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 :)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Oct 26 2010 | Shanghai: Sorted

I have to say the events - the end result of my past year of work - are going great. Any hiccups so far - most of which only I noticed - were small and resolved quickly. Whenever I bring up an issue or concern to my AV vendor, his immediate response is always "sorted". What does this mean? Is it a non-issue? Or has it already been resolved? What I really think is there's a long queue of concerns he's juggling and my latest request has been sorted into the virtual vertical file. I'm finding myself using the expression. "Did you get our train tickets?" "Sorted." "But when do we arr..." "Sorted!" Such a cool but ambiguous way to pass things off :)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Oct 25 2010 | Shanghai: EXPOnential

Today is the last day of our event prep and the first evening of official events. Because of the busy-ness, I decided to post more photos from yesterday's visit to the World Expo -- and offer a little contest!

Digitized horse and buggy

Funny sign seen outside the women's room.

SEEN AT THE UZBEKISTAN PAVILION: Boy and girl fondling an ear of corn

Strangest pavilion design.

I'll bring a prize from China if you can identify this pavilion at the expo. If there's more than one correct answer in a week, I'll accept the funniest description (my first thought was goiter with a tumor).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Oct 24 2010 | Shanghai: EXPOsed

Olga arrived last night and didn't seem to mind sleeping on the couch at the office while several of us worked through the night. Now she's adjusted immediately to Shanghai time, but I no longer am after so many late nights working ;)

Today (Sunday) I took the afternoon off and we visited the World Expo. In case you don't know, the World's Fair organization has continued and it's now called World Expo. Today is the last day it's open to the public and our office had a couple of extra tickets. The first pavilion we visited was Sri Lanka. We saw it had a modestly long line, but one that moved very briskly. Once we got in, we could see that it's an informative educational experience (I learned the official country name is the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka -- can't they just select one form of government and stick with it??), souvenir-buying opportunity, and cafe-going experience if you're in the mood for some Sri Lankan food.

PHOTO ON LEFT: World Map according to the Uzbekistan pavilion. United States of New York?
The last pavilion we visited was almost by accident. We were looking for the Belgian pavilion because I expected good beer and fries there. What I didn't expect was that if you buy food/drink in the pavilion restaurant, you can skip the massive line and enter the pavilion without waiting. Let me get this straight. Drink Belgian ale and I get to skip a huge line? Sign me up!! Belgium, which I once visited for 24 hours, is "distilled" down to an exercise in fine chocolate, beer, fries, solar-powered vehicles, Antarctica science station, EU HQ, and the Magritte Museum.

PHOTO ON RIGHT: Living Roof at the India Pavilion.
The Chinese have perfected the art of line-cutting. As the queue snakes around a bend, they sneak in front of you. As you check your watch, somebody sneaks in front. Look at your cell phone? An entire family you don't recognize is now in front of you. They will climb on railings and walk in gutters to cut around people in line. They use every trick in the book. No, they WROTE the book. They have it down to so much of a science that, from what we observe, Olga says they put even Russians to shame.
Please see Olga's blog for more details about the pavilions and Expo experience

PHOTO ON LEFT: Smurf Smurf Smurf Smurf Dave Smurf Smurf Smurf Smurf at the Belgian Pavilion.
On the way back to the hotel, we explored the new metro station underneath the Expo area. The shuttle metro (only has a couple of stops) is free as you have to be in the paid area of the Expo to get into it. This presents a challenge as I count on the computerized ticket machine to determine my route back. No ticket, no route. Of course everybody is super friendly and there are only so many possible permutations anyway :)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Oct 22 2010 | Shanghai: everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible

As the saying goes: in China everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible. I have seen this time and time again. Day in and day out. Every trip. Every time I try to remotely manage a project. It seems to be the universal constant in China. Case in point, we continue to run through practice meetings -- and the next step is to try a larger venue. I stopped by the practice venue on the way to lunch and did a quick check of video (using a test dvd) and audio (using an ipod) - everything appeared ok. Then after lunch I returned with my laptop. Just over an hour earlier, I had already demonstrated the projector and speakers work, so I had 40 minutes to hook the laptop into the projector and sound system to prove the inputs work ok prior to a 3:00 meeting back at my office. Couldn't be easier, but this is China. Plug laptop in, wait while the slowest projector and projection screen lower from the ceiling. Nothing. Black. Nothing. I try FN-F7 to toggle display output. No signs of life. I crank up the audio output. Nothing. The venue calls in the banquet manager, who tinkers with settings. Nothing. It's less than two hours since I had a highly functional projection demonstration. Bizarre. They call in an engineer, who repeatedly power cycles the projector, projection screen, level that lowers the projector, Crestron control system, and entire room, in varying sequence. It seems they intend to continue indefinitely with this pattern of "rebooting" devices. About 30 minutes into watching this trainwreck, 10 minutes before I absolutely have to go back to the office, I decide to interrupt their power cycling (next would be the entire floor and then the entire building), climb on the chair, then up on the table, then flip the switch on the projector. No effect. Then seconds later I jiggle the power cord on the projector and it falls out in my hand. ummm. So I push it back in hard and voila, we have video. 8 minutes left and the engineer switches his attention to the lack of audio. He flips switches and turns dials in a seemingly random fashion until I am first momentarily deafened by static and then by the sound from my laptop. Great! But what is that loud buzz? I step into control booth and notice that the sound is perfect in there - but it's still buzzing in the in-room speakers. The engineer continues to fiddle with things, then comes over to my laptop. He cranks up the volume all the way using the laptop hardware volume buttons, Windows sound volume, and media player software volume. Now the laptop is pumping out audio as loud as it possibly can - this would be considered oversaturation by any definition. Now he turns down the in-room speakers to about 2 out of 10 and the buzz becomes barely noticeable. "Fixed!" he exclaims. ummm. I have about 3 minutes to get back to the office, so fixed it is. On a scale from useless to functional to perfect, i would be this just below accidentally functional. In China everything is difficult, but nothing is impossible.

Tonight a few of the big wigs invited me to join them on a tour of an event venue and dinner afterwards. It turned out to be a VERY brief tour of a venue we'll be using next week, along with a "tour" of three bars and one restaurant on premises. Ended up at a secret bar under the venue where there are 4 themed rooms (India, Upside-down, American film, and Submarine) and a local band playing a mix of English, Mandarin, and Cantonese songs. They solicited requests, and we submitted about 15, of which they played the most excellent mood-shattering Tears in Heaven. After failed attempts to get them to play anything of quality or even semi-quality (Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, Queen, Linkin Park, The Beatles, The Eagles, and even Foreigner), we interrogated the band and learned their favorite bands are Kool & the Gang and Earth Wind & Fire. That was the sign we needed. Back at the hotel now. This was a very good night.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Oct 21 2010 | Shanghai: why do you have to be so argumentative?

i've already covered how i'm working really long days here in shanghai and don't have time to go out and explore much during this trip. today i'll share with my blogging audience what it's like to travel and work to closely with a coworker. when working 14-hour days together, it's hard to acquire distance.
friday we both work hard to wrap up final items for the trip. we stay late while you do me a huge favor of sketching the layout of a stage so i can give all the vendors an idea of what i'm imagining - despite all the years in art camp, my artistic skills have not progressed beyond a shoe phone and wooden jigsaw elephant. meanwhile i'm searching linkedin contacts for info you need for your presentation. saturday we meet up at the airport, everybody is happy and we board the flight to shanghai very optimistic. the big bosses are in the front of the plane, i'm in the middle, and you're in the back. weary but excitedly, we meet up at the end of the flight to plan the rest of sunday night in shanghai. we go out for drinks and appetizers with other coworkers from the same flight to kick off the trip and the weeks of meetings and events.

monday we agree to meet for breakfast at the hotel, then head to the office and sit in the back row during the kickoff meeting. i get invited to an authentic shanghainese lunch with some local and some US coworkers and invite you along. more meetings in the afternoon - this time we're in the front row. i'm focusing on the meeting and you're trying to catch up on other things. we get invited to dinner at an indian restaurant with mostly US coworkers. back to your room to continue preparations for the next day's meeting. after awhile of working away on our laptops, your side of the room is strangely quiet.... then i hear snoring, but it doesn't distract too much from my work. i'm on a roll here, don't want to have to restart things somewhere else. how long can i stay and work before it becomes creepy?

