Friday, October 31, 2008

10-19-08 – Summer palace, Pearl Factory, lunch, Capital University visit, Dinner and Party

I could not sleep! I was concerned about missing the wake up call and jet lagged I guess, but I woke up about 2am and could not get back to sleep. I dozed a little on and off until the wake up call came in, and then I got up and showered and got ready. Ann and I went downstairs and had a really cool buffet breakfast. There were waffles and eggs, toast and jam, fried rice, sweet potatoes, strange watery oatmeal, fruit, juice and more! We ate until we were stuffed!

Dr. Wally told us that morning that the plans for the day had changed and we were going to be doing a university visit that afternoon. We had all read over the case, but not studied it, and we really were all concerned that we did not know what we were getting into.

We all climbed on the bus and headed for the Summer Palace. This was once the home for the emperor during the summer time. It was really beautiful, with a stunning hand painted walkway. Lei told us that they have to re-paint it, by hand, every 8-10 years to keep it looking so beautiful! He also told us that the Summer Palace was burned down and re-built 3 times, so what we were seeing was only re-built as recently at the 1940’s.

Lei pointed out the more interesting sites, like the Buddha’s temple and the Marble Boat, which was built by an emperor to show the solid nature of his rule. We ended the tour by taking a boat ride across the river and back to the bus.

Our next stop was the pearl factory, which was like that scene from Sweet Home Alabama, when we takes her into the Tiffany’s showroom and all the sales people are just waiting for her to choose. We learned about how pearls are cultivated and then we were turned loose to shop! I spent about 2,030 in Chinese money, which is about $300 US, but I was able to get a lot of people marked off the Christmas list!

We went to lunch at a “westernized” buffet, and I did not eat much. It was ok, but I was still full from breakfast and high from my pearl shopping! We then headed over to the Capital University.
Once there we were split up into teams with the Chinese MBA students to develop the case we had read before we left the states. The Chinese MBA students had already worked the case, developed their answers and created the PowerPoint. They were very happy to try to translate their thoughts for us and we attempted to give feedback and our opinions. One thing that we noticed was on one question the Chinese students answered that the particular management method would not work for all other industries such as a hospital. We disagreed, citing that a hospital is a business just like any other. After looking at their confused faces, it dawned on us that the hospitals in China aren’t a business like any other, they are controlled by the government and everyone has the same health care. This was eye opening and we started making other comparisons too.

I had started to feel like I needed to pee, so left to find the rest room. The restrooms were so disgusting that I felt ill the rest of the evening. The Chinese believe that it is unsanitary to sit on a public toilet, so their public restrooms all have “squatters” which is a hole in the floor and you have to pull your pants down and squat over the whole. They also don’t seem to believe in paper, or maybe they always have their own, I have not quite figured that out. I had some paper with me as we had been previously warned about the possible lack of paper, so I was able to make due. The smell was so bad that I spent the rest of the evening smelling it wherever I went, and whoever I came into contact with seemed to also have that lingering small of fecal matter attached to them.

While I was struggling with the restroom issue, my group came up for presenting, so I missed out on being able to speak, but really this was fine with me! Four teams presented their opinions on the case, in Chinese, and then a translator said it all again in English. The acoustics in the room made it hard to hear the English translation and I feel like I missed a lot. I would also have liked to have been better prepared for the exercise. I felt like we were probably supposed to have worked the case in teams and then contrasted with the findings of the Chinese students, but since we did not have a clear understanding of what was happening, a lot of us felt like we did not give a very good impression. I really think that the concept was a great one; it just needed better explanation up front – Something to think about next time! I really liked the Chinese students that we worked with and we exchanged e-mail addresses so I hope that we stay in contact.

After the teams presented, we walked over to a hotel for the catered dinner. We were paired with other Chinese students and got to converse with a different set of people than who we were paired with for the presentations. This was nice in the end, but started off a little awkward. The Chinese students had a tough time with our words and us with theirs, but we kept working at it and finally figured out that just speaking English wasn’t enough to allow us to communicate. I learned that I needed to say my words more slowly so that they could look into their memory banks and find the meaning behind that word. It would have been really easy to give up and eat in silence, but it was really rewarding to finally be able to communicate and have a meaningful conversation.

