Day 32 – After recovering from the party the night before, Adam Supernant and I pick up a couple of our clients for a shopping outing to Dongmen. It is actually quite brisk – south China this time of year can go from the 80s to the 50s in one day – and neither of them are feeling 100%. We head to Ajisen, a Japanese noodle chain. Service is atrocious, but food is good. Like McD’s, it’s always the same, which makes me wish we had Ajisen in my part of the USA. Oh what I would give for good noodles here…
That evening we head out to meet [name redacted at the request of her employer on 7 April 2011], aka Banana (adopted from China and raised in Germany and Hong Kong – yellow on the outside, white inside – her term), and one of our Endorsed Service Providers, Ms. Li Yan of the JunZeJun Law Firm. Li Yan and I have been referring people to each other for a while now and she’s done an exceptional job with our clients, 8-0 on IP cases. It was nice to finally meet her face-to-face. We dine at the Da Yu (Big Fish) the crazy teppanyaki place with the all-you-can-eat, all-you-can-drink special for 150 RMB. The place is packed to the gills for CNY celebrations. Ultimately we are seated and have a spectacular meal.
Since we were one of the last tables to eat, the chef used our grill to make a massive batch of egg fried rice for the staff’s dinner.
The group breaks up after dinner, though some of us go for a few more drinks – Erdinger at McCawley’s (my favorite German beer). Banana is with us and says I’m pouring it wrong. That may be so, but I’m pouring it the way I like it. Besides, my way is more fun for entertaining the wait staff. No way to describe it, just have to show you the next time I see you. Starts raining which sort of kills the fun sitting outside. Head for home.
Day 33 – rained hard all day, forcing us to cancel our trip to Hong Kong and Macau. We did nothing except sit inside all day working and watching movies. When the rain finally started to abate, headed out to get some KFC. Yes, I know, but sometimes you feel lazy. We pay for it later with wicked acid indigestion. KFC is much spicier and greasier than in the US. Later in the evening we head out to Shekou to get rooms at the cruise ship so we can watch the Superbowl live in the morning at the sports bar downstairs. We take our clients to dinner at Tasca, the Spanish tapas bar and have a grand time. Early to bed.
Day 34 – Up early to watch the Superbowl. I don’t care about either team, but fun nonetheless. Our clients head out early via hydrofoil ferry to HKG, which is much quicker than crossing by land (the “business” excuse for our trip to Shekou – have to take care of those customers). This is the first time I’ve been to Seaworld in the daylight in years, and after the rain it is a gloriously clear morning.
Because it’s Monday (China is 13 hours ahead of the east coast of the USA, so Sunday night is Monday morning), after the game we head to work. We have to stop by B&Q again.
On the way home from the plant, we see a VW Santana with a big involved graphic across the back of the trunk lid. It says “SOCCER” and has a picture of some famous footballer. Only one problem – it’s backwards, a mirror image of what it’s supposed to be. You see this kind of stuff all over the place here – English words on t-shirts, handbags, advertisements, etc. that are misspelled or upside down or backwards or just thrown together at random. My wife has a t-shirt from our time in Taiwan that says “I’m Fine Muck”. Yes you are, sweetie.
We are interviewing a Filipino process engineer to work with me at the Assembly Center. He looks like he’ll be a good fit. He’s got loads of plant level experience working for major global companies and has lived in Shenzhen before. He has family in Dongguan up the road. He tells us a harrowing story about his last time in China when he was kidnapped and robbed at knife point in broad day light. I have heard these stories about SE Asians in China, but never about a Westerner. I guess the gangsters assume the police will care less about the SE Asians. Sadly, they are probably right.
Day 35 – Last day at the Assembly Center. We hired the process engineer, Harold Roman, this morning and he’ll spend today and tomorrow with me reviewing our kaizen agenda for the next couple months. I intend to return for the month of April, but don’t want things to go cold after CNY.
The last lunch is celebratory, the first lunch with beer since I’ve been here. Had I been doing the factory visit two-step, every vendor would want to treat me to an alcohol-soaked luncheon. I was not here for that, but in this case, a couple cold beers in the afternoon is an appropriate reward. Only problem, no cold beer. No problem, we’ve got ice. Iced beer. That was honestly a first for me.
When we get back the postman is delivering the mail on his green China Post motorcycle with saddlebags. Very cool. We get back to work until Julien Roger of China Quality Focus calls and asks me to join him for a business dinner. The schedule requires me to wrap things up early and head back to Liantang. We have our closing meeting and say our goodbyes. I’ll be back in April, but will miss these folks in the meantime. A good team all around.
On the way home I finally get a not-completely-blurry photo of the “staircase street” we pass every day. They are not good, but this is a very cool little oddity of Shenzhen.
When I get back to Liantang, the driver drops me at the end of the street. Our street is private, meaning that you have to pass through a gate and take a ticket to get in. If you stay on the street for more than a few minutes, you have to pay to get back out. We have a parking spot outside the wire, so this is typical. Nearly every shop is already shut down for the Chinese New Year, a bit of a ghost town. I come across one scene outside of a restaurant that is very cute and hugely disturbing at the same time.
Julien and I head out to meet up with Renaud Anjoran of the Quality Inspection Blog at a northeastern style restaurant. I love this style, and was wickedly disappointed by the last place I tried, so I went in hoping for a good experience. Julien said this was his favorite place and I see why. It was excellent across the board.
After dinner, I go for my last massage of the trip. I have a bad back, had to wear a back brace when I was a teenager and am used to regular pain and discomfort. On this trip, I have definitely been spoiled by the affordable and effective massages. My back feels better than it has in years. The woman tonight is in her 40’s and her experience shows – she is an expert and despite the momentary thrashing when I wake up in the morning I feel like a million bucks. Total cost around $25. Love. This. Place.
Day 36 – Last day at the office. Beautiful morning. We battle the usual chaos before the CNY, mainly problems with customer payments clearing in time to release goods to get a berth on a freighter. Customers often can’t envision the traffic at the ports during this time of year, and think that if they get the check out on the last day that that will translate to goods on the water. To clarify, no it won’t. If you are one of these customers reading this blog, it is nothing personal and trust me you are not the only one, but in the future, send the money early. The earlier the better. The Chinese have been celebrating CNY for 5,000 years. It’s not like you weren’t warned, and trust me, there is NOTHING I can do about it.
Our favorite local restaurant is still open and so we have our final lunch there. All the favorites plus this that I’d not had before.
We have a very productive day and then select Mao’s House for the final dinner. How I love those chili shrimp skewers. We have at least 4 plates between us – Mike Bellamy, Brian Garvin, Adam Supernant, and Harold Roman of PassageMaker and Julien Roger and Ludovic Larry of China Quality Focus. Much later we head out to meet up with Dave Learn at Viva, running into Banana and other friends on the way. How bizarre it is to have such a dual life. And how exciting as well. I am looking forward to being home and seeing my family, but I will miss this place when I am gone.
Home at a reasonable hour and to bed. Early day tomorrow.