One occupation and passion of my wife involves being a representative for Vorwerk China, a German home appliance manufacturer that first entered the Chinese market in 1994.
The centre-piece is the Thermomix multi-purpose cooking machine. Rather than simply selling through retailers, or directly online, the sales model they use is a network of representatives who both use and understand the product, then develop their own customer bases through which they can purchase the Thermomix machine. They can work from home or make use of facilities provided in showrooms by the company in most major Chinese cities. Renumeration is mostly performance based, increasing according to the number of sales achieved each month. The beauty of this model is that the sky is literally the limit, and there are stars who have sold thousands of units, earning themselves a very handsome keep in the process.
Anyhow, an annual party is held for a limited but sizeable number of employees from each city who achieved their yearly sales targets. The event itself is a very lavish affair, with an all expenses paid five day excursion to a different location each year. This time, it was the turn of Nanjing to host the party, and it was the perfect excuse for myself to tag along and explore a famous city I had never visited before, despite having been in China so many years.
Our alarm sounded at 5:30am. Within half an hour of tiptoes and whispers, we crept out and left the apartment complex through the basement carpark entrance. The security guards hadn’t come to open the shutters, but I found we could push the button ourselves, then scramble out as they slowly came back down with another push on the controls.
The rest of the journey went smoothly. As I expected, the dreary rain at Chongqing Jiangbei gave way to clear skies and warm sunshine on the tarmac at Nanjing Lukou.
Vorwerk had very kindly put on a coach for us few arrivals, and didn’t object to me catching a lift alongside. Our destination was the Intercontinental, a towering structure that reached 82 floors into the Nanjing skyline, its various and narrowing features reminded me only vaguely of the Kalifa skyscraper in Dubai.
An old English acquaintance from my early days in Korea made the trip from nearby Changzhou to accompany us for the day. He assured me the weather had not been so clear the past winter, dispelling my impressions that it was only Chongqing and Sichuan that were overcast virtually the entire winter.
After a an hour of catching up over some local delicacies, we headed out to Xuanwu Lake玄武湖 where we first hired a gently powered boat and cruised just beyong the large bridge before slowly heading back to our starting point.
Next was the surrounding city wall, which we walked along for a kilometre before coming back down at the next fort.
Politeness does not always pay
As we walked along the lakeside, I noticed a middle-aged woman waving eagerly in our direction. I looked around to see who she could be aiming towards, and with nobody else around, I waved back gently out of politeness.
I should have ignored her, unfortunately.
She immediately bounded across the grass, and asked in Chinese whether we wanted to play.
Though cleanly dressed and groomed, it was evident from her countenance that she wasn’t all quite there. I curteously declined, saying we were going back home. She said nothing beyond that point, but continued to walk silently behind us for the next few hundred metres. We quickened our pace, and as she fell behind a little further we ran round a corner towards a lakeside building, and climbed over a set of rocks that crossed over a cold and turbid looking pond, only one slip away from ending our day cold, filthy and miserable. The woman followed us but didn’t fancy crossing the pond, so when we saw her disappear round the side of the building on the way over, we scrambled again back over the rocks and dashed down the main drag towards Xuanwu Gate, never to see her again.
As one acquaintance left, a Chinese friend from Chongqing had flown across to join us.
Incidentally, adding to my first experience of being stalked the previous day, I witnessed the curious sight of a long line of coats and shoes drying high up on roadside power cables, a colourful backdrop to a morning walk through a maze of residential side-streets.
During this second day, we took a taxi to Zhongshan Ridge中山陵, the final resting place of many Chinese emperors, and also the mausoleum of the first Republic of China leader Sun Yatsen孙中山 (Sun Zhongshan). The wooded hills of this area are immaculately tended, and the views from the top make ascending the steep climb a worthwhile experience.
Our next stop would be the Nanjing Memorial, and the taxi drivers suggested they drop us at the nearest subway station, and take the train down to Yunjin Road云锦路.
Naturally, it was not the jolliest of venues, but after walking round the exhibits and resting on a bench in the gardens outside, that was about all we had time for.
That same evening, we took the subway for that considerably long journey to Lukou Airport, and it was around 2:30am that I was finally able to crash into bed back in Chongqing.