Recommended Listening: Nightwish – “Creek Mary’s Blood” or “Ghost Love Score”
Well, I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen or not. Prior to my departure for Beijing, I told myself that I was going to be on my best behavior this trip, unlike last time. As I’ve mentioned previously, I had some experiences last time I was here. I was extremely lucky nothing happened, and isn’t something that I really wanted to repeat. Alas, I’ve been true to myself, and have behaved. I’ve had fun doing it as well. I’ve been here for 3 weeks as of yesterday. It’s gone by very quickly, and I’ve crossed the half-way point. From here on out, I have a few responsibilities to bestow upon the engineers here, and I will feel comfortable that I have done my job here. I have a big meeting on the electrical design tomorrow afternoon where I will more than likely just sit there and not provide any input until the engineers are done arguing… which is normally how it goes here. It’s not my argument, just my place to clarify and assist where needed. Always a fun experience.
Well let’s see, what’s gone on in the last few days since I posted last. During the week, it has been business as usual. The area of Beijing that I’m living in is called Shijingshan District, and one of the last traditional Chinese districts in Beijing. There is very little Western influence here. There’s a McDonalds, a KFC, and a Papa Johns. That’s all that I’ve found so far. When it comes to entertainment after work, I’m not in the mood to travel halfway across the city to try to find trouble to get into. For the last several days, I’ve been watching movies, watching Game of Thrones, and True Blood. You’ve gotta love counterfeit DVD shops that sell this stuff for dirt cheap. On Friday, I actually got out and about, and left the compound.
Since Thanksgiving week was extremely busy here with customers and vendors being in town for meetings, Paul (president of BWBC) postponed the annual expat Thanksgiving dinner until this past Friday. The venue: Morton’s of Chicago in the Hotel Regency, 2nd floor. The hotel is located in an area of the city where I’ve never really been. It’s one of the first areas that became Westernized by the influx of expats living here. The area also has A LOT of money. We left the apartments promptly at 5pm to begin the hour drive to Morton’s. There is no secret that traffic is horrible here. If this was Cleveland, it would take 15 minutes, max, to get to the hotel. Our reservations were for 630, so we had a little bit of time to kill when we arrived. As we walked in to the hotel, we were greeted by a bunch of people, and drink servers wandering everywhere. What kind of hotel is this? On the one side, there’s a platform set up with a microphone and lectern next to it. On the other side of the lobby, is a 25’ (or taller) Christmas tree. After a couple glasses of wine and some hor d’oeuvres, we learn that it’s the hotel’s big Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. Food and drink are free. We were tempted to skip dinner completely and just hang out down there instead! It was quite the spectacle, complete with carolers and an Asian Santa Claus. Unfortunately, they missed the memo that Santa isn’t 110 lbs, but hey, it’s the thought that counts right? Oh yeah, I forgot a crucial detail about this hotel… there’s a Rolls Royce dealership in the lobby. I wasn’t kidding when I said there was some money here. After the ordeal, we headed upstairs for dinner. The restaurant just opened on the 17th, so it’s not a real popular place yet, so other diners were spread out across the dining room. The food… amazing. I had a 500g Porterhouse steak, lobster bisque, and a crème brule that was beyond awesome. Walking out of the restaurant was a bit difficult after consuming all of the amazing food, but it was quite worth it. All 5 of us in the van fell asleep on the way back to the apartments. A good night indeed.
Yesterday, Fred and I scheduled a driver to take us around the city to do some sightseeing. We had a rough itinerary laid out of what we’d like to go, see, and do. First stop, Olympic Village. Note to self… wait until it’s warmer than 20 deg F to go walk around a wide open area that becomes a wind tunnel. The engineering behind the Bird’s Next is amazing. We walked around the outside of it, admiring the structure and design of it. Quite a design. We ventured inside to look around a bit more and see some of the exhibits they have placed around the 5th level from the Olympics in 2008. After we saw all that we thought there was to see, we took the stairs inside to marvel at the size of the stadium. There were construction noises going on inside, and we were curious to see what was going on. As soon as we stepped in, we saw a huge, man-made ski jump that was midway through construction. What in the world is going on here? After a quick bit of research this morning, I found that Shawn White is hosting a snowboard competition here on Dec 8th. Hmm… I’ll still be here on that weekend. I think I have to go to this… We toured around the Olympic Village a little more after this, but there wasn’t much to see outside of the buildings that hosted the events. Next up, food and warmth.
Our driver took us to the Sanlitun Village, which is the heart of Western Culture, and also the home of several awesome restaurants that help take your mind off of what country you’re currently residing in. The Union Grill is one of those restaurants that I used to frequent for a burger and fries. They also have Stone Pale Ale behind the bar too. A taste of home is always welcome. After a great meal, a couple beers, and warmth, we decided to move on to our next stop… the bowling alley. Bowling isn’t very big in China yet, but I have a feeling it’s going to eventually grow. The bowling alley we went to was in the Lido Hotel, on the far east side of the city, not far from Sanlitun Village. It cost 25 RMB per game, 5 RMB for shoe rental, and 12 RMB per beer. Not a bad price considering that most everything is more expensive in China. I learned something during those 3 games that we bowled… I’m shit without my own gear, especially my own shoes. I fell on my ass 3 times in 3 games, and barely broke 100 each game. A far cry from the 180+ average that I’ve carried for several years now. To be honest though, the competition wasn’t on my mind. I just wanted to have fun, and that we did. A couple beers, some bowling, good company… that’s all I need while I’m here. The bowling experience in China is a lot of fun and our next plan is to get some of the Chinese engineers that we work with out to the local bowling alley for more fun. That should be a blast.
Today, as I finish up this post, I’m working on a plan for my activities. I have a couple things in mind, but nothing finalized other than my first stop. I’m not going to divulge the information yet, but as a teaser, I will say that I’m going to go visit my brethren in their current environment in the city…
Until next time!