RED STARS (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

 

RedStars

Image Courtesy of Wikipedia

 

Judging by the incredible response to his debut guest post, I believe Paul Curran no longer needs an introduction – here’s his next awesome story!

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RED STARS

By Paul Curran

PaulCurran

 

Many thanks to Cordelia’s Mom for another opportunity to guest post on her site. When last we met, we navigated the infamous Wreckhouse during my trucking days (to which we shall return in future posts).

I seem to have a somewhat twisted mind which requires that I spend years contemplating life (i.e. working alone and in peace) and then years of learning or managing.  Unlike most normal people, I don’t seem to do this in a linear pattern.  Rather, I flip-flop between trucking and either managing or learning.

So, to make a long story short, some years after the Wreckhouse sortie, I found myself doing an MBA while working full time as a manager in a large retail organization. How that came to be is literally mind-boggling, and perhaps we’ll check it out another time. Suffice it to say that in the course of doing a two-year Masters, one full credit was a team investigation of a real international business problem and the subsequent production of a report and recommendations as consultants on the solution to that problem. It required the whole team of five to spend at least ten days on the ground investigating in a foreign country (not North America).

tiananmen-night

The flower bed in Tiananmen Square on National Day

And that is how we came to be in Beijing during the celebration of the Chinese New Year.

Having seen my style, you will know that, like most males, when I encounter a problem, I narrow my focus and attack said problem, be it with someone else’s idea or with my own.  This strategy is very annoying to women who see it as narrowing one’s options – which is probably true.

Upon our arrival at our hotel in the evening, we unpacked our bags and were too excited to go to bed, so we decided to take a walk. Travelling north we saw lights to our left, so we made our way over and came upon the north end of Tiananmen Square. This is the fourth largest square in the world and if you set aside 4 square feet for each human to stand you could fit the unbelievable number of over 1.1 million people in the square simultaneously.  To say it is large is to perfect the meaning of understatement.  We entered the Square, which stretches north-south, on the north end and preceded south – parallel to the way we had walked from the hotel.

800px-200401-beijing-tianan-square-overview

Panorama image map of Tiananmen Square from the north atop Tiananmen gate tower

The cultural differences were amazing.  There were few vendors (no food) except for kites, which are very popular, and people were milling about just relaxing.  No one was making much noise other than normal conversation, but there were easily tens of thousands present, and more arriving each moment from both ends of the Square.  The perimeter of the Square was, like a lot of squares, defined by a decorative fence – as much to control entrance/exit as to set a boundary so visitors wouldn’t accidentally step into road traffic beyond.

As we walked down the Square marveling at how quiet and unexciting the scene was for a national holiday, we passed a few gardens and small temples along the way, but the majority was emptiness.

800px-Tiananmen_Square-180Degree

Tiananmen Square-180Degree Panorama – This what everyone does in Tiananmen Square normally– no kidding

As we walked south, intending to exit and walk east to our hotel or catch the subway at Qianmen for a few stops, the crowds were growing, and there must have been closer to 100,000 people in the Square now.

BeijingMap

Courtesy of Google Maps

“A” is our hotel -Novotel Xinqiao Beijing – and the large grey rectangle on the left is Tiananmen Square with Qianmen subway stop at the bottom.

As we approached the south end of the Square, we noticed that chest-high steel barricades had been set up to prevent anyone from exiting. Also, the subway entrance on the Square had been converted so that it would only let people into the Square, not out of it. The subway was a write-off – the stairs were so crowded with entering people that there was no way possible to get down (like a high pressure hose flooding the Square with people).  We leaned on the steel barricades and looked wistfully at freedom on the far side of the road. It turned out that we could only exit the Square by walking back up to the North end and then back to our hotel, which would entail traveling back down the same kilometer to 50 feet from where we were currently standing – on the other side of the road. There were guards standing some distance away, but they were the lowest of the official tiers of authority and only carried whistles and shrill voices – no one paid them much attention.

China-Police-to-Increase-Armed-Patrols-in-Crime

They look like this – no weapons!

[Editorial Note:  Even without weapons, they look plenty intimidating to me!]

Expecting full compliance, it had not occurred to the Chinese government that anyone would dare defy their crowd control arrangements, so accordingly, they had built the barriers with horizontal bars, making climbing an easy task.  And, they had not secured the bases, which were just stands.  As we were pondering escape, a crowd of people who also wanted to exit began to build up behind us, muttering.  The barricades were too heavy to lift, but they could be climbed, so in a moment of abandon, we agreed to go over them.

With the crowd [surprisingly] cheering, we climbed the barricades, but as we reached the top, they started to teeter and then fell outwards into the road traffic on the far side.  Two sections had fallen, and with a roar, the crowds surged through the space, completely blocking traffic as they ran over the top of the tumbled barricades.

tiananmen-1989-0504-crowd

Busy much?

This was getting a bit out of hand as thousands poured onto the roadway behind us. The whistle-blowing “cops” were tweeting away and could barely be heard over the pandemonium. In an effort to escape the cops and the crowd, we headed straight across the road and found ourselves facing another set of identical barricades with crowds on the far side. To my complete astonishment, the crowds were cheering and whistling and clapping, as if this was the most exciting thing they’d seen in their lives.

