Much Needed R&R

I don’t have any major event today, so I eat, play, chat, sleep, watch TV, eat, read, walk, sleep… It is also a perfect time to reflect and summarize the past month and my whirlwind activities.

  • Week of June 18th. Projects summary and transition; Farewell at the team meeting; David’s birthday celebration; Wrapping up and organizing files; Last visit of the Tyson’s office; Shopping; Meetup with a few old friends.
  • June 25th. After a few conference calls at work in the morning, boarded a plane to start my vacation.
  • June 26th. Arrived at Copenhagen, Denmark in the morning. Took train to Roskilde for a nice short visit.
  • June 27th. Checked out the aquarium Den Blå Planet; Boarded Star Breeze in the afternoon and our ‘Baltic Delight’ cruise began! (I will only list the various ports for now so that this post would not get too long. Stay tuned for more detailed posts on these wonderful places around the Baltic Sea.)
  • June 28th. Bornholm, Denmark
  • June 29th. Gdańsk, Poland
  • June 30th. Klaipeda, Lithuania
  • July 1st. At Sea
  • July 2nd. Tallin, Estonia
  • July 3rd. St. Petersburg, Russia
  • July 4th. St. Petersburg. Russia
  • July 5th. Helsinki, Finland
  • July 6th. Aland, Finland
  • July 7th. Arrived at Stockholm, Sweden; All day traveling back to US
  • July 8th. Picked up documents from a friend’s home; Did chores around the house
  • July 9th. My last day with EY; Returned firm assets and checked out at the DC office
  • July 10th. Noon-time flight to Beijing – further messed up my jet lag from Europe
  • July 11th. Arrived at Beijing, dinner out with my mom and sister’s family
  • July 12th. Picked up train tickets; Activated a cell phone – can’t survive without one since they use it for everything here – pay at stores and restaurants, take Metro, rent bicycle, order take-out, get a taxi etc. I feel so out-dated but I am catching up!
  • July 13th. 4.5 hours on a high-speed train to Shanghai; 48 hours of college reunion craziness began
  • July 14th. Ate too much, drank too much, talked too loud, laughed too hard, slept too little. Enjoyed every minute with my friends from decades ago
  • July 15th. Reunion ended in total exhaustion. Met Charles Yang for dinner, who once interned in our New York office for 8 months. He also brought me to visit the largest Starbucks in the world.
  • July 16th. Train back to Beijing, in time for my sister’s birthday celebration.
  • July 17th. Accompanied my mother to the US embassy for her visa interview. Big crowd, long line, and heavy rain! Can’t say I enjoyed it but the result was good!

So you see, I just got a chance today for my much needed rest and relaxation. I exchanged messages with a few friends, went to grocery shopping with my mother, and also visited the nearby community library. It is a good break before the hustle and bustle starts again tomorrow.

 

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Books read in 2018 Q2

I just came back from cruising around the Baltic Sea, and the second book report of 2018 is over due. My goal this year is to read 50 books, 25 of which in non-audio format and 5 in Chinese. I finished 14 books in Q2; only two of which I actually read as opposed to listening, and there was one Chinese book. Now I begin to think the non-audio part of the goal is quite challenging.

Here are the books I finished in the second quarter:

  1. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  2. Perturbed Chinese 忐忑的中国人 by 梁晓声
  3. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  4. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  5. Obsession by Jonathan Kellerman
  6. Operation Hail Storm by Brett Arquette
  7. Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz
  8. Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Max Tegmark
  9. In a Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
  10. New York Post Fiendish Sudoku: The Official Utterly Addictive Number-Placing Puzzle by Wayne Gould
  11. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
  12. Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz
  13. Prayer by Ole Hallesby
  14. Adultery by Paulo Coelho

As usual, the books on this list are eclectic in many ways and I liked most of them. I read quite a few books from the author of #2 twenty years ago, and this one is as good as expected. I really enjoyed #7 and #9. I finished all 200 puzzles in #10. There are many interesting and though-provoking topics in #8 and #12. I don’t like #14 at all.

Keep reading… till the next report. 🙂Books 2018Q2

A New Journey

Life, like a book, proceeds in chapters. Now I am about to start a new one.

I decided to take a one-year break from work to explore new places and experiences. It was a hard decision to depart from a prestigious firm, an awesome team, and wonderful colleagues. But I believe now is a good time to do it – to minimize the potential future regrets.

