i didn't even realize today was friday the 13th until one of the filipino coworkers mentioned it.
of course loren wasn't coming into work this morning. not after the performance he gave last night, feigning an impending illness. i was surprised when he called. "you don't have to call, i know you're not coming into work," i told him. but he kept up the subterfuge, complaining now it was a stomach bug and he spent last night with diarrhea. i told mr.lee exactly what loren told me. minutes later yuwei told me she wanted to move our farewell dinner to tonight instead of tomorrow, because wangyan is leaving for the weekend tomorrow and she wants to come to dinner with us to send off loren. so i called loren back. "do you think you'll be well enough by dinnertime, 10 hours from now?" i asked him, already knowing the answer. he said yes. so yuwei told mr.lee we wanted to change the date, but unfortunately herbert can't make it tonight because he's going out with the other filipinos for a farewell dinner before each of them return home for christmas break. so we moved the dinner back to saturday, and i called loren to tell him the change.
with loren not in the office, this was a preview of what the work place will be like once he's gone for good after the 19th. a little more quiet, but things are winding down anyway due to the end of the year and people are either leaving for good or on vacations, so it's naturally a quiet time of the year.
i got a text from my bank, telling me i have new funds in my account.
i just realized i've been working here for more than 4 months now. time went by pretty fast, especially if everyday seems the same. not only that, but i've been out of the country (USA) since july, which means i've been gone for 5 months. i didn't think i'd stay this long. my original plan was to work for 2 months then leave. but it's interesting here. not so much the work, but the people, and of course the food. and when i do have time to get away (like sundays), i try to make the best use of my time. my weekends are exhausting but i really do just live for the weekends. 6 days of working just so i can have a few hours sunday to go out exploring. what i'd really like is to find someone who can join me on my adventures. the closest i've found is lihui and occasionally mrs.gu, and neither of them have my stamina for adventuring, willing to sacrifice the only day of the week where one gets to sleep late and go out and do stuff.
i asked xianglian out to beijing duck dinner tonight. she gave me the "okay" sign via QQ chat. i replied with "thumbs up." she narrowly passed my test where i invite a girl out for dinner three times. if after three consecutive times she refuses, i will never ask her again unless there are extenuating circumstances. she was already on her last try.
i asked zouyan if she could use her girl spy powers to see why fengya hates me so much. "nobody hates you!" she said. i never told her it was fengya, but she was able to deduce who it was from the evidence i gave her. "you have to keep this a secret," i implored. "you really like her," she told me, but i told her i didn't. i just wanted to know why fengya just abruptly kicked me to the curb one day when i thought we were getting along pretty well. "sometimes things just don't work out," zouyan told me, perhaps privy to some info i didn't have. that wasn't the answer i was looking for. what i wanted her to say was, "fengya hates you because she likes you too much but already did the math in her head and realize things would never work out and preemptively began to hate you instead." it's gotten to the point where she won't even make eye contact with me anymore, just walking by me in the hallway as if i'm not there. that is some serious cold-shouldering. this level of avoidance some serious dedication, so maybe i should be honored instead by this reverse attention. once loren leaves, i'm seriously thinking about relocating my desk to someplace else. maybe she's a sadist and derives some sort of sick pleasure in making other people suffer, but i can't stand sitting so close to someone who willfully ignores me at every opportunity. to say our relationship is broken is an understatement. everyday i fantasize about erasing all the photos i have of her, just to erase her from my memory. to think there was a time when i actually liked her! i really dodged a bullet there.
parts of yanjia will lose electricity tomorrow, which means the place that usually caters our lunch and dinner would not be able to make our meals. instead company buses will take us around 11:30 to a restaurant outside of work. this has already happened once before, but back when i was in western sichuan. it'll be nice to experience a food field trip myself. yuwei told me to fill up a bucket up with water when i get home, because sometimes electricity loss can also bring about water loss as well.
after work i caught up with xianglian and sat together on the bus as we made our way back to town. i'm still not feeling any sparks but she's a fun person to hang out with and hopefully she feels the same. we chatted about western wedding traditions out of all things: engagement ring versus wedding ring, how a traditional wedding is organized, etc. she told me she was in a bad mood, i didn't ask why (figured the bus wasn't the right place), but thought maybe it had something to do with her mother's poor health.
we went to the 4th floor of the chongbai mall for beijing duck. she thought it was my first time eating there (she'd eaten there many times before) until i told her it was actually my second time. fortunately there was no other coworkers dining there tonight, so there will be no office gossip about our date. we got one of the smaller 2 person tables along the side of the wall. i figured we'd just have beijing duck, but we ended up ordering a lot more: scallion pancakes, duck soup, fuxifeipian, 2 different types of greens (for the soup) and some mushrooms (additional soup ingredients).
