Happy Holidays from Dean and Linda!

From Dean:

We failed to send cards last year so we will try to catch you up on the last two years at once. Not much has happened.

Highlights: 2005 started with us in Shanghai. By Fall, Linda had returned to Chicago and I moved to Beijing. I ended my 21-month work assignment in China in February 2006 and returned from Beijing to Chicago to live with Linda.

We are still in love – absence makes the heart grow fonder – although I believe for a few months mid-year 2005 Linda forgot why she loved me. So, I have been spending more time than usual reminding her. 2007 is our 10-year wedding anniversary – we are planning a ski trip with friends in Switzerland followed by a few days in Paris. I will remind her some more.

We traveled a bunch in 2005 – Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Scotland. Pop onto our blog for some of the highlights, including a nice one of me in a kilt.

People ask whether I liked Shanghai or Beijing better. I liked Beijing, even though it was dirtier, colder and less cosmopolitan. I could communicate better (not well, only better) since they speak proper Mandarin. There was a vibrancy to the city – the power of government combined with the energy of students from the many quality universities. I liked the food – more meat and potatoes, and a wider variety of international food (though still limited), presumably because of all the foreign embassies. Also, I had more local (Chinese) friends.

It was comfortable to return to the USA where everything is easier. But then you start missing the spicy food, your new and interesting friends, and the guilty pleasure of jetting to Hong Kong for the weekend.

Linda’s Chinese cooking has been improving notably this year, which is helping our transition. As the weather gets colder, we are tempted to fly to Beijing just to eat huo guo – hot pot / kind of a spicy soup used to cook thin slivers of meat and vegetables at the table. God I miss that.

I recently resigned from my job of 11+ years and accepted what I hope will be an exciting new role at American International Group (AIG). We are moving to NY the 1st quarter of 2007. In the new job, I report directly to the global head of life insurance operations and technology, and will have responsibility for the success of important projects in a couple global regions. It is an executive role with the opportunity to advance to a significant operating position somewhere in the global AIG portfolio, assuming I don’t screw up. The 11 years I spent at BearingPoint were great for my career but I believe it is time for a change. There are some wonderfully talented people there that I will miss.

Next week we are jetting off to Mexico for a week of guilty pleasure before I start my new job in NY and our next life adventure begins. Linda still looks hot in a bikini, so we need lots of beach trips.

We wish our friends and family a great holiday season!

From Linda:

I hope you like the Christmas card. While Aart Kooij generously donated the photo, Linda Schnetzer generously donated the idea and loaned my Santa masks, which are now on display in my Chicago apartment. The masks came from a small shop in Shanghai and are actually used for Chinese opera. When decorating my Shanghai apartment for Christmas, I added the hat to create a Santa Claus with slightly Asian facial features. If you are interested in making your own, the masks are easy to find in Shanghai but I recommend buying the Santa hats in the USA. Even though they are made in China, they are hard to find there.

I preferred Shanghai as I never really lived in Beijing. But I will say Beijing is a completely fascinating city and I recommend visiting. I caution that the Olympics are likely to be very crazy – so maybe try a different time.

We’ve had a great year and I’ve enjoyed living in Chicago again. I am very excited to move to NYC – as a child I always wanted to move there. I admit I planned to become a professional ballerina and live in NY, so New York City has always been something of a fantasy for me. I’m hoping many girl friends come to visit for tons of shopping…

I am still enjoying my job at Alpha Phi where I serve as Director of Collegiate Membership. In that job, I am responsible for all our collegiate chapters. A better way to describe my job is to say that I am directly responsible for the staff and volunteers that help our chapters every day.

I’d like to report that I never hated Dean, but the transition back was harder than I expected. In some ways, Chicago is completely boring compared to Shanghai. Our next adventure in New York City has me excited again. In addition to visiting Dean in China and traveling to exotic locations the last two years (including Las Vegas with friends), I’ve been to Dayton, Boulder, Columbia (MO), Tulsa, Lawton (OK), Perrysburg (OH), Seattle, and spent 4 weeks in Norman (OK).

Dean did not mention that he shaved his head and is sporting a bald look. I recommend it – he looks very sexy and I suspect the haircut helped him secure the new job.

We feel so blessed to have such amazing friends and family and remind you to come to our annual New Year’s Day open house if you can.

Much love from Linda and Dean.