No more meetings (for now)

Today was the last day of the Academy TC meeting. After breakfast and the bus ride, we settled in for the home stretch, and accomplished everything on the agenda with minutes to spare.

Following the TC meeting, we joined the IBM Technical Experts Group – Greater China for part of their annual meeting; we learned about what they were doing and talked about our IBM careers. I’m afraid that having twenty-odd TC members speak may have been a bit much, because there was no time left at the end of the meeting for networking (but I’m hoping that some of the people at the meeting will get in touch electronically).

We said “farewell” to the China Software Development Lab and boarded the bus for a quick stop at the hotel, followed by a one-way trip to the Sanitiun Yashou Clothing Market, where we had almost 90 minutes to shop five floors of shops. I picked up an assortment of gifts, although I have much more shopping to do before I leave town, and might go back there (although there are many other places to try, too).

At a couple of minutes before 8, there was an announcement on the PA system — all of the vendors zipped their stalls closed and dashed off down the escalators, so the customers had no choice but to follow along. I met my colleagues at the entrance, and we set off for dinner.

The Lonely Planet guidebook said that Xiao Wang’s Home Restaurant was good and just across the street, so we wanted to try it. We couldn’t tell where it was, so we asked a policeman. He couldn’t understand our attempt at pronouncing the Mandarin from the book, but fortunately, the map at the back had Chinese characters and he told us exactly where to go. The food was very, very good — we had fried lotus roots with lots of peppers; meatballs; chicken with cashews in sweet and sour sauce; and fried fish with lots and lots of peppers. My companions also had fried bananas and vanilla ice cream. I’d go back again, even though the meal cost three times what we paid at the unnamed restaurant near the hotel on Monday night ($12 each).

Tomorrow morning, it’s off to the Great Wall!

Meetings and Acrobats, oh my!

Wednesday started, as usual, with breakfast in Cafe Cha here at the
Shangri-La. They have an enormous breakfast selection (Western, Chinese, and Japanese options), and I’m doing my best to work through it all while I’m here.

After breakfast, we took the bus out to IBM, where we spent all day locked in a hot conference room talking Academy business. Near the end of the day, I managed to escape for a 30-minute walk, but that was it for excitement.

But after the meeting ended for the day, we set out for the Heaven and Earth Theatre to see the China National Acrobatic Troupe in Reverie. The show started dramatically, with two acrobats being lifted in a ball:

732 - acrobats:

and then continued with two young female acrobats twisting themselves in knots:

740 - acrobats:

After that, I gave up trying to take pictures and just marvelled. I bought a DVD to bring home; it won’t be the same, but it’ll still be worth watching.

After the show, we walked to the East Gate shopping center for dinner (in a Western-style restaurant, which was something of a surprise), and then back to the hotel, where I collapsed. It had been a long day.

I’ve got Gobi all over my shoes

I’m looking forward to playing tourist over the weekend. Today, though, was work again — the first day of the IBM Academy TC meeting. Since there were 20 of us making the trip from the hotel, they arranged a bus for us, and unsurprisingly, the bus took a different route than either taxi yesterday. En route, we passed what I hope is a museum rather than an operational facility:

mystery rocket:

China may have been a Communist country a few years ago, but those days are long past:

welfare lottery:

“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his luck?”

Eventually, we arrived at the IBM China Software Development Lab,
which is a few minutes away from the China Research Lab. The two groups are planning to co-locate in a new facility in another few months; in the meantime, CSDL occupies a floor of the conventional building in this photo:


I don’t know if there is a car park nearby, but the bike lot sure is popular. And the elevator makes me feel safe:

PRC Safety:

We’ve been inside all day, but when we got to our afternoon break, I went outside for a breath of fresh air, only to discover that today is less pleasant than yesterday was. And when I returned to the meeting, I found that I have Gobi all over my shoes:

Gobi on my shoes:

so I guess I’ll try out the shoe shine service at the hotel tonight.

But first, we have dinner scheduled at the Beijing Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant. I’m looking forward to it — lunch was sandwiches from Subway (no better and no worse than it would have been in California).

Dinner was worth waiting for (even worth the hour-plus drive to get there!) — besides the duck, we had at least ten appetizer courses (mostly vegetarian, but also chicken, beef, and fish as well) plus fruit for dessert and, of course, duck soup. I would go back any time — though I must admit that dinner was something of a splurge tonight. There were about 30 people at dinner, and the bill came to just over RMB 4000 (about $500 US, or $16/person, including drinks). In contrast, dinner last night cost about $4/person, again including drinks. And for the dishes in common (fish and chicken), the cheap restaurant was better — I may go back there later in my stay.

A Blue Sky Day

When I arrived yesterday, the air was thick and dark — so this morning when I opened my curtains, I was pleasantly surprised to find a bright and sunny day.

view from shangri-la:

I had a very nice breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant, then set forth by taxi for IBM’s China Research Lab, where I had a full day of meetings scheduled.

The trip took 30 minutes; the roads were thick with bicycles

698 commute scene:

and even UFOs

701 ufo:

but eventually, I made it to the lab

702 at crl:

where I spent the rest of the day inside, learning many things and meeting many people.

Eventually, I taxied back to the hotel, where I met a tableful of my Academy colleagues who were ready for dinner, as was I. We went to a nearby local restaurant, where English was not on the menu. But we coped, assisted by a local college student who spoke some English, and by the takeout restaurant menu I’d brought from home. The food wasn’t exactly like what I would have gotten at home — it was better — but having the menu did help.

And now it’s time to call it a night; tomorrow, the TC meeting begins in earnest. It’s a shame to spoil such a nice trip with so much work!

The little green cup

I’m in Beijing for a meeting of the Technology Council of the IBM Academy of Technology. I had an uneventful, if occasionally very bumpy, flight from SFO-PEK; though I kept my windows closed for most of the flight, I did get a couple of pictures en route. While over Siberia, I got a shot of what seems to be a frozen river:

Siberian River: Siberia looks cold to me! After that, things got boring again outside the window until we were roughly here:

China airmap: when I looked out the window and saw something I couldn’t identify:

China from 38,000 feet: I don't know what these are.  Farms?  Whatever they are, they're enormous! Since we were at about 38,000 feet, the picture covers many square miles — I guess it’s something agricultural, but I have no idea what.

Getting through Immigration and Customs at Beijing Airport took all of 60 seconds. In contrast, I spent an hour in line last year at Narita.

Beijing Airport is also a pretty welcoming place — this was the first thing I saw after leaving customs:

PEK airport scene: though I decided not to indulge.

The trip from the airport to the hotel (Shangri-La Beijing) was easy (the hotel limo helped, I’m sure), and check-in was instantaneous — I was met as soon as I entered the hotel by someone who greeted me by name and took me to my room. I did have to sign the registration slip, but not until I was in the room. I could get used to this….

I arrived on Sunday; the hotel had a special Easter brunch. I wonder what Chairman Mao would have thought.