Monthly Archives: March 2004

Bubs is Back!

Bubs is Back!

Hurray! After enduring another 24-hour journey from the US, Bubbey arrived home on Friday night. I met him at the airport (I took a bus and it only cost 20 yuan!). Some Chinese celebrity was on his flight because I was pushed and shoved by journalists and camera people vying for a better position at the gate exit. When we got home, I did a redeux of the meal I prepped several weeks ago with Wang Jian and Ya-Ya came over for dinner: salad, sauteed spinach, edamame, choc chip cookies (Alton Brown chewies). Though he had already eaten on the plane, he willingly crammed in some additional grub.

On Saturday, Bub insisted on getting up early. By 8:30 am, we had consumed egg pancakes and some grease sticks. We were having a blast touring around the city amidst the early morning bustle. However, once we got home, we fell into a coma. Didn’t get up until the afternoon. For dinner, we went to our favorite Indian restaurant Punjabi. Stuffed our faces (I hadn’t eaten like that in weeks) and then left feeling bloated and gross. We then headed down the street to Carrefour. Apparently, it had slipped our minds that it was Saturday. What a nightmare. After we arrived home, we realized we forgot to buy measuring cups. Damnit.

Sunday was another quasi-lethargic day. We got up at a decent hour in the morning and then went to Dynasty for lunch. My uncle had taken us to the Chinese restaurant before… so we went in armed with the old receipt, listing all the tasty dishes. We made some minor modifications with the ordering, but were pleased nonetheless. The thing about Dynasty is they have this lunchtime fruit/coffee/tea buffet. At 12:45, the staff sets up an entire table with all these goodies. The problem is, all the diners at that point storm the buffet table. No line, no order, no courtesies. The winning strategy seems to be someone gets to the table, grabs the tongs, and starts piling shit on the plate. Other family members then grab the loaded plate and give the person a new plate. So the key position is always held. Meanwhile, the rest of us are kept at bay. Fortunately, I am a little taller than the average Chinese kid/woman, so from the second row, I just grab over them. Screw the tongs, I just use my hands. In doing so, I got all this negative reaction from 1) servers 2) front row people, but I had my say back. I mean, after all what am I supposed to do when they stake out their positions and never leave until they’ve hoarded everything?! Originally, I had sent John to get the fruit. After all, he is a giant and I thought the Chinese would be less inclined to push and shove him. Well, he was immediately turned off by their behavior and refused to participate in the mob activity. So he actually returned to the table empty-handed. Hell, the Chinese don’t have a Miss Manners handbook. I was not to be denied. I was determined to get in there and get my fruit. It wasn’t easy, but I returned to the table triumphant– two plates full of peaches, oranges, and pineapple.



Got my instrument today. According to my instructor, my guzheng (Chinese zither) was handmade using wood from Yangzhou (not sure where that is). It’s a beautiful reddish wood, with shell carvings on the sides. The sound is so rich and resonating. Now I just have to get used to the picks. You essentially tape them to your fingertips with first aid tape. I used to play using Lee press-on nails, but they don’t do that here. My lessons start next Thursday. And fortunately for me, my Thursday student canceled class tonight. Now I can attend the guzheng concert at the music conservatory.

Just got back from the concert. A nice performance hall, and there were many more people than I was expecting. The performers included two women from Japan and a Chinese man and woman. For the most part, the Japanese played really avant-garde, cacophonous stuff. I mean they were like slapping the strings and making all kinds of weird sounds. I felt like they were doing background music for some horror flick. I guess I’m just used to hearing classical music on this instrument, which dates back about 2300 years. The male performer was especially stellar. Apparently, he is world reknown. He did several pieces accompanied by piano. The Chinese woman played accompanied by a drummer. Anyway, it was an enjoyable event (except for the elderly couple behind me who didn’t know how to whisper).

Things are Golden

Things are Golden

I had my first class for SABIC this evening. SABIC is the company that’s hired me to teach its staff business English writing. I was stressing myself out, preparing for the first lesson. But it went wonderfully. My students are young professionals– in their 20’s and 30’s. I suppose I was expecting a serious, quiet bunch, but they were great– unabashed and lively. I taught the word “Ms.” today. Like my parents, my students thought it meant a divorced woman. Sheesh. But I set them straight and said that I preferred Ms. over Mrs. Hee, hee. The indoctrination begins…. One student said he loved my company name– “Move the Brain.” I was so thrilled, because my mother gave me such grief over it. “Move the Brain” is translated literally from a Chinese Idiom which means to find a way, to think of a way (solution). Yay, a Chinese person got it!

