I just came back from Shanghai, where I haven’t been since December 2010.  I have a lot of thoughts this time when I came back. I feel my hometown is not so familiar to me any more.

First of all, prices are sky high. The clothing is even more expensive when the price converts to the US$.  How local young people can afford the fashionable clothing?  Even a family dining out will easily cost over RMB 1000 (US$ 160) for a table for 7-8 people.  My parents are both retired, and have minimum increasing rate about their retirement allowance (Salary) - how can they afford to live and still happy to allow me to spend their saving when I was in China? Ridiculous Inflation!  However, almost every young woman in the city are carrying designer bags, which cost at least $2,500 (RMB 15,000) - Unbelievable.

I cannot see the blue sky any more.  For a whole week, the sky was always very smoky. I cannot see any thing one day within 150 meters. One of my clients based in Shanghai told me that Shanghai’s pollution index keeps increasing.  While 50 is normal, the week I was in Shanghai the average was 150.  The photo above was taken in Hangzhou, a city surrounded by a lake, less traffic and polluted city close to Shanghai, we can not see the maintain clearly at the background. How can people live and go out for a run in this environment?  I was told that some schools even don’t allow children to do outdoor activities under high index day, but how children can grew up healthy without outdoor activities?  By the way, the index is really neat, it seems China has developed its own useful app locally - which maybe can beat some interesting idea in the US.  

Walking to any convenience stores, we can find all kinds of soft drink options, pear tea, peach calpis,  any type you couldn’t imagine in the US, rather than soda.  They even have cucumber potato chips, lobster cheese potato chips.  Those Coke and Pepsi companies really can read the local markets to develop some interesting flavors to attract Chinese people and some people from overseas.  My husband and his friends every time tried one different thing they haven’t seen in the US.

Surprisingly I feel the subway in Shanghai is very clean and the platform and the trains are so much wider than what we have in New York - I almost forgot how considerate and developed the infrastructures are.  Also, a lot of people was taking the train ride time to make phone call - that's right, the signal is good in the subway - no time wasted.  On the road, all the traffic lights all changed to huge size, it makes me think I am in a different city. 

Except for soup dumplings (my favorite local breakfast), I don’t see too much difference between Shanghai Chinese food and New York China town Shanghai food.  New York restaurants actually hire Shanghai chefs to keep the food authentic, I think it might be the time of Shanghai Chinese food to change to be fusion, new design and looking.  

It just give me a feeling this time when I was in my hometown that it is not the city I am familiar with any more. I think I need to go back to Shanghai more often and get to know more changed things about China in order to stay current of life condition and situations in China.

Being a new parent of a dog, I feel my life is completely changed, in a good way. Especially if you’re considering to be a parent, have a dog first. 

First of all, dogs will make you a loving person.  I feel sometimes I talk baby language.  You need to have a high time management skill to own a dog.  Walking a dog, playing with him, and running with him, you need to spend at least 30 minutes 3 times a day for your dog.  My husband has convinced me that he could be really good husband and father because he can train and take care of Oliver very well for almost 9 years, Oliver sometime still like a puppy playing and running. 

You need to take responsibility for his diet and his regular potty times, which sometimes doesn’t allow you to hang out whole day until the night, or travel over night.  On the other hand, it could be your excuse to tuck out for your friends who force you to hang out, which means you will have regular life style and seldom hang out too late.

Owning a dog, you are completely in the different community.  You talk to other dogs parents without introduction or existing connections.  Dog owners can talk from dog to job, life and travel.

Last, but not least. If you are a runner, you’d better get a dog.  He can encourage you to run, sometime pull you over to take a break.

So nice in the different world, don’t wait, get a dog Now, if you want to have a better life!

A lot of my friends in the US suggested that I should try English doctors rather than Chinese speaking doctors.  I was nervous about whether I could totally understand what they said regarding some more technical terminology.  But my friends said it is their job to explain to you until you understand, it is also a step of my “Americanization” process, which I will accept American Medical and Health Care system since I am in the US. 

I have to say, my initial worries were not necessary. The doctors here are so nice, unlike ones in China who are always blaming patients as if they were  unapproving parents.  Doctors in the US treat patients as their parents instead. They speak to me so gently, and very professionally explain the vocabulary to me even known by American middle-school students.  The facilities in the US are also so advanced.  I even can watch Netflix in some of the clinics. 

Sometime, as a foreigner, if you don’t have the courage to try the local things, you will never know if it is actually pretty good for you, or better or much better than you had experienced in your own country.  If you never tried daily things and step your toe into the “water” to test it, you will never get the chance to know what really a local people will do; thus you will never belong to the local society. 

February is my favorite Month.  It is nice and short  - a lot of things to celebrate: Valentines, my birthday, my dating anniversary, and sometimes we have Chinese New Year in February.   I also think we are so lucky that we work less days in February than a typical month, but we still get the same amount of salary.  However, I think the short month also applies to the payment, such as rent and gym membership, also you could end up spend more on holiday celebration.  If you  have some projects, it also allows you have less time to finish your goal. I guess it is fair, just couldn’t figure out why Febuary is shorter than any other months.

