Saturday, June 17, 2006

Ben in Moscow: Tetris Homeland



It’s been quite a trip. By the time this email leaves my outbox I’ll be home and asleep on wonderful American soil. God bless this country. After two weeks of constant traveling I’m more than ready to get home and relax. Moscow was ok, but certainly my least favorite of all the cities on the trip. We did some cultural stuff around the city, but our two days were poorly planned and we were late to everything. It turns out that in Moscow you don’t take official cabs. Rather, you just find someone going in your general direction and give them money to bring you along. Half of our “cab drivers” got lost because we don’t speak Russian and we couldn’t effective tell them where to go. The other half got lost because they were dumb.

Some things I did:

- I bought 25 bottles of Vodka

- We went to the Kremlin, but it was closed by the time we got there because they felt like closing early

- I went to an opera at the Bolshoy. That ‘s the place that’s famous for ballets, which we were supposed to see. Unfortunately it’s not ballet season so we saw an opera. It was an Italian opera and the subtitles were in Russian. I was ridiculously bored but fortunately we missed most of it because our cab driver got lost. I looked really good in my opera outfit.

I’m glad to be done with Moscow, and don’t intend to go back anytime soon. Oh, I forgot in my last trip report to mention my visit to the great wall of china. It was a big wall, in fact it was the biggest wall I’ve ever seen. Nice scenery and all that, but it wasn’t overly spectacular. There were bears though, and that’s pretty cool.

Here are my trip pics:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Ben Feels Tall


It’s been a crazy trip so far. I know – I’m a bad son who hasn’t emailed his mother in 10 days. Fortunately, I’m not dead. After an amazing stay in Tokyo I went to Korea, Shanghai, and then Beijing. I’m now on my way to Moscow for the last leg of the trip.

In natural Ben-style I have a bullet point list of some of the things I’ve done on this round-the-world trip:


* Went to the Japanese fish market at 5:00 am to watch people barter for fish. At 6:00 am I ate sushi and it was the best sushi I’ve ever had.
* Saw Shinto temples which were really boring. Other people took pictures.
* Went to Ahakihabra, the electronics district of Tokyo. It’s amazing what some people will buy. We had a contest where you had $100 to buy the craziest thing you could find. We ended up with a USB banana and a Hello Kitty ice machine. We came in second to this weird massager that sent electric shocks through your muscles.
* Presentations/company visits where we learned about the Japense internet culture and why we are #2 to Yahoo
* Karaoke with the Japanese Googlers. This was awesome.


* Ate some bad Korean food and some ok Korean food. By the end of Korea I was really happy to have my airport McDonalds
* After work we went to the strangest club ever. It’s called a booking club if you can dig it. You reserve these rooms for $500 (there were 20 of us) and they bring an assortment of alcohol and food. There’s also karaoke and the waiters bring you women. See, the waiters “book” girls who are dancing in the club and bring them to your room. Then the girls talk to you for a few minutes and stay if they like you. It’s a great opportunity for the ladies out there. Unfortunately, to the dismay of my single friends we don’t speak Korean so the girls didn’t stay too long. What a concept though!


* Shanghai was awesome. We were there on the weekend so we didn’t have to do any work. We just ate and drank and had a blast.
* I got a custom-made silk shirt. I had to bargain in Chinese (which I don’t even pretend to know). We just passed a calculator back and forth. Very weird. The shirt is awesome though – I’m quite studly.
* I went to a museum which was only kind of boring.
* I got a Chinese massage. Not as boring as expected.
* I went to the best bar ever. It was at the top of the tallest building in Shanghai, which is taller than any building in America. I think it was 500 meters. Anyway, the view was incredible and the atmosphere was perfect. Drinks were well done, but the alcohol + altitude made me slightly tipsy.
* We saw lots of cool buildings and cultural stuff. The architecture in Shanghai is great. I highly recommend a visit if you get a chance.


* Lots of work (yuck!)
* We got a tour of the Lenovo design center. They have some great products in China and a commanding market lead there. They will soon bring some of those products to the US where I expect them to do very well. I like their consumer laptops better than any other Windows laptop.
* We saw the forbidden city and tiannamen square. That was ok.
* All we ate in China was this lazy-susan meal. The waiters would bring dish after dish, but all I wanted was some plain rice. I’m looking forward to Russia.

Now I’m headed to Moscow for hopefully more fun and excitement. Our schedule is pretty packed but I’ll be home pretty soon.

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Ben APM Trip and Japanese Toilets


I’m officially in Japan. Day 1 was pretty exciting (and exhausting). We had a very strange Japanese style dinner that was pretty yummy. The waiter didn’t speak English so we had to point to things on the menu. Of course, there were problems with that method of communicating so he brought us whatever he felt like. We ate some weird food, and I tried it all. Even gross things like tiny little fish where you eat the head and everything.

We went to Japanese bars and clubs last night too. I was exhausted, but how often do I get to go out in Tokyo on a Saturday night? I did some Japanese style dancing and watched my friends strike out with the Japanese girls.

BTW, the toilets here are weird. I’ll upload photos when I have time. FYI, my intl cell phone doesn’t appear to work in Japan. Apparently they use a weird version of CDMA here. So for now I’m only available by email and if you call my hotel phone. 03-3476-3000, room 2911. It’s the Cerulean Tower Tokyu Hotel.