Friday, February 29, 2008

A quick summary so far

The flight went well... I met Scotty and Dave in the airport in Tokyo. All of us were tired after the 14 or so hour flight. I fell asleep right away on the 4 hour flight from Tokyo to Beijing. Passport Control and Customs were easy breezy, and there was a travel person with a sign standing right outside the door as we left customs. The problem was that My name wasn't on the Arrivals list, and so they had just sent a car for two people. By the time we got all the luggage in the car, there was no room to move even an inch. 45 minutes later, we arrived at the hotel and checked in... no problems. 
The next morning we got up and met for breakfast and then met our tour guide Sophie. We hopped in cabs and went to the Summer palace. A very beautiful place! we walked for about 3-4 hours taking tons of photos everywhere we went. By the time we finished at the Summer Palace, we were all so hungry, we couldn't think about anything else but food. Sophie took us to this real local dive and we ordered a ton of food. It was all very tasty and there was more than we could possibly eat. The bill came... 20 bucks US. 6 guys eating for 3 bucks each with Beer and about 8 entrees. Brilliant!

We came back to the hotel and I was just dead... In bed by 8:00 pm and sleeping like a baby.

Day 2 
We met for breakfast and then hopped in a van that Sophie had rented. The driver took us about 2 hours out of town, and dropped us off at the Great Wall of China. We took a tram up to the Wall, and then walked down the Wall for almost 3 hours. It was really a peaceful experience. We think we walked on the wall for over a mile and a half. We ended up at the top of the toboggan run, which is like an alpine slide. It was a metal chute and you sat in this little car with just a hand brake and rocket yourself down the mountain. It was really great!
Back in the parking lot, our driver was still there, waiting patiently. He drove us 2 hours back to the hotel, and we paid him about $100 bucks. 9 hours work with a van for only $100 bucks.

We all decided to go to the Silk market after we ate another huge lunch. It was rush hour and the traffic was just insane. We got divided up into two cabs, and about 35 minutes into the journey, the second cab got hit by a bus. no damage, but the cabbies and the bus driver really got into it right in the middle of the highway.

The Silk market was just insane, tons of Chinese girls attacking you from every angle, trying to get you to buy bags and clothes. Anything you want.... Coach purses, Nike Clothes, Rolex, North Face, Everything you want... just none of it real. The quality is impressive though. Rick, Rob and I went to the 6th floor and found this nice watch shop.  The girls asked us if we wanted imitation watches. So, they took us into the back and there were just beautiful watches everywhere... all fake but very hard to tell. Rick had his real Rolex on, and we held the exact same model of the fake next to it, and we were all very impressed at how close they have been able to copy them. 
So, Rob and I both bought two Rolex, and I bought another nice looking watch by Porche Designs... All for about $40 each. We decided that even in the states in Walmart you can't find a good watch for $40.

Then Rob's friend Tamara met up with us. She is originally from NY but lives in Beijing as a teacher. She offered to take all of us to a cool area to walk around and take some photos. 
We ended up in this square, were people bring boom boxes and then these older couples ballroom dance outside all over the square. It was really beautiful to watch them enjoying their everyday lives in their culture. We stopped at a cool local bar as we walked around the lake and had a drink. The smell of the wood burning in the 55 gallon drum with the stove pipe sticking out of it was really fun and made the place feel cozy. 

We finished walking around and ended up on this street where there was a guy making what Rob calls his Chinese Burrito. He would spread batter on the griddle and then drop an egg on it. Spreading the egg around he then covered it in a bean paste, added some chives and this cracker that looked like a rice cake. Once he rolled it up, he dropped it in a plastic back and Rob had some nasty looking street food. I couldn't do it.. but I respect Rob for living the dream!

Back to the hotel and sleep sleep sleep. The next two days were all about work and setting up the show. Today is the first day of the actual show and it has been tough but it has gone well. Tomorrow the show ends around noon and we are off to do more sightseeing. 

Push the Button!

Evan took the presenter up to the podium and showed him... Clearly Showed him how to press the button to advance the slides. Green is forward, Red is back. That should not be a problem for a Doctor. So, right off the bat... he is pushing the remote... not the button.. just the frame of the remote.. So I had to stand directly behind the bottom of the screen and peek through a 1/8" crack for 32 slides and try to see him attempt to push the button so I could tell Rob to advance the slides. Evan and I had to both watch closely in case one of us saw it before the other.
So, it took the Evan, Me, Rob, and the doctor to advance each slide.

