Sorry for the Wait!

Hey y’all!!

Sorry for the delay! I’ve been having trouble with the blog here in China, but it’s back up and running, so please forgive me!

The past few weeks have been super productive!! I really enjoyed my time at the Foreign Investment Promotion Center at the Bureau of Commerce, but I’m glad to be back at the foreign affairs office!

During my time there, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by a reporter from ChinaDailyUSA. You can view the article here!

I was also interviewed by a journalist from the Shandong evening newspaper, but unfortunately there isn’t an English version; however, you can find the words “Terrebonne Parish” in the article, so there’s your proof that it’s real! :)

Famous.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve had a few meetings and made some significant progress on the projects we are currently working on, including those in the shipbuilding and seafood industries, in addition to a few new projects that are in the works.

Last week I met with Ms. Yu Gouzhen from the Weihai Education Committee to discuss the proposed high school exchange program with E.D. White. The committee approves the proposal, and we will be moving forward to negotiate the details in the near future.

This week I met with the international office of Harbin Institute of Technology at Weihai to discuss establishing an exchange alliance with Nicholls State University. HIT has several excellent academic degree programs including naval architecture, ocean engineering, and marine science and technology. They have an outstanding reputation and a beautiful campus; I even got to visit the automotive engineering workshop! I think that a partnership between HIT and Nicholls would be a great opportunity for students from both colleges.

Vroom Vroom

I’ve also made much personal progress this week! The principal of EASY English invited to a luncheon as her guest to discuss suggestions for improvement in the Weihai Education system, and the luncheon was featured in the Weihai daily newspaper!

Fancy.

Next week I start teaching at EASY! I’m a little nervous, though. I’ll have to prepare myself and do my own homework, but I’m sure it’ll be a great experience!  WISH ME LUCK!

That’s it for now!

ZàiJiàn!

Kristen 玛丽

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Change of Scenery

Hey everyone!!

It’s been a great week! Wednesday I started working at the Weihai Municipal Bureau of Commerce temporarily! Lucky for me, it’s a very short walk from my apartment, and everyone is really nice and very eager to strengthen the ties between Terrebonne Parish and Weihai.

My new office: The Weihai Foreign Investment Promotion Center at the Weihai Municipal Bureau of Commerce

Office Pic!

I’ve been working to help edit the English version of the website for the Investment Center in addition to working on several projects in the education, construction, shipbuilding/repair,  fishing equipment, and liquor industries.

Earlier this morning, a journalist from the Shandong evening news came by to interview me for the newspaper–I’m such a celebrity! haha

Today I’ll also be working on an article to be published in a local professional magazine, so stay posted!

I think that’s it for now! Short and sweet!!

Zàijiàng!

Kristen 玛丽

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Busy Wednesday

Hey guys!

Sorry for the delay, your update is here!

I spent the beginning of last week scheduling the Skype meeting between Xigang Yacht. Co and one of their potential US partners. The Skype meeting was scheduled for Wednesday morning and went extremely well! It was mostly a preliminary meeting so they could each get to know each other and the expectations from each side. We discussed the company history, the short term and long term goals of the company, and a possible meeting here in Weihai. It was a great meeting, and I think both parties were satisfied. We’ve made significant progress with this project so far, and we only expect more success!

Skype meeting in action!

Smiling faces after a very successful meeting!

After the Skype meeting, the Weihai Foreign Affairs Office was hosting a delegation from the UK, so they invited me to join them for lunch. It was fun! We took a quick tour of the city and then had lunch. I came to learn that the South West UK and Louisiana have many industrial similarities, and we even discussed a potential relationship with them in the future. It was a great meeting, and I even got some unexpected networking out of it!

Helen and I on the beach with Mr. Darren of the UK delegation (apparently, I can't button a cardigan correctly)

After our long lunch with the delegation, it was only a short few hours before I had to teach my first English class at EASY! I was excited, but I was nervous too! It was pretty difficult to try getting them to open up and talk with me. The topics we discussed were food (my favorite), past times, and cultural differences between the US and China. Here are a few pictures of us in action!

