Monday, November 8, 2010

Nov 7 2010 | Beijing: en masse

I like the sign on this cafe on West Lake in Hangzhou
Here are some final thoughts on the three-week trip along with a few photos that didn't make it into the daily blog.

Overhead light in a car we rode
to/from Hangzhou. I like the idea of
an on/off switch for mood

We departed Beijing Saturday afternoon and arrived home Saturday morning (strange how that works). Forced ourselves to stay up all day Saturday as a preventative jetlag cure, but in the process we were pretty useless Saturday. I'm not sure that is such a good strategy: forcing yourself to have jetlag one day so you can avoid it the next.

Sign for sale in the Silk Street Pearl
Market.Wait, what does it say?

In a taxicab on the elevated highway on the way to the Beijing airport, I could really see the smog, like photos of L.A. in the 1980s. During our week there, we had noticed air quality issues in short bursts: walking past a construction site (which are EVERYWHERE), going down certain streets, etc. But being up there on the highway early in the morning really put things into perspective.

Sign at an especially smelly urinal at
the Temple of Heaven park in Beijing

A lady carrying a beautiful but clearly artificial flower arrangement (very 1960s looking with neon-like circles where the bulbs would be) boarded the plane after we did. Olga remarked that she would be lucky to have the arrangement arrive in one piece (where is she going to stash it)? When we arrived at the boarding area, while waiting for our bags, we noticed the border protection staff - the folks who usually look for meat and plants - inspecting her arrangement very closely. These folks have no sense of humor.

Box of Maos at the Forbidden City park

One thing I miss about Chinese cuisine is they put sesame seeds in everything: street food pancakes, spring rolls, shrimp, drinks, DESSERTS! In the US, I can never get enough sesame seeds. In Beijing, we frequently went to bakeries to load up on breakfast pastries for the next day. When faced with a red bean-filled pastry, a strawberry danish, a chocolate croissant, and a sesame seed crusted morsel, I always went straight for the sesame seeds. Or a little of each. Actually a lot of each.

What you're not allowed to do in front of the new National
Centre for the Performing Arts. What CAN you do???

Friday, November 5, 2010

Nov 5 2010 | Beijing: drinking, smoking, what's next?

Enjoying the brews at Okhotsk
Spent the morning online researching brewpubs, trying to figure out the Beijing microbrew scene. Based on phone calls, defunct websites, and scattered blogosphere reports of closures, we determined that more brewpubs have come and gone in the past 5 years in Beijing than have ever existed in most cities: Hof Brauhaus, Uhland Bier Salon, Great Wall Restaurant, Shuttinger & Tamm, Toper Beer House, Tai Yang Palace, The Brewery Tap, and even the San Francisco Brewing Company to name a few of the deceased brewpubs in Beijing.

Randomly passed by a Russian restaurant
Walking to the post office (which is perhaps the most efficient in all of our global travels), passed one of the famous Chinese smoking babies sitting with his mom on a sidewalk bench. He was puffing away at an unlit cigarette - perhaps she is trying to ween him off it. Old habits die hard.

Made it to what seems to be the only microbrewpub in Beijing (I don't consider Paulaner "micro"): Beijing Okhotsk Beer at Sanyuanqiao subway station. The cuisine was varied with some Japanese and mostly European and American influences. The Hefeweizen and Mild Stout were good, better than I remember having at the two brewpubs in Shanghai.

First Apple Store in Beijing (second
in China) for you Apple fanboys
Subjected ourselves to some torture this afternoon as we returned to the "scene of the crime" (touristy shopping area) to pick up gifts and some requested knock-off goods for a few folks. Took the subway to Dongzhimen and had dinner at an upscale local restaurant - no English signage and no other westerners in the place. The extensive menu offered us modernized traditional Chinese cuisine: perch with pumpkin sauce cooked in aluminum foil, shrimp with kimchee (ok that one was Korean), chocolate-covered yam strips, and the like. After dinner, walked through the Sanlitun bar area, but found it too Western and trendy for our tastes. It's becoming difficult to find any China in China :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Nov 4 2010 | Beijing: More than meets the eye

Art installation: Safely-caged dinosaurs
What can I say about a day that was so far off the tourist grid... We took two subways, a bus, and then walked a mile to an area called 798 Art Zone. What started almost 20 years ago as some squatters creating art installations in an abandoned automobile factory has become a vibrant, flourishing artists community complete with studios, gallery space, and of course cafes. The art is so contemporary and illuminating, certainly not what I expected to see in China. There was a pitch-black room with a ring of green laser light that contracts and then expands to immerse you in the installation. There was a flatpanel monitor with a wounded soldier and wounded dog pictured - and a hidden camera that would notice your movement and adjust their eyes to follow you. There was a video exhibit that shows a man golfing on the Windows XP grassy knoll desktop. There was an outdoor exhibit of a giant Transformer that looked hella cool. And this is a tiny drop in the bucket - there were hundreds of galleries and studios in this old factory complex and each one had really intriguing exhibits.

