Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Little Emperor

I’ve had occasion to tell this story a few times on my trip, so
perhaps it is of general interest. I promise it ties back to China!

When Daphne was born, she was the first baby on either Rosie’s or my
side of the family, and as such, she was admired by all the adults in
her life (myself included) with an intensity somewhere between
adoration and worship. At family gatherings, she would sit in the
middle of the fawning adults, sucking on a teething ring and soaking
in the attention with relish. She thought that she was the center of
the universe, and why not? All the external evidence in her life
suggested that this was the case. Look, I’ve known some really nice,
well adjusted "only children," but I’ve met a pretty high percentage
of them that never deviated from the core set of beliefs that were
being inadvertently learned by Daphne at that stage.

Of course, you know the rest of the story. Rosie and I put a stop to
her little gravy train by quickly producing James. As for most newly
sibling-ed children, it was a bumpy transition for Daphne, as she
discovered that her universe suddenly had at least two gravitational
centers. And soon afterward that the other gravitational center
seemed to like poking her, getting his way, grabbing her stuff.

This is what I was thinking about today as I toured the “Forbidden
City.” It is seriously impressive in both its scope and detail, both
of which you can get a sense of from this picture overlooking the
palace complex (friends Jenifer and Alison also pictured).

There are so many palatial dwellings that an emperor set aside one of
them specifically for, and I kid you not, “Doing Nothing.”

So back to my kids – imagine that instead of providing a sibling to
shatter Daphne’s natural perception of entitlement, we provided her
with unlimited resources, a couple square miles of buildings and staff
to attend to her, and told her that, in fact, she was a god.

Isn’t that basically what happened with a bunch of Chinese emperors?
Extensive, MBA level research (OK, one or two Google searches) turned
up that kids as young as two were crowned the lord of all they could
see. Do you see any potential mental health issues there?

Hey, I understand that when these very young emperors ascended to the
throne it was a move on their relatives’ part to maintain power, but
still, you see my point, right?

One of the topics that has been coming up in both our class and
informal discussions regarding possible futures of China is the
one-child policy. Apparently, due to a combination of incessantly
doting parents and relatives and limited exposure to the severe
poverty from which the previous generation emerged, many of the latest
generation of Chinese youth expect to be taken care of, and well. I
talked to a Chinese mother today who said that she “Can never say no
to her daughter,” and though it was said with a hint of a joke, the
message was clear – their roles were set a long time ago and weren’t
going to change now, even if that meant the mother was still showing
up to clean and cook on a regular basis for what should have been an
independent woman in her late 20s.

In other areas of Chinese life, factory workers are becoming much less
satisfied, and expect to be treated more deferentially by their
bosses, in stark contrast to the previous generation who were merely
grateful to be employed. This trend seems to be a contributing factor
in the rapidly increasing wage demands and perhaps even the wave of
suicides seen in some Chinese based facilities over the past several
months. When you think about it, it’s one of the grandest social
experiments ever created: We’re about to find out what havoc,
creativity, and individuality an entire generation of relatively
affluent "only children" can unleash on the world.

Oh and by the way, the kids that fit the description above have a
nickname in China: “Little Emperors.”

One more thing – has “forbidden” ever been a bigger misnomer in the
history of massive tourist attractions? How about the "Formerly
Forbidden City" instead?

Love from Beijing,


Monday, June 28, 2010

The Internal Tourist

I spent the weekend in Beijing.

You might rightly expect me to list the interesting and culturally
relevant activities. Indeed, there is a natural flow of sharing
“vacation” photos and stories that focuses on the externalities of the
experience. Though they are the focus of our discussions and plans,
are these objects and locations really the reason for travel?

That was a rhetorical question, don't actually answer it. I'm on a roll here.

No, the externalities of travel are what we talk about, and are
necessary to the story (don’t worry, I won’t forget to work them in!)
but the reason that people enjoy travel is fundamentally different. I
think people who enjoy travel do so to experience personal growth and
change. This has been somewhat of a theme throughout my blog during
this trip, the question of whether someone else’s travel is inherently
interesting or not. I wonder how much of what makes something
vicariously interesting has to do with how deeply the story teller has
been moved. Often the stories we remember and have the most impact on
re-telling are small in scope – an interaction with a street vendor
can resonate more than a visit to a wonder of the ancient world.

