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Pain

Helped some friends move this weekend. I. Hurt. All. Over.

And by this weekend, I mean most all of it, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday morning. Friday and Saturday were hot and humid, but Sunday was the gauntlet. Day started early, hot and humid and ended in a cold rain at 1:00 AM Monday morning. I had some work to do and did not get to sleep until 2:30 AM, back up at 6:00 AM to help them finish before the deadline of 9:15 AM (which we made by 5 minutes).

Why am I telling you about this, a blog ostensibly about China Business and my impressions thereof? Two reasons:

  1. I am a slightly overweight and out of shape 39 years old. I like to drink more beer than I should and my Room 101 is a gym. I have never been a good athlete, I have a bad back, so bad I had to wear a brace 24/7 for several years as a teenager. And though today I am sore all over, my legs and my back feel far better than I’d expected. I credit my TrekDesk. I’ve mentioned TrekDesk before (here and here) and I walk several miles a day at an aggressive 8 degrees of incline at 2.2 mph, which will get your heart pumping. I had not realized how well it had conditioned my legs and forced me to improve my posture. Walking while you work really does rock. I mention this because as I have blogged before, the TrekDesk is one of the best examples of our complete system of services – engineering by our Endorsed Service Provider, Contract Engineering Services; then Sourcing Feasibility Study, next Vendor Coordination and now Assembly-Inspection-Packaging at our Assembly Center according to the customer approved Product Quality Manual.
  2. The USA’s trade deficit with China is almost universally viewed as a bad thing. But the low-cost goods China provides to the USA consumer is a reminder that any transaction has benefits for both sides. As I moved my friends’ copious amount of stuff, I was struck by how much of the contents of their home (and indeed, any American home) are now Made in China. When I was growing up, I do not remember having that many clothes. That is not to say I went about in rags; quite the opposite, my Father was successful and I had a wonderful childhood. I just don’t remember having anywhere near the sheer volume of clothing my friends’ children had. Today I have five (5) pairs of shoes. I actually make a game of trying to minimize the amount of stuff I drag around with me – Exhibit A being the extended trips to China with one (1) carry-on bag. Looking around my own house, each of my children has at least twice as many pairs of shoes as I do. All are Made in China. The prices paid for those are astoundingly low, even to me who has an idea of what they cost ExW. While I am rightly concerned about foreign competition as an American manufacturer, it would be dishonest and foolish to say that there was no benefit to the American consumer from our trade with China.

All for today, much catch-up to do having lost the weekend. It continues to rain soup, new opportunities daily. Will try to squeeze in more blogging tomorrow.

Why you always proof read

So I received an email the other day from the personal assistant to a businessman I know. As is my practice, I went to load her information in my address book. I noticed she had misspelled her own email address in her own email signature. I sent her a private email to let her know before her boss noticed.

This put me in mind of the importance of making sure all your business documents say what you intend them to, ESPECIALLY when doing business in a foreign language. One of the services PassageMaker offers our clients is help drafting the language on their purchase orders. Many of our clients come to us after having a bad experience or two in China, and it is amazing how vague some of their purchase orders are.

The Chinese legal system is rapidly improving and a properly written purchase order is a binding contract that can be the difference between getting raked over the coals and being the one doing the raking.

I see similar issues with design databases. Drawings are often given to us with no material specifications, no finish specs, etc. I had a drawing once from an client that specified “aluminum”. When I asked his engineer what type, he responded that he didn’t think it mattered. This for a part to be subjected to high heat and load stress – you’re darned tootin’ it matters.

We have also received drawings specifying titanium fasteners. After wasting time looking for these very hard to find fasteners, the project engineer in the USA tells us that he just cut and pasted the fastener drawing and forgot to change the material spec. Two seconds of his time would have saved two days of our team’s time.

This kind of BS is why we have Endorsed Service Providers. Choosing with the cheapest guy is very rarely the best deal.

Another area where we frankly NEED our clients to proofread is our Product Quality Manual (PQM), the core of our Assembly-Inspection-Packaging service. As Mike Bellamy says, “we are generalists; we depend on the client to be the expert”. We take the lead on drafting the PQM, and submit it to the client for approval, but once they sign off on it, that is what we are going to do, no more, no less. It becomes our warranty and if the client forgets to tell us something, once they approve the document, that is now the official record. We’ll happily amend the PQM for the next order, but if it wasn’t written down, not my fault.

Our system incorporates four (4) levels of approval before it is sent to the client for final approval. From the speed at which some clients approve the document, I know they barely looked at it. I would rather have a 17 page response as we got from one client than a signature 20 minutes later.

Doing things right takes time, but nowhere near as much time as doing things over. If your project is valuable enough to bring to market, you have time for some proof reading.

PS – I have dyslexia, and have proof-read this damn post five times looking for typos. I bet you all find at least one in spite of that effort.

Blogging is hard work

In less than a year I have gone from daily blogging to forcing myself to find something to write about once a week if that.

Since my return from China two weeks ago, I have been working like crazy trying to bag all the new business raining down on PassageMaker and China Quality Focus. The world economy is not out of the woods but we are definitely seeing an explosion of new RFQs, led by Australia. They are booming exporting the raw materials for China’s industry. Let’s all raise our glasses to Australia! More on that later…

I have been picking away at the travel log in my minimal spare time, but here are some interesting articles (some a bit old, but nonetheless).