As we started to climb over the second set of barricades, many helping hands appeared as everyone surged forward to aid us over the obstacle. The weight of the crowd kept the barricades from tumbling, and within seconds we were immersed in the ocean of people. We were walking (hoping we were inconspicuous) east on Qianmen Street towards our hotel when, of course, we came upon an old favorite with a slightly different sign.

McDonald's Beijing

Sure enough, you deserve a break today, right here!

Looking back down Qianmen, we could see the traffic backing up as crowds continued to surge onto the roadway from Tiananmen Square. Oops.

We ducked into the McDonald’s and ordered Big Macs and fries and discussed the mini-riot we had just created. It actually seemed somewhat surreal eating hamburgers and fries in familiar surroundings while over 12,000 miles from home and in a completely different culture. Appetites satisfied, we finished the short trip back to the hotel wondering what other exciting adventures would fill our days – the first day not even being over yet.

0788_Novotel_Xinqiao_Beijing

Ahh, Home Sweet Home

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Paul Curran and I love to hear from our readers.  You may comment on this post, comment on my Facebook page, or email me at cordeliasmom2012@yahoo.com

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For this post, photo credits are embedded in the images themselves.

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87 Responses to RED STARS (Guest Post by Paul Curran)

  1. Paul says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this space wth me CM. I truly appreciate this opportunity to guest post on your blog.

    Like

  2. Doobster418 says:

    The first thought that came to mind after reading your post was that you are lucky to have made it out of there without being apprehended and locked away for the rest of your life as an enemy of the state responsible for instigating lawlessness and disorder.

    The second thought that came to mind was “seriously, a Big Mac and fries in Beijing?” And then I thought, “just because you can get a Big Mac and fries in Beijing, doesn’t mean you should get a Big Mac and fries in Beijing.”

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Bwahaha! Absolutely true Doob. And we used it as comfort food as the whole riot thingy had really not turned out the way our culture led us to believe it would. First, no organizer in Canada would force people to walk 1 km out of the way – they would have planned it better. Crowd control is a science here – there it is – do as the gov’t says. The crowd’s manic reaction-like there was a huge build up under the calm exterior was unreal. And the cheering and clapping – Andy Warhol was right: our fifteen minutes of fame. We just did what seemed natural for us in our culture and there it was like setting off a nuclear bomb. I considered titling this piece “Who Let the Canadians Out?” And you are right, if we had been caught we would have been in serious trouble – but who would ever have thought that climbng one fence could start a potential riot?

      We actually ate very little fast food while there. The Chinese food was to die for. We had a fellow student who was going home to Tianjin – close to Beijing – during the time we were there, He spent a number of days with us acting as a translator and tour guide. He took us into the little hdden Chinese restaurants that had never seen a Westerner before. Wow! The food for the cheap prices. Incredible. We feed six of us at one big table with all we could eat of about 10 real Chinese dishes that we ordered and two beer each plus a generious tip for the equivalent of $60.Cndn. And yet another night we went to the Hard Rock in Beijing and I spent $100 on just a steak for me. So you can see that it was to our advantage to eat local. And we did.

      Thanks so much for dropping by to read Doob. CM and I appreciate it.

      Like

  3. Outlier Babe says:

    Wow. I’m staggered that you wouldn’t consider the risk you were taking in that country. The crowd’s reaction is fascinating–as if they were all identifying with you thumbing your noses at authority.

    For me reading this in a female body, there is also the strong suspicion that it is unlikely non-Asian women would have had the same reaction or the happy ending that you gentlemen did.

    Another good story, Paul! Keep ’em coming 🙂

    Like

  4. Paul says:

    Hi OB! Great to see you here. We had one female team member and altough she was hesitant at first, when she saw all the cheering and clapping, she was right out in front leading the rest of us on. Ha! I think she got a bigger thrill than any of the rest of us after the fact. I doubt she would have initiated the climbing but she was sure an enthusiastic participant. I make this sound like we had planned this and we didn’t – all we wanted was to get to the other side of the road because we were too tired to walk around. The rest kind of happened on its own.

    Thanks for the compliment OB and it is great that you could drop by. CM and I hoope you will come visit again.

    Like

  5. If I may jump in to self-promote here — Paul will be guest posting again. You might want to click on that “follow” button so you don’t miss anything! (if you’re not already following, of course)

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  6. ksbeth says:

    wow, what a crazy adventure, and now that you look back, you can see how dangerous the situation could have been – great story, well told, paul –

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thanks for dropping by Beth! Yep, that one had a rather unforeseen outcome. Life is full of surprising moments. In retrospect I’d’ve walked back up the square. That particular adventure took place in 2001. So I’m a bit older and wiser now – I hope. Ha!

      Thanks for the compliment Beth and I do hope that you drop by again. I’ll be here regularly as a guest poster. I also want to than CM for allowing me space here.

      Like

      • Karen J says:

        Oh, I’d rather hope you’d be “older and bolder, Paul! “Wise” ought not always mean “more timid” ~

        Love your story-telling, sir – worth studying, as well as purely enjoying!
        *Waving* to CM ~

        Karen J
        currently couch-surfing in Chicago…

        Like

        • Paul says:

          Thank you so, so much for taking the time to stop by for a read Karen. It is a pleasure to read your comments. Rest assured I am just as bold now,if not more so, but in a different way. I am not as careless of unintended consequences now as I was when I was younger. Personal risk is no more of an issue than it ever was, but risk to others I have learned to avoid. Although, in all honesty, knowing what I did then (culture wise) I would do the same thing today. But knowing what I do now (about the cultural consequences) I would judge the risk of someone else getting hurt to be too high.

          But there was no harm done. I still climb fences. 😀

          Thank you once again for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and hope you’ll drop by for more and to visit CM.

          Like

        • {waving back from the sidelines}

          Like

  7. LindaGHill says:

    You’re such a rebel! Haha! Awesome pictures. And your trip to McD’s reminded me of the first stop I made when I got to Gion, geisha capital of Kyoto. Where did I go? Starbucks. In my own defense, I hadn’t had a decent cup of coffee in three days. 😛
    Great post, Paul. Thanks, CM for hosting!

    Like

  8. Paul says:

    Thanks so much for dropping by Linda! There is something to be said for emotional comfort through familiar food. We didn’t make it a habit though. We appreciate you dropping by and having a read. Please feel free to come by anytime. I appreciate the compliment.

    Like

  9. Ha ha ha…. Nice to meet you Cordelia’s Mom, and Paul, well, what were you thinking?!!!

    What an amazing adventure!! How cool is that? I’ve often admired the rural country topography of China, but I admit to being somewhat afraid of the density of the cities. I can’t say you’ve convinced me otherwise.

    Why aren’t I surprised to hear you’d been a part of a group of rabble rousers? What an opportunity though, way to go for grabbing it! Nice job writing about it.

    I have to ask, what does McD burger and fries taste like in China?

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hey Robyn! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read.We saw a bit fthe rural life and what struck me personally, was the cheap cost of goods – way cheaper than in urban centers, They were all fiendly – both rural and urban.

      McD’s food was exactly like their food everywere else, The one funny thng was that they had these small white plastic bags and each item got its own bag – so one for the fries, one for the hamburger, etc. If you had too manyl little bages, they would put all the litle bags into a big plastic bag. Other than that, unless you knew you were in China, you would never guess for the food.

      We are honored that you dropped by and I hope you’l lcome visit myslef and Cordelia’s Mom inthe future. Thank You.

      Like

  10. Of course. Of COURSE you would start a mini-riot in a foreign country, then blithely stop for a burger and fries on the way home! You are HILARIOUS! What a great story — and an exciting way to start your trip, you rabble-rouser you!!

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    • Paul says:

      Shhhh! You’re giving away all my secrets Darcy.I specialize in starting political forment all over the world, And I do it for McD’s gift certificates – no way for the Tax man to catch that one. Ha! Thanks so,so much for putting a link on your Facebook page Darcy. I was rightfully chuffed that a VOTY winnner has taken such interest in my writing. I hope that you find time to drop by more often , I;ll be doinfg another post on Oct 2. Meanwhile my gracious host posts regularly.

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  11. Another great tale. What a fantastic bit of rebellion! I’m sure the good Comrades aren’t used to such grand displays of lawlessness. I have to admit, it’s a little depressing to see the Golden Arches there. I was in Munich and walked out of a grand, Gothic cathedral, filled with the heavy weight of architecture and spirituality, only to look across the plaza and see a McDonald’s. It took me right out of the moment.

    I’m happy to hear there will be future posts. This is good stuff.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hi Mark! So honored that you could drop by. Thank you very much for the compliment. CM is being very a very gracious host. Speaking of McDonalds, did you know that if you categorized all companies by the area in which they most increased value over the year, that McDonalds would be a real estate company? They have a greater increase in net worth year over year due to increases in real estate holdings than they get from selling food. They have expensive property in some of the most cherished real estate markets in the world.Ha! Of course, our national airline (Air Canada) would then become a retirement fund It can be quite funny where companies actually profit most.

      Yep, I’ll be back on October 2 and then regularly after that. On the second we will take a very amusing trip to Kansas, so get on your red dancing shoes! I’ll get caught with my pants down, figuratively as well as literally – much to the amusement of many bystanders.Not a pretty sight.

      Thanks so much for dropping by Mark, feel free to return at your leisure.l

      Like

      • That’s an interesting tidbit about McDonald’s. Make fun all you want, but sometimes, nothing but a Big Mac will do. Will your next post include photos? Might be good for a laugh. When you start to post on a regular basis, will you have your own site?

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        • Paul says:

          Yes, I do intend to have my own site, but my current hardware won’t support a blog. I’ve tried and it keeps freezing up. I also get warnings from Wordprrses that I have to update my browser and I can’t because I don’t have the memory or computing power. I’m saving my pennies for a new (or used) computer that will handle it. Meanwhile CM and a few others have graciously offered to allow me to guest post.

