while my roommate slept, i was working behind the scene to create a seamless transition from my place to his new place. my father came to pick me up before 10am after having dropped off my 2nd aunt at the airport earlier this morning. we went to check out her place which she had cleared out before she left. she shares the apartment with two other chinese astronomy graduate students/researchers. i don't know how she does it. it's hard enough for me to live with one china roommate, let alone two (one of her roommate happens to be zhu lei, who lived at my place briefly fall of 2007). the thing i noticed right away was the smell. traditional chinese cooking is a very oily affair and the place smelled like a chinese restaurant. the whole apartment reminded me of a college dorm, with mismatched furniture (most probably picked up from the curb), an assortment of clashing pots and pans and dishes, and a bathroom so filthy i purposely blurred my vision so i wouldn't be traumatized by seeing anything too clearly. the only person who cleans up around there is my aunt, and she's not the maid and has since given up the struggle. with her gone and now 3 china roommates living together, it makes me worried.

my father and i cleaned up my aunt's room some more, storing some of her boxes of clothes up into the attic, vacuuming the wooden floor, and rearranging some furniture. her room is actually about the size of my own bedroom. although just one window, the lighting is better on this 2nd floor apartment, and the central heat keeps the place warm 24/7 (unlike my place, where the heat is rationed). she also has a much bigger television (although you can't turn on the tv with the remote and the 5 & 8 buttons are broken). on paper the apartment sounds great, but i can't help but wonder if my roommate will be disappointed. this is a shared apartment and there's something very utilitarian and anonymous about it, without mentioning the dirty bathroom and the smelly kitchen. compare that to my place, which is actually a home, lived in and furnished and cozy and somebody actually cleans up (me).

with the room all ready to go, i borrowed the car and drove back to my place. my soon-to-be-former roommate was in the kitchen emptying out the fridge of all his food, which was a lot. we went to market basket where he picked up some more groceries before returning to the house again and loading up the car with all his stuff. it was in the supermarket parking lot that i gave my roommate a wisconsin quarter, the missing piece to complete his set. we drove to the apartment and carried everything up to the 2nd floor. one of the roommates was home, some guy i've never met before. he had a sleepy demeanor and lazily welcomed my former roommate to the place. i showed my former roommate around. he seemed to be okay with the place with the exception of the kitchen. a lot of basic essentials were missing, things like bowls and dishes and plates. there were a pair of woks, but they were rusty from overuse; a pot with a lid that had seen better days. i left my former roommate to unpack and said my good byes. i told him he could call me if there was any problems or he needed anything.

an hour later, while i was having lunch at my parents' cafe, my former roommate called me. he said he forgot to take his cooking oil and soy sauces from my kitchen cupboard. i told him it wasn't a problem, that when my father drives me back home, i'll hand them off to him and he (former roommate) can retrieve them from the cafe. that's when it got sort of weird. he said he still wanted to come over to my place friday night after work. "the kitchen is missing some plates and bowls and i want to come over and borrow some from your kitchen so i won't have to buy any." sometimes i wonder if it's a culture clash or do these people just have no sense of propriety. i was scratching my head, trying to find the right words to say to let him know this wasn't a good idea, at least not for me. "just tell me what you're missing and i'll get them for you," i told him. my parents have a bunch of orphaned kitchenware in the basement ready for just such an occasion. "no, i think i still need to come over, because i won't know what i'm missing until i'm there," my former roommate told me. surprised at his audacity, i finally told him, "friday night? i might not be home." still he wouldn't give up, and didn't seem to catch the hints i was dropping. "okay, i'll just call you tomorrow to finalize plans," he told me before we both hung up.

if i felt bad about leaving him to fend for himself in a far inferior living space (despite the cheaper rent, bigger bedroom, and closer proximity to his office), i wasn't feeling bad anymore. i'm all about helping someone in need but not when they take advantage of my generosity and hospitality.

when i got back home, i e-mailed him a photo i took of some bowls my parents said he could have, along with a message saying that my parents also have the rest of his cooking condiments. he never responded, not sure if he got the message, or maybe didn't understand my english (since that's the only language i write in).

with the roommate gone, it was day one of single living again. first order of business was to get rid of the smell in the guest bedroom. i washed the bedsheets, which helped a lot. i also lit a scented candle in the room. i'm pretty sensitive about smells so it's going to take a while but i think any odor will be gone in a few weeks, once i get a chance to remark everything with my own territorial scent. i tried to get rid of the oily smell on my dish rags but soaking them in hot water and detergent, but after two rinses they still smell like oil so i'll probably have to throw them all out and get new ones (i was beginning to get sentimentally attached to them, having used them with no problem for the past 6 years).

when i had a roommate, there were a few good things. i never left dishes to sit in the sink, i'd always wash them immediately, to set a good example. i also picked up after myself all the time. now that i'm living solo again, all those bad habits will slowly come back. i'm good about clearing the sink but i've already started to throw my clothes around and the living room is quickly becoming cluttered.

besides the departure of the roommate, there were other good news: a check from client N arrived today. although only a fraction of what they owe me, i'll take whatever i can get. my motorcycle insurance check also arrived, now i can finally pay my overdue hospital bills.

in the early evening i went to the harvard museum for a lecture. joanna aizenberg - one of the premier biomineralization scientist in the world - was giving a talk on a type of deep sea sponge that makes a skeleton out of glass. more commonly called the venus' flower basket, these glass skeletons used to be given to newlyweds in japan as a romantic gift since they also often contain the remains of a pair of male and female shrimp that live inside the skeleton in a symbiotic relationship. the shrimps grow too big to leave the sponge so they become trapped in this glass cage but they make it into a home and clean up after the sponge. the talk was okay, the slides were particularly inspiring, but doctor aizenberg kept on holding up her one venus' flower basket specimen, which for lack of a better description, resembled a curved glass dildo. so the whole lecture was made inadvertently funny because of this seemingly inappropriate prop.

my stomach was growling the whole time so whene i made it back home again, i pan-fried some of the leftover chinese dumplings i had earlier today to make some peking raviolis. i watched a documentary series on PBS about world wars, then later some 30 rock, followed by the season premiere of burn notice. it was strange not having someone return to the house in the middle of the evening, nor someone cooking in the kitchen while i was watching tv. strange also is how much quieter the place is now, peaceful even. all these things i'm sure i'll quickly learn to get used to.