  • Nixon wasn’t so bad after all – USSR planned nuclear attack on China in 1969 – and Tricky Dick stopped World War III. This is the kind of stuff you do as President that you can’t talk about, you have to hope historians get it right.
  • From Instapundit, a link to great blog about Japan, Ampontan. Today’s post is called Lame and Shameless, about ridiculous Western reporting on Japan. I am reminded of Andrea Martins, our representative in Brazil, who was actually born and raised in Beijing, the first and only Caucasian I’ve met who truly speaks native-level Mandarin. She told me once that if you visit China for a week, you can write a book. Stay for a month, you can write an article. Live there for 25 years, you have nothing to say.
  • Every once in a while you need to remind yourself how utterly insignificant you really are – Jupiter loses one of its stripes and scientists are stumped as to why.
  • Every once in a while you need to remind yourself how great your life really is – N.Korean women up for sale in China: activist. Tragic and terrible. I hope China steps up.
  • Interesting article from Mother Jones. Yes, really. The Last Taboo.
  • The New York Times finally realizes that many jobs aren’t ever coming back – The New Poor: In Job Market Shift, Some Workers Are Left Behind.
  • Speaking of vomiting…U.S. posts 19th straight monthly budget deficit. (hat tip to Dave Learn)
  • Dear God, let’s hope so – N.J. gov. sets tone for US – I have heard Christie speak, and it is QUITE refreshing. He sounds like a no-nonsense CEO sent in to save a company on the ropes. Math doesn’t lie. There is no money tree. You have to cut spending. However, if you could just raise taxes on The Real Housewives of New Jersey and leave the rest of the state alone, I think you could sell that. My God, what tacky people. The rise of China should be seen as largely a good thing, and maybe the Chinese economy will grow larger than the USA’s, but that was never a foregone conclusion. Our current political leadership across the board seems hellbent on making sure it happens ASAP though. As someone who has business interests in both USA and PRC, I just wish the USA would quit shooting itself in the foot. We businessmen would be just fine if we knew from one day to the next what was coming out of Washington.
  • Globish – I love it. What a great word. And the author nails it; I have had similar experiences many, many times in the Chinese-speaking world.
  • And finally, I can’t resist – Dog on the menu for Chinese astronauts. Actually, dog is pretty tasty, though I’ve only had it prepared in Korean restaurants in China, so I haven’t tried the Chinese version. Have to put that on the to-do list.
Back soon, hopefully with some travel blogging.

Great interview with Mike Bellamy about PassageMaker’s “Black Box”

I can’t say it better, so here is the interview with our Founder explaining how PassageMaker helps clients protect their IP.

Mike Bellamy interviewed by Fiducia Management Consultants.

Child labor

I read with interest the recent articles (couple of them here and here) about Apple’s announcement that some of their suppliers had used child labor in the past.

What I found most interesting was the “child” part – when I was 15 I would have slugged anyone who called me a child. During the summer of my 15th year, I was working in our metal stamping plant where the highest temperature reached 103 F (40 C). I had my first factory job when I was 14 turning wheels on a lathe. My Father never read child-labor laws, and thank God for that. It was an invaluable experience that I am sad to say I won’t be able to give to my son.

I can remember in 1998 visiting a factory for a major automotive supplier in Taiwan. There were 14 year old boys working on the lines making seat belt assemblies. I asked about it and found that they were students at the local technical school. They worked half a shift on the line and spent the rest of the day in class studying engineering. Today, 12 years later, they would be around 26 with degrees in mechanical engineering and over a decade of hands-on experience. I imagine some of them are running plants in China now.

I’ve written about The Wiffle Ball Life before, a term coined by P.J. O’Rourke to denote the rather pathetic American obsession with safety, self-esteem, and never doing anything the slightest bit risky – especially if it might also be fun.

I understand that Apple is worried about its image, and I acknowledge that those eleven 15 year olds may not have wanted to be there. But there is a big difference between a 15 year old farm kid fibbing about his age to get a good factory job to help support his family and using 6 year old slave labor in an illegal fireworks factory in Sichuan. It would be nice if the amazingly flexible English language had a concise way of stating the difference. I think “under-aged labor” is more reflective of the reality of the situation.

Should you need to verify that your suppliers are not using “under-aged labor”, our friends at China Quality Focus can perform a Corporate Social Audit for €376 + travel expenses, a small price to pay to avoid the kind of (undeserved) bad publicity Apple is experiencing.PassageMaker can also help our clients, under the auspices of a Vendor Coordination contract, draft supplier agreements to reflect the social norms of their home country or industry.

A better solution would be to have PassageMaker perform the Assembly-Inspection-Packaging functions in our 100% US-owned and -operated Assembly Center. We will warrant that we meet the necessary social compliance metrics.

Give us a call before you write the press release or talk to the New York Times.

Day 37 – Home

Day 37 huanggang border crossing

My Blackberry Storm 2 from Verizon Wireless has been progressively crapping out on this trip. It is not a good device, and the longer I have it, the less impressed I am. In addition to the outrageous charges to receive calls – I practically had to hang up on a few clients to get them to shut up so I could call them back on my China Mobile (Verizon US$2.00+ to receive; China Mobile US$0.05 to make = VERIZON SUCKS) – this Blackberry has been regularly crashing, repeatedly uninstalling the browser which now doesn’t work at all, losing its data connection (everyone around me has full data and my China Mobile has 5 bars) forcing me to remove the battery to restart it and see if it can reacquire the data signal.

So I guess I should have known that it was not reliable as an alarm clock. Suffice it to say I am an experienced enough traveler that I don’t cut things close, so I had planned to arrive 2 hours earlier than needed. Despite the fact that the alarm failed, the sun woke me and I showered, shaved and “packed” in about 25 minutes. I say “packed” because I made the decision some days back to leave most of the clothes behind as I will be back in about 6 weeks and didn’t see the point. Because the driver is waiting and I want to get through the Huanggang border crossing before the Chinese New Year rush hour starts, everything I wanted to take got unceremoniously shoved in the bag – couple small gifts for the kids, some movies and books and medicine and out the door.

It’s a glorious morning, blue skies and lots of fast moving clouds. It is warming up fast and very humid. We head to the main Luohu border crossing, Huanggang, which I am fearing will be a mob scene. Although the official Chinese New Year doesn’t start until Saturday, many factories and offices are already closed. Around 450 million people travel inside China during the 2-3 weeks that cover the Lunar New Year season. That’s 1.5 times the entire population of the USA. And we bitch about travel around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year the blizzards in China had over 250,000 people stranded at the Guangzhou railroad station for days. I’ve been there on a normal business day, and it is no wonder they had to bring in the police to maintain order.

