Thursday, January 31, 2013

Party in the PRC

Before Chinese New Year, all the restaurants are booked up, busily serving ten course meals, wine and tired smiles to employees who get to party on company dime.

It's becoming a booming industry across China too. Employees of big corporations are starting to hire professionals for scripts and acting coaching to perfect their company plays. The local radio plays success testimonials from individuals who transform themselves from what's-your-name-again to you-did-that-cool-magic-trick-come-with-me-to-a-sales-call by creating a career-launching impression on their bosses at the annual party.

At our little startup, we don't face that kind of pressure, but we still bring our A game to the celebration.

Girls clock out on average two hours earlier than the guys. 
And yes, top left corner is our resident part-time model slash receptionist. 

You need a gorgeous MC when there's a five hour program.

Magic shows. 
Never quite understood the significance of a piece of unbroken string.

We dress up quite a bit for company parties.
And somehow, I find all my costumes just by rummaging through my closet. 
That's why I don't have a fashion blog. 

That's my beau in the play.
And she's wearing two rolled up napkins and a paper crown while wooing me Gangnam style.
I'm telling you. It takes a lot to impress me.

Three of the performances involve transforming a man into a woman.

. . . and we're not even in Thailand.

This is the moment when my boss announces a 10% raise for everybody.
Best indication that our startup is doing fantastic.
I'm celebrating by planning a trip to SE Asia in April. 

 Somehow nobody else interprets "act crazy" as choking your team member. 
And this is the one sent to all the investors.
It's all about making an impression right?

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Occupational Hazards

The thing about being an adult is that you get to take business trips. The thing about being a kid still is that you can gush about your first business trip where you actually fly somewhere (ok Mexico City was a different type of business trip, but still). And nothing is better than flying back to your childhood home.

There are so many more friends I need to see. 
These people know all about the obnoxious seventh grade me. 
And yet, they still like me.

Skyscrapers are so cold and yet so beautiful. 

Somehow eating oysters always make me feel like a King.
And when tapas are involved, just call me Juan Carlos the First.

One of the client factories is in Shen Zhen, a neighboring city linking HK with the Mainland. Despite being so close to HK and known for best fake copies of anything in China, I've only been there once before. I was sufficiently traumatized by my five hours in SZ back in high school. HK-ers have a collective distrust/fear/loathing for SZ. Growing up, whenever I refused to eat my food, the lady taking care of me would threaten to dump me in SZ. A friend was sitting in a cab, when a wild-eyed teenager forcibly opened the door, grabbed her designer purse, and ran off. My mom even heard that someone's secretary, pretty wisp of a girl, disappeared after going into a public bathroom. 

Regardless, I needed to make the sale so I woke up super early, hopped on a train across the border, and started eyeing everybody suspiciously, ready to jab my elbows into anybody's sensitive areas if needed. I locked all my taxi doors. I clutched my ipad tightly. And I texted my boss that it had been a pleasure working with him and that he shouldn't feel too bad in the event that I was never seen alive again. 

I don't have any nice photos of SZ to share. My HK prejudice is alive and well. But I must admit that SZ has changed a lot in the last ten years. I'm almost curious to go back and explore more, which is good because it sounds like I'll be spending a lot of time there in the future. I guess that's what happens when you made the sale. Maybe I should have thought it through before I tried so hard. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Spamming My Uterus

Exactly 39 minutes after I posted my whiny blog post comparing wisdom teeth pains to period pains, I got this email:

"Hi Sisi,

Pls complete the additional Questionairs [sic] form that related to your menstruation pain. and letter of consent - Clinic and address to ask for your history on the consultation of menstruation pain.

Pls sign at "X" and email me back.

Thank you.

Warmest Regards,

AIA Singapore"

There was even an attached Gynaecological Disorders Questionnaire with some rows filled in for me already.

The diagnosis? Menstruation Pain (written in all caps).

This was an application for life insurance.

This type of targeted marketing definitely beats annoying Google ads on the sidebars of your email.


Oh and btw. That email was not for me. I wrote them back and told them that they had the wrong Sisi, and that from one Sisi to another, I hope she will feel better because periods do suck.

I wish they passed on my sympathies.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Strawberry Gloves Forever

I kept punching my memory foam pillow and readjusting my sleeping position within my down comforter cocoon, but I just couldn't ignore it.

