Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Kev's Music Review: Kurt Rosenwinkel

Its been a quite a few months since I've done a music review; finishing school and life in general has just been catching up on me.

This review is devoted to someone who isn't really that new on the scene, but is still at the beginning of what will likely be a very influential career: Kurt Rosenwinkel.
As a young guitarist, he is really this generation's leading answer to the foundation laid out by Pat Metheny. As ever lyrical in the ways of Metheny, Kurt's style leans heavily towards an aggressive improvisation that is being popularized by his contemporaries. It isn't surprising to see that Kurt's most recent album, the '05 Verve Records release 'Deep Song' is comprised of some of the strongest forces in contemporary jazz today: Joshua Redman on saxophone, Brad Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Ali Jackson on drums.
Kurt Rosenwinkel was born and raised in Philedelphia where he was introduced to jazz in highschool. His progress was such that he was admitted into Boston's Berklee School of Music. However, he dropped out in 1992 when he was invited to play in Gary Burton's band, a world-famous ensemble celebrated for the master vibraphonist's Art-Blakey-esk commitment to training young talent. Kurt gained real-life lessons playing and touring with Gary Burton, and then a much longer mentorship playing with avant-garde drummer, Paul Motian.
Kurt's most recent 2005 album was his 6th title recording, fourth with Verve records. For those of you who want to hear the "sound" of today's jazz, a real discussion on structure, theory and soul of contemporary Jazz, and a type of music the record labels have been really getting behind in the last 5 years, keep a tab on Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Keeping an ear to the ground,


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Kev's Thoughts On... China's hero-worship as a reflection of its Unilateralist or Multilateralist attitude

China as a Unilateralist or Multilateralist nation: A reflection of Hero-worship?

This question of China as a unilateral or multilateral nation is a popular discussion point with those familiar with Asia Pacific foreign affairs. For some reason I was dwelling on this issue the past few days; I think as a consequence of watching some American movies and news reports.

My point of interest is the incessant need for Americans to erect heroes in every situation; the need for clear protagonists and antagonists. When watching American movies it is almost a certainty that the main character and the major struggle is identified within the first twenty minutes. In television syndication, it is even shorter.

The fact that there are protagonists and struggles is not the issue, rather it is the American tendency to enunciate a singular protagonist and a singular struggle for the audience to quickly and easily identify with. While fictional stories may be forgivable, I find it a little bit disturbing to witness current events and historical accounts framed with singular heroes and singular struggles. When dwelling on this, I found that there is a visible correlation between a culture of hero-worship and a nation’s tendency for unilateralism. The lone cowboy, the American soldier righting other nation’s wrongs, even the pure-hearted politician making idealistic orations to make the world a better place. In viewing American iconography in this perspective, it is clear how a unilateralist-prone populace could arise.

Thus my thoughts turn to China. The question of whether China is prone to become a Unilateral or Multilateral nation depends on the identity and perspective of its popular culture. This I feel, can be observed from the state of a nation’s hero-worship. If popular culture is fixated on hero-worship that promotes protagonist-antagonist framework, then unilateral sentiments can be expected; that is, if popular culture is given a chance to voice its opinion. So what about China? What is the extent of it’s hero worship?

Looking at socio-cultural history, certain figures quickly rise to recognition: Emperor Huang Taiji of the Qin, Zhu GeLiang or CaoCao of Three Kingdoms Period, Confucius, and more recently, Mao Zedong. Definitely hero worship. Yet in examining these acclaimed Chinese heroes, I see a stark difference between them and their American counterparts. The Chinese heroes were heroes because of their domestic accomplishments. The Huang Taiji was the first emperor to unify China, Zhu GeLiang and CaoCao tried to do the same, Confucius taught filial piety, the preeminent Chinese domestic philosophy; and Mao Zedong is still celebrated for rebuffing the Japanese and resolving civil war. China indulges in hero-worship, but the perspective is predominantly domestic. And within China’s hero-worship, it is not always clear singular heroes over singular struggles. China’s emphasis and celebration has always been around order and civility. It has been about celebrating architects of the domestic system. You will be hard pressed to find Chinese heroes celebrated for their foreign policies. China’s isolationist past is clear evidence of this notion.

With China’s rapid development in recent years, and its necessary integration into the world stage, has the nation’s hero-worship changed as well? And what does this indicate about China’s future as unilateralist or multilateralist? Hu Jintao’s actions are visibly multilateralist, with the entrance into the WTO, participation in ASEAN +3, the North Korean WMD talks and increasing partnerships within Africa. But the Chinese people now look to popular culture instead of politics for their heroes.

Perhaps the most promoted and well-known hero today is the basketball player Yao Ming. He still reigns supreme. The on-going joke he replies when asked by reporters why his jersey is currently selling only second-best in China: “Because everyone already has one of mine.” Since the last Olympics in 2004, a plethora of other athletes have followed in Yao’s footsteps and have been aggressively promoted to the Chinese public. In fact, Chinese heroes in all sporting industries are popping up, even in the world of golf, snooker and F1 racing.

In the business realm, Chinese heroes have also arisen to carry the torch of China’s aspirations. People like Li YanHong and Robin Li, founders of, or famed entrepreneur Joe Chen, founder of Oak Pacific Interactive, which owns many popular Chinese social-networking sites, or Pan ShiYi and wife Zhang Xin, the Donald Trumps of China. These and many others make headlines beyond the business section.

And then there is the pop culture. China now embraces an integrated landscape of Asia-Pacific stars. From Hong Kong and Taiwan to Japan and Korea, many regional overseas celebrities have fan followings in Mainland China. The most interesting example is Takeshi Kaneshiro, a Japanese-born Taiwanese-Chinese, the Brad Pitt of Asia. He, along with Jay Chou and many others are setting the standard for being a trans-regional superstar. Mainland China is also coming up with their own home-grown stars too. Not only in movies but specialized categories, Mainland Chinese are defining themselves. Lang Lang, the international concert pianist is one example that comes to mind. Then there are also the real global international Chinese names. Ang Lee just won the top Golden Lion award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival last month (Aug. 2007) for his new erotic spy thriller, ‘Lust, Caution’. His equally famous counterpart, Zhang Yimou, was the film festival’s jury chairperson. Among other directors considered for the top title were Chen Kaige and Jia Zhangke.

China’s hero-worship is certainly diversifying in recent years, mimicking its entrance onto the world-stage. What I see from these examples of contemporary Chinese heroes, and many others unmentioned, is a Chinese hero-worship in the context of regional and international competition. The Chinese popular success-story is the Chinese winner of a competitive international forum or contest. Whether in athletics, business, or pop-arts stardom, its about individual example of excellence on the world stage. What does that mean for the unilateral vs. multilateral discussion? If nation-states indeed act based on the support of their general populace, then a population like China’s, who at the moment most identifies with being the best while following the rules of an international competition, would most approve of its own nation acting like a winner within the guidelines of the global architecture. This attitude falls within the middle of the unilateral-multilateral spectrum, where China would find popular support to act as a multilateralist when it comes to managing and improving the global infrastructure, but also find popular support to act as a unilateralist when it comes to playing the competitive game within established frameworks.

And thus we see China’s foreign policy reflect it’s hero-worship: entrepreneurial, opportunistic, and striving to be ‘best-in-show’ on the world stage. A nation that has no quivers about dancing around the unilateral-multilateral scale because that’s just how it’s people likes it.

My Reflections On... Podcasting

When my last iPod broke down sometime at the beginning of this year, I was at a virtual iTunes stand-still. I kind of lost touch with the rest of the online world. I even stopped using BitTorrent for a while. At that time I was busy finishing up school. But since getting my new MacBook + iPod combo, I've been resuscitating my online world. Being in China has helped, since my appetite for information isn't quite met by the media channels available here.

Once I set up my iPod Video (now known as the iPod Classic), I immediately began exploring the Podcasting universe, to see how I could best leverage this function. My life hasn't been the same eversince. Not only have I found news podcasts to keep me up todate with what is happening around the world, but there are so many special-interest podcast that I am now renewing past interests that I have not had time to keep up with in my busy life. Now I can. From economics to history (and a lot of history) to Pop news and culture, I'm staying on top of all my topics of interest. I've also been discovering new interests too. I get to keep on top of the gaming world (even though I never game its important to know the current happenings in that industry), I get to keep abreast of the advertising and media industry (which is important for my future career), and I've been hooked on a podcast called WineLibrary TV, which is educating me in loads about wines. I must admit it may be the best podcast I've ever seen. ARE YOU A VANIAC??? CHECK OUT THE VAYNER-NATION. haha... no seriously. check out that podcast if you're interested in learning about wines.

And then there is the technology and business news. Oh so glorious, oh so interesting and applicable. The great thing is that I load on multiple different podcasts about tech and business news, so its like casting a wider net. What one podcast misses out on, the other will catch. So I'll watch WebNation and then watch DiggNation, and then watch GreenTV or Business 2.0 Disruptors. So it's like channel-surfing but always landing on another good channel on another good program you want to see. And you'll never miss any part of it. And no commercials. For those of you who are more up-to-date, its like TiVo or any PVR, but portable! Isn't that way better?

So now with podcasts augmenting my regular email, magazine and newsreader intake, I would have to say I am more up-to-date now with current events and trends than I have ever been before. And its amazing how much info you can upload into your brain while you're walking or in the subway or in a taxi. No time is wasted. Its so good. Its like getting your "learn" on all the time. And keeping track with world affairs, politics, the US presidential race, the war in Iraq, tensions in Pakistan, hurricane season down south, Gordon Brown and how he is taking over from Tony Blair, etc... isn't that better drama then Heroes or Lost? Its real, and applicable. (although I still like to indulge in my high-production drama too. Grey's Anatomy is awesome).

To put the icing on the Podcasting cake, my new MacBook's screen resolution is SO GOOD its unbelievable. I rather watch movies on my laptop than on the TV just because its so much easier on the eyes. For those that have HDTV and won't go back to traditional TVs, you know what I mean. My MacBook comes with a remote contol (Apple thinks of everything), so I can sit back on my couch at night and surf through my podcasts without even getting up to move onto the next one. That's the way technology should serve our lifestyles.

I still expect more to come in the future, like mobile streaming tv and a convergence in high-production TV broadcast content with user-generated internet content. But podcasting, now about 4 years old, is a good start. And until the next technology's adoption rate increases and prices come down (like iPhone in China), I'll happily keep on downloading podcasts.

If you'd like to see a list of my current podcasts, see the list on the right-hand column below this blog. You can just search them on Google and find the ones you want, or, find them on iTunes.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Kev's Thoughts On... China's New Media Consumption

China’s New-Media Consumption: What’s being consumed and Who’s consuming it?

It is often surprising to realize the hyper-growth in China’s media landscape began only ten years ago. Today, Television still enjoys the highest penetration rates, near 100%. However it is the younger generations, dictating an ever-increasingly larger proportion of China’s disposable income, who are growing further accustomed and attracted to New Media, meaning less time spent with traditional channels. The following is a synopsis of China’s major New Media movements and an analysis on the identity of the Chinese New Media consumer.

