Category Archives: Uncategorized

An update: Singapore

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It’s interesting to see how things turn out. And we end up in Singapore now!! We both agreed that Tokyo wouldn’t be our permanent home location, but we didn’t expect an opportunity to move to Singapore come up so early either. Long story short, we are almost 4 months in Singapore now after spending 21 amazing months in Tokyo.

At our age, I consider ourselves lucky to have the chance of experiencing three great cities in Asia: Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore. Each has its own personality and unique in its own way. Looking back at our times in Tokyo, I would say that we made pretty good use of the stay: We explored most of the corners in the city (many by walking), sampled many well-hidden eating places and frequented some historic and exquisite coffee shops.

We also traveled a lot outside Tokyo, from crowded touristy places of Osaka and Kyoto to the very far east of Hokkaido, from historical Nikko to beautiful and humble Atami. Tokyo nurtured some habits into our life as well, like jogging, putting an extra pair of shoes in restroom, etc. I’m happy to say that there are not many regrets when leaving (Of course there are some but they are a good reason to go back!).

After moving to Singapore, we spent our first 3 months in a service apartment. So we can honestly say that we are tired of the white linens in hotels 🙂 The service and the rooms are very nice, good location and everything, but we were excited to get our own rented place and start to experience the life as any normal Singaporeans or expats that got the city packed.

We are happy about where we are and trying to establish the order of our island life, but change may quickly as these past two years show. Who knows where our next stop will be? Somewhere else in Asia? Europe? America? I’d like to keep options open.

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Not-so-latest latest update about us

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Update in summary: We moved to Tokyo, period. For work reason, period.

It’s been four months (that’s where the not-so-latest part came from) since we moved here. First of all, I want to thank my husband for his ceaseless support. He quit his job without any hesitation and agreed to move with me. We are now settled down in a cozy but very small apartment not far from Tokyo Tower. Four months make me feel like a somewhat local here, though the Japanese words I know how to use are no more than 20. However, looking back, it feels like a quite long while since we started living in Tokyo.

What made us move to start with? For over a year, I had been looking for internal opportunities in and out of Beijing. The team members are great but the job itself didn’t give me much sense of accomplishment and achievement. Within Asia Pacific region, I primarily searched all opportunities in Singapore but one day, a co-worker mentioned something about working in Tokyo. I was struck with the idea: why not check positions in Tokyo? That’s how I landed with the current position. But I have to say, the strongest motivation, aside from the previous role, is the team’s decision to move to Hong Kong. I’ve never been a fan of that place.

Last weekend, all the members from my previous team moved to Hongkong, which made me wonder how time flied. The communication of moving to HK was made last September but it feels so close by. When checking some photos, I can’t believe that they were taken in 2012 or 2013. This made me more miserable in the sense that I can’t recall what I achieved or did in the last couple of years. I want to do something monumental to remember how my life goes by. It doesn’t need to be magnificent. What matters is it makes sense to me.

Wish you all the best until next blog:)

Some distances are just difficult to cross

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Upon graduation, the distance between my best friend and me is 2,372km. The distance between another good friend of mine and me is around 1,000km depending on which city she studied whereas I studied and am working in the same city. The distance between my parents and I is 751km. Nine years ago, the distance was 100km.

Sometimes, I’m amazed at how small the world has transformed into. It is so small that you can reach someone by a call, a ticket or even a click. I have been enjoying the convenience that technology has brought. However, recently, I more than ever have an acute sense of the difficulties some distances have imposed upon me.

I know my best friend is just a phone call away, but I don’t know why I haven’t called. We sent each other postcards or SMS expressing how much we miss one another but we never actually talked. I’m not sure if distance has really distanced us. Perhaps, it has. We don’t hang out with the same people any more. She goes to pubs, party late and drinks a lot. I go to library, visit museums, and don’t drink. The names on her lips are nobody to me. My life has set in a certain routine and I’m contented with it, but it’s true that I can sum it up in a very short sentence. So what to share? Will she consider me boring? A married boredom as we used to call others? I’m afraid to find out. What fears me more is that maybe we are actually growing apart. If we talk, we will realize. But we don’t want to admit this so we just don’t talk and in that way, the bubble doesn’t poked and we are still best friends to each other.

