Sunday, October 29, 2006

Visit to Tagatay/Bless this house

Went to visit Lake Taal on Sunday. It is one of the many areas of active volcanos in the Philippines. 2 hour drive, 30 minute boat ride, 30 minute unforgiving horse ride to visit beauty.

Beautiful countryside, very kind people. At the top of the trek, we had a taste of fresh coconut juice and coconut jelly which separates the juice from the coconut meat.

Had a wonderful meal lake side. Rice, veggie medley, grilled lake fish, and chicken adobo. Oh, and fresh pineapple that we bought at a roadside stand. The juiciest pineapple I have ever had. All was good except the huge number of flies. Could have eaten more chicken adobo but got psyched out about the flies. Later in the day we also had fresh buko pie, which is fresh coconut pie. It's similar to apple pie, with the crust, and strips of coconut like strips of apples. Hardly sweet, very tasty. Can't wait to share the desserts with Reyde and James. (6 days and counting!)

Having our condo blessed this evening by a Catholic priest. The office and Drew's place is being blessed as well. I was offered, I said sure, let's do it. The Philippines is a very Catholic nation; we can attend mass every evening, and I think it was said there are 7 masses on Sunday. Will let you know how the blessing goes!

On a side note, we also stopped by a convent on the way home from Lake Taal. Had stopped to buy Ube pie, and othe ube delicacies. (Ube is basically purple yam.) They were out of stock, so we just walked around the grounds, and stepped inside the church. Saw some nuns praying. At this convent you can write down some prayers and they will pray for you all year long. Jay, Michelle, Joan, and I all wrote down our requests and gave them to the church.

Pretty amazing to think that I did all this just yesterday. And even crazier to think that I am here at all. Who would have thought my life would have taken this turn. If I were home, I wouldn't be hanging out with my co-workers, let alone going to a church with them. It is just too weird. My tourist photos and vacation memories with Jay and Michelle!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Manila Team

9pm on Saturday night, and guess what? I am at Starbuck's ending my evening here! Have one week to wait until James and Reyde arrive. Found a stuffed toy rocket ship and car for Reyde. Now trying to find kid's motif queen size sheets for his bed.

Here's a pic of the Manila Team. Very fun group of people. Michelle is here from the USA office and we decided to go out for a drink after work. Probably one of the more odd things I've done in recent times. 6am, sitting on the deck of a restaurant. Birds chirping, people walking to work, and I am drinking a Zombie (which unfortunately tastes like red Hawaiian Punch,) with nightclub music pounding in the background.

Venture Capitalists- Fab Opportunity Awaits

Long live the pink flamingo.,0,7313496.story?coll=la-home-headlines

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hi, my name is Claire…

Voyant! I was enjoying the view from the deck Friday evening before work. The thought crossed my mind; I wonder what I should do in the event of an earthquake. Hmmm…better look into that. Went inside, took a quick shower and headed into the office.

All was going well that evening, had a wonderful lunch of fried chicken, rice, and a noodle dish. Yummy yummy. Oh and let’s not forget the ultra yellow, more flavor that I have ever had banana.

And then, the first tremor hit. Just a slight earthquake but enough to make us move and sway on the 7th floor. Pardon my French, but oh shit. So we all chat about it for a while, and I inquire about what I should do if a strong earthquake hits. They all give me tips ranging from praying to climb under a table. Good ideas, but I think to myself, the table scenario is good on the ground floor, but what good will it do me if the building starts crumbling and I am on the 24th floor? A few hours later, the second tremor hit with a little more force. The sliding doors used for a separating wall in the conference room really move. Crap. Now I think to myself, I’ll just go up to the condo when I get home, grab a comforter and head back to the lobby and sleep on the couch there. No way am I headed up to the 24th floor for the day! A 3rd tremor hit but I didn’t feel that one. Good thing.

The final answer for where I should go if a biggie comes is the stairwell; feel free to email me back if any of you engineers have a better idea.

The real question I’m trying to answer is why I thought about the emergency plan that evening and then the earthquakes happened? I’m ready to open my own 900-number to read minds…. stage name Miss Clair Voyant. (Clairvoyance get it?

The small business sales representatives are really coming together as sales people and as a team. I interviewed 11 of them for positions as sales assistants. Have chosen 3 for the first phase, and now must put together a training schedule.

Some of the team is so funny; Novid is our Filipino Corey. He is willing to sell anything and even if he doesn’t know all the details, he comes up with something to say. The first week I arrived, he was selling the Smart Compliance First Aid Kit. He told a customer, “Listen, I don’t know a lot about the product, I can tell you what’s inside the kit, but basically, it’s like having your own medical clinic in a cabinet!”

