Will & Tracy

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Circumventing the globe

Well, at least 3/4 of it. Today is the beginning of my 48 hour odyssey back home. My two weeks are up and now I have to get back on a plane and head back to Shangri-La, well okay, just Shanghai. I’m not feeling to surprisingly bad and just sitting here in my Hilton Hotel room at O'Hare, but can already feel my eyelids getting quite heavy. I'm trying to suck down some gatorade and water in prep for the last 13 hour leg of my journey. I pray for turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie courtesy of American Airlines as well as several free alcoholic beverages of my choosing. For these things, I would be truly thankful - along with minimal turbulence. :)

I wish everyone a Happy Happy Thanksgiving!!

Monday, November 19, 2007

We wanna go to Dutch Villiage!!

So really the only people who will get this blog title are my immediate family. I am not sure how my parents endured car trips anywhere that involved us going through Holland, MI – home of the famous Dutch Village and the tulip farms. For about 20 miles on either side of the city my sister and I would break into song (clearly the Billboard Top 100 missed out on this hit). “We wanna go to Dutch Village, Dutch Village, Dutch Village. We wanna go to Dutch Village ALL DAY LONG!” Hey, we grew up in West Michigan, where the closest theme parks were Deer Park Funland and Dutch Village.

So on my second day in The Netherlands, I was on my own and after a little mishap at the train station to head back to Amsterdam (yeah, I couldn’t get a ticket – long story) – I decided it was time to test my driving skills in Europe. I'm grateful that The Netherlands drives on the "correct" side of the street. I could tell you how brave I was, but I had my “European Bitch” (aka the GPS system - that one is for you Uncle Roger) in the car with me to tell me exactly where to turn. Destination – Delft.

So why did I choose Delft – well for one, I’d heard of it before in my days of living in Holland, MI. You know - the hometown of all that famous blue and white porcelain. So after getting up my nerve that I could in fact do this, it didn’t take me long to be driving through Rotterdam at speeds I don’t want to mention. I arrived in the small town of Delft where the inspiration of Dutch Village had to have come from. I could say Dutch Village threw up all over this town, but I think that should be reversed. It was very surreal to see the drawbridge and all these blond people who looked like my next door neighbors. They too had heard of Holland, MI!

So after a few hours of touring the city on foot, and learning a little bit 'o Delft history such as the inventor of the microscope – Antony von Leeuwenhook - lived here, I hopped back in my mini-car for the uneventful ride home - well except for the weaving in between the semi- trucks so I could snag a picture of the lone windmill that I saw on the side of the road. But how can you go to Holland and not get a picture of a windmill.

Tomorrow it is back to Amsterdam for me to visit some of the museums and tour around in a canal boat while I wait for Will to finish up his work and drive in to meet me. Can't call this anything but a whirlwind trip, but it is all part of the fun.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I AMsterdam

Ah, we arrived cheery-eyed in Amsterdam at lunchtime on the 18th. In all actuality, my body has NO IDEA what time zone I’m in. After the second person suggested we not take the rental car in to Amsterdam for fear of getting our stuff and the car stolen, we decide that is sound advice and buy train tickets into the city. I do have to say it is impressive and also comforting for the novice traveler that I am, that the vast majority of the Dutch speak English AND are nice to boot! Those multi-lingual Europeans!

We did a quick tour around Amsterdam and I soon found out the important difference between a coffee house and a coffee shop.

Coffee House: actually sells cakes and coffee
Coffee Shop: sells space cakes and coffee

Trust me, I didn’t even have to go into the establishment to figure that one out. After lunch, we found our way to the Anne Frank House. I remember reading the book years ago and saw pictures of this secret annex, but it is humbling to walk through it and get a more vivid picture of what the family endured during their 2 years in hiding.

After that – shhh don’t tell the nieces – we bought some tulip bulbs from a local shop. Can I just tell you West Michiganders out there – that it is amazing to me how many Dutch have heard of Holland, Michigan!! The tulip guy was a little weary of how “Dutch” West Michigan really is. So I quipped back – well, uh, then can you tell me why everyone I went to school with was Vander “whatever” – the guy chuckled and said “I’m a Vander whatever!” – exactly!

So after a good ½ day around town we hopped in our car and drove off to Zaltbommel (the European offices of Sachem are located here). We navigated successfully with the help of our trusty GPS service we so gratefully added into the car rental. It was a good day that was capped off by staying at none other than a Golden Tulip Hotel.