Oh, on Monday I nailed another tutoring job. This time, my clients are these sisters– one is 8 and the other is 14. At first, I was avoiding this job. I guess you could say I’m part of a childless couple and I want to keep it that way. But then my wise friend Em suggested I just meet the girls, just to see. The interview with them and their mother went great. The girls appear very well-behaved and their mother, though native Shanghainese, speaks English really well (as well as Mandarin and Japanese) and actually has a sarcastic sense of humor. She was totally cool, so now I’m really looking forward to starting that gig on Monday afternoon.

So things are going well. I’d almost venture to say that I’m happy. Feels a little weird saying that actually– not because I’ve had a miserable existence or anything, but because for a while, I had resigned myself to a boring life. You know what I’m talking about– life as this slow progression from human to robot. Life as an endless series of immutable tasks, repeated ad nauseum. In so many ways, John and I have snapped out of that cycle. I honestly feel a new liberation. It’s just amazing. Life is good. My brain is churning again. Tomorrow I’m meeting with my guzhen (Chinese zither) teacher to buy an instrument. I can’t wait to start taking lessons again. It’s been years already.

In the evening, I have my tutoring session with Cissy. She’s one year younger and just got an interview to the Fudan/Hong Kong University MBA program. The program application, interview, and curriculum is all in English. I’m helping her prep for the event next week–a group behavioral interview. I had private behavioral interviews when I was applying for engineering firms– they were the new recruiting tool a couple years back. But I can’t imagine having to go through all of that in a non-native tongue. Cissy is inspiring in that sense. She is motivated, confident, and undaunted.

In other news, John gets back in two days. He’ll have been gone nearly three weeks, can you believe it? He’s bringing back some goodies– although I’m disappointed our wedding cake will not be among them. I’m having a real hankering for yellow cake with buttermilk frosting. I don’t think my little oven can squeeze something like that in though. 🙁 I can’t wait for his return. I’ll have a feeding buddy again. I’m gonna take him to La Seine to celebrate (his return, my new gigs, Duke’s victory in the NCAA tourney :)).

New Apartment Pix

New Apartment Pix

Had brunch yesterday with my friend Anqian. An amusing guy, to say the least. He told me, “I’m really a pretty liberal guy. I just have three tenets: I’m anti-choice, I’m anti-gay, and I’m pro-NRA.” Well, leave it to Anqian to proclaim himself a liberal when his three beliefs essentially topple the cornerstones of leftist ideology. Ah well, we didn’t get into it. But I have to say Anqian is a rare breed. He grew up in SH, yet he stays away from the locals. He thinks their hicks– uncultured, unsophisticated, and unhygenic. Anqian is just on a totally different path. Every time I talk to him about teaching and finding more students, he says incredulously, “You’re wasting your education. With a degree from Duke, you should be rolling in the dough, working for some multinational corporation or doing i-banking or SOMEthing.” I explain that I’ve tried the consulting world, and it doesn’t appeal to me. And that though I made peanuts at FMF, I never regretted leaving CDM. Consulting was so emotionally empty. “Who cares? It’s prestigious and you get a lot more money–those are the only two things that are important to me.” Well, at least he’s honest. Talking to Anqian is always interesting.

My father called me the other day. Among other topics (my future, my “plan”, “blood being thicker than water”, etc.), he mentioned that the Gou family was becoming extinct. It was his ever-so-subtle comment on my decision not to have children. Oh well, he can get his legacy fix from Johnny. Anyway, Chinese tradition doesn’t technically consider me a Gou anymore, now that I’ve married an Eshleman.

Sunday: another cold and dreary day. I stayed inside mostly and prepped for my first SABIC class this Wednesday. In the afternoon, I took a break and went to the market. Picked up another bag of edamame and spinach. Also figured I’d try the Japanese eggplant. Throw in some variety to spice up my soybean/spinach/smoothie diet. Next, I headed to my noodle shop. I gotta take pictures one day of the guy making noodles in his little stall. It’s really neat to watch. Boy, on a day like today, with raindrops like icicles, a bowl of hot, curry soup and fresh noodles did wonders.

