After one week of living and working in Baoding, there are way too many surprises and stories to tell them all. But here’s a few of the things from week 1 for you:
This is my building. Building 6, Unit 3, Apartment 304. Don’t ask me what the “unit” part means though – I have no idea. Only half the building is occupied these days with many apartments used by “part-timers” – colleagues who work at the design center in Shanghai and only come in to Baoding every other week or so.
Working is quite different over here. Work starts at with a ‘morning meeting’, where everybody recites the company slogan and goes through the daily duties in order to plan the day. I don’t understand much of what they say, but it seems a little bit like a Daily Scrum, but then with a communist flavour. The morning meeting starts at 7:40am and there’s even some classic soviet-style music to get it started.
The Internet is only switched on at 7:50am. And when it is finally on, it’s filtered thoroughly. What hasn’t been filtered by the Great Firewall is filtered by the Great Wall IT department. I am searching the remains of the Internet with Yahoo, because Google does not work and Baidu (the Chinese Google clone) almost only yields Chinese results.
Lunch break starts at 11:20am and the timing here is serious. Meetings are finished just before it, discussions (even important ones) are halted and postponed. Meetings are seldom scheduled anyway and some seem to be open ended. Scheduling meetings would be quite difficult anyway – there are no personal email addresses for everyone. A messenger called feiqiu serves for communication and sending files. Obviously, there is no archiving or anything that adds some structure to the communication on feiqiu. When I applied for a personal email address, I had to give a reason why I needed one.
Next to feiqiu there is, of course, another means of communication: the telephone. Jim and I share a telephone, which felt okay, since I wouldn’t be calling too many of the Chinese colleagues myself anyway. I realized later that our phone is the only one in our 6 people cubicle. And there’s even more: our phone shares the line with the phone in the next cubicle, which also serves for 6 people. I guess that makes it ‘a line a dozen’.
At 11:20 am everyone goes to the great mess hall, while I get to eat in the reception center with the other foreigners and the senior management staff.
My favourite dish here is little breads called “destroy by fire”. This is also the only place to get a coffee. On the 11th floor where I work there is no coffee machine and no kitchen. There is a hot water dispenser though, that is frequented heavily by my colleagues. I still have to get used to hot water to quench my thirst.
After lunch I go back to the office to find my colleagues sleeping in their chairs. On my first days this seriously reminded me of pictures of gas attacks from the news out of Syria. Everyone seemed knocked out on their desk chairs.
Also Jim, my translator, is unavailable during this nap hour.
Work kicks off again at 13:30 just to be interrupted by music and an announcer at 14:45. He is counting and giving some instructions during the 10 minute break. Everyone stands up suddenly and starts to talk with each other. Some walk around, one colleague did some push ups the other day and a lot stretch for a few minutes. I leave the office at 17:30 every day. While in Baoding, I work 6 days a week. Once I relocate to Beijing as planned after the initial 6 months, I’ll be on a regular 5 days work week.
Week 1 has been a rollercoaster of emotions. There have been surprises on an hourly basis – some even rendering me speechless. I came for an adventure and I think I got what I ordered – “all-u-can-eat”-style.