Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Seattle Seven!

So today is my last day in China. I'm still in Dalian. I've got everything packed, just finished! I fly to Shanghai at 1:30, then I have a dinner with two Rockwell people. We are going to do some follow up on a couple of sales calls we made, then tomorrow I head to the airport and leave at 10:00 AM.

I got a nice surprise this morning as I started packing...The Big Lebowski was on! I LOVE THAT MOVIE!!! "I was a roadie for Metallica...Speed of Sound Tour....bunch of assholes." Or. "You ever hear of the Seattle Seven? That was me...and six other guys." Great movie! I'm always baffled when people say they haven't seen it, or they don't like it. That's amazing to me. Nice treat on the last day of China!

Yesterday my boss in China, Cathy Langlois, came to Dalian. We did a final download on my time in China and reviewed all the people I worked with. Then we met with the China manager Nancy. I gave her a download, then we went to the plant to meet with Goodyear management. Goodyear is extremely happy with Jerry's improvement. So that was a good thing. We then had dinner afterwards, and I said goodbye to most of the team. I'm meeting Jerry and Tracy for lunch today before I leave.

I'm going to miss writing this blog...it's been a lot of fun. I hope you've all enjoyed it! I know a lot of you have said you did...thank you for the compliments! When I leave country...we'll do it again!

I hope to see you all soon!

This is the Pudgy Panda signing off! Good night America, wherever you are.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Getting Close

The trip is almost over. I spent the whole weekend checking out things in Dalian. Jerry was nice enough to take me around and show me some of the different things. We went to Tiger Beach, which has an aquarium, beach area, battle ship, and a pier on a cove. That was really cool.
A funny thing at Tiger Beach. The swimming area had a guy selling kids rides in plastic balls. The kid gets zipped up in them and can run on top of the water. The ball doesn't seem to be THAT big and I wondered how the kid was suppose to get more air. Jerry asked the guy, he told him that they don't stay in it long enough to be a problem. However there is nothing keeping the kid from pushing that ball way out into the water. It just looked like a train wreck waiting to happen.
I also went and saw an area of Dalian that has old Russian style buildings, from when Russia owned Dalian. It was pretty cool. It's filled with street vendors who are selling a bunch of stuff...Once again I found myself negotiating for things I didn't even want...I'm beginning to think I have a problem. I can't help it! I see the street vendors and I get excited to bargain! I don't know what I'm going to do when I get back to the States.
I know I'm getting good. Jerry was amazed at the price I got for something. He said, "Wow! I can't get that price...you good."
"That's how Daddy walks Jerry."
We had dinner at a new restaurant in Dalian. It's called Life Is Good BBQ. It was pretty sweet. Jerry loves the place! He looked like Pavlov's Dogs as we waited for a table. I thought I was going to have to hold him down. He was excited.
While we were at dinner, Jerry had the waitress bring a special sauce for me to try. He said it was REALLY spicy. I have yet to have anything in China that is so hot I can't stand it. I know it exists somewhere, but I haven't found it....and I don't like things blazing hot..so I know it's not me. The sauce was warm...not hot. I made Jerry eat a banana pepper...it was hilarious! He starts fanning his mouth, "Holy Moly! That hot!" He grabs his beer and starts drinking.
My jaw about dropped, "Jerry! It's a banana pepper, they're not hot."
"Yes" That made me laugh
So I'm down to my last 3 days in China. I'm very excited to come home, but sad to leave. I've met a lot of nice people and enjoyed my travel.
Here are some pics from the weekend.

Kid in the ball. That string isn't very long, and the guy isn't holding the other end. Hilarious!
Shot of the cove. The battleship was sweet! We went on it.
This is the front entrance to Tiger Beach.

Friday, May 1, 2009

To Wafangdian Thanks For Everything

Friday was a holiday in China. It's the same as our Labor Day. So Goodyear was closed for the day. Jerry has been after me to visit his home town and meet his family. So we scheduled to do it on this holiday. I asked him how we would get there and he gave me three options: Train, bus, or taxi. I chose train! Most people know I'm a huge fan of trains! I think they're great and should be used more in the US. Especially between near cities....anyways, that's another story.

So Friday morning we are suppose to leave at 8:30 AM on a train to Wafangdian. Jerry calls me at 7:30 and says he can't make the train that early. He wants to take the 9:30 train. Now, Jerry had told me that if we didn't take the 8:30 train, it would be packed at 9:30...but I said, "OK, it's your city!"

Jerry arrives at my place at 9:00, we take a taxi to the train station. I look out the window as we get close...it's just a sea of humanity, buses, and taxis. Mostly it's humanity and buses with taxis trying to sneak through. We get out of the taxi enter the chaos! Jerry has a worried look on his face..kind of scrunching his nose, "I don't think we take train." He points at the station, and it is over flowing with people....just waiting to go in the station and buy a ticket. I agree and ask what our next option is. Jerry says we should take the bus.

Jerry starts leading me through the sea of people, constantly getting ran into, bumped and almost hit by buses and taxis. The best way to describe it would be a real life game of Frogger at top speed. Your just trying to avoid everything and get across the street...you don't even care where you end up across the street, as long as you are out of the way of the vehicles.

We walk over to the bus area. Bad Noodle finds our bus, "It's just boarding now...one problem."

I start looking around...it seems to be running....I'm not sure what could be wrong, "What's the problem?"

Jerry points towards a building...then I see the problem. It's a massive line that goes at least 100 yards. They are all waiting to get on the bus that we need. UNBELIEVABLE!!!! It looks like a line the day after Thanksgiving at Best Buy, waiting for a chance to buy 1 of 10 WII's.

I look at Jerry, "This dog ain't gonna hunt!"

Jerry looks at me confused, "What dog? No dog here"

"Never mind, what about the taxi option...I'd rather do that then the bus anyways?"

So we have to find a taxi now. Easier said then done. Since it's a holiday weekend all the taxi drivers want to charge what Jerry thinks is a to much....300RMB or 45 bucks. After we try to find a driver like 7 times...I ask Jerry how much they want...at this point he tells me 300 RMB.

"Jerry, that's fine, my treat!" Mind you, his hometown is an hour and twenty minutes away. I pay almost that much to go from my place to Mitchell airport in Milwaukee. So I think it's a good deal.

We get in the cab and Jerry asks if a classmate of his can ride with us. She wants to go back to her home town to. I said I didn't mind, I had met her once before, nice girl.

So we head out. The driver is listening to techno music...the whole way. It's hilarious! Here I am riding in a taxi with three Chinese people listening to techno music....just like "A Night At The Roxbury". I start bobbing my head like the SNL skit...they didn't get it.

We finally arrive in Wafangdian. It's a really small town by Chinese standards...maybe 1 million with the surrounding area. Pretty decent sized for the US, but Chinese consider this the sticks.

The taxi drops us off at Jerry's Grandparents house. That is where we are going to eat. The whole way to their place Jerry is anxious because the Rockets are playing. I know the NBA had no idea on this one, but because the Rockets were playing in Portland, the game came on at like 10:00 AM...so it was still going right as lunch was being made. EVERYONE was interested in the game. It had a Thanksgiving vibe to the whole thing.

So we walk into the apartment, actually it's a condo in China, but has more of an apartment feel. There are a whole bunch of people here...Grandparents, Parents, Aunt and Uncle, some kids...a few more people that I wasn't sure the relationship.

Everyone is very excited to meet me. Jerry does a great job of translating for me. He really speaks great English. I get introduced to them. They all remember my friend Greg (Co-Worker) and ask how he is doing. I tell them he is good. (Everyone says hello Greg.)

We watch the end of the Rockets game, the Rockets won! They advanced passed the first round for the first time in a long time. The funny part is that everyone is watching the game, but they barely show any emotion when Houston won...it's weird...just ho hum, on to the next thing.

During the game we had started lunch. They had a big spread of food, all kinds of stuff. It was all good. While this was going on, Jerry's Uncle broke out the Tsing Tao beer. Jerry says something to him in Chinese..next thing I know, I have a bowl sitting in front of me. His uncle fills it with beer.

Jerry then tells me that he told his Uncle I can drink a lot of beer. I am a little confused...."Why did you tell him that?"

"My family can drink much beer, he will want to challenge you."

"Jerry I didn't come here to get plowed...I thought we were coming for a nice holiday dinner?"


Now I chuckle...there was my favorite answer...Jerry knows it too! He starts to laugh, "We eat and drink!"

So his Uncle is sizing me up then he yells, "Gumbai!" (Gum-Bay-Bottoms up) So Jerry, his Uncle, Grandpa, and I all gumbai. I think each bowl holds roughly one beer.

We start to eat and talk during lunch....every couple of minutes I hear his Uncle yell, "Gumbai!" Bottoms up again!

I end up getting to talk to everyone over lunch because Jerry is a great translator. It works out really well. Just every five minutes I hear "Gumbai!" So as dinner goes on I'm getting loaded on Chinese beer! It's starting to seem that if I say something, gumbai is going to be the answer....

So as we attempt to finish every bottle of beer within 40 miles, I notice that ping pong is on the TV. I ask Jerry if his family likes Ping Pong. He says they do. He asks me if I want to play?


"At Ping Pong gym"

"Ping Pong gym? Of course I want to go to a Ping Pong gym."

He says something to his Father and Uncle, the return answer from his Uncle, "Gumbai!" So I have some more beer...then he smiles and tells Jerry we can go there.

So we head out for a walk to the Ping Pong gym. I could use the fresh air. I'm HAMMERED!!! The place was about a half mile away...all the better! I was cherishing that walk.

We walk into this really old looking building. The bottom floor is a pharmacy...we walk up three flights of stairs and into PING PONG HEAVEN!!!!!

There are tables everywhere! It's absolutely hilarious! Each table has barriers around it to keep your ball near. Most people are dressed like they are going for a workout. They have gym bags, special ping pong shoes, and everyone has their own paddle.

Once everyone noticed I was there...I became a celebrity. This town doesn't see many foreigners...and definitely not any as big as me. So I shook hands with just about everyone in the place.

On the way over, Jerry tells me that his Uncle is the best player in the family. He has a membership at this club/gym. None of them think I will be any good at Ping Pong.

So my first opponent is Jerry "Bad Noodle" Wang. We play to 11. I dispose of Bad Noodle 11-4. As soon as I scored the 11th point, I dropped my paddle on the table and yelled, "ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED!" (Line from Gladiator when Russell Crow waxes the whole group of gladiators by himself) Everyone starts laughing! I know they didn't understand what I was saying, but they saw the big smile on my face and knew I was having fun.

My second opponent was Jerry's Dad. He use to be the best player in the family, but he had a stroke, so his brother has passed him. He's still good. He has a crazy serve style. It's hard to see which way that thing is going to come....could have been the beers too! I beat him 11-8, he was tough though. I then played him a second time, he beat me 11-8.

The whole time these games are going on, I know that Jerry's uncle is sizing my game up. He wanted to see what I had before he played me. I picked up on this quick, so I didn't use all my serves. I saved a couple special....

So his Uncle and I square off. His uncle is good! But he plays every day. I haven't played in probably 4 years. I started off by using a chop serve...so there is lots of spin on the ball. He had no answer for that. He kept hitting it back in the net. I was feeling pretty confident. However, I didn't win. We played each other 5 times, he took all five. They were always two point games..one went to 16-14, but I didn't win. I'm sure if I played for a couple of weeks, I would be able to beat him pretty regularly. I'm glad I didn't win actually, because I could see that ended up being a big thing for the family. They were all really proud.

Chinese play Ping Pong weird. They don't use a lot of spins and they are always looking for a kill shot. So if place your shots to get them out of position, it's pretty easy to score. Plus a lot of them hold the paddle weird. They hold it upside down, between their fingers...so it makes it hard to back hand.

It was a great time though!

Then they had a friend drive us around town and show me everything. After that we were suppose to go back to Grandpa's for dinner. So we had to stop and pick something up. The guy that was driving us took us to a restaurant. He left, we went inside. They wanted to know if I liked frog...I've never had frog but said I would try.

Jerry points to a bucket on the ground, "Pick them"

I look down, there is a big bucket of frogs...HUGE frogs! "You want me to pick which one we are going to eat?"

"Pick three."

So I go down to take a closer look at the frogs..I lean in "3 of you are marked for death." I'm no judge of frogs, but I got high marks for my picks. I used a method of size and color.

Jerry patted me on the back, "You pick good frogs"

"Thanks Jerry" We sat and had a couple of cups of tea while we waited for the frogs to be cooked. Jerry's uncle told me that because I lost at Ping Pong there would be more Gumbai! I laughed, "Great, can't wait."

We went back to the house, everyone else was still there. They already had the table set for dinner. Immediately Jerry's uncle yelled, "Gumbai!" So I started my drinking again...and it was just about the time I was coming down from the last round.

During dinner Jerry's Grandparents gave me pictures they had taken at lunch. It was REALLY nice of them. They asked about my family and I told them what everyone did for a living. Jerry mentioned that my Mother had passed away, and they wanted to know more about her. So I told them what she did, and that she always helped people that were less fortunate. Jerry's Grandpa said something in Chinese and Jerry told me that he admired my Mother and wanted the whole family to do a special gumbai for her. I thanked him and everyone lifted their drink and we did a gumbai for Mom.

So it got to be around 7:00 and we needed to catch a train back to Dalian! Of course I'm loaded again! But I was excited to still get my train ride. The whole family walked us to the train station...except Grandma and Grandpa. I gave them both a big hug and told them I would miss them...they said the same.

We got to the train station and said our goodbyes. Jerry's Mom made me a doggy bag of dumplings and some other stuff. We caught our train and went back to Dalian.

This trip was great! So much fun! Chinese people are some of the most hospitable people you will ever find.

Jerry's Uncle "Gumbai!!!!"
Me and the neighbor's kid. She had never seen an American before. They wanted her to meet me.

My prize frogs...off to the slaughter!

I call this one, "The Untouchables". It reminds me of the picture they took in the beginning of the movie. When they are all sitting around smoking cigars. left to right: Jerry's Dad, Grandma, Grandpa, and Uncle.

Jerry's Grandpa and I doing a Gumbai!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu and Basketball

I was pumped today because I was invited to play basketball with the Goodyear engineers. Rumor had it I was slated to be a first round pick...a poor man's Oliver Miller. Unfortunately there was a break down late in the afternoon, so most of the guys had to work over...the game got cancelled. DAMN!!!! They said we might play next Monday or Tuesday...I hope to get a game in before I leave. It should be funny!

Every time I think about it, I think about the movie Airplane in reverse....when Striker and Jane join the peace corp and go to Africa and teach them how to play basketball....only in reverse.

So the last two days, every time I get in a cab the drivers look at me horrified. I couldn't figure it out, until this afternoon. They are all afraid I have the Swine Flu. They're scared to death. I have two Rockwell People with me from Shanghai today and tomorrow, so they were the ones that let me in on the secret.

We were driving along, and the taxi driver starts talking to Jennifer. She turns to me, "He afraid you have pig sick."

Mind you, we are now driving through an area that looks just about as sanitary as standing water in a landfill.

I nod, and say, "Yeah, that would be my main concern..." Very funny...we literally walk by standing piles of garbage, and they are worried about Swine flu! (I got a good chuckle about that)

I can't believe my trip is starting to wind down. I'm to a week before I come home. I'm going to do a lot more exploring of Dalian this weekend. I'm also going to visit Jerry "Bad Noodle" Wang's family in his hometown. That should be fun.

Oh! I forgot to mention a story. When I was in Beijing, Woody invited me to his home for dinner with his wife and mother. They wanted to teach me how to make dumplings.

I went there the Sunday I left. His Mom had all the stuff set out and we started by making the dough. Once you get the dough done...you mix the ingredients in a bowl. We made two kinds, pork...and my second favorite saying in China, "Some kind of vegetable".

Between hearing, "Yes" and "Some kind of vegetable", that answers about 75% of my questions.

We then had to put the meat and vegetables into a tiny piece of dough, then fold it over and seal it. Woody's Mom made one. She did it so effortlessly that I thought this might be easier than I thought....um....no. When she made hers, it took all of 5 seconds and looked like a perfect dumpling...just like at the restaurant.

So I give it a shot...mine looks like a 3 year old's creation with play dough....not so good. His Mom laughs and encourages me in Chinese....at least I think that's what was going on. I try a couple more...same result. Eventually after my 20 or 30th attempt...I get one that kind of looks like a dumpling. Woody then tells me, "You now have your dumpling certificate...would you like to go for a degree?"

"I think a certificate is all the farther I'm going to get..."

So his Mom takes them all into the kitchen and starts cooking them. Woody comes out and tells me she is cooking mine first..just in case they don't make it, we can have dumpling soup. I started cracking up! "What no faith? Those babies are hand crafted nuggets of love." I have Woody translate that for his Mom, she starts laughing! I'm proud to report that all my dumplings managed to survive the cooking process!!! they looked like used play dough, but tasted good!!!

Woody also made me try Ma-Tie..I think that's right. It's Chinese liquor. I tried one little shot glass....I'm pretty sure that someone is packaging jet fuel and pawning it as liquor. It's horrible!!! And it's stronger than hell! Way stronger than anything we have in the states...gasoline, jet fuel, ether...those are a few names that come to mind. The whole family got a good chuckle at my face after I drank that.

All in all, a really nice visit. I had a great time! Woody is good people!

Also, I saw my first movie star commercial today. There was a commercial on TV for Turkish Airlines. Kevin Costner was the star of the commercial. It was hilarious! The premise was that you'd feel like a movie star once you flew with Turkish Airlines. It's Kevin Costner the whole way through, then at the end, he looks in a mirror and you see that it's just a regular Joe. REALLY cheesy! Not disappointing at all! I'm on the look out for more, but I think that's more of a Japanese thing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Chinese Cooking Channel

I've found some great TV over here! There is a Chinese cooking channel in Dalian. It's SOOOO disgusting! Most of the stuff they are cooking I can't even describe. Weird sea creatures, bottom feeding fish, and other animals....things we would never think about touching, let alone catch, kill, and eat.

You can't understand what's going on, but by certain sounds and gestures you can tell they can't wait to try it. EVERYTHING they cook is rooter to the tooter! They don't discard anything! Everything is getting cooked. One chef finished cooking a fish...as his co-chef complimented him, he plucked the eye ball out of the fishes head and ate it! UGGHHHHH!!! But funny! I can't tear myself away! It's the best thing on TV....of course that isn't saying much!

There is so much weird stuff that they eat! It's unbelievable! The best is watching them get excited to try the finished product. Usually the dish looks like some kind of West Virginia hillbilly stew....They can't get enough!

It seems like everything goes in with it's head on...or chopped off and in with the other parts.

When they cook chicken, they chop the whole thing up, bones and all. Chinese people love pieces of bone with tiny chunks of meat attached. They think that is the best. If you give them a chicken breast, they will throw it away fighting each other for the wing tips...or chicken feet!

It's great to watch though! Survivor could have a never ending reward challenge off this channel!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Back to Dalian and Bad Noodle Country!

I flew back to Dalian. I will be here until the end of my trip now. It was weird, when I got off the plane, it was strangely comforting to be back here. Maybe since this is where I have spent the majority of my trip....I dunno.

I had to give my first elbow to a Chinese person. Here's a little background on that. Chinese people can be very rude in groups. I don't think it's intentional, it's just their culture. So if your in a shopping mall, airport..basically any public place. It's not uncommon to get pushed and shoved in close quarters. I've been very nice about it up until now. I've put up with a lot of pushing and shoving that I normally wouldn't take.

Well, I reached my breaking point. My flight from Shanghai to Dalian was delayed by two hours. So I spent Sunday afternoon sitting in the Pudong airport. (Quick note: no bar that I could find) The Chinese don't tell you anything about your plane either. They don't even mention that it's delayed until it's past the take off time. Several times I asked if we were delayed (Boarding was suppose to start at 2:40), they wouldn't say. Then of course every time I asked a question the answer was, "Yes".

So after we passed the departure time (3:15), I asked the lady what was happening. "Is our plane here yet?"


"Is there mechanical trouble?"


"It hasn't landed yet, has it?"

PERFECT! So now I just figure I have to wait! Finally we left two hours later. So we arrive in Dalian. Everyone is up to get off the plane. I'm standing in the aisle way waiting for people to start moving. Everyone is pushing and shoving. You have to see it to believe it. They are all trying to be the first out the door...even though we are in the back of the plane. I have a guy behind me who is literally pushing me every other minute. I brushed the first two off as an accident. The third one though!!! I turned around, "Hey homeboy! You push me one more time and I'm going to put this elbow right through your chest plate." I pointed at my elbow and then his chest. He just looked at me.

A couple seconds later he pushes me again! I delivered a big elbow right to the chest. I heard his wheeze, then ever so quietly I heard, "Sorry." Amazingly after that I didn't get pushed again. Weird how that works.

Finally, the "Bad Noodle" story. This one is from a few weeks ago, but I forgot to put it on the blog. I sent a few of you an email about it, but for the rest here it goes!

I gave the guy I'm training a new nickname. His name is officially "Bad Noodle" Jerry. One day we went to lunch at the same little Korean place we always go to. Jerry ordered noodles. We have lunch nothing special there. Then we go back to the office. We start working again. All of the sudden, Jerry starts grabbing his stomach....after a couple seconds he lets out a groan, "Uggghhh, bad noodle!" He then gets up runs over to a girl that works in the office, they speak Chinese, she UNLOCKS a cabinet, and gives him a small ration of toilet paper. Jerry then goes running down the hallway to the bathroom!

Every since then, I've called him Bad Noodle! He loves the nickname!

Just in case you forgot what the toilet looks like! Bad Noodle! Man of Steel!

Friday, April 24, 2009

May 7th!

That's the date I get to come back to the U.S.! I really excited about it...if for nothing else, to be able to drive my own car again! I think this is the longest I've gone without driving since I was 15. It will have been over two months when everything is said and done.

I've enjoyed my trip to China, there is a lot of opportunity here for our company and I wouldn't mind coming back to help out again. At the same time....it'll be nice to be home!

So the last couple of days have been busy with work. We've been going on sales calls to different customer sites. I've been to Johnson Controls and Michelin Tire. The Michelin Tire plant reminded me of an old Soviet style factory. It just seemed cold and forbidding. A lot of foreign companies that have come to China, have taken over old state run businesses. So the buildings are all very old. They are very rustic...and not intentionally. Both the sales calls were good JCI and Michelin seem to be interested. We'll see how the local team does.

I have also been doing training with the different sales offices over the last two weeks. My last one was yesterday (Friday) in Shanghai. As I finished the last one up, I thought about a concern of mine. I'm worried what I'm going to sound like when I get back to the U.S.? I've learned in China that you have to speak very slow and use basic words a lot. This is because if you talk fast the Chinese can't understand you (Their idea of speaking fast is our normal rate of exchange). I often get complimented that my English is very good...what they mean is they can understand me. So I end up sounding like Forrest Gump as I give these presentations. A lot like when Harold Ramis is teaching English in Stripes.

On Thursday night I had a REAL hamburger! It was unbelievable! There is a place called Malones in Shanghai that is known for their Western style burgers! It was soooo good, I needed that! I went there with a co-worker, Tina Mu. So we ordered mozzarella sticks and hamburgers. They were both good. I had my burger eaten in record time! I couldn't get enough! Meanwhile Tina was looking at her burger like it came from another planet. She studied it, turning it around and around in her hands, "I think this to much meat, not healthy"

"Tina, it's a hamburger, that's the key ingredient"

She took several small bites, then set it down. So we talked a little as I polished off my fries and a couple more mozzarella sticks (I'm just in heaven now). They played American music, had cold beer...it's amazing how much you can miss simple things.

Tina is now inspecting her burger again. She tells me there are not enough vegetables with it. She then takes the burger out of the bun and eats the bun with the lettuce leaf and tomato, "Much, much better...more taste."

So funny.

I didn't do anything on Friday night. I was in bed by nine (Pretty lame for a last Friday night in Shanghai). I have all today and part of tomorrow to spend in Shanghai, then it's off to Dalian one last time. I will be there till May 6th, then I fly back to Shanghai to head home on the 7th.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Game Changer

The Shanghai Taxi never gets old. Here are a couple quick funny stories...just in the last two days.

First, I was on my way to dinner yesterday with Tina Mu. I've been working with her this week in Shanghai. We've been making sales calls together and doing some training in the office. She's a really nice lady and has a great sense of humor. So after work we head to dinner. We're in a traditional Shanghai taxi (Rickety doors, blaring Chinese talk, guy driving in the Running Man seat, and a smoke going...). We pull up to a weird intersection that seems to have traffic coming from 5 different directions...really weird. Now, mind you, we've barely escaped two accidents and sure death once. Now we're stopped at a light so I can catch my breath. All of the sudden I hear this weird crashing noise. It doesn't sound like two cars hit....it sounds more like a bike or cart...(A donkey wouldn't be a surprise at this point)

Then I see what happened. A taxi driver hit a guy driving a bike! The bike was still in front of the car, the bike driver was on the other side of the car. The taxi hit him hard enough to flip him over the car.

The taxi driver gets out and starts acting like, "Can you believe this guy? What is he doing?"

I was so intrigued by this event that I wanted to get out of the cab and watch. I asked Tina if we could? (I wanted to see how this type of thing plays out with the local police) Tina could have cared less, she said we didn't have time and needed to get to the restaurant. So I never got to see what happened.

There are so many bikes and scooters in China that it's unreal. They look like schools of fish darting all around. Whenever there is a red light, there will be 20-50 of them packed at the light...just waiting for it to turn green. Once the light turns green, the school moves on. Also, the stuff they can carry on those things is amazing. Monday I saw two of them working in unison to carry a giant piece of drywall. They each had a passenger on the back of the scooter and the passengers held the drywall while the two drivers sped along....GREAT!

The second story happened this morning. I know I've said it before, but just when you think you've seen it all...you meet a GAME CHANGER!!!!

I get the bell hop to flag me down one of Shanghai's finest taxis. The guy pulls up and I hop in the back. I give the guy a business card for our Shanghai office. HE PULLS OUT A MAGNIFYING GLASS TO LOOK AT IT! UNBELIEVABLE! I think about getting out...then I say to myself, "The Panda owes it to the people to take this ride."

So the driver studies the card for two or three minutes, then the bell hop gets involved. They chat/argue back and forth...then the bell hop says, "He good, he take you there." (Not the most comforting words)

The taxi then heads out of the parking lot like we are trying to get away from the Death Star before it blows up....two near misses in lane one! He yells something at a guy on a bike...which is funny in it's own right...there are no rules here!

We head out, I have the IPOD jamming, people watching out the window....then after twenty minutes I start noticing buildings that are on the other side of town. I try to tell him we're going the wrong way....might as well be talking to the window button. Finally I get him to stop driving*

*Note: Be careful how you do this. The blind taxi driver decide to stop in the middle of the road...not the best place.

So I try to explain that we are going the wrong way. He says, "I, OK."


He then pulls out his magnifying glass again....looks at the business card...then gives me the thumbs up sign.

I ask him if he knows Mike Utley....he doesn't get the joke.

So we head out again, this time he keeps the magnifying glass in one hand, the business card in the other, and drives with his knee.

I'm in the back yelling at him to put down the stuff and grab the wheel....finally he does. So we start driving again, still going the wrong way. I pull out my phone and call a guy from the office. I put him on the phone with Confucius.

So we head out again....finally we make it to the office. We had gone from Pushi to Pudong and back. We rode around for at least an hour....grand total....60RMB...or about 9 dollars.

Cabs are ridiculously cheap...on the other hand.....so is your life when you get in one! It's all about trade offs!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pictures for the last blog

Here are some pics from the Yu Garden, really cool place!

I ate at a famous Dumpling place in Shanghai, Bubba also came here!

This was being sold at a market stand right next to the dumpling place....I have no idea what it is.

Back in Shanghai

I flew from Beijing to Shanghai Sunday night. It was a rough flight. There was a ton of turbulence on the trip. (Wade, you would have thought we were going to crash!) I don't mind a little turbulence, but a lot makes it impossible to sleep....I was really counting on getting a nap on that trip...oh well!

Also, I was sitting across from two old couples. I've started to learn to identify the country people from the city people. So the old people next to me are definitely from the country...meaning poor, first time on a plane, maybe the first time in Beijing, and the first time going to Shanghai. They can't even work the seat belt! That cracked me up. I showed them how it worked. The one old guy couldn't stand having it on, he kept taking it off. Finally the stewardess started screaming at him! That made him keep it on for a good half hour...then another lecture. This went on the whole trip.

Another tell tale sign was what the couples did when they served an in flight dinner. First of all, the food, gross! Airline food isn't known to be good in the U.S., imagine it in China. It was a little tin container with rice and a pile of slop. They set that down in front of me and I laughed! I've tried a lot of things over here, but this was not going to be one of them.

I look over at the old couple. The old lady and man are sharing one container of the slop. She puts the second one in her bag!!!! UGHHH! I decided to give them mine. I nudged her and handed mine to her. She threw that in the bag too! I had now made a friend for life! They tried to talk to me, I couldn't make out anything but thank you. They were very appreciative though.

When the plane lands we get unloaded on the runway. No gate for us! It's raining outside as we get off the plane. I looked out the window and saw that it was drizzling. Everyone is standing in the aisle waiting to get off the plane, but there is no one moving forward. Finally, the line starts to move, once I get up front I see what the hold up is. Everyone is acting like there is a hurricane going on outside. The flight attendants (All hot by the way, China has the U.S. killed with flight attendants!) are passing out ponchos to get off the plane. Every Chinese person is rolling up pant legs, tucking in shirts, putting on ponchos, taking extra ponchos to wrap their carry on bags with...insane! I just walk past the commotion and head for the door. Everyone looks at me like I'm crazy for attempting to get out of the plane without a poncho. The stewardess tries to give me one again. I shake her off, she looks at me as if to say, "It's your funeral".

I step out the door, walk down the stairs and take 10 steps to the bus.

Everyone else is running for their lives to the bus...it's so funny! You have to see it to believe it!

I got checked into my hotel around 10:00 at night. This time I stayed at a Marriott Courtyard. This was actually going to be another Marriott Renaissance, but due to the economic crunch, they decided to open it as a Courtyard. It's beautiful! The showers have the ceiling mounted rain shower heads! The place is brand new, it's in a more downtown part of Shanghai, it's cheaper than the other Marriott, and better quality overall. Couldn't be happier with the hotel, probably the best one I've stayed at in China.

Monday morning Tina Mu picked me up and we went to our China HQ. Tina is a nice lady she is responsible for the Shanghai area and some surrounding cities. I worked with her all morning and afternoon. Around 4 she asked if I'd like to see some of Shanghai. So we left to go see the Yu Garden. It was great! It was in the same area I have been before, but had no idea it was there. It's near the Bund, so was back in the markets and everything else. Then we went to have a beer in an area I can't remember the name of. It's where the British and French lived when they controlled Shanghai back in the 1930's. There was a nice little area with outdoor bars and cafes. We stopped at a German place and had a drink.

After that, I went back to the hotel and changed to go have dinner with some Rockwell people. We went to an Italian place, it was the best food I've had since I've been here! It was soooo great to eat a piece of bread! Regular tasting bread is a hard thing to come by here! Very good meal and great wine!

When I first arrived in Shanghai, I wasn't that impressed. The second time around has been much better. It doesn't have the culture of Beijing, but it is fun! It helps that it's Spring now. The trees have leaves and the grass is green. When I was here before, everything looked like dirt. So much better this time around.

Although, Taxi rides here are the craziest in all of China! I can say that with certainty now!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

I Found Them!

Guess who's back, back again!

WOW! I love Beijing! I could live here. It's a great city! I'm really going to miss it when I leave tomorrow.

So it's been an eventful day already, and it's only 3:30. Woody arranged for an intern at the office to take me around town today. So Ginger (Great name) met me at the hotel at 9:00. We headed off first to the Silk Market, or as I like to call it, Silk City! It was really close to the hotel. We took a taxi there and I worked on my Chinese. Ginger said I'm getting good with words. I just can't do any sentences. The taxi driver loved my attempts. He was excited that I could say things. He started just rambling on in Mandarin, I said, "Duiy" (Correct)

So we get to the silk market...I'm excited to use my finally honed bargaining skills! This is the big dance, the place where it all comes together.

We walk in the front door...it's like you left the minors for the Show. BAM!!!! Everyone attacks you at once! They're waving watches, scarves, coach bags, ties, trinkets and almost anything else you can imagine! It's insane! I must have heard the following 150 times each...no kidding: Hello, English boy, want silk, want bag, come here.

So now you have to negotiate for pricing on everything. That's the fun part! I catch myself negotiating for things I don't even want. I just love the dickering. It's great! The best is using a line I was taught by Sarah D. They always start out by showing you a price on the calculator, then they give you a discount...now here's where you use the saying...and you have to put some soul into it! TI GWEI LA! (That means, That's to much!) I really try to spice it up. I make a disgusted face, act like I've been insulted, and turn to walk away....all before I've even countered! It's great! I'm addicted! I can't get enough!

***I'm not going to say what I bought because they are gifts for when I get back home, from here on out the things I buy are widgets.

So I go to the first booth to look at widgets. She says, "Come into the store."....um, what store, this is maybe half a booth?

So I go "In the store", she starts showing me her stuff. I decide that I want to buy what she has. She shows me the price on the calculator

"TI GWEI LA!" I start to leave, she says, "Hello, OK, better price". Now we're talking turkey! So we go back and forth for a while. I finally get the price I want. (One thing that is hard to remember is how cheap the money is. They might try to up your offer by ten RMB. It's hard to remember that it's only 1.50....maybe?) So some times I am hard balling for no reason....but it's still fun!

The second vendor was my favorite! She spoke really good English! I was looking through her widgets and found some I liked. We started the negotiations...

"TI GWEI LA!" I've got my nose scrunched up, faining disbelief! (Really it's so much fun, did I mention that already?)

She says, "Ok,Ok, better offer" she lowers her price again.

"TI GWEI LA!!!!!" Now I'm walking away from her booth. She comes chasing after me and grabs my hand.

Now she has a whine to her voice, "OK, Come back, we negotiating, I want give good price!" So I walk back over, I'm now cracking up, I think I've got her to her breaking point. She makes another offer. This time I just say no. So she says, "OK, fine your price!"

Now I have her where I want her. I was negotiating for one. Now I ask, "How much for 5?" She shows me a price.

"TI GWEI LA!" So we start another round of negotiating. Now she is really whining.

"You bargain to good, to much discount."

I answer, "America has economic crisis! No more free bees!" She finally give in and gives me what I want....So much fun!

So we did this at the Silk Market and the Pearl Market! Good times!

I also went to the Buddhist temple today. I would have never known it was here, except I saw a cool looking building heading out of Beijing on our way to Tainjin. I had asked Woody what it was, he told me...so I wanted to go! I'm glad I did!

This place was so cool! It was incredible! Even better it wasn't jam packed with tourists, so you could really take your time. It is the oldest Buddhist temple in Northern China. It's relatively new compared to a lot of the other stuff. I think it was build in the 1500's? Maybe older? Not positive, but it was GREAT! Unfortunately you aren't allowed to take pictures in the temples, so you can only take pictures from the outside. Plus, everyone in there is mostly there for worship, so they get a little testy when you snap a pick.

Like any good American, I fained dumb and was able to snap a few pictures inside. But, honestly, I didn't even get any of the really good ones! It's hard to explain! It was well worth the trip! Everything is original and massively huge. One of the Buddha's is at least two stories high, maybe three. He was sweet! I couldn't have taken a picture of him if I wanted. There was no good angle for a picture in this temple! It was impressive though! Amazing actually!

Last but not least!.........I found them! After the Temple and Silk City, we went to lunch. Ginger didn't have any recommendations, so we jumped in a cab from the hotel and were talking as we pulled out. I had Ginger ask the driver if he had a good place around here. He immediately stops the car in front of a restaurant within 100 yards of the hotel...just on a side street.

The building looks weird? It has pictures of Mickey Mouse, some kind of Chinese warrior, and a panda bear....all on the sign. I could maybe see Mickey and the Panda working together...but how does the warrior guy fit in? So I'm starting to think we should move on.

Then I look at the entrance to the restaurant....all the doorman are CHINESE MIDGETS!!!!!!! I quick open the door as Ginger is still talking to the Cabbie, "This will do!" There were at least five...very strange.

I rush over to the midgets! This has to be a first for them! Two of them look up and say, "Whoa!"

I said, "Ni Hao", in a deep voice. Then I just stood there with my arms folded, next to them. It's great! I think they were half afraid I'd eat them, and half excited!

Of course I don't have my camera because I had put it back in the hotel before we went to the market. (It's just impossible to predict what you are going to find here!)

I have no idea what the purpose of the midgets was? But they were sweet...and it was obvious that the restaurant was trying to capture some kind of theme. I have no idea...sometimes you just have to go along...it makes sense to someone.

So I give each of the little fellas a high five. They liked that. Then I held my hand up over my head and said, "High five?"

One guy got it right away, he takes three steps back and races at me and jumps at the last second to try to give me five. (I lowered my hand so that he made it) Then everyone wants a shot! I did this for a few minutes, first midgets I've seen in China...kind of seems like an oxymoron. Then we went inside to eat.

The food was ok, now what I would consider typical Chinese food. I have also instituted a rule. No more fish or seafood. It's disgusting, they have no idea how to cook it. Everything looks like slop and it smells bad. So I tell everyone I'm with, no seafood.

Here are a few pics from today.

Who new Buddha was a Guitar Hero junkie?

One of the Temple Towers

The Olympic Pool. This building was sweet! It's amazing to see at night. The big stadium wasn't as cool, and it doesn't light up real well.

Mao after dark! Love this guy!

Me and a Monk, keepin it real. He doesn't look happy, but he was glad to meet the Panda.

Tienemen Square at night.

This is where the Rockwell office is in Beijing. It's directly across the street from the hotel. You just walk in a tunnel under the street. It pops out the other side.

This is the hotel. The Beijing International. The one that American Presidents stay at is just down the road. It's a tough spot to take pictures though.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Left Tianjin

I left Tianjin this afternoon. I really liked that place. It's big, was fun, and cleaner than I expected...except for the smog.

We completed our sales calls for RAAMP at a P&G plant. I think they went well, hopefully we will see some new business. I think it looks very promising. The neat part about our business is that no one is really doing it in China right now. So there is SOOOO much opportunity, we just have to make the local team understand how it works and why it's important.....sometimes easier said than done.

I did have to sit through one meeting today where a guy didn't speak any English. That was a painfully long meeting....just because you don't know what is going on! But! Woody said it went very well, so that's good!

I'm back in Beijing now. I have a busy day tomorrow, then on the weekend I hope to see: Dali Llama temple, Ming Tombs, Silk City, and Night pics of the Olympic facilities.

Then it's off to Shanghai again!

Here are some pics of Tainjin.

Enterance into the Asian Market
Inside a really cool night club. We stopped here for a drink because Tony wanted to show me. Tony is a RA sales guy. He is on the right. The place is actually really dark when you walk in. The lamps are lit really low with a heavy orange tint. It is REALLY cool.

Outside of the bar

Looking down the Asian Market Street

Still looking further down the streets. There are shops on both sides. They are selling all kinds of stuff. Some of it looks to be fairly legit...some not so much. A lot of the shops were closed because it was after 5. Apparently some of them keep American hours. Most people in China seem to work till 6 or 7 at night.

This is another entrance to the Asian Market, really cool place to walk around.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quick Funny Story

The other night Woody (The guy I'm working with right now) took me to a famous dumpling place in Tianjin. So we sit down, Woody asks what I want. I tell him to just order.

So we start getting the food. The dumplings were alright, I've had better...I didn't tell him that because he said it's really famous in China. Although, he said the name of the place translates to, "A dog wouldn't eat that"....um.....ok.

So as the food comes out we're eating and enjoying some conversation. Then a little bowl comes out with a cover on it. I ask Woody what it is?

Woody says, "Ah, VERY special dish, best food served."

I remove the cover and there is this dark substance giggling in the bowl. "What is this Woody?"

"Is pork."

I look at it again...nothing in the bowl even comes close to resembling something that looks like pork. Woody already has almost all of his in his mouth...I poke at it with the chopsticks...it moves with each touch.

I ask Woody what kind of pork it is..."It come from pig."

"Thank you Woody, that clears everything up"

I pick up the large square of substance, and realize, it's actually cut directly from a pig's back! There is a giant layer of skin, then a giant layer of fat, and then a tiny piece of meat connected to it. SO GROSS!

I tell Woody, "This pork is going to have to fly before I eat it." Woody laughs.

So I set it aside for a minute and concentrate on the other food. Then it hits me...if this is such a good thing, Woody has to want mine!

"Woody, do you want mine?" I'm picking it up with the chopsticks and waving it back and forth like a pendulum....Woody is following it with his eyes.

"It sure looks tasty Woody...you know you want it?"

Woody shakes me off a couple times; I keep up the pressure.

"Look at it Woody, just dripping with fatty flavor...you know you want this...the pig knows you want this...he wants you to enjoy him..."

