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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

‘Twas the weekend before new years…

…and I’m being as quiet as a mouse. Standing in the corner of a simply gorgeous apartment in a medium rise luxury building. You can tell this is a luxury building by the lack of three floors. No fourth floor (four sounds similar to ‘death’ in Chinese) and no fourteenth floor for the local well-to-do. And no thirteenth floor for the rich and superstitious expat community. I hold a piece of pizza in one hand and a coke in the other, comfort food. Boisterous conversation fills the high ceilings and resonates off tasteful décor. The pizza tastes good, I miss cheese. Surveying the scene, mentally trying to remember names and positions. I’m terrible with names. I’m terrible with names when they are one syllable in English. Did his name end in –eng or –ang or –en or -un? Was he PK or Biology or scale up or analyitcal? Was he the one who suggested the apartment broker or the one talking about the watertowns?

I’ve joined the company at a time that would be equilvalent to two weeks before Christmas in the states. Performance reviews have been written. Financial data is done and cannot be changed now. People are beginning to think of traveling…many back to families in the US. Feeling proud of the growth from the past year, a little sentimental and cautiously optimistic – even in this climate – of the coming year. Lots of parties and team building/bonding. The alcohol is flowing. No one is starting new projects now. I miss doing medchem. Talking medchem I feel comfortable, familiar, with the assurance of some experience. I know what I’m doing and if I don’t know, I know how to find out. Medchem will start later, after the holiday. Parties are different, parties are now.

Everyone is relaxed, having a good time. Speaking mandarin. Except for me. I’m eating Pizza Hut in the corner. I’m hesitating, being a little asocial. For me to approach any of the conversation groups, they will have to switch to their second language to include me. I feel bad. This is their time to relax not have to speak English for the new guy. Here is the big challenge in microcosm. I’m going to have to push to be included. No one is keeping me out. No one is being impolite. It’s purely my own issue and it’s critical to conquer if I’m going to be of use here.

I finish the pizza, the crust has a little cone shaped well that includes a shrimp. Must be the nod to local tastes. I see a group with names I remember, find a space in the circle and am greeted with warm smiles and English.

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