My take on WeChat

I have been using WeChat for 5 months now, and I’ve been meaning to blog about what I think of it because… the app (pronounced as A.P.P. in China) plays such a huge and increasingly reliant role to me in the country.

(Not to say WhatsApp isn’t/ wasn’t for me back in Malaysia, but read on…)

If I could describe WeChat in one sentence, it would be: it’s EVERYTHING-in-ONE… it acts as a messenger, email, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, payment system, news portal… with tiny, blurred differences between each of them.

And yet, in China, I do feel like I am living another social media life altogether (despite this ‘globalized world’), because most of the Chinese do not use most of the Western apps I mentioned above. But this can be saved for another topic some other time.

WeChat is my source of solutions, and therein also lies the potential of being my source of pain.

From what I’ve read, Malaysia will be the first overseas country to be able to use the entire WeChat ecosystem (by Q1 this year I heard?) — including, of course, its awesome payment platform. Many of you may already know the brilliance of this app, but let me breakdown what it does for me.

*Disclaimer: This post is entirely based on my user experience so far, and is not conclusive of what the app is and what it is able to do (so much more)

I use it to:

Communicate

Besides chatting with friends, it also serves the use of a work email. In my line of work at least, work files – be it daily and weekly agenda, deliverables, notices, etc. (word file, PDF file, excel file) – are all sent via WeChat. Their form of ‘CC-ing’ in an email thread is via WeChat.

You will even sometimes be pulled into groups with hundreds of people, where you probably only play a 0.1% role or contribution to that group. And people rarely leave a group because apparently it’s courtesy not to. So if you’re pulled into a group, you’re pretty much stuck in it for life. But not to worry – the group is just there as an inactive…existence.

And then there’s WeChat ‘moments’ – where you can share pictures, thoughts, articles, anything… you can ‘mention’ (i.e. tag) someone; you can also ‘like’ and comment on others’ moments. Who needs FB, Insta and good ol’ Twitter when you have WeChat moments?

Although, the privacy settings are different because with WeChat, you are only able to view likes and comments on your friend’s post IF you are friends with them. And while some may post everything about their lives on their ‘moments’, and some not at all, for me — I think thrice before uploading anything. Because everyone in my contact list will be able to view it, and this contact list is….. (read below)

The mother of all mother functions of the app is… its QR code function. It’s like a scanning spree, guys.

People you may not know previously, people you just met… they can become your acquaintances on WeChat. All because of this magic sentence: “Do I scan your QR code or will you scan mine?” So it’s somewhere in-between casual (i.e. FB), not-so-personal (like an online messenger somewhat) and yet personal (mobile number)… If you get my drift.

Hence you could be adding and accepting requests every other day. It can be rude to not accept sometimes because you don’t know if it’s someone from work of if it’s work-related not! And if you delete the other person from your contact list, he or she would know. It’s not like your own phone’s or WhatsApp where only you have full purview of your contacts.

But this is why I say it can be a source of solutions and pain because… Just as people get use this app to get responses from me; so can I — to get updates and to get things done. For me so far, WeChat has been useful to get answers from different people, share contacts, double check with my interviewees on facts (as the verbal interview is done in Mandarin). And they respond so fast (with emojis — Chinese style!).

Although, my question still remains: What and where is the fine line? As anyone can have access to you anytime of the day, at the end of the day it really is up to you to choose should you and when to respond… or can you? (Yes, of course you can)

Payment system

I use WeChat Pay to pay 99.99% of what I need to pay in China.

From my monthly rent, meals, online shopping, that 1.50 herbal egg by the road side, Didi (linked to my app), groceries, water bills, food delivery, and mobile top-up…

Basically, everything la except for my subway card top-up – which only takes cash. I used to be given the weird eye when I wanted to pay for cash at a convenience store, but now it’s my turn to do so to the subway peeps. Jokes.

我扫你还是你扫我?

WeChat Pay also has this ‘Distribute Angpao’ (red packet) function too. During festive periods, such as Mooncake Festival, Team Building, Spring Festival, I have received these red packets (意思意思) from leaders of the company, where one chooses a certain ‘total amount’ to give away and it gets randomly distributed to a certain amount of people.

But beyond that, you can also get your REFUNDS** via this app. Like, immediately. Be it from JD.com where I usually get all my stuff, or food delivery (e le me), Didi, shops… For example, if I cancelled a food delivery order, or return a good to the seller (be it online or a physical shop)… the money will be in my bank account in no time. They usually tell you it takes one to three days. But they have been exceeding expectations thus far.

