Year in Career: 2018

27655369_10155931140251826_2433362527849250643_n

Early in 2018, somewhere over Nawabshah, Pakistan, at 30,000 feet.  We’ve been flying through turbulence for nearly two hours.  I really need to go to the toilet.  I close my eyes and lament all the water and tea I drank today.  Then I lament the lamentation because it’s so liquid-based.  Squeeze legs closed, look out the window to the sandy mountains to encourage desert-y thoughts.  It’s no good.  I can feel water on my foot.

Wait.  It’s not water, it’s wee.  I can just tell, it kind of stings and feels uric.  Bother!! (I promised my husband I wouldn’t get jailed for swearing in Arabia).  I know I’ve let standards slip over the years but has it come to this?!  I’m relaxed enough to actually urinate in public in international airspace?

I sink into my seat in shame.  The seatbelt sign is still on so I can’t do anything, might as well at least enjoy the relief of not needing to go anymore.  This is my life now.  Fuck megolly gosh.  But…there is no relief.  In fact I need to go more than ever.  What is going on here?  How much tea did I actually drink?  I open my eyes and look around the cabin, maybe for a doctor-looking person who can check if I have a bladder obstruction.  There is a tiny penis blocking my view.  Attached to the tiny penis is a boy, about 4, sitting in the row in front of me.  While his parents sleep, he is standing on his seat and weeing on me.  Like, a lot.  How much tea did HE drink today!

27655261_10155931140386826_7330006315517381410_n

(The tiny-peened fiend.  Looks innocent, no?)

Luckily I’m a parent, I always know exactly the appropriate thing to say in such circs.

“WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING?!”

(I don’t think there are any Arabian authorities in earshot and also I feel confident they would agree this is the only possible response.)

The pissing boy doesn’t speak English.  He doesn’t say anything but he’s cute and guileless as he pulls up his Totoro trackpants.

It’s another 25 minutes before they turn the seatbelt sign off and I can attempt to wash my foot in the bathroom, and another three hours until we land.

Please let me into your country.  I know I have wee foot but I have other things to offer if you just give me a chance. And some wet wipes.

**

So this is how steno in 2018 is gonna be, huh?  What sort of harbinger is a wee foot?  As it turns out, not an entirely inaccurate one.  This has been the hardest year of my personal life to date.  The whole thing with the wee foot a mere droplet on the surface of a surfeit of difficulties.  Wee foot was probably the least of my concerns.  I’d have stuck my foot in a bucket of unfamiliar toddlers’ piddle to have had a few more breaks this year.  On the other foothand, I still have steno, and this year steno provided me with the same counterpoint it always has: satisfaction, challenge, adventure, and an aerial fucktonne of frequent flyer miles.

I’m still lucky.

Here is my annual collection of some work highlights this year from the world of international arbitration, captioning, and depositions.  (Wrap-ups from previous years can be found here).  As ever, this doesn’t include those I couldn’t capture because of confidentiality or prudence.

Pants down and let’s do this.

29365575_10156040300746826_7427641692091580416_o

Absolute favourite view of 2018: both vista and coffee

January
Like Lance Armstrong at the Giro d’Italia, I began the year with some…cheating?  I spent a lot of the month in hospital working out how to manage my autoimmune disease As one can imagine, stenoing when one’s fingers are the size of mortadellas presents a challenge.  After a mere seven years of cowardice – I’m not very brave – I finally summonsed the courage to begin monthly immuno-suppressing infusions, and my fingers returned to their normal size.

49211018_10156701530476826_1282074216329379840_n
A lot of talk about AI this year.  A human is always better, okay! 
Even one powered by biologic medicine!

So, slightly more slender-fingered, I headed off to an international arbitration in snowy Japan.

Most majestic in ethereal beauty: icicle-draped ToSnowkyo.

27173424_10155903120916826_3124753624819787396_o

Best in hotel views after three hours’ sleep (my flight was delayed and landed at Haneda at 2am).  It was 1°.  I had time to do only one thing to help me get through day 1 of the arbitration: breakfast, or going outside and sticking my head in the snow?

