Friday, September 14, 2007

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!

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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,


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