**it can go into your WeChat balance if the amount was deducted from it, or it goes into your bank account if you merely use WeChat as an ‘intermediary’

Btw, I haven’t included the usage of this when it comes to paying at unmanned convenience stores and supermarkets.

Source of information

You can ‘follow’ organizations, pages, events, activities on WeChat. They call this Subscription Accounts where you get notifications whenever these have updates.

It is here where you get your daily news, information feed, etc.

Once, there was an assignment where the PR personnel told me to just “关注” their account on WeChat to get any information I am looking for – without even bothering to even first find out what exactly I am looking for (hilarious). And of course, she did not answer my queries over the phone.

There was also once where I was reading a company’s annual report online. And in there there’s a QR code. Scanned it immediately to follow any of its updates. Have to ‘keep up with (Chinese) times’, know what I’m saying? HAHAHA

I have scanned QR codes of restaurants, cafes, salons to be a member and get discounts immediately (HEHE so Asian). But really, you can do this with any service industry I reckon.

HOOKED

Into my second month in China, I can already feel how this platform – while mega useful and convenient – can also be abusive, if we allow it to.

Whether you like it or not, you need to get on the app — to pay, reply your boss… and in there you get distracted by other people’s social media posts… portals you follow… Hence, people here are always hooked on their phones!

Of course, dominating headlines around the world is that of Tencent Holdings’ buying spree; and expanding the usage and breadth of its app usage beyond its payment system — to micro finance, insurance, selling of mutual funds…

I have yet to experience any of the above, but as it is now — the app is enough to overwhelm me.

At one point, admittedly, I was pretty scared of looking at my phone or this app. There were simply too many groups, too many messages.

Questions that run through my mind: Just how reliant are we on WeChat? Is there an alternative now, in the future? Comparing to days where we had ICQ, Friendster, QQ (not sure how vastly is this used still in China)… In terms of payment platforms, sure, there is AliPay, but what about an all-in-one app?

As at writing time (Feb 18, 2018), Tencent Holdings — the mastermind behind and who owns WeChat — is trading at 447 Hong Kong dollars, a 5-year high, with a market cap of 4.2 trillion HKD (over 500 billion US dollars). In the past one year, the stock has doubled.

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SHANGHAI TO ZHOUSHAN

This past week passed by in a blur.

Rushing from one place to another, chugging my bags and jumbled notes along, writing scripts after scripts in the car, being on stand-by for live-reporting (my first outside of our usual studio and without a prompter), having a bite or two whenever I can, checking in and out of a hotel – all while attending to dozens of WeChat messages (in Mandarin) the entire day from different groups… yes, that pretty much summed up my 5-6 days.

Oh, that, and getting the hotel reception to print some of my last-minute notes for me (for free!).

To have a minute of breather is pretty precious.

I am now back in Beijing, and missing the weather in Shanghai and Zhoushan but not the intense rush which isn’t quite for the faint-hearted. (Although I suppose it depends on how much of a sense of urgency you apply onto yourself as well)

But you know what?

There were so many goods in between.

Before I go, I would like to firstly thank our Shanghai bureau who were so kind to have settled the logistics for me (hotel and transport), so I didn’t have to worry about these – although, applying for reimbursements for accommodation and flights back here in BJ would be a pain haha.

In the past week, I laugh recalling how my cameraman, 李大哥, would scramble but excitedly seek to find the translation for a word I did not understand. 什么意思 would be a common question from me in our conversations, when I come across a phrase I do not understand. He said his English has improved dramatically in these four days; so did my Mandarin.

Our driver, 马大哥, would take us to where we need to with no questions asked — this came in super handy especially when we needed to be at a place (in this case, places) pronto. He also helped to ‘shoo’ passer-bys (though sometimes, indulge with them) when I was doing my live-crosses by the port.

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Thankful for this best mini crew

Both of them were patient, actively helpful, resourceful, assuring, and just so accommodating to my requests and push to get things done – and that made things so, so easy for me.

And what a beautiful stumble we came upon when in Zhoushan.

Although, it wasn’t quite accidental as I had an “end in mind”. I usually do not like attributing things happening to luck (maybe just 1 percent) as I believe if I want to find and get something done, I will — it’s only a matter of timing and if I can get something solid enough.

We arrived at this coast off Zhejiang province on Sunday night – on last-minute notice to be on stand-by to board a helicopter the next day, though chances were low as the oil tanker had sunk when we departed for Zhoushan, which is an over 4-hours’ drive from Shanghai.

When the next morning came and we still received no notice, I told the team I needed a cut-off time, failing which, I am going to start heading out to look for leads for a story. I mean, since we were already there – the nearest fishing ground to where the collision happened! How can there be no story?

And off we went – my cameraman, driver, and me. I told them what I wanted, and asked them to help look around local websites or ask around on viable ports for fishermen to speak to. (The night before when having seafood noodles for supper, I asked the owners if they heard of this tanker sinking and if they are concerned with the oil spill, but they didn’t seem too perturbed)

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The first port we went to – after I went around asking just two people, we struck lucky with the third; as one hint lead to another.

And amazingly, we got to two great sound-bites – one who is a chief officer of a ship (who later insisted I not air the name of his ship), and a general manager who has been operating a huge seafood market for 20 years.

I miss pursuing stories like these – your own suggestion, initiative, leads, and all executed in action via persistence and determination.

Indeed, this assignment has opened my eyes to so many things.

Firstly – teamwork. I have always been a huge advocate of this. But this time, the fact that my cameraman went over and beyond his role – to best search for leads, help explain my questions better to the interviewees (when need be), patient with my need to get things done right, finds the best spot to do my live-hits and stand-up, takes the necessary footage for my package without me having to explain too much or instruct him… Basically, all I had to do was to prepare my scripts’ content and delivery, and leave the rest to him.

Every cameraman has a style of his or her own, and most if not all I have worked with were superb in their own ways. There are some who pushes the ball back to you (the reporter) asking what do you want. In some cases, it works. But when one has a tight deadline to rush, a cameraman who actively participates to get things done, better, is a blessing.

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As I am a foreigner (this would be my first outstation trip on my own), I truly appreciate this gesture – of having someone explain some of the local terms and culture better to me. 李大哥 said to me: “你的人又好有认真,若我做不好我对不起自己”.

This assignment has also brought to light to me, the importance of post-production support.

Being on the front-line, we may not have the luxury or resources to edit our own videos. My 6-year old laptop is slow as a snail, while my cameraman’s died on him just before we wanted to edit. Hence, for all 3 of my packages in the 5 days, someone from the program or the domestic team helped to edit.

From liaising with which program to air this package, to transferring the footage via cogent, emailing scripts back to be copy-edited, doing voice-overs in the maritime bureau + hotel room + Shanghai bureau… it all required precise time-planning, which I have learned from my rotation in the newsroom (if you want to catch the 8.15 pm show, your footage, script, etc. better be ready for the editor to start editing by 6 pm – you work backwards in terms of your own deliverables).

And what a circle of life it was.

The people who helped edit are those in China 24 whom I previously spent a few weeks with (to rush to air on their programme — 谢谢春莹,Sun Ye) and those in the domestic team were my peers I am closest to (谢谢懿磊,李颖) – they taught me the basics in workflow and systems when I first got here, and now I hang out with them even out of the office.

It all comes back. It’s a reminder that what goes around, comes around.

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Crazy Sunday morning in Shanghai; where my colleague was due to board a ship whilst I was going to do a live and then depart for Zhoushan

Now, jittery moments? Plenty; including being on stand-by on Saturday early morning (having landed past midnight Friday), to report on something that everything is in Mandarin. Thank you to a colleague who helped me translate and relay key words in that very tight time frame.

That day, at 4.30 pm I was asked to do a package for the 8.15 pm show. You can imagine how panicky it must have been, as we were just about to interview the second expert (of which I can’t join in the end ‘cos I had to rush a script) and hence a colleague sat in for me. The sound-bites in the end were, let’s just say, a mess — of which I felt so bad for post-production as they had to re-listen and translate for me. Those who know me would know I despise relying on others, or letting others clean up my mess. All packages I have done so far, the sound-bites were on point.

It was my first time coming up with a script in less than half an hour. Totally wasn’t my best work as I couldn’t give better context to it, but I understood the urgency of it and I know I need to learn to live with this in the future when it comes to pressing breaking stories.

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And on Sunday, I was told to go live only that morning itself – when minutes before I was due to go on air, we were in the car rushing from one place to another. In my mind: It’s been a day since the last briefing or official statement from the maritime bureau. ‘What am I going to say?’ ‘Will it be news-worthy?’ These questions ran through my mind. But as with this role and such circumstances, you don’t think so much — you just do it (and scramble later).

Low moments? Inevitably there were. Firstly, for not talking more casually when doing my lives (why was I so concerned about reading my notes when I know my stuff?), but the next day it seems I almost forgot about it; and instead I sought to try harder and better the next time.

