Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The dress that made me swear

There are some outfits that give you courage when you wear them. But there are others that actually require you to have the courage to wear them.

And in my case, it requires more of a semi-consciousness when I'm getting dressed + being in a hurry. This morning, I frantically stuck my arm between closing elevator doors in my office building because I had overslept again (granted, I was at the office till 11 pm the night before). When the doors slid open and I caught the reflection of myself in the elevator mirror, my first thought was

"What the h*ll?"

Ok. It was that bad. At least bad enough that I actually swore in my head.

Imagine me in a bold green flowy dress with a navy blue, silver stripped sweater on top, allowing the ruffly bits of the aforementioned dress to generously spill over the V neck. Pair that with navy blue textured tights and grey ankle boots that had swinging side chains.

I did get compliments from the office though. But then I guess this was considered to be just another one of my crazy outfits. One coworker asked me if Westerners purposely clashed colors/ textures/ patterns all the time. Another patted the ruffles underneath my sweater and said that they made me look more "well-endowed." Umm. Awkward saving grace?

But it turned out that I needed the boldness today because the day was absolutely nuts. Drama. Confrontations. Show downs. Firings.

p. s. I apologize for funky grammar tonight. When I'm tired, my English comes out funny. And I'm tired right now. More OT. Yay.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Different Christmas

Christmas was definitely different this year. There were no songs, no lights, no snow, no (good) hot chocolate, no finals to cram and die for, no cuddling, no flying back home, and no freezing nights in our Arlington home (we were too cheap to turn on the heat for the 3 floors).

But I made do. I sorted through share allotment legal docs while listening to as many cheesy Christmas songs from China Google music player as possible. I made a repentant attempt to buy the whole fam as many presents as possible the day before Christmas. And I stepped up the Santa Surprise Initiatives (code name SSI), leaving pranks and genuine goodies under the tree.

But the human urge to confess was very strong. Even though I threatened my little brother Cody with tickle torture if he told, I couldn't keep it in so I blogged about my Santa gifts, thinking that everybody was already in bed.

When I walked up the stairs to bed after wrapping all the presents, Casey looked at me and said, "So, coal huh?" He smirked. He had read my blog post in the five minutes that it took me to turn off my computer and the lights.

Also, on Christmas morning, my dad had apparently figured out how to get on my blog so he and my mom caught up on several months of my posts. Of course, that way, they also knew that Santa was really me . . .  so they didn't even bother to open the Krispy Kreme box when they unwrapped it, thinking it was going to be filled with really light rocks. (Ha! They were really doughnuts).

But Christmas also had meaning this year because I had opportunities to share what I believed. Last week, I arranged a mini Christmas party for my China Construction Bank English students, complete with (bitter) hot chocolate, white elephant gift exchange, cakes, and a mini presentation on the American Christmas traditions. When I asked if they knew about the origins of Christmas, somebody yelled out "Jesus Christ's birthday." I talked briefly about Christ's divinity, his humble origins, and the reason why he had to come down to earth -- all within the context of general Christian beliefs. Even though I repeatedly said "They believe . . ., " it was really what I believed and what I knew to be true. And it felt so good to be able to finally share my testimony in an acceptable environment and adhere to the "no proselyting to Chinese Nationals" directives from the government and our Church leaders. Who knew that cultural classes can be a pretext for bite size missionary discussions?

 They wanted me to wear the reindeer headband during my Christmas lesson.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ghosts of Christmas Past

Many Christmases ago, Casey grabbed his hard-earned car washing/ soccer coaching money and went to Kennedy Town. Alone. Even though us older girls were constantly having these unintelligible conversations with dramatic "Guess what happened?" "Oh my goodness," and "Uh huh," which left him completely confused, he decided that he wanted to surprise his older sisters with something extra special under the tree.

That year, like most years, we woke up early and dashed to the tree to divvy up the presents. Chelsea and I both opened Casey's present at the same time. He stopped his unwrapping and just watched us with the biggest grin on his face.

Wow. It was a fur ball masquerading as a lady's purse. It looked alive. And it seemed like something that a storekeeper could convince a little boy to hand over quite a bit of money for.

We did our sisterly duty and got ourselves super excited. We posed with the creatures slung across our chests. We gushed about them to Casey and messed up his hair affectionately.

Then we ran to our rooms and laughed about it. Casey was the cutest. But these little purses needed to be hid. Fast. So we buried them underneath our old stockings and pajama dresses and forgot all about them.

Another year went by. Christmas rolled around again.

Chelsea and I found ourselves opening another big surprise from Casey.

This time, it was a fur ball hat.

You know, to go with our favorite purses.


It's officially Christmas over here! I just got done wrapping the presents for the kids. They're all in bed already. I'm also temping as Santa this year. Let's just say that I'm delivering the goodies and the coal. Got to teach kids about taking consequences right?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Story That Didn't Make It Here

I was going to tell you a story of a battle with my mom where I had fought hard, ultimately won, and constantly regretted.

But instead, I'm going to squirrel that story away and stay up late this Christmas weekend so I can spend hours figuring out how to do justice to some hazy adolescent memory. And that will definitely be one for the private blog or future boyfriend.

One thing I will tell you is this: I think I found it tonight when I was gingerly dipping my toes (with Santa red polish) into the bath. For some reason, it finally hit me - why I had always tried to do everything Sisi-possible to try to make my parents proud (and still felt lacking) even when I had known all along that they were already proud of me simply because I was their daughter.

Too bad that there is already a Jung Chang, an Amy Tan, and now an Amy Chua*. I can definitely write volumes on Chinese American mother-daughter dynamics and spin stories so that readers will believe that I am simply 'principled' and not stubborn.

Well I guess that's what blogs are for.

* Chinese American authors who wrote about their relationships with their mothers and left children like me obsessed with how much my childhood resembled 20% of character X, 35% of Y, and 45% of Z.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Little LBD Magic

Fashion magazines swear by the rule that every girl needs a LBD (little black dress). I have one, but mine isn't black. The body of my dress is made of fuchsia thai silk and rimmed with a black trim. It's high collared, mid-sleeved, sewn onto me until it hits my waist and then spreads itself out into a flowing A-line. It makes me feel a little bit like Audrey Hepburn with a dash of Julie Andrews.

In the two years since I got it made, I've only worn it three times. I zipped it on the first time when I had to run a new members recognition ceremony as the president of the BYU Golden Key Honour Society. I was juggling econometrics, two jobs, and an upcoming thesis deadline that semester. So when I found out that my speech was erased from my computer in the TA office 20 minutes before the ceremony started, I just lost it. But crying took too much effort with that fitted bust. So I wiped my eyes and winged it. Later, a few people came up to me and told me that they got a little teary-eyed when I spoke. I thanked them and credited the dress.

The second time that dress made it out of my closet was the day after a very long night's fight with an ex- boyfriend. I saw him at church. He saw the dress. When I walked past him to leave the room, he pulled me in and told me that I looked nice.

We had a long talk that afternoon and got back together.

Last week, when I was exhausted, a little emotionally fried, and unreasonably nervous for the translation that I had to do for my boss at an HR conference, I pulled out that dress again. It worked. Things just went well. That day, the COO approached me and told me he thought it was time to discuss promotional opportunities. I felt like a million bucks. Well, okay, just a million yuan. But hey, at least the exchange rate from my side of the world was looking better every day.

