Wednesday, July 30, 2014

3 cities, 3 weeks, phew, I'm exhausted and ready to come home!

Hi all,

I meant to post stories and photo's during my trip, but this trip was VERY busy and I just didn't have any free time to update my blog.

Today is my last work day on this Asia Business Trip. It has been a very good trip - on a number of levels - but I'm ready to head home on Thursday July 31st.

So before I share my photo's and stories, let me put my work trips in context for you.  First, let me say that I am really thankful for my job and overall really enjoy the people I work with and the interesting work I get to do.  I truly enjoy these trips, not so much for the adventure of it, but because I get to know the people in my company that my dept supports and it is really a joy to see how they use the systems and processes my team develops to do their jobs.  Each group I meet is unique and fun in their own way and I'm always impressed with their professionalism, expertise and passion for doing their job well.

If I didn't ever get to work with them 'face to face' I would never know them as well or appreciate the work they do.  I also wouldn't get to really see the impact of the projects and initiatives we work on at corporate so I am truly thankful that my company sends me on these trips for these reasons.

But, the trips are very difficult.  Mostly because they take SO MUCH energy.  I know you've all had 'one of those weeks' at work.  You know, the type of day or week where you have a ton of things to do, and then 3 new urgent things pop-up that destroy your plans.  You wind up going 100 miles an hour, doing 10 million different things and work through lunch, then stay an extra hour or two after.  You finish exhausted and feel like you still left 100 things undone.  You finally give up, head home and collapse on your favorite chair.  If you are like me you grab your favorite drink (wine or tea) curl up with a dog (or two) and read mindless facebook posts or watch shows like 'america's got talent.'

Well, when I'm on these trips, every day is like 'one of those day's.'  Everything back at corporate is still going 100 miles an hour so you have to stay on top of that and you are working really hard to help the training group.  During training breaks, users come up to me and ask 'side questions' which I"m happy to answer but i"m lucky to get to the bathroom once or twice during the day.  the day ends (2 hours past normal) and I just want to go sit in comfy chair, but instead I have to navigate a foreign city street and/or public transportation.  the signage is great, but it still requires a fair amount of 'paying attention' to get to the hotel.  Once there the decision is what to eat.  I don't want to wimp out an eat at subway so I try to find a local restaurant with a picture menu.  I scan it, make a best guess that what I'm ordering is not jellyfish or eel and then taste the food.  No vegetables in sight.  Some of it tastes good, some of it doesn't.   Most of it appears not especially healthy, but it fills the void.  Now, sometimes the dinners are REALLY good, but generally they are just average and very different from what I normally eat.

Now that my appetite is satisfied, I head back to my hotel room and there is no comfy chair, doggie or mindless TV.  So I sit on the bed or at the desk and while I read mindless facebook posts my work inbox rapidly fills with about 30 e-mails per hour.  When I travel in Asia, I am 12 hours different from the US.  So when I return from dinner at 8pm, it's 8am in Boston and the e-mails start flying - many with URGENT in the subject.

So I muster a little bit of extra energy and answer e-mails for 2 hours and then collapse in my bed trying to get my mind to still and get some sleep.

And then the next day it starts all over again.  Oh and let's not forget the 14-18 hour trip to get here and adjusting to a 12 to 13 hour time difference and jet lag.... okay, enough on the tough stuff, on to the fun stuff...

So, as you look at my pictures and read my stories, keep in mind, yes it's interesting, yes it's exciting, but yes it's really exhausting also.

So, a few highlights of the trip.

First, my training partner convinced me to go to a rave party on Saturday night in Taipei/Taiwan that was happening at the hotel we stayed at.  We were at the W hotel (very glam and hip) and we hung out till 1:00 am listening to techno hip and looking at the beautiful people of Taiwan that showed up at the club.  I was the OLDEST person there......

Second, going to 'Bread of Life' church in Taipei Taiwan and LifeHouse Church in Tokyo.  Both were great churches, full of the holy spirit, friendly people and great pastors who has a real gift for teaching....

Third, going to Maokong on a 'Hello Kitty' gondola.  Enjoying lunch and tea ice cream from a tea house at the top of the mountain range.

Fourth, surviving Typhoon Matmo's direct hit to Taiwan with no issues what-so-ever.  They closed the office and we stayed at the hotel and the neighboring area.  Lots of rain and wind, but no issues.  Took advantage of the day off to catch up on e-mails and drop off laundry for 'same day service.'