The party after the dinner was not like any party that I have ever attended! They played games like charades and tongue-twisters, and the whole shindig was over by 8:45pm. These people take their educations VERY seriously; I heard someone saying that they had not seen any children between the ages of 10-16, the reply was that they were all studying and that the studies in that age range were really tough.

I decided that since I had not slept much the night before I would take one of the Ambin’s that the doctor had prescribed. I took it and then a tailor showed up to make some suits for Ann and then Jim and Nancy stopped by to get her to make some suits for them too. All of a sudden, the sleeping aid hit me and I don’t really remember anything. I know that I ordered a custom traditional Chinese shirt and gave her almost all my cash to get it. I know that I showered, but don’t remember it. I do know that I woke up again about 3:15 unable to get back to sleep!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

10-17 and 10-18 - the Flight, Arrival in Beijing, Dinner, Hotel

Last night I had workshop 8 of accounting and I only stayed at school long enough to finish the 2 team case presentations and then Dr. Jose said that it would be OK to leave. I got gas and picked up Smug-Hub from work and raced for home. I got the iPod charging and did a last minute check of e-mail, before a quick shower and off to bed.

The alarm went off at 2:55am!! I took another quick shower to help me wake up and finished packing. I woke Smug-Hub and loaded the car while he pulled on some clothes. We got to the airport right at 4:00am and said some really long goodbyes before I headed into the airport. No one was there yet and a TSA guy told me that they don’t open until 4:30am, but that it was good to be here this early because the lines can get really long.

Right at 4:30am Dr. Wally arrived and was right in front of me when I lined up at the ticket counter. He was first and I was second and when I finally got all checked in, there were about 15 people behind me in line! Dr. Wally and I talked while getting through security and then we waited at the gate until Ann arrived. She is very short and I knew instantly that I would love her. She is a little firecracker who is not at all afraid to speak her mind and she is light and funny and a total doll!

We boarded on time and took off for Dulles, Ann and I talked the whole flight! When we landed in Dulles and went to find our gate first and then got some oatmeal, muffins and coffee for breakfast. We then had almost 4 hours to kill so we spent the time talking, reading and dozing a bit.
After a while the rest of the group started to show up and we spent some time getting to know each other. Ann convinced me to get some Pepto Bismol and Imodium before we left just in case I ate something that did not agree with me and she said that this kind of stuff was not available outside the US.

Once the flight was closer to taking off, the flight attendants made the announcement that everyone had to have their passport and boarding pass checked before boarding, so we all made a line and started getting everyone checked in, and then another lady opened up the boarding line and people started pushing and shoving to get on board. It was funny to watch the lady working for United trying to keep everyone in line. She was yelling and telling people that they were not listening to her and sending people back to have their passports checked and everything. I wasn’t boarding until section 4, so I was sitting and waiting for a while, but I figured that I could either sit in the airport or sit on the plane, so I waited and boarded close to the end of the line. I still had to wait in line on the plane a while to get all the way back to my seat. When I finally got there it already had a guy in it, when I pointed out that he was in my seat, he said that he wanted to sit next to his family and offered me his window seat and I took it.

I ended up being really squished the whole flight even though the guy sitting next to me was small. The flight was ungodly long and I was really squished the whole time, so that added to the misery. I had ordered a vegan meal and all the food was really pretty good, and I did get to watch out the window as we passed over green and then to snow and then to water filled with ice blocks and then on to the dessert. I tried to listen to my books on tape, but I kept dozing off and missing huge chunks. I tried reading and watching the movies, but I was so cramped and uncomfortable, I could not do anything for long and my feet and legs got slightly swollen from all the pressure and probably from sitting so long.

Upon landing we got through customs and baggage claim really fast. My bag was undamaged so all good there too. We all met up with each other and Dr. Wally who introduced us to our tour guide Lei. He took us to the hotel, pointing out a few things as we came into the city and letting us know the schedule for the next few days, the weather and other necessary information.

Once we got to the hotel, Ann and I asked if we could room together and once we got settled in our room we both took showers and got freshened up. Then we all met back down in the lobby and boarded the bus. Lei took us on a little drive past the “nest” used for the Olympics and pointed out other cool stuff as the sun was going down. He then took us to a restaurant for our first meal in China!

