Saturday, October 31, 2009


As in Chennai, I have about an hour drive into work in the morning from Shanghai, and usually an hour and 15 or 20 minutes back in the evening. Though I didn't have my camera with me, here is a word picture of the things that caught my attention recently:

  • Two cars stopped dead in the right hand lane on the service drive (no flashing lights on) with the drivers doing their business in nearby bushes.
  • An old woman of indeterminate age gathering used water bottles for sale--she must have had over 100--at a toll booth; she was collecting them in a hollowed out area of a cement barrier that divided one booth from another
  • Two men in a fishing boat, with nets, in a small pond next to the toll road
I was scheduled for a couple of field trips---one to Beijing and the other, this weekend, to Louyang, where there are some temples and the original home of Buddhism in China. Unfortunately, both of them got cancelled. Now I only have another couple of weeks here before returning to the U.S. until the beginning of next year, so will have to put off much more sightseeing until next year.

Lately, though, I've been missing India a lot. Perhaps it's because this past week I've met some old colleagues, heard from a couple of others, and had some issues to deal with there for work. Coincidentally, Outsourced (the movie) was on cable TV one night as well, bringing back all the images and sounds and people. So far, work has not taken me back there, but I hope it does in 2010.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Shanghai Museum Again

I went back to the Shanghai Museum today. I'd only seen one floor--the one with ceramics--and wanted to check the rest of the museum out. You could easily spend a day here. As the picture at the left shows, each piece is exquisite, and full of detail.

There's a long line to get in, especially on the weekends. But well worth the wait.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Back in Shanghai

Back in Shanghai, I'm done traveling for a while, other than back and forth to Korea. I'm thinking about going to Xi'an before leaving for the States again at the end of November, and have scheduled myself for a weekend retreat at a Buddhist monastery outside of Beijing in a couple of weeks. Other than that, this week's amusement is drivers.

Since I moved into Shanghai, I've had a car and driver service. Since I was gone for a couple of weeks, the driver I had--who I really liked--is now with someone else in the office. The guy who picked me up at the airport and drove me on the weekend was fine, too. As of yesterday I had a new driver who was supposed to be with me until the end of November. But after one day I decided this guy was just too creepy---plus his driving made me nervous---so now I have another one.

Why was he creepy? Well, for one thing he kept scratching himself--on his head, his arms, his stomach-- he even rolled up a pant leg to scratch his legs. Constantly, and while driving, which is the thing that made me nervous. I am not sure if he had a skin disorder, lice or what, but it was creepy and distracting. This morning he didn't do it as much, but it was one of those things where I kept watching him to see if he would start up again. Besides that, he zoned out and almost missed the exit a couple of times, and had to cross over four lanes to swerve onto the ramp, and he kept wandering over to the shoulder and driving there. So I asked for him to be replaced.

The new guy seems to be a bit better, but he too wound up annoying me. On the way home, he kept in the passing lane, but he doesn't drive that fast so everyone went around him. In my admittedly limited Chinese, I finally pointed out that he was going too slow to be in that lane. So what does he do? He speeds up, but switches lanes so he is now passing people who are in the passing lane. Back in Shanghai.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Around the World in 8 days

After a hectic schedule in which I logged about 30,000 miles in 8 days, am relaxing at our place in New Hampshire for a week. It's raining here and fall has definitely set in, with cooler temperatures and the beautiful landscape that this time of year brings. Friday night we went to a Sukkah party with people from the synagogue we attend here. TIme to reflect and enjoy the fall harvest.

I spent a few days in Korea before coming to New York and then up to New Hampshire. I realize that I have written nothing of Korea, even though I've spent a fair amount of time there. In part this is because I've not done much besides work there, and have had no time to explore the countryside or even Seoul. I enjoy the food--more than Chinese, actually, since it's very fresh and features a lot of vegetables and interesting spices, and is very healthy. I've picked up a little of the language--at times I do a doubletake because the inflections and body language of Koreans are so similar to Japanese that I think I should be understanding. I find that the little I've learned "sticks" better than Chinese--not necessarily because the sounds are similar to Japanese, but the grammar is almost the same and I must be using the same part of my brain that stores Japanese.

But Koreans are not like Japanese or Chinese--it is a unique culture. There are similarities all across Asia, of course, ranging from obvious things like squat toilets and rice-based cuisine to a group based cultures that value face saving and hierarchy over individualism. But beyond this there are significant differences. I haven't really figured out the thought process, as I was eventually able to do in Japan. In fact, the other day I had an email exchange with someone in our Japan operation, and found myself immediately able to read between the lines in a way that turned out to be completely accurate---it kind of surprised me that my instincts were still that sharp despite being away from the country for years. But Korea is a different story. Mostly I have to keep peeling back the onion in various interactions to try to get at what is really going on. I'll be spending more time there over the next few months, so let's see what progress I make.