food and consumerism for strong stomachs, livers and wallets in china. also the occasional ranting.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Back on the Chain Gang

I've ended my 4 months of unemployment and started working fulltime again. I've fallen a bit off the blog radar since 1) chef arrived and 2)work started. I have to be honest and say that work is tough, bc it is a whole new industry to me from my previous jobs. I had another offer with a company that I felt more naturally inclined towards, but I opted for the one that is more into digital and interactive, because I do believe in the longevity of this business and the lack of ceiling for innovation in this sector. As my Saturday today started at 8am with a client call to the States, of course I continue to question and try to imagine how well I will have transitioned in the coming weeks, months, or even years. I woke up around 7:30am this morning, with my hair still reeking like cigarettes from smoky evening interiors from the night before. That's one of my biggest pet peeves about China-- my respiratory health--which coupled with insane pollution and coinciding allergy attacks, I do think is in a quickened downward spiral. Some days you can just feel in your body that there are so many new toxins in the air, that I find myself thinking a lot about the London Fog of 1952.

Not to make this blog too therapeutic for myself and boring for you, I think it's worth sharing some conflicted thoughts I have been having about my transition. From the start of moving here, I have found myself being adamantly defensive about proclaiming that I am "Chinese." Every time a cabbie assumes I am Korean, or lecture me that I can only claim to be American and not Chinese (meaning that I cannot be hyphenated races), it had been really frustrating me. I don't know why this ethnic pride or stubbornness arises-- it might be just that I don't think that being of a certain ethnic group and also being an American citizen should be mutually exclusive.

Well, now the tables have a turned a bit. In my work, everyone else is either Singaporean or a local Chinese hire. They speak and communicate a lot in Chinese, and I definitely feel a bit like an outsider. Add the fact that the content of my work is totally new to me as well, and all of a sudden I find myself pining for preferential treatment, based on my cultural "handicap" of being American, not Chinese. However, my colleagues see my Chinese face and don't skip a beat really because in their minds they register me as a Chinese, who has come back to Shanghai or something. There is this freshman American college student intern with us for 1 month who is white as shit. At lunches or meetings, everyone in the group is clamoring to give her tips, suggestions, insights, etc on things and recreations to do here that are very "Chinese," to help ease her into the scene here. They also ask her endless questions about American culture, traditions, behaviors, etc. I find myself feeling weird, expecting them to share the questions and guidance with me-- but instead they disregard my presence in these conversations, even when I interject an opinion or two. Its so strange for me, because in this scenario I am ACHING to be viewed as American, and I don't know why (maybe its because I know a lot more than this girl because of my age and all).

So I am struggling with this odd dichotomy of feelings-- wanting the attention, curiosities and respect for being "western," and yet in other instances I am vehemently trying my best to be considered a 'local" (maybe when it comes to issues of being ripped off). Anyways, this issue is kind of embarrassing to be revealing online, because it reveals elements of perhaps me needing attention or preferential treatment, but oh well, you readers are mostly just my good friends, so I guess this is just an act of humility and self-acknowledgment. Moving and adjusting to new cultures can be such a head trip. It tests every habitual comfort and behavior you have previously practiced, and makes me feel so self-scrutinizing.

I'll have to follow up this post with more happy and fluffy thoughts and recollections of my time here.


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