Has been the new norm for me for the last two weeks.

So when I didn’t cough all that much today, I felt something was fundamentally wrong.  You’re right, my brain and my lungs have been used to and was totally coughed the fuck up.

Or think about this one: a bunch of past-middle-aged Chinese ladies flooding over at the counter when I was actually the next customer.  I was too proud to go down the ditches, so I abided by the one-meter courtesy distance.  When I pointed out to them, they rolled their eyes in unison and called me “Bullshit.”

Here is the inconvenient truth, Mr. Al Gore, cutting the line is right amongst these Chinese aunties and uncles. “Everyone is there. So I need to be there” is their inner voice and logic.

It’s like coughing your head off for 24/7.  Then getting a brief quietness for 15 mins, you start to feel something doesn’t feel right or normal.

Or, consider this: Trump makes both lying and orange the new black. Or white, in his defense.

Or, when the air is so polluted that a tad of blue is newsworthy…

To get your sense of rightfulness back, go to the doctor, get some cough drops. So you have a choice to see if you genuinely like coughing your marbles out.

  • Or, see if you like fighting your right for instances like waiting in line to be served when you can actually watch another cat video;
  • Or, go marvel at the blue sky for a change when you choose to travel outside China;
  • Or, elect someone else than Trump in 2020 to make the world a better place.

The list goes on. But it begins with this one:

You can always start by fixing your fucking cough. 

I did. Knock on the wood.


Yours truly,

PS. Check out my podcast’s latest episode featuring an aspiring writer from the UCLA Film School.  The interview speaks to me on a deep level. Because the guest also had to move out from LA for now.  His optimism and resilience give me a shot of strength as I need it the most.  Quit dilly-dallying, check now for yourself!

Fear less, fear no more

The good news of being back is that I’m now burning RMB instead of USD. Roughly at the current ratio, seven RMB equals one USD.

But still, I’m burning my time at the same rate like everyone else.  Some of my college, high school friends are officially 31, married with kids, richer than ever.  In less than four months, I will be too, their age sans the man or the kid.

For the better part of my 3-0, I had lived in fear and dread.

  • I feared that I might not get the work visa.
  • I feared that I might be let go from my work.
  • I feared that I might have to pack everything and move back to China.
  • All the above.

By mid-October, all my worst fears became reality.

Am I in the fucking hell?  Hell, no. I’m back in Shanghai. I’m still alive even though tortured by pneumonia to no ends right now…

After living through my worst fear (thus far), wasting away dollars on bullshits like moving, customs courtesy, and doctor bills, I’m still able to keep my hope alive somehow.

Fear has not destroyed me, or twisted me. But it did change me… to be an optimist.

True, my heart got lacerated the day I left LA. I miss my LA friends dearly. I miss LA terribly for its weather, food, water, air… all the basics that I once shrugged and ignored.

Most of all, I feared that my drive was lost during the move. And yet, out in the desert, a new kind of drive is sprouting out, strong and steady.

I have taken on three writing projects at the moment.

  • One short film.
  • One feature rewrite.
  • One writeup for a company.

And a couple of others I’m developing for my artist visa.

Because of my recent readjustment back into my hometown, I have put my novel on hold. But I have been thinking about the story beats while I was doing the IV infusion.

By losing this much, I finally begin to focus on what’s absolutely necessary.

This time, I have no financial emergency, no landlord final notice, no impending fate to be decided.

This time, I’m racing against no one but time. How many 3-0 do we have in a lifetime, eh?

And yo, folks in LA, don’t you forget me too fast and furious, okay?


Yours truly,


Woman in short hair

Almost always I’m the only short-haired woman in the room. I thought if I can’t stand out with my petite statue, I might as well do something about my hair.  It’s not crazy short, but it’s short enough for most women to make it their to-go hairstyle whenever they survive a major breakup.

I’m no Tomboy either. So why this short? I find myself trying to explain myself whenever people venture that question with me. The short of it is low maintanance.

But before I can relax, otherperiferial questions pop out as if they are the itches they are dying to scratch.

  • Why do you become a writer?
  • Why are you acting so different (aka. werid)?
  • Why are you so straightforward?
  • Why are you so subtle?

For the better part of my twenties, I tried to become someone else just so I could avoid being asked those pointy questions altogether. But I didn’t realize just how taxing acting was… until I was in the film school.

And yet, the minute I put my mask away, those voice come after me like a swarm of bees. As I had the Aha Moment, it finally dawned on me that instead of fight or flight, the best way is to sit still and chill.

There I found the answers to all questions in that nature.

I earn it. I own it.


Your truly,

PS. I’m so proud that I uploaded this week’s podcast quite ahead of time. Stay tuned! It’s coming Tuesday midnight PST.