You’d think pasta and soup would satify my hunger for at least a few hours. Not so. Excited by my fresh produce, I cooked up the edamame, spinach, AND eggplant. All cooked veggies in my house are prepped the same: add garlic, oil, and stir it around in the wok. Turned out pretty good though. I guess I’ll have to return to the market again tomorrow.

I caught some updates for the NCAA tournament. I was surprised the Terps lost to Syracuse. Too bad. But I was happy to see my man JJ Redick is back on track. Awwww yeah! Duke is back with a vengeance. Unfortunately, Yahoo audio doesn’t offer free audio for the Blue Devils… I may be forced to swing by a bar. 🙁

So the Taiwan elections are over. Kind of. Sketchy little “assassination” attempt a few days ago. Now there are calls for a recount. Welcome to a revival of the Bush-Gore election. What a mess.

I’m getting back into my radio listening over here. For you fellow libs, tune in to Democracy Now with Amy Goodman. Good stuff. Telling it like it is!

Oh, I finally took some pix of our new place. Yeah, not so new anymore, considering we’ve been here almost a month. Oh well, check out our digs on ImageStation. Yeah, our complex is called “Harvard Impression.” Don’t laugh.

Passing the Two-Week Mark

Passing the Two-Week Mark

I marked John’s two-week absence by going to dinner with my friend Em. I checked out her new digs along Taikang Lu and Sinan Lu (nice place!), and then we headed to the French restaurant La Seine for a fixed price meal. The food was phenomenal! So excellent, I’m taking John there as soon as he returns. For 98 yuan, we had hot French bread, creamy broccoli soup, salad with smoked salmon, sea bass, creme brulee, and hot tea. What a winner!

Afterwards, Em and I headed back to her place. Her roommate Paula had some ladies over, prepping for a night on the town. I observed a nearly two-hour long process, involving lots of green tea & whiskey (yewww!), plenty of cigs, fresh makeup, and skimpy outfits. Paula even squeezed into a pair of leather pants! God, looking hot takes too much damn effort and requires way too much physical suffering. I mean, those pants were tight enough to cut all circulation in her lower body. Top that with those now fashionable, feet-binding, pointy spike heels and it’s a like a modern day torture chamber. I know I’m no style maven, and admittedly, my hubby has described my fashion sense as that of a “frumpy librarian.” Still, can’t women’s fashion be just a tad more practical and comfortable? Must foot surgery be an inevitable part of every woman’s future? In the end, I was happy to be heading home.

Cold, Rainy, Windy, and Wet

Cold, Rainy, Windy, and Wet

Well there was a reason I stayed indoors today. Already, I was suffering this week from a mild bout with insomnia. Then last night, as temperatures dipped from the glorious 70’s to the chlling 40’s and 50’s, the winds roared so loudly, I was awoken by the noise of objects rattling outside. The rain pounded against the bay windows. Remy, of course, ran to the farthest corner. It was a forceful storm, but I felt too groggy to watch the turbulence. The two days before had been beautiful. I even shed my winter coat (you know that means it has to be very warm!). I spent the afternoons out on the porch with my laptop and the pups. Unfortunately, I think I got windblown, because last night I was freezing under the blankets and this morning, my nose was all stuffy. I took the pups out three times today… maybe the sound of rain makes them want to pee. They sloshed around in the mud and puddles. As for me, the rest of the day was quite miserable. My friend Em called to see if I wanted to go out to a bar for St. Patty’s day. Normally, my answer would be no. But being alone, I feel particularly inclined to make outside contact. Still, my answer was no. My best friend today was a box of tissues. Oh well, at least I got some course planning done.

Project Management to the Max

Project Management to the Max

I like running my own little show. By that, I’m not just talking about freelancing as an instructor. I’m also referring to all the other logistics in life– it’s like one big project that you have to manage. John hates handling details, and I’m not saying I love having OCD all the time, but on some occasions, I really feel a sense of accomplishment when items get crossed off the list.

