Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not Pursued

One unreasonably late night, around two months ago, I sent in my resume for a job to fold clothes.

There were definite pros and cons in this situation.

Pro: Location was in the States, right where J was finishing up school.

Con: I would be folding clothes . . . while avoiding their embarrassingly graphic ads.

I absolutely bombed the interview. I fumbled when asked why I was passionate about working at their store. I was not particularly convincing when I told them that I had always been in love with their, um, skinny jeans, wait no, jeggings line. Skype cut out right when I was attempting to demonstrate how I could look hot while refolding that sweater on the sales rack.

So it was no surprise that I got this email today:

"Thank you for your interest in {company}. It is always great to meet such an enthusiastic candidate who shares our excitement for the {company} brand. 

We are always faced with the difficult challenge of selecting from such a great group of applicants. At this time, we have decided to pursue other candidates. 

We wish you the best of luck in the future and appreciate your continued support of the brand."

I laughed and choked on my yoghurt when I read it. Well, now I could tell my future husband that it's been proven by industry standards that I should not be entrusted with folding clothes. I hope he's all about doing the laundry . . . while looking sexy.

Update: Thank you for your concerns, but no, I'm not really going into retail. It was more of a temporary solution to attempt to live closer to J.

Official countdown begins:

5 hours till the drive to the airport
1 day till a date with J in Provo
2 days till partying in Mexico
3 days till stressing out and cramming for speech
4 days till presentation at G20 and announcement of Financial Inclusion competition winner
5 days till checking off the Pyramid of the Sun from my bucket list

Monday, October 29, 2012


The doctor said that I was way too stressed and that was why my body was freaking out. She nodded sympathetically at my mom and told her that she should make sure that I stayed away from my email and stayed at the malls instead.

I knew it. Retail therapy really was a thing.

I practically salivated over these.
The lighting didn't do this pair of red heels justice. 

My beautiful Chinese shoes. 
Just in case you didn't realize how Asian I really was.

The doctor was spot on. Trying on shoes made me feel so much better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Face Leader

I shocked my team today. They felt so uncomfortable that none of them could look at me. Because I apologized in public. And Chinese leaders simply did not do that.


My headed pounded cruelly whenever people spoke yesterday. My legs were weak and the brain was slow and muggy. The herbal ginger soups scorched my throat. I overreacted because I got blindsided with a decision that my team made while I was running between cities giving presentations and burying my head in urgent projects. Sales girl didn't want to bother me with a client complaint so she went ahead and coordinated some remedial actions with the product development team.

I probably would have made different logistical decisions and my inner perfectionist radar rang indignantly. I questioned the context and wondered why I was not informed out loud. She hung her head and mumbled that she knew I was swamped and didn't want to add to my plate. I told them to go ahead with the original plan but we would need "discussions" the next day. The team filed out quietly.

Last night, tossing in bed with a heavy head, I faced two choices. One, preserving my own pride. Two, building a true team that would succeed.

Today, when sales girl first appeared on the conference call, she looked a little nervous and overly eager to please. The product team was alert to my every move. They knew that a smack down was totally in my rights as a Chinese leader and they were used to their previous department head who was known for his mood swings.

I cleared my throat with difficulty. I fiddled with the pearl necklace J gave me.

I smiled and apologized for any embarrassment I may have caused anybody. I owned up to the fact that I did not behave in a way that I was proud of and that I sent them conflicting messages. Because I wanted a team that was brave and was willing to make the hard decisions so that we could put customers first. I wanted to be a leader that created the right environment and incentives for them to excel, even when I was not there physically. And I wanted a team that was all about learning from our mistakes and successes and figuring out what we could do to repeat more wins that belonged to all of us.

So I started from admitting my own mistake.

Instead of laying down the law (like I planned yesterday), I gave them pencils, paper, and 3 minutes to brainstorm what principles we as a team wanted to rely on to guide our actions.

Somehow, magic happened. My stereotypically rigid Chinese team members started talking about democracy and grass root innovation. Accountability and transparency. Open communication and over-delivering on our promises to clients. Mutual respect and support.

These were empty slogans that I had been waving around for months because there was no buy in. And now, these same ideas erupted from their own mouths, each competing for the most poetic Chinese phrasing so we could impress the other teams with our literary prowess.

My favorite description? Kung fu descriptors all the way: "Firm lower body posture; Quick punch"(steady foundation of processes, efficient delivery of services).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spinster Catalogues

You learn a lot about yourself when you're living alone. I wonder if registered spinsters have these self-inventories all the time. Because I do.