The next month or two will be quite exhausting yet exhilarating at the same time. I will start by cruising around the Baltic Sea, immediately followed by a college reunion in Shanghai and then family visit in Beijing. I will also squeeze in a trip to Hong Kong before returning to US. Then a road trip to New England to visit my boyfriend’s family, and another road trip starting at Crater Lake National Park and ending at Glacier National Park.

In December we will go to explore Southeast Asia – Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore. Also in the consideration is a trip to South America and Antarctica in Jan/Feb, but that requires much research and planning still.

Taking time off also enables me to spend more time with family and friends. This upcoming trip back to China is longer than usual and provides good opportunities to do so. My mom is planning to visit me in US in the fall and it would be great to spend quality time together.

When I am not traveling or travel-planning, I want to read all the books piled up on my shelves and floors, and write about my trips and family stories. I need to organize the tens of thousands of photos in my computer. I will develop a routine for exercising, meditating, learning, volunteering, etc.

I wish I had time now to write more about the decision process, the sad and heart-warming farewells, and the exciting plans. But I need to depart soon. More to come…

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Books read in 2018 Q1

It is time to post the first book report of 2018, one day early since I don’t plan to finish another book today. My goal this year is to read 50 books, 25 of which in non-audio format and 5 in Chinese. I finished 12 books in Q1; 3 of which I actually read as opposed to listening, and no Chinese books yet. A little behind schedule but I am still quite optimistic that I could catch up.

Here are the books I finished in the first quarter:

  1. Lincoln: The Man Who Saved America by David J. Kent
  2. Taj Mahal: Passion and Genius at the Heart of the Moghul Empire by Diana Preston & Michael Preston
  3. The Last Child by John Hart
  4. Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie
  5. After Dark by Haruki Murakami
  6. 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth and Other Useful Guides by Matthew Inman, the Oatmeal
  7. A Mathematician’s Apology by G.H. Hardy & C.P. Snow (Foreword)
  8. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  9. Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brené Brown
  10. Option B by Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant
  11. The Door to December by Dean Koontz
  12. The Twelfth Imam by Joel C. Rosenberg

As usual, the books on this list are quite diverse in terms of genre, time frame, and author’s gender and nationality. I really enjoyed seven books on this list, especially #1, #3, and #9. I don’t like #4 and #6 and only gave them 2 stars on Goodreads.

Keep reading… till the next report. 🙂

Books 2018Q1

A Good 2017, A Better 2018

Books 2017

The year 2018 had a very cold beginning here in US. Now that I stopped shivering I can write my obligated annual “good-better” summarizing/planning post. My 2017 was good, although I didn’t quite accomplish the goals I set out at the beginning of the year:

  • Read 50 books, 20 of which from shelves at home. Partially Done. I did finish 50 books and here are the book reports: Q1Q2Q3Q4. Amazingly, the average length of this year (2017)’s books is 341 pages, compared to (2016)’s 343, and (2015)’s 342. As a statistician, I can’t help marveling at these numbers. There had to be something significant going on other than coincidence. Only 16 of the 50 books were from shelves at home, so this part of the goal wasn’t reached. I am not going to lose sleep over it though. 🙂
  • Visit 3 new countries. Done. I visited South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.
  • Swim 80 times (average 1.5 times a week); yoga at home everyday. Not done. I only swam 37 times, average 0.7 times a week. I didn’t count how many days I did yoga at home, but I suspect it was less than every other day. On average I walked 4,953 steps a day, slightly short of last year’s 5,080 and a lot fewer than the previous year’s 7,000. Seems I missed the marks of my exercise goals quite a bit!
  • Publish 40 blog posts. Not done – only published a shameful 7 posts, not even half of last year’s not-so-good 18.
  • Lose 5 pounds. Not done – my weight throughout the year moved up and down within a six-pound range. At least I weighed one pound less on December 31st than on January 1st, so I consider it losing 1 pound.

All in all, my 2017 wasn’t very productive in reaching goals. However, it was a great year in traveling – I actually was in four continents! 🙂 Here is this year’s travelogue:

  • January. London, United Kingdom (work)
  • May. Seoul, Busan, South Korea; Beijing, China
  • July. Mystic, CT; New England
  • October. Sydney, Cairns, Melbourne, Uluru, Australia; Queenstown, New Zealand
  • October. New York City, NY (work)

Australia-New-Zealand-Trip-locationsI haven’t got a chance to write about the 19-day Australia/New Zealand adventure – one of the best trips of my life! It involved 12 flights, 8 hotels, 4 time zones, and temperatures anywhere from 50 to 100 degrees. I ended up being poorer financially but much richer in experiences and memories, not to mention the thousands of photos I brought back with me!