So I am not surprised that Huanggang is in fact a mob scene. The company driver drops me off at the stand where they sell tickets for the mini vans that run you across for 150 RMB. I usually get a limo for 700-800 RMB, but decide to try this less expensive method. In the future, I will be using the limo again, more on that in a minute.

Photos inside are strictly forbidden, and I did not feel like taking the risk 4 hours before my flight, so you will have to visualize the chaos of maybe 3,000 people with their luggage squeezed into a room designed to hold perhaps 500. There were 30+ lines for Chinese and only one for Foreigners, so getting through took a long time. They were really being critical this morning, usually passport control for a white guy takes 30 seconds, but today he looked through every page of the passport and spent several minutes looking things up on his computer.

If I had hired a limo, I would have been able to go through passport control in my own lane, never getting out of the car. 700 RMB (cost of the limo) – 150 RMB (cost of the van) = 550 RMB = US$80. That savings is looking less important all the time.

Outside I find our van and it appears I am the last man. I expected as much, due to the 3rd degree from the border patrol. Except the driver insists I am not the last, he says we are missing one. When we buy our tickets, we are given stickers with the van’s number on it so the driver can keep track. The van seats 7 passengers – 3 in back, 3 in the middle and one riding shotgun. I did not look in the back when I boarded, but I take it on faith that he is correct – they would never run these things across a passenger light, certainly not on a day like today. In the van with me are a Singaporean man, four Taiwanese men and one Taiwanese woman. The Singaporean is mighty worried about missing his flight, and after 30 minutes waiting for the missing passenger in the 80 F warmth and bright sunshine, he is starting to get hot, as in pissed. The driver placidly insists he can’t leave the 7th (which none of us can exactly remember) because he paid too, we have his luggage, and if we leave he will be stranded, as there is no way to hire a car on this side. The driver is quite right…in theory.

The Chinese was fast and very heated, but it seems the Singaporean insists there is no 7th, something none of us can confirm. The Taiwanese woman who was also in the back seat, says nothing and refuses to answer when asked. Very strange. He then opens to back and starts counting luggage. He points to different bags and the various passengers chime in to claim ownership. When he points to mine, I say “我的”, “mine” which makes him actually do a dramatic double take that the laowai can speak Chinese. It appears the mysterious 7th has no bags, so we double count, and indeed all the bags on board are accounted for by the six of us. The driver sees that the luggage is no longer an issue, but still insists on waiting. The Singaporean in now in a rage and calls over another driver from the same company who just pulled in. He loudly explains the situation and the other driver agrees to find the missing 7th, who may not even exist, and tells our driver to roll out.

Back in the car, for the the first 2-3 minutes the Singaporean loudly berates the driver, who must be a Taoist, as he is completely at peace and does not get the slightest bit ruffled under this assault. Finally the Singaporean realizes the futility and quiets down. I find the whole episode educational and an example of what fascinates me about Asia. Singapore is wealthy and sophisticated city state (I lived there in 1994 and loved every minute), and this guy acted like he was a typical rich snob from good side of town. The driver must have a special permit in order to cross the border so regularly, but my guess is he is from the Mainland. People on the Mainland, especially the older generation, have been raised to just take it. I’ve seen Singaporeans, Taiwanese and Hong Kongers pull this stunt on Mainlanders, berating them publicly, because they know they can get away with it. One of my rules for life is to show as much respect as you can to the people who wash your clothes, cook your food and drive you around, etc., because they are the ones who make your life easy. They deserve more respect than this guy got.

Day 37 huanggang border crossing

Day 37 huanggang so many chinese drivers have these awful perfume dispensers in their cars note the tiger for the year of the tiger

Day 37 huanggang when you are using a porsche cayenne for your border crossing van thats just showing off1

Day 37 huanggang shenzhen skyline

Day 37 huanggang to hong kong

Hong Kong is one of the coolest places on earth. The drive to the airport is always amazing but is especially so this morning with dramatic and fast moving clouds with occasional bursts of sunlight. The natural setting is glorious and dramatic, hundreds of mountainous islands covered in verdant green rising out of the harbor. The cities and towns are built to work with the land, unlike the wholesale flattening of the hills that takes place in Shenzhen. The bridges that connect to Lantau island and Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) are brilliant – one each of suspension and cable-stayed – and the whole setting reminds me of a scale model too perfect to be believed. My camera stinks, so this is the best I could do.

Day 37 views of hong kong

Day 37 container ship

We arrive at HKG with less than two hours before my flight, far less than I normally allow. I know before I even get to the airport that there is no chance of getting better seats, not so late and not on the Thursday before CNY. Nevertheless, even though I checked in online last night, I head over to the United counter and chat up the very attractive lady at the counter (in Asia it is still OK to hire public relations personnel who are good looking – it is often part of the job description) and she tries every trick in the book to get me a better seat. Nothing doing, flight is booked solid. Oh well, I appreciated her efforts and gave her a business card (she didn’t believe that I’d been in Asia for 5 weeks with no luggage so I told her to check the blog), so if she’s reading this, thank you very much for your help!

Day 37 hkg entry hall

Day 37 hkg entry hall 2

I head through passport control and security, and get accosted by the eager young folks who are always there taking a survey of foreigners to find out how much time and money you spent in Hong Kong on this trip. I am in a hurry, but I take a minute anyway to talk to them. Yes, I absolutely love Hong Kong. I would move here tomorrow if my wife would come with me. I’ve been here many, many times and will be back again soon. It’s awesome and now I have to go.

Five minutes for a quick bowl of noodles and to buy some candy bars (paid for in 1 second with my Octopus card – love it). Then up and down the seemingly endless series of escalators with the train ride to the other terminal in the middle and on to the gate. It is very humid and pretty warm and HKG, like Shanghai Pudong, is built to be big and impressive which means by the time I get to the gate, it is now officially sticky uncomfortable. It is February, so I don’t think they have the AC on, but this not how you want to board a plane. The security is far tighter than the USA, with every bag searched.

I am in a aisle seat in Economy, which means the next 14 hours will only be mildly tortuous. My seat mates speak not a word and neither do I. Both sleep through the entire flight. Just as well as I’m not in the mood. United is sticking with the 4 movie format, but at least they are good – The Invention of Lying, Where The Wild Things Are, My One And Only, and The Informant! The food sucks and is even sparser than last time. Thank God for candy bars.

Land in Chicago exactly on time, and after a pretty thorough grilling by passport control, out into the airport. For some bloody reason you have to go back through security again, which in O’Hare is less than fun. Security in HKG is MUCH tighter than in the States, but nothing for it, so shoes off and laptops out. My flight to ROA is out of one of the commuter terminals, to one with no good restaurants. Lunch at McD’s. blech.

I sit down to read the Wall Street Journal Asian edition they gave me on the plane and wait the two hours for my flight. There is a great article on Chinese Intellectual Property law that I would love to be able to concentrate on, but instead I spend this time listening to an astoundingly annoying woman tell the lady across the aisle from her nearly every detail of her life and recent travel history, including how her underwire bra sets off the metal detectors EVERY TIME (I feel so much safer now knowing they actually work). I know this because despite the fact that she was about 100 feet away, her voice was SO LOUD everyone in the terminal heard her. At least when people in China are loud and obnoxious, they are all loud and obnoxious at the same time, so the result is sort a loud silence. They all just drown each other out into white noise. Oh, how I wish I were back in China.

Bumpy flight to ROA with the annoying lady talking only intermittently during the flight. I think she was airsick. Thank God for turbulence.

Finally, almost exactly 24 hours after I woke up, we land at Roanoke Regional Airport. Out into the cold and snow covered mountains. 24 hours ago I was in 80 F weather, now below freezing. Yipee.

Day 37 roanoke regional airport

Day 37 clear and cold at roa

It’s been a great 5 weeks, but when I see the family again, I know where I belong.

Happy to be home.

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!

 

Days 27-30 – Plenty of hard work and plenty of visitors

Day 28 yes our assembly center includes a clean room assembly facility with sterile packaging equipment

I’ve already returned to the States a few days ago, but the last couple weeks in China were so hectic, I am filing these posts late. Days 31-37 to come shortly.

Articles, articles, articles…

A little random tidbit from Dave, who is going on another Asian adventure for the Chinese New Year. Airlines are just no damn fun anymore (from the terms and conditions on his plane ticket):

– Guests can no longer carry guns and/or ammunition on flights to or from Indonesia

Killjoys.

Day 27 – A client from the USA arrived today, one of a group of three we were expecting. The other two were delayed by fun winter weather in the USA, so they will arrive tomorrow. After a long day at work, I met the client for drinks at our preferred corporate hotel, the 999 Royal Suites. Nice rooms for a very reasonable price. The bar caters to foreign businessmen and they have the standard Filipino cover lounge singers. Some have been there for years and it was catching up with old friends. The Filipina hotel day manager, Queenie, looks great and I am glad to see her rising in her career with the 999. I once spent 5 weeks living at the older 999 hotel across the courtyard, so I got to know the staff pretty well.

Day 28 – We have visitors today from [company name redacted 7 April 2011], a German 3PL based in Shanghai with offices in Shenzhen [and no sense of humor apparently]. The head of the Shenzhen office is a self-described “banana”, yellow on the outside and white on the inside. She was adopted from China as a baby by a German family and raised in Germany and Hong Kong. Very interesting young lady. We have a great lunch and then they head off to tour our facilities. Here they are with Mike heading into our medical assembly center with clean room and sterile packaging capabilities.

Day 28 yes our assembly center includes a clean room assembly facility with sterile packaging equipment

L-R – Mike Bellamy, founder of PM, and anonymous employees of an anonymous German logistics company that no longer wishes to be named in this blog [as of 7 April 2011], prepare to enter our Clean Room Assembly Center. Too funny.

Later the rest of the clients arrive and off we go to the traditional first-night-in-China Xinjiang dinner. Great time. The highlight was the staff practicing their traditional dances out in front of the restaurant late at night. I’ve seen them do this before, and really don’t understand it, because none are from Xinjiang and they don’t work in local costume and don’t perform at the restaurant. But this is one of my favorite scenes from China. I’ve tried before to take photos and this is the first time they were any good.

Day 28 dance practice

Day 28 dance practice 21

Day 28 dance practice 3

Day 28 dance practice 4

Day 29 – Very productive day of meetings with our clients from LimbGear and our Endorsed Service Provider, Camrett Logistics. They have a great new family of products and I expect we will see great things from them in 2010. At night we head out for a Northeastern style dinner, normally one of my favorite styles, at a restaurant called 东北人, dōngběirén, literally “northeastern person” or “northeasterner”. We were told it would be awesome. It wasn’t. The food was a warm cup of OK, but the service was bloody atrocious. After waiting more than 10 minutes I actually had to get up to go find a waitress and mildly berate her for leaving us sitting so long with no tea. She was embarrassed enough to come immediately and take our drinks order, but the service stunk throughout the meal. This is extremely rare in China, where most of the time you have almost too much service. If you are in Shenzhen, Dong Bei Ren near King Glory Plaza (GuoMao station on the subway) is one to skip.

Day 29 its not mons beer.

Day 30 – Another day at the Assembly Center. I am starting to feel the end of the trip and have so much to do I eat lunch at my desk. When I lived in Taiwan, I loved the lunch boxes (bien dang in the local dialect). Today’s take out was not the same (bien dang are more complete rounded meals) but it reminded me a bit. A good light and healthy lunch all the same. Now if I can just get my TrekDesk (one of our clients!) set up in China, maybe I could actually LOSE weight on these trips.

Day 30 lunch at my desk better than 95 of american chinese foodday 30 lunch at my desk better than 95 of american chinese food

On the way to dinner, we saw one of the more memorable sights of this trip. We are fast approaching the Chinese New Year, and families stock up on fresh produce to last through the long holiday (1-2 weeks). And when I say fresh, I mean live.

Day 30 m r ducks actually 3 chickens and 2 geese for chinese new year

Dinner was one of the best of the trip, which is really saying something.

