Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in the PRC

You may think that Christmas in China is non-existent. Think again... it is alive and well in China. Christmas may not have the same feel like the States but the Chinese are following along with Christmas trees, shopping, and having fun with friends and family. There are even Christmas Eve services here.

The thing I like most about Christmas in China is the opportunity to really focus on the true meaning. I get so caught up in the presents and the culture we have made in our Western way of "doing Christmas" that I often forget the most important thing. This Christmas it has been a refreshing time of remembering what is most important. Sure, I miss my fam and all the good eats and snow but I'll still have a lot of chances to see and experience that. I love my fam and our Christmas traditions.

Below, is a picture of a Christmas party some friends and I put on. We had some good Chinese food, did a gift exchange, shared, and played four on the couch. Good times.

Christmas Day, I was invited over by some friends from Atlanta and we had a traditional Christmas meal and she even made me some Apple Pie... good stuff.

I hope you all had a Wonderful Christmas!!!

Below is a picture of our little party we had and my tree I bought at the market for $15.

Great Christmas Story

One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself...

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

Attributed to James Allen Francis

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Chinese Banquets and Food

For those of us in the West, understanding the culture of banqueting is not something we grew up with. We tend to think of food as something that is needed but we often think about it from a more practical point of view. Our cultures are fast and we value what is quick and easy to eat. Not to say we Westerners don't enjoy a good dinner but for the most part we eat faster and more practically than people in the East.

Many cultures outside of North America have more of a food culture. When you come to the East and China, you find a variety of different cuisines and ways to fix them. I'll never forget while studying Chinese that my teacher emphasized the importance of knowing the difference between the four different kinds of tastes in China. She taught me the difference in Spicy Hot, Salty, Bitter, and Sweet. We talked for a long time about the different ways to cook food and why you would want different tastes for different parts of the country. I just had a meal with some Northern Chinese in Beijing with a Southerner ordering. The Northerners couldn't believe how bland and fresh the fish was. The Northerners would have rather had the fish a little more salty with some vinegar sauce. Growing up, I never thought too much about my food... if it tasted salty or bitter, etc. The Chinese always seem to comment about the food... they really know their tastes and they love their food. By the fact that they talk about their food so much just goes to show how important it is to the culture.

It's not just the food that is important.... it's what it represents. It represents a chance to make friends and to build upon a prior friendship. The Chinese love to take long lunches or dinners. This is because as a culture they value relationships over anything else. They trust a relationship for everything... family, business, problems, etc. They won't just do business with someone just because it is a good fit. First, they see if the relationship is right. This goes back to the point of trust. Trust is big in China and earning it is not easy. If you go to a banquet or a dinner with Chinese, this is the start to see if they trust you. How you eat, drink, act. etc.

I was at a banquet last night in a large city in the North. Around the table were six men. One man was a president of a large securities firm. Another, his parents were head of large districts, and he owned four companies. Another a lawyer. Another an official who was the secretary for the previous mayor, and me. They had all become friends but underneath it all I can now see that this banquet is important. It represents bonding and long term friendships. It is fun for me to be there and just to observe. There is an art of eating and serving others first. Also the art of toasting and "giving face" is extremely important. I learn so much about my culture and me. Typically at a Chinese banquet, the top guy is always seated facing the door. The best guest is seated to his right and the second best to his left. And, usually low and behold and I am seated down on the end somewhere.

I love this about China... that the Chinese just really enjoy relationships. It is what bonds them and what makes life meaningful. It makes me ponder my own life as I try to "get things done" and work for "efficiency". It makes me rethink my value on relationships and people.

I want to end with a challenge.... A story I have ready many times is of a man named Jesus who talked about not inviting your best friends to a banquet but inviting those who are the weak, the poor and lame because they are people that cannot pay you back (there is nothing they can do for you). And that, if we do this we will receive many more things in the life to come. This challenges me to another extent, Jesus was a middle-easterner that talked about this. Thinking about how the East practices banqueting, makes me rethink why I am in such a rush and why I am always looking out for #1... ME! Something to think about...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Olympic Pics

Looking out my apartment to the testing of the Closing Ceremonies

Baseball: USA vs. Chinese Taipei

Future Chinese Stars

Team USA

Beach Volleyball: USA vs. Brazil


I can't believe there is only one day to go!!! In some ways I am happy and some ways sad...

Happy because...
Life will return to somewhat normal after the Olympics
All the craziness with security checks will be over

Sad because...
I didn't see enough events
Blue skies may be gone again :(
Traffic is amazingly easy in BJ now
Miss all the foreigners from all over the world in BJ

It has been a fun two weeks. I only went to three events but they were fun. The best event to my surprise was beach volleyball. No.... not because of the beach babes.... the atmosphere was amazing. Very fast paced and fun. Baseball was slow but fun to see USA win. Track and field was good because I was able to see Bolt take the 100m medal.