One of which, by the way, I visited yesterday (Sunday).

Hey, don’t get me wrong, but I couldn’t help but get the feeling as I
ascended up the long set of stairs to reach the famous fortification
that I was only the latest in a line stretching into history of
millions of people wanting to check this item off their life’s list of
things to do, and I felt grateful. It truly was a wonder.

But what is not pictured and is much harder to explain is the
cumulative effect that my time here is shaping my internal landscapes.
How can one visit the “The Temple of Heaven”

or the silk and pearl market (note – standard rule is to offer 1/10 of
the asking price and move up about 5% from there. Ah, haggling. I’d
forgotten how much I enjoy it.)

and remain unchanged in some small way

These many small changes, but when taken as a group they are what make
it hard and sometimes tedious to answer the “how was your trip”
questions once the traveler returns.

And to be sure, the time that I’ve spent in this remarkable, ever
shifting China, combined with the experience of traveling alone and
then with a amiable, surprising, and diverse group of peers, has
changed me in numerous small ways. It is amazing what capacity travel
has to make me feel like a tourist in my own heart and mind in
parallel with the alien world I have been exploring. I hope you all
still like me when I get back!

PS – Yes, I am also learning things about supply chain management and
marketing strategy, if you were wondering.
PSS – I guess what it all boils down to is molding a well-mannered imagination.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Guangzhou Wrap Up

I've tried to write this blog with a very simple presupposition: The
fact that I'm in China is not in and of itself, noteworthy. To that
end, I've tried to share things that I felt were of general interest,
or perhaps had nuggets of potentially enlightening observations about
cultural differences, or failing all else, were just funny.

The last few days in Guangzhou were extremely fun, but sadly, not much
has risen above the general fray to be “blog-worthy," as they pretty
much just demonstrate the already obvious fact that - "Pete is in

Sure I may have taken a walk in the middle of a raging Typhoon
(buddies Josh and Mark pictured),

Gotten my head massaged within an inch of my life (I may have actually
lost a years worth of education during this session)

Played Foosball with some delighted and giggling Chinese store clerks:

and visited a Chinese art museum,

but the overall significance of these events is minimal, other than
that my internal stress meter has been slowly but steadily declining
as the week rolls on.

Really the most interesting and satisfying thing in the last week has
been getting to know the people. This week has proved the general
rule that the easiest way to coalesce a diverse group into a cohesive
and friendly unit is to put them in a situation where their
similarities are far more apparent than their weaknesses. A cliche?
Perhaps, but if you're criticizing this blog at that level then your
expectations are too high!

Miss you all back home, and I'll report back on a very interesting
first day in Beijing soon. Here's my new friend Fiona and I prepping
for Beijing on the bus ride to the airport. First person to comment
with an observation of what's wrong with this picture gets a prize.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Please Welcome, Mr. Obama.....'s Brother. Well, half brother. Come on, it's for the kids! AAAAGH WHATS THAT IN THE WATER!!!

Today was quite a bizarre day, and I think I need to blog about it
just to help me digest the information. And if it helps me digest
some of the Chinese food that's currently gurgling around my stomach,
so much the better.

But first, the mundane. The day started with not one, not two, but
THREE case studies. For those of you who aren't familiar with this
standard business school teaching tool, a case study is like a
combination of a story that doesn't have an ending, with a problem
that doesn't have an answer. My tolerance for case studies is pretty
limited (about two per week is my maximum allowable dose) which is
probably why I spent a good deal of the morning staring straight ahead
into space, feeling my mental gears grinding. Thankfully by the end
of the lecture, the gears meshed and I gained a firm grasp of the
obvious. By stating the same in a thoughtful way, I notched my
participation credit for the day. To my delight, the lecture ended
with the staple of business school diagrams: a box divided into
quadrants with non-quantitative axises. As a scientist, it always
strikes me that while there's something useful about organizing
information this way, it is also deeply silly. For your enjoyment
I've prepared an example chart:

Anyway, on to bigger and better things. Our next stop was the
Guangzhou Children and Women's Hospital, located here in the city.
Whatever you are imagining about what a hospital in China might look
like, this was NOT it. Brand new. Spotless. State of the art. I was
blown away. Other than the fact that we were the only white people in
the facility (moving in a clumsy, chattering pack, much to the dismay
of the nurses) you would swear you were in the United States. Also,
babies are cute in any country. Since no one would put up with them
if they weren't, I suppose it is a cross-cultural necessity. Here's
me kissing a particularly large one:

The hospital tour combined with observations of their state of the art
public transit, sparkling and utterly smooth new freeways, and
innumerable skyscrapers being simultaneously erected brought home a
depressing point for me today: China is kicking our butts.
Seriously, when's the last time a large new building went up in
Portland? What major upgrades are we doing for our infrastructure?
Where will our scientists and engineers for the next 50 years come
from, as the number of home grown graduates in those fields continues
to diminish? Sigh.... Maybe I should have enrolled Daphne in a
Mandarin immersion school.

Bleak musings aside, the hospital president was a friend of our trip
facilitator, Linda, and he invited us to eat dinner at his expense
after the tour was complete. I can honestly say that it was the best
cafeteria-style Chinese meal I've ever eaten in the basement of a
children's hospital, regardless of the continent. It was pretty good,
actually, though I ate far too many "Li-Chees" (a grapish fruit with a
hard spiky red shell).

Finally, the president of the hospital invited us to a concert at the
Guangzhou symphony hall, again on his dime. Always suckers for free
entertainment, we of course obliged. Oddly (cool-ly?) our seats were
BEHIND the orchestra, giving us a unique vantage point on the music.

Though Guangzhou may be kicking our butts in construction and
infrastructure, I'm happy to report that they still haven't caught up
to the Portland Symphony Orchestra. Many of the players (maybe as
high as 30%) looked to be just kids, 25 or younger. While they
certainly were not bad, there were obvious problems with both pitch
and time throughout, which really surprised me. Also, I saw something
that I have never seen before outside of a kids piano recital. The
conductor, a pompous and spastic chap of 30 years, was openly peeved
when a small child started crying and had to be removed from the
audience. His response? He stopped the orchestra (maybe 90 seconds
into the song), and stared at the now empty exit where the shamed
parent and offspring had fled. After satisfying himself that the
offending child would not return, he gave a disdainful and showy shake
of the head and RESTARTED the song from the beginning. What makes
this especially distasteful is the fact that the entire concert was a
charity fund raiser to support medical treatment of...

wait for it...

small children! Nice job Mr. Epileptic Conductor Guy, I hope you felt
proud of yourself.

The next performer on the agenda was solo pianist, MR. OBAMA! Ok, it
was Mark Obama the president's half brother who lives in Shenzen, a
region close to Guangzhou and Hong Kong. This did not stop him from
carrying himself in quite a presidential if awkward way, possibly due
to the fact that in all of his promotional material and in person he
is never seen without a jaunty half-bandana around his head. He was
quite a good piano player, and pounded through several really
hard-sounding Rachmaninoff sonatas in a competent if somewhat choppy
fashion, but the whole thing was a little weird. Is he a celebrity?
If so, was he famous in this region before his half-brother ascension
to the throne of American politics?

The final performer of the night was a truly world class piano player
from Shanghai who's command of the instrument was mesmerizing, if
uninteresting to report. I can't find his name at the moment
unfortunately, but he did win the international piano competition put
on every year by Julliard, and has been a guest soloist with the New
York Philharmonic among other things.

Anyway, after the concert, due to our connection with the hospital
president, we got to meet Mr. Obama, who advised us somberly to "learn
the language of these people, and perhaps do some volunteer work,"
which he then followed up with "AND VISIT MY WEBSITE! IF YOU WRITE ME
AN EMAIL, I'LL GET BACK TO YOU SOON!" The whole thing was... just
very weird. I haven't quite put my finger on it but there was
something that I wasn't quite grasping about the situation something
perhaps unseemly about the way the Chinese were kowtowing to him,
hoping for influence in the white house or something. Or maybe we
just don't have enough social protocol built up around how to treat

Oh, and one more thing. Before the concert I'm about 95% sure we saw
a severed human hand in the river.

Good night everyone!