Day 30 personal hotpots chicken broth seasoned with garlic ginger thousand year old eggs you add green onions cilantro miso paste and chiles to a soy dipping sauce

Day 30 raw beef sashimi with soy + wasabi dipping sauce this is the best thing in the world

Everyone’s tired and a little lubricated, so early night. More adventures tomorrow!

Day 14

Day 14 hong kong border fence

Day 14 – Tuesday – Some interesting China article links to kick things off:

I had some customer calls this morning and got to the office later than planned. It was a beautiful day, clear and warm and actually worked up a sweat walking to work. Mike is very frugal (like a good entrepreneur should be) and he sited PassageMaker and the corporate apartment on purpose. Liantang, our “town” in the Luohu district, is not upscale at all, and most Western companies are based in tonier districts like Futian and Shekou. Liantang is very Chinese, we are the only foreigners and there is no Starbucks or other Western shops. We do have a KFC and a McD’s, but both these brands are so well established in China they are almost like local offerings now. KFC especially has a very different menu than in the States, tailored to the local market. When Mike was researching our new home a few years ago, he chose this area because he could buy a house across the street from the office. Also we are an important tenant for the landlord, so we can control the HVAC. In many of the high rise office towers, the landlord controls the thermostat. And rents are also much lower in Liantang.

Day 14 hong kong border fence

In order to get to work, you have to cross a foot bridge over the main highway. Chinese steps are instructive.

Day 14 chinese stairs

For breakfast I went to a vendor around the corner selling a type of flatbread. The size of a large pizza but wafer thin, it is fluffy and crispy at the same time. I has green onions cooked into it and is coated with sesame seeds. A real taste delight. I bought half a pizza, cut up into bite-sized pieces and shared with the office. All for 4 RMB = $0.60.

Day 14 flatbeard

It was a busy day in the office. We had customers visiting from France in the morning and USA in the afternoon. Late afternoon, my friend from Taiwan stopped by for a meeting to learn more about PassageMaker. We gave her the run down on all the companies – PassageMaker, QTP Bag & Case, and China Quality Focus – and their services – Sourcing Feasibility Studies, Vendor Coordination, Assembly-Inspection-Packaging, China Sourcing Office, our Medical Assembly Center with Clean Room and Sterile Packaging, Logistics, VAT Rebate Processing, Simple Factory Audits, on-site Quality Inspections, Market Feasibility Studies, Factory Formation, and our Endorsed Service Provider network. She has USA friends and clients contacting her to help source in China and she wants to introduce them to us. I am confident we will find a good way to work together. Only one dish of note today at lunch, the variation on my favorite shrimp skewer dish, this time without the chiles and salt baked, to give them an intense somewhat smokey flavor.

Day 14 salt baked shrimp skewers

I head out a bit earlier than normal to join her for dinner. It is not uncommon for folks at PassageMaker to work until 8 or 9 PM, so I felt a little bad leaving at 5:30 PM. My friend is in the mood for Japanese, so we head to Coco Park, a big mall and surrounding shopping area in Futian. Our driver heads off and we are mired in a few minutes time in rush hour traffic. Liantang is on the east end of Shenzhen, almost to Yantian, the most eastern district of Shenzhen and the location of the port. Shenzhen was the first Special Economic Zone set up by Deng Xiao Ping when China decided to open to the West. 30 years ago it was a farming and fishing village that just happened to abut British Hong Kong. Today it is a sprawling city of around 12 million people. From Shekou and Baoan in the west to Yantian in the east, even in good traffic at highway speeds it can take an hour or more end to end. The original Luohu district is crammed right up on the border and it is obvious that the city planners years ago had no idea what was to come. The highway in Liantang running to the port that I’ve posted in the past, was built because this area was almost a suburb. In central Luohu, the highways take crazy S curves weaving in and out of skyscrapers, and in some areas are reduced to two or even one lane. This is the polar opposite of the planned asphalt and concrete expanses of Pudong in Shanghai. Thus the trip to Coco Park takes around 45 minutes.

Coco Park is across the street from the new McCawley’s we visited the other night, and is a big beautiful mall. Lots of stone and neon and every major Western brand represented. In contrast to some of the malls in China, I actually saw people buying, not just looking. In we go to a Japanese restaurant, which if you take the bad blood between the two nations seriously, should be deserted. Instead we have to wait 25 minutes for a table the size of a matchbook, crammed between a large party of Hong Kongers and a couple on a date. This lao wai barely draws a second glance, except when I take a picture of the food. My friend tells them I am a food critic, which I guess is accurate.

We start the meal with raw beef tongue sliced paper thin. We initially opt to cook it ourselves on a portable butane burner, but after nearly giving ourselves 3rd degree burns (the cast iron cooking plate doesn’t exactly fit the burner and keeps sliding around), we send it away for them to cook.

Day 14 beef tongue

Day 14 japanese fried chicken and the cooked beef tongue

Beef tongue is a bit more unctuous than other cuts, despite having not much visible fat, and is quite good. I am not sure I would be able to tell the difference if I was not told though. I remember that in his book Undaunted Courage, Steven Ambrose reported that Lewis only ate the tongue and the fat of the buffalo they killed. Now I understand.

Day 14 japanese potato omelet with bonito shavings not good

Day 14 japanese lamb chops pretty hard to mess up lamb

Day 14 japanese salad

Day 14 japanese fried tofu with bonito shavings

We rounded out the meal with some sashimi, which everyone has seen so I didn’t bother with photos. My friend is into dessert, so we had ice cream and cheesecake, neither of which were anything special. The highlight for me was the Suntory beer, which I hadn’t had since my last trip to Japan nearly 12 years ago. Suntory is an brand rarely exported (I’ve never seen it in the USA, even in major cities) and it is a good basic lager. Just the thing for the food.

Conversation over dinner gets philosophical. She and I have known each other a long time through a string of career and life changes. She’s met my family and I’ve spoken to her significant other on the phone a number of times, though we’ve never met. She and I may not talk for a year, but whenever we do, the conversation picks up just where it left off like no time had passed. She looks great, hasn’t aged a bit. It has been 5 years since we’ve actually seen each other. It felt like last week. OK, so it WAS last week at the Italian restaurant, but you get my meaning.

