this morning: i took a few pieces of raisin bread i bought last night for breakfast. but i was out of the apartment so early, i decided to go down to the end of the street to the bun place wangyan told me about yesterday. i noticed that the regular bun place was still closed. for good? for renovations? who knows. i found the alternate bun place, got 4 small buns for RMB$2. i thought the lady said ginger, but they were soy sauce buns (dark meat filling).

zengfei and i stood together waiting for the medium bus. she had a bag of cherry tomatoes, which in china are considered more fruit than vegetable and are treated almost like grapes. i asked her about the sports meet last friday, where she was supposed to participate in 2 events. she ended up not doing either because she got injured while practicing earlier. i got the feeling both of us wanted to say more but neither knew what else to say. in the meantime, i will continue to circle around her orbit until we finally collide.

yuwei was still out of the office, but loren came back to work this morning. i told him i planned on being sick on saturday, and he had to be in the office because somebody had to hold our biweekly claims status meeting. he told me he was just going to cancel it, problem solved. saturday i intend to be sick in chongqing.

i hit my wall at 1:00, my brain screaming to go to sleep. my body was devoid of energy, my limbs draping across the office furniture. coffee was my only salvation, i pulled myself together and went to the break room to make some.

i asked shirley out to dinner tonight and was surprised she accepted unconditionally; usually girls want to add some additional friends so the dinner can't be misconstrued as anything but a friendly get-together amongst coworkers. i asked sunmeng out to dinner tomorrow night but she said maybe saturday night (hopefully i will be back from chongqing in time). in any case, sunday is still on, and now she wants to come to my place and bake a cake with her rice cooker. the plot thickens. i'll have to let her know that i have virtually no kitchen equipment, not even a plate. she told me she broke up with her boyfriend today. she seemed to be in remarkably good shape for someone who just dumped a boyfriend of more than one year. maybe perhaps she sees me as a suitable rebound, which i have nobody to blame but myself with my shameless flirty for the past few weeks.

my parents will send me another care package by the end of the month. i'm very spartan with my wish list items, i don't ask for anything i don't need. last time i asked for the following things: teas, chocolate, deodorant, halloween decorations, running shorts, gloves, hat, windbreak jacket, high blood pressure medication. this time around: earbuds (headphones), dental floss (unwaxed), x-mas decorations, contact lenses, yogi tea, and maybe a new pair of shoes.

i can barely connect to any non-chinese websites from my apartment internet. even seemingly innocuous non-political websites - like vitamin shoppe or my online bank - are blocked for some strange reason only the chinese censors know. fortunately, most of my time is spent at the office anyway, where due to our corporate status, there is less censorship (not zero censorship, just less). i ordered a few things online for the care package.

first, my yogi tea. originally i went to a place that had better selection but required a US$50 purchase in order to qualify for free shipping. so i went with vitamin shoppe, which was where i originally ordered my teas last year. selection isn't as good, but the free shipping starts at US$25. i ordered a dozen boxes of various teas (vanilla hazelnut, egyptian licorice, classic indian spice, kombucha decaf green, kava, ginseng vitality). drinking tea makes me feel mature and civilized, and it's nice to have something familiar every morning while i wait for the bus.

next i went to amazon.com to buy some decent earbuds, to replace the ones i currently have which can only produce mono sound. it felt weirdly nostalgic to be shopping on amazon again, a site i often shop at back home in the US, but not since leaving the country. they sell earbuds here in china as well (often times on the streets), but i can't vouch for the quality. i purchased a pair a while back for office use, and the sound is pretty tinny and lousy. better to go with something reputable, even if it costs a little more and requires some time to receive. i went with 2 pairs of panasonics (about US$6 each), which i'd never seen before but seemed to have earned some rave reviews. i knew amazon was charging taxes in MA now, but what i didn't know was they'd already increased their free shipping threshold cost, which is now US$35. it didn't affect me because i went with a 3rd party seller that offered free shipping anyway.

in the late afternoon i saw shirley going outside with one of her coworkers so i grabbed my hot tumbler of tea and followed them out as well. despite the cold, it was still better than the stuffy office. shirley was talking about how her parents didn't have a second child. without thinking, i asked her if she was an ethnic minority almost as a joke. turns out she's actually is a tujia ethnic minority, which explains the special 2 child dispensation. there are 8 million tujia living in china, which represents the 6th largest ethnic minority. they can trace their origins back 2500 years ago. we were probably out a long time, because another coworker came out to see what was taking so long. i call her little zhouke because she looks like a smaller version of zhouke. little zk has never been to ganzi, but she has been to daofu and luhuo, two intermediary towns along the way. she asked how i liked my vacation, i told her it was interesting. she said that area is very dangerous, and there was a report not long ago about a chinese girl who went there by herself and was robbed and killed. the place isn't safe, but it's mostly weather and transportation related. i never felt danger from any of the people there. it's good that people might think that though, because it means fewer chinese will go there, leaving the area relatively pristine.

it goes without saying that i didn't eat the office dinner. i caught the first bus leaving the office, sitting next to shirley. we'd already decided we were going to try a rice noodle place she heard about from a friend. it's nice to eat with other people, because they can at least help me translate the menu, otherwise i'm forced to only eat what i can read, which often times is just beef noodles. tonight i had the big intestines rice noodle while shirley had a simple tomato and greens noodles.

i wanted to eat alone with her because then i can ask her some personal questions. she actually went first, asked me how come i'm still single at my age. i in turn asked her if she's interested in any guys in the office, since she's been working on the project for almost 2 years now (she started february of last year). these questions are sort of delicate, because she could very well have a crush on me, but we kept it professional instead of confessional. she told me that almost 90% of the guys at work are married, and that all the young single ladies at work keep tabs on which guys are single as well. she didn't mention any of her office crushes, but did tell me that at one point a younger guy was trying to woo her ("he wasn't anything to look at," she added). in the end she determined that i was still single because not because i'm unlucky in love but rather because i'm too picky. she said at 25 she feels a lot of pressure from her parents to get married, and her father won't even speak to her (jokingly of course) because he's so frustrated by her lack of a boyfriend. in many ways she has the same problem i have, in that a lot of her friends are in relationships, which leaves her by herself more and more. i asked if it was awkward hanging out with her roommate and her roommate's boyfriend, and she said definitely yes. that was probably why she accepted my invitation without trying to invite her roommate; she just needed a break from being the third wheel, or as she likes to call it, "the lightbulb" (must be a chinese expression). it was nice talking to her. i don't think i'm the right guy for her, but i'm happy to help her look.

after i came home i remembered i had to fix the washing machine, so i went back outside to buy a screwdriver from the supermarket. a screwdriver cost more than a swiss army knife (RMB$11.90), so i ended up getting the multi-tool instead. the washing machine faucet connector was an easy fix, once i tightened the screws, it didn't leak anymore water. i then went ahead and ironed a bunch of shirts and pants before washing the clothes i wore today.