Steve's China Blog

Monday, September 24, 2007

In the US

On Saturday I flew from ChengDu to Beijing. Even though the flight was a half hour late taking off it was the best flight I have had on Air China. Their service has really improved since the last time I flew on them. Since the flight was late I had to really rush through Beijing airport to catch my connection to Washington DC. Luckily the airport was not as crowded as I thought it would be and I had a chance to do some quick shopping at the duty-free store and made it to my flight with about 15 minutes to spare.

This flight was the first one I had that was a direct flight from Beijing to Washington DC. Usually I have to stop in Chicago or San Francisco, which makes the trip longer, so my total trip time was only 18 hours rather than the usual 22 or so hours. The flight was not very crowded, and the nearest crying baby was several rows away, so it was a nice flight. The nicotine gum really helped too.

My flight from Beijing even arrived about 40 minutes early, and I made it through customs pretty quickly and met up with my parents who had come to pick me up at the airport. From there we went to Rio Grande restaurant in Reston, and met up with my friend Les. We ate some great food (I recommend their fajitas) and chatted for a long time, catching up on what has been happening here. I even discovered that Les had gotten married back in February... Congrats Les and Lynn!

While we were in Reston I spent some time just people watching. It is kind of interesting to see all the people who had come out to Reston on a Saturday night. Big people, little people, blonds, red-heads, brunettes, etc... There was one young couple there with 5 young children. Just a lot of little things that you do not see much of in China.

On Sunday I just relaxed, and in the afternoon I went over to my parent's country club to watch the Redskins play the New York Giants. My parents were playing golf, and when they finished they joined me there for dinner and the second half of the game. The game was a lot of fun to watch, even though the Redskins let a 17 - 3 lead slip away and lost the game. A big steak and an afternoon of NFL was very nice. Today I am just going to hang out and relax. Tomorrow I am hoping to do a little shopping.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Video testing

Blogger has added the capability to add video content directly to a post now, which is nice since before I had to host the videos on other sites, such as YouTube. I thought I would test this out with a video I created last year. This was filmed when the IBM office in Dalian put on a Sports Day event... a sort of mini-Olympics for the IBM staff, and was edited using Windows Movie Maker.

At the opening ceremony all of the contestants marched around the track and then some young ladies did a dance routine. Here is their dance...

video

I need to play around with it some more. I would like to see if there's a way to adjust the size and what else I can fiddle with.

You might recognize some of the dancers, since they are all good friends and I have written about them in several past posts.

Looking back through my blog I am surprised I did not post about the Sports Day event. Anyways, it was a lot of fun and had a lot of different sporting events. I won the silver medal in the golf putting competition.

I think we will have enough people to do a Sports Day at the ChengDu office next year. Since we are hoping to hire an additional 700 people by the end of this year it is very possible. Actually, I hope our office does something, like send us to the Olympics next year.

Friday, September 14, 2007

xkcd

I was in a meeting the other night and someone sent me the following comic strip...
(click it to enlarge)



I just busted out laughing! Good thing my phone's mute button was turned on.

If you are a bit geeky you might enjoy http://xkcd.com/

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I need a vacation

I need a vacation. Luckily, I am going to the US on the 22nd. I finally got my tickets too... at least I hope I did. The travel agency I am using issued me an e-ticket for my domestic flights (round-trip from ChengDu to Beijing) and something that resembles an invoice for the international flight (round-trip from Beijing to Washington). They said it is just like an e-ticket. I hope the people working at the check-in counter in Beijing think so.

I'm looking forward to going back to the States too. I do not have a lot planned... an early Thanksgiving with the family, a day at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, a little shopping, etc... Basically it's a chance to visit family and friends, purge the pollutants from my body, and recharge my batteries.

My new project has been keeping me very busy at work, but I heard it will slow down some in January. I hope so. I've been so busy I have not had any time to explore much of ChengDu yet. There are about a dozen or so places I would really like to see and half of them are in the city, or very close by, so I am hoping to see some of them before the end of the year. Some are outside of the city, so I will probably have to wait until next year to see them.

Some of the people at the office here in ChengDu have setup a Singles Party, but it is on the evening of the 22nd so I'll be missing that. Drats. I wonder if I could talk them into changing the date for that.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Back from Dalian

Back from Dalian, and I think I got all of the things done at Bank of China that I needed to do there. I flew up there on Sunday afternoon and stayed at the Kempinski Hotel. I've stay at the Kempinski at various cities and have always gotten good service there. On Sunday night I had dinner at Cafe Igosso, which is a nice little Italian restaurant near there, and Jesse was nice enough to join me. It was wonderful to see Jesse again!

On Monday I went to the main branch of Bank of China for Liaoning Province in Dalian. The bank had just started selling a new mutual fund, so the bank was very crowded that day with a lot of people looking for some safe investments. Someone from my office had called ahead of time for me and told me to find one of the floor managers named Ms Huang to help me. After I asked around I found her and explained all of the things I wanted to do. Ms Huang was very helpful and helped me fill out the paperwork I needed for my various transactions.

There were three things I wanted to get done... exchange some US$ in my account to Chinese Yuan, withdraw some US$, and then transfer the remaining US$ to my account in ChengDu. The first two were not a problem... I just had a long wait to do them since it was so crowded. The money transfer to ChengDu did present some problems. The first problem was that after the information was entered into the computer the transfer would not take place. By this time Ms Huang had gone to lunch and the regular workers reverted into their normal lousy service mode.

They told me that my account in ChengDu must have been an account that would not accept US$. I told them that I would not have opened the account if it did not accept US$, and that they should call the branch in ChengDu to verify this. They would not call the branch in ChengDu and said that I would have to do this. At this point I was getting hungry and had to go have some lunch, so I basically called them liars, told them I would do their job for them, and left.

I then went to our new office in Dalian (we have two there now), and after a quick lunch called the bank branch in ChengDu and verified that my account there could indeed accept a transfer of US$. So, back to Bank of China I go and find Ms Huang. I explained to her what happened and she tells someone to call the ChengDu branch and they do it. The problem it turns out is not the account in ChengDu, but that they can not do an immediate money transfer out of the province so they send it as a 24 hour transaction. Anyways, the money got transferred.

The rest of that day and the next morning I spent working at the new office, and visiting old friends from work there. I had dinner on Monday evening with my friend Rosaline at Paulaners. On Tuesday I had lunch at a Korean place with a few friends, Ping and Semela. After that I flew back to ChengDu and worked some more in the evening from home.

Even though I would have preferred not to fly all the way to Dalian to deal with a stupid bank it was all worthwhile since I got to visit some friends. One of them told me she really wanted me to move back to Dalian since she missed me so much. That was rather unexpected and I was very flattered!