27164638_10155898209126826_2237316399490433732_o

Chose breakfast.  A crystal grand piano, and udon with a garnish of tiny wood shavings. (Delicious, regret only getting two but hardly need to be coughing up a splinter during opening submissions, UNPROFESSIONAL.)

 

The two-week hearing was held in the infamous Hotel New Otani, built in the 1960s to accommodate Olympic visitors, later the scene of many gatherings of the heads of the big Yakuza families.  This is a hotel with history.  And the hearing room had a link to my own history, with its fancy circa-1987 Marantz sound system.  Sorry to be one of those “in my day” reporters but…in my day…court reporting looked like this.  IT STILL WORKED.  Old friend.  I gave it a pat.  Because it is in Japan, it probably also dispenses hot cans of coffee.  Every other machinated device does.

Most wistful in memories:

27331779_10155901043636826_5210875055946622472_n

Goldenest in garish rooms:

 

Most apparent fulfillment of job responsibilities:

27368969_10155909929641826_6819378325519566454_o

Talking!  Quick talking!  And a lot of it!
Thanks, it is our job?

Inaugural chance to use of not just “bain marie” but “bains marie” in a status update.  Come on.  We all got in the game for words.  And breakfast buffets with views like this.  Bonus points for tenuous tip of Mount Fuji in the background.

27331619_10155906356571826_4833623521935980380_n

Early entry for biggest cultural faux pas, always a hotly contested category.  The hotel is built around a 400-year-old garden that was previously the property of various samurai warlords.  The hotel website itself notes this, as well as their hope that “..you will come and enjoy the Japanese aesthetics and seasonal features when you come to stay with us”.  Well.  I guess they didn’t expect me, desperate to escape a bunch of lawyers one lunchtime, to go and sit on a rock-shaped seat out there and eat my sushi.  When I stood to leave and checked I hadn’t dropped anything, I realised it was a decorative rock that happened to be chair-shaped, not actually a chair, and I probably definitely shouldn’t have sat on it.

27336656_10155909888491826_8727625484482326586_n

Sumimasen 😦

Worst in shopkeepers: this octogenarian hampering the traditional last-day rush for souvenirs by failing to wake up.  She wasn’t dead, just snoring.  How are people supposed to buy shiba inu bagtags around here, hello!

27750122_10155911219376826_697988733544122670_n

#muchdilemma
#suchproblem
#veryzzzz

February
Having offended the warrior ghosts of the Pacific Rim, it was time to throw off the pashmina and throw on the head-covering and see how many people I could offend in the United Arab Emirates.  It’s hard to guess really!

27749996_10155934648021826_1226414771194474276_n

27655196_10155934647631826_2534523448116296125_n

Constant life view – airport travelators.
Palm trees optional but always appreciated.

Favourite in transport: these lovely pink-scarved ladies of the female-only taxi service.

27750489_10155933356516826_1942503583821101619_n

Most extreme time difference.  Note the year is 1439.  I was confident I could acclimate with all these labneh-based breakfast foods to chivvy me along.  Good morning!

27748026_10155934624206826_7414831673237280254_o

I did go there to steno but first, importantly, the food.  Oh the food.

 

Have now reported in an Emirati court of appeal. It was slightly different to, say, the Melbourne Magistrates, mainly in the distinct lack of sunglasses on backs of necks.

27973345_10155953476041826_7621220224114259777_n
Best in gates: entrance to the court complex.  On the left, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai.  And on the right, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, late “Father of the UAE”.  50 metres high!  There’s a tiny man walking through the middle, can you see him?  His Lilliputian scale represents the sense one gets walking through.  Probably even more diminished as a woman.  But I mean either way, yeah, basically an ant under the anvil of justice.

46709246_10156623121831826_2557313138236063744_o

It’s funny that you can have lunch in the desert here, where the tallest thing you’ll see is a small hardy bush or the roof of a dune buggy, and you can also sit under these monolithic buildings just down the street, but a speck of sand.

