Monday, September 24, 2007

Trip to China: Part 5

Wow. Wow wow wow.

Last night was a lil rough, but let me start in chronological order.

So I woke up yesterday way too early because I crashed in the afternoon and slept through dinner, remember? Good. Well I woke up at midnightish, blogged and such, and then went back to bed for 2 hours until 6 when I got up and started getting ready for work. My routine went well again yesterday, save that my laundrin wasn't delivered from the night before because I had put a do not disturb sign on my door for my nap that turned into sleeping all night. I had a groggy 10 minute conversation with 2 front desk ladies about it because laundry services was not yet open but neither girl could speak english to save their lives. Now, I can't speak Chinese, but I don't work at the front desk of a Chinese hotel in America. I wish there were other people hearing the conversation because it was quite humorous, and I don't remember all of it. I know that the first thing I asked her was "What time does laundry services open?" She asked me what I needed, and I explained my sitch as best I could. Then I think she forwarded my call to the receptionist on the Executive Floor. It happened very fast and they sounded the same, so I wasn't sure that I was really talking to a different person. After hesitantly explaining it all to this girl, who may have been the same girl, she kept saying that it would be double charge if I needed laundry done this morning. I kept explaining that it is already done, I just needed it delivered this morning. Finally, she either told me to call laundry services in 10 minutes when they open, or she said that she would call, I couldn't tell. Thanks, so they open in ten minutes, that's all I asked in the first place. And, as expected, the laundry was delivered while I was half naked from showering. Sweet.

So breakfast was another winner, although I must say that had I known the food I was going to eat last night, I would have gone much easier on the breakfast. We were all set to go, and our driver picked us up right on time at 8am. Off we flew down the highway. Holy crap. It's like New York City driving but with less general care for loss of life. I find it's better when I engaged in conversation instead of looking ahead at the road, but the conversation was usually about the road.

-SIDEBAR This trip really makes me appreciate/miss New York. Really, that city is great, for lack of a better descriptor. How they can have all the hustle and bustle without all this air pollution is beyond me. You think New York stinks? Try Beijing. You clear your throat all day long. Best of luck to the Olympians next year. And New York, you have a gorgeous skyline. Look up in Beijing, or out a tall window, and you see a grey fog similar to that in a bad 3D video game that only lets you see so far away. Grossies.

-SIDEBAR 2.0 ick, I keep tasting all the crap I consumed last night. Read on!

So we arrived at BWBC and were literally greeted with a red carpet and many formal greetings and bright smiles. I'd make fun of it, but it was really quite flattering and a wonderful way to start our work day. We sat in a meeting room at a large, dark cherry board table and watched a presentation about the company that was in English. I would give the English an 8.9 out of 10. Then the President made a dramatic entrance and everyone stood until he sat and everyone sat. It felt like a movie, which was cool and annoying for some reason. He was an incredibly gracious and friendly host, so I took a liking to him. He was very much in control, and a bit of a salesman, which are traits that I don't normally like, but for some reason he wore it well and didn't push it too far, so I liked him a lot. He spoke the best English I've heard since I've been here that didn't come from an American.

-SIDEBAR I think I resent people that are controlling because I grew up with a few control freaks, and I have some of those tendencies in me because of it that I try hard not to give in to. It works for some people, and they get a lot done with these traits, but I tend to try doing things different ways. I remember when I was young I would pin my little brother to the ground til he had no way of getting loose and tickle the crap out of him. I thought it was all fun until the first and only time my mom yelled at me for it. I'm getting physically ill recalling this story. I just saw this act for the control trip it was and it made me sick with guilt. So yeah, I've got issues, and I may take the nice guy approach too far sometimes, where I then have to counter it and be more assertive, but I'd rather be a little too much of a push over than a little too much of an ass. I'm not sure where the disdain for rampant salesmanship comes from. I guess the other thing I have come to believe in my travels is that being false is not worth it. You can only sell the fake you for so long until people see what's going on. I try really hard to be the same person to everyone I meet. Probably the most difficult part of that journey is when you realize who you are (which is never who you were when you were growing up), you either continue to act like what you used to be in front of your family, or you slowly let them in to the person you really are. That can be really tough, because you're always going to feel like you're disappointing someone. Especially in my family, we tend to riddle each other with guilt complexes, and it can really be crippling. But I try to show my family the real me, without shoving it in their faces, because I want them to know who they actually love, not their idea of who I am.

Where did this post go? I guess I needed to get that stuff out to the world, because I feel better now.

So we took a car to the back of the property where the Engineering building was located. "Pay up, buddy" is all I kept thinking to myself. Not much got done before lunch, mostly because of IT problems with my laptop, and introductions were still happening. After a simple and rather tasty lunch is when the work really began. It was far less formal in the Engineering building, and I really liked it. The people in the room with Bill and I most of the time were 2 female designers, about my age I'd guess, who's names I can't remember without reading them off the drawing board we used as a cheat sheet. I have gotten many kudos by different Chinese people on my pronunciations though. It makes me especially happy to get those because I go to great efforts not to sound like an american spitting through Chinese words (which is what some of my colleagues rather sound like), but rather a person trying to speak Chinese. There was a third girl and one guy that came in a few times as well. I liked him even though he didn't speak much English. I feel like he's my good friend Kurtiss' Chinese counterpart, and I don't know why. The language barrier was certainly there for everyone (none of them spoke great English, but the girl who spoke it the best translated a lot) but it was only frustrating to me for social reasons (not work reasons). There was point where we all were getting through a lot a problems and I really started to feel a community. I saw little things in their conversations with each other (which I didn't understand) that looked so much like conversations that designers would have back home. We were really similar kinds of people working towards the same goal with this stupid language thing in the way, but I really started to enjoy it. It helped me a lot that everyone on their team is young too, because most of the people I work with at home could at least be my father, if not grandfather. It was the first time I got to work on a design with a whole team of young people and it was really great. It helped my ego that I knew all about the design, and also helped to keep my ego in check when they found an error on one of my drawings. Touche, China, Touche.

The style of this operation was exactly as I would have liked it to be. Bill and I sat next to each other at a large table in a fairly dingy conference room and as people had questions, they would sit on our other side and we would work with them on it. If Bill or I needed to consult each other, or needed help wording something a different way in English, we could just turn to each other, work it out, and then go back to our issue. We got a lot covered, and I felt completely prepared for everything that was thrown at me. More than that, I feel that it would have been very difficult to do over a phone of even video conference. I'm glad someone made this trip in person to answer these questions (and I'm also glad it was me :) )

After work, we packed up and took another excruciatingly long car ride to a restaurant where we were wined and dined by the president and most of the people that I met that day. This restaurant was the nicest I had been to yet, and maybe ever in my life. We took an elevator to a room with a large circular table. There was a large wait staff and no other tables but ours. I wish I could have taken pictures of the dinner, but it was not that type of an event. Throughout dinner, the president would make jokes and keep things lite. He also told me a few times not to feel bad if I didn't like the food and only eat what I wanted. This was relieving to some extent, but it was clearly all very very expensive, so I still felt obligated to eat almost everything. It was something like a 7 course meal consisting of things that were amazing and things that made me want to heave. That's how most of the big meals here are, which leaves you feeling ill and longing to have only eaten a few of the amazing things that were served. There was no lazy susan involved this time though. This was a much bigger circular table and each course was delivered to you. So much for skimping on the stuff you don't like. Let me list the things I remember:
-some sort of cooked pork skin. They were 2 pieces of crispy skin about 1" x 2" x skin thickness. It was pretty gross.
-a plate of 2 spring rolls, tuna (sushi style), some pork thing, and other tasty stuff. It was really good, except for the raw tuna (bottoms up)
-lobster bisque. If you don't know, I'm not huge on seafood. I was hoping the lobster bisque would be good because I love tomato bisque. Unfortunately, it has lobsters instead of tomatoes. It was like cream of fishy flavor - now with chunks!
-the most amazing steak I have ever tasted. Australian beef that was incredibly rare, and so so good. No words. I wish I had just gotten it and a potato and a beer.
-bowl of rice. It was a bowl of rice. It seemed weird as it's own course and after I was so full already.
-fruit and moon cake. The fruit was fruit. The moon cake was something they have for a festival over here of the largest full moon of the year. It was pretty good.

Interwoven between all this food were many shots of some clear, nasty, but probably expensive, alcohol. Every time someone felt moved to drink to someone else (which was about every 15 minutes) everyone took a shot. It was really rough. I'm a beer and wine sort of guy. So that plus a few glasses of wine and I was feeling pretty good. And ill. It was quite a day and after a much shorter ride to the hotel, I went back to my room and crashed immediately.

I'm excited to see what today has in store. Last night the president happened to mention that karaoke is very popular in this town. My ears perked up. He noticed and quickly instructed the designers to take me out karaokeing this week. So, yeah, he's awesome. I have been writing this blog for hours now, and need to ge cleaned up and go to work, so sorry for the abrupt ending. God Bless!


kurtiss said...

I can only imagine that Chinese dude reminded you of me because he was brilliant, creative, and lover of the finest women and wines our good planet has to offer.

*Ahem, yeah.

Loving the updates, and I'm impressed with your long(er) form writing!

Angela said...

That sidebar of self-enlightenment spoke to me. And I started retreating into the fairly large zone of my brain dedicated to "thinking too much" about things that don't matter. Ah well.

GBtG said...

...I'd rather be a little too much of a push over than a little too much of an ass.

What's funny is that despite being a product of the same household, I'd rather be a little too much of an ass. It's easier to apologize than to ask permission, and all that. We share the same opinion about control freaks, however. see a grey fog similar to that in a bad 3D video game that only lets you see so far away.

Turns out there's a name for it: Distance Fog. You learn something new everyday.