China’s New-Media Buzz & New-Media Consumption

1) Communicative, Multi-media handhelds: Convergence in the high-end, expansion of the low-end
Communication handhelds, namely mobile phones, have over 30% penetration rate with 437 million mobile phone users, and the growth rate is expected to steadily rise for the next 5 years. Technological convergence is giving communication devices more multi-media capabilities and multi-media devices more communication capabilities. High-end handheld devices continue to integrate functions and redefine ‘standard’ and ‘luxury’ for the media channel.
On the other end of the spectrum, major competition has erupted for the growing low-end mobile phone market. As China develops, more low-wage citizens find their financial situation improving. Each year millions of first-time mobile phone buyers enter the market. Thus competition is fierce to grab the new pieces of the pie.
Convergence will mean for advertisers some cannibalization of consumers who currently own both multi-media and communication handhelds. However the over-shadowing opportunity is the cross-sell/acquisition of new consumers to multi-media exposure who were originally pure-communication handheld users. At the same time, growth in low-end pure-communication handhelds can also benefit advertisers who use targeted text-messaging (SMS) advertisements effectively. The increasing penetration of talk & text-only phones means greater emphasis can be given to ad campaigns requiring consumer SMS participation.

2) The Chinese Internet Universe: Homegrown Champions
With 162 million Internet users in 2007 and year-over-year growth last year of 23.4%, the Internet is the greatest excitement and buzz for Chinese media development. While it is dependent on its enablers, such as PC and mobile communication devices, the strong growth of these media outlets is in large part fueled by the growing popularity of the Internet. In China, Internet users demonstrate their desire to be connected not only by the number of new users each year, but also the growing speed at which they connect. About two-thirds of Chinese use broadband connections, up 45% from last year. At the heart of the growing number of uploads and downloads are China’s homegrown Internet portals. Not only do Chinese embrace everything Web 2.0, they are doing it on their own terms. Time and again we see in the current environment, Chinese versions of popular web functions beating their original foreign counterparts. Here is a short list of the most popular to date:

Homegrown Champions
Virtual World (Social/Gaming): HiPiHi + Shanda/UOneNet/Frenzoo/Yilu/Entropia + City of Beijing/Leeuu (Romantic Chateau)
Online Search/Barter: Baidu/Taobao/Alibaba/Sina/Sohu
Web 2.0 Uploads (Blogs, Vlogs, Space, Photoshare): Sina Blogs/Sohu Blogs/Tudou/Rox/Mop/UUme/+ about 150 others

Constant vigilance must be given to the explosive developments in the Chinese Internet space. Not only should advertisers partner to create new avenues of reaching users/viewers, but also great attention should be paid to the content generated by Chinese Web 2.0 sites. These forums are the fastest and cheapest ways to gather consumer insight and reactions. In a country still heavily censored, these virtual worlds represent places with the least amount of restrictions, hence the greatest amount of genuine expression. In addition, because of the growing Chinese fixation with user-generated content, and the reduced cost-structure associated with it, Advertisers should consider deepening participation in online content production.

Media Dichotomy: Over 31 vs. Under 31

Much attention, money and effort is being invested in the emerging media channels. However advertisers must realize that other than pure communication handhelds, new media is only reaching a very specific segment of the Chinese population. Indeed new media is transforming media consumption in China for generations to come, but the large majority of China today does not participate. The major dichotomy is between Chinese who are aged 31 (1976)∗ this year or older, and those younger than 31. Those over 31 get significantly more of their media consumption from traditional media, while under-31 consumers spend exponentially more time with emerging media.
The major reason for this rapid shift in media consumption stems from an individual’s age and life-position during the years from 1996 to 1999. 1996-97 were the years personal computer use and proliferation transitioned from early adopters to mass market. 1998-99 were the years the Internet likewise gained widespread popularity. Those now aged 31 or over were in 1996-99 entering or already in the workforce. This means they have grown up without computers or the Internet as a source of recreation, and were introduced to these new media outlets in a work environment. Those under 31 would have been introduced to computers and the Internet some time while they were still students and more likely to have begun exploring these platforms in a recreational setting.
The way the computer and the Internet were introduced into an individual’s life has profound influences on how they consume media today. The most profound difference lies between over-31’s who are primary consumers of traditional media, while under-31’s increasingly rely on new media for their content consumption.

The Transitional Generation

Even for Chinese under 31 years old this year, there is a massive amount of differentiation among breadth and depth of participation with new media. Again, an important factor to examine is the age at which these individuals were introduced to the computer and the Internet. The Chinese who are this year aged 20 to 30, are the Transitional-Media Generation. Their age and situation during 1996-99 determines the amount of recreational/social time as students they would have had to grow familiar with the new technology and its full potential. If young enough, they would also have had a chance to have computer and Internet exposure within the classroom, further enamoring this generation to the new media channels.

School Level in 96-97/Age in 96-97/PC Era (96-97): Age Now/Net Era (98-99): Age Now/Typical Media Consumption(Traditional)[New Media]
Primary/7-13/17-23/15-21/(TV(h)) [Game, Chat, D/l, Novel, SMS, GamesP, MusicP]
Junior/13-15/23-25/21-23/(TV(h)) [Game, Chat, Buy(s), D/l, Blog, Novel(s), Info, SMS, Phone(s), PicSMS, GamesP, Port. Music.]
High/16-18/26-28/24-26/(TV) [Game(s), Chat, Buy(s), D/l, Blog(s), Novel, Info, Phone, SMS, PicSMS, GamesP, Port. Music.]
Bach/19-22/29-32/27-30/(TV, Series, DVD(h)) [Chat, Stream, Blog(s), Novel(s), Info, Phone, SMS, Game(s), Port. Music(s)]
Work or Mast/23+/33+/31+/(TV, Series, DVD) [Chat(s), Info, Phone]

Note: TV= Television; Game=Online Interactive Gaming; Chat=IM; D/l=Download (music, movie, tv); Novel=Online Novels; SMS=Mobile Text Messaging; GamesP=Mobile Gaming; MusicP=MP3 on phone; Buy=Online Purchase; Blog=Online Blogging; Info= Online information, esp. News, Specific Information; PicSMS=Phone Pictures sent by SMS; Phone=Chatting on cellular phone; Port. Music=Separate Portable Music Player; Series=Television Series; DVD=Buying DVDs; (h)=Half as likely; (s)=Seldom

Discussion on the Transitional Generation

We can reaffirm that TV still holds the most broad penetration, but it is evident that younger and younger generations are spending more of their time, and getting exposure to media elsewhere. A national ad campaign will continue to have a TV component, but China’s current interest in Mobile convergence and Web 2.0 are reflections of where media-channel developers see and feel consumers are headed.
An important observation is the strong upload-download culture that gains strength as the generation gets younger; demonstrating the intensifying proliferation of computers and Internet in the years after 2000. While advertisers can heavily capitalize on the successful download culture, the new heights reached by Chinese blogs in the past year show the upload culture is just as, if not more, lucrative. The major caveat for Advertisers in China when engaging with the uploading culture is the censorship issue in China. This differs from America, where the online rhetoric has always been ‘Freedom of Speech’. Advertisers in China must be weary of how to manage the risks their brands assume when playing in the ‘upload’ arena. If a brand is found to be associated with an ill-favored political upload, the repercussions will likely be more extreme than just the banning of the user-generated upload along with the ad campaign. Government relations and ultimately business operations in China can be jeopardized.
Chat and Mobile Phones continue to be used most profusely within all sub-categories; however, the functions used in the mobile phone get progressively more interactive and complex as the generation gets younger. The natural explanation supports the observation made in this analysis that earlier exposure to New Media as a recreational resource catalyses depth and breadth of New Media association. The one exception observed is the youngest age group from 15-21, who seem to be consuming less New Media, and less media in general. The explanation can be found in the stringent schooling system most Chinese children must go through. Primary and secondary school students are typically at school or in mandatory study 10-12 hours per day, 6 days a week. Compared to their American counterparts who are in school 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, it is understandable why younger Chinese students have less time to spend with media. Once students shift to a university lifestyle with more personal free time, we witness an explosion of New Media consumption. Advertisers should recognize that differing strategies apply for those students in secondary school versus university. Innovative ad campaigns will leverage a Chinese secondary school student’s long-hours in class to its benefit.
The Chinese educational system has begun teaching computer and internet use in junior high schools, but not senior high schools. The first students who went through this training are just now 15-16 years old; at the bottom of the Transitional Generation. Watching how compulsory education will influence media-consumption as this generation grows older will be important.
Finally, this Transitional Generation is again a sub-section in the fabric of China’s citizens. This category refers primarily to those Chinese who a) are educated b) had/has access to technology and the Internet (Tier 1, 2 and 3 cities) c) financially capable to either own or rent access to technology and the Internet. Deeper analysis into this and other audience subgroups will yield more opportunities for Advertisers to succeed in engaging their brands with the right Chinese consumer.

Kev's Music Review: Elizabeth Shephard

This edition of Kevin's Nu Jazz Review features Canadian Jazz pianist and vocalist, Elizabeth Shephard. During the past few years on the Jazz scene, she has been making heads turn with her perfect combo of contemp jazz and funky soul. Her extremely smooth vocals give jazz divas like Norah Jones and Diana Krall a run for their money. Her up-beat, edgy tempo produces a hard-hitting, head-nodding sound that you'll want to keep coming out of your speakers time and again. Elizabeth's piano skills are equally impressive, as she is unintimidated by innovative chords and fast-paced solos. She is a testiment to the McGill University jazz program from where she graduated. Her songs are all original compositions, showing her mastery of composition as well as performance. A true pleasure all around, if you want to hear some fresh female jazz vocals that will make you smile, please, do check out Elizabeth Shephard. You won't be disapointed.

Keeping an ear to the ground,


Kev's Music Review: Jonathan Batiste

For those who love the ebony and ivory keys, check out Jonathan Batiste. This home-grown New Orleans talent plays with the virtuosity of the stridemasters of old, yet at the young age of 19, he melds hints of blues, rag, R&B and soul to make this some serious righteous jazz for our day. Jonathan can be seen performing regularly in New York City where he now resides as he attends the Juilliard school of music. He has played with the likes of Wynton Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Harry Connick Jr. and more. If you are looking for some new, vibrant, energetic, foot-stoppin' Jazz that still acknowledges the roots that got us here, then Jonathan Batiste is for you.

With an ear to the ground,

Kev's Music Review: Matt Stevens

I want to introduce a rapidly rising stars of the Jazz world: Matt Stevens. This guitar-playing impresario is a fresh voice in the jazz guitar's evolution. With strong influences in both tone and repetoire from Pat Metheny, Matt Stevens infuses his own string of blues and funk into the mix. After watching him live at the Rex in Toronto this past weekend, I have to say he is one of the finest guitarists of the new generation. Not only is he a great solo musician, but his is a fantastic band leader as well. His quintet moves together as one, laying thick grooves with heavy percussive bass-lines in support of Matt's forward-thinking riffs. Check him out if you're into some serious progressive jazz guitar!

With an ear to the ground,

Update from China June 2006

Woohoo! I actually wrote a shorter update this time! This will be my last update from China before my return to Canada on June 30th 2006. Please enjoy this letter and I cannot wait to catch up with you face to face!

