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China Daily Global / 2020-05 / 22 / Page016

Here's what it's really like working from home in the US

By Randy Wright | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-05-22 00:00

A lot of people have asked me how I have liked living in China since 2013, and I've become adept at rattling off my list of the country's terrific attributes-the generous people, something something, the food, something, the culture, something something, the ancient history, Confucius, something something, and especially the speedy delivery to one's door after ordering things online.

Plus, if you look at a model of Earth, you will notice that it's a sphere, which leads to an extremely important observation: China is as far away from my ex-wife as it's possible to get without going into space.

For me, this fact was dispositive in deciding to go to China-and I suspect there's many a man out there who will understand exactly what I mean. I was fortunate to fall into the open arms of a great many wonderful Chinese colleagues whose shoe latchets I am not worthy to unloose. They, after all, speak two languages.

Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak in China happened to coincide with my scheduled vacation to the US. So here I sit, somewhere on the highly contagious East Coast, working from home and laying low, out of sight of the Dragon Lady and hopefully far enough from COVID-19.

Let me tell you how life really is here:

Haircut-During this time of social distancing, haircuts are virtually nonexistent. I haven't had one since December, and I'm looking like a Neanderthal man.

Out of desperation, I ordered electric hair clippers on Amazon, the rough equivalent of Taobao, the other day and I've been studying YouTube videos to learn how to cut my own hair. When the clippers are delivered, it's going to be interesting. Or frightening.

Night shift-Remember the spherical Earth? It means that when it's daytime in China, it's nighttime in the US. My Chinese colleagues and I have developed an efficient system, but synchronization wasn't easy. Think of it as a couple of months of jet lag. I must stay awake all night long to do my job, while in China everyone is chipper and cheery working their normal day shifts and going to lunch.

I'm not complaining, mind you, not even about the permanent marks I acquired from regularly falling asleep and slamming my face down onto my keyboard during the adjustment process.

As of this writing, I'm happy to report, I have fully adapted. Staying up all night seems normal-just like working in China, except that it's dark outside.

The blindfold-You know those eye shades the airlines provide to help passengers sleep on transcontinental flights? I now use one of those to help me sleep at home in the daytime-which is essential, so far as it goes, and not always entirely attainable.

Marriage-My Chinese wife is not staying up all night to cheer me on as I manfully wrestle with my computer. Grumble something something. This means, if I want to see her, I must sleep as little as possible during the day because that's when she's up and around. Typically, I get out of bed to do some yard work and then go back to sleep. Prepare meals. Sleep. Clean up. Sleep. Hang new window blinds. Sleep. And then I drive her to the Chinese supermarket, which is exactly like being in China again. I can't read the labels here, either, but I don't care, because I'm half asleep.

Amazon-I seldom shop anymore, except online. Amazon is my friend, my lifeline, my god. What this means is that I'm forgetting how to communicate in spoken language to other humans. I'm forgetting words and relying on grunts. When I go out, I grunt through my face mask.

And so you see it's not just the haircut. I'm going full Neanderthal. At least I seem to be staying off the ex-wife's radar.


Randy Wright



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