For years, there’ve been some opinions that I’ve held concerning my father. For instance, he never praises me and he feels proud of his so-called “discouragement” education method. The other day I was having a very bad day at work. My father sent me an SMS asking me to check benchmark grades for some universities. I didn’t see it until five hours later. So I Googled it for a while but didn’t find related information. Work was piling up so I replied, “I didn’t find it.” Seconds later, another message came, “You’re stupid. Your brother has already sent the info. to me.” At that moment, “YOU ARE STUPID” seemed to be the last straw to crush me. This is what he often describes me from when I was a little child, to when I entered one of the best universities in China, to when I found a job at one of the best companies in the world. And he still called me “stupid”. I wanted to yell at him, “Stop calling me that!! You don’t know how much pressure and depression this has caused me.” My tears were on the verge of breaking out, and I tried hard to sniff them all in. I was still at work. The clients were priorities. I can’t cry. The anger and somewhat humiliation prompted me to call him but for some reason, I was checked. I have put up with this for so long, there’s no reason that I can’t wait for one more day. Then I never called. My father really feels proud that he doesn’t praise us, always gives us discouragement. He sees this as a motivation for my brother and me. When I was recommended for master program without any exam, he called, “I read it from somewhere that 1st tier students choose to work, 2nd tier study abroad and 3rd tier will earn master at home.” But did he seriously know the competition? Did he know how hard I had tried to earn the spot? He didn’t ask. I know and I believe that he must have felt proud of me, for out of 320000 students, only 62 entered my university and I was one of them. But I haven’t heard him say it. Is this the conventional Chinese way of parenting? I don’t see this occur in every household. My parents-in-law always gave encouragement to my husband. Will I have the courage to tell my father how I really feel about his “discouragement” parenting? Maybe not, maybe never.

Free and open

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How would you describe the era you are now in?
To me, Charles Dickens’ words have already answered this:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
It was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”

It’s been a while since the last post. A lot has happened. Nothing has happened.
Life has been the usual, for us. But for some, it can’t be any more different. The new leadership took over power which means a tough time for their opponents. As we like to put it, “New broom sweeps clean” or literally “new official has three measurements”, we have observed a few. A few corrupted officials were exposed; more scandals are coming through. Sometimes, you are just amazed at how much money they dare to collect. Houses of millions worth, mistresses one after another, how and where did this amount of money come from? New leaders say they will not tolerate corruption, so will this trend of exposure continue? I’m not sure. One exposure means thousands hidden and I dare not think how many more these are. What’s the hope for future? Or do we, ordinary people, have a future here?

I used to despise those who immigrated abroad. I thought this would never, never happen to me. However, at that time, I didn’t know the kind of society I would be in when I grew up. Most of the friends I know are talking about immigration. I love my country. There is no other place that can compete with my country. However, now I know “country” and “government” are different. I still love the culture, the customs, the people and the places. I still want to learn more about the history, the architecture, and everything. I firmly believe that the future of the country is bright and things will be better. We are now in the middle of change. But I also believe that for my generation and maybe for the next, we will be in struggle and there’s no hope.

Maybe I’m a coward but I want to live in a simple, safe way, to be able to breathe clean air and eat safe food, I want to know that my efforts will win me an apartment, not that I’m always chasing after the increasing housing price. I want to be able to speak freely, and move freely. I want to know that when after serving the country, when I’m retired, I will have enough pension for living. Now because of a stupid Residence Certificate (hukou), I pay high tax to Beijing but can only receive pension from my small hometown because I’m not a Beijing citizen. The pension of my hometown can be only one third or worse of that of Beijing. Is this the kind of future I expect myself to be in when I’m old? Here money is the most important. People are labelled and classified by how much of money they make. It’s the only thing they talk about. Here I am lost.

I’m lucky that I’m in one of the most respected companies and the company is really great. What’s funny is it’s hard for us to do business here because of censorship. There is a global campaign to pledge free and open Internet but I’m afraid of signing since I am worried about the censorship. Will they track me down? What will they do? Back to 2006, I could use Youtube and Facebook. There was no problem against Google search or Gmail. Now it’s difficult to connect to google services and Youtube and FB are blocked ( the list can go a long way). I have never felt this isolated and constraint.