And the HR conference I was so worried about? No problem. It was super chilled, with raunchy dances and an amateur magic show where I got to be the lovely assistant for a small moment. Oh and Chinese men with hairless legs who were dressed up in tutus for laughs. I'm telling you - it was all the dress.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Reality of Powerpuff

This week, I was told, twice actually, that I was "too nice."

I guess it's a compliment and a constructive criticism meshed into two little words.

They want me to change. But what is the alternative supposed to look like?

I guess the Powerpuff Girls got it wrong. People don't really like "sugar and spice and everything nice." Not really. But I'm not too hot about becoming Mojo Jojo either.

Friday, December 9, 2011

A Breakfast Proposition

She accused him of loving himself, his novels, his casual female friends more than her. He slapped her because she was going to elope with another man. She broke down when he walked out and begged him to stay --

I rubbed my eyes and put To Have and Have Not face down. Staying a night in a sketchy motel across from the train station was probably not one of my best ideas. I think I woke up every fifteen minutes because of the rumbling in the pipes. And now I was hurrying back to Suzhou right before work. Hemingway was giving me the worst headaches.

"You don't like Hemingway?"

I looked at the guy sitting next to me. Standard height, baseball hat, probably a two-day scruff. An American. East coast?

"He's ok. It's just too early in the morning for infidelity."

"Well, how do your afternoons look like?"

I glanced quickly, using my BYU ring check skills. Yep. Married.

". . . I work."

Gosh. Men.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Boys can skip this post

One of my colleagues who was in charge of getting deals for our online purchasing program (think groupon style shopping cart with discounted necessities for frontline workers) pulled me aside today. She was sent some samples from potential product partners and wanted me to give her the reassurance to try them.

She whispered to me that she had found a magic product. It's a type of small cylinder that women could insert into themselves during that special time of the month. It would suck all the blood out and store it until the tube was extracted. She speculated that it also had bonus contraceptive functions because people wouldn't be able to do it with that thing still in there.

I had no idea what she was talking about until she told me that the product was called "Small Auntie" (playing off "Auntie Flo"?).


She was talking about tampons all along. And she wanted a demonstration of how it worked.

Somehow I just wasn't in the mood to give a 28 year old woman a sex talk. I did tell her that she should look up the facts on tampons again and stop waving the "Small Auntie" pamphlet around.

I can already see it. My legacy in China will be the introduction of tampons to frontline female workers. What a dream.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Celebratory Panic of the Bare Branches

The bachelors in China are panicking. By 2030, there will be at least 30 million more men than women in this country because of the female infanticides that resulted from the one child policy. Men are desperately trying to score wives. The ladies have become much more mercenary in love, taking their pick among those with the best cars, newest apartment, and biggest bank accounts. In an infamous Bachelorette spin off episode, a girl condemned her TV suitor with these cruel words: "I would rather cry at the back of a BMW than laugh at the back of a bicycle." Many men blanched. Many women nodded.

But on 11/11/11, bachelorhood was celebrated. The singles lorded over the couples, having exclusive KTV parties for the bare branches. The movie, 33 Days of Love Lost, was released on this special occasion (the anti 500 Days of Summer ?) and sold out weeks in advance. Weibo, China's twitter equivalent, even buzzed with the command for singles to buy all the odd number seats in the cinemas so couples would be forcibly separated.

Predictably, there were also a lot of brazen hookup solicitations. One leotard-wearing woman promised, on weibo, that if a man would spend bare branches day with her, then she would guarantee that he would be celebrating father's day the next year.

Hopefully the testosterone fueled suitors would cool down in time and realize that we're only 7 months till father's day.

But then again, she just might settle for a bike.

Ok, maybe an e-bike.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Chinese Girl Learning Chinese

When I first got here, I couldn't make a joke without a resultant awkward silence reverberating around the office cubicle walls. At first, I just thought that my colleagues couldn't hear me. So I told my jokes louder. Still nothing. Then I realized that I was no longer witty. I had lost my gift to talk and connect to people, because I couldn't find the right words and inject them with the proper nuances to express myself.

After I finished my first week at work, I called my dad and cried for two hours. I should leave. I couldn't do this. I couldn't speak Chinese. I should had taken my so-called dream job and stayed on the predictable and secure path where I knew I could succeed.

Things did get better. I jotted down every new word. I tested out unfamiliar words, which my colleagues found endlessly amusing. I was soon considered one of the funnier people at the office. Four people even patted my shoulder and told me that my Chinese had improved drastically.

Two weeks ago, our board chairman visited us as part of his latest round-the-world business trips. He decided to give an impromptu speech, as a rousing gesture, to the entire company. Of course I translated. Of course I squirmed. At that moment, I fancied that #20, #23, and my perfectionist self were best buds, pointing fingers and hating on me when I couldn't think of the Chinese words for "Bolivia" and "Chief Information Officer." It didn't matter that the CEO told me that I got rave reviews for my translation - I hid miserably in the bathroom, once again questioning, berating, and despairing.

Why do I put myself in situations day after day, where embarrassment is merely one South American country away? I have worked hard my entire life to salvage the remnant shreds of Chinese learned from grade school and nurse and strengthen it through Chinese trade law internships and language TA jobs despite growing up in an English dominant environment. Why am I not satisfied with the hard-earned fluency? Why do I keep beating myself against such a soul crushing language, dreaming of crossing over the celestial threshold of native mastery?


I was sitting at Church yesterday when I got a glimpse of the answer. A large man with gold rimmed glasses bore his testimony about his belief that someday, China would be open to missionary work. And I cried. Because I sensed, no I knew, that I will be a part of that work. By then, I will know how to be a friend to the Chinese people. I will know how to use their language - my language - to share something that is so important in my life.

At that time, there will be no more awkward silences.

In the mean time, all I can do is to print out the world map in Chinese and learn the countries one by one.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The girl crash course

I've never been very successful at being a girl. I feel helpless with makeup, hair stuff, and pink fluffy stuff. I'm not the biggest fan of teddy bears, flowers, or diamonds. I'm learning to do heels on a more daily basis around the office, but I'm still having a hard time fabricating meaningful conversation revolving around clothes, nails, and shoes.

Of course, these are not what makes girls feminine, but I recently found myself wanting to be a little bit more stereotypical.

In learning how to fit into the Chinese early 20's slash white collar scene, I'm getting a crash course into the ultimate so-sweet-you-can't-handle-it girl culture. Girls giggle good morning to each other every day as the outfit checking and obligatory complimenting session begin. They support each other as they talk about diets, boyfriends, and cute guys who are not their boyfriends, while sneaking in afternoon snacks to share. They gush about the latest TV shows (where the Chinese version of "Team Jacob" and "Team Edward" of bald Chinese men takes place) and browse online shops together during lunch breaks.

And I'm learning. Collective bathroom breaks, group post-lunch walks, team togetherness-in-everything-we-do don't bother me as much anymore. When office parties naturally split into kindergarten-esque girl boy teams, I stop gravitating to the guy zone unconsciously. I can almost beat the other girls in the cheesiness of the "You're the best best best!/ Did you get home alright? I'm so worried about you! / Hope the period pains aren't too bad!!" texts. 

But experimenting with the physical aspects of this new girl thing? Not working out so hot for me.

And I still change the printer ink, lift the barrels of drinking water, and screw together random pieces of IKEA office furniture by myself without thinking- all condemned as masculine office tasks. 

I'll let you know how it goes. *Giggle*



Don't worry, I'm not experiencing a crisis of confidence in my personal identity. Most of my college girl friends are strong, smart, and ambitious women. I have yet to befriend more women like them here in China, so in the mean time, I'm learning how to be a good friend to all the wonderful types of women.

