00 Past Chronicles: Letter to a friend

Found this while cleaning up my laptop. I was writing to a friend but don’t really know if I actually sent it. It’s a snapshot of life at that time.

Tuesday, February 03, 1998

Hey M,

How’s it going? Where are you living now? Detriot? I don’t remember when I last wrote. Sometimes I don’t remember where I am and what day it is. I’ve been travelling so much since I got to Zurich, I really don’t feel like I live here.

Just got back from Istanbul. It was hard work, but we had some time for fun too. Aside from the really bad air on the first day, i.e., worse than Beijing and the Indonesian smog put together, the couple of days we managed to go out was fun. The people here are so good looking, as good looking at the carpet seller in Agra (a really good looking guy). Saw the world’s 3rd largest diamond, called the spoonmaker, St. John the babtist’s arm bone encased in gold and a s_load of cool relics and jewels of the Ottoman and Byzantine empires. Went to a restaurant, formally a cistern built in the 4th century – only candles, no electricity – very, very cool, closed the Harry’s Bar in the Hyatt, shopped in the spice market. Didn’t get a chance to do the Turkish bath thing, but got a nice facial. And oh, went to a Belly Dance place for dinner, humiliating but a lot of fun. Seriously GREAT food – I feel it on my waistline. Great desserts and I usually don’t take dessert. But there was so much more to see!!! Next destination: Cairo – Camels, here I come.

My social life here is really zero. Zurich is quite a nice town, but I don’t know anyone, and the people from work generally don’t hang out together. No men. I was seeing someone in Beijing. Then I moved to Zurich, he moved back to Germany and that was that. He still has some of my stuff, which I like to call my Beijing contraband. I had some difficulties shipping some small pieces of antiques, and he took them for me. He was working for the German embassy – so while I struggled with the airlines, my stuff got to travel via diplomatic channels. We’re still friends, spoke on the phone a few times, but have not seen each other since. What about you?

I am somewhat legally allowed to be paying taxes in Switzerland. The authorities in Bern finally came thru on my permit, what it’s for, I’m not exactly sure, but I had to take a chest X-ray for it. I have meetings over the weekend with the big bosses to decide my fate. It seems they are trying to find me something to do after I get done with my current project – installing central information systems in all our hotels. It’s really sweet because they could just fire my ass since there really isn’t going to be enough of an Asian region to take care of in the near future. There’s been a few body counts. The Asian projects are all, as we say in Cantonese, colder than water. I think l shall be taking my German lessons more seriously. I will most likely be here till the end of the summer, then Bangkok for a few months, then we don’t know yet. Finances aren’t good in the company, but we just got a brand new kick-ass expresso machine with a proper steamer for cuppucinos. Hey, certain standards have to be maintained.

I have to travel for a month starting next week. My 3 office plants have almost given up the ghost from my Istanbul trip. I can’t blow off Cairo, a non-terrorist target as yet, (AR, my partner in crime, and I will be publishing a Lonely Planet guide to Non-Terrorist Targets – watch for it!) so the plan is to go to Cairo, then Hong Kong, and while in Hong Kong, get my China visa, i.e., will arrive in Beijing around Feb 25, and plan to spend at least 4 days. I have to be in NYC after that, but don’t know exactly when, but it will be sometime during the first week of March. Then my parents want to visit, but I had to tell them no, cos I’m a slave to my project schedule and it keeps bloody changing.

So all in all, life isn’t bad, just a bit too hectic. That’s all the news I have for now. I’ll try to call you when I get to New York.

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