--> -->INTRO

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--> -->POST SCRIPT.... To My Brothers and Sisters

Well, it is now almost exactly 2 weeks before I leave to come back to Canada. I figure I should write one more closing update letter for everyone; more like a preamble before I come back. I still can't believe I am leaving already. Sigh…


Work is officially over for me! I resigned a month early from my job. The majority of the reason was because of some upper-management difficulties and disagreements. The decision has only had positive affects as I now have time to do many other things, like work on my own business, make more connections with important people in certain industries, packing, and spending time with my girlfriend. More on all of that later.

The final month of work was really stressful with a lot of time constraints and a lot of missed expectations. All in all it was an extremely educational experience, working with all the company politics and learning a lot about my own limitations and the limitations of others. It will be invaluable as I run my own company as well as watch the organizational behaviour of other companies to see how they differ and what kind of execution & communication structure they have in place.

Continuing from last update, I finished the redesign of all the websites, and we have now done a soft launch of the online school. You can now see it at There are a lot of improvements that have to be made, we had to cut out about 75% of the functions to meet management expectations, but the main goal was achieved; i.e. now you can learn online any time of the day with a live Mandarin teacher straight from China. I was very happy to finish my projects and hand over the remaining duties to other managers. I feel like I have really done a lot for the company and helped position it for greater long-term success. Happily, management feels so as well. They really didn't want me to leave, but I had to insist.

The greatest achievement over the past several months would have to be the 2006 China Business Tour hosted by New South Global, an executive private branch of the University of New South Wales, and presented by us, Executive Communications. As I mentioned in the last update, it took place during the entire second week of May (May 8 to 13) and was a full 5-day conference introducing top CEOs and executives from Australia about doing business in China. The conference was a complete success. From start to finish it was more than five-stars, with "surprise" upgrades of the participant's accommodations to two-storey executive suites and other services that really surpassed the bar of excellence. The participants thoroughly enjoyed themselves and we have been getting nothing but the highest of praise ever since.

So work is done for this term, the next time I work again in a full-time setting will be after I graduate with my MBA. I am excited to see what differences the pre and post- MBA work experience will have for me.


Since finishing work at the end of May, I have a full month before returning to Canada. What have I done, and what will I be doing?

First things first, chill… There are some days, I have to admit (rather shamefully, though, I don't know why) where I do absolutely nothing. I just remain at home, and either watch DVDs, or read or other things. Actually a lot of my time is spent just enjoying the time. I do not do anything special in particular, I am not on a mission to "get the most out of China", but rather, simply living my life. I thoroughly enjoy my apartment, I enjoy walking around the neighbourhood, I enjoy spending time with friends, and everything Beijing has to offer.

So what else? That's not all I do of course. My dad didn't raise me to be a slacker. Right after finishing with work, I took a week long trip to Xi'an. My friend's cousin was getting married, and as I had never been to Xi'an, I decided to tag along and accompany her. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip, and I am quite taken with Xi'an, its local people and its culture. I was also invited to my friend's cousin's wedding, so I had the opportunity to attend yet another Chinese wedding, always an interesting and entertaining event. I ended up sitting beside one of the uncles who every few minutes made me join him in a ritualistic downing of a shot of BaiJiu (white wine). I'm going to bring some back so you can try it. This stuff isn't for lightweights.

This month I've been slowly working on my business. My web design company, DotcomTakeout is still being programmed and prepping for a North American launch. There were more things to do than I expected, and my employees have been exceedingly busy with other tasks. It does not look like I will meet my self-set deadlines before coming back to Canada. Nevertheless, things will get done, and some time this summer I should have a working website-creation program to facilitate my service.

In addition to my own business, I am also preparing for my future career and trying to open doors and opportunities in the industries I am headed towards. Every week I now go out to art galleries and meet with different gallery owners and curators. The meetings are first and foremost introductory; they are chances for me to build personal relationships with these people of interest and help me research and learn more about the art industry in China. So far I have been able to build relationships with some prominent Art managers here in Beijing and have even begun discussions about a partnership with one such gallery. If things continue to go in the same direction, I may come back to Canada representing quite a few Chinese artists, at which point I will be able to put together exhibitions or gallery shows, or, in the least, sell their works in North America. I think it gives you a brief idea of the direction I am moving my career. For now I am merely researching and building contacts, but we will see where it all goes.

In this month of free time, I have more time to spend with my girlfriend. I guess a lot of you will be particularly interested in this part of my life. I wrote in my last email to you that I had begun dating again. That was back in March, and now it's June. Dating has again turned into another monogamous relationship. Her name is Melody, and she is a professional actress. Mostly her work is in Chinese television soap operas, but she has also done a lot in other genres such as MTV-style programs and commercials. Right now she is touring around China doing a musical. So, in all, I guess I actually do not get to spend too much time with her, but whenever she is in town we try our best to be together. I think I will leave it here. Needless to say when I return to Canada I will be in yet another long-distance relationship, but I have realized I had better get used to this reality as my lifestyle and career demands it.

Other than my company and making contacts in the China Art industry and Melody, I am spending my time packing. Sad… sad… just, so sad… I'm not going to say any more or else I will make myself more upset.


As the central director and coordinator for the Australian Business Conference it was an excruciating high-intensity week, but it was completely worth it and I was definitely in my element. That conference helped me realize just how happy I am managing events and public speaking. Those are things that I do really well and very naturally; I feel empowered when I am in those roles. It has been several years since I have done an event like that and I had almost forgotten how it felt. It all came back to me and was such a refreshing feeling. Management is a wonderful experience, and I am happy to be in that role. However, what you manage is just as important.

My experiences here in China have reaffirmed that finding the right industry that fuels your soul is of utmost importance. If you do not have a passion for the industry you're in, you cannot optimize your effectiveness. You are just able to go the extra mile when you are genuinely impassioned and have a vested interest in seeing the results; interests that go beyond money and a paycheck.

While being a manager at Executive Communications, a company in the education industry, I learned an immeasurable amount about daily business practices and what it takes to be a successful project manager (and I'm not done learning yet). However, while the education industry is extremely important and I believe in it, it just is not my passion. In everything that I have done in the past few months, the conference was the most exciting and fulfilling that that I accomplished. While the conference was educational in nature, my role in it was really on the event-management side of things, and not on the conference content itself. It dawned on my yet again that the next industry I pick had better to be one that I truly have a passion for.

I think it is appropriate to inform you (if you do not already know) that I am returning to Canada to begin my MBA studies in September. I have decided to return to the Schulich School of Business for several reasons; 1) I will be able to finish my studies in 8 months, versus 2 full years 2) because of this, I will cut my tuition fees in less than half 3) because it is in Toronto, I will cut my living expenses down to a minimal 4) Schulich continues to rise in the MBA rankings is now comprehensively the 1# B-school in Canada and 5) it is the only school in Canada that offers a MBA specialization in Arts and Media Management. Therefore, because of all these reasons, I have decided to return to Toronto and will be staying there for no less than 8 months while I complete my MBA.

The fifth reason really came out after I decided to only choose an industry I was passionate about. Up until that point I was still considering working through my MBA in order to explore careers in strategic consulting or innovation management. While these two industries are interesting and I am sure I will have an opportunity to participate in them in the future, they still pose too many variables and leave a question mark when it comes to my passion. It is inevitable that one day I had to return to my roots and appease the artist within me. I also think it was certainly God's will for me to be placed here in Beijing, the epicenter of China Art and Thought. Being here has only reinforced and grown my thirst for a career in the arts.

This realization to go back into the arts industry came right after the Australian Conference in early May and coincided with my acceptance of Schulich's acceptance of my application into the MBA program. As I spent time thinking about my future career, my future MBA studies and my desire to really choose the right career that fit me, I began looking through Schulich's course syllabuses. I went through every curriculum and started to make a shortlist of all the courses that interested me, completely disregarding what industry or specialization it belonged to. To my surprise the majority of my choices clustered around two main specializations, 1) Arts and Media Management, and 2) Strategic Management. I checked my graduation requirements and realized I was capable of completing my MBA with a double specialization in both.

Once I saw what direction my MBA was taking, and began to think about what that meant for my future career, it all suddenly began to make sense and I began to feel really excited and really at peace with my decision. I knew it was the right one for me. I feel exactly the same as I did when I decided to go into International Business for my undergraduate. I know it is the right decision, and it has been my sunrise every morning I wake up.

Since this realization, I have been actively making opportunities for my future career with the time I have left here in China. That is why you see me making so much effort making contacts with Chinese gallery owners and art suppliers. These contacts I will bring back with me to Canada, where I hope to use them in my MBA studies as I create opportunities for myself in the Chinese Art industry.

Truth be told, I have not yet fully decided which of the three art fields I will go into. All three major routes pose so much interest for me; from Fine Arts, to Music, to Theatre, I love them all and will need the following year to really see which of the three I will go into first. I do intend to get involved with all three fields if I can, but one at a time. For me the easiest to enter is the Fine Arts industry, just because I have so much extensive experience in it and I now have some connections in the Chinese Contemporary Art world.

The Australian conference helped me realize that my forte lies in event management. And the arts industries, be it Fine Art, Music or Theatre all require truly talented leaders who have refined skills in event management.

So, as you can tell, I'm pretty excited about this new direction. I haven't even begun to go into detail about exactly my ideas and thoughts on all of this, but, that will have to wait until I see each of you in person to discuss it. Exciting things are happening in Toronto. We have a group of artists and musicians who are waiting for my return to start a new dialogue on the Toronto art and music scene and explore new ways to push the envelope and find new direction for our art forms. All very very exciting stuff!

If some of you recall, last update I wrote a number of pages on what I thought about China's culture and its calling for global leadership. I concluded by discussing my hopes to contribute to Chinese society and culture-creation in a positive manner. I feel that this whole Arts Management business will be an appropriate avenue for me to do just that.


I think I handsomely summed up my living related issues in "My Free Time" section, as living is all I am doing now.

The only thing that I will add in this section is how I'm feeling during these last few days here in China.

I'm half excited, half unsettled, half depressed. That makes one and a half, but that's because at any given moment I'm a combination of any two of the three. Excited because I get to see all my old friends and family, and excited about starting school and getting a bit of the Toronto sun. Unsettled because I have changed almost in entirety and am not really sure whether or not everyone will be able to adjust to who I am now. Depressed because I love China so much, and I have a life here. I can't believe that I am leaving so soon, and I can't believe its already been two years.

I have been talking to a lot of people in particular about feeling unsettled about coming back to Toronto. I am even afraid to call it my home now, because I don't know what my home consists of. Many people are saying I am overreacting, or thinking too much into things, which I probably am, but these feelings will only resolve themselves after I come back to Toronto and have some time to readjust. I know there is a whole lot of reverse-culture-shock waiting for me back in Canada. A lot of my worries just come from the preparation for all the change that will happen in the next couple of weeks.

So living here in China consists of spending quality time with friends, employees and contacts, as well as spending time by myself and enjoying where I am in life. I know I will be equally happy when I am back in Toronto, because I will be among friends and loved ones. It will just be… different.


Looking forward, I fly out of Beijing on June 30th. I land in Toronto around 2:30pm on June 30th. I will go home and rest and spend some time with my family. Early the next morning I pack up and go with a couple friends up to Montreal, where another group of friends will be waiting for us. I will spend July 1st to July 5th in Montreal enjoying the hospitality of the city and listening to the wonderful sounds from the Montreal International Jazz Festival. From there I will return back to Toronto in time for a Schulich School of Business BBQ on the 6th.

