I boarded a plane from Peoria, Illinois for a two hour flight to Atlanta, Georgia. There I took a train from one concourse to another where I boarded a Delta Boeing 777-200 for the trip to Shanghai. This plane is huge. (Note to self… bring snacks next time!)  During the sixteen hour flight, I had the pleasure of meeting Becky and Emma. They are a mother and daughter traveling from Maryland to Becky’s home in China. Becky is a Chinese citizen who is married to a US doctor. Emma is a US citizen born in America. I had a wonderful conversation with Becky about differences between the US and China. Emma, upon first impression, is a shy five year old lady. Then I got to meet the real Emma who is by no means shy! Boy what a swell kid. She amazed me with her knowledge of her family which is distributed throughout America, Europe, and China. What a great opening to the trip.

Upon arrival in Shanghai, I had the immediate realization that I wasn’t in Illinois anymore. Of course the most noticeable difference being the fact that 99% of the people were Chinese. We passed through customs with no problems. Everyone seems to be very nice.

I’m noticing something else. The people working in and around the airport are all young and clean cut. It is apparent that the Chinese are very particular about who is representing them to new arrivals.

We meet with Colin Wong, our company asset in China. Colin and his driver are going to take us for a two hour drive to Suzhou. This is where the fun begins! For the uninitiated, driving in China is a whole new experience. I lost count of how many times I thought I was going to die. And those painted lines that denote lanes… more like a guideline than anything. Colin thought that next time we should have a drink at the airport before the drive to Suzhou. I agree.

We arrive at the hotel and are surprised (sarcasm) to find that the wire transfer from work has not come through. The next thought was that we will secure the rooms with our personal credit cards. Sorry, but I don’t think my daily limit is going to work for a three month hotel stay. Not even in China. Eventually Colin gets us taken care of and we get to our rooms. I don’t even bother to really check it out as I’ve been up for twenty four hours and all I really want is a shower. The water smells a little funny. It doesn’t feel dirty, just smells funny.

All cleaned up and time for dinner. Colin picks us up and we head across the street to the restaurant. There we meet Alan, Oliver, and Emily. These are our new company cadets. Alan is very quiet. I think Oliver has a permanent smile on his face. Emmy is equally outgoing and kind. So here sits the whole team for this adventure. I don’t think I could ask for a more wonderful group. Throughout dinner Oliver and Emmy were having a great time exploring the differences between China and America with me. Oliver really wants to work on his English, so we agreed that he would help me with Chinese and I will help him with English. Emily also helped me to properly pronounce schezwan. (As in schezwan beef) Although I found myself feeling very far from home, I also felt a profound sense of excitement and comfort. That this is going to be one of the greatest experiences of my life.

After dinner we stopped at a small store to get some essentials. I’ll have to go back and shop some more, but had a great time identifying US products with Chinese packaging. The good news is that they have my brand of toothpaste, soap, and shampoo here!

Next, Colin takes us for a quick drive around Suzhou. I will have to take the time to photograph this place, but let me assure you that this city as absolutely astounding. One word, lights. I could go on forever just describing what I saw in the next half hour, but I’ll just get some pictures instead. This place is truly amazing. I love it here.

Back home for sleep now. I’ve been up for at least 28 hours and have only slept for about an hour before leaving. Sleep comes quickly. Oh yeah, and the floor feels like its moving. You know, like the plane.

Pictures are in the image gallery.