i asked xianglian why she was in a bad mood. she gave me a generic answer of typical everyday stress. i didn't want to push her, but i could feel she needed someone to talk to and a minute later told me she was worried about her mother. she took her mom to a chongqing hospital a few weeks ago (during her vacation) to get some tests done. there was nothing wrong with her stomach, but as they were leaving, her mother told her that her pulse is actually very low, around 40 beats per minute, and she gets light-headed and occasionally headaches. so now xianglian will use up her end of the year christmas break vacation to take her mother to the shizhu hospital for more tests.
besides her mother's health, we also talked about my perception of china. i said it was crowded, dirty, and people were rude, but being impolite isn't necessarily a bad thing, and quite liberating in fact. she had a good laugh about my story of arriving in hong kong after 3 months trekking through china, my clothes dirty, clinging onto cheap duffle bags stuffed with souvenirs, with not a single hong kong dollar in my pocket. "what a dirty china person!" the people of hong kong must've of thought of me.
after dinner (RMB$140) i escorted xianglian home, which is along the way to my own place. i thought about inviting her out for a walk (it wasn't that late, only 8:00), but it was cold, and i figured she'd want to go home and rest. besides, we're getting together again on sunday so she can teach me how to make sichuan kimchi.
originally i was going to wake up early tomorrow (like 5:30) and take the bus into fengcheng market in old changshou to look for chinese santa decorations. if i found them that meant i wouldn't have to travel to chongqing sunday morning. but the problem is i don't know when the stores in changshou will be opened, or even where they are. might as well save some time and just go to chongqing sunday morning, i have other errands to run there anyway. if i go early enough, i can make it back to changshou by noontime, maybe grab some lunch with xianglian.
the CC7 girl returned to the office today, sat in the empty cubicle space next to mine. "you really like pink," i said to her, after noticing her pink laptop, her pink sweater, and her pink shirt. the only thing missing from her ensemble were pink rain boots (the ones she had were the usual yellow). i helped her print out some documents since her computer couldn't see the network. "come again!" i told her when she left.
the mouse has gotten to my crackers! there goes the neighborhood. i noticed new bit marks on my toothpaste. so when i pulled out my packages of crackers, i noticed one of the packages had been chewed through. these mice will eat through anything! nothing is save, i have to invest in something more chewproof if i want to continue leaving food in the office. in the meantime, i moved my rolling cabinet to the other side of my desk again, in the hopes of confusing the mouse.
with xiaolong on vacation, i've been chatting with his girlfriend zhouke. when i went to the procurement department to ask for some supporting evidence for a change alert notice, i chatted with her. in line waiting to get lunch. then later at the water cooler. xiaolong doesn't come back until another week, plenty of time for me to win over zhouke to my cause in my secret war against my frenemy guo.
xiao shen seemed to be in a depressed mood after i told her all this attention she was paying me made me feel uncomfortable. i also told her it seemed she wanted me to be her boyfriend when i only want to be friends. she said i didn't understand chinese customs, but i do understand when somebody is stalking me and this is what it feels like. she can't seem to stay away, and wrote me a really weird text message today, said her boyfriend dreamed about riding a bicycle from shanghai to changshou to fight me. what? that's insane on so many levels. this is the first time in 4 months i've heard her mention her boyfriend, even though others have told me as much. and assuming this is true, for some reason she's been talking to her boyfriend about me. and then this boyfriend whom i've never met before is having dreams about fighting me. then later she started sending me names of love songs that made me even more uncomfortable.
speaking of uncomfortable, yuwei informed me today that she has in fact been chosen as an additional cohost for the annual new year dinner. she said she'd also contribute to the talent showcase, singing a song. is every hostess obligated to sing? i joked with her that this isn't a karaoke bar, which made her super angry to the point that i was worried about going home and getting murdered (since we're neighbors). but she got over it eventually, being bipolar and all and her mood swinging back to normal again.
loren and i went to dinner again after work. getting off the bus, he said he was planning on inviting everyone to a farewell dinner next week. "everyone's invited except guo," he told me. even though i agreed with him, i still thought i had to tell him it was just too obvious a burn. "i don't care, i'm leaving anyway," he told me. we ended up going to the gan guo place we went when i first started working at the company. he asked me if i knew just about every single girl in the office yet. i told him i was working my way up. just recently, i was introduced to some secretaries on the owner's side of the company. "really powerful! (真厉害!)" he exclaimed.
returning home, i had an irresistible urge to clean so ended up washing the layer of sticky grease off of the glass panel bezel around the range ventilation hood (which i still haven't really used yet, 4 months later). afterwards i did a small load of laundry, some undergarments and 2 shirts.
maybe it was something i ate, or maybe it was the intoxicating thrill of feeling warmth again in my apartment after i figured out how to turn on the heat in the AC unit, but i had a weird dream last night. it's been long enough that i've already forgotten large chunks of it, but the one thing i still recall is somehow i'm hanging out with mylie cyrus and at one point she gets bored and decides it's bikini time and throws off her clothes to reveal a bikini outfit underneath as she saunters out onto the dance floor.
