my father called me this morning right when i woke up around 6:40, to let me know my mother was fine and recovering in the hospital after her surgery. (later when i arrived at the office he sent me some photos).

i left my insulated tumbler at the office last night so this morning i had to go without my usual cup of hot tea. instead i went to the bakery to get a wedge of sandwich (RMB$6) and a small carton of milk (RMB$3.50). yesterday it was white and foggy; today it was black and cloudy, with a hint of imminent rain.

my frenemy guo was at the bus stop with his new roommate. guo returned from his vacation last sunday and was back at work this past monday. "so you're running at the gym now?" he asked me. how he knew this i don't know. maybe he overheard my bus conversation yesterday, maybe xiao shen told him. why he even cared i'm not sure, maybe he was just being cordial.

zengfei was helping xianglian (shirley) ruffle her scarf. xianglian wore her long straight hair up today in a bun, a first. it's been weeks since we've last seen the medium bus, and months since we last saw the small bus. i climbed onboard the large bus and found an empty seat. zengfei surprised me by sitting next to me (politely asking first of course). we chatted about the weather and breakfast (oatmeal and fresh soy milk at the office). she seemed curious about my love life, asking me how many girlfriends i've had, and how come none of them worked out. she also picked up on something that nobody else ever noticed before: that i'm sometimes left-handed. she saw that when i gestured, i'd use my left hand instead of the normal right. i asked her if her parents were pressuring her to get married, and she said no, because her older brother (she has a sibling!) isn't married yet either. i also asked if her warehouse department experienced any layoffs, and she said they were spared (probably because they're pretty cheap to begin with), but she still doesn't know if she wants to continue working here after the chinese new year.

this holiday season i'm getting a lot of fake e-mail disguised as legitimate holiday sale flyers from name brand companies. i didn't notice it at first, but when i went to unsubscribe, i noticed the URL was pointing to an address in china for some strange reason. that's when i knew it was a fake, but probably by then it was too late because i'd already clicked on the link, which told these spammers that they hit a legitimate e-mail address.

my chest muscles hurt from my machine work on wednesday. but i guess it's a good kind of hurt, since it mean i'm building new muscles (at least that's what i tell myself). my back hurts a little bit too. at first i thought it was because i slept on it wrong, but i think it was from lifting several water cooler tanks when i was trying to be helpful. i should leave that work for those who are physically stronger.

working here, i've actually learned a fair amount of excel tricks i never knew before. for instance, today, i learned how to repeat rows for printing as table headers (this function is hidden in page setup in the sheet tab).

i had dumplings for lunch, my second time. it wasn't as good this time around, but i managed to finish everything because i love dumplings. speaking of lovely dumplings, i saw the OPMT (owner's management team) secretaries. sally waved hello to me while she waited in the cafeteria line.

i'm planning to go on another vacation between december 24th and january 2nd, but i don't know where i want to go. i'm not complaining too much about this predicament, because it's the sort of problem that only a first world citizen would experience. i also can't ask anyone at work for advice, because most people can't go on vacation until after 3 months of work, or they're currently working overtime to meet our internal deadlines. my original plan was to meet up with parisian eliza in tokyo, but i haven't heard from her in a while, so i imagine that's not happening. i could still go to tokyo on my own, but if i want to go to an expensive asian destination, south korea is right next door. airfare is around RMB$3000 right now for most nearby asian destinations, but korea is actually cheaper at around RMB$2000. i also thought about revisiting parts of southeast asia, like angkor wat. or maybe one of the southeast asian island nations, like singapore, malaysia, indonesia, or the philippines. another place that looks interesting: sri lanka. like i said, not a bad problem to have, but i have to decide quickly, otherwise the airfare will go up the closer we get to the end of the year.

i invited loren out to the western buffet restaurant on the 4th floor of chongbai department store. he asked me if we should invite fengya, i nodded okay but told him there was a good chance she'd be busy (she was, out to dinner with guo and his gang again). he asked me to invite lihui (yes) while he tried to invite yuwei (no). later outside he saw his former coworker and tried to invite her, but she was coming down with a cold and wanted to go for a massage after work. he introduced me to her; i never heard her talk, figured she was sort of classy, but when she talks, her demeanor is very much like a male construction worker (with a tianjin accent). later yuwei changed her mind and decided to come with us after all. loren also said he wanted to treat.

close to the end of work, the empty space next to my work area was congested with construction sub-contractors for some reason. it was a little distracting and made me stopped working (or probably that was the excuse i gave myself to stop). more distracting? one of the CC7 girls was there, the tall and pretty one. last time i offered her a chair, i did the same again. she took out a laptop, girlishly decorated with rubberized pink protectors and stickers, and started working next to me. i asked her what department she works in, she told me cost control. before i left the office, i gave her a piece of chocolate. "don't work too hard," i said.

the dinner group ended up going to the traditional restaurant around the corner from where yuwei and i both live. on the bus i saw shirley and tried to invite her to come to dinner with us, along with her friend fang dan. when we arrived in town, shirley decided to go home, while fang dan cryptically said i should still invite shirley. minutes later both loren and lihui were scolding me for my lack of chinese game. "you can't just invite a girl to dinner spur of the moment! you have to ask them beforehand!"

yuwei was already there and reserved the largest private function room for our party of 4 guests. i was afraid it'd be awkward because i didn't think yuwei and lihui knew each other, but apparently they did, even though i was all ready to make introductions. loren also ordered baijiu for everyone, even though i was reluctant to drink any. i finished about half, but the taste of baijiu makes me sick now, reminds me of vomit. the food was okay, the dinner conversation - most of which was beyond my chinese language level - was even better, with raucous laughter and animated discussions, everything from college exam scores to proper chinese grammar (or lack thereof). everyone had a great time, i will miss these dinners once loren is gone in 15 more days.

when loren went to pay the bill, he was surprised by the cost. apparently using their private function room costs additional money. i don't know how much, but enough for him to make a small stink about it. futhermore, yuwei reserved the largest room too, so he probably had to pay a lot. he'll earn it back the next time i treat! maybe everyone from our department next time!

my parents skyped me when i got back to the apartment. my mother was back at home, forced to use a urine bag as the sleep drugs the doctor's gave her prior to her operation hadn't worn off so she couldn't use the bathroom quite yet. later my father was taking her back to the hospital to remove the bag and make sure everything's okay post-operation.