28 January 2009

Finally Returning

So it's been a while since I've written here, but now seems like a good time since I'm returning to China in 5 days.

After a much longer stay in the U.S. than originally expected (thank you global economic crisis!), I am finally headed back to Shanghai in a few days. I'll be arriving on February 3 and am really looking forward to getting back. It's definitely been nice to be in the U.S., seeing friends and family, traveling a little bit, etc., but I was just starting to feel at home in Shanghai so I can't wait to be there again.

I know it's going to be a bit of culture shock all over again. I've been in the U.S. for almost 6 weeks, which is long enough to get accustomed to drivers who follow traffic laws, service people in stores and restaurants who actually try to serve, internet that works without the infringement of the "Great Firewall," meat served independently of bones, salad, personal space, .......the list goes on. It's nice in some ways, but at this point what I want is to be in Shanghai. I definitely miss things about China. I guess this goes both ways. I miss the everyday routines that I was getting used to in Shanghai. The security guard who wears the same pair of camouflage pants every day and at night sleeps in the tiny gatehouse at the top of my apartment block's drive (I think we're friends but he probably just thinks I'm the crazy foreigner), the fruit and vegetable markets right on my block, the newsstand on the corner where I buy the Shanghai Daily most mornings, the walk to the subway. It's strange to think how quickly one can get accustomed to things.

Some exciting things coming up too. A week of traveling for work (Tianjin, Qingdao, Taiwan) will be a chance to see some new places, especially Taiwan which I've wanted to go to for a while. Also some good live music, albeit on complete opposite ends of the spectrum: Jose Gonzalez on February 18 and Paul van Dyk on February 20. Other than that, just returning to the everyday-exciting life in Shanghai!

Few interesting reads while I'm at it:

Is India now the rightful place of the American Dream?
If you can appreciate bathroom humor, there's this roundup of English streets and towns.
A profile of the guy some call China's Tom Wolfe, documenting the excesses and absurdities of capitalism run wild in modern China.

03 January 2009

Slow day at work

It's a slow Friday afternoon at work...sounds like a good time for an update here since I haven't written in a while. I've been back in the U.S. for about two weeks now, and I'm actually surprised at how quickly I've adjusted back to life here. I guess it's what I've known for most of my life so of course the readjustment period isn't that difficult. That said, I definitely miss living in China and am looking forward to returning. Unfortunately, due to the slowdown in our business, my return to Shanghai has been delayed until February 1. Spending the rest of January in Albany isn't exactly ideal, but it's out of my hands. I just need to keep practicing my Chinese and listening to ChinesePod so I don't completely forget everything!

Some interesting stuff that I've been reading today:

Manufacturing Slows Around the World. This is especially interesting/frustrating because it's what's essentially delaying my return to China!

In the face of falling demand for its exports abroad, China tries to reshape its economy with a greater focus on domestic consumption.

The end of cheap money in the U.S. I wonder if the economic crisis will actually make Americans reverse our negative savings rate and live within our means? And how about our government and its own little negative savings rate, also known as a $10 trillion+ national deficit?

Also, a plea to Barry, because I'm sure he's reading, please put a $1.00 per gallon tax on gasoline as soon as you enter office! He had the wisdom to resist the completely backwards and inane Clinton/McCain proposed "gas tax holiday" during the campaign, so maybe he will also make the tough but right decision to take a strong step in weaning the U.S. from cheap oil.

I saw a great movie last night, well worth checking out for a good (if completely implausible) story, vibrant and strangely beautiful cinematography, a cool soundtrack, and a glimpse of life in Mumbai.

Here's a really interesting interview with Lee Kuan Yew, the man wholed Singapore during its transformation from an impoverished agricultural nation to a global economic powerhouse. He was the Prime Minister following independence from Britain and now holds the somewhat comical title of "Minister Mentor." Sounds kind of like Putin's current role, but probably not quite as malevolent. In a surprising act of modesty, he credits East Asian notions of family and individual responsibility, a strong work ethic, respect for education, and culture as the driving forces behind East Asian (Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China, etc.) economic development. He points to the cultural and moral breakdown in Western democratic societies and the belief that government can solve all problems as the ultimate downfall of the West. This is from 1994...I wonder what he'd have to say today.

That's about it for now. Not much to report on "Living and Working in China," since I'm currently Living and Working in Albany, NY.