And in regards to my first package, I did a stand-up but hastily asked post-production not to include it in as I thought it wasn’t well done. I did a VO just in case and told her to use that instead. Turned out I got her into trouble (sorry, 春莹) as it was live-reporting and a stand-up was crucial in my package for me to donut my package to.

That said, I have sensed improvements in how I approach each task. Before we film, I would already know which footage I want to lock-in to fit my opening lead; and in my live-shots I already know that I can and know where to donut from my package. If you recall, in my very first live-cross, I didn’t even know what does donut and ‘ad-lib’ mean.

I am proud of these little achievements. I always believe it doesn’t matter where does one start, but rather how does one proceed to grow and improve in time.

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Looking back, I don’t advocate not eating well (succumbed to KFC and Pizza Hut – like who eats these in Zhoushan, a place famous for seafood!) but alas, I had to… for a day. LI DA GE sensed my urgency and suggested this, and even comforted me saying we have seafood pizza, at the very least.

But… we did have the above meal, which was simply divine. Just doors away from our hotel, we had it twice — when we first arrived, and just before we departed Zhoushan. Fresh fishes, clams, prawns, etc…

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Ultimately, what I have learned with this role is:

  1. To be prepared to be on stand-by most of the time (especially when you are onto a developing story at a site), for when one task ends and the story is aired, that doesn’t mean you won’t have another one to deliver the next morning
  2. Rest as much as you can, when you can
  3. Take on each task with the same vigour and positivity regardless of what it is
  4. Forgive those who may have not done their roles well
  5. Amid the hustle and bustle, take a deep breath, and carry on

And how funny life works…

Just last weekend, marking my 4th month in China, I woke up almost surprised but quite relieved I won’t be receiving any surprises or first(s). Little did I know 🙂

PS: I am usually a bullet points kinda girl, but this time… ah, 算了吧 😂

NEWSROOM STINT

My stint at/ with the newsroom has come to an end, yesterday.

It’s a rather bittersweet feeling, if I may say so. I treasured my time with China 24, because I told myself it was the one chance I had to learn and be exposed to how TV programs work.

A rotation in the newsroom (either with General News or China 24) is something most new hires have to go through – especially if you’re in the reporting team.

(For most, they usually start in the newsroom first then head out to field report. As for me, I did a little of field reporting first then the newsroom. Pros: I may already know some of the video-editing basics when doing my stint here. Cons: my packages could have been done better on hindsight. That said, not one reporter’s journey is the same and I’m embracing it all the same… 🙂)

I am so glad I was attached with China 24, a 45-minute program that airs at 20:15 every night (including weekends). It’s said to be one of the channel’s flagship programs – it’s somewhat magazine like (but still news-driven to an extent) and covers only China-related news. Hence, most sources are in Mandarin. And also hence — why I wanted and needed to give myself this chance and challenge to see if I can assimilate.

As with anything, it’s nice to have an ‘end in mind’ when you embark on something.

And mine was: to observe and absorb how a TV program works; and I told myself that I won’t leave until I ‘graduate’, i.e. satisfied with my work (to a level where I am able to do it without needing too much effort), learned sufficient skill sets (would be nice to pick up every single skill set needed but in this case, sufficient would do), have value-added to the team (be it in insights or language), built a certain rapport with the team; and finally, have my videos approved without being returned back to me (although this will still happen in time to come with different assignments when I’m out field reporting, but I have to first get the basics right).

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My first taste of a TV newsroom

But also, as with anything, it’s about the journey.

The stint may only be a few weeks long (with me still out filming occasionally and did a few live-crosses in between), but over this period I found myself becoming more invested in the program (funnily, although the workload became easier – if that made sense). From sitting at the outer circle of the main meeting table (was shy) to now joining the team at the main table, to printing and reading through the daily agenda prior to the meeting (wasn’t aware about it initially — in my defense) to keep myself briefed, to proposing which stories I want to write… Little things like these.

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Just a few of the MANY C24 colleagues I’ve grown to adore :*

There are different ‘directors’, producers, planners, writers in charge everyday… Each with different working styles, approach and personalities. But all were focused on the same goal of making the program a good one, and a smoothly run one, at that.

And I, in turn, was focused on giving my best in every single shift I got… (can you believe it, I am quite happy when I get lightly ‘sounded’, for it is through it where I learn the most)

All in, they were an amazing, helpful bunch and I enjoyed my time and sometimes-dinners-in-the-office with them.