Service Levels

The AV Company here has just been amazing. A great example of their spirit of service happened last night to me, and I am sure it has happened to all of us in one way or another.
It was about 11:00 pm and I needed to set up a little space for myself backstage, but there were cases everywhere. So I started pushing some cases out of the way, and two Chinese techs came over and tried to figure out what I was doing.... no one could speak the others language, so I started giving them hand motions and said that I was the A-2 and needed to put a table up.
There was some recognition, and I went to get Scotty to help me, and pretty much by the time I got back, the Chinese guys had gotten me a table, put a tablecloth on it... ran Power and a power strip and then found me a desk lamp so, my position was all setup.
Pretty much the whole experience with the crew has been like that. They have a tremendous amount of labor here, and having that many guys to do the job has made it go quickly and painlessly.  They always have a smile on their faces and they don't avoid us.
It has been a really great experience!


Photo Time

I have some time now.. so I will post some photos that I have taken of the last couple of days.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Work work work

We set up all day yesterday. The Chinese AV Crew was just amazing! super friendly and competent... a nice surprise!
The ball room is 90 percent finished, and we will complete the set up today, and then strike half the gear so that the hotel can have another event in our room. We have to be out by 1:00 pm today, and then we will come back in around 8:00 pm tonight and re-setup all the gear because we start first thing in the morning on Saturday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Great Wall of China and Rolex's for $45.00

We all hopped in a van this morning and had a driver take us about two hours away to see a less touristy part of the Great Wall of China. We took a cable car ride from the parking area up to the Wall, and got to walk over a mile along one of the 7 wonders of the world. The sun was super bright, so the photos don't really make for any post cards, However, it was truly one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had! To think that people built this wall over 6000 kilometers long is just a mind boggling experience. It makes me think about my levels of determination and commitment for sure.
I haven't had a chance to clean up any photos yet, but here are one or two from the Great Wall.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Sightseeing in Beijing

Today we went to the Summer Palace. It looked kinda small from the main gate. But it took us hours to walk through the whole place.
I will upload photos to when I get some time, but Here are three of the photos that I took this afternoon.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Day Two man... I have no idea what time it is!

Well, it is 7:00 am local time... but 6:13 PM yesterday on the East Coast.
I went to bed around midnight woke up feeling like I had slept 10 hours... then looked at the clock and saw it was about 1:30 am. Uh oh! I turned over and slept till about 5:30 am and then realized that sleeptime was over. It was 4:30 pm on my body clock and I think I was fortunate enough to get the amount of sleep that I did. So, I went to the lobby and changed $400.00 usd  into 2892.00 Yuan. So, I am set for the day. We will meet in the lobby restaurant at 8:00 am for breakfast which looks like a big buffet, so that is good.. I can pick and choose what I want to eat and not get sick. Speaking of food. The Airplane food was good. I played it safe and stayed well away from the Japanese menu which consisted of things like eel and other fish I couldn't pronounce. I had myself a good old beef tenderloin and then later a processed pork cutlet on some toast. Scotty was entirely more adventurous and went the Asian route. I hope he doesn't get ill. He looked fine last night though. 
After breakfast, we will meet Sophie our local tour guide at 9:30 am and we are off on National Lampoons Asian Adventure. 
I have no doubt I am about to see some amazing things, but for the record, I will post a photo of the view from my hotel room. It isn't so majestic!

Touchdown in China

Wow... it is now 11:00 am on Monday morning in the States.... 11:00 pm in China. It took about 29 hours to get to the hotel in Beijing. I am pretty wiped. All went well, and  tomorrow morning we are meeting our Chinese guide in the lobby at 9:30 am for a day of sightseeing.
I am sure I will get some amazing photos and will upload them as soon as I can.

Here are two photos from the Airplane. One is the Seat Controls. Business Class rocks!
the other is a shot out the window somewhere over Alaska.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Day one of the Chinese Connection

The alarm went off at 3:45 am this morning and I rolled out of bed to head to GSO.
The flight to IAD (Dullis) went smooth and my seat partner had spent 5 months in Beijing. He gave me a few tips about the city which I appreciated a lot.
He had a Rolex knock off that he bought there and he took it off and handed it to me. It looked real.. felt real... Well... I suppose not to you guys who blew the $4000 - $12,000 on the real thing.. however, it was a nice watch regardless of who made it. I asked him how much he paid... $32.00 then he showed me his Columbia Sportswear winter coat, and told me he had paid $45.00 for it.
This should be fun!

I am currently sitting in Dullis airport with no ticket, no boarding pass, and no one at the All Nippon counter to check me in. It is still early though, only 8:32 am so, I am not worried yet.
My flight leaves at 11:45 and the sign says it is on time, so it must be true.

The AT&T wireless USB aircard is working really well, with a whopping 1976 download speed and 356 upload. I wish it wasn't mega-expense to use in China, but I suppose the dirt cheap knock off merchandise will make up for the inconvience... Not to mention The Great Wall.

Yea, I am now ticketed and all set to go!
My flight boards at 11:25 and waiting with the general public is just no fun! Wait... Business class gets me access to the Air France lounge. Complete with soda, juice, pastry, and of course, rice balls, oh, and some pickled sushi looking things that make me want to just cancel the whole trip right now. 
The coolest part of the whole lounge thing, is that there is a back door entrance to the gate, so no waiting in lines wishing you were in zone 1 but waiting to hear them call zone 5.