Mandrake is Joe Cool. Actually his nickname is Magic. Dresses hip, modern glasses, and hair like something I can’t describe. I will ask him if I can take a photo one of these days. At any rate, he is a jokester and can gain the attention of all of them with stories. On Friday he walked around without any shoes on and complained that the maid hadn’t come through and vacuumed very well. I happen to have a sample of “Vetrap” at my desk that I got at the Canton Fair. “Vetrap” is a sticky adhesive bandage used in animal health. Instead of using a piece of gauze and tape to cover an animal’s wound, you just use this stuff and it sticks to itself, while protecting the wound. So I said to Mandrake, “Hey, I have a solution for you, why don’t you put some of this around our foot and it will pick up the dirt?” He says, “No, no.” So I proceed to take my sandal off, put it on my foot and show him how well it works. I say, “it’s magic, Magic!” Got some good laughs with that comment; just what we needed at 4 in the morning.

Have had a good weekend. Figured out how to post photos on my blog, went shopping for some condo items in preparation for Michelle’s (co-worker from AMMEX,) arrival tonight, and read some emails from home. The “best in class,” email received came from Amy…and if I may indulge you in her writing…here’s an excerpt.

“…Willzebub sent out an email Tuesday afternoon with information…that was contrary to what had been said…in meetings. I fired back an email noting this and clarifying that we really had nothing to do. He came to my room, looked sheepish (good move on his part,) said that the devil is in the details and that that morning he was the devil, I agreed but pointed out…He took it (my comments,) and we might just be able to find a way to work with each other. When I have treated him politely, he responded as though I were stupid. When I treated him as though he were the annoying neighbor boy, he responds as though we are peers. Hmmmmm. Kim Clark thinks I intimidate him. Hmmmm. I don’t know about that, but I will continue to conduct my sociological experiment on him. Treat well, in return get treated poorly. Treat like a mosquito, in return get treated as an equal.

And one final item Thought you might want to see what my cohabitants look like. I didn’t scream when I found him. Luckily for Michelle, I pulled the shower curtain down in her bathroom to test the hot water and saw him. Got a plastic food container and flicked him into it with the lid. Put it on tight and suffocated him. Felt bad, but stayed strong and killed it. Gross.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

More China Trip- Long Entry but Worth the Read

Okay folks, feeling much better; there is nothing like a quick (8 minute,) and expensive ($15.50) long distance phone call to fix a case of homesickness. I know, silly, silly, but the magic of crying long distance to James and hearing about his day of working on the mundane tasks of going to the Cloverdale house and what he plans to buy at Costco worked wonders.

And let’s face it; my standard method of fixing emotional turmoil was just not available in China. No Taco Time and my buddies Ben and Jerry haven’t made the trip to Guangzhou. Months of therapy couldn’t get me to stop using my food crutch; just needed to leave the country!

The trip to China was good; spent quite a few days with Lily (sourcing coordinator at AMMEX Shanghai,) Andrea (sales and marketing at AMMEX Shanghai,) and Gladys (country manager at AMMEX Shanghai.) These ladies took very good care of me. Lily with her maternal instincts served me food when those slippery noodles wouldn’t stay on my chopsticks as well as cooling those same noodles when I couldn’t get them out of the broth; Andrea offering translations throughout long Chinese conversations so I wouldn’t feel totally out of the loop; and Gladys being the social coordinator with trips to markets, dinners, and hitting some of the tourist spots.

On Friday night Gladys and I went to the children’s market where I purchased some toys and a Lightning McQueen backpack for Reyde. Have scheduled to send it home with Mark Wen on the 29th of October. Reyde can use this for his trip to Manila. Went to dinner at a tourist spot in Shanghai where many Westerners hang out. I think it is spelled Shiantinti. After dinner we walked around and met up with Gladys’s husband Wesley for dessert. First time I’ve gone to a Haggen Daas ice cream parlor and been offered a menu to choose my flavor and then been served by a waitress! Good place to people watch; for a change the tours were white people in a group with a tour guide carrying a colored bike flag rather than an Asian group. The same blank facial expression transcends races as well as the standard issue fanny pack and camera around the neck.

