Site Moved!

Dear friends,

I’ve moved to http://derrickdfu.com so that my blog can be accessed in mainland China. This page will no longer be updated, so please check the new site from now on.

Thanks!

Derrick

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Holiday Splatter

Hey guys.

I realize I said I’d update this twice a week, so I apologize for the 10 days of inactivity. My bad!

Anyhow, Chinese New Year is coming up on 2/14, so the bulk of Beijing is heading back to their hometowns. Everyone will have around 1-2 weeks off to spend time with their family. People are getting pumped and festive…China-style. I’ll post an update of the festivities at some point within the next 2 weeks since this will be my first real Spring Festival. Need to focus all efforts towards enjoying this.

This is something I wrote a while back during the [American] holiday season, after visiting the Tim Burton Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art with Natasha [<3].

Needless to say, I was inspired.

Enjoy.

December 28, 2009

The holiday season is actually like that show down at Radio City I first saw when I was 8: always the same basic stuff — giant teddy bears and Santa, kids with their grandparents, parents that didn’t get the day off, etc. — though always new and changing. You know what to expect every year and when, but it’s still impossible to prepare yourself.

Little Mary Sue is still sitting on Grandpa’s lap in the front row, fidgeting away in excitement like she would have in 1933. Except now she’s texting her bff Jill on her crackberry and blasting Ke$ha on her iPod [she woke up in the morning feeling like P.Diddy, indeed]. Oh and now Santa’s in 3D.

But you know, what would the holidays be without the songs, short skirts, grandparents, sold out crowd, smiles and kicking?

Like everyone says, the holiday season has a way of bringing people together. And it’s true. For a moment, fortified battle lines are absented, though carefully watched at distances. That uncle who’s doing great things at his new job and raking in six figures [yeah OKAY…], that obscure cousin who dropped out of Brown to become an artist [maybe he didn’t…though you can’t tell], and that 30-something-year-old aunt who can’t retain [or as she puts it: “train”] a boyfriend and keeps breaking out into “Pokerface” [and only that ONE line], come together around a table to celebrate an occasion. For a moment.

I visited the Tim Burton exhibit at the MoMa earlier this evening. His way of depicting all occasions and all characters was so concise that it was hilarious; as if embellished and exaggerated strokes and colors were his only means of honesty. He played on themes of materialism and injustice, and poked fun at fear, joy and love. Through those harsh lines and cold hues I learned to see things as he did. What caught my attention the most though, were his pieces depicting those awkward childhood years that I’m always trying to ignore and forget — those instances of disappointment and loneliness that strangles us until we’re numb and have to learn to breathe all over again. Good times!

Untitled, From Burton's "The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories"

Anyway, back to the show. Perhaps little Mary Sue sitting front and center on the lap of her baggy-eyed grandfather, isn’t showing early signs of girl bipolarity [ouch] by alternating in fits of joy, pique and somewhere in between, but seeing and feeling things clearer than everyone else.

The holiday season can be so indescribably uncomfortable and strangling at times; you can feel locked in for what seems like multiple eternities of sweat, stutters and silence. Your cousin has been meticulously arranging his food into something completely unidentifiable [probably something French] for the past 2 hours,  and being the Econ stud you are, that probably wasn’t what you had in mind.

From Burton's ""The World of Stainboy"

Untitled, From Burton's "The World of Stainboy"

But eh. So what?

Mr. Burton illustrates brilliantly that we can always uncover the amusement in things, whether the given thing makes you fidget, smile or cry, and we can always modify the things we see in one another to make ourselves happy.

Towards that uncle, cousin or aunt, it’s so easy to think — stop lying, stop failing and stop stuttering [the word “pokerface” has 3 syllables, not 13!] — but why change them and convolute things when they’re already so colorful and pure?

Untitled

Appreciate that random, blurred, water-color-like splatter that stands alone among defined, jagged lines; partially because it’s not going anywhere and you have to, and partially because it can make you feel something.

So sit back in your seat, even if its 24 rows back and 14 to the right, and enjoy the show. Or at least try.

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Day 10

I stood there.

The American flag, in silent glory, soared high above grey walls and black gates; enclosed behind layers of reinforced steel walls and doors, 6-inch think glass and Marines. I looked up towards the familiar white stars and red stripes, and for a moment, I felt proud.

To be strong, to be American.

What was discussed within those grey walls and black gates cannot be disclosed, but not because of any heated discussion or leaked information, but because of protocol, something that exists excessively in America, and in our embassy in Beijing as well.

Protocol

The Embassy of the United States in Beijing is the second largest foreign embassy of the United States in the world, while the largest is in Iraq.

We had come with high expectations that day, the result of more than a week’s worth of memorable visits to multinational corporations like UBS, JP Morgan, Ernst & Young, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Microsoft, among others. Each company arranged not only an office tour, but also some sort of presentation by top executives and leaders within their HR department.

GCC Beijing Winter Delegation at JP Morgan with Vice Chairman Elaine La Roche and Senior Vice President Nevin Xiao

Though surprisingly, the Chinese corporations [Everbright Bank/光大银行, CNTV.com/中央网络电视台, Ping An/中国平安, New Oriental School/新东方, and Sina.com/新浪], were equally, if not more welcoming in their receptions.

Everbright Bank arranged for us to meet with a  board consisting of nine of its top chief representatives, each having had experience studying or working in North-America. CNTV.com [formerly known as CCTV.com], gave us an exclusive tour of their site, as well as a special metro card that are only used by CCTV anchors [you can’t buy these things]. New Oriental School invited nearly 100 attendees to hear us speak about college admissions and student life in the United States.

China is truly opening up, and we can all witnesses this when we choose to look.