I am in the middle of planning a quasi-homecoming party that should take place either on the weekend of July 8-9 or the weekend after, July 15-16. I will inform everyone when the plans and venue firm up. I should be in Toronto for the remainder of July as I have a few friends coming up to visit, and make that time to catch up individually with each and every one of you!

In the beginning of August I will be taking a trip to New York and then to Chicago, again visiting friends that I have met along the way in the past few years. I will play host to them up in Toronto in the middle of August. Through the end of August I should be between Toronto and New York, with a short family outing somewhere in between. By the end of August I will prepare and begin my MBA studies, and thus starts my life as a full-time student again.

Throughout the summer and into the remainder of the year I will be spending time contacting different people in the art communities both in Toronto and New York to research and generate interest in the art and artists I will bring from China. I have no idea where this will all go, but hopefully somewhere fascinating.

Finally, when my company is ready I will begin marketing and promoting the company's services in Toronto and the rest of North America to start building a cash flow for that business.

It may sound like I'm extremely busy this summer, but rest assured, I will make all the time for each and every one of you to catch up. I truly look forward to seeing all of you and getting updates on what you have been doing, how your lives have progressed, how your characters have changed, and what values are important to you now. I am sure we will have a multitude of things to talk about and a variety of experiences to share with each other.

I will see you all very soon. Thank you for taking the time and following me on this journey as I have lived in Asia the past two years. I am not too sure whether I will continue my update emails in the coming year, but we will see. Thank you all for being such an important part of my life.

With gratitude and love,


POST SCRIPT.... To My Brothers and Sisters

I'm going to leave this short as I figure most of you who are reading this part will probably want to talk about this stuff in person in detail when I come back.

To sum up, a lot of me being unsettled about coming home has a lot to do with spiritual matters and the feeling that I don't really have a spiritual home in Toronto. I know I have many brothers and sisters supporting me and praying for me, but, I also know how much I've changed in the past couple years, not just mentally and emotionally, but especially spiritually. I do not know whether people back home will be able to fully adjust to who I am now.

Being in China has really given me a variety of experiences that have ultimately affected my faith, influenced it, and pushed it in different directions. There are a lot of spiritual norms that were formed back in Toronto that have been challenged here in China, and I have had to deal with them and grow to comes to terms with how a Christian faith can really encompass such variety. When I say variety I do not mean just style, but also definitions and the alleged codification of certain spiritual standards or models.

Pushing my own spiritual envelope in this manner, I am therefore apprehensive about returning to Toronto and engaging the spiritual culture there. I feel so distant from the language and mentalities that dominate North American Christian faithdom; I am afraid the friction of integrating back into that society will just be too difficult and painful. There are going to be a lot of differing opinions, and I know there will be people who will not be able to cope with the differences and define them as heresy or some other challenge to their version of the Christian faith.

I know I am being overly pessimistic and do not give enough credit to the flexibility of people, let alone God's love and grace that covers all differences between His children. However, the line between Christ-inspired doctrine and doctrine attributed to societal culture is really blurred, and my experiences here in China have just reaffirmed how grey this area is.

In the end I know God's love covers all, but, I am just unsure whether everyone (including myself) will be able to draw on that divine love in all the circumstances that life brings forward.

I will be looking for a new Church to participate in when I return to Toronto, please pray that God will bring me to the right place with the right people to help support me through this stage in my walk. China being the spiritual environment as it is, some serious spiritual intimacy back home may be a welcome change. In His providence…

OK, I will stop here; I look forward to sitting down with each of you and open up my heart, mind, and soul! There is nothing more important in life than the nourishment of one another's souls. I look forward to the feast that awaits.

In Him,


Update from China March 2006

Dear Friends! I really tried to make this update shorter this time, but alas to no avail. Please take your time and read straight through, or skip to the chapters most relevant to you. Thank you in advance, and enjoy!

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--> -->POST SCRIPT.... To My Brothers and Sisters

Greetings friends and family! It's Kevin! It's been a long time since I've last written you an update letter. By my calculations, it's been about nine months!

A lot has happened since that time, but I will not include everything. I'll touch on the important things which should adequately catch you up with what I've been up to.


Through the later part of last year, I moved completely out of teaching and into full-time management at the company I work for, Executive Communications. My title is still Overseas Program Manager, but my projects have changed.

I successfully completed the creation of the China Immersion Program as well as the China Immersion Program's Student Edition. These are both programs that enable foreigners to come to China to learn Mandarin and immerse themselves in Chinese culture. If you are interested, you can visit the website and learn more about these programs. Click on the "Student Program" link on the home page to go to the special Student Edition website.

I digress. I am now heading up several new projects which are much more intense and very exciting. My major work now involves managing a new initiative to create an online language school. This was originally a proposal I pitched to the CEO of our company and the other managing directors. After several months of deliberation, they agreed and decided to go ahead with my proposal and put me in charge of the project. I now have several teams under my supervision, an IT development team, a marketing team, and a content creation team. If all goes according to plan, before long you will be able to learn Mandarin online via web-phone and web-cam with a live Mandarin teacher in a virtual classroom!

I'm learning a lot about outsourcing and the international IT community. I'm also learning a lot about budgeting, project scheduling, team-building and cross-functional managing. In addition, staying innovative with fresh business strategies for both the company I work for and my own company is an exciting endeavour.

Because of our rapid expansion, we have opened a new office just for the new Online School initiative. Let me tell you, opening a new office complete with furniture and equipment and proper ventilation is not an easy task! But its all done now and we are functioning wonderfully.

Aside from the major IT project, I am also coordinating a business conference for a group of Australian CEOs and executives who will be taking a tour of China's major business centers. This conference is through Executive Communications and we are partnering with the University of New South Wales. The conference is focused on educating the participants on a multitude of aspects about doing business in China: entry strategies, political/economic climate, negotiating and relationship-building issues, to name a few. The conference is a week-long event with two key-note speakers per day and a good variety of banquets, sight-seeing, and networking mixers. The opening ceremonies commence the second week of May, right after the May 1st labour-day holidays.

So that is about it for work! I have also been redeveloping the company's websites, so far six in all. I am really relieved to say that they are scheduled to be completed and launched within the month. Really my days go by very quickly. Once I step into the office it feels like five minutes have gone by and the day is already done! I know things are just going to continue like this, and within a heartbeat it will be the summer, the end of my term at Executive Communications.


Where do I start? I took a nice little extended vacation from the middle of December all the way through to the Middle of February. Cool huh? About two months off, but it wasn't really time off, I was so busy during those two months that in the end I needed a vacation from my vacation.

I left Beijing in December and flew to Hong Kong to spend my Christmas, New Years and Chinese New Year holidays. Christmas was spent reflectively with a couple friends and a couple phone calls back home to my family and friends. The two weeks leading up to New Years was full-blown partying. I had so much pent-up energy and dance-floor-drive built up from Beijing, it was a real relief to let loose in Hong Kong. Even though Beijing is an amazing place culturally and intellectually, sometimes nothing is better than a pumpin' club with some sick beats. Beijing still needs a really fresh, consistent club; or maybe it's just that I need more dance-competent friends who are ready to party it up. Needless to say, I was able to have a good time in Hong Kong with some of my best friends, and the party just got better as more of my friends made their way to Hong Kong for our planned reunion.

This New Years reunion in Hong Kong was for the group of friends I made during my stay in Hong Kong in the Spring of 2003. This year we thought we would go back to the place where it all started. Now that everyone is sprinkled around the globe, it was really special for each person to make the trek out to Hong Kong. We did all the classic things there is to do in Hong Kong: Nightly HK Diners, walking through the old neighbourhood and campus, eating at our favourite dim sum places and of course, Mongkok shopping (if you don't know what any of these things are, don't worry, you can ask me later).

Seems like all fun and games doesn't it? Well I was doing a lot more during those few weeks. First off, it wasn't completely a holiday as I was having a lot of meetings at my company's Hong Kong headquarters. A lot of time was spent in planning and strategy meetings with the CEO and the managing directors of Executive Communications. I also was able to do a little consulting work for the Hong Kong office as they were in need of some fresh perspectives about business strategies for the Hong Kong market.

More importantly, during those few weeks with Christmas, New Years, my reunion and work, I was studying for my GMAT examination. For those who do not know, the GMAT examination is a mandatory entrance aptitude test for anyone wanting to pursue their MBA. I started studying in Beijing back in December, but really began to focus on my preparation when I arrived in Hong Kong. It was really hard to juggle GMAT preparations with spending time with my friends. One full GMAT practice test usually took about five hours, so it really cut into my time I had with my friends and my work obligations. Luckily I managed. I did my examination in Hong Kong four days after New Years. My results were alright, better than I had expected, but worse than I had hoped for. Nevertheless it gave me a fighting chance into the schools I wanted to get into. More to come later about my MBA plans.

When the majority of my friends left after the reunion, I stayed on in Hong Kong because my mother came to visit. My mother stayed in Asia with me for about three weeks, and it was a really enjoyable time with her and another family friend. Her visit was originally three-fold, 1) to see me 2) to help me move back to Canada as I was scheduled to leave around January and 3) to help me get my Hong Kong Identity Card. Since my plans changed and I did not move back to Canada in January, she just came to visit me and help me with the HKID application process. In between processing times, we took a trip back up to Beijing for a week where she was able to see how I was living, my lifestyle, my work, and my friends. Spending time with my mother was really a blessed experience. I was able to see how much she had grown and how our relationship had progressed and deepened while I have been away.

My mother stayed until just after Chinese New Year. We had a lovely time walking through her old neighbourhood in Hong Kong. It's kind of funny because her old house is now a brand new parking lot. It was special to walk through my mother's childhood memories. I even saw my grandmother's old high school. It was a truly unique experience, helping me understand my parents better. Jogging through her memories helped me learn more about my parents' pasts and provided an opportunity for my mother to share with me new stories about their youth that I had never heard before.

After Chinese New Years I returned back to Beijing to recuperate from two months of living off of other people's good graces (I moved around Hong Kong staying with different friends). My free time in Beijing since then has been filled with a variety of different events. From January through to early March, the majority of my free time was spent writing Business School applications. I applied to six B-schools in all, four in America and two in Canada. Each school required an average of five essays, plus a fully completed application. In total I wrote over thirty essays. February's free time was spent as such; everyday after work I would come home and write at least one essay question, with weekends spent completing the applications and sending them out to their respective schools. Come early March, I finished all my applications and had a great celebration to treat myself for a job well done.

In the first weekend of March I took a trip to Shanghai, Shenzhen and Hong Kong. Shanghai was spent visiting some of my best friends who had just returned to China from Canada. My trip this time to Shanghai was different from my previous times in that city because we spent all of our time in the suburbs of Shanghai instead of the tourist-packed Bund. It was quite refreshing to see the type of expat lifestyle my friends were living in Shanghai, with marked points of difference from mine in Beijing. It gave me an idea of the type of life I would be leading if I decide to relocate to Shanghai in the future. The couple of days were well spent catching up with my friends and celebrating, Shanghai-style.

Shenzhen was merely transit to Hong Kong. However, it was good to see how far Shenzhen had developed from the last time I was there in 2003. It is wonderful to see that China is developing across the board, not just in the first-tier cities. My only regret about Shenzhen is that I was not able to visit some of the places I had frequented before; namely the infamous DVD/fake goods/custom-tailor markets we know and love.

I returned to Hong Kong only a month after my last visit because I had to pick up my Hong Kong ID. That's right, I am now legally allowed to live and work in Hong Kong with no questions asked. I can also walk in and out of Hong Kong without having to show or stamp my Canadian passport, which is a sorely needed benefit. My trip to Hong Kong also allowed me to have some critical business meetings, so it all worked out perfectly.

My free time since that trip, with the absence of any more applications and essays, has been to relax and enjoy the warming weather of Beijing. I've started my golf season already, and have had more chances to spend time with some close friends. This also explains why you are now receiving an update letter from me! I have been so excited to sit down with my coffee and my laptop and type this out to you!

In the future, my free time will be refocused on preparing my Web design company for my departure from China. There are certain organizational issues that have to be put into action so that this business can be sustained with my extended absence. I will also be taking more business trips to Shanghai and perhaps Hong Kong if they are needed. I do hope that I will have a chance to go to other places in China (but none outside of China because I have no more room in my passport for stamps); however looking at my schedule I doubt I will have too much more free time for traveling. Regardless, with my change in projects, my schedule is more regulated and I have more free time. I hope to use every minute I have to the fullest.


As always I am looking forward, and so my thoughts have been dwelling on my decisions to stay in China, to pursue my MBA, and my life afterwards.

Extending my stay in China was a simple decision that grew out of several circumstances that developed last year. 1) the offer from my company to stay on to head up this new Online project 2) the MBA requirement that applicants needed two years of full-time employment experience and 3) What would I do in Canada if I came back so early??!!

Actually, I originally planned to come back to Canada earlier because I wanted to spend more time with Carmen, since we had been apart for such a long time. However, as some of you already know, Carmen and I separated last September. If this is your first time hearing about this, no need to get weepy-eyed or sentimental. Carmen is a wonderful person and I do not regret one day of our relationship. The relationship helped me become the man I am today and will continue to influence me as I continue to mature. I am fine now. I was very honest with my emotions and took the time needed to ensure I was healing well. Needless to say, as my relationship with Carmen was a pivotal factor for my returning to Canada earlier, by January there was no longer a strong incentive to return.

Confirming my desire to pursue my MBA came last fall. I feel since I now have almost two years of full-time work experience, with most of that being management experience, I have a clearer idea what additional knowledge I need to learn. In fact, a major driving factor for my continued studies is comes from my experiences as an entrepreneur. In order to be a successful entrepreneur, I must have comprehensive knowledge on many aspects of the business. Even though I am versed in international business, strategy, finance and marketing, I feel that my accounting, logistical and legal knowledge is insufficient for me to be the best business person I can be. That is why my goal when going back to school is to generalize as much as possible. Learning about a myriad of subjects I never studied in my undergrad, and forcing myself to study the courses I detested before will better equip me for the future.

My most recent dilemma has been what b-school to choose. While I am still waiting for responses from most of the schools, the general choice comes down to Canada vs. US schools. In Canadian schools (Toronto B-schools) I get to study for 1/10th the cost it would take me to study in the States, I would finish my MBA in 8 months versus 2 years, and I would be able to live at home and spend precious time deepening relationships with my family and friends. In the US schools I would study in one of the top B-schools in the world, gain more unique international experience, make connections with elite classmates, and perhaps secure an even brighter career prospect. I have been deliberating between these two options for the past month, and at this point, I have a very strong conviction, even if I got into some of the US schools, to come back and study in Canada. I think looking at the most important aspects in life (Spiritual, Emotional/Relationship and Financial) the Toronto schools are the smartest option. I would welcome any comments or opinions anyone has about this issue. I am always looking for more insight, especially from those who either have an MBA or have experience with the business world.

One more thing; being in Toronto means I get to drive! Man, do I miss driving… I miss my car. Jazz filling the cabin, one hand on the wheel and one arm gently resting on the adjacent headrest, cruising through the city streets at night with only the light of the street lamps slipping by… ahhhh…

I have begun looking at courses offered by some of the schools, and have already made a short-list of subjects that I want to take. I was like a kid in a candy shop! I am so excited about all the applicable subjects I can learn going back to school! My passion for business has continued to grow, and now I have a much more focused and driven purpose to my learning.

I find that I really do spend much of my time thinking about the future, but I guess that is only natural for someone my age at this stage in life? I am starting to hear of friends back in Canada who are getting engaged, buying their first homes, or having babies! Being someone who is concerned about the future, I wonder when that stuff is going to happen to me. Looking at the direction my life is headed right now, I don't know whether I will eventually have to choose between a transient life in Asia and a settled life in North America, or whether I will be able to find a career that neatly incorporates both lifestyles together. My heart is somewhat torn; half of me is in love with Asia, its energy, adventure and innovation, while the other half wants desperately to cultivate life-long relationships which only a consistent, settled life can afford. We will have to see what will transpire won't we? Please help me put it into prayer.

Changing tunes, many people are specifically interested in my perspectives about Asia and what I have learned from my experiences out here. It's funny because some of my accountability partners expect me to have some new exciting story or lesson to share every time we connect. It's hard to always have new material, because I speak to some of my friends every week! But since this update to the rest of you has been such a long time coming, I'm not going to disappoint.

I have spent much time writing MBA applications in the last few months, and the exercise has given me ample time to dwell on the condition of the Asian experience and my role in its development. Personally I feel like China today mirrors what America was at the turn of the last century; a place full of opportunities where anyone with a great idea, a lucky combination of connections and financing, and most importantly courage, can become a success. Everyone can see the powerful growth of China's economy, military and political positions in the global arena. However, China's rise to power has a stark difference from America's a hundred years earlier.

Once scorned by the British as a land of uncultured, undisciplined outlaws, America quickly produced a life philosophy and a national culture undeniably attractive to all. As a student of history, I have concluded that the crown which defines a true super-power, an empire that inspires the ages, is Culture. Military, Economic, and Political might are essential building blocks for a civilization, but what sets any empire apart in the annals of history is its culture and the way it inspires the rest of the world. Think of the Roman, the French, the English and the American empires. What did each of them have in common? What made them stand out from the Babylonian, Egyptian, Mongol, Ottoman, Nazi and Soviet empires? It was their inviting, intoxicating culture. All of these empires had economic, military and political might. Yet it is the culture each civilization breeds that defines its status in history. Where is China today? As I stated before, China is where America was in the late 1800's (the Wild West). But where are the Benjamin Franklins? The Thomas Jeffersons? The Abraham Lincolns? The Davey Crocketts? Just as importantly, will China produce its Louis Armstrongs? Its Elvis Presleys? Its Jackson Pollacks? Its Miles Davises? Its "Leave it to Beaver"s?

Will China grow to inspire nations, or will it stunt its preeminence because it fails to influence and lead by trust and acceptance? Sadly China is caught in a "catch up" mindset and is hurting itself by importing its values from a declining civilization whose ideals are severely corrupted. Instead China should venture into creating its own distinct philosophy and define its culture and identity to position itself for future international leadership. China isn't there yet. It will get there though. It will have to choose how it wants to be perceived by the global community. It has to decide whether it wants to accept full responsibility for leadership. It will only hold on to leadership if it can affect the individual. Economics, politics and military might are too macro. Will people one day say "Oh I wish I could be a Chinese citizen" as they once said for the Roman, French, English and American empires? China has a second chance at global leadership. I am excited to see whether this time around they will get it right.

This is where I plan to make my contribution. To the development of China's new identity and culture. My preoccupation with China stems from the dream that I may have a hand in helping grow and influence a Chinese Benjamin Franklin, Pablo Picasso, or Jane Austin. I plan to have a career developing Asian innovation and establishing a business that facilitates in China's new identity and culture; a culture that the world will be motivated to follow and imitate. While studying my MBA and upon graduation, I will be looking for opportunities to participate in a company that will give me an avenue to contribute to this purpose.


Too much thinking and dreaming right? What else do you think I do here in China when I am by myself? People always ask me how I feel I have grown or changed. I've noticed quite evidently that I am a lot quieter than I used to be. I still haven't fully explained this change, but I surmise it is because I have grown accustomed to the solitude in which I find myself. I think I feel a lot more comfortable with being alone. I also find that not everything needs to have a response. In a country where the majority of people have differing ideas than mine, with opinions that normally clash with mine, I have grown accustomed to keeping my mouth shut, and letting them keep their opinions, while I keep mine. I guess I have grown weary of the argument or just the converse of differing opinions. This is not to say that when someone asks for my opinion I will decline, but I will no longer actively look to hash out every single issue that is presented before me, even if the ideas differ from mine. If I were to do so, I would end up spending every hour of the day in debate and would still make no difference in people's lives. I am finding that people nowadays talk way too much, and do too little. I do not know whether this change in me is good or bad, but all I know is that I prefer to listen much more now, and only say what is necessary, if it has a purpose.

This issue also relates to another observation I have. I am finding a widening discrepancy between the people I find interesting and of value, and those who I feel waste my time, and waste their own time. Maybe to some of you this statement feels a little bigoted; maybe some of you feel this is a natural step in a person's maturing process. I don't know. All I know is whether new or old friends, I am finding it harder to relate to everybody, and finding there is less to talk about.

Pretty depressing huh? I'm just reporting to you what I observe. This issue might be more pronounced in China. In China you will meet one of two kinds of foreigners: 1) those that come to China with a preset purpose or reason and 2) those that come to China with no purpose or reason, perhaps running away from something. Naturally the number of people who fall into the first category are dwarfed by those who fall into the second. Many people who claim they are in China to "learn about the culture" or "get some international experience" do nothing more than squander their time and money by living an expatriate life and feeling they are more important than the local Chinese. Many do not make an effort to learn the language or the culture. Many do not try to make local Chinese friends, and always spend their time with other foreigners in expat hangouts criticizing and evaluating China based on their limited experience with limited perspectives. Many are mortified by "real life" after college in North America, and feel that coming to China will instantly and magically prepare them for what awaits them back home. Even more tragically, many who have not yet found themselves feel that China will help them find their identity and purpose in life.

Truthfully, China has so many things going on, offers so many distractions, temptations, and new experiences, anyone who does not first have a purpose will quickly be swept away in one direction or another. It takes a strong will and a determined mindset to stay the course in China. Too many opportunities abound, and those who think that China will help them focus or help them find themselves are severely mistaken. China will instead push you to lose yourself if you are not prepared. This is probably one reason why I find so many people a waste of time, because they are being swept along without taking the reigns of control for their own life. I have little in common with these people and find I have less to say. My contributions to their debates and discussions make little difference because they speak merely to talk, not to make an impact on their own lives or the lives of others.

Alright, enough with the depressing skepticism; I will change tones. This section is supposed to be about how I'm living. I try to live a routine life as best I can. I go out when I have to, and stay home when I can. As a full-time manager my schedule is more regulated and I can afford more time for myself. This has benefited with increased time spent at the gym, and time spent on weekends doing things I enjoy, such as coffee shops, golfing, and keeping up with the latest in the art and music scenes of Beijing.

China always ends up making your life interesting, even if you try to make it dull. This past January I was showcased again on BBC radio as discussion panelist about my views of China's social and cultural development in the coming five years. In addition this past month, a short program aired on Beijing Television about my life in Beijing. The program chronicles foreigners and their lives in Beijing. I had a camera crew follow me around for two days filming everything I did. It was an interesting experience, but a little bit embarrassing having people staring at me wondering why I was being filmed.