          There will be some photos in the next post to frame it but unfortunately (or fortunately) I ddn’t carry a camera at that time and the topic was such a rare occurrence that I’m sure there won’t be any stock photos – I’ll do my best though. Come to think of it, a selfie while so indisposed may not be “G” rated. Ha!

          Thanks so much for dropping by Mark, I am honored. Stay tuned for further escapades.

          Like

  12. That was fun to read! Funny story, Paul.

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    • Paul says:

      Thanks IB! You are indeed a woman of very refined taste, I can tell. Thanks for the compliment! I had a fun time writing it too. This particular story has never been seen before, so you are the first to see it, except, of course for the cast of thousands who participated. Ha! I’m so honored that you dropped by for a read. Thank you from myself and CM (my gracious host) and I hope you can find the time to visit again.

      Like

  13. Dude… I want to go to China. I love the part about attacking a problem from a male point of view… that ties things together nicely.

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    • Paul says:

      Ahh, yes, See Fence, Climb Fence. We are quit simply programmed. aren’t we? ha! thanks for dropping by and having a read Art. It is great to see you and the crack squirrels out visiting. The Chinese may let you in but they might demand to hold your crack squirrels at customs. Now North Korea would be the opposite – they would never let in anyone with size 15’s – you could accidently squash their army – but the crack squirrels they would welcome with open arms as brethern.

      I am honored that you came by. Thank you from my gracious host – CM – and myself. Please drop by again. I’ll be guest posting here regularly.

      Like

  14. Elyse says:

    What a great taste of Beijing, Paul. You know, you really do need to start your own blog — you have so many stories to tell.

    And thanks for introducing me to Cordelia’s Mom’s blog. I already clicked follow.

    Like

    • {fist pumped up in “YES!” sign} Thank you!

      Like

    • Paul says:

      Thank you very much for your compliments Elyse. It is indeed an honor to have you visiting here regularly. I am pleased that you followed Cordelia’s Mom – her posts are very real and interesting. Yes, Beijing is pretty amazing – very different culture but hardworking, kind people. (Their gov’t is not kind in any sense of the word, but that is beyond the control of the people) You”l hear some more in the future of my misadventures there, but on Oct 2 we’ll be taking a little trip to Kansas in the truck, so come join us.

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  15. Wow! what an interesting story and experience and for Canadians too!! If you would have said you were from Montreal (where I am from) I might understand a bit more but still what a chance you took in a foreign country with such strict laws. I wonder if being in a group of 5 gave you that courage as well…we don’t think or behave the same way as a group. You were still very fortunate and I`m hoping no one got hurt in the chaos…I totally get going to the big M…familiarlity is comforting. Thanks so much for sharing and those photos are grrreat! Oliana

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    • Paul says:

      Thanks Traces! We had fun over there but some of the cultural quirks we discovered left us red faced. I do believe that you are right, some courage comes from being in a group -in fact I am sure you are right. I hadn’t given it much thought until you mentioned it. And we were from staid Ottawa – where we roll up the sidewalks after dark. Ha! Welcome to Cordelia’s Mom’s site. We are honored that you have visited and hope you come back soon.

      Like

  16. Hey Paul, thanks for the tip you were visiting her (and thanks Cordelia’s Mom)
    That square would be intimidating even without all the people. Great pix. We have a kite friends bought there. They say the people are generally very friendly and helpful (but don’t even think about bringing any gum) – Glad you got to eat in local place – that’s real world and real people enjoy meeting each other without drama. Still somehow that familiar red roof with arches is welcomed after being away for a bit (Hard Rock is always expensive no matter where?)
    save those pennies – you really need to be in the blogging neighborhood with all your tales!
    Enjoyed the read

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much Phil for your complimets and for dropping by for a read. I know your servant duties for RC, Molly and the German keep you very busy. I’m glad the gave you enough time to come visit us.Ha! I am honord that yu took the time to comment. Pleayse fel free to drop by again anytime. My next post is Oct 02 but Cordelia’s Mom posts good stuff regularly.

      Like

      • And the German is sleeping over again unexpectedly, but they are just so happy…and moving furniture as they romp like buffalo…too hot outside during the daylight hours.
        Oh, did you know the kites are only out in that Square periodically? Friends had to search and search to find a shop with one when they were there.
        WIll be doing return trips to visit here – thanks again for the route marker

        Like

        • Paul says:

          I don’t doubt it – it is their way of celebrating and the gov’t is very tight fisted on any kind of non-approved “celebratory” activity. But the kites were beautiful and actually out in force on the holiday when we visited. Thanks for the memory Phil. I hope the German and Molly don’t disturb RC or she shall come down on them with the wrath of the commonwealth. Thanks again for dropping by Philo – a pleasure as always.

