It’s been a while since my last update and much has happened, so here we go.

When we last left our hero, we were waiting for the word to come down on a contract. With that contract would come the long awaited answers to many a question. Of all the questions, the most important one is “How long will this China thing last?”. Read on my friends and I will tell you the fascinating story of how I still don’t know the answer!

The contract was approved. The next step was to have it actually signed by upper management and the legal department. However, that can take months and one of the agreements was that we were to begin work in a matter of weeks. To cover our business in the interim, we received a signed MOU (Memorandum Of Understanding) which stated that they customer had every intention of signing the contract, but realized that we needed to purchase equipment to start on time. The MOU would allow us to proceed with purchasing. So we did. I also interviewed thirty people or so and hired three. They started on a Monday. I’ve never hired anyone before so I was really enjoying working with my new people as we trained and prepared for what was to come.

That Friday morning I received a phone call. The customer’s corporate office sent out a directive slashing the budget and instructing the customer to eliminate any non essential third party suppliers. Furthermore, they were to fill those roles with their own people. So that Friday afternoon, I had to lay off my new hires. Also the first time I’ve had to do anything like that. I didn’t like it much. After that business was done we worked with the customer to determine if there was anything we could still do for them. We did come to an agreement, although it a much smaller operation than originally anticipated. At least we have managed to keep a foot in the door.

Now the other thing to consider is that we’ve spent a small fortune starting up our business here. To walk away from all the opportunity would be a mistake. And let’s face it, the employment situation in the US sucks. As long as I’m fighting it out here, I’m employed. That being said, we’ve gone to plan B. Now I can’t really discuss plan B at this time, but let me just say that I’m looking forward to the challenge. I will have to follow up later to let you know how it’s going. I don’t really know when I’ll get home. I guess I need to figure out how to get my taxes in before April. My main goal is to at least give my daughter a chance to come here. I think she’s earned that for the sacrifice she’s made by having her daddy be gone for so long.

Enough work, time to talk about some fun stuff!

So since my last update I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year… twice. I’ve moved out of the hotel and into an apartment. That’s an improvement of about 100 square meters with a much better kitchen. Here’s a quick rundown of the preceding.

Thanksgiving – The Chinese don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but here in Suzhou they try to make us foreigners feel at home. Many of the local restaurants serve up a traditional thanksgiving feast. I went to dinner with a family from Wisconsin and my special friend Pinky. The menu was the usual turkey, stuffing, salad, etc. Not too bad really, but the Chinese don’t know how to carve a turkey.

Christmas – This is also not a big holiday in China, but they do seem to like Christmas and many of the locals get into the spirit. I spent Christmas Eve with my friends from Wisconsin and several of their friends. We had the usual too much food. Christmas day was just Pinky and me. Later we went out and had some party time in Suzhou.

New Year (calendar) – This is celebrated in China and in a very similar way to the US. Pinky and I went to visit our friends in Nanjing and had a great time. The white rice wine was flowing and the party was great. We spent about three days in Nanjing, well, two days and one “recovery” day. I still say the best food is in Nanjing. At least it was until I got the apartment.

Chinese New Year – Wow. To this day I’ve never seen anything quite like this. Fireworks are a usual thing here in China. They light them for everything from marriages to completing a new floor on a building. But nothing could prepare me for the sheer volume of gunpowder spent on New Year’s Eve. At midnight, the entire city exploded. It was quite the experience hearing big fireworks in every possible direction. When it was done, you couldn’t see half a block through the smoke. Absolutely amazing…cough, cough. This continued on through the night and the next couple of days. I’m told that there are fewer fireworks this year due to the economic issues, but this American was still impressed. My friend Kevin hosted a party to kick off the night. We had food and drinks and lots of laughs. I’m not sure what the final tally was, but I believe there were 10 or 11 countries represented.

The Apartment – Finally! After spending 5.5 months in an apart/hotel, this was a welcome change. I finally have a nice kitchen and my own stuff. My new favorite things are my wok and my chef’s knife. I’ve been cooking almost every day. Rather than waste a bunch of words describing it, I’ll refer you to this photo album so you can see for yourself. I love it.

So that’s about it. Time marches on for me here and I truly love every day. I’ve got some of the best friends one could ask for and the experience is second to none. As always, I miss my family and friends (some of which I consider family) back home as much as ever. But if I were given one wish, it would be for everyone to visit me here. I would love more than anything to share my home on the other side of the world with all of them.

Time to cook lunch! Cheers!