Next week I will be traveling to Shanghai for a couple business negotiations, and while there, my fellow managers and I will be going to the Rolling Stones concert. A concert for only 8000, this is the Rolling Stone's first concert in China and smallest concert in decades. What is more exciting, my friends and I are invited to the Stone's pre-party! The tickets and the invitation were a result of some connections we have. Sometimes I am reminded that being a foreigner in China really does offer a special experience that few can enjoy in North America.

To wrap up my "Living" section, I wanted to add that I have started dating again. It's a very unique experience to say the least, dating in China. I am again learning a lot about women, and the vast variety of different women there are in the world. It is quite refreshing to see the distinctions between Chinese and foreign women, their attitudes, philosophies and expectations towards life. I myself am challenged to rethink my expectations towards women, and my expectations for what kind of woman I would like to settle down with. Dating is helping me reevaluate what attributes in a woman I feel are essential and unessential. All in all its great fun, and I rather enjoy the process.


Well! The time has come to conclude this update! For those of you who have made it this far, kudos to you! I am happy to inform everyone that I have already been accepted to at least one MBA program starting this fall, so most definitely I will be returning to North America for at least one year. That being said, I would like to inform you that I will be flying back to Canada on June 30th! My aim when I return to Canada for the months of July and August is to relax as much as I can, and do a little bit of traveling. Once I land on June 30th, I will immediately be traveling to Montreal for the International Jazz Festival. I have gone every year for the past five years. I missed it last year, and regret it viciously. I will be in Montreal until the end of the festival on July 9th, at which time I will return to Toronto. Those who are interested in joining me in Montreal please let me know as soon as possible so that I can plan accordingly. In addition to Montreal, I will be making trips to New York, Chicago, and some of the states down South to visit friends during the two summer months.

As I count it, I now have less than 100 days left in China before returning. I will try to write one more update before I return, but no promises. I know as the departure date nears, my spare time will be extremely limited. For those who plan on visiting me in Beijing before I leave, please notify me soon so I can schedule free time for you. I haven't even left China yet, and I'm already missing it.

I am looking forward to seeing everyone when I return! For many of you, it will have been two years since the last time we met. I will say plainly and honestly, I miss each and every one of you. There may be some type of get-together in July, so be on the look out!

Thank you for spending the time to read my update letter. It really means the world to me that you value our relationship so passionately. It has been my pleasure to share my life with you, and in turn I hope you will continue to share your life with me. Let's continue to deepen our friendship wait for the day when we can see each other again face to face. You are all important to me, thank you for your support.


POST SCRIPT// To my Brothers and Sisters

The following is written for those who are interested in my spiritual wellbeing and the spiritual wellbeing of China.

To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, greetings to you all! Thank you for taking the time to read my update and more importantly for including me in your thoughts and prayers. I will try to keep this section as succinct as possible and only reiterate on the points that require mentioning.

In terms of new developments, there has been little. Things are more or less consistent; Church every week, devotions every day. God has been asking me to focus on consistency more than anything else. It has been a great challenge, especially since I have been traveling so much in recent months. The months spent in Hong Kong were very difficult spiritually because consistency was thrown out the window. Back in Beijing, things are more settled and I have more opportunity to keep my time with God consistent.

Last September I felt called to begin serving again. It has been several years since I've served in a Christian institution. Serving in fellowships and accountability groups are wonderful, but there is still something to be gained from active service in a church. I auditioned for a spot on the Beijing International Christian Fellowship's inspiration team (musical worship) as a male vocalist. God blessed me with the opportunity to serve with them, and I have had the privilege to contribute musically to the inspiration team several times in the past few months. Serving has allowed me to meet new people and make new friends at church. The BICF is a multi-faceted, multi-disciplinary melting pot, bringing together people of all ethnic, educational, linguistic, and economic backgrounds together into common service. I am already regretting not taking active participation earlier in this church. The way God uses diversity to his glory is something only accomplished through will.

Since January, I have also been trying to get into a small group or serve in other ministries (counseling, mentoring, evangelical), but initiatives have not worked out and I am still unable to find a match for what I am looking for and my schedule. As I have three months left, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find avenues of participation, as many would best be served long-term. I am determined when I come back to Canada that I will find a good church to attend and quickly begin serving. Even if it is only for one year, I have learned that God does not ask you to serve only when you are settled in. It is wrong for me to excuse myself from service just because I might be leaving in a few months or a year. God requires us to continually affect and love those around us. He is the one that blesses us with the opportunity to leave and enter new environments, but not at the expense of service to others.

I have made a very good friend here in Beijing. We meet every Sunday after service and have lunch together and share our lives. We are accountable to each other and share our failures, weaknesses, temptations, victories and revelations. He has become very important to me and has been my anchor and my outlet here in Beijing. Even though I did not join a small group, God has given me what He feels I need: one honest, transparent brother.

In my devotions, in my discussions with my accountability brother, in the Sunday sermons, and in the books I read, God has continuously been pushing me to look inwards. He has thrown down an explicit challenge for me to expose the deepest flaws in my character. He is making me see the fundamental parts of my life that I refuse to give to Him. He is also making me understand that there is too much of my integrity that I have compromised. Too often I rationalize under the ideals of "acceptance" and "tolerance" and sabotage the integrity that God has placed under my duty to guard. He has made it clear that there is no amount of influence or change in circumstance that will win this victory for me. I must claim this victory by myself, overcome my fears, draw on God's strength, and place my faith in Him. If I do not claim victory once and for all, my flaws will remain with me wherever I go. I will destroy the plans God has for my life because these flaws will corrupt my actions and decisions. As I take on more responsibility and influence more people, this purging of my character will determine whether I lead everyone I affect into ruin or victory. God is challenging me to purge my integrity, and voraciously defend without compromise the unwavering principles Jesus set forward. I can see the challenge now. I am struggling with the execution. It is so hard to tear apart my fears, and plunge into uncharted waters only supported by faith. Often I feel my faith is not strong enough, often I feel it is just too hard to take the narrow road, to walk through the eye of that proverbial needle.

God's challenge for me is one of purification; a refinement of my heart so I can present it to Him as unblemished gold, washed only by the blood of Jesus.

Looking forward, I have shared with some of you the heavy burden God has placed on my heart for returning home. The defining reason why I will likely decide to pursue an MBA in Toronto is because of this ministry God has given to me. In the past two years, I have at times literally cried for my friends. God loves them so much, and my heart yearns to reconnect with many of them. I feel God has blessed me too abundantly the past few years with a unique experience and a different outlook on life. I really feel God's calling to share what I have learned with others. It is un-Christ-like to accumulate blessings, knowledge and gifts from God and refuse to share them. There are many in Toronto I know who are in need of encouragement, motivation and inspiration. There are others God has placed in my heart to mentor and tutor. There are those God needs me to love and forgive. And, there are still others from whom I need to be forgiven. This past year God has really given me clear and specific visions of who to reach out to, and how. I am really excited to go back and put God's plans into action. I do not know the results, and it is not my place to know. All I know is what God wants me to do, and He will take care of the rest.

In this issue He has challenged me to be as transparent as I can possibly be. While I might be scared that others will see my weaknesses and lose respect for me, it is necessary in order for me to serve in God's ministry. I must humble myself and serve with an honest heart. Most importantly, God wants me to show how imperfect I am to those I reach out to. That is God's challenge to me. If there are any preconceptions about me, if I have some sort of reputation in front of a group of people, I must break them all and help people see that I am only a sinner; a sinner of the worst kind. If you ask me, it's pretty scary, and it is pushing my faith in a new direction I've never gone before. Pray for me and the vision God has placed in front of me.

China has allowed me to be victorious in many different areas, while it has also allowed me to utterly fail in others. God has used the time here for His glory, and He will continue to be glorified in my life.

I know the preceding few paragraphs may be a little ambiguous for many of you, and I apologize, it's the only way I know how to express what is going on inside me. God and I are in the midst of a challenge and an internal decision-making process that will affect how I conduct myself from now on, and reinforce my integrity.

Thank you for taking the time to read these words, thank you for your love and your continued acceptance. I know God is blessing each and every one of you in immeasurable ways, and I look forward to hearing about them!

Grace from above, blessings to you all.


Update from China June 14 2005

WARNING: Long, Long, Long. Please go to the washroom before attempting to read this. The Table of Contents is unchained to maintain continuity.
7) POST SCRIPT\\ To My Brothers and Sisters


I am almost afraid to begin writing this update, because it has been 4 months since my last update. By my calculations, for a four month span, this update should be about twenty pages long, but I will really try my best to keep it closer to ten. Really, I’m going to try, I promise.

I actually got some emails from people asking me where my next update was, it is really encouraging and heartwarming to know that people look forward to hearing about my life, thank you!


I’m going to keep this as short as possible, but this will probably end up being the longest part of the update. The only reason why it’s been four months since my last update is because of WORK. I will quickly give you a synopsis of my work status, and you can choose which sections you want to read. I currently am working four jobs: 1) Overseas Program Manager at Executive Communications 2) Lecturer at Peking University 3) Founder and owner of a web design company 4) Co-founder and partner of Artisans de la Chine, a company selling antique and modern Chinese furniture.

1) Executive Communications. I got promoted! You may recall last update I mentioned I got a job at this company as a language instructor, and then as a consultant. Well that all changed pretty quickly. The company quickly recognized the other skills I had to offer, and they invited me to help grow the business. Executive Communications hoped to expand its reach to the rest of the world, recognizing that learning Mandarin is becoming more popular with more people coming to China each year to learn. They charged me with developing an overseas marketing program, in which I would be responsible for procuring overseas students and clients to come to China and learn Mandarin. Thus was born Executive Mandarin’s China Immersion Program, an immersion program custom-built for each client’s personal needs and language goals. This program includes accommodation arrangements, cultural orientation, airport pickup, and excursion planning on top of 1-to-1 Mandarin training classes. The goal of this program is to get you speaking Mandarin in as little time possible, while also showing you the ever-changing face of China. I won’t go any further talking about this, because this isn’t an advertisement! But if you are interested, please go to the website my team and I created, for more details. Needless to say, as the Overseas Program Manager, I continue building relationships with universities and organizations all over the world in the hopes of promoting this new program.

As a result of my success with the China Immersion Program, the owners of Executive Communications offered me the Shanghai branch of the company, inviting me to be the General Manager there. This opportunity would require a three year commitment from me in Shanghai, and I would be handsomely compensated by being made partner in this firm. After deep struggle, I decided to turn down the offer, because three years is a little too long for me to be in one place, and my career aspirations are elsewhere. Nevertheless, it is a huge vote of confidence, and I was honoured to be offered the position.

Although I turned down the Shanghai branch, I had my choice of other projects and responsibilities to take on. The owners of the company were impressed with the website I was able to create for the China Immersion Program, so they asked me to revamp their original websites, which I am currently completing with my web design team.

