Why Do I Hear Birds?

Chinese Bird Paintings

I woke up one morning cursing the neighbors and apartment living as I was hearing that annoying Android text bird whistle. It was driving me mad. Come to find out, it wasn’t the neighbors, it was a bird! I had no idea where I was. I didn’t think birds lived in Shanghai and that mocking jays were real. It was just like that Android whistle. I blame the pollution, the few birds in the city have been mutated into mocking jays and they mock the text whistle. Probably an Android marketing tactic. Doesn’t work on me, I hate that sound!

Later in the week, sitting at my cubicle, near no windows or doors, in an office building in Shanghai after lunch I hear birds chirping. Tweet, tweet, tweetums. There is no logical reason to be hearing birds. I have to be losing my mind. I say to my cube mates, I hear birds. Do you hear it? It continues, tweet, tweet, tweet. One hears them and joins me in why do we hear birds and it is not one bird, it is many birds. I ask where the hell are the birds coming from? Does someone have birds under their desk? What is frightening is after almost 4 years of living and working in China, I know this is a real possibility. Some one may actually have birds under their desk. There was a time I thought for a recognition gift I would give the receiving employee a lucky cricket which chirps all day long. I thought it would be funny but then realized that would drive me nuts and what if he got out of his basket, we would never find it and chirp, chirp, chirp.

I am getting a little frustrated as I find the bird tweets annoying it is not like the bird test whistle annoying but still annoying in an office, we are not in a pet store. I can’t move on and work, it is killing my concentration which is easy enough to do working in my cube next to the walkway, outside of the conference room and now lets all birds to the mix. I ask another co-worker if she hears the birds. She finally realizes what we are all chirping about and says yes, she hears the birds. Well thank goodness I was concerned about your hearing. She then told me she is playing bird songs to calm us down. Bird songs? Calm us down? Do you not see me losing my mind over the chirping and trying to figure out where it is coming from and if someone actually brought birds to the office? She then told me how she is doing expense reports, that process in China you need to self-medicate but if bird sounds can do it for you.. well.. how about you play the birds wearing headphones? No… all afternoon she played her calming nature sounds switching from birds to ocean because the birds upset me. That is how you roll in an open office in China where office etiquette doesn’t exist. I put in headphones and went on with my day with the bird mystery solved.

Towards the end of the day, I got tired, really tired and I said to my office mates, how tired I was. Someone said it must have been the  relaxing sounds. I said that is exactly what it must have been.

Could my office mates be punking me and writing a blog about how they play tricks on their laowai co-workers and the crazy things we say and do?  Now that could be something! They make me laugh and bring such joy to my day even though at the time drive me crazy. Tweet, tweet tweetums!




Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

In China there are a few types of receipts. You can’t just have one that would be too simple. There are itemized receipts and fapiao. To encourage you to ask for a fapiao, the official receipt, there is a scratch and reveal section, like a scratch lotto ticket (that is right Dad, like a scratch ticket! Wanna come for a visit now? I will save them all for you) on the fapiao. Not only is it a receipt it is a lottery! It was explained to me this is done so people will ask for the fapiao. If you ask for a fapiao, which is made on an official tax machine, requiring the reporting of earnings to issue the fapiao. If you don’t get a fapiao, it is possible the money is not being reported to the government. To encourage the issuing of fapiao there is a scratch lotto.

I was working on an expense report and I was scratching my receipts. You can’t win if you don’t play, right? I have learned the Chinese characters “Thank You” which means you didn’t win but on this day of expense report hell, I got different characters. I won something!!! I asked a Chinese co-worker and she told me I won 5RMB! Which is around 80 cents US. YES!! I then started chanting “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” around the office and asked what that means. I tried to explain back in the day in Las Vegas had a chicken dinner cost a certain amount and a minimum bet was a certain amount and if you won you had enough money to buy yourself a chicken dinner and how some dealers would say “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner” when people won. I don’t think I did a good job explaining or that it made much sense.  Oh well. I am still a winner but it is not enough to buy a dinner, a Coke Zero maybe. Winner Winner Coke Zero is not the same.


Hump Day

In the break room I wished some co-workers, happy Wednesday. They said how it is half-way point of the week. I said yes, it is known as hump day. I explained it is like a hill, Mon, Tues you head up the hill, Wed you are at the top (or the Hump) and then it is down hill till Friday. I made sure to share you have to make sure you say hump day and not just hump for that can mean a bad word and there there is the Black Eyed Pea song about My Humps. Why are all our slang words have multiple meanings? It can be very confusing to explain.


I don’t know how I manage to get to a place where I am explaining to a co-worker what spooning is but I did. She found it very clever and that it made sense. She liked the term. I didn’t however share as Charo likes to say that spooning sometimes can lead to forking, I thought I would be crossing the HR boundary with that.