Twenty Years in US

IMG_7296On this day twenty years ago, I came to the United States. My point of entry was Anchorage, Alaska. I still remember stepping off the plane, exhausted after an eight-hour flight from Shanghai (and a short flight from Beijing before that), yet excited from seeing the gorgeous snow mountains from the air, and the rows of private jets on the ground. As I stood in line at passport control, it suddenly struck me: I am in a different country and I will be on my own. My family and friends and everything I am familiar with are now thousands of miles away…

There was not much time to be sentimental. I boarded another plane and flew six more hours to JFK. As it approached, I watched the beautiful night view of New York City with all those bright lights and elegant bridges, and felt like I was in a dream. When the wheels touched the ground and passengers applauded, tears rolled down my face. At that moment, so many feelings went through my mind that it felt blank. A new chapter began.

So that was the first trip by air in my life. And it lasted over 20 hours. I was a rookie traveler then and thought even the churning baggage carousel was impressive. Today, I am quite experienced. I have been to 33 countries and 64 airports around the world. Still, that same excitement when the plane touches down in a brand new place never left me.

IMG_7298Many things have changed in twenty years. For example, I came here holding a Chinese passport with a US visa. Today, I have a US passport with a Chinese visa. Between the two countries, no matter which direction I fly now, I consider it ‘going home’.

BTW, here is a post that I published around the 18th anniversary. 🙂 Can’t believe it has been two years since then! Time flies. I wonder what I will be writing about five years from now, or ten, or another twenty…

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EY Connect Day – Part III

Time flies and it is our firm’s annual day of service to the community again! Since I had such a great experience last year, I chose to go back to the same nursing home to volunteer on September 30th. Here are the stories from a year ago: Part I; Part II.

We divided up into three groups for the morning session: group 1 to play Jeopardy and volleyball with the residents; group 2 to do gardening in the yard; and group 3 to paint walls of a hallway in the building. I participated the group 1 activities last year (see my previous posts) and had no green fingers whatsoever, so I joined the wall-painting group.

The tasks gave me a sense of accomplishment as the light green walls gradually disappeared under a new white coat. And I interacted with two residents. One was half sitting and half lying on a bed in his room, facing the door that was open to the hallway where we were painting. I said hi the first time I saw him, and he said it was really nice of us to do this. He watched us with interest and had a big smile on his face all the time. The other was a woman ‘walking’ her wheelchair – tapping her feet on the floor to move the wheelchair with her. She said “good job” the first time she passed through us, then she kept circling back, at least 5 times. I suspect she was walking laps as her morning exercises.

I went to the activity room where the volleyball game was taking place. I was so happy to see Edith and Jenny were still playing, at age 102 and 100 respectively. I didn’t see Ruth at first, then she came in just when I was asking about her. A few of us had a good chat. I asked “what book are you reading now?” She immediately reached behind her wheelchair and pulled out Dead Wake by Eric Larson. The staff there told me that Ruth is a World War II veteran, spoke five languages, and admired by grateful scientists and writers from Isaac Asimov to Carl Sagan during her years at Library of Congress. I was deeply awed once again.

After lunch, we cut colorful papers into flower/leave/pumpkin shapes for their holiday decorations. Some of my colleagues did more gardening, a few of them went around the hallways to update the bulletin boards, several girls did manicure for residents. Edith was very happy with her bright red nails. A lady with India origin got pink ones. She was okay at first but suddenly went into distress, mumbling in her native language. Luckily one of our volunteers knew the language and was able to speak with her and calmed her down. Good to have a diverse team!

It was a wonderful day. We interacted with residents and brought energy and fun into their lives; we got some tasks done that otherwise would have fallen on the shoulders of the staff; and we networked among ourselves, who are in various groups from different offices. EY Connect Day is such an inspiring event and I am proud to be part of it. Last year more than 16,600 EY volunteers logged over 105,000 hours across the Americas on this day, let’s see what the numbers are for this year!

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Together

I don’t take photos of people much, but here are a few that really touch me. Hope you like them as much as I do.