Monday, June 21, 2010

Having Some Class

The "blog" for me is a fundamentally frustrating form of expression,
which is probably why I don't do it much. I find myself bursting with
observations and stories, humorous and otherwise, that I
simultaneously want to share, but would not be comfortable with
everyone in my life reading. I don't keep a regular blog for the
same reason that I don't keep a diary - it can only come back to haunt

So anyway, one of the things that I enjoyed most about traveling alone
last week was a freeing ability to express to you (the folks back
home) what I was thinking in a moderately unfiltered way. It was
exceedingly unlikely that the chef who served me tacos instead of
quesadillas will ever know that he was exposed as a mexican-culinary
fraud on my webpage, especially since it's banned in China.

Now that I'm back where I belong, as one member in a herd of awkward
and befuddled Americans instead of an isolated case, my postings must
necessarily become a little more reporting and a little less
reflective. Why am I typing all this? Probably because it's nearly
midnight and my stomach is doing backflips after a delicious but
exotic chinese meal, and also because I don't really plan these
writings, they mostly just spill out of my brain when I sit down at
the computer. Pretty much like writing a term paper, now that I think
about it.

So anyway, today was our first day of class, in Guangzhou. As
required, a humorous english/chinese miscue leads off the day:

After a morning of lecture on supply chain basics, we headed off to
tour one of Guangzhou's major ports, which while interesting, was a
lot smaller than I thought it would be:


Ok, visual gags aside, here is my roommate Rajeev and me out by the
container-crane-lifting things at the full size version.

Finally, here's a portion of the herd as we take in the city from a
nighttime harbor cruise.

The students I've met have been very nice. The course work is
enlightening and practical. The resulting blogs are quite bland.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

A Free Saturday

Hi again, and thanks to everyone who's commented on my writings so far - it helps me feel more connected to home to share some of my experiences.

A few months ago, one of my professors offered the following question as an icebreaker: "What would you do with a free Saturday?" Addressed to a room full of MBA students most of whom had families and all of whom had full time jobs, this question went over like the proverbial lead balloon.

And yet, today it happened! Sure, I was in Lianyungang, in the Jiangsu province of China. Sure I don't speak a lick of Mandarin (well I can say "hello" and "thank you" I suppose). But still, it was
Saturday. And with work done for the week, class work already prepped, and house/yardwork a geographical impossibility, I was Free!

As I ate breakfast, I pondered my choices. As best I could tell, my options were:

1. mope around the hotel all day, watching movies on the edited-for-Asia version of HBO and catching up on world cup highlights.

2. Do something culturally enriching. Visit a museum, or just find out more about why Lianyungang is here at all and what historical intrigue it might be able to offer.

3. Find out if there was a golf course around, and try to play it. Those of you who know me well have no doubt which option prevailed.

At that point, since I've been blogging quite a bit (for me), I started framing the "golf" blog in my mind. I'd find some podunk little course, probably all 80 yard par 3s with the flag in the middle
of the fairway, and we'd all have a gentle laugh at earnest efforts of this Chinese semi-backwater city's attempts to emulate western luxury. Things started out according to plan, as the concierge seemed to never have heard of golf before, and it took a conference of about 5 people to finally write an address down on a card for me to hand to a taxi driver. The hotel employee's broken English comment as I left - "I very sorry. Golf new."

So imagine my surprise when I showed up and saw a championship level golf course 15 minutes outside of downtown.

The cab dropped me off at what I later figured out was the driving range and not the clubhouse, which led to mass confusion and another large huddle, with maybe seven people were involved in trying to figure out what I was there for. I'm getting pretty good at causing these conferences. Every once in a while they would come to a consensus and try something. They tried to give me range balls. They tried to give me a golf lesson. A little girl said "yellow" to me about a dozen times before I figured out enough to say "hello" back and ask her name. Finally, after I had pantomimed about 3 holes worth of golf swings, and pointed excitedly to the course itself, then
dragged some of the clubs available for rent toward a golf cart, we came to an understanding. Not only am I getting good at causing a scene I also am developing a knack for amusing these people with my "large clumsy smiling white guy" routine.