View from my window at the W of Taipei 101 during the typhoon.
Above is the 'same day' laundry spot.  Since my training partner was asian, she had no problem finding this place in an alley near our hotel.   She knew how to speak mandarin so I trusted them to take my laundry in. Never would have done this on my own.  Notice the birds outside and the cramped space... yup it's asia...

Fifth - getting to know the team at our regional offices.  We had people travel from India, Korea and China to join the training.  I think you can figure out which one is ME!  Only non-asian in the room.  This is Taipei...

Below is Tokyo...
Sixth - going to Tokyo Disney Sea....

All the rides were in Japanese.  All the people were Japanese.  They had some pretty incredible rides.  We went on 'Journey to the center of the universe' twice.  I also visited Cape Cod (ha, ha... it looks just like it, made me very homesick!)

Seventh - eating sushi, a coke slurpee (yup they have them in japan) and various flavors of shaved ice....

Eighth - Singing Karaoke with some of the ladies from the Tokyo office.  They loved my rendition of 'I'm sexy and I know it' and '9-5'.  They did some awesome singing - both in English and in Japanese.  It was a lot of fun.

Ninth - instant messaging with the team back at corporate in Boston.  Many days, the tech team or my other co-workers were the last people I conversed with before bed and then the first people I conversed with in the morning.  It was great how well they supported our training program when we had system glitches, user access problems or just needed to see a happy smile face ping the IM at 11:00pm.

Tenth - Finishing the last training class, well at least for Asia.  I have 5 more training classes to teach, but except for Europe in August, the others are all driving distance from Boston.

As we concluded each training class, my training partner would create a graphic for the local audience with some type of image we thought we resonate with them and the message 'practice, practice, practice' in their local language.  Below are two of the images we used.  The first is an image of a chinese fable.  The second is an image we used for Japan.

It is now after midnight on Wednesday.  Tomorrow I have some souvenirs to buy before I catch the 'limo bus' to Narita. I will so enjoy walking onto that airplane, seeing familiar American (and Canadian - I'm flying Air Canada) faces and sinking into my seat.  I won't even mind the long flight because I'm going home.  My dear husband will meet me at the airport and I'll greet my two doggies when I arrive home (oh and I'll also greet Sarah and Ivan if they are home) and I'll collapse in my own bed, so thankful to put my head on my own pillow!

Thanks for visiting my blog today.   Have a great day.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Preparing for a Typhoon

Hi friends,

Well, as mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, here I am in Taiwan, a few hours before Typhoon Matmo (or Typhoon Henry) hits the Island.  Don't be alarmed, no-one else here seems to be the least bit concerned about the storm, so I guess I'll take my cue from the locals.

Taiwan is an island off China.  I am in the capital city of Taipei which is on the northeastern corner of the island.  The storm is projected to hit the middle of the island and then move along and hit China a few hours later.  Currently they say the storm will hit here around 2 am and in the morning there will still be heavy rain till after lunch.

I think they expect the storm to just dump a lot of rain and wind as it quickly moves over the island, but unlike hurricanes that hit the east coast, that have no-where to go once they make landfall, it will be just coming in and moving out quickly.  I guess we'll find out.

The local office of my company is closed tomorrow.  To accommodate the meetings I am leading, we rescheduled one meeting to today from 4:30-6:30pm and then we'll start early on Thursday and end late in the day to cover the meeting agenda items.  I have no idea what we'll do tomorrow at the hotel.  I'm hoping I can go to the gym and maybe read a book.  Most likely I'll just answer e-mails from corporate all day long while the rain batters outside my window.

So, my trip to Asia is going really well.  I am in three cities over 14 days.  First we went to Shanghai, China, now we are in Taipei Taiwan and next week we go to Tokyo Japan.  I am here at our regional sales offices training the sales team on our new pricing software - Vendavo Systems.  Normally I visit these sales offices about once a year to review pricing policies and re-affirm training to the users.  I always travel with my boss on these trips, but this time I am here with one of the Vendavo consultants.  She was born in Malaysia and speaks several languages including Mandarin.  I can't tell you how much more interesting it is to be in China with someone who knows the culture and language.  Normally I get along just fine with the phrase Shay - Shay (thank you in Chinese), a credit card and a smile.  But I have no idea what I'm eating most of the time and have no understanding of the things I see around me.  Now, with my co-worker by my side, the whole city has opened up and I am really enjoying being here.

She does take a bit of advantage though... where-ever we go, I'm always asking 'what is this.... what did he say.'  She is like my Chinese Wikipedia.  She confessed yesterday that she only really knows 75% of the time and makes it up the other 25% of the time.  I thought that was hysterical and told her to keep answering everything.   But be warned, my source of information on these countries is now not to be trusted!