 . . . and also because I have a good texting plan.

The perennial question: Who would you choose?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Dishwashing Days

One miserably hot summer day before my freshman year, I stayed home and read while Chelsea and Casey went out to check out the BYU campus. They came home, excited because Chelsea apparently got the three of us jobs at Legends Grille ("Where the champions eat!"). Casey and I were designated dishwashers. And Chelsea was tasked to watch the football players eat during their lunch in case they couldn't find the forks or ketchup.

And so began the 8 hour days of standing, loading, rinsing, sliding, unloading, and stacking on constant replay. The football players never stopped eating. I had never felt such intense emotions against a group of guys.

The emptiness inside my head threatened to fill my mind as I did dish after dish after dish after dish. 

But then Casey and I worked out a system. We did job rotations to stay alert. We sang songs and competed against each other. As kids who grew up with a maid, we did pretty well for ourselves. We challenged Chelsea to bring us the dishes down faster than we could wash them. We probably even broke the dishwasher union's record for amateurs.

I loved busing and collecting dishes outside because it seemed like a treat to be released from the kitchen. And it was fun being around the other freshman whom I would be a part of in a few weeks.

Then a guy sporting way too much gel stopped me one day because he wanted me to pass him the pepper on the table next to him. I accidentally grabbed the salt. He gave me one look then did an exaggerated demonstration, in super slow mo, with dragged out English to show me the difference by pouring both on the table and playing around with it. Then he asked me if I could understand him.

That's when it hit me: He thought I was stupid. That I couldn't speak his language. That I somehow was not at his level because I was holding a bus tray and washing dishes. I wanted to tell him about my upbringing, my scholarship, my English, my fancy stuff  . . . but instead I nodded slowly and walked back to the kitchen.

I think I cried while standing, loading, rinsing, sliding, unloading, and stacking that day.

Then I realized that I was very good at what I did. This coming from the spoiled girl who felt self-conscious with a broom in her hand at closing time on the first day of work because she's trying to remember what she learned about sweeping from movies. I was trying hard to do my best. And I would not let Mr. hair product and his few pinches of salt and pepper take away the pride I had in my job.


This is why I love talking to the frontline workers at the factories. They file into the cafeterias, exhausted and emptied, past some of our staff who think that micro-credit is a fancy Western concept that doesn't matter because the working poor don't matter.

But sometimes, when I ask if I could sit next to them while they eat - and they smile shyly behind their bowls and chopsticks - they tell me things. Just rarely, I would share my dishwasher story. And then we smile because we understand what it is to dream of ingenious things even when our bodies are on constant replay.

Friday, October 28, 2011


Somebody told me tonight that being mature means that you know what you want.

And if it's hard? If it hurts? If you've done nothing about it because you've lacked courage?

Well either way, I aged tonight. Hopefully the maturity comes later as well.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ms. Beef Noodles

If I was back in kindergarten and we were comparing sisters, then this would be my winning pitch:

My sister is better than your sister because she looks freaking gorgeous while eating a bowl of instant noodles.

Introducing Exhibit A: An ad for Sunrider beef noodles

p.s. I ripped this off an email that my BIL sent to my sister. I couldn't help but noticing that it was addressed to "Chelsea 'Your Love' Messick Chen." Ultimate cheese. Even worse than when they first got married.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pilot: The Contact List Riot

If The Office did a China version, then an episode might look something like this:

The HR department releases yet another directory because of the many new hires. The upstairs office looks at it and riots.

The problem? The contact list isn't alphabetically arranged according to people's names.

This random decision made by a non-English speaking clerk gives rise to an overly dramatic speculation of hierarchical rankings and subtle "who's hot and who's not" messages hidden within the excel rows of phone numbers. Emotions run high. People memorize the order in which the names appear and quote them back and forth. Ha, we may be in the same pay grade but I'm really higher than you! He didn't perform as well last month so he got demoted to #26 on the list! This must be an HR conspiracy to sow distrust!

[Commercial break]

Staff members whisper back and forth during lunch. Oh did you hear? #12 is actually the HR director's second cousin twice removed! Bu hui ba? Oh yes, I saw him borrow her phone to make a call the other day  . . . they must be close.

#20 storms into the boss' office. A lot of table slapping ensues. Mr. 20 is offended by a bunch of stuff, one of which is that the boss' assistant is just a recent graduate but yet she's #2 on the list.

#23 no longer smiles at #2.

[Even longer commercial break]

There's another new hire. There's another new contact list.

It's not alphabetized. And the orders of the names switched again.

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to real office life is just a big coincidence. Totally not based on my own personal experience from the last two weeks, which is a pity because the absolute truth is much more entertaining.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A QQ Boy [space] friend

His QQ number is xxxxx808. And he has a tendency to be a little possessive of me.

My boss and I try to visit the factories sometimes so we can get direct feedback from the frontline workers about our program. As a gesture of friendship, my boss always asks for the workers' QQ numbers so we can add them and continue the conversations online. Of course, I end up being the one chatting with them online because of the language barrier.

Mr. 808 is a very eager QQ chatter, not about our program though, but about his future business plan selling lucky QQ numbers and virtual game apps once he quits his factory job. He likes to share his tactics in saving money. He tells me what to eat for dinner and how to dress for the weather the next day. He also gives me a hard time when I leave work and sign out of QQ without specifically telling him first.

I guess it's sort of my fault. He was just friendly and complimentary at first. Then I accidentally pressed the wrong emoticon - the kind with hearts fluttering around your blushing smiley face - when he asked me to dinner.

I was originally going for the thinking face as a stall tactic  . . .  yep that might have worked better.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Respect Girl's Camp

I've learned my lesson: If you don't want to get sick and miss girl's church camp, do not make fun of it.

But you have to admit, having to be in charge of a group of teenage girls that is called the "Hard Core Testimony Givers" is quite something. Even though I had a really hard time coming up with a cool chant, I think we did come up with a bomb first aid skit that would give the "Charity Chargers" and "Wonder Witnesses" a run for their tithing money. Think Elizabeth Swan/ werewolves/ little red riding hood theme with a classic Asian tragic twist.

Either way, I was struck down with the flu so I, the only girl, never mind camp counselor, who hadn't been to girl's camp before, didn't get to go. So I resorted to the only sensible alternative - felt sorry for myself and gorged on West Wing episodes. Oh Sam Seaborn.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Where They Say Jambo Jambo

I groped around in the dark, trying to steady myself on the wooden stool that was supposed to be in the corner. I wasn't sure what disarmed me more - the swarm of eager flies demanding a toll fee at the door or the suffocating wall of smoke that hit me while my eyes adjusted to the weak light streaming through the window dug outs in the hut. The man with two wives told us about his village, his women, and his way of life while stroking the hot charcoal that would cook his dinner that night.

The men hunt, in packs. Sometimes barefoot, armed with only a machete and a wooden stick that has a wooden knob on the end. And yet they can make impressive kills. When they are hungry, they eat fruits on the trees. They then brush their teeth with a stripped branch, which when chewed, spreads out like thistles. When they get yellow fever, they dig up the roots of the yellow acacia tree and drink the boiled concoction. They are proud of their thin, springy forms, and often jump against each other for manly recognition. And it's official: Casey could jump higher than the Masai's highest.

