^ +1 Thx Luke
I went into this arrangement with a positive mental attitude and Boy Scout sense of expectations for adventure. To be clear, when I learned about the job back in May or June, they said to me that there will be some travel involve, probably more than 25% - and “do you have a problem with that?
” Without blinking I said “Where do I sign?
One other item that helped seed the path before me occurred completely by chance: Just weeks before I had updated the profile in Outlook
using a photo of me wearing a bright straw cowboy. The truth is - the full picture is of me dispensing beer from a keg in the stream with a big wide smiling grin – although for the profile I had cropped it down to a just headshot. Right; so in order to identify me at Pudong Int’l Airport – the travel agent used that same photo … which also became my ID photo at the job site.
Turns out the Chinese people love cowboy movies like we are into “Crouching Tiger/Hidden Dragon”, Kung Fu and Jackie Chan! They expect Americans to be colorful (although rudeness, like anywhere else is inappropriate). Here I yam wearing a ballcap with my ID badge and the Chinese I interact with fully expected me to be “cowboy”: It was an easy ice-breaker that allowed me to humanize our relationship and quickly become an effective team.
They’re expecting me to wear the cowboy hat when I return.
Weather may dictate which one I take, although I did bring the Seattle Sombrero by Outdoor Research – but never had a chance to wear it due to the topic heat. The search is on.
Morning sunrise of my first day. This is a wide panorama -> so stretch it!
More about my Hotel
I stayed at the Suzhou Shangri-La
, a 5-Star hotel only 7 years old as I understand, so everything is still quite new. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE … except for the plumber
… was top-notch, courteous, professional, and friendly. The plumber is never going to make my Christmas card list: I have two complaints to register whilst in China – the first was I did not cotton to the cafeteria-style food at the job site which IMO was worse than the Elementary School drivel we were forced to eat. Calamari-Day
was an exception, but the rest of the time it was almost gross with phatty mystery meat choppings full of bones. One day was so bad that I couldn’t tell if I was eating snake or spine; just never did figure out the type of critter – except it was previously extinct though resurrected for our culinary enjoyment.
The other item was my pesky bathroom shower which initially was ice cold, though within seconds became wicked hot. If you cranked it down to cold then you bought about 10 seconds of relief before going magma-hot. Alas, I tried to switch to the tub but its’ temperature range was locked in between Rocky Mountain frigid and Sub-Artic cold. The hotel tried thrice to fix the problem which only made it worse each time. I resorted to Navy Boot-Camp training; 2-minute showers with a mop-bucket of cold water: Done.
Air pollution is pretty bad, and I thought after a few days that was the cause of the ache in my chest, like the remains of a cold. This condition cleared out within a day of return to rainy Seattle. The worst of the pollution was experienced on the exit ride to the airport via Shanghai: It’s still early morning on a Saturday, visibility is about 7 miles for the majority of the 2-hour ride. Then we went through a section of downtown (or one of the downtowns) of Shanghai and I noticed the skyscrapers were empty and the visibility reduced to just a couple of miles. Then the headache began, combined with itchy burning eyes. After about 10 minutes we exited out of that part of the city – clearly heading towards the airport and the burning eye problem ceased, although I had mild migraine symptoms that lasted for days afterwards and couldn’t take enough Ibuprofen to knock it back.
Absolutely beautiful at night! Panorama ->
The Hotel staff brought me two papers nearly every day: Shanghai Daily
, and China Today
– both in English. On the shuttle to work we had Internet TV morning and night that displayed CCTV News
in Chinese presented in long monolog-style reporting, although the video clips were in the native language. Generally the stories broken down into this order: What President Xi Jinping did today, optionally what the Premier Li Keqiang did, China & Japan rivalry over a tiny dot of land in the sea, some internal matters that could include serial murders, bombers, money-launders –> serious crimes against the state, finally way down the list we get to Syria and the United States.
Honestly by this time I’m a bit worn out from watching monolog and recycled video over and over in the same story that I just tune it out. Seems the United States is not well-liked by Upper Management, thus I came to calling CCTV -> “The Small Ruling Elites’ Peoples Propaganda Channel
” for the policies and tendencies of Government appeared out of step with The People on the Street
. But that’s just my take. I prefer not to say more least I have my Internet privileges revoked and become arrested for expressing contrary opinion. You can be certain the email I sent home to family refrained to obvious gruntled observations.
But that didn’t stop me from fomenting provocative independent thought with my new Chinese pals! I showed them pictures of home, played music for them (particularly the parody “Carrot Juice is Murder
” which seemed only to confuse them), and especially Youtube (I’ll probably get fired for saying that). Imagine if they had access to Netflix! Though more importantly – we talked about my ebike and their electric mopeds.
I also spent a good deal of time learning how to draw Chinese characters – of which I took to like a duck to water! So by the 4th week – I was beginning to “read” signage and recognize words/expressions. Having an interpreter (especially one that could keep up to my normal talking speed) was hugely beneficial and we learned as a whole together sharing (including colorful metaphors which were a lot of fun). The way to draw the characters is symbolic, there is a definitive stroke order, and the process tells a little story at the same time. Being artistic, a cartoonist and illustrator as the first real talent before I became an engineer, I got this in one
The Interpreter filled in the gaps. Soon our study sessions were crowded by my Team trying to learn English whilst they discussed the best character representation for my questioning. I have to tell you – Learning Chinese should be a separate thread! It is so much fun to work with happy people that also want to learn from you and through you with your perceptions, warts and all.
Small introduction to drawing Chinese
Language can tell us so much about a society. In this case, the Chinese language is directly traceable back 3500 some years. Words/Expressions are often constructed from basic symbols. They will contain ligatures that indicate the type of word/meaning + a pronunciation key. Examples:
Fire (火) looks like a man running with two torches, Water (水), Stream (流) has a common left-side ligature indicating it is associated with water, Insect (虫), Fish (鱼), Tree or Wood (木), Forest (森 or 森林 includes a lot more wood for larger size), Plant (植) is woody, Rice (米) is also woody, Man (男) is a combination of “Field” (田) + “Strength/Power” (力), Woman (女), People (人), Sky (天), Sun (日), Moon (月), Up (上), Down (下)
Here are a couple of fun combinations
- Bee (蜂). Notice the “Insect” ligature on the left; nearly all insect names will have this.
- Tomorrow (明天). Literally translates as “Sun Moon Sky” or “Sun Moon Heaven”.
- Elevator (电梯). This one cracks me up: The first symbol is “Electric”, and the 2nd is “Ladder”, however it too is a compound word that can be broken into “Wooden Little Brother”. Does this imply we used the backs of our little brothers to climb higher? Had a lot of fun with that one cos I’d often tell them I need to take the “Electric Wooden Little Brother” to get to a meeting.
- Hornet (马蜂). The first symbol is literally “Horse”, so the composition is “Horse Bee” meaning “a large bee”.
- China (中国). The first part I’m not entirely sure, although I can tell you that the 2nd part is explained like this: It’s the King (王) on his Throne inside his Castle (the box shaped “mouth” 口) with a piece of Jade (玉) at his feet.
- Chinese People (中国人). Can you figure it out?
I just found it to be a really neat culture, full of mystery and surprise, and I enjoyed my stay there exploring a new realm with friends.