I am a Ball State University Telecommunications professor spending six weeks in China with six incredibly talented Ball State Communications students.
Posts by Suzy Smith
When you work for a large company like I did for many years, it’s easy to work with people that you don’t really know. However, I had quite a different experience during my years at CNN.com, at least where one colleague is concerned. For much of my time at CNN.com, I worked the evening shift. I would come into the office around noon or 1:00 p.m. and work until 9:00 or 10:00 p.m. At that time, some of the operations of CNN.com would transfer over to our colleagues in another part of the world, namely Hong Kong. Many nights I would send an AIM to a gentleman named Kevin Drew. I was not aware at that time that Kevin had actually worked in the Atlanta offices of CNN.com at one time because when he was in the states I was actually working in another department and for a couple of years, for another company. I just knew Kevin as the person in charge in Hong Kong, and the person that I needed to make aware of what was happening on my side of the globe. For approximately two years Kevin and I shared what I like to refer to as an AIM relationship. So it was very exciting for me to visit the CNN Hong Kong offices and actually meet Kevin Drew face-to-face. The experience proves that knowing what a person looks like or how they dress or their mannerisms, is not a requirement for having great respect for a person as a professional and as a colleague. Putting a face with a name simply provided me with more context when I think back on what a pleasure it was to deal with someone so considerate and so professional in the way they handled themselves as a colleague.
Everyone in the U.S. knows about the vast resources and reach of ESPN as a leader in sports programming. What they may not know is that in Asia, ESPN and its partnership with NewsCorp (the Rupert Murdoch owned media company) makes it the sports programming king of Asia and Australia, as well. From China to Hong Kong to Singapore to India to Taiwan to Australia, ESPNStar carries sports of a variety unmatched even in the U.S. with cricket, Australian rules football, rugby, motor sports as well as all of the traditional American sports.
Thursday afternoon, we had the opportunity to visit the Hong Kong based ESPN International offices. In fact, it wasn’t just the ESPN offices we saw, all of Disney Corporations Asia offices (ESPN’s parent company) are located in Hong Kong. It was an informal meeting set up through a friend and former colleague of mine that is an executive producer with ESPN in the U.S. And although informal, it was a meeting full of great information and insight into the business of sports programming and media in general. Michael Morrison, VP and General Manager of ESPN Asia Pacific, along with Kelly Cooke, Director of Business Development for ESPN Asia Pacific, spent nearly an hour and a half talking with our group; offering information and insight into the future of the media business, including alternative platform delivery and describing to the students the type of skills they need to acquire now to be better prepared for a career in media.
It was an informative and enjoyable afternoon from the view out their office windows to the conversation. Thanks for ESPN for everything.
“Hey lady, buy a bag?” Words I’ve heard often while in Shanghai and Beijing. Nowhere near as often as I did on Sunday afternoon when four of us headed to the Silk Market. We experienced what can only be described as AMAZING.
The Silk Market is a seven-story mall of sorts with individual stalls selling all sorts of wonderful and fabulous goods. Coats, underwear, silk scarves, luggage, jewelry, purses and custom made clothing; anything you might want or need. The amazing part of the experience of the Silk Market is the negotiations that go on when buying an item.
It quickly became apparent to our group that Sarah Brannan is an expert negotiator, sometimes getting the sales girls to drop their prices to 20 percent of the original asking price, or getting them to sell two for the price of one. Sarah moved from stall to stall haggling with the various sales girls, working her magic and buying a multitude of items for herself, her parents and her sister.
Terry, on the other hand, was a sales girl dream. As Terry would pass each stall, he apparently looked like an easy target, as sales girls would grab him by the arm and pull him in before he realized what was happening. While he would get away, it would sometimes take awhile. And even though he got caught the most and for the longest time in the web of the sales girl, he in fact bought the least; leaving the Silk Market with only a suit and some small gifts for others.
We each left with several items and in the end we all felt good about our purchases, our haggling abilities and our experience!
When Weaver popcorn signed a deal with Stellar Cinemas of China, Ball State University was there. Jack Meyer and Sarah Brannan interviewed Will Weaver the COO of Weaver popcorn. Their stories were published on several web sites around Indiana, including www.theindychannel.com and www.indystar.com. The audio story aired on several Public Radio stations across the state.
Here is a chance for you to listen to Sarah’s audio story.
