attendees in Hong Kong to listen to me twice in one evening!
It was an eventful week. A really fun one, filled with terrific people, lots of laughs, and heaps of amazing food.
To everyone who organised, funded, hosted, arranged, transported, fed, babysat, and endured me...Thank You so much!
No trip for me is complete without animals and toys. To wrap-up, here are pix of some new friends I made along the way: