The bubble

I met with three groups of friends on Saturday. All career women. They blew me away. I think if I need support group here in Shanghai, they would be the first people I go to.

I saw a pattern in all of their Shanghai lifestyle. I call it “The Bubble.”

If one exposes herself too thoroughly in the Shanghai environment, it’d be like opening up your soul to the Death Eaters.

The mass would judge your taste, your lifestyle, your career choices, your partner, your car, your language… They would tell you that you should change to fit in and think they are doing you a favor.

Women don the same shade of makeup, even have the same face from their latest plastic surgeries. They wear the same style because it’s in and hip. Because some celebrity is making a wave with it. The latest model of iPhone is glued to their palms, bending their neck. People stop judging others taking selfies. Because now it has become the mainstream.

If you don’t want to be taken away by the current, you gotta have some haven, some shelter… some bubble for your soul to breathe and expand.

“Where would you want to end up?” I heard myself ask each one of them.

The answer stays the same: not here.

I suddenly felt a wave of sadness. The place I grew up, the place I call my hometown, has become too fast to strange to me, to us, that only this bubble of our daily life can make the old home liveable again.

So Shanghai, what’s your trait other than new and shiny?


Yours truly,

Time travel

It’s almost a week since I’m back in Shanghai.

For one, I feel like someone who was abducetd by the aliens for experiments to their advantage.

To my own disadvantage, I got disconnected from the world for three whole years.

Now three years later, I finally paid my dues and got sent back to the Earth.

To everybody else, it is as if the time hasn’t passed, as if nobody knows that I’d been gone for this long.

Better yet, I’m supposed to fit in again.

But constantly I’m in awe of the changes here in Shanghai, a city that is evolving at the neck-breaking speed.

I thought only in Beverly Hill you bump into women who beg to get their features altered. But now Shanghai has caught up just fine. Young women donning photoshopped faces, they’re so proud, so blatant, so unapologetic.

I’m mesmerized by the expansive transportation system. Do you know that now we have this bus called 71 which runs on electricity and has its own bus lane? Pretty darn cool, isn’t it?

I feel like I’m still locked in space, watching this city, this place where I once called home, twisting and turning. And only those who can keep up with it get to stay.

Then it dawned on me, three years ago, it was not the alien who abducted me after all. It was I who decided to board the alien mothership… and told Shanghai it can go fuck itself.

I guess it’s still holding grudges.


Yours truly,

Back home

Okay. I’m back in Shanghai.

Where shall I begin?

I got on a plane at Sunday noon, 12:55 pm.

By the time my feet got back onto the ground, it was Monday, 6 pm.

It was a 13.5-hour flight. But since LA is 15 hours behind Shanghai, it feels like I’ve lost almost a day and half.

But it felt something more than just lost of time. I’ve lost the ability to call and meet my LA friends whenever I wanted. I’ve lost the freedom to get onto Google, YouTube, Facebook hassleless.

I tried to sleep but I couldn’t. I only managed 30 minutes of shut-eye. Whenever I tried to close my eyes, the faces of my dearest friends were right there. I tried to get closer to them only to be interrupted by the flight attendents’ footsteps.

Under my eyemask, I started weeping again. When I thought I had cried more than enough, I cried even some more. Hour by hour, I’d exceeded the volumn of tears of I’ve shed on a single day…

The plane arrived on Monday afternoon at 5:30 pm Shanghai time.

It was drizzling outside. How fitting. I had been raining inside.

Yesterday my parents and I went to the Postal Office to collect my stuff. It was rather smooth considering what I’d dreaded.

All fifteen boxes. All there. Safe and sound. Well, except my glass teapot, which was shattered in pieces and my spatular, which was broken in halves.

I love my parents. I love my cat. But I’ve realized that there is something more that I want for this life even it means to be far far far away from my family. I’ve realized that three years later, LA has become my home.

“You know what you should do after you’re back?”

I listened to my wiser friend as I sobbed in the departure lounge, not giving a damn who might be observing my ugly cry.

“I’m listening.” I murmured.

“Write it down. Write it all down.”

So I did.

And yes, I’m back.


Yours truly,


The Customs – Part I

Mum texted me that she got notifications. From the Chinese Customs.  Thirteen letters in total.

But you have fifteen boxes, right?


What does it mean? What shall we do?

Calm down.

But my stomach tightened up. I felt queasy already.