For those that are braver than me, please check this out:
http://www.freeandopenweb.com/?utm_source=freeandopen&utm_medium=hp&utm_campaign=fo-p2-hp#loc=3/8.0000/22.0000

Japanese soba noodle

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Japanese soba noodle

My wife and I had this exotic food this evening to celebrate Chinese Valentine’s Day, which is the seventh day of July.
Soba is made of buckwheat. It is usually served cold and with soya sauce. Remember to bath the noodle in the bowl of soya before you have it. Otherwise the taste would be bland. On the whole, soba noodle is refreshing and cools you down in the summer. However, Japanese have the custom to have soba the night before New Year’s Day. And at that time they also ring the bell in temples if possible. I regretted that the dish was not as good as that I had last time, though it looked as attractive!

A Prelude to Chinese Valentine’s Day

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Wednesday is the day that should be celebrated. It marks the end of half the journey, only two days to go for the beloved weekend. But I feel like weekends are overrated these days. Anyway, I always like Wednesday and have a sense of relief when it finally comes.

Today is no exception. However, with two more reasons, today deserves more to be written down.

This noon, after I went back from yoga class ( Thanks to my humane company, I can attend yoga class during business hours, hooray!) , lengthy lunch and a little bit walk around the office building, a colleague came to my desk holding some paper in hand.

“Hey, my parents brought some consvenor momordica fruits from hometown. I put them in the mini-kitchen. Please feel free to grab some.”

(In case anyone that doesn’t know what consvenor momordica fruit is, here is the link of what it looks like)

“Sweet, thank you.”

Then she handed me one piece of the paper.

“What’s this? Wait, you print out the introduction and function?”

“Yeah, many people don’t seem to know how to eat it, so I prepared a brief introduction.”

Free fruits to sample and someone considerate enough to google this and print out for you. This is really sweet, isn’t it?

Speaking of “sweet”, this brings out the next thing I want to talk about. Guess what that is? Watch out, tomorrow will be Chinese Valentine’s Day!

Unlike its western counterpart, Chinese Valentine’s Day is counted with lunar calendar, which means each year it falls upon a different day. This year, the day will be August 23. There are many folktales concerning the day and here is the most famous and celebrated one.

Years and years ago, there was a hard-working young man called “Ox Man” (niu lang, I know the translation seems strange, but please bear with me:P). He lived on farming and he was single. One day, the Heaven God’s (yu di, who is the most powerful god in the heaven) seven beautiful daughters came to play on earth. The youngest one was called “Weave Girl” (zhi nv, a peculiar name for a girl, isn’t it?) and she caught a glimpse of our Ox Man. They fell in love at the first sight. The brave then decided to stay with the boy and didn’t return to the heaven with her sisters.

In the first few years, they lived happily like a fairy tale. Every day, Ox Man would go farming and our girl would stay at home cleaning, cooking and waiting for her man to back home. They also had two children, a girl and a boy. However, it’s not a happily-ever-after story. You should know that the inter-marriage between an ordinary person and a fairy is not allowed. The evil mother of the girl found out and was extremely furious at them. She sent out a regimen of soldiers and forced the girl to back to the heaven. Ox Man didn’t want to give up. Carrying his two children, he ran after the soldiers and pleaded the mother in the hope of winning back Weave Girl. However the mother was hard-hearted and couldn’t be assuaged. In the end, she took out her hairpin and scratched a wide river in the sky to separate the two lovers. And thus how Milky Way (known as Silver River in Chinese culture) came into being.

Sadly, Ox Man sat on one side of the river while Weave Girl on the other. And they wept, a lot. Finally, magpies took pity on them and once in a year, they would fly up to heaven and build a bridge for the two lovers to meet. And the day is July 7th, according to Chinese lunar calendar.

Since then, the day has been celebrated as Valentine’s Day in China.

As the first Valentine’s Day after our marriage, what kind of surprise Frank is preparing for me? What presents will I buy for him?

Well, that’s a secret I’ll never tell.
Until tomorrow 🙂

PS: For anyone interested to know Chinese Valentine’s Day more, please refer to the following link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qixi_Festival

The version of the story might differ in details but you won’t mind, do you? This is what I was told when I was a kid.

Below is the photo of the fruit and the introduction page, sweet, sweet: