Jesse’s Blog

Monday, July 14, 2008

Exigent Shanghai Celebration

Exigent Shanghai Celebration (41 of 96)

Exigent Shanghai is officially open for business! We just threw our grand opening celebration at the new studio (don’t miss all the pics; Facebook no worky through the Great Firewall of China). People came from far and wide to celebrate with us, including Garland’s entire family.  I miss them so much and it was great to see his wife and all the kids.

Exigent Shanghai Celebration (54 of 96)We started with a studio open house with snacks and drinks, and then had a ceremonial unveiling of our brushed-steel logo in the lobby after some speeches by Garland and our primary outside investor. The mood was very excited and upbeat as we laid out our plans for global domination.

Exigent Shanghai Celebration (76 of 96) After some more mingling we moved on to dinner at a nice hotel. Paul talked a little more about the company and the people while George and Sarah continued to translate everything into Chinese (they had been doing this all day). We ate and schmoozed until about 8 PM and then called it a night!

Well, except for Paul and I. This IS Shanghai, afterall.

posted by Jesse at 8:04 pm  

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Shanghai has “Mo fo da money!” – but what’s wrong with India?

Hotel Near Shanghai OfficeSo… I didn’t leave. We had a bit of a network disaster on Friday and I didn’t get enough time to finish everything so I extended my stay through the weekend. I moved to a cheap hotel right across from the office which is only $23 per night instead of $145. It’s convenient, clean, and nice with free internet and breakfast. Takes two minutes to walk from the lobby to our office, and one more minute to get to the cafe in our software park. I will go so far as to say it’s badass. (I really need to learn how to say that in Chinese.)

Shanghai-153 The down side is that I’m working most of the weekend, but we’re still managing to squeeze in some good stuff! Tonight we went to Japanese and got an amazing deal: all you can eat of anything on the menu (sushi, nigiri, sashimi, tempura, soup, beef, cooked fish, chicken, noodles, rice) and all you can drink including beer and sake. Each of us for the same price as a single plate of sashimi in Delhi (about $22). Which brings me to my main point today:

What the heck is wrong with India??

Lately I have been noticing that living a cosmopolitan lifestyle in India’s capital city is increasingly ridiculously expensive. Drinks at clubs are pricier than they are in New York City. Memberships to gyms cost three times as much as gyms in the U.S. that are three times as nice. Eating out regularly sets me back more than it ever did in the States.

It doesn’t end with daily cost-of-living, either. Our office space in Noida is as much as our office space in San Diego. My taxes in India are higher than my taxes in the U.S. My apartment is 1/2 the price of my Westwood apartment in Los Angeles and 1/3 the price of my beach-front apartment in San Diego. In fact, if I had to pay for my own rent, utilities and vehicle, I’d be living paycheck-to-paycheck right now. The kicker? My salary is the same as it was when I first moved to Los Angeles.

My question above was rhetorical. I know what’s wrong with Delhi, and what’s wrong with India. It’s fucked up. The rich are exclusive, and they want to stay that way. They got rich by exploiting their own countrymen, and they’ll stay rich by fighting to keep them down. Here’s an IM convo I just had with my friend:

(12:50:46 AM) Jesse: something is wrong with India
(12:51:42 AM) Laura: there is alot wrong with india!
(12:52:56 AM) Laura: what exactly are you talking about?
(12:53:39 AM) Jesse: cost of living
(12:53:53 AM) Jesse: general social welfare
(12:54:29 AM) Jesse: classism and racism making things generally shitty.
(12:56:12 AM) Jesse: for the majority, while keeping the rich and the luxurious lifestyle (I’m sorry middle class lifestyle anywhere else in the world) out of reach of the common man in India.
(12:56:47 AM) Jesse: I just realized that if I had to pay for my own rent, utilities and vehicle, I’d be broke or living paycheck to paycheck at best
(12:57:57 AM) Laura: yeah i know but china is far more advanced than india…india is developing at a far slower pace…in a few decades though india could be more like china..
(12:58:15 AM) Jesse: china is one thing but I’m comparing directly to the U.S.
(12:58:45 AM) Jesse: My salary right now is about what I was making when I first moved to San Diego.
(1:02:20 AM) Laura: you are right but it is only the rich people in india that can afford eating out and drinking….if you look at the places we eat and drink in in india …they are all in 5 stars hotels…no bar I go to in ireland is equivalent… they only cater for the super rich …so charge super high prices
(1:02:44 AM) Jesse: yep, supply and demand I guess…
(1:04:08 AM) Laura: exactly..there is such a small portion of india that can afford alcohal…they have to charge those prices…if you look at the price of everyday stuff like fruit and veg , water etc. it’s far cheaper than home
(1:04:29 AM) Jesse: they don’t have to charge those prices though
(1:04:34 AM) Jesse: In fact
(1:04:42 AM) Jesse: did you know that 5 stars get alcohol tax-free
(1:04:50 AM) Jesse: it is CHEAPER for them to buy alcohol
(1:04:56 AM) Jesse: than the average establishment in India
(1:05:12 AM) Jesse: they are taking advantage of the few people who are really rich and charging ridiculous prices.
(1:05:43 AM) Laura: I know they don’t but they can so will….it makes it more exclusive …
(1:06:07 AM) Laura: the rich can well afford it and prob makes them feel wealthier
(1:06:19 AM) Jesse: which is fucked up.
(1:06:35 AM) Jesse: Do you know I saw a Lamborghini Murcielago outside of The Park hotel the other night?
(1:06:39 AM) Jesse: FUCKING. RIDICULOUS.
(1:07:07 AM) Jesse: all the problems that country has, and people are wasting money paying 3 times the normal cost for a 1/4 million dollar car.
(1:08:30 AM) Laura: I know…but it’s like a status symbol to them…do you ever see the cars that pull up outside agni ..they are all mercs and bmw’s …hanging out there and buying drinks is like telling everyone hey look at me i’m rich and if you manage to be rich in india …it’s a big thing …if it was ireland or Us it wouldn’t be as big a deal
(1:08:49 AM) Jesse: yeah but look how they got rich
(1:08:57 AM) Jesse: exploiting their own people
(1:09:03 AM) Jesse: It’s borderline slavery
(1:09:14 AM) Jesse: Mumbai is the largest slum in Asia
(1:09:16 AM) Jesse: ASIA
(1:09:22 AM) Jesse: not India
(1:10:24 AM) Laura: I know…I am not justifying it…in fact I can’t stand it…I dated a mega wealthy indian guy for like 2 weeks and couldn’t deal with all the cars, servants, expensive dinners etc……
(1:11:30 AM) Laura: I think I am the only person to dump a guy because he is too rich…and has an attitude
(1:12:05 AM) Jesse: lol
(1:13:52 AM) Jesse: Lately I am just really grumpy about India, and I’m getting really antsy about being there and I think this is why. Everything is so pompous and superficial, and nobody with money seems to care about making anything better.
(1:14:12 AM) Laura: i’d hate to grow up in india…if you are poor…you are screwed and if you are rich you have such a screwed up image of reality …you should hear their opinions….they are obssessed with money and image
(1:15:32 AM) Jesse: God forbid there are more of *them* running around. More people with money. That would be the worst thing for the rich peeps. They wouldn’t be exclusive any more! Keep the peasants from rising up from the slums to a better existence. Where is India’s Robin Hood when you need him!
(1:16:45 AM) Laura: Give me time! It’s funny you should mention robin hood! I just got accepted into nottingham uni…I am doing my masters in human rights law there in september
(1:17:58 AM) Jesse: I’d like to take that guy’s Lamborghini and use it to buy houses, livestock, extra farmland, and a few dowries for a couple villages.
(1:18:49 AM) Jesse: Badass, you can move back to India and steal from the rich and give to the poor – and defend yourself in court!
(1:20:28 AM) Laura: I know…I remember one morning I went for break fast in the taj with this guy and it cost ridiculous money for pancakes..then an hour later i was teaching my class in the slums and just felt so guilty ..they could have so much stuff for that…
(1:20:05 AM) Jesse: Do you mind if I just copy paste this convo into my blog – I don’t feel like formatting my thoughts into something more readable. It’s late. :)
(1:21:03 AM) Laura: no i don’t mind at all…as long as i get some royalties if it’s ever published!
(1:21:08 AM) Jesse: hahah
(1:21:09 AM) Jesse: deal
(1:21:24 AM) Jesse: I’ll paste this part too, so it’s published on record. ;)

Perhaps I’m just a bit biased and bitter. After all, I have been a victim of racism and discrimination by the upper class during my time in India… So what do you think?

posted by Jesse at 11:36 pm  

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Shanghai – Day Six

Shanghai-145

I’m leaving for Delhi tomorrow and realized I hadn’t taken a group shot yet, so I got the team together for a photo in the studio (above). As you can see there are a few clowns in the class! I had some nice spicy beef udon noodle for lunch and a red bean milk tea before we went to check out the hotel directly across the street from our office park. It’s literally 1/4 the price of where I am staying now and, honestly, it’s not that bad. Simple but clean. Better than anything in India aside from 5-star. I could stay there for 30 days with all amenities for the same cost as rent alone in Noida (which doesn’t even include utilities, internet, TV, etc). I’m already making friends and plans.

