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Leo’s Kingdom 6 End of Day One…

After our trip to the site its  time we head out, it’s been a really long day and my jet lag is fast approaching. We have not stopped since the morning and for some reason this trip’s allotment of jet lag is quite strong. Our hotel has been arranged by James AKA ” Eskellettons™ ” and is only about 10 min from the site. Upon arival we are checked in by Sarah, the hotel is pretty low rent but I have seen worse and in my current state doesnt really make an impression.

After dumping our bags its off to the obligatory client dinner. We are taken to the Ambassador Hotel which from the look of things is quite a bit nicer then the Motel 7  where we left our things. We are led up marble stairs to a large private dining room by attractive girls in those great traditional Chinese dresses with the slit up the leg…

Chinese Dress

Chinese Dress

Having worked on a few Chinese projects by now, I have gotten used to these events, but for the un initiated they can be a bit daunting. Typically a large group of people representing the client will attend and all will sit around a huge round table.

RoundTable

Typical Round Table

The highest ranking members will sit at one point with lower ranks fanning out to either side. I don’t know the whole system but there is one for sure. The Chinese are much more concerned with formal hierarchy then those of us from the west. Everything from where you sit, who speaks first, when you drink, all has a place in an elaborate custom. Thankfully as Lao Wai or Guai Lo, non Chinese are forgiven for not understanding and most Chinese it seems are quite happy to instruct and help us over the rough spots. For this meeting we have Eskellettons™ and the man I cannot remember as our  host along with Sarah and a number of other Lian Bang employees. Also in attendance is the head of Lian Bang construction, an interesting character who’s tan skin and completely bald head makes me think of a monk on summer vacation… Doug is seated first as our ” leader ” and the rest of us find places.

Danilo and I are sitting next to Brian which is good as with his english he can help us with the proceedings. As the food starts to arrive and drinks begin to be poured its time to start the speech making. James goes first of course telling us all how happy he is to have us here and how much he hopes we can all work together to make this the greatest  project in the history of all greatest projects. Its become obvious over the last few hours that the DPI team ” my clients ” have serious issue with James. For myself I don’t have much of an opinion as yet but I do get the impression of someone with an over inflated ego…

3 Things to keep in mind at these dinners.

1. The food

If you; like me, really enjoy Chinese food you will have a blast. If you are in any way squeamish about non western food you’re going to be challenged. Because of the formal nature of these dinners ” trying to make good impressions, display of wealth and generosity etc ” the food is not simple fare. This is what some might call the weird stuff. Expensive and exotic dishes with interesting ingredients and unique flavors abound. Don’t get me wrong the food is good, its simply that for some people it can be a bit off putting. Also this is real Chinese food so don’t expect sweet sauces, or egg rolls. An interesting aside there is a new restaurant in Shanghai which is doing extremely well serving  ” American ” Chinese food… of course its called The Fortune Cookie , Go figure.

Some things you might find here…

Octopus squid or cuttlefish actually quite good…

Octopus

Octopus

Beijing Duck, oily but Yum…

Beijing Duck

Beijing Duck

Sea Cucumber and or Slug depending on your mood. Supposed to be really good for you. It must be because it taste just like it looks here :). For some reason Chairman Li decided this was Doug’s favorite dish… I think he saw Doug looking at it and mistook the slight horror on his face for interest.

Sea Cucumber

Sea Cucumber

Angry Squirrel Fish, looks terrible but not bad at all…

Angry Squirrel Fish

Angry Squirrel Fish

And of course Angry Squirrel

Angry Squirrel

Angry Squirrel

Just kidding pretty sure I have not eaten any rodents in China yet…

2. Drinking

The Chinese love to drink; obviously not everyone, but for the most part drinking is an integral part of these client dinners especially in the North which is where we are… You will be asked if you would like wine or beer. If you have not tried Chinese wine my suggestion for you at first would be go for the beer. Chinese wine is rice based like japanese Sake but thats where the similarity ends. For one thing its much stronger our knick name for it being  JetFuel… Unlike Sake its pretty much always served room temperature and when you drink it there is a strong burn in the throat and a kind of peppery taste. For those who have had the experience of drinking moonshine its quite similar… at between 40 and 70% alcohol it might be better suited as industrial solvent… Going by the name of Bai Jiu it is brought out as soon as the festivities begin. This evening’s Bai Jiu I find out later was donated by Charles the Lian Bang Chairman’s Right hand man. Its called 9 Dragons and comes in a really cool old style clay pot container. After one particular fun filled evening he gifted me with a bottle, but thats for later…