And so, the golf blog I had already composed in my head was summarily dismantled, as I played the most challenging, well maintained golf course I have ever encountered. I won't get into any golf details (even my wife would be bored by that. Well, especially my wife I guess!), but suffice it to say that I was chastened and humbled, but had a GREAT time. It may be the only time in my life that I play a course that nice, am the ONLY person playing, and have a cart and an actual caddy (Wu Tin, more about her later). Given that my google search of "lianyungang golf" turned up 0 hits, it was a pretty amazing result. I thought this picture captured something interesting about the aggressive building and taste for western luxury that I have seen in Lianyungang in general during my stay here.

One thing that I've learned in China (especially in the airports and hotels) so far is that the entire service industry is composed of 18-22 year old women, standing behind podiums saying "I don't know sir" and directing you to yet another girl behind a different podium, one after another until you finally give up in despair. These girls are accustomed to being harangued and harassed, and as a general rule look to be 50% bored and 50% miserable at all times. As a matter of survival in the airports, I learned that by simply smiling at them, and treating them like human beings, these service industry ball bearings suddenly became very helpful. Anyway, back to Wu Tin, my
caddie. For a few holes she was too scared to even talk to me, but after considerable effort (I probably called her a seven iron or something, trying to guess her name), we established knowledge of each other's names. Next we began exchanging the occasional high-five or
bummed out shake of the head (more head shaking than high-fiveing today I'm afraid) after a particularly notable shot. Near the end of the round, she stopped the cart and held up one finger in the universal sign for "I'll be right back" and ran into the bushes. I assumed she was relieving herself and pondered my next shot. When she came back, however, her hands and caddie-apron were full of fruit! She had run into the rough lining the course and picked us a snack!

It was not a round I will soon forget, and I hope that Wu Tin had a good story to share with her caddie buddies as well. I get the feeling big goofy white American guys aren't real regular customers at this establishment.

As fun as all this was though, the next "free Saturday" I get I want to spend with my wife and kiddos. Two more weeks to go until home. Tomorrow I head down to Guangzhou to start my first week of classes.

See you there!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I'll ask him for a title for next time

Here's another entry Pete emailed me today (click on images to enlarge...if you dare):

6-18-2010, 9PM
Location: Hotel in Lianyungang

Against all odds, I made it out of Beijing yesterday and arrived in
the coastal port city of Lianyungang last night around 10:30. Total
time in transit, 46 hours. Needless to say I slept pretty well last

I won't bore you with the details of my factory visit, other than to
show you the sign they put up in my honor (these never fail to both
flatter and amuse me)

but I will indulge in my first story in the "Oh those crazy Chinese,
what won't they eat next!?" genre.

After our business concluded for the day, the owner of the factory
asked me if I liked sea food. How does one handle a question like
this? I suppose if I had been feeling sneaky and a little less brave,
I could have begged off on account of extreme fatigue, or other plans
but instead I heard myself saying this damning phrase: "I love

And so, off we went for the most authentic and fresh Chinese style
seafood lunch you could ever hope for. On the way it was revealed
that they had offered the same opportunity to my boss (he visited
several weeks ago) but he was not able to make it due to his travel
schedule. Uh huh. I could almost hear him belly laughing at me from
across the pacific at my lack of foresight in avoiding this situation.

So here's how it worked. We drove to the harbor, which appeared
sickly and heavily polluted. Along the road were several
houses/seafood stands, each with an array of water tanks in front
housing live seafood. We stopped at one and my host proceeded to
point to a wide variety of squirming creatures as the rest of us were
escorted upstairs. I could tell that this was a real treat for them,
and it was a pretty cool concept. Doesn't get any fresher than that,

So I did fine with the whole-body shrimp (kind of crunchy with the
legs and everything), and honestly the mussels were about the best
I've ever had. So after an odd but satisfying meal of shrimp and
mussels I was ready to move on. Unfortuantely we were on course 2 out
of 7, and things did not improve from there.

The highlight - I asked our translator, Shen, what was in the salad
that I was eating, some kind of green peppers mixed with a thinly
sliced pink meat. She looked at me with a face that indicated her
vocabulary was failing her, and said "Creatures of the Sea." Luckily
I figured it out. See those pink things? Worm salad.