CNTV Metro Card -- easily the coolest present ever.

However, what I found most surprising, was how quick and cold our own embassy was to push us outside its grey walls and black gates after the 1.5hr-long visit.

As much as we appreciated the opportunity to visit the embassy, truthfully, we felt confused, and for us several Americans, embarrassed. As someone with strong beliefs in the capabilities of international diplomacy, I was most excited about visiting the US embassy when looking through our itinerary on Day 1.

On Day 10 I felt extremely disappointed.

When President Hu invited President Obama to the Great Hall of the People back in November, the two worked up quite the storm when Obama pledged to have 100,000 students studying in China by 2013. China currently has about 100,000 students in the US, while the US has about 20,000 students in China [WSJ].

Clearly, someone better get to work.

And while we found no answers that day, we did take something away: a new sense of responsibility and accountability.

On the American side, we cannot rely on our government to take initiative and mobilize our schools to create more opportunities for students to learn Chinese. Resources are much too scattered and scarce, and our system is much too ineffective. There’s too much protocol.

Ironically, it seems as if this 100,000 student promise has fallen on the shoulders of us students, though more specially, on the shoulders of student leaders.

To Student Leaders:

We cannot afford to limit our interactions to a passing exchange and hand shake, and we cannot afford to solely participate in what’s already being done and provided for us. It’s not enough. We must become initiators as we well. We must first set precedent, and then drive progress, inspiring our generation and future generations of students to take those first steps towards understanding China, and then to do the same as we did.

Resources have never existed in mediums like Wikipedia and Facebook, and never before have we been more capable of connecting with willing and able mentors, and each other.

How we use these resources and what we use these resources for, will define our era of US-China relations.

Remember, as a student leader, your abilities are no less than those of current leaders, only less cultivated.

And remember that even this is an advantage.

I stood there.

Eight friends, in confident stride, walked towards a bustling Beijing subway station; poised to cure hunger, defuse conflict and lead countries. Hearing their laughter, I looked up, and for a moment I felt proud.

To be the future, to be hope.

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Big News

Dearest friends,

I hope you’re all well and healthy, and enjoying your first weeks back at school. My “big news” is more like old news:

I’m in Beijing, and I’ve decided to take a gap year.

To explain:

I see this year as an unparalleled opportunity to learn a language and culture, to experience “life” – a concept we’re taught we can only grasp after having been thoroughly CORE-d for 4 years [Columbia joke], to partake actively in the emerging market of our time, to solidify a developing network of student leaders, young professionals, managers/directors and top executives, and very simply, to grow.

Things are moving here and opportunities to make things happen and meet ambitious people are near limitless. It’s imperative to be here now.

And now that I am here, I must act decisively. And I will.

Here’s the plan:

From now until late February, I’ll be studying Mandarin intensively, taking 5hr private lessons Monday through Friday, as well as tutoring and doing college consulting work in my free-time. In late February, I’ll begin my semester at Peking University, where I’ll be taking a mix of Mandarin, law and political science courses, as well as conducting research within PKU’s law department. Hopefully, I’ll be able to intern part-time at an international law firm later in the semester as well.

After the program concludes in early July, I’ll hopefully be working full-time, again, at an international law firm, while joining up with GCC reinforcements from the States in preparation for our G2 Youth Summit at Tsinghua in August.

I should have my fair share of fun in between, as well.

My Agenda:

Of course, things are still tentative, but here are my first ten agenda items for 2010:

  1. Mandarin — Speak not only fluently, but eloquently.
  2. Working Experience — I’ve never been [and never will be] more ready for slave work in my life.
  3. Books — Books are good.
  4. Friends — Friends are really good.
  5. GCC — Continue moving forward and expand the network globally.
  6. Business Cards — My collection WILL be as extensive as Gavin’s.
  7. Piano/Music — So I can be like Lawrence from “School of Rock” [again].
  8. Fitness — I am at the mercy of hotpot and peking duck. My metabolism will only carry me so far.
  9. Blog — Post at least twice per week.
  10. Wine — So people have the pretense that I’m sophisticated…or European…or both.

About this blog:

Through it, I’ll be sharing with you all my discussions and encounters with current business and political leaders, professors and scholars at the forefront of academia, as well as aspiring student leaders with real ambition, talent and insight. Hopefully you’ll find the information within these posts both relevant and directly transferable, and learn more about the firms you’ll strive to work at, executives you’ll strive to learn from, professionals you’ll strive to make your co-workers and friends, and students you’ll strive alongside with.

On occasion, I’ll try to lend perspective on varying issues/events through my own lens, though I warn you, there’s a high likelihood I’ll just rant and end up saying absolutely nothing. I apologize in advance.

I also hope to establish weekly/monthly traditions as I continue blogging. If you look towards the right column with my picture and short bio,  you’ll see a small section previewing upcoming posts.  I plan to post 2-3 times per week, and I’ll try to keep each post under 500 words for the sake of your eyes and souls.

Short Update:

GCC’s first annual Beijing Winter Delegation concluded two Fridays ago, so I’ve taken a long vacation [this past week] to catch my breath, learn Jay Chou songs on the guitar and turn this blog into something worthwhile.

In the past two days, I’ve taken 10hrs of private lessons and met with two extremely talented individuals in Qi Lei [齐蕾], Dartmouth ‘11, and Michael Zhang [张晟], Peking University ’10.

I’ll be meeting with a partner from Broad&Bright [世泽律师事务所], a law firm, tomorrow morning.

And since you’re already here:

Please drop me a line so I know you stopped by. I’d love to hear from you guys.

Make me proud back home. Miss you all.

Derrick

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