Saturday, May 2, 2009

If you haven't read my entry about "public" restrooms, then you should check it out here first.

So there I am, standing there in my apartment building lobby waiting for the elevator. Standing in front of me are two woman and a young boy. (He was probably like 5 or 6 years old.) All of the sudden the mom pulls down the kid's pants, and lifts him up in the air to let him pee into the trash can...

I'm dead serious. I've been living in China for 10 months now, but that was mind-blowing.

Meanwhile I'm awkwardly standing there trying not to stare. But I just can't help it. I mean for chrissakes the woman was helping her kid pee into a trash can! Inside the lobby of the apartment building!

~shakes head~

Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's getting late and I'm burning out, so I'll make it short and sweet:

  • I only had to go to work for 2 hours to take care of a few things. It was nice to just have some time off to finish packing and stuff.
  • I said my goodbyes to my coworkers. I'm terrible at goodbyes. It was totally awkward.
  • I'm working in a town called Songgang (located in Shenzhen city), but I'm living in a town called Chang'an (located in Dongguan City). They're only about 10-15 minutes apart from each other.
  • The apartment complex seems nice. The surrounding area seems to be a step up from the area where I was staying before. There's a McDonalds and Walmart located right downstairs.
  • It's Labour Day tomorrow, but I still have to go to work :(  Come on, it's China.  If anyone was going to be big on this whole Communist International Workers' Day thing, it should be them!
That's it for now! Tomorrow I'm moving again to another apartment upstairs. Then I can unpack and take some pictures. (They only have a squat toilet here...UGH)

Some things never always change. That pretty much sums up my chaotic life these past two months. Every morning I come into work and immediately check my email, hoping for some sort of update. People have been making decisions for me and my plans have been changing on a near daily basis. I’ve had to learn to be flexible and adapt to changing circumstances. Needless to say, it’s been really hard to stay motivated and keep working in this constant state of uncertainty. But all that is about to change…

If I haven’t talked to you recently or you haven’t been catching up my blog, then you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. So let me get those of you up to speed:

My product division has merged with a new business group (BG). The problem is that my old BG and the new BG both decided to let me go. (As an American worker, my salary is just too costly, especially compared to local Chinese and Taiwanese workers.) Now that doesn’t mean I’m being fired; I’m just getting reshuffled and sent off to another BG. And so my HR department has been scrambling to find a next assignment for me. So I’ve been busy interviewing, touring facilities, and waiting for job offers.

But like I said earlier, all that is going to change very soon. Yesterday I received and confirmed a job offer from a new BG. Today the logistics were finalized for transferring to this new group. Tomorrow will be my last day of work at my old group. And the day after tomorrow I’ll start work with my new group. Safe to say it’s going to be an insane week.

So what’s up with this new group?

  • They basically manufacture interconnections and PCB for cell phones and other consumer electronics.
  • I’ll need to move to a new dormitory and work in a different location, but their factory is still located in Shenzhen. (They’re just about 30 minutes further inland.)
  • The new training plan will have me work about 1-3 more months in China. After that I’ll head back to the US and I’ll be working in Santa Clara.
  • I’ll be working as an FAE (field applications engineer) with a long term plan to transfer into sales or account management in a few years.
Anyway, on one hand, I'm kind of sad to be moving on. It sucks to get settled and have ten months of training under your belt, only to be reassigned to a different group. Tomorrow I have to say my good-byes to my coworkers. But on the other hand, I'm excited about having a new assignment and an actual training plan that has me return to the US.

P.S. If you heard rumors that I’d be home next week, I’m sorry to say that plan’s been scrapped. My contract guarantees a training break every six months, so I’ll probably see you all in early July? I’m hoping to home before my birthday :/ Please don't ask for an exact date; if I knew, I would tell you.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Yesterday I spent the day in Hong Kong attending a public lecture on Molecular Gastronomy as part of the Le French May Arts Festival (法国五月). I know it sounds like a pretty random way to spend your Saturday afternoon.

To be honest, I'd never even heard of Molecular Gastronomy before. I was scanning through the Hong Kong Event Calendar trying to find something to do because I sure as hell didn't want to spend my entire weekend hanging around Shenzhen. I came across this public lecture titled Can Science Contribute to the Improvement of Culinary Art? Science + Cooking? Sign me up!

I should probably explain what the hell that even means. Molecular Gastronomy is like the study of how cooking works from a physical and chemical point of view. That probably sounds like some sort of pseudo-science, but I have to admit that there's a great deal of actual science and mathematics there is to it.

The lecturer was Hervé This, a French physical chemist who actually helped officially create the field of Molecular Gastronomy. It's kind of funny because the guy doesn't consider himself a cook. He said that he's a chemist first and foremost. His work has mostly been investigating old wives' tales and exploring existing recipes. But it's more than just experimenting; it's also about discovering the why. Here are some of the experiments he talked about:
  • Boiling an Egg: He studying boiling eggs at different temperatures. The consistency of the egg depends more on the specific temperature than the cooking time. The heat causes the proteins in the egg to denature (i.e. fall apart and unwind). But what's really interesting is that he helped discover that there are multiple proteins that all denature at different temperatures. Thus buy controlling the temperature, you can greatly control the consistency of the egg. (Apparently this knowledge can also be used to "unboil" an egg.)
  • Color of Carrot Soup Stock: One of his students is working on how to determine the color of carrot soup stock. As you boil the stock longer and longer, the color will change from orange to brown. The interesting part is that they discovered that the process depends on lighting conditions. The process speeds up if there is more light. And they actually looked at the biochemistry to find the component that causes this effect. Yay for nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR).
  • Roast Suckling Pig: Oh this one was my favorite. There's an old wives' tale that the skin of a roast suckling pig will crackle more if you chop the head off right after roasting. Now here's the level of detail that goes into these studies. To ensure that the pigs brought up in the same environment and had similar genes so they had to raise a family with four pigs. And also conducted a blind taste test with over 300 participants. (Oh and the saying is true by the way.)
All in all, it was really interesting. I know it sounds really frivolous and kind of pointless, but I feel it has practical applications. I just want to quote his partner in crime Nicholas Kurti,the other co-founder of Molecular Gastronomy:

"I think it is a sad reflection on our civilization that while we can and do measure the temperature in the atmosphere of Venus we do not know what goes on inside our soufflés."

Maybe I need to re-think my major and career path.