I'm on assignment in China following Governor Snyder's trade mission, and I'm sharing my thoughts as I travel. Feel free to write me back in the comments below.
Nearing the end - Friday, September 30
The Governor's trade mission is coming to an end, and so is my trip to China.
I won't miss the smog and pollution, either in Shanghai (bad) or Beijing (worse).
But it has truly been too short a trip to get more than a glimpse of everything that is happening with China's economy, its auto industry, and its cultural and population shifts.
Frank Langfitt in Shanghai and Louisa Lim in Beijing surely have two of the biggest, most exciting beats in public radio. This fly-in reporter leaves the country in their incredibly capable hands.
My adventures with taxis continued.
I am starting to take this a little personally.
Arriving back in Shanghai from Beijing, I got in the long queue to get a taxi to my downtown Pudong hotel.
I decided I'd be a discerning and demanding customer this time around. I rejected several taxis that had no seat belt in the back. But when I found a taxi that was suitably equipped, and showed the driver the address to which I wanted to be taken, he shook his head, and drove up to grab the fellow who was behind me in the line.
The next taxi cab driver whose cab had seat belts did the same thing. I asked the airport employee who was in charge of the queue to help, but he spoke no English. Nor did the first ten or so people in line.
Paying it forward
Finally, however, an angel arrived at the queue. Deserine Lim, fluent English-speaker and rescuer of helpless American travelers. She looked at my hotel address and explained that the taxi drivers didn't want me because it was too close, and they wanted a bigger fare. Ouch.
Then, without my even thinking to ask, she suggested I split a cab with her. She'd drop me off at my hotel, and continue on to her destination.
I'm not a Tennessee Williams fan for nothing. I, too, have always relied on the kindness of strangers. I got in the cab gratefully.
My rescuer is a native of Singapore, she told me, visiting Shanghai just for a day on business. But she knows the town well, and told me what shops to go to near my hotel, what restaurants to haunt. We discussed American politics.
When we arrived at my hotel, I paid the fare, and since it was clear her favor to me was going to cost her, both in terms of time and money, I tried to give her some money to cover the extra distance.
She adamantly refused to take it.
So, I shall have to content myself with paying it forward some day.
Ms. Lim is Assistant General Manager of OSIM, a global provider of personal, health and convenience products headquartered in Singapore. OSIM is a co-owner of Brookstone, a company that provides such products in the U.S.
Thanks, Deserine. You're a peach.
Next stops before home
Next stop for me: Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where I'll visit the Joint Institute between SJTU and the University of Michigan.
I also plan to go to a shopping mall with my SJTU interpreter, Paul (Kang Yiping) to ask people about transportation issues.
Then, another interview with a Ford China official, to learn more about the company's strategy to ride the next wave of demand for vehicles in the country.
And tomorrow morning, I'll be on a non-stop flight from Shanghai to Detroit.
They say the jet lag is a lot worse coming back.
Michigan Radio, don't call me. I'll call you.
Arrived in Beijing - Wednesday, September 28:
I am in Beijing.
I arrived on the fourth consecutive day of a smog health advisory in the city. Children are not supposed to play outdoors, and people with chronic health conditions are being urged to stay inside. Even if you are healthy, the smog is very irritating to your eyes and throat.
Michigan has never seemed cleaner. Even the worst Ozone Action Day in Michigan in August can't hold a candle to this.
Shanghai was windy while I was there earlier in the week. We need a good strong breeze to get this stuff out of the city, so people can breathe.
The Chinese government knows it has a potential crisis on its hands, as more people move into the cities, and more of them purchase cars. That's why the government adopted a five year plan to vastly increase the number of electric cars in China.
The big problem with that is infrastructure.