After the reconstruction of the company websites, I am scheduled to take over a magazine, China Life Magazine. The annual corporate planning meeting took place less than a month ago, and I was invited to make a presentation about my plans for the magazine to the partners of the company. I pitched to the owners an expansion of the magazine beyond a mere information medium. In the presentation I outlined how the online magazine would grow to become also a source for online language-learning materials, and eventually into a new branch of the business, a webcam-based language school. Completed in stages, I gave them a one-year plan on how each of the three stages could be completed. After an intense discussion with some very tough questions, the partners agreed that my entire proposal warranted the investment, and I was given the responsibility to spearhead this new initiative.

So now, I am quickly finishing up the reconstruction and renovation of the company’s websites. While I do this, I am putting together my team in preparation for the China Life Magazine project, and the expansion into an online language school. Coordinating people, building teams and watching as projects miraculously get completed is truly amazing. I have already learned so much about project management and networking, I am excited to see what else I will experience in the up coming projects. In a month’s time, my team and I will be ready to begin working full-time on the China Life Magazine and yet another new expansion of the company. If all goes well, I will be working on this project until 2006.

While working on these projects, I am still teaching here and there to business executives. Doing this is helping me make great contacts and connections to some of the leading business people in China. I teach many executives from Pharmaceutical, Marketing, and Construction companies. In particular, I teach the Editor-in-Chief of Marie Claire Magazine (China), and am in talks to teach the president of Yahoo (China). Opportunities abound my friends.

2) Peking University. Yes, I still work at Peking University’s School of Software, lecturing one class. It is about wrapped up now; I just finished marking the final exams. I kept this job this past term just because I wanted to keep in touch with the students there, who are always a source of inspiration and resource. I have decided not to teach another term, because it is too far, I am too busy with Executive Communications and also running my own businesses.

3) Web Design Company. My time at Peking University gave me more than just friends. I thought for a long time about what kind of opportunities would come out of knowing these students. In the end it was some of my former student who brought up the idea of starting a web design company. As I, at that time, was working on the website for China Immersion, and knew of the other websites in the pipeline, I thought it would be synergetic to start a web design company, help out my friends, and have a team readily available with my other websites.

However the more I thought about it, the more it dawned on me that the potential for this company was quite large. In developing a web design company in China, I will come back to North America and market this company as an outsourcing option for companies in Canada and the US. Paying my design team in Canadian or US dollars would be far better than what they would normally earn at a Chinese firm, and this discrepancy allows me to offer a much lower, competitive price for North American firms.

This company keeps me fairly busy on weekends and on weeknights, as I must coordinate my team make sure they are working as efficiently as possible. We currently have another 4 projects waiting after we complete our client’s website. I must warn however, that probably by the next update, things will have changed, as this company is still very fluid and in its initial stages. A website showcasing our company will not be ready for some time until after we complete all of our present client’s websites.

4) Artisans de la Chine. This company is a lot more complex and a lot larger than my web design company. Since the nature of this business is so competitive and because there are still many trade secrets that must be kept, I can only tell you the big picture of this company. Artisans de la Chine has four major business lines: 1) Antique Chinese Furniture 2) Modern Chinese Interior Design 3) Contemporary Chinese Artwork 4) Textiles (silk & cashmere). The major vision of this company is to create original, vibrant styles blending ancient antiques with modern creations. That’s about all I can tell you right now about that company. It’s pretty big, and the website should be coming up by the end of this month. And guess whose web design company is creating the website for Artisans de la Chine? Haha yup, you guessed it, mine!

The company has three partners tentatively, all Canadian citizens, all living in China, all three different generations, and all three offering different things to the company. I am offering the web design, a younger perspective, my native English skills and my business training. I am also going to be responsible in the future for expanding the business into North America. The other partners offer the financing as well as the China connections for clients as well as suppliers.

Just yesterday, I went to visit one of our suppliers of antique furniture. When I went to their warehouse, it was so big I couldn’t even see the other end of the warehouse. The place was lined wall to wall with antique furniture between 75 to 500 years old. It was mesmerizing.

This business is designed to be very big, very profitable and catered to high-end, high-luxury clientele. I will inform you about the website and also the progress of this business in the next email, or just write and ask me for an update! The showroom should have its grand opening by the end of the summer here in Beijing. This business keeps me busy the rest of my time on the weekends and weeknights, basically eliminating any free time I had to begin with.

So those are the four jobs I am working at right now. I’m sorry if I couldn’t be more specific with some of the more interesting things (like my companies) but they are still in their initial stages. This means that more development is yet to come to solidify position and direction, and it also means that all of my waking moments and thoughts are constantly consumed with how to grow these endeavors. Last update I also mentioned another job, the English Language College. I quit that quite early on after I got promoted at Executive Communications.


Free time?! What free time??!! As you might have guessed from reading my Work section, free time is a luxury I cannot really afford anymore. China is such an amazing place where things happen so fast, free time is something that can be left for later. While in China, use the best use of your opportunities right? In fact, I rather enjoy working on my businesses, although many people will tell me that is not how I should be using my free time.

My dad always told me to work hard, and play hard; and that is what I do. Last update I mentioned going to Dalian, then back to Beijing, then to Tokyo, then to Kyoto, then back to Tokyo before going back to Beijing. Well, I did all that back in February. And I didn’t really have a real holiday again until May 1st, the Labour holiday (commonly known as MayDay, or the worker’s holiday). That was a week-long holiday, so I decided to take another excursion.

This time I chose to go to the city of Urumqi, in XinJiang, China’s North Western-most province. It borders along all the “Stans” as well as Russia. I have a friend living there, and I had always dreamed of visiting her, so this was my big chance. Boy, was it an experience that I wouldn’t forget. It starkly contrasted with my previous trip. Where the first vacation was a lot of flying around with little rest, this trip was a well-deserved and needed, restive vacation. It was helped by the fact that I lost my voice for the first three days of this trip. Those of you who know me well know how I love to talk, but it was a great relief to be quiet (or be shut up) and just listen for once. My friend took me out to the Gobi Desert and into some mountain ranges, where we stayed at the foot of a mountain for several days. Each day we would choose a different path and hike though different valleys. At one point we hiked to where the mountain stream was still frozen from the winter ice. Melted water trickled and splashed down the stream bed to where herds of cattle and sheep grazed.

Coming back from the mountains I spent a few days in the city of Urumqi, exploring its nuances, especially its Uighur Minority District. Stepping into this part of the city, it was hard to remember that I was still in China, as the entire population of this quarter was Uighur, a Eurasian Muslim minority with their own language, music, dress, food, and culture. Even the buildings and architecture was different. A most wondrous experience, I must say. It was truly eye-opening to see another side of China, so far removed from the Han-Chinese East coast. However, even here at the farthest reaches of western China, modernization is booming. Still the most common sight, even in Urumqi was construction cranes. China’s government is investing serious capital to develop the hinterlands to keep up with the developments of the major coastal cities.

In addition to traveling, my free time has been spent entertaining guests who pass through Beijing. Among others, my friend’s sister came to visit from Toronto via Shanghai, and so did my brother! At the behest of my parents, who do not have enough time to come and visit themselves, they sent my brother as a proxy. It was a real relief to have Christopher come and visit. We shared some real deep conversations and were able to catch up with one another, something that is really hard when one brother is in China and the other is finishing his third year of Engineering at U of T. It was almost a surprise having someone so familiar around again.

My last bastion of free time is used either at the driving range or adding to my ever-growing mountain of DVDs. I am very proud to say that I owned a copy of Star Wars Episode III 3 days after it came out in theatres and I now own the entire set of Star Trek movies (all ten of them). I also completed the entire DVD set of the Alias TV series, and am now fully caught up with Smallville, and CSI’s Las Vegas, Miami and New York. Yeah I know, I’m a geek, so sue me.


The past four months has seen such a dramatic change in my life that it is almost hard to believe it was just one year ago that I finished university. I am still new to the taste of real life and real work, but I feel like I’ve already gained years of experience, especially experience I would never have had the chance to earn back in Canada. Truths first taught in Canada were proven out here in China: 1) The only thing between you and great accomplishments is your attitude. 2) Creativity defines success. 3) Opportunities in life don’t come from how much you know, but who you know. 4) There is no reason to feel intimidated by anyone, not even a CEO. After all, they are just normal people with normal lives, and those that are worth working with will appreciate and be impressed by your candidness.

Nobody ever told me life could move this fast. Nobody ever told me that opportunities can knock at your door so often and so loudly. I don’t know whether to feel scared or excited at the thought that this may be the real pace of life. If this truly is how fast time goes by, then I am beginning to understand why people say life is too short. Thinking about all the things I want to do, and all the things I can do, it becomes ever so apparent that making the best use of every day is of utmost importance.

When people hear about all the jobs I am doing or all the projects that I am undertaking, everyone asks me to slow down, or take a break. I keep on telling them that I am trying to make the best use of my time in China, since I am only here for a short while. I wanted to start opportunities and ventures here, so that I can bring them with me back to Canada. I felt like it was only in China that life could move this fast, propelled by the rapid development of this country. But it has slowly dawned on me these past months that this speed, this momentum in life is not restricted to the location, but is solely based on the individual. I can go back to Canada and live at the same speed I have been here in China. I just never knew it was possible, and never gave myself the chance. I never knew I had this much freedom.

Coming to China has really helped me understand and grasp the freedom that is possible in all our lives. A lot of my friends confide in me that they are scared by the real world, scared by the risks and mountain of choices that face them. Some are choosing to go back to school because they do not feel adequate to even see what is out there. I call all this risk and choice freedom. You can do anything you want, anything. Doesn’t that idea excite you? It excites me. And I plan on acknowledging that I have this freedom throughout my life, even if I get married, or have a family, I still am capable of doing anything. Shakespeare said it right, all the world really IS a stage, and what people must realize is that they have beautiful voices and sweet lyrics.

Ok, maybe you’ve just about had enough of my ranting and raving. To tell you the truth, I’m tired, boys and girls. I’ve seriously pushed myself to the limit and back again. I am really in need of a break, and am looking forward to my short vacation back home. Even though I said I could bring this pace of life back to Toronto, I will not, because I know in the end it won’t be too healthy for me.

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking these past few months, in the midst of all the work I’ve been getting done and all the great opportunities that have been coming my way. It has come to the point where I must really begin watching myself and making sure I do not sacrifice my entire youth to a career and forego the real important things in life: relationships. Although all this that I’m doing is really amazing, and has a positive purpose and affect, it all means nothing if relationships around me are left uncultivated. Even though the internet and telecommunications has made maintaining relationships much easier, it is no substitute for actually being there physically for the other person. I really have to be conscious now, and balance what China has to offer me with what I have in Toronto. In the end, opportunities abound, and can be easily created if you are capable, but deep, enriching relationships are far rarer, taking a lifetime to build.


Living, that’s basically what I’m doing, just living. The past few months I’ve been consumed with work, and being just another resident of this great city. I try my best to get out as much as I can, to do new things, but most of the time I usually get swamped or caught up doing this or that. I do however try to keep up with my golfing (I bought a new set of golf clubs, Taylor-Made baby!).

Going out at night is usually reserved for a special occasion, or if I have visitors in town. Now that the weather is warmer, it is especially nice to go to Hou Hai (translated as Back Sea), which is a long, narrow lake, which is, literally, at the back of another lake (naturally called Qian Hai, Front Sea). This lake is lined on both sides with outside patio bars and cafes, and all have lanterns and lights so when the sun goes down it is especially beautiful. Not to mention the little rowboats with your own personal rower, just like the boats in Venice. There are even some boats where a whole party of 6 or 7 can sit there and have dinner as the boat glides across the lake; really quite a beautiful place.

