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,


Shanghai has changed a lot in three years.

I couldn’t find where to swipe the oyster card.

I had to study the stops before I get into the metro.

I almost always have a friend to guide me when cruising the city.

The city seems even more sleepless than three years ago.

And yet, there are things that I truly care about that haven’t changed one bit.

  • People still don’t respect others’ space.
  • People cut off lines all the time.
  • People smoke outside all the time.
  • People are loud when they talk in public.
  • The list goes on…

Some say things like the above take several generations. It may change and it may not.

I miss LA’s spaciousness and politeness.

To begin with, I miss LA’s coffee.

The coffee here is ridiculously expensive. My friend and I had two small coffees (Americano, Latte) for RMB 66. That is almost 10 dollars.

All I know is, Shanghai is an exciting cup of tea that is nutritious, fresh and presentable.

And yet, it’s not my cuppa tea…

Because of the things that are hard to change exactly.

Or I’ve come to love coffee.


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,


9 hours from now

I will be boarding the flight back home.

My parents and I finally decided that they would meet me at the airport, instead of waiting for me at home.

Mostly it was because I don’t have Chinese cash (RMB) on me. My phone’s setting wouldn’t allow me to DiDi (Chinese Uber + Lyft).


A million questions coursing through the mind of a soldier, coming back home from the war… finding the wife has left him, the house is gone, the parents are dead, the friends are now strangers…

A gazillion questions grill my attention:

  • How would China treat me?
  • How would Shanghai see me?
  • How would my friends back home respond?
  • Would I be happy?
  • Would I find things I love to do here?
  • Would I be financially independent?
  • How would I find projects?

And yet, only one way to find out.

Live it.


Yours truly,

PS. I’m wearing a thick parka as I type this blog. Yes, it’s what I would wear tomorrow. a) Shanghai is getting cold. So is LA. b) I think I’ve probaly gone overweight with my suitcases… c) I love everything this parka.

The Customs – Part 2

Thirteen boxes are resting at the Shanghai customs.

My parents tried to claim them yesterday. They were told that they would have to pay RMB 200 a piece. And I have 13 boxes there. Feel free to do the math.

But the good news is, they’re in good hands and the customs would keep them safe, and most importantly, free for me until early November. By then, I would already be home.

If I show the customs my entry stamp back into the country, I would get my stuff back  tax-free.

But I would have to pay for the ride from the customs to my Shanghai home. I will need to rent a van and do it all over again. This time with my parents.

Win some. Lose some. All interesting.


Yours truly,

PS. New episode out today. Check it out by clicking here.


Finally, I got on the video call with my parents yesterday evening.

I broke the news to them. I was calm. They handled it well.  I was surprised and relieved.

During the call, we talked about my life back in Shanghai. I said I don’t want another nine-to-six job. Instead, I’ll start my own studio, be my own boss, and have my own clients. It’s going to be difficult. But I need to try it out.

I checked the plane ticket back to Shanghai. The date is going to be around mid-October.

I canceled my gym and training membership this morning. It’ll end on Sept 26.

Every day till I leave LA is going to be a countdown now. As for my three-year adventure in the US? Win some. Lose some. All interesting.


Yours truly,

PS. I met my friend again yesterday afternoon. We had a lovely chat. I need to have a better coping mechanism than giving in to rage. It’s simply not worth it.