The other cool thing is that we are like two peas in a pod, only with a 20 year age difference.  Like me, she's a high intensity - go-getter kind of girl.  She is a christian and shares my same faith. She is a business woman specializing in pricing systems.  She is outgoing and adventurous.  She reminds me a little of me at 30 years old, only me at 30 if I took the path of a career instead of a family.  Oh and me if I had a lot more self confidence and poise at that age.  She's also a lot smarter than me at any age, but that's a good thing.  I like hanging around smart people!

I also like hanging around with her because she is challenging me to learn new things and try new things.  For those of you over 50, you know how much we prefer to just keep on doing things the way we always have, but I do know, it's good to learn at any age.

She encouraged me to learn to write Thank You in Chinese, so when we gave the host of our training a gift card, it would have the Chinese characters.  She drew the symbols out on the white board and then I did my best to copy them onto the thank you card.  She giggled when I started 'writing' because I put the lines in, using a very different 'order' than a Chinese person would do.

She also encourages me (not forcefully but gently) to try new foods.  Below I am enjoying shaved ice with pineapple from a food court vendor in Shanghai.  Normally I would not dare to try this type of food because I would have no idea what was in it!

Saturday night she talked me into going to a Rave party with her at the hotel bar.  Ba ha ha... me at a Rave party!  I managed to stay awake in the bar till 12:45am. Probably because the bright lights and loud beat were pulsating through the room.  It was fun, but boy did I feel old there and my pillow felt really good when my head landed on it at 1:00am.  I justified staying up so late because hey, in Boston it was only mid-afternoon!

On Sunday I recommended we head up to the Maokong mountain range.  This is an area where you take a gondola ride for about 30 minutes to an area of Taipei famous for tea.  We took the Hello Kitty themed gondola to the top and then enjoyed lunch.  We visited a tea house and tried some tea flavored ice cream.  It was a fun afternoon, but really, really hot! Oh and I was told that Maokong means 'meow kitty' in Chinese.  That could be right, or there is a 25% probability that it is totally made up.  I will never know!  Oh and in case you didn't know, I'm a huge Hello Kitty fan so I had a lot of pictures taken that day!

The tea house with a special tea ceremony set up.

The view from our lunch spot.

The views today were not as pretty.  When we left the office at 6:45pm, it was raining already and the streets were very crowded with traffic.  It was difficult to find a cab and for a ride that normally would only take 20 minutes, we were in the cab for an hour.  Thankfully we got back to the hotel with no issues and we are hunkered down for the night while the storm approaches.

Attached to our hotel is a shopping mall/transit station.  We were able to get a quick dinner at the mall food court and not step foot outside.  Below is a picture of the mall.  It was pretty crowded for a night when a storm was approaching.

I had something like Won Ton soup with a noodle dish (similar to pad-thai) and a honey tea drink.  It was delicious.

Oh and below is some crafty goodness for your enjoyment.  This is a card I made before I left for my trip. It's a shaker card.  The inside circle is a pop-out plastic overlay and inside are colored buttons that shake around when you pick up the card and move it.  It's a fun card with MOVEMENT.  

Well, that's my update so far.... stop back by later this week to find out how I weathered the storm and for more photo's of Taipei and/or Tokyo.    Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Make it a great day!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sweet Sunday Sketch Challenge

Hi friends,

Today's card is playing along with Karen Giron's Sweet Sunday Sketch Challenge.  #SSSC227.

I made 4 different versions of this card, all using the same sketch and stamp set.  The papers all came from the same matched set.

These need a few more embellishments to fit the challenge, but I only had limited supplies so the added extra's in the upper left corner will come later.

Below is the sketch.  You have till Friday to play along, check out the link to Karen's blog for details.

We are here in Albany NY for the weekend, visiting Bob's parents and I brought along a few of my crafting supplies since the guys were heading off to play golf today.

We came here yesterday because Bob's mom wanted to host a belated bridal shower for Sarah.  We had a lovely day yesterday and Sarah received some really nice gifts - her kitchen will be stocked.

The timing of the belated shower is perfect.  Sarah and Ivan just signed a lease for an apartment.  They will move in early August so they will need all these things (sheets, glasses, kitchen towels, cookie sheets) plus a bunch more.

Thanks for visiting today.  Make it a great day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Make gnome mistake...

