Saturday, September 17, 2011

R-Rated Icebreakers At Work

Most of people, including myself, would have painted a rather conservative portrait for a Chinese. Then, unfortunately, we are probably all wrong. 

In the US, icebreakers, as the names suggests, are often designed to "break the ice" at an event or meeting, to help the meeting attendees get to know each other.  For example, when Don, my previous boss, held his meetings, he usually used icebreakers like “What’s you last vacation destination?” “Tell us something we don’t know about you.”

Compared to the icebreakers used among the co-workers in Tencent, these questions are nothing but lame. 

Ross, my current boss and a bunch of us went out for a drink after work one day.  A game, similar to “the unfortunate kid “ in the US, was promptly selected as a icebreaker for the team.  Basically, each player takes turns to name one thing he or she has never done before.  If any one of the rest of the player has done it before, they need to take a sip of their drink as a publishment. 

If you think this is a friendly game for co-workers to get to know each other, especially the new comers, you are just way too naïve.  The game is pretty much a trap for the new comers, as every single question will probably make you embarrassed, wishing to have a side door to escape. 

The first one said, “I have never had sex with people from other countries.” So, I raised my hand and took a sip of my drink, and mentally getting prepared to sip through the first round of questions and calling it a quit as soon as I could.

When it’s my boss’ turn, he said,” I never wear a bra with size bigger than B”.  So, I raised my hand again and took a sip of my drink.

To our most astonishment, a guy also raised his hand and took a sip of his drink. 

I am not sure whether my years-of-living-in-the US has outdated me of the current Chinese culture, or being this crazy and nuts is the thing with the SNS companies. 

They told me that if I think Tencent is bad, then Alibaba is worse, as one of their common icebreakers is “Where did you do it the first time and what position?!”

Another speechless moment of working in China…

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Practice the Ancient Chinese Wisdom at Work

One of the most quoted Chinese wisdom is “being peaceful”.  It’s a stage when one is peaceful in the heart, peaceful in one’s language, peaceful in one’s actions. 

The bottom line of that wisdom is that you need to be patient in China.  And, if you work in Tencent, you need to be extremely patient. 

Why?  Because almost everywhere you go, everything you do, you need to wait in line.  So, we get plenty of opportunities to practice the Chinese wisdom at work.

In the morning, we wait in line to  get onto the elevator.  

During the lunch break, we wait in line to go to the café;then we wait in line to get food; as the last step, we wait in line to take the elevator again to go back to the office

During the dinnertime, repeat the above proces.

At night, mostly around 11:00pm, we wait in line to catch a taxi to go back home. Yes, I am not kidding.  Every night, there is a line of taxi waiting outside of the office building to take people home.  Very organized with security people outside guiding the traffic. 

Now, I can pretty much predict, after working in Tencent for 2 years, I would either become a saint, or become completely crazy. 

We will find out…

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Poisonous Gas Mask in the Office?!

On the 4th day of work, we moved into this well-designed and nicely decorated office. In addition to the state-of-the-art facility, gourmet coffee and teas, green plants are all over the office, on everybody’s desk, along the aisles, in the meeting rooms and break rooms.

Everyday, the facility people will come to take care of all those plants for us!

How wonderful! A huge bonus of cheap labor cost in China. I cannot help thinking. No way my friends in the US get this type of treatment in the office.

While we are setting up our desks, the facility people came by and gave each one of us a pouch, similar to the 1 lb brown-sugar bag we get from the grocery stores in the US, except the bag is wrapped in some colorful plastic. (See the picture on the left)

YiTing put hers behind her monitor. Noticing that I did not know what to do with mine, she took mine from me and put it behind my monitor too.

“What is this? What is this for?”

“Oh, the office is just finished with the construction and decoration. The building materials in China often contain some poisonous chemicals called formaldehyde, due to the poor quality control. So, we have the pouch and all the green plants in the office to help absorb the poison ejected from the building materials”

“What the ….?!?!?!”“Is this another joke of the day?!