          Like

  17. Great post Paul!
    I wasn’t sure if you were being serious at first about the mob, then I realized that it was full on mutiny there! I was laughing because it had a Little Rascalz sort of feel to it…or Benny Hill…lol. You guys sure did smash the myth of us Canadians being orderly and apologetic (sorry if I offend with that statement…ha ha) But it sure does shine a light on the cultural differences we have. Sounds hokey and very obvious, but we learn so much from being immersed in another’s way of thinking and living. It was quite eerie and yet peaceful how those people were just *being* in the square, as opposed to doing or putting on some loudmouthed North American charade. Just being. Very cool. Must be quite the experience to just being there and soaking it all in.

    And of course nothing says admiration than causing a ruckus…lol.

    Great, great post, Paul. Loved the pics too. Very evocative of what it’s like. And it’s wonderful to see your work. Pleasure to read, kind sir!

    Paul

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thanks so much Paul! Yep, it was eye-opening. A learning experience extraordinaire. It isn;t possible to get that kind of experience from a book. It was fun.

      I am honored that you came and left a comment. Please feel free to vivsit again.

      Like

  18. You, my friend, lead an interesting and exciting life. I love reading your stories and feel honored that you share them with us.
    I am so sorry about whatever is happening to your comments on my blog. I will be sure to look for them tomorrow when I’m back at the computer. In the meantime, wishing you many more adventures and Big Macs 😉

    Like

  19. Oh you did not! Ha. Can’t believe you got away for a Mac and fries with only a little whistle-peeping to bruise (bolster?) your egos. Although actually, getting a look at that crowd, I kind of do. Tough job for the police. But yes, a few more “release valves” might have kept the pressure off.

    That was some kind of MBA program, what with ending up in China.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Yep, that was a heck of an adventure – apparently more than the university signed on for. Queen’s wanted a strong intenational component in their program and were experimenting with ways to do it – so this particlar credit evolved over the years – this being the first (and last) year they sent us off as teams into the wild unknown. I think they decided that the liability was way too much (this being a requirement with no oversight). The previous year they did a class “outing” to the EU but as the director told us “It turns out that our forte is NOT logistics.” Ha! Understatement. That lead them to our iteration, but that made them too nervous – no oversight. The next year they did exchanges with international B’schools so the students were always under control..I don’t understand this need for “control” – after all how could we possibly get into trouble on our own in a country totally unfamiliar to us? Bwahahaha!

      The crowds. Oh, yeah, as a communist country, people often find themselves all together during mandatory gov’t sponsored “events”. And there is a lot of them. The crowds are unreal and are so only controlled by the hold that the gov’t has over behaviour and actions. Break that (and the break is just below the surface-as you saw) and all hell breaks loose. There is no way humanly possible to change the tide of a crowd like that with mere human intervention. Talk about mob psychology – put a million people together who get a common idea in their heads and running had best be your forte. I’m surprised that China does not have more crowd violence issues than they do. But in all fairness, the people are so gracious and kind and giving (at least they were to us) that I’m sure that ameliorates the crowd effect some.

      The travel cost was built into our tuition, so we got a travel/living stipend and had to use it as effectively as we could – and, of course produce all the accounting that goes with it as an exercise. We were able to upgrade or add with our own money if we chose. So, for instance, some of our team were well-to-do executives who used their own money to upgrade to first class air travel – the budget did not allow for that. Also, our trips to the Great Wall and the Jade Factories,etc were on our own money. As was alcohol – lots and lots of alcohol – Ha! Still it was an awesome experience basically tax free (being included in the tuition it was tax deductible). I spent about $1,500 of my own money but that was small in comparison to the total cost of travel to China.

      The bottom line was that it was a “one-of” in my life and a “one-of” for the university as well. Quite an experience

      Thanks so much for dropping by Bronwyn. CM and I are honored that you came to visit today and hope that you will be able to find the time to drop by again.

      Like

      • Right place right time!

        Gosh, yes, the need to control master’s students is a bit odd. Would have been easier to swap their liability lawyers, surely?

        Like

        • Paul says:

          I think the liability is a bit too blatant. We pay them for a “service” ( the degree) and in order to complete the contact we are required to journey to an unknown country – or we do not get the degree. That is their requirement. We have no choice. They are required by law to provide due diligence wrt our safety and well-being – as paying “customers”. If someone were to get hurt they could -in theory – sue the universitty for failing to provide over-sight in a situation where harm could occur. It’s the exchange of funds – tuiton including the trip cost – that creates the contract and hence the laibility. As an example, if you had a group of students paying for a course and you distributed to each student an unknown machine and required that they disassemble it in order to pass the course, and the someone gets hurt – you are liable for lack of due care and concern.

          It seems ludicrous, I know – all of us were mature adults experienced in travelling and could reasonably be expected to travel safely. However the contract aspect makes the university legally responsible.for our well-being. Add to that that the minimum requirement for course entry was at least one previous degree and 15 years of management/ownership experience- then the students included lawyers, business owners, financial professionals,etc.- all enthusiastics potential litigants. And the course itself was teaching us contract law, liabilities, due diligence, etc. From my trucking days a good metaphor would be like loading dynamite and blasting caps into the same trailer and then being surprised when the whole thing blows up. Ha!

          I have to tell you Bronwyn, that as much as the degree was an amazing experience for me and the courses and professors were exemplary – the administration spent most of their days with their heads stuck in the sand. They did the dumbest things. The profs would be lecturing us on how NOT to run an oganization and meanwhile their own administration would be doing exactly that.

          Like

          • I just remember doing work placements at uni. It didn’t have to be overseas but it was required to pass the course. There was liability insurance, but people went to all sorts of places, including overseas, and usually by themselves, without anyone freaking out.

            No riots I know of, naturally. Bit of wild bull wrestling, dallying with zoonotic diseases and so forth though. As far as I know it’s still a requirement.

            Like

            • Paul says:

              Yeah, if you have liability insurance all is well. That actually would have been a reasonable recourse for the university but they were too nervous and just changed the course instead after we left.

              I like the word “zoonotic” I know it is a nasty subject that requires lots of liability insurace, but I find the word itself quite funny. You could make eyes out of the “O”‘s , a monkey tail form the “t”,, a face from the “Z”. Lots of possibilities there. .

              Like

  20. prior says:

    enjoyed your post Paul = and lauded when I got to the part about the fries and burgers. oh – and Tiananmen Square looks cool.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Good Day Prior! Thanks for dropping by for a read. Yep, a busy (running from a riot) body needs food – Ha! Tiananmen Square is likely the largest (footprint wise) ,man made “structure” that I’ve ever seen – from side to side and end to end. It is mind blowing. of course, it is just a square – some of the other sights in China are equally amazing. The Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure visible from outer space with the unaided eye. We went to vist that too – that was quite an exciting story that involved being waylaid by the Chinese securtiy police and taken where we were not intending to go (it was safe but scary). Brrr. Anyway, thanks so much for the visit and comment Prior – CM and I are honored.

      Like

  21. Expat Eye says:

    Wow, what an amazing thing to have been part of! It probably was the most exciting thing some people had ever seen – and there you were nonchalantly eating your Big Macs 😉 Great writing too – felt like I was there, giving you a hand over the barricades 🙂

    Like

    • Paul says:

      No doubt in my mind that you would have been right in there Linda, either climbing the fence with us or helping us across.. ha! Maybe wearing leopard print – that was popular in China at that time. Hahaha! You’d love the Chinese, they are very humble and quick to be kind. The adventures you’d get into in that city alone would be worth the read. I’m not sure how long you’d stay ahead of the cops, but you’d give them a run for their money. Thank you very very much for dropping by Linda. We are honored by your presence. Please come by anytime. Hey, How’s it going in Germany? I see you’re still answering your last Latvian post. When will we see a post on Germany? You’re keeping us in suspense. 😀

      Have a great day – and thanks for the read and comment.

      Like

      • Expat Eye says:

        You’re welcome! I really enjoyed it! 🙂
        I’m still writing about Latvia because I’m still here – in packing nightmare mode at the moment. Leaving on Tuesday so trying to clear out my flat. Amazing how much stuff we accumulate! I’ll let you know when the Germany blog is up! Keep up the good work!

        Like

  22. Melanie says:

    You are a fabulous storyteller Paul. I could feel the intensity of the moment, and the relief of comfort food. Travel abroad is such an amazing experience. I never had anything so harrowing as escaping an event crowd. I did get lost in Scotland once, but no one was cheering us on. 🙂

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Och, lost in the homeland were ye lassie? (I have ancestors there) Ha! I’m kinda like one of those big dogs that are still young and are excited and floppy, knocking over everything and then putting on that “Who me?”puzzled look while observing the ensuing pandamonium. Everyone else seems to be able to travel without incident – I am starting to think the problem may be me. Ha!Ha! Thank you very much for the compliment Melanie. I am honored that you dropped by and left a comment. My host CM has been very gracious in allowing me a regular guest post. I’m back on Oct 2 with a story about Kansas.Meanwhile CM does great posts.
      Thanks again and we’ll see you next time!

      Like

  23. Coming to read this after your “launch pad link” from my most recent post, I can’t help but look at it in that full frame of mind… so I have lots of thoughts! One of them is how sad it is that a whole nation of people feels so hemmed in—literally and figuratively—that there could be such a relative uprising on a completely normal day without a losing football team being involved. (It’s day one of the regular season. I’m in that mindset, too.) Another is, to echo those comments above this one, it’s amazing you didn’t get clapped in irons for years. A third: what a study, that millions of people can theoretically be kept in line simply by a system of government and not with weapons. Unless, of course, you consider the line of tanks threatening the one man in June 1989. While leads me to ask: what year was this trip?

    PS – I’m insanely jealous that your MBA program required you to travel overseas. My M.S. does not. (I hope the school paid your way!)

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Hi SC! Welcome, welcome! Great to have you drop by. This story was in the fall of 2001. And my thoughts while walking down this square were exactly as you mentioned: the massacre. The Chinese gov’t has little or no respect for individuals – they regularly commit repressive and opressive inhumane acts and have been the target of such organizations as Amnesty International for many years. The people on the street that we met were exactly the opposite – very kind and caring , and very, very smart and hardworking. Given a chance they could outcompete us in a minute and be happy for the chance. If anyone ever sets that country free, we are and our capitalism are in big trouble.