 

Best carpark view of the year, for sure.  This was the carpark at my hotel, where I stood every morning waiting for my Lady Taxi to court.

27751629_10155944713906826_4618124952649882383_n

Oh just the Burj Khalifa.  And leave your ticket on the dashboard.

Having completed a week in court, I moved on to the less intimidating surrounds of the Ritz Carlton.  I’ve been lucky enough to stay and/or work in a lot of Ritz Carltons over the years.  They’re all a 10 in luxe.  Is it possible the Dubai one is…a 10.5 or even an 11?

 

Most difficult commuting choice: turn right for Abu Dhabi, turn left for the arbitration…and an East African quantum expert hot-tub.

27657499_10155934648106826_1410616601187989879_n

Wrong way go back…

This particular arbitration featured a range of East African parties, from Rwandan to Ugandan to Tanzanian to Burundian.  I’ve been to many of these countries when I was younger but at the time didn’t anticipate one day requiring a finely attuned understanding of their various accents.  I basically just learned “jambo” (hello), “asante” (thank you) and “pole pole” (slow down!!  Used when speeding in a public bus and the driver hadn’t noticed some rutting goats in the roadway).  None of which have much currency in the arbitration space.

I had to look out the window with my face screwed up to parse a lot of the evidence.  An endless parade of Rolls Royces and Bugattis passed by down below in the driveway.  They all had matte paint because the desert heat damages regular duco – I did not know this.  Now I’m going to laugh really hard at my neighbour with his matte Lambo back home.  We live in Hong Kong it is 93% humidity idiot.

*cough*

 

An early finish on the last afternoon left me with just enough time to do one of my favourite activities: the double-decker tourist bus.  Yes, I still do this in cities I’ve been to many times before.  I even do it in the city I was born.  Best in nana, darl.

 

A quick trip to the spice souq.  The sales guys here are absolute pros, asking everyone where they were from and then greeting them in their own language.  The big bunch of mainland Chinese tourists in front of me got “gong xi fa cai”, but when I said I was from Hong Kong, they ripped out “gong hai fat choi” without hesitation.  That is some impressive geographical specificity.  Probably not enough to justify the amount of dirhams I spent but still.

Most aromatic in excursions, in a close call (I do live in Asia so…)

 

Sped past the Dubai Frame, with a chance to grab possible best photo from speeding vehicle window…

27972320_10155934647791826_4357464130675129002_n

Nailed it?

And just time for a spectacular dinner on the waterfront…

 

27973632_10155953351841826_8500228663616102878_n

..some quick neck exercises under the Burj…

27972064_10155950237136826_5139184362736577117_n

..and I was outta there, having succeeded in (a) writing eight days of dailies while (b) offending no-one!  That I know of!

27867464_10155953583531826_6966143334946995965_n

Party on the outside and the inside!
Just kidding I’m already wearing my sleep mask on my forehead…
Dubye, Dubai

With a few days still left in February, it was, yet again…

28167063_10155964574666826_8931010157455925782_n

Is it ever really though?
Course it is.  Love you Taipers.

I must have been to Taipei 20 times and I’ve never stayed in the same hotel twice. So how do they all have the same view, right down to the Sev bottom right?

28422983_10155966457136826_5577650512370928683_o

#breathtaking vista
#breathtakingvistasofig

Me rolling in to breakfast at every overseas job.

Server:  Wah! Working again?!  Never stop!
Me, with too-loud casual laugh:  I know!  They work us to the bone huh?
Server:  Well that was lost in translation, but here is your seat, enjoy.  I like your bag, it’s huge.
Me:  Yes, all the better to load up with breakfast items so I don’t have to worry about lunch and dinner.  I mean thanks.

^That’s a little tip for new international reporters.  It is wise to load up at breakfast if there’s a western buffet in your hotel, because you never know what lunch is going to be.

28168486_10155978403411826_4193257982056765710_n

The mystery lunch box.  It was delicious btw. 

