I’m kind of upset with myself because in a frivolous and perhaps not-well-thought-out moment I sent a New Year’s greeting email to dozens of old friends from the US and HK and Shanghai and Bangkok, and invited them to come to this site. In retrospect, I really wasn’t ready to do that. The instant it was sent, I went through all my posts and tried to make them all a bit more politically correct. There was a huge post about my PC Globe employer who passed away in 1991, which I removed in its entirety for fear of appearing mawkishly sentimental. Well, it is mawkishly sentimental, but my heart was definitely in it at the time. I’ll think about adding it back later….

What bothers me the most about my writing is that it can give the visitor the distinct feeling that I hate Asia, which is not true in any way. What is true is that at times when I felt most annoyed or angry about things here, I wrote about them on this site. Thus more of the posts may sound negative than positive. I love Hong Kong with a passion, and watching what seems to be its increasing irrelevance and possibly even its demise is nothing less than heartbreaking. I will always remember my experience in Hong Kong as one of the happiest, most exciting and fulfilling times in my life. Yes, Beijing is another story, but it’s still been less than four months, and the current gloom I am facing is definitely linked to a large extent to the Siberian weather. In September and early October I felt much better, but for more than 2 months now my world has been the office and my apartment — it is simply too cold to do anything more than work, eat and sleep. (I did go to the Summer Palace with my boss and her husband for a delightful day two weekends ago when the snow was falling, but it was still miserably cold.) So while I cannot say I love Beijing, the jury is certainly still out, and the verdict can only be read after the sunlight and warmth return. (Please, hurry.)

My Putonghua has improved ten-fold in recent weeks, as the cold has impelled me to spend more time studying (by prohibiting me from doing anything else). This means that I can now speak Mandarin at about the level of a none-too-swift three-year-old Chinese child. What did they have in mind when they conceived a communication system based on “characters”? There are well over 3,000 of them, and I can recognize exactly 11 to date — da, ren, zhong, wang, shang, xia, bei, jing, hai, ni and bu. So if I can learn eleven new characters every four months, I’ll have them all memorized by….I don’t even want to think about it. Maybe it’s not too late for them to consider shifting to an alphabetical, Latin-based system?

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