Shanghai-147 Speaking of which, we went to Korean dinner with some friends of our General Manager. Sam plays guitar and his girlfriend Vivian… speaks really good English. Not only does she speak well, she does so with an American accent she learned from watching Friends. Really. I was so distracted by her artificially (but excellently) tuned accent that I couldn’t focus on what she was saying. We immediately offered her a job teaching English to the Chinese and Mandarin to the Americans at our company (she has taught before – we were calling her O sensei by the end of the night). If all goes well she’ll start in mid-July.

Well, time to pack up my stuff so I can zip right out of here in the morning before my weekly meetings.

posted by Jesse at 10:10 pm  

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Shanghai – Day Four

Note: If you are reading this on Facebook it seems my photos and links aren’t being displayed! You’re missing out on all the great images! Read it on my blog instead: http://jesse.rapczak.com

I’m making progress with the studio infrastructure but not as quickly as I would like. We had some incorrect hardware and were missing a few things. I have also hit a bit of a snag when it comes to training the artists, since there is no up-to-date Chinese documentation for our primary software package. We met with the company today and they are pointing us in the right direction.

Coffee ContraptionWe went for lunch today at the great cafe in the center of the software park. I swear I have not eaten food in Shanghai yet that didn’t taste great. We topped off our lunch with some of the famous coffee at this cafe which is made in some sort of weird contraption that looks like it was salvaged from the lab of a mad scientist! I’m not much of a coffee drinker, but I couldn’t stop drinking this stuff.

Shanghai-111 For dinner we hopped in a cab and headed over to a Hot Pot restaurant (Huo Guo in Mandarin). I watched Sarah and Renzy play some games on the way. I hadn’t seen this before, but maybe I have just been in India too long. The games are Flash-based with a touch screen, and seem to contain a lot of advertising. Sort of like the mini games you get on the net for various product launches and what-not. Most of it was in Chinese, except a version of the robot arm game where you try to pick up prizes from the bottom. I entertained myself by taking pictures.

Shanghai-113 The first Huo Guo place we arrived at was closed so we hopped back in the cab and found another place closer to my hotel. Huo Guo is a special kind of meal where you choose a sort of “soup” that you cook other things in right at your table. The soup we had was fish and tofu… something my brain said “no” to, but I figured it was about time I tried something I didn’t like. Silly me; It was great!

Shanghai-117 The way it works is simple: you pick up some uncooked meat and hold it under the surface of the soup until it’s cooked and ready to eat. Then you dip it in some garlic/ginger sauce to cool it off slightly and add a bit of extra flavor. It’s all very fun and the result is uniquely satisfying. If you have a chance to try it don’t pass it up!

I’m increasing my Mandarin vocabulary on a daily basis. I find it’s best if I write stuff down so I can refer back to it later – sort of like flash cards minus the part about the cards and the flashing. I can’t believe I’m almost halfway done with my first trip to Shanghai! I’m going to be sad to leave and I already can’t wait to come back. We have good people here and we’re going to be very successful. This is just one of those things that feels “right”.

posted by Jesse at 10:37 pm  

Monday, June 2, 2008

Shanghai – Day Three

Exigent Shanghai Panorama

Exigent Shanghai is better than sliced bread. Walking into our office, I was in awe at how “grown up” our company suddenly feels. From humble beginnings and a few tough years living in Delhi later, to… this. I had a grin on my face for the first hour I was at work.

Shanghai-108 The office is on the 3rd floor of the “most feng shui” building in a large software park. There is a cafe right at the center. As a mid-morning snack I had a tuna sandwich and banana milk. The price was about the same as I would expect to pay in India for food of this quality, only it tasted better than anything I have had in India.

I spent the day getting set up and configuring our network. We ordered a few more servers that will arrive tomorrow so I can complete the setup, and we scheduled meetings with various vendors and industry colleagues over the next few days. So far we only have 4 official employees (the rest are interns). By the time I leave, however, the production team here will be fully equipped to handle whatever workload we can throw at them. IF I leave…. muhahahaha!

Holiday Inn Downtown Shanghai - Greatwall WingWhen I returned to my hotel I was hungry, but nothing inside fit my fancy. I decided to take a stroll around and see what I could find. I got to practice some Mandarin, mostly “I don’t want”; “I don’t like”; and “No thank you”, as I was openly approached by prostitutes saying “Massage, sucky, fucky? Very beautiful.” They were like caricatures of themselves. I settled on KFC because they had a grilled chicken sandwhich. I asked “Ji rou ma?” (Is it chicken?), to which she responded “Dui” (Yes). I could have responded with “Wo xiang mai zhe” (I want to buy this), but I wasn’t that quick. I just sort of pointed and grunted and nodded. Next time!

posted by Jesse at 10:21 pm  
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