The women bring the water to the village, the wood to the fire, the food to the table, the house to stand, the babies to life. They get married at around 18 to a man chosen by their parents. I asked a man what happened when a woman refused to marry the chosen one. He didn't even understand my question. The women are circumcised before marriage, a cruel way to ensure their virtue in marriages to polygamists.

In some ways I didn't know how to reconcile my feelings. I was impressed that they slap fresh cow dung on their walls and roofs to keep the rain out. I was appalled that female circumcision was forced upon these women whom I see suckling their babies around the village. I was in awe of their stretched out ear lobes, swinging freely in the wind. I was shocked by the hundreds of flies that covered children's faces and how they played with these buzzing insects like favorite pets.

And then I realized that I don't need to reconcile anything. I have no right to judge them against any measuring stick. The Masai are some of the most open people I have met. They are born to be in the wild, killing impalas for fun, ostriches for meat, and lions for bragging rights. They seem happy in the cities with cars and in the villages without electricity. And all I should do is to cast away my ethnocentrism at their door and leave it to the flies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


The safari was amazing. I don't think I can really describe it. So I'll just resort to photos.


Inevitably, my parents drew plenty of dating analogies from the safari patterns. "See, those bachelor impalas are so pitifully hanging out together because the females are all snatched up by more aggressive males." Casey's answer? They just need to hit the gym even more.

The bad animal jokes didn't end there. We came up with a lot of really lame why-did-the-(animal)-cross-the-road jokes. We made up names for animals whose bodies we mashed together in our heads. Like giraffant. Or antebra (sounds like a 70s feminist initiative to me).

In order to keep it PG, I won't repeat what was said when the lions were mating. Parents can be so embarrassing sometimes. We told the kids that "action" meant preparing for hunting . . . with sound effects.

When I'm standing up in the moving van, with my arms dangling out of the roof and the wind whipping my hair into a frenzied mess, I think that this is what we're made for. To anxiously look for a creature tucked away in a bush that you might have used as an emergency bathroom. To admire the sleek coats, the cracked hides, the colored ruffles. To marvel at the stripes and spots. And to wonder how you fit into this whole Lion King episode.

It's funny, but I felt so alive and aware of who I was among these beaks, horns, and tails than I did near the arms and legs in the cities. I wonder if I would ever feel the same way again. I just have to go back.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Workaholic Anonymous

I had only worked at the office for around a month when a guy on the sales team teased me about being a workaholic.

I was instantly confused. Mildly resentful. Slightly flattered.

Me and my work. My work and I. Kind of sounds like a bad holiday blockbuster about a master and his dog. Not quite sure which one I am though. I am often entangled in an emotional relationship with my work. Too much passion, self-esteem, guilt, obligation, and pride involved. So much so that sometimes I just don't have much left over energy for my family and close friends, let alone myself.

But since graduation, I've tried to reorient my life. I stop waking up at 5 am to start plugging away at a project. I only stayed at the office till midnight once. I'm hopping on trains to other cities every weekend. I'm reading again for the sheer love of words. I'm even enrolled in a yoga class where they make me slap my butt for five minutes ("to stimulate blood flow!") and close my eyes while the teacher forces me to lay still ("Relax your toes. Relax your knees. Relax your uterus!"). 

And now I'm making skype dates with all the friends I've been neglecting. So um if you get an email from me about skyping and catching up, please say yes? I need a good excuse to take a break from that yoga class. My butt is kind of sore.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Knock Knock

When I first moved in, I thought the apartment was haunted.

I kept hearing knocks on the front door, only to find that nobody was there in the dim corridor. Then there were the coughs. Two in a row. The kind that you make not because you've got phlegm in your throat, but the artificial sort to let somebody know that you're there.

There were the occasional anguished wails as well.

I thought I was going crazy because sometimes I heard these noises when I was alone in my office cubicle. 

Finally, I told my roommate what was going on and asked if we could get out of our contract. She just laughed.

The knocks and the coughs came from her computer. Well, more accurately, they came from her QQ, China's MSN equivalent. They're the default sounds for somebody logging on and somebody adding you. I guess that also explained the noises at the office because I just signed up for a QQ, something that my boss made me do so I could communicate with the colleagues.

But the wails? Those were definitely not part of QQ.

She smirked. That's the ring tone that she had set for her parents. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Immune. What a funny word.

Official countdown to Kenya: Ten days. 

Or rather a bunch of shots. Hepatitis A. Typhoid. Yellow fever. I also took a ton of pills for cholera and whatever else today. I got chatty with the nurse and so she pulled up my recent health check up report. Part of the screen started flashing red. She looked at me and then started asking questions about my health. Apparently I had more than normal level of Hepatitis B antibodies. So she thinks that I must have recently gotten the virus but, luckily, didn't contract anything.

Well strike one copperhead bite, strike two Hepatitis B virus, strike three  . . . mauled by a lion?

That would really hurt.

Anyhow, for better or for worse, I'm now immunized against Asian guys.


I notice that one of my older colleagues sometimes sneak photos of me with his phone while I'm doing my own thing. Like today, I was on a conference call and I looked up because of the flash. He later said that it's because I looked good talking on the phone. This wasn't the first time I caught him. Am I just being weird about it or is it kinda creepy?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I was in charge of the Young Women personal progress activity tonight. Then I caught myself making one of those "I'm not quite that old you guys" jokes. Epic fail. That's exactly what makes me that old.

I once heard somebody say that animals go to heaven too. I wonder if that includes mosquitoes. Because if they retain their earthly appetites for blood but the spirits don't have blood, then it must be heck for them in heaven. Guess it's payback time.

Missing somebody makes my body feel funny. I don't enjoy it. But obviously you do.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Moon Lady

The moon is so round tonight.

No werewolves though, just a lady and her rabbit. Oh and the tree. Her husband probably wished that he had shot down the moon instead. None of the stories explained how the rabbit ended up on the moon and it just occurred to me today to ask. Nobody knew. Darn Chinese myths and their loopholes. It's going to keep me up all night.*

But now that the moon festival is almost over, I'm officially instituting my own celebrations for crab season. I've begun mapping out all my crab routes. Still trying to decide whether investing in my own eating tools will be worth it though.

We dug up some old albums in our fireplace last night. Apparently when I was nine, I took meticulous notes on Cody's birth and baby milestones. I obsessed over how much Cody fed and even documented how Mom's Christmas wish was for Cody to poo because he hadn't done so for 9 days. And it was obvious that little me was sort of jealous because I wrote how "to my concern, . . .  everybody likes Cody." But I did wrap up that up with a little flourish, generously saying that "it is an honor to have Cody in our home." I guess I still treated him as a guest and expected him to leave at a more convenient time.

Somehow, he just stayed.


* Apparently Wikipedia knows what the rabbit is up to.  I've never heard this version before.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ole to you anyways

Growing up, I would watch Chelsea stain our floor with paint as she fleshed out the sketches in her head. I noted where she dabbled playful specks to capture life and where she rubbed graphite to build contrast. It was absolutely bewitching. I even practiced scribbling on the corners of my homework, hoping that some whimsical design would miraculously materialize. Then I finally realized my problem: Even scribbling didn't come naturally to me. So I gave up and tamed my longing to be creative.

But on occasions, I think about it. That beast, that desire to make something that people can resonate with, still lurks. And sometimes, I do wonder how it would be to let go of that overwhelming classification of "creativity" . . .  and just create.

Today, watching this video, was one of those times.

