Time Flies

I’m having a hard time grasping how it’s already nearing the end of November when it seems like just yesterday that I wrote an update on October.

I guess time flies when a chunk of it involved a week in Paris, followed by a non-stop day of touring a side of Guangzhou I hadn’t seen—all amounting to a mental burden of memories I need to sort out and record.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t necessarily wish that my life slow down. Losing track of time or feeling tired are costs I’m happy to pay for the experiences of a lifetime.

What I mean by experience of a lifetime was easily demonstrated today, when my mom’s cousins (refuse to go the “once removed” route, too fucking confusing in any language) invited me to Haizhu Wetland Park. At 8:30 a.m. on a Saturday. (HINT HINT: CHINA = 人山人海)

Mind you, I had just returned yesterday afternoon, so the idea of waking up at 7 the day after returning from an international trip to check out a park with my mom’s retired cousins seems ridiculous to any sane person. But I’m apparently insane enough from my need for #adventure that I agreed. Plus, I’ve heard of this very park through the stories I’ve edited for work, so that itself fortunately made up most of my decision. I say fortunately because what initially seemed like a regretful decision ended up being one of my most rewarding.

Haizhu Wetland Park
Metro to Haizhu Wetland Park
I awoke after having slept at around the time I’m blogging now. (Yes, I would love to just watch brainless YouTube videos and prepare to sleep now but I NEED to record my life.) By 8:30 on the dot, I arrived to greet my relatives and take the metro all the way to Haizhu. Except for the fact that we had to walk an additional 1+ kilometer to the actual entrance from the metro, only to be visually assaulted by the sheer masses crowding around the entrance. At this point, I recalled what my cousin had just told me on the metro about this place: A 50 RMB entrance fee will be introduced starting January. Naturally, all of fucking China decided to come visit before then. And I mean, ALLL.

From the kid in front of me while waiting among the crowds who laughed with his friends while watching as his excessive white snot dripped down from his nose, to every Chinese person modeling in front of literally the most average-looking trees, every scene in this overhyped, overcrowded park felt like a fucking joke.

But as much as I wanted out, I also could see how unique of an opportunity this was. Not only was I likely the only foreigner there, but I was likely the only Chinese-looking foreigner who could witness it all disguised as one of them. Now, I write with a clear tone of “otherness,” not because I want to sound superior, but rather I want to emphasize just how unique this perspective is. I’m sure no other foreigner today was “lucky” enough to see the madness I saw, from my point of view as an American-born Chinese who lives in China. It’s quite a sight, and I’m happy to share them with you.

I find it necessary to keep what may seem like an overly optimistic and even tolerant outlook on what otherwise sounds like absolute hell. In all aspects, as a foreigner, it WAS hell. But like with many experiences in China or in any foreign land, it’s these moments when you feel completely uncomfortable that make them especially valuable.

I mean, a middle-aged woman who wasn’t particularly pretty was the center of attention while an assistant held a light diffuser panel when there was no sun and while several men holding DSLRs took photos of her in the middle of some weeds in front of a river. Like, if that isn’t China, idk what is. Maybe the crowds for the bathroom and crowds on the bridge to cross over to the fields where one from afar couldn’t distinguish the people from the flowers? Crowds to even visit this shitty park whose wetlands are supposed to be protected are instead literally and figuratively spat on by little girls and grown men alike?

What truly made me happy were the adventures afterward, when it was clear none of us enjoyed the pushy people and unbelievably ugly scenery.

We took a bus to Huangpu Old Town and Port, where we explored the old streets and markets, all of which reminded me of my time in Shanghai last year, when we stopped by a village in Anhui on the way to Huangshan and when we visited the Zhouzhuang Watertown. #ARTsy pictures galore! Since I have so many of them, I’m thinking about uploading my first album in forever to Facebook and spreading them out on Instagram. Right now, I just want to finish writing and go to bed.