I am really good at Math, but I couldn’t figure out which one, Money or Time is more priority for me. 

I went to do laundry every weekend.  In New York City, if you do it yourself in the community laundry room, it will save more than half of cost when you send them to the laundry shop to have them washed,  folded, and delivered to your door.  We are talking about $8 vs. $ 18.  But for $10 you don’t have to go to one block away laundry room three times totally about 2.5 hours and fight for washing machines with other people.   People said it is not a difficult question, just spend $10 and relax.  But living in Manhattan you have to be frugal, for a month you can save $40, for a year, you can save $480, and on weekend, you have to admit that you sometimes have extra time available, which doesn’t create any value. 

The same thinking applies to go to Target trip (I call it a "trip") for grocery shopping, spending 1.5 hours on the bus to save about $30 per trip, versus ordering online with minimum $49 to be able to qualified on free shipping on Soap.com.  It’s really hard to balance which way provides more life time value (at least living in New York City).

I hope some Math geeks can come up with a Money –Time Formula, put a lot of elements in to it and analyze which way will bring more life time value.  A Chinese concept describes life as a complicated book, I guess who can figure it out, can win Noble Prize for Peace.  Or maybe it is only the confusing question for low-to-middle class that the value difference between time and money are not too significant... What do you think?

Last Sunday, I went to a Lululemon Free Yoga Class for the first time.  The level of the Lululemon class is in the very high level in terms of the attendees and the difficulty of the class.  The yoga teacher gave very fast instructions in original Yoga terminology with few demonstrations.  But most all of the Yogis can follow the instruction and even half of them can do the crane pose and the hand-stand.  

Similar to when I’ve tried other yoga studios or gyms in the city, I feel I couldn’t show off my flexibility or yaga skills any more and can barely do some of the very difficult poses (e.g. the hand stand). More and more, Western girls and women have become really flexible and powerful by practicing Yoga; whereas 5 years ago, I could totally show off in every yoga studio as an Asian person,  while American complained their genetic body is not flexible at all, who barely touch their foot bending over.  Through long years healthy concentration and yoga practice, a lot of Americans can show off their yoga skill in front of Asian People.  I even feel threatened how strong their core strengths are.  

Genetic condition is bullshit, fate is crap, which are the excuses or boundaries prevent people to conquer the challenges.  You can change your genetic condition through smart practice.  You can change your fate by your continuous efforts.  I have trained to be a strong marathon runner, who once caught colds almost once every month.  I came to US to realize my American dream by my strong determination and persistent trying.

You can change the fate, if you want to, if you put in your effort, if you try hard and smartly.  Stop complaining about the situation or condition any more. Human Beings mean to dominate your own life and fate. As my mom always says, “whatever the path you are going, it is your own choice.”

I went shopping to get some warmer clothes and gloves last week, because the entire week, the temperature was 19F on average.  I went to different stores (Gucci, Kate Spade, Coach) felt it might be too late to get winter stuff, as many stores have been decorated in a spring tone with yellows, greens, and pinks donned by the models. 

Even though it might represent the fashion trend, is it too early to promote spring clothes and accessories in January, one of the coldest months in the year?  A lot of companies in the fashion industry complain about how bad the economy impact is, however, even though people have demands they don’t have enough products to meet the needs.  I wonder who will buy the spring products in the 19 F weather.  Those thin clothes and light color makes me feel colder.   

Not sure how fashion merchandise works for stores at this moment.  They need not only follow the fashion trend, but also follow a lot of trends: such as weather and demand.  They definitely are not operating just-in-time otherwise I can still get a pair of leather gloves even without discount, they can sit and eat more profit. 

Google Glasses launched last week.  A lot of people commented about the implications, like not having to take out one’s phone all the time to take a photo or check the weather any more. -What the hell! People are so lazy that they are not even willing to get out their phone from a bag or even pocket?  - People are getting used to the lazy life.

My uncle always put himself into the lazy group category in the family.  He told my mom, lazy people in our family create more value compared to diligent people like my mom - We use brain power versus labor.  As I think back to his words, I feel it’s so true.

Looking back at technology development, people’s laziness contributed to the bulk of technology improvement.  People were too lazy to go outdoors, so TV was invented.  People didn’t want to calculate by hand (much less in their heads), so the computer was used.  People hated going to the library to look up actual books and newspapers for research, so the internet has filled that gap to make research easy across the world.  Moving to more “first world” problems, people hated having to carry a camera, MP3 player, phone, etc., so Apple introduced the iPhone.  Every new app launching is a step to be lazier.

Google Glasses is the product to take laziness to another level, which convinces me that it is the trend of technology evolution, and to improve our lives.

So people, let’s become lazier and lazier. 