Since I am such a ‘bullet-points’ kinda girl, here goes my summation of my stint:

What I gained:

  • Never having had TV background, the only newsroom experience I got was back at The Edge (even then I was only there for over a year)… and the only rundown I knew was of ‘1A’ and ‘1B’ being front page cover stories HAHA (JZ and I would ‘fight’ daily to see who gets more cover stories, I remember… good times). So this stint was good, to see which top stories would come in the first block, second block, and finally the light-hearted ones in the third and final block

*Keep in mind that I am a foreigner here, so it’s not like in Malaysia where I am familiar with the news scene there — especially corporate news (can right earnings reports and bursa announcements in a jiffy)… to where I also had the leeway to decide on the rundown at BFM, the radio station

  • I learned how to search and utilize resources from our Chinese channels; from hunting for their scripts in one of the (many) systems and footages in the video editing system. C24 leverages a lot on this as it’s not just a localized program but also one that is feature-ish, hence it can be hold-able for a day or two even after the Chinese channel has aired it
  • Again and again I am reminded that before I write, always to first check if I have the footage to support or complement my story, else — it’s pretty much useless. Because as a TV reporter here, it’s not just about writing, it’s about how to make our video editing easier as well. It is so different from print or radio where I can just write my soul out without giving any second thoughts on the pictures
  • How I can actually select a few photos and let the awesome graphics peeps to combine them into a nice little video to support my story; and also, I learned how to keep my graphics simple
  • To know which stories are worth self-generating and which ones can be pulled from another program

Ultimately as a reporter, I would feed my packages to these programs so it is pertinent to know how they select and run them… keeping in mind to keep them short, sweet, relevant — the last one, I can do. The first… Let’s just say I need my details.

Deliverables:

I have found the work I have done so far interesting. From…

  • In-house VOs on World Diabetes Day to World HIV Day to International Aviation Day… yes, just give me all the world’s XX days… to paternity leaves, Tianjin fire, carbon trading market, industrial profits, foreign exchange figures… to…
  • In-house packages from pandas to China-Russia oil pipeline… (a lot of it referring to our Chinese channel’s). But wow, I didn’t realize it was actually THAT easy to come up with a 2 minutes package! My field reporting ones were at least 3.30 to over 4 minutes, and even then those are already a cut-short version
  • The above have opened my eyes to federations and councils in China
  • Preparing questions for guests who will come into our studio for an interview with the anchor, and liaising with them on it (the program email is everything for point of contact)… also, to
  • Communicating also with our overseas correspondents on questions for live-crosses because one day I may be on the other end too (and I was!)
  • Unleashing my freestyle, sometimes-punny writing to ‘China Buzz’, my ultimate favourite sub-segment
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The control room (that’s not me in the video)

Challenges

Nonetheless, be it with field reporting or in-house writing, there will be challenges.

As most sources are in Mandarin, baidu translate has been useful (thank you) but it can only do you good this far. To really ‘double confirm’ the meaning, I’d still have to fall back to reading it in Mandarin and thankfully, I can still do so… although, slow as a snail and there are still words I haven’t come across

That aside, the tougher challenge I’ve come across on most days is — the serious lack of accurate and complete data.

Put it this way, I wish to access the original reports if I can. As I came from a print background, I am used to doing my own calculations/ analysis/ checks. The few times I’ve come across numbers quoted by one press (or two) — it can be inaccurate. One press gets it wrong and the rest just copy and paste. I mean, I get how it is convenient and when you’re pressed for time, do you have time to cross-check it?

Also, which is the best source do you ultimately quote? National Bureau of Statistics and official ones aside (for historical data), there are others which may have their own interests. And on what grounds or definition is one data quoted by a press the same or different from others? I mean, is the context and what it constitutes, the same?

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Throwback to a month back where I snipped my curls and I’m now back to having short hair

If I may quote one incident — it was a day where I was not just overwhelmed, but well, pretty overwhelmed.

I had to attend a meeting and so I was a little over an hour behind time for my shift. And one of the tasks was to write a short VO and graphics for an index that was due to release that day. I searched high and low online, but nothing was released. Finally I found out the source and it was just announced on its page, but it was all raw and all in Chinese. I had to translate, decipher, and break it down in a manner where the audience would understand. As this is a graphics piece, I also had to figure out how to translate them into graphics. This was before any news picked it up, be it Xinhua or China Daily. So literally, first-hand umm approach.

Not to mention that it was the first time that this index will be released and hence there was no precedence or benchmark in terms of how you go about presenting these indices.

It was just one of those times where you are tested as a reporter (in-house or not) — to read, understand, siphon out what’s important and what’s not and make it understandable and useful. If everything is in English, I could have done it in minutes. I have translated stuff before from news articles and it’s easier but these are raw data with specific terms.

Again, I don’t know how I managed to churn out something in the end, but I did — all while liaising with a guest on his questions, write another VO, and editing those thereafter.

To be honest, though, the work isn’t hard – it’s the getting the facts right and giving context but through very scarce data available that can perhaps give your could-be-simpler work a little longer route in getting it out.

But all in all, it was a good — if not, great — time spent at/ with the newsroom.

Many may have different approach when it comes to making their rounds in the newsroom, as they may want to head out to film straight (granted, as they are more experienced having come from a TV background). But for me, I knew this is something I have and WANT to go through patiently.

And I am grateful my (Domestic Reporters) team has allowed me to do the rounds, as well as thankful for C24 to have welcomed me and accepted me as their own 🙂

THANKFUL FOR 2017; HELLO 2018

Today’s the first day of a brand new year, 2018.

And what a year (quarter) it has been.

I recall making resolutions over the years, mostly on things I can improve on and new habits to pick-up etc., but without quite reflecting and giving thanks first on what has transpired.

Amidst the daily hustle and bustle – heightened by the increasing number of social media apps only to make our pace of lives faster, more urgent – it’s so easy to just go through life in a blur. Cliché, but true.

So today, I am going to list down the things I am grateful for. (Planted myself in a café, with a cup of latte and Belgium waffle, no less)

Family

First and foremost, and always will be, I am thankful for my family.

They say parents tweak the way they treat their children depending on the child’s character. Maybe I am already quite independent and competitive by nature, but still, not once since I was young that my parents have forced me to do anything (I do not want). Instead, they have given me exposure, allowing me to find where my heart beats the fastest.

And when I am at crossroads, they do not impose their wants on me. Rather, they share their thoughts and rationale, and ultimately let me decide on my own. Considering how far they have come in life (from very humble beginnings), their two cents have been more than worthy.

Thank you, Papa and Mummy, for letting me try spread my wings in China without having me to worry about things back home. We (I) take this for granted sometimes — to leave a nest in peace knowing all is and will be good — but it’s such a crucial factor in one’s ability to do his or her best in a new place and role.

Not only have they assured me everything is well at home (I have no doubt at all things will be), they have also sought to help me in my move as much as they can.

Always encouraging, supportive, but also hard on me on things I need to work on – reminding/ asserting me to be positive whenever I start complaining unnecessarily, to not sweat over the smallest stuff.

Of course, not forgetting my grandmother, who despite not being able to read or understand English, gets so excited when she sees me on TV and is always asking my mom about me.

My brother Ken and his wife Shi, for recently having a baby and yet holding it all so well and strong altogether. I stand by the belief that being a spouse and parent supersede all other work challenges. Both of them are possibly the kindest, simplest, most forgiving people I have met; and I can’t wait to meet and hold baby EG in my arms.

And to my youngest brother Shaun, who’s all the way in London — thank you for making it so easy for us too with your independence and maturity.

Friends

I am grateful for both my good friends back home in Malaysia, as well as new-found ones here in China.

Before I got here, I remember how my friends (across different circles) were genuinely excited for me. When I was worried and concerned, they shared my pain, too. Some prayed for me, some assured me, some introduced their friends in Beijing to me; all of them had my best interest at heart.

One, in particular, was especially patient and uplifting with me, in the days leading up to me making my move here.

And for that, I am grateful. You know who you guys are.

Even after coming here, many, if not all, still constantly touched base to make sure I am settling in okay. It is rare to come across and build good, relatable friendships. When you do find them, keep them close to your heart.

Over here in China, I have been lucky to stumble upon nice, genuine, people whom first started as colleagues but now am happy to regard them as friends, sisters, brothers.

People from different parts of China (country is huge), different countries, different positions within the company… some younger, some older than I am.

But all the same – you guys have been so kind in sharing and imparting local knowledge and insights to me… in having meals and drinks with me. And for that, I am thankful. I am still learning and adapting to the culture here, but I’m feeling blessed as it is now.

Opportunities

I am grateful for opportunities that have come my way.

For companies, leaders, people who have taken the chance, and who continue — to take a chance on me.

Thinking back, it’s opportunities, stints, and experiences I have garnered from back home in Malaysia that have enabled me to secure this new, exciting role in China – now covering new stories, territories, testing new boundaries and capabilities which I didn’t think I have.

Truly, nothing happens overnight (I will need a much longer post on this but seeing as I am still very much in early stages in my career here, my words will only hold more weight in time to come).

Is there a saying that goes: Success is 90 percent hard work and 10 percent luck?

