Saturday, April 05, 2008

Shanghai Surprise

What are the chances of having this conversation the moment one arrives in Shanghai?

My mobile phone rings...

Joanna: Hello, Joanna Yeoh speaking.
Caller: Hello Johanna - this is Martin Riemen calling
J : Guten Dag Herr Riemen, vie geit ehs eehen?
M: I'm very well. In fact, I'm in Shanghai negotiating an M&A. Are you in Singapore?
J: You're kidding...what a lovely surprise! I'm relocating to Shanghai and just arrived at the airport.
M: That's good. Shall we have dinner?
J: Of course. When are you leaving for home?
M: Friday afternoon sometime.
J: I'm on my way to Suzhou for a couple of days. Since Friday is a public holiday, I can leave Suzhou on Thursday afternoon, reach Shanghai by 6pm and meet you at your hotel?
M: That's a good plan. So, I'll book a nice restaurant.
J: Excellent, Martin. I look forward to seeing you.

Now, what's so amazing about this conversation?
1) Martin lives in Belgium, I live in Singapore
2) Martin has never been to China before
3) I'm just relocating to Shanghai

And we land in Shanghai on the same day...WOW!

So who's Martin? He was one of my best mates during my MBA days in England. The fact that he was a good-looking German hunk was a nice bonus at the time. We spent a lot of time studying and doing projects together during the week, and partying & touring England on weekends.

Martin is now married to Claudia (his girlfriend at the time) and they have 3 beautiful children. They live in a suburb in Brussels and I stayed with them last year when I was on assignment in Europe. But that's a story for another blog entry.

Martin and I finally met on Thursday night and we went to a very nice restaurant called LYNN which Martin describes as "Chinese food, Western service". We had fun catching up over old times, current times and future plans. The fact that he's an M&A expert comes as no surprise to me. He was the only one who seemed to understand our Investment Valuation lectures back then. We even did a project together to value the purchase of London Electricity Company. By some miracle, I scored an A and he scored a B+! We still laugh about that today.

All in all, my stint in Shanghai has gotten off to a great start.

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