Saturday, December 01, 2007

20th AIDS Day

Today we mark the 20th anniversary of AIDS day. I will admit that I am not doing anything about it, but stating it in my blog.

As for life since my last posting, it can easily be summed up as "busy." However, I am starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel getting brighter. With three projects and five tests left before the end of the semester, I still have my work cut out for me. I am looking forward to reaching Colorado, sitting on top of the ski slope, and soaking it all up.

Check out a few pics from the past month or so. I had friends get married in NJ, my team won the USC intramural bowling championships, and visited my family in Memphis over Thanksgiving. Also, I changed the layout of my blog again, which means that I am missing a few links at the moment, but will throw them up again during winter break.

The Past Month or So

Monday, October 29, 2007

Video that rings true

I liked this video a lot. It is fairly accurate of current life for those in school. It makes you think about where things should be headed and what can be changed now.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Echo Project Pictures

Click on the album to see a few pictures from this past weekend. Tomorrow I am headed out to New Jersey to participate in a friend's wedding. I am sure I will have some great pictures and stories to tell from the weekend. In the mean time I will enjoy myself at the South Carolina State Fair tonight, by having a deep fried Reese's cup!

Echo Project

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day! What does this mean? Well, the website says, "bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future."

I think that is a noble and justified cause. I think about the environment every day of my life. These are some of the ways I think about it:

1. How much gas I am saving because I am biking to/from school and other errands
2. How far the food at the store has to travel before I buy it...buying local is great!
3. Once a week I feel great as I take my recycling bin down to the curb
4. When I reuse plastic bags, water bottles, tupperware, and so forth, instead of throwing them directly in the trash

In my efforts to support all positive things with the environment, I attended a three-day music festival this past weekend outside of Atlanta. Of course I would have attended if the cause wasn't as good as the one being promoted, but it sure is a nice bonus! So, Echo Project was created to bring awareness to "making positive changes in the way each and every person affects the Earth." At the festival I checked out the non-profit tent and felt like I was at a job fair. About a dozen or so companies were out there promoting themselves and their causes. They had local farmers, Head Count (voter registration), clean river groups, responsible book selling company, and a few alternative energy companies. Also, the festival had one stage and three tents running off solar power. Recycling at the event (and all these type of events) is heavily promoted, encouraged, and practiced.

So, that is my 2007 Blog Action Day post. I will have a few pictures from the festival coming soon.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

August 2007 Visit to Colorado

Upon my return to the States this summer I stopped by Colorado for a week. I was there for one of my best friend's weddings. It was an awesome event and saying everyone had a blast is an understatement. In addition to the wedding I was able to connect with a few friends in the Denver/Boulder area as well. Check out the pics from the week.
Seth Wedding in Colorado
Also, you may check out the grooms pictures here.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Second to last photos from China

These are some photos I have been meaning to post for a while. My last weekend in China I went to the Qingdao Beer Festival. I posted videos a few weeks back. Check them out, along with the photos. It was a really awesome time!
Qingdao Beer Festival 2007

Monday, September 10, 2007

My Friend On TV in D.C.

A week or so ago, a childhood friend of mine was on TV. He is a sous-chef at Lia's, located near the Friendship Heights metro in D.C. Check out his skills by clicking here.

Also, I am happy to report that Melvin is no longer with us and one other member of his family. After a dramatic and spirited battle between man and roach, man has once again confirmed his spot at the top of the food chain. May this serve as a warning to any other roaches thinking of entering a house filled with two MBA candidates...BEWARE!

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Do you have Pneumonia?

This semester is packed! I have started to get a little bit of a routine going and so far I have slept a wink any of my classes, which means they must all be really interesting (I am notorious for the head-bobbing during a lecture as many of you may know).

In one of my classes I have been assigned a project with one of the local hospitals. My team and I will improve their process for receiving and checking in pneumonia patients. Our work will improve the hospitals profitability and make sure that people with pneumonia are treated more quickly and with greater accuracy. I imagine their will be other benefits to the hospital beyond this. Thursday we will get to do our first walk through and start mapping out the process.

This past weekend my mom came to visit. I kept her under lock-and-key until my house was cleaned and unpacked! Actually, we had a great time cooking, cleaning, and running errands to help me finish getting settled in. Now I can relax and concentrate on my school work, instead of worrying about Melvin, the roach, and other things living under my sink:)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Back in Columbia

I arrived back in Cola on Wednesday afternoon and started classes on Thursday. All the classes seem interesting and will be challenging. My home and my life are a bit disorganized at the moment. I have not had a chance to slow down and get everything done that comes with moving, starting school, and just returning to the States after being gone for over five months.

Even with being a little busy right now I managed to make it to the gym yesterday and it felt wonderful. I forgot that hardly anyone goes to the gym at 9am on Saturday mornings, so it was nice to have the place to myself. And today I went for my first bike ride in a long long time. I have missed my endorphins. They make me feel sooooo good!

Hopefully by the end of Labor Day weekend, I will have completely unpacked and have a nice schedule laid out for the Fall semester. In the mean time I will be taking things as they come and trying to keep my head above water.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

I am back!

I wanted to just send out a quick note that I arrived in the States yesterday around 5pm Mountain time. It is great to be back and I am looking forward to seeing everyone this week in CO and then all my classmates next week in Columbia. More to come soon!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Qingdao Beer Festival Videos

Below are a few videos from my last weekend in China. The Qingdao Beer Festival did not let us down. Many nights of beer pong, funneling, and trying to beat the "bar girls" at the dice game (its a China thing) prepared me for this past weekend and it all paid off. What a blast we had. Pictures will be soon to follow.

Jared and Chris dancin it up on the Tsingdao Stage.


Budweiser Tent Girls on Stage (a bit blurry).


Acrobatics on the Budweiser Stage

Monday, August 06, 2007

My Last Weekend in Wuxi

I have been given the task of performing several restaurant reviews before I leave China. What a welcomed task, since I love to eat. Check out the pictures for a look at some of the foods I have eaten. Yum yum!


Last Weekend in Wuxi

Friday, I went out with some guys in Wuxi. The dinner was pretty good and we ended up at one of the local expat bars drinking and listening to the band.

Saturday I slept late and spent my time doing chores, until it was time to go out for dinner. I was taken to an awesome Korean BBQ place. We got to cook our own food on a pit in the center of the table. It was a lot of fun and was followed up by a visit to the local arcade. The place was filled with smoke, had slot machines for gambling, and most of the games that you would find at a Dave and Buster's but with not as much variety and perhaps a couple of years older. It was fun to drive the cars and after shooting a bunch of some zombies I called it a night.

Sunday I got up early and headed to the tailor. I ordered some shirts and then met some visitors and took them to one of the shopping areas in Wuxi. We walked around the Temple Market for a couple of hours till the monsoon came. Then we bought umbrellas and still got soaked on our way to hail a taxi back to their hotel. The streets flooded quickly and it was fun to watch the scooters and bikers move along with the water near the top of their wheels.

After the rain I went to play badminton. This is a very popular sport here and I had yet to try it with a local. My friend was about as good as I was. The people next to us were clearly great players. I just loved that the badminton ball (the shuttlecock) was made with real feathers and not the plastic cages that you see in the American version I have played with. Dinner followed at a German pub. They had dark beer which is a rarity in China.