Wisest in sayings:

28377561_10155978403491826_2625543280489462000_n
But was this sage Taiwanese aphorism cancelled out by the Hello Kitty taxi door light?

28378407_10155978403581826_1050091995628069335_n

Most unlikely juxtaposition…

28279247_10155978403626826_1602380880985024675_n

First time Gorm the Old and Hello Kitty have appeared in a blog post together?

March
Another month, another flight with a dubious companion.

28782875_10155986562086826_1320297295871663615_n

HEY HEY HEY NOT THIS TIME, YOUNG CUZ.  NOT THIS TIME.
And where were you on the night of 10 Feb.

By the way I do go home between all these trips to keep pumping myself full of inflammation-killing infusions, also to get clean jox, pat my dogs, and remind my kids and husband what I look like.  I’m not an animal.  I’m a robot.  No wait…

This thankfully uneventful flight ended in gorgeous Penang, Malaysia, and it was after midnight when I finally settled in my hotel and drew back the curtains to reveal…the stadium where I’d be captioning for 14,000 people the next day.

28516187_10155987207431826_8252596693474182419_o

At first I was a little agitated that they put me in a hotel room staring right at it but then it lit up pink and I was sure it was going to help me write better.  How good’s pink!

It was a successful first day.  The satisfaction of pulling off readable bilingual captions for an audience this big, often in stadiums with less-than-optimal audiovisual systems, is very exhilarating.

28661021_10155989974726826_6540656091531312863_n

One thing that helps us do it is this life-saving switching box.

28684947_10155989028036826_4871129033859523266_n

28576812_10155989027971826_5272392880629701191_n

The black headphones play English and the white headphones play Chinese.  I like to listen to English in my left ear and Chinese in my right.  I can control it by switching between “floor” and “relay” on the switching box pictured, but I usually just leave one side set on each.

These big events usually run for three 12-hour days, and day 2 and 3 require a bit more in than simply exhilaration to get through.  Luckily, in Malaysia, the Red Bull is golden.  I think that means it’s extra potent.

 

Toilet break.  Remember I’m still in Malaysia, where the national outfit is a kebaya, not a kimono.  Do you know how hard it is for me to remember which country I’m in on any given day as it is?  I don’t need people randomly wearing their national costume in foreign countries.  This is to get me back for the rock chair/not chair thing, isn’t it, Japan.

28471315_10155991553516826_7390657413627702084_nOnce again I have missed a memo,
this time in re the dress code for the toilet queue.

I stepped outside momentarily to try to recalibrate my brain before the final session.  Wished I could’ve found the crank to retract the roof.  What a beautiful sky…

28516817_10155992852731826_3491011908926439591_o

 

The way back to Hong Kong from Malaysia is via Singapore.  I have sworn to not work in Singapore this year after approximately 7,400 work trips there over the years.  Transit doesn’t count though.  And if you’re transiting through Changi Airport and you don’t grab a kopi directly from the Heavenly Wang, you have failed.

28471705_10155995464951826_6525833856092024887_n
Directly.from the heavenly wang.

Back home in Hong Kong for some weeks of depositions.

29178804_10156019992036826_8303839630638186496_o
Do you know what would be a good addition to this display of opulence on every corner though?  A Kmart.  Like, I’m going to start a petition.

What do we want?
Bras that fit!
Also unnecessary kitchen gadgets!
And generic cola!
But mainly bras.

Speaking of bras and clothes in general, it was time for the annual trip to Macau for the Asian Film Awards.  What, they do wear bras at the Asian Film Awards, I’m almost certain.  I myself was definitely wearing one.  And lucky, because the ferry trip was during a strong monsoon.  Of course, of course.  This seems to happen every time I have to take the ferry to Macau.  Fun fact, my first job was a swimming teacher, I can probably save myself if the ferry runs aground.  But those Zhuhai waters look cold.  And dirty.

