Day 31 – 恭喜发财 – PassageMaker’s Chinese New Year party!

Day 31 flowers for the new year or so i assume

恭喜发财, gōng xǐ fā cái, wishing you a prosperous new year!

More articles and weird stuff:

Day 31 – I awoke early and found that our apartment complex had been decorated with live flowers and orange trees for the Lunar New Year.

Day 31 flowers for the new year or so i assume

Flowers for the New Year

We had a productive morning at the Assembly Center, working on streamlining and improving our process documentation. I have a manufacturing background and enjoy working on such kaizen initiatives. Where I wear out is the day-to-day scheduling and personnel management. I can do it, but it quickly becomes tedious, especially HR (which is admittedly less of a problem than in the USA). For the next year we will have so many opportunities to make improvements, I don’t see myself getting bored anytime soon. It also helps we have so many new assembly-inspection-packaging projects rolling in, each of which needs process engineering to get it started. 2009 was actually a strong growth year for PassageMaker, with 19 new assembly projects launched. Selecting tools, writing work instructions, designing jigs and fixtures, laying out the line and setting the Drum-Buffer-Rope targets is the fun stuff. I really have an awesome job.

The managers and I head to the cafeteria for lunch, which is notable for a couple reasons. First, they order Coca-Cola. Now in the USA I might go six months without drinking a soda. I don’t particularly care for them and I have alternatives I prefer in the States, such as iced tea (unsweetened with lemon, if you please). Not so in China, where I know that sodas are safe to drink, and no one has iced tea without a pound of sugar in it (and then usually only in rare SE Asian restaurants). So I drink sodas pretty regularly in China, but I am the one who orders them, not the Chinese. More important to this anecdote is why my co-workers ordered the Coke.

The cafeteria was out of tea.

Being out of tea in China is like being out of wine in France or out of whiskey in Lynchburg, TN (Pop. 361). It doesn’t happen. It’s a sign of the apocalypse or something. I felt like walking outside to see if the sun was going nova.

They didn’t even have any 开水, kāi shuǐ, boiling hot water, which is also commonly drunk, the concept of sanitary cold (bottled) water being a recent innovation. This was truly bizarre. So we drank Coke from tea cups.

 

Day 31 how can a chinese restaurant in china run out of tea. we drink coke instead.

How can a Chinese restaurant IN CHINA run out of tea? We drink Coke instead.

Lunch was also memorable for four dishes, one I can’t wait to try in the USA.

Day 31 beef with sweet peppers.

Beef with sweet peppers – I don’t eat the peppers, but the flavor they impart on the meat is subtle and exceptional.

Day 31 spicy pork wood ears.

Spicy pork & wood ears. This was great – keep in mind this is like getting excellent food at your high school cafeteria.

Day 31 tomato egg soup.

Tomato & Egg soup – actually very good.

Day 31 bitter gourd omelet awesome.

Bitter gourd (also called bitter melon, 苦瓜, kǔ guā) omelet – this was absolutely exceptional – one of the best egg dishes I’ve ever eaten – the gourd tastes a bit like cucumber and matches beautifully with the egg – I can sometimes get 苦瓜 at our local Chinese market and I am going to try this at home. Awesome.

At around 4 PM, things start to wind down and everyone migrates about 10 minutes away to the banquet hall, because tonight is the joint PassageMaker, SafePassage and China Quality Focus annual Chinese New Year party! These companies have grown rapidly over the last few years, and we had about 160 people in attendance. I tried to capture the event, but my camera did a relatively poor job. Apologies in advance.

Day 31 1 we had an upstairs room at this banquet hall

we had an upstairs room at this banquet hall

Day 31 2 downstairs a much larger company was doing the same thing

downstairs a much larger company was also having their CNY party

Day 31 3 their stage show was far more formal than ours

their ‘stage show’ was far more formal than ours

Day 31 4 our banquet had 160 people total

our banquet had 160 people total

Day 31 5 each table prepare with drinks and snacks

each table prepare with drinks and snacks

Day 31 5 this is about a 3rd of the refreshments for the evening

this is about 1/3rd of the refreshments for the evening

Day 31 6 our emcees christina marc

Christina Feng, our Office Manager, did an exceptional job organizing this party. She and Marc Yue, Production Manager of the General Assembly Center, acted as our emcees

Day 31 9 candy teresa our very effective purchasing team

Candy Cheng & Teresa Chen – our very effective purchasing team. Teresa also serves as Mike’s right hand for company-wide operations. Again with the hand signals.

Day 31 10 hebe honey teresa

Hebe Wang, Honey Wu & Teresa Chen – I worked with this team (and others) on streamlining the format of our Product Quality Manual. I’ve got to find out about the hand signals.

Day 31 11 jesse pramod and adam

Jesse Chang, Accountant and Master Drinker; Pramod KC from Nepal, head of Project Management for those projects that have moved into regular production (“Vendor Coordination-Export & Logistics” in our parlance); and Adam Supernant, Project Manager from Michigan. And more hand signals. WTF.

Day 31 12 the buji team

Most of the management from our General Assembly Center (the precision Medical Assembly Center has a separate team). My lao pengyou, Sabrina Liao is on the far right. I caught them by surprise, so no time for hand signals.

Day 31 13 distinguished guests

L-R – Dave Learn, head of Project Management for those projects still in development (“Vendor Coordination-Product Development”; once they go to production, they transition to Pramod’s team). Our distinguished guests – Mike Lopez of Campus Emporium, Tyson Daniel of LimbGear, Collin Peel of Camrett Logistics, and Brian Garvin, Director of New Project Development, my sales counterpart based in Shenzhen.

Day 31 14 brians wife ada

Brian’s wife, Ada, who also does hand signals. A wonderful lady.

Day 31 15 buji staff enjoying a day away from the assembly center they typically work 6 days a week well into the night to prepare for cny

Buji staff enjoying an evening away from the Assembly Center – they typically work 6 days a week, well into the night to prepare for CNY. All of them would be back at work by 9 AM the next day, a Saturday. Whenever I hear Americans bitch about “all the Chinese holidays”, I kind of want to tell them to shove it. This is one of the hardest working groups of people I’ve ever met. In the foreground is Josephine Ji, Manager of the Assembly Center and a very competent woman. Sadly, this is clearest photo of her I got all night.

Day 31 17 hunan cuisine many of our employees are from hunan the province to the north

Hunan cuisine – many of our employees are from Hunan, the province to the north

Day 31 16 hand knotted noodles in duck soup very elegant

hand knotted noodles in duck soup – very elegant

Day 31 18 mike and teresa give the annual address and announce the new profit sharing program to raucous applause

Mike and Teresa give the annual state of the company address and announce the new profit sharing program to raucous applause. Most of our employees are farm kids from the provinces. The idea that they were going to be able to earn a piece of the action blew them away. The party really got rolling after that announcement.

Day 31 19 can i get a witness

Can I get a witness? Mike had the crowd going.

Day 31 20 mike presenting a hong bao

Mike presenting a 红包, hóng bāo, literally “red bag”, a small red envelope containing money. Typically these are token sums, perhaps as little as $0.05, meant to foster luck and prosperity in the new year. Ours had real money and each one that was awarded had more than the last. The final hong bao had over US$100. Everyone also got a bonus hong bao for the New Year.

Day 31 21 julien roger of china quality focus was a big hit with his french accented mandarin

Julien Roger of China Quality Focus was a big hit with his French-accented Mandarin.

Day 31 22 one of the top prizes was a limbgear t shirt and a very generous hong bao

One of the top prizes was a LimbGear t-shirt and a very generous hong bao from our guests.

Day 31 23 jesse toasting an honored guest tyson daniel of limbgear

Jesse Chang toasting an honored guest, Tyson Daniel of LimbGear.

Day 31 22 all the lao wais were asked to speak draw names hand out hong baos drink

All the lao wai’s were asked to speak, draw names, hand out hong bao’s & drink…

Day 31 24 everyone drinks

…everyone drinks…

Day 31 25 and drinks

…and drinks…

Day 31 26 and drinks

…and drinks…

Day 31 27 and drinks some more

…and drinks some more.

Day 31 28 all are rapt with attention as the grand prize is announced

all are rapt with attention as the grand prize is announced

Later things got a little crazy, with dancing, card playing, and for some bizarre reason, arm wrestling. I was reminded of the Festivus Feats of Strength.

Day 31 29 jesse referees the arm wrestling

Jesse Chang referees the arm wrestling

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. Our guests were impressed by the camaraderie and team spirit and by shear amount of fun everyone was having. Having seen the USA go through the politically correct wringer in the last 15 years, during which all forms of corporate sanctioned fun were done away with and replaced by silly and useless “team building” exercises, aka “manufactured fun”, it is nice to be someplace where “corporate bonding” means cutting loose and eating and drinking and dancing and, you know, having fun. I left the automotive industry because the lawyers and the accountants and the buyers had drained every ounce of enjoyment and excitement out of it until it became a soul-draining slog. Life is to be lived and thank God the Chinese understand that.

I recently re-connected with an old friend from B-school living in Switzerland and he is much better networked with our class than I am. He tells me nearly all of our classmates have taken dull domestic jobs. What was the point of getting a degree in international business, he quite rightly asked? I know I did it to get out and see the world, to live a life less ordinary.

Some reading this will think our company frivolous. If you get that impression, I’m sorry you missed the point. PassageMaker, China Quality Focus and SafePassage all provide professional, affordable and reliable services in a timely fashion. Our Endorsed Service Providers do the same. A big part of the reason we are able to do our job so well is we still have the joie de vivre that keeps us excited about our work of helping our clients succeed. So have a drink and Happy Chinese New Year!

 

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