The weather is really warming up now, or should I say heating up. By the time I get to work in the morning, the entire back of my shirt is soaked through with sweat. Yuck. And it’s a lot more humid. Ew. Beijing is about the same latitude as Toronto. The major difference is that we are inland and surrounded by mountains. The pollution trapping in the heat doesn’t help either. It helps however, that everyday or every other day we have one thunderstorm, to give this city a quasi wash-down. Believe me, this city needs it. The only drawback to the rain is that you really don’t know when it is going to come. You step outside in the morning and you think “ok, for sure it’s going to rain today” and you run back inside just to get an umbrella, and it doesn’t rain! Then on days when you go out in the morning and its all sunny and blue skies, you leave work and it’s pouring and you’re soaked through in less than a minute.

Having said how difficult this city is, I must report that many people who visit me do not understand why I love this city so much. Candidly, the majority of people that come to visit me leave with a worse impression of Beijing than when they came. I will admit this is a tough city. It isn’t hospitable to travelers, or foreigners for that matter. It really isn’t the most comfortable place on earth; its dirty, it stinks, its congested, its polluted. Yet I will tell you what I tell everyone that visits me: Beijing is a city that you grow to love. It’s not like other cities such as New York, Hong Kong or Montreal that you instantly fall in love with, but the love that one has for Beijing runs far, far deeper. I think it says something that so many people are willing to brave the dry cold, the humid heat, the sand storms, and the hard winds all for the sake of what this city has to offer. Because this city takes time to adjust to, it is no surprise that so many visitors who just drop in and pass through cannot fully appreciate what this city has to offer, and thus why so many people love it. Many just come in, see as many tourist sites as they can (because there are way too many) get really frustrated with the local Chinese and leave. I usually warn people who are planning to come that they have to prepare their expectations. Too many times I see people comparing Beijing and China with where they came from, namely a highly developed city and country. They also judge the Chinese by standards completely alien to China without taking into account that this is a developing country. You have to embrace the dirtiness, crowdedness, and rudeness!

Changing tunes, I forgot to mention that I got a roommate! His name is Sam, and he is actually my quasi-God Brother. Actually, he is my mother’s God son, so kind of my God Step-Brother. Anyways, he has really made living in Beijing a lot more enjoyable and eventful. He has been here for over a year now, studying Chinese and being mentored from some Chinese Masters in Traditional Holistic Medicine. He is actually a Traditional Doctor, or Massage Therapist, trained and accredited at Toronto’s holistic college. Whenever I get worked up about something, or pull a muscle because of stress, all he does is massage it back into place, or snap a couple vertebrae back into place, and I’m as good as new!

Sam is actually a very good cook too, and after we got the George Foreman Grill (every bachelor pad has to have one) our apartment has been smelling of delicious charred meat and veggies ever since. Sam even concocts his very own seasoning sauce, which is surprisingly very good! Having him around has really been good for my physical health (cause I actually get nutritious food) and for my mental health. He is also a computer wiz so I have no technical problems, and he downloads like mad, which is why I am caught up with all my North American TV. In a word, he is the flat mate, save for maybe my girlfriend.

So, I’m just living; appreciating all that Beijing is, and is becoming. Embracing as much of it as I can while still keeping my Canadian integrity intact. I sometimes wonder what my lifestyle will be like when I go back to Toronto. I don’t know what it will be like, but for sure it will be different from the one I left.


It’s been over 10 months since first landing in Beijing. By the time I send my next email, it will be over a year. I have thought a lot these past few months about how long my tenure here will be. For now I’ve decided to stay on until 2006, but I am aiming to come back to Toronto early 2006. Hopefully my businesses will be strong enough by then that I can come back to North America to expand it there.

I’m coming back to Toronto for a short vacation! I will be flying out of Beijing July 19th, and land in Calgary where I will spend several days at my cousin’s wedding. Then I will fly to Vancouver for a short vacation with my family. After that I will return to Toronto around August 1st for around 10 days. I will TRY to rest, but I doubt that will happen. I have already booked all the medical appointments I can, I have an extensive shopping list, and I have to do my tax return and also register a couple businesses with the Canadian Government. All these things, plus seeing my girlfriend, family, and two friends flying in from Chicago and NYC to visit will keep me busy.

I hope I will be able to see all of you while I am back in Canada this summer. Please email me or give me a call if you are available between Aug.1 to 10 and hopefully we can meet up! It would be wonderful to see you all again. Then you can ask me questions that this update didn’t answer, and I can catch up on what is going on with your life!

Stay inspired, stay motivated, and stay joyful!

Sending all my love and thoughts,


POST SCRIPT\\ To my Brothers and Sisters

The following is written for those who are interested in my spiritual wellbeing and the spiritual wellbeing of China.

Greetings dear family! I hope the Lord is blessing you in abundance back at home, and I hope He is filling your life with joy and thanksgiving. He is certainly being faithful here in Beijing. Although I am so busy with all these things going on, it is certainly necessary to remember that these are huge blessings from God. I am not capable of doing anything without His strength, inspiration, and the opportunities He presents to me.

In one of the businesses, my partners are all Christians. It is a wonderful opportunity to learn from them first-hand how to be a Christian business person in such a secular world. It is also exciting to be part of an organization that is based on Jesus’ principles and values. The Lord really does bring the right people into your life! I know He is using this business to prepare me for other things in the future. I cannot explain to you how special it feels to be able to pray about your business with your partners. In fact, my partners pray and fast, just for the business! They are really inspirations, and I know that God will use me as a blessing to them as much as they will be to me.

My other business is kind of the opposite. I envision that I will be able to minister to my business partners and employees. In creating a business with them, God is providing me with a long-term opportunity to minister to these people. I pray to God that He will be able to use me to help mold this company into a God-fearing company. Moreover I hope that those in and around me and this company will see the difference God makes to business. I know that this will be a challenge, and perhaps this business may not succeed, but the Lord has His purpose, and in Him I trust.

A major struggle I deal with daily is how to walk into Executive Communications with my head held up, and with a spirit of Peace and Joy. It is a big burden on my heart to affect those around me at my office. I feel a great opportunity to do this is to do one’s work joyfully and for the Lord. That is why I have my devotions in the morning, where I can give the day to God, and ask Him to settle my heart so that when I walk into the office I can give God my all. It isn’t easy, many days I fail, as stress and the workload and the responsibilities placed on me build up, but I continually give my conduct to God daily.

Another real blessing I must share is that in Executive Communications, there are two other Christians! How wonderful is that?!! In a city of 19 million, I have two Christians in my very own office! What is more, they go to the same church I do! It is really such a comfort and a blast of strength to know that spiritual brothers and sisters are just five steps away. In fact, one of the Christian co-workers is a leader on the worship team that serves our church. I am praying to God to see if He will open the time so that I may join. God is calling me back into service in terms of Church ministry, but I will wait on the Lord to see what kind of doors He wants me to walk though.

In more good news, I have been able to slowly and discreetly share my faith with some coworkers. It is a very slow process, as in the workplace things are very sensitive. But at least now some people know that I am Christian (as well as some of my coworkers), and they can come and ask us questions when they feel ready. Some have shown interest, but in God’s time can things be cultivated. It is especially convenient that my Mandarin teacher is interested, so I can share with her some of my faith while we are having class.

I mentioned before that I go to a church here in Beijing. If there is anything that really lifts my spirits it would be my church. The name is Beijing International Christian Fellowship, and by far, it is the best service, and church, I’ve ever been too. Because it is a fellowship, there are no “pastors” only elders and deacons, with the speakers either being guest speakers from all over the world, or the elders, who take turns. But what is wonderful is that they are all laymen, people who have their own lives, with their own jobs, so their messages are practical and applicable. Moreover they speak from their own life experiences which are much easier to relate to, and resound of God’s hand at work.

I am not making a commentary or criticism on full-time pastors or clergy, whom I think are essential and necessary. I am just trying to express how I feel about the effectiveness of the service and the structure of the church.

Perhaps the most exciting thing about this church is the multiculturalism. There are over 60 countries represented in the congregation and the people that serve. It is wonderful to see people, who don’t even speak English, come to the service, and use the radio headsets to listen to the interpretation into their own language. You witness the most sincere people, from all over the world, who are so thankful to have a place to worship, and so thankful for the one true God. On top of that, it is even more exhilarating during worship to watch all these people, with different forms of worship styles, worshiping together. Some more solemn, in awe and quiet, others loud, in spirited praise, using all parts of their body to worship the Lord. I have learned so much being here in Beijing about the inclusiveness of Jesus’ love, and how God loves variety. Really it is all about the heart, and the intimate relationship each has with the Almighty. I mentioned to one of my friends before, that it is ironic that I had to come to Beijing, an intensely homogeneous, restrictive culture with controlled spiritual freedom to find the most vibrant, welcoming, heterogeneous congregation and worship. Isn’t it amazing that in the most persecuted places, God can create the greatest strongholds and utilize the most warriors?

Of course, the church is for foreign passport holders only, as the government is still strictly controlling the exposure of Christianity to the people. However, once service finishes, all those in the church (the church has about 3000 people) go out into the city, into their lives, their neighbourhoods, their offices and classrooms, and are vessels for the Holy Spirit. And that is more powerful than any Church service. Moreover, once you finish service, you are able to buy the entire message burned onto CD for just RMB 5! That’s like 80 cents Canadian. I buy a copy every week, and let my roommate listen to it, although he hasn’t yet gotten around to it.

While I was in XinJiang visiting my friend, I took away with me an interesting conversation which has really helped refresh my view on ministering to people. We were discussing the life of a missionary, and the expectations missionaries place on themselves, as well as the expectations others place on them. I asked her, having lived in XinJiang for so many years, what she felt she had accomplished, as a disciple of God. Her answer was very interesting. She said that after so many years, the number of people’s lives she had affected amounted to about a handful. Yet she went on to explain that in coming to China, the people here demand a life-long ministry, a life-long accountability, and the only way to reach them is to be there for them, day-in, day-out, for life. It is not the words you say, or the actions you do, but it is who you are and your commitment to them that matter. Soon after arriving in XinJiang those many years ago, my friend began to understand that, and because she loved those people so much, she decided to change her own lifestyle, and her ideas of what ministry was, to suit those she was called to serve.

I am challenged to ask myself, can I do the same? Can I follow God to the point where I am willing to change all my expectations, preconceptions, and way of life, to follow Him? My friend’s life is an inspiration and example to me, of the depth of servitude and love for our Lord.

We too often judge our missionaries by the number of people they convert, or the size of the project they complete. Too often we take a North American perspective of Results! Results! Results! to judge God’s work, and I myself am at fault of this. I am asked to rethink my own ideas of what constitutes missionary work, and am called to reinvestigate what Jesus set out in the Bible. In the end, the ministry God has given to me, including the career He has set in front of me, I am challenged to offer back to Him with the same kind of willingness to be molded and change as He sees fit.

Thank you for reading this update. I want to thank you for your prayer support and hope that you will continue to keep me in your prayers. Endurance, strength, peace and joy are all severely needed. I look forward to hearing about your spiritual walk, and hope that I may also be an encouragement to you as you are to me.

In Christ,