This week I am finishing off my projects and trying to figure out how to get everything back home.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

10 days to go

I have begun my count down till my departure. However, I still have lots to do before I leave. This weekend I will spend my time sightseeing around Wuxi one last time, doing some last minute shopping, and hanging out with some friends in the evening. The past week has been filled with lunches and dinners with my Wuxi friends. I had not realized how many people I have met over the last few months.

I have made a few arrangements for most of my possessions that I am leaving behind. I will get a free dinner for my microwave, which is pretty sweet. I found someone who wants my bike and I think I will give my dishes and DVD player to one of the family's I have met while I am here. That is about it. Everything else came with the apartment or I just did without this summer.

At lunch today, I was thinking of the foods that I would like to eat one last time before I leave and I was surprised to find that there were not that many. I love the food here, but it is all available in the US, except that it is more expensive and sometimes is cooked differently than here. The only items I came up with were the dumplings (jiaozis), shalampas, and the baozis. I don't know the English equivalent for the last two, because I have never seen them before coming here.

I am not sure what I miss about the US in terms of food. Only some southern BBQ comes to mind at the moment. Dad...some ribs please;)

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Less Than two weeks to go (part 3 of 3)

If you missed part 1, click here or just scroll down.
If you missed part 2, click here or just scroll down.
Anhui Province (Part 2)
The route to our hotel on Huangshan Mountain included two minibuses, a bus, a cable car, and a 2km hike. That is efficiency in China at its best! jk Once we got checked in, we had enough time to walk around the area and check out some of the beautiful views from on top of the mountain.

At 4:30am we awoke and quickly walked out to the sunrise viewing spot. The sunrise at Huangshan is the reason that all the tourist come. It is something that everyone told us was very special and beautiful. If you see the sun rise it is supposed to give you luck and fortune. If it is cloudy or rainy, I am not sure what happens...hopefully nothing too bad.

Their was a crowd near the railing that had formed, but it wasn't too bad yet. In true Chinese fashion no one had dared be different by jumping over the railing and sitting on the rocks. So, I didn't hesitate and hopped the railing and we had the best seats in the house. Others soon followed as we were slowly surrounded by people for the sunrise.

A side note...I found it interesting that the person who tried to move the furthest out on the rocks and almost fell off the mountain was a Chinese man who moved to America and had brought his daughter for vacation in China. Maybe it was coincidence, but the man taking a risk on the mountain, made a big risk to move him and his wife to America at one point in time. Or maybe I am full of it.

Back to the story...the sunrise was beautiful. Oddly the Chinese quickly left after about ten minutes into the sunrise. They were done and most went back to bed. They came all the way to the mountain to see the "famous sunrise" and only spent ten minutes watching it. Weird, I thought, but I don't understand most things that happen here. Cindy and I stayed for a bit longer with the other foreign family that was there. We were the only ones to watch the entire sunrise.

After finishing the nights sleep, we awoke and did some more hiking and then proceeded to hike down the mountain. The line for the cable car was two to three hours and to walk down was two hours or less. It has been five days as of the writing of this post and my legs are still trying to recover from this last hike.

Our last night traveling was spent in the town of Tunxi. I persuaded Cindy that our legs would thank us for walking around and that we should leave the hotel for dinner. Thank goodness we did. We told the taxi which restaurant we wanted and he told me us it was terrible and that he knew the place to go. I said great! We learned that the restaurant was owned by President Hu's family or had been in the past. Either way, I found this food to be the best Chinese food I have had since arriving in China. It is considered Huizhou style food and it was so tasty and good, that I was sorry I could not eat more.

A leisurely walk along the famous "Old Street" in Tunxi ended the night. We woke up early to catch our bus back towards Wuxi. However, we decided to try to visit Suzhou for the afternoon and then finish the trip back to Wuxi by train. Almost eight hours later we were in Suzhou. Such a long bus trip...at least no one lost their lunch like the last bus ride. We saw the nine-storey North Temple Pagoda and one of the famous gardens which Suzhou is known for.

The heat was unbearable (104 F) and we ended up taking a car back to Wuxi, sense all the trains were booked for the next seven hours. I think I will talk about China and how I think it will affect tourism in the future on another posting.

So, that about brings you up to date on my recent travels.

Less Than two weeks to go (part 2 of 3)

If you missed it, click here for part 1 of 3 or just scroll down the page.

Anhui Province (Part 1)
So...
Once I made it back to Wuxi I barely had enough time before I was off with a friend from DC, Cindy. While I had made most of the arrangements for the trip to Anhui province, traveling with Cindy was a joy. Her language ability opened all kinds of doors and provided one of the smoothest traveling experiences within in China I have had. It is amazing what three years of living in China can do for your language skills!

We visited three old villages with buildings from the mid-nineteenth century. They were filled with narrow alleyways and beautiful architecture from the rich elite of China at the time. Only a few years ago foreigners were not allowed to stay in these towns overnight. While I am unsure what has changed sense then, we were allowed to stay in one of the old houses, which had the hardest bed I have slept on in China.

*This might be a good to bit of information if you are visiting China and some other Asian countries. Unless you stay in an upscale, western owned hotel chain you will be sleeping on a hard bed. I find that most of them are comfortable and I sleep very well. However, occasionally you run into the ultra-thin mattress that feels like a thin sheet was put on top of a piece of plywood. Usually that is a little bit of an exaggeration, but at the hotel mentioned above this was not the case. It really was a sheet put on top of a piece of wood. At least it was better than the stone pillows we saw in some of the houses throughout the village.

After touring our third village, we were about to drop from the heat. We jumped in the car and headed out to Huangshan Mountain. The adventure will continue in the next post...

Less than two weeks to go (part 1 of 3)

Benny and Bobby's Visit to China
With less than two weeks to go, my time is running short. I am starting to scramble to take care of all my last minute shopping and sightseeing. Since my last post I have done a lot. This will be the first of a three part series of posts.

First, Shaun had some friends, Benny and Bobby, come in town and so I headed to Shanghai to spend a couple of days with them. We went out to dinner, then a club on Saturday night. We ended the evening with breakfast full of French toast and a Denver omelet at the City Diner. The next day we took it easy in the hot sun, but jumping on a three hour cruise along the Huang Pu River. This cruise took us all the way to the mouth of the Yangtze, which looked as if I had reached the ocean it was so big.

A few days later Benny & Bobby came to Wuxi, so that we could catch a train to Beijing together. But first we had dinner and a quick foot massage before boarding our train. We slept very well for the ten hour journey and woke up shortly before we had to get off. The next few days were spent seeing the sights in Beijing and hanging out with a few classmates. My favorite was the Great Wall! It was an awesome sight and quite humbling when you started climbing up and down the wall to each tower. My legs had that good sore feeling the next day, that you get from sense of accomplishment. Don't forget to check out the picture album by clicking on the picture above!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Dancing and Wireless Charging

A friend sent me some videos of her brother dancing. When he is spinning at the clubs he goes by the name of Crisis. Since putting up a shot of me dancing would certainly bring some good laughs, I will treat you with a video of someone who actually knows what they are doing. Look for my friend to jump in around the 2:30 min. mark. He is in the striped shirt.



Also, for those of us who hate to keep up with all the different chargers while we travel or who hate the unsightly wires all over the counter or behind the TV, I have good news. In the not so distant future, we will be charging and powering our devices without wires. This technology has endless opportunities. It would be great to be able to have an electric hybrid that charged without wires. Perhaps it would just charge as we are driving through town. Of course, how will the electric company bill people for their usage or how do we keep people from stealing our electricity? I will let another entrepreneur figure that one out. Check out the company here. If you want to see it actually working ABC's video does a good job. The YouTube videos were not as clear, but shorter.

