the big news in the office today was the cancellation of all future cafeteria dinners. first our vacations days, now this! the justification was that not enough people ate dinner in the office anyway (70+ is required to have it be worthwhile) so they decided to do away with it. this is terrible news for people who do eat in the office, i myself included (although i probably only eat dinner there 70% of the time). but on the plus side, it forces me to go out and find someplace to eat for dinner, which gives me a perfect excuse to sample the numerous changshou restaurants.

i brought my 10 oz. (300ml) glass tumbler into work today, stuffed with the 2nd variety of chinese tea i got from the ba'ke ganji (market day). the tea lady told me it was just a single serving, but it seemed wrong because i probably had more tea leaves than actual water in my tumbler. when lihui saw how much tea i had, he said it'd take him 2 weeks to drink all that tea. naturally, so much tea meant a bitter brew, but not as bitter as the 1st variety of tea i had a few weekends ago (that tea was so bitter it was almost sweet if that makes any gustatory sense). but after i refilled it the first time, the taste mellowed out and it the flavor became quite tame. 10 oz. seems very little especially since more than half of that was leaves, so i made frequent trips to the water cooler (which also dispenses hot water), which i didn't mind.

the custodian lady from yesterday who couldn't believe i was still single at 39 came back to me this morning and asked me again to confirm what i told her yesterday. "if that's the case, i want to introduce you to a girl i know. she's 27 years old, lives in chongqing. she has her own house." describing the best attribute of a girl as having a house or owning a car probably is not high on my list of desirable qualities. is she pretty? does she have a nice personality? does she speak english? those are more important. i gave her my QQ number to give to this girl. i don't mind people fixing me up, what's the worst that could happen? "does she speak english?" i asked, since i can't read or write chinese. "i think so," the lady told me, a little unsure. she also couldn't believe i was 39, so i showed her my taiwanese-chinese entry visa booklet.

my id badge stopped working today, something wonky with the RFID chip inside. i noticed it when i tried to swipe it to punch in to work (something we've been doing for the past month now) and it didn't beep like normal. i talked to chehong - who now sits behind the reception desk since candy he left the company - and she said she'd fix it and return it to me. before lunch she gave me a temporary badge so i could swipe to get food. in the afternoon she finally came to me with a fixed badge. fixed as in replaced with a new one (same photo though, from their database) along with neck strap (which i have one already but removed it because it looked dorky and i don't usually wear my badge anyway, preferring to just keep it in my pocket).

we were supposed to have an annual ceremony meeting at 10:00, but it got postponed until 11:00, and finally until 1:00. i didn't think the meeting would last very long - i assumed probably half an hour at most since that's how long it took for the last few meetings - but it ended up going over 2+ hours. when we returned to our office, mr.lee was waiting for us impatiently. i ducked out of the way to fill up my glass tumbler with water. technically he doesn't have jurisdiction over me, but i still consider him by boss, and i provide him the same courtesy i'd give to any superiors. the tricky part was giving him the news that both yuwei and i would be leaving work tomorrow after 12:00 to go into chongqing with sarah (who lives there) to look for an outfit to wear to the ceremony. originally yuwei said she'd wait until tomorrow morning, but she ended up confessing ahead of schedule, and i told mr.lee the reason for our departure, and he thought about it and said we could go.

i'm not sure who invited who, but lihui and i decided to go have some mao cai after work, after i told him about the new mao cai place i saw while riding the 104 bus back from the old city last night. i tried to get xianglian to come with us, but she had mao cai last night and had a stomach ache later in the evening so she swore off mao cai for a while, at least for this month. besides, she told me, she can make mao cai on her own anyway.

since there was no dinner, there was no reason for anyone to stay late in the office, so there was 2 buses leaving at 6:00 (usually there's just one). even then, both buses filled up to capacity before the official 6:00 departure time (the 3rd and last bus wouldn't leave until 6:15). the most common topic on the bus was where people were going to eat now that there was no longer office cafeteria dinner. lihui and i got off at the stop before the chongbai mall and walked to where i remembered i saw the mao cai restaurant.

what is mao cai "hat dish" anyway? this is the 4th time i've had it, and now i see it everywhere, especially when i was in chengdu, which seemed to be one of their specialties (in fact, maybe mao cai restaurants advertise as chengdu mao cai). mao cai is a type of hot pot, except you pick the food you want buffet style (a container for vegetables and a container for meats). price is based on weight of ingredients (vegetables and meats are priced differently), and the everything is cooked for you in a spicy hot broth and served in an oblong-shaped dish (possibly the "hat" part of the namesake) with as much free rice as you can eat. it's kind of a fast food version of the traditional hot pot, and you could totally eat a whole serving by yourself unlike hot pot which requires a few people for maximum effect.

this place was a little more expensive (RMB$66) than the other mao cai restaurants i've visited but not too much, the typical price seems to be RMB$60 for 2 people. they didn't have puffy tofu which was lihui's favorite. they had tripe - one of my favorites - but no duck intestines. overall the food was good, but the best mao cai is still the place we went to in yangjiaping when we visited the zoo a few weeks ago.

as we were walking back to our apartments, we bumped into shirley (xianglian) along with mahui and one of the guys from the contract department (married with kid). they seemed to have gone out to dinner, but where they didn't say. shirley invited us to walk with them. lihui was keen on going home, but when he saw that i wanted to join them for a walk, he came along as well. they said they were going to the chongbai supermarket, but when we got there mahui and the contract guy left to go home, leaving just shirley, lihui, and myself. lihui and shirley seemed to have a very comedic banter, each teasing each other mercilessly. i bought some cakes for breakfast then we left the supermarket. almost back to the apartment, lihui us about the prettiest 40ish woman he's ever seen here in changshou, and shirley and i were curious to judge for ourselves, so we followed lihui to the cigarette store to find this lady. she was in fact quite pretty, and if it weren't for the crow's feet around the corners of her eyes, she couldn't easily passed for someone in her early 20's.

i returned to my apartment, where i ironed some shirts and did a load of laundry. i showered, ate some bing tang oranges, brushed my teeth, then tried to go to bed by 10:00 because i want to get into the office an hour early tomorrow (5:30) to make up for leaving around noontime. i also submerged the floating sichuan paocai, something shirley told me i could try to mix some of the flavors. today was day 20, and i when i tried one of the cabbage leaves, there was some sourness to it, a first, so it seems to be working now (but there was also bitterness, though perhaps more diminished on account of the additional sour taste). leave it for another week, hopefully it'll get even more sour, which is what i like.