Wednesday, September 10, 2008

NingBo Nights

I really do not know what to say, except that I feel so very lucky and blessed to be on this great adventure! I have met so many wonderful, friendly people.
I got into Shanghai Monday night on time. One of our VPs met me at customs along with our driver Yng (pronounced EEng). Today, I gave him his English name: Henry. He likes that. Everyone here has such a wonderful sense of humor. They are very interested in how I live, just as I am interested in how they live.
In Shanghai, on Tuesday, we went to a market in the morning. We then met with a China division of one of our customers in the US. After that, Yng drove me the 2.5 hours from Shanghai to NingBo. We were on a toll road most of the way. We actually experienced a flat tire that Yng changed in under 10 minutes! Now let me put this in perspective, Yng speaks very little English; he can say "Okay" and "See you tomorrow" and that's it. So here I was, halfway around the world, on the side of a very busy Chinese highway, the ONLY "white" person around for miles. Yes, we got some stares! I have been stared at quite a bit! Well, we continued on toward NingBo. Before crossing the longest bridge in the world, 36 km over water, we stopped so I could use the toilet. Yep, major cultural difference, but I was game and made it work!
Then into NingBo and the Howard Johnson's. Now this is not a HoJo like in the US. This is a major 5-star luxury hotel and they booked me into a freaking suite! this is the absolute, nicest hotel room I have ever been in. I have a butler! They had a sign to greet me upon check-in "Welcome Ms Kelly Wood". The entire staff greets me by name! Amazing. NingBo is a large city by our standards, between 7 and 8 million, like NYC (Shanghai is 25 million). And the staff here knows my name! I had dinner last night with Grace Wang and Raymond Lai from our office here. They are absolute jewels! We went to visit on of the mills we deal with today. We (Grace, Raymond, Henry (Yng) and Jane from the mill) ate at a traditional NingBo restaurant. Grace and Jane made all the selections. Everything is served family style and we all eat out of the same bowls. We had rice cakes, which are like a dumpling, bamboo, a local green which reminded me of collards, fried pumpkin (DEE-licious), fish that looked like flounder, but tasted a little stronger, a type of local mussel, and these huge beans. We also drank Corn juice with our meal! We went to the 2 public showrooms of the mill and saw some of the local flavor. It is very clean and safe here. NingBo is at the confluence of 3 rivers and has lots of outdoor markets and restaurants.

NingBo is very clean, there are trees planted everywhere, around every factory building. The workers in every business where some sort of uniform for their company. The populace is very hard-working. But contrary to what I had thought, they work 5-6 days a week, for normal 8 hour shifts. The retail areas operate from 10am to 7 or 8pm. Most NingBo people eat lunch around 11 am and dinner as early as 4:30pm. The people I have seen on the streets are dressed in every conceivable way: from fashionable to uniforms to t-shirts and wife-beaters.
This is a great experience!

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