Autobots, roll out!

Without exception, all of the cafes in the 798 area served pizza, and not being one to cause an international incident, we obliged with a "Dances with Wolves" (egg, ham, tomato, pepper, mushroom, onion) pizza, banana split, and a pot of honey lemon tea. Hey, we're going home in two days, it's time to start transitioning to Western food :)

Locals cooking up meat and veggies
on a stick in a hutang (alley)

After hearing about the massages I have received in China, Olga wanted in on the action, so on the walk home we stopped by a foot massage place. This was my second foot massage ever, and instead of a neck rub, they did a "cupping" therapy on our feet. This involves putting an alcohol swab in a glass cup, lighting it on fire, and quickly while it is still ablaze, putting it on the heel of your foot. When the pressure is most intense, they move it to other parts of your sole. The walk back to the hotel felt like walking on pillows :)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Nov 3 2010 | Beijing: cha-cha-cha

Olga pouring a huge pot of tea!
Every tour book lists the Forbidden City in their one-day must-see-sightseeing list, my friends had already visited it (although they gave up halfway in) when we were relaxing in Hangzhou, so we took it upon ourselves to be immersed in the overwhelming experience of the Forbidden City. The sprawling complex of the last two dynasties (Ming and Qing), the Communist revolution did offer us one thing: opening up access to the previously clamped-down estate in the middle of the city.
deliveries of dried fruits to the local markets
I give my friends credit for trying , it can become monotonous and overwhelming going from outer court to outer greeting hall to outer court to out resting hall to outer court to outer meeting hall before you even get to the heart of the complex. One thing that allowed us to get through it, though, was finding the Palace Cafeteria, which had possibly the best tea we have had in China. Olga and I are both nursing colds (Mom and Bubby: they are very slight, I'm only mentioning it for dramatic effect!) so we tried the Honey Citron tea (which has honey and actual lemons) and Plum Honey tea (you can guess what was floating in that cup). A tasty chocolate-covered soft pretzel allowed us to continue the trek.

Forbidden City antiquities: picking up or dropping off?
Pretty soon we had passed all of the structures and found ourselves in the royal garden. It had many rockeries similar to Prince Gong's, but not as much of the 3D high-road / low-road concept.

Other than the beauty of the complex of palaces and the nature of the garden, probably the most interesting exhibit was about the early life of the last emperor (Pu Yi). It took us from his birth to his ascension to the thrown at age 6 to becoming irrelevant but being allowed to live and study in the back of the palace to being cast off by the Communists (the exhibit ends there but he sounded like an absolutely fascinating man, wonder what happened next). It's all very reminiscent of a film I saw as a kid ;)

evil tree in Forbidden City garden: about
to walk away or kick you in the pants?
We bought tickets to a show at the Laoshe teahouse, and looked nearby for an inexpensive place to eat. Popped into a cafeteria, not knowing how we would know what we were ordering, but we encouraged each other to enter anyway. It turns out they have a menu I would describe as very cute English (which has slightly higher prices, btw).

Olga at sunset: moat and outside of Forbidden City
We over-ordered:
- Fennel pork dumplings (these went into a box for tomorrow's breakfast)
- The rape with garlic hibiscus (that's exactly what it said on the menu - we know from previous experience this is a tasty green)
- Garlic cucumber
- Milk tea with primary taste
- Milk tea with qiaokeliwei taste ("q" is pronounced as "ch" - I believe this was their attempt at spelling chocolatey??)
new National Performing Arts Centre and
its reflecting pool
- Vegetable chicken meatball vegetable soup
- Egg and tomato noodles
The portions were large, the staff friendly and funny (no common language needed), and the MSG flowing.