I did notice that a few people walking around in the office wearing a mask.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ocean-Front Apartment in China

Although it's quite expensive to buy a house and ridiculous to buy a car with at least 100% for import tax in China, the overall living expense here is quite cheap compared to what one usually pays for in the US.

I moved in this very nice 4-bed-2bath-apartment with ocean view in a high-rise community in ShenZhen. Although it is from one of the nicest and the most expensive community here, the monthly rent is about 7500RMB (less than USD 1200). And I converted an entire room to a closet for my clothes and shoes. A quite luxurious lifestyle. :)

P.S. The average monthly income in ShenZhen is less than RMB6000.

The grass-land in the community, at the end of which is the bay and the bridge to cross over to HongKong. It's quite a view to watch the colorful lights at the HongKong bay at night, especially over a glass of nice wine.

Free Falls from the 32rd to the 20th Floor in the Elevator

Still the 1st day at work, and the adventure continued.

I needed to get my badge. Gary offered to take me down to the HR office at the 7th floor, and we took the elevator. While descending from the 32rd floor in the elevator, Gary told me that once he had a free fall from the 32rd to the 20th floor in the elevator.

“My God! Are you kidding me!!!!” Imagine a bomb just dropped in my head. For a few seconds, I could not hear anything but feel my own legs shaking.

“No. If you asked around, many of our co-workers would share their similar experiences with you. Some more than once.” Still smiling at me, he responded with the most calm voice

“Did you sue the company?” I asked.

“No. Things like this happen all the time in China. Why would anybody ever make a big fuss about it? And, generally it is safe to take elevators. There is a small device installed in the elevator that can sense the speed and stop the elevator when the speed is too high.“

Speechless, I was still in shock.

“You know, it’s really not a big deal. And, it’s kind of fun, like taking a roller-coaster ride.”

Still speechless, still recovering from the shock.

I was shocked by what Gary said. But, I was even more shocked by how he said it. He said it in a way as if he were telling me a story, not a life-threatening accident.

Noticing I am literally freaking out at this conversation, Gary tried to calm me down by telling me more horror stories about mal-functioning elevators at the train station, food poisoning,… He thought listening to more horror stories in China will help build up my resistance.

I interrupted, “ Gary, please, give me a break. One horror story a day”

Why the Office is So Dark During the Regular Business Hour?

Back from lunch the first day.

Out of the elevator, I stepped into this huge office space, and yet dark and quiet.

What’s going on?
Out of the electricity? No, not possible, I can see lights from a few monitors.
Out for some important meeting? No, my boss was with me at lunch.

Confused, I continued walking towards my desk…

A few steps into the aisle, I almost stumbled into a camping bed with a kid taking a nap holding a stuffed animal.

Most Chinese people have a habit of taking a nap after lunch. Therefore, Tencent has a freaking two-and-a-half-hour lunch-break everyday so that those kids can take out their camping beds and stuffed animals to take a nap.

Now, it makes sense to see those camping-beds and folding-chairs laying around the corners of the office.

P.S. The average age of the employees in Tencent is freaking 23!!! A bunch of kids running around and having stuffed animals everywhere. The logo animal of Tencent is a fat Penguin. So, we have stuffed penguins everywhere in the office.

Living in the Dream

Today is my first day at work. Dressed in sleek-black I am trying my best to remain calm. Although this is not my first job, not even the first time to change job, today is the first time I wok in China. Little did I know all the funs and adventures followed afterwards.

My boss took me and a few other directors out for a nice lunch. Sitting in his brand-new BMW 5-series and listening to their conversations about eat-outs at the expensive restaurants and overseas vacationing tours, I cannot help wondering that people in China, at least those in Tencent, are living quite a dream life.

Endless Negotiations

One day when you suddenly realized that you could not bear negotiating anything in Chinese with anybody about anything anymore, you know you just had it enough.

Yes, after a whole month of practicing my negotiation skills and patience, tired, frustrated, exhausted and beaten up, I have reached my limit.   