29313312_10156030876696826_5481638584899338240_n

Mariner’s prayers welcomed.
(Dumb barge sway lol)

On solid ground in Macau, we headed for the Venetian Theatre to begin preparations.  They play the gala winner’s theme on loop throughout the entire rehearsal day.  Doing dictionary prep with a cinematic fanfare being piped directly into your ear really gets you in the mood.  I’m going to try it for depositions and arbitrations in 2019.

[Insert thrilling woodwind flourish]

29541172_10156049487516826_7503057116800013802_n

I love the Thai people but I wish they weren’t so successful at film-making.

SUCH AN UNFORTUNATE TEST TEXT (listening to BBC news while doing my captions test during gorgeous America’s Got Talent export Celine Tam’s rehearsal).  Put YOU on ice.

29511224_10156049487836826_929023515816057731_n

This was my seventh time doing this event but my first time providing broadcast and in-room captions at exactly the same time.  Challenges abounded, albeit fringed with glitter and sparkles.  We made very technical arrangements including sticking duct tape on my laptop to show where my steno had to fall to appear both in-arena and on the live TV broadcast.  Not easy.  I’ve rarely used my eyes so often on a captioning job.

Apparently famous area actress arrives on red carpet outside as final English/Chinese captions test is signed off.  They looked beautiful.  She looked beautiful.  Everything is beautiful!

29261321_10156032801241826_467423064645173248_o

Lights, camera, actionrehearse…

 

Finally, we started. And by that I mean the elderly production guy sitting directly outside my booth started loudly re-enacting the “Noises Dads Make” clip.  I mean I wouldn’t say I’m under NO pressure, kindly stop clearing your throat sir.

29497463_10156049487766826_2001507109532217182_n
29497120_10156049487381826_3472215769021504634_n
29497806_10156049488156826_8698747198571169724_n

We were ultimately successful in inputting six languages and outputting two to four different sources (in-room, TV and bilingual livestream).  At the start of the day I would’ve thought the ultimate result would be the downfall of the entire casino operations of the Venetian but no!  Unlikely success!

There’s no award for best captions but maybe one day there will be.  I swear, should I be lucky enough to win, my acceptance speech will be shorter than this blog post.  And in only one language.

29497163_10156049487556826_959727367352039472_n

See you next year, AFAs.

**
At the end of March, everything changed.
At the end of March, we found out my beautiful younger brother had passed away, almost certainly on the day I took the photo of that epic exploding pastel sunset in Penang.
Work is different now, less important, and also in some ways more important.  My brother was very proud of my career.  I’ll never hear him try to explain to one of his mates what it is I do again, but I’ll never forget the times he did, his deep voice resonating with pride.

We went home to Australia for two weeks, to sky and love.

 

 

As for me, as long as this somewhat broken body and significantly broken heart complies…
I will never stop chasing cool fucking things in his honour.
**

April
We returned to Asia and different me went up to Taiwan to ease back into work.  Look at this picture.  You’d reckon we were in a ski lodge, not the tropics.

31076454_10156121934586826_3511024507647164416_n

Off-piste and pissed off?

Next, it was up to China again.  A trip into mainland China is never straightforward, but after all these years living in Hong Kong, it’s usually reasonably simple for me these days.  Me entering the mainland any other of the approximately 100 previous times I’ve entered:
1. Get China visa.
2. Cross at any border checkpoint.
3. Enjoy all the dumplings.

Me trying to enter this time, with new restrictions in place and a recently expired visa:
Steps 1-748.  Various bullshit.  Discover I’ll have to enter China at a Hong Kong land border, travel to Shenzhen airport, and then take my flight to Shanghai, instead of flying directly from Hong Kong to Shanghai.
Step 749.  Go to border checkpoint at Lok Ma Chau.

31230597_10156130333861826_6863199813060526080_n

So close (it even says China on the road!) yet so soooo far

Step 750.  Go to Huanggang visa office to pick up visa.  Don’t sit anywhere.

