That’s all it takes ( )

So, what punctuation would you put in the parenthesis?

(Question Mark) That’s all it takes?

Yup. That’s what I said to myself when I landed in Hong Kong in July.

It wasn’t my plan to move back to China. Seriously. I was going to find a job, obtain H-1b sponsorship, get my paycheck and earn some dollars. Well, none of these happened. So I moved back to China. It was a very difficult decision. With so much to take care of between the decision being made and departure date. When I landed, I literally asked myself, “that’s all it takes?”

Yup. That was all it took. I packed up. Three suitcases, full of everything I was living on.

The decision was so difficult mainly because I had a feeling that I failed. And, this feeling was a very frustrating disappointment that was also emotional. Even it’s been a few months, I find it stressful to bring this up again. This decision meant a lot of changes. I will be in a distant relationship for the next however long period. I won’t be seeing my friends in Chicago area. I will be so far away from my best friend in South Carolina. These changes seemed so unbearable. As I set my foot onto the Hong Kong International Airport, I told myself, “that’s it! There’s no way back.”

That was all it took. It took me a 14-hour flight from Chicago to Hong Kong.

 

Lake Geneva

Lake Geneva, Switzerland in September, 2014

(Period) That’s all it takes.

My scalp is quite flaky from time to time. Sometimes it’s so bad that my hairline is affected. It started last winter. I thought the dry and cold climate in Chicago or the shampoo was the cause. It stopped for two months this summer until I had a 100F-fever for three days. Everything was back after then. It was so flaky that it seemed I didn’t wash my hair properly for a week.

I went to the doctor, who told me that it’s psoriasis. It’s related to my immune more than the climate or the shampoo that currently sits in my shower. Oh, and it could relate to stress. Great. I get stressed easily. When stress hits me, I don’t sleep well, which may weaken my immune system. Did I tell you that psoriasis has no cure? The only cure is to rest well, eat well and eliminate stress from life. (How is this possible?)

With some stress from the current job, psoriasis is back on my scalp! It’s super irritating. And stress is all it takes. No wonder there are stress-relieving classes out there because stress can really be the real killer! No kidding.

(Exclamatory mark) That’s all it takes! 

I was looking for jobs in bigger firms earlier. Once I got an invitation to take a test, prior to being selected to the next interview round.

I was actually honored and went all the way to Guangzhou’s University Park, almost 90 minutes by subway from home. The test was a written test. There were around 200 participants, mostly students. Each was given three pages of blank paper to write on.

There were essay questions. One of them was, “If Einstein got to live in the 21st century, what would he be most surprised about?” Well, that’s all it takes!

The three pages were full when I turned them in. I hadn’t written so much Chinese within limited time since 2008. It was like a Chinese test. When I got out of the test room, “That’s all it takes!” I just felt like a Hulk after I finished the written test.

Oh well, they never called me back.

Sorry, Man.

Awkwardness in the elevators with strangers, coworkers, and mostly people…

The end of the day for me finally arrived; but my coworkers had to work OT tonight and this weekend.

I walked into the elevator and smiled, then trying to bury my face in my thick scarf as I thought it must be so cold and windy outside.

The Man, in the elevator with me, wearing earmuffs and a cross body messenger bag, greeted me, “how are you?”

I unplugged my earbud from my right ear and replied, “good. You?”

As he was buttoning his black peacoat, “okay. It’s nice out.”

I spent no time and replied with sarcasm, “no, it sucks.”

At 8 a.m. this morning, I got out of the train station when it was windy, snowy and chilly at low 20 Fahrenheit. The rain yesterday had melted most of the snow on sidewalks, and left the surface very moist. As it started snowing in the early morning and the temperature dropped, sidewalks were icy and slippery. I waddled to work, keeping my face down in my grey yarn scarf and holding my hood to keep my ears and head warm from the snow and wind.

20140223-223807.jpg

Chicago at sunset… And, it was nice out.

It is one of the busiest season at the office in the year; I hadn’t had time to step out. I sat in an office in the back of the building, from where the windows faced the back of the other two buildings on the block and valleys. I saw no sun. The glass windows on a higher floor of one building reflected the clouds, blown and moved quickly by the strong wind. So I thought, it must be cold outside.

Therefore, I was pretty convinced that the Man must have been joking.

Our conversation ended as the elevator stopped on the third floor and picked up two more people on their way out of work.

The gate is only 20 seconds from the elevator. I quickly put on my hood and my gloves, preparing to fight the wind and chill. I leaned forward to push the heavy revolving door and saw a woman walking towards me without a coat…

Oh, it’s not that cold any more. No more snow. The Man in the elevator really meant it was nice out.

