I’ve returned to the United States for a while. There are some things you just shouldn’t try to do in China, and I needed to do those things. If you 1) Need a good internet connection or 2) Need to do rapid prototyping and engineering, then the U.S. is better. China is the place to be when you have a complete product and have completely defined all the parts and assembly and you’re just looking to reduce costs and produce in mass quantities much larger than 1000. If you aren’t trying to do both, the overhead of transportation, communication, and exchange rates eats very large holes in profit margins. China makes sense for a lot of companies, but not all of them.
Anyway, I returned to the states to take care of things that I couldn’t do in China, and the return home has been very strange and probably not unusual.
I got up early in the morning, took a taxi to a hotel which was a coach stop, and in the middle of purchasing a ticket found a guy who had a private van and offered me a ride. The trip to the airport was nice and I got to chat with a stranger about manufacturing in China and learn that the things I’ve been learning over my 2 1/2 months are consistent with what he’s learned over the last decade.
At the airport, checkin went smoothly and I was ounces under the weight limit. Fortunately, nobody weighed my backpack carry on, because there was no way that was under the limit. I had all the parts to build 20 of my prototypes in there, and the circuit boards alone weighed 5.4 kg.
Once inside the airport, things got weird. I saw a group of college-age people whose accents indicated southern or Texas. They were messaging and chatting and acting as if they hadn’t just been in a rough foreign country for months. There were people chatting in the restaurant about how nice China was in various parts. I started to feel like I’d been experiencing a completely different China, and the truth is I had.
China didn’t want me to leave without a parting gift, so it gave me a stomach bug before my 15 hour flight. For the next 48 hours all I had was a single banana and some water. I was in a window seat of a full flight, and the four movies we were shown were all pretty bad. I was so happy for it to be over, but after the flight ended, the journey still had much more to it.
United States immigration and customs was, without exaggeration, a bunch of buzzcut idiots.
Him: Who do you work for?
Me: I have my own business.
Him: When I ask that, it’s because I want to know what you do.
Me: My company is Portable Scores, I do consumer electronics.
Not only did I give him a perfectly valid response to his first question (I work for myself, not for anybody else), but he got angry at me because he expected to get from his first question completely different information that what he asked for. Sigh. Getting into other countries that aren’t mine doesn’t suck as much as coming into my own country. To all the foreigners coming into the United States, I’m sorry. We hire stupid people to be the first people you interact with, and we give them a sense of self-importance and power that makes them think they can get away with being awful people.
Getting Used to Home
My Tuesday was 36 hours long. I was still in pain from China’s various assaults on me, exhausted, but somehow so happy to be back. The weather was perfect; 70s, light breeze, everything green and growing and smelling nice. Traffic was reasonable and not honking incessantly. For the first couple days, everything felt so soft and comfortable, and smelled nice, and the weather was great and I wasn’t sweating and I was happy not to be run over by motorcycles on the sidewalk. Eventually, I was able to eat real food, and I worked up to being able to eat the things I’ve been missing, like salads, hamburgers, and dairy. The jet lag is killing me. I haven’t really slept more than a few hours per day/night. There are unintentional naps in which I fall asleep in seconds as my girlfriend watches, and late night sessions of work as I get bored lying awake in bed. Eventually I’ll return to a normal schedule, and eventually my body will recover, but going from one side of the world to another is not easy.
Seeing other people is weird. Everyone looks like me. So much so that I wonder what my place is. There’s no feeling of adventure or challenge in ordering food at a restaurant. I often craved the comfort of fewer challenges in daily life, but now that I have it, I miss some of those challenges and the learning curves. Everyone is bigger, too. I remember being excited the first time I saw an obese Chinese person weeks after arriving in China; here it was within minutes.
Everything is just different. It’s not a bad different, and it’s not all good different. Things just work different here, and it’s taking some getting used to. I’m still sorting things out.
NOTE: Just because I’m back doesn’t mean I’m done posting. I have quite a few posts that I’m still working on in my queue, some of which required video editing and a couple of which are series that took a while to compile. Additionally, I’ll probably be returning when I have made more progress on my product and have raised funding for mass production. This isn’t the end of the blog.