Shanghai v. LA

Even before I was back in Shanghai, I knew I would go back to LA again.

It’s part gut feeling; part knowing myself too well.

Shanghai adores money too much to want to curate and cultivate talents.

LA adores money and fame nonetheless, if not more. But I feel that there are creative people daring and brave enough to be able to find a footing there.

LA is large enough to not to be distracted except for the gleefully California sun.

Shanghai is large too. But it’s too crowded to give a damn about craving space for creative people who aren’t the usual suspects: people in advertising and marketing. [Translation: people who work from 10 to 2 am who dress creative, talk creative, act creative because they have a business account to spend on.]

Shanghai is like New York in people density and busyness. But most Shanghai people are busy chasing money to pay off housing, imported baby powder, cars… to prove to their families and friends that they are leading a good life.

LA folks care about cars too. I’ve lived on Wilshire Blvd so I have had my share of vroom vroom symphonies. And yet, I feel okay to not own a car, or to own a second-hand car. Some don’t even care about new furniture. I’ve sold quite a few pieces of furnitures to students and fresh graduates who live on a budget.

In Shanghai, I buy everything brand new. It doesn’t even occur to me to look for second-hand stuff…

In the end, it’s not a race. It’s finding a good fit for oneself.

Some are lucky to be born into the city, the country that compliments their personality. While others have to search a little harder and longer.

And yet, the in-betweens complain about the place they were born into but never try to move elsewhere for a change.

I love Shanghai. It’s my hometown. But I don’t love it enough to want to live here forever even though my family is here.

I love LA. It’s the love of my life. I love it enough to leave my family and friends behind, again.


Yours truly,

Dear parents

Since I moved back to China, I’ve moved into my parents’ apartment, which for the record, I played a big role in paying off our mortgage before I left for LA three years ago.

Excuse my ego, it finds it crucial to point this out. But no matter how much I want to spin this, I’m living with my parents as a fully functioning adult.

It is also crucial to point out that in the Chinese culture, especially in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing that ‘kids’ don’t move out until they get married due to a) strong family tradition; b) devoted parents who are terrible at calculating their ROIs; c) the wacky housing market and unpredictable species called landlords.

Since I’ve had my fair share of landlord sagas (from negotiation to small claims court), I find it almost therapeutic to not to worry about rent and lease and among other things.

And yet, mum and dad can sometimes love me a little too much to my likings. Mostly, my mum…

“Go to bed. It’s almost 10.”

“Finish your rice. We ain’t rich.”

“Why are you throwing away this bag when it’s in perfect condition? Are you out of your mind?

“Why don’t you take a shower now? So you don’t wipe your greasy hair onto my floral pillowcase?”

“Why isn’t my phone working? I’ve done absolutely nothing.”

In some portions of my dreams back when I was in LA, I begged hearing those lines from my parents. “If only I could be there with you in person. I will never get bored.” I remembered crying myself to sleep on that Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Well, as it turns out, be careful what you wish for.


Yours truly,

Beginner’s heart

People have been asking me what I’ve learned in my three-year LA adventure, and I’ve answered part of it in my latest podcast episode: Let’s talk about shame.

And yet, that only covers the tip of the iceberg. Another thing I’ve noticed the change in me is more tolerence in others.

Patience isn’t my strongest suit and I tend to judge others too quickly especially when they demonstrate certain things that prick at my pet peeves.

And yet, as I’ve learned during my last few months leading up to my journey back home, I noticed the new height I could reach if I open my heart beyond the good and the beautiful.

Sometimes what seems to be the bad, the fugly, the waste-of-my-time have the cliche silver linings that I hadn’t thought about before. Like one time-consuming writer workshop led to a bunch of meetings and new friends.

Even when people promise me something I desired which they haven’t yet delivered, I keep my faith instead of writing them off, or defriend them like I used to. Yep, guilty as charged.

And maybe, this is how we as adults develop new friendships and explore new ideas and experience.

Next time when the wind blows again, instead of asking:

Where the fuck are you taking me?

Try this:

Sure. Surprise me!

As for now, I’m heading off to the hospital for another round of IV for my unrelenting pneumonia pal, where I may do some more people watching.


Yours truly,

Not local person

I’ve been using the Chinese Lyft (aka. DiDi) a lot these days.

The drivers have been really impressive, if not their rides.

Here is the pattern: They are almost always men. They are between 25 and 35 years old. And they are usually not from Shanghai.

How do I tell? Well, only Shanghaiese speak Shanghai dialect, which I assure you, sounds like a foreign language against mandarin.

Like Parisians, Shanghaiese have a special term for folks from elsewhere: Wai-di Ren, which can be literally translated as: Not Local Person.