this morning i turned on the AC before getting out of bed. it was like turning on a massive wall-mounted hot air blow dryer. electricity cost be damned, i gotta get warm! i saw the temperature had already dropped to 58 degrees overnight. after 30 minutes of heating though, it was up to 63 degrees, but a lot hotter if i stand right in front of the fan. after the usual morning routine, i made myself a sandwich. i'm a sad sandwich maker, rarely getting too creative, rely on as few ingredients as possible. i will totally make a sandwich that's nothing more than a piece of sandwich meat and two slices of bread. the meat was this western-style chinese ham, more of a salami sausage but the chinese would never call it that since it's confusing. the bread was some raisin bread. as a bonus, i squeezed out some mayonnaise.
i was running a few minutes late and didn't have time to eat my sandwich. i wrapped it in a paper towel and left the apartment. there was a slight drizzle but i didn't want to bother taking out my umbrella so i used the paper towel to keep my sandwich dry. as i had a few minutes before the bus left, i hid in a dry doorway and ate my sandwich. it wasn't bad, but maybe a nice piece of crispy lettuce would've made the sandwich more interesting. the ham was good, it even had a little smoked flavor. the mayonnaise added an extra dimension. the raisin bread? sort of a weird choice for a sandwich, a little bit sweet, maybe i'll try a different bread next time.
i sat next to zengfei on the bus; she's making it easy by not sitting with her roommate and leaving the seat next to hers free. i would've sat next to her yesterday but i ended up sitting next to lihui so i could chat with him. zengfei and i talked about earthquakes for some reason since i was curious if they ever experience them in the chongqing area.
the only real piece of work i had to do today was to attend the kickoff meeting after the lunch break to discuss the 2014 chinese new year celebration ceremony. our owner counterparts really want 2 sets of cohosts, but our company is pushing for just 2 cohosts, since they had a bad experience last year with too many people emceeing the event. another potential issue: sarah li (a name that causes me to snicker internally every time) my cohostess is slightly taller than me. they're concerned it might look embarrassing for me, but i assured them i didn't mind. not only is sarah hosting, but she's also going to contribute some talent to the festivities, singing a song at some point. we sat next to each other during the meeting, i noticed her rayban eyeglass frames. i've only seen her with her nerd glasses and baggy flannel shirt, but it's easy to see she'd clean up nicely.
without first getting the okay from us, wangyan informed yuwei that she'd been selected as an additional cohost. yuwei was very excited to learn of this, but this totally foils my plan to get to know some secretaries from the owner's side of the building. later yuwei learned it's still a work-in-progress and nothing's been decided yet.
i made QQ friends with zouyan today, the office matchmaker. i discovered a while back of her reputation of interviewing every new guy who comes to work on this project, to figure out if they're single or not. i was actually kind of hurt that after so many months, i've never been approached. but once we started instant messaging, she wasted no time in asking me if i had a girlfriend. "why not xianglian?" she asked. i don't even know how she knew, but she probably has a network of girls who spy for her. i didn't realize i was being so obvious, but who knows what girls talk about behind boys' backs. so my response to her was measured. i told her i thought xianglian was nice, but we're still only at the getting-to-know-each-other phase. "why not? xianglian is single," she told me, which i already knew, "and she cooks" she added. she then told me that xianglian thinks i'm nice. zouyan also told me she knew which girls are single in every department, a good person to ask if i have questions.
lihui moved to a different cubicle today because he was out of place at his old cubicle, surrounded by construction engineers. however, not much is different at his new location, just surrounded by civil and mechanical engineers. but he discovered there's no wifi reception from his new spot, so he asked permission to move again. this time, he moved to a place almost right next to my cubicle, heartlessly kicking out some girl in the process, relegating her to the siberia of office space.
originally loren and i were going to try out the buffet steak place on the 4th floor of the chongbai mall, but at the last minute he said we should postpone it until tomorrow night. so it was the office dinner for us, which i didn't mind, meant i'd get home early.
back in town, i got off at the stop closer to the yonghui supermarket so i could see if they had any of those special santa head decorations i've been searching for. lihui told me earlier that they might have them at the fengcheng market in old changshou, but those places are probably all closed by the time i get off of work. yonghui is actually a pretty terrible supermarket, with not that much selections. goes without saying, they only had a little bit of christmas stuff, nothing what i was looking for. i bought some snacks then came home.