More to come!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Video Camera Deal

I wanted to get a camcorder to take to China with me. Looking around, I saw there were three options. Spend $1400 on a HD camcorder which I didn't want to make the investment, a hard drive camcorder, which I didn't want to spend that kind of money either... The cheaper hard drive camcorders don't produce that good of an image. A mini DVD camera, but that seems like a format that just isn't going to go anywhere, which leaves Mini-DV.
So, I looked at Circuit City and Best Buy and found that the minimum I was going to spend was about $250.00 and just didn't feel great about dropping $250 on the bottom of the line camera. 
I ended up dropping by Sam's Club to see if there was any thing reasonable there. Usually at Sam's Club there is about 2 or 3 cameras available and all-though the prices are better...  the cameras are not my first choice. 
Looking around and fighting the Saturday shoppers, I found that they had about 2 cameras right around the same price range as the other guys, and one on clearance for $79.00. So, I looked at that one, and found that it was about the same as the one at Circuit City for almost $200.00
After dealing with the high school girl behind the counter to get one that actually had all the cables and accessories, I used a $30.00 gift card that I had in my wallet, and ended up getting a Mini DV Video Camera for $53.00!
It should make for a good little tool while I am in Beijing to capture some more of the feel of the experience.
It is a Samsung SC-D372. Here are a few photos of it.

Friday, February 8, 2008

New Internet Access

I just bought a USB device that works with my AT&T Account so that I can have wireless Internet access any where I can connect to a cell tower. 
The cost was 150 bucks up front with a 100 dollar mail in rebate. and then it is 60 bucks a month for a year.

General in hotels in the US, you pay about 10 - 12 dollars a day to connect to the Internet, and about the same in most Airports.
So, 6 days on the road and I have already incurred those costs anyway.
They include 5 gig per month, so, I will see how much I end up using.
I will let you know what kind of speeds I get.

Beijing China

Today I am dealing with filling out a long visa application to enter China.
No, I have not been convicted of a crime in China
No, I have not been convicted of a crime in the USA

I have to go get a passport photo taken to include in my application.
Then I have to Fedex off my Application, Passport, and new photo so that it can be processed.
My flight to China is going to be LONNNNGGG!
I leave Greensboro at 6:00 am on the 24th Sunday, and land in Dulles (IAD) at 7:10 am
Then I fly to Tokyo Japan at 11:20 am and that flight is 6752 miles landing in Tokyo at 3:25 pm the next day. After being on a plane for 14 hours and 5 minutes, I have 2 hours to find my gate to Beijing and leave at 5:25 to fly to Beijing which is another 4 hours and 5 minutes (what's with the 5 minutes?) and finally land in Beijing (PEK) at 5:25 pm on the 25th. 
I know I am going to be just wrecked... but it will be exciting to see everyone in China!
Currently it is 11:55 am here in Greensboro, and 12:55 am in Beijing.
The time change is going to be hard to deal with for sure... but we have a few days before setup to get accustomed and do some sightseeing. Rick has already arranged for a guide, and we are going to see the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. I am sure there will be a ton of other stuff as well.
Without a doubt.. we are going to look like the Griswalds in China. National Lampoons Chinese Vacation.
The flight back is going to be even longer! Tuesday March 4th, I leave Beijing at 8:45 am and Fly back to Tokyo Japan. 3 hours and 15 minutes 1329 miles landing at 1:00 pm. 4 hours later at 5:05 pm I fly 5,124 miles from Tokyo to San Francisco arriving at 9:10 am on March 4th, 8 hours earlier than I took off. Then I sit around San Francisco till 1:00 pm and fly to Charlotte NC arriving at 8:52 pm. Then finally.. the last 82 miles to Greensboro leaving at 10:30 pm and landing in Greensboro at 11:17 PM  on March 4th.
17,151 miles in one show. Now thats what I call some bonus miles.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Now I know what Dorothy felt like

Memphis Tennessee, Home of the King, Beale street and some crazy tornados. All afternoon and evening, there were Tornado warning horns blasting through out the city. 18 miles away from downtown Memphis, there is a mall and in that mall, there is a Sears store that apparently no longer has a roof! We only experienced heavy wind and rain here at the ole Peabody, however, 18 miles is not that far away when you think about it.

The show is really straight forward. Small General Session consisting of a Mackie 1604, 4 Wireless mics, Two EV powered speakers, and a small rack of EQ and Compressors.
Video is two 5k projectors, a 9 x 12 screen, 2 laptops and a Navigator for switching. 
One 1 hour General Session this morning, and 1 hour this afternoon... Really light duty. 
Tomorrow they come back in at 11:30 am for a goodbye, and that is a wrap. We strike and should be done by 1:30. 
Crazy way to make a living, but I won't complain.