31252874_10156130333996826_7505604917701115904_n

Hygienic times at the visa office.
This guy was trying desperately to climb the counter.
Man he just wants a visa like everyone else. I guess.

Step 751.  Drive across border in a Customs bus.

31184659_10156130334471826_2125370472005632000_n

Point of no return.  La.

Step 752.  Less than an hour before the flight and we’ve just crossed the border,
now waiting while Customs police check the bus for stowaways.  Mate who would do it.  The other way around maybe.

31206255_10156130334291826_1842114363767390208_n

Step 753.  Finally through the checkpoint, we in fact engaged in so much gambling, picking this guy up off the street to get us to the airport asap.

 

31301463_10156130333666826_803604152201510912_n

He only cost hundreds of yuan too…

Step 754.  Arrive at airport gate with one solitary Mao, its raggedy state representative of the general spirit of the travelling party.

31180305_10156130334806826_2104053295185133568_n

Step 755:  Fly to Shanghai, actual intended destination, on Shenzhen Air.  Survive.

31190075_10156130335251826_7088616691940196352_n
In conclusion, bu yao.

But then again, Shanghai, my absolute favourite Asian city.   The beautiful thing about Shangers is every time you look up from your computer you see something gorgeous/architecturally significant/a panda.

 

I feel at home in Shanghai.  I had a nice hotel room overlooking the Bund and in between sessions at the job, I just lay here and looked at the Huangpu River flowing past.  Life hey.  Me laying on a couch in China about to caption for the French ambassador hey.   Can’t stop crying hey.

31384974_10156134683251826_7799162466344108032_n
I should have taken more time off work.  But if I had, I wouldn’t have met this little Shanghainese friend who sat opposite me at the communal breakfast table.  We couldn’t stop smiling at each other, her because of my clearly ludicrous displays of knife, fork, toast and cereal, me because I was feeling so sad and alone, also she was ADORABLE.

Favourite in dining companions:

31286582_10156134714976826_6797655012940972032_n

Knife and fork lolwhut

I excused myself to attend a rehearsal.  The event was an exhibition launch for Fondation Cartier and it was being held at an abandoned power plant because art.

31317882_10156135827266826_6741773227812454400_n

First time working in a public utility installation.

It did have a prime location and the inside had been transformed beautifully.  Not a generator to be seen.

 

After a dawn rehearsal..

49115887_10156705394241826_2335691928114298880_n

…and a nap, I found myself standing in a sudden downpour waiting for a DiDi (Chinese Uber) back to the venue.  I saw on my phone that the Duchess of Cambridge was in labour.  Which one of us was in greater travails?  PS I guessed a girl for the Cambridges, Alexandra or Alice.  And for the DiDi driver, a 55-year-old who’s been chain-smoking in his car since 1994.

Wrong on both counts.

Our Chinese colleagues invited us for a fancy lunch before the job:

 

Ancient Chinese wisdom: eat crab before stenoing,
get power of 10 hands

So, another job for Cartier, another job where I left with only the diamonds I arrived with, DISAPPOINTING.  But I did see Ron Mueck’s “In Bed”, which was gargantuan and also representative of my general feelings at this time.  I wanted to climb in next to her.  Stop taking pictures you art people with hats, just let me and my sculptural friend go back to sleep okay.

31350798_10156135826686826_4385402097319804928_n

Move over lady.

At night was the gala dinner, the most beautiful setting I’ve ever written in, inside a power plant or not.

 

Front of house was so opulent, back of house was…a tent…with rain driving through the door.  There was no catering for us but not to worry because I’d racked the longan fruits on display in the hotel.

31354790_10156135930131826_461999440073326592_n

The best part was listening to the head chef and sous chef, who had flown in from Paris, nearly come to blows on the other side of the curtain wall as they struggled to cook a diplomatic feast in a leaking tent.  The second-best part was when I found some airline socks in my handbag.  It was really too cold.

31369704_10156135929831826_2025719714545664000_n

I’d prepped so hard about contemporary art but what did they mostly talk about? Baroque music. You can’t win this job sometimes.  I’m still proud of us.

