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CHANGING CURRENTS
REFLECTIONS
The MEDIUM, the MESSAGE and the SAUSAGE DOG
CYCLING TO XANADU
THE CHINESE DREAM
CHINESE NEW YEAR ADS
BEYOND THE WALL
ANYONE FOR TENNIS?
VIEWS FROM ABOARD THE CHINA EXPRESS:
1 Zola and Retail Marketing
2 Playing the Waiting Game
3 Beware the Ides of March
4 The county not on a map
5 Chinese Chess in Beijing
6 Build it and They'll Come
7 Riding the Water Dragon
8 The Best of Both Worlds
9 Storming the Great Wall
10 Welcome to the Wangba
11 The Catcher in the Rice
12 The Marriage Business
13 The Crouching Dragon
14 Counting the Numbers
15 A Century of Migration
16 Shooting for the Stars
17 Rise of Yorkshire Puds
18 Harry Potter in Beijing
19 Standing Out in China
20 Self-pandactualisation
21 Strolling on the Moon
22 Tea with the Brothers
23 Animated Guangzhou
24 Trouble on the Farms
25 Christmas in Haerbin
26 Dave pops into Tesco
27 A Breath of Fresh Air
28 The Boys from Brazil
29 Rolls-Royce on a roll
30 The Great Exhibition
31 Spreading the Word
32 On Top of the World
33 Moonlight Madness
34 Beijing's Wild West
35 Avatar vs Confucius
36 Brand Ambassadors
37 Inspiring Adventure
38 China's Sweet Spot
39 Spinning the Wheel
40 Winter Wonderland
41 The End of the Sky
42 Ticket to Ride High
43 Turning the Corner
44 Trouble in Toytown
45 Watch with Mother
46 Red-crowned Alert
47 In a Barbie World
48 Domestic Arrivals
49 Tale of Two Taxis
50 Land of Extremes
51 Of 'Mice' and Men
52 Tour of the South
53 Brooding Clouds?
54 The Nabang Test
55 Guanxi Building
56 Apple Blossoms
57 New Romantics
58 The Rose Seller
59 Rural Shanghai
60 Forbidden Fruit
61 Exotic Flavours
62 Picking up Pace
63 New Year, 2008
64 Shedding Tiers
65 Olympic Prince
66 London Calling
67 A Soulful Song
68 Paradise Lost?
69 Brandopolises
70 Red, red wine
71 Finding Nemo
72 Rogue Dealer
73 Juicy Carrots
74 Bad Air Days
75 Golden Week
76 Master Class
77 Noodle Wars
78 Yes We Can!
79 Mr Blue Sky
80 Keep Riding
81 Wise Words
82 Hair Today
83 Easy Rider
84 Aftershock
85 Bread vans
86 Pick a card
87 The 60th
88 Ox Tales
CHARTS
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2017
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2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2001 to 2007
BIRDS IN CHINA - PHOTOS
BIRDING in CHINA
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ABOUT & CONTACT

Counting the Numbers 

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Respite from the heat, humidity, and noise

“Could I change some Chinese money please?”


  “Only if you have a bank account with us.”


  The same question and answer were repeated half a dozen times in an hour as I toured Manila looking for somewhere, anywhere, to change a fistful of renminbi into the local currency.  Then I had an idea.


  I remembered seeing a Bank of China, just around the corner.  Or was it the second corner?  After 30 minutes of going backwards and forwards in what I can best describe as sauna-like humidity, I found it.


  The cool air inside was a blessed relief.  As was the lack of customers.  No ticket machines.  No queues.  And plenty of staff.  None of whom looked up.


  The guard helpfully pointed me in the direction of a desk, behind which sat a late twenty-something lady of Chinese extraction.  She wore a red dress and a pretty white silk blouse with a rounded collar that was at odds with her hard expression.


  “Could I change some Chinese money please?”


  “Only if you have a bank account with us.”


  “I do have an account with you,” I said triumphantly.


  The lady looked at me with more than a hint of scepticism – it was a fully fledged scowl.


  “Where’s your bank book?”


   “I’m afraid I don’t have it, I’ve left it back in China”


  “In China?”

 

  “Yes, I bank with you in Beijing”.


  “In that case, we can’t help you.”


  “But I have an account with you, the Bank of China.  Please help me.”


  “I will have to ask the manager; let me have your passport”

   

  The lady took my battered book from me without a smile and went upstairs.


  In the ten minutes it took for her to walk back down the stairs I reflected on how wonderfully serene this outpost was – a marked contrast to the frenzy you would be swallowed by at a mainland branch.


  The lady returned, and she had good news.


  “Okay,” she said, “How much would like to change?”


  “4,000 yuan please”


  “We can only change 2,000 yuan at any one time”


  “Does that mean I can change 2,000 yuan and come back in ten minutes to change another 2,000 yuan?”


  She was not amused.  “Let me check,” she said with a grimace.


  Ten minutes later she returned with news, bad news.


  “We can only change 2,000 RMB per day...”


  “...But I know where there's a money changer, who will change the rest for you.”


   She looked at me, puzzled, as I broke into a laughter fit.  The scenario that was unfolding was surreal and had reminded me of my time in Shanghai, 12 years before, where the branches of the Bank of China had their own resident money changers who would actually wait inside the bank and compete between themselves for your business.  Their exchange rates were always better than the banks that hosted them, so consequently the banks’ foreign exchange counters never seemed to transact any foreign exchange.  Although, for some reason, the tellers and the branches’ security guards always took an interest when the money was being counted.


  I composed myself.  “Sorry for laughing,” I said, “But no thanks.  2,000 yuan will be enough.”


  I counted out the money.  She then counted out the money.  She counted it again.  And again.  “2,000 yuan,” she confirmed.  “Wait a moment.”


  Twenty minutes later I was still waiting.  At least it gave me time to transcribe the hilarious episode onto my Nokia.  But what was the problem? 


  After twenty-five minutes, the lady in the red dress and pretty white blouse, gestured me over to her colleague, who was sitting behind a glass counter window.


  Sign here.”


  I signed against the 2,000 yuan and the agreed exchange rate.


  “And sign here”


  I looked at the long roll of paper that seemed to have as many numbers as a 1970s logarithm book.


  “What’s this,” I asked.


  “Serial numbers,” she said without a hint of humour.


  It then dawned on me that the reason it had taken so long is that she had typed each note’s serial number – two letters and eight numbers – into her machine and I was being asked to confirm that the numbers were right.  The 20 Chinese notes were sitting in front of her, so presumably she wanted me to do it from memory.

 

  It was a game I couldn’t resist.  “Is that number a 6 or an 8…” I said with my best feigned quizzical expression… “…Oh, I see, sorry it’s a 6.”  I then signed on the dotted line, pausing to make absolutely sure that the 20th and last note’s serial number was indeed as I had remembered it.

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All numbers present and correct