Smokey Robinson and the Miracles - "The Track of My Tears"
ZF morning lip gloss: talk about being a girly girl
air conditioner checks out okay
monthly apartment inspection: how's that for privacy. during the summer it's to make sure you don't leave the house with the AC turned on. during the winter it's to check you don't leave your space heater turned on.
chinese new year celebration meeting tomorrow
cold seems to be kicked, abouty 80% back to normal, getting better as the day wears on
office x-mas tree
liu invitation to dinner
return home, air conditioner can blow out hot air, just have to give it a minute to power up
some laundry, a shower, father's new laptop arrives, go to bed
i went to bed last night at a reasonable time - 11:30 - and woke up slightly sweat-soaked, trying to kill off the virus by heating it to death. having skipped dinner, i was hungry this morning. with nothing to eat but eggs, i left the apartment soon after i got ready for work to look for some breakfast. since the 2 nearby meat buns places closed for business recently, there's not many options for takeaway morning food. there's the bakery, but the delivery truck often arrives late so the shelves are often bare. all they had left was some coconut-covered rice flour dough balls (RMB$6). i ate hungrily while waiting for departure time, washing everything down with some warm tea.
on the bus i sat next to ms.yang, just so i would avoid having an open seat and risk having my office stalker xiao shen squeezing next to me again. ms.yang said her cellphone suddenly broke over the weekend, and with her roommate on vacation and her computer alarm clock not going off according to schedule, she narrowly missed the bus this morning.
i finally broke and went to the office clinic to collect some cold medicine. they issued me some black and white pills and a new cough syrup i never tried before. i was reluctant to take the pills because they're too strong, but i tried the syrup. unlike what they gave me last time, this one actually had the taste and consistency of cough syrup. it was a blend of chinese medicine, but surprisingly effective, and my cough (as well as my runny nose, surprisingly enough) was reduced to just a whimper.
i officially got my vacation authorization papers signed today. when i went to go ask mrs.gu about it, she told me i'd have to wait 3 months before i could take my vacation. i told her my contract clearly stipulated i'd get a vacation every 2 months. she said the rule applies to everyone, regardless of contractual bindings. having said that, i still managed to get my papers signed by mr.ma and mr.wang. maybe it has something to do with who i know. if this is clearly a example of preferential treatment, so be it. i'm not ashamed to get an early vacation, however which way i manage to do so.
the question now is: where am i going to go? i'm probably not going to go anywhere. i'm actually kind of vacationed out. just being in china is like a vacation, so to have a vacation within a vacation is just too much. i also don't really want to go anywhere. and i want to save some money. so i was thinking either west and hang out in chengdu for a while, or east and follow the course of the yangtze river, visiting some river towns along the way. it'd be nice to have a easy vacation for a change, where i'm not racing against the clock to get to somewhere, or fighting against the elements.
monday otherwise was uneventful. after dinner i returned home. originally i planned on going for a run in the gym, but i could feel the cough coming from inside my chest, so in the case of a chest cold (compared to a head hold), best to get some rest and not risk it developing into something more serious like pneumonia. instead of the gym, i went to the chongbai supermarket instead, and purchased RMB$120 worth of food, mostly snacks. i got some bread and ham, or what poses as ham here in china. i also got some mayonnaise, going to make myself a sandwich one of these mornings.
returning to the apartment, i stopped by the bakery. the trick is to buy at nights, when they still have plenty of items in stock. i got myself a wedge sandwich for RMB$6.
despite the rain and the fog and my constant coughing, lihui and i left changshou early this morning to go visit the chongqing zoo (i got to our rendenzvous point before 7:30, saw a bunch of coworkers leaving for work on sunday; lihui called to say he just woke up, but it gave me enough time to run back to the apartment to grab my umbrella). highlights included seeing a panda for the very first time. i've seen pandas before (washington, taipei, shanghai, chengdu) but they've always been asleep, so i was beginning to think that's all they did. but today i saw a panda that was going to town on some bamboos. i've never seen a panda eat before, it's eerily human-like as they tear off the bamboo leaves with their independently-evolved opposable thumb and stuff pawfuls into their face. at one point i thought maybe somebody was actually in a panda suit.
afterwards we walked to yangjiaping, yet another chongqing commercial plaza, this one located southwest of the city center. yangjiaping is cool because the elevated tram actually crossed over the square. we had a late lunch, 2.5 lbs. of weigh-your-own ma la guo. we then went to lihui's mother's wonton shop (she left before we arrived around 4:30, didn't realize we were visiting since lihui didn't call) for some wontons and some tangyuan for dessert.
we walked back to hongqihogou and grabbed a 6:00 bus back to changshou. by coincidence, we bumped into wang who was coming back from his chengdu vacation. due to traffic, we didn't get back until 7:30. i didn't mind anyway, both lihui and i were fast asleep, too tired from a day of walking. i was so full from eating in chongqing that i went to bed without dinner.