The guests of honour were various ambassadors to China.  We rotated English, Chinese and French captions depending on who was speaking.  There was a piano recital before the speeches.  I had to fingerspell “pianist” a lot of times.  You know it’s in 60 ways and you know I still would have got it wrong in the face of the diplomatic community.  Pianist.  Pianisté!  Pénis!  Je suis désolé pour mon erreur atroce!

31344954_10156135930011826_7713524370399821824_n

31357978_10156135930696826_2304208533639397376_n

See you next time, Shangers.

31301977_10156134683846826_3758427598992965632_n

May
Worst in sanitation: this anonymous law firm in Hong Kong.

THIS LAW FIRM: Who takes their phones in the toilet?
EVERYONE IN THE ROOM: Not me, no, never, who would do that, gross, fecal-borne parasites etc etc.
THIS LAW FIRM: Bullshit, you all do, in fact one of you is going to take a picture for this very post in there.

**

What a surprise, it was me. And look: there is a PHONE SANITISER in each cubicle. What a (terrible) time to be alive.

#incentivisinggonewrong
#telecommunicationsgonewrong
#toiletsgonewrong
#lawfirmsgonewrong
#lifegonewrong
#wrong
32224599_10156164884876826_7015734799188885504_o

Loveliest in coffee catch-ups: when Cheryl and I solved the world’s problems in 40 minutes before work.  Steno sans frontières!

32231537_10156168655266826_7659709671426490368_n

Latest to the game: this new device.  I finally got on the external keyboard tip for depositions.  Maybe I’m late jump on this, I am 38, I heard it happens, but see those three yellow buttons at the top?  It pairs to three devices at once!  I can edit on my laptop during evidence but I can also be on my phone WHILE IT’S IN MY HANDBAG.  I do a lot of tech conferences where they have free-thinking robots but the more money boffins can pour into R&D for devices like this the better all our lives will be.

#thefuture
#candycrush

32231150_10156169945456826_6317459789299318784_n

Worst in accommodation: “Shenzhen Investment Mansion Hotel”.  I’ve stayed in some dives in my time but none exceeded this one, with smoking parties in the barely moving elevators and actual visible bugs in the bed.  No sleep was achieved.  (Only working for the UN the next day, no big deal.)

32476389_10156176802536826_557167415612407808_o

But to be honest if they can fix the bed bugs and smoking they can rise to 5-star, with this ancient Greek frieze in the lobby complete with traditional drumkit and acoustic guitar.

#understated
#luxe
#hihat

Some people think that’s a steno machine near her feet but I think it’s a piano in the wrong aspect ratio.  The whole of mainland China tends to be in the wrong aspect ratio.

We arrived at 9pm but our rooms weren’t ready yet.  I guess everyone was trying to get in to the investment manse, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  They suggested we go for dinner across the road, where I found my second-favourite in dining companions:

32395204_10156177656291826_299898410725539840_o

“Good evening.”
“How do you do.  Haven’t seen you around Futian for a while.”
“No, and I’m starting to remember why.”
“Indeed.  Btw I know I look dignified from this angle but I’ve actually got shapes groomed into my fur, including two balls reminiscent of large hairy testes in the middle of my back.  You’ll see them when I stand up to lick the waiter on his bare hands.”
“I’m so sorry.  Speaking of regretful incidents, I’m staying at the Investment Mansion.”
“SHIT.  On balance I’d rather be me.”
“Touche.  Enjoy your dinner sir.”

This job itself was maybe the highlight of the year: captioning at China’s celebration of the 60th anniversary of the New York Convention.  As the convention has 159 signatory states and is considered the foundational instrument for international arbitration, which has been and is a big part of my life, it was quite important.

32659815_10156180934646826_1712700878810513408_n

This lady was sweeping the floor before we began.  She didn’t want me to take this photo and kept walking through it reallllllly slowwwwlllly with her broom.

