My Friday in China

was spent at the factory. The factory itself measures well over 120,000 sq. feet and employs close to 500 people.  We met with the chairman, customer service representatives, and the engineering group to discuss current products, new product designs, and some minor issues we’ve been encountering. All in all, the respect and commitment to understanding and improving from all of their employees is outstanding. It truly is a different experience (in a good way) compared to the level of caring you find in the states.

While I’m sure not all Chinese factories are created or run equally, it’s worth mentioning that the level of automation, designs for efficiency, and cleanliness was also outstanding. It rivals all the warehouses and manufacturing facilities I’ve visited in the U.S. Good management and accountability could clearly be seen as we toured the factory.

After our factory visit

and about 90 minutes to freshen up, we found ourselves at the birthday party for the chairman’s grandson. As I sat on a Hello Kitty chair and observed my surroundings, an overwhelming sense of being fortunate come over me. Over 7,000 miles from home, in a room filled with people I barely knew and who barely spoke ten words of English, it didn’t matter. The kids played and the adults chased them around as the climbed on chairs. The rice wine flowed as did the smiles and laughter…some at my expense. Apparently, some of my Mandarin comes across as amusing. Hey, at least I tried.

As we left the party, all I could think about was the similarities across cultures. China and the U.S. are very different places. The people though…not so much. Families working hard to provide for their children while having a little fun along the way. More than that, the kindness demonstrated resonated with me. It would have been very easy for the chairman to sit across a conference table from us for a few hours and then go his own way. To include us in family activities, to share his time…he didn’t have to do that and I’m appreciative that he did.

With Saturday came yet another city

Wuxi is about an hour from Changshu and is also relatively “small”. The Chinese define “small” as being 5 to 6 million people. Lunch was at a traditional place in the heart of a commercial district where we stood out considerably. For about an hour, we were the only two non-Chinese anywhere to be found. From lunch, we checked into a resort on the lake in Wuxi. An afternoon cha along with a fascinating conversation about Chinese history followed before we got ready and had dinner at the resort. Which leads me back to where I started with a sunrise over the lake on Sunday morning just a few hours before heading back to the Shanghai to catch our flight home.

You may be wondering

what all of this has to do with FI/RE. To start, perspective means a great deal. I spent five days away from my family, sat on airplane for nearly thirty hours, tolerated a thirteen-hour time difference, ate food that consistently looked back at me, and spent time in situations where English didn’t do me a bit of good (including attending a birthday party for a two-year-old Chinese boy). I consider myself LUCKY to have been able to do this. Many people will never have the opportunity to experience these things. I’ve seen, lived, and learned from these trips. This helps me to have a perspective on life that others may not. Our lifestyle in the U.S., even when times are tough, is still arguably vastly better than those of people in other parts of the world.

I also believe a different level of commitment is required to become FI/RE. For the reasons noted above along with the fact that even after a fourteen-hour flight, thirteen-hour time difference, and landing Sunday night, I’ll be in the office at 8:00 AM Monday morning takes a different level of commitment than some are willing to give. I’m happy to do this as I know the hard work and dedication now will result in FI in the near future. I’m grateful to our Chinese friends for another great trip and very much looking forward to wrapping my own kids up in my arms for a giant daddy sized hug!