November 27th, 2011
In the past 18 days, I have been in Switzerland, China (Shanghai and Sichuan), Singapore, Japan (Tokyo and Osaka), Charlotte, Augusta, Georgia and NY. My return date from Japan was on the anniversary of my move back from Asia one year ago which sparked a bit of reflection while I was on the Singapore Airlines A380 from Tokyo to LA.
Traveling to so many diverse places in less than 3 weeks was a mini version of what I have experienced on a larger scale since early 2000. I transitioned from the "slightly stiff" Zurich to the wide open people of western China without a blink. Shanghai is an ever changing third home - everything changes but everything has the same feel. On the plane to Singapore I encountered a person experiencing the wonder of his first tour of Asia. He had so many comments and concerns that seemed childlike but were my own when I made my first tour of Asia in 1995. Singapore in some ways is the Asian Switzerland - everything is in order and runs on time but things like the street food hawkers prevent it from having the clinical feel of Zurich. Tokyo and Osaka are continually feuding cousins but I enjoy and appreciate both especially the little things like the fact that they use opposite sides of the escalators to stand and walk. I was back at home in the US for a day before going to Augusta, Georgia to play Augusta National Golf course. I stayed in a cabin on the property, ate among the "green jacket wearers" in the clubhouse, visited the wine cellar, prepared to play in the locker room and met several members who represent the "Who's Who" of American business. You have to be invited to play this most exclusive of American courses. How did I get to this once in a lifetime opportunity??? From a Japanese customer with connections to an American member. Small world indeed.
The home stretch of the 18 days was spent in New York. My wife and I met our younger daughter who is at college in Los Angeles in NY to stay with our elder daughter who moved there after graduating from college in May. Her apartment is in a formerly gritty section of Queens that has become neighborhood that could be a poster for diversity. I detected six different languages on the street as we walked 400 meters to the subway.
We had a great time over the holidays - touring, shopping, eating, etc. The last night we attended a Broadway show called "Chinglish" aka Chinese/English which appealed to the entire family since we had lived through many of the circumstances in the play. Then we flew home......
Home is Charlotte, NC. A very nice mid sized city. We have a house on a golf course (my dream) and I have an easy commute to work - when I am here. Cost of living is very reasonable and the weather is nice. I still spend a good deal of time in Asia - I leave again in two days for ten days in Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Yet something is still missing. My wife and I talk about it from time to time. Part of it is the normal ex-pat dilemma. I ran a growing business in Asia with little "help" from HQ that saw the company profits in Asia increase almost 10 fold in a decade. I was the only American there. The team was closeknit with a family atmosphere.
My environment has definitely changed. The challenge of learning cultures, language, customs and working with a young team anxious to learn, achieve and grow has been replaced by office politics, reductions in force, the growing American feeling of entitlement and casting blame on others such as exhibited by the current "occupy" movement, political correctness, etc. Many places in America no longer allow public Christian symbols or traditional religious Christmas songs to be played in public places. Yet in Shanghai you can hear "What Child is This?" from speakers on Nanjing Lu. Who is "free"?
When I set up this blog a year ago I mentioned deciding what to do "next" in the title. The transition to living in the US is complete, what to do "next" is the challenge for year 2.
PS: My current Global Lithium role was the answer to that challenge mentioned five years ago.