"why won't the lights work?" i thought to myself this dark morning as i slowly made the realization that there was a power outage. didn't we just have one last thursday? why does the city of changshou hate electricity so much? thankfully water was still running, albeit cold water. given the choice though, i rather not have electricity in the morning than not have water. later i realized i probably could've used the stove to heat up some water since it uses gas (all i had to do was manually ignite it with a match). i dug out the mini flashlight from my bag (preparedness! yay!) and went to go use the bathroom. i used my plastic basin to catch some water and do a quick wash before getting dressed. cold? yeah, but not crazy cold. it was sort of refreshing actually.
our entire block lost power, but across the street, the long rectangular block still had electricity (they were the ones without it last thursday). naturally the elevators didn't work so i walked down 11 flights of stairs, not too bad. i brought my flashlight but there was emergency lighting in the stairwells.
shirley arrived at the bus stop and immediately put her hands over her hair so we couldn't see her new haircut. bangs are the new style in china these days for women and her stylist gave her bangs with a vengeance. it made her look doll-like. to make matters worse, the stylist she wanted was busy, so she ended up paying more to a more expensive (and supposedly more experienced) hairdresser who decided to give her this look.
i'm planning on going to the chongqing zoo tomorrow with lihui but i feel runned down from my cold. still, a weekend feels wasted if i'm not doing something special, and i already promised lihui, and told a few other people i'm going, so the show must go on. but probably the whole time i'll be thinking about how good it'll feel once i return home, so i can rest for a few hours before going to bed and going back to work on monday.
afterwards i was all ready to walk shirley home - the first time tonight we'd get a chance to chat - but guo and fengya decided they would take a stroll to ancient changshou and guo invited us to come with them. my first instinct was to refuse, since i don't hang out with frenemies, but shirley was excited to go with them, so i followed her. i've never felt a stranger mix of emotions before, simultaneously feeling happy and sad, wanting to run away but also to stay. i was pretty quiet for most of the walk, either walking in front of everyone or behind. fengya never once spoke to me but guo was quite talkative, maybe because he was drunk. and there was shirley, blissfully ignorant of the shared history i have with guo and fengya, nor of our secret war. it was only when we parted ways did i finally break out of my defensive shell and became more talkative as i walked shirley home.
i went to the bakery again this morning to get another sandwich wedge. they were out of the cheap RMB$6 sandwiches, only had the slightly more expensive RMB$9 sandwich with more meat. they were also out of regular milk so i went with pineapple milk. perhaps on the expensive side of a typical chinese breakfast, but still cheap by american standard (just US$2). i will miss all this cheap food once i go back to cambridge!
while waiting for 7:30 to come around so we can get on the bus, i explained to zengfei that gingko trees - the only local tree that's turning yellow and losing their leaves - are either male or female.
i think i caught a bug because suddenly today i'm sneezing and i woke up with an irritating dryness in my throat that later developed into an occasional cough and constant throat clearing. i really hope i'm not sick during my cohost gig next month.
i tried to invite shirley out for peking duck dinner tonight, but she had a coupon for a haircut that's due to expire tomorrow so she wanted to cash that in. we will reschedule for another time. she's not shy when it comes to eating alone with me. no, "maybe we should invite some other people." with most of her girlfriends in relationships, i think she's tired of always being the third wheel, and enjoy being the center of attention for a change.
after lunch i asked shirley's friend fangdan to come visit my cubicle so i could use my mother's exclusive coach factory account to see all the bags that were on sale. along with zhouyan, the two of them picked out a pair of handbags. i paid with my credit card, fangdan will pay me back tomorrow in cash, and my parents will bring the bags with them when they come visit me at the end of february.
i found shirley wandering by herself in the courtyard outside our office in the late afternoon. she needed to get some fresh air. we ended up chatting long enough that we lost track of time. i noticed her hair is actually a dark brown color and i asked her if she highlighted her hair but she said it's naturally like that, maybe from malnutrition she added. i told her how i used to have long hair, so i know all the problems regarding long hair maintenance. she told me she washes her hair every morning, out on her corner balcony with the sink. i asked her if it was cold. "freezing!" she said, but that's the price of keeping long hair. i told her about visiting 2 ganji the past 2 weekends, and she said in her hometown of shizhu they have market days all the time (days ending in 2,5,8), with old ethnic minority ladies dressed in their traditional outfits. we also talked about birds, she remembered the various birds she saw as a kid.
i went running when i got home. there was only a few people using the treadmills, so i had many to choose from. i picked the corner treadmill next to the mirror, the same one i used last night. tonight's program was a rebroadcast of sunday night's football game between the pats and the broncos. this must've confused anyone who looked at my HDTV and saw an american football game in progress. football as we know it must be completely foreign to most chinese. i ran 12km/h for the first 2000m, before i became tired enough to drop it down to 11km/h. i still finished 4000m in under 22 minutes. my goal is to do my run in 20 minutes flat.
after a shower, i did a load of laundry, then ironed all my shirts.
my father called me this morning right when i woke up around 6:40, to let me know my mother was fine and recovering in the hospital after her surgery. (later when i arrived at the office he sent me some photos).