It has been fun to see how the Chinese are taking to spectator sports. They really haven't had anything like this in the past. While I was at baseball, I was answering questions about the game. Many Chinese were rooting for Chinese Taipei against the US but they really didn't understand the game. They just haven't had the opportunity to understand baseball. So, I had a fun time trying to explain it in Chinese. That might have been funny to watch!

The best was watching the Chinese getting to doing "the wave." They loved it like we loved it in the US back a few years ago. All kinds of new variations too.

Tomorrow are the Closing Ceremonies and after that I may go to some Para Olympic Games. I would really like to see gymnastics.

Gonna miss the Olympics but looking forward to normal days ahead.

Olympic Park Videos

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Tomorrow's the BIG Day

Most everyone knows tomorrow is the BIG day we have been waiting for a long time in Beijing. At 8:00pm on August 8th in the year 2008.... oh and not to mention August is the 8th month. Is there something suspicious about the number 8? Yeah, Chinese love numbers and feel different numbers mean different things. So the number eight means good luck and wealth. The Olympics must be a success... right?

Here is a pic from my apartment looking toward the Olympics area. Tomorrow night the sky will be lit up with fireworks. It will be one of the best parties on earth. No doubt about that. Just fun to be here and experience it all.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Ways to help

As many of you know, the need is still great for Sichuan's big earthquake. I know of many people going to help out. Many of us simply can't go. One way we can all help out is funding. If you go to this organizations frontpage, you can give to their teams that are going in. I know some people going with them and trust it to be a good organization

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Some recent pics

Sarah and I at the Great Wall in true Olympic Spirit

Hittin golf balls of the Great Wall

Pondering off the Great Wall

Guy friends in BJ

Were getting ready for some friends to come over at our house

Teaching one of my favorite students

The China Tour: I played in an event in April. I made my dream and can plan on the China Tour this year!

The CCTV Tower in downtown Beijing. Amazing architecture.

Went to a Beijing Olympics test event. The guy in the middle is the world record holder: Liu Xiang

The Bird's Next (The Olympic Stadium)

Me posing next to one of our new greens at our new site: Champions Park Golf Club

Me and the fam at the Great Wall

Everything is okay here in BJ

It's been a long while since I have posted. All of you are aware of the big earthquake that happened in Sichuan Province a few weeks back. We felt it a little bit here in Beijing. However, there wasn't any damage. For those of you in the US, that would equate to people in the Midwest feeling a quake that happened in California. It was pretty strong!

It's been great to hear about the stories of how people here are pouring out their hearts and wallets. It reminds me of the time of 911 in the US when people pulled together and really gave generously. Out of all the hurt and heartache many people are learning what it means to give. The earthquake is obviously a bad thing that happened but I feel it is also helping build those of us here a heart again of giving and thinking of those around us.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Interesting China Thoughts

Here are some fascinating highlights from McKinsey entitled, “Preparing for China’s
Urban Billion.”

- By 2025, China will have 221 cities with more than one million
inhabitants – compared with 35 in Europe today.

- China’ urban population will expand from 572 million in 2005 to 926
million in 2025. Over 350 million people will move from rural areas
to the cities – more than the population of the United States.

- By 2025, China could have 15 super-cities with average populations
of 25 million people. 41 percent of China’s higher income middle
class will live in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Wuhan, Chongqing,
, Guangzhou and Shenzhen.

- China will build almost 40 billion square meters of floor space
over the next 20 years, requiring construction of 50,000 new
skyscrapers – the equivalent of ten New York Cities.

- Up to 170 cities could meet planning criteria for mass-transit
systems by 2025, more than twice the current number in Europe. This
could promise to be the greatest boom in mass-transit construction in

- China’s urban economy will generate 90 percent of its GDP by 2025.
Urban China will become a dominant global market with its aggregate
consumption almost twice, and disposable income over two times, those
of Germany.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Thought you may get a kick out of this!

Kinda funny construction going on around the Construction Bank!

Take a look at this...

This is a great Blog site to see a lot of the construction going on here in Beijing.

The Last Push

As you all know, I have said I live really close to the Olympic Village area. The amount of work going on recently is absolutely amazing. Everyday I just shake my head. Beijing has earmarked a lot of land for the Olympics. Here is a photo of the Olympic Green area. Some people say it is twice the size of Central Park in New York City.

As I ride by on the bus to work... I ride from the upper left hand corner and go to the upper right hand corner. I'll try to catch more action by photo or video and blog it. It is amazing how they are planting trees, bushes, grass, resurfacing all streets and sidewalks, adding subways stations, painting old buildings, knocking down those that look really bad.... and it goes on and on. It is a site to see... especially being an American living over here. There are roads that would take three years to build in the US and they are going to be ready by the Olympic time. It's amazing! Wish you could be here to see it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

How to motivate a kid...

