the medium bus never came today, so everyone piled into the large bus. there would be no opportunity to play musical bus chair with zeng fei this morning. when we arrived at the second bus stop, there were so many people on an already crowded bus that one poor girl had to share a seat with 2 other girls.

i was pretty busy today, so i didn't have time to ride the fengya emotional roller coaster like i normally do. at one point i had papers spread out all over my desk while i worked on preparing some claim documents to issue for today.

i qq chatted with sunmeng, asked her to give me a good song to listen to, she sent me some lady gaga tune. nothing says generational gap like lady gaga. i can't stand her, but apparently sunmeng is a fan. "it'd be a good song to listen to while running," i lied to her. i uploaded a few song from my own collection and sent her the link; i'm not sure if she listened to them.

i qq chatted with shirley, asking her if she was still making lunch on sunday and if i was still invited. yes, she said, what would i like to eat? i told her i lied last week when i said i could eat fish. anything but fish. she said it's okay, fish isn't her strong suit anyway. i told her i'd be curious to try any recipe from her hometown (shizhu). then she suddenly came to my desk to chat face to face. she said her hometown is famous for their bamboos, and she may have some dried bamboos her mother prepared. they also eat fern heads in shizhu, but those aren't available in the fall, and even when they are available, they're pretty expensive. i asked if i could bring anything, she said this was china, people don't do that. i said i didn't care, american customs dictate i bring something. i also said i wanted to help with the cooking, she said chinese guys don't help, i said i was going to anyway. i also asked who else was invited. as far as the invite list goes, just me, and maybe her roommate and her roommate's boyfriend if they're there. fengya probably overheard our conversation, which couldn't make me happier.

guo's toadie xiaolong and his girlfriend didn't come to work today. just to show you how chinese behave, xiaolong never told guo he wasn't coming in. that's why guo sat with us during lunch, across from fengya and next to me. after lunch i grabbed my journal and sat outside on one of the steps. guo and his gang were playing chinese hackysack, there was no place i could sit where i didn't see them. it made me a little miserable to watch them having fun without me, but all that misery went into the journal. i came back inside to check on my bank account (for some reason i can't do it from my home internet) and to brush my teeth. i passed by shirley's desk, where i saw her play some online game that looked like the chinese version of animal farm. i asked her how long she's been maintaining her virtual garden. she said 5-6 years. not only a garden, but also a farm, as well as a virtual restaurant.

at 5:00 i went outside to watch all the OPMT people leave for the day. those working for the boss work only 9 to 5, and monday through friday. i wasn't jealous, just curious. where you are in life has to do with where you're born and your own personal choices, but luck plays a large part as well. none of those people leaving at 5:00 are any more special than the people working in my office, but through the luck of the opportunity, they work a cushier job. i also wonder if the other office exists as a parallel office to ours. do they also have a token american?

the day ended rather abruptly. i checked the time and realized it was 5:30, when we usually get ready for the office dinner. loren looked at me and asked if i wanted to go eat mutton hot pot with him and his former coworkers. i hesitated, but he said i had nothing to do anything, so i agreed. maybe he knew something i didn't, but fengya was also going out to dinner tonight, with guo and yangyi. i of course was not invited.

on the bus shirley - sitting across from me - asked me some more questions about my weird pedigree. earlier (around 4:00) i was chatting with her and zhuang outside the office while getting some fresh air. maybe that was the first time she learned i immigrated to the US from taiwan when i was very young. on the bus, she was curious about my name - which is a very traditional name, unlike more common chinese names that have nothing to do with patrimonial lineage. she was also still very curious how i could speak chinese but not read or write it. the mind of an illiterate, something that people who can read and write can't quite understand!

the mutton soup we were eating tonight was a special variety - pagoda hot pot. each layer cooks the mutton in a different way: soup, barbecue, slow-cooked, and finally steamed. the restaurant was crowded and we actually had to make a reservation earlier otherwise we wouldn't have been able to get a table (3 floors). one of loren's former coworker was named tony as well, an older chinese-english man in his mid-60's. he kept speaking english with me, but it was accented enough that i preferred speaking with him in mandarin instead. even though he's lived in england (liverpool area) since his 20's, he acts more chinese than english, and his chinese is far better than his english.

the mutton was good, not as good as the first mutton place we went to last week (which was just next door), but the pagoda hot pot was something i'd never tried before and added a lot of variety. unfortunately it can get a little smoky and my clothes (especially my jacket) will smell like hot pot for the foreseeable future.

loren treated, not sure how much the meal ended up costing him. it was a special occasion anyway, his old project was stopping abruptly (money troubles if i had to guess) and all his former coworkers had their contracts cancelled and told to go home within a few weeks. all isn't bad though: apparently the severance package is something like RMB$100,000, not bad. loren regretted that he didn't stay long enough with the company to see the project fail.

i walked home with tony, who lives in the building across from mine on the other side of the street. we were talking, and he was telling me how no matter what, the english would always see him as a chinese first, english second. i think that's because he is so chinese. i told him i didn't have that problem back in the US. he has 2 sons, both married - one to a hong kong woman, another to a malaysian woman. his daughter - 27 - is still unmarried and currently in australia. "do you smoke?" he asked me out of the blue. when i answered no, he said he could introduce me to his daughter. i didn't know how to say no.