Monthly Archives: November 2014

Giving Thanks

A year ago, as I got into the car on Thanksgiving morning to drive to a meeting I was feeling a bit blue. I started up a conversation with Kenny explaining that today, in the U.S., is a day where we give thanks. I asked him what he is thankful for and he raised his hand, waved me off and stated “that is a Western thing.” “I am thankful everyday.” Ouch. This year when I got in the car to drive to the office on Thanksgiving morning, I didn’t bring it up. Instead, Kenny asked me about Ferguson, Missouri and why Americans own guns. Oh boy. Talk about a “Western thing.” I like the tradition of Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday. Our family tradition is to start the day with a friendly game of football. American football of course. Rain or shine, we’ve been hosting the Brock Bowl (Brock is my family name) for the last 10 years.

The game is followed by dinner at my sister’s house. Always delicious. We woke up on Friday morning, China time, to Thanksgiving, Thursday afternoon, U.S. time, to loads of pictures and videos of Brock Bowl, family photos of different gatherings and friends photos from around the U.S., hosting their own traditions. All posted on various social media outlets. Nice. Great to see you with your loved ones. But what really got to me was the images of the food – the turkeys fresh out of the oven or deep fryer, the plates overloaded with dressing and mashed potatoes and gravy and of course the photos of the desserts. Stop it. Enough already. It’s torture to those who love their comfort foods from home and don’t have access to it while abroad. Time for a Square Melons moment of exploring the things that are different. Shopping for fresh food in Shanghai is not the same as ordering your fresh turkey from Zupan’s Market. Let me share with you images from the local wet market located a mile or so from our apartment. What is a wet market you ask? A wet market is stocked with fresh produce and live animals. The markets got their name due to the fact that the floors are wet from the live fish flopping around and because the vendors throw buckets of water to keep the area “clean” after butchering the desired cut of meat for each customer.

A post on Facebook from an Argentinian friend who now lives in the U.S., simply states Give Thanks with a question poised, Behavior vs. Tradition. I thought about this all week and have come to realize, for me, it’s a bit of both. I’m thankful and grateful everyday for those I have in my life. I believe my actions and words are examples of that behavior. I like traditions. I like the traditions and customs our family has passed on through the generations. I have loved learning about the behaviors, traditions and cultures of my new friends in China. It’s been great to call out the things that are different and more often than not, the things that are the same. But for me and my traditional, one day of giving thanks, and eating too much food, I prefer shopping at Zupan’s.

Thanksgiving Dinner Expat Style

Thanksgiving Dinner Expat Style

And don’t worry Mom, Greg and I had a wonderful, traditional Thanksgiving dinner at The Waldorf Astoria hotel. Not quite the same as home, but not a bad option.

Lost In Translation

I once worked for a guy, well technically I still do, we all do if you work for NIKE, who used to make the statement “let me be clear.” The delivery of the statement “let me be clear” usually came into play after and sometimes during a pitch or presentation where the presenter clearly misunderstood the assignment.

I never really adopted the line until I moved to China.

I haven’t learned to say it, I’ve learned to practice it.  I’ve learned to try to make my statements or requests as simple as possible, as clear as can be, said slowly and deliberately.

Let me give you a few examples.

When we go to one of our favorite places for breakfast, Baker and Spice, I’m now very clear on my order. The first two times, I stood at the counter and nicely asked for 2 eggs scrambled. When the food arrived at our table, I received 2 orders of the egg platter inclusive of bacon, toast and potatoes. Okay. I see how this works. I got exactly what they heard.

A friend of mine ordered a toasted bagel. When the food arrived she received toast and a bagel. Understandable. I can see where this request was lost in translation.

At work, we have a temp who is filling in for someone out on maternity leave. My mandarin is nonexistent and her english is scripted, memorized and limited. I asked her to complete an organization chart for me. I provided an emailed version of the template for her to complete. It took a couple days of me acting out my request and a significant amount of patience as her response to my “coaching” was “It’s okay” while she was rubbing my arm in comfort.

On day 3, of this back and forth, we finally had all the right boxes and names in place on the document but because it now included so many names, the font, or size of the print, was super small and almost unreadable. I asked her if she could make it bigger. She stated “It’s okay” and rubbed my arm.

That afternoon, she presented me with the largest piece of paper I’ve ever seen with the organization chart still the same size. The small chart with tiny, illegible, font was smack dab in the middle of the poster size paper. Exactly what I had asked for when acting out “can you make it bigger” while holding the 8.5×11 piece of paper.

I’m learning. I’m the one in a foreign land and I’m the one who doesn’t speak the language. I think I’ve slowed down my talking. I’ve back up conversations in meetings to make sure everyone is on board with the thinking and I’m trying to be a good coach all the while trying to be coachable. I did however, laugh out loud when at the grocery store Greg pointed out the misunderstanding of this American classic.

Chips and Salsa

Chips and Salsa

Chips and salsa. You get what you ask for.

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