So John’s in the US on business. I admit, I emailed him a to do list. Come on, how often is one of us in the US? You gotta maximize, right? Certainly, I didn’t want to bog him down with stupid errands here and there, so I just gave him the biggies– like check on the townhouse, deposit checks. The rest I did behind the scenes. I ordered stuff on Ebay, purchased books from Amazon (things I can’t get here), and sent him back with my broken CD/DVD drive. So basically, he just had to receive the stuff being shipped to his office. This whole operation is going pretty well. It also helps that he went back with an extra bag crammed inside his suitcase. He’s gonna need it. But hey, it’s not just for my stuff. Supposedly, our household will see a new set of speakers after this trip. He’s also picking up some goodies for our friends: cosmetics, Levi’s, Golden Grahams, Comet cleaner (I know, can you imagine the fanatic who wants that? And it isn’t me!). The culture here is all about gifts.

Let’s see, what else is getting checked off? Our taxes, our next batch of forwarded mail, software…. On this end, I’ve set up Chinese lessons for John. He starts soon after his return. He said he could understand bits and pieces of a conversation he overheard between two Chinese women on the plane. That made him excited to start learning again.

I’m counting the days till he gets back. This project management stuff’s been fun and its nice not having to share the bed and blanket, but I miss my Bubs. Time for him to come home.

State of your Unions

State of your Unions

I now spend hours every day reading articles on Salon. Honest, engaging, and provocative. This article just made me cry.

Fear and second chances

I’m giving my marriage a second try, and I’m scared beyond fear.

Actually, the number of times I’ve attempted to salvage my marriage has grown so numerous, I’ve literally lost count. That’s been the pattern since my wife and I married little more than seven years ago. Survive and move on. Survive and move on.

Nothing about our marriage has been “normal,” right up to her cheating on me last week. The details are ugly and unnecessary: Day-care provider’s husband. Basement. Party. Day-care provider finds them together. Calls me screaming, yelling, crying, heartbroken, devastated, defeated. Things I’ve felt many times before.

Was I surprised at what happened? Not really. Our marriage has been spiraling downward for so long, I expected something devastating just around the corner, waiting to explode. Did the expectation make the pain any less? Hell, no. I never knew I could hurt like this. I didn’t know it was possible to feel pain so intensely. And I never knew pain could last so long.

Throw kids into the picture and the scene becomes too ugly to look at. Throw family into the picture and your sides are drawn. Throw love into the picture and the most difficult decisions you could ever imagine become omnipresent. Give over your trust again or run and protect yourself? I pity any man or woman who ever has to make that decision.

So why try again? My wife is an alcoholic. It rules her life. It changes her personality. It distorts her decision-making abilities.

Why try again? My wife was mentally and physically abused and abandoned as a child. It has ruled her life. It has changed her personality. It has distorted her decision-making abilities.

Why try again? My wife has reached the bottom. There is nowhere lower to go. There is no comfort now in the booze. She stands to lose everything and she knows it. Children. Job. Me.

Why try again? I’ve seen her sweet side. I’ve seen nurture. I’ve seen her potential. I’ve seen her free of her past, even if just for very short periods of time. And I love those moments. There’s a bond between us that I can’t explain. It’s beyond us. It’s a gift from somewhere. I can’t take that lightly.

She’s left me completely empty. Tapped out and dry. Devoid of self-confidence or self-respect. She’s left me unbearably lonely and without solace. And yet, that “something” pushes me on, fueling me to take the next step.

I’m giving my marriage another try, and I’m so scared it physically hurts, because I don’t know if all the AA and counseling and therapy and hope and faith and trust and compassion in the world can undo what’s been done. And I don’t know if all the promises and sincerity and prayers in the universe can erase the horrific images inside my head. But I know that if I can survive, the many years to come can be opportunities for us to show our children that love is the strongest entity you can ever hope to grab hold of and let take you for a ride. I’ve felt it. I know it exists. I can’t imagine anyone but her can give it to me. I hope I’m right.

Oops, Wrong Person!

Oops, Wrong Person!

