(Disclaimer: the formatting on all of these Chinese posts is going to be messed up as hell for the entire duration of this trip, as I can only post them as “quotes” via my iphone and it’s really, really slow. I can’t preview the posts and therefore a lot of typos and bad grammer slips past me. Sorry. All will be corrected when I’m back in the land of the living)(or not, because I’m lazy).

This morning we all pulled on exciting jumpsuits and went to visit various oil plants and construction sites dotted around Karamay. Photos weren’t allowed onsite, so instead I bring you a dozen pictures of me, me, me, in my suit, and eventually hat, and occasionally with various colleagues. (I do have a couple of beautiful scenic posts lined up but I want to be able to preview them on a real screen before I publish them…)

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You’re never fully dressed without a smile and a grand piano.
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Me and my workmate
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We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a caged hedgehog and bunny rabbit, spotted being rushed across the hotel carpark. I have NO idea what-who-where-how-why but it reminded me of the hedgehogs we kept as pets when we were small. 
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And last but not least, my favourite, with the Chinese flag blowing perfectly in the background!
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And whilst I’m unashamedly doing a blog post which is essentially pictures of me, much much later that day we were having dinner in the plushest restaurant of Urumqi and this guy turned up to prepare noodles in front of us. 
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It just so happens that I loooooooove these chunky noodles — “fat noodles”, as I call them. I first discovered them in Taiwan as there is a restaurant that does them in the Shida night market, and I have dragged every visitor to see them being made by slicing slivers of dough into boiling soup. And of course today was the day I got to do so myself, woohoo!
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Discovering it’s not all that easy…
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Damn noodles won’t come off the stick…
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WILL… YOU… DROP… INTO … THE SOUP NOW PLEEEASSEE *banging against the pot*
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Officially failing at making a noodle:
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Never mind. The minister still gave me a hug in the end.
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Karamay and me me me

This firewall is seriously cramping my blogging style!

Fake Xia bronze, which both delighted me and made me roll my eyes. I delayed everyone (including the minister) to snap this picture, because I am fond of Xia bronzes and this facsimile with its cheap plastic gems and broken off rivets was endearingly cheap and corny.

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You can’t spell Business Trip to China without a big formal dinner. This one was pretty decent though! I really like the people we are working with here in Xinjiang — really sweet guys. 

The table setting was… unusual!
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Someone important must be sitting here:
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I love the sauce-art on the dishes…
Bamboo
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Shrimp
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After dinner we went for a stroll through the sports park nearby. I know that sounds thrilling but it was actually a really pleasant walk (remember we have spent most of the last 48 hours on planes or in airports (Colombo – Bangkok – Beijing – Urumqi – Karamay… all to be done in reverse order next week). It was particularly nice for me, firstly as I haven’t been in a cold climate (apart from 4 days in Seoul in January) for a couple of years at least — all this continent-hopping back and forth between Australia, Taiwan, Europe and Sri Lanka has meant I’ve carefully dodged winters all year round.  But really what I liked about this park is it was of the exact sort my old company used to design. Only when I was rendering these gigantic sports complexes in PhotoShop, they seemed really dull and empty and a waste of space. But this funny city, 80% designed and built by China Petroleum, was crawling with people. The basketball court, with its dozens of courts, was packed, as were the soccer fields, and they were all having so much fun!

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Even the professional rollerblading rink (the type of construction I would have snorted at with derision when seeing it on one of designs) counted several enthusiast, zooming along on their blades:
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Of course, it wouldn’t be a Chinese park without…

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Zombies? Flashmob? No… just the usual group dance exercise. Only this one was on a mon-u-MENTAL scale… there were easily over a hundred people, dance-walking silently round and round in a circle, carefully lined up like soldiers, whilst a single speaker blasted eery pop-songs. Nobody smiled or seemed to enjoy it, but it was fascinating and hypnotic to watch…

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This jolly little idiot had to join in, but by the time my camera took a picture everyone had changed pose behind me…
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We all joined in for a quarter-turn around the park, then controversially broke free and made for the ever-entertaining gym-equipment:
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Final detail: the entire park is not only lit at night, but is populated by musical koalas who play a tinny stream of pop music to help you pace your sporting endeavours… how cute is he!

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This firewall is seriousl…