tuesday morning you knock on my door to invite me to breakfast. i ask you to head down and i'll be a few minutes behind, trying to download several large files for a presentation. head down to breakfast, but i can't find you. should i eat or wait? i feel guilty now because i sent you away. did i say we'll meet at your room? i wave at some coworkers in the breakfast lounge, should i sit with them? wait around for a few minutes, then head up to your room. knock on the door, cleaning lady signals with that 'she went thatta way' kinda motion. head down to breakfast and find you finishing up breakfast with other coworkers. were you there the whole time and i didn't recognize you? i eat quickly and we get to the office on time. full day of meetings, including takeout lunch from a fresh sandwich and smoothie bar. back at the office, my fresh fish panini grows cold while i'm trying to hold a conference call, you're laughing, eating yours, and having a loud and apparently hilarious conversation in the same room. after the conclusion of our day of meetings, we get take-out from the chocolately restaurant and take it back to your room while we keep working. you put on a bad hbo movie, i struggle to focus on my work, but keep persevering. at some point, you say you're going to take a bath. after no response but the sound of my keyboard, you add that means i should leave. i tell you i'll take a walk around the neighborhood because you never seem to want to or have the time. instead, i resume the work and bad movie in my room.

wednesday there's an early meeting at the office and, at my insistence, breakfast is provided: lox bagelwiches all around. today's meetings are not going well for me - which means i'm not getting the answers i need to be able to properly steer the presentations during the live event next week. on top of this, you need my help uploading files to our videographer and downloading files from the US server. and a coworker from singapore has laptop, ipad, and iphone problems. and the wifi spectrum and internet bandwidth in shanghai are saturated. and everything else that can go badly. at dinner time, a founder of our company invites a chief of the company who invites you, but you suggest i go instead as you have too much work to do. i had already promised dinner to our english-mandarin interpreter, who then ran into and made side plans with a coworker from beijing. you decide to join after all, and the 6 of us have a really fun time at a szechuan place. we go back to the office to pick up our laptops and stuff - the founder who had invited us said the dinner invitation would expire immediately - and end up staying at the office until past 11pm. i help you test an animation in different versions of powerpoint and you help me update the stage mock-up sketch.

thursday morning i had planned to work from "home" (the hotel across from our shanghai office has become my home away from home) and you were going in early to try to get ahead. you knock on my door at 8am and ask if i want breakfast. i quickly finish downloading more large files, grab my blackberry to multitask during breakfast, swing by your room, and we head down at 8:40. we spend the next 11 hours visiting venues for our upcoming events. at the first venue, the meeting erupts into a chaotic free-for-all as everybody talks at once and tries to get their concerns addressed first. i want to participate, but gravitate into a side discussion with a vendor until the cosmos returns to order. at the next venue, we need to visit the terrace, and i start to jiggle the doorhandle, but you warn that it's locked. i try anyway and you get upset that i didn't trust you, why do i have to be so damn argumentative? sigh. at the third venue, alcohol is served, thank goodness. at the final venue, you take charge and make executive decisions on the locations of various equipment. we're tired and don't have a good way to mark the floorplan right now. you bristle when i ask you to repeat the locations of your equipment so i can place my equipment in complementary locations. sigh. we have dinner with an event planner and another coworker who had just arrived from the US. i ask the others for sympathy because you've been on edge with me lately. it's hard to find somebody you can work with for 14 hours a day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oct 20 2010 | Shanghai: what's your point?