Motivating a child in the East is very different from the West. Everyday I learn more and more about these differences as we teach many juniors to play golf. In Asia, the parents are very involved in the child, as most only have one. There is great wanting and maybe a need for them to succeed. There seems to be a good ethic of discipline. What I find oftentimes in the West is a overall ethic of love. What has been going through my mind in the last year is how to mix both to create a system that will motivate kids but also allow them some freedom to think for themselves. Here is an article about this issue in Asia: "Olympics push Chinese kids to the max"

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Eatins Good in China "请客文化“

When it comes to culture in China, sharing a meal is nothing like the American culture I grew up in. And, that is why I have grown to love China sooo much.

What does "qing ke" mean? Qing ke is to "invite" or "entertain" and this word is thrown around all day long at my work. Not only at my work but even among friends on every street corner or housing complex. In China, if you want to celebrate, entertain, do business, etc. you "qing ke". Even for your birthday, it is culturally correct to invite friends for your own birthday party and you "qing ke", which means you pick up the bill. From a Western perspective, this often seems crazy but in China the special guest oftentimes will "qing ke."

As growing up as an American, we had important meals with family like Thanksgiving and Christmas. And, I always enjoyed having family meals together. However, for the most part, as an American we typically see eating as just a part of the day. I feel some Chinese feel it "makes" the day. There are so many types of foods and ways of preparing it. You can go to a restaurant for a month and not eat the same dish. It's not just the food that makes the day, it is the relationship around the table being built.

Why do I like this part of culture so much? While in the US, I always enjoyed going to good restaurants with friends. I find people will share more about their lives and it is so much easier to get to know someone over a meal. Here in China, that is very evident. I have heard many good stories over my three years in China over a meal. I have learned a lot about China and the Chinese by sharing many meals with friends and clients. I can hardly repay the graciousness of the Chinese to buy my meal. I feel like I am forever in debt to many people. What that means is that it is my turn to "qing ke." In the West, we like to split up who pays. In China, one time one friend pays, the next time the other friends pays. Now, when I go back to the US, it makes me feel weird when friends want to split everything. I guess China has grown on me in the sense that it seems so crazy to figure out who owes me how much ... it makes me think we are often very aware of what is "mine" in the US.

Another reason why I love this culture is the variety of food to try. Not only can you order many kinds of food, but when people eat in China, many dishes are shared. I don't mean just a few dishes, usually an overabundance. When finished, there are plenty of leftovers. The Chinese love this. I still don't really understand if this is something to do with the fact that many didn't have much food growing up or the fact that they just want enjoy part of the great food culture. Could be a mix of both?

Restaurants in are nothing like that in the Western world. We are talking large, expansive, expensive places where you usually rent a private room if you have special guests. Seating is important and many parts of the banquet. Maybe I'll cover this in another Culture issue on my Blog. I have been in a restaurant in Tianjin I thought was a botanical center that my hosts told me sat close to 2,000 people. I am oftentimes impressed with the restaurant structures and what goes into building a restaurant in China. Lets just say they don't "skimp".

I had a day recently where I shared two meals with two different clients. One client was getting ready to go to a golf tournament and we enjoyed a nice meal of hotpot together. This is where you have meat, veggies, and many other things and throw them in a boiling pot. This time, they decided to order a delicacy... pig brain. So, I tried it, many people say it helps out your eyesight or makes your mind sharper. I am still trying to figure out what it did for me. That evening, I was asked out again by another client. That time we had some nice Cantonese food. This time they ordered some beef stomach. It wasn't my favorite but wasn't all that bad. I write this not to scare those of you not living in China. I write this as an example of what some of my days consist of. However, usually I don't get double hit with two delicacies in one day!

I hope you can understand a little more about my new world in China. Would love to hear some of your comments from those who have been to China and maybe from some friends who haven't. Happy Eating!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

This world IS small

For those of you who are on Facebook, you have seen that I met a random friend this past week. This world really IS small. So, here's what happened... I was walking back to the clubhouse and someone shouted out, "patrick!". I looked and the guy looked familiar but couldn't tell who it was. Then, I made the connection, it was my Chinese friend from Atlanta who was born in Korea and opened a Japanese Hibachi and Sushi restaurant. He used to come up and play Windermere all the time and I used to go down and have sushi at his sushi bar with friends after work. I couldn't believe it. Here is George's restaurant... if you like sushi, he has some of the best in Atlanta: Ichiban. You have to try their Yami Yami roll :)

My partner, Jim, used to teach a nine year old boy here in Beijing. His dad decided to move to Atlanta because it would allow him a better place to practice and learn. While in Atlanta, he met my friend George and this time brought him back to Beijing with him... crazy world we live in!

Just the other day, my partner introduced me to someone else. He is a local whose dad was a General in Mao's Army. We began talking and he noticed the logo on my shirt. The logo was of Windermere, the club I used to manage in Atlanta. He said he played it and has a brother in Atlanta. Each year I am here I make more Chinese friends who have connections with Atlanta. I still don't know what to do with this?