it was raining again today, but i knew it was warm and dry and bright in the office, all the more reason to go to work. the most exciting thing that was happening was they were shooting short video snippets for the chinese new year dinner, asking each department to say something. mr.lee was a little angry that admin decided to bundle our small department with some other department and finally got his way so our 4-person team was the first to record a message. "happy new year!" we shouted in unison in chinese, not the most original idea, but it'll do.

loren sent me the contact information of the shanghai girl he wants to fix me up with. her name is grace, which i already knew from yesterday. i was going to send her my QQ info but saw he already sent it to me. we chatted a little bit, she's an electrical engineer who used to work for bechtel. they sent her to houston for a 14 month training stint (back in 2008), and while in the US she did a lot of traveling. "did you ever go to new york city?" i asked grace, "it's close to boston, my hometown." she in fact had visited boston before, spent christmas there. of course she visited harvard square. it's kind of weird to realize she was just a few minutes away from where i live. her english, by the way, is excellent, so she already passed that important criteria. i told her to check out some photos i put on my QQ zone (sort of like chinese facebook), including foods i've made and snapshots of my house. "you can cook?" she asked. "only american stuff, i don't cook here in china," i told her. grace is actually a native shanghainese, the first i've ever known, since most people in shanghai come from elsewhere. "next time you're in shanghai, i'll take you out to eat real shanghai food," she told me. ah, she likes to eat too! another checkmark.

during lunch i sat with lihui. we were joined by zengfei and her roommate. i sat with zengfei on the bus this morning but she wasn't in a talkative mood so we sat in silence as some comedic chinese kung-fu movie played on the LCD monitor. she was in a better mood during lunch, chatting away merrily with lihui in a chongqing-wanzhou dialect hard for me to understand. her roommate i discovered yesterday is from sichuan, from badong.

there was yet another last minute annual dinner meeting around 1:00. i decided to take a peek in case it was something important. they were just ironing out the order of performances and games and guest speakers. i sat in between manfred and sarah. even though the two are cohosts, sarah doesn't seem to try to hide the fact that she doesn't like manfred very much. once again, i look forward to an interesting evening come the 22nd.

"let me save you from having to spend your evening with your roommate and her associates," i told xianglian via QQ instant message, "come join me for dinner at the rice porridge restaurant in the chongbai mall." i didn't hear back from her so i finally asked again when it got close to leaving. xianglian was very busy today, but said she already had dinner plans. that meant i'd go with my backup plan, which is to have a rice porridge dinner in my apartment before going to the gym for a run.

so this is a typical monday-wednesday-friday scenario, since those are the days i go to the gym: 6:00 leave work; 6:30 come home; 6:50 rice porridge ready to eat; 7:10 finish eating; 7:40 go to the gym; 8:20 come back home; 8:30 showered and doing a load of laundry. that leaves me at least 2-3 hours of free time to probably just work on my blog or catch up on a favorite show or new-release movie.

i was eager to try the salted eggs i bought yesterday with my rice porridge. i bought the cheap kind, so the yolk looked a little ugly, but it tasted just the same. it's also been a few days since i last tried my sichuan paocai. today was day 25, more than 4 weeks, twice the normal amount of time (which is just 2 weeks). it was more sour than last time, about a medium sourness level, but i like it even more sour (like sauerkraut sour) so it'll probably be the best in another week. however, i've already eaten close to half, so i'll need to replenish some vegetables (cabbage, carrot).

i wore my new H&M white workout shirt to the gym today. it's styled like a polo shirt (with a collar) but the fabric is breathable synthetic workout clothes fabric. it was miserable outside, cold and wet and dirty, the kind of night that makes me appreciate my gym membership. i wouldn't want to be running outside in these conditions. but it'll be nice and toasty in the gym! i can even watch tv! there was hardly anyone at the gym, a lot of people probably got turned off from exercising due to the rain (even though they'd be indoors). you'd think after the new year there'd be a rise in gym membership, but apparently they don't make new year resolutions here, or maybe it coincides with chinese new year, not gregorian new year. i felt like the most stylish person at the gym with my new shirt. i ran at 12km/h, but kicked it up to 13km/h for the final 5 minutes/1000m. i finished just under 20 minutes.

after almost 5 months, i finally ran out of conditioner. this is the same conditioner the yudian helped me pick out the first sunday i was in changshou. i still have some shampoo left though, which is weird, because i should use up both equally, but i think at one point i was using the conditioner as shampoo because i forgot which was which (being that it's all labeled in chinese). it's not even a lot, 200ml (about 6.7 oz.), which is an uncommon size in the US, midway between travel-size and regular size. it was kind of expensive if i recall, US$3+ for such a small bottle (head & shoulders is considered a fancy imported american brand), but it looks like i made the most of it since it took me 5 months to finish. at this rate another bottle will last me until the end of my tour here.