Recommended Listening: “A Tout Le Monde” by Megadeth
There are perks to working on this assignment in Beijing. There are also a lot of downsides. One of the fun parts is getting to occasionally travel to other countries that are involved in the project. It’s always neat to see other parts of the world, experience the culture, see the sights, eat the food. The downside of this… I normally go from the airport, to the hotel, to the office, and back to Beijing. There is rarely much of an opportunity to really go sightseeing. Fortunately for us, it is a nice walk from the hotel to the office, but there is so much more of the city that I won’t get to see. Such is life when I’m getting paid to travel.
Sunday we headed to the airport rather early in the day. We caught a cab and hit the road. It’s amazing how cheap cabs are in Beijing. For the lump sum of around $23 USD, the cab took us on the 45+ minute drive to the airport. In the US… guarantee it’d be a hundred bucks. The flight to Seoul from Beijing is a rather quick one. Thankfully for us, it was a very smooth one too. The more foreign flights that I take, the more I realize that airlines in the US are way overpriced. This flight to Seoul cost maybe $200 and gave us a pretty nice sized meal. Not bad for a 2 hour flight. We landed in Seoul on time and got a nice tour of the entire airport. We parked at one of the gates at the far end of the airport. The only customs areas that were open were at the opposite side of the airport. Once we got through customs, we began to head to the baggage claim. Luckily for us, it was the farthest one away, once again. Mildly annoying. Once we finally got out of the airport, we walked to the opposite side once again to catch a cab. Four people, four pieces of luggage, and all of the cabs are Hyundai Sonatas… this may not work out well for us. As we are standing there waiting in line, a guy in charge of the cabs pulled us aside because we had 4 people. “Come this way… I have a van,” he said. Yep… sure was a van. It was a laid out limo van with free WiFi inside, and TV’s all over, playing old Tom and Jerry cartoons. This seriously made my day. How can you go wrong with some Tom and Jerry? The four of us watched and laughed the whole way to the hotel.
The hotel we’re staying at is called Best Western New Seoul. Overal… not bad. They say it’s 4 star, but I’d put it at a high 2, but it has a bed, a bathroom, a shower that doesn’t share the same area as the toilet… overall, not too bad. If only I could figure out the HVAC, I’d be set. Average temperature in my room was 77 degrees at all times. Thermostat controls did nothing, A/C controls on the nightstand did nothing. I ended up sleeping with the window open most of the time. The hotel is located a couple blocks away from city hall, and as such has many of the embassies located near it. During our first walk to Daelim’s offices, we just happened to find the US Embassy. This was good to know as it’s one of the first things I locate when I travel to a new capital city, just in case I have to make a quick dash toward home. The meetings which took place at Daelim’s offices were long, drawn out, and quite boring. I made the decision during these meetings to take a step back and observe how the Chinese handled themselves. I wouldn’t step in unless I felt absolutely necessary. This was one of my strategies for determining how I can help ween them off of my assistance. With things as busy as they are in Barberton, we can’t guarantee that there will always be someone (me) available to fly out at the drop of a hat and help out. Overall, I was impressed. What I’ve been teaching and helping out with over the last 2 years has really sunk in and taken form. Hell, I’m afraid that these guys may be better than I am! Unfortunately, thanks to the busy schedule at the office, I didn’t get to wander around much and explore. With any luck, I’ll get to come back in the future and see more sights. What I gathered during my short time here was seeing that not all of Asia is organized chaos. In China, everyone seems to be in a hurry, all the time, and half of the time for reasons unknown. This mentality transfers to just about everything except for scheduled work. When I confront some of them and say that there is a deliverable that is due on a date, I get 15 minutes of complaining as to why they can’t do it… regardless of the fact that they already have it done and don’t realize it. If there was another space race to the moon, I would be willing to bet that China will have a rocket ready to launch first, and launch it before they ever realized that they forgot to install an oxygen system in the capsule. Korea has proven to be quite a bit different. Korea almost seems as though they look at the Chinese and say “Dude… what the hell is your problem? Chill for a minute!” People seem to be more relaxed, and think things through more before making a decision. Not saying one method is better than the other, but I knew which one I was more comfortable with. Downside: Korea is effing expensive! At any given restaurant, a local beer cost around $7 a bottle. For those of us who enjoy a good craft beer, this doesn’t seem too horrible. But for the general public, imagine going to a greasy spoon restaurant and ordering a PBR. You just paid $7 for swill. Yeah… it’s that bad.
The trip home was one that I’d rather not experience again. It’s a 2 hour flight back from Seoul to Beijing. Simple trip compared to my flight to China. From the moment that the flight attendants refused to give me an entry card for China, I knew that this flight was going to be full of misery. For those not familiar with international travel, each country that you fly to has a specific customs form that you must fill out before arriving. I’ve travelled into China enough times to know that as a foreigner, I must fill one of these out. When the girl came around with the cards, she told me that they were for international transfer travelers only. Uhh… what? No… I need one. I knew that these cards were available at the airport near the customs stand so I didn’t put up much of a fight. You would think that an international flight crew would know things like this, but I guess not. Fifteen minutes into the flight, we begin to experience turbulence. Little did I know that the few small bumps would be the softest part of the whole trip. I’ve flown thru thunderstorms, blizzards, tropical winds… I’ve seen a lot of conditions. None of them compare to the turbulence on this flight. I never knew that airplane wings could flex 15 feet in either direction before. We were up and down, side to side, for over ¾ of this flight. I tried to read my book… that definitely didn’t happen. All I could do was sit there and try to close my eyes, hoping it would be over soon. Thankfully, it didn’t get any worse than it was… at least until we began to descend. Wow. I’ve seen Formula D cars with less sideways action than this plane. All the way down to the ground, I was convinced that this pilot was trying to do an e-brake slide into the airport. Feeling the wheels touch down was the happiest feeling of my life that day. Once on the ground, the only thing left to do was navigate the maze that is Beijing’s Terminal 3. At this point, it’s easy for me. Good thing too as we had landed in an area I have never been to in this airport. Once all was said and done, all that remained was the cab ride back to the apartment… at 530pm, during the height of rush hour. 2 hours later… home at last and able to kick up my feet and watch some TV. Being back in the office now, I have the fun task of planning all of the work that needs to be completed before I leave. All I can say is that it’s going to be a busy 20 days…