Saturday, November 3, 2007


Made it home just fine.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

China food update

All this food stuff has caught up with me. My stomach hasn't felt good the past few days. I think it was a salad I had on Wednesday. We're not supposed to eat any fresh greens, under-cooked eggs, or egg based sauces. (I've been eating Caesar salads whenever I can - I need fresh greens! I guess that was taking a chance.) Also we're not supposed to drink the water in many of the countries, especially China and Taiwan. (Both bacteria and pollution levels.) Now imagine how far you need to take that. You brush your teeth and rinse your toothbrush with bottled water. (We are creatures of habit so it can be hard to remember sometimes!) You need to wipe any water droplets off the outside of a water bottle because that won't be clean either. Always make sure you break the seal on the water bottle yourself because some places try to refill the bottle with tap water to save money. Also, salad is washed with tap water - and you know how hard it is to completely dry a leaf of lettuce before you serve it. Water droplets hide inside - so we are not supposed to eat any fresh greens. I've had salads but the one on Wednesday tasted just plain weird so I stopped. I think it caught up to me. It's just hard to sit in meetings when you don't feel 100%. I did get to eat an American burger this week. A friend from Connecticut that is living here took me out to dinner. The place was called "Malone's" and it looked like any sports bar in the US - complete with pool tables. The burger and fries were just like you'd get back home and the waitstaff spoke English. I was surprised at how much I felt myself relax once I stepped in. Good food, good company, western toilets! Just taking a break now. Meetings all day and then dinner and time to pack up.

Hot Chocolate fix

OK - I'll admit it. I bought American in Asia. I had a hard day so I walked down the street after dinner and got a hot chocolate from Starbucks. Ahhhhhhhh.

My day in Suzhou

My day... Didn’t sleep well last night. Had a stomachache. Hmmmm… could it be something I ate? I got up early because we needed to drive out of Shanghai to get to our plant that makes optical film. (It’s the stuff used on cell phone screens, big screen TVs, PDAs, etc.) I wanted to talk to some people there about the software they use. I’m in the hotel lobby by 7:30 AM and we get picked up by a local 3M China coworker and the IT manager’s driver who is going to take us to the plant today. We just leave the hotel and our car has a collision with a motorcycle. The rider goes down. He was scraped up and will definitely feel it tomorrow, but I don’t think he was seriously injured. Fortunately the traffic in Shanghai is a much slower speed so accidents don’t cause as much injury. (Can you believe Shanghai drivers do not like to drive in St. Paul because the driving speed is faster?) I just want to say that the traffic here is INSANE! I wanted to jump out of the car and see if he was OK but I knew that would only complicate the situation. So I sat in the car. Not a great way to start the day. The other thing is that the Asian people really want to please their visitors. If you say you would like something, you will usually get it – they will find a way. So when I mentioned that I didn’t get to see any Chinese gardens over the weekend, they wanted to make sure I did not leave China without doing so. And, we were going to Suzhou today – it has the most famous gardens in the area. This took a bit of rearranging of the schedule and a couple of times I told them it was not that important, we didn’t need to do all this. They insisted it was no trouble. So the plant tour was moved to later in the day and we had free time until 11:00 AM when I had to present to the leadership team for the plant. Everyone said it “only takes an hour” to get from Shanghai to Suzhou. We even got up a little early to miss the core rush hour. Nobody mentioned it would take an hour to get out of Shanghai. So it was about 9:15 and we reach the city of Suzhou – and run right into a traffic knot. Add to this that neither the driver, nor the 3M person had ever even been here before, and you have a mess. (Plus, my stomach still didn’t feel right. This didn’t help.) They didn’t know the way to the gardens, they didn’t know the way to 3M, and they didn’t know how bad the traffic was. There was construction everywhere; roads, buildings, sidewalks, you name it. The pollution was so bad my eyes hurt and I got a sore throat – in the car. The guys asked for directions to the gardens about 5 times. I finally told them (again) that it was NOT that important and we could just go to 3M. No, “we’re almost there – it’s no big deal.” So we finally arrive. I ask how long it takes to get to 3M from here and was told we could spend at least 45 minutes in the garden. But remember – they don’t know where 3M is! I said 30 minutes max. They protested, but I was not going to risk being late to my own presentation. So, 30 minutes. We cruised through. Locals say ideally you should spend a full day there to really experience it. I agree. I would have loved to. The last thing I wanted was to go to such a beautiful place and be shown around hastily by a stressed out coworker. Oh well. It was still beautiful. I have sprinkled the pictures throughout this blog to add a little beauty to a stressful day. We leave, drive around, ask for more directions, and finally get to the plant at 10:50. I have 10 minutes to set up. From here the day continued in the same manner. The projector in the scheduled conference room didn’t work. We changed rooms. The video cable didn’t work. Finally get it all running. Present to a bunch of managers who looked like they had never seen a young lady (no arguments, please) from corporate St. Paul present at Suzhou before. Plus, I was asking their opinion. I wanted to know what they needed. This is definitely not the norm here. We had to drive about 20 minutes back into downtown to eat because there was no place close and the plant manager did not want us eating cafeteria food. (They call it a canteen, not a cafeteria.) Drive. Eat. Drive. I did realize today that I don’t even think twice now about tentacles coming out of my noodles. (Boy - THAT is definitely a weird sentence!) After that I met with some plant employees. The highlight of my day was meeting a person I’ve been working with for the last 4 years – all by email. His name is Chris, and I know by working with him that he has very little English skills and uses coworkers and electronic translators to type in English. He never types more than a few words or a couple small sentences. The best example is when he won an award earlier this year and I sent him an email to congratulate him. I received the following response… “It is no deal that is big. It is as children playing.” (No big deal. It’s child’s play.) So I finally met Chris and he’s a wonderful guy. We definitely needed a translator though. He was nice AND he would talk openly and laugh. (Many of the employees in China are quiet and shy with me – an American female that ranks higher than they do. Remember – rank is everything here.) Next a tour of the plant. This is a 100% clean-room environment so we had to suit up from head to toe. Now THERE’S a picture I bet you would like to have. (You’re not getting one.) Not one bit of skin showing through the outfit. I got to see how all the film was made, cut, and inspected. This threw me right back into my old engineering days – this is what I used to do. So, I felt right at home half way across the world. Now we’re driving back and expect it to take several hours. At least I was able to cancel our dinner engagement tonight so maybe I can have a few minutes of quiet before I go to bed. Tomorrow is my LAST day at the office in Asia! Can you believe it? I’m almost done. I sent Andy this sad little letter the other day saying I wasn’t sure I could make it. I’m really worn out. Hope you enjoyed the pictures of “The Humble Administrator’s Garden”. It really was beautiful. I would like to come back someday. Now what? I’ve told you about my day in great detail and still have a long way to drive and tons of laptop battery left. But I won’t bore you – I’ll let you go. One day left one day left one day left. Love you! Bye.