Close proximity

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One thing I am really enjoying about living and working with Marylin is all the great conversations we’ve been having.  From work related musings to discussions about life’s various issues, there’s an endless array of topics for us to cover.  We have similar enough interests to have a lot to talk about, but we’re not clones, so we do have differing opinions to share.  Sometimes I am still amazed at how similar we are (yet how slightly different we can be too).  I honestly feel like she and I were twins separated at birth, naturally inclined to the same things, but taught and raised differently and thus diverging in certain opinions.  It makes me wonder if having a sibling near your age who you are close to feels like this, but somewhat opposite, with natural inclinations differing, but the common upbringing bridging the gap.  Whatever it is like, I appreciate the time we’ve had together and the discourse we’ve shared.

It’s refreshing to be around someone so much and really get to know about them.  We’ve both joked about how we are going to get sick of each other, which has yet to come, but I’m glad we acknowledge that we may drive each other crazy sometimes.  I’m getting a great feel for how she prefers to do things and how I prefer to do things and how we can compliment each other as a team.  This will be important for our future plans as partners!  That way we can play off our strengths and weaknesses to our maximum benefit.  We have agreed it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and really learn to work with each other, providing feedback as needed.  I definitely believe that honesty (tactfully expressed) will prevent a lot of conflict and keep things going smoothly.

Even though we may physically be around each other all the time, I still get a lot of time to interact with the others in the office and be in my own little world when I’m on the computer.  It’s nice to have this time to grow on my own, separate from her, but also have her right there in case I need to discuss something or bring something up.  It will definitely get more challenging as I get more work to do and we’re both working hard to get things done.  I’d like to branch off a little and work on projects that she is not on so we can expand our knowledge base.  The more areas we can gain experience in the better it will prepare us for striking out on our own in LA someday.  Plus, that way I get a sense of individuality beyond that of just being the American version of her.  😛

For now though, I will be her shadow professionally and socially, since I don’t know my way around the country, don’t really know any people, don’t fully understand the culture, and don’t even have a phone to use so I can’t wander off on my own!  It’s a running joke between us that I can’t hurt or offend her or else I won’t have a place to stay, haha.  But hey, I could just take her place…  😉  At the moment it’s taking so much energy to absorb everything that I haven’t exhibited much of my wacky self.  I wonder if I’m even still that crazy anymore, after Panda’s calming influence on me.  Well, at the least I’m still really quirky and odd, which can be entertaining in its own right, whether or not I’m as verbose and expressive as I used to be.

Singlish

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Part of the acclimation here is getting used to the language patterns.  The good thing is that people in Singapore primarily speak English and some Chinese, both of which I am fluent in.  However, as it is with any country, it takes time to get used to the accent, language patterns, and slang.  This takes me back to my first night in my flat in England, gathered around the kitchen table with my neighbors, freaking out to myself because I could not understand a word of what they were saying.

Sometimes, when they are speaking very quickly or not facing me, I find it rather difficult to follow what they are saying.  Plus, throw in all the cultural references, inside jokes, and other communication barriers and you’ve got a huge jumble in your mind.  It’s taking me some time to sort things out, remembering all the background information for historical and cultural references, what certain phrases mean, and also catching up on what the lingo is like around here.

I grew up learning very standard English and Chinese, so it’s a challenge to understand the accents and local jargon that gets used.  Grammatically things are very different too, which poses a mild block in my mind that slows down my processing.  Plus, I’m used to being very compartmentalized with my languages, rarely switching between them, but now everyone is transitioning around a lot more than I’m used to.  The Chinglish I speak at home hardly uses English phrases and is about 90% Chinese, so I’m thinking and reacting in Chinese for the most part.

I’ve learned a lot since my arrival and I continue to try to keep up with all the background information that I need to try to pick up when trying to adjust to a new culture’s style of communication.  The cadence of speech is very different as well and it certainly has been interesting learning to get used to it.  It’s not that I haven’t heard this type of speech before, but more of the overwhelmed senses I have, struggling to figure out all of this very new information.

I’ve been exhausted lately, crashing to bed without a second thought and happily sleeping through the night.  Gone are my insomniac days, which is good, since I no longer lie in bed thinking about what to do.  However, I have already fallen asleep half a dozen times just writing this post.  So, for now, I’ll let my subconscious brain process all the information from this week.

Relocation

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After dinner today everyone made a mass effort to start moving things from the old office over to the new space.  Stuck wearing heels, exhausted from the day, and left without insurance, I wasn’t much use.  Plus, the boss kindly remembered my strained back and didn’t want me to exert myself too heavily.  So, I did a lot of hobbling back and forth carrying light items, as well as more of the thinking work, like figuring out where things would go and what we still needed to get for the place.