      The trip was “paid” by the degree program – we got a stipend and had to make it work on a fixed budget. We could upgrade with our own money if we chose – and I did to the tune of about $1,500 -many spent more. The trip cost was actually built into the tuition, so we gave it to them and they gave ot back to us. Ha! Here in Canada most MBA programs are privately funded. while other \Masters, Bachelors and Doctorate programs are subsidized by the government. So, a full year of most programs would be around $10,000 – some cheaper, some more expensive. The MBA was $60k for 18 months. The story of how I got that money is quite a tale – rest assured I am middle class and basically live cheque to cheque, it was an incredible opportunity for me and I count myself lucky.

      I’ve been following the stories of your degree and often find myself nodding at the sleepless nights and working while studying. It is doable, but not for the faint of heart. Congrats, you are among few who go back to school after starting work full time. I admire your gusto SC.

      Thanks again for dropping by to visit and comment. I hope we’ll see you back soon.

      Like

  24. Twindaddy says:

    Oops! You destroyed the dam and let all the water out! Hahaha.

    That’s an awesome story! I think it would be neat to visit a foreign land just to see how people behave and what things interest them. I don’t know that I’d try to start a riot, though. That’s a little too ambitious for me.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Ha! thanks TD for dropping by! Honestly we did not forsee the riot happening. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. ha! Your analogy of the dam is exactly right – that is precisely how it looked. Being from Canada, it never even crossed our mind that this was an anti- government act, until we saw what happened after the fact. Whew. Scary. And I gotta tell you it’s hard to act inconspicuous when you’re a foot taller than everyone else and bright white. We made eyes turn where ever we went. On top of that, one of our team members- Lou – wore shorts while we were there (the daytime temps were around 75 degrees) and he had dark hairy legs. Most Chinese are smooth skinned and they were delighted with his hairy legs. Many would gather aorund, pointing at his legs when ever we were in public places, especailly the subway.

      You shoulda been there TD. It was a hoot. The culture was very different and yet understandable. Thank you so much from CM – my gracious host – and me. I hope you enjoyed yourself enough to come visit us again.

      Like

      • Twindaddy says:

        Are they really that much shorter over there? I mean, I read that stuff all the time, but its hard to fathom, ya know?

        Like

        • Paul says:

          I would say that the average height would be around 5’6″. I am 6’3″ and all of our team were over 5’9″ . The Chinese are very height sensitive and taller is better. There are actually university and public jobs that have minimum hieght requirements http://www.economist.com/node/1011419 There are legal battles about this discrimnation. That is likely one reason why we were treated so well and drew crowds whereever we went. It was flattering but is indicative of a disciminatory situation. I invariably could see over the heads of most in a crowd – which made for easier navigating, Ha! So yes the stories are true and then some.

          Like

  25. 1jaded1 says:

    Wow…I was on the edge of my seat. Glad you made it out alive.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Thanks 1J1! I’m so honored that you dropped by to see us today. Thank you for the compliment 1J1 . We didn’t see the potential issues until after the fact, so it wasn’t actually scary until it was done. Had to have that Big Mac to settle down 😀 .I greatly appreciate you coming by to read and comment. I hope you drop by again soon. Thanks!

      Like

  26. ~ Sadie ~ says:

    😉 I knew it – you thrill-seeking rebel you!! Great writing & storytelling!! I am enjoying getting to know you outside of the comments I read. I can just imagine the stories you could share 🙂 How exhilarating this experience must have been – being in a new country, during a national celebration, breaking the law 🙂 I’m also curious what the international business problem was that your team was investigating to recommend solutions to correct.
    SO ENJOY reading your posts & think it’s awesome that Cordelia’s Mom is so gracious! (Yes, I am following her now 🙂 ) Looking forward to your Kansas story in Oct 🙂 Can’t wait till you are able to upgrade your hardware & write whenever you please 🙂 Don’t forget my offer.
    I am one of your biggest fans!! (OK – not like Kathy Bates style LMAO!!)

    Like

  27. Paul says:

    Ha! We’ll call you Kat for short. Welcome Sadie! It is such a pleasure to see you here. I am honored – as is CM. Love your compliments – my head is swelling! Thank you. Yes, I do have a pile of stories and I know you’ll enjoy the Kansas story coming up.It’s funny that I never thought I had much to contribute and when CM asked me to guest post (bless her heart) I did the first story and then more and more came pouring into my head. I’m not sure where they all were before, but they are apparently ready for the telling now. Ha!

    Well. the business problem. Good and interesting question. The credit course was supposedly the “crown” ( a sort of team thesis – although we also had an individual thesis due as well) of the final year and had to include a lot of what we were learning – from finance to HR -and we had to cover it all. I pondered including it in the story but (using Ned’s rules) it didn’t contribute to the story so I left it out. We had to investigate a real international business problem for a specific company (we had to find the company and the problem – and do a precis of our plan as the first stage of the thesis). It could be for a Canadian company who was doing or wanted to do business in a foreign country or it could be for a foreign company who was doing business or wanted to do business in Canada. Foreign was defined as non-North American.