My first English class!

My first English class!

Getting to know the students.. I forced them to tell me their names, haha.

Confused, maybe??

Free Speaking Class

They caught me in action!!

It was a really fun first teaching experience!!!

Thursday night Mr. David treated Mr. Sun, Xiuwei and me to some Chinese BBQ. He showed us his newly established business school, and we talked alot about cultural differences between the US and China. The food was pretty good, too!

I just couldn't eat him! He was looking at me with such sadness in his eyes.

I took the day off Friday to go to the beach for the first time since I arrived in Weihai! It’s been a month!! The weather was kind of overcast, but it was pretty nice. And there were PLENTY of people!

Look closely and you can see Golden Bay Hotel in the background. Man I miss those breakfasts!!!

Weihai International Beach

great view from the cabana!

I think that’s it for now, but I have a few things in the works! Stay posted ;)

Zàijiàn!

Kristen 玛丽

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Talent Show

If you read my last post, you read that I was meeting with Ms. Caroline Lee from Xigang Yacht Company. We met at my office here at the Weihai Foreign Affairs office. It felt good putting that MBA to good use, but I felt like I was in Dr. Lajaunie’s class all over again. As I was going over the outline of the business plan with her and discussing sales forecasts I was having flashbacks! I surely don’t miss those days!! My MBA friends will know what I mean! haha. It went pretty well though, I must say. I also gave her the list of boat shows I put together for this year and next. Steve and Clarence had some major success in helping them to find a US company to partner with. Right now I’m working on getting a Skype meeting between the two companies. Hopefully from there we can gain even more progress. Stay posted.

Saturday I attended Easy English’s 2013 summer camp party. I was invited to be a judge at their talent show! It was so much fun, plus I got to meet some of the other English teachers and made some new friends!

So CUTE!

They sang, danced, played instruments, read poetry, and even did stand up comedy! It was quite a fun night.

Here are some pictures from Easy English!

What an entertaining show!

Voting!

The 1st place winners!

Handing out awards

The teachers!

I’m looking forward to sitting it on the conversation class Wednesday night. Hopefully I can start teaching soon!

That’s all for now!

Zàijiàn!

Kristen 玛丽

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Surprise Lunch

Today I was sitting at my office, and I got a phone call from Helen, “Meet me downstairs in 9 minutes.”

Kind of confused, I gathered my things and met Helen downstairs. She and Mr. Li were taking me to have lunch with former Vice Mayor, Mr. Tian Zhi Ying. Exciting! We had dinner with him on our first night in Weihai, and he’s a really nice guy. Fun, too!

We met him at a really nice club in Weihai, where was this pretty cool aquarium at the entrance.

I have no idea what kind of fish these are.

This lunch was his first time entertaining in his new position, so I was honored. His new position, not easily translatable in English, entails the recruitment, hiring and promoting of all Weihai government officials. It was exciting to be his first guest of honor. We had a wonderful lunch. (Again with the sea cucumber soup, only this time there were tiny little octopi accompanying the sea cucumber!) Interesting. We also had steak! It was presented so beautifully, so I had to take a picture!

I love the little heart!

Other than the good food, we talked about Mr. Tian’s new position, family, and my adjustment to life here in Weihai. It was a great lunch and a nice surprise on this otherwise normal Wednesday!

Tomorrow I’ll be meeting with Ms. Caroline Lee from Xigang Yacht Co. to discuss the guidelines for their new and improved strategic business plan. I’ve also compiled a list of major boat shows in the US for 2013 and 2014 for them to consider attending.

Ms. Lenry from Easy English also called to invite me to a party that they’re having Saturday evening. Then next week, I’ll be sitting in on an English conversation class on Wednesday night at her school. I think it’s just primarily engaging the students in conversation to compel them to speak in English. It should be fun!!

Busy week ahead, huh?!

Stay posted for more updates!

ZàiJiàn!

Kristen 玛丽

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Playing Catch Up

The time had come for Steve, Clarence and David to leave Weihai and fly out to Beijing. It was scary, I have to admit. But I have a team of people here in Weihai and back at home to support me in everything I do, so all is well.

