every morning i play this game where i decide whether i take the medium bus or the big bus. today, it was the medium bus. it was a brisk morning, perfect weather to wear my new jacket, but not one person noticed, or if they did, they said nothing. maybe it looked like an outfit i would naturally wear so it wasn't ostentatious enough that anybody would pay attention to. i guess that's a good thing? or maybe people simply just don't care. seating on the medium bus is a little weird: single seats one side, double seats on the other, and a row of seats in the back. it's nice to grab a single seat because i don't have to share a row with anybody else and i can be lost in my own thoughts for the 25 minutes it takes to drive to the office. i was ready to relax with some diana ross except i left my earbuds at home. instead i was flipping through my lonely planet guide (like i did this morning, standing in the doorway, waiting for the medium bus to show up), reading up on the section about western sichuan. that really pretty girl didn't take the medium bus today, opting instead for the small minivan. she wore red pants. i love red pants.

i was watching game 4 between the red sox and the tigers this morning. or actually, i was just following the play-by-play graphics on the mlb.com website. better than nothing. working in the office in morning is perfect time to "watch" the game. red sox ended up losing. it was basically over the moment the tigers went up 5-0 in a single inning. sox staged a comeback in the 9th but the rally fell short. now the series is tied 2-2.

there's been a rumor floating around the office for the past few days that the company was going to modify the vacation schedule. instead of a week off for every 2 months of work (working 6 day weeks), they were going to change it to 10 days off for every 3 months work. well today an official e-mail was sent to all company employees confirming the rumor. i'm beyond angry, but i'm not sure if this new rule will affect me or not because i'm not actually a full-time employee but a contractor hired through a 3rd party. and in my contract it specifically says that for every 2 months of work i get 1 week off. plus, unlike my other coworkers, i have an escape hatch. i can simply just leave, resume my normal life back in the US. it'd be nice to pad my salary a bit, but not at the expense of working so many hours i have zero free time. it's already bad enough working 6 days a week, now they want us to work an additional month and as a reward given 3 additional measly vacation days. actually if you work 2 months that's about 9 weeks so technically if the reasoning for work 6 days is so all the saturdays worked can be combined into a vacation week, then they should be giving us 9 days off. work 3 months? 2 weeks.

i feel bad for my fellow coworkers, who grumble quietly about this new policy but can't seem to do anything about it. during lunch i asked them if there was an employee union, and that all the workers should strike to demand a fair vacation schedule. if all of us stop working, what can management do? hire new people? they're already understaffed as it is, with skilled engineers/construction people reluctant to work on a project with less than half a year left on its schedule. i don't understand how in communist china, the role of the proliteriat has been reduced to nothing more than a cog in a machine, a number on a spreadsheet, and that bosses have all the power. it's ironic that i - an american from capitalist united states - should be trying to rouse the employees into action. where is the communist spirit? is everyone so afraid of losing a paycheck that they'd do anything the boss tells them to do?

after lunch i was talking with wang, that young man from chengdu who frequently visits western sichuan. i wanted to pick his brain to see if there was any problems with the route i've decided to take. i told him i was going to fly to kangding from chongqing. he told me that the kangding airport is actually kind of far from the town, which was something i already knew (40km+). i asked him if it was worth it going to tagong, a high altitude grass plain north of the airport, but he said there wasn't really anything there, and suggested i go to kangding instead, where there are more buses to danba and other destinations. he said in western china people (i.e. kham tibetans) are a lot like me. sexy? i thought. no, they can't read chinese, he replied. he showed me some of his photos from tagong. he went one week during chinese independence day, in a caravan of 7-8 other cars.

why am i so tired today? i didn't sleep that late, around midnight, which is kind of early given how late i've been staying up. at 4:00 i hit my wall, even though at 2:00 i drank a precautionary cup of coffee. in 2 more days i will be gone from here, and i can look forward to getting even less sleep while on vacation (but it's the good kind of sleep deprivation, as if there are differences). but my world revolves around the few hours after work, single day weekends, holidays, and vacations. it certainly doesn't revolve around work, which i consider a necessary evil, space filler.

i did something weird during dinner: it was already 5:50, and i figured if i could eat fast enough, i could still catch the 6:00 bus. so i finished my food in just 5 minutes. this shocked everyone at the lunch time because i'm usually the last person at the table because i'm a very slow eater. i just wanted to do it to see if i could. another (more stupid) reason was i didn't want to ride the bus back with fy. it's not like i'd sit next to her, because i promised myself i wouldn't. it's just that if i see her sitting with another guy, and they're laughing and chatting together, i get jealous for no reason and it drives me crazy.

even with a few minutes left, it still doesn't mean i can catch the 6:00 because normally it fills up pretty quickly. but i was lucky today, there was still about 8 seats left. i sat in the back with guo (who always catches the first bus because he doesn't eat dinner at the office) and zhouke and xiaolong (my travel companions from luzhou/yibin). guo said he hadn't seen me in a while. i was getting ready to chat with him when a trio of europeans got onboard and sat in the back with us. i quickly struck up a conversation with adam from munich. from my accent he guessed i was american. "who forced you to come here?" he asked, jokingly. originally he was only supposed to be here for a day, flying out of frankfurt to chongqing to inspect a faulty equipment. but the work wasn't complete so they have to stay in changshou overnight, then fly back to germany tomorrow. we had a great conversation because it was all in english, a language i am completely fluent in. a few times i noticed people on the bus looking back to see who was chatting it up with these foreigners. what they don't realize is underneath my chinese exterior, i'm probably closer to these germans than i am to the locals. i love speaking english in front of my coworkers. sure, i'm kind of showing off, but it's the only thing around here that i can do really well.

i got off at the yonghui supermarket stop. i wanted to go there to see what they had for thermal underwear. the selection was worse than chongbai supermarket, only chinese brands. i wanted to get a set of RMB$50 fleece long underwear but figured it'd be hard to dry if i started sweating in them. instead i went with another more conventional RMB$50 pair, featuring a middle-aged male chinese underwear model so ugly, i'm beginning to wonder if the bar for chinese male beauty is set really low.

afterwards i stopped by chongbai to pick up a few cans of ricola cough drops. this is the only thing that stands between me and uncontrollable fits of coughing at the office. all this sugar though, it's rotting my teeth!

i chatted with my parents in the evening. discussing my travel plans, i've now decided my one and only destination is ganzi. the town of kangding is so far from the airport and in the opposite direction of where i want to travel that it makes more sense if i can hitch a ride towards the direction of ganzi instead. and even if i did find a car to take me, it could still take 2 days to reach ganzi, way up in the himalayan mountains. but what an adventure! makes me excited just thinking about it. i just wish i had more time. but who knows, maybe after my tour of duty tentatively scheduled for april, i can come back to western sichuan to take in the scenery. perhaps by then some of the flowers will be blooming. if there's internet service, i could stay there for a month.