At the moment I am up in the air and about 5 hours away from touchdown in Tokyo, Japan. I’m heading out to our Japan offices for a number of client meetings, including some key sales enablement presentations.. At the moment, I’m amazed that I even have my laptop open in these horribly small seats (yeah, no upgrade today) – but if I’m not able to get some sleep, I might as well work.
I’ve noticed that my blogging skills (and actual postings) have been a little lacking lately – much due to the tradeoff of work and family balance (…can’t justify a blog entry on customer analytics, when my son is asking to play chutes and ladders on a Saturday afternoon) – but per one of my goals of this year, I’m going to make a more consolidated effort to document my travels, thoughts and communications. I have over 30 hours of HD footage from my stay in Nanning, China last May, and I only just offloaded it off of my camera. Sad.
One of the changes on the horizon will be the location of the blog. At the moment I’m using the free wordpress.com site to host my blog and other ramblings. In the near future, I will be moving to my own server to maintain a more granular control over the site, as well as create a portal for more interesting endeavors (not sure what they are yet, but the option is there)
The second of the upcoming changes will be the introduction of video media. Words only take us so far, …and well lots of this stuff that I talk about on a daily basis would be drastically assisted by some examples, live action and at least a diagram or two. We will see how this pans out, but bear with me as I migrate through the transition.
Lastly, for the purpose of my personal blog, I’m going to look to expand and alter my scope. To this point in time, I’ve become a bit stale trying to blog about technologies that I market, discuss and present all day, every day… So we will mix it up a bit to keep it fresh and include more intersections of day to day life, travels and customer experience – yet all supporting the drive for making better decisions. Will see where it ends up.
Not everything has to be some uber techo architecture manifesto when you talk analytics or big data – and I will attempt to maintain a simple, tangible approach where I can.
On to the hours of presentation, meetings and translations, yet need to try and get some sleep in on this flight – else I will be awake for 48 hours and I’m unfortunately not 18 years old any more – will make for an interesting business dinner upon my arrival.
The last time that I was in China was in 2007, right before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. At that time, Beijing was undergoing a complete overhaul both physically and culturally. The country (and organizations) were pouring money into economic development – especially into construction projects. I can still remember the sea of scaffolding spread across the city.
With the new, out goes the old – and in concert with this change for modernization comes a destruction of sorts of the old culture. The hutongs of Beijing were being bulldozed to make way for new and more modern buildings and neighborhoods. Some hutongs still remain, but are shadowed by a sea of high-rises across the city. All things must at some time change, but we must make sure to preserve what we can from our history and our heritage. (China has now begun to preserve them)
Since I wrote last, I’ve moved from the tourist mode to the data warehousing marketing work mode in Beijing.
I have never been to the IBM office in Beijing, but had a number of meetings scheduled on my way over to Nanning for my Corporate Service Corp assignment. I have recently gotten better at navigating the subway in Beijing (although it is a bit jarring being the only foreigner on the train) and decided to use it to get to the marketing office at Pudong Plaza.
Getting out of the subway, I was greeted by the 2008 Olympic Park and the giant birds nest-like stadium that became so famous. It was very cool to see all of these buildings that were so commonplace in the media – yet in reality these buildings were all much larger in person.
Turning to my left, once into the Olympic Park – I was able to see the very unique IBM building at Pudong Plaza. The main (and satellite) office buildings are built to look like a Chinese dragon, moving along the earth. This was very cool – and to think that this was where I would be holding meetings this week.
The meetings and enablement activities actually went very well. I understand the financial importance of virtual meetings, but there is something to be said about face to face – especially when you are using different languages. On the phone, we would be disconnected – not always sure that we understand one another, but after these meetings – I came to realize that just one meeting in person would have staved off much chaos and confusion. Perhaps I need to quantify the opportunity cost of it all.
At the end of the week, I met with one of our premier business partners at their office in Beijing. This partner, ADM, has been successfully building (and selling) their own custom business analytics solution on top of our Smart Analytics System 5710 in the China market. We had recently agreed to work on a series of case studies and videos together and I was stopping by to meet with them to brainstorm on the concept – and gain final approval.
It had been since my trip to Tokyo, Japan last year that I had to use a translator for a meeting – But the translator was one of our own lab services employees and did a wonderful job making the discussion as seamless as possible. I know that the month in Nanning will require even more assistance from a translator (a team of 8+ university interns to be exact) – but I’m starting to get irritated that I am completely helpless with the Chinese language. I need to figure at least a portion of this out to communicate.