    One of our team members was an international sales man for MDS Nordion – a company based here in OTTawa that manufactured and sold cancer treament radiation equipment world wide. They only had one plant and that was here in Ottawa. They wanted to get a foothold in the Chinese market but China is very protective of their own mfg plants and required that MDS build an assembly plant there in order to do business. It is a ripe market because it is huge and because there are a lot of cancer issues there due to air and ground and water pollution. When we did the precis, MDS decided to increase the scope of the project and told us they still wanted us to check out the feasibity of building in China , but they also wanted us to create, from that investigation, a template that rated all the factors we considered and that could be used to establish the feasibility of moving into any country in the world. So we did.

    We were required to spend at least 10 days on the ground in the country we were investigating and then produce a report that went to both the company – answering their question – and to our graders who gave us a mark for it. We broke up the report responsibilities and assigned different members of the team different investigative tasks. One of my tasks was exploring the culture – so I dug into everything from promotional guidlines (they do not use merit but rather family connections to owners and bosses for advances) to the bordellos (a fair amount of business gets conducted around “evening” activities – I have an absolutely hilarious story about that) 😀

    Anyway, to the point – we finished the report (wth a great deal of after trip research ), submitted all 300 pages and got an “A” on it. In the process we spent easy 10 times as many hours on it as is required for a Masters credit.It was a monster. Oh, our recommendation? Don’t even think about building in China. Forget it, look elsewhere, drop it. We collected a humongous amount of info: we interviewed hundreds of people from the Canadian Embassy to successful international businesses operating there, from GM to Shanghai steel. Although we considered about 100 factors and rated each (some suggested a good fit, some not so good) the final telling straw was that the Chinese gov’t made it their business to steal protected patented process info and knock it off to produce their own product with which to compete. There is no such thing as corporate or patented secrets in China. And the Chinese will object to this findng (even though we saw it everywhere from the Beijing market to western mfg experience) and will point to their “laws” which state quite grandly that violation of patent protection is punishable in law by death. Ha! Super funny.

    So that’s the story. And it is longer (in its short form) than the post itself. Ha! Sorry!

    Thanks so much for dropping by Sadie (or should I say Spacially Anamolous Deep Interstellar Extraterrestrial? ) Ha! Hope to see you around again!

    Like

    • ~ Sadie ~ says:

      Laughing at the Kat comment, especially when later it dawned on me the object of Kathy Bate’s obsession was named Paul LMAO! The business problem project sounds fascinating – I’d love to read it – 300 pages, WOW!! You know I have some personal opinions about sending jobs to China 🙂 That patented secrets issue is probably the main reason NASA will have no interaction with China concerning space projects and programs. Anyway, thanks for telling me about the project! Looking forward to your next post 🙂

      Like

  28. Only you, Paul. =) A bad dream! Glad you woke, safe and sound. In McD’s, of all places!! This is the last time I’ll urge you to write your book.

    Like

    • Paul says:

      Ha! If it had happened in Canada I would agree HW. But it really delineates the cultural differences bewteen China and Canada. Of course McD’s to the rescue. Ha! And I very seldom eat there – maybe twice a year – but this time it was a little piece of safety in a world gone mad.

      So you’e giving up on convincing me to write a book, eh? I’m thinking about it, but I need to feel comfortable with my style first. that seems to be progressing well. 😀

      Thank you so much for dropping by! CM and I are honored that you read and commented. Please drop in again.

      Like

  29. Gibber says:

    I would have been absolutely terrified. You wrote it as though you weren’t phased by it. A burger and fries eh?!

    Like

  30. Paul says:

    Hi Gib! Thanks so much for dropping by! Well we didn’t realize what was going to happen until after the fact. And we needed some comfort food. Starting a riot is hunger creating work, I’ll have you Know. Ha! It did scare me after the fact for sure.Gibber. The huge difference in cultures caught us by surprise – surely if a barrier was climbable thousands before us would have climbed it? Nope. The thought of the gov’t kept them from doing it until they saw it done and realized how easy ot was. And then, as one reader put it, it was like a dam collapsing. Eeee – Haw! That was the light bulb that informed our later understanding of the culture. We had some other funny/surprising incidents as well.

    We are honored that you came for a read and to leave a comment Gibber! Thank you very much!

    Like

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  33. Leave it to you to cause such mayhem! No wonder we get along. Also, I now know never to set Tiananmen Square as a point of rendez-vous. Great post, anarchist.

    Like

  34. Paul says:

    Hahaha! Anarchist! Whew, first time I’ve ever been called that GG. Thanks so much for dropping by and leaving a comment. I am honored that you read the post. And don’t tell me for one minute that you wouldn’t have been over that fence like a monkey after a banana. Shew. The last video I saw of you (at BlogHer) you were swinging from doors, climbing the sides of buildings and just generally misbehavin’. Ha! Besides, I certainly didn’t think that climbing one little fence would start min-riot. Who knew?

    Thanks again GG and i hope you’ll drop by again.

    Like

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