Settling in Macau

The first night in Macau I slept well for about six hours. That is, I woke up at five o’clock. I could not fall asleep again and therefore I decided to get everything that I would need at work from my suitcases. Then I found the letters from my wife and children that I was looking for the day before, but could not find. I immediately started reading them. Halfway I spontaneously started to cry because I realized very strongly how much I would miss my wife and children badly.

I ought to start working on my second day in Macau. What I actually did was mainly talking with my colleagues about both their work at UNU/IIST and issues relating to settling in Macau, in particular the issue of renting an appartment. All my colleagues wanted to help me with finding an appropriate appartment and after work I went with one of my colleagues to the island Taipa, which is part of Macau, to look at his appartment. After that I first took a quick meal at one of the many McDonald’s in Macau and then I walked around to get an impression of the different districts of Macau, but I did not see much difference. It was all not particularly pretty. Appartments in Macau are mainly in high-rise buildings, usually more than twenty storeys high.

Of the people that I saw in the streets of Macau, most came across as Chinese and some came across as Portuguese. Initially I did not realize that the Macaunese people with Chinese roots were relatively short people, like most people from South East China, but after a while I noticed that I towered above all people that I saw in the streets of Macau: they looked up to me for no other reason than my length.

Back in my hotel, I found information about the climate in Macau. The average temperature varies between 15º C in the winter months and 30º C in the summer months, with minima and maxima about three degrees lower and higher, respectively. The average degree of humidity is about 80%. The rainfall is more than 2000 mm per year, of which about 500 mm in June and 500 mm in September. It is mostly clouded.

On my third day in Macau, I occupied myself extensively with looking for an appartment. Vivian, the girl of Xu QiWen, drove me round. She showed me some nice places in Macau that I had not seen during my walk the evening before, but she told me that living there was very expensive. We also visited various appartments. Most of them looked rather dingy or smelled unpleasantly of mildew. The latter is fairly usual in Macau, and finds its origin in high degree of humidity.

Like everyone working at UNU/IIST, Vivian spoke English. However, with her, I experienced during these visits of appartments for the first time that making a smooth conversation in English with a native speaker of Cantonese does not always mean that there is mutual understanding. In one of the visited appartments I tried to make clear to Vivian in a polite way that I was not interested in the appartment at all. However, she understood the opposite and told the renter that I was about to rent the appartment. I found out about this misunderstanding only after we had left the appartment.

I do not know the real first name of Vivian. Like many young people in Macau, Hong Kong and China with Western contacts, she adopted a Western first name for her Western contacts. The Macaunese women from the support staff of UNU/IIST did this as well. For instance, the real name of Wendy Hoi is Hoi Iok Wa. It is a strange phenomenon. A do not know about Western people with contacts in Macau, Hong Kong or China who adopt a Chinese first name for their contacts there.

Vivian also showed me some interesting spots in Macau and helped me buying some fruits on a market: a gigantic grapefruit from China, a big papaya from Malaysia, and two of a small fruit from Thailand that was unknown to me. Remarkable were the sizes of many fruits on this market, the apples, pears and grapes from China were huge as well. Here I mean the following by gigantic: after I had eaten the grapefruit late in the afternoon, I had to skip dinner although I am considered a large eater by most people.

The next day, which was a Friday, I visited still more appartments with Vivian. During the following weekend, I weighted the advantages and disadvantages of the different visited appartments against each other. I also thought hard about the need to visit still other appartments taking into account that continuing the quest for a great appartment for some time could be rather expensive: appartments are much cheaper than hotel rooms. I decided to visit once more the very first appartment that I had visited with Vivian.

The appartment concerned was near the city centre in one of the least noisy parts of Macau and about six minutes walking from the building of UNU/IIST. Dines Bjørner and Chris George, the only people in Macau that I already knew before my arrival, turned out to live very close: Chris and his wife Sue in the next appartment building to the right and Dines and his wife Kari in the second next appartment building to the left. After the second visit and an inspection of the direct vicinity of the appartment I decided to rent it.

The appartment was a partly furnished appartment on the eighth storey of a 31-storey building. I was the first occupant, and everything in the appartment was brand-new. There was already an air conditioner with dehumidifier, which is indispensable in Macau. To make it a fully-equipped appartment, I still needed a washing machine, a cooker, a fridge, and a lounge suite. I bought them with the assistance of Wendy Hoi and Coffee das Dores from the support staff of UNU/IIST. They talked rather long and with emphasis to the shopkeepers concerned. I assumed that they were bargaining about the price. Later I have heard from Wendy that this was only partly true: a lot was repeated a few times to convince oneself that the other person was well understood.

After I decided to rent the appartment there were some negotiations about the rent of the appartment, with the assistance of Wendy Hoi, and ten days after my arrival in Macau I checked out from the hotel and moved in the appartment in which I would live the next two years when I was not working elsewhere for UNU/IIST.

© Kees Middelburg, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Kees Middelburg with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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About Kees Middelburg

Retired computer scientist
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