today we have a speech coach in the office helping us patch together a cohesive fabric that tells a unified story. the problem is that the chinese way of telling a story about a person is to give a long narrative about the poverty they grew up in, challenges they overcame, government title promotions they received, the wife they selected, and it could have all ended there (i'm not making this up) but now they are an important powerful person. an american audience will listen to this with their mouth open and not be able to figure out what the heck was the point of that detailed biography - and they're hearing double-digits of these bios throughout the week and they all start with a poor kid in school. after hearing the long-winded practice speech and accompanying video, our american team members push back hard and say WHAT are you trying to say here? we're not getting any of the point! and the chinese speaker blurts out in a moment of defense: i'm simply trying to convey that he came from humble beginnings, defied all odds, came up with a 1 in a million business idea, selected the best possible partners, and here he is as an example of the kind of partner we want to work with. american team member says: YES! that's your speech! chinese team member says: wow what did i say?? speech coach, who has apparently been taking notes the entire time, without missing a beat, hands him a note card and says "this is what you said."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Oct 19 2010 | Shanghai: working really hard over here!!

Before breakfast, I spent more time answering emails and taking calls than I did getting myself ready for work.  Worked straight through from the time I woke up until bedtime. The pace is quickening, but things are being nailed down too.  With so many coworkers in town, it means a lot of lunch and dinner invitations, but a lot of all-night work session invitations too. I think things will ease up a bit for a couple of days - which is good for you because it means more naive adventures into the wild world - and then get crazy again next week.

One of my local coworkers on this project said another funny expression today at lunch. Referring to how her boyfriend is too trusting, "You can cut him with a finger -- like tofu".  Then on the way back to the office, she told a funny story about how our US office asked her to perform reference checks of a vendor in Shanghai.  Apparently this is a foreign concept - she thought a reference check consisted of literally asking if he has any references and then looking at the list.  When the US office insisted she call the references on the list, the first call went something like this (grammar choices were not mine):
My coworker: "We're considering working with xxxxx. I'm calling to see if you recommend him - did your project go well?
Reference: "Why you bothering me? You want him or you don't want?"
I wonder if it's a very American concept, the reference check.  How is it done in other countries?

No photos today, so I'll include a photo I found online of the ice hot chocolate I had with dinner tonight.  Photo was from this blog: -  ice chocolate drink was from Whisk restaurant:
At least I'm eating well :)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oct 18 2010 | Shanghai: back in the smog again

I arrived in Shanghai, rested and relaxed. Having stayed up all night leading up to the flight, I easily slept 9 of the 12 hour flight. I woke up every time they came around with food - and a couple of times I sampled the movie long enough to know it was horrible - and then fell right asleep again. Upon landing, everything went smoothly, including picking up my screwdriver from airport security, who held it since they confiscated it last month apparently out of fear that I would disassemble the plane.

This is a trip of many firsts. I'm traveling with many coworkers - more and more every day - so I have plenty of offers to go out to eat, walk around, get into adventures. Olga will be joining me next week - that's a first - and I had my first sushi in China.

China has some curious newspapers. The Shanghai Daily Sunday paper was full of funny headlines, such as "Census hoping for rise in monkeys", "Elmore Leonard Mystery Solved" (apparently he has been getting dialogue ideas by watching game shows), and a review of the latest Bill Bryson novel - that's my kind of paper!

PHOTO: Waiting for smoothies with two coworkers, overlooking the area around my office and hotel

On the other hand, Monday's China Daily had an editorial titled "China Deserves Nobel Peace Prize" - I read it and I still don't even understand what that was about. Still no references to the "other" China Nobel Peace prize news.

Different countries latch on to funny things. Last night in the hotel lobby, they kept playing an instrumental version of the theme song to Titanic. Then today, having lunch at a Shanghainese restaurant, that same tune again. How strange that it is so popular here. Such a horrible earworm!

This afternoon, a local coworker used the expression "it's like dumpling soup", meaning lots of bubbling, bumping around in chaos, bouncing off the walls. Used in a sentence such as "I love working at Venture Capital firms - everywhere else at 5:00 it's like dumping soup - but at VCs you can leave if you want to." We did leave at 5:00 - but only to get smoothies (Chocolate Strawberry for me) and have a casual business meeting at ElementFresh.

Several coworkers and I went to dinner at an Indian restaurant. The food was good and there was a surprise dance show (SEE PHOTO). Clearly it's going to be an interesting trip, one with many firsts.