Saturday, January 23, 2010

Odds and Ends from the End of 09

In the middle of December I visited Benxi, a town about an hour outside of Shenyang, for a fraud site visit. The owner of a wood flooring factory had applied for a visa to open a branch office in the U.S., so I had to visit the factory to make sure that there was no fraud in his application. Everything checked out, and I got to tour around the factory.

It was no more than ten degrees fahrenheit in the unheated warehouse and I had worn ballet flats. Bad life decision.

Here's a picture of a random street in Shenyang on Christmas day. I was on my way to church (the only Catholic church in the city), and it was snowing on and off.

A picture of the incongruous cathedral:

Typical Northeasterners:

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Harbin Comes to Texas

The city of Harbin, which is about a 1-hour flight north of Shenyang, is famous for its winter Ice Festival (, which showcases giant ice sculptures. The Gaylord Hotel chain sponsors the ice sculptors from this festival to go to the U.S. every year for a few months. About 100 sculptors travel to four different cities, and they set up mini ice exhibits in the Gaylord Hotels. One of the destinations was Grapevine, TX, which is about ten minutes from my house. While I was home for my R&R vacation, my mom and I went to the Gaylord to see the ice sculptures. We didn't know beforehand that it was Grinch-themed:

After we went through the exhibit, we found some of the sculptors in a backroom playing cards. Some of them remembered me because I had issued their visas to the U.S. They invited me to come see them in Harbin when I go back to China, and then we all posed for a picture together:

It was great for my mom to get a better idea of what I do, and to see me interact with people from Northeast China. Plus, I probably really scared them - maybe word will spread that the visa officers fly all the way to the U.S. to check up on you!