My last day at the offices of Xiandai started much the same as the previous days. Once I got to the office our working group dived right back into the details of the design. The work went on much as it had previously with no apparent plan or organization. Having given myself over to the process I was content to let things proceed in this way.
I had not gotten around to giving out my business cards in the previous days so I did so Wednesday morning. It was a big hit, thanks to Katrina for her hard work in getting my cards printed on very short notice with the Chinese translation on the back. I also want to say thanks to Haifeng Bi a customer and friend from San Antonio who provided the translation. Everyone accepted my card in a very formal way and all seemed genuinely delighted to receive it. Delighted may seem like a strong word but it is not an exaggeration. In turn I received their cards in the same fashion and treated the cards with the proper respect.
We were getting very close to finishing up when Mr Fang announced that it was time to go to lunch. Ann Lee, Mr Fang, Mr Zhou, Mr Lu, Alfred and myself drove across town to a large and apparently famous restaurant. This turned out to be the Tianjin branch of a famous Beijing restaurant that is known for its roast duck. The story is that the Great Leader (their words) Chairman Mao ate at the original location in Beijing and was so impressed that he granted the restaurant perpetual concession to operate. The food was good but the service and facilities seemed lacking and my hosts did not seem particularly pleased. My impression was that like many very famous establishments it was operating on its reputation. Again I used the chopsticks and with some more coaching my skill was much improved.
Sitting around a large round table with a very large lazy suzzane in the middle we enjoyed a feast. Plate after plate of food was put out until nothing more could fit so as one dish was emptied a new item was brought out to replace it. Each person had a small bowl and might put a bit of food in it to eat but mostly you are expected to pick up pieces of food from the serving dishes and eat them directly. There was beef, lamb, tofu, jellyfish, steamed vegetables, river carp and many others. When the duck was served I received instruction from Ann Lee on the proper way to eat it. Small round, very thin white flour tortillas (for lack of a better word) accompanied the duck. You put the “tortilla” in your hand and using your chop sticks take pieces of duck and vegetables dip them in a sauce and load it up. After folding you eat it as you would a burrito. Everything was great and we all ate until we were full . Then they encouraged Mr. Lu, who is young and can eat as only the young can, to finish off all the remaining food. The conversation being mostly in Chinese left me with the ability to concentrate on my chop stick skills and for this I was thankful. Eating and using the chopsticks while trying to carry on a conversation after a bit of beer would have been nearly impossible. My hosts seemed to think it was important that I have beer so I gave in to their wishes. Unfortunately I left my camera at the office so I have no pictures of the event.
Upon return to the office we spent a bit more time completing the last details of the design. When we were finished having established we would not be coming back to the office the next day I passed out the small gifts I had brought from home. They all seem extremely pleased to receive a gift and as expected they did not open them in my presence so as to reinforce the idea that it is the thought that counts. As with the business cards the reaction was much greater than expected and I have to thank Sharon for having organized the gifts and the wrapping.
After the gifts were distributed it was time to say goodbye to everyone except those who would be going to the factory with me the next day. After zaijian (goodbye) all around Alfred and I went to a shopping mall where everyone seemed to think I might buy clothing with Chinese writing on it. It turned out to be a multi story building with dozens if not hundreds of individual vendors selling very stylish clothing to young people. Styles being what they are it is very difficult to find items of clothing with Chinese script. After much searching we found what I was looking for and once back at the hotel Alfred was kind enough to translate my purchases for me.