I have always believed that opportunities do not just come falling on your lap. It takes work, initiative, persistence, but beyond that it takes a continuous learning attitude, a good heart, people skills – the latter of which is something my mom strongly advocates and has been ingraining in me since day one.

All these being said, one still needs to be ready when opportunity comes knocking on the door.

To be honest, I am not sure if I was ready (or still am, for that matter) for this role. But I do know that I have given my best in all that I do and will continue to do so. And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll accept it for I have given my best.

Thinking back, funnily enough, I have not included achievements in my yearly resolutions. It’s never about ‘getting a new job’, or ‘to get XX A’s’, etc. So far it has been pretty much go-with-the-flow kinda thing…

Good health

But most of all, I am thankful for good health.

It is again so cliché, but true – for what is life, wealth and prosperity, without good health?

I am grateful that my mom has chosen to change careers more than 20 years back and went into distributing health food — Shuang Hor’s Lingzhi and Pollen. For these are the products we turn to in our daily lives (I haven’t been consistent but now am) — in health and in sickness.

And I have been lucky that I haven’t fallen sick yet since I got here, whether it’s fever or stomach flu, etc. The notion of optimum health rings louder and truer during those times when I feel that I am about to get ill, and when I have an assignment to cover. And come to think of it, most of the times it’s not so much about how hard the assignment is — but rather, am I physically able and fit to do a good job?

I would also like to give thanks to my dad who has been ingraining in our family the awareness and importance of maintaining a healthy diet as a lifestyle choice and habit.

Admittedly, I haven’t had the chance to apply this as well as I did back home… I am still mindful of what I put into my body, of course, but only to a certain lesser, extent.

But alas, what is good health without managing one’s stress well? I hope to take on every challenge there is with a more ‘chilled’ approach — knowing and approaching every task as important but taking it easy at the same time, have fun, and just do my best.

Life

Lastly, I am thankful to be given this life to live.

And I want to be living it fully, trying different things, making mistakes, coming back up, making a good, lasting impact (small or big) wherever I go and with whoever I meet… and of course, creating lots of laughter and memories while I’m at it.

No one’s life is perfect, and mine isn’t either. But I am very happy with mine so far — come to think of it I do pretty much have almost everything, minus my non-existent love-life at the moment but I do believe everything will fall into place in its own place and time.

I must have done something right in my past life/ lives. And this serves as a reminder to continue to do good in this life I have right now.

What’s in store for 2018?

Being in a different big country and city, with an altogether new role — I daren’t think too far ahead and would like to take things as they come.

Truth is, at times I still have doubts on whether I can make it here (if you haven’t sensed my “subtlety” already).

A motto I hold dear to my heart and mind has done me well so far: I will give it my best shot, and if it doesn’t work out, it’s fine (I know I sound like a broken record saying this…). Because sometimes it’s either you have it, or you don’t.

Although, I do know the traits I want to continue to possess while I am still at this work-in-progress stage… I wish to: maintain a positive outlook in anything that comes my way, make good friendships, adding value to each assignment and stint I have here, to seek to unlearn and relearn as a daily process.

I hope the same way for each and everyone of you — that good things will come your way — if you believe and act on it.

Cheers to another fulfilling year 🙂

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ANOTHER FIRST(S): LIVE-CROSS!

Things are so fast-paced here, that tired and ain’t-so-good days don’t last long. Perhaps it’s a good thing for me (since I tend to over-think things…) as there are simply way too many things going on, one after another, that I have no time to sink myself down in sorrows.

If you ask me what happened last week, I will tell you I can’t believe it has only been a few days since I got assigned a night before to cover something in Chengdu — with no interviews confirmed yet, until we landed at the airport — and got a package out in less than two days. And this, for a topic I was completely unfamiliar with. Thank goodness for a colleague who willingly came with me to assist in the logistics and video-editing process (on his Mac, 谢谢宇恒!).

Today, I am happy I got sleep-in, do laundry, change bed-sheets, cook lunch, clean my studio, properly blog, cook dinner (even)… Days like these are rare, but when I have one or two of them, I sure cherish it.

And then… a phone call came asking if I can report on something the day after.

HAHAHA. So much for hoping for another day’s worth of rest……

Don’t get me wrong though, I am happy to be assigned. But perhaps I am also doing my rounds of rotation in the newsroom now, so scheduling wise I’d have to make sure expectations of both teams are aligned.