Hi friends,

Happy Wednesday.  I'm savoring a few more days at home before I go on my 3 week business trip.  Sigh.  I travel for work, but usually I only do one two week (around the world) trip every year.  This year we have a HUGE project and I've got a 3 week trip to Asia starting Monday and then another 1 week trip to Europe.  Most likely there will be another trip in the fall.  I go to our regional offices (Japan, China, Taiwan, Germany) and train the sales team on pricing processes.  This trip will be tiring, but, as always, I try to find ways to enjoy the local culture and thankfully my family is grown so hopefully the household will survive without me.

But I have a card to share with you.  Want to see?  It's a gnome card!

Ok, I know I'm a little weird, but I really love gnomes.  I even watched that terrible movie 'Gnomio and Juliet' several years ago.  when the gnome fad fades (if it every was a fad and if it isn't already faded) I'll still be making funny gnome cards.

Isn't this little guy a darling?  I added lots of texture and extras.  Can you see his fluffy beard?  Can you see that his boots and belt are shiny?  If you were holding the card in your hot little hands, all these would be obvious, but since you are looking at my photo, I'll call attention to these details and maybe (just maybe) you'll zoom in to notice.

Well, hope you have a great day.  I'll be blogging all during my trip, so stop back by the blog for some fun.  I'm travelling with one of our consultants (who is from Malaysia, young and adventurous) so I'm sure I'll have some new and different experiences.  She has already peppered me with ideas for our weekends and evenings.  I hope I have some energy to keep up with her!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

encouragement card and how co-workers can press your buttons like a spouse!

Hi friends,

Today I have a card to show you that is a sweet encouragement card and a work story.

Do you notice the little fabric flower in the corner?  That's a hand-rolled flower - very easy to make with a soft ribbon and glue dot.  someday I'll make a tutorial about it.  Trust me, you could totally make one yourself!  It really is easy.

Oh and the card follows Karen Giron's sweet Sunday sketch challenge.  Here is her sketch. And below that is a link to her blog.

So yesterday I had one of those frustrating days at work.  So what did I do?  Well, when I was about to cry at 11:30 in the morning, I did my yoga breathing, wrapped up some e-mails and went out at lunch to go shopping.  Where to?  Why DSW of course.  Sadly, my 'therapy' is to go shoe shopping and honestly it's not very therapeutic but I did need a new pair of work shoes and I did have a coupon.  See what I got for $20.00 bucks?  Nice.

So what got me so upset at work?  Well, lately it's always the same thing.  I realized as I thought about my emotional reaction to the issue what was going on and I realized it's a lot like a spouse.  I love the team at work and think VERY highly of the consultants who are full time on our project for a full 12 months.  We basically spend all day together either on the phone, on skype or on a webex and truly they are great people and they do great work.  But in the same way as you can love your spouse but they can still drive you crazy, that's what's been going on.

I realized that one of the consultants, has a specific phrase that she uses that sets my blood pressure soaring.  So here's how the deal went down.

Yesterday I came in after the holiday weekend with a full in-box of stuff to do.  My highest priority is to work with the girl who is developing our eLearning courses.  She often needs data in the test system to use in the course she is developing.  We had a 'code drop' on Thursday.  What that means is that new changes to the system (added functionality) were put in last week.  Usually a code drop means added functionality but often it also means a few new bugs.

So, I come in first thing and get busy getting some deals in the test system for Nadia.  The system stops me from creating the deal so I'm frantic trying to get the deal in the system and log a 'bug' in our tracking system. Now I'm frustrated because I can't get the deal to Nadia and frustrated that a new bug was introduced.  I head to our meeting and it comes up with the team about the 'bug' that I found.  So the consultant says 'that's not a bug, the system is working as designed, that's what our documentation says the system should do'  So I try not to blow up, scream or hit someone, but I'm like... the system worked perfectly fine for 8 weeks, now it doesn't work and your telling me it works as designed.   Her argument?  the tech team is comparing the way the system behaves to what the documentation says.  if they 'think' the system is behaving incorrectly they fix it to match the documentation.  My argument back 'well, we've already written all the training manuals around the way the system is working and we haven't logged a bug for this, so why would your tech team suddenly decide it's not right?  Phew, just thinking about this gets my blood pressure boiling again.   If this was a fight with my husband it would be equivalent of him saying 'you always do this, you never change' or some other high emotional trigger answer.  But I kept my calm.  I did my yoga breathing and calmly explained 'well, if the system is working as designed, then it's still wrong - we need to change the design. Maybe the documentation is wrong, but this is critical, we cannot create a DEAL, and that is a big deal.'  At this point the project manager jumps in to calm everyone down and says 'we'll get it right' and the emotions calm down and we re-write the documentation, update the priority of the 'user story' since it's not a bug, but an enhancement (don't get me started) and life goes back to normal.