The gyst of the experience is this: I tasted some of the best local delicacies and foods, while walking through markets that sold everything, including, chickens, rabbits, tiny crabs, snakes, geese, birds—and more edible items such as fried potato chips on a stick, sesame soup (zee-mah-woo in Chinese), sherng-pay-lai (literally don’t know what this warm milky soup is otherwise called), Guangzhou congee (not that boring Northern shit), and tons more. None of this would have happened without the kindness of my relatives. For that and the happiness gained from such exciting adventures, I am forever thankful.

Afterward, we took a double-decker bus (not without pushing to board, OF COURSE) from the first stop at Huangpu all the way to the last, passing through Guangzhou landmarks including the Canton Tower and the two pagodas—all for three yuan (free with my relative who works for transportation). And what made the whole day even better was the cloudy, overcast skies that made the weather bearable and possible to walk all day and ride on the open-deck bus without worrying about sweating or getting “too tan.” (No umbrellas for the sun, phew).

So many factors made this whole day incredible. Just imagine, I could have spent it sulking in my apartment on a cloudy day.

Instead? Well, I’ll let you be the judge of how my day went. Time to sleep.


Things escalated quicker than I could have ever been able to imagine this past week.

And I’m not just talking about the Paris attacks.

I mean the fact that I found myself landing in this very city about 30 minutes after the attacks, after flying from Guangzhou with a layover in Moscow—all after making the decision that seemed ridiculously and unbelievably spontaneous even for someone like me, who practically lives on spontaneity and #adventure.

Two nights before I hopped on the plane for Paris, I found myself unable to sleep. After a night out with a friend at Hooley’s, a popular expat bar in Guangzhou’s Liede area, I returned home anxiously balancing communication between my mom and my boyfriend. Before heading to the bar, Mehdi and I had Skyped briefly and joked about me visiting Paris—the next day, because naturally waiting any longer would make spontaneous trip not so spontaneous—given my current relatively lax work situation, among other factors that made this crazy yet possible. Laughing dismissively at the idea, I played along anyway, sending my mom a message for which the response I never would have expected.

Note to self: Add “need a break” to any request to the parents, after a day of complaining about current living conditions (potential bed bugs but that’s a different story), and get a sympathetic yet totally absurd acceptance to an equally absurd request to leave the country to see my boyfriend for a week.

There were questions asked, but they weren’t the skeptical ones that would lead to immediate rejection. Rather, they were just necessary follow-up ones that essentially made this seem like a “no-questions-asked” situation. I laughed hysterically throughout the night, while I lied in bed, reading message after message that my mom would “take care of it”—as I told my mom I simply couldn’t go to bed without knowing for certain that this would happen. The only logical explanation I’ve managed to come up with for such immediate acceptance is that they could feel I needed a break from China and this was the only way they could make me, as they said, “happy” from the other side of the world.

And I am so happy.

Bouquet of flowers

But again, it’s as if these invisible forces that attempt to keep life balanced follow me wherever I go. Because as the world found out on Friday night as I reunited with my boyfriend, terrorists had attacked the city. Need I remind you that I was there for the bombings in Boston, Bangkok, and now Paris.

And in about 10 minutes, as of writing, people around the world will be having a moment of silence.

I think the only other thing I can say about all this is that it’s necessary to maintain a healthy perspective of the world. There’s hardly a moment in which I don’t think about just how lucky I have been and continue to be. The chaos that continues to plague the world only makes me appreciate everything in my life. Sure, it may be easy to find fault in your life, but there are much bigger things in life that deserve attention. I’m forever grateful that I have such amazing parents who continue to support my wishes, and it’s because of them that I can say I’ve never been happier.

China, Why Is This OK?

Photoshoot at Kui YuanIt’s sadly funny that when it comes to China, there could be many topics related to this question.

But there’s one societal norm in particular among Chinese people that irks me to no end. I’m not sure how exactly to put it, so let me give some examples I’m sure many of you who have had any encounters with Chinese people have experienced.

“You got fatter!”

“You’re SO much skinnier!”

“You lost SO much weight.”

“Did you get fatter?”

“Aiii, you have a baby face!”

“You need to lose weight!”

“You look so much better in person than in the photos your mom posts on WeChat!”

“Hi! Wow, you look pregnant in that outfit!”

