Sunday, August 25, 2013

Takin care of business.....

  Howdy everyone!

Well, this update's theme song is 'taking care of business"
I know, you're already saying "well what happened to last weeks update?"
Lets start with last weekend (17-18).  I had lunch with some co-workers (hot pot!) and then Sunday, I went with a coworker (Mrs Zuang) and her family to the QD beer festival.  It was a nice time, and they were nice enough to pick me up and drop me back off at the house.  It was lots of fun, but like anywhere that has some sort of Festival like this, the prices are inflated and its crowded, but it was a great experience.  There were lots of arts and crafts, a "make your own pottery" area, lots of food on a stick, and rides and games.  We ended up going to a VIP Tent that had AC, and let you stay as long as you spent 150RMB per person.  We had 4 adults, so we had to spend 600RMB (100 USD) which was easy compared to the prices they were charging.  After we ate, my co-worker took her son to play, and her husband, the driver and I stayed in the AC tent to enjoy beer and watch festivities. One of which included toasting me (gampai!) , and refilling my beer every time I took a sip, but not theirs.  I had a nice buzz going and was enjoying myself, then Mrs. Zuang and her son returned, and offered to take me to check out the Qingdao history museum.  We all went, and I don't really remember that much of it, but plan to return soon.   Was certainly  a nice day, and their hospitality was much appreciated and enjoyed.

Well, work has been swamped.  We had a function test last week, which included yours truly going to the airport and picking up customers, and arranging their hotels etc.    We had some issues with the test, and it seemed very disorganized.  I told Xianbin (She-an-bin) my project manager, that I want to have a team meeting every morning.  We will all meet and discuss for 5 or 10 minutes total, what every persons top 3 priorities are for the day.  That way if one person is struggling with too much to do or does not know about a certain function, someone else can assist if they're familiar.  This also breeds teamwork and communication.  So far, people have been receptive and are participating well. It also allows them to speak english more. 
This past week, I was able to get some stuff done around the house.  My dad was nice enough to bring a shipment of Amazon stuff back to China,which included bathroom Caulking (to seal the shower in my guest room), dog treats, and car detailing stuff.  Which reminds me, the car got out of the shop Friday.  They did a "C minus" job and I'm sending it back for them to fix it. 
This past weekend, I had some new furniture delivered! The mattress and LayZ boy I purchased from a fellow Ex-Pat were both delivered, as was the new leather couch that I was able to get from a connection from my upstairs neighbors.  I turned the room 180 degrees and now its very comfy and inviting!  Saturday evening, I went into town and had some Korean BBQ (pics attached) with some Ex-pats that I met along the way.  We all really enjoyed it and plan on doing it again very soon!  Sunday, Xianbin and his Fiancee and I all went back downtown to check out another high end department store.  MyKal is like Sunshine or HiSense, and we split up, did our own shopping and met for lunch.  Afterwards, I took them to Metro for a look around.  I also picked up some Kraft Parmesan Cheese (the kind you put on spaghetti!) and some mango popsicles. 
This coming week looks to be less busy, but will be productive.  The weekend? thats open, but I may do some looking around at touristy places so I know where to take you guys when you come for a visit!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"Crash into me..."

Every week I have a catchy song lyric for the email, so this one is
"Crash into me..."
Howdy gang! 
Well, last weekend, I started my Friday night out at the front of my compound.  I walked over and enjoyed a cold beer and some meat on a stick! On Saturday, I went and checked out the Metro Cash & Carry, which is a European chain store, equivalent to Costco or Sams Club.  And man, did I get some stuff!  I picked up cheese, 3M Command strip stuff (Shower caddy and a towel rack), Bosch wiper blades, Chicken drumsticks, cream of chicken, Tortilla Chips, etc.  It was FANTASTIC!  Sunday, a co-worker invited me out to dinner with her family.  They live in Licun, which is another suburb of Qingdao, a nice area.  The restaurant we went to had crawfish!  It was very nice and I'm starting to build my social circle slowly but surely.
This week at work has been hectic.  I'm slowly starting to see the gross inefficiencies here and trying to merge some western business practices into the fold.  Things like using outlook calendar, and letting your boss know ahead of time before you need to take off to entertain customers or take your wife to see the doctor. etc.  So we're getting there!
The house is slowly but surely coming back together. Sheetrock and insulation have been replaced. And we're waiting on the insurance check for the rest of the project to complete. Once again, a big THANK YOU to my mom and stepdad, Nick and Alissa, my awesome neighbors, and Jim and Sharon, my closest friends and interior decorator.  This would not have been possible without your involvement!
Now for the crash part. On Wednesday, going downtown to a meeting, I was crossing an intersection, and a guy driving a mini-mini van (1/2 the size of a normal minvan), did not stop, and slammed into the front of my car.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and I was buckled up (unlike 60% of the people here) and the rules are here, if there are no injuries, you discuss compensation away from the scene and go on your way.  Because I didn't have my license yet (missed the test score by 2 points due to a glitch int he computer system at the DMV), I didn't want to draw too much attention.  We both had insurance, so we both just went on our own ways.  Except the tie rod in the car had snapped, so I had to get the car towed.   No big deal, but was just very surprised on how casual the whole situation was.  Later at lunch, one of the other managers told me that he gets into a fender bender twice a month with the company car. Its 'normal'.
One other exciting piece of news, I updated my information with the A&M former students web site, and I was contacted by the Ag Intern program where I did a semester in DC in College, as well as the Study Abroad office at A&M. Both want to interview me for publications that they put out!  Pretty surprised and excited at the same time.