I met up with an old college acquaintance tonight–Bill Yen, back from the freshman days of Duke. Bill’s a creative genius. Had sculpture exhibitions in college and just earned his Masters in Architecture from Har-vard. He’s in Shanghai doing some post-grad research and also working for an architectural firm. He’s already designed some townhouses in Beijing and Guangzhou that are currently under construction. The next I.M. Pei, I tell you.

So we scheduled to meet at the Starbucks on Nanjing Xi Road. When I approached, there was a man standing outside with Bill’s silhouette–casual and chill. I waved and said “Hello,” but once I got closer, I realized it wasn’t him. I guess the guy was having a blind date though, because he thought I was his date and said, “Let’s go.” Embarrassed, I explained that he had the wrong person. I apologized, saying I mistook him for my friend and then I sat down, laughing to myself. Such incidents (uncomfortable and embarrassing) only seem to happen to me. My good friends know exactly what I mean.

A few minutes later, Bill showed up. We took a cab to Wagas, a brunch/sandwich/pasta joint. Pretty good food, actually. I had a sweet potato/feta lasagna. I haven’t had lasagna in soooo long. We shot the breeze, reminiscing about the good ol’ days. Hanging out late with friends. Livin’ it up in the dorms. Thriving off that new-found independence, yet dealing with all that heartbreaking drama. Ah the teen angst. All so long ago.

I received an email the other day announcing my 10-year high school reunion this November. Ugh. So after depressing ourselves with talk of middle-age, we headed over to McD’s for soft-serve cones. Bill also appreciates the goodness of these 25-cent goodies. He said KFC sells soft serve but it’s different. How? Well I had to taste for myself. Our next stop was KFC. The cone was definitely different. Not as creamy and there was a weird cotton-candy-ish flavor. But I’m not that picky when it comes to ice cream. I scarfed that one down as well. These last few days, I’ve certainly been making the McD rounds. Fried apple pies, large fries, ice cream… it’s a good thing I’m biking a lot.

Domestic Goddess in da House!

Domestic Goddess in da House!

Well I was supposed to spend most of today working, but long story short, I went to bed around 3:30 am last night and ended up running around town all afternoon getting ingredients for a dinner I was hosting tonight. Wang Jian and his wife Ya-Ya were coming over to check out our new digs. They are Shanghainese and though there was no pressure for me to make dinner, I guess I felt a little ridiculous always suggesting that we dine out when we get together. So, I decided to make dinner. Once again, my handy dandy bike proved its worth. First, I rode to the open air market down the street. Picked up some fresh veggies and fruit (mangoes and bananas). Then headed to the local LianHua supermarket (where the produce was disgraceful) and got yogurt, milk, TP, misc. stuff. I headed home to do a quick trial run and eat lunch. Made a banana yogurt smoothie (I can really drink a ton of that stuff!), washed all my veggies, and sauted some spinach (so good). I was still missing some goods though, so a trip to Carrefour was in order. Biked over, picked up thousand island salad dressing (that’s the only dressing they eat here), ice trays (I’ve had enough with that crappy IKEA flexi-tray!), and green raisins (couldn’t find plain purple ones). On the way back, dropped into the Mediterranean Bakery and bought a pizza crust (more like a large pita bread). All set.

Most of you probably already know this, but my god, food prep is laborious! I mean, especially without the aid of a food processor, there’re all these little steps: soaking, washing, rinsing, peeling, slicing, chopping, dicing, mixing, drying. Fifteen minutes till 7, armed with my 3-qt pot and a tupperware, I headed down the street to our favorite noodle shop. Soup and noodles to balance out the meal (or rather to serve as back up in case if my stuff backfired).

Back in the kitchen, the factory was in full production. Cookies in the oven, pizza waiting in queue, tossing the salad, filing the celery with peanut butter… Remy and Martin were probably wondering what all the commotion was about: never seen mommy in the kitchen for so long. Whatever, they were lovin’ it, the little scavengers.

WJ and Ya-Ya actually arrived 45 minutes late. They got lost and couldn’t get ahold of me because my cell reception here sucks. But the good news was they arrived hungry and every dish was a winner. Ya-Ya even said she was going to buy an oven tomorrow to recreate my pizza and cookies. And she also LOVED ants on a log. I was so pleased with myself, I had to document everything. You can see images of the feast I prepared on Imagestation. Yeah, let the mouth-watering begin!