Monday, July 09, 2007

300!...no, not the movie

Today I have reached 300 posts on my blog. WOW! What does this mean? I have come to only one conclusion. Which is, that I have spent way to much time on my computer. However, don't worry faithful readers, I will not be giving up the blog. Nor will I commit myself more to it. I am happy with the way it is for the moment and I hope you are too.

So, I had a co-worker today show me pictures of her new home. It was beautiful. I also got to see a picture of her cute little girl who just finished kindergarten.
This gives me a chance to highlight the differences in China when it comes to purchasing a home.

In China, you typically purchase a new build, sense everything is being built and not much has been in existence very long. When you buy a home it is a clean slate. The owner must pick out the flooring, where the walls will go, what colors they will be, what fixtures for doors, faucets, lights, cabinets, and everything else that goes with purchasing a home. In the US, if you buy a new-build, then you typically get the option of picking out many of the items that will be placed in the home. A new-build in the US offers many customizations, but typically the floor plan remains the same. Also, your customizations are limited to a few boxed choices, unless you want to pay a lot of extra money to go against the pre-chosen customization options. Yes, their is something wrong about having pre-set customizations. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it saves money.

I think that in China you are given to many options, sense most Chinese get approximately the same thing. The culture predicts this, since most Chinese do not want to stand out and do something "really" different.

However, this brings up a different cultural difference. The Chinese want to feel special and if you offered standard customizations, then this need would not be fulfilled. I will save this discussion for another day.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

We are covering 6 out of 7 continents...not bad


One of my fellow IMBAers, Dan Houck, put together a nice map of where all of the IMBAers are working this summer. If you click on a circle it will tell you the location and how many students are located there. Of course, you can move the map around by holding down the mouse button and zoom in as necessary.

Check it out by clicking here. We truly are a GLOBAL program!

Nanjing, China

After spending a night in my own bed last Friday, I was awakened by a friend's text message. I had a train to catch to Nanjing and I was late! Within five minutes I was packed and out the door heading towards a cab. Nanjing was China's capital city for six dynasty's and has lots of historical sites.

After slicing through the streets of Wuxi, between the people walking and riding their scooters to work, I arrived at the train station. I usually have to sit down and wait for the train to leave. This time I was able to walk through the station and out on to the platform without waiting. I thought that perhaps I should be late more often. Within a few minutes of boarding the train, I was on my way to Nanjing.

Four of us spent Saturday and Sunday seeing the sights. We toured Purple Mountain, where Sun Yat-sen's tomb is located. He ruled over China before Mao took over and is considered the father of modern China. Also, we checked out the Linggu Temple area which had a big pagoda and beautiful gardens.

Saturday night we went to Nanjing's newest bar area, called 1912. We ate dinner and danced at a night club. The next day we stayed at the hotel till check-out and then headed out to have lunch and see Confucius's Temple. We walked around the area after eating till we had to return to the train station. One block of shops was filled with animals and could have been a huge propaganda feast for animal cruelty. PETA should visit Nanjing and take pictures for its website and brochures. I have never seen so many animals kept in such deplorable conditions. The street food vendor at the end of the block did not look busy. Perhaps it was because he was selling the animals that weren't selling? Probably not, but you never know for sure when you are in China. Sorry if I made you lose your appetite.

The weekend was supposed to be filled with thunderstorms and lots of rain. Well, the weather did not disappoint us. Luckily, it seemed that whenever we decided to go somewhere the rain would stop, then after leaving a place the rain would start again. It was incredible that the only weather we had to put up with was rolling up our pants to avoid getting them wet in the puddles that had formed. Of course, some big puddles formed as the pics show. I guess Nanjing's drainage system has not kept pace with the rest of its growth.

So the weekend was a lot of fun. I was a bad picture taker and left it up to everyone else. You can check out my previous post on Nanjing from my first week in China that has pitures to see more of Purple Mountain. Thanks Wiki for the pic at the top of the posting.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The show is just about over

APPPExpo and More


The picture album above includes the APPPExpo I have been attending and some Karaoke pics I was able to score from Greg. Greg is a family friend of Adam's (my boss) and has been visiting China for the last three weeks. He just graduated high school and is heading to Duke in August. Go Greg!

As for July 4th in Shanghai, it was non-existent. I did nothing special except tell the people I work with happy fourth of July. No fireworks, no "Old Man River" on the bluff of the Mississippi River in Memphis, and no parties. A magazine Greg was reading that afternoon stated that one of the top twenty things to do in life is to celebrate the 4th of July outside of the US. I wasn't sure why. It is like spending any other holiday away from your family and friends.

Actually, I really can't say that is true. While the fourth of July was not mentioned, I did have dinner with my boss, his wife, Greg, and some other people attending the conference on the Bund at one of the nicer restaurants in Shanghai. The view was great, the wine wasn't made in China, and the meal was delicious. If you don't know...the Bund is the bend in the river located in downtown Shanghai. You can see pictures of the Bund here.

Well, as much as I love being pampered in a hotel, I am looking forward to a night at home in my rock-hard bed in Wuxi.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

APPPExpo in Shanghai

I have been attending the APPPEXPO 2007 this week. My first day spent there I was reminded of high school/college career fairs, except the booths are often much bigger. However, my second day I spent the day trying to remember different jobs I have had in the past. First, all the marketing jobs I have had have made me an informed consumer, so I often look at the beauty of the marketing rather than the message they want the average consumer to see. Then I was walking past huge printers that reminded me of my days at Signal Graphics Printing in Boulder. Then later I was reminded of working at my uncle's photo finishing business in Memphis when I was fourteen, because of the enormous photo developing machines.

I have two more days of expo-ing and I will make sure to take a few pictures of the cooler looking booths. If you like advertising, printing, photos, colored lights, big displays, and anything else that has to do with creating these things, then you would enjoy this expo.

This weekend I will be heading to Nanjing for sightseeing. Aside from the expected rain, I am predicting some wonderful sights, food, and fun.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

10th Anniversary of Hong Kong's Return

Yesterday China celebrated the 10th Anniversary of Hong Kong's return to return from the British. This entailed a weekend long series of news covering how Hong Kong has evolved over the last ten years. The TV also covered countless interviews and speeches, many of them given by the President of China, covering how wonderful it is that Hong Kong is part of China.

So, what has the last ten years brought China. All I can tell is that it has brought the right to say that Hong Kong is part of China and not part of Britain. Oh, and it has created a day long holiday that some how stretches into two days of non-stop propaganda on TV. I can't tell how anyone in my town was affected by this event. Most Chinese can not visit Hong Kong, since you must obtain a visa to cross the border and their is a yearly restriction on how many are issues. I am sure I am missing something, but this is what it looks like form the outsider's view point. Most of you probably didn't know that this holiday was being celebrated or even existed. I sure didn't. Instead you might have noticed that July 1st is Canada Day, by looking at your calender. Don't worry, you didn't miss anything!

The past weekend's events...
On Friday I headed into Shanghai for a night of Karaoke with Shaun and some other people that we have met during our time in China. For three hours we sang in a room with nice couches, a huge TV, and interesting selection of English songs. It was a lot of fun. Don't worry, I won't be dragging anyone out to the karaoke bars upon my return, but if I end up in one I won't mind getting up there and singing a tune.

Saturday I headed home and went to a friend's housewarming BBQ. It was a very clear day and not to hot, so sitting on the roof top, eating burgers, and looking out at one of the hills surrounding Wuxi was awesome. Also, the host has a great selection of music, which I was delighted to run across.

I made it an early night and proceeded to do nothing on Sunday. This was a rarity for me, but I needed to chill our from all my recent travels and re-group. Tomorrow I am headed out for four days in Shanghai for a sign convention. I will try to "brighten" someones day with Colite's patented LED signs. OK, bad sign joke:)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Short Work Week

Having arrived back on Wednesday, I feel like the weekend is fast approaching. I have settled back into things at work. I am feeling a bit tired from traveling, so I am thinking of staying in town this weekend. I still have lots of things to see in Wuxi.

So, below is a quick summary of my time in Thailand. The pictures do a lot of the telling too, so take a gander at them. Videos take a bit longer, so I will get to it soon enough. I forgot the Singapore pics in a previous post, so I have put them here as well.





Thailand


Singapore

I arrived in Thailand and spent the night in Udon Thani. I immediately noticed the blue skies and clean air; at night it was the stars I noticed. These things are not found in China...although I think I saw a star one time. The next morning I headed out with some of the Peace Corp volunteers. We were going to the town of Dansai to join my friend Maeve and other for the festival. We stopped frequently for pics, bathroom breaks, and to pick up more volunteers heading to the festival. The four hour trip took about seven hours, but I got to see some very small villages and awesome scenery along the way.

In Dansai we stayed at "home-stays". We had a beautiful house with a very kind Thai family who provided us with sweet, white bread and coffee (since all foreigners like these things according to Thai people). We took "tuk-tuks" any where we needed to go.

Once the festival started the music, dancing, food, and beer would not stop till we left on Sunday. All day and night the streets and stage were filled with ghosts (the costumed men, women, and children). They performed traditional songs and dance on the stage. Others paraded around with the floats. At 4am the spiritual guide of the town jumped into the river to search for the spirit rock. Every time he would raise his head above water and hold up a rock and ask the crowd if this was it and the crowd would yell, "no." On the third try the crowd yelled, "yes," and he came out of the water and we followed him to the temple in a long, noisy procession. My favorite part of the festival was dancing in the streets with the ghosts and hanging out with all the Peace Corp volunteers.

On Sunday, we headed for the town of Phitsonulok and I checked out some of the sights around town. All three towns I visited were small and beautiful. The people always had a smile on their face and were very welcoming.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

36 Hours of Travel Completed

I left Phitsanulok, Thailand on Tuesday at 11:30pm. I took a bus back to Udon Thani, where I first landed in Thailand. The bus traveled back through Dansai, where the festival was held, and an awesome feeling came over me as I was reminded of the great time I had over the past few days in Thailand. The bus rumbled through the streets where just two days earlier were filled with people dancing, eating, drinking, and parading in colorful costumes. It was night time, but the moon allowed me to see the hills as we moved out of town. The remainder of the night included varies stops in small towns, which all looked the same to me. People got off and people got on and five minutes later we were moving again. By 5:30 am I had reached Udon and I headed out to the airport.

I took a flight to Singapore and headed out into town with a the same guy I met on the way to Udon Thani the week before. He took me to the downtown area filled with skyscrapers and colonial style government buildings separated by the Singapore River. We had lunch and departed ways. I spent the next hour walking around the area snapping photos.

My next flight dropped me off in southern China at 11pm. Shortly, afterwards I was informed that I was going to be kicked out of the airport, since it was closing. I was planning on waiting in the airport for my 8 am flight, but they said it could not be done. So, I got a taxi to take me to a local hotel. I slept about six hours, showered, and headed back to the airport. This morning I arrived in Wuxi, went home to put my things down, and came into work before noon.

Shenzhen, Singapore, and more
I have so much to say about the past weekend in Thailand. It was amazing to say the least. I am going to put together a video of some sort rather than trying to write out what I saw and experienced. Until then, click on the pic above to see some of Shenzhen (a city in southern China that I went sightseeing at before Thailand) and a little sneak peak at the festival. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Ahhh...Singapore

I arrived in Singapore at 3:40am this morning and I am about to leave, since it is 6am now. I got some good work done in Shenzhen this week and was able to meet a guy at the hotel to hang out with an evening. He was from France and is completing an internship in China for his MBA. Sound familiar?

However, after talking with him it was clear that we had received different training before coming to China. He has been in China two weeks longer than me and still knows nothing of the language. He actually stated that he was frustrated because the workers and other people didn't make more of an effort to communicate with him in English. I couldn't believe that! I tried to tell him a few things about the culture and imply that he was going about things in the wrong way, but it was clear he was not listening. Oh well. At least it made me feel good about my training before coming to China and that at least there is one person in the country who knows less than me. I think he might be the first person who fits that bill.

I went sightseeing yesterday before catching my plane. It was very hot and I was pouring sweat all day, but at least I have seen something in the city besides the shopping areas:)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Anji films and pics

Rather than go into to much painful details of my trip this past weekend, I am going to offer some videos clips and let the pictures do most of the story telling. Needless to say, this was one of the most unique, fun, and educational experiences I have had in China. The people on the trip were a blast and very accepting of the waiguoren (foreigner).

Right now, I am in Shenzhen. The city is located on the border of China and Hong Kong. I visited here a few weeks ago and now I have returned for a little bit more work. I will be leaving tomorrow evening for Thailand and will not return to Wuxi till the following Wednesday. Updating the blog will be difficult, but I will try to get an update in here and there. While in Thailand, I will be attending a festival. It is called The Phi Ta Kohn Festival. I am meeting up with my good friend Maeve, who I biked across America with, and about thirty other Peace Corp volunteers who are all living and working in Thailand and other nearby countries.

And now for the good stuff...
The first video will make you laugh! Once we were on the small, smelly bus a mic was passed around so that we all could introduce ourselves. When the mic came to me, I was forced to go to the front of the bus and I proceeded to say my three lines in Chinese that I feel confident saying. But it did not stop there. I was then asked to sing and this is what came out...



I had a great time singing that tune. I think I let it wipe out all the remarks people frequently make about me as I walk down the street, such as..."Look at the foreigner!" or "Ha-Loooo!" I love the sweet smell of justice;)

The next video is a traditional dance from Anji. The girl closest to the camera at the start of the video is the one I ended up getting married too (see two videos down and the pics for more on that).



This video was shout in downtown Anji at the McDonald's I walked past. No words can describe the Empire that is McDonald's.



The last video is a short "shout out" to my parents with my new wife. Doesn't she look happy!



Finally, to fill you in on the remainder of the weekend, check out the pictures by clicking on the picture box below.

Anji, China

Monday, June 18, 2007

I am married!

I am sorry to my family and friends who were expecting to be present at my wedding and even meet my wife before I got hitched, however, I didn't even get a chance to meet my wife but just two minutes before I was standing with her at the alter. This was not the traditional American wedding, but a Zhejiang Province marriage. This picture is a sneak peak of the ceremony.


I will have much more about my trip to Anji this past weekend and only a little bit more about my wife, since I don't speak Chinese and she doesn't speak English. However, I can say that the weekend was great and I don't feel a bit different after getting married.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon

Goodbye everyone! I am off to a place where I will imagine Chow Yun Fat and Michelle Yeoh jumping, fighting, and twirling through the bamboo forests as they fight their way through the enemy to reclaim a stolen sword. No, I did not score tickets to the10th Shanghai International Film Festival and I am not going to a re-screening of the movie Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Nor am I going to be taking hallucinatory drugs. Instead, I am going to get on a bus and go to Anji, China. This is the site of the largest Bamboo Forest in the World.

I will be traveling with a local Chinese travel agency. One of my co-workers, Carl, invited me along. We will be hiking through the forest, floating on a nearby river, and checking out a waterfall the following day. The place looks beautiful from a few pictures I have seen. The agency has booked about thirty young adults for this trip. I am not sure if this is a singles type of trip or if it is open to anyone. from what I have learned about the culture here, I would suspect this is not the case. However, I think I would do really well at speed dating in China sense I could say all the words I know in less than a minute:)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

China vs. USA, part 1 and the GFC

As much as we know or don't know about China, I know I am learning a lot. I am learning so many little things that I don't even know where to begin. However, there are a few big things that make China a different place compared to Western life. Below are a couple of items that I will begin to add on to over the remainder of this summer.

#1: Chinese businesses have not learned the "lifetime value of a customer." As a business in China, you are most likely operating in the moment. Their is no thought for the future. The business is used to working hard for a quick sale and then they do not expect that person to return.

A personal example...I went to a place to eat near my building. I made it a point to try most of the places nearby that had crowds, so that I would be familiar with them and know if I would like to eat there regularly. Anyway, I had a hard time ordering (this was my second week in town and I knew nothing), but they brought out some things for me to eat and a warm beer (one of the first words I learned...I later learned to ask for a cold one). When I was ready to pay, they brought me out a total that seemed very high for the amount of food I was given. I knew I was being charged more than I should have been, but didn't know how to tell them that in Chinese. So, I paid the bill and left. I have yet to return. The food was decent, but I was mistreated. They couldn't understand that I was not a one time sell, but that I would return over and over again and possibly bring friends along. So, they made a quick buck and lost out on a repeat customer. Most people already know it is easier to keep a customer than to get a new one, but we learn to quantify this in grad school. It is quite powerful to learn how much a customer may give to you over time. If this seems very logical to you, it is. However, I have learned that most businesses in China and most tourist areas subscribe to the policy of getting as much as they can with no regard to the future. There are cultural reasons for this in China, such as the tradition of haggling over goods and just being skeptical or disapproving of foreigners. However, I don't know if these reasons are true...I will ask and confirm them. Whatever the reasons, this same problem of being charged more, because I am foreign to this country, happens almost daily.

#2: The Chinese that speak English think they understand Westerners. However, I beg to differ. In most respects they get it all wrong. I am not eating at McD's, Pizza Hut, or KFC. I am not wanting to but "sexy DVDs" or pretty girls. But when I walk down the street i am targeted by all the hawkers and one by one they hunt me down and offer these items. How many foreigners are taking them up on their offers? I do not drive my car everywhere or want to take a taxi where ever I go, and I don't sit in an ex-pat bar every night drinking over-priced beer. Chinese people come up to me and ask for American dollars, when they wouldn't dare ask their fellow Chinese citizens for money. If they knew the exchange rates they would be asking for Yuan and not the Dollar, but that doesn't excuse their perception of me as Mr. Money Bags.

The point of that is that whenever I say or do things it usually is a surprise to them. All day long it is, "Don't you want to do _____?" or "Don't you want ______?" But the reality is that I don't want or do those things. Like the Chinese, we all do different things and often want different things to, beyond the absolute necessities of life (water, clothes, shelter, etc.).

In all fairness, most people in the US don't understand China. I came here with many stereotypes and most of them are proving false. So, it works both ways.

Since the government has blocked Blogger.com again I am unable to reply to comments. I use a website that allows me to see my blog, but it won't let me see every page. I assume this blocking is temporary, like the last time, but who knows when they will let us access the site again. The people here call it the Great Firewall of China (GFC). I don't run across it to often, but the government does restrict a lot. The main sites I have seen restricted are Wiki, Flickr, & Blogger. The government might have good reason to. With web access becoming increasingly popular, things such as what this article refers to are becoming increasingly common. In China people also organize together through mass text (SMS) messaging. A protest halted construction last week using this method.

So, in reference to the comment made on yesterday's post...
Welcome to the IMBA program. Thanks for stopping by and reading. I look forward to meeting you this Fall. I am familiar with the Express paper in DC, because I was living in Silver Spring before I started the program last year. I am glad that Wuxi is getting some exposure in the US. It seems, from the online news and TV, that this disaster has really pushed the Chinese government's efforts to acknowledge the environment and its responsibility to it. Hopefully, their efforts won't die down once this issue is out of the papers.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Clean Water...An Elusive Dream?

An article that was brought to my attention this week clearly states that Wuxi's water problems will not go away any time soon. The article was written in 2004, about two and half years before the current disaster. It is neat to be at the center of a huge problem that would be publicized around the World in any Western country. However, news in China tends to stay in China and I think that is what the government likes.

As of now, I am using the water for everything but cooking and brushing my teeth. I am eating out again, but I try to avoid most soups (although last night I had some Miso soup). This is the way it will be all summer according to my co-workers. One thing you won't see me complain upon my return to the States is the water out of the tap.

Last night I said farewell to two people I met here and quickly became friends with. China has reminded me of Colorado (CO), in the sense that the people I meet here tend to be transient. In CO people entered and exited your life almost on a weekly basis. There was always someone leaving to go to a new state, new city, new school, but rarely a new job. As some of my Memphis friends would remind me, "Hippies don't work, you hippy." Well, the people in China work. No one can refute that fact. Even the little kids that are sent out by their moms, whom are usually watching from a few meters away, to come pull at my leg and hold a cup to me is working. Yes, it is sad and the child is being exploited by his family, but I will not encourage this behavior by giving the kid anything. If I was approached in a different manner or if I understood the laws that the government has in place to help the poor, I might think differently. Doesn't a communist government take care of everyone? Does anyone know what type of social programs exist for the poor in China? I do not see very many beggars, at least compared to the US and Europe. However, the beggars and the hawkers here are very persistent and do not know what "personal boundaries" are.

Alright, enough bickering. I am enjoying China so much and will be missing it upon my return to the States.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Shanghai and Wuxi Weekend

Peoples' Park, Pudong, Softball, & Chicken Street
This is a long post, but a lot happened over the weekend. Don't miss the videos at the end!

The past weekend was filled with awesome fun and great sights. I spent Thursday night meeting several classmates and alumni. This was a real treat since I had not gone out to eat in a week (due to the water). Afterward, I headed back to Shaun's place since he had to be up early for work. However, on the cab ride home he got the best news of the night, which went something like this...

Shaun's boss: Hey Shaun! I think you are not feeling well.
Shaun: I am doing great! It was nice to meet your family at dinner and chat with you.
Shaun's boss: Thanks, but I really think you are not feeling well and you should not show up to work tomorrow.
Shaun: What do you mean? I feel great! I have a presentation to give tomorrow.
Shaun's boss: Screw the presentation! Your sick! I don't want to see you at work tomorrow! Have fun with your friend, Dave.

So, it was "out" we went for Shaun's first weekday off of work. We were joined by a couple of classmates I met that night. They took me to a street lined with shady bars, street vendors, and pretty (and some not so pretty) girls calling you into the bars. I have never seen such a scene. The bars were filled with women! An 80/20 ratio at least. However, after we gr abed our drinks and headed over to a table I quickly learned why there were so many girls. It was great how the staff got you to buy more drinks. I played "Connect 4" with one of the staff and was beaten most of the time. I think she had had plenty of practice. These bars had all kinds of rooms that had all kinds of things going on there. I could go on and on about what I witnessed, but I will just say, "it was an education! "

Friday started with breakfast at 5am as we were headed home from the bars. We woke up a little later and headed out for sight seeing. We checked out People's Park first. It was smaller than I imagined, but had a great museum full of art and artifacts. Afterwards we stopped by the Shanghai 2012 building, but we could see the model of Shanghai from the doorway and decided that it was not worth the price of admission to see it up close.

Soon we were walking down Nanjing Rd. I went there on my first night in China, back in April. It is not much different during the day time, except the hawkers are trying to sell you "watchbagDVD", instead of "pretty girl." We looked at a few shops and walked to the Bund. That night we met David Hudgens, our internship advisor for dinner. It was great to have some one-on-one time with David. He has spent a great deal of time in China and knows the area well.

Saturday, the fun continued after we grabbed a train ticket for my Sunday morning departure. We went to Pudong (on the other side of the river). Pudong is an area that virtually did not exist 10 years ago except as swamp land. Now it is an economic free trade zone and thriving with tons of businesses setting up enormous buildings there. We went up the Mao Tower for a nice view 87th floor view of Shanghai. It reminded me quite a bit of sitting up at the top of the John Hancock building in Chicago. We had a coffee and soaked up the view.

After a river-side lunch, we headed to the knock-off market. This is the largest I have seen. It was quite amazing. They had everything you could want, except I didn't see much jewelry, but it could be located in another section of the market that I never discovered. I am constantly amazed at the people and how they have learned to handle rejection. They approach you and you ignore them as best you can, but they just keep trying. They don't care that dozens of other people offered you the same things ten seconds before you got to them. The best was two guys wrestling each other as they went down the hallway. As they held each other in headlocks, they stopped in front of me and ask, "watchbagDVD." The day ended with a great dinner at a Sichuan Chinese restaurant. We ate several spicy dishes until our bellies ached.

Sunday I returned to Wuxi and played one last game of softball. The night was spent eating on Chicken Street with some friends that are leaving this week. They even had a friend visiting that grew up in Memphis! My first Memphian in China. Good times were had by all.

Now for some videos to compliment the photos up above...

A video I shot while walking to the metro station this past Sunday morning. I was amazed at the stamina of these ladies. It is great to see some of the Chinese culture performed for you in the public. These type of events occur every weekend all over China and are really fun to watch.

This video shows Chicken Street in Wuxi. What a place!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Are you going nuTsie?

A new service I learned about recently might affect which cell phone you purchase. NuTsie allows you to upload your iTunes play lists to its website and stream them to your cell phone for free.

What I like most about the service, besides that it is free, is that it pays the artist a commission every time their song is played. Of course, their are some drawbacks. Your play list will play on shuffle and you can't go backwards or skip ahead to a different part of the song. Also, who knows how long it will take to load your music on to their website. However, if you can't afford the $600 Iphone, then this might be an alternative.

How does this company make money? They don't...yet. The company is talking about ways to charge for this service. Will they flash ads on the screen, charge the user, or some other method. Time will tell. I am sure the artists are happy that all the illegal downloads of their songs will bring in a little revenue.

Can you tell how they came up with their name? You will have to ask me to tell you the answer.

Also, check out LaLa.com for a new way to bring your music along with you. LaLa.com let's upload your iTunes library and listen to whole CDs for free!

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Meet my co-workers


The video above shows some of the people I work with. Enjoy!

Below is some pics I took of some food a friend gave me. The dark stuff feels like Laffy-Taffy and is very spicy. The balls are filled with spices and some type of meat. They are really good snacks!




Finally, This last pic show my town yesterday morning. It was taken from my building. You might say it was a "little hazy." If you compare it to this picture I took last month you can really see the difference.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I am off to do laundry in another city...again

Tomorrow I am having dinner with an advisor from my school. I will get to meet some 3-yr classmates that will join me in class this Fall, some alumni working in China, and other business people from the area. I think I am most excited about getting to eat out and not having to cook or eat ramen noodles. However, I will hold back my excitement and pretend that Georgia, from the career management office, is looking over my shoulder and saying, "It is not about the food."

I have started a Chinese tutor and it seems to be helping. I am getting more phrases and words down. I won't come back speaking Mandarin, but if you want me to order you some rice or noodles, fried or un-fried, with meat, chicken, and/or vegetables thrown in, I am your man. However, my vegetables are limited, so I hope you like broccoli, bamboo, and eggplant.

This weekend I am hoping to stay in Shanghai and get my laundry done and perhaps see a few things in the city. Shaun and I have been sightseeing just about everywhere, but our own towns. Pictures are sure to follow.

Monday, June 04, 2007

I am salivating


No, the water in Wuxi is not tasting (or smelling) better. But, Apple has releaased some of the first iPhone commercials. You can check them out here. Unfortunately, Apple has signed an exclusive agreement with AT&T for the next five years. I used to have an account with them in CO, but the coverage was terrible. Perhaps they have improved. However, with a $600 price tag, I will play the wait and see game on this phone. Hopefully I won't be waiting five years.

Weekend Update...not from SNL

Instead of sightseeing this weekend, I traveled to Suzhou. This town is about thirty minutes by train from me. A co-worker invited me there to wash my clothes and take a shower. So, that is how I spent my Saturday. His brother-in-law took us to lunch and ordered entirely too much food. Feeling obligated to continue eating after I was full, by the repeated phrase, "keep eating, keep eating," I was fairly sick afterwards. I made it back to the apartment to finish the laundry and immediately had to lay down. My stomach hurt and I didn't want to waste the food by "praying to the porcelain g-d."

After returning to Wuxi, I went to a BBQ at a friends place. They had a fun crowd and incredibly diverse. This is not too uncommon in China, but it always cool to see people from the US, Canada, China, Netherlands, UK, Germany, and several other countries I can't remember all hanging out together. The hamburgers with cheese looked awesome and I was sorry I was unable to eat one because of my belly ache. (If you don't know, cheese is a rarity in China and "real" hamburger meat is even rarer.)

Sunday I spent the day riding my bike and playing softball. I was pretty tired by the end of it all, so I ate some dinner and retired early.

While I am now taking showers at home again, the water crisis continues. The water still smells (but not as bad) and I will not brush my teeth, cook, or do the dishes with it, but I can't continue to skip on the showers. Hopefully this will not come back to haunt me. I have read up on the blue algae and it can cause problems when you come in contact with it or ingest it. I am showering based on the fact that everyone else in town is doing it. When we all start itching and breaking out in rashes, I will know it is time to stop using the water.

Below are a couple of videos to show you what the city's water source looks like. The first video is a newscast about the problem and what the officials are doing about it.


This next one is in Chinese, but the pictures are more than enough to get the point across.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Need a kidney? Now you can win one!

One of the newest ideas to hit Dutch TV is a reality show containing three people who are on a waiting list for a kidney replacement. The show allows one woman to choose who will get her kidney with the audience influencing the decision. Here is a link to an article on CNN's website.

I say, "Why not?" The show is a bit absurd and cruel, but it already has brought attention to a subject that is largely misunderstood. It is hard to imagine what I would do if I need an organ transplant. However, I would not just sit idly by and wait for something to happen. I would hire people to canvas the streets, offering anything the person may want, to find someone to donate their organ. I would hang out in hospitals, just in case I may get lucky. I would go on reality TV.

If you can't tell, I am fairly clueless about the process for getting an organ transplant, except that it can take a long time and may never happen. I am sure that I am not that much different than the average person. Therefore a show that will educate and inform us of the process is a good thing and should be allowed to be aired. Why censor it when viewers can make the decision to watch it or not. Then I can stop making ridiculous comments like the ones above.

This is a short clip by the American Comedy Network about the show.

Right now, I am in need of a water transplant. If you know where I can find any clean water, send it over to Wuxi.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Water, cooking, and more

I have often acknowledged how lucky I am too have water flowing out of a tap whenever I choose. I have camped and traveled enough to know that this luxury is not always available. However, I have never had to live and work in a city with water. Water lines are forming and are longer than any lines I have ever saw while working at a grocery store during high school when snow was predicted.

I could not go out to eat last night, therefore I tried my hand at cooking. You can check out the pics, by clicking here or below on the album. Also, in the album is a pic from Shanghai, that reads "Memphis". The other pics are from a park near my home that I like to visit. It contains the remnants of an old temple that stood there before the city began to modernize. It is cool to see the old with the new.

Wuxi Park and Cooking

This weekend I have changed some plans around so that I may visit a friend in a nearby town to take a shower and do laundry. I don't have enough water to last me much longer, therefore I will have to visit the long lines soon enough. Everyone and every news station is talking about the water problem in China, except for the Int'l news channels are not saying a word. I will be looking forward to clean water so that I may shower regularly in my home, run my toothbrush under the faucet, wash my dishes, clean my clothes, eat out at the restaurants in town, and perhaps take water for granted again. Check out these pics of the lake where the water comes from...yummy!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

What is that smell? Oh, its just the water.

Today started out like any other day. I woke up to my alarm and groaned about it being too early. After snoozing it once, I got up. I went to the shower and turned the water on. About half-way through my shower I started smelling something gross. I wasn't sure what it was. My dad would say, "it is just your upper lip." I quickly finished the shower, but couldn't seem to shake the smell until I got out of the bathroom. I figured there was something wrong with the drainage system in the building and forgot about it.

Side note: Smells in China are common. Every 100 feet may bring a new smell. Some of them are pleasant and many are not. This is just something you learn to live with and you begin to ignore after a few days.

Well, I get to work and my co-workers were all talking about the water. 'Water' is one of the few words of Chinese I know. I asked what was going on and they could only explain that it was "bad". They told me not to drink it, but showering was "maybe" ok.

Luckily I am not smelling any worse than I usually do today and my skin is not falling off. However, I found a few things online about it. It appears that CCTV9, the only English TV station in China, is reporting that seaweed in Lake Taihu is the cause. That seems a bit fishy. No one knows when the problem will be fixed. But this forum has a few words to say about it.

So, what do you do when the water running from every tap is bad? Nothing. You just wait till the problem is fixed. You can go to the supermarket and look at the empty shelves where bottled water belongs. You do not go out to eat, since your food will be cooked with the bad water. Instead, you buy ready made meals and cook with bottled water. No one has batted an eye at this. I think people in the US would handle this very differently. Tomorrow maybe my first "bottled water shower!"

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Street Food

I recently got the opportunity to write an article for the local expat magazine, called Wuxi Life. It was about my experience going to Chicken Street in Wuxi. Chicken Street serves street food. What is street food? It is simply food that is sold on the street. But on this street, I would call it "gourmet street food". Why? Because we sat at a table, the selection was large, and nothing was pre-cooked. It is easier to describe with pictures.


This is the selection of food. Lots of skewers!



Then your food is cooked on a long grill.



The best part! Eating the food. Yummy green peppers.


Chicken Street is busiest from 12am - 2am. However while I was there between 8-9pm, I saw three gals with a case of half-liter bottles of beer sitting at a table eating. They had a long night ahead of them.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Chuck Shepherd, eat your heart out

Local news in China is often filled with odd stories. A lot of has to do with fake/tainted goods and the affects of all the building projects. Today I will share some of these headlines and stories to give you an idea of what one day's worth of headlines may bring.

First, there is the lady who has been kept underground in a small hole for the past six years. She was put in there pregnant and her daughter never met her until just the other day. Read the article here.

This article pertains to the concern for safety in China. Excerpt below:

"Face-lift after 'health check' on Xupu Bridge"
Xupu Bridge's 240 suspension cables are to have a large-scale renovation to make the bridge safer and more beautiful prior to the opening of World Expo 2010, the Shanghai Engineering Administrative Bureau has said. If no Expo, safety not an issue. (Italics added for emphasis.)

Funny stuff.

And finally, not to scare you too much..."Frozen fish from China recalled as two in Chicago fall ill"

"The list of potentially deadly products reaching the United States from China continued to grow Thursday, as an importer recalled frozen fish that may be tainted with a lethal toxin ..."

Please don't worry about me, I don't eat Chinese exports in Wuxi!

Shanghai Shopping

This past week has been one full of shopping. I was able to find a bike and went on my first big ride yesterday. I love the feeling in my legs that I have right now. I am looking forward to "really" start a lot of exploring now, that I have been unable to easily do with wheels.

Also, I went to Shanghai this weekend and Shaun and I checked out some of the markets. Shanghai offers lots of different markets depending on what you are looking to buy. The markets are spread out all over town, which means there is no "one-stop" shopping. At the markets you can find anything from any famous designer you want. If you don't see it, then you can go to the tailor, jeweler, or owner and have it custom made or ordered. Make sure you bargain hard, since they will try to rip off the foreigners. I talked down a lady from 1125 Yuan to 175 Yuan, so I only paid 15% of the price. Usually you pay about a third and no more than one-half.

If you didn't notice, I updated the look of my blog. I think it is a bit easier on the eyes.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Shenzhen and Hong Kong

Monday morning I traveled down to Shenzhen. It was a two hour flight from the smallest airport I have flown out of, expect for my Uncle's airport in Arkansas for his crop dusting business. However, as usual, the service was great! I got served drinks twice and breakfast...all on a 2-hr flight. Didn't the US airlines offer service like this at one time or another?



I sat next to a cute Chinese girl and soon found out that she spoke great English. She works for Panasonic and travels to Shenzhen and other parts of the World regularly. When we landed, her driver took me to my hotel after dropping her off at work. That afternoon I did some work, which worked out great since it was raining the whole time. As night came I could not stay inside any longer and I headed out to go exploring. Shenzhen is an economic free trade zone. This makes for some awesome shopping! The video below does not do it justice, but is one of hundreds of streets to walk down. There is hardly a thing on the planet that is not offered here. Check it out...



The next day I planned to head to Hong Kong. I got up and it was still raining. I was reminded of my time in Vienna when it rained for a couple of days. So, I shrugged my shoulders and headed out. I thought I knew where the metro was located. I quickly found out that "Subway" in Shenzhen means a route under ground that will get you to the other side of the street, not to a train. So, I just kept walking. After thirty minutes of walking in the rain I found the station. I hopped on and went to the last stop. I exited and began going toward the border, but then did a quick 180 when I realized that I forgot my passport. Oops.