i left my insulated tumbler at the office last night so this morning i had to go without my usual cup of hot tea. instead i went to the bakery to get a wedge of sandwich (RMB$6) and a small carton of milk (RMB$3.50). yesterday it was white and foggy; today it was black and cloudy, with a hint of imminent rain.
my frenemy guo was at the bus stop with his new roommate. guo returned from his vacation last sunday and was back at work this past monday. "so you're running at the gym now?" he asked me. how he knew this i don't know. maybe he overheard my bus conversation yesterday, maybe xiao shen told him. why he even cared i'm not sure, maybe he was just being cordial.
zengfei was helping xianglian (shirley) ruffle her scarf. xianglian wore her long straight hair up today in a bun, a first. it's been weeks since we've last seen the medium bus, and months since we last saw the small bus. i climbed onboard the large bus and found an empty seat. zengfei surprised me by sitting next to me (politely asking first of course). we chatted about the weather and breakfast (oatmeal and fresh soy milk at the office). she seemed curious about my love life, asking me how many girlfriends i've had, and how come none of them worked out. she also picked up on something that nobody else ever noticed before: that i'm sometimes left-handed. she saw that when i gestured, i'd use my left hand instead of the normal right. i asked her if her parents were pressuring her to get married, and she said no, because her older brother (she has a sibling!) isn't married yet either. i also asked if her warehouse department experienced any layoffs, and she said they were spared (probably because they're pretty cheap to begin with), but she still doesn't know if she wants to continue working here after the chinese new year.
this holiday season i'm getting a lot of fake e-mail disguised as legitimate holiday sale flyers from name brand companies. i didn't notice it at first, but when i went to unsubscribe, i noticed the URL was pointing to an address in china for some strange reason. that's when i knew it was a fake, but probably by then it was too late because i'd already clicked on the link, which told these spammers that they hit a legitimate e-mail address.
my chest muscles hurt from my machine work on wednesday. but i guess it's a good kind of hurt, since it mean i'm building new muscles (at least that's what i tell myself). my back hurts a little bit too. at first i thought it was because i slept on it wrong, but i think it was from lifting several water cooler tanks when i was trying to be helpful. i should leave that work for those who are physically stronger.
working here, i've actually learned a fair amount of excel tricks i never knew before. for instance, today, i learned how to repeat rows for printing as table headers (this function is hidden in page setup in the sheet tab).
i had dumplings for lunch, my second time. it wasn't as good this time around, but i managed to finish everything because i love dumplings. speaking of lovely dumplings, i saw the OPMT (owner's management team) secretaries. sally waved hello to me while she waited in the cafeteria line.
i'm planning to go on another vacation between december 24th and january 2nd, but i don't know where i want to go. i'm not complaining too much about this predicament, because it's the sort of problem that only a first world citizen would experience. i also can't ask anyone at work for advice, because most people can't go on vacation until after 3 months of work, or they're currently working overtime to meet our internal deadlines. my original plan was to meet up with parisian eliza in tokyo, but i haven't heard from her in a while, so i imagine that's not happening. i could still go to tokyo on my own, but if i want to go to an expensive asian destination, south korea is right next door. airfare is around RMB$3000 right now for most nearby asian destinations, but korea is actually cheaper at around RMB$2000. i also thought about revisiting parts of southeast asia, like angkor wat. or maybe one of the southeast asian island nations, like singapore, malaysia, indonesia, or the philippines. another place that looks interesting: sri lanka. like i said, not a bad problem to have, but i have to decide quickly, otherwise the airfare will go up the closer we get to the end of the year.
i invited loren out to the western buffet restaurant on the 4th floor of chongbai department store. he asked me if we should invite fengya, i nodded okay but told him there was a good chance she'd be busy (she was, out to dinner with guo and his gang again). he asked me to invite lihui (yes) while he tried to invite yuwei (no). later outside he saw his former coworker and tried to invite her, but she was coming down with a cold and wanted to go for a massage after work. he introduced me to her; i never heard her talk, figured she was sort of classy, but when she talks, her demeanor is very much like a male construction worker (with a tianjin accent). later yuwei changed her mind and decided to come with us after all. loren also said he wanted to treat.
close to the end of work, the empty space next to my work area was congested with construction sub-contractors for some reason. it was a little distracting and made me stopped working (or probably that was the excuse i gave myself to stop). more distracting? one of the CC7 girls was there, the tall and pretty one. last time i offered her a chair, i did the same again. she took out a laptop, girlishly decorated with rubberized pink protectors and stickers, and started working next to me. i asked her what department she works in, she told me cost control. before i left the office, i gave her a piece of chocolate. "don't work too hard," i said.
the dinner group ended up going to the traditional restaurant around the corner from where yuwei and i both live. on the bus i saw shirley and tried to invite her to come to dinner with us, along with her friend fang dan. when we arrived in town, shirley decided to go home, while fang dan cryptically said i should still invite shirley. minutes later both loren and lihui were scolding me for my lack of chinese game. "you can't just invite a girl to dinner spur of the moment! you have to ask them beforehand!"