Friday, November 09, 2007


Well after barely returning from Xi’an and the Terracotta Warriors we are now off on an around the world tour in the name of Sachem! We are stopping in Austin, TX for the annual sales conference and Will gets to hang out and bond with the sales guys at the Lost Pines Resort and Spa in Bastrop – must be nice. Hey, I get to steal the rental car for a couple of days and go get my hair done and of course, re-familiarize myself with my shopping options in the greater Austin area. I’m also probably going to be stopping by my old stomping ground of Brackenridge Hospital to see if I can hawk some more jewelry. ☺

After a week in Texas, it is off to Amsterdam - where Will gets to visit one of the other offices of Sachem. The office/factory is about an hour south of Amsterdam so that just means that Monday and Tuesday Tracy gets to take the rental car figure out how to get back up to Amsterdam OR go forth in search of the autobahn! I mean how hard could it be - maybe Will will let me rent a BMW! Then again, who can afford the gas these days.

After a few days in Europe we part company and Will takes the obvious choice of continuing to fly East from London to Shanghai which will get him back in China by Wednesday November 22nd. For me, American decided to give me the ultimate challenge and said you can pay $5000 for this world tour OR $1800 with one 48 hour catch…. I have to fly WEST back to Chicago, spend the night at the O’Hare Hilton on Thanksgiving Eve and then fly back to Shanghai on Thanksgiving Day. Therefore, my splurge (and to save my sanity) - I upgraded this last leg so I at least sit in business class. I’m hoping they’ll give me some turkey, stuffing and a stiff shot of eggnog to get me back to Shanghai. Yeah yeah, I don’t think I can convince too many of you to feel sorry for us.

We’ll take lots of pictures! Shout out to Eliza, Meg, Hanna, Maddy and Lilly Rose – Santa may be bringing you all some wooden shoes. ☺

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Terracotta Warriors - Xi'an

Well, Will is definitely getting into the swing of things at work and off he was on another business trip to an EXCITING "paper conference" in Xi'an - home of the Terracota Warriors! How convenient - we hadn't been there yet, so all it cost me was a plane ticket - short but sweet tag-a-long trip.

Mythbuster - for the rumor out there that China made up this historical site to make more money from tourism, I do have to say - I don't think so. This "tourist trap" was HUGE and I don't think they (the Chinese Government) could have come up with something this amazing. However, of course Will and I had to participate and buy the kitchy-est souvenir there - having Will's face digitally placed on a warrior body. I really wanted to have them print it to a cheap plate, but that wasn't an option - so we settled for an 8x10 photo for $12 instead.

So a little history.
The Terracotta Warriors represent only a small portion of the eight thousand strong underground army buried in front of the Emperor Qinshihuang's tomb (r. 221-207 BC) to defend him in the afterlife.
700,000 forced laborers were sacrificed to construct his tomb which was begun as soon as he ascended the throne. All workers and childless concubines were interred with him to safeguard its secrets.

I do feel that the 24 hours that I spent in Xi'an was enough - but something that you all should consider as a stop over when COMING TO VISIT US IN CHINA.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Paying it forward (we hope) in China

I know there is both rich and poor in the world – I see it on TV all the time. Seeing it in person has been tough. Will has colleagues in his office building that work for Ferrari and they tell him tales of the 20 somethings that are out there that have way too much cash (as in $300,000USD to purchase a new car). At the same time, when I walk down the street, I see people who make a living going through the trash to find plastic bottles to recycle for 1 cent each. The sudden riches that China has found in the last 10 years is definitely not passed on to the majority of its people and in general I feel the they have yet to develop really into a giving nation. How can then when I see so many struggle to find food daily.

So, I bring in Patty (the nicest woman in the world) who has shared with me her feel good mission in Shanghai – a sort of pay it forward – at least we hope so since we have gotten her driver Samuel involved. As we go through our diet cokes, laundry detergent and milk jugs… instead of throwing them away, we save them. When we get a big bag full we bring it to Samuel who in turn drives around in whatever part of the city we are in and sees if he can find a person in need who is digging through the trash. One day I happen to be with him when we spotted someone and we pulled over. The guy started to run away, but Samuel called him back and gave him two bags. When the guy looked in to see all the bottles (mind you – probably less than 40 cents worth) he was so overjoyed that he started bowing to me like – well I just can’t describe it. It probably meant a good potato stew for his family for a week.

I have always liked random acts of kindness and this reminds me that I need to do it more often – and even 40 cents means something to someone. We’re hoping that Samuel likes this feel good mission as well so he will continue to pay it forward.