It’s amazing how much stuff there was in the little space we had been working from, which was only 220 square feet plus a loft area of about 80 sq ft.  Now the entryway to the new place is cluttered with various boxes and knickknacks that will need to be put away this weekend.  We’ve got a lot more space now, which will provide a different dynamic at work, since we’ll all have our own space to work at and there won’t be as much crowding around a table together.  There’s a separate meeting room area too, in case I ever need to get away from distractions and really focus on work.

I’m glad I came at this time, to catch a glimpse of how things used to work in the office and watch how it develops now.  It’ll be an adjustment to have everyone on the same floor so we can see each other.  Space was generally more communal with a huge table and benches that most of us shared, but now we’re going to have smaller tables and more consistent seating.  I kind of liked the old way, being crammed there with everyone living like a family.  Now it’s going to be a lot easier to operate more independently and I probably won’t even need anyone to pass me the snacks or help me get a cup of water so I don’t have to try to navigate around them.

This change is all at once exciting and bittersweet and I look forward to seeing how things develop from here.  This weekend will be spent settling in so we can do business as usual from the new place starting Monday morning.  I’m afraid I’m going to spend a lot of time being confused as to what goes where and how I can help, since I don’t really know how things are organized and I have nothing of my own to arrange and organize.  Perhaps I will bring my Joe Bruin bear to spruce up the desk space, if we end up with designated spots.  I can see us just setting up a bunch of tables in that area and people moving around still.  That’d actually be quite fun and nice – still reminiscent of how things operated before.

Time to put on my working clothes and get ready to get down and dirty all weekend!  It’ll be a fun time to work together with these people on something other than the projects.

Thunderstorms and safety blankets

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Tonight was the first time that it rained heavily here since I arrived, with the thunder and lightning rolling in soon after the winds forewarned us of their arrival.  It started to pour right before we got on the bus to go home, so it didn’t affect us until we reached our stop and found that we’d get absolutely drenched if we so much as went five feet in the downpour.  So, to avoid ruining our nice clothes and shoes, Marylin’s mom kindly drove out to meet us.  Even in the mere seconds we took to get into the car, we got quite wet!

I’ve missed having weather like this.  Thunderstorms are actually really interesting and fun for me, so I didn’t mind, though figuring out how to get back was an issue.  Otherwise, I love to try to catch a bolt of lightning or watch it light up the sky.  The variation of claps and rolling thunder also kept my mind entertained as I wondered just what causes thunder to sound the way it does, like big sheets of metal being shaken around.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been in a storm like this, so it was rather refreshing, and of course always comforting to be inside, sheltered from its worst effects.  I love being inside when the weather outside is dreadful to go out in, which pretty much means either this or a snowstorm.  Either way, it just makes me appreciate my bed all the more and I like to crawl under the covers to be warm and cozy.  It makes me feel safe.

Right now I’m so exhausted I don’t want to brush my teeth and wash my face before getting comfy, so maybe I will just sit here for a bit.  I’m staring at my brand new tube of toothpaste, knowing I should just stand up and use it… and so I shall, then collapse into another night of deep sleep, I’m sure.

Spicy foods: the battle between pain and pleasure

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It seems that a conscious effort has to be made to find non-spicy foods around here.  I suppose the Singaporeans tolerate pain better than I do.  And yes, extreme spices can qualify as forms of pain – after all, capsaicin creates that burning sensation and activates nerves much like painful sensations do.  It’s no wonder my insides still hurt from ingesting those spices.

Despite this, I absolutely love certain spicy foods, like kimchi, shin ramen, and preserved vegetables.  They are so tasty and delicious, but I can’t get through eating any of them without gasping for a soothing drink.  It’s a strange predicament to be in, loving to eat something so much, yet not being able to do it without crying the whole way through.  It’s nearly a workout in itself, making me work up a sweat and making my heart race.

So what’s a girl to do when her brain craves some spicy food and her stomach is clutched in fear?  Get a very big drink (milk, if possible, since it soothes best) and brace herself!  It’s like drinking soda and the carbonation is just a little too much, but you love it anyway.  We’re so strange to develop taste for things that generally are supposed to turn us away.  Are we as humans masochistic or something?  What other animal gobbles up chili peppers?  But alas,  that is how it goes and we have countless strange habits and rituals.

My stomach is still burning up a little and it’s been twelve hours!  Yikes!  I’m chewing on some Riesen hoping there’s some milk content in there to help my tummy.  Gosh, I should not have gone for that kimchi ramen, but it was soooo good…

Late night driving perils

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The weeks leading up to my departure I had been returning home rather late at night on a daily basis and I was always paranoid about an accident.  I am always amazed at how many accidents there are on the roads.  One drive down from Valencia to Westwood saw three crashes!  Thankfully, they were all small fender benders, though one did leave a bumper in the middle of the road and another somehow threw a mattress into a lane.