After leaving the airport, I got the keys to my apartment. It was a humbling experience to put it mildly, but once all the kinks were worked out, I’m happy to have a place to call home for three months.

Once we dropped my things off at my apartment, Mr. Sun took me to the Weihai Foreign Affairs office to meet everyone. Everyone was extremely nice and welcoming, and I definitely look forward to working with them for three months.

Then it was right to work. The first thing on the agenda was to play catch up on the blog. It took awhile (Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and today!) to sit down and collect my thoughts, recollections of the meetings and photos of the three hectic days, but you are all finally caught up :)

The latest update is my lunch Sunday with the President of Easy English School, Ms. Lenry, whom Mr. Sun has known for over ten years. It started out as a personal meeting; she wanted to offer me a small part-time job teaching English at her school on the nights and weekends to make extra money. However, it turned into a business meeting quickly. After talking to Ms. Lenry for awhile, I realized that this could be a great opportunity for the graduates of Nicholls State University and possibly Fletcher Community College. The proposal was to arrange a program between Easy English and Nicholls/Fletcher where English graduates would spend one semester or one year in Weihai teaching English for internship credit. It’s mutually beneficial because students would get internship credit while experiencing a new culture, and Easy English would satisfy its increasing demand for English teachers. In my opinion, it’s a win, win. Just waiting to hear back from Nicholls and I’ll be meeting with Ms. Lenry sometime in August to discuss the arrangement. She also offered me to stay here until January teaching English full time. It’s something to think about for the future. Maybe. I don’t think my mother approves, haha.

Anyway, lunch was delicious: we ate at the Blue Sky Hotel, Ms. Lenry sent me home with leftovers, her daughter is a doll, and I got some pretty cool pictures, too.

Ms. Lenry's daughter's name is Kristen,too!

View from Blue Sky Hotel

If you look closely, you can see the Weihai Fishing Port in the background

It may be easier to see in this picture.

All in all, I would say it was an extremely productive Sunday. That’s it for now. Until my next post I’ll be working on a progress report detailing our meetings during those first three days in Weihai to present at TEDA’s annual banquet on August 8.

ZàiJiàn!

Kristen 玛丽

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Day 3

I loved waking up and starting my mornings with noodle breakfasts. It just makes for a better day.

Wednesday we had a full day planned: meetings with WEGO (a medical supply company) and Weihai Vocational College.

Our first stop was at WEGO. “Weigao Holding Company Limited has 18 subsidiaries and has more than 9,000 employees and a total asset value of over RMB 4 billion (approximately US$0.59 billion). Shandong Weigao Group Medical Polymer Company Limited (“Weigao Group”), is the major subsidiary of Weigao Holding. Weigao covers a manufacturing area of 1,250,000 square meters …and it currently produces more than 250 types of medical products with more than 30,000 specifications.”

We met with the Foreign Trade department in hopes of helping them to increase their expansion into the US market. Hopefully I’ll be meeting again with them soon with plans to help us bring our goals to fruition.

Our Delegation and the team at WEGO

I’ll add the other pictures when I receive them! Stay posted!

Our next stop was Weihai Vocational College. Weihai Vocational College is a relatively new organization, combined with Weihai Technical College in 2004. Located in the Hi-Tech Zone of Weihai, the campus has an area of 2.033 million square meters!  After a short tour of the facility, we met with President of the college and his team. The Weihai Vocational College documented the meeting and posted the update on their website. Below is a rough translation followed by photographs taken during the meeting:

“Terrebonne Parish Economic Development Authority CEO Steve Vassallo led a delegation of four to visit the Weihai Vocational College. Dean Jin Zhitao and Sunzhong Feng met guests, and Dean Jin Zhitao warmly welcomed the delegation headed by Vassallo and briefed them on Weihai Vocational College.

They discussed cooperation between American universities and community colleges within the parish such as extensive student and cultural exchanges, collaboration on research in the areas of science and technology, customized job training and overseas employment and other aspects of collaboration in depth.

