Bragging on Joyce!

Today I have hijacked this blog to brag on my wonderful wife, girlfriend, lover, and mother of my five children, four of which she had just recently bragged on.  Since she will not do the bragging on herself, I will have to do it for her as she naps on the couch across from me.

Joyce has been very active in building a wonderful home for her husband (thats me) and her five beautiful children.  She also is very busy homeschooling her children.  When she is out shopping and doing other activities outside the home, she tries to encourage and bring joy to those she runs into.  Today she was caught encouraging the cashier and grocery bagger at her favourite grocery store, Martin’s Supermarket.

Over the past few years, Joyce has been really enjoying the hobby of photography.  She developed much of her skills using a point and shoot Canon and recently has moved to a mid-level Canon DSLR.  She has also learned a lot in the way of digital photo editing to provide further uniqueness to her photographs.  Using her photography she has been able to encourage and bring joy to others by sharing photographs and providing photo shoots.

This past week, the Elkhart County Parks Department had their annual photo contest and Joyce submitted several photographs shown below.  Out of three categories and 178 photo entries, she received first and second place in two of them (see The Elkhart Truth article for more details on the winners).


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China – 20 November – To Wuhu

This morning we had breakfast together at about 7:00.  It was a huge buffet.  I do not think that Country Buffet would even come close.  There were many different types of fruits and veggies.  Lots of pastries and meats.  I had some bamboo with peppers, a rice flour cake (very good), pears, peaches, watermelon, sausage, bacon and two eggs, cooked over easy “while-u-wait”.

Now that it was light, I was able to get some outdoor pictures of where we stayed.  It was a nice surprise to open my curtains thsi morning to have an inlet of West Lake right outside with a gazebo and a canoe.  The hotel often catered for high state officials and their meetings.  There is a main building where we checked in last night and then several separate hotel units, one of which we stayed in.

After breakfast, we were off to visit a potential porcelain supplier about an hour and a half away.  Though we were on the freeway most of the way, I do not think that we were out of sight of multi-level appartment buildings, many of which were eight or more floors high.  Often we would go over a street perpendicular to the high way, lined with multi-level homes and apartments bordered by very large rice fields.

The porcelain coating company was very interesting.  It was quite shabby looking as we went in.  All the buildings were cinder block as are most buildings here and a lot colder inside than out.  We were taken into a large room that opened out to the outside and it looked like there were several of these large rooms in the building, most were used for storage or part of the production.  For those of you who might be familiar with African school buildings, this one reminded me of one of those.  But the one we were taken into had a large desk with windowed cabinets all around with products in it.  They contained such things as porcelain coated pot, roasting pans, trays, and in the corner were a couple of stove shells and tops.

After some discussion and a couple cups of green tea we when on a tour.  One of the new buildings at the back housed a fully automated line and a semi-automated line.  Unfortunately, production here was more like you would expect to see in the third world.  People seemed to be treated well but still a ways away from what would be permitted in the US.

While we were on tour, a young lady joined us with a little one about 18 months old.  Remeber, that little ones are rather rare to see since there is only one child for each couple.  Very cute little one.  After the tour, she joined us for the remaining discussions before lunch.  Come to find out, the 51% owner’s daughter is going to university in Minnisota and this other young lady is the daughter of the 49% owner and was very actively involved in the discussion.

Anyway, we went out for lunch with both owners and the wife of one of them and really enjoyed our time.  Lots of food shared on a large “Lazy Susan” in the middle of the table and, as usuall. reach into the dish, grab a peice and eat.  Had the standard place setting of tea cup, cup, small bowl for desired sause, larger bowl with spoon used for soup, noodles, rice, etc, a pair of chopsticks, and a plate which is usuallly used to re-adjust food in the chopsticks and hold the few unedible parts.

Here I got my first taste of rice wine.  It was very good and they tried hard not to let my cup get empty. If they felt that I was not drinking fast enough they arranged a toast which required me to take a sip.  It did taste quite good but it was rather strong so the sips were rather small.

The meal consisted of a lot of items.  Most was normal food but maybe fixed in a different way.  I liked the bamboo dish that has some sort of green veggie with it.  The fish ball (white fish rolled into a ball) and mushroom soup was pretty good too.  Best was the fried pork rib dish and a dish of cooked then sauted lima beans.

The trip to Wuhu, Anhui was rather uneventful  I tried to get photos of the little village that we went through on our way back to the highway, but that was a little tough as we bounced down the road.  We did go through a lot of mountains with many tunnels.  I hope to more pictures of these on our way back to Shanghai on Friday.  We arrived at Sunshine Peninsula Hotel, Wuhu, Anhui at about dusk.

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China – 19 November – Hangzhou

This morning we had breakfast at the hotel (Howard Johnson – Huaihai) in the French Quarter, checked out, and headed to the office which was on the 19th floor of a 28 or so floor building.  The office itself consists of one large room and a glassed in conference room in the corner.  The remaining space is taken up with five cubicles for the team with a copier and supply corner and a coffee/tea and fridge in another corner.  The view was very impressive.

Pretty quickly, Eva and I headed out to visit and tour the testing facility that will be testing some plastic material used in one of my projects.  It was quite a large lab with the ability to test almost any plastic material spec desired.  The equipment looks very well cared for but the space was pretty well full so they were acquiring a second location nearby to effectively double their floor space.  I was invited back in a few months to visit and see the new addition.  Maybe I can use that one year, multi-entry visa.