I was a bit more efficient getting back to the hotel and returning to the border. Although I did find a man standing in my room when I returned to the hotel. He was a hotel employee and was watching my TV. He was embarrassed that I "caught" him and he quickly exited. Funny stuff!

I got to Hong Kong and had a lovely ride from the border to the island. It was full of mountain with clouds hanging low all about them. I arrived and went straight for the water front. It was perfect timing; the rain stopped! I proceeded to see all I could in my short visit. Hong Kong is an incredible shopping city too. They even stock shoes in my size. Please check out the pics, videos, and my previous post to see and hear more about what I did.



This weekend will be another exciting one as I check out a party in Shanghai, possibly a band, some poker, some softball, and more.

Big Buddha and BBQ

To catch up on a few things, I wanted to post some pics from Shaun's visit this past weekend. Shaun and I had some great food, got some local sight seeing accomplished, and attended a BBQ with a bunch of local-foreigners.

Liangshan and Wuxi Life BBQ

I have been traveling a bit since arriving in China and have not taken the time to explore my own time. Shaun and I went to Liangshan to see the tallest, standing Buddha. He stands about 300 feet tall. We walked around the area for a couple of hours exploring a museum, the beautifully landscaped grounds, and the view of the lake from the top.

That night we went to a BBQ hosted by the local expat organization, Wuxi Life. It was good food and great company. Before Shaun returned to Shanghai we got in a little bit of shopping. This marked to first day I tried to find shoes that fit me.

So, in China you may feel like a freak of nature at times. After trying a half dozen places in Wuxi, then several more in Shenzhen on Monday, I could not find anyone stocking a shoe bigger than a 44 (US9-10). Also, I wear large or extra large shirts here and everyone touting stuff on the streets seems to think I want a sex DVD. If my ego wasn't so big, I might feel a bit self conscious about all this. I wonder what did Yao Ming do before he made it big in the NBA? Or how many foreigners are really buying sex DVDs?

Next update will be my visit to Shenzhen and Hong Kong this week!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Felt like I was in the US today

I have been in China one month now. Actually I "was" in China a month, but today I ventured out of the mainland and into Hong Kong. Right from the start when I walked up to the guy at the customs counter and he spoke he spoke perfect English to me, I knew I was in for a treat. I will tell all later, but I wanted to give a top ten of the things I loved about today. So, here I go...

Top ten things that made Hong Kong awesome:
1. Every Asian person I spoke to spoke English.
2. I ate cheese.
3. I sat down at a table with a fork and knife already on the table.
4. I found shoes that fit me (it seems that China carries nothing above a 44).
5. The lights on the buildings were in sync with the music during the nightly "Symphony of Lights."
6. I had a Brooklyn Brewery beer.
7. I drank the beer right from the bottle.
8. I returned to China with only HK$1.40 (I love exchanging the right amount of money).
9. I got served ice in my water.
10. Everyone understood what I was saying...the first time!

It was a nice break from the past month of struggling with the language and differences in culture. Now I am feeling refreshed and ready for the next few months. Thank you Hong Kong!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Bike to Work Day

I hope you woke up this morning and decided to take your bike out and ride it to your job. Why? Because today is Bike to Work Day! Many cities around the US have organized events today, usually with free schwag to give away. I will admit that I walked to work today, since I have not gotten a bike in China yet.

If you didn't bike to work today, that is ok. Just try to make a conscious decision today to save energy or reduce waste, since that is what this day is about...Awareness!

China stuff...
This past week in China has been great, as all the past weeks here have been. Monday was spent recovering from the weekend's soreness. Tuesday I went to dinner with some local foreigners to a place they call "Chicken Street." This street was lined with people selling things on skewers. I picked out few different meats, some lotus root, potatoes, bread, greens, and a green pepper. I asked for it "hot". They brought everyones food together in one big tray. I ate chicken feet pads, some kind of tongue with soft bone separating each piece, and washed it all down with some cold brew. I will definitely be back there soon.

The rest of the week I have had lunches with my co-workers and I even attempted to cook last night. However, my plug-in stove would not work. So, the cooking will have to wait till that gets sorted out.

Shaun is coming to town. We are planning on doing a little sightseeing near my town and go to a BBQ. Next week I am off to Shenzhen in southern China. I will get to spend a day in Hong Kong too!

P.S. Seth and everyone at his bachelor party this weekend...have a great time! I am sorry I am missing this event. See you all in August!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

R.I.P: Raiford's

After countless good times and memories (actually, I probably don't remember everything that happened), Raiford's in Memphis has closed its doors. I was lucky enough to visit this place one last time in March.

For those of you who don't know, Raiford's is a disco club. However, it was unique in many ways. It was small, off the beaten path (actually next door to the Memphis projects), always had groovy beats, and stayed open late. The dance floor lit up and was surrounded by mirrors and fog machines, with a pole for the more adventurous dancers. There was a drum kit to play on and plush couches to sit on. You could bring your own liquor or just buy the $6 40oz beers they offered. Yes, only 40 oz beers were sold. Many people, including myself, will miss Raiford's and the inevitable 5am stop at CK's that followed on the way home.

Videos & Pics from Shanghai and Hangzhou

I wanted to catch up on some material that I have taken over the past couple of weeks. As of today, I have three more months in China. The time is flying by so quickly. Click on the picture below to see some pictures of Hangzhou. This is a great looking city...full of trees, parks, and water. These pictures were taken on a day I went there for work. Below the text are some videos that show some of the scenery of city life. They are not too exciting, but give you a little taste of China.

Hangzhou

The weekend...
This past weekend was very busy. After dinner on Friday, I went to my second expat bar. If you don't know, these bars are where expatriates (working foreigners) go to hang out with each other. A bunch of locals got on stage and jammed a bit, which was nice. I woke up the next day and did not want to move! However, by noon I was up and off to meet a co-worker for some soccer. We took his scooter. I had been wanting to ride on one anyway, so this was perfect. He even let me drive it a little. We played soccer and then basketball. This was the first time in my life that I was the tallest person on the team and the first time that I can say that I "skooled" someone else in basketball (probably the last time too). It was great!

Sunday the fun continued with a couple of games of softball. When I arrived at China's official baseball park in Wuxi, I quickly realized it had been years since I played baseball. My team, Wuxi Life, won our games, but no thanks to me. I managed to make contact with the ball twice out of four times at bat, but was quickly gotten out each time. I will work on it a little before next weekend, so that I may contribute more than a warm body on the field.

Finally, in the food department I have recently tried pigs feet and chicken feet. I would eat the pigs feet again, but the chicken feet just didn't do it for me. I keep trying to put myself out there and experience China. Trying foods has never been a strong point of mine, but I constantly remind myself to go for it!

Now for the videos...
This video was taken from one of the many walkways in Shanghai that go around all four corners of the street. They require you to walk several stairs to get up and down them, but you don't have to worry about all the traffic below.



This video shows one of the many parks in Hangzhou. This city is within 1.5 hours of Shanghai. I really like the place. I hopefully will return to see a few more things there before I return to the States.



This last video shows the morning commute in Hangzhou. I love seeing all the bikes. The scooters in China are required to be battery powered. While electricity is not generated in a clean way, at least you are sucking in the fumes of the person's bike right in front of you. Enjoy!!