Saturday morning Lily picked me up and we headed off to visit the micro fiber towel factory. Spent about 6 hours touring the factory, learning how towels are made, speaking with the sales manager, having lunch at the local hotel, and reviewing additional samples and product available from the factory. The machines are incredible; I have never seen a spool of thread as large as is used to make towels (roughly the size of a 5 gallon bucket,) and am very thankful that my sewing machine at home only has 1 string to thread. The size of the knitting machines I would guess to be 14 feet long, 10 feet wide- this includes the walking platform for the worker to watch the machine, and 9 feet tall. I can’t even begin to guess how many threads are strung to make the towels; you can judge from the photos. Saturday evening I went to dinner with Gladys and some friends of Fred. The food is absolutely incredible. The highlight of this meal was the smoked duck meat; noodles with ground pork and hot pepper sauce; and the green beans sautéed in wine and bacon.

Sunday was basically a travel day. Lily, Gladys and I flew to Guangzhou and met up with Andrea whom had flown in from Beijing. Andrea traveled with Gene and Steven from AMMEX USA to be their interpreter in Beijing. Guangzhou is in the southern part of China and the weather is very similar to Manila. The humidity very high and the temperatures were at 30 degrees Celsius, 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Checked into the hotel, went to lunch at a Vietnam noodle restaurant, happened upon the local Starbucks, and checked email. Sunday was the hardest day for me as far as homesickness. That’s the day I spent the money on the call. The ladies went shopping in the afternoon while I checked email at the hotel; later this evening we went to a Korean restaurant for Korean style Hot Pot. Had my first try of sautéed lettuce. It’s common over in China to cook lettuce and eat it rather than make a salad. Just a tad slimy but did give it a try.

Monday was the day at the Canton fair. It is hard to explain the size of the show; two arenas the size of Safeco Field and Qwest field combined (so 4 arenas total.) with 4 floors of vendors. The factories and import/export companies spend a lot of money on decorating the booths, adding lighting, carpeting, and display shelves to try and differentiate themselves. Due to the size of the show, these factories and i/e trade companies are situated right next to their competitors as the show is divided by region and by product. It’s like AMMEX at a trade show placed right next to Ansell Edmont, Safety Zone, and Microflex.

One of my customers is looking for a mini fridge, so we spent quite a bit of time in the fridge/freezer area. Saw a new product on the market that I think could be a big seller for AMMEX China Direct. It is a mini fridge with car adapter in the shape of a soccer ball. Fridge holds 6 cans and can be logoed and produced in a variety of colors. Only 924 pieces in a 20-foot container. Will pursue this item for the soccer clubs really soon.

Lunch was served in the basement. They are very prepared for large crowds. 5 choices of food, repeated down the entire length of the cafeteria. The Indian pizza piqued my interest; I thought I might get cheese in China! Not so much, Indian pizza had toppings like beef and chicken curry, peanut sauce, and bananas. Settled for beef noodles and ice tea. In stark contrast to a USA trade show, no hot dogs, beer, nachos, ice cream, hamburgers, pizza, or garlic fries. The flavor was excellent and the beef had hardly any fat; now for those of you who don’t know me quite so well, I like my beef well done and rather enjoy the charcoaled tough bits of meat. Thought I found a tasty morsel of well-done beef in my soup; promptly put it in my mouth and chewed. NOT BEEF. Was a piece of star anise spice. Rather large chunk, and I didn’t realize this until I found another piece and asked Gladys what it was. She said, “Oh, don’t eat that, it’s just used for flavoring.” Too late, enjoyed the flavor the rest of the afternoon and into the evening with indigestion. I liken it to burping burnt black liquorices with a hint of beef.

After spending the day at the show, we went back to the hotel to await dinner with the factory owner, production manager, and salesman of the metal box/security box factory we work with.

If I may take a step back in the days…Ryan is he salesman for the box factory. On Sunday afternoon while the Shanghai team was shopping, there was a knock on my hotel door. I look through the peephole and see a Chinese man in his mid 20’s standing at the door.

I say, “You must have the wrong room.”

“Ummm, no are you Wendy?”


“I am Ryan, I have Lily and Andrea’s passes.”

Nice first impression. Ryan meets a crazy American with a very concerned tone of voice not wanting to open her hotel room door. Let alone the greasy been traveling all day hair and sweaty complexion. Nice.

Fast forward to Monday evening. Ryan phones to say that his Uncle and he are waiting down on the street to go to dinner. Lily, Gladys, Andrea and I head down. We get out into the street and I see Ryan, but not his uncle standing next to him. Maybe he chose not to come to dinner. But then just like a scene in a movie, this older Chinese man catches my attention; he is squatting in a raised flowerbed having a smoke. He jumps down, throws his cigarette away, gets a big grin on his face and extends his hand. This is the factory owner? Fred and Mark had mentioned that he had worked very hard to make a better life for himself, and so his old country ways were still part of his personality. I guess so; he looked completely at ease squatting in the vegetation of a raised flowerbed on a street as busy as the downtown streets around Pike Place market, as if it were the farming country. Can you imagine the owner of your company doing this?