Life is nothing but a string of anecdotes, with book learning thrown in for filler. You never really know anything but what you see with you own eyes, smell with your own nose, etc. When Mike asked me to write this blog, it was to boost our search engine results. I immediately realized I couldn’t do it if every post was a string of key words. It had to be about life. It really should be called “Whit’s tiny slice of Shenzhen, Hong Kong, a couple places in Dongguan and Guangzhou, a few trips to Shanghai and Beijing, Singapore from 15 years ago, Taiwan from 12 years ago Business Blog”. I know more about China than most people, but as our rep in Brazil, Andrea Martins, who lived in China for 25 years once told me, “If you go to China for a week, you can write a book. If you go for a year, you can write an article. If you live there for 25 years, you have nothing to say.”

A professor of mine once introduced me to an audience at a speaking engagement as one of the happiest people he knows. I don’t know if that is the truth, but I AM happy. Not because I don’t have anything to be sad about, but because it doesn’t do any good to fret and worry. I have a beautiful wife and a wonderful family, I love to meet people and make new friends. I love what I do, because I essentially made my own path (with lots of help from everyone in my life, including The Man upstairs). Some years ago, I made a silent promise to myself to “live a life less ordinary”. So far, I think I’ve succeeded.

When I am at home I am happy and content. I love Salem, VA and the USA. I love my family and friends. It is a beautiful small town, safe and pleasant. Do I miss China when I am at home? Of course.

When I am in China I am likewise happy and content. I cannot say I love China, so much as I am fascinated by it. Every day is a new experience. Buying a loaf of bread or a carton of milk is an adventure. Do I miss my home when I am in China? Of course. I miss my family terribly.

But there is work to do and money to make. You put it out of your mind. Absence really DOES make the heart grow fonder. I know when I see my family in 3 weeks, it will be a wonderful homecoming.

 

Days 6-13 – Shanghai Hooters, Mao’s Revenge, and rotten cell phone companies

1 view from the apartment 1

Day 6 – Woke to steady rain after a fitful sleep. The Chinese believe in sleeping on hard beds, as it is supposed to be good for you. And when I say hard, I mean sheet of plywood hard. And how having your hips so sore you can barely get out of the bed in morning after tossing and turning all night is supposed to be good for you beats me. We will be upgrading the mattress shortly.

View from the apartment window.

1 view from the apartment 1

2 view from the apartment 2

And though it feels cold here because of the damp, it is about 62 F. Salem, VA was in single digits in comparison. The company apartment is decorated with Chinese art (Mike has good taste). We even have a life sized terracotta warrior.

6 this guy startles me everytime

4 love the screws

5 ill have one of these in va soon

Our apartment complex

11 the fountain

he walk to the office takes maybe 5-6 minutes. The rain was coming pretty hard and the wind overwhelmed the umbrella. One thing you notice about side streets like ours is how poorly they are sloped to drain the water. Makes for enormous puddles.

Stopped at my snack shop for dumplings and a tea egg. I make tea eggs at home, and they are just that – eggs boiled in tea, dark soy sauce and spiced with star anise. The flavor is very subtle – it is 90% a regular hard boiled egg, but the last 10% makes all the difference.

12 tea egg for breakfast

Worked the morning in the office, and then had lunch at the restaurant around the corner. It has a few dishes that are wonderful, but is certainly not fine dining. The highlights:

Day 6 lunch best use for broccoli

Day 6 best use for squid

Back to work until late in afternoon, then I head to Futian district to take an old friend from Taiwan to dinner at an Italian restaurant. We were the only ones there, so service was exceptional, as was the food, as was the wine, AS WAS THE PRICE. Dinner for two cost 7 times as much as dinner on the street the night before! Luckily she is bringing some of her USA friends to PassageMaker, it was a legit business dinner, but man it is easy to get spoiled by the cheap food over here. I figured we all know what Italian food looks like, so I’ll spare you photos of gnocchi and tiramisu.

Day 7 – A clear day, rain has stopped. It’s knocked the smog out of the air, so a bright blue morning.

Day 7 morning

Day 7 street-scenes

Off early to our Assembly Center in Buji. I’m working on continuous improvement initiatives there as part of our new ISO 9000:2008 certification, something we achieved just last month. My background is in manufacturing, and since we are gearing up for what we think will be a very strong 2010, Mike asked me to come over and assist with introducing the alphabet soup of kaizen related initiatives – 5S, JIT, OJT, etc. Meet and greet the staff, which is dominated by women at the manager level. Only one man on the senior staff. You are seeing more of this in China, but my impression is PassageMaker is ahead of the curve here. On to lunch, which is fabulous as usual.

Day 7 an even better use for squid1

Day 7 best use for duck

Day 7 i love these little fish

Day 7 man they do vegetables well

Day 7 you have to get used to your food staring at you

On the way out, we passed the fish tanks that hold the seafood fresh and alive until it’s time to cook it. Everything in China is prepared fresh.

Day 7 if id known they had had geoduck

Day 7 duck fish

Later that afternoon we headed back to the office to pick up Julien Roger of China Quality Focus, our sister company. Mike, Julien and I flew to Shanghai for the Global Sources trade show, a trip that wasn’t scheduled for me when I came over, but I’m glad I went. The show went well and I’ve never really been to downtown Shanghai before, just the industrial area around the old Hongqiao airport. We flew into the new Pudong airport and I am convinced the planning went something like this – “To demonstrate the greatness of the People’s Republic of China, we will build the longest airport in the world!”. We landed late at the last gate and walked for 10 minutes in a straight line down the terminal until we got to the baggage claim area. This is a seriously long building. And thoughtfully they included no people movers like the trams at the Detroit airport. Considering the late hour and the lack of other arrivals, you’d think they could’ve found a found a gate closer to the exit.

