mr.liu from our lunch group - whom seemed to be preoccupied the past few weeks - finally revealed the reason: his wife gave birth to a son! the catch: it's their second child, and within china's one child policy, that's grounds for a one time fine, which will equal to 2-3x his annual salary, to be paid out in installments i guess. having a second child is actually not that uncommon in china. the penalty fee is supposed to go into some child welfare fund but nobody knows what it does and the thinking is the extra money goes into the pockets of government officials. liu came to work today dishing out fistful of candy to everyone, kind of like the chinese version of passing out cigars. it's this candy that i ate throughout the day, giving me the energy to endure another work day.
when the work day is stretched out, i actually work slower. it's a combination of being tired, but also not working too hard and leaving enough stuff to do in the afternoon so it won't be a tedious chinese torture of trying to stay awake. that is the most important lesson i've learned about working in china. long hours make people less productive, not more. let me work 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and i'm a lot happier and do my job better. of course this could all be because i'm used to the 40hrs work week. if you never knew anything other than the 60+ hours work week, you don't have a frame of reference to know if it's better or not.
mr.guo sent me the cost breakdown for our trip to chishui. i wasn't really keeping track of our expenses - basically i was willing to treat every time - but apparently he was keeping score, which stands to reason, since he's the head of cost control at the company, so he probably lives and breathes excel spreadsheet. his breakdown is a thing of meticulous beauty. he even had the courtesy of translating everything into english, which i appreciate. i thought i owed money but apparently i'm due RMB$60, which i will of course refuse when offered.
i spoke with romeo - one of our filipino coworkers - about where he went for the mid-autumn holiday. "we went to a mountain nearby, very high," he told me. "lots of waterfalls." this sounded suspiciously familiar. i asked him where, he wasn't quite sure. "chishui?" he said, then showed me photos. when i saw those unmistakeable danxia geological formations, i couldn't believe it. what were the odds? he went with some chinese employees from the korean consortium. they only had 2 days of vacation, and ended up going with a tour group. they saw all the same sights, but i don't think they had the same experience that we did with our independent travel. everything is very artificial when you join a tour; independent traveling is where all the real adventures happen.
i skipped the office dinner so i could go with fengya and mr.guo to go eat at a new dumpling restaurant. i thought zhouke and her boyfriend were coming with us but they decided to go eat grilled fish instead. there was no more seat on the bus so i got the privilege of sitting on the fold-down seat by the bus entrance. this is probably the best seat on the whole bus - shotgun - but nobody likes sitting here for some reason. i didn't realize we were getting off at the first stop and got confused when fengya got out of her seat.
we were the first customers of the evening. besides 2 servings each of cabbage and garlic chive dumplings, we also got a large bowl of spicy sour rice noodles (酸辣粉). the strands of thick translucent noodles were hard to divide and both fengya and guo got oil splattered on their work uniform (good thing they're easy to clean). the dumplings were sort of small and cube-shaped, not the traditional crescent-shape. i thought i tasted hint of shrimp and maybe something crunchy but couldn't identify what it was. the dipping sauce was just some spicy oil, ground peppers, and scallions. it was okay but not too exciting.
when the owner heard us talking about xi'an (famous for its dumplings), she asked me if i was from there, since she's from shaanxi province (xi'an is the capital).
even though guo and i were full, fengya insisted we order another bowl of noodles (小缅). she's got quite the appetite! she must have some fast metabolism if she can still stay so trim.
when it came time to pay, fengya beat me to the punch. guo was out of the fight because he didn't have any cash. dinner was around RMB$35, about US$6, kind of amazing for so much food. by the time we left, 3 additional tables filled up with new customers.
the three of us ended up walking around the neighborhood, a traditional past time to work off dinner. we visited 3 different pharmacies, where it's customary to have a free scale for customers to use, weighing ourselves at each one. the last one had a digital scale, i'm about 140 lbs., which is about what i weighed when i left the US. i probably lost a few pounds, because i think i was up to 146 lbs. in shanghai.
on the street where we catch our morning shuttle bus, i turned around and saw that really pretty girl i've had my eyes on (zeng fei is her name, i finally found out a week ago). caught by surprise, i blurted out a "ni hao!" and she "ni hao" me back. our very first awkward street interaction! she'd changed outfits, either she was going somewhere or coming back from something.
we followed guo to his bank branch so he could get some cash. i stopped by a bakery to buy some sponge cakes. we then walked to the communist party headquarter, passing by the army of dancing old ladies. we cut through to reach the park hidden behind the building. it's not a place i'd wander around in the dark, but with the three of us there was safety in numbers. the park is actually several walking trails around a hill, from the summit which we could catch glimpses of the fake ancient changshou about half a mile away. we walked up the hill and back down, coming out near the area where we had the dumplings earlier.
at one point fengya got a phone call. guo and i walked behind her, guo whispering to me in english, "boyfriend." for some reason i got a little jealous, and told him it was probably her mother. but the fact that she was speaking in ordinary mandarin instead of her native sichuanese dialect probably meant it wasn't her mom. afterwards she said it was a former classmate of hers (a boy), while guo continued teasing her that it's actually her boyfriend. i'm not even sure why i got jealous. fengya is the type of girl who's friends with everyone, and everyone who meets her instantly likes her. i have a terrible track record when it comes to reading girls like this. sometimes i think she thinks the same way about me, other times i think she feels the exact opposite. i think she's cute and i really like hanging out with her, but for purely superficial reasons, i'd like to get to know that really pretty girl i saw earlier tonight.
i think fengya wanted to walk to fake ancient changshou, or perhaps take a few laps on the track field in the stadium. i would've been fine with either option, but instead we finally decided to call it a night and all go home.