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?