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Archive for May, 2010

Ministry of Magic: An American Girl in China, cont.

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Hope you had and are having a great Memorial Day!

As for us, the American kids over here in Beijing, we headed Memorial Day to dinner at the closest thing we could find to a traditional Memorial Day feast–Outback Steakhouse.  There are two in Beijing.  We had a great time, and it again was a much needed slice of home, especially being away during a holiday.

In the morning, we had class with Prof. Guo on intellectual property, and will have him again today.  He’s 84.  He moves a little slow, but his brain is razor sharp, and he’s been one of the best professors yet we’ve had here at Remnin.  Awesome!

Also on the docket for today is a visit to the Ministry of Commerce (henceforth, I have renamed the Ministry of Magic, because commerce to me is magic, in toto).  Of course, I’ll let you know how it goes.  I’m also trying to get photos up on this site, but my iPhone isn’t talking to my PC (can’t we all just get along)?  I’ll keep working on that. 

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your holidays, and please think of those who fought so hard for all the freedom and wonderful things we enjoy in our country that you just can’t get elsewhere.

Memorial Day: An American Girl in China, cont.

Sunday, May 30th, 2010

Happy Memorial Day!

We’ve all been chatting while in China about our favorite holidays.  Some have said a resounding consistent answer: Memorial Day.  Why? Because it is the kick off to summer–and usually entails great American traditions like the Indianapolis 500 (Congrats to Dario, BTW), the 3 day weekend, and of course, grilling out.  However, the most important reason of all for Memorial Day being awesome is those who have fought and given their lives for the freedoms that we enjoy in the US.  The ability to start a business, or go to school–or just flat out chase and catch the American Dream.

This is what makes Memorial Day great – and even though we have to go to class today and there is no holiday in reality while I’m in Beijing, the party is already started in my head, and all the Americans who also love this holiday weekend.

Cheers! (And have an ice cold one, with or without ice, for the rest of us who can’t!)

ps – also, remember the old adage – “Beer before liquor, never sicker.  Liquor before beer, never fear” this holiday – as I forgot this one this weekend and paid a big price…enough said!

Capitalism in the Big C: An American Girl in China, cont.

Friday, May 28th, 2010

After having survived my first week in China in tact, a group of us decided to wander via the subway over to the Silk Market in Beijing today.  We arrived after lunch and got our best bargain faces on for a solid 4 hours.  I watched as my younger counterpart/friend, I’ll call her – Shades, discover the fun of negotiating. 

If you don’t know much about the Silk Market, suffice it to say that nothing has a price tag, and EVERYTHING is negotiable.  As I watched Shades wheel and deal for her trinkets, and I walked away from many bad deals myself, I couldn’t help but think – this is capitalism at its very finest…in CHINA of all places!  Everyone as a vendor here wants to negotiate a deal, and not every buyer wants to buy everything, but some things they’re into more than others.  I was suddenly surrounded by–the art of the deal!

This week in the Indy media I’ve heard a LOT of banter about Indiana doing work with China – partnering with China, hosting conventions, etc.  All I can say is – if the world is like one big silk market, we, if we work with China, are not only in for some serious deals that could spur Indiana or US economic development, but also, and maybe equally important, maybe some fun too! 

Oh yea, and now, I have my 50 cent pearl earrings to PROVE IT!

Guan Xi: An American Girl in China, cont.

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

Today we headed to one of the biggest and best law firms in the city of Beijing, Jun He Law.  We were all exicted and pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a woman partner at the firm, who not only could clearly articulate her thoughts, but looked absolutely like a billion dollars in her clearly tailored custom suit.

Of course I asked her about…the SUIT!  And thinking it was tailored here, she replied of all places, her suit was made in Scotland! Ugh!

But….one of the more relevant questions came from another student today, who asked about guan xi.  Guan xi, from my understanding, is a more complicated phrase about social capital – along the lines of “it is not what you know, but who you know”.  This is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture as well, and the student asked how important guan xi was to being a lawyer in China.

The more I started thinking about guan xi, the more I think that I don’t care who you are – butcher, baker, candlestick maker – it HAS to not only be about what you know, but who you know as well.  I won’t go as far as assigning percentages to “success”, but I do know that I firmly believe so much in building social capital as a life skill that I require all my students to have business cards, and learn how to shake a hand and introduce themselves.  It really IS that important.  My network has blown me away with the awesome things it has brought to me and my books, and professional career as a whole.

So, while I cannot assign direct percentages, I can say that guan xi, if it means who you know while not sacrificing what you know, can be something that makes or breaks a career.  All things equal, two candidates with equal qualifications and one with a fat rolodex, guess who will be hired?  Yup, the peep with the big Rolodex.

It IS that important!

ps – the first floor lobby of the firm had a Starbucks in it.  God bless caffeine, and my tall brew today! YUM!

The Firm: An American Girl in China, cont.

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Yesterday, we finally had a little downtime, so we had the chance to take the afternoon off and explore it the way we wanted to.  Needless to say, I took a phat nap and think invented a new sleep stage–that of, “nearly dead to the world in order to restore from eating too much awesome food, beer and walking” stage.

We also headed to a mall and found our illustrious Starbucks.  Also had a store like Macy’s, and the clothes were totally awesome, but a small over here is the size of a girls 6x, methinks.  I’ll need a supersized clothing store if anything has any dream of fitting.

