Katie and I took the train to Dusseldorf this past weekend to start our travels. After checking Katie into the local Holiday Inn (she was flying on Sunday and I was flying on Saturday) we ventured out into the rain and found a great little restaurant attached to a local horse training facility. The food was great. After we took a taxi back to the hotel (to keep from getting soaked again) and I continued on to the airport to catch my flight. The first flight was quick to Copenhagen. It was super cold getting off the plane and onto the transfer bus. I am very glad we are not up there permanently during the winter. The layover was a little longer than expected but was still OK since we actually originally would have been rather tight on the connection. The next flight was 9 hours to Beijing. The food was good and interestingly I sat next to a German who lived near Charleston, SC for 7 years working for a steel manufacturer. It was great talking to someone about South Carolina for a little bit. We arrived in Beijing a little after noon (cutting 40 minutes off the flight!). My next flight was a short hopper to Shenyang but of course was in a different terminal 5 minutes away so I had to completely recheck everything.
The arrival into Shenyang was easy except for the fact that the ATM at the airport was broken. This was rather interesting trying to get a taxi driver to understand that he had to bring me by an ATM if he wanted to get paid! Luckily pointing at my ATM card he finally understood. The ride was immediately interesting with the realization that there are no rules for driving in China! Included was my taxi driver driving 3 lanes over into oncoming traffic, not staying in any lanes, honking constantly so that we would not get hit by other drivers, avoiding rickshaw size potholes, etc.
I have noticed over the week that driving in China is taking your life into your own hands. Chinese drivers have absolutely no fear, combine all the “a-hole” driving techniques (cutting people off, honking constantly, not staying in one lane/riding the line, pushing people out of the way, stop in the middle of the street to talk to someone they know, running red lights, tailgating, etc.). I am sure the number of accidents is the reason why so many cars are being sold in China. Luckily I made it to the hotel in one piece! On the way in we passed a crazy amount of high dollar stores (Prada, etc.) and car dealerships (including a Bentley, Maserati, Ferrari dealership). The city is in a constant stage of development and new buildings are going up everywhere. I thought we were in the city center at one point due to all the high rise buildings but we were no where close! It almost feels like I am in the movie Inception where Leonardo (Dom) is in his dream landscape that he put together with Marion Cotillard (Mal) since so many of the tall high-rise apartment buildings are copies of each other and are in groups of 5 – 10 in the same block
Sunday night after checking in and getting settled I grabbed dinner in the hotel (really good Chinese food) and then went to bed. Monday was another “interesting” taxi trip to the BBA/BMW joint venture plant where our axle systems plant LAS2 is located. The trip took about 45 minutes in insane traffic. The traffic itself was not that bad… Just the drivers like mentioned above! After being dropped off at the wrong place, I was able to finally find the correct entrance to the plant and found our ZF area. The day was quickly filled with project work and meeting people. Everyone has been very friendly and nice.
That night, after returning to the hotel, I decided to venture out a little bit. After walking around the area I found a restaurant that had a lot of traffic in and out so I figured it must be a good place to eat. However, I quickly realized that I was the only foreigner that had ever gone there because people were taking pictures and their mouths were wide open in amazement when they saw me. The food was extremely authentic and I am not really sure what I ate (may be the reason for my stomach being off today). After giving up on the questionable food I ate some fruit and returned to the hotel hoping I would not wake up regretting my food decisions.
I woke up Tuesday feeling OK and started my day with a good Chinese/American breakfast (fried rice, rice noodles, bacon and an egg). Tuesday was another full day of project work back at LAS2 with a more familiar dinner at an Italian restaurant at the hotel. It started snowing at lunch so everywhere was blanketed in snow. The ride home was very interesting with combining normally bad driving with the winter element. However, what was also interesting was the number of people out clearing the roads of snow. On many main roads there was a worker shoveling snow from the street every 50 meters. They had most sidewalks cleared as well.
Wednesday, I moved over to LAS1 which is another ZF plant a little closer to the hotel to start the torque procedure training. The training started at 9:30 and I found myself lecturing to 1 German Manager and 20+ ZF Chinese Engineers and Managers. The first day of training was very successful. However, something I ate (possibly the McDonald’s for lunch, started to not agree with me in the afternoon which made it difficult. After finishing up, the Shenyang Quality Manager (over LAS1, LAS2 and future LAS3 plants) invited me to join him and his girlfriend for Peking duck at a local restaurant. I had a great time and the food was delicious.
Today was another training day that went well. I ate lunch in the canteen which was actually pretty good. It consisted of typical Chinese dishes. Tonight, since I was still not feeling too great, I stayed in and read most of the night. I have not had another chance to venture out yet to explore other than walking around the other night. I hope that during my next trip here I will have more time. I am also hoping that I will have some time on Sunday to explore in Beijing.