Whenever you are on a trip it’s impossible not to compare things to home. For example a trip to central California might elicit a response like this, “In Indiana we don’t have artichokes, but we have corn.” A trip to Colorado and we might say “gosh, you have mountains here while in central Indiana we’re lucky to have a hill.” No matter where you travel it’s always the same.
It is true, as well, when you meet people while on a trip. If you are in Indianapolis and you meet someone from South Bend, no big deal. If you are in California and you meet someone from Indiana, it doesn’t matter where in Indiana they are from; suddenly it’s like meeting a neighbor. Well it’s the same here in China. Meet someone from the U.S. and no matter where they are from, it’s as if they are our long lost best friends.
Earlier this week, while visiting Tiananmen Square, the students ran into a group of students from all over the U.S., and suddenly it was a party. Twenty minutes of exchanging names, talking about what each group had done while in China. Chats about majors, interests and what they were headed to see next. Then pictures, and suddenly the group felt a little less homesick.
The same thing happened at the Forbidden City. A group turned to our group and said something like “Wow, it’s great to hear English again.” Seems they were a group from Penn State University, on a trip much like ours, and the discussions began again. While in Shanghai, we ran into a family from Ann Arbor, Michigan on the elevator when leaving the Shanghai World Financial Center, and I, being from Michigan, felt the need to have a picture taken. Again, suddenly it felt as if we had run into an old friend that we hadn’t seen in a while.
This idea that distance draws us closer also worked to our advantage when we first arrived in Beijing. Terry and I had a discussion about meeting with the Lt. Governor here in Beijing. If we had requested a meeting with her back in Indiana, our group would have been one of many who request that kind of thing. The chances of getting time with her would be small. However, take us both thousands of miles from home and instantly we are set apart from other groups, and we suddenly have a much closer relationship with the Lt. Governor.
At China Daily, an English language newspaper here in Beijing, we were excited to visit with a reporter, Todd Balazovic who is a recent college graduate. He decided to come to China and work because of the opportunities both in journalism and also from a cultural standpoint. Imagine my excitement when he introduced himself and said that he was a graduate of Central Michigan University. My alma mater. Oooh Wahhh chips!
No matter where each of us travels after this trip, I believe that this experience will change the way we look at the places we travel but even more the way we look at home.
It’s all in the context of things.
As Terry told you in an earlier post, Sarah Brannan and Jack Meyer interviewed Jose Villarreal, the US Commissioner General of the US Pavilion at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo. Jack has already supplied a copy of his story for you to read, a story that was picked up by theindychannel.com. Attached you will find a copy of Sarah’s story that was picked up and aired on Indiana Public Radio in East Central Indiana. It was also made available to for all National Public Radio stations in Indiana to be used in their newscasts. Enjoy!
Six weeks in a foreign land can be fun, exciting, challenging and dirty. Yes, I said dirty. Not because the country is dirty or the things we are doing are filthy, but rather because there is no way that any of us could pack enough clothes for six weeks. When I faced the task of packing, I wondered how much I could jam into one suitcase, hoping that somehow I could cram and caress and jam and prod six weeks worth of t-shirts, shorts, slacks and underwear, along with a variety of personal care products into one suitcase; at least one suitcase that I could still carry and get to the airport. Of course I couldn’t and I was left with the decision of just how much to bring. One week, that was the decision that I made. One week’s worth of clothes, some of which I could wear more than once without offending my traveling partners. I figured that gave me a week and a half before I would have to handle laundry. But little did we know that laundry day would be, in a way, something we looked forward too. We’ve purchased laundry detergent and have learned to launder clothes both in the sink and if we have a big load, in the bathtub. Washing, soaking and rinsing those three are no problem. I’m not sure if it’s more about the idea of having clean clothes to wear, or the clean smell of the laundered clothes. I caught my roomie Sarah, on the day she did her laundry, smelling it, enjoying the clean smell of the items.
The only problem we have when doing laundry is trying to get the clothes to dry. Our hotel rooms in Shanghai really didn’t have any air conditioning, so we left our windows open. Because of that, our rooms would sometimes be humid and that humidity made it very difficult when trying to get clothes to dry. Slacks sometimes would take two days, shirts at least a day and even underwear was tough to get dry. Fortunately Jack came up with a solution. He tied several shoestrings together and viola’, a clothesline. While it made drying clothes easier it wasn’t always quicker.