Steve Vassallo presented Jin Zhitao a draft of a memorandum of cooperation on behalf of Nicholls State University and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Allayne Barrilleaux for culinary, nursing, business management and other areas of study.

Because Terrebonne and Weihai have established friendly relationships, Steve Vassallo was invited back to Weihai at the invitation of the Weihai municipal government. The purpose of the visit was to observe the port, seafood companies, schools and other businesses to promote pragmatic exchanges and cooperation between the two cities.

The delegation was impressed by China’s rapid development, the development of Weihai Vocational College and its campus, and expects both sides to strengthen exchanges and cooperation to achieve satisfactory results.

After the meeting, Sunzhong Feng led the guests to visit the college library, a training center and other teaching facilities.”

Dean Jin Zhitao and Sunzhong Feng

Meeting in Action

Discussions

Smile and say "Weihai!"

After our meeting, we toured some of the facilities and then had lunch on campus.

(Will add photos later, David is holding them hostage)

We ended our 3 days of meetings in Weihai with an amazing dinner!

a wonderful dinner after a successful day! (Oysters! YUM!)

Check back for more soon!

ZiàJiàng!

Kristen 玛丽

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Day 2

After a fun first day in Weihai, it was time to set off to some more meetings. But not before breakfast. I had no idea what a Chinese “Western Breakfast” entailed until I actually went downstairs to eat. MY GOD. Every food you can imagine was on that buffet. There were NOODLES for breakfast!!! If I could eat noodles for breakfast for the rest of my life, I’d be a very happy woman. I have to apologize for not having any pictures. By the time I fixed my plate, I had to eat it. Sorry guys. I’ll have to leave it to your imaginations.

At the Hotel after the Breakfast of Champions

Our next scheduled meeting was for the Weihai New Port. Although it was still under construction, this port was unbelievable! It was the size of a small airport. We had a great meeting, and David took this project under his wing; I’m sure he’ll do a fantastic job of building the relationship between the Port of Terrebonne and the Weihai New Port.

Here are a few pictures:

at Weihai New Port

Me and Helen at Weihai New Port

Our next meeting was at  Weihai Yuwang Group., an Aquatic Seafood Processing Company. They employ over 2200 workers in areas covering 45 million square meters. Their business includes the processing of aquatic products including fish, fruits and vegetables, seawater breeding, sea biology technology, research and detection, bonded logistics, import and export, industrial metallurgical machinery manufacturing, and real estate development.

Their goods are exported to more than 2o countries including Japan, South Korea, and several countries in Europe. Yuwang’s main products include sea cucmbers, abalones, prawns, Spanish mackerel, squid, yellow croakers, golden pampanos, hairtails and correlative gift boxes . The factory now has 320 employees in an area covering 4500 square meters with a 1000 ton capacity refrigeration unit; it produces 10,000 tons of of saline products, 600 tons of dried products (including dried sea mustard and dried sea kelp), and more than 100 tons of seasoned instant food (including several varieties of dumplings).

The Weihai Marine Aquaculture Branch of Yuwang Co. produces more than 1oo tons of fresh seafood a year including sea cucumbers, fugu, snakehead, and summer mussels.

This meeting went absolutely splendidly. The potential relationship to be built from this meeting is priceless. There is a very strong interest to import Louisiana Gulf Seafood, including shrimp, oysters, and different species of fish, and Houma has the businesses to make those connections.

There is also a potential market in the US to import sea cucumbers and sea cucumber extract from China because of the vast health benefits. Some of these benefits include prevention of growth and spread of cancer cells, acting as an anticoagulant  to prevent blood clotting and excessive bleeding, having anti-inflammatory effects which may help to alleviate the pain with those suffering from conditions such as arthritis, and having therapeutic effects which may help to heal wounds more quickly by regenerating new tissue when it is damaged. (Read more about it here, and see the scientific studies).

I know that this relationship can flourish quickly, and I hope that I can be the catalyst to expedite the process.

The meeting went so well, that the executives took us to lunch at one of their properties, The Weihai New Seafood Hotel  founded in 1993, which has become a famous seafood hotel.  There was a wide assortment of fresh seafood, and luckily, we got to sample plenty of it.