Heading to the hotel, Ibis, a chain of affordable hotels owned by Novotel, a French company, what struck me about Pudong at night were the vast highways. Six to eight lane interstate grade roads as compared to the cramped streets typical of most Chinese cities. Pudong was farmland just a few years ago, and it definitely has a planned feel.

Although they fed us on the plane (a 2 hour flight with meal service – haven’t seen that in the States in decades), Mike and I were still hungry, so we found an American bar, Malone’s across the street and had a very good hamburger while listening to a GREAT Filipino cover band. Every bar and hotel in China has a Filipino band, all playing English cover tunes, even when the clientele is Chinese. And nearly all of them suck. This was an astounding exception. They were tight and the covers were quite good, including good hard rock and heavy metal. The singer had some serious pipes.

Back at the hotel, I noticed the bathroom is a pre-fabricated assembly. Smart idea for a chain. It was one of the nicer bathrooms I’ve had in China.

Day 7 pre fabed bathroom

 

Day 8 – After the best night’s sleep so far, up early to get to the show and set up the booth. On the way to the convention center, I saw this:

Day 8 just bizarre

They switched us at the last minute to give us a corner booth, which meant we had to cut up the posters to make them fit. I think the booth looked pretty good, considering.

Day 8 our booth

I’ve been to a fair number of trade shows over the years. Heavy truck shows are dull unless you really like trucks and truckers, car shows are fun, and motorcycle rallies are a blast. But in every case before, I was selling a product. If the guy’s got a Road King we have something for him, but not if he has a Dyna. We’re on this model of Peterbilt, but not that one. But now that I’ve done it, nothing beats selling a service. EVERYONE doing business in China needs Quality Inspections, Product Testing, Sourcing Feasibility Studies, Vendor Coordination, Intellectual Property Protection, Logistics and Assembly Inspection & Packaging. The industry doesn’t matter, they all needed at least one of our services. This was a gift and clothing fair, but it is the same at every show. It’s like we are selling beer at a NASCAR race. We got business cards from USA, France, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, Israel, Nigeria, Iran, South Africa, New Zealand, etc.

Mike is a featured speaker at every Global Sources trade show (including Dubai, Hong Kong, Mumbai and South Africa this year), and he gave a two-part presentation spread over the first two days of the show. He did a great job and it was extremely well received by the standing room only audience. Rather than a canned sales pitch, he tells it like it is, barely mentioning PassageMaker or China Quality Focus. The soft sell works and many attendees stopped by the booth afterward to tell us so. They figure anyone with enough confidence to NOT shove his company down their throats must have it going on. And they are quite right. We do.

Day 8 mike is featured speaker

Day 8 mike giving his presentation

Julien Roger is also a tremendous salesman and very knowledgeable. I learned a great deal from watching his methods. Selling China Quality Focus’s services is easier, as Quality Inspections are very straightforward compared to PassageMaker’s services, but the combined message of the two companies meshes very well. We often have the same customers.

The convention center is still under construction and gigantic. As with the airport, the point seems to be making you walk as far as possible to get anywhere. Despite the impressive size, they apparently forgot about effective HVAC. It is unseasonably cold and I packed for south China. Day 1 of the show had no heat at all, which made it a real grind. Day 2 was a little warmer, but still uncomfortable. By Day 3 they’d gotten it going to the point it was now actually hot inside. HVAC needs some work for sure.

They also have very little in the way of food. The restaurants inside looked just plain bad, serving cold rolls and sandwiches wrapped in plastic like a vending machine. However, there was a McDonald’s right across from our hall, W2. It turned out to be the world’s smallest McD’s, about the size of a broom closet, with one little girl selling horrible looking “chicken sandwiches” out of coolers. I put that in quotes, because they were actually pork. Menu says chicken, she will say in English it is chicken, the box says chicken, but she insisted in Chinese that they were pork. We passed and were directed to the other McD’s at W5.

W5 is an international airport runway away from where we were. In 30 F weather, I was not interested in the walk, but there was nothing else, so walk we did. Entering W5 was a shock as it was still under construction, freezing cold and reeked of paint fumes. The McD’s was even colder than the rest of the building. It was a huge McD’s, brand new and manned by an army of eager young staffers in winter parkas. McDonald’s can’t heat their own place. It was also completely deserted. We were it for customers stoopid enough to walk that far in the cold for genuine simulated food. Our “food” in hand we sat down to eat our rapidly cooling cheeseburgers (with cucumbers instead of pickles) in 25 F comfort, huffing paint. Then the staff helpfully turned on the Backstreet Boys at headache inducing volumes to entertain us, because what lao wai doesn’t love the Backstreet Boys? We’d shout over the music to tell them to turn it down please. And they would, just a little. As it was the only food around, we ate there all three days of the convention. Our experience was exactly the same each time, including the yelling over the music to turn it down. Note to China: the progress over the last 30 years has been astounding, but build convention centers with decent places to eat and heaters.

Day 8 holy crap this place is big

Day 8 holy crap this place is big 3

Day 8 holy crap this place is big 2

Day 8 this is the smallest mcds in the world

Day 8 why put the real mcdonalds as far away as possible

Day 8 w5 under construction

Day 8 way to plan fellas

The interior of the McD’s was just as bizarre.

Day 8 mcds posters wtf

Day 8 mcds posters wtf 2

Day 8 mcds posters wtf 3

Day 8 rarest sign in china

With the first day of thee show successfully behind us, we head out into a bitterly cold Shanghai sunset.

Day 8 shanghai sunset

For dinner, we are off to meet friends at Shanghai Hooters. Yes, really. This turns out to be loads of fun. Mike, Julien and I meet up with one of our sales reps, Dan Welygan, who worked in our Shenzhen office for about 4 years. Also in our quintet is a classmate from the University of South Carolina now living in China. Many, many wings and beer later, I have a new found appreciation for Hooters. It was a bold decision to open this restaurant, as typical Chinese girls lack the requisite body type required of a Hooters waitress. And they have to be attractive and be able to speak English. A pretty small labor pool. Our waitress was very good, spoke solid English and really new how to work a room. A very bright young lady, she has a future in sales for sure.