Gokce - I really appreciate you for sending this to me. I think our dinner the other night was the first time I truly tried to verbalize to someone how emotionally tied I am to writing. So thanks for not laughing.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Black Cab Friday

My boss and I always debate over the issue of whether Chinese drivers are just really good or really bad. On one hand, there are probably way too many near-death collisions to count, and on the other, the average traffic accident casualty rate is actually surprisingly low.

I think I finally have an answer.

This morning, I broke most of my rules and hopped onto a black cab, an unregistered and illegal taxi service,  because my train was delayed and I needed to catch a flight in Shanghai. He absolutely gutted me on the price, but Hong Kong was calling.

The usual car ride to Shanghai takes two hours. I needed to be there in one and half hours. So I didn't say anything when he started driving 160 km/hr. But I clutched my seatbelt tightly, even though I wasn't strapped in because there weren't any buckles.

He played chicken with most of the cars on the highway. Often he would straddle two lanes, trying to edge out a car in front, while blaring his horn in the morning light. When there were no cars around us, he would pull out the wad of cash in his pocket and start counting it with both hands. He also liked to talk and kept turning around to look at me for the obligatory confirmation nods.

I think he sensed my nervousness. So he made a big show of unbuckling his own seat belt, probably hoping to get a vote of confidence from me. Or maybe it was just pure bravado, a sort of callousness in the face of danger, to make his dinner invitations to me seem more appealing.

Either way, I made it to the airport in an hour. Now that was pure talent.

So I booked him again for my way home from the airport since my late night flight gets in after the last train to Suzhou. And also because that's how I roll, always living on the edge . . .  of my seat.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

101 Chinese Nights

I told a story today about Miss Kallie Strawberry, Miss Sisi Potato, Mr. Porter Banana, and Mr. Andrew Watermelon. We all masqueraded as berries to infiltrate the strawberry gang. Together, we stopped a fruit and vegetable territorial war just in time.

The kids loved it. They even kicked their parents out of the room so I could finish my story. When I was done, the six year old little girl grabbed my hand and asked me to sleep over.

My earlier stories of trading bread with golden bars inside for visas from consulates weren't as popular. Maybe I'm getting better at making up stories. Or perhaps the kids just don't understand that getting a visa is a lot harder than winning a food war.


My phone is half-way broken. I can't hear anything on it. I was originally hoping to wait till October to get the new iphone so I could play fruit ninja. But then I also kind of want an android just so I could hear "DROID" all day long. I miss it.

Any suggestions?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

When they don't understand credit

We offer micro-credit to China's front line workers through an employee benefits program that includes a payroll advance and discount card. Because of the workers' lack of collateral, banks will never give them a loan otherwise.

But somehow many of them don't see the entrepreneurial opportunities inherent in a loan like this. They also don't understand how building up a good credit history can open up future possibilities. Instead, they focus on the fact that our discounts aren't attractive enough. One girl asked me what a credit card was. Another group of four shook their heads and told me that they wouldn't be able to use their cards because the supermarkets near them didn't have POS machines. When I told them that they could swipe their cards at any store with a POS machine, they were shocked.

Over the last two months, I've talked to many blue collar workers and realized that many of them didn't even understand the concept of credit. After I explained it to one of the girls at the massage parlor, who had quit a factory down south several years ago, she looked at me and told me that if we offered her credit now, she would definitely take it. But back then, back when she was a factory girl? She wouldn't dare to want it. Because something like that didn't happen to people like her.

We've brought the horse to the water, but how do you make the horse drink?


p. s. A colleague told me that I looked like a really cute head of lettuce today (I was wearing a flowy green dress). He also told me that he really liked lettuce. I think he might have been hitting on me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chinese people care a lot about face and they bend over backwards not to embarrass you. Somehow that doesn’t cover comments about your weight, your pimples, or your looks.
Case in point: Two of my colleagues are a little bit on the bigger end. Or maybe they just have bigger bones. The others openly refer to them as the fat guys. Of course, it doesn’t help that one of them recently broke two office chairs when he sat down. I blame the sketchy manufacturer but two in a row really is something.
Anyhow, today was a slow day at the office and the boys upstairs were playing around. For some reason, they engineered this online showdown between those two. Kinda smacks of for the gravity challenged.
There were several rounds of vicious voting to see who would win the fight (adding in the factors of side kicks and weight training). This was the result.

Poor hippo.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Finding a name

I really need to work on my poker face, especially when people tell me their names. But today, I just lost it.

Our new discount manager smiled and told me that his English name was Nemo. Then he asked me if I liked his name.

After a while, I figured out who's been responsible for the crop of wild names among our new staff. It turns out that Megan, a cute girl from the HR department, has been naming them because none of them came with English names. Apparently she gave Nemo three choices. The first was David, but both of them thought it was too plain. Then, she offered him a girl's name. After that, of course, his round features reminded her of the fish movie that she just watched, and so that's how Nemo happened.

p.s. Somebody told me that I was tall today. Just thought I would document that for posterity.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


The thing about TGIF is that it is often preceded by a OCIT (Oh Crap It's Thursday).

Thursdays at the company are unusually hectic because it's report day. That is the blessed day when you get to tally up the numbers by 5 p.m. and send them to the boss' mean assistant, a.k.a me.

If the saying is that the devil wears Prada, then she must wear the softest ballet flats ever. Because then the upstairs staff won't be alerted to the determined tap-tap-tap that her heels make before entering the office, giving them no time to look appropriately busy crunching the numbers.

I apparently need to step up the mean act because the numbers still don't come in by 5 pm. Or by 7:30 pm. Or by 9:59 pm. This all adds up to me hanging out at the office till midnight to pull the report together.

But I'm being too cranky about it. This needs some positive uplifting. Ok. Fine. I'll rename OCIT to "Oh Christmas It's Thursday!" And yes, Christmas, simply because it starts with C. And no, it doesn't make sense. Let me know if you can come up with a better alternative.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The Chinese way of choking on a fish bone

I choked on a 2 1/2 inch fish bone last night.

My friends made me drink a whole bowl of vinegar because apparently that would soften the bones. Some even tried shoving rice into my mouth to make me swallow it. But it was still there, burning my throat. I alternated between gagging and gasping for air. Eventually, one friend insisted on taking me to the ER to pull it out.

The doctor at the ER was not thrilled that we came in because he was going to get off work in 20 minutes. He checked and told me that there was hope because he could see the bone. Then he put his hand on my shoulder and said, "It will be 31 RMB ($5 USD) and you'll have to pay up first."

I gasped some more. As I was about to hold out the money, he stopped me and said that he was sorry because the IT system just crashed, which meant that he couldn't print out the pay slip. Without the pay slip, I couldn't pay downstairs. Without a payment receipt, I could not receive treatment.

I offered give him a deposit. I offered to give him a little extra. But I still had to keep choking for forty minutes while he hung out with the IT guy. He even told me not to worry about it because I wouldn't die. After the IT system was up and running, he seemed to remember me and then pulled the bone out in two minutes. Perhaps because of the delay, the lady downstairs gave me a 1 RMB discount. Great.

That said, I was lucky. While I was sitting there, another lady hurried in because she swallowed a fish bone too. But apparently she tried to eat too much rice and did too great of a job pushing it down -- now she had to get a tube stuck down her throat. Or do a mini operation.


p.s. I went on my first work trip to Shanghai today. So interesting!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Kindergarten Love

I first fell in love in kindergarten.
He was dark, with really nice teeth. He always handed me the coloring pencils. I told my mom that I was going to marry him.

