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.
shirley came back from her vacation. i managed to sit next to her on the bus and chat. she told me she and her mother spent the past week just hanging out in chongqing at a friend's house. hanging out isn't exactly correct, since she said it was so cold outside they stayed indoors most of the time. i asked about her mother's health: she said all the tests came out negative for anything bad, but her mother still has stomach pains, which she'll try treating with chinese medicine. she said i looked cold. i said i was okay, but then took out my hand from my glove and touched her hand. she and i were both shocked by how freezing cold my hand was.
mr.lee held an impromptu meeting this morning to tell us that the project manager for the korean half of our consortium was being moved by the head office to be in charge of a 2 billion dollar construction project in oman. since his days here are limited, it was jointly decided by our company and the owner that we will issue all our overdue claim items (almost 300 total) before the end of this month, actually in less than 2 weeks, prior to the start of christmas break. we will attempt to do in 2 weeks what we couldn't do with just 30 items in a whole month. however, the owner's side of management will be fairly lenient when it comes to pass each claim - like their version of a christmas present. so we look to be busy this month.
yuwei told me something i've always kind of suspected: that she's single. she was married at some point, and i still believe she has a son, but i think she and her husband recently finalized their divorce. that's why all the secrecy and missing days from work. but just talking with her, she almost never mentions her husband. and one time, while talking about how she wanted to go and live in america, she mentioned just her mother and son, no mention of her husband.
after lunch i was trying to figure out how to fix my NTFS-formatted USB thumb drive, when i suddenly had a feeling that somebody was standing behind me. when i turned around, it wasn't just somebody, but somebodies - three office girls. i knew two of them, fang dan, shirley's knitting friend, and zhouyan, the office tracker of single guys. i was actually a little hurt that she never approached me to find out my vital stats like i heard she does with any new guys who come to work here. but i guess today was the day. she came and told me that fang dan had something to ask me and thought i was cute even though she has a boyfriend (soon to be married). fang dan asked me when i'd be going home to the US. i told her not until the project was over. she said she wanted me to ask me if i could bring back some coach handbags. i told her i wouldn't be able to do it personally, but my parents are planning to visit at the end of february, and they could bring them.
our discussion attracted the attention of many other office girls and soon i was surrounded by nearly a dozen ladies. they were particularly interested in the bird illustrations i had taped to my cubicle (wagtails). i've never been so popular before! fang dan asked me for my QQ number and later sent me a document detailing the kind of handbags she wanted (with photos of sample bags). she wanted to get 2, one for her mother, one for her boyfriend's mother, sort of a wedding present for their nuptial at the end of march. she invited me to her wedding party here in changshou, which i accepted. she also said she'd be happy if i took some photos during the wedding, not in any official capacity, but just because i had a nicer camera. i asked her how long she'd been planning to ask me about the handbags; she said almost a week, probably waiting for her friend shirley to return home (shirley was also one of the many girls who peeked her head during our discussion). then suddenly she asked me if i wanted a chongqing girlfriend. that was kind of abrupt! she said she could introduce me.
back in town, i went to the pharmacy near my apartment to look for large bandaids to cover up the wound on the back of my knee from scratching at it too much due to dry skin. yes, even bandaids are only sold in pharmacies. the girl behind the counter said they old had small bandaids. when i asked her if i could find what i was looking for at another pharmacy, she said she couldn't help me. i ended up going to the pharmacy next to the small underground supermarket. they had a box of 4 large bandaids for RMB$5, band-aid brand no less. i bought 2 boxes.
afterwards i changed into my running clothes and went to the gym. i wore my hooded sweatshirt but still left the apartment in shorts, which drew some shocked stairs from passerbys. i found an empty treadmill that had a working television and plugged in my USB thumb drive. the HDTV brand is the same as the one i have at home, but the user interface is slightly different so it took me a while to figure out. i ended up watching an american experience JFK documentary with english subtitles. probably a lot of gym patrons were trying to guess where i was from. i thought it'd be easier to run while watching television, but i was actually more tired. maybe because i was pushing myself at 11km/h after almost a week of not running. for the final 1000m i dropped it down to 10km/h, a more manageable pace.i honestly didn't think i'd be able to do 4km but managed to reach it in about 22 minutes. during the cool down phase, i switched to a recorded broadcast of the sunday night football game pitting peyton manning against tom brady.
* my first time out on the construction site: picked a day so foggy we could only see the buildings immediately in front of us; went with loren with our tour guide xiao. biggest thing i never realized was just how dirty the site is; that native red dirt turns onto red mud when wet, getting onto everything.
* sunmeng's last day of work: we continued our flirtatious office banter throughout the afternoon. i met her by the office entrance and we took a few photos together.
* work gossip: who came in to work, one girl's jump from the chinese company to the korean company
* loren's artful burn of my frenemy guo: loren told everyone in the cost control department that he was treating them all to a sushi buffet dinner next week. fengya asked him who he was inviting. he listed everyone except one person. "you're missing one," she said. "who?" loren exclaimed with false ignorance. fengya whispered "guo ching qin." loren snorted, "i wouldn't invite him," he said through gritted teeth. i walked away, trying hard to hide my smile. maybe fengya didn't know this, but this was one of her first taste of the battle line in my ongoing feud with my frenemy. loren is obviously playing on my team. if i cared a little more i would've been disturbed by the fact that fengya tried to invite guo to dinner. i'm pretty sure she never spoke anything like this on my behalf on the more than half dozen dinners she went out with guo and his gang without inviting me.
i woke up 10 minutes early so i could be ready by 7:00 to say hello to my family back in belmont while they were about to have their thanksgiving dinner. this year's turkey - 24 lbs. - seems smaller when view across thousands of miles and on a tiny computer screen. having feasted twice on peking duck the past 2 days, my appetite for bird was already well satiated. one of my original plans was to take a month-long leave of absence at the end of november so i could go back home and enjoy thanksgiving. but there would've been a good chance that once i was gone for that long, i wouldn't want to return to china anymore. and the round-trip airfare made it cost-prohibitive to shuttle back and forth between the 2 countries. my time (and money) was better served staying in china. when i eventually leave, it will be for good.
i have a backlog of 3 weblog posts from within the past 5 days that i still need to finish. with my terrible track record of retroactively updating blog posts, i'm very much afraid those will never get updated.
* post-layoff "survivor's" guilt - saying good-bye to liu
* contract distribution and request to sign your life away for another year - my contract is not with the mix (since my contract is with a 3rd party in shanghai)
* shuttlecock action - admiring xiaowei - mr.lee old pro
* yuwei treating loren and i to xinjiang lamb dinner
* 40 minutes walking home from old city to new city - i needed to go the bathroom and yuwei walking in heels
* picked up my clothes from the tailor: couldn't find my original buttons, removed secondary shirt buttons for cuffs, clothes all smell like smoke from the mahjong parlor