No matter the problems, laundry day has become a welcome event. And now that we’ve arrived in Beijing and actually have air conditioning in our rooms, I think drying won’t even be a problem.
For those of you old enough to remember the show Cheers, it was a place where “everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Although we haven’t quite found our Cheers here in Shanghai, we’ve come very close. It’s a restaurant right in our Shanghai neighborhood and despite the fact we don’t know each others’ names, and we can hardly communicate with language, the staff certainly makes us feel incredibly welcome every time we visit, recognizing us each and every time we walk in the door. It has, in fact, become one of our favorite places to eat.
Located right across the street from our hotel, it’s a small, unassuming place, with good food for a good price. Full meals cost as little as 9 RMB, or approximately $1.25 U.S. A menu full of Chinese items, we’ve found the picture menu incredibly helpful. And every time we come, they find a way to accommodate a group of eight. Tonight, as our group made its way into the neighborhood eatery, our upbeat mood quickly declined. All the tables were full, but when our host saw us start to leave, he quickly communicated that he would find us a place to sit. After ordering we were led to a private room upstairs where we once again enjoyed a wonderful meal.
After dinner, our group headed to another eatery that is quickly becoming a neighborhood favorite, a pastry shop. And although it is like many pastry shops full of chocolate and creamy puffs of goodness, for some reason, this shop has quite the obsession with hot dogs. In the U.S. you would be hard pressed to find a pastry shop that mixed cream fillings with hot dogs, but not here in China. And although it doesn’t sound like a great combination, in fact, there are a few that aren’t too bad. The “Japanese Barbeque” mixed hot dogs with cheese and some type of barbeque sauce. The “Long Beach” has hot dogs along with sliced almonds and other tasty treats (code for we aren’t sure what it is). What I find most appealing in the shop is the coffee, and a chance to end our fine meal with a good cup of coffee is one that I cannot turn down.
Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, depending on how you look at it, is our other favorite neighborhood hang out. Believe it or not, Dairy Queen is quite popular here in Shanghai. While the Blizzard flavors are not exactly the same, they are very “American,” and the taste of good ole soft serve ice cream is another favorite that we’ve come to enjoy here in our home away from home.
It really shows that no matter how far away from home you might be, or how unusual or different the area is, you can find a place where you feel comfortable and welcome! That is Shanghai, a city that has welcomed us with open arms!
Don’t ask for a bathroom or a restroom in China because you may get some funny looks. But ask for a toilet and everyone knows what you are talking about; and so begins the great toilet bowl adventure. Once you’ve found the bathroom two words, or at least you hope two words greet you, squatting and pedestal. As a westerner you hope for a pedestal, which is a typical western toilet, the fear of God enters your body when you see only the word squatting when entering the toilet. Especially when you’ve forgotten the cleverly designed device, which looks like a funnel (thanks Jane Brannan), to aid your bathroom activities. A squatting bathroom is no more than a porcelain hole in the ground, and believe me, it’s difficult to maneuver. The balancing act that goes on while in the stall is amazing; making sure not to fall, making sure to hit the hole and making sure not to get something that is sure to smell later, all over yourself. Is that too graphic? If you are flexible enough to maneuver this, congratulations! But the adventure is not over. Make sure that you carry your own toilet paper with you because none will be provided. On top of all this, the males traveling with us say that the men’s room almost always has a western toilet at their disposal, which begs the question, who designed the public restrooms in this country?—probably a male! That is why I have begun to stop and use almost every restroom with the words pedestal, just in case I get stuck in a place with a squatting only toilet.
Apparently there is a right way and a wrong way to use chopsticks, and then there is my way. Last night while enjoying a wonderful meal with my Ball State University comrades, I discovered that I am not using chopsticks correctly. Now mind you, I have been in China for five days and believe me have not missed a meal, but my performance with chopsticks caused a great deal of laughter among the wait staff at the hotel restaurant. It seems that I am so bad with the chopsticks that that same wait staff, after watching me struggle for quite some time, hurried to the kitchen of the restaurant and brought forks back to our table. Xie, xie (Shi shi) I responded but determined to conquer all, I continued on with the chopsticks and my meal. While I am far from an expert, I’m doing ok, and doubt that it will deter me from finishing a meal. By the way, the food is great here!