Adventures while Chasing the JTC Bus

The following recount describes my experience missing the Junior Team Canada bus – not even in a figurative manner. Towards the end of the presentations at the Canadian Consulate General in Guangzhou, I met Trade Commissioner Assistant Ms. Corrnie Wang, one of twenty local employees at the office, who generously helped me connect with a local print shop for getting revised copies of JTC’s resource guide. The digital file for the booklet was being revised in Canada and there was no way to obtain it without email. The obstacle was that the internet connectivity in China is heavily restricted by what is known colloquially as the Great Firewall of China. To bypass it to check Gmail, one would have to log into the page before loading the inbox. After forwarding the file to Ms. Wang, I was surprised that my colleagues had left and no one at the China Hotel meeting room knew their whereabouts. Then if finally sunk in: I had missed the bus. The only logical step was returning to my room at the Leeden Hotel to rejoin the group later at dinner. This required getting the bellboy to search up the address on his smartphone and explain to the taxi driver the directions – a strange concept at the time. Upon returning, I realized it was impossible to contact my teammates, so my only bet was to refer to JTC’s agenda and contact the organization we were visiting. Luckily, I was connected to a helpful secretary, Eling Cheung from our inviter Jade and Company, who was aware of our visit to the Komaspec manufacturing factory in Guangzhou. She emailed me the address in both Chinese and English, and I proceeded outside to a taxi and learned it would take at least an hour and 50 kilometers of travel. This meant I would arrive with less than half an hour to spare before the JTC ambassadors left the factory. Finally, after negotiating a HKD $160 (CAD $27) flat rate, we began our ride chasing the bus.

The taxi driver and I bonded instantly, discussing culture, economics, careers, family, and JTC’s visitation in Guangzhou. It was smooth sailing until we arrived in the general region of the factory and the driver had no idea where the factory was. I quickly realized that drivers were not familiar with many of the city’s regions, and that cabs were not equipped with maps or GPS navigation. We consulted more than seven locals on the streets, ranging from street cleaners to tourists, most of which gave us conflicting directions. Borrowing a cellphone, I called Jade and Company again and the secretary tried to explain the location to the driver without much success. After getting more roadside assistance from locals, we both couldn’t be more relieved to find our destination.

Unfortunately, there was no bus to found, but I was excited to explore the busy factory with a chance to stretch my legs after sitting in the cab for two hours. Francis Gervais, engineer and Komspec’s Vice-President of Sales, warmly greeted me in the office and I was informed the JTC bus left ten minutes ago, an early departure. Fortunately, Mr. Gervais and I briefly discussed my mandate, Kaleid Snow Gear, who is seeking a manufacturer in Asia.

At the end of the day, I learned that taxi rates are affordable in Guangzhou, and GPSs are better with directions and addresses. Oh, and don’t miss the JTC bus – both literally and figuratively.

Bill Wang, Junior Team Canada Ambassador