Monday, June 25, 2007

Restaurants Galore!

The thing about Beijing and most large cities is that there is a plethora of restaurants to chose from- upscale, homey, chic, cheesy, whatever you want. We often use weekends as a chance to explore different places. This Friday we went with two of our fellow USC alumni that live here in Beijing to Haiku, a classy Japanese restaurant and lounge bar opened by another Moore alumni and his partners. The sushi bar was circular and blue and produced some of the best sushi I've ever had!

This was the group that went that night:

Saturday night I went with my class for a going-away party to visit a Thai restaurant that seemed to resemble Disney Thai, although our Thai classmate said that food was actually authentic. The singing, dancing and games made dinner quite the entertainment process. This is a video of the waitresses dancing next to the table!

This is me with the class and some French friends:

These are some of the girls from class and my teacher sitting at my left. Yes, she is only 25, so she looks like one of us!

All in all, we have visited quite a few places but still have an extensive wish-list...there are too many magazine restaurant critiques to keep up with! Definitely go to Haiku for the food and atmosphere if you get the chance, and Banana Leaf if you are just looking for entertainment!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


If Seattle has the worst suicide rate in the U.S. because of the weather, it really makes we worry for China. Although we have some beautiful blue skies around here sometimes, weeks like this make them hard to remember. It is a cross between humidity and smog, leaving very low visibility. Lots of people wear masks on the street in hopes to avoid some of the bad air.

This was on today's CNN page, I found it interesting if you want to take a look:

Turns out China has surpassed the U.S. as the world's worst polluter, by 8%, but promises to have it cleaned up by the Olympics. We can only hope. This stems from a a couple of decades of promoting fast development at all costs. It is only in recent years that the people and politicians are seeing the costs they have created and the amount of attention it stirs up in the international arena. There will always be an positive and negative side to everything. Measures will be put in place to protect the environment, as the once rock-bottom cost of doing business in China- the main attraction to investors- begins to increase in the form of regulations compliance, taxes, etc.

Monday, June 18, 2007

A Learning Experience

Over the weekend I went on a sudo-business trip. I thought I was going to check out a trade show, but the situation turned out to be much more complicated. I don't want to mention the people or place I was in, but we were misrepresented as American investors to a province seeking to stimulate its economy. I was told not to say I was a student or give them my business card with my school name. We met with governors, mayors, entrepreneurs with business plans, etc. The meals were lavish, the rooms were decorated presidentially, we had one translator per person, a TV channel following us around, and I could not have felt more uncomfortable. My feeling is that the middlemen were actually at fault. They lied to their superiors telling them that we were investors, and then the superiors lied to all of the hopeful business start-ups telling them that we were an opportunity. After the first day, however, I found a way to sneak out of it with Adrian and we got a little touring done instead. You can imagine that I learned a lot, but it was also one of the most stressful things I have done since I have been here. Here are a few of the key points that I took away from it all though:

1) China is impossible to navigate without flexibility. Key phrase of this weekend was "Go with the flow." The difference between people that have lived here for some time and those that have never really sunk their teeth into the culture is painfully obvious. It is the difference between an understanding, smooth attitude and a complaining, argumentative one.

2) Things are not what they seem. Situations, things, people, all need more investigation than they do in the States. It comes from a combination of indirect communication, saving face, collectivism, and thousands of years of history. There is less respect for directness, "putting your cards on the table," or using an external system instead of a network of friends to get something done. So as a Westerner, my goal is to sift through all of these layers and figure out what it is I am looking at, and respond appropriately. Easier said than done.

3) The concept of "face" (gaining it, saving it, and losing it) is extremely powerful and increases in importance as you move up the chain of command. The higher the status or position of a person, the more face plays a role in every move that is made. Dealing with government officials on this trip was sometimes very frustrating because things are sometimes done in the hidden name of "face" and nothing else. As an American, if I don't see any mutually beneficial outcome or productive result, I just assume not do it. Here, again, is where flexibility comes in.

And just for fun, a few of our playing pictures! We took a boat ride to wander around an island for an afternoon, and this was the coastline of the city:

On the island, there were deer that we bought food to feed!

One night we saw an amazing song/dance show put on by hundreds of people. This type of thing would never happen in the States, as one dance company could not afford to pay 400 people, but China pulls out all the cards to impress. It just makes me wonder, WHAT will happen for the long-awaited opening ceremony of the Olympics?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Don't tell Mom!

Right. So I can't explain how this picture got into City Weekend's Beijing 2007 Bar and Restaurant Guide, under the night-life section...but here we are on the front page with an article entitled "Party Animals." That night we were dancing to 80's music while a photographer with a huge camera was poking around. There are three of us from USC, another American, and three French friends in the picture...all classmates of ours. Little did we know that we would discover ourselves a month later in one of Beijing's most popular expatriate reads, under such an inaccurate title! :-)

Chinese Karaoke...a first time for everything!

Last week was the first karaoke experience at KTV Party World. The place is a mansion with a free buffet, marble walls and floors, chandeliers, and waitors everywhere. It is definitely not the shady bar experience we think of in the states. If it is to be the favorite past-time of an entire country, it must be done right!

The individual rooms are rented out with all the equipment including large TVs, leather couches, computer control system, microphones, tambourines, etc. All embarrassment must be left at the door and you sing as loud as you can because you certainly can't hear yourself! This is Sarah and I doing our rendition of "I Love Rock and Roll."

And Adrian and Jean get into it with maracas!

This isn't a great video (blame Adrian) but at least you can look around the room. Be happy I didn't post the video of us singing "We are the Champions!" The two Chinese guys are Jay and Jason, friends of ours. Altogether we were about 4 foreigners and 7 Chinese. What a night! Beware...if you come might just have to hold a microphone!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Defining Futures...

Our adviser from USC has been in Beijing over the weekend to meet with various Chinese universities, students and alumni throughout China. Friday night we had a dinner with everyone from alumni to prospective students and met a lot of interesting people. The Moore School has a greater presence in China than I would have imagined. Some alumni are VP of companies like Sony or Apple, while others are opening restaurants, managing information systems, doing marketing consulting, etc. It was an inspiring experience that also left everyone wondering...which path do I chose? We were given this diagram back in the U.S. to outline different specialties and organizational structures we might want to work under. However, this is only the beginning of the decision making!

Our lunch and private meetings with the adviser brought more hours of discussion. Which functional specialty? Large multinational or local Chinese company? What location? What industry? How to start deciding and looking? These are all things that we are hammering out these days as we try to keep our minds on the goal and the MBA and not get caught up in the relative ease of our daily language study. After three months of break-time and fun it is interesting to watch how everyone has shifted into a search for productivity. We are searching out ways, whether it be part-time jobs, volunteer work, etc. to utilize our skills and create results. I have gone ahead and paid my deposit for next semester at the University of International Business and Economics, which means I will continue to study language there until December, but I did so knowing that it will have to be accompanied by business classes in Chinese, private tutoring, or a part-time job. One step at a time...but I will keep you updated with the plans for the next 15 months as they unfold.