It’s been a couple weeks since I posted, so I wanted to let my friends and family know that I still haven’t eaten myself into a coma. Before I start my usual ranting and raving, here are some pictures from my trip home to California (my post title is from the lyrics to “California” by Phantom Planet, one of my favorite songs about my home state):

Our cats, MeiMei and DeeDee. You cannot tell from this photo, but DeeDee is twice the size of MeiMei. He is a fatty!

Hello!

My brother laying waste to a tatami mat at his shinkendo exhibition in Long Beach. You can’t tell from this photo, but Mike then quickly and accurately sliced the chunk of mat into two more pieces as it tried desperately to fly from his sword. The tatami mat is meant to mimic human flesh and is often wrapped around a piece of bamboo, which stands in for bone. Good to know!:

Here are my parents at Fishermen’s Grotto, a seafood restaurant in Fishermen’s Wharf that we always check out when we’re in San Francisco. I mean, I don’t care if people think Fishermen’s Wharf is a tourist trap… I love Fishermen’s Grotto. They have a great Crab Louie salad and an old-school atmosphere that’s straight out of 1935 (which is when they opened). I hope they never re-decorate.

Here I am with Cat, an artist who designs really beautiful customized Blythes and toys, and our mini-me’s, Catherine Jr. and Cherry Cheri. Cat and I have been Blythe online buddies for a while, so it was great meeting her in real life:

Here I am on the deck of the Queen Mary in Long Beach with my dad and Mike. I picked this photo because I’m in the shadow, and therefore you cannot tell exactly how freakishly pale I am:

Dad, me and Mike

Another highlight of my trip home was seeing a lot of old friends, including my fellow Columbia j-school alum Priya. I don’t have a photo of Priya, but I know she stops by here, so hi Priya! I also saw both my cousins Christin and Evonne, who are going to be my bridesmaids. Thanks guys! I can’t wait to see you in these!

Anyway, I have been busy at my new job, as a features reporter at the same newspaper that my fiance works at (I’m not going to mention the name in this article because I don’t want my blog popping up left and right in search engines, but it’s pretty easy to figure out).

So far, I’ve done about four interviews completely in Mandarin, and have succeeded in not totally humiliating myself. I mean, my spoken Mandarin has improved a lot and my vocabulary has expanded, but it’s still shaky. On the one hand, I feel comfortable chatting with random people in Mandarin now and can converse about fairly complex topics. On the other hand, I still have my American accent and my grasp of the language varies widely depending on what mood I’m in, what my blood sugar level is and how tired I am.

For example, this morning the air conditioner repairman came while I was panicking about an Internet connection problem, hurriedly trying to do some research in preparation for a long-distance interview, still sleepy from waking up early for the AC repair guy, hungry from not having eaten breakfast, and just generally in a foul mood. The repairman asked me what the problem with our AC was, and I suddenly realized blanked on how to say “it’s not blowing cold air.” So instead I blurted out “it’s not blowing cold gas.” Smooth move Catherine!

I think another one of my hang-ups stems (ironically enough) from the fact that I grew up listening my parents converse in Mandarin. While being familiar with the language is obviously a huge advantage, I think it also creates a mental block when I talk. As I speak, my brain mentally picks out any substandard pronunciation, grammar mistakes and odd vocabulary usage. It’s like when you are talking on the phone and hear an echo of your unexpectedly mannish-sounding, Valley Girlish voice–very, very distracting.

Anyway, enough blogging, back to work! I have to transcribe a couple hours worth of interviews I did in Mandarin into English (well, obviously into English–my written Mandarin is not that strong!), which means I have to simultaneously listen to the tapes and translate it into English. I wonder if there is a market for simultaneous translators who are only able to translate one way? Hmmm…