My wisdom teeth were growing out in full vengeance. They were violently penetrating my fragile gums and trying to make their {teeth} mark in this world. And instead of counting sheep, I was trying to decide whether to rank this higher than period pains or not. 
I picked up my favorite croissant on the way to work this morning and happily plopped down on my office chair to get a bite before my conference call. I opened my mouth, ahhed, and closed it again. Food wasn't even worth it anymore. The receptionist was unsympathetically happy at my plight because it turned out that she hadn't had breakfast either. 

Your pain = someone else's gain.

I even looked at some GMAT practice questions today during lunch and was disappointed that I didn't get two full wisdom teeth's bump in IQ points. 

As a self-respecting adult, I naturally sent whiny SOS texts to my parents. My dad said to contact mom and make an appointment with the dentist right away. My mom, majorly proud that she's never had wisdom teeth before (her fun party fact), told me that 1. I was probably not getting my wisdom teeth and 2. I might just have Korean BBQ infection. 

I knew it. She wasn't happy with me texting her back at 1:30 am with the excuse of hanging out with friends. I suppose parents have to sneak their lectures in somewhere.

Hopefully, the dentist will wear strawberry-tasting gloves when the time comes. 

Korean BBQ with American roommate, French intern, 
and Uzbeki Russian friend in China.
United Nations much?

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Pillar of Salt and a Floating Cat

At the start of every new year growing up, we would prop our short legs up on the engraved chest in the living room and scratch out our New Years resolutions in our diaries. To minimize the angst we felt, our parents advised us to divide out into five main categories: Academic, Spiritual, Physical, Social, and Personal.

I switched from a Chinese Catholic girls school to a British international school in seventh grade. So for my goals that year, I had something like this:

Academic - Keep getting those grades

Spiritual - Pray every morning and night. Don't fall asleep during them.

Physical - Walk more. (Which meant that I walked a ton around my dining room table while I was talking on the phone)

Social - Stop being a nerd ball.

Personal - Fall in love.

I had to make up for those lost co-ed years. We learned a lot about taking baby steps and tracking progress in goal-setting so I was prepared. I picked five boys to maximize my chances. A hello here. A smile there. All documented. I practiced winking and clicking my tongue simultaneously in the mirror (yeah. I actually did that. A lot.). But mainly, I just observed Chelsea and noted down how she flicked her hair, shifted her weight, while rolling one shoulder in as she cracked up at the boys' jokes.

Fortunately for my parents, I failed miserably at flirting.

Fortunately for me, I got a lot better in college.


While Alice got lost in her Wonderland, she asked the psychedelic Cheshire cat which path she should take. He replied lazily, "That depends where you want to go. If you don't know where you want to go, it doesn't matter which path you take."

My previous resolutions were very check list-esque. Ask more questions in early morning seminary. Make more eye contact. Learn Spanish.

My boss at work goes crazy if we ever submit performance targets that are activity-oriented and don't actually contribute to an important business outcome. Create three power points this month. Have a great attitude towards customer complaints. Similarly, I have let easily measurable quantitative goals satisfy me enough that I'm not demanding progress in what really matters.

Who do I want to become in 2013? In five years? Ten? Who do I want to be ultimately? Purpose in life determines what one does with her time, energy, resources, and ways of asking directions from the floating cat.

So now I am accountable in a whole different way. The ancient Jews not only sacrificed livestock to praise God, but they offered up their choicest lamb. Have I similarly given Him my best 20 minutes of the day, when I am alert and thoughtful in my alone time with Him? Or did I just check God off my to do list?


New Years is seen as a cut off point for change. People are filled with hope for the better in January and guilt for the lapses in February. But in some way, every day constitutes an opportunity to do better. Even Jesus improved, between 12 and 30, and "increased in wisdom (academic) and stature (physical), and in favor with God (spiritual) and with man (social)" {Luke 2:52}.

The whole Christian religion is about change; not about where we have been, but where we can go with the help of Christ.

My uncle had always considered himself unlucky. He was born during the Great Famine when China starved in idealistic communes. He joined the military right before China reopened its universities after ten years of Cultural Revolution. He didn't drink, but he often exploded. During those lazy summer afternoons, my cousin would come scurrying down and hide underneath our beds while my uncle pounded out his string of failed marriages and businesses on the wooden door. A good man underneath, he searched desperately for change. Behind his locked door and papered window on the second floor were stairs that led to a small shrine dedicated to and smelling like whichever religion he was exploring at the time.

