This is part 1 of our autumn 2017 stories.
On 20170813, I went for a medical test (a blood was drawn and I had to take a chest X-ray) for my work visa. Since their system has my fingerprints, I do not have to go for fingerprinting collection again. My sponsor paid for a fast track, the entire process (from a drive from my workplace back to it) took only 30 minutes!
I asked if it is ok that I am breastfeeding and had my chest X-ray taken. The radiologist said it’s ok. The chest X-ray result will be ready by tomorrow (20170814).
The staff at my workplace (AN) told me that they will collect my medical results tomorrow and apply for my visa online. Hopefully, I will be able to get back my passport on 20170817 or 20170820.
Before 11 am, I passed soft stool (thankfully, it’s not a diarrhea). I remember that since I lived and studied overseas at age 14, when I feel tense (e.g. before examinations) I will need to go to a toilet to pass a motion.
In the morning, I made several calls for administrative matters.
My workplace is not near, but indeed at a construction site! At noon, a normally-easy and short walk to the cafetaria turned out to be tough as dust and sand blew to my eyes. I have done my best wearing a hat and a sunglasses.
A lunch with colleagues who do not work directly with me was helpful to brush up on my linguistic skills (I forgot after a period of no usage and taking care of Little Princess almost 24/7, but thankfully I could be a fast-learner) and served as a reminder that I need to practice my numerical/quantitative skills (not just relying on calculator/computer).
A Nepalese man who lived and studied in Russia, married a lady from Slovakia, shared his experience of renting a car and tires, which I did not understand much. Changing a pair of tires could cost US$270-330! A gentleman from Hong Kong brought her 2002-born daughter to New York City and he was enduring trips to towers of branded goods.
Then, I remembered a former neighbor from Cyprus. She once complained that she was charged thrice for tires, perhaps being the only female, in addition to her hefty traffic fines due to delay as she was in Boston. I am thankful that I could learn about lives and survival skills from others.
After lunch, I continued to declutter my office. I had to move to a new office. The office boy kindly gave me 5 empty boxes (others might need only 2-3 boxes). In return, I gave him a gift which I have never used; it was from a colleague who was born in the same month as Little Prince and 4 years earlier than me. This action was inspired by a lesson from Louise Hay: when we get a gift, we accept it graciously; when we cannot use the gift, we pass it on to someone else.
I shredded confidential information about our clients, some personal notes, and financial information. It was amazing that in 3 years time, I could accumulate so many things! Many of them will no longer serve me, hence I need to (i) make rooms for new, better things and (ii) create space for me to create and contribute in my best capacity.
For things that I have not used in the past 6 months and will not use within the next 6 months, I could donate or discard it Since many things are not my personal belongings, I could not sell them (both Honey Panda and I had sold away my fridge, washing machine, television, etc before summer 2016).
I could also consider alternatives. For example, I have many toiletries as a result of staying in hotel rooms and I applied today that a toothbrush can be used not only to brush teeth but also to brush ginger.
For some items, I feel resisted to discard them but my decluttering aim (as forced by a circumstance beyond my control) has been to reduce my belongings and cleaning my mind too! For example, I felt tempted to keep a brown sling bag that has traveled with me to Iceland and Japan, but the zipper has been damaged and it could no longer serve me. The color has also faded.
When something goes or I discard/donate something that is no longer useful or bring joy to me, I affirm that I am making rooms for better things to come to me and I happily receive them, just like how human bodies need to defecate after we eat food and absorb its nutrients. The better things include not only tangible things (e.g. money, gifts) but also intangible ones (e.g. love, ideas to fruition).
I intended to stay until 3 pm, but I was driven to declutter that I ended up staying until 4 pm. However, my decision might reduce my exposure to the unforgiving summer sun of dessert. Being outdoor for less than five minutes made feel scorched and I greatly respect and am thankful to the construction workers who sweat and toil for the sake of their family.
At home, I simultaneously washed the bottles and skype with Little Prince who practiced his storytelling with me, albeit interrupted connection. Sometimes, I could not hear him, but it’s better than none at all.
Later, I cooked a soup of chicken + beetroot + carrot for dinner and eight treasure soup (八珍汤/bazhen tang)  for tomorrow’s drink. For each soup, I used 1 litre of water. The warm beetroot soup was easy to cook yet tasted nice.
Last night, I spent two hours shopping for groceries, perhaps the hypermarket was too big for me. I need to speed up in my future shopping. I bought organic beetroot that costs 3-4x the normal ones, but I decided to strategically buy healthy food even if they are not the cheapest, instead of buying day-old vegetables when I don’t need to pinch pennies. The beetroot also reminded me on my strategically frugal mother, who prepared raw beetroot juice for her husband in summer 2016 at our Home@S2011.
After dinner, I continued copying files to a My Book Western Digital 4TB hard disk (spring2017*). The loud sound from the hard disk made me worried and few files were unsuccessfully backed-up. Some folders (e.g China2010*, Europe2008_2011*, Europe2015*, Turkey2010*, etc) are missing files in the spring2017* hard disk, which serves only as a back-up hard disk. I don’t have to organize things in the spring2017* hard disk, as long as I have copied a majority of files, I could feel secured.
On 20170814, I spent 35 minutes washing and sterilizing milk bottles and the pump kit at home. I could speed up by pre-boiling the water for sterilization. With a motivated heart, I started packing for things that I intend to bring on my flight departing 20170830!
In the evening of 20170814, I was notified that there would be a pest control service on 20170815. Food items should be stored in the fridge. Thus, I
- placed the followings (that I previously intended keep at the kitchen ton) inside the fridge:
- sesame oil
- kept the brushes and the glass container to wash and sterilize Little Princess’ bottles inside the fridge.
- intended to put my electric kettle in a tight plastic bag, then washed it before using after I returned home.
- rewashed kitchen utensils before using them.
I don’t know what to do with my honey because keeping honey in the refrigerator can cause it to crystalize. In the end, I decided to put it in the fridge for a day, as the crystallization process is reversible and crystallization by no means changes the quality of honey.
I thought that I just finished unpacking today, yet I have to pack again!
I called the front office staff to inquire on the followings:
- Can I leave drinking water in plastic water bottles inside the room (the fridge could not contain 6 of 1.5 l bottles)? The staff told me that they would only spray at the corners.
- Can food in a sealed packaging be left outside the fridge?
- When will there be a pest control service again? every 30 days.
Then, I learned that I could request for a skip of pest control for my room, but I would still bring Little Prince’s medicine, my breastfeeding supplements, perhaps to be placed inside the cooler bag at my office, amidst the hectic (thanks to many things) process of moving office rooms!
To be sure that they skip my room, I pasted a note outside my room.
On 20170815, I spent 45 minutes washing bottles at work. The pantry was hot from the summer heat. Perhaps, it was the first time I washed them (including the kettle that has turned dusty, the metal container bought by mama from her childhood town, the brushes) after being away for long. I was early and not many people were around, it was a peaceful washing. Next time, I would wash faster than today.
Then, I continued decluttering my office. I discovered useful items that I could use now e.g. a pink bunny soft towel (it’s time to say bye to my rough towel that I currently used), a 6-socket power extension, a thin cloth pouch to minimize my Samsung Note II from knock. I feel like a member of Three Investigators by Alfred Hitchcock.
For easy access, I used to write my colleagues’ extension numbers in the whiteboard. When I made a copy in a spreadsheet, I realized that some people have left; yet I made a greeting call to a single-mother colleague whose son was born in 2009.
In my attempt to wrap fragile items with paper, I got a paper scratch, ouch! I must be more careful.
At noon, I had a lunch with three engineers. A good thing about working is that our mind is stimulated. To quote Tim Ferriss, we are the average of the five people we most associate with. This observation inspires me to elevate ourselves (when Little Prince/Little Princess and I are together) by learning from the world’s best e.g. through TED talks, BBC/National Geographic documentaries, MOOCs, etc.
During my afternoon tea break, I had a soy milk and a small packet of wheat biscuit. A courageous father of soon-to-be two beautiful daughters came to the pantry and I learned how desperate he was for his family to reunite. When I told him that I greatly respect the construction workers seen through the pantry windows, he told me that it was their destiny of tough life. These workers endured desert sun for earning an income that is perhaps only a tiny fraction of what I earned. Thinking of my father who recently shared with a doctor that he once worked as a coolie, I deeply believe that education is essential !
At 6 pm plus after pumping mother’s milk, I tried to wash my mug and realized that water flow suddenly became very slow which was in contrast when I used it in the morning. Hope it was just a temporary issue.
At night, I cooked an arhat fruit (Siraitia grosvenorii) as a cooling drink for tomorrow (20170816), hopefully my mouth ulcer will be healed soon.
Today (20170815), I am thankful for
- completed packing 70-80% of the stuff in my current office and watched a video of Little Princess showing a Beauty and the Beast castle that we built together in two hours, as inspired by Gaudi, for a Vietnamese little girl.
- air-conditioning in taxi, home, and workplace, in a hot, humid, and hazy city.
- not having to worry about using water (for showering after a tiring day, washing dishes and vegetables) and electricity (for laptop, slow cooker, rice cooker, etc).
- my hair dryer as I washed my hair relatively late at 8 pm after steaming 2 eggs and washing lettuce for a simple dinner.
On 20170816, at 8.35am, I passed soft stools (perhaps Type 5 according to Bristol stool chart) that were darker in color than the normal medium brown. I have to learn to reduce my emotional stress. I felt sleepy after waking up at 7.05 am, yet I decided to eat a breakfast of oatmeal (steam a bowl of milk, add instant oatmeal and honey) with few grapes (a better idea than consuming raisins which are preserved) and work as I would be busier when Little Prince is around.
Since I had not have the chance to buy groceries since my last shopping on 20170812, for my 20170816 lunch, I simply cooked an ABC soup using 1 potato + 2 carrots + 2 cloves of garlic + a tbsp of sesame oil (added after cooked, skip this if ingredients contain meat/bones) + a pinch of salt (added after cooked). I ate it with a bun bread and lettuce leaves, while watching a slideshow of family photos taken at the opposite park exactly a week ago. 我好想念他们!
Thankfully, I could had skype sessions with Little Prince, Little Princess, and Honey Panda, in spite of the images turned blurry after some time (we would just make new skype calls). At night, I suddenly thought of the following songs: 黃昏 (Dusk), 橄欖樹 (olive tree for wanderers), 鲁冰花 (that reminded me on mama and Iceland), and Sukiyaki.
Overall on 20170816, I spent ~ 4 pomodoro/tomatoes working on a project to help a young mother to fulfill her dream. When Honey Panda was working for his start-up, he could focus and spend at least 10 pomodoro daily.
On 20170817, I realized that I need an 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep (albeit the back pain) to feel refresh, after I slept at ~ 11 pm and woke up at ~ 7 am. Such a sleep has been a luxury lately since I got pregnant and delivered Little Princess, yet I believe that things will be better.
On 20170817 at 12.15 noon, I started to declutter my office room. I had an early lunch alone, but was thankful for the diverse vegetables served by my workplace cafetaria. I found an old note on how to rent an accommodation (see Asia2017*/20170817*jpg).
In the afternoon, I also made a call to inquire on a nanny for Little Prince shall we need it. Here are a list of questions that I asked:
- What is the rate($)/hour?
- What is the min hours/hire?
- How many days in advance should we notify the company in order to book nanny service? at least 2 days for intermittent service, and 1 week in advance for daily basis (excluding weekends).
- Can we see the identification of the nanny? My mother strongly encourages this action to assure ourselves that we leave our children at people whom we know. Please see more answers at ref2017*/nanny*txt.
- Can I request the nanny to teach our children e.g. maths? A colleague of Honey Panda who has 4 children hired a university student to serve as her children’s tutor-cum-nanny.
- Can the nanny cook for the children?
Due to the minimal required hours/day, the nanny service turned out to be every expensive!
At 4.55pm, except for loose items (e.g. a box of supplements, a yoga mat, a bunny bolster, a black blazer, a kettle, etc), I completed packing all my stuff into seven (thankfully new) square boxes (it took me 0.5+1+0.5 days). I am happy!
If possible, I intended not to pump breastmilk at work anymore hence I do not have to bring my pump around. This also means that the plan would only be possible if I don’t have to spend long hours at work place. Hopefully, I could work from home more often.
There was a newly digged trench at the road between my work building (there are many buildings). The road was perfect in the morning when I arrived at work. Thankfully, a construction worker kindly helped me to carry my stuff (I packed them into two easy-to-carry/easy-to-pull items) across a temporary wooden plank that served as a bridge.
No matter where we went this year, there were constructions: Home@S2011, Little Prince’s nursery, and my workplace. I thought of the lives of construction workers. When I first went overseas to survive, live, and study at age 14, I attended an independence day ceremony at the embassy. There, if I did not remember wrongly, the staff told us that every week or every month(?), there would be a corpse of construction worker sent to the embassy due to accidents at work.
On 20170818, I woke up at 7 am then slept again. When Little Prince starts school, I must sleep early so that I could feel refresh waking up early in the mornings.
I tested a dress made of a UNESCO-listed material that mama bought for me. While I weighed only 53.1 kg this morning after pumping breastmilk, I decided that it would be better for me to wear the dress after I am done with expressing breastmilk. The body of women changed rapidly and very much for a baby.
For brunch, I steamed an egg with a pinch of salt and sesame oil. I also cooked broccoli (using a rice cooker to boil them using salted water that don’t cover the brocoli) to accompany my lunch. I ordered a home delivery . The food serving was huge (I ate it for my today’s lunch and dinner, and 20170819’s lunch). After my lunch when the food was no longer hot or warm, I transferred the remaining from its aluminium container to a porcelain bowl to be placed in the fridge.
In the evening of 20170818 (a day I spent working alone in a hotel room that reminded me on Maya Angelou’s discipline, albeit for a collaborative work), Honey Panda informed me that Little Prince won 1st prize in the final of a storytelling competition. Congratulations!
Now, it’s time to learn about humility and grit by practicing the next story.
On 20170819, I re-learned that I need to wash my hair daily, otherwise it gets oily. I am thankful for a morning shower and a hair wash that made me feel good. While I feel comfortable with my short hair (it feels so light!), I hope to grow my hair long when I am not as busy as now.
I also learned the benefits of writing polite emails (grep “20170819 lesson : write emails very politely” ref2017*/*txt) from a regional colleague whom I have never met individually.
On 20170819, I worked on a collaborative project that I had put aside, as its deadline was approaching. While I was determined to complete my part for this project, I know that I do not want to work on similar projects for the rest of my life; I crave to learn something new that is more practical to our lives.
I am happy that I could skype with mama, Little Prince, Little Princess, and Honey Panda today.
In the evening of 20170819, after secluding myself for almost 2 full days in a hotel apartment, I went for a grocery shopping. I noticed that the room has a weird smell when I re-opened it from a corridor that has a perfume sprayer. Thankfully, Little Prince would go to school in the weekdays and my workplace (when necessary).
Since the Teflon coating of my existing rice cooker was scratched, I wanted to buy a rice cooker with a stainless steel pot, but I could not find any in one of the largest hypermarket in the city. In the end, I just bought a Black + Decker rice cooker for ~ USD 26. I learned a useful lesson on how to simply carry a box: using a plastic bag being taped across with a scotch tape. At home, after washing the new rice cooker, I boiled water thrice (as I still saw dirty water after the first and second boiling) before I used it for my cooking. Instead of using a rice cooker to cook rice, I used it to steam milk, boil soup, and warm up leftovers.
I also bought my ready-cooked dinner: a zesty fish slice and Egyptian-stuffed eggplants, which turned out to be spicy and won’t be suitable for Little Prince.
The journey back from the shopping required me to walk through a carpark (it led me to plan that I would do my grocery shopping in the mornings after Little Prince boards a school bus, hence I will not have to bring him along for grocery shopping). A local young man drove in an opposite direction. Then, I passed through a garbage truck.
20170820 lesson: I need to bring snacks to my workplace because I felt hungry before 2 pm, in spite of having a bruch of potatoes, carrots, and a drumstick.
Today (20170820), I went to say Hi to my boss’ boss’ assistant. She was a chatty lady who loves plants. If necessary, she would report to him that I was present today. It’s important to show face at work.
A senior extrovert colleague shared with me that he was ostracized by his family members and relatives because he is a free thinker; yet he is still a happy-go-lucky man who enjoys dancing no matter where he goes. A lesson that I could learn from him is to enjoy life, no matter how busy we are or how stressful our circumstances are.
I thought that I could go home early but I ended up going home at 7.30 pm. To be better, I need to prepare for leaving at 6 pm, so that I can leave work at 6.3 0pm.
During our 20170820 skype, Honey Panda shared how funny Little Prince was when he was younger. He saw me in the laptop and went behind the laptop to check if I were there.
I had have a mouth ulcer since I arrived at Middle East, hence at 11pm plus, I cooked a drink of arhat fruit using an old slow cooker.
Below are additional notes:
 Initially, I wanted to cook the EYS eight treasure herb but I found a packet of eight treasure ingredients from the cupboard of my office on 20170813. Thus, I decided to use the older herbs first. To my surprise, perhaps due to the hole in the plastic outside the paper wrapper, there were four tiny insects! Thus, I spent more time washing them. I tighten the paper wrapper in at least 3 plastic bags.
This experience made me realize that (i) while EYS one was more expensive than WYN one, the vacuum packaging provides a higher quality assurance, and (ii) paper is prone to mold (especially when humidity is high and air circulation is poor) and insects. Freezing papers (including books) can kill insects, (iii) don’t keep food items for too long and eat fresh!
The experience also reminded me to quickly read the selected encyclopedia for Little Prince, create audio notes, digitize the images, and donate/discard the encyclopedia as they had some old smell though not moldy.
 What does education mean to you?
After all, as of 20170813, education is the hardest sector of economy to automate because teaching and learning requires (i) deep, meaningful, and inspiring human interactions, (ii) adaptation to the individual student’s set of strengths, weaknesses, and learning needs.
 The good thing about this city is that home delivery costs the same as dining in. Thus, I save transport fare but I usually round up the food fare as a tips for the delivery man.