Anyway, that was 6 or 7 hours ago and I don't feel any food poisoning
setting in, so hopefully I escaped unscathed, and let the record show
that I tried every darn dish that came in front of me. At any rate I
was glad to request the "western" menu at the hotel restaurant tonight
and ordered a couple of bland things to settle my stomach and my
pallet. I started with a bowl of minestrone (which I don't remember
having a sweet & sour base before), and "Quesedilla"

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Update from Pete

I just got this email from Pete. Apparently the internet access is not so "forever blessed" in China. He got a 2 hr pass and that was it.

He's still stuck in an airport.

The email (sorry about the weird spacing):

Hey Baby,

Lost internet access. I don't think I'm going to make it out of
Bejing. No flights have left yet today. Uh oh.


Here's my blog entries - can you post them for me? China blocks
blogspot and facebook among other things.

June 17, 2010 8:04 AM (5:04PM Pacific)
Location: Bejing International Airport (terminal 2)

Why am I still in Bejing, you might be wondering? Shouldn’t I be
touring a factory in Lianyungang RIGHT NOW?


Let’s just say I got to see the dull dairy-cow staring en mass
today/yesterday as all my co-passengers and I were herded to and fro
like so many cattle. What started out as a simple little 11 hour
jaunt from Vancouver to Bejing turned into a 23 hour oddessey, 25
hours if you count the delays before we even got on the plane in
Vancouver. I won't go chapter and verse, but I'll hit the most
amusing highlights from a highly unusual plane trip.

1. In Vancouver, our flight was delayed for 2 hours due to
"non-functional water closets on the left of the plane," leading me to
crack wise - "Can the plane lift it's left wing? Maybe it's having a
stroke!" No noticeable chuckles. from my traveling companions, though
in my defense most of them didn't speak English. Turns out that the
movies/audio didn't work on that side either. I kept checking out the
window to see how that side's engine was doing.

2. After a movie-less eleven hour flight, we were relieved to
finally touch down. There was a long announcement in Mandarin, and a
groan which I assumed meant we would have to wait a few minutes on the
Bejing tarmac before offloading. The local time was about 6PM, so I
figured even though I had to change terminals, I could still catch my
connection to Lianyungang at 7:20PM. Even so, I was a little worried,
so I got up to try and plead my case for being let out a little early
leading to the following faux-Chinese Abbot and Costello routine
between me and a very baffled flight attendant (VBFA).

Me: I have a connection to Lianyungang at 7:20 - can you let me out a
little early please?
VBFA: The weather - Bejing is bad.
Me: Uh huh. I have a connection to make at 7:20, can you help me?
VBFA: (baffled) Bejing weather is not good.
Me: But we're already IN Bejing!
VBFA: (even more baffled). WEATHER BAD!
Me: (staring, baffled)
VBFA: (baffled)
Me: Ok. I'll just go sit down now.

Now, you might think I am an idiot, because you know the end of the
story, but I swear, at the time me and the other non-mandarin fluent
passengers thought we were in Bejing. Finally, a guy a few rows
behind me blew our minds by telling us we were in someplace called
Shen Yang. Hm.

3. Outline of the rest of the time:

• 2h go by. Still on tarmac in Shen Yang
• Instruction to gather our belongs and prepare to de-board, followed
by no less than an hour and a half of us all standing ridiculously
with our bags in the aisles, not moving.
• Instruction to put away our bags and prepare to take off. Wait 2 hours.
• Plane backs up 5 feet. Wait an hour.
• Instruction to stand up.
• Instruction to sit down (I swear I’m not making this up.)
• The plane was out of food by that point, so they brought us some
crackers with three layers – cracker/butter filling/cracker/lemon zest
filling/cracker. Gut-turning. As a more experienced traveler would
later tell me that night – “never eat a ‘filling’ in China.”
• Plane finally deboards, but they won’t let us leave the baggage
area, though they have supposedly arranged a hotel for us. At least
an hour goes by. Turns out there are about 30-40 passengers on the
plane without Chinese Visas, who CAN’T LEGALLY LEAVE THE CUSTOMS
CHECKPOINT. (Ala “The Terminal” with Tom Hanks).
• Finally, since these passengers can’t leave we REBOARD THE PLANE!
• Go back through security, I kid you not. I even got patted down.
• Wait.
• Fly to Bejing!! Arrive at about 5AM local time, vs. expected
arrival of 4PM the previous day.