But, now on to law!  Yesterday, we learned that the # of lawyers in China is increasing, and mediation/arbitration are decreasing…whereas, I’m not sure about the # of lawyers in US, but I do think that our med/arb is actually increasing.  Today, we have class in the morning on one of my faves, Contracts (yay!) and then, we’re off to tour a law firm here in Beijing. 

Here’s another thing we learned yesterday: you can have an American branch of a law firm here, but I don’t think Chinese licensed lawyers can work in a foreign firm here…or at least that’s how I think I remembered it.

Hopefully the firm we visit today isn’t out of a Grisham novel…!  I’m sure it will be awesome.

The 48 Hour Birthday: An American Girl in China, cont.

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

So, if you’re into birthdays, I highly recommend flying to the other side of the world to celebrate it, because you technically get a 48 hour rather than 24 hour birthday.  You get the pals who came along with you to wish you happy birthday first, then your friends and family in the states get to wish you another happy birthday all over again the following day.  Pretty cool…except for the getting old part.

We were all craving a bit of home last night, and I barely can believe it myself, but we found  a TGI Fridays and celebrated with real wine and cake!  Also found a mall.  One gal of our party (who is absolutely hilarious) said “I’m proud to be an American!” and I have to say I agree with her.  While it is lovely to travel and explore other cultures and countries, it is also fantastical to find something that ties you to home, even if it is in the form of a beautiful western hotel with a seemingly non distinct chain home restaurant, which many of us (myself included) take for granted when at home.  We really didn’t want to leave the hotel the restaurant was in last night, either.  I could have definitely had a hotel California moment.

Anyway, turning 29 again in a different country half way around the world was fun.  It had wine.  It had cake.  And, it had the best thing of all included too….friends, along with a dash of America!

Getting My Something Back: An American Girl in China, cont.

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Stella got her groove back.  Elizabeth Gilbert got her Eat, Pray, Love on.  Now, this week, I’m reading Getting the Pretty Back, by Molly Ringwald.  And I can totally relate to it, as not only did I grow up with Molly and her era, but she also talks in her book about how to celebrate one’s 40th birthday with style and grace – something I’ll be pondering very soon.  In fact, I’ll be pondering it one year from now, as this week, I will celebrate my last birthday within my 30s.  (But don’t tell anyone.  I will consider it our little secret, even though I feel there is a conspiracy underfoot to exploit it here in Beijing…but I digress…)

Let’s see – oh yeah.  I’m in Beijing.  Had our first class yesterday, and here’s some of the interesting stuff I learned!

1.  The legislative branch over here (the NPC) not only makes the rules, but they interpret the rules too, and their interpretation trumps courts’ interpretation. 

2.  Attorney client privilege?  Yeah, that really doesn’t seem to happen over here like it does in the states.  Do yourself a favor when visiting China – STAY out of trouble!

3.  Our second Professor, Prof. He, not only has written law school textbooks and been on TV, but he’s also written 5 crime novels and had them published in Chinese and French!  AWESOME!  

4.  I learned what a celestial burial is, and that some areas of the country still do it here, because the soil is so rocky they can’t bury the dead.

5.  The foundation for their law is harmony, which comes from Confucious.  They enjoy settling stuff via mediation and arbitration, rather than litigation.  That isn’t all bad in my book.

Today, we are headed to the National People’s Congress, or the NPC.  The NPC in the PRC today.  (I sense a rap coming on around all these acronyms…)  This is their national Congress, with a big C.  Should be a super fun birthday treat!

Gettin’ my Pretty Back in the NPC in the PRC…

Rapper I am not.

Pics: An American Girl in China

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Some are here.  More to come!

What is Breakfast?: An American Girl in China, cont.

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

For four consecutive mornings now, I’ve been feasting on Chinese breakfast.  It is VASTLY different from ours.  Here’s what I eat: boiled egg, bean sprouts, seaweed, cauliflower (one of the best things!) and hot soy milk.  There are a few breads on the bar that are almost sweet.  No bacon.  No syrup.  NO blueberry pancakes.  And the biggest atrocity of all?  NO COFFEE.  I haven’t had coffee for four days.  Yet, interestingly enough, the world hasn’t managed to fall apart just yet.

We’re thinking about seeking out a close McDonald’s to break it up.

Oh, and just read Hillary is here, and our Lt. Gov. is coming to Beijing too.  I’ve never been quite this cool, nor have I ever been jonsing this hard for a cup of Dunkin Donuts regular roast.

An American Girl in China, cont.: Living in the Future

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

As I traded skype IMs with a friend of mine this morning (5:13 am Monday morning), I realized Indiana is still on Sunday–at 5:13 PM.  I always wanted to live in the future, and now I get the chance!

Today in our China law comparative course, we are going to learn about Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure.  Here are some interesting articles I already read in their constitution, which I think the US could learn from:

1. Citizens of China have a right AND A DUTY to work.  I seriously doubt their government is paying its people to not work.  Interesting.

2.  They use the word “organ” a lot to describe their government–and that the ultimate power lies with the people.  The central government is just an “organ” of the people’s power.

And now back to the cultural piece – a few of the students on the trip were bold enough to try scorpion yesterday.  I unfortunately was stuck in my hotel room writing a paper – but later at dinner, I asked what it tasted like.  One of the students replied, “like a greasy crunchy potato chip”.

Not sure I’ll be trying the scorpion!