Saturday, May 26, 2012

The snag

I've recently had what the Chinese term "twin happiness arriving at my door", which is not twins as you might suppose, but two blessings; in my case, marriage and a promotion. Married life has been good. Especially now that the excitement and bustle is over. Promoted life has been good! I've enjoyed and thrived on the new sense of responsibility and my team respond to me well.
But so soon, 55 days into this brand new world of management it seems that one of those happiness might soon come to an end. It will be my first direct experience of restructuring, and one of many experiences of when they get a cold in Shanghai, the whole company starts coughing. Inefficiencies there meant local restructuring that now will apply to every region, regardless of how efficient they may have been. Now the five directors in my city are competing for two positions. The other three will need to find places to go to within or without, and if none of those fit we'll be a shoe in if we choose to demote. And even if one were to become one of the two it is more work for the same money. (Which is not to say the idea of the position is not an interesting one.)
Going from the newest kid on the block to the first "on the block" didn't take long! I'd rate my odds as lowest due to time served alone, although I'll still go through the process of applying for one of the two berths. I do have my advantages and it depends on the intentions and options considered by others. We're all pretty philosophical about it and we're all good friends to boot.
The timeline is not long. So I'll be really putting my best foot forward in the next few weeks to show that I'm doing my job best.

Monday, May 21, 2012


There were omens. Once the date was set for our marriage registration, we went to travel agents to work out our honeymoon arrangements, but quickly discovered Wednesday and Thursday departures were scarce. We had wanted to go to Thailand but an earthquake and tsunami warnings caused a lot of people to cancel plans, and airlines to cancel flights - and we wanted direct flights as well. Then we discovered a mid-week flight to Penang - but departures were arriving at 10:00pm and the return flight would leave Penang at 9:05am, meaning that we'd lose both travel days completely. Penang won out though - the idea of three whole days of swimming, eating and sleeping was to powerful.

Fast-forward to the plane descending above Malaysia, the captain spoke first in Mandarin: "....It's raining in Penang, with a temperature of 19 degrees." We took a double-take and waited for the English to confirm the inclement forecast. As it did, we shivered: we had only summer clothes. On the ground, we found a taxi and told the Indian driver to take us to Hydro Hotel, and prodded him about the weather. He said it had been like this for a week. It was raining everyday and was this cool. He weaved through the traffic on a "1 hour" taxi ride to the hotel. When we pulled in, it took a moment to figure out why we were at Hardrock Cafe Hotel. I said our hotel name again. He sighed, pulled back onto the road and criticised my accent.

We backtracked 10 minutes around the coast to our hotel - and despite the omens - everything from then went off like a dream. The weather was as we had imagined prior - hot with occasional thunderstorms bustling and bristling by. Malaysia is reliable for a good range of food and warm water beaches. Three whole days in Penang was never going to be enough but it was a nice time to refresh.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

The first lick

Summer gave us a healthy, sloppy kiss over the May Day holiday. The comfortable spring temperatures gave way to the sapping, sweaty, saunaesque summery weather that occupies Guangzhou for half a year. The difference of a month and a half since I was in Qingyuan for New Year is so clear: the depth of winter matching close to a heatwave that matches most in the middle of summer. Or is it a omen for a steamer unlike no other.
Either way, it was a reminder that my body is ill-equipped for this climate. My body presented a mystery in the first year, hypothesized itself in the second year and confirmed itself in the third: my body takes time to adjust. Psychologically I'm fine with heat but my digestive system, my nervous system and circulatory system beg to differ. After eating my first mouthfuls of dinner at QIngyuan, I asked to leave upstairs for the comfort of a fan and the chance to lie horizontally. My stomach didn't want food, my appetite disappeared. My brain was cloudy; I could barely understand Chinese; my chess ability had been cowed. My heart felt a-flutter and my body just felt so hot. Recent days in similar weather I've coped better and started to adjust. It's just par for the course.
I'm not sure if I'm doing any better but I'm not doing any worse. In a few days this will be a memory, yet I'll still be sweating. Summer is here. Barefoot days. Shirtless days. Days on the balcony drinking tea. Swimming in the mornings. Sudden downpours. Air conditioners puffing bursts as you walk by. Girls in less than usual. Guys doing their paunch-shows. Slip-ons, jandals, and mosquitoes biting the flesh in between.