Literally every statement above I have received within these past two months. And each time, I’m thinking, “FUCK. OFF.”

Just ask my sister, to whom I’ve furiously complained whenever coworkers and relatives tell me this shit. Sure, to them and every other Chinese person, this is totally normal, fine, and not at all damaging to one’s self esteem. In fact, telling me with a straight face that I look like a fat pregnant woman in my outfit at 8 a.m. is how anyone would greet a coworker in China (I only wish I were kidding about this very recent and very irritating interaction).

OK, based on experiences with my own mother and relatives even back in the States, I understand updating you on your weight status is among the many lovely greetings Chinese people feel compelled to say upon seeing you (another is asking whether you’ve eaten yet). But no matter how many times I get told I either lost or gained weight, I will NEVER get used to it.

If you want to know how to immediately shut me down and make me feel uncomfortable (even if you say I lost weight), then please, go ahead and ask me if I gained weight in the middle of a conversation we’re having at a dinner table. Because how the fuck am I actually supposed to respond? Why, yes. I think I did get fatter. You too noticed my baby face? Think I should stop eating? Why, just take this plate away from me and call the next plastic surgeon.

At this same dinner, a lady I literally had just met proceeded to examine my features, prompting everyone else at this table in a private dining room to tell me exactly what was good and bad about my face. “You have a great chin. Just like your dad. And nose! But you do have extra fat in your cheeks. And you would look so much better if you were taller.”

WHOA. Lady, what is even your name? I met you exactly an hour ago, if that. Who even are you?

Sigh. Like my sister said, this would so not fly in the U.S. Overprotective parents and all the fat Americans would scream and shout, talk about how everyone’s special and unique in their own way, blahblahblah.

Which makes you wonder. Which society is more damaging? One that likes to ignore the very real issues of obesity and general weight issues in favor of the more popular trend of protecting people’s feelings? Or one that too openly makes weight and image part of everyday conversation but not to much effect, other than hurting unaccustomed Westerners like me?

Look, I don’t want to come off as some butt-hurt American who can’t deal with the truth (or whatever you call these perceived dramatic weight losses and gains within such short periods of time). But for Pete’s sake, can you please understand that issues with my weight or apparently terrible posture are FAR from what I want to hear in any conversation? Westerners are a sensitive bunch. We can’t take this critique. We just want to hear we’re awesome, like, all the time.

I myself will never give into this practice of telling you about your weight status, whether you’re Chinese or not. Because China, this is just not okay.

A Challenge on the Self

Tiyu Xilu Guangzhou
Love taking #ARTsy photos on my adventures.
While sitting in the back row of the No. 189 bus returning from an afternoon at Chois Coffee in Guangzhou’s Zhujiang New Town, I stared out of the open window, taking in the refreshing, somewhat-polluted fall breeze and occupying myself with thoughts about myself, my strengths, my weaknesses, and eventually a new idea for a blog post.

And I am going to challenge anyone who reads this to do the same. Of course, you can keep it simple, but the deeper you go, the more beneficial and relieving the exercise might be.

I challenge you to come up with at least three facts about yourself, which includes anything that:

  • Defines whom you have been,
  • Explains whom you have become, and/or
  • Reveals the kind of person you strive to be—whether actively or not.

I don’t need to go on about the importance of self-awareness, and I am not quite sure this specific challenge I’ve come up with while riding a bus for two yuan will provide any benefits. All I know is that every once in a while I need a good self-reflection.

So here it goes.

1 — I can be pretty self critical, but usually not enough to be either seriously damaging or developmentally beneficial.
Might as well start off with a disclaimer for all this self-reflection stuff, huh. Whether you notice or not, I think a lot. And oftentimes about things that other people dismiss with the optimistic justification that things can change. But will they? Sometimes, it’s the fear of failing, which inhibits me from mastering any one thing, especially if it’s new. What comes to mind is Chinese, Adobe software, photography, even journalism. At the same time, I am painfully aware of how inhibiting this fear is, and yet, I find myself stuck between two ends—neither amateur nor master. You might be thinking, “Wait, that’s even better—like they say, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none,’ right?” Wrong. It’s more like just master of none. (Speaking of, STOKED to see Aziz’s new show on Netflix of the same name.)

2 — I am terrible at relationships.
Whether it’s with friends, family, or strangers, I get a feeling that I come off as someone who either doesn’t care or is clueless. Maybe both, who knows. But ask me if I remember some specific thing you said or a fact about you I should probably know (like your birthday or whether you have an older or younger sibling—sadly not an issue in China) and I most likely won’t. I think this stems from the fact that I suck at social interactions, so I try to avoid them as much as possible. This, as a result, has made me even more terrible at life. So I apologize for the past, present, and future relationships for all the shit anyone involved has to deal with when dealing with me. I would say I’m working on it, but then again, I’m living alone in China, appreciating the joys of the solo adventuring/living.

W Coffee in Tianhe, Guangzhou
Spending this Sunday reading in my favorite coffee shop in Guangzhou was amazing.
3 — I find solo adventuring so incredibly thrilling that it’s borderline insane.
I’m not ignoring the fact that there are moments when I recognize the loneliness that can come with solo adventuring, but man, for the most part, I catch myself so freakin’ happy—smiling to myself, taking pictures, and of course checking in on Swarm—whenever I discover new places or things on my own. Especially in China, where loads of shopping and deliciously cheap food are literally at every single metro or bus station, it’s impossible not to continue exploring and continue discovering. It’s especially interesting because I know so many people—especially those I know—who can’t even fathom the idea of me, not only going all the way to Canton Fair (about an hour commute to the other side of the Pearl River) by myself, but also spending hours there walking around the gigantic place. You know how a lot of people say they don’t like shopping with people? I don’t like discovering places or life with people. Sometimes, I just need to bask in my own solo journey.

I’ll take this opportunity to record the wonderful day I had yesterday, full of solo adventuring.

After leaving work around 1:30 p.m., I made my way to the Garden Hotel bus stop, with the aim to eventually go to the Canton Fair, but first making a stop somewhere to make more progress on Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend. Where, exactly, I didn’t know. After trying to see whether I recognized any of the stops in Chinese on the board, I decided to stop at Kecun, which is where I would need to take the subway to the Pazhou Exhibition Center.

About 20 minutes later, I arrived and found a Starbucks. Woo. But this wasn’t just any Starbucks. It was located right at the entrance of some film studio in Guangzhou, and at two stories high and with a special counter selling cold brew (heard that it’s only sold at select locations in China), I could tell this place was special.

Kecun Starlight Walk
The amazing discovery outside the Kecun metro station.
After picking up my order of a tall green tea latte with a mug for hot water (new tip I learned for café sitters), I made my way up the finished wooden staircase to the spacious sunlit second floor, where I took my seat against the huge windows. I opened my book and read for the next hour or two, until I just had to stop by Bread Talk across the street (famous bakery from Singapore). Of course, I picked up a red bean bun but also got a loaf of cheese raisin bread (think, the softest French bread you’ve had. Add heaven). Stuffing it in my bag for later, I walked deeper into what looked like a huge mall. Surprise, surprise. I walked down a few escalators to find shops upon shops upon shops, selling the cheapest clothing and accessories.


I soon came across a shop selling sunglasses, and given that I had broken my favorite ~300HKD turquoise ones recently, I wanted to find another pair. Literally within what seemed like a minute, I found a pair. It was 39.9 yuan. I think the shopkeeper could tell I was surprised by how cheap it was. With silver, sharp-edged sides and black frames, it looks great.

I felt rushed to get out and go to the metro station, because I knew I could spend hours here if I hadn’t planned on going to Canton Fair, and you know how long I can spend there.

By pure luck, I found another metro station entrance inside the mall. No need to exit the mall!

Unexpectedly, I spent only about 30 minutes at the fair this time, most of it taking artsy pictures of yet another side of the exhibition center I hadn’t seen the first time. Since I couldn’t buy any of the seemingly infinite supplies of clothing and accessories until Wednesday (there’s literally sections on socks. Just socks), I realized it was pointless to spend too much time here until then. I could buy everything, so I tried not to torture myself even more.

That night, I returned to the gym to take the spinning class, after a week’s hiatus with my mom here.

So as you can tell, I love adventures and solo adventure even more.

What about you? I’m interested to read your own self-reflection. Post in the comments below, even if it’s about something more superficial, like loving red beans and how that and sugar addiction makes the potential for diabetes that much higher. (OK, that turned less superficial. Also, I can’t write a post without mentioning red beans, can I?)

What Have I Been Up To?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a post specifically regarding life updates, and I figured I should probably do so ASAP before more things pile up. As much as I like writing more general, “revelation”-like posts, I admit I do miss this kind of blogging, in which I write more plainly about the exciting (and not-so-exciting) developments in my life.

I guess the best way to organize this is chronologically, and since I feel like most of October haven’t been recorded yet, let’s do an October update! (Thank goodness for photos and Swarm, or how else would I recall anything in my life).

Actually, the end of September was quite exciting and worth briefly mentioning—I went to the top of Canton Tower (where most locals haven’t even gone), wined and dined with the executive chef of the French chef (we’re, like, basically best friends), and stayed until 1 a.m. doing a shooting for our upcoming cooking series, for which I may be flying to Shanghai for a “business trip.” OK, that is REALLY exciting, but that last bit is still in its beginning stages, so stay tuned!

At the end of September, I also managed to get two free tickets to a piano and cello performance at the Guangzhou Opera House, another spot my relatives say they haven’t even been to.

Free tickets to Guangzhou Opera House

I went to dine with some new foreigner friends at a shitty Mexican restaurant, but at least the waitress said I looked like a star (probably thanks to my slightly scandalous open-back white tank top I was wearing), to which I responded I am actually going to be on TV.


And now for October. I discovered that a huge, rather quiet park is within walking distance to my apartment. Perfect for running before taking the No. 189 bus to the gym, where I’ve been religiously taking spinning classes.

Spinning class at Weyoung Fitness Club in Guangzhou
Post-class atmosphere. Wish I took a video during.
I discovered the wonders of WeChat Wallet, although so far I’ve only used it to receive 40 RMB red envelope from a local friend, which I’ve used only to buy Gong Cha milk tea and pay her back 10 RMB for a cool dreamcatcher from Nepal she bought while interning at a recent expo. Yes, I specifically remember having a good dream the first night I used it.

WeChat Wallet red envelope

One of my managers bought tickets for Madonna in HK in February. So I’m going with him and another coworker. Naturally, I’ve been studying M’s Rebel Heart album on my daily commutes.

Madonna HK tickets
Such a struggle.
While on one of my post-work free afternoon adventuring, I discovered a bakery that sells this crazy good green French bread-bun-thing stuffed with red beans. Not long afterward, I managed to find a different French bakery that sells it, after briefly meeting the first person I would interview on camera in an artsy district of Guangzhou.

I interviewed my first guest on camera in an artsy district of Guangzhou.

It was cool.

Two days before that, I made my first professional on-camera appearance (for my Instagram followers, those pics from before were just auditions)—on a show called, “China Sports Weekly.” Anyone who actually knows me, feel free to laugh uncontrollably because I still have no idea what the fuck I’m doing reporting on the enigmatic world of sports.

The weekend before this craziness, my mom returned to China. (Wow, #sorrynotsorry, if you haven’t noticed by now, I’m not bothering with transitions, flow—or even order, it seems).

She was my Amazon Prime mule, bringing all my splurge goodies in two overweight suitcases. Thanks, mommy.

Amazon Prime goodies

We went to have dinner with some rich family friends, where I tried snake for the first time. And apparently some unbelievably expensive abalone (like, tens of thousands of RMB worth). The snake…actually wasn’t bad.

I joined my coworkers to do man-on-the-street interviews for a WeChat video about blind dating and ended up interviewing two dogs on the street (because single men in China are also called dogs?). Anyway, I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe and had the time of my life, despite being outside literally from day to night doing these interviews.