Is it the two boxes of books?  My mind starts racing. I have a book about Chiang Kai-shek and two on Soong Mei-ling. I was hesitating whether I should take them with me on the plane when my friend was helping me with the packing.

I asked for his opinion. “Do you know how many packages are coming in and out of your country at any given day? They wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about your stuff. They have bigger fish to fry. Don’t worry about it.”

Let’s see how things would unfold…

One way or the other, the joke’s on me.


Yours truly,


Two writings on the wall

My last week in this apartment
I took down
The last two writings on the wall
Against the now-gone writing desk
Sold last Saturday

Here I share with you my mantra
The writings I forgot
That were there
The messages I got used to
That became invisible…

Until now
As I took them down
Read with my heart
For one last time
Before I tossed them
Two pieces of paper
Into the trash.

So here you go—

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented,
    and fabulous—
Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.
Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
there is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
Won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us.
It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone,
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously
Give other people permission to do the same. 

—Nelson Mandela


Yours truly,

The gem

I’ve gotten used to meditate first thing after I wake up, no matter how awful I’ve felt, especially over the last couple of months.

I’m nowhere near the stage of enlightenment. And Ten minutes seems to be the max I can handle to persist on a daily basis.

With the Drip by Drip mindset in mind, I’m now on a 118 streak, recorded by the meditation app.

What I love most about it is the story at the end of every guided session.

Today’s story is so good, that for a cat lover I have to quote verbatim here.

In India, I was living in a little hut, about six feet by seven feet. It had a canvas flap instead of a door.

I was sitting on my bed meditating, and a cat wandered in and plopped down on my lap. I took the cat and tossed it out the door. Ten seconds later it was back on my lap.

We got into a sort of dance, this cat and I…

I tossed it out because I was trying to meditate, to get enlightened. But the cat kept returning. I was getting more and more irritated, more and more annoyed with the persistence of the cat.

Finally, after about a half-hour of this coming in and tossing out, I had to surrender. There was nothing else to do. There was no way to block off the door.

I sat there, the cat came back in, and it got on my lap. But I did not do anything. I just let go. Thirty seconds later the cat got up and walked out.

So, you see, our teachers come in many forms.

― Joseph Goldstein

Soon I will be able to hold my cat in my arms. I kind of look forward to it, which was utterly unthinkable only a month ago.

The things I’ll be doing. The adventure I’ll embark on.

Thanks for the curve ball, Life.


Yours truly,

PS. Listen to the latest RBYZ podcast if you haven’t already. The guest is truly one of a kind! Episode show notes here.
PPS. Clocked in 482 words. Tallying 61,754 words. 14.12 days remaining.



1097 days later

That’s three years, from September 5, 2015 to September 5, 2018, which is today.

Have I really spent three years in the U.S. without taking a single flight back home in between?

I didn’t. I had no money nor time. Plus, I was gung ho about making it in LA, getting settled and all.

When the news of packing up for China hit me, I was disappointed, distressed, ashamed that I didn’t accomplish what I was set out to do.

You gave yourself a Mission Impossible.

You had no screenwriting experience or training three years ago.

You’re writing in your second language.

Don’t you see you’ve gone so far in three years.

You should be proud of yourself.

My older wiser friends have been trying to tell me.

I refused to listen.

What’s the point if I had to be kicked back to Square One?

But truth is, I’m not.

I know so much more about the movie business, about screenwriting, about creation, about the process, about myself especially my darkest sides than three years ago, where I started from scratch.

I’ve made some lifelong friends here, whom I know would embrace me should I make my way back. And they always have a home wherever I go.

This is not a “zero-sum game” — a snazzy phrase I learned at Howard Suber‘s legendary Film Structure class.

Just now, a dear friend helped me sorted out my biggest issue: suitcases and boxes.  With her lightening-fast research and order, I’ve decided to ship all my stuff with Delta to bypass the sea-shipping hassles. Another friend volunteers to help me with the packing. saving me from yet another panic attack…


Truth is, I’ve never walked alone. Nor have I succeeded alone. Even when I fall, I know they’ll catch me.

Which brings me back to my Liverpool sojourn from a decade ago.

Never a soccer fan, but I do love the Liverpool FC song.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of a storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone


Yours truly,

PS. Listen to the latest RBYZ podcast if you haven’t already. The guest is truly one of a kind! Episode show notes here.
PPS. Yes, I’ll restart my novel again tomorrow, I promise!