Negotiation is involved in pretty much everything here in China.  And, don't take this lightly.  Compared to taking trips to China, actually living here pushes one to a whole new level of battlefield. 

Everything requires negotiation, re-negotiation and endless-negotiation here.

To hire an agent to clear the custom, you negotiate.
To make sure things get done, you negotiate and constantly follow up. 
To apply for a living permit with the local police, you negotiate.
To clear the custom with the government officials, you negotiate.
To figure out the amount of import tax to pay, you once again negotiate.  

If finally you could not afford either the time or the energy on the negotiations anymore, USD300 is the average price you pay to avoid each trial. 

Chill Out and Enjoy Some Downtime Among All the Recent Craziness

If the path of one’s life is a circle, my path is about to circle back to the origin of about a dozen years ago.

I have been trying my best to maintain my composure while going through the motions to get things done. But, it’s not easy. I have to admit. During the recent 3-4 weeks, even the sleeping pills and alcohols are not sufficient to keep me asleep for more than 5 hours at night.

Although I am sure, or almost sure, that moving back to China and taking the last opportunities to be with my grandparents is the right choice, the uncertainties associated with the change are still overwhelming. My last job change from Ariba to Symantec only required me to drive 1 mile further each way every day. Still the same house, the same local hang-outs, and the same circle of friends. But, this time, I am packing up my life here in a big container and a few suitcases and getting ready to ship everything to China in 10 days.

China versus the US, which one feels more like home to me? One is the place I was born and raised up; the other is the one where all my professional and adult life resides. I have to say, in some strange way, the US, the “boring” Sunnyvale feels more like a home for me.

However, will I never regret if I don’t spend more time with my beloved grandparents during the limited time they still have? The answer is clearly yes, I will regret. So, no whining, let’s move on.

Today, I finally feel sightly more accepted with the decision to move back. Taking a break to enjoy some downtime, reading a novel – one of my favorite – Around the World in 80 Days, drinking some wines. Chill out among all the recent craziness.

Saying Good-byes

Many ways to say good-byes to friends…

Some need a hug, some require lots of martinis, some absolutely demands rounds of wines, ….

But some need one more walk through the woods, one more holding hands in prayer, one more poking fun with each other, a faith in God to see each other again, hopefully soon.

Transition to A New Page of Life

Surreal as it could be, the transition unavoidably forces the life into a to-do list, while the daily rhythm is sadly decided upon how fast each item can be checked-off from the list.

Certainly, half of tasks are required to make the arrangements of the new life, finding a realtor to help look for a new apartment, getting reconnected with my old friends and classmates, figuring out the new routines …., Excited? Certainly not! But, I have always been this type-a woman, who can handle things and get things done, so I am handling it, except I feel like I am simply going through the motions to make sure things gets done and all the necessary tasks are not forgotten.

Unfortunately, some tasks on the to-do list demands cutting ties with the current life and saying good-byes to Santiago (my tailor), to Cindy (the nice woman who does my nails), to my running partners, to co-workers, and the worse of all, to all my dear friends.

There are times, I have to take a deep breath and pray to God that the friendship would never change in spite of the change, the distance between China and here.

Below is my friends from growth group.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Touring the Bond ( ShangHai) with Mom and Dad

Year 2008-09



说点我家三人的家常。老妈嘛,按照我家马老者(我对我爸的昵称),95%的时候可以用三个词语概括 - 嘻嘻哈哈, 马马虎虎, 糊里糊涂。但是我家老妈偶尔冒出一两句颇具哲理的批语,常常把我惊得一呆一呆的。

我妈:“我看你, 又要忙工作,又要做好吃的,还要把你的房子打扫干净,辛苦啊。”
难得我妈今天这么理解我, 我感动呀。马上说:"妈,你也很勤劳嘛。”
还没等我张口向我妈倾诉倾诉, 我妈继续:“不过呢,你这样身体上虽累一点,但心不累呀。身体累点没关系,不劳心就行。“