I’m on the flight now to Nanning (China Air got WAY better since last time) and I’m not sure what to really expect. Beijing had grown into a very accessible, very major city from the last time I visited. Will Nanning offer the old China? The type of China that we read about as children with tea plantations, wonderful cranes and array of beautiful nature and scenery? (No offence to Beijing – but you are a very ‘concrete’ city)
Very excited for the unknown. Very excited for this adventure.
Here is a clip on Guilin from the Guangxi Autonomous Region – in the same area where I will be for the CSC program
Right off of the bat, I have to admit that the full first night sleep in a plush, oversized bed was divine. It was so refreshing that the first thing that I did on this Sunday morning here in Beijing was head to the gym for an hour on the treadmill. This may have been my mental demise for the rest of the day as with my biological clock not necessarily in check, I started to fade fast throughout the day.
I met up with my cousin, Liz (and her friends) quite early in the day. Crazy to think that one of my relatives was out here for a fun trip, but very cool to have the opportunity to see the city together.
At 10am I was in the Silk Market being accosted by hoards of Chinese women pushing silk scarves and an assortment of fake products at me. Usually I would be invigorated at the frenzy of negotiation and noise, but today I was tired, …reserved, and overly passive. I just kind of smiled at it all. I wanted so bad to hit the watch counter – but I could not muster the strength to bargain.
Liz had been here for over a week and was in the throngs of it all. Her and her friend Ali were playing off one another to grab better and lower deals. They did well. Yet I could do better. I was the master at this . Yet for some reason, I was DOA.
We toiled around a bit more in the market and then hightailed it to their other friend’s apartment and then off to the local food market.
This food market was a new experience for me.
I have been to open air markets around the world – from domestic farmers markets in Pennsylvania and North Carolina to famous markets in Greece, Spain and Singapore. Two things stood out for me in this market that surprised me.
- The amount of beautiful fresh produce that I would not have expected for a Beijing market. Absolutely beautiful array of colors and selection of fruits and vegetables. Add to that the stalls that had fresh noodles. (durian and mangosteens in full effect – still need to try them both… Hopefully Nanning will deliver)
- The lack of refrigeration for the meat shops. Birds, beef, pork and lamb were opened up, butchered and spread across wooden counters… Fresh, yes – looked great. Yet, the shelf life had to be about 24 hours. It was warm in there and I had to keep forcing my self to forget that I most likely would be noshing on food that was butchered and sold in this manner. It was cool to see blue hens on display (random)
I unfortunately have no pictures of the establishment, but we hit up a dumpling house for a late lunch snack. Phenomenal. I’m actually craving the condiments more than anything else – Fresh garlic, dried chili in oil and an assortment of soy and vinegar to douse in. After the dumpling orgy, we hit up a Chinese shoe store. I looked and looked and could not find an 12 or 12 and ½ size shoe anywhere in sight. Crazy women’s shoes galore, but no Men’s past the 10 or 11 mark. (I would have to import my shoes if I lived here)
A great close to the night was a trip for some Peking Duck. Years ago when I was in Beijing, we visited Li Qun for a rustic, yet delicious meal. This place (name missing) was on the spot as well. An actual highlight was the Chinese eggplant – I could swear the there was Ketjap Manis in it (Sweet Soy Sauce). All in all a great meal and a great night – with locally brewed Swartzbier to boot (another killer highlight).
As I wished my cousin good bye (her trip had come to an end) I started to get that feeling I was expecting from the start. It’s great to have family and friends when you head out on a trip, but it does add to the withdrawal when you hang out with them when you first land for a day. You get used to having camaraderie – and then hits harder when you walk out in the street and realize that you are the outsider. You understand that you are alone.
Heading to Nanning with the CSC crew will most likely curb this feeling – but it is important to point out. Taking the subway to the office alone in Beijing during rush hour is a different kind of experience. The sheer number of people is one thing, the fact that you yourself are the spectacle is another.
As stated in the last travel post, you have to learn how to adapt pretty quick here. I have been fortunate enough to have been reading Scott Seligman’s book “Chinese Business Etiquette’ before and during this trip. This has saved me a number of times already – and I will most likely quote certain sections over the next month.
It’s closing in on mid-late week and I have a moving meeting with a major business partner – as well as a presentation/seminar with the local team here in Beijing. Day one felt long, yet now that I have become a bit more comfortable, I sense the days just whizzing by. I’ll try and post prior to leaving for Nanning and my CSC assignment on Friday, yet the next two days are chocked full of work activities so not really sure at this point. Time to clock off.
In postscript – Uber fast internet at the hotel here has allowed for great video chat (FaceTime) with the family. This is something rather new to me travelling internationally (quality of it all) and it totally reduces the strain of being away. I surely hope that this works for the time in Nanning as well.