Beware of The Flying Scotsman

Landed in Shanghai yesterday.   It’s amazing – it’s like a whole different country here!  Contrary to previous beliefs, it’s not all sticky or covered in jam.  Damn.  I’ll keep looking for that place.

The language barrier is tough.  Chinese isn’t like most languages that I’ve encountered in my travels where it’s based on Latin so I can guess what every third word is.  But it’s not hopeless; I think in a few days I’ll have picked up some basic phrases and symbols.  In the mean time, I’m being nice to people and lots of folks speak a bit of English and I’m grateful for that.  In a pinch, gesturing wildly has worked.

I got picked up by a prepaid taxi at the airport – you know all those drivers at airport arrival halls with names written on signs?  That was me.  A very nice man was stood with the following written on a sign:

k vanstaver

He got me to my hotel in good time and it was great.  We didn’t understand a single word we said to each other, but what I love is that humor doesn’t require language.  In the parking garage at the airport we took the elevator to the wrong floor and we had a good laugh about it together.  Nice guy, he was very polite even though I hadn’t taken the time to even remember how to say “thank you” in Chinese.  He also drove a mean stick shift.

Made it into the office at 5 PM in good spirits.  Walked right into the end of a management meeting with two guys in London on video conference.  My boss, Steve, who lives in Chicago was in London and it was a bit puzzling running into him on video conference when neither of us are at home.

I very quickly met everyone in the office here.  I like the office here; it’s rather small in comparison, probably about 25 people total.  Everyone’s friendly to a visitor, which is great.  Unfortunately my brain doesn’t do well with names, so it’s going to take me a while to get to know everyone.  And it’s hard, because I’m self-conscious about how little of the language I know and how much or little people might know.

My host here is Kevin, who’s the head of IT in the AP region and lives here in Shanghai.  Kevin earned the name The Flying Scotsman a few years back when he moved here to help open this office.  Kevin and I have a bad history of drinking too much when we’re in the same city.  Staying in Shanghai at the same time is Jason, our global head of IT, who likes to stay out as well.  We went out to dinner last night (at a rather Western style place, which wasn’t much of an experience) and stayed out much too late bar-hopping.  We’re pretty sure that the wrong turn was the absinthe.  We all lived like we were college kids, and we’re paying for it today.  Productivity is low.

The city is crazy.  There’s a highway right by the office here which has lanes both on the ground and elevated above it.  California, you pale in comparison.  There’s a sprinkling of cyclists here, which is a welcome sight.  Drivers are crazy tho, so you have to watch before you walk.  Lots of colors too – buildings and trees and everything is covered in lights.  I’ve got a great view from the 32nd floor of the hotel room and hopefully I can get a picture or two of it all.

Thursday is St. Patrick’s day, and apparently we’re all going out for drinks.  I’ll be impressed if I find some green beer!

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