Then she transferred to our class. And she liked sitting next to him too.

I tattle taled and got her into trouble. She missed the school picnic and stood in the corner for the rest of the day. (Don't worry, I later met the same fate.)

Twelve years later, I sat in my Math class telling one of my best friends about my kindergarten fling. Her eyes opened wide and we realized that she was that girl. The girl in the corner. She went home and brought our kindergarten school photo and we pointed to the same set of teeth at the same time.

He was cute, I tell you.


I think that is why I can absolutely empathize with my boss's daughter. She likes me, but she thinks I'm stealing her boyfriend. She's six. And she's telling her mom that there are "too many girls around the house" whenever I come.

Well, at least she's playing fair.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Sexy Interview

The boys at the office noticed her tight dress.

I noticed her tooth. A singular jagged canine that hangs out when her lips are pursed.

I never thought I would say this, but we were actually interviewing a sexy Nanny McPhee.

She was a salesperson who wants to be our COO assistant. But it's a pity because she's obviously very good at her sales job.

She bragged about her tactics. Since most of her work involved cold calling clients, she would often "accidentally" mention her QQ number (China's MSN equivalent) so that the clients could chat with her online. Where, of course, they would see her picture. And then talk some more.

At around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m., she would switch her computer's time clock to 10:30 p.m. and then email her clients. And casually drop in a post script about how she's so lonely at the office because she's slaving away on client X's project. But she didn't mind because she would be going back to an empty apartment anyways.

At the end of the interview (I was translating), she looked at me and asked me to flatter my boss for her.

I was shocked. She even outsourced her sucking up.

And yet, I liked her. Those sales people are dangerous.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I never thought this day would come. I actually want to get my driver's license.

Perhaps it's because I have absolutely no need for it right now. Or that my parents think it's impossibly dangerous since most people often casually drive on the wrong side on the road and try to edge you out on the highway.

Either way, I finally got over my fear of driving and asked around about driving courses in Suzhou.

Instead, I was given tips on finding the right guys to take the test for me. And their prices.

Apparently, a friend spent RMB 5500 (roughly $780) in Shanghai and still didn't get her license. Another bargained hard and only spent RMB 1800 in Suzhou. The third just laughed and boasted that he went on a trip to Xinjiang (Western province in China) and got his license while driving around blindly in the desert.

Maybe I'll stick to my driving practice at the arcade.*

* To be honest, I did try driving once, two years ago. I got pulled over.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The themes of the week

Chinese TV shows. Brochure content. Manipulation. Not necessarily in that order.

And if two people tell you that it's true, then it's probably true. But then I guess I knew it all along.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Peeping Wangs

We don't really have a concept of peeping toms in China. Just an overly curious next-building neighbor who likes to look out of his window.

I've forgotten about this quaint feature of city life. And it wasn't until I was walking around my house in um not much, that I finally remembered.

Because he waved. Very enthusiastically.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Office Lady #11

Our company was making promotional videos and mobilized almost everybody at the office to be a part of the shoot. I didn't land a major role because apparently I didn't look enough like a factory girl.
But I did get recruited to act the part of office lady #11. While I was waiting to get filmed, I started chatting with my colleague, Elvis, who was supposed to act as the customer. That was when I found out that he was an ex-soldier, a catalougue model, and now a micro-credit salesman. I then shared a few stories of my own and started showing him photos on my computer of the time when I accidentally ate sheep @%&@^.


I looked up, startled. The crew had been filming us the whole time. And apparently the director loved me. Because I was such a natural. And he praised my little touches of pointing to the computer and smiling. All of a sudden, I was being added into scenes left and right. The marketing department even awarded me a company USB for contributing so much to the video.

So I just want to take this opportunity to thank my parents. And Kenji for constantly using me as a film object for his documentary classes. And the director for seeiing in me the potential to play office lady #11. And of course, for the support of my imaginary fans. I love you all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Dinner Partiers

Government officials rule China - one over-priced dinner and seven bottles of red wine at a time.

Businesses scramble to pay the bill.Because everybody knows that unless you grease the wheels, nothing will ever get done without a nod from the local official.And so people smile and play ridiculous drinking games with each other. And sometimes the girls come in and play as well. At the end of the night, you end up with very drunk old men who flatter each other incessantly, very young girls who laugh at all the inane jokes, and probably very little value in the actual business that actually got discussed.But that's business as usual.

My boss typically tries to shield me from such company dinners. He's a non-drinker himself, so he'll need a subordinate to drink on his behalf. Besides, he doesn't think that I should be exposed to those scenes.

But tonight was different. When official Tang* said that it was not necessary for my boss to bring an assistant to translate, my colleague casually mentioned that I was the new girl. And so I was asked to go. Because official Tang apparently liked  new girls.

But Tang was tame though. And no girls ever came in. Probably because his boss was sitting there, reminiscing about his Vietnam War days and talking about the corruption in Chinese national sport teams.

I had a rather enjoyable time, except I hardly ate anything because I was busy translating.

My takeaway at my first dinner with government officials?

Two officials don't make it right. But they sure do make it better.


* This super common last name has been changed to another super common last name to ensure the anonymity of the official. If there's any resemblance to another official Tang,then I guess it validates my point about Chinese government officials in general.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dating girls

The girls here just love me. Well some more than others. And they show it by grabbing my hands or clinging onto my arms. Especially when we're taking a romantic walk after dinner.

Just like the unspoken code where girls go to the bathroom together in droves, this is their affectionate way of demonstrating that they want to bring you into their group. They are so insistent. I just haven't figured out a culturally sensitive way of getting out of holding hands yet.

In the meantime, I just squirm. And try to engineer all sorts of ways to naturally loosen their grip on my arm. I point frantically to lamp posts or I look for non-existant objects in my bag. But mostly, I just suffer in silence.

I sympathize with the boys now. Girls are so clingy. And their hands are so soft. It makes me want to throw up.

I feel bad for the boys I've dated.

Casey - be prepared.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

First Day

I started work yesterday.

I had to keep a straight face when some of my coworkers told me their names. Craven. Elvis. Cinderella. Candy. King. I'm still waiting to see if they live up to their names.

I translated for my boss while he interviewed a prospective employee. I guess when the guy wrote on his resume that he was fluent in English, he had a relatively loose interpretation of the word "fluent." Or "English." But he did have a spiffy one-liner when he told us his English name, "James. Clear and strong." Kind of reminded me of my cough medicine.

I should really tell you about how much I loved my first day. Five minutes after I tentatively walked into the office, I just knew that I had made the right choice. The enthusiasm and energy was absolutely contagious. I was so excited that I even worked overtime on my first day.

But right now, I'm sitting in a Starbucks siphoning internet access, while sipping overpriced cold chocolate, and I'm in more of a sarcastic mood. So I'll save the passionate/ idealistic post for later. Because a company as great as this, with the potential to improve so many Chinese workers' lives, deserves a better blogging effort. And I deserve a better drink.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mosquito Dreams + Chinese Bets

I slept fantastically well last night, considering that the mosquitoes were having a party at my house. But as usual, mother dear made life so much more bearable by leaving behind tons of putting-mosquitoes-to-sleep pallets. They're tiny rectangular-shaped disks that you insert into mousepad-like machines that supposedly put mosquitoes to sleep so they won't bite you. America should import those in serious quantities, trade imbalance or no.

