Sunday, June 13, 2010

Kindle Kurse - Shanghai Trip Vol. 1

What are the odds that during my year in Singapore, my best friend of over fourteen years would book an aerial tour in China for three months? Apparently, pretty darn good. Be it divine intervention, coincidence or fate, at a time that Kat and I very much needed it, we were able to get together for four days in Shanghai. Kat had a week off of work and I had an itch to get out of Singapore so I hopped on a plane (or two) and headed off to see her. The first flight took me to Beijing in six hours and the second flight brought me to Shanghai in two hours so I had a lot of time to think and read. My new favorite toy, my Kindle, has become an essential to my every day life and was an especially valuable asset to this trip.

I took a break from reading here and there to reflect on this experience. Here I was, by myself, flying to China. Four years ago I was hesitant to take an auto show product specialist position because it required flying to four US cities within a few months and I felt like I would be too frightened to fly that often (and these were approximately two to three hour flights accompanied by a bunch of my friends). Just seven months ago I took on the 25 hours of flying time to get to Singapore and had been nervous to get on a plane again because it was definitely not fun. The longest flight (15 hours) was riddled with turbulence and I couldn't sleep a wink. Now, I sat there by myself in another country, far away from home ready to fly to ANOTHER foreign country where most people do not speak English and take two flights spanning eight hours. Strangely, I was cool as a cucumber (as my mother would say).

The first flight was at midnight so I slept for the majority of the trip, only waking briefly for my vegan-ish breakfast. On the second leg of the journey, I read the entire time. I kept noticing the Chinese man sitting next to me looking at my Kindle and I knew it was only a matter of time before the inevitable happened.

You see, it's funny, because as much as I love my Kindle, it brings along a curse. You can rarely have a peaceful reading session without someone interrupting you with, "Wow! What is that? Can I play with it?" Then, you spend the relaxing time that was meant for reading as a Kindle salesperson, displaying all of the features and benefits of the electronic device. The "interrupter" then plays around with the Kindle without bookmarking your page (because they've never seen this new-fangeled device) and you lose your place. It's a routine I have down to a science at this point and can never seem to deny anyone the chance to play with it and give them the run-through of features. Sometimes it makes me laugh because it's only a matter of time until every person has one and I will be telling my children about how people could not BELIEVE what a crazy and interesting device I had!

He breaks the ice, "Excuse me, what is dis you have?" (I'm not going to do his broken English justice so bear with me and use your imagination.)

"Oh! It's a Kindle. It's electronic and has a bunch of books downloaded on it," I reply.

His face lights up with amazement and confusion. "Can I see?" So we begin the obligatory Kindle demonstration, except this time it's much more tedious because there is a language barrier. His English is limited, and my Mandarin is non-existent, but he is so endearing and sweet that we continue to try and communicate and have a conversation about our backgrounds and jobs. Tao is a sales director from Beijing and is headed to Shanghai on business. He is floored by the fact that I am an American performer living in Singapore. We started talking about our families and he said, "I am very lucky to have one sister. Most families are not allowed to have more than one child." I told him, "Americans sometimes have too big of families! There is a family on TV that has eight children!" He scoffed in disbelief, "How do they feed their family?!" I tried explaining food stamps and welfare to him but a lot of it was lost. We have such different governments and culture.

Tao asked if I wanted to get married and have children some day. It was funny because that is something that I have had to get real about and reassess in the past six months. "Yes," I replied, "I definitely want to be married some day. But I don't know about children. I love them, but who knows what life will bring, you know? I want to achieve certain things in my career first." Tao just looked at me, puzzled, "Your career? Money? Isn't that what the husband is for? He will take care of that." I smiled, "Yes, but I want things for myself too, Tao!" We laughed.

"You strong independent American woman, I guess!" he said and we walked off the plane together towards the baggage claim. "You very looking nice," he said as we walked along. I was ten hours into traveling, no make up, in jeans and a tank top dragging my luggage across and unending hallway towards the exit, so I appreciated the compliment.

We reached baggage claim and Tao looked around nervously. He got his card out of his bag and said, "Hope Shanghai is fun times for you. If you want to talk more, here." He handed me his card. I smiled and said thank you.

It was really interesting to meet someone along the path that reminds us how different we all are in this world and how much we can learn from each other. The Kindle Kurse was a blessing in disguise this time. I didn't contact Tao while I was in Shanghai, but I am smiling as I think of how nice he was during our short exchange. He was definitely one of the nicest Chinese folks I met during my trip! And, hey, it never hurts the ego to get hit on when you are looking like a total wreck, right?


  1. I think it's so nice that you take the time to show everyone who asks about the Kindle. I think I'd be much less kind! What an amazing experience this trip overseas has been for you! I can't wait to read the "wrap up" post about it all once you're back home!

    Great post, Erin. Your writing is terrific!

  2. Was that your first proposition from a Chinese businessman? Spend more time in China and they start offering gifts. Not good gifts but gifts.