February 6, 2011 Shanghai, China 1:45 pm
Where am I? Where am I going?
Home and Weddings
I know its been forever. So much has happened. I’ll start with the recent stuff as its more fresh.
The past few months have been sort of a whirlwind, in particular this past month. From January 11 to February 15, I will not sleep in one city for more than 3 days in a row. I won’t bore you with the crazy itinerary details, but this is a list of my destinations: Hangzhou; Sugar Land; College Station; Sugar Land; Charleston, South Carolina; Sugar Land; New York; Dubai; Shanghai; Hangzhou; Shanghai; Hong Kong; Shanghai. Whew. It began with the annual marathon migration home. From my door in Hangzhou to my door in Sugar Land, its over 40 hours real time. At the moment I’m still living as a homeless nomad. To be honest I’m fond of traveling, and I kind of like it. The only difficult thing is laundry. But traveling and living overseas has freed me from the American standard of only wearing a pair of clothes one time before washing. With deodorant and cologne, one can get many more days out of a pair of clothes.
This past year, I didn’t make it home for Christmas. It was my first Christmas outside of the US, and to be honest, it was fine. Our school was generous enough to provide for us the buffet Christmas dinner at the Shangri-La hotel in Hangzhou. It was quite good, and I stuffed myself to capacity, making sure to take full advantage of the chocolate fountain. New Year’s was also my first outside America, and I can tell you it’s about the same here as at home. People either do nothing, or just go out to a bar for drinks. I came home early.
I finished my time at EF Hangzhou and headed back to Texas in January. My year in Hangzhou was wonderful in most ways. I made some awesome friends that I really cherish, and Hangzhou is definitely my favorite city in China. But in some ways I’m happy to move on, career wise.
Where am I? Where am I going?
The last few months I’ve been through quite a journey, at least in searching and decision making regarding my current and future career path. I came to a point where I felt like I had done as much as I really can in English teaching, and was ready to move on to something else. I felt if I stayed teaching another year, I would just be stagnant, and not progressing. That is never a good place to be. But I wasn’t ready yet to leave China. So I began searching in earnest for a Biomedical Engineering related job in China. After exhausting all known avenues, I realized that there really are no entry level engineering positions for foreigners in China. So I had resigned myself to teach one more year, and then try to enter graduate school. I had found a better teaching job – read much more money – and had already taken it. Right about this time, I heard that the product development department of my company, English First, was looking at making mobile phone applications for learning English. Now this was interesting to me because I have been teaching myself how to program for the Android operating system for the past year or so. Anyway, I just contacted the corporate office of English First, to see what kind of stuff they were doing. Next thing I know, they offered me a job as Project Manager of Mobile Product Development. I’m quite excited. In one sense it’s not what I was looking for – it’s not a Biomedical Engineering job. But in another sense, it’s a perfect opportunity for me. I get to combine my technical background with teaching English, I get to stay in China, and I get to ‘move up in the world’ to an expat job that is not teaching. So next week I will move to Shanghai and begin my new job. As to long term…who knows? I’m happy where I am.
Home and Weddings
Home, as always, is good. Got to spend some good, albeit short, time with my parents, and family. Got to reconnect with quite a few friends. Attended a good friend’s wedding, and got invitations to half a dozen more that I’ll miss. Living overseas and traveling teaches you many things; one is that food, culture, language, buildings, jobs, etc all change a lot depending on your location, but its people that are important. I feel blessed to know so many great people in many places. I really enjoyed reconnecting with many of those people in the US.
February 15, 2011 – Hong Kong 1:27pm
Small (Big) World
Maybe I should start blogging in small mini installments. Here’s a quick rundown of the past 3 days in HK.
I always love going to Hong Kong. It’s a place of amazing juxtaposition of East and West, obscenely rich and dirt poor, young and old, businessmen and tourists. Its also incredibly beautiful, I love the view of the harbor skyline. And rooftop restaurants and bars are always breathtaking. I’ve realized I have a fascination with cities on the water: Austin, Hong Kong, Hangzhou, Venice, Barcelona, etc. I love the water. Taking the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbor is one of my favorite things. Night or day, it provides a quite, reflective and peaceful retreat from the crowds of Hong Kong.
I’d done most of the tourist things here already, and the remaining ones aren’t suitable for the business clothes I had packed in one small bag and the rainy weather while I’ve been here. So I just took it as a chance to wander and relax in one of my favorite places. My first day, upon recommendation from one of my favorite books 1000 Things To Do Before You Die (by Patricia Schultz), and friends of my mom’s from Hong Kong, I went to have ‘afternoon tea’ at the Intercontinental Hotel on Victoria Harbor. (if you want to drool) My ‘afternoon tea’ turned into coffee, but that only added to the experience. In fact, the coffee was superb, as it should be for ~$26 USD for a cup and a piece of cake. But the view rivals anywhere in the world. (see picture) To sleep in a room with that view will cost you over $1,500 USD per night. So I felt my $26 coffee was a good compromise. The Intercontinental Hotel is considered by many to be one of the premier hotels in the whole world. The location itself must be some of the most expensive real estate in the world; it literally juts out into Victoria Harbor. You even have to pay $10 to use the WiFi….for 3 hours.
Needless to say, I was leaning back in my chair, my tongue tickled by sipping on my coffee and my eyes tingling with a stunning view, enjoying my life. I would be lying if I didn’t say it was a bit bittersweet being in such a romantic place alone, but I didn’t let that spoil the experience. In any case, I soon got into a conversation with an American couple next to me who invited me to join them for drinks (their treat). As we chatted, I learned that she was starting a company making towels and bed sheets from bamboo (no, I didn’t know you could do that either), and he was a professional poker player. So it made for some interesting stories, and an enjoyable night.
Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, I took care of some visa stuff and just relaxed before meeting a friend of mine for dinner. He was the best looking Valentine’s date I’ve had in a while. J We had a lot in common since I taught English with him in Hangzhou, and now we are in Shanghai and Hong Kong respectively, upgraded to ‘expat’ status.
Strolling through Asian markets is also a favorite pastime of mine. As rich and sophisticated as Hong Kong is, the markets are still as raw as they have ever been. Whole pigs slaughtered and split open right on the ground, with every (yes every) piece of them for sale. See if you can identify all those organs just hanging there. (see picture) Also, all kinds of sea creatures, half of which I had never seen before. (see picture) Any ideas what those are?
The only other thing of interest so far is that as I was standing in line to check out this morning, I heard someone very hesitantly call my name. I turned around, and there was one of my adult students from Tianjin. The world is even small all the way over here in Hong Kong! What are the odds that I run into an old student of mine from Tianjin, in Hong Kong, at the same hotel, checking out at the same time? Crazy, but that’s what makes traveling addicting.
Anyway, my month as a homeless nomad is coming to an end. Eight cities and over 28,000 miles (longer than the circumference of the earth) in one month. Whew, the whirlwind is over. I now have a nice apartment in Shanghai, and my first day at my first ‘real job’ is Thursday. I’m looking forward to it. Keep ya posted.