Sunday 4th – Monday 5th March
Changzhou (pronounced Chang-Jo, the zh is a j sound), in the province of Jiangsu is where we’re staying for the CSC projects.
This morning we head an orientation session altogether with Congming & Jing (not sure if I mentioned before, but they work for Pyexera Global, IBM’s implementation Partner that help find the organisations we work with). During the morning we discussed security, shared stories from one another and played human bingo – which meant we found out some interesting facts about everyone; some of the team have been on TV, ran Marathons, speak a number of languages and much more. LOVED hearing facts about everyone.
Over lunchtime, James, Dens, Kristyna & I headed to the food market near the shopping centre around the corner from the hotel. We took great delight in trying different food from the stalls including some fried duck skin (I think that’s what it was), chicken on a stick, spicy squid and I managed to order a weird tea drink with some cream on the top – it wasn’t my fave thing in the world but was fun to a/ order and b/ try it haha!
During the afternoon we met our projects assistants who are assigned to each sub groups to help with translations. A few of them study English translation as a undergraduate degree and their English is honestly so good. They’ve been trying to teach some bits of Chinese and honestly it’s SO hard (I know I suck at languages anyway but this is another level) – the pitch and intonations are so detailed for sounds it’s really something else. Amazing, but so hard.
At the end of the day Winnie (who works for IBM China) came to chat with us about our projects and helped us understand what will happen over the next few weeks. She had worked with Chrissy’s group, China 27, too a couple of years ago, so knew her which was cool (shout out to Chrissy Chough and Niko)!
During the evening, the full group had a big Chinese welcome meal. There was duck, duck’s feet, duck skin, duck leg, and duck soup, beans, baby cucumbers, fish, tofu, vegetables – SO many dishes, it was great to try and it gave us all some very much needed chopstick practice! Headed back to the hotel in the pouring rain (and now a storm is literally raging outside as I type this section aha – it was so hot today, about 22 degrees so I think it definitely clear the mugginess).
I’ve not been as smart as I was today, for about 2 years haha (I used to look so smart all the time for work)! Suited and booted we headed into Changzhou to Tian Ai, which is one of the clients we’re working with, a school for autistic children. At Tian Ai’s new facility we hosted some government supporting officials from Changzhou and kicked off the project with an official welcome from both them, and Winnie from IBM. Each of the project teams and our clients were introduced and we had the chance to get on stage and introduce ourselves too, with some translation help from the team assistants. Melinda and Jocolyne had a go with some Chinese too which was very impressive (we later found out Melinda’s pronunciation could have gone a little wrong haha – I’m talking from ‘I AM..’ to something a lot ruder hahah. I told you it’s really tricky).
After the formalities of introductions we shook a lot of hands and had a whole load of photographs taken – we felt like a celebrities ha.
During the afternoon we broke off into our subgroups to spend time getting to know our clients and understanding the scope of work. First things first – LUNCH. Honestly, another feast (I’m so glad I have a gym nearby this month)! I tried some eel, water chestnuts that looked like HUGE cashews, bamboo shoots, beef stews, fish only found in the river in Changzhou and some cabbage (this was my fave, the sauce was lovely).
During the afternoon we were greeted by, and met with members of the management of Tian Fu Elderly Care Centre. This organisation runs services for the elderly in Changzhou districts – it has a unique model for a number of reasons. Firstly the volunteers are say aged 50ish, and volunteer to provide services for the older generations. Secondly they specifically spend time focussing on LOSC families; these are elderly people who lost their only child, and therefore have no family support in place to help them. Finally, the organisation uses IT and holistic services which help aid the elderly in this area to live out their time at home, no matter their circumstances.
We then discussed with the founder, Ms. Jiang about what we would work on. Communications in this instance is long as our project assistants have to spend time listening, speaking with and understanding our clients, and then translating back for us before we can reply. It’s interesting though as it does give you some time to think as as the English speaker I don’t need to listen to what is being said but can observe body language and tone instead, during these interactions – and perhaps think of something useful along the way. The hardest part was the fact that this conversation took a long time, and we had to be sure to double check things to ensure expectations and understanding was aligned.
It is fascinating being in these brand new environments, meeting new people, seeing new ways of doing things and hearing Chinese as a language. I had some more success with speaking some words today AND I now have a Chinese name ’Sun Na’ 孙娜. Chopstick skills had declined over night – but I guess you can’t have it all 🥢.