Thursday, January 20, 2011

Read my latest cover story

The Chinese Dream

If you're interested but don't like the online format, I can email you a copy of the pdf.

It snowed all day here.  Everyone was walking down the sidewalks ten times slower that usual and this fool who lives in my apartment complex made the building maintenance guy hose the snow off his car as he drove out of the parking lot. This turned the lot into a big slushy puddle.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Back in the 'Hai

My flight home confirmed/re-justified all the bitching I did in the past 12 months about United (I plan to do equally as much in 2011 - so lets kick it off right now!). 

I had an aisle seat and the flight attendant came by once and dripped hot water all over my lap - "sorry, that's just condensation from the food trays." Mmm, thanks, now I smell like airplane food, can't you see I packed a lunch to avoid that? (Is what I should've said). Then she came by a second time and spilled ice all over me. "Oh my goodness, I have to be extra nice to you now blah-blah-blah" Me: "Please go get a napkin..." 

Why do they play the same awful movies on both the east- and west-bound flights? Shouldn't they assume most of us are taking round trips?

And then my bags were almost the last ones off the carousel.

I held it together past customs, greeted James, boarded the maglev, got off the maglev (it's after 8pm and I've had very little sleep in the last 24 hours), we get to the subway station. He wants to take the green line, I insist we take the orange line. We get on the orange line and he gently explains why it's going to take 20 minutes longer to get home. I start crying.

When you live far away, it's hard to come 'home.' I had to get up and go to work the next morning. Monday I got my year-end bonus - something I wasn't expecting. Then that night my trivia team took first place (RMB1000 in free drinks!). The following night we had our year-end company dinner and I won an ipod.

If you're looking for a homesick blues cure - money+winning alcohol+winning new technology is about as good as anything. A week later, my jet lag is gone (I think, I slept twelve hours last night...) and I'm feeling much cheerier.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Over Too Soon

Oh it is tough and sad to live so far away from my family. It's my last night in town and I already feel homesick. Ah well, let's not dwell on that.

Everyone over here is so worried about the economy. They have every right to be, but I'm worried about the fact that plastic soda bottles got bigger since I expatriated, as did those frappucinos they sell in grocery stores. Eew.

Other things I discovered upon returning: Al Gore cheated on Tipper (how did I miss that!?). I love the Bed Intruder song and Hey Soul Sister, neither of which are particularly new. My brothers introduced me to Gabriel Iglesias, and cracked me up countless times quoting the Crocodile Hunter bit. Unfortunately, I didn't get to watch much trashy TV - only one episode of Millionaire Matchmaker.

I'm going to miss playing games and hanging out with my brothers. Hanging out with 12- and 14-year-old boys is pretty much non-stop hilarious. I'll miss Billy's Christopher Walken impression and all the post-dinner guitar concerts. I'm not going to miss Jesus of Suburbia on endless replay or being asphyxiated in the car between two teenagers while my parents hop into the Cash & Carry.

It's almost 11 and I still have stuff to do before I go, but before I get on with it here's a little picture recap of my wonderful vacation:

The boys play cards and wait for everyone to get up Christmas morning.

Ricky and I got robes. Nice and cozy for those below-freezing Shanghai nights.

Three generations
Grandma at the dinner table.
Siltcoos boardwalk trail

Heceta Lighthouse
The dog! I can't get enough of this dog.
He's just so sweet.
Family walking the boardwalk.
Billy shows off his jumping skillz.
Kayaking on Woahink

For bigger versions go here.

Here's hoping for an uneventful flight. Goodnight.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Reviewed

Shanghai - 9 months
Florence, Oregon - 2 months and one week
South Korea - 12 days
Hong Kong - 5 days
Kuala Lumpur - 4 days
Suzhou - 2 nights
Beijing - 1 night
Moganshan - 1 night
San Francisco - Several hours

I became a resident of the PRC, I got a job, then a promotion, I wrote two cover stories, plus a bunch of inside articles, I stayed at the Shangri-La, the Marriott, and the Hyatt for free (three Hyatts actually). I had a bunch of free food, a complimentary bikini wax, a couple massages, a tea ceremony lesson, a trip to a hairy crab farm, a free round of virtual golf, plus some other swag odds and ends I know I'm forgetting. I met loads of interesting people. Basically, this magazine thing is a pretty cool gig.

This time last year I still felt like I would move back to Los Angeles rather soon, now it doesn't seem like I'll ever go back there to live. I'd rather be in the Northwest if I came back to the States, but who knows!

I'm not sure how long I'll be in Shanghai, but definitely through the next 12 months. It all depends on what kind of opportunities arise and where.

Most importantly, I'm writing. There are so many amazing stories in China and I'm lucky to be in a situation where I have a free hand to write about what interests me (except for that annoying censorship thing).

2010 was a good year. It was busy. The first six months in Shanghai were a struggle. It took awhile to adjust to my job, and loneliness is unavoidable when you're starting out as an expat, but now I feel like I have a large, fabulous network of interesting friends from all over the world. And I'm really grateful to have a job in journalism where I get to write stories of my choosing, especially in consideration of the U.S. economy and present state of upheaval in the media industry.

It's not all roses, but I definitely have more to be happy about than to complain about.

2010 Resolutions, revisited:
1. Ruin less stuff - Unsuccessful. I think I ruin the same amount of stuff, probably more since I moved to China and I have an evil washing machine that dismembers socks, nylons and other things.
2. Continue serious Chinese studying, begin learning simplified characters. - Successful. My reading is coming along. It used to happen only rarely, but more and more I'm looking at advertising and street signs where I'll know 80 - 100% of the characters used.
3. Write more. - Very successful.
4. Don't be afraid to fail. - Not sure. I don't think I had any really notable failures in 2010, so maybe this is still one to work on?

2011 Resolutions
1. Travel more within China
2. Save a bit of money each month
(I realize these two are in conflict, hopefully at least one will play out successfully)
3. Find more language exchange friends
4. Drink less Coke
5. Go to at least one new country (I hit two last year!)
6. Read more books than I did last year
7. Make the first move more often: I'm good at making friends and I know a lot of people, but I feel like I usually wait for people to approach me in mingling situations.