I turned around the corner and headed west for the train station for home. After a few blocks, I saw the sun and its reflection on the glass skyscrapers and felt terrible about the conversation in the elevator.

He really meant it.

No wonder our conversation ended. But I hoped he had enjoyed that nice day, disregard my wrong sarcasm. It’s really hard to not make fun of Illinois weather. If you’ve lived or visit Chicago especially, you know how quickly weather could change.

Hello, Cappuccino

Inspired by Mohsin Hamid’s How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia, I decided to write in second person. It was rated one of the best books of 2013 in Huffington Post book reviews. 

You may be surprised that they don’t even care about you walking by. They only go after food.

Walking out of Union Station on Clinton exit, you immediately and naturally hugged yourself and bury your face in the green scarf to this 28 degree day.

You got to the loop three hours before the meeting. So early and you have nothing to do. At the corner, you see the best place you can stay warm and get Internet, Starbucks.

Coming to Chicago is no piece of cake. It’s a 40 minute commute. And you have to catch the shuttle at the apartment complex that leaves at 7:25 a.m. in order to catch the 7:50 a.m. express train to downtown. It’s only 8:30 a.m.

You can’t remember since when you only drank mocha, sometimes pumpkin latte. More importantly, you are not a coffee consumer. Not that you don’t like coffee, it’s just you can’t drink coffee. Caffeine brings you racing heartbeats and sleepless nights.

Two years ago, you walked down the library and felt your anxious racing heartbeats. It was beating so fast that you almost thought you were to faint in the hallway. So you quickly hopped on the bus to hospital and checked. As it turned out, your doctor looked into you eyes and said, “well, nothing serious. It’s just you are sensitive to caffeine. You may want to avoid it if it makes you feel uneasy.”

Since then, you notice even coke and chocolate can bring you racing heartbeats. So ridiculous, you always think to yourself. You can’t eat or drink chocolate. When you want to drink coke, you gotta get caffeine-free coke that has a small gold banner on the label. When you happen to have a whisky coke, it’s the coke that keeps you up instead of the whisky at the end of the night.

Looking at the clock, it was 9 a.m. when you had this latte. And you know you may have trouble sleeping tonight at 9 p.m. Oh well, that’s how coffee works for you now.

But today, you feel like a Cappuccino day. As you are ordering and receiving a tall cappuccino, you kept asking yourself, “seriously, you gonna do this?!” Oh well, sure. When you could drink coffee, you always ordered mocha. But it’s gotten so sweet at the end, and you have goose bumps for finishing a sugary coffee.

The joy coffee brought you was the silky flow at the throat. Physically and mentally, it woke you up. Most of your friends are coffee addicts or lovers. It almost seems like coffee works better than alarm clocks on the bedside.

Oh bitter, you thought as you sipped the hot cappuccino. But it’s at least smooth. Then you through of coffee as a culture. Indeed, in Chinese culture, tea is the mainstream. Speaking of tea, you can now only have herb tea due to the caffeine sensitivity. Your parents drink tea all the time, during the day and after dinner. You were always told that it wakes you up and hydrates you during the day; yet, after dinner, tea washes off the grease in your stomach and helps you digest. It was from a novel you read in fifth grade when you first learned coffee was an elegant beauty. You always like the image of your holding a cup of coffee and sipping it, sitting at a outdoor cafe or walking to work. It’s like an attitude, more than a drink in hand.

But in the past two years with barely any caffeine, you have learned a new perspective and attitude. Simply, you adjusted it, or you don’t need it.

Like today, you feel like a cappuccino. It rarely happens that you want coffee. But today is the day. Sometimes you feel like coffee is equivalent to alcoholic beverages. You only have it once in a while for fun because you know it’s not good for yourself. In this case, it only you. Yes, it only you.

At last, it’s time to walk out in the cold. Ah, so cold. You wish to have this warm drink in your hand. But you can’t take this much of caffeine physically.

It’s time to move on, from coffee and for life. Simply put, if the dress doesn’t fit you, you don’t fit in it either. Why bother. Move on. Coffee, once my joy, is replaced by water. You just can’t live any healthier than this, can you?

Change of mind, Change of me

After all, life is about changing. Changes bring novelties. Looking back the past nine years, I never settled.

In 2005, shortly after graduating from middle school, at the age of 15, I joined a one-year American high school exchange program. There off I went to Wixom, Michigan, and attended Wall Lake Western as a sophomore. I did not speak much English, honestly. My German host sister who was also an exchange student at the time and shared the room with me taught me what mean and awesome meant.

