[Masthead] Overcast ~ 40°F  
High: 54°F ~ Low: 43°F
Friday, Apr. 29, 2016


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Recently I told you of my friend who made a trip around the world. Today I want to tell you of local folks, Jim Hoefling and Leone Sand who traveled at least a third of that distance to Shanghai, China to visit Jim's son, Ken and his family. Most of us will never be able to make such a journey so we are fortunate to have friends who do and who are willing to share the experience with us.

Ken Hoefling, an engineer with the Caterpillar Company, was sent to that far-off location to set up a re-manufacturing plant to produce the big earth-moving machines necessary to supply the developing needs of China and other Pacific Rim nations. He, his wife, the former Holly Robb of Cherokee, and their seven children arrived in Shanghai in August of 2005.

The company provides a nice residence for the family in the international area of East Shanghai, known as Pu Dung. Vehicles and drivers are available for all their needs. Caterpillar also pays the tuition for the kids to attend the English-speaking school developed there for international children. Youngsters in grades one through six are required to take Chinese. After that they can choose to continue Chinese or study Spanish or French. Ken's oldest, a daughter now in high school, is taking French as the family had earlier spent two years in Grenoble, France.

Re- manufacturing, by the way was a new concept to me. As I understand it, they take used machines, rework and repaint the exterior shell and totally replace the inner working parts, producing equipment "almost as good as new" at a greatly reduced cost. Caterpillar has two more such facilities, one in the state of Mississippi and one in Mexico. In addition, they do re-manufacturing for other major companies, who find it more economical to have Caterpillar do it than to develop facilities of their own.

Their travel arrangements were very efficiently made by Vangie Cowen who operates the Sunset Travel Agency out of her home here in Marcus. They departed from Omaha, going first to Minneapolis, from there to Tokyo and then on to their destination. Shanghai is located on the shores of the Yellow Sea, with quantities of graceful bamboo dominating the landscape. Its beauty is dimmed, however, by ever-present pollution. Because of the rampant poverty nothing is wasted. Everything is recycled, so there is absolutely no litter, but the trade-off is the pervasive smog which was accompanied by extremely unpleasant odors in some parts of the city.

While there, they were able to take a two-hour flight to visit Beijing, the capital, which is scrambling madly to prepare for the upcoming Olympics. Jim declares he doesn't see how they can possibly meet those deadlines. Admitting it might be nice to attend one of those time-honored events, he insists this one would definitely not be his choice.

I now see this is developing into a two-part tale, so I will stop here and invite you to read next week's Gray Matter "for the rest of the story."