In China, Han is the most common race. So racism within the nation is almost a foreign term. What do we have instead? Regionalism. It is rather common for people from Shanghai and Beijing to look down upon “Wai-di Ren.”

So what’s the reaction of Shanghai folks when they bump into Beijingers in Shanghai? We Shanghaiese look down upon them just the same. And vice versa.

During the few rides I’ve had for the past few days from my Shanghai apartment to the nearest hospital, I’ve seen and learned something else.

I pointed out to a driver this morning that he had some litter in the back of his car. He said, “Oh, it may have been the aftermath of the previous rider.”

Then I asked him to describe to me what that rider was like. And so he began:

“Oh, he’s from Shanghai. He seems rich and wants people to know that he’s rich. I waited for him for ten long minutes before he appeared. He even asked me to break the traffic law for him to his own convenience. He may have given me a lower rate just because I refused.”

Before I could learn more, I was already at my destination. I thanked him and gave him a Five-Star rating. I would throw in some tip but there is no tipping button on DiDi.

Not local person…

Some fortnight ago, I was one too.

I once used the term “Wai-Di Ren” rather often whenever I saw some not-local people behaving poorly. Now it sounds different after being one myself for three years in LA. Hell, I was not only Wai-Di (Elsewhere), I was Wai-Guo (Another country). All I wanted was to find my footing and grow, like those diligent and kind DiDi drivers. Full disclosure: Before my dad retired, he had been a driver throughout his 40-year career.

And apart from the birthplace, those snobbish Shanghai folks have no right to be here if they don’t even feel like picking up their dogs’ craps.

If only justice is that easy.


Yours truly,

PS. Check out the latest #RBYZ episode where I talked about shame and vulnerability with psychologist Barbara Kiao.

The new norm

I went to the hospital yesterday after four days of being sick…

After the blood test and CT scan, it turned out that I had pneumonia.


How is it even possible to get pneumonia when I only got back for a little more than a week?

I sat there and watched the IV dripping into my veins. Ten days ago, I was in LA bathing under the California sunshine and that was the norm.

As I was standing in the queue to pay for the examination fees, I noticed the one thing I disliked most about my fellow countrymen: disrespect for the personal space. That is, no sense of personal space, which is borderline intrusion.

Before I could get the receipts back from the clerk, the next person was already at the counter a few inches away from me as if I didn’t exist.

“Ma’am, could you step back in line? I’m not done yet.”

She did her Shanghaiese trademarked eyerolling and shot back.

“Mind your own business. I’m waiting here just fine.”

Right, right. I’m not in LA. Now this, is the new norm I’m dealing with.

Against the neck-breaking changing speed of cities like Shanghai, some other things lags behind. Three years isn’t enough to change everything.

You worship Burberry trench coats like a religion, hang Hermès silk scarves around your necks like crosses, sling your Chanel purses like grenades. But the minute you start talking, I know you’re still in the ditch.

“But it’s a ditch full of gold and dinero!”

I have no counter-arguments. Money talks here more than anywhere.

Some things take time. But time is the one thing people here don’t have.


Yours truly,

The show must go on

9 days ago, I landed in Shanghai.

7 days ago, I recorded this episode with Barbara Kiao.

6 days ago, I reemerged on the worldwide web.

4 days ago, I fell sick and couldn’t make a sound…

15 seconds ago, I was still coughing my eyes out.

It feels like The Shawshank Redemption sequel…

But the show must go on!

Thank you for sticking around!

And here it is!


Yours truly,

PS. I’ll post the show notes here tomorrow.

Thick skin

I don’t understand why someone would keep the same hairstyle for so long.

Well, I like my short hair.

But don’t you find it boring? Don’t you think this manly haircut is partially why you are still single.

I let it slide.

I don’t think you’re that flexible.

What do you mean?

You almost always play by the book that you forget that what you get but focus on how you get it.

Could you be more specific?

Well, that’s how people say about you.

How can I come up with another rebuttal when I’m against the ‘people’ no matter if it’s two or three people?


I grit my teeth to sit through the preaching of this well-meaning ‘mentor’ who seems to always have tons of issues with my traits and my core values. I was too tired and bored to get into an argument with her.

She is right about this one: I’m not able to get the O-1 visa within my three-year sojourn in LA.

I wasn’t aware how painful it is to come to terms with me coming back home in order to go back soon enough after granted the O-1 visa.

But I have to swallow my pride in a mouthful, tuck away my ego, and refrain from barking at the people who revel in pinching and pissing on my open wound.

I need extra layers of thick skin to sustain me through the bone-cold Shanghai winter and as an unknown artist who is building a name for herself and for the immigration board.

Bring it on.


Yours truly,