The food only cost about $10 US and they just kept filling up the table with food. The tables are all covered with lazy susan type trays, so you just spin it to bring whatever dish you want to eat closer; everyone ate themselves silly! The food was really, really good!
As we were leaving the restaurant these street vendors almost attacked us trying to get us to buy silk bags and cashmere scarves, they were really aggressive and stayed with us the whole way back to the bus. Even if you said “no thank you” or anything at all, that seemed to give them encouragement, so I just kept walking, eyes straight ahead, and did not acknowledge them at all and they totally left me alone.

Back at the hotel, Ann went to get her nails done and a hair cut, while I called Smug-Hub, popped an Advil PM and went to bed!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I'm Back!

I am so glad to be home! I got home late Sunday night/early Monday Morning. We spent most of the day Monday in bed, but I am back at work today and I feel like I am dying I am so tired! I hate jet lag!

I will be posting my entries from my trip journal along with pictures this week, but for now...

I'm Back!

I am so glad to be home! I got home late Sunday night/early Monday Morning. We spent most of the day Monday in bed, but I am back at work today and I feel like I am dying I am so tired! I hate jet lag!

I will be posting my entries from my trip journal along with pictures this week, but for now...

I climbed all the way to the top!!
More later dudes!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Incompetence (or, Last Post Before China)

I really dislike incompetence and I really hate when I attempt to make my life easier and incompetent people end up making things harder for me. For example:

I had to send off my passport to a company in Washington DC to have the visa put into the passport for my entry into China. They refuse to accept anything further out than 30 days, and if you want it back within 15 days of sending it there is a huge rush fee. So I had to make sure that I sent it out on the exact day.

After they received my stuff and my check, they called to tell me that I had made the check out incorrectly. The company's name it CIBT, Inc. I had made the check out to CBIT, Inc. - OK my mistake, but they told me that they would have to rush my stuff now and they wanted payment over the phone and would not accept the incorrect check.

So, I had originally requested that I have the stuff back by 10-10, but I told them that as long as I had it back by 10-15 I would still be OK and would that change spare me the rush fee. It would!

On their website, you can watch the status of your stuff, I mailed my stuff in on 9-16, the website said that it was complete and in their shipping department on 9-26. I finally called them on 10-10 and asked about it. I was told that it was going to ship out that evening and on Saturday morning I could call Fed-Ex to make a change to the delivery method (Since I was not planning on stay home from work on the delivery day to sign for it, I wanted it stopped at the hub and I would pick it up).

I called on Saturday and she made the change to the delivery instructions. Then she told me that the tracking number was more than a week old and are generally rendered invalid after a week. I had to wait until Monday (10-13) to call the company and find out what was up. I was told that it actually would not leave their hands until that evening and they had special arrangements with Fed-Ex and everything would be fine on Tuesday morning.

I called Fed-Ex on Tuesday morning and asked again about making sure that the package would be held at the hub, she told me that the package had already been changed to have it come to the hub. So, the phone call on Saturday worked!

I checked online this morning (10-15) to make sure that the tracking number said that it was at the hub, it was! I drove about 20 minutes across town to the offices on my lunch break to pick it up. When I got there and she looked up my tracking number, I was told that it had been delivered, left on my front door.

I told her that it was my passport and that I had been told that a signature would be required for delivery, she told me that the account was noted that it should have been left at the hub, but it went out on the truck anyway.

I had to drive all the way home to pick it up. Mostly, I wanted to make sure that it really was there!

Bottom line, everything is fine. I just hate all the crap that I went through. I have so much to do before this trip, spending almost 2 hours running all over town for nothing really pisses me off!!

I hope to have great China pictures on my next post!!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Birthday Weekend!

Friday was my birthday. Smug-Hub brought me roses to work and took me out for a nice dinner. I figure that I am officially old, since after dinner all I wanted to do was come home, take a hot bath, and go to bed!!

My best friend, Jen, gave me a really stunning bracelet that she got for me at the Vatican when she was in Italy this summer. I really love it!

Sassy took me to breakfast yesterday and we talked about men, relationships, sex and books - you know, all the important things!!

Mom took me to lunch on Friday and we ate Indian food and she gave me a Barnes and Noble gift certificate, which was wonderful timing since I needed to get something to read or listen to while on that 14 hour flight to China!