yuwei was already there and reserved the largest private function room for our party of 4 guests. i was afraid it'd be awkward because i didn't think yuwei and lihui knew each other, but apparently they did, even though i was all ready to make introductions. loren also ordered baijiu for everyone, even though i was reluctant to drink any. i finished about half, but the taste of baijiu makes me sick now, reminds me of vomit. the food was okay, the dinner conversation - most of which was beyond my chinese language level - was even better, with raucous laughter and animated discussions, everything from college exam scores to proper chinese grammar (or lack thereof). everyone had a great time, i will miss these dinners once loren is gone in 15 more days.
when loren went to pay the bill, he was surprised by the cost. apparently using their private function room costs additional money. i don't know how much, but enough for him to make a small stink about it. futhermore, yuwei reserved the largest room too, so he probably had to pay a lot. he'll earn it back the next time i treat! maybe everyone from our department next time!
my parents skyped me when i got back to the apartment. my mother was back at home, forced to use a urine bag as the sleep drugs the doctor's gave her prior to her operation hadn't worn off so she couldn't use the bathroom quite yet. later my father was taking her back to the hospital to remove the bag and make sure everything's okay post-operation.
here in chongqing province it can get pretty foggy, with most cities located in valleys surrounded by mountains. for a place so inland it can get a fair amount of moisture, remnants of wet south asian weather patterns making its way across eurasia. the fog is pretty incredible. in boston, being by the coastline and with a relatively flat terrain, we hardly ever see any fog. here in changshou, the fog only lasts until the morning; by noontime the sky is clear again, or at least a hazy overcast.
funny, even working 6 days a week, a week can still go by pretty fast, especially if you're busy with work. it's a weird kind of busy. yes, i have a deadline, but i don't feel particularly rushed. i work when i want to, space out when i don't, sort of easy. and in another week, i get another paycheck. makes me wonder if i can actually stay here until my contract finishes and then go home, probably sometime mid-summer 2014. early summer in chongqing must be nice, weather not so hot that people are cowering from the hazy sun, but still warm enough that all the pretty ladies reappear i imagine.
after work i went running. this was the first time where all the treadmill machines were occupied and nobody was working the strength training machines. i waited about 10 minutes, doing a triple set on the lat pulldown bar (rocking 70lbs). one of the trainers asked me if i was interested in a spin cycling class, which runs for about 45 minutes. in a darkened room i saw half a dozen men and women peddling on stationary bikes. class hadn't started yet, a few were just sitting there playing with their phones. it looked interesting, but i didn't have the time commitment. maybe next time, but tonight i just want to do my 20 minutes of 4000m and then go home. i also feel you don't lose enough calories on a bike, no matter how fast you go, compared to actual running, which is more physically demanding.
my wait would've been quicker but just as i turned around, a pretty girl grabbed a free treadmill so i ended up waiting a bit longer. in china, it's a total "you sleep you weep" kind of country. she was only doing a walk, occasionally talking on her cellphone, probably waiting for a class because she disappeared a short time later. waiting around gave me a chance to check out the performance of these runners. the average running speed was 6km/h (which is more like a quick walk), with the fastest person running 9km/h. my speed? 11km/h, 4000m in 22 minutes. i was slightly tired but kept up with my 11km/h pace. i was also by the side of the wall next to the mirror, so i could see my own stride which gave me additional motivation. one trick i learned is to not look at the clock, because time has a way of slowly down the more i struggle. i continued watching the first half of a JFK documentary, got to the part where he marries jackie kennedy. there is sound on these floating HDTV's but it's drowned out by the treadmill noises. i have to search for subtitle files if i want to watch anything at the gym (the JFK documentary was an mkv file with english subtitles embedded).
"how would you like to host the annual spring festival ceremony?" mr.ma asked me this morning before we boarded the bus. i told him i had to check my schedule. what i didn't say was i wanted to go on vacation at the end of december and didn't know if the ceremony would conflict with my days off.
my second care package arrived mid-morning. the delivery man called my cellphone. i went to pick it up, signaling to lihui - who was outside smoking - that our stuff was here. it was a lot heavier than i expected, given that it was mostly boxes of teas and one nexus 5 cellphone. i almost couldn't find the cellphone because my parents had removed it from the packaging and wrapped up the actual device in newspaper along with a bar of chocolate. i handed it to lihui, who was as excited as a kid on christmas morning.
the latest issue of the company newsmagazine came out today. it's significant because it includes the article yuwei wrote and that i helped edit in english. the article also features a osmanthus flower photo that i took. on the back, my face is amongst the new employees. i told mrs.gu i want to contribute some articles for the next issue (maybe a piece on nearby ganji market days, or local restaurant reviews).