We invited him to church when he stayed with us for an extended period of time to help out with incoming baby Cody. But he would always prefer to hammer more nails into the elaborate storage system that he built for us while we were getting ready for church. One day while waiting at a stoplight in Central, the busiest district of Hong Kong, he pointed to a pair of young missionaries across the street and asked my mom who they were. She pulled him over to meet them and he was baptized shortly afterwards.

Young as I was, I couldn't miss the new light in his face and the genuine happiness in his eyes. He walked as a younger man, no longer bent over with regret and bitterness. He had found the change he needed.

We cannot stay the way we are and hope to become who we need to be.

If we have the hope that we can change, are we allowing the same hope for others to change? To say sorry? To grow?


In the Bible, Lot's wife was warned not to look back at the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and was turned into a pillar of salt because she didn't listen. When I was younger, I used to think that God must have needed a whole lot's wife of salt (bad pun), but I suppose it's really because she looked back longingly.

President Holland gave a fantastic talk about how faith is always forward looking. Lot's wife was not ready to put down those things she needed out of her life and she was stuck facing the past.

And finally, some words from the apostle Paul, a man who epitomized change. He switched from being one of the most adversarial persecutor of the early Christians to their most fervent teacher and advocate. In Phillipians 3: 8, he says,

"Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ."

He must have lost everything important to him. His prestigious position in the orthodox Jewish community. His friends. His family. His conviction of what he thought was right. They were all things, but yet counted as dung, when compared to his newfound faith.

"Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before.

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phillipians 3:13-14).

And that is what a man who understands clearly his individual purpose in the grand plan, armed with his faith to move forward and courage to not look behind, can win.

{Excerpt from church talk on goals and resolutions}

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Buying Relationship Stability

Some call it spineless. Others call it whipped. Here, we just call it financial planning.

As far as I can tell, it is pretty miserable to be a man in China. Not only are you competing with a surplus of 30 million other men for a wife by the time 2030 rolls around, but you're also expected to bring to the marriage alter a house, a car, and stocks.

Now the women are laughing even more.

All over weibo, China's twitter, women are celebrating the entrenchment of the "Wife's Gospel."

China's Merchant Bank (CMB) recently released a financial product that sends user A a text with user B's account balance every day, and automatically transfers (across banks even) any amount over the determined cap to user A's account.

To illustrate the horrifying ramifications, CMB even designed a cheerful poster that describes the perfect application:

"Newlyweds Xin and Wen want to save up for a house to build the beginnings of their sweet story. So Wen wisely decides to let Xin manage all their finances. Every month, Wen's bank account will retain $300 from his income and automatically transfer the rest to his wife's account. And he doesn't even have to go through the trouble of making sure that happens every month anymore!"

What a thoughtful bank.

Well it's working. Because weibo has been overwhelmed by men's desperate cries for patriarchal financial products too.

p.s. The word domanitrix was not what I thought it meant. And um. Don't look it up on bing to figure out how to spell it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


The week after New Years is always filled with delicious determination, a little guilt, and a few shelved promises. I like hearing about other's resolutions because it's like asking What's on your iPod? back in high school - you're learning something intimate about who he/she is without seeming like an over-eager stalker (that's what facebook is for).

Since I've been swapping peeks of resolutions with various friends, I'll just share a few of mine:

I want to make my decisions without fear.

I will study and conquer the GMAT and then apply to MBA programs in the fall.

I {just might} fit in some vague form of exercise every week. (In fact, I somehow found myself the newest member of the local walking club today. Yeah. We walk. For four hours every Saturday.)

I want my family to know that I actually care because I'm taking the effort to call, listen and share.

I will read 60 books this year and write a little something every day. 

I want to be kinder, going beyond simple hellos to cleaning ladies or Let me pick it up for you to strangers. I will try to take time to do 3 acts of niceness each lasting for at least 3 minutes every day. 

I want to marvel more. Paris. Israel. Japan. San Francisco. Hong Kong. Beijing. Boston + Chicago will be on the wish list. Italy as well? 

And other more personal ones.

Japan is tempting me. Two friends there = two reasons to visit. 
My bank account will not like it at all.