I finally realized that I am terrible at mopping.

There's also nobody else I can blame the shedding on. Not even J's "other Asian girlfriend" that I make up. (Apparently, having a girlfriend is a lot like having a dog in terms of the amount of hair that winds up in your man stuff).

I belt out radio tunes when I'm doing laundry, but never in the shower.

Nobody bakes you roommate love cookies just because we have a surplus of butter. Ok. Fine. There is never a surplus of butter in China.

Not thinking about how much clothes you {do not} have on while wandering around your apartment is a such a privilege.

A lot of things wind up unfixed because I've read too many scary things about delivery/ handy men.

I can pass out for four hours on a Sunday afternoon without concerned roommates banging on my door, worried that I will repeat that 23 hour "death nap" I once had after finals.

Don't worry, I'm still far from my raising-60-homeless-cats days.

Because my new roomie is moving in next week!

So excited to call water heater fixer man . . .  in ten days.

The legendary Triumvirate apartment. 
I will be seeing one of these girls in two weeks!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Origin Story

Around a month ago, I whined my way through an application for the Ashoka Changemakers global competition. The topic was Financial Inclusion and the purpose was to find "innovative solutions that make valuable, affordable, secure, and comprehensive financial services accessible to underserved and excluded communities."

Somebody with investor connections forwarded it to us as a hey-interesting-FYI. The CEO asked me to put together something and honestly, I was not pleased. There was end-of-the-month performance reviews I had to give my team, an implementation plan to hammer together, and some clients to close. I bleeded out a 12 page monster talking about our model, uploaded it last minute, and forgot all about it.

Then I got an email two weeks ago.

"Congrats Sisi Messick!

We are delighted to announce that you are one of the 12 semi-finalists of the G2012 Mexico Financial Inclusion: Innovative Solutions for Unlocking Access global competition . . .

In recognition of this honor, you have been invited to attend the G20 Summit in Mexico City on Nov. 2nd and 3rd, 2012."

I rubbed my eyes. What? The G20 Summit? There were around 260 entries around the world and we somehow made it? The President of Mexico and Ministers of Finance will attend? And they invited me?

That's when I realized that I didn't really read the section on the competition prizes.

I didn't even realize that this was a grant, aka there's money involved. Glad they didn't ding me for being so honest with our operational challenges.

Mexico City. 2012. Hasta pronto.


You can read what I wrote here. They hid a lot of the sensitive stuff.

Secret Ballot

Got my absentee ballot today by email. Didn't realize that there was a Constitution Party and a Justice Party. I also didn't realize what mixed feelings Jason Chaffetz inspired in me. I knew virtually nothing about his politics or his record as a current Congressman, but I did know that he sucked at leg wrestling and that he slept in a cot in DC. All the important stuff Stephen Colbert taught me.


As I was writing this post, I glanced at the election date. I realized that I will be back in Utah by Nov 6th to vote in person! Four years ago, I ran and voted, wriggling my toes at the voting booth in my American flag socks. In a few weeks, I will wear my patriotism on my feet and do that wriggle again.

Except, this time, I'm still an undecided voter this late into the game. 

Maybe they are right. I do have commitment issues.

p.s. Weekend in Nanjing with old friends was fantastic. Partying it up for 4 hours at a karaoke was hard for the throat though. Now even my vocal chords are getting old.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ignorance is Bliss

. . . when you're riding a bike with a billowing skirt and all the men walking towards you can't take their eyes off you because a gust of wind just swept through.

The best part of the scene isn't that I might be flashing lots of unsuspecting strangers before breakfast (pretty much every other day given my skirt habits and the weather).

The point is that I can now ride a bike with one hand on the bar and the other holding down my skirt, while dodging fast cars/ bikes because I'm riding against traffic.

 I can now ride a bike. Boom, baby.

When I was 4, I was a high flyer on that tricycle. Then the third wheel came off and I started losing playground races.

When I was 14, I gritted my teeth and rode a bike to conform to the Messick stereotype of athletic, outdoorsy kids and crashed into a horse. A stationary horse hooked to a carriage. My face tasted horse sweat and my shins concrete. I narrowly missed the warm pile of grass green manure.

When I was 21, I promised a boyfriend a romantic day biking around Santa Monica to make up for past whatevers. He yelled at me because I nearly got run over by buses and nearly ran over old ladies. I thought I was already doing pretty good. That was the last time I saw him.

When I was 22, I mentioned casually to a friend that I would be running home to grab something. He tossed me his public bike rental card. Sheer embarrassment forced me to the bike rack. It took me 35 min to bike home when normally it took me 15 min to walk.

But hey. 35 min turned into 25 and then 20. I'm still stuck at 15 min though. Perhaps I just bike slow. Or I just walk really fast.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In Awe

I purposely took out all the exclamation points here because I am at a risk of becoming one of those bloggers who is just so! excited! for! EVERYTHING!!

Disclaimer aside, I am super pumped. Because Mexico City is calling my name in a seductive Hola mi amiga kind of way. And I'm flying there in less than two weeks. More details slash origin story later. 

But in the meantime, I'm salivating over photos of Mexico and thanking God (and CEO) that I'm not paying for the flight. 

When I heard about the Pyramid of the Sun from a good friend back in college, I put it on my bucket list. It is a little worrisome that I'm burning through my bucket list relatively fast, having crossed off Angkor Wat two weeks ago. Either my list isn't lengthy enough (100+) or I'm not destined to live long. 

Sarcasm notwithstanding, I'm genuinely grateful for these opportunities that blow my world apart over and over again. Humbled. Awed. Repeatedly.

Pyramid of the Sun

Monday, October 8, 2012

Going on a Break

Phone off. Lights off. Emotions off.

Buying a random TV show and watching half the season in one go because your remote is out of batteries and you still have a whole box of Ritz crackers to work through is a definite low.

But being so deliberately irresponsible after a crappy day(s) tastes delicious.

And it's not because of all that cream cheese and crumbs on my lips.

Better this than retail therapy. (Thank you China for not allowing online payment on Macs).

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Water Children

We hopped onto a tuk tuk and headed down a dusty road, zipping by houses on stilts, to search for the Floating Village. And after driving on a creaky boat for 20 minutes, we found it. True to its name, the people there lived on boats. It was a whole community that bobbed on the calm waters, raising pigs and ducks on buoyant pens, buying dinner ingredients from mobile supermarket canoes, passing Friday nights at the pool table hall, and going to class on school boats.

At the wheels (paddles? motor?)

Home sweet home.

Door to door supermarket. Fruits. Leafy greens. Fish of the Day.

That little boy loved his pink school bag. Flaunt the barbie pride bud.

Oh yeah. They raised crocodiles near their schools as well.

And yep. That's a python. Just playing with the baby.

Don't have a second boat at home?
 Just hop in a GIANT BOWL
 and grab a paddle (and a snake).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


"So what's the difference between Thai and Khmer (Cambodian) massage?" Pausing every two words in her pieced together English, the girl explained to me that Thai massage is strong strong, while Khmer is soft soft. I nodded, eager to see how Chinese massages compared.

I followed the girl up the creaking back stairs, past the storefront posters of ecstatic foreigners in their massage catharsis. She led me to a dimly lit room, with old mattresses lining the peeling walls and tired fans whirling above. It provided the perfect backdrop for my crazy imagination to scream THIS IS HOW TRAFFICKING HAPPENS.

I didn't get a photo of our shop, but it's similar.

Regardless, I dutifully laid face down. Rub. Rub. Rub. I definitely got the Thai right around the lower back region, but grit my teeth and prayed for more Khmer. I felt like those Japanese cows that got rub downs and beers before being sent to the slaughterhouse.

I also never realized how self-conscious I would feel when a stranger giggled and chattered in another language while touching my body. As a passive aggressive response, I mentally recorded the number of acupuncture pressure points that she did not hit. Chinese massage snobbery? Absolutely.

Then she cooed Thai time missy. She put her weight on the back of my thighs with her knees, gathered my arms straight in her hands and leaned back. My torso was hoisted up, chest puffed out, thighs pinned down, arms pulled straight back, forming an unholy triangle like the sail on a wind surf. She sent me around the world by driving my sail far right, down front, up left.

She seemed confused. No crack yet?

So she motioned for me to sit cross-legged and put my palms on the back of my head, in the standard I-just-got-arrested posture. All of a sudden, out of the corner of my bewildered eyes, I saw one of her legs shoot forward, anchoring her foot under my bowed legs, and without warning, threading her arms between mine, jerked me sharp left.

I just died and did not go to heaven. Other maneuvers followed; my back cracked for her beautifully.

On a positive note, I was glad that she did not end up standing on my back like those Thai masseuse do in the movies. I was nervous when I saw bars near the ceiling.

Definitely learned some moves I'll whip out on J the next time he asks for a massage. Can't wait to see his face when I give him the windsurf special.