This weeks trip to the farmers market, I picked up some delicious blueberries and a very large and sweet mango along with my other weekly staples.  Kody seems to be enjoying the fruit around here too.  I let him have stuff once I read that its safe for dogs to have it.  This week, I made a salad, and I haven't been able to find croutons, but I used raw ramen for the crunch.  Kody likes those too!
This coming weekend, I'm going into town for Beer Festival (was Oktoberfest but they have it now, so cant really call it that).  My coworker and her family have invited me to go, so I'm looking forward to it!  Church is a 'maybe' this week.  But the funny thing is, last weekend, I decided not to go, and to listen to a podcast of my home church.  The next Monday, I get two emails from two of the staff at the Qingdao church.  Coincidence?
This weeks entertainment is Chapelwood sermons, Kitchen Nightmares, and last seasons TopGear BBC.
I miss you and love you all.  And l love hearing back from you guys.

Stay tuned!
Peace and love to all!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Time keeps on slippin....

Howdy guys and gals!

This has certainly seemed like a short week!

Fortunately, the week has been quieter than last week.  There were a few small fires to put out at work, but nothing major.  Everything seems to be running reasonably smooth.

The insurance adjuster has submitted his estimate, and my contractor has started to fix some of the stuff like sheetrock.  We're waiting on the insurance to get settled before we move forward with everything else.

So, last weekend, in Qingdao, on Saturday, I took it easy, recovering from the hectic week.  Bob called and wanted to escape from the hotel for a while, so we went to McDonalds and then to the tool district to check out hand tools and welding machines etc.  Afterwards, we went to a very local mall, most of the places we have been too were upscale places, and this is where the every day person would go to get stuff. I think Bob was a little surprised at what he saw.  Equally, the locals were surprised to see a Westerner in a place like that.   I took a nap Saturday afternoon and ended up skipping the pub crawl, just wasn't feeling up to it. 

Sunday, I went to the office in the morning and used their water hose to wash the car, then headed to church.  Afterwards, I went to the second hand market to look for more furniture.  Unfortunately, the market has oodles and oodles of the same rental grade, sub-college student furniture in 90% of their stalls.  Also lots of restaurant equipment, used AC units.  I was able to find the same furniture thats in my bedroom and bought a matching nightstand for 100 RMB (16 dollars).  This is particle board stuff.    I walked more, and found some nice real wood stuff, and picked up an end table for 180 RMB (30 bucks).  I had to stop , as my car is a 4 door sedan. I'd have to borrow the Buick minivan from work to get more, but this was plenty for now.  Sunday evening, I took my upstairs neighbors out for supper, to show my appreciation for them helping me when I had locked myself out.  They're very nice folks and we hit it off good.  The husband is a supervising engineer at a Golf Ball manufacturer, and the wife works for a company that makes Kim Chee.  They also were able to recommend an acquaintance that has a couch factory in town, so I may be able to take advantage of that soon too!  We agreed to continue sharing meals now and then as well as they both enjoy cooking! 

I have attached pictures of lunch on Sunday.  this street food meal had Tofu Skin, braised beef, soft and hard tofu, mushrooms, rice and a coke, and was $1.62USD, after that I got a haircut and went to the farmers market and bought fruit, as well as the seasons last Lychees (what i"m holding in my hand).  Kody likes the lychees (pronounced Lee-Chee) too.

This week, I used my oven to cook a frozen "Pirates of the Caribbean" branded Pizza.  It was pretty good, and I'm grateful to have an oven, as most places do NOT here.

On Thursday, I met another expat who had put an ad up for stuff he was selling because he was moving home.  I went over to his place, and picked up a Western style King Mattress, a Clothes Steamer, Coffee maker, DVD player with 300 + DVDs, and a LayZBoy recliner!   We visited some about expat life in Qingdao, and I mentioned that it felt very discombobulated.  He agreed and mentioned that the majority of Expats here are teachers, and tend to form cliques within the school, and it gelled that way at church too.  Now I understand better.  I did make a good friend with this guy and he has other expat friends that he wants me to meet to bring me into their fold.  He also told me about all the other stores that I haven't been to yet, including a place called "Metro Cash & Carry" which is apaprently huge in Europe.  Its like Costco or Sams, and has a lot of western products, including (drum roll) CHEESE!!!! Along with other products.

