On Stand-Up Comedy, Visas, and User Testing Round 1

So, I did stand-up comedy for the first time last night, and it was a whole lot of fun! It was a 4-minute set in English, at Beijing’s Hot Cat Club, to a mostly expat crowd, at their Wednesday open mic. I’d planned out a series of jokes, timed it, scribbled down some notes on my hand, and went up to the mic when it was my turn, with my heart just thumping away. But I got through my set with no trouble, got quite a lot of laughs (!), and walked back to my seat feeling awesome and powerful and great. Some strangers gave me hi-fives! What a freaking ego boost. After the entire event was over, some of the old-timers came over and said that I did well, and were really nice and encouraging, so… I’m hoping to try again next week, if I can get a slot!

Backtrack to how I ended up on stage: my flatmate Brady does stand-up at Hot Cat every Wednesday, and the bunch of us (the Beijing Seven!) usually go to support him and listen to other comedians. One week, we got the notion into our heads that the rest of us should also try to do stand-up one day too! So, that led to some of us signing up for the open mic too. I’ve never really thought of myself as being funny, but um I guess I can make people laugh, and it’s a great feeling.

Topics covered included:

  • Female masturbation!
  • Not being an English teacher (very many expatriates in Beijing are English teachers)
  • The fellow intern (who’s white and American) having it so much easier (read: lower standards required to impress) when it comes to his Chinese at work
  • Poking fun at expats (and fellow intern) who don’t know a whole lot of Chinese
  • Poking fun at comedians who make roofies / Rohypnol jokes

So, yay for trying new things!

Another piece of good news: After many trips to various public agencies, my application to extend my visa to cover the entire duration of my stay here in Beijing has been accepted, and should be successfully approved if all goes well. I talked to my neighbor while waiting for my turn to come, and it turns out that he’s from Frankfurt, Germany! “Ich drücke dir die Daumen!” I said to him at some point.

Anyway, if the visa issue sounds like something that should have been settled before I came to Beijing to work, that is totally spot on. However, applying as a Singaporean citizen in Berlin meant that the visa processing center was only willing/able to give me a 60-days visa, instead of a 90-days visa. The past year has been a big mess with regards to passports and visas, in part because I’ve been traveling (and staying for extended periods of time) in other countries, and I’m glad the mess is going to be over soon.

Last Friday, the hardware team (comprising the design team – Brady and I – and the electronics team) finalized the device hardware, tested all 5 of our prototypes, and bundled them up into nice neat brown boxes. After a stressful week of assembling and troubleshooting them, it was such a relief to see them finally complete. Thursday night in particular was pretty bad, and after working overtime (and as the only one on the design team) till 8:30PM I was just incredibly drained. Luckily, I was revived by 麻辣烫, street food that’s basically skewers simmering in spicy soup; you just pick what looks good, drench it in sesame sauce, and go at it. The stall owners were two chill 20-something dudes, and it was good to chat and unwind.

Anyway, after we were done we brought the boxes into a meeting room and started taking photos… of the brown boxes. And then we realized we were being silly and took the devices out of their packaging and had a real photo shoot. Taking glamor shots are, in my opinion, one of the best things about designing products 😀

And then the software team worked overtime on Sunday and pulled an all-nighter Sunday night to get the software end of it up and running and bug-free. When we came back in on Monday, there were two small trash bags filled with empty soda cans and bags of chips in the software room… On Tuesday, we officially gave the 5 prototypes to our users, 我们亲爱的用户!A new round of prototyping for the next round of user testing is underway, so there’s no rest for the weary… But yesterday night our team leader took the whole team (of 16, both hardware and software) out for dinner (roast lamb 烤全羊!!!) at this really fancy place (九十九顶毡房), and it was glorious. After the meal everyone went around the table and sang a song, and it was great to see everyone on the team loosen up and have fun, instead of stressing over our product all the time.

We’re just pass the halfway point of summer, and already it feels like time has flown by so darn fast. Similarly, I’m at the halfway point between relishing intern life and wanting to be back in school again. It’s been a long time abroad, though, and I am definitely looking forward to being back home in Singapore for 2 weeks before senior year (oh god, senior year?!) starts again. But I definitely don’t regret coming to Beijing and interning at Lenovo – I started the summer with a fair bit of apprehension, sad to leave Berlin and to not be returning to the Bay Area like some of my friends. But over the past several weeks, I’ve found much to love about Beijing, about work, and of course the people I’ve met here. So, here’s to one more month of Beijing and Lenovo, I’m sure it’s going to be good.

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On Stand-Up Comedy, Visas, and User Testing Round 1