We had lunch today with Dad and Smug-StepMom and they gave me a Bed, Bath & Beyond gift certificate, so I now have a new blender and a tortilla warmer! I also sprung for some noise reducing headphones for while on the plane. It was a good day!

I have been doing birthday things all weekend and it is not over yet! We are getting together as a family on Wednesday after work to celebrate mine, Smug-Hub's and Cory's birthday's. I love having people tell me that they are glad that I was born! I think that I am a pretty decent person, but it is always nice to be told that you are loved!

I have a ton of stuff to get done before I leave on Friday for China, and I am starting to get excited about going. I am really going to miss Smug-Hub, this will be the longest we have ever been apart since we starting dating, but it is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I AM going!

I have to get through study group and class. I have to get packed. I have to work. I have something to do after work each day this week, but I will get everything done! I found the charger for the camera, it is all down hill from here!!

One night this week, I am meeting up with Elaine. I am really excited to see her! We have been talking via e-mail and I don't really feel like there are hard feeling or weirdness anymore. I hope that seeing her will not be strange, I really want to have her back as my friend. Now, if only she and my brother would get back together and he would stop being a shit to me - that would be great!!

Monday, October 6, 2008


Mark: So, Will how do you like kindergarden?

Will: It's good.

Mark: Are there any good looking chicks in your class?

Will: There are no animals in my classroom

As Grandpa was fumbing with his cell phone, attempting to take Will's picture.

Will (getting tried of holding his pose): Grandpa, you need to put your mind back in your head!

Grandma Smug-StepMom was in the car behind Will and Grandpa. Then she made a turn and came out in front of them.

Will: Grandpa, she got in front, we need to take a short cut and get back in front of her!!

Grandpa: She knows all the shortcuts, buddy.

Will (shaking his head): She is a sneaky, little woman!

Thursday, October 2, 2008


As anyone who has seen The Italian Job knows, FINE stands for Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. This is how I have been feeling this week.

People want to just hug me and let me know that they are thinking about me, which is great, but... Whenever anyone asks me how I am doing (which is a normal thing to say to someone,"hey, how are you today?") it freaks me out. Are they asking the normal, everyday question or are they gently trying to feel out if I am still all messed up?

Also, my hormones are going ape-shit! I feel like I have PMS (which would be fine), but I feel like I am going to cry most of the time. I am tired, my allergies are acting up just a bit, which gives me a perpetual headache, and I can't make up my mind about anything. I simply can't seem to be bothered to care about much of anything. I am leaving for China in 2 weeks and I don't care. My birthday is next week and I don't care!

On another emotional note. I got an e-mail from Elaine. She ended her abusive relationship a few months ago, and was writing to apologize for throwing away our friendship. She sent the e-mail to both Smug-Sister and myself, so Smug-Sister and I talked before responding to her. I did respond and we seem to have started an e-mail dialog.

I am feeling conflicted about this. There is part of me that knows that I had to ask for forgiveness from a few people when I ended my abusive relationship and that I have never fallen back into those destructive patterns. So, how could I possibly deny someone else that same forgiveness? I have also missed her terribly! But there is also a lot of hurt in me on this subject, and I am not sure that we could get back to the same closeness that our friendship had before. She was our sister in every way. Just because she stopped seeing our brother did not change that, and she throw that love away.

I am finding that when I am hurt, I want to pretend that it never happened, ignore it completely, and never discuss it again. I am not sure how to proceed with Elaine, do we discuss all the hurt, or try to pretend that everything is OK now. Just as much as I don't want to talk about losing my baby with people, I don't want to re-hash this pain with her. I want to eventually get pregnant again, and I want to eventually have my friend back. I am just thinking that it can't be healthy to hide all my feelings of hurt and pretend that they are not there. I don't know what to do.

Smug-Hub is feeling very protective of me on this issue. He does not want me to be hurt again, to see my in tears over her again. He wants me to be very careful about opening myself up to being hurt again. I know that I can't turn my back on her when she has come to me in a venerable way, hat in hand to admit to what she has done. She did not even ask for forgiveness, she said that she did not expect a reply, but she wanted to say that she was sorry. How could I turn my back on her? I am not cold enough or hard enough to do that.

So, I guess that it is worth it to me to take the chance and see if the friendship can be salvaged.

Anyway, I am feeling totally and completely F.I.N.E. today.