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.