So why am I up at 3 a.m.? Well probably because I kept wondering what they were dreaming about. The mosquitoes, I mean. Do they have nightmares of a huge force crushing the wind out of their figurative lungs and then being crushed to death? Do they somehow find meaning to their existence as consistent nuisances?

Plus, it's so sticky hot over here. I'm aware that I have an air-con but somehow I feel like I have to win some non-existant bet to show Jayne, Dawn, and Hwanhi how Chinese people cool down. Apparently, during our last roomie (plus honorary roomie Jayne) sleepover before my parents came, I had told Jayne to just calm down when she complained about being hot while I was swaddled in my comforter. I eloquently explained to her the age-old wisdom that my grandma passed down: When you are calm, you are naturally cool. All this while I was semi-conscious. I remember none of it, but by golly, I will show Jayne how it is done - in true humid Shanghai style.

So I'm blogging - to stay calm and use my jetlag to document some momentary lapses of rationality.

So much to do today! Finish editting thesis (does it ever finish?!). Get haircut. Have lunch with a government relations lady to learn about customs in greeting Chinese officials. Get a facial + massage. And open a bank account so I can get paid.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Progressive dating advice

Tonight, over rocky road, I mentioned to my family that I probably wouldn't date for an entire year in China.

Well, one because there will probably be no church boys. And two because last summer when I did my internship in Beijing, I was mainly hit on by 30 year-old co-workers who still lived with their moms, creepy old men with jade rings, and overly buff marines who looked like they could crush me if they accidentally sat on me.

My mom just smirked and asked, "Well, do you know how to do email dating?"

She then told me that since I'm an intellectual (questionable), I can just email boys and be satisfied with imagined love. While reading poetry.

Jody jumped in with helpful tips about online dating websites that her other 11 year-old friends "accidentally" created profiles for.

But her advice did come with a warning: No matter what I do, I shouldn't share cups with those boys (the ones I meet online), because apparently in fifth grade, that's as good as getting married.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Packing up

Packing up and moving away to another country is a pain. I can't believe how much stuff I've hoarded. It almost makes me want to quit my job and just stay and bum around Utah.

And um I just realized that I have a lot of clothes. I used to think that people were exaggerating. I packed 53 skirts + dresses after DI-ing four to five garbage bags full of clothes. And I haven't even counted the winter skirts yet.

If I were a tragic heroine in a comic book series, a love for skirts with crazy patterns will definitely be one of my debilitating character flaws. Luckily dad and his frequent trips from China to US this summer plus his high roller flyer status means that my pieces of luggage will all be taken care of.

Spoiled much?


p.s. I don't think I'm ever going to be ready to say goodbye to all my friends. I don't know how people do it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Kid-napping Witnesses

First, we heard the cry for help. Immediately Dawn, Jayne, and I scrambled to my bedroom window.

We couldn't believe it.

So we ran out the door. I even discarded my flip flops because they were too noisy. And for this, we needed operation stealth mode to assess the situation.

Yes, we were right. It was a baby goat. Wandering scared around our apartment complex.

We followed it until it wandered into an open garage and we frantically motioned for the home owner to stop the garage door so that it wouldn't trap the goat inside. At this time, a tall guy, with asymmetrical features and denim cutoffs walked up the stairs, whistling. I asked if he's missing a goat.

He looked surprised, then said, "Oh yes. My goat. My goat Mr. Billy Copkins." He cornered the poor thing and picked it up. And walked off briskly. Even the random boys that we've enlisted in our goat saving mission were suspicious.


We walked away. Did we just stand by in a kidnapping case?

Dawn wanted to call the police. I wanted to tail the guy and make sure that Mr. Billy Copkins is ok. Jayne just wanted a pet goat.

But we moved on. Dawn tried to dissuade Jayne from raising a kid (the baby goat) because they supposedly become ugly when they grow up - bad odds of having a cute one, just like Asian babies.

And then I sat down on the table to grab my pen, which is buried under a pamphlet. A church pamphlet. With Christ holding a baby lamb.

What would Jesus do?

Let the guilt trips begin.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How would you answer this?

If somebody asked you to complete this sentence, what would you say?

"I'm beautiful because  . . . "

Well, as part of their Recapturing Beauty campaign, BYU Women's Services and Resources is asking just that. And offering a free photo shoot of women with selected entries.
I initially took it up because it sounded like great fun and it seemed to be an amazing way to empower women to think positively about themselves, especially with the emphasis on inner qualities. And how hard could it be to come up with a sentence - or just half of it?

I've always considered myself a very confident, outgoing girl, but somehow I couldn't find the right words by the end of the day. Then it dragged out to two, three days. Nothing I came up with fit.  Because to be honest, being good at planning events, writing papers, making high-calorie desserts don't exactly make me feel beautiful. Then I rationalized that not every girl has to feel beautiful. But that's not true.

And for a moment, I felt a little lost. And unsure of myself. 

I'll spare you all the emotions involved in this exercise but I think I've finally come up with something:

I'm beautiful because I'm working to embrace my weaknesses and learning to love myself even more for them.

And that sounds about right.

What is your sentence? Men?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Sink is the New Village Stream

I have been mildly obsessed with doing my laundry at 3 a.m. - in true hand washing style.

All of a sudden, all my clothes seem too delicate, too vulnerable, to be tossed carelessly into the sucking washing machine.

Scarves dry amazingly fast by the way.

Chiffon tops are a nightmare. You think you've squeezed all the water out, but yet they keep drip drip drip-ping on my bathroom floor. So deceptive.

I'm just preparing myself for my move to China. Washing machines there hold a ridiculously small amount of clothes (a little larger than my bag of rice times two). The one in my new apartment (if I even have one) will probably just sputter and die if I shove my usual two weeks worth of laundry down its throat. And I can't do the American thing and just haul my laundry back home every weekend when I visit. People would hate me when I get on the metro.*

Well, I guess this will be good practice for eventual housewife-hood too. I heard that the laundry detail is pretty intense.

* Yes, I realize that I could solve my problem by doing laundry more often. And no, I don't like that idea.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ultimate Desperation

I got a text from 80168601XX this morning.

XX: Hey

Me: Who is this?

XX: Porter who is this?? Haha lol good times

Me: My name is Sisi. I think you've got the wrong number.

XX: Um.... ok then so.... r u single?

{I never responded}

Friday, June 3, 2011

Ex-Boyfriend & His CD

I rummaged through my stash of DVDs looking for Ella Enchanted so Jane, Dawn, and I could watch and share our mutual hatred for the movie (more like J + D hated on it while I somehow felt obligated to defend all the awkward kissing slash singing scenes).

Then I found a CD. From an ex-boyfriend. Well, Chelsea's ex-boyfriend, to be exact.

Let me explain the context. Once upon a time, Chelsea dated Boy X (think Idaho, well-combed hair, side parting). He was a model PP* and probably rescued a cat from a tree predicament, so she affectionately dubbed him "a heroic angel"  (don't know how to defend this one).

Well he liked her so he decided to burn her a CD. And think of an equally satisfying nickname.

This was what happened:

I don't know what kills me more: the fact that he continued the angel theme or that he felt the necessity of qualifying the gender of angels.

Oh, young sophomore love. 


* Peter Priesthood

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

That Time of the Month

End-of-the-months always make me nervous.

Because on the last few days, I'm always just waiting for it to happen.

Despite having three Pandora accounts, I always manage to exhaust my free hours way before the 30th. And then Pandora kicks me out.

The thesis killed all my hours by May 10th. So I finally forked out a whooping 99 cents for unlimited songs for the rest of this month.