Oh, and it was my first experience with a Chinese toilet. Quite different from the facilities we are familiar  with. Some pictures:

Chinese Toilet

Silk Worms

assortment of seafood

more fishy things

Sea Cucumbers

Bigger Sea Cucumbers

Sea Cucumber Soup

Halibut... Actually tasty

Spanish Mackerel... Not so tasty

Squid

LUNCH

After a long lunch full of encouraging toasts, the gang had the afternoon to ourselves, so Mr. Sun took us on a private tour of Liugong Island. This was exceptionally fun after our lush lunch. A great experience documented with lots of great pictures!

The view from the boat ride to the Island

Liugong Island from a distance

Our wonderful tour guide

The Gang

Best Buds

confession

Whale Exhibit- This whale was found on the beach at Liugong Island a few years ago

He was excited to be found.

A guy was trying to be sly and pee in the bushes but I saw him.

This one is for Stacie.

and so is this one...

Thank you for our private tour, Mr. Sun. After our tour of the island, we went to an amazing live performance taking us on a trip through the evolution of Chinese civilization. It was pretty awesome.

After a long, fun-filled day, once we got back to the hotel, we were absolutely exhausted. I ordered some dinner and passed out!

What a day! More to come in the near future!!

ZiàJiàng!

Kristen 玛丽

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Day 1

I was so extremely nervous to leave Louisiana. This wasn’t like Paris. When the time came for me to jet to France, I didn’t have a care in the world. I’m not really sure why this was so different. Maybe because there were so many unanswered questions before I left: about my apartment, about my job, the culture.

So we board the flight to Los Angeles. David and I flew from New Orleans to LA while Clarence and Steve flew from Memphis and met us there. David and I actually had a pretty fun flight to LA. We played trivia games with the rest of the passengers on the plane.

Right on the money, 400 points!!

I came in 5th overall, woo hoo! David won when he was the only player, haha. And there was a celebrity sighting on the plane y’all!!!

Famous

Just kidding, it’s me, haha.

So we arrive in LA, and it was the longest layover I’ve ever experienced. LAX is such a HUGE airpport. We were expecting to be able to check into AirChina and hang out in the airport for the rest of the layover, but that’s not exactly how it went. We had to wait about 2 hours to check into AirChina and then wait three more hours to board.

so exciting

Once we finally got to check in, we were STARVING.. and thirsty. So at 11pm, we managed to find a little bistro that was open and sat to wait for Steve and Clarence. Once Steve and Clarence finally made it to LAX, we had another few hours to waste before the international flight.

So we sat and waited, in style, might I add.

was loving my Chinese Laundry wedges, and my vintage Harmann luggage, of course. I gotta fly pretty!

To say the flight to Beijing was long is an understatement. At least the food was okay. My first taste of authentic Chinese food was pretty good.

We arrived in the Beijing airport at about 5 am Beijing time. Now to go through customs. Everything was going smoothly, and then one of the customs agents decided he needed to drug test my prescriptions. Having to explain to a Chinese male customs agent what medication I had was interesting to say the least. So after a minor setback of about 30 minutes, everything was good to go. Or so we thought.

The four of us were waiting to catch the bus to the plane to Weihai when Steve asked if everyone had their boarding passes. My heart dropped into my… stomach. The customs agent hadn’t given me my boarding pass back after the prescription fiasco. So Steve and I set off RUNNING through the Beijing airport.

Keep in mind: this is a fairly large airport, and I am wearing 6 inch wedges ( I know you’re asking yourself, why on earth would she wear those shoes on such a long flight?! Well believe it or not, they are extremely comfortable, and also, I didn’t have room for them in my suitcase. So I wore them).

I wish I would have the footage the Beijing airport has of Steve and I running through the airport like madmen. Quite a funny scene. But in the end, we made it back to the bus, boarding pass in hand. That was enough cardio for me for at least a few days.

The flight to Weihai was a short one. So we finally arrive ! Off to baggage claims! I couldn’t contain my excitement to see my two beautiful Hartmann suitcases riding on that conveyor belt.