i saw loren talking with mr.ma in his office and figured he must be requesting his vacation days, even though it was taking unusually long. after he returned to his desk, i figured it was my turn to ask for my vacation leave. recently the company changed its vacation policy so that now you only get a vacation for every 3 months of work instead of 2 months. i was hoping since my contract is independent from the company that i would be exempted from this new rule. besides, it states specifically that i get a week off every 2 months. i wanted to go traveling from christmas into the new year. i was expecting resistance but mr.ma was very receptive to my demand, said that there was no problem. i also told him i planned on going on another vacation at the end of february; once again, he said that was fine, i just had to fill out the paperwork and he'd sign it.
back at my desk i was feeling pretty happy with myself when loren came up behind me, put one hand on my shoulder, and told me he was leaving. leaving? like he got laid off? i was confused. we hurriedly went out to talk. "i resigned," he told me in his accented english, before explaining in chinese. he gave his one month notice to mr.ma because he found another job in shanghai. his last day is the 20th, his new job starts christmas day. he'd been talking about leaving for the past month or so, but i figured he was just venting. i didn't expect him to actually leave, but a former coworker offered him a job that was too hard to turn down. better pay, fewer hours, and closer to his family. why would anyone say no to that? still, it makes me feel sad. he was one of the few friends i had in the office ever since my frenemy revealed himself and took all of our friends with him. besides, loren and i had nearly identical birthdays, i was looking forward to turning 40 years old with him!
loren's departure will leave me as the sole representative in the claims department of the chinese half of the chinese-korean consortium. he said the company will probably try to assign someone new to take over his position, but who knows how long that'd take. i asked him how our department head mr.lee took the news. he said he was quite happy, because without loren's veto vote, the korean side of the company can issue claims without any oversight. i told loren i could visit him in shanghai, take saturday off, leave friday night. he said he'd treat me to the best sushi in shanghai when i arrive.
during lunch, he broke the news to our lunch companions, some of whom already knew (thanks to yangyi's big mouth) while others were shocked. liu (the other liu, not the liu that got laid off last week, he already left) revealed to us that he too found another job and would leave the project by the end of this month. xiao was lamenting how everyone was leaving. fengya said she wanted to leave too. ironically, i seem to be the only person who doesn't mind staying, given how originally i was going to leave after just 2 months.
mr.song called me into his office in the afternoon, holding my hand as he introduced me to a pretty girl named sally. sally is actually one of the secretaries for the owner's side of the company and the person organizing this year's annual ceremony. with our half of the company preoccupied with work, the burden of arranging the festivities falls upon the owners. mr.song formally asked me if i wanted to host, which i said okay. i would represent our half of the company. he told me the criteria was: 1) male, 2) able to speak english, and 3) single (not sure if he was joking). from the owner's side, a woman would be chosen to be co-host. mr.song thought maybe sally would do the honors, but sally told me that duty fell to someone else within her department. so i went with her to the owner's side of the office - which up until this point i've never actually visited, but seen people going in and out of there all the time, like this mysterious place. the office was a lot smaller than i'd envisioned. sally introduced me to sarah, another very pretty young woman. sarah would be my partner for the ceremony. she was a little taller than me but i don't mind being the shorter half of our pairing. sally showed me around to a few of the other secretaries. i also saw fang dan, who was there doing some permitting work. i waved hello to her. when i returned to my desk, she'd already found out what i was doing there. "so you're hosting the annual ceremony?" she asked me. news travels fast because somebody else instant messaged me with the exact same question.
i'm flattered the company holds me in such high confidence that they would trust me to emcee one of their social events, sight unseen. how do they know i'm not deathly afraid of public speaking? or maybe prone to bouts of tourette's where i spew obscenities? but i suppose i could've said no. if i wasn't visible before, pulling off this gig will make me an office celebrity for sure, and raise my stock even higher amongst the various single young ladies in the office, both my half of the company as well as the owner's side. i only regret that loren won't be here to see me and cheer me on.
lihui treated loren and i to dinner, out of gratitude for finally receiving his phone. we went to the lamb soup place that also serves dog meat. it was good, but the broth seemed a little watered down compared to the first time loren and i visited the place a few weeks ago. ah, i will miss our dinners together when he's gone! who will i dine with now? with loren gone, the one good thing is i can invite whomever i want to dinner and not have to worry about inviting him as well, even though he's been my backup dinner buddy for the nearly 4 months i've been working here.
afterwards loren invited us back to his apartment, where lihui unlocked loren's high security company laptop so he can transfer files onto a backup drive before he leaves the project. i shared some chocolate from my care package. the view from the 15th floor was pretty spectacular, the apartment wasn't bad either. i was tempted to move in after loren leaves. i told lihui would could probably move in together because xiaolong - loren's roommate - would probably want to switch places with me since i live in a single apartment. lihui and i left shortly after, walking home, with me carrying my care package box.