It's so liberating not to have to count hours. I even let somebody use my account when they ran out to cultivate some good Pandora karma.

I just realized that today's May 31st.

I can't describe how sad I am right now.


And no, I'm not talking about that time of the month (in case you're my mother and you're wondering).

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thesis? Check

12582 words, 53 pages (45 pages of text, 8 pages of works cited), and a year later, I'm finally done.
My visiting teachee, Risa, compared writing her dissertation to giving birth. I totally agree.

It's absolutely a labor of love (or Mormon-approved curses). 

There have been so many nights when I fell asleep sitting up. A few times I even felt like throwing up because I was so tired. I had different food cravings at different sections of my thesis. And don't even mention mood swings.

That said, it's been oddly rewarding as well. It's touching to see how my friends and family have supported me. And I positively glowed with love and pride in the stack of papers as I submitted them.

Now that it's over, it didn't seem that bad anymore.

And guess what?

It's a boy.

180 minutes

T - 3 hours

I'm going to give myself three more hours of obsessing. Then I'll send it to print. And walk it over to the Maesar building. Hand it in. Thank Shauna. 

And be done.

Then I can start planning my next adventure and swear that I'll never come close to writing a thesis again. But we all know how bad I am at keeping promises like these.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Sneeze

It was a frail sneeze, like she had covered her nose with something. A little bit on the high pitch side. Altogether it was a very polite, restrained incident.

She was fully hidden behind two computer screens.

But instinctively, I conjured up an image of a thin, wispy girl of about five feet. Definitely an Asian.

So, not caring that I was being an absolute weirdo, I leaned sideways, supporting myself so I wouldn't fall off my chair, and peeked.

Instant creeper validation - she was Asian!


* I got an extension on my thesis! Hence the whole camping-in-the-library-slash-watching-people thing. But I just found out that I have some mileage that will expire soon, so I am planning an impromptu trip to L.A. {insert joy}

And yes, I just noticed the paradox: a planned impromptu trip. Remember the last time I did that? And why I had to?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mom Turns up the Heat

My mom just called and issued a gentle ultimatum: A complete thesis draft will be the best birthday present I could ever give her (said with a very sarcastic laugh).

Her birthday is in two days.

While I had originally hoped to be done by tomorrow night / Tuesday morning, adding filial piety to the mix somehow ups the ante.

She thinks I'm having a mental breakdown. So she just wants me to be done.

At this point, I think it's more like I'm being done for.

Sunday, May 22, 2011


A friend just sent me this and I gotta share (you'll see why!)

I feel like this should be Kenji's new theme song.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Have a Happy Doomsday

Apparently tomorrow is the end of the world.

Or is it today? After all, Christ is supposed to come from the East (China? New York?) and it is already 8 a.m., May 21, 2011, in Asia.

Well in any case, unless my house is hit by a giant meteor (sorry, that would be superman) or I get twinkled up into a higher place, I would be furiously typing.*

* I'm 2/3 of the way done with my thesis! Which leaves me . . . 2 days to finish the rest. Gah. Maybe doomsday will be less painful. 



Well we're all still here. So I'm guessing that a lot of doomsday prophets went out of business. But this one ingenious business sure did rake in a lot of cash before the supposed Rapture.

For $135, Eternally Earth-Bound Pets offer to rescue your mortal pets in case you, as the Christian owner, end up being translated into heaven. 

Yes. No joke. They are sworn atheists and have signed contracts that say that they have blasphemed according to Mark 3:29, thus negating any chance of being saved. So, they can take care of your earthly pets while you're enjoying yourself in another sphere. 

Please go read their FAQ section. It's hilarious.

Friday, May 20, 2011


When somebody tells you that you've wasted their time, I guess you should just shut up and shut down.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Irreverent Class Portrait

Welcome to my Chinese class.

Girl J keeps her hands tucked into her sleeves like the emperor in Mulan. She seems like the type who would like cats.

When boy X wants to catch my attention, instead of raising his hands, he throws up a peace sign. As if that would get on my Asian radar a little faster.

Then there's girl K who looks like she's going to cry every time I speak to her.

I almost stopped calling on boy U out of guilt. The deer in the headlight moment has passed. His looks are those of a dying deer, resigned to his fate of being lost in Chinese.

Boy Z shyly asks if we can be friends outside of the classroom. And if he can call me by my first name. How sweet.

It's been a constant struggle to explain to boy C that his Chinese sentences have to make sense. And that in China, dogs don't eat children. Every time, he looks at me as if I'm being unreasonable.

Then of course there's girl S (or me). The small Asian girl who gestures and repeats almost everything she says. It's like watching a free circus show. Rumor has it that she's a tough little teacher. (Is it still a rumor if it's true?)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

So Good at Being So Bad

Last night, for my last honors portfolio entry, I watched a play about Florence Foster Jenkins, an American soprano who became a legend for her bad singing. She was so convinced that she could sing that she kept pushing through, interpreting the jeers as spontaneous eruptions from the audience because her music resonated with them.

She made it, in a way. And she was happy.

Which makes me wonder why I dropped all those things that I was told that I was bad at. Perhaps to satisfy my kindergarten teacher who gave me a C on my painting of happy taxis flying in the clouds (she taught me, "taxis don't smile")?

In any case, now that I've perfected my art of procrastination, I must stop and actually write another sentence on Putnam's two-level game theory. I guess it's a case of painful writing vs. painful singing.


Here's a clip of her singing. I actually had to pause it in the middle because my ears hurt. But here's a cheer to those who persevere!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Redefining the Dream

I had just rejected my dream job offer. Never thought I would say that.

But being finally able to make a choice feels fantastic. I am liberated from my indecisive paralysis and have picked the unconventional path. Let's hope that I won't regret letting go off the prestigious and safe.

Here's a toast to youth and its low opportunity costs!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

(Not) Scarred

"Are you this way because your face looks like (beep) !?"

I was confused. What was wrong with his face?

I was watching Pay It Forward and apparently one of the characters had burn scars all over his face. Somehow, that totally escaped me. I just assumed that he had some sort of rash or unnatural pre-aging.

Maybe it's because I've always been scarred.

When I was one, I apparently crawled into the kitchen and hot boiling water was accidentally poured all over my arm. I must have burned and screamed because my cotton jacket soaked up all the boiling liquid and when that was torn off of me, so was the skin on my arms. The old lady who took care of me calmed me down and put toothpaste on my burn. Thank God she wasn't a big fan of the mint kinds. Two weeks later, my skin grew back at an amazing rate, but started to connect my upper and lower arm together in an unholy angle. I could no longer straighten my arms. I spent two years doing physical therapy, always photographed looking slightly clueless and with my arm wound in a tight white gauze.

But when the bandages came off for the last time, I never thought twice about that browned tear drop that sits on the uneven patch of skin on my arm. It was a part of me; it was me. Better yet, it was a constant reminder, a souvenir of sorts, of the kind old lady who took care of me and loved me. My recent addition to the collection on my arm seems oddly appropriate. It has, after all, been twenty years.

Perhaps because I've always lived with and not really noticing a burn that made my fifth grade best friend gasp the first time she noticed it, I don't really see the scars on people.

Maybe that's why when I watched this mormon message video yesterday and saw a photo of Stephanie Nielson -- mother-of-four, blogger, and a victim of a burn on 80% of her body -- all I saw was a beautiful, kind woman. And I cried. Because I actually noticed her burns, and yet when she speaks, I didn't notice them at all.