So what was the weather situation? Never explained. My personal
feeling is that they were having mechanical problems (maybe on the
left side of the plane?), but we’ll never know. Thankfully, upon
landing the flight crew apologized “for any inconvenience.”

And THAT, my friends is why I am still in Bejing.

In case you were wondering.

PS – ticket counter where I modified my flight had a picture of Santa
on the wall, a full size glittery head. I didn’t inquire.

June 17, 2010 12:39PM
Location: Bejing International Airport (terminal 2)

Every flight since 7:30 this morning has been delayed due to
thunderstorms. Odds of things clearing up by 7PM for my flight seem

I told Rosie before I left that I thought this would be a growing
experience for me, fending for myself in foreign environment, but in
my heart I thought things would go pretty much according to plan.

Suddenly I’m starving for a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Pretty
sure I saw one back at terminal one…

(hurredly packing up stuff and heading for the tram.)

James' 1st Haircut

Hey, buddy, remember why we're here?

James, remember, you keep telling me, "Mommy, my hair won't leave my ears alone!"

Here we go!

Hair's on the table!

A lollipop for your trouble
Cheeeeese! (through lollipop)
Thanks, Miss Kookie. You were as great as your name!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Dull Stare of the Dairy Cow

June 15, 2010: 08:51 (pacific standard time)
Location: Portland International Airport

First, a confession: I don’t typically enjoy other people’s travel blogs. I think the reasons are compound, namely:

1. I’m jealous. There I said it
2. Uh…. Well, mostly reason 1.

I guess I could complain that its boring and monotonous to read about how my friends went to an exotic locale, ate “this,” saw “that,” had a “great time” etc, but the simple fact is pretty much just jealousy. So why would I write a blog while traveling in China for the next three weeks?

Maybe just to try and make you jealous!

First a little background. To finish my MBA I still need 12 elective credits. The program at PSU really believes that international experience is a critical piece of an MBA, so they motivate students to complete some of their course work overseas via the following carrots:

1. 8 credits in two weeks instead of three months.
2. Same price as taking the classes in Portland.

Not a lot of downside, other than time away from the family, and abandoning work in the middle of a high pressure situation that I helped create. (hm. I guess that’s a pretty heavy downside, but I digress).

My itinerary – first a little professional business, visiting a vendor in Lianyungong (6h drive N of Shanghai), then two days in Shanghai (hopefully going to visit the worlds fair), followed by a week in Guangzhou (my first class = “Supply Chains in China”), and a week in Bejing (second class = “marketing in China”).
So here we go.

I’m currently sitting in the Portland airport (may their free wifi be forever blessed) working on my “traveler” face. I like to think of it as the “dull stare of the dairy cow” (phrase courtesy of Gary Larson). It’s a look that says, “don’t worry about me. My soul died on the road a long time ago. Let’s all just go about our business. Four hour delay. No problem. I’m just existing through this.”

I perfected this look on a previous trip, a 27h start to finish odyssey to Ireland on business.

What!? My flight to Vancouver BC is delayed 30 minutes already!! ARRGH!

(sound of soul dying)

And… Traveler face locked in!

See you in China.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The End of An Era/Experiment

(from our May "Safety" Unit)

Our homeschool preschool co-op winds down this month. For various reasons, it was actually quite difficult to get the darn thing started last fall, and the group has morphed over time. Eventually it settled into a very small group - 3 little girls (and 2 younger sibs - James being the lone boy in all of this!), and the 3 moms rotated teaching one morning a week. We ran it like a real mini-preschool to the best of our abilities. Looking back, it was a great experience for us all and the girls really bonded. That was my main hope in this process - that Daphne would find close friends, and maybe pick up a few skills along the way. By this standard, I'd say the experiment was a rousing success.

Daphne's got one more year left before kindergarten and we decided to send her to a regular preschool this coming fall. But at least I was able to save hundreds on tuition this year, which makes my frugal heart happy :)

Meanwhile, I know that we will be seeing more of these girls this summer and beyond.