9 Dragons

9 Dragons

For Bai Jiu its actually quite smooth… The wait staff is quick to refill your small toasting glass which is basically a shot glass so be careful how quickly you empty it. As the dinner goes on people will make speeches to the table and toast to individuals which is again all part of this Chinese ritual of organizing and respecting hierarchy. At some point someone is bound to utter the infamous words “Ganbei” with their toast which is the signal for all involved to empty their glasses. Beware!

Game of BaiJiu

Game of BaiJiu

3. Smoking.

China is not on the no smoking kick yet, there are indications of it but for now its still pretty much accepted that people will smoke everywhere.

Things Have Really Changed...

Things Have Really Changed…

Having smoked for years in bars I am used to it but I can’t really say its enjoyable in a resteraunt. There seem to be hundreds of Chinese cigarette brands ranging from dirt cheap to very expensive.

Chinese Ciggs

Chinese Ciggs

As the dinner moves on people approach with offers of cigarettes and wanting to drink with the foreigners. Danilo and I are having a great time catching up and observing the group.

Chris; being a Morman, is unable to join in with the drinking or smoking but is a great sport and a deft hand at turning the subject without insulting our host. Jake had to leave earlier in the day for another meeting in another city, one thing is obvious about Jake Park and that is he works the sales part of his business very hard. Aside from the Shijiazhuang project, DPI has another design  theme park project in Changsha ” where Danilo has been for the last few months ” and 2 other water parks in China. There was also a mention of 2 projects in the US and and a wrap up in South Korea. According to Brian, DPI has around 40 full-time employees and although they this is their first attempt at a Theme Park they have a lot of experience with Water Parks…

Brian has turned out to be a good dinner companion. His English is a bit halting but overall pretty easy to understand. Having been onsite for 3 months now has a lot to share about the reality on the ground. It turns out that the reason there is such tension between the DPI team and James ” Escelettons man ” is that they have worked together in the past. In fact James was a sales rep for DPI in China because he can speak Chinese. Of course that was before Jake fired him for being abusive with his co workers. According to Brian he has zero experience in design and none in Theme Parks, this should be interesting…

After much food and drink is consumed its time to head out, tomorrow begins the real adventure.

Love U Man

Love U Man

 

OH Yeah… Here is the final piece of fun. As we mill around in the lobby awaiting our ride, Danilo and I notice Doug seems a bit out of sorts. We go over to the chair where he sits to see whats up and find that things are far from OK. Doug has decided on reflection that he would much rather stay in the hotel we are in now the Ambassador then the one that James has arranged. As our team assembles around Doug; to discuss this, it turns out he is not alone in his position. While I agree that the Ambassador is a hell of a lot nicer, I am not sure exactly what the issue is but it turns out I am alone in that opinion. According to Chris when he was in the room he saw mold growing up the wall of the shower stall. Danilo had noticed there was no place to put any of his luggage away and no safe. Douglas had the best story however, apparently his room wasn’t quite ready for him when we got there.  As he entered the room, the hotel staff were hurriedly trying to remove the display of sex toys arrayed on his dresser. Knowing Douglas May as I do now, that is quite funny :)…

Long story short the team decides we will purchase our own rooms and stay at the Ambassador. Needless to say our host are upset by this idea and after much hand waving and loud cell phone conversation, Sarah told us that Charles said  that we will be moved here for the duration of our stay in Shijiazhuang.

Okie well that wraps up day one of the saga, I assure you next installments will not be so lengthy as at this rate it will take me another 3 years to tell this story…

Next installment First client review and or how to design a them park over the weekend…

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