Jet fuel for lunch

I woke up fairly darned alert thanks to an ambien and a melatonin. We had scheduled a tour of the largest, most modern paper mill in the world about a three hour bus ride from Shanghai. The facility was unbelievable! They manufacture more paper in a month than some U.S. mills do in a year. They employ 5000 people on a campus that covers almost three square miles.

It seemed like we met about 10 percent of these employees in a board room as soon as we showed up. One day into a five day business trip and I’m already almost out of business cards. Oh crap. It’s not like I sell paper or anything…

After a 2-hour introductory meeting, we broke for lunch. One of our compatriots made the crucial error of ordering white wine for the table. Apparently white wine in China signifies some sort of 100+ proof rice schnapps that tasted like napthalene. You know it’s nasty when Westerners are voluntarily asking for more of that yummy cow intestine to get the taste out of their mouths.

Unfortunately, the Chinese contingent really enjoyed toasting us one at a time and as a group. Then we noticed that some of them were toasting us with water and freakin’ wine spritzers. That just wasn’t fair, but I understand that it is a pretty typical Chinese negotiation tactic.

We reconvened for another meeting with a pretty good buzz on and our stomachs struggling to digest some non-traditional chicken parts and unidentifiable seafood. This meeting was to design the packaging specs for a new product line we proposed bringing to the states.

Someone once described a platypus as an animal designed by a committee. We were acting as a twenty person committee, but half of us were buzzed, tired and starting to get cranky. After a couple more hours of talking in circles, we agreed to table the idea until we were better rested and informed.

Next stop tonight is the garden city of Suzhou. It is supposed to be a beautiful historic tourist attraction. But it’s raining cats and dogs (no, that’s not the menu for dinner) and we’re stuck on another bus ride talking excitedly about when we will get to sleep tonight.

Ahh, the joys of a business junket. More gustatory details to come.


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