First time on this blog? Beijing Traffic Lesson: Left Turn is probably a good place to start.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A Party at 798

Family In Beijing Countdown: T-minus 4 days

Last night we had a shindig to mark the occasion of a one-day visit by the vice-chairman of our parent company, a distinguished and well-known international creative. It was actually very cool to meet him - he also happens to oversee the exchange program that brought me here, so my managing director made sure to introduce us.

We only exchanged a few words, but then I lingered on the edge of his conversation and heard some of his war stories. He's been doing this for 40 years on at least 4 continents, and I'm pretty sure I picked up some pearls of wisdom.

But what was more eye-opening was the party they put on for him. He was literally in Beijing for maybe 24 hours. But they rented a big art gallery space in 798 and hosted a whole evening's entertainment.

798 is Beijing's answer to SoHo in New York. It's an artists quarter filled with cheap housing, hip art spaces and galleries, neat little bars and restaurants and lots of active art studios. The area was factories during Mao's time, and the space we were in used to be an arms factory - the ceiling is still painted with slogans encouraging the workers to greater glory on behalf of Mao. I'll have to go back and get pictures.

For the party, they had installed a stage, a giant backdrop with a projection screen embedded, two huge buffet tables, an AV control area, and then put on a show with an honest-to-goodness hostess in a red sequined dress.

First up were the speeches by the managing director and then the guest. Then they played the Irish-jig welcome video (it should scare my coworkers at home that I did the storyboards. Get ready for Henry the Arteest when I get back!), then 12 dancing girls, then a bit of Sichuan opera, then the dancing girls again.

I asked about all this time and effort and expense, and got the impression it is a cultural norm to make a BIG fuss when superiors come to visit. (Not that they're ignored in the U.S., of course, but I don't remember many dance numbers.)

Anyway, it all went off very well. The bad news is that video has been my main function for the past week and I don't know what I'll do next...


  • This is by far the longest I've been out of Minnesota.
  • It has now been more than 50 days since I've driven a car, the longest stretch since I got my license.
  • I have completed 7 weeks in the Beijing office, more than twice as long as I lasted at a certain Minneapolis retail company a few years back.


I was at work, and somebody put on some Chinese soft rock song (there's a lot of it in the office) and I'm trying to ignore it until the chorus comes on. The chorus is the only part in English, and it goes "Lonely, lonely Christmas, Merry, Merry Christmas."

Please discuss.