Monday – At the Dak Office

The hotel serves a “help yourself” breakfast, so we this morning we went to that before going to the office. The variety of things was very interesting – fries, soups, dumplings, eggs, potatoes and no juice. I pulled the tap for milk and was surprised to find that it was hot.

Stephanie Bohlen, the Asia-Pacific region project manager, stepped into the elevator as we were going down. Daktronics is such a huge company we don’t see many of the employees, so it was a real surprise having her step onto the same elevator in Shanghai. She’d gotten in last night.

It is raining today, so getting a cab wasn’t easy. Dan rode the subway to our intersection where there were more cabs. While we were waiting, I saw an interesting mix of old and new. A city worker was dressed in bright orange and sweeping the sidewalk. Her broom was made of a few branches, complete with leaves.

At the office we were introduced to many of the employees. 27 people now work there full-time. There is no way I’m going to remember most of them. We saw the plant and heard about the plans for expansion when other people moved out of the building. We saw all of the offices upstairs too. The building is freezing – in the largest room where most of the cubicles were there were two heaters. There is no central heat, which is normal for Shanghai.

When it was lunchtime, everyone put on their coats and went to the lunchroom. It isn’t much like the new lunchroom we have at corporate. Of course, instead of silverware they have chopsticks. No huge refrigerators and lines of microwaves, no vending machines. They did have one microwave and a mini-fridge in the break room though. The personnel is probably less than 1% of what Brookings has, so it’s not really fair to compare the two though. No heat there either – hence the reason everyone put on their coats. Chinese food had been ordered in. It was quite good and I handled my chopsticks well. (Sometimes I’m good with them, sometimes not so great.

Jon is out on a couple sales calls with Jason and Grace, two of the salespeople here. Dan, Abe and I met and discussed what role I could fill in the office.

The internet here is terrible. About 20 times slower than dial-up, I’d say. I know it has something to do with the earthquake in Taiwan, but normally it isn’t much better they say. I managed to get through my Dak email but it was incredibly painful and took the whole morning. All I really did was delete all of the stuff I didn’t need and read about 10 of the rest. I cannot imagine trying to do what I do at the NOC here. We are constantly remotely accessing displays and FTPing things to them. That would be virtually impossible here without some major changes in connectivity.

They have an ayi here. It means “auntie” and refers to the woman who cleans for you. She is very nice and gets coffee and tea for everyone, besides cleaning everything daily. Most foreigners here have an ayi. We heard that it was about $80 per month for half days, five days a week. (I have no idea how much she gets paid though.) She also does the Dak apartment (where Abe lives now.) He said that when he was sick she brought him soup, cooked for him and lectured him in Chinese about how to stay healthy (at least that’s what he thinks she was saying.)

There are two bathrooms that we have, but the Western toilets are on the first floor on the other side of the plant. The second floor, where the offices are, only have the squat toilets, which are basically a porcelain hole in the floor. They will be replaced by western ones as soon as the security doors are in place.

The plant workers are day laborers who are uneducated Chinese, and they didn’t know how to use the western toilets. Some stood on the seat, men used the urinals for defecation, some urinated in the shower… basically created a total disgusting disaster. They had to train everyone how to use the toilets correctly. I can’t imagine how many other unexpected things come up when you are doing business in a developing country.

At about 6:00, Dan, Jon, Stephanie, Ning, Abe (Keyframe creative), Judy and I met Sai at a new Thai restaurant, Baan Thai. It was really nice and had a beautiful outdoor courtyard in the back. I’m excited to go back when it’s spring. Sai ordered several different dishes for us – it was about a six course meal, including ice cream and fried bananas at the end. I almost died because I accidentally ate a chili pepper and I can’t handle hot stuff at all. My mouth kept burning, no matter how much I drank, until Judy got some ice cream for me.

After supper we all went home – it was pretty funny trying to hail four cabs at the same time. The stars aligned and we all managed to jump in one and head in different directions.

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