That year, I was terrible in English that I got a C for American History class and a B- for English. I couldn’t even finish To Kill a Mockingbird. I tried to run away from the Chemistry class because I was afraid of group projects and discussions. American high schools were all about having friends in class. I didn’t know how to make friends. To avoid awkward moments, I went to the McDonald’s next to the school. I did it once. Soon enough, I realized I was in a one-year program and couldn’t get out of it anyway. It was time to face it.

I think the Union Station is a classic beauty of art.

I think the Union Station is a classic beauty of art.

Then I met Vanessa. It was when we exchanged our locker passcode and put notes in each other’s locker between classes. We now both have a whole binder of notes we exchanged during the school year. It was the good old days.

As we hung out more, I got to speak more English. I got fluent without noticing it. I forgot when I started saying wanna and gonna instead of want to and going to. One time, Vanessa and I decided to watch Pirates of the Caribbean. She paused after every other sentence and explained to me, given the fact I didn’t speak much English and it was difficult to understand English in other accents.

Who knows the girl who was so scared of talking to peer students and with passing grade now graduated with a degree in News-editorial Journalism as major and History as minor. Yeah, I know, right?

English used to be a subject for me. It was a subject I learned from school and with that, I passed classes and moved on to the next grade.

But now I speak English. Not only I speak it, I dream it, write it, edit it and also proofread it.

In the past three months, I visit Chicago at least three times a month. I am getting so familiar with the Union Station.

In the past three months, I visit Chicago at least three times a month. I am getting so familiar with the Union Station now. This is the Union Station’s entrance on Canal Street.

It’s like Chicago to me some times. When I first visited Chicago as a high school exchange student, Chicago was just a touristic place. I quickly shopped through Michigan Avenue, went to the Six Flags, took a mandatory picture at the Cloud Gate, aka the bean, and wandered down Navy Pier. That was all I wanted to do and did.

Throughout college, I visited Chicago multiple times. I still thought it was just a place to visit for fun. Chicago’s streets were new to me every time. When I walked out of the Union Station, I was lost all the time. I didn’t know which way was which. It was an adventure all the time.

Until in the recent two years, I want to find a job in Chicago and settle here. I look up to those condo buildings and want to be belonged to one of those a few windows and a balcony. As I am in Chicago to visit friends and have interviews, I actually got more familiar with its geography. I could walk to where I want to go. I walk out of the Union Station, and I immediately know which way to get to whichever directions I need to head towards. It’s a strange feeling of learning a city. But this strange feeling gives me more confident and courage to explore Chicago and it’s employment opportunities. It give me motivation to reach out. It’s a good feeling actually.

It’s a change of mind I see in myself in the last decade.

It’s a throwback Thursday! Yet, Happy Blogging!

Airports.

Why does the tiny University-owned Willard Airport charge me $25 for a check-in bag? Ever since I started taking flights, the first bag is always free. It is weird when I was asked to pay $25. Oh well, I instantly changed my mind because I didn’t wanna pay. What a pain that I can’t carry it on the plane since I have bottles of skincare products. Psh. What a rule. Fine, I will pay.

Okay. I am talking about a very small airport where you walk in and you see the ends of hallway and probably the security check is in sight as well.

One thing I really don’t like about small/regional airports is that they are too small and very boring, in most cases. No stores and no restaurants. Sometimes the bathrooms are horribly dirty and messy.
In some cases, the flights are always either late or early. Since small airports take jets instead of big aircraft, like Boeing 777,747, 767, less passengers allow the crew start to board later and take off earlier. This maybe a good thing, in a case.

For an instance, flights were always late in that regional airport. I showed up only half an hour earlier. But it was so empty when I walked in and no personnel was there to check me in. This was weird. Finally after a few minutes, one of them showed up and told me that i should have been at least an hour and a half ahead of the flight. To the regional airport? She must be kidding.

The flight took off half an hour earlier.

Oh well. I was lucky enough to catch the next flight, in 2 hours. Cool, I was in no rush and went to Denny’s for breakfast. But the pain was that I had to return to the downtown since there wasn’t anything in the airport.

Speaking of this, International airports are way much better. Stores, restaurants and bars, along with bookstores are everywhere. Very cool. I love them.

Even when you miss the flight, they can always find something for you asap. Awesome.

I like big airports also because I am mostly flying alone. Sitting in a corner in the the restaurants in the airport and watching people, I don’t feel like part of the crowd. I like to think while I watch them walk pass by, listen to what they say, look at what they do. I feel like I am in a movie.

It’s cool.

What a great weekend.