Hoorah for my luggage arriving!

Unfortunately, Steve and Clarence weren’t so lucky. Their luggage got left in Beijing! But fortunately, they were able to get it back before dinner with the Vice Mayor of Weihai later that night.

When Helen told us she had booked our rooms at the Golden Bay Hotel, there was an instant gleam in my eyes. I came across pictures from the hotel when I was doing some research on Weihai before our trip, and it’s one of the nicest hotels in Weihai. The 5 star hotel was absolutely beautiful, and it was right on the International Beach! We checked in, and the view from my room was breathtaking. Right on the beach, with the mountains in the background. Weihai has the best of it all!

A little foggy, but still beautiful!

We all quickly got ready for lunch, where Helen and Mr. Sun took us to a Chinese buffet. (Before you think, ‘Really, a Chinese buffet? They can get that in America!’ Think again.) This wasn’t like your normal American Chinese buffet. Actually nothing like it. It was delicious. There were some interesting things on display, so I just opted for the normal stuff: soup, rice, etc. It didn’t take long for me to get adventurous, which I’ll write about more later.

After our lunch, we had a meeting at the Xigang Yacht Company. Xigang Yacht Co. pioneered the fiberglass boat building industry in China. At first, they catered to the fishing industry and then later expanded into tourist, sporting, and pleasure. Later, in 2005, they expanded to build luxury yachts and sailboats. Their boats are constructed primarily of fiberglass, 90%. They rank 1st in fiberglass fishing boats in China and rank 1st in pleasure boats in North China. They have about 300 employees and are consistently receiving an increasing amount of orders. They currently export boats to more than 20 countries worldwide.They  also have an extended product line to include accessories, like fishing rods and ski poles. They produce over 3 million types of fishing rods at five workshops with over 200 workers. In 2006, the Weihai Xigang Yacht Club was founded. It is located in the Xiaoshidao Harbor. The plans for the area include 5km along the coast, and once completed, 400 berths will be available for rent or purchase. Plans for the club also entail a high class Business Casual Chamber where members will enjoy supply tours, relaxation, networking, and entertainment.

We had a great tour of the facility, and the meeting went wonderfully. Their major goal is to partner with a US company from whom they can adapt enhanced knowledge and skills in the areas of technology and design. We are currently working with them on a more streamlined business plan in order to find them an ideal strategic partnership.

Here are a few pictures of our tour:

Steve wears that hardhat well.

So does Clarence. So stylish.

Helen makes wearing a hardhat fashionable.

under construction

Touring the Shipyard

 

What can I say, we all looked good in hardhats.

70' Angling boat

Just a few of the rods

After our tour of Xigang Yacht Co., we had dinner with the Vice Mayorof Weihai, Mr Tian Zhi Ying. It was an amazing way to end our first day in Weihai. Lots of great food, MANY toasts, and many new friends made as well as old friends reacquainted.

Cheers! Gānbēi! 干杯

A GREAT end to our first day in Weihai!

More to come on the rest of the trip later…

Zàijiàn!

Kristen 玛丽

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Here’s to New Friends

Firstly, I’d like to apologize for the delay in getting an updated blog for you. Unfortunately, the blog I shared with you previously isn’t available in China, so I had to find another solution, which I think works quite wonderfully.

The first three days in Weihai with Steve, Clarence and David were amazing! Our meetings exceeded our greatest expectations, only with the help of our dear friends Helen and Mr. Sun. We can’t thank them enough in their efforts to coordinate and schedule our many meetings during those three days! In the words of the Vice Mayor, we are thankful for making our new friends and look forward to them becoming old friends.

Yesterday I moved into my apartment, and I’m still getting settled in. Working on getting internet in my apartment and cell phone service, so bear with me in this brief update and the next few longer ones.

Unfortunately that’s all for now, but rest assured that I’ll be writing more soon!

Oh, and for all of the critics out there, you only make me more determined to do what I do and do it well.

Zàijiàn

再见

Kristen 再见 (that’s my Chinese name, y’all!)

The gang

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