32662576_10156178969361826_1810309143098032128_o

Best at putting me back in my box.  Respect.  Sweeping IS important too dammit ♥️

Highest in blood pressure:

32743339_10156180933511826_4648957156211556352_n

See the very long captions screens to the left and right?  I prefer not to caption in this format because if you make a mistake it’s visible f.o.r.e.v.e.r.  Sometimes the mistakes are by the interpreters and I’m thinking about some subtle new notations for those times.
[I CAN ONLY WORK WITH WHAT IM GIVEN]
[STOP HANGING ME OUT TO DRY]

There are about six people in the world who would think maintaining this level of concentration on your own from 9am-6.30pm is fun, especially with the subject matter; luckily I’m one of them.  But if any of the other five of you want to sharewrite on the next projector job, please come!  Must have interest in not having lunch or using the bathroom.  Applicants with large supply of lollies favourably considered.

I was on a natural high after this job for days.

On an artificial high: HK’s ex Secretary for Justice making her wonderful speech.  See her red platform.

32687938_10156180934366826_4060397030063734784_n

Biggest thrill: the originally ratified Convention document.  Well I was excited!

32804412_10156180934501826_7497121369449037824_n

Suddenly: Seoul.  Againagainagainagain.

32747830_10156183089141826_2071654136373313536_n

I made it even though the DRK pulled out of the talks scheduled that day.  I could see the North from my depo site.  Come on Kimmy Jong, give us a wave, I’ll salute you with my confusingly tiny cup, THE CHALICE OF PEACE.

32839182_10156183089041826_3180403564493144064_n

Pointless thumb-sized coffee cup.  Just a drop!

Most coveted national costume: the bottom half of this stunning concierge’s hanbok.  I was desperate to create a disturbance so I could steal this and wear it to a royal wedding party.

32681106_10156183128241826_4248045001629499392_n

Then, something odd…

Client: Hello, how do you feel about coming to Beijing to caption for us again, using your steno machine, topic: AI advances in speech recognition?
Me: Confused. Also can someone clean a mirror every now and then brah.

33170056_10156193056011826_8653523313689100288_n

Yes, this was an AI conference, which seems an odd place to showcase the ancient yet adaptive art of stenography.

33362084_10156199339821826_5881530487180099584_n

There were 1,000 developers in the room and 150,000 on the livestream, and they know it was steno, and now they can see the benchmark they’re aiming for.  This technology is coming for us no matter what, whether it’s next year or in five years or 10.  Rather than getting angry or lamenting it, we might as well put our energy into making them work to catch us.

I’m proud of steno and I’m proud to be the lure. RUN FASTER BOYS!

33338131_10156199339466826_8905142400767229952_o

Chairman’s speech.  Tough French accent, huge crowd. 
Nice to get this one out of the way first.

33308726_10156199339246826_1647769107963052032_n

 

Most ominous sign:

33436542_10156199339756826_1377040594693521408_n

The most eye-opening tech conference I’ve done in a while.  I had lots to think about as I left Beijing.

33396696_10156199339046826_27760469578088448_n

Somehow, it had only been a month since I’d returned to Asia from Australia, and I’d worked in Taipei, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Seoul, and Beijing.  It was delightful to have a week at home climbing mountains (okay driving, driving up mountains)(okay Joel drove, I was asleep in the front seat).  What a city we live in.

33982915_10156208946966826_4995921373344825344_n

33864844_10156208946466826_4240518758638026752_n
33774390_10156208946831826_9035513779395231744_n

Best in epic home-town vistas: Fei Ngo Shan, New Territories, Hong Kong.

June
Kicked off June with the Hong Kong Court Reporters Association AGM.  Present: Brandy, me.  Once we invited the lady selling noodles in the kiosk, and both the lifeguards, we had a quorum.  Lucky because there was no-one else around.

34340929_10156223150916826_2567362438290735104_n

Seaside stenos.

Loudest in auditory challenges: taking a deposition at the site of the Beijing rail-link.

35129658_10156241046786826_7672718826718363648_n

The