"how would you like to host the annual spring festival ceremony?" mr.ma asked me this morning before we boarded the bus. i told him i had to check my schedule. what i didn't say was i wanted to go on vacation at the end of december and didn't know if the ceremony would conflict with my days off.

my second care package arrived mid-morning. the delivery man called my cellphone. i went to pick it up, signaling to lihui - who was outside smoking - that our stuff was here. it was a lot heavier than i expected, given that it was mostly boxes of teas and one nexus 5 cellphone. i almost couldn't find the cellphone because my parents had removed it from the packaging and wrapped up the actual device in newspaper along with a bar of chocolate. i handed it to lihui, who was as excited as a kid on christmas morning.

the latest issue of the company newsmagazine came out today. it's significant because it includes the article yuwei wrote and that i helped edit in english. the article also features a osmanthus flower photo that i took. on the back, my face is amongst the new employees. i told mrs.gu i want to contribute some articles for the next issue (maybe a piece on nearby ganji market days, or local restaurant reviews).

i saw loren talking with mr.ma in his office and figured he must be requesting his vacation days, even though it was taking unusually long. after he returned to his desk, i figured it was my turn to ask for my vacation leave. recently the company changed its vacation policy so that now you only get a vacation for every 3 months of work instead of 2 months. i was hoping since my contract is independent from the company that i would be exempted from this new rule. besides, it states specifically that i get a week off every 2 months. i wanted to go traveling from christmas into the new year. i was expecting resistance but mr.ma was very receptive to my demand, said that there was no problem. i also told him i planned on going on another vacation at the end of february; once again, he said that was fine, i just had to fill out the paperwork and he'd sign it.

back at my desk i was feeling pretty happy with myself when loren came up behind me, put one hand on my shoulder, and told me he was leaving. leaving? like he got laid off? i was confused. we hurriedly went out to talk. "i resigned," he told me in his accented english, before explaining in chinese. he gave his one month notice to mr.ma because he found another job in shanghai. his last day is the 20th, his new job starts christmas day. he'd been talking about leaving for the past month or so, but i figured he was just venting. i didn't expect him to actually leave, but a former coworker offered him a job that was too hard to turn down. better pay, fewer hours, and closer to his family. why would anyone say no to that? still, it makes me feel sad. he was one of the few friends i had in the office ever since my frenemy revealed himself and took all of our friends with him. besides, loren and i had nearly identical birthdays, i was looking forward to turning 40 years old with him!

loren's departure will leave me as the sole representative in the claims department of the chinese half of the chinese-korean consortium. he said the company will probably try to assign someone new to take over his position, but who knows how long that'd take. i asked him how our department head mr.lee took the news. he said he was quite happy, because without loren's veto vote, the korean side of the company can issue claims without any oversight. i told loren i could visit him in shanghai, take saturday off, leave friday night. he said he'd treat me to the best sushi in shanghai when i arrive.

during lunch, he broke the news to our lunch companions, some of whom already knew (thanks to yangyi's big mouth) while others were shocked. liu (the other liu, not the liu that got laid off last week, he already left) revealed to us that he too found another job and would leave the project by the end of this month. xiao was lamenting how everyone was leaving. fengya said she wanted to leave too. ironically, i seem to be the only person who doesn't mind staying, given how originally i was going to leave after just 2 months.

mr.song called me into his office in the afternoon, holding my hand as he introduced me to a pretty girl named sally. sally is actually one of the secretaries for the owner's side of the company and the person organizing this year's annual ceremony. with our half of the company preoccupied with work, the burden of arranging the festivities falls upon the owners. mr.song formally asked me if i wanted to host, which i said okay. i would represent our half of the company. he told me the criteria was: 1) male, 2) able to speak english, and 3) single (not sure if he was joking). from the owner's side, a woman would be chosen to be co-host. mr.song thought maybe sally would do the honors, but sally told me that duty fell to someone else within her department. so i went with her to the owner's side of the office - which up until this point i've never actually visited, but seen people going in and out of there all the time, like this mysterious place. the office was a lot smaller than i'd envisioned. sally introduced me to sarah, another very pretty young woman. sarah would be my partner for the ceremony. she was a little taller than me but i don't mind being the shorter half of our pairing. sally showed me around to a few of the other secretaries. i also saw fang dan, who was there doing some permitting work. i waved hello to her. when i returned to my desk, she'd already found out what i was doing there. "so you're hosting the annual ceremony?" she asked me. news travels fast because somebody else instant messaged me with the exact same question.

i'm flattered the company holds me in such high confidence that they would trust me to emcee one of their social events, sight unseen. how do they know i'm not deathly afraid of public speaking? or maybe prone to bouts of tourette's where i spew obscenities? but i suppose i could've said no. if i wasn't visible before, pulling off this gig will make me an office celebrity for sure, and raise my stock even higher amongst the various single young ladies in the office, both my half of the company as well as the owner's side. i only regret that loren won't be here to see me and cheer me on.

lihui treated loren and i to dinner, out of gratitude for finally receiving his phone. we went to the lamb soup place that also serves dog meat. it was good, but the broth seemed a little watered down compared to the first time loren and i visited the place a few weeks ago. ah, i will miss our dinners together when he's gone! who will i dine with now? with loren gone, the one good thing is i can invite whomever i want to dinner and not have to worry about inviting him as well, even though he's been my backup dinner buddy for the nearly 4 months i've been working here.

afterwards loren invited us back to his apartment, where lihui unlocked loren's high security company laptop so he can transfer files onto a backup drive before he leaves the project. i shared some chocolate from my care package. the view from the 15th floor was pretty spectacular, the apartment wasn't bad either. i was tempted to move in after loren leaves. i told lihui would could probably move in together because xiaolong - loren's roommate - would probably want to switch places with me since i live in a single apartment. lihui and i left shortly after, walking home, with me carrying my care package box.