We picked up some of the rest of the team and headed to lunch.  It was quite the spread and new dishes just kept coming.  There was beef, mushrooms, red sweet potato, and shredded greens.  More interesting though was the 2 x 2 x 2 in pork pieces with three distinct layers of 1/4 skin, 1/2 fat, and 1/4 meat.  Sorry kids, the fat was yummy.  Another surprisingly good dish was the dried, salted, whole fish.  Yep, the whole fish was good.  We also had a whole white fish soup that was decent for a guy that prefers fish grilled of the salmon type.  Probably the one that I thought would be hardest for me to stomach was the eel.  It wasn’t so much the eel, since I’ve had it before, but the size and texture; having a look and feel more of dark, wide noodles..  It was okay but I stuck with one serving.

Chopsticks are the standard place setting with a large ceramic spoon used for soupy items.  So, when in Rome…  This was my serious introduction to eating methods of the Chinese.  There were a lot of giggles and instructions as I stumbled through the basics.  Our driver, Lynn, seemed to always be on the look out for me, re-showing me how to hold the chopsticks and on occasion suggesting I give them up for the spoon.  Eventually, someone did find me a knife and fork which I did not use until the very end when my hand got tired.

The restaurant was different than we are familiar with.  It seemed to be designed for group dinning and each group is given their own room.  In this case there was a long hallway with several rooms with double doors on each side.

After we returned to the office, I spent about an hour with Lulu discussing wire harnesses and what she needed to be successful in sourcing material for our manufacturing facility here in China.  I think in that hour I was able to learn, understand, and communicate more information than weeks on a similar project done a few months earlier.

About mid afternoon five of us jumped into the van and headed to Hangzhou, about 2 1/2 hours away.  We are staying at Xiha State Guest Hotel on West Lake and it is a very beautiful location.  So much so, that it is said this place is next to heaven.  Unfortunately, by the time we got to town, it was dark.  I also found that everyone needs ID to check into a hotel; at least the ones that we visit.  Foreigners are required to show their passports and here they were photo copied and visas were confirmed.  No passport, no bed.

The room was nice and, design wise, about like the room the night before but the bathroom was much smaller and without a tub.  There seemed to be a lot more “special” touches though.  On the desk was a 10 x 12 x 2 inch covered box with all sorts of office supplies, including a stapler.  The coffee table had a supply of fruit with a couple of plates and a knife wrapped in a small towel.  There was a little tea/coffee nook in the hallway with a little covered box holding the tea and coffee items.  Wine and wine glasses were on an upper shelf.

We had another “different” meal, at least for me.  The restaurant was in a separate building from where our rooms were.  A tablet was used to review the foods and make the selections and I think, once complete, wirelessly sent the order to the kitchen.  They made sure that there was at least a bowl of fried rice and a dish of beef on the table for me.  In addition to that, we had a deep fried shrimp dish, a cabbage dish, a bamboo and pepper dish, battered and fried whole silver fish (looked like battered onions), little artichoke like dish, mushroom soup, and most interesting, jelly fish, soaked in soy sauce or without.  Of course, lots of tea and again Lynn kept an eye out with helpful chopstick hints.

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China – 18 November – Shanghai

Arrival in Shanghai was pretty uneventful.  I quickly make it through the check-in/registration process and to the baggage claim.  Of course my bag had to be the last bag on to the conveyor.  Like many systems, the baggage comes up at one end of the conveyor from the lower level and drops onto the conveyor. Some one at the end where they were dropped onto the oval conveyor must have been organizing them because they were in perfect order when the came around to me.  Lined up nice and neat, right next to each other with tops up.

I found Eric and Lynn very quickly and they took me out to the van, which was very much like our 7 person vans, rather spacious, with captain seats for the centre row.  It was strange to have a lady wanting to take my bags from me and load them in the van and then opening the door for me, making sure I am okay and closing the door, etc.  But she is the “chauffeur”.

We drove through Shanghai which has a population of about 25,000,000 people.  Even though there is a one child policy here, the city is growing very quickly.  There was a lot of construction going on.  There was a lot of smog.  I was told that it was really bad a couple days earlier.  However, the smog is not from vehicle or manufacturing pollution but from the farmers burning their fields after the harvest and in preparation for the next planting.

There were also a lot of high rise apartments. A lot!  It is interesting to see laundry hanging out of windows and off of balconies 20 and 30 floor up.

Lynn drove us to the Howard Johnson - Huaihai which is in the French quarter of Shanghai.  By this time I was too tired to think about taking pictures.  I checked in with the help of Eric and got to my room.  Next time I think I can manage this myself.

The room is beautiful.  Quite large and with a the largest bathroom that I have seen in my hotel room.  The tub and the shower are separate.  The shower is glassed in with a two foot wide floor to ceiling frosted glass window which could produce some interesting shows if more than one person were staying in the room.  Time for bed.

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China – 17/18 November – The Trip

Well, I (Allan) am off to China.  In the waiting area there was a nice large replica of a dino skeleton.  Left Chicago around 10:45 (35 minutes late because of the wind and rain) with a very long line of planes trailing behind us.

Though we were traveling across the time zones, staying between the hours of 11:00 and 15:00, I got to see a sun set and a sun rise because we had traveled so far north.

We had dinner of rice with a veggie curry and a lentil curry. That was very good.

After a sleepless 14 hours of a “lunch hour”, I finally arrived in Shanghai.

Click on a thumbnail to see a slide show of my trip!