The first one is from a hiking trip on Old Rag Mountain in Virginia. The trail is about 7 miles round-trip with elevation of 2,200 ft. There is 1 mile of rock scramble near the peak and that is where this photo was taken.img_2330They are my friends and they are happy. I believe they will share the burdens of daily life together, with cheerfulness in their hearts and smiles on their faces…

I have been to Chicago twice and found myself in heavy rain both times. They are my friends as well, walking ahead of me in the stormy downtown.yellowstone_0530-003Yes, hold each other and hold tight, never let go. Walk together, step by step, through the calm, through the storm…

This next one was from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. It is where Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia meet. It is also the intersection of Potomac River and Shenandoah River, a beautiful place.img_1094I like the color of this photo, as well as the lyrics of a Chinese song that always comes to my mind when I see it. “Growing old together is the most romantic thing that I can think of”. Two hearts become harmonious after so many years together – they can communicate without saying a word. Just sit in a park, on a beach, or in rocking chairs at their front porch, feel and enjoy…

I like trees, and I like these two standing in Stanley Park of Vancouver, BC, Canada. img_3658It is beautiful (maybe a little sad) to stay like this. Always together, forever apart…

[Daily Post – Together]

 

A Foggy Night

Fog, heavy fog everywhere. Want to cut it into pieces and throw them away.

The road ahead is hidden, like my unknown future.

Can’t see the ups and downs and twists at all; can’t know what is going to happen tomorrow.

Go by faith, live by faith. Trust there is a way even when I can’t see it. Know the sun is still shining behind the dark clouds. Believe in a better future.

I have more dreams than memories. It has to be a good thing.

fog

 

 

[Daily Post – Fog]

My “White” Table Cloth

Today something triggered a brain cell and I suddenly thought of my precious white table cloth from another life. At least, it was white for a very short time 25 years ago.

I was in Jilin University then. When not in classes, me and my classmates usually went to classrooms or the library’s big reading room to do self-study. We did study hard sometimes, especially before exams. Other times it was more like social gatherings. Since there were more students than available seats, we had to be diligent in safeguarding our places. I believe this was the purpose of the little table cloth that each of us carried. It signaled temporary ownership of that desk and chair. Randomly laid-out books or notes might be pushed aside, but everyone respected the authority represented by the table cloths.

Above is our old library building, the university has since moved to another location with an impressive modern library. Once inside, we climbed up those steps and entered our beloved big room. Most of the time it was much noisier inside than what you would imagine a reading room should be. In addition to the usual people chattering, there were also the rhythmical sounds of high heels hitting the wood floor, and thumps of people jumping up and down from an elevated section (there were a few stairs on the side but we preferred jumping).

My memory was very good back then, and I could memorize a ton of popular song lyrics and Chinese poems. When I was bored with studying, I would write some beautiful words on my white table cloth. Naturally, when my friends seek me out and sat around to chat, they would read what I wrote, and wanted to scribble a few things that they liked. Long story short, after a while, my “white” table cloth looked like this:

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I still have it. I took it out and read some of the things written on it, and couldn’t help smiling. Oh my dear old friends, my fun university life. The table cloth is no longer white, and too bad I can’t wash it, but it is one of my most cherished possessions. I am going to bring it back to my next class reunion, just to see the smiles on their faces!

 

My Memory, My Time

Today I found an amusing article that I wrote in January, 2009 as follows:

### Last year I read a book titled ‘CrazyBusy’. The author said that most of us busy people today are somewhat suffering from ADD – We take on far more tasks than our brains can comfortably process, thus we don’t pay enough attention to any of them. I kinda feel the impact recently, from my seemingly deteriorating memory…

  • I confirmed a dentist appointment that would be 2 days away, and on that day got a phone call from them asking ‘Why are you still in YOUR office, when you should be in OUR office?’ 
  • Before I went to bed, I opened the contact lens cases, poured in solution, then closed the cases – without removing the lens from my eyes and putting them in.
  • I accepted a conference call invitation that would happen in half an hour, then got distracted and totally forgot about it.

etc. etc. etc…

I don’t believe I am gradually losing my mind. I think I am just too busy. So I take a close look at how I spend my time each week (on average), and here is a summary (try it for yourself, it is fun):

I have 24*7=168 hours each week.