Something else I have realized about myself since I got here is: how I am able to stretch my body and mind in ways I never thought I could. Operating on an average of 4 hours of sleep a night the entire week, I was able to function and still deliver (new territories). I wouldn’t say I have been pampered, but I do treasure my rest to be able to perform well.

Speaking of which, comes my main topic for this post… having landed from Chengdu the night before, and having only slept for more than an hour (from already a few nights of deficits), I managed to deliver my first ever LIVE-cross! Or basically my first-time ever being live on TV lah. They were with our Washington DC bureau, and because of the time difference, emails were being sent back and forth during the wee hours of the morning.

I did a total of four live hits that morning, with each different program and slight tweaks in format. After I got the 0700 done, I remember breathing a slight sigh of relief, and proceeded to count down till the final one at 0930. What an experience.

Truly, my time here has been one of firsts.

If you recall, on the dot to mark my first month in Beijing, I was sent for my first assignment with my package aired (which was also my first time ever appearing on TV). On the dot to mark my second month, I did my first-ever new media live-streaming for China’s Double 11 festival. And now to commemorate my third month, I did my first live-cross.

What I have learned from this experience:

  • Anything that you don’t know, you can learn. It’s something I have always preached and psyched myself since my first job in a bank, but at critical, last-minute times only does this application truly manifests itself. Reporting, after all, is about understanding, picking the key points and links. I am referring to me knowing close to nothing about politics here, btw haha.
  • Change of mindset. I was used to mostly elaborating on things I have personally covered or people/ companies I have interviewed. Admittedly, it feels a bit strange reporting anything beyond as it is almost rehashing what others have written, unless it’s a press statement then it’s public info for all. But through this experience, I have come to accept that we can’t always be the first-hand and original source because at critical times, we just have to be the messenger from other reliable sources.
  • In this regard, I always try to find things to value-add to my script, be it a little background, context, or analysis to the topic. Or get an analyst’s comment. We may not always find it but we must at least try… I firmly stand by these criteria a journalist should have – accuracy, objectivity, to be able to give perspective.
  • Having learned various live-cross and TV terms such as ‘donut’, ‘ad lib answer’, ‘pick-up after the SOTs’ etc. It was pretty embarrassing, I tell you. It was 3-4 in the morning and I didn’t want to bother my colleagues (in Beijing) here, so I replied the various DC teams to ask for verification. They were all so understanding and kind to explain to a newbie like me. Thank you guys 🙂
  • To take a breather amidst it all. It can be nerve-wrecking especially when it is your first time and you know nothing about the logistics. I remember I got to the studio at 5.50 am when I could have at 6.40. I was worried because what happens if I can’t find the place, can I print notes (I am still very old school, not used to digital), or work the prompter, etc…

It’s also funny how life works out sometimes. It gives you the hardest challenges on your first try. But you really do learn the most from there — and on hindsight, you’d learn to appreciate the experience all the better. (This is perhaps why when the prompter didn’t work on the second day, I was calm because I had gone through more on the first — four lives with different programs and formats!)

I remember during my very first hit at 7am (pics below), it was still dark, and the producer in DC double-checked with me if this was a live shot (as it was still dark). Haha.

Also, my lips were so dry mid-way that I wasn’t sure if I could make it through the end…

Alas, things worked out well. The 大哥s at 建外 studio were so, so nice. Helpful, encouraging, and accommodating to my plenty anxious questions asked. Lol.

Didn’t know The Heat uploaded a link to this hit (my first!). It can be read here. I usually shudder to listen or watch myself on air, but I did for this one — once.

We always treasure our “firsts”, and whether we like it or not – this novelty will wear out sooner or later.

And this is why I want to remember and cherish this first experience by penning it down here.

Having crossed over to DC aside, on my second day I also did two live-crosses with Beijing. All in: 0800, 0930, 1200, 1900 BJT. (Although they all refer to GMT here…)

P.S. Pics below were sent by my parents and a colleague in office.

If my previous challenges were, well, challenging… nothing would prepare me for this: serious lack of sleep (throughout the week), first attempt, completely unfamiliar topic, didn’t know what to expect. But I got through it, miraculously. Again I know I sound dramatic, but I do place a lot of undue pressure on me.

(I still find it extremely hard to balance depth in just a three minutes segment — having come from a print background. And I need to make sure my numbers are accurate from the original source!)

It’s my first time working in a TV station, and in a different big city, with a different language to get things around/ done.

Just like how China has skipped a cycle when it comes to payment services, I feel the same way about my journey too in broadcast.

But honestly though, I do feel very lucky to be here. And I am hoping I will continue to do the company, my family, my country, my dear ones, and ultimately myself justice, in this role.