Tuesday, February 07, 2012

For the Sake of Cocktail Party Jokes and Ice-breaker Stories ...

A friend is visiting town and considering a job opportunity in China. Thought it’d be nice to introduce him to those who work in the similar field so that he may get a sense of what the industry people think. There went 2 hours of grand feasting over Yunnan food, and a flood of stories on each of our respective China experiences.

K’s story, for instance --

“We ordered those beach bags to be made in the shade of ocean blue, but got Barbie pink.

‘What in the world? This wasn’t what we ordered!’

‘But our factory ran out of fabric and Barbie pink is the only thing we have left …’

‘Ok, but this is for the presentation in front of our big client, and this isn’t what the client wanted …!’

The next time the bag came, they came in purple!

‘What in the world? We said ocean blue!’

‘Yeah, but we really do think purple is a better color for the bag than ocean blue …’”

For another instance, M’s story --

“Sorry that the playground facility in this picture looks so complicated (showing us a picture of what he’s designed) … This is what they had asked for because they thought the more complicated, the better. Even though I told them a rope is a rope, and the child can climb on top of it or underneath it, doesn’t matter. No need to make it so complicated …

But of course they aren’t going to listen because they think they know everything and their taste is best. So why bother hiring a designer when you don’t listen to the designer, but when the product is done still complain that it doesn’t match up with a cool designer brand?

Or you showed them something 6 months ago and said this is the trendy design of the day and they ignored you. 6 months later when the competitor came out with the same design they came back to you asking for the same thing. You asked them why they didn’t listen to you 6 months ago, and they turned their heads, made blank faces, or just pretended that they didn’t hear what you said.”

Plus some of mine --

“I’ve been in so many meetings where I sat there translating all the flaunting, boasting, and bluffing that all my ling3 dao3 (=leaders) tried to dash out in front of our foreign guests – every word, every sentence of it!

One time the VP was sitting there telling our foreign guests how the district where our school is located used to be the center of major economic activities for Shanghai … that the district government is very ambitious about setting up multiple creative art/culture parks, while he is the top guy heading one of them.

All this – I thought to myself – was BS. And everyone else in the room knew it as much as I do! Still, I had to sit there, translating EVERY word, EVERY sentence of what he said … And seeing the foreign guests smiling, nodding, and being impressed … I can’t tell you how furious I was.”

All in all, my poor friend in town – while he probably accepted an invitation thinking that it’s going to be a casual gathering over some good wining and dining (this part of it was true, though, I can assure!), instead, he was sitting there witnessing all the bitter hearts, teary eyes, acquired sarcasm/cynicism/angry words towards rampant social injustice that make up the majority of our daily lives.

So why are we still here?

“I can just imagine you sitting here, a year from now, joining us in the bandwagon of laughing while crying over all these bitter-sweet’s in China,” I said to my visitor in town.

“And I can also see myself sharing all of these real-life stories with my children 20 or 30 years from now, shocking while amusing them with all the seemingly impossible events and encounters … Just like how my parents used to amuse me with the stories of incredible backwardness in Taiwan when they first went back to that island in the name of and belief in ‘serving the country’”.

So perhaps to adopt some sense of humor, learn to laugh at the situation, or acquire the skill of self-mockery should have been our last parting advice to my friend in town tonight. For without those, not only would his everyday business in this ever so changing and ever so developing country a real ordeal. More importantly – without these hard-lived experiences, so many more people would just miss out on the chance to be entertained by incredulous stories at a random cocktail party. We too would lose a pool of impressive ice-breaker’s to start a conversation when we meet a stranger from another continent.

So conclusion from the night – Persevere! For we will never be short of impressive cocktail party jokes and ice-breaker conversations to come!

梅ちゃん at 2:30:00 AM



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