I went to the largest trade fair in China (and probably the world), widely known as the Canton Fair. I paid 100 RMB for my badge, only to realize later that OF COURSE I have connections here that could have gotten me in for free. I ended up going alone, because the foreigner friend whom I had planned to meet up with arrived literally several hours later. #whatever

I had my nerdy fun, walking around the huge convention center, taking in all the gadgets and stuff I didn’t or couldn’t buy but liked gawking at and asking questions about, simply out of both curiosity and nostalgia for my Consumer Electronics Show days in Vegas. Oh, and I walked outside to what others treated as a smoking area, but I went and basked in the glory of the sunlight spilling through the breathtaking architecture framing the city skyline.

Life can be both unreal and beautiful like that.

I designed a business proposal through an online software I found through Googling, “free Adobe InDesign alternatives.” It turned out so well that we’ve already used it to contact potential partners, and my manager has given me the reigns on that Shanghai trip. #whatislife

I made 1,500 RMB CASH on a random voiceover job my boss found. I was taken to a sketchy, run-down building by two strange men to a dirty office to record a 10-minute voiceover for a propaganda video. I’m not kidding. This is the actual epitome of #CHINA.

Bad English on T-shirt
What I saw right before walking into the building for this voiceover job.
That same day, I went to the 99th floor of the Ritz-Carlton, shook hands with the executive chef and chef de cuisine, and am now looking forward to our second shooting for our cooking series back at this gorgeous hotel, whose interior reminds me of Dubai’s seven-star Burj Al-Arab hotel.

Four Seasons Guangzhou
Had the chance to check out the newly renovated White Swan Hotel on Shamian Island, where I had dim sum and literally a buffet immediately afterward in the same hotel because my aunt insisted we join her to use her meal vouchers she had bought earlier (difference is not having to pay 15% service charge with vouchers). Buffet was definitely not worth the several hundred RMB (even if I hadn’t just eaten dim sum in the floor above).

White Swan Hotel

My cousin took me to my first-ever professional soccer game. Not even in China but, like, ever. Didn’t understand shit, but I considered it my way of studying for that show about sports or whatever I’m hosting.

I returned to the Kui Yuan Gallery after my on-camera interview for an artsy photoshoot with an intern, since I somehow missed out before. They came out pretty nice.

I realized the night before October 30 that the last time I had left the country was August 30. And with my tourist visa, that means I literally had to leave the country the next day. Commence frantic scramble to text my cousin to get the next train tickets to HK. I couldn’t stop laughing at my pathetic situation, which was during a dinner with my mom’s friends inside a nice-ass private dining room of a supposedly amazing restaurant facing the Pearl River. (I thought the food was okay).

The next morning at 7, my mom and I departed for Shenzhen, because return tickets from HK were sold out and crossing at Shenzhen through Luohu apparently counts.

While at border control, I essentially got detained for being one-day past the 60 days (forgot August’s 31 days), only to be let go with a warning this time. Otherwise it’s 500 RMB per day.

Instead of leaving immediately as thought, my mom’s HK friend coincidentally just arrived in Shenzhen, as well. So we had amazingly yummy dim sum inside my first fake market since Shanghai. Of course, afterward, we walked around to find my Halloween costume for the night. Despite hardly bargaining (partly due to need to rush home), I got a beautiful black and yellow qipao. That night upon returning, I met up with my coworker, bringing my cousin and a family friend because my mom really wanted an opportunity to set them up and this was it. I think it worked.

The party itself was at Li Club at the Marriott in Tianhe district. Being noobs, we went around 9 to what of course ended up being an empty club until around 11 or midnight. I got scarily realistic bloody makeup done on my arm.

And free drinks.

The next day, my mom left, and I did nothing all day until I forced myself to go the supermarket for water before meeting my foreigner friends at a house party for Halloween, part two, where I met a Saudi Arabian who claims his two friends were killed last year in his country, one for being gay and one for having “relations” with a woman.

So that’s most of my life so far.

Feel free to comment with your thoughts, because I’m sick of no one commenting while I’m obsessively checking for blog views and clicks.

Because if all this doesn’t prompt any comments, WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK WILL.

Stay tuned, my lovely readers. <3