Now here are my goals for 2018:

  • Read 50 books – at least 5 in Chinese, at most 25 in audio format
  • Visit 5 new countries
  • Swim 50 times; yoga at home everyday (except this past week :))
  • Publish 30 blog posts; write at least 3 full-length travel articles in Chinese
  • Learn to cook 3 new dishes
  • Lose 5 pounds

I am looking forward to a better year ahead – more explorations and adventures. I can’t wait to start.

Books read in 2017 Q4

Happy New Year! 2017 is now history and I am glad to report that I did reach my goal of reading 50 books, finishing the last one with 40 minutes to spare :). I didn’t quite make the 20-books-from-home-shelves goal though – I read 16, not bad actually with only 4 books short.

Anyway, here are the 14 books I finished in the fourth quarter:

  1. The 100 Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
  2. The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic – and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World by Steven Johnson
  3. Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
  4. Destination Unknown by Agatha Christie
  5. The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly
  6. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
  7. Wilde Lake by Laura Lippman
  8. The Three of Us (我们仨) by Yang Jiang (杨绛)
  9. The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  10. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  11. Rabbit, Run by John Updike
  12. Wait: The Art and Science of Delay by Frank Partnoy
  13. Phantom by Jo Nesbø
  14. Christian Caregiving: A Way of Life by Kenneth Haugk

Five of these are from shelves at home. I enjoyed most books on this list, especially #1, #6, #10, and #13. The classic #9 is powerful, and I regret that I wasn’t able to see her house while in Amsterdam last year. Maybe next time.

Again I set a goal of finishing 50 books in the coming year. I also decided that at least 5 of them should be in Chinese. In addition, half of them are to be really read using my eyes (i.e., not audio books). These specific goals will help me get a better feel of both languages and become a better writer.

I look forward to another good year of reading!

Books 2017Q4

Toddler Years in Changchun – Grandparents

I dreamed of my grandparents this morning. It is high time that I pick up where I left off 2.5 years ago, to continue to write about my childhood in Changchun. To refresh our memories, here are the two previous posts: Overview and Neighborhood.

My father’s parents had the same age. They were originally from Laoting, a small town about 150 miles southeast of Beijing, not far from the sea. I don’t know when their families migrated to the Northeast part of China, but I remember them telling me stories of that difficult journey.

Grandpa was a super nice person, easy-going and warmhearted. He worked at China’s first automotive manufacturer that is still around today (First Automotive Works (FAW) Group). He usually left home around 4 am in the morning and came back early afternoon. Then his job became taking me to a particular park for my daily carousel ride and buying me candies and snacks.

Grandma was illiterate but very smart and capable. She was in charge of a workshop at our street corner, making small carton boxes. A dozen people worked there, most of them handicapped. They cherished the opportunity to earn some money and contribute to the society. Sometimes I ‘worked’ there as well, for fun of course. I was most impressed with a heavy duty paper trimmer (big cutting knife) but I was strictly forbidden to get anywhere near. I waddled and talked and tried to help, I’d like to think I brought much excitement and laughter to that workplace.

Grandpa had a green thumb and our home was filled with plants and bonsai, all prospered under his care. There was a time when Clivia (君子兰) was very hot in Changchun, when people were willing to exchange a TV for a ‘pure’ breed specimen. Grandpa had some very nice ones and was always willing to give others precious pollen or seeds, which made him quite popular among neighbors. Grandma cooked meals, washed clothes, did other household chores, and complained often about not getting help from her hobbyist husband.

Time flew by. I was fortunate to be in their lives for two decades. They witnessed my growing up and accomplishments and life events. We alternated a few times between living together and apart due to circumstances, but I was never far. I visited them at least once a week and enjoyed meals together, until the last few months of their lives.

They both passed away in 1997, five months apart, when they were 76. I was in Beijing at that time and wasn’t around for either of them. I always felt sad and guilty about it, but what remains in my memory is always their smiling faces and abundant unconditional love. I wouldn’t have been who I am today without them.