We had dinner at a Macao style restaurant. The plates and cups were all decorated with Christmas trees, holly, and poinsettias. Lily tells me that the Canton province is known for its soups, and we hade a lovely fish broth for starters. Lily, who might weigh 95 lbs and eats more than Andrea and I combined at most meals, asked if the soup had chunks of fish or vegetables; the waiter lifts out a fish head to show us that we are to enjoy the broth only. Gotcha. No need to eat the eyeball of a fish for Wendy. The highlight of this meal for Andrea and I was the baked pumpkin. Steamed pumpkin in a peanut and cream cheese sauce. It was simply delicious. No green beans in this meal; just green vegetables. The green vegetables are similar in texture and look of steamed spinach, but there is no translation. Gladys just tells me they are green veggies. Okay, will give them a try. Not too slimy, was able to get passed the texture moment.

After dinner, I went back to the hotel and packed. Then headed down for a foot massage. The foot massages in China are incredible. For $10, your feet and lower legs are massaged for 45 minutes. So relaxing. Makes your feet feel brand new.

Tuesday morning, Gladys met me at the lobby and went out to the airport to make sure I got through check in and on the plane. Landed back in Manila at 11 am, promptly dropped my bags off and stopped by the office to check in with James. James kept Reyde up hoping that I’d call; and Reyde was gracious enough to take my call. It was so good to hear his voice and have a 30 second conversation with him Nothing like hearing the love of your life, (sorry James Reyde took your place at the moment,) tell you that he loves you.

Glad to be back in Manila around more familiar surroundings; now can count down the days until my boys arrive.

Odds and ends-
*Elevator etiquette. Both in Manila and China people push the open door/close door buttons to hurry the elevator. Does it really help? I have no idea.
*Elevators are set at a much higher level to close the doors. You know that feeling you get that your arm might get stuck if you try to keep the door from closing? It will get stuck here. Not like in the US where just a little resistant to closing and the elevator doors kick back open.
*Guangzhou had so much more vegetation and trees. All the high rises had trees on the roof top terraces, and decks were full of potted plants. Didn’t see this in the area of Shanghai that I was in.
*Pollution still amazing to me in China. Hopefully the pictures can show you just how bad it is. My throat began to ache on Saturday and didn’t stop until I came back to Manila. Thank goodness for nose hair and whatever other filter material I have in my noise and throat. Too much information coming your way now…the brown mucous I coughed up in the morning and the brown spit as if I had had coffee before brushing my teeth was GROSS.
*Nordstrom service at the hotel in Guangzhou. Saw a bellboy help a very drunk patron walk the lobby and take him up to his hotel room. The man couldn’t stand on his own, slobbering drunk, trying to answer his cell phone, smoke a cigarette and carry on a conversation with the bellboy. In the foot massage area, the waitresses served drinks and lit cigarettes and cigars for the men.
*Chinese business etiquette. Dinner with the box factory owner involved toast after toast after toast. Standing up, bowing, sitting down. I asked Andrea what we were toasting. She said nothing really, just a sign of respect.
*Must learn Chinese so I feel a little less isolated the next trip. I flipped through TV channels searching for an English show. Watched a re-run of America’s Top Model just so I could hear some English. How pathetic is that?

*Just like Gladys trying to translate the green vegetable, I struggled with trying to translate English as well. Amy sent me an email in which she referenced the word Beelzebub. I laughed so hard at her email that the ladies wanted to know what it was about. Totally a “you had to be there,” moment. I couldn’t explain the concept.

*My version of Fast Food Nation/Supersize me....Starbucks Planet. Yes, have had Starbucks in Shanghai and Guangzhou. Have spetn $11 US to buy a mug that says Guangzhou. What a good idea Starbucks came up with. Will have one that says Manila too.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

China trip

October 12-13, 2006.

Trip from Manila to Shanghai fine. Was a very long day. Worked Wednesday night from 8pm to 5.30am. Came home, packed and slept on the couch for a couple hours before catching a taxi to the airport. Taxi had been called the night before to pick me up at 8.30am. At 8.45 am I got another taxi and off we go. Had to give the driver directions as he headed to the wrong terminal at the entrance to the airport.

Slept most of the 3 hour flight to Shanghai. Customs/immigration took almost 40 minutes. Met Lily at the baggage claim and headed for the super fast magnetic train. Yes, it did really go 400+ kms. What is that 175 mph? Very smooth ride; couldn't believe it was travelling that fast.

