The best thing a traveler can say about a journey by air is that it was uneventful. My flight from Taipei to Shanghai was uneventful. I was much more gracious with my air prayers in the last leg. Upon arriving in Shanghai I was able to get through customs and immigration fairly quickly. I retrieved my luggage and was soon on my way. One thing I really enjoy about international trips for work is the sheer delight in seeing my driver amongst the waiting crowd. The drivers are lined up along the walkway holding up signs with the names of the travelers they’re picking up. As I leave the airport, I scan the crowd and eventually spot my name. My relief is transparent, so much so that the drivers near him point at their own signs with raised eyebrows. Could I be the one they’re waiting for? No luck for them. I go straight to my driver, he takes the handle of the largest suitcase and we’re on our way.
Once on the road we met very little traffic, which is unusual in this part of the world. Unfortunately my driver was a firm believer in driving a few km/hr below the posted speed limit. The other traffic whizzed around us on the right as we cruised “slowly” along in the fast lane. And he was a nervous braker, frequently tapping the brake in anticipation of things that might happen somewhere down the road.
Eventually we made it to the hotel so I could check in, drop off my luggage and continue on to the factory. But first, I had to deal with the “I don’t have a credit card” situation. While I was in transit, my husband had generated a “Shop Safe” credit card number courtesy of our bank. He’d sent a digital copy of the card info. If you’re not familiar with the service, it’s a great way to shop on-line without worrying about the security of your credit card info. Fortunately I was able to convince the hotel manager to accept the info with a promise to produce a copy of my husband’s signature when I check out next week.
With that piece of business out of the way I dropped my luggage off in my room and zipped back down to the lobby where my driver is patiently waiting to finish his business – getting me to the factory. And so, after leaving Austin at 6:30pm Monday I arrived at the factory in Kunshan at 2pm Wednesday, joining the meetings in progress. At 6:30pm I left the factory, had dinner with co-workers, and got back to the hotel in time to crash and burn by 8:30pm. Minus the 14hour time difference that still counts as one helluva long day.
My sound sleep was interrupted at 3a.m. by someone ringing the bell and knocking insistently on the door to my room. There was a hotel employee with a suitcase that he wanted to give me. Fine, except it wasn’t my suitcase. I tried to tell him as much. He seemed to want to debate the issue. I have no idea what he was saying but I just kept saying “no” and shaking my head “no”. This is universal, isn’t it? Even if the guy didn’t understand what I was saying, my unwillingness to take the suitcase from him eventually convinced him to abandon hope. He left, but alas sleep had also left. I tried for about an hour, then I gave up and got up.
Needless to say given that it started at 3am, today’s been another long day. Most of the time at the factory was spent in an all day meeting to review whether we’re ready to build prototypes or not. Afterwards, a large group of us went to a Teppanyaki Japanese restaurant where our meal made Thanksgiving dinner seem like a warm-up exercise. When I got back to my room I had a surprise waiting: a personal cake from the hotel management as recompense for the inconvenience of the errant luggage delivery. And 2 manager-types stopped by with a letter of apology for the inconvenience of the “wake her up at 3am” fun. They explained that they’d reviewed the video tape and the guy that came to my room during the night was on the wrong floor. They assured me that they would take more care in the future. I can’t ask for more than that – an apology, a desire to do better and a cake.
And with that, I’ll sign off and hopefully get a good night’s sleep. The driver will be picking me up at 8am for another round of fun at the factory. Hopefully we start building soon. J
Although this was written before I crashed last night, it turns out the hotel is blocking my access to this blog so my post had to wait until an opportunity presented itself during the workday at the factory. It’s now after 5 on Friday and I’m wrapping things up, preparing to head back to the hotel. The hotel which will not let me connect to my blog. Oh the joy. I’ve got some adventures lined up for the weekend but it may be Monday before I can post the update.
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