On another positive note, I have figured out how to use Taobao, which is like ebay  in China.  Its 100% chinese language, but Google Chrome has a translator that automatically translates each page, beleive it or not, I've ordered a bunch of stuff from there already and its arrived successfully to the office!  My new expat friend also told me about Amazon china, which has a lot of comforts of home for very reasonable prices.  I purchased Grape Nuts, Raisins, SPices, a car wash Mitt, and yes, DORITOS!

This weekend I will hit the gym,  give Mr Kody a bath, go to the office and wash the car, and  make a trip over to Metro to see what its like.  Hoping that I find stuff that gives me the comforts of home there!

The weekly entertainment includes latest season of the British Top Gear, Ramseys Kitchen Nightmares, and now, I'm sifting through the massive collection of DVDs I inherited.

Thats it from my side, I'm hoping my updates aren't too terribly boring, but it seems as things start to get more routine, there seems to be less to report. 

I am, however, planning a trip to the hot springs and mud baths, maybe next weekend!

Peace and love

Monday, August 5, 2013

Wow, time seems to be flying by!  I can't believe today is FRIDAY!  What a difference 30 days makes. I was talking to my co-worker last night on the way home.  When I arrived here 4 weeks ago, customs took Kody, I stayed at my filthy apartment which had almost NO furnishings except for beds and couches, had no shower curtain, no toilet paper, and no AC.  I remember that Saturday morning, waking up and walking to a bakery, buying bread, and then to a local convenience store to get some juice, going back to my apartment and eating on the couch, thinking to myself, "this is the biggest mistake I've ever made."    Fortunately, I don't feel that way so much anymore.

Well, since my last update, a lots gone on but mostly in the positive direction. 

My house has been dried, damaged carpet/sheetrock etc has been removed.  The contractor and the adjuster were within a few hundred dollars of eachother, so that was good, and my Mom and Stepdad and my friend Dayna, and next door neighbors have been checking it all out and keeping things on track. Again, thanks to everyone for continually offering to help.  I'm very blessed to have so many people willing to step up!  The plumbing has been repaired, and we're waiting on the insurance to work the system for now.

Last weekend, Bob decided to hang out at the hotel, and another co-worker who was just in for a few days attended church with me on Sunday, and we had some street food (steamed meat buns and dumplings)  The photo of the food you see attached was 14RMB, less than 3 dollars.  And we had food we couldn't finish!

This week at work was hectic, with Management meetings and presentations and deadlines.  I have been driving back and forth between the conference center, R&D office and the factory all week, and running on a little more than 3-5 hours of sleep per night.  Needless to say, I am ready for an 8pm bed time tonght!  The cool part about the conference center, is that its right on the water, and the sea breeze felt GREAT!

Kody is doing good, this weekend he'll get a bath.  He loves going for our walks 3 times a day, because he can check out the stray cats that hang around our compound.  This is his usual sleeping position, which allows him to be in the same room as me, and hear whats going on in the rest of the house.  Since I've been here 30 days, Customs called and asked me to bring Kody to the airport for an inspection, which involved me borrowing a minivan from work, going home, taking kody in his crate to the airport, waiting 45 minutes for the guy, having him take 3 photos and petting Kody, and sending us on our way. 

Last night, I had dinner and drinks with co-workers in for the Management Meetings.  We hung out at the pub in front of my complex, and I ordered fettuccine alfredo with pancetta.  It was wonderfully good. 

Last weekend, I broke down and bought some cheese from my grocery store.  It was 9 US dollars for a small 5 inch round of brie, so I've been carefully savoring a little at a time.  I am moving forward with equipping the apartment and I've started to make a list.  I still need to bite the bullet and buy a microwave and a coffee maker.  I keep hearing about a used furniture store in Chengyang but nobody knows where it is.  I may go into town and try to locate one.  Rugs are also on the list so Kody has some traction when he walks around.

Bob, my co-worker is leaving tomorrow.  Its both good and bad, I think because I'll miss having a western colleague, but on the other hand, it will allow me to build my personal 'infrastructure' and get me to meet more people.  Sunday evening, I will take out my neighbors upstairs for rescuing me after my lockout incident. 

The weather has been warm here, upper 80s, low 90s, but only falls to 80 at night. We have rain every day, which makes the car look nasty.  The difference between here and Houston, is that the humidity burns off in the day time in Houston, and the heat is 'dry' .  Here, it ls like a sauna.

This weekend, I'll try to find a used furniture place, come up here to work and wash my car, and Saturday night is an Expat Pub Crawl.  Sunday will be church and meeting people at church.

Thats all I have to report.

Miss everyone!

Peace and love!