I believe a successful person can work anywhere.  Education is good enough to tell the recruiter that you are good at on some functions.  Experience will be the boundary to find talents. 

My cousin has graduated from Fudan (top university in Shanghai, China) university, and then directly went to USC to study electrical engineering master degree, who have any working experience – neither in China nor the US.  Yet, before even graduating, he has received two offers: one from Qualcomm and the other from Oracle.  These are great companies with big vision to hiring their talents.

No single job is exactly the same, even in the same industry. New employees always need to learn the new business and products, different procedures, ways people work together, and get to know clients or suppliers with which you’ll be dealing. These environments are never homogeneous.  How then do recruiters or employers think they can guarantee a good fit based largely on experience?

I believe that people who have passion and education can learn everything quickly and be on track efficiently.  My husband @hegranes, for example, never worked in the internet media industry.  His entrepreneurship spirit from his founded company @workables and forward thinking, plus strong networking has enabled him develop a lot of clients and be successful on his job since the first month he joined @Disqus.

For foreigners who don’t have US working experience – It doesn’t matter! Maybe they can bring you different approach, fresh ideas and new client source. Foreign talents that had at least 2-3 years education in the US and according to the TOFEL can speak decent English when they came to the US.  Why visa is so critical to block them to contribute their talents?

I propose to recruiters, it is urgent to change the original old procedure to hire the right people, thinking out of the box and industry.   Forget about CV - a lot of exaggerations.   See their social media, blogs to find out what they are passionate about, what kind of character they are. Giving Chance of trial period 2-3 months to see whether the people are who you want, who can fit.  Rather than sit there to complain that companies cannot find the right talents, or spend too much money and time on sponsor visa, create some chances for talents to shine and decide whether those talents are valuable for companies growth.

Several days ago, I saw the movie Les Miserables, wherein the major character's name is Jean Valjean.  I thought I watched Les Miserables movies and cartons in mandarin version several times as a child – so why his name doesn’t ring a bell.  Suddenly, I realized the character I saw in mandarin version sounds like “Rava Rean” - seems like different name.

I suddenly felt unfair for me as a foreigner. Even though I have read and watched about a lot of master pieces in mandarin, when I talk about people’s name or locations in Chinese version with my English speaking classmates and my husband or other people from other countries, they will be totally lost, not understanding what I am talking about.   Besides the language boundary, there is also the cultural differences. As one time I talked about “xi qu ke ke (希区苛客,Alfred Hitchcock)”, even I said he is the master director of detective/scary movies, my husband still didn’t get it who I talked about, he asked me to name his movie names, I couldn’t either.  Because the movie name translations are totally different.  I went to the details about the movies, my husband got more confused.  I suddenly feel I am in the “lost translation.” I have to go home and use google translation to continue the conversation. 

I feel that my education in China except Mathematics are almost wasted in the US. I couldn’t use my cultural knowledge to have conversations or play any knowledge games with Americans.  Plus my elementary school level of English and grammar, I often feel fooling, not cultural at all, regardless I am passionate about and spent decades of my life learning about music, opera, impressionism painting and modern art.

Why in China does everything need to be translated and learned in Chinese, especially foreign names? How come names cannot be identical to the names in the original language, so people who go abroad have some common “culture” to share and can talk.  In the movie, leave the original name underneath of the Chinese translation.  On the text books or novels, put the original “Real” names beside the translations.  Why not teach Mandarin and English together, so when we come to the original countries, we can realize and identify what they are talking about and join the conversation with a common knowledge we learn.

Wake up people, as the world becomes more globalized, education needs to be globalized too.  Otherwise, even though we’ve learned a lot in Chinese, we still look like idiots without any culture basis.   For the foreign people living in the US, too often we end up hanging out only with the people who came from the same country, have common “culture” to talk about things happened before we left the countries. It is Les Miserables!!

At the last day of every year, I always have a lot of thoughts.  Mostly what did I do for the entire year.

First thought - not too much.  I spent 6 months looking for job, spent another 2 months doing nothing because I was waiting for working authorization - a lot of staying alone, feeling depressed and wasting time.

Second thought - a lot!  I have moved to NYC in January with my love @hegranes; become mama of our dog, Oliver, in May.  I found a job perfect for me in July.  Most importantly, I got married in July.   I received working authorization being able to contribute my talents to the US in December.  Many lifetime level achievements and happiness have happened in 2012 - I am happy with the year.

Whether you are happy or not, it depends from which angle you look.  I could totally wear my pessimistic glasses to see everything in my life is dark, but I would rather choose an optimistic screen to filter everything cheerful for me in 2012.  

Regarding Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory (see the picture below) I am really lucky and happy.  I am healthy, safe, loved, have a lot of achievements, have learned much new knowledge, have many passions and enjoy the aesthetics of the life.  The only need is self-actualization, which is the top level of the needs for human being. FYI, less than 1% of human beings have achieved it. 

To conclude, my 2012 was awesome!