I also saw one across the way upon entering the highway; an overturned vehicle lay in the middle of the highway – it looked bad but not fatal.  I always make sure to keep an eye on other cars in case they are drunk or tired.  I consider it defensive driving.  I try to be alert as possible, but towards the end I was getting tired myself and found that the lines became more of suggestions to stay within as I swayed a little more than usual.  However, whenever I got too close to a line, I’d start to drift back towards the other side, so I never did accidentally cross over.

It seems that no matter what time of day and what the conditions of the roads, there are always people in a mad rush somewhere.  Then again, speeds also feel faster to me at night when the highway is relatively empty, so would often find myself marveling at a speeder only to find I was driving well below the speed limit.  I guess I get more cautious as the lighting gets darker.

Over here in Singapore though, things seem to go by at a more leisurely pace, probably because of the speed cameras that are waiting to take your picture for going too fast.  It was really nice to be driven around the city tonight, without all kinds of crazy aggressive drivers.  I like the atmosphere here; it’s been awhile since I’ve been somewhere that is roughly the same temperature in the day and night, so that is quite nice for me.

A black hole of a purse

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I just arrived in Singapore a few hours ago and I’m having trouble sleeping, so I found myself mentally going through the contents of my suitcases, trying to remember if I brought that darned toothbrush or not.  I swear there are items that I specifically packed, but I was unable to find them last night as I was getting ready for bed.  I’m willing to bet that it’s not my memory playing tricks on me, but my luggage.  Smart buggers.  So, I will try again in a bit as Marylin and I get ready to start our first day at work together!  Until everything is unpacked and stowed away, I am not giving up on finding my favorite facewash and that silly toothbrush.  Thank goodness they give you a temp one to use on the plane, or else I’d be using my finger and gargling a lot.

So does this happen to anyone else?  You throw something into your purse and no amount of digging will make it resurface again.  You just know it’s in there, but minutes of feeling around for it yields no results.  You give up on the search and decide that it’s a lost cause and go buy another one or stop using whatever it was.  Then it’s not until you dump out all the contents that it finally emerges from the depths of the bag.  It’s really quite amazing to me how this manages to happen, even in a seemingly small and innocent purse.  But no, those suckers are like a vortex.  Sometimes something has been hidden away in the crevices of your bag for so long you have forgotten you had it in the first place, then suddenly one day you clean out your purse to find it there!

This is the reason I avoid getting a big purse to carry around, or else I’d spend way too much time rifling through its contents trying to find what I want.  I wish they had more pockets and compartments in purses to keep things from falling out of place and away from reach.  No matter how neatly I place things in, they always manage to shift around and I can never seem to pull out that pen or chapstick when I need it most.  It’s like when you try to find something you’ve misplaced – you only find it after you don’t need it anymore.  Now what’s up with that?  Murphy’s Law?

Something similar happens in bowls of soup too, particularly ramen, as my friends and I found when eating some for lunch recently… really, how does a piece of pork get lost in that bowl?!  They need to serve these things with strainers or we may never even know some of the food we missed out on!  It’s all fine and dandy when you’re drinking the entire bowl, but if it’s a noodle-based soup, you could be leaving a lot more left over than you intended to.  Oh the black holes in our lives…

Packrat tendencies

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I have a habit of collecting things and never throwing them out.  I just can’t bear to.  This has been a problem since my youth, when I couldn’t even throw away homework that I wrote.  I blame it on my intense sentimentality.  Everything is a memory to me, good, bad, or otherwise.  Well how do you throw that away?  However, though I do love to keep things around, I would like to cut back on the superfluous things I have lying around the house.  After all, who needs clutter?  So whenever I move or pack, I try to clear out some of my stuff in an effort to stop the growing piles of boxes.

I am finally getting to the point in my life where I have outgrown some of my clothes, yet I still haven’t put them all together to donate.  Some are just a tad bit small now, but mostly they are just not a style that someone my age would wear.  Despite the fact that I will never need them again, they sit in my closet, reminders of my high school days.  Perhaps one day I will start an electronic photo album database with pictures of all the items that I’ve owned, so even when I get rid of something, I’ll have it stored away in a memory bank of sorts.  At the same time, I recognize that once that stuff is gone I will hardly ever think of it again.