Sleep: 8*7= 56 hours
Eat (cook, eat out, wash dishes): 15 hours
Rest (shower, brush teeth, contact lens, etc): 4 hours
Work: 8*5= 40 hours
Commute: 3*5= 15 hours
Church (Bible study, pray, Sunday service, volunteer): 10 hours
MSN chat/Gather/Facebook: 12 hours
Read books: 4 hours
Watch Netflix movies: 3 hours
Write journal: 4 hours
Phone calls (family, friends): 3 hours
Shopping (grocery, books, clothes, etc.): 2 hours

Of course, some hours are double counted, for example, I can make phone calls/read during commute, or MSN chat/watch movies when eating… But I will need these additional hours to pump gas, exercise, surf web, clean house, pay bills, put out trash, water plants, do laundry, meet friends, see doctors (doctor, dentist, orthodontics, chiropractor), try to find stuff, try to remember things, etc. etc. etc. 🙂

No wonder. But on what activities can I cut my time budget?? ###

Now, seven years is a long time and my hours have definitely shifted. “Commute” hours have decreased from 15 hours to 2 hours; “Church” time has gone down significantly; “MSN chat/Gather” time is eliminated, perhaps switched to ‘Blog/Games’; “Read books” increased from 4 hours to 12 hours; “Watch movies” down to 1 hour; “Write journal” no more. “Phone calls” should be renamed to “WeChat”, my major channel for connecting with family and friends. And its hours need to increase to 15.

I am doing exercises more regularly so at least 5 hours a week should be registered. Also should add ‘Travel’ to this list although measuring it by average weekly hours is a challenge. I haven’t added these updated numbers up but I feel the 168 hours a week are more or less accounted for. This year I will pay more attention on how I spend my time…

 

An Interesting Ex-Colleague

huh_450As I went through miscellaneous files on my hard drive, I found some anecdotes I wrote several years ago about a colleague at the time. I actually reported to her for a while and we maintained a good working relationship and friendship. I will call her W here.

  • W surely knows how to motivate us – sometimes she sends nice slogan emails like “No one should be under utilized next week”. This really reminds us to cherish and enjoy every minute over the weekend and look forward to an exciting busy week ahead.
  • Besides the gazillions of to-do items each of us gets from W every day, we also love her ‘where am I’ emails. They informed us of her whereabouts at each hour (and all the doctor’s appointments). However, her estimates have a 50% precision at best – there is absolutely no guarantee that we can find/reach her based on the information.
  • Despite the mile-long to-do list W keeps for herself, she still seems not sure at times. So she asks us questions like: “What is the status on Project A documentation? (Are you waiting on me?)”
  • On 1/19, client said “We do not need a revised report; I think we’re all set on Project B”; on 2/2, project B was dutifully archived. On 3/10, I received a to-do item from W regarding project B, due 4/30, with instructions: “don’t remember if those were prelim or final estimates. pls chk notes. Update documentation to indicate, draft report thru at least sample selection if figures were only prelim thru estimation if figures were final. Write separate memo to file if prelim figures were supplied.”
  • Over time some of us become fairly good at guessing what W meant, but she shouldn’t have expected the same from her boss M:
    • W (sent to me and cc M): CCE – fyi – could you add this to the project log? Thanks! [attachment: dialogues between she and client].
    • M: OK so what does CCE stand for? Is this the same project that is labeled CCA on the Shared drive?
    • W: sorry, this is a different project
    • To fix this confusion, W changed the project folder from ‘CCE’ to ‘CC Enterprises (CCE) W’. As a result, all the paths in the SAS programs need to be changed…

W is a nice person nonetheless. She has a positive view towards life despite all the challenges life has given her. She is a good teacher to new hires, she prepares cute Christmas gifts to everybody, and she takes good care of her aging mother. I still remember when I had to rush back to China to see my terminally ill father, she sent me a “motherly” long email reminding me to take care of myself. I was so deeply touched.

It is a pity that with my office computer crash and the firm’s email server switch, all the above mentioned emails are lost. But the good thing is that W and I are still in the same area so we can meet and catch up once in a while (we did 2.5 months ago).