我妈马上反驳:" 怎么是你爸的功劳?我才是家里勤劳的那一位。再说了,女儿是我生的,能让你爸沾个光就不错了。“
我赶紧弥补错误,争取把损失降低到最低点:"对, 对。。我爸没有功劳,功劳都是你的。”

According to my dad, at least 95% of the time mom is funny, happy, a great-companion but a little bit clueless. Occasionally, my mom does pull some suede comments out from no where, which often surprises both my dad and me a great deal.
Here is our conversation over the phone today.
Mom:” Hey, all those cakes and western food you made these days look pretty nice. Do they actually taste good?”
Me (always ready to brag):” Of course, they do. They are both tasty and highly presentable.”
Mom (with a sigh):” You are a pretty hard-working girl.”
Me (surprised. wow, how come my mom appreciates me this much today?!):”Yeah, I made cake yesterday. Today, I am going to make some traditional Chinese food for Chris to try. When I get home, I am also going to tidy up the panty.”
Mom:” Hmm…you must feel pretty busy everyday. You need to work, cook and clean the house.”
Me (continue to feel surprised…):” Mom, you are very busy everyday too.”
Mom:” But, I don’t have the wacky habits you do. I don’t think I can deal with your rules of flat sheets, no mix-matching tea-cups and coffee-mugs. Don’t you think your habits may tire you out unnecessarily?”
Me (about to explain to her my thoughts):”….”
Mom:” You know what, if you don’t stick with your wacky stuff, you might feel more tired. It’s OK to feel tied physically, better than feeling tired mentally.”
Me (deal God, my mom can be wise sometimes!)

Girlfriends Reunion in Hainan I

Year 2006-12




Girlfriends Reunion in SanYa Hainan II

Year 2006-12



八卦一下。LAURA去年接了两单广告代言 - GUCCI太阳眼镜和雀巢咖啡。


GuiYang Street Eats

Year 2006-12

Guiyang, my hometown, is a medium-size city in the mountainous southwest of China. She offers one of the most genuinely pretty, unpretentious sceneries I have seen, filled with the most kind-hearted and down-to-earth people I have known, and the most delicious and unique local food I have had.

Guiyang is a rather small city compared to Beijing and New York, but much more approachable and friendly. Some streets would welcome you with the tasty street food on both sides and tempt you with the smell from many yards away. Here is the mean-looking dude who is making the BBQ lamb on the street.


Although the urban part of the city has big grocery stores, such as Walmart, people still go to the farmer’s market on the street in the suburban part of the city. Besides the vegetables freshly cut from the field 3 or 4 hours ago and the meat just butchered in the morning, the street also offers one of the unique street eats in Guiyang - BBQ spicy tofu (on the right). It is numbingly spicy and good!

贵阳名小吃 - 恋爱豆腐果。说实在的,现在好吃的东西太多,也不觉得这个有多好吃了。吃吃算是对往事的回忆罢了。

After snacking on breakfast in the street, my father and I decided to go visit my old high school area. My father is a excellent photographer, and I am a great model. But, we are not good at working with each other. Father wants to teach the daughter how to pose; and the daughter wants to teach the father how to position the subject. Here you go…

Here is end result, when we finally reached consensus.

A couple of more.

We were a little tired after walking so much. Mom, Dad and I retired to a local coffee house. While the Chinese skill at making cocktails in China still needs improvement, they have definitely mastered the technique of making coffee — especially, fancy coffee.

For dinner, my uncles took us to a local “spicy chicken house.” It is not the regular spicy chicken available in those Americanized Chinese restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s THE spicy chicken house. First of all, you can pick the chicken to eat first. Second, you can pretend to make your own BBQ chicken if you wish. Third, the spicy chicken is sooooooo good that you won’t be able to stop eating until all your lips, fingers, nose and head are all numb.

The whole family

The spicy, mouth-watering and delicious chicken and spicy tofu. EVERYTHING is spicy. That’s the uniqueness of GuiZhou local food.