This morning I woke up with lightening striking and thunder rolling. Of course it was 2:45am and I felt like I had finished sleeping for the night. Here we go again with the jet lag. I forced myself to go to sleep again until 4am but slept very lightly due to the lightening. I tend to sleep with my curtains open in a hotel room (not sure why but it has become a habit now). At 5am I finally gave up and got up and answered emails. I realized that the reason I could not see anything when I arrived in the room was probably due to the fact that I was in the cloud. As it was now raining the clouds had lifted and I could see the lights of the harbour. It was quite beautiful.
We had a breakfast meeting at 8am in the hotel. What I realized immediately is that the food was going to be different over the next 3 days. Steamed buns, sago and various other chinese items which were unrecognizable at breakfast. Even the fruit was interesting. At least half of the fruit I had never seen before. I stuck with the known. They had bottled fruit juices of every type you could imagine. I went with watermelon – it was fantastic – like drinking a watermelon. I stuck with the Western breakfast this time and had my usual of 2 eggs.
I had free then until lunch but as I was feeling really jet lagged I headed back to the room and tried to have another hour of sleep to get me through what I knew would be a long day. I did nap on and off but never managed to fall asleep properly. We then had lunch in the Dynasty Club in Hong Kong. It is a private members only club. There are two Gen Re people speaking at the events – myself and John Gilbert who is our Chief Investment Officer (and based in the USA). He spoke during lunch today. He spoke incredibly well and all the clients were paying attention. My mind wandered from time to time but he even managed to keep my jet lagged mind most of the time. Lunch was an experience as well. I think I must have eaten at least 10 things I have never eaten before. It consisted of 7 courses and then 2 desert courses as well. It was a HUGE amount of food. Impossible to eat all of it. I think in every course there was something I had never eaten before. If you’re squeamish, you might want to skip this part! Here are the things I ate today which I have never had before:
- Jelly Fish
- Deep-fried bean curd (remind me not to ever try that again)
- Sea Whelk (sea snail)
- Chinese Yam
- Meldar (it is herb used for healing)
- Conpoy (this is dried scallops – scallops I have eaten previously but never dried)
- Spotted Grouper (they offered the head around for people to eat the eyes etc)
- Dragon Fruit
The soup also had chicken feet in it (though I have had those before). I could not bring myself to eat the Sago Cream Mango for desert. This was all accompanied by plenty of wine – one of which was Rupert & Rothchild from SA.
After lunch we had about an hour before the next meeting so we went into the office and I met everyone I have only ever dealt with via email. The office is on the 68th floor and you have to take 2 lifts to get up that high. Half way up is an observation deck with fantastic views of the city. We then went to have a meeting with the Actuarial Society of HK. As we were slightly early, my host (Tuan) asked if I minded if he popped into a bookstore at the bottom of the building. Tuan lives in China and is our branch manager there. The bookshop turned out to be ‘Elim Christian Bookstore’. This obviously resulted in us having a conversation about Christianity and it turns out that Tuan is a Christian. He is Malaysian by birth and 3 of his family members were converted all in different countries. He told me it was ‘by the Grace of God’. He bought two books (one by Josh Harris translated into Chinese). He told me it is illegal to take them back into China but he will do it anyway. He cannot get any Christian books in China. We got talking about CBD and our numerous branches. I could see the envy in his eyes. I asked about his Church and he says they meet illegally because they are not allowed to have an official church. He runs the house church – they do not have a pastor. They usually get 35-40 on a Sunday morning but he says that they have about 80 people linked to the church. He said the Church in China is growing rapidly because of the suppression. It said it is really encouraging to be involved. A lot of the people attending are younger people and they have no teaching and so he tries to get books every time he comes to HK to take back. It was an amazing conversation and incredibly encouraging to find this out. I have know Tuan for about 2-3 years now and he is a very nice guy but he never mentioned that he was a Christian previously. He said he knew I was a Christian because Wolfgang (our head of Asia-Pacific) told him.
We then had a benign (by comparison to the 15 minutes of conversation above), discussion with the ASHK about actuarial education and various items of mutual interest (which none of you, even the actuaries, would probably be interested in). The ASHK had organized me for to speak to their members and we had to walk to the KPMG building about 15 minutes away. It was bucketing down with rain but most of the walkways are covered so it was only the occasional drop of rain that actually fell on me as we ran from one walkway to the other. The talk was attended by about 50 actuaries from across the market. I had been warned that there was likely to be no questions. And there weren’t until I eventually coaxed one out. They seemed entertained. I only noticed 1 person fall asleep. I spoke really slowly and deliberately so my usual 30-35 minute presentation became a 45 minute presentation. Afterwards a few people came up to me and spoke to me and thanked me or asked some questions.
We were then off the airport to catch our 22:40 flight to Taipei. We had about 2 hours to kill in the airport but as I with Tuan & Wolfgang we went to the Cathay Pacific lounge and had dinner and chatted about various things including Gen Re matters. It was good catching up with Wolfgang in particular. The flight left bang on time and arrived at 12:20am. We got through immigration & customs with no problem. The airport is a little like JHB/CT airports were about 5-10 years ago. Old but functioning. We had a car pick us up and take us to the hotel. We are staying in the Far Eastern Plaza Hotel in Taipei. It is very nice. The rooms are spacious, have a walk in closet and a beautiful marble bathroom. Given that it is now 2:05am, I am going to send this email and then get into bed and sleep until about 7am. I have breakfast at 8am followed by a seminar (which I am speaking at twice).
Good night, sleep tight.
Burb …. (must be the sea whelk)