Planes, trains, and automobiles. But mostly trains.

Being American, I’m very familiar with the modern vehicle. Being a traveling rep, I’ve also become a self-proclaimed expert of air travel. And now, living in Asia, it’s time for the trifecta – trains! 

Most days, this is my commute to work…

52 floor elevator ride.
Catch the 7am sunrise over the MBS before heading underground to the MRT. 

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Buy latte.
Jump on the green line.
Wait to drink latte because there’s this…

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Alight at Boon Lay Station.  Finally drink latte.
Catch company bus last few km to work.

Takes about 45 minutes door to door. And most Singaporeans think I’m nuts for living so far from work!

But I don’t mind it at all.

I spend time skyping family, working on my part time gig, or catching up on podcasts and blog posts. 🙂  Plus it gives me a quick nap or few minutes to decompress before getting home. 

But 2 weeks ago I was in China and got to experience some way cooler trains than they have here in Singapore!!

The best part about train travel, is that I’ve yet to end up 10 kinds of lost since it’s relatively the same no matter where on the globe you are. 

Started my day on the bullet train for the 15 minute/50km trek between the city of Kunshan and the Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. And even though I have no idea what most signage means, it’s still easy enough to match the time of departure to the gate I need to be at. 

20140704-230109-82869057.jpg   Upon arrival, I transfer to the Shanghai Subway – line 2 – inclusive of a rainy pitstop at the Jing An Temple. 



And finally the Maglev. This was the shortcut from the Longyang Rd subway stop to the airport. You basically trade 11 slow and steady subway stops for 0-301km/hr in under 2 minutes!

And unfortunately, after much googling, I’ve realized that I can’t post the videos of the Bullet train or Maglev (as I apparently am only using the cheapy-cheap blog option), so you’ll have to settle for this instead:

20140629-184603-67563226.jpg   Very awesome. 

The US really needs to figure out this public transportation thing. It’s pretty great when it works this flawlessly and inexpensively. Bravo, Asia!

The only way of catching a train I ever discovered is to miss the train before.  ~G.K. Chesterton

Chinese lessons

Hello. Thank you.
Hola. Gracias.
Bonjour. Merci.
Guten tag. Danke.
Selamat … Terima Kasih.
G’day. How ya goin’? Cheers mate.

2 of the first, and sometimes the only, words/phrases I try to learn when in a new country because the least I could do is greet and appreciate you in your own language!

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“Ni hao” and “xie xie” are how you spell them in Mandarin. But pronunciation is proving to be an entirely different and new hurdle. As I’ve yet to use them with a stranger without that few second delay until the realization of what I’m actually trying to say.

I have to think it’s our version of deciphering “15” vs “50” or “sank you!” in the right accent in ‘Merican. Or worse – someone using the wrong version of their/there/they’re… gasp! Right?

So on top my language lessons in China, I also get to learn new customs. Just basic nuances you never notice in daily life until they’re different. The biggest unexpected ones this week include:

1. They honk. A lot. Which is good, because 2 particularly vigilant cab driver horns saved us from clueless bus and truck drivers.

2. Bentley is to China like ambulance is to the US. You in a hurry and need a path through traffic? Get a driver that knows how to be a Bentley chaser!

3. ‘Quite’ is used QUITE a lot here. Actually in Asia in general.

(4 is unlucky. It’s our “unlucky” 13)

5. Asians don’t like to wait for the elevator to close and are just in an inexplicable hurry in general. And eye contact during a 33 floor ride is not standard.

6. Asians chew with their mouths open. A lot. Full on professional business dinner while I hold back childish jokes about see-food! 🙂 But to be fair, they think it’s really weird that I eat boiled eggs with my hands for breakfast. ‘Wow! So much protein!’

7. Just because someone nods and says yes, does not indicate that they agree nor understand you.

1 yes = I heard words
2 yups = I heard all of the words
3 uh-huhs = I understood the words
4 affirmatives= I agree with the words

Or at least that’s what I’ve deduced with some help from my brother.

And last but absolutely not least….

There is a ridiculously beautiful amount of old gorgeous temple meets brand new, biggest city in China, 24 million people culture.

And I did manage to find my way…

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In the rain…

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To the Jing’an Temple…

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With gorgeous Buddhas!! (ok, this might not actually be Buddha, I don’t know, but it was pretty!)

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Needless to say … I’ve got a lot of practice in my future. And many more visits to make. But did get the thumbs up today that Chinese lessons are slated to begin this year!!

讀萬卷書不如行萬裡路
Dú wàn juǎn shū bùrú xíng wànlǐ lù.

“Reading ten thousand books is not as useful as traveling ten thousand miles.”

– Chinese Proverb

Complimentary Cabbie

When you arrive at an airport, there will always be a string of gentlemen with varying degrees of professional signs for their passengers. Some get fancy with iPads. Others have a left over 8 1/2 x 11 that they scribbled on the back of. And most of them spell my name wrong.

I did not arrange for one of those guys this trip.

One seemingly helpful enough sign dude realizes I don’t have a ride yet and whisks me over to a desk with a bunch of hotel names above it. But not mine. Within 4 seconds flat, he’s asking if I’m paying cash or credit card and already has my driver and receipt ready to go.

Hmmm…

I’d like to think I’m a rather spontaneous person, but anyone that wants to trade cash for sticking me in a car in a new city where I don’t speak the language gets a second thought.

Side note: ‘Hold on!’ is not a widely recognized phrase while failing to connect to airport wifi to double check logistics.

Off to the information desk I go.

Then, of course, back to the same nameless hotel taxi desk. Where my new helper and my old helper argue and then giggle about something in Chinese. Probably that I was just there and didn’t want to go.

Stupid American girl.

Oh well. New guy charged 100Yuan less (~$16USD) and I’m now in a van on a highway. Presumably heading to my hotel; which I hear is very nice. From them. Damn – I paid too much, didn’t I?

Though good thing I over paid up front as my cabbie might be lost, even though I gave him my sweet coworker provided directions, Beijing Chinese is different from Shanghai Chinese, so you never know. Imagine Louisiana and New York trying to have a conversation. Kinda like that. So he’s on the phone now and keeps saying ‘hotel’ in the form of a question. Let’s hope whomever he’s talking to has a map.

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But he did just tell me ‘yoo ahh berry bu-tiff’ with his much in need of a dentist, teetering between creepy & genuine, old man smile… and then proceeded to hack a spit wad out the window.

So I’ve got that going for me.

Welcome to China!

“It’s good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
~ Ernest Hemingway

In case of emergency, break glass.

Everyone has had *that* day.

Why is he yelling?
What is that smell?
How on Earth do the three of you think were all going to fit through this A330 aisle together?!?

While for most people that won’t have anything to do with your average business meeting or the sweet sweet aroma of durian, some of us might call that day: a random Tuesday.

And sometimes the only thing that will fix *that* day is *that* place. I thank my parents for mine. I was raised on ‘The Water’…

After a long day at the office, a glass of Malbec & 52nd floor view of Indonesia tends to do the trick.

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And following a week in China, Brisbane feels like Heaven.

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So after you’ve figured out what can cure an emergency, I highly encourage breaking the glass the next time *that* days shows up – even for 5 selfishly worth it minutes. Because a 6am Monday morning meeting with a latte and the sunrise makes for one hell of a week!!!

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“The cure for everything is salt water; tears, sweat, or the sea.” ~Isak Dinesen

Where to now?

If I’ve learned anything in the last 31 years, it’s that making plans is both crucial… and futile. And I don’t mean that in an Eeyore don’t-bother kind of way. I just mean that in a you-better-not-freak-out-when-life-doesn’t-go-as-planned kind of way.

Because it usually turns out so much better!

15 years ago, I thought MI was a far away and exotic place to move to. I’ve since lived in 7 cities in 4 countries, and am on the verge of needing more passport pages. Life turned out so much better than I planned.

8 years ago I graduated with both engineering and business degrees. And am now working on strategic development for a new insurance market for all of Austrailasia for a Fortune 50 company. Hadn’t planned on that one either.

1 year ago we celebrated purchasing our first home in TN. This week I’m finally getting unpacked and moved into a new 52nd floor condo in Singapore!

There’s a lot in those years that took some planning… like travel logistics to make sure you don’t get lost in some foreign new country or saving time to study and get a degree in between pitchers of long islands. (sorry mom!)
But all of the exciting parts came from embracing the unexpected and new and different and saying ‘shit… sure! why not?’ 🙂

This blog, the one that I’d planned on starting 4 months ago when I first moved, is for those parts. The new and exciting ones.

And it starts today.

Maybe because that whole better late than never rule applies, but maybe also because I leave for a work trip to Macau and Brisbane/Gold Coast in the morning!

Dear self – make time for something new and awesome this week! Thanks.