The Great Wall at Shuiguan

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Last week, we went back to Beijing to finalize stuff for our move there. We also spent two days at the very lovely Commune by the Great Wall resort (more on that later). This resort is just downhill from an unrestored section of the Great Wall (the section is called Shuiguan). Andrew (10) and I made the quarter mile hike up to the wall and then walked along the quarter mile section that was open (a fence at the end prevented hikers from getting to the really dangerous collapsed sections.

The unrestored sections of the Wall are very different from the restored parts. These "wild" parts have trees and grass growing on top, the walls and towers are partially crumbled, and the walking surface is broken up. There are only a few places where they've installed safety measures like a hand rail on very steep sections. I actually quite like these parts of the Wall better.

Although the sky was hazy, it was still very picturesque given the mountainous terrain and the fall foliage. Andrew and I really enjoyed it.

Here are a few photos for your enjoyment.

The Great Wall of China at Shuiguan in the fall. 
Beautiful fall foliage and the Great Wall.

 

The Great Wall of China at Shuiguan in the fall.
Trees, grass, and shrubs growing on top of the Great Wall.

 

Andrew on top of a collapsed guard tower on the Great Wall.
Andrew on top of a guard tower with a collapsed roof.

 

 Andrew about to climb a very steep section of the Great Wall.
Andrew about to climb a very steep section of the Great Wall.

Big Changes

Dear readers, I wanted to let everyone know I've accepted a new position as the Group Program Manager for Live Search in Beijing, China.

There are a lot of reasons for this change. Since we were first married, Michelle and I have wanted to live overseas. We both enjoy the broader perspective that working and traveling internationally brings and wanted to really experience that more fully. (Frankly, I think all Americans could benefit from a more worldly view.) I've also been eager to explore my heritage and speak/read Chinese more fluently, as I resolved in my new year's post. I'm also excited to have Andrew (11) and Michael (8) learn more about the world, their heritage, and another language well. I think it will be extra valuable for all of us to have more insight and skills with respect to China for the future.

Professionally, I think Search is a fascinating and important product to unlock the Internet. As good as Live and even Google are today, it's still too hard for most users to get what they're looking for in many cases. It's a critical business for Microsoft to get right; we're obviously way behind here.

I also think that Microsoft needs to master distributed development; there are simply not enough smart engineers who want to live near Redmond to do all of the cool things we want to do. I also think we'd benefit from more local development and more geographic diversity. In particular, I think Microsoft needs to really do a good job in China as that country now has the highest number of internet users and is set to surpass the US in PC users next year.

The combination of our desire, the kids' age, and the great opportunity with Search lead us to consider the move seriously. After our Japan trip this summer, we tacked on a few days to visit China to see houses and schools. I had been to Beijing many times before but had never seen how expats live; Michelle and the boys had never been to Beijing at all. What we saw was acceptable, so we decided to proceed. (In case you're wondering, I couldn't really talk about this stuff earlier and didn't have enough touristy photos of China since we were house hunting, so I didn't post about what we did in China.)

All that said, it's difficult to leave IE. I love the product and the team. I'm incredibly proud of how far we've come since restarting the team five years ago -- from a security nightmare to XPSP2 to IE7 and now the great reviews of IE8 beta 2. The team is more capable and more fun than ever. I definitely feel I'm leaving on a high note and am confident the team will do great things without me.

So, I'll be transitioning to the Live Search team in a few weeks. Then, once our paperwork and visas clear, we'll move to Beijing -- probably around November. This is a three year assignment -- longer if we like it and shorter if we don't, but we do plan to move back. We'll be keeping our house since Michelle and the boys will likely spend summers here, and I'll be back frequently. The kids aren't crazy about the idea yet (what kid wants to move?) but I'm sure they'll have a great time.

I'll blog more about what we're learning about China and how things proceed as we go along. It should be an exciting new experience!