Back in March or April when these things would happen I would be ready to breathe into a paper bag. Now I have the experience  and emotional maturity to stop, breathe, clarify what we need and wait a bit for things to calm down.  The good news is that even though the team has a way of {still} pressing my buttons with the phrase {the system is working as designed}, I now know that it's just a phrase and the issue will get resolved.  I just think it's funny how a work team can be so much like a marriage.  I love them, they are still extremely smart and talented but gosh they can still drive me crazy!

So if any of you wondered what a business analyst does at a high tech company, now you have a tiny glimpse into my work world!

Let's hope my emotions don't get the better of me until August.  I don't need a new pair of shoes every week and then my dear husband and I would be fighting about money!

Thanks for visiting my blog today.  Make it a great day!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Summer Flowers

Hi friends,

Last week I got an e-mail from a woman I know at church.  She is in charge of our 'equipping ministry.'  This ministry is all about encouraging people to use their gifts to help and volunteer within the church community.   She loves to send cards to people who are helping out so she asked if I would make about 42 cards for her to use.  So, I need to get busy.  That's a lot of cards.  I decided to split the job up and make about 3-4 of each unique design.  I hate mass producing cards but it's pretty in-efficient to make 42 unique design cards.  So this is a compromise. Below is the first batch of 4 cards I made.

I'm not sure if my photo captures it, but this card has a clear acetone die cut of a mason jar.  I think it makes a cute effect.

I'm loving making flower cards this summer because there is so much inspiration all around.  This spring we installed a brand new fence in our front yard and we built a flower bed to go all around it. It's beautiful.  We put in daisies, cosmo's, hydrangeas and snap dragons.  Every morning I go out and deadhead the cosmo's and they are filling in really nicely.  I also grew a bunch of nasturtiums from seed.  It is filling in the back area by the white fence really well.  I love how it creeps along with big green leaves and bright orange flowers.

The way our condo is set up is you can go out to the small backyard from the deck off the kitchen.  The deck looks over the driveway and the garage is under, so we have a big stone fence from the driveway.  The flowers at the top of the fence, are so pretty greeting me every evening I drive home.  It's also a beautiful thing for the neighbors to see as they pull in the private drive to get to their driveways.  I imagine these blooms will continue to creep along and fill in all over.  I think it will be gorgeous.  I'm also sooooo proud to have grown these from SEED.  It almost feels like I made them!  Ha ha...

Thanks for visiting today. Make it a great day.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Fourth of July

Hi Friends,

First, let me show my wedding card.  I wanted to use my DeNami rose image and added a few highlights around the sentiment.

Living here on the east coast means that our 4th of July is rain-rain-rain.  That didn't stop us from celebrating a traditional American Fourth of July celebration, we just did it earlier.

They moved the Boston Pop's concert up so they had it last night.  We decided to head in and I'm so glad we did.  I made a picnic dinner of lobster roll sandwiches and the esplanade (where they have the concert) was crowded but not unbearable.  the clouds were rolling in, but the concert was great.  They ended a bit early and finished by 10:00 so they could do the fireworks.  We made it back to our car just before the thunderstorms rolled in.

The Boston Pops free concert on the 4th has been a tradition for forever.  This year they brought in some great entertainers - Megan Hilty (from the TV show Smash) and the Beach Boys.  Everyone was great and we enjoyed it.

Then this morning Bob and I got up and headed back into the city for our 8:30am Freedom Run.  This is a 5k run where the guides stop along the way and give information about the historic site.   It was very humid, but thankfully no rain the whole time.

I was the last runner at most all the stops, but hey, I made it!  We got home around lunchtime and I took a nap.

Even the slowest runner gets to say they did it (and get a t-shirt to prove it!)  I highly recommend this 'tour' of Boston for anyone considering coming into town who is at all athletic.

It was a great way to see the city.  We had the BEST tour going on the 4th because we got a lot of 'extra's.'  They had fife and drum bands, lots of tours, lots of tourists and we got to see the U.S. Constitution head out on it's yearly 1 mile trip to sea.  We were on the ferry boat after the run ended and the Constitution went right by us in the water.  We had the best view.

We didn't stick around after the race, the rains were expected to arrive by noon, so we headed home.

Now we are just hanging out, enjoying the air conditioning and maybe we'll watch a movie.  What did you do for the holiday?  I hope you found a way to enjoy yourself regardless of the weather!