This goes for a lot of things I own.  My mom is always doing some spring cleaning in my room, rummaging through my things and throwing them out as she sees fit.  Many of these items I don’t miss for a long time, which should indicate just how much I don’t need them.  Yet, it doesn’t make it any easier for me to let go, since the moment I do remember, I feel a great loss.  Why do I have such an attachment to my personal items?  Maybe it’s because my memory is not as good as I would like, or that I fear losing it too soon.

Right now it’s been hard to not pack certain things, since I can almost always convince myself that there will be that one circumstance in which I would need to use that item.  I had to constantly remind myself that I really won’t be needing a dozen jackets in Singapore, seeing as my research into their weather patterns has shown very consistent results: hot, humid, non-jacket conditions.  It’s a pity, since I have suddenly been rediscovering jackets that I have not worn in ages and would love to!  Alas, I will just have to console myself with the thought that I can make up for that when I get back.

I even had trouble deciding what office supplies to bring – how many highlighters?  What color pens?  How about pencils?  Erasers?  All of this is largely irrelevant, since I will likely be using a rather plain black or blue pen most of the time, which I’m sure the office is abound with.  Besides, how long does one pen last you?  Ages!  So it’s not like I’m going to be pumping through them, but nonetheless I took special care in deciding just what to throw in my suitcase and what to leave out.

So there you go, I confess my packratting habit.  It could be worse… right?

My favorite moments in college

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As my departure date approaches, I am frantically taking advantage of the time I have left to visit my friends at and around UCLA.  The other night, I met up with a friend for tea and two and a half hours later, I left campus with a nostalgic feeling in my heart.  I miss the days of staying up late with my friends, discussing all sorts of ideas and lamenting the work we had to do.  One of the things I will miss most about college life is those late night chats in the hallway or lounge.

That is the reason that I stayed in on-campus housing for as long as I could; I loved the atmosphere there that cannot be replicated.  When else can you go knock on a random stranger’s door and make a friend without seeming too forward?  Where else will you find so many doors kept open and people weaving in and out of the hallway?  College residential life is the best buffer for meeting new people who may have nothing in common with you.  In every other social situation, you are brought together by some shared interest, but in this one, your choice of living situation hardly dictates the type of people you will be living around.

It was the nicest thing to be back in that environment I adored so much, doing what I do best – livening up the quarters!  In fact, as we stood in the hallway chatting, the duty RA came by and told us how he had just been thinking how he hadn’t heard the place so chatty since I was last around when he rounded the corner to find it was actually me there!  We caught up briefly and then he left to continue his round, jokingly warning us to keep it down or else he’d have to come write us up (he’s a friend of mine, so it was only half serious).  I thought about it and you know what?  I’d much rather be the type of person up way too late interacting with my peers and possibly getting written up for it than the type of person always holed up in the my room, hardly ever socializing with fellow students.

College is a time of great growth, academically and socially, and everyone should take advantage of it in all aspects.  I will always fondly remember the feeling of sitting around with my friends, exchanging our thoughts throughout the night.  And I will miss that, as well as having such a huge concentration of friends in a small area.  Life is changing quickly.

Experience fuels inspiration

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I’ve found that the best source of creative ideas is personal experience.  It is in my day-to-day life that I think to myself randomly, "Oh now there’s something good to explore and write about!"  Immediately I jot it down on my "little fat notebook" amidst the growing list of topics to discuss.  Just living life (and being curious) can be the greatest muse!

So many times there are great lessons that can be learned best only by experiencing them.  Oftentimes the message doesn’t "hit you" until you’re there, doing it, feeling it, seeing it, living it.  Plus, you can’t really speak full with authority on an issue unless you’ve been in the midst of it.  Otherwise, you’re just reporting and relaying the message.

Stories from the heart also hold the deepest meaning and reach out to the audience like nothing else can.  What is more poignant than someone talking passionately about the greatest love of their life or the lessons they have learned through personal strife?  What do you believe more than a first-person account of how certain experiences feel?  It really touches my heart to hear personal stories, from the good to the bad.

I was reminded of this when I was listening to Taylor Swift’s songs – many were written about specific people and experiences in her life.  The same thing goes for a lot of artists out there and it made me wonder what they would write about if they didn’t have some drama or other eventful occurrences in their lives.  Although it’s easier to think about what to write when you’ve been through so much, it’s also much harder because of the personal involvement.  A little bit of abstraction could blur the lines between fact and fiction for the artist to make it easier to express, or they may choose to just bare their souls.

So the next time you’re in a creative rut, just go live your life!  Have fun with your family and friends, go for a stroll around your town, or even meet a stranger and strike up a conversation.  You never know what you may come across that will trigger that ‘ding, ding ding!’ in your head.  It certainly helps me always have a dozen things to write about.

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