Day 8 our waitress elva

Day 8 hard to find hooters in chinaDay 8 hard to find hooters in china

Day 9 – Second day of the show went as well as the first. Part two of Mike’s seminar was very well received and many of the attendees have stopped by the booth, several 2-3 times. After the show, we meet our web developer, a French graphic designer living in Shanghai, at a trendy coffee shop for sandwiches. This place was in a glittering new mall, still decorated for Christmas. My cameras does a poor job in low light, so my apologies for the quality of the photos.

Day 9 christmas decorations

Day 9 first of two ferraris in 2 minutes

Day 9 yep thats a christmas tree

Day 9 this is what irony looks like

So far no Chinese food in Shanghai. After the meeting, off to meet another USC classmate at The Boxing Cat Brewery, the nicest brewpub I’ve ever been to. As I was once in this business, that is quite a statement. It was in a 100+ year old home in the old part of Shanghai, beautifully refurbished. The brewpub was 3 stories, with a bar on the 1st and 3rd floors. It felt exactly like a British pub, with beer selection and menu to match. Since we had already eaten we did not order anything, which now that I know the chef was trained at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, I heartily regret. I have a feeling it will not be my last trip. My, how far this country has come in just a few short years. However, even The Boxing Cat has moments that confound.

Day 9 were the heck do you want me to put it

Day 10 – Last day of show, and the pollution is pretty bad today. Traffic is light, and some exhibitors start packing up almost from the opening bell. We stayed until nearly the scheduled end at 5:30 PM, though we give up when they start dismantling the booth around us at about 5:10 PM. Global Sources has been good to us and we thought it the honorable thing to do to stick it out to the end, though honestly the show really ended around noon. Off to Pudong airport (which is even more gigantic from the outside and has the coolest road system connecting it I’ve ever seen) to catch our flight to Shenzhen. Our first Chinese meal of the trip is some very good Cantonese cuisine at the airport.

Day 10 shanghai pollution

Day 10 always a bad sign when the gates are in triple digits

 

Day 10 cantonese food chinese airport food is much better than usa

Day 10 cantonese food chinese airport food is much better than usa 3

Day 10 cantonese food chinese airport food is much better than usa 2

Day 11 – Worked all day to get caught up from the show. Verizon’s data service here stinks, a pale comparison to my old AT&T service (of course, that is reversed in the USA, which is why I switched). Many emails did not come through to my blackberry. I also discovered that Verizon is charging me $2/minute to RECEIVE CALLS. This was one of the specific questions I asked before adding the “China plan” for this trip. I have already written about how woefully trained their salespeople are, and this takes the cake. Since the trip began, I have been receiving calls from clients, family and friends – including a call a 3 AM from a client who had missed I was not in USA. My team in the USA is having words with Verizon about this, but let’s just say, it was a cute phone bill. China Mobile by comparison, charges nothing to receive an international call. Heck, their rates to MAKE an international call are less than Verizon. So, if you want to get in touch with me, send me an email and I’ll give you my China Mobile number.

I join Mike and Adam Supernant for dinner at a local place in Liantang.

Day 11 chinese donuts I like the fried ones steamed ones not so much

Day 11 gross

Day 11 very common to have fire at the table

Day 11 quite tasty tofu and pork

After dinner I was invited to join some of our Chinese co-workers at a nightclub. I was flattered to be invited and went along. After several hours, I had my first run in on this trip with the dreaded Mao’s Revenge. I am trying to tell it like it is for those of you who don’t travel overseas, and if this strikes you as TMI, it isn’t. You need to know what you are in for.

While western style “sitters” are becoming more common, squatters still dominate. In a sense this is good, as sitters are not as sanitary ( I mean, everyone else is sitting there too). But when you’re in an emergency situation and you are not used to squatters, this can get dicey fast. My advice for survival in these situations:

  1. Wear sensible shoes with good rubber shoes – I prefer Blundstones.
  2. Wear jeans. Avoid khakis – not the color issue but the way the pockets are cut. I always keep everything – wallet, keys, passport, phones – in the front pockets of my jeans.
  3. This is a very uncommon position for a Westerner. I have pretty strong calves and thighs, and have learned how to balance, but if you never done it before, try it and hold the position for 2-3 mins. It takes some getting used to and you don’t want to find out the hard way you can’t do it. Luckily the squatting position is more conducive to the situation at hand, and so things tend to go quickly.
  4. Carrying a small packet of tissues is a good idea. Toilet paper in a public restroom anywhere in the world is never a given. Handkerchiefs and socks (single use of course) will do in a crisis.
  5. Carry a bottle of prescription Lomotil or the generic. I always do and there is no OTC medicine that comes close. It WILL stop the drama.

My evening cut short, off to sleep. Day 12 is Sunday, market day in Liantang, and Mike and I head to Mian Dian Wang, or “Noodle Snack King”, my favorite fast food chain in the world. 14 line cooks actually making the food by hand. Total cost of the meal is about 60 RMB, or less than $9.

Mian dian wang

Day 12 mian dian wang

Day 12 mian dian wang 2

Day 12 mian dian wang 3

Day 12 mian dian wang 4

That evening, Mike threw a dinner party at his home. It was great to see old friends and an even better meal. Simply the best food I’ve ever eaten in China. Mike’s wife and the maid did all the cooking.

Day 12 two women in this kitchen in about 2 hours..

Day 12 two women in this kitchen in about 2 hours.. 2

Day 12 made this

Day 13 – Monday – Last night there was a little too much “medicinal wine”. Whenever you hear that phrase, run screaming in the other direction. After such an amazing meal, we needed something basic to calm the acid seas, so off to Subway (yes, really). A steak and cheese later and all is right with the world. With some lingering Mao’s, I head to the apartment to work from home. It was a glorious day, 70 F and clear blue skies with a light breeze.

Day 13 our apartment complex

Later Mike asked me over to finish up the leftover ingredients from the dinner party – there was no left over dishes, just raw materials. This is the modest result.

Day 13 a light meal

Two customer visits tomorrow and time at the factory.

All for now…