Met the team at the new office. Prepared for the meeting we had this morning and then headed off for dinner. Hot Pot is so very good. It's sort of like The Melting Pot, but in Chinese foods. Lily, her son John, Gladys and I enjoyed lamb, beef, shrimp, mushrooms, and a variety of unknown vegetables. By the time dinner was done, so was I. Very tired.

Check out the photos. Yes, can you imagine chilled green bean soup as a dessert. Yet another way to choke down my favorite veggie.

After dinner we came back to the office to pick up my luggage. Good thing; a worker from a different company had been locked in the office. She almost spent the night at work. Headed off to the service apartment; when my head hit the pillow I was out for the night despite the very firm mattress!

Had a very good meeting with the prospect from Mexico. The team did well for a quick, on the spot meeting.

Was feeling pretty homesick and lonely on Wednesday in Manila and last night. I think a lot of it was the sleep factor. Today I am well rested and not feeling so lonely. Was able to talk to James on Skype and see him and Turbo. Made me feel much better. Now if only Reyde would talk to me on the phone. It is typical and what I expect when I travel; Reyde is pretty offended that I leave; so while I know that that is why he is not wanting to talk to me on the phone, I sure do miss him.

That's it for now; I'll update you as I go. Rest assured, the China team is taking very good care of me. It's incredible to think that I feel so at home with the team and have only met them once in February. Skype and email makes the miles disappear.

(And if the pictures didn't load....I'll get to it! The connection is a bit slow in China.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Pictures of Manila- No Banana Leaf Huts

Saturday afternoon 3.45pm and I find myself at Starbuck's. The condo property manager seems to think that I may have internet access at home in a week or so. Until then, I am now recognized by the security guard and the baristas know my name and drink. The first week of work went good. As many of you know from my emailed updates, power has been a challenge because of the typhoon that hit the last week of September. Many trees were uprooted and billboards torn down. One of the guys at work asked our computer geek Roger if he heard a lot of sirens and emergency vehicles after the typhoon struck. Roger's response? "Emergency vehicles? This is a 3rd world country, we don't have those services." After a week, the city still looks like this: They say the typhoon was the worst to hit in 10 years. It will be interesting to see if the destruction debris is cleaned up or if we'll be walking around tree roots and piles of branches the entire time we are here.

To give you an idea of where I am staying, here's a shot of the condo bldg. The red marking is the 24th floor:

And here's the view from the deck. Obviously no banana leaf covered tiki huts with coconut shells for communications.

The first week of work went very well. We have 30 small business sales reps making outbound calls to the childcare industry. Jay and Drew have done an amazing job on training the teams. There are a total of 4 training groups with another one starting on Monday. The last batch trained have gotten up to speed quite fast. On Thursday, 3 of them each had 4 orders and 4 new customers. Hats off to Jay and Drew.

The camaraderie at the office is a welcome sight. I started my usual golf clap when folks landed accounts, and the clapping has continued. I'm sure it was happening before I came, the people are genuinely excited for each other and for the success of the office. I also made sure to bring my BIG SALE HAT for good luck. When I pulled it out on Tuesday night they looked at me a bit odd, but I showed them how I wear it and put my headset on over it; told them of the lore behind it and the magic powers. Said that the hat works even better if you chant as you dial the phone, "big sale, big sale, this is gonna be a big sale" I hung it up on the cube wall between myself and Ivan (whom hadn't landed an account yet.) I asked if it was okay that the hat hang over in his area. Being polite he agreed. Before the night was over, he had landed an order and the legend of the hat was cemented in Manila.

Ray ,shown in the photo above, was next to wear the hat. He is trying so hard to land business. He came in the day afer this shot and said, "I dreamed about the big order from Lisa. I figured out that I can offer a lower price if she buys in bulk. I'm going to call her now!" That's the spirit, think outside the box, be creative.

Signing off for now, almost out of wireless service. Off to find a salon. What was I thinking when I decided to grow out my bangs?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Happy 10 year anniversary James!

How many of us clearly remember the minister making a joke when James faltered at the vows, " love and cher cher cher..cherish,?"

He said, "It is sometimes hard to cherish them!" The entire congregation laughed.

And I would tend to agree that there have been moments over the last decade that I've been hard to cherish, and even wonder why I should be cherished.

But at the end of the day, I'm still glad I married James. (As I tear up in the middle of a Manila Starbucks.)

So I'll just put it out there for the world to know that my husband has too many wonderful attributes to list, and they far exceed the list of shortcomings.

I love you forever James! Wendy