September 2, 2013
Well today I decided that I need to learn Mandarin. After just three hours of an introduction to Mandarin Class I am completely captivated and in love with the language. Rosetta stone is going to become my new best friend. They say it takes 2,200 hours to reach an intermediate level in Mandarin so I only have 1,997 left, how exciting! After our Mandarin tutorial we had our fifth Encounters Class and then Jeremiah Jenne, the head of IES gave a lecture on late imperial China. Class was over around 4 and the group decided we wanted to go to the Opera and then do group karaoke. Graham, Ryan, Victoria and I took charge of this task and went to get opera tickets and scope out karaoke places. The opera was from 6:30-7:30 and it was… interesting. The singing and story-line were difficult to follow but the costumes and dance were incredible. During the performance we enjoyed tea, dates, crackers, and watermelon and it was really quite an experience. The twelve of us who went were very happy that we chose the hour performance over the three hour Opera.
When the performance was over Professor Mulcahy took us to a restaurant where we could creatively order, and that we did. Most of us were intrigued by the food choices in the market and wanted a safe way to experience these cuisines. Well if pork intestine, scorpion, sea cucumber, tongue, and different animal livers aren’t creative then I don’t know what is. I was hesitant to try everything but my curiosity overtook caution. Ryan and I cheers our chopsticks together and crunched on a scorpion. It was surprisingly tasteless and the worst was over.
After our interesting meal we scurried out and rushed back to the hotel to meet up with the group for karaoke. Mariette and Professor Mulcahy even joined us and did a whopping duo together of “Summer Nights.” We all had a blast and it was so great to all be together and unwind from the long day.
September 3, 2013
We have been exceptionally lucky with the pollution in Beijing and today was the first day I saw how bad it gets. When I woke up and drew open the curtains the tall buildings that were two blocks over and perfectly visible the day prior, were completely covered with a gray haze. I was stunned when I was told how bad it can get in Beijing and apparently today wasn’t even “that bad” of a day. After breakfast we had guest lecturer, and Babson alumnus, Andrew Stockwell visit the class. Andrew is the VP of Asia Pacific at Forrester and spoke about “Winning the Dynamic Digital Customer in China.” He talked about how we are moving from the “Age of Information” into the “Age of the Customer” and how important and valued customer service is, something that is new and not understood by most Chinese. I was very intrigued by what he said and he recommended a couple of books and to read China’s thirteenth 5-year plan which is now on my agenda for this week.
We then took a trip to the Beijing Urban Planning Exhibition Hall which was extraordinary. There were a number of city maps, layouts and modules of old Beijing, current Beijing and what future Beijing will look like. There was also a module that showed the main road in Beijing and how it runs through the entire center of the city. Beijing is even petitioning to have this road declared a World Heritage Site.
When we were done at the Urban Planning Hall we crossed the street to enter Tian’amen Square. Before going into Tian’amen, Jeremiah pointed out the “eye in the sky” to us and I was in shock by how many cameras were on the lights above our heads.We also had to walk through an underground security checkpoint before we were able to enter the square. In Tian’amen Square is one of the most popular attractions in China and it leads into the Forbidden City which was our next stop. Both attractions were filled with people and our group was getting a lot of attention for being “laowai” (foreigners). There were people from every angle taking pictures of our group and when one person wanted a picture with us, a whole group of more people lined up to have their picture taken with us as well. Finally we entered the Forbidden City which was the imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. In the Forbidden City there are 980 buildings but not one of them has a “bathroom” because each room was used as a bathroom. After we walked through the city we entered the gardens which were my favorite part although we were sadly rushed through them because the city was closing.
After leaving the city we walked up Jingshan Hill which is an artificial hill with a temple on it that overlooks all of the Forbidden City. When we got to the top I was really able to see how bad the pollution was because most of the Forbidden city was covered by smog and we were not able to see it. After enjoying the lookout point the group split up and I decided to go to Jingshan Park. We rented a boat to cruise around the very polluted river, but the willow trees that lined the banks were beautiful and the ride was very peaceful and enjoyable.
When we returned from our river cruise we were all getting hungry and decided to check out the Hou Hai area for dinner. We just wandered into a Vietnamese restaurant Nuage and little did we know it is the second best Vietnamese restaurant in Beijing and was my favorite meal in China. The atmosphere was incredible and I absolutely loved the place; I wanted to go back again tomorrow for dinner. When we were done indulging, we wandered around Hou Hai because it is famous for its nightlife and then tried to grab a taxi home which took almost an hour to hail down.
September 4, 2013
This morning Dominic Johnson-Hill came in to speak about his company Plastered 8. Plastered 8 is a graphic t-shirt brand that uses common Chinese symbols and recreates them to make a statement. A couple of things he said that were very influential were:
- Courage is never letting your actions be influences by your fears
- Building a business is 1% about the idea and 99% about alignment
- You must always be in a constant state of revolution
- Marketing and innovation are the two most important things
- Always think of the worst case scenario before making a decision
- It is all about influencing the influential
Dominic is very passionate, enthusiastic and creative and I really admire is business attitude and work ethic. After Dominic left we took the bus down to the 798 Art District Gallery and had a guided tour around the area in the rain. The tour was just ok but the area was trendy and had a lot of flare. I wish that I had the chance to go on a sunny weekend day because I am sure the streets would be filled with people but this way we were able to see a lot of the street art and sculptures. After the tour I tried Szechuan food for the first time and it was just as spicy as I had been warned that it would be. When we finished lunch we wandered around and explored the area. The group decided to visit the Plastered 8 store in the 798 Art District and we all were very moved to support Dominic after his riveting speech. When we got back to the hotel we had another guest speaker, Mike Welser the CEO of True Run Media, who shared the 10 things experienced that were not in his business plan. His companies biggest publication is the magazine the Beijinger, and he gifted us with a free copy and Beijinger shot glasses. He also talked about how big of a challenge Human Resources is in China because training and keeping employees in a quickly changing economy is very difficult. I was very intrigued by his HR challenges and I spent some time talking to him about his company after his presentation was over.
The weather really put a damper on the rest of the day day but at night we went out to dinner in the Hu Tongs which are the lively alleyway streets in Beijing that are connected and house close communities of people, small shops and authentic restaurants. The rain started coming down much heavier and we decided to quickly grab a cab before it became impossible to get home.
September 5, 2013
Our last day in Beijing! We started the morning with guest speaker Alison Friedman, CEO of Ping Pong Productions who is yet another ambitious, successful and driven entrepreneur in Beijing. Her company “brings China and the world together through the performing arts.” It was awesome to hear from a woman’s perspective what it is like coming to China alone and the challenges of building her company. After we took a picture of all of the ladies together, we had to say goodbye and then we were off to the Temple of Heaven. The Temple of Heaven is situated in a beautiful park and is an area of many religious buildings with area’s that were once used for sacrificial ceremonies.
After enjoying the morning touring the Temple of Heaven, we headed for the Pearl Market for a little more excitement. The Pearl Market was five floors of knock-off craziness. Each floor was filled with hundreds of vendors selling everything from shoes, fur, purses, Rosetta Stone, Beats Speakers and so much more. There were also jewelry stores selling beautiful real pearls, hence the name. We did not have much time to shop around because then we needed to rush off to the train station. It was bitter-sweet saying goodbye to Beijing. I really enjoyed the historical aspect of Beijing but I will not miss the pollution and I am very excited to finally get to Shanghai and get acquainted with my more permanent home for the next three weeks.