All in a day’s work

It was the year’s fifth meeting. HR manager, Jay, was inducting new recruits, a wide grin stretching on his otherwise unremarkable, freckled face. He waited while the group shuffled, some excited, some anxious, and some adjusting chairs. When they’d settled, he unlocked his arms, leaning on the table, instead.

“Welcome!”His eyes moved from one to another. They returned his toothy grin. Over the next hour, his ecstatic voice described the corporate guidelines. And as they exited, his voice resounded: “Good luck!” Jay’s grin disappeared as soon as the door shut.

Corporate hiring had become mushrooming—in thousands, disgusting and useless.


Testing waters

Although it’s been a while since I got back from my vacation in Portland and Seattle, I’m still a little hung over from the experience. Not only was it my first time in the US, but also my first time travelling solo. Every day and every minute of the trip was an experiment, doing lots of things I wouldn’t have dreamt of otherwise doing. On my last day in Portland, wanting to see as much of the city as I could in one afternoon, I took a stroll down Hawthorne Boulevard towards Mt. Tabor. Eager to reach the top before sundown, I rushed along when a sign forced me to pause. It was the Portland Cider Company. I hesitated, confused between my desire to go in and also worried I can’t go on if I got too drunk.

I entered anyway. I gave myself a chance to experiment with a type of alcohol I’d never had before, and everything turned out fine. Oh, and Mt. Tabor was wonderful, too.

Portland Cider Company

Stopping at Lan Su

What’s not to love about Portland? Nothing, I mused as I made my way towards the Lan Su Chinese Garden. It was another wet day in the city and I, clutching a borrowed umbrella, snuggled within a borrowed raincoat, walked into what promised to be one of my best experiences in a garden.

I recalled how excited I’d felt about the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco, before realising it is less impressive than I expected. And so I was, at first, skeptical about visiting the Chinese Garden. I’m glad I did though. Upon entering, I received a booklet with a map of the garden. When I opened it, I saw that it’d guide me through the garden with interesting snippets about each part and each structure in the garden.

The garden itself exuded a calm beauty that progressed within me. The moment I entered the cavern of trees, bushes, and beautiful architecture, I felt as if I’d walked into serenity itself. Every step I took, took me further in to nature’s welcoming arms.

The garden swarmed with tourists, Chinese and others alike, although, unlike in San Francisco’s Japanese Garden, the folks here weren’t crazy about taking pictures. Observing the displays of culture meant more than selfies with Chinese plants. It indicated, again, how Portlanders are more intellectual than flippant.

Segmented into various parts, each part of the garden has a long history and purposeful structure. The Painted Boat in Misty Rain, for instance, appears as a boat anchored on shore, so as to give the impression of small waves rocking it. All these and more, I learnt from the map cum booklet that I received as I entered the garden. I must admit, though, that handout made experiencing the garden even more splendour.

Chinese Garden Portland 4

Unable to resist myself, I stopped a while looking at the Chinese Fortune Sticks in the Painted Boat. Following the instructions on the poster and on my booklet, I tried my hand at some ancient fortune-telling. I ended up predicting that my wish for the day would come true. Although I don’t recall if that happened, it was still fun reading my own fortune. I was travelling alone, and at that moment, I felt in complete control of my life. It was liberating to stand on a rocking boat predicting my own future without having to depend on another person. It was one of those moments during my trip when I appreciated solo travel to its full extent.

Chinese Garden Portland 2

The entire garden seemed built over a lake that housed hundreds of fish. Looking into the fresh water I saw yin and yang complementing each other—an example of perfect balance in the body and mind. Inexplicable, but there was a spiritual aura about the garden that infected every one present. And as I walked around the garden unwilling to leave, I spent a few additional moments observing the inscriptions on many of the constructions. Even though every one of them was in Chinese, my booklet contained translations.

Chinese Garden Portland 3

At the end of the day, however, my visit to the Chinese Garden was wonderful. It was so not only because of the magnificent vistas, but also because of the handout I received. That was my gateway into the garden and into the traditional value of the garden. As a tourist,  I’m grateful for the design of the booklet and the wealth of information it contained. To me it seemed as if the garden authorities wanted to educate the visitor, and not just to entertain. Therein lies the beauty of the Chinese Garden. It isn’t about building beautiful structures and compiling unique plants—appreciating culture is about watching to learn and learning to understand.

Questions and answers

The dubious soul—

as hot cocoa in winter—

finds solace online

Something borrowed

Alex glowed with pride. She knew she deserved the recognition and the praise. She had waited long enough. As the self-appointed leader of the science group, victory was her’s to claim.

For three months her team had worked on that science project. Nights and days they spent building a replica of a solar-powered home, complete with heating. The idea had flashed in Alex’s brain one morning while ruffling papers on her brother’s desk.

“They don’t need the details,” she mused leaving the stage, a gleaming trophy snug in her arms. It wasn’t plagiarism—just a riff on her brother’s idea.