Finally Woody breaks down and grabs it from me! He ate the whole thing in two bites! UGGGHHHH!!!! I was laughing the whole time.

It reminded me of the radish eating contest between Zoom and Straz that I orchestrated at Val's Halloween party.

At that point I wish I had more giant chunks of pig's back to tempt Woody with.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Catch Up Time!


It's been a while since I got to actually write a blog. It's been a whirlwind since I left Dalian. I flew into Beijing last Friday night.

Beijing is definitely the place you want to visit in China. It's just amazing! There is so much to see! Everywhere you go you see new and exciting things!

I think my favorite thing in Beijing was The Forbidden City! It's so cool! Everything in there is just fun to look at. Having an English speaking guide is definitely worth the money. You understand so much more of what is going on.

The Great Wall was a lot of fun too! The drive out to the country side was fun. You round a certain bend and then you start seeing pieces of the wall. I've wanted to go to the Great Wall since I was 6 or 7 years old, so it was like a dream come true! It's very steep where we went. I thought we were going to have it easy because we took a cable car. Well, that just gets you to a certain point, then the real climbing starts. Still it was unbelievable to be standing there.

Another thing, the barbarians that the Chinese were trying to keep out must have been crazy S.O.B.'s. The mountain side where we were is extremely steep and rough. I can't believe that people came that way enough to even build a wall.

Tienanmen Square was also an experience. It's just neat to stand there. The giant picture of Chairman Mao is GREAT! I'm a sucker for any Chairman Mao souvenirs. I can't help myself! It's hard to say no!

Once the weekend was over, I went to meetings on Monday at our Beijing office. It's a really nice office in a large building directly across the street from our hotel. After lunch Woody and I headed to Tainjin. It's a large city east of Beijing. I think 9 or 10 million people in it? We came here to make sales calls on Proctor & Gamble.

It's a fun town. Woody took me to a market here. I can't remember the name of it, but it had a lot of traditional Chinese buildings with shops built into them. It was fun just walking around looking at the different things.

Today we went to P&G and met with several of the key people at the plant. I made a couple presentations and we discussed RAAMP in China. I think it went well, we have some more meetings scheduled with other team leaders tomorrow.

I promise more later, but I have some work to get done...and need some sleep! Here's some more pics from the trip.

MY MAN! Chairman Mao!
They got rid of the old school rickshaws, so now they have them attached to bikes....still a bad day for this guy! He enjoyed it though.

Old building located in the second ring of Beijing.

Great Wall, smog is free.

Sweet looking building in the old part of town.

Original piece of the old city wall. There are several pieces of it throughout the second ring.

More Great Wall

Monday, April 13, 2009

Hey Now!

How do you get to one of the Seven Wonders and find a guy wearing, "I Love Kobe" on a T-shirt....simply SPECIAL!!!! Don't hate your wife Kobe, the Middle Kingdom loves you!

Beijing Hooters!

Took a cable car to the top of the Great Wall, didn't realize that this is the highest point to climb to! DOOH! It was a challenge climbing up! This is a 1/4 way to the highest point!...yes I made it.

Sweet pick. I climbed to this point. It took forever. This is where Chairman Mao reached and said you would be a real man if you reached this point.....

This is standing in one of the towers. Really cool.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Panda sees family!

Hello everyone! I made it safe to Beijing! WOW! What a great place! If you come to China, you can't miss Beijing. It's so much better than anywhere else in China.

This is going to be a short blog. Here are some pictures. I'll describe more once I'm done site seeing this weekend. I ate Peking Duck at the restaurant that Bush and Nixon went to. It's AWESOME!!!! I'm going to the original sometime this weekend or next weekend.

I went to the Zoo, Forbidden City, and Tienanmen Square. I'm going to the Great Wall tomorrow.

I'd say my favorite thing is The Forbidden City, so far. It's unbelievable...especially with a tour guide. Tienanmen Square is cool...actually with the sweet hat it was a lot of fun too..

These pictures are in reverse. I took over 180 pics today. So here's a few...AMAZING!

Me and random Chinese people in Tienanmen Square. I was like a rock star there! Serious! I bet I posed for 25 different pictures. Kind of tiring but hilarious! I bought the Chinese Military hat for 20 RMB...about 3 dollars. It took me 20 minutes to get her down there. She started the bidding at 150RMB...or about 21 dollars. Every time I took a picture, I wore it! The hat is great!

Tienanmen Square, a monument to soldiers who fought in wars.

Woody! He works for Rockwell, he was my tour guide! Great guy! I made him put the hat on.

This is right after I bought the hat. That's the big picture of Chairman Mao behind me. It's across the street! It's awesome!

Cool little creek thing we passed on the way to get the car.

Palace Garden in the Forbidden City

Are you the gate keeper? ZOUL!!! This Lion protects the Emperor...there are two of them

Leaving the Forbidden City. The last Emperor hung himself in the building at the top of the hill.

Throne of the Emperor.

This is a hand carved, stone slab of dragons. We got a English speaking tour guide. That was huge! Made it much more enjoyable.

Another place the Emperor chills.

The first building inside the gate.

Woody and I inside the entrance to the Forbidden City

Shot from the entrance.

Another Zoul keeper. This one is on the outside.

Outside the front Entrance.

Giant Tiger statue in the Zoo. The thing is huge!!!

Sweet looking White Tiger with stripes.

Entrance to a city park near the Forbidden City. We had lunch in the park. There is one restaurant in the park. It serves food that the Emperor ate in one of the dynasty's. Funny side note. The hotel in Dalian I stayed at made a point of showing this place on their info-mercial channel. I was asking Woody about it Friday night...he had no idea what I was talking about, then he brings me to it on Saturday. Hilarious! Good food. I tried Camel here. Had no idea it was until Woody told me. Not bad.

Sweet Monkey

Woody and me in front of the Panda direction sign.

That's what I'm talking about!

Woody's daughter and I. There is a Panda in the background. I'm holding a stuffed Panda that I bought for my niece Addison! I bought it at the Beijing Zoo gift shop. I call it Addi Bear. I bought one for Woody's daughter too!