Back at the Laoshe teahouse, we watched a traditional Chinese variety show:
- woman sang discordant while playing bongo and hung candles on her face to show her breath was even
Kung Fu Fighters
- two men had a comedy routine consisting of them making bird sounds and mechanical noises (trains, planes, automobiles)
- ventriloquist act with human dummy
- women spinning plates
- lots of trivia about tea, including the fact that it "delays decrepitude"
- mask changing trick as seen on China's Got Talent
- kung fu fighters set to the tune of a Soviet march and the operatic theme from Fifth Element.It seemed like a touristy event, but looking around, Westerners were definitely in the minority. 99% of the speaking was in Mandarin. Perhaps it is for locals - or for tourists from around Asia.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Nov 2 2010 | Beijing: Rear Lakes neighborhood

Olga in Prince Gong's garden
For the past two days, we have been sightseeing with a number of my coworkers and families. Travel is difficult, and compromises are always made. Going with such a large group meant hitting the high-points of Beijing, sacrificing a deeper interaction with the local scene. Sadly, most of my group departed this morning, which on the bright side left Olga and me to deeply explore neighborhoods, local scene, and get a sense of how people live in Beijing.

The Rear Lakes (Houhai) area is set against a zigzagging lake, a sort of river that flows through this neighborhood. At first, when you walk along the water, you notice:

Snuck into a plate spinning show at the garden
- Pubs of varying specialty (Mongolian, Michael Jackson, Hoegaarden, Mexican) facing the water
- People repairing motorcycles
- An elderly lady knitting while in a room full of organized, boxed bottles of beer.
- Recycling truck that had about 50 empty water jugs tied to the back of it

Beijing is full of old alleys (Hutang), many which have small local restaurants, shopping, craftsmen, and all walks of life. In the Rear Lakes area, we saw some really elaborate doors and cute little Zen backyards.

boys "sell sex-articles"
In this neighborhood, we walked over to Prince Gong's palace. Unlike Yu Yuen garden in Shanghai, Prince's Gong's has preserved both the palace and the garden. This is the setting of novel Dream of the Red Chamber. After exploring the palatial living quarters, we explored the garden a little deeper. Tried to pop into the back doors of buildings, and one more than one occasion we were kicked out. Caught the end of a plate-spinning show. Saw a tea ceremony and concert being setup.

rundown convenience store in hutang has a website
Had dinner at Dali's courtyard, which was one of the best dinners we have had in all of China. It's a set menu and they bring you all of the Chef's specialties for the week. Gave our name and had to return after an hour to get a good seat inside (it was freezing in the courtyard). It turned out to be much less expensive than some other dinners we'd had with the group. Our group tended to over-order and/or eat at some overpriced places - for example our driver to The Great Wall took us to a "special" place he picked out that was a minute from the wall and where he probably gets a big kickback - but the group mentality was to stay.

pedicab traffic jam!
Walked back to the hotel from the Rear Lakes area. Popped into a few warm places that might serve dessert, trying to warm our bodies and our tummies. First place we walked into had no signage in English whatsoever. They sold 3 different nondescript plastic cups, ranging from 6-9 RMB (about $1). Picked the middle one, turned out to be sweet yogurt. We took it home for the next morning's breakfast. Entered another cafe, looked at the menu, saw they only serve cheesecake and tiramisu, not what we were in the mood for. Entered another cafe.

super touristy but cute - had my
Chinese name carved into a stamp
Dave> Do you have dessert?
Waiter> I don't know what is dessert, maybe you can look around and find it?
Dave> Menu?
Waiter> Look and see
(found more cheesecake and tiramisu)
Dave> Cake? not cheesecake, just cake?
Waiter> Come and see (shows us the dessert fridge)

Olga noticed that the locals seem to eat what we consider breakfast (yogurt) for dessert. And they seem to eat what we consider dessert (pastries) for breakfast. Need to start planning ahead better so we can have the proper food at the appropriate time ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Nov 1 2010 | Beijing: The Wall - is this where we came in?

Olga reflecting at The Great Wall in Autumn
This morning our extended group of coworkers and their families met up for breakfast and headed to Mutianyu, a slightly lesser-touristy part of The Great Wall of China. Most of the walkable parts of the wall have been renovated (rebuilt) over the decades, this section being no exception. One thing it does offer, that was most likely not part of the original design, is a ski lift that effortlessly takes you up the mountain, and a toboggan luge that brings you down.

The irony continues to be omnipresent: an ancient army fort has become a tourist trap and a symbol of the outreach of the country.

