Sunday, December 18, 2016

Scott's China Trip - Part 4: Yiwu and the Grand Market

*Be sure to see Mitzi's regularly scheduled post below this one.*

We met in the executive lounge for breakfast and everyone was hitting up Matt and Mike with questions. They were happy to answer everything while also reminding everyone that this was going to be the first day of training and we were just getting started. We were also glad to meet Paul, our poor lost classmate who missed his connection in Toronto but had made it to Yiwu basically on his own to meet up with us. At breakfast we hit up the wait staff for lots of watermelon juice as it was a big hit with our group, and they learned to have it on hand for us during our stay.

 The Executive Lounge in our hotel, conveniently located on the same floor as my room, always had gorgeous table decorations. These are all live plants.

 Part of the breakfast spread. Looks pretty much like one you would see in the USA, which was comforting (though not a lot of US breakfast spreads have chow mein as an option).

We then moved to the business conference room to officially start our training. We reviewed some of the basic principles of their Amazon Secrets course, and then took some time to go around and have everyone introduce themselves to the group, including what brought us to China and what we hoped to achieve.

It was great to get to know the group and get jazzed up for our first visit to the Yiwu market which was just across the street from our hotel. But before we went to the market, we met Jing of, Mike and Matt’s sourcing agent of choice in China. He is 27 years old and has his own office on the opposite side of the market from our hotel. He and a few of his associates met us in front of the hotel and gave us a ride to lunch at an Egyptian restaurant near his office. True to form, the food took forever to get to us but when it arrived it was quite good and made me nostalgic for my trip to the Middle East back in 2000.

Our group with Jing and his staff. Mike is in the grey shirt with his arm around Jing (glasses, grey sport coat), and Matt is in the white shirt in the front.

The menu at the Egyptian restaurant. "This for money." Straightforward. I like it.

We left the restaurant and took a 5 minute walk to Jing’s office on the third floor of this big, boxy, old office building. We got to meet his staff, see his operation, and were treated to some customary SCALDING hot Chinese herbal tea; it seems like they keep the stuff boiling in the pot and then pour it into your cup where it’s no longer boiling but only just. It also has very little flavor so it’s basically like sipping at boiling water on a humid, sweaty day. Good stuff.

Then it was time to take our first crack at the market. We walked across the street from Jing’s office with Jing in tow and entered the market. We entered on the first floor in a section that dealt in kids’ toys. There were tons of different shapes and sizes of quadcopter drones, including one about the size of a tangerine that was pretty amazing. There was also a lot of junk too, and Mike and Matt explained that often people from other countries will buy the cheapest, lowest quality stuff, but if you try to sell that in the US no one will buy it.  Because the market sells to all parties so you just have to keep your eye out for the stuff that’s going to work for where you plan to sell.

We then went upstairs and arrived in the vast jewelry section. I was excited because I had found a few jewelry items and had ordered samples from Amazon because they were selling like gang-busters and were dirt cheap to manufacture! Unfortunately, finding the exact right thing when there are 3000 different jewelry stalls selling pretty much the same stuff as far as the eye can see, it can be a bit overwhelming. Additionally, jewelry on Amazon is a “gated” product category, which means you can’t start selling jewelry right away without jumping through a few hoops first. Consequently, I shifted my focus a bit from jewelry to home & kitchen because that is an “un-gated” category where I could start selling right away. I had also purchased some samples from that category and it was easy to just shift my sights.

We spent a few hours with Mike and Matt wandering the market more-or-less as a group getting an idea of what to expect tomorrow when they were going to turn us loose with a personal interpreter to find our own products to launch. We then went back to the hotel at about 4:30pm before meeting back down in the lobby to go out to dinner with Jing. A few members of the group were wiped out so they just ate at the hotel and called it a night, but a few of us joined Jing to go to dinner at Yiwu’s newest  mall. The mall was about 30 minutes away, once again leaving the impression on me that cities in China are HUGE, and when we arrived it was a pretty impressive place. It was incredibly clean, bright, sparkly, new, and full of stores, restaurants, and balloon decorations. We Americans noted how malls are really on the decline in the US and wondered if this fine Chinese mall would be meeting a similar fate in a decade or two.



After looking around for a while Jing pulled us into an authentic Chinese restaurant. Mike and Matt had him order us a bunch of authentic Chinese dishes so we could get the real Chinese food experience. What we got (after another long wait) was a lot of soup-based dishes, a lot of seafood, and generally a lot of stuff that our American palettes weren’t especially accustomed to. They ended up bringing out probably 12 different dishes, each one of which could have been a dinner for two, and we devoured 2-3 of them, made a dent in 2-3 more, and hardly touched the remainder that made up the most foreign of the fare. When we got the bill, what would have been easily over $200 in the US was less than half that. Pretty sweet deal, especially given that we basically ate less than half of what we ordered, but we all left with a much better idea of what authentic Chinese food (at least in this part of China) is.

Everyone was exhausted by the time we got back to the hotel and called it a night. I took a little stroll before turning in because I had been so fascinated by the way Chinese skyscrapers are designed like giant neon candles in the night sky. Have just recently re-watched Blade Runner, as well as a few YouTube film essays analyzing its influences as well as its influence, I was struck by how Blade Runner-esque the nighttime skyline of Yiwu was and wanted to take some pictures. There was one building in particular that was close to the hotel I wanted to grab some pictures of, but as I was walking I realized that the scale of all of these buildings is so massive that things that seem like they are pretty close end up being quite a trek on foot. I wandered back to the hotel and turned in for the night so I could be ready for the next two days of canvassing the market looking for products.


The Yiwu Marriott and some of its many colors

Snow Storms and Busy times

This last week was busy. I hadn't done any Christmas shopping and I wasn't stressed about it until Monday night and I woke up in the night and could not go back to sleep thinking about everything I needed to do. I had so much to do. I was making lists on my phone in the middle of the night so I would stop thinking about it. I then went from having nothing done to almost all of it done in couple of days. Phew. The Holidays are so fun but they are also stressful, especially for the mom.

Wednesday was Corbin and Gabby's winter concert. It was great. The K-2nd graders were the cutest. They had props and sang traditional Christmas songs and plus little kids are just cute. Gabby's class did a reindeer twist song that was so cute. That girl can twist. I cannot figure out how to post videos on the blog and it makes me crazy. Corbin sang with the 3-5 graders and I could not even see him. It was very crowded and he was on the side. He did come to the front for one song and played the drum or something. He didn't sing that I could see but he did keep beat with the stick. Singing is not Corbin's cup of tea. The 3-5 graders sang some weird hippy dippy songs no one's heard of that weren't my favorite, but I was impressed by how well they did especially incorporating lots of instruments and props throughout.  

Gabby's class is talking about heritage and traditions from other countries so I volunteered to talk about Canada which is where my maternal grandmother is from. I then realized how much time I needed to take (30-45 minutes) and was a bit stressed out about it. As soon as I came up with an idea on how to fill the time it was fine but thinking of what to do and say was stressful. I had some help from facebook friends help and it went well. I just shared some fun facts about Canada and some Canadian snacks and had them do an art project. 

We've been having weekly cheesy Christmas movie nights with my friends from the ward. It's been fun. Those cheesy movies are definitely best watched in a group to get the full effect. 

We had a Christmas party with a bunch of our post mo friends on Friday night. We did a sock exchange. I was searching amazon forever trying to find funny socks and the ones I liked wouldn't arrive in time. I also didn't want to spend $20 on stupid socks so I got the idea to buy some socks at the dollar store and make my own. The party was fun. It supposed to be a game night but the group was almost too big for games. There were 8 couples there. We mostly just chatted and ate some yummy food, I need some Christmas crack and cheese ball in my life right now. We later did the sock exchange after I pulled a Monica from Friends and totally took over. That sock exchange was not happening! Then we played one game for a minute before Scott and I had to get back to our babysitter. She was one of the girls from my primary class who just turned 12. We were her first gig. She did great! I like young babysitters because they are excited to do it and don't mind that we are cheap. Ha. 

It keeps snowing and melting and snowing again. It has been a really pretty December for Boise. It has made it feel more like Christmas. Love it!

Gabby's hair is getting long and she actually lets me fix it how I want sometimes.

My friend Rachel made this scarf for me for Christmas. It matches my coat perfectly. I wore my fake lashes that day. It took me FOREVER to get them on. I tried to wear them again yesterday and finally got them on only to have them melted when I opened the oven door minutes later. Forget about it!

Piper's craft ornament and Corbin photo bomb. Corbin is in the family I swear. He needs more air time.

My poster for my presentation

Ryan hanging out at the bottom of the book shelf.

Silly pipes.

Silly Ryan

Gabby is in the Santa dress on the bottom left.

Art project I had the class do.

I made these for the ladies I visit teach. I still do that for now. It's kind of awkward. We will see how long it lasts. I'm going to be curious what next year's theme will be...

Gabby's class had a Grinch day. This is her sporting her "who" hair.

Piper helped me make some treats.

Ryan building his "forks" aka forts."I'm building a fork."

My hand crafted socks for the sock exchange. I will say that my cow socks did get stolen once because someone is going to wear those on the dress like a cow day at Chick-fil-A. Perfect!

Gabby doing her thing.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Snow and Dance Recital

It snowed a little bit last week. It makes it so Christmasy with even a little bit of snow. I love it! I love Christmas so much I should marry it! I tell Scott all the time that if I'm not watching a Christmas show or listening to Christmas music I feel like I'm cheating on Christmas. So much love.

I had an amazing success at some thrift stores on Tuesday, that can be real hit or miss. I lucked out on everything I needed and more. I had to buy a rocking chair that I fell in love with even though we don't really have the space or extra funds to justify it. I left the store and went back. When I find something good at a thrift store I just have to get it sometimes. At the back of the store I found 4 awesome chairs to refinish and they ended up being $4 a piece. Such a steal! I bought them on the spot. I was going to refinish them to match my table so that it would hopefully help it sell. I didn't realize I hadn't taken down one of my ads and someone wanted my table and I just sold them the unfinished chairs with it. Perfect! I don't love doing those projects in the winter anyway.

I've been having weekly cheesy Christmas movie night with friends from my ward. They came over Tuesday night and watched a really terrible Christmas movie with me. The story lines on those movies are so awful sometimes. It was fun though.

Gabby had a dance recital Friday night (Piper takes dance from a different teacher). She was so excited. She doesn't get nervous at all and she lights up the stage. It looks like she got her parent's genes and is not very flexible. Poor girl! I keep trying to figure out how to post her dance but I'm having a hard time loading it up on you tube. I will keep trying.

We've been church hopping the last few weeks. It's pretty cool to attend other church services.

Love this rocking chair. I had to have it. I don't like the fabric but I can fix that.

Ouch! Corbin was pushing Ryan around in the laundry basket and he fell and hit his mouth on the door frame. Yikes! It has healed really quickly. Kids are resilient! 

Gabby's certificate. 

Ryan kept going out in bare feet. He's a nut!

I finished my jean quilt. I've always wanted one and I finally did it with the help of a lot of friends and family. It's so heavy and nice! 

Castle out of cardboard at the library.

Ryan wanted a picture taken.

Before the dance recital.

So cute!

There she is walking across the stage. 

Gabby school work. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Holiday Card Contest

Highlights from last week. Gabby won a state wide holiday card contest. She got first place in her grade. I barely sent it in on time and I didn't even want to worry about it because she had only spent maybe 5 minutes on the picture and I didn't think she would win anyway. She sat down for I swear 5 minutes to make that picture and handed it to me. I really wanted to try to direct her more and have her spend more time but I thought I'd better not. I didn't want to squelch her creativity or take out the joy of her art work so I let it go and she won! Well there you go!

I decided to take a calligraphy class with some of my book club friends starting in January. I e-mailed the instructor and told him I have TERRIBLE handwriting and I hate to write but I did have some interest in the class. He told me that calligraphy doesn't have anything to do with hand writing and that if I did my assignments outside of class I should be fine. We will see! I'm kind of nervous/excited. He then invited me to their calligraphy guild Christmas party the following day. My friend Victoria and I decided to go. I was surrounded by a bunch of calligraphy nerds and they were talking to me about calligraphy stuff and they might as well have been speaking to me in Chinese, but we got yummy free pizza and a gift exchange present so hey not bad!

On Saturday we had our book club meeting and we decided to do a special brunch for Christmas time rather than our usual weeknight meeting. It was delicious! It's been really fun getting to know those girls. I've really enjoyed my book club even if it does mean I have to read a 300 plus page book every month! I am always cramming right at the end because that's the way I roll.

Other than that the usual happenings with the kids and I've been trying to finish my jean quilt. That thing is a beast. I had to make the bias tape and then sew it on and that was no small feat. It was really heavy and hard to feed that puppy through the machine but I did it. Now I am finishing hand quilting the backside of the binding on which is a great activity to do while watching some late night TV.

Gabby's first place holiday card picture.

Tell me how the same batch of cinnamon rolls can have some turn out like the ones and the ones below. I don't get it, but they tasted the same so it doesn't really matter!

Scott bought a couple of board games to play with the kids. They played yesterday and today.

I turned on a cheesy Hallmark Christmas movie and the bolted at some point and the house was very quiet. I went to investigate and discovered this.

Book club Christmas brunch. Soooo yummy!
My workshop/Ryan's bedroom/our closet. When I refinished that cute desk I didn't want to get rid of it and I didn't have a place to put it so I put it in my closet. Then I put my sewing machine on it and it's been great. I have done much more sewing now that I don't have to get out my sewing machine every time I want to do something and I have a place I can leave my projects. It's been really nice! That quilt is a beast!