travels with my barang-barang

workin’ it

Posted in Beijing, Miscellany, Yellow Fever by ejl on 26 March 2009

Yesterday evening, J and I attended a networking event hosted by various Chambers of Commerce. We thought we might be able to get to know some other expat professionals in Beijing, so it was 85% a social exercise and 15% a work-related event.

On both counts, initially – FAIL.

Socially, most of them were male and middle-aged. Okay, maybe not middle-aged, but definitely not mid- to late-twenties like J and I are. And the male part… well, J was hoping to score some lady-friends. First comment of the night from J as we walked in, “this is really cock-heavy”. I’m sure we’ll return to this topic of how cock-heavy Beijing is, but we’ll leave that for another time.

The men were, for the most part, not that yummy. Even the ones that looked relatively young, in their early- to mid-thirties, just didn’t cut the mustard.  Ok, they weren’t all ugly, there were one or two fitties, but I was more intent on getting to that scallop canapé. They weren’t so handsome that I’d pass on those grilled scallops. As a result, cock-heaviness aside, I didn’t chalk up any man-friends either.

Work-wise, we just weren’t in the mood to be plying our trade. And the crowd didn’t seem to be interested in talking to lawyers. Look, we know how we get work, and it’s not by passing our cards round at some networking event. It’s by responding to RfPs and by sitting on panels, and also by undercutting everyone else on our fee proposals.

But, just as we were giving up on the enterprise, we got to chatting to a girl who worked for an energy MNC. After our introductions, and about 5 minutes into our conversation, she’d already invited us along to her massage appointment (?!) but we were so taken aback that all we could do was mumble and decline the invitation. She’d also asked if I liked Chinese boys and on hearing that I have no preference one way or the other said she’d introduce me to her male friends. She, on the other hand, liked white meat, which was probably why she invited us (i.e. J) to the massage.

Massive WIN for both J and I.

So, we don’t think we’ll be going to any more of these networking things any time soon. They’re rubbish. For us, anyway.  They’re not particularly well-suited hunting grounds for my industry or my social life. 

But this girl, we’re seeing her this weekend for dinner and drinks, so who knows what might develop? Maybe J will score with the lady, and I’ll get to know some cute English-speaking Chinese boys. And highly unlikely, but perfectly possible in the world of infinite maybes, she might pass some work our way (after enough wining and dining, perhaps).

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the long and short of it

Posted in Beijing, Kultur, Miscellany by ejl on 25 March 2009

When I was back in Singapore two weeks ago, one of the first things I did was to go get a haircut at Artica in Far East Plaza. Juno’s my guy and he does amazing things with my hair, so much so that I trust him enough to just let him get on with it while I sit there in the chair without my glasses on and space out (because I am blind without them and can’t see shit when they’re off).

I enjoy the experience of not really knowing what I’m going to end up with, save for the few parameters that I usually set him – something that can look professional but also be dressed up or down, not too short, no straight-across fringe. I also think he enjoys the freedom to experiment, because most of his customers seem to either only get a trim or they’re there to straighten or perm.

Anyway, the last time I’d cut my hair was back in July, when I was last back in Singapore (are you seeing a pattern here?), and so by this time my hair was around my shoulders and I’d been tying it up and pinning it back in the most severe lawyer-like fashion. And this has been how most of the girls I’d met here in Beijing have seen my hair – up and back, all the time.

So when I met up with some of them over the weekend, they were, of course, taken aback by my dramatic change in hairstyle. I didn’t mind, I’d been expecting it. Friends who know me long enough are used to my periodic long-to-short hair transformations, and no longer blink at my turning up with a new haircut, but new friends, well… they’ve got a lot of learning to do.

What I didn’t realise, though, was the cultural significance of a haircut. The meaning of such a haircut was told to me in a very serious manner, with handholding and all. I was told that in China, girls don’t usually cut their hair unless there was some great emotional distress occurring in their life, e.g. a family tragedy or a break-up. No wonder the looks I’d been getting from my Chinese colleagues, somewhere between curiosity and pity. That explained everything. Everyone had been thinking that I’d gotten my haircut because something terrible had happened in my personal life but were just too polite/reserved to ask.

(I think this reaction also has something to do with my Chinese ethnicity, again. I’m sure Blondie over there wouldn’t be getting those pitying looks if she had a haircut. But moving on.)

Now that that’s been clarified, I must remember next time I get a haircut to announce that it’s because I got bored and not because something bad has happened. Just to save everyone the time and energy expended mulling over whether or not to broach the subject of my maybe-tragic-life, and also to stop the staring and save myself from feeling like a sideshow freak.

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in other news

Posted in Beijing, Miscellany by ejl on 9 March 2009

Will also try and post reviews of the places i’ve recently eaten at (Da Dong, Le Petit Gourmand, Metro and others) sometime soon. When I can.

Posts are thin on the ground at the moment due to a great number of all-day client meetings that took place in the last two weeks. This week might be similarly placed, and I’m off on holiday to Singapore on Thursday.

But I’ll do my best to write something while travelling from east to west Beijing at 8am tomorrow and Wednesday.

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