Toboggan rides!
 Our driver dropped us off at the Temple of Heaven as his shift was ending. There is an ornate 14th century campus of Taoist temples here, but for me the highlight was the "flash mob" style of groups spontaneously engaging in activities. We saw areas with:

Temple of Heaven synchronized dancers

- Loud synchronized calisthenics
- Tai chi
- Choreographed dancing
- Chinese checkers
- Mah jong
- Chinese card games
- Spontaneous song set to ancient Chinese violin
- Flying kites
- Feather-laden hacky sack
- Shirtless joggers
- Musical top on a string

the actual Temple of Heaven
 We ended up having dinner at a Muslim hot pot place. The difference between that and regular hot pot is that they use water instead of oil, charcoal instead of gas, and the only meat we had was lamb. It was delicious! The various mushrooms, cabbage, and sesame peanut sauce were my favorite.

Pigeon brings a whole new meaning to Street Food
Walked back to the hotel by way of a street food market, which included highlights such as live scorpions on a stick and a tray of pigeons.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Oct 31 2010 | Beijing: Halloween (well, not exactly)

from Tiananmen Square, back to The Forbidden City
This morning we were awoken by the Shanghai-Beijing overnight train playing children's songs to gently nudge slumbering travelers awake. We shared a bedroom with two young women who were working at a Flooring Marketing convention in Shanghai. The cost of the overnight train is 70% of a flight and takes 9x longer, I wonder what possesses business travelers to use it.
gnawing on sugarcane - where did that guy come from? :)
After regrouping with my coworkers, who had arrived in Beijing a day earlier while we were recuperating in Hangzhou, we went out for a small tasty breakfast of pastries and hot milk tea with tapioca pearls. Hot!! I didn't know they made it hot!!

i'm not even down to my business socks yet!
(sign at the peking duck restaurant)
Checked into the hotel and freshened up, we headed to Tiananmen Square, which has been in existence in increasingly substantial size since 1417. It is bordered by such tourist sites such as The Forbidden City, Mao's tomb, The National Museum, and an outdoor mall where we would have dinner later that evening. Not much to do in the square itself, it's exactly as it is pictured on tv, but perhaps one size larger ;)

did somebody say duck?
Some trivial bit of history examined, we commenced SHOPPING at the Pearl and Silk Market, a large knock-off market where my experience visiting Israel and buying souvenirs in Shanghai paid off royally. Olga and I didn't actually get anything for ourselves, but I was integral in lowering my friends' prices by 25% below their already bargain-basement "best price." For example, I helped one friend buy a knockoff Samsonite suitcase for 150 RMB. Another friend separately bought the same suitcase at the same time in another stand for $200 RMB. The same story held true for jackets, handbags, etc. It helps when I have nothing to lose and can walk away without any remorse.

that family that eats ice cream
together, stays together
We headed to China Quanjude to an early dinner of their famous Roast Peking (or Beijing as the locals call it) Duck. As I only enjoy lamb and feta cheese in Greece, the same can be said for Peking Duck in Beijing. So many courses were ordered, my favorites being the duck spring rolls and the sesame balls stuffed with lotus flower. nom nom nom.

screens in the subway tunnels
The subways in Beijing have tv screens in the tunnels so you can watch a moving ad as you traverse the system. It's unusual and creative - a sort of zoetrope. I wonder what the purpose is -- I had heard China does not have a graffiti problem (the same cannot be said about litter), and I would think putting 100 tv screens in the tunnel near each station wouldn't be any cheaper than putting 1 screen in each subway car...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Oct 30 2010 | Hangzhou: more of it!

tea time on West Lake in Hangzhou
I quite literally passed out while blogging last night, woke up to our alarm clock 8 hours later, and felt completely exhausted. I felt better Thursday morning with 1.5 hours sleep than I did Friday morning with 4.5 hours sleep... and better still than Saturday morning with 8 hours sleep. I guess the adrenaline is wearing off. To build on the dichotomy I described yesterday (wars started and ended in such a peaceful place), we experienced more such conflicts. When going to such a relaxing R & R spot, why wake up so early? There's so much to see and do that we left more exhausted than when we arrived. Another irony of modern life here is the advent of faster and faster methods of transport. It took us 3 hours to drive to Hangzhou (plus or minus a lunch break), but much less to return due to a brand new highway that just opened (including getting lost pretty badly due to this new highway not appearing on google maps and even the tollbooth operators having no idea how to navigate us. Then this evening I read about the new high-speed rail line that will get you from Shanghai to Hangzhou in 45 mins (it seems to be opening any minute - the article implied that it's ready but no date or price were mentioned - in fact we were passed by several of these trains yesterday). Why the rush to get to serenity? The 3-hour drive is the perfect amount of time to allow you to de-stress on the way to Hangzhou - and resuming worldly cares on the way back. But then again, I guess people said the same thing when the automobile and highway became the norm here - why would anybody want to get there in less than 12 hours or so?

take only pictures, leave only
footprints (and two huge spools of wire)
Today we explored more of the wonders of Hangzhou.

There are culinary wonders:
- A sweet bowl of slightly fermented (read: sake) warm rice pudding
- Fried egg and tomato - simple yet elegant
- "Japanese tofu" (egg whites) soup with beef, peppers, tomatoes, and lots of goodies
- Lots and lots of long jin tea with various crackers (some with icing and some with onion) mandarins, peanuts (seem to be sweet rather than salty - go great with the mandarins), tea biscuits.

And there are the natural wonders:

visiting the wetlands with our new friends David and Cici
Hangzhou has a wetlands park that is similar the the everglades. For centuries there was a fishing village centered on the islands of the wetlands, but recently the wetlands became a tourist spot, the old shacks became a destination to see while island hopping via swamp boat, and the villagers entered the service industry. It felt a bit like Joni Mitchell's Big Yellow Taxi, but I do give them credit for trying.

alcoholic rice pudding
My Chinese given name being settled, I picked up the search for a good family name. I was discussing this with our new friends and tour guides and they mentioned that my name transliterates as "ge lei nei si" which means attic thunder inside this. Although a fascinating option, I inquired if there is a Chinese word for border (Grenetz comes from the Russian word for border) that starts with a "G" sound, and apparently there is. My new Chinese name is Guan Da-way, which means Border Stop - King David. Fascinating!!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Oct 29 2010 | Road trip to Hangzhou!

urinal in Jiaxin
Today a friend of a friend met us near the office - we checked out of the hotel and stopped by the office to wrap up a few last odds and ends - and his driver took us to the town of Hangzhou. It's a small city about 3 hours south of Shanghai. When my friend had to back out of the trip at the last minute and offered his business partner to drive us and provide a tour guide to visit Hangzhou, initially I felt like I was becoming a huge imposition. Now that we have seen some of the town and what it offers, I realize that he and his girlfriend (the acting tour guide) probably jumped at the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Hangzhou.

piloting the boat to island in West Lake
About halfway to our destination, we stopped at a roadside shop in the town of Jiaxin (sounds like Jason). we feasted on various kinds of dim sum, including a particularly good soup dumpling with the soup inside the dumpling - and the local specialty sticky rice in a palm leaf. we've had different versions of these things before, but perhaps never quite as locally authentic. for me, it was amazing to finally be in a Chinese town besides Shanghai. in the past 3 years, i have made 4 trips to China, but never left the city I call home away from home. finally getting a little bit out of Shanghai, and being guided by lifelong locals to some perhaps touristy places -- but designed for local tourists -- is a truly special experience.

beautiful Pagoda view from island in West Lake
the highlight for me was the bathroom. for years, i'd been warned to be prepared for odd bathrooms. i finally got my first taste of an unusual one. for the urinal, men stand on a raised grate, then pee into a waterfall with a glass wall behind it. there is an enclosed terrarium behind the wall. (PHOTO 1) i was absolutely thrilled to find something this interesting. hopefully as we venture out of the protection of mother Shanghai, we'll find more and more curiosities. even more hopefully, i'll eventually regret that last statement.

dragon restaurant boat coming to pick up hungry tourists
Hangzhou is a beautiful town centered about Xi (West) Lake. The serenity of this location has, ironically, been involved in many famous wars throughout history. for example, when the Mongols (KHAAAAAN!!!) were continuously invading China for generations (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), the last Han hold out was in Hangzhou. There is a famous story of a General who was brilliantly defending the territory (and even making progress invading Mongol territory), a well-placed Han politician who sold out the General to the Mongols, and an emperor who trusted the politician and was too busy enjoying the serenity of the lake to be bothered with trifles such as the invading Mongols and whether to trust or assassinate the General (he chose the latter). The fast forward a couple thousand years, soon-to-be-Chairman Mao spent time on the islands in the lake while he planned the revolution that would usher in Communism, and later retired to West Lake, drinking Long Jin tea and writing poetry.

night market!!
As with any great R & R spot, the food here is unique and tasty. We were treated to a fried sweet flower crepe named after the traitorous politician who sold about the General and the Han people, Ringing Bells (crispy fried tofu skin dipped in tomato sauce), longjin prawns (shrimp in the local tea), ashen chicken, dongpo pork, fried tofu skin in tomato sauce, fried ice cream, and other local treats. Afterwards, we walked about the lake -- which is lit beautifully during the night -- went shopping for a coat for Olga (no matter what size we picked none of them would fit quite right until we tried men's styles) -- and explored the night market, which is sort of a cross between a flea market, crafts market, knock-off market, street food fair -- and all on tables in the street throughout the night.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Oct 28 2010 | What happens in Shanghai...

My coworkers in Shanghai have given me a Chinese name. To my ear, it sounds like "Grwe Daway". Chinese names are stated last name first. All Chinese surnames are one syllable, so they took the first chunk of that. There are several choices of transcribing the name David: Greatness, Statue David (I think they mean King David, not just the Michelangelo representation), and the phonetic transcription of the sounds Da-vid. I choose the Biblical form.

When people ask if I recommend using hotel safes, I always say no. It's the first place a thief with inside access would look (if they already have access to your room, they could have access to the safe too). Plus it's too easy to forget things there. One of my coworkers put her important items in the hotel safe. It broke and refused to open. PHOTO 1: safe being completely dismantled

Today was our last day of events, an absolutely exhausting two weeks in Shanghai, sleeping no more than 6 and no less than 1.5 hours each night. For the final event, we had an AV-rich closing party that featured Karaoke, 3 iMacs with slideshows of photos taken during the week, plasma screens, uplighting and dance lighting, Kung Fu Monks, heat lamps and a tent (yes these fall under my jurisdiction). We were so emotionally raw by the end of the events, there were many tears and many more hugs. All chain of command pretense fell to the wayside as the few people still at the party when things winded down all went out for an extremely late night on the town. What happens on The Bund stays on The Bund.

PHOTO 2: behind the scenes look at a small part of my AV setup for Wednesday morning's event (there were 6 AV-infused events in 5 different venues).

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oct 27 2010 | Shanghai: espresso, fainting, delegates, where's waldo

This morning, after over a week running on 4 hours of sleep a night, the only thing that got me out of bed was Olga brewing a cup of espresso and literally placing it under my nostrils to inhale its bitter-sweet aroma. Perhaps smelling salts would've done the trick too, but coffee is supplied by the hotel so you have to make due with what you have ;)

At work, the event venue provided a "pit crew" to move the furniture (chairs, tables, etc) while a speaker on stage announced the upcoming panel. After waiting about 10 minutes for the signal to change the furniture, I saw something fall out of the corner of my eye, heard a very loud thud, and looked over to see one of the hotel's crew bounce off the wall and hit the floor. He completely passed out in front of my eyes. The two men on the left and the right of him draped him over their shoulders and quickly walked out, not missing a beat. I noticed the guy blinking and looking confused as he was dragged out. I imagine he blacked out for a moment, regaining consciousness while on the way out of the room, so his memory goes something like this: la dee da, just waiting for the speech to end. have to return rear window to the video store. do you smell burnt toast? must not forget to call mom for her... hey why am i being dragged out of here??" Seconds later, they were all back (minus 1) to move the chairs. In the afternoon, I asked the manager what happened - apparently this guy was sent home early: "he hadn't eaten lunch, i think he was really hungry." It was 11:00 in the morning, I wonder how many lunches he missed???

This morning I started thinking about the schedule for the rest of the events, and realized I would need to be in 3 places at once today. Two places I can handle, but three is a bit much. I gave it some serious thought and, with guidance from my manager, asked three of my coworkers (two Associates and one Financial Analyst - all somewhat technical in nature) to cover for me at one venue that would have AV assembled today for presentations tomorrow. In theory the AV vendor doesn't need me to be there during setup, especially after we have been working together all week and they should know my expections.... but in actuality the AV vendor always needs pushback, tweaking, more pushback, guidance, coaxing, and some nudging to get things done the way I like them. I gave the gentlemen a 30 minute briefing on the way I like the AV setup, and off they went across the Bund to Pudong to oversee installation. Tomorrow we'll see the fruits of their labor, but we may never know how many potential disasters they averted.

This evening, in recognition of the tremendous effort we are making, the big boss treated us to Chinese foot massages. I didn't know what to expect, but whatever I was imagining, it was wrong. There's a lot of soaking, a long neck and upper back rub, full leg and thigh massage, in addition to a thoroughly deep foot massage. It was practically a seated full-body massage and it felt wonderful - I can't wait to try it again sometime.

For those who still don't understand exactly what I'm doing in Shanghai, I'll explain it like this. I'm like the Tiger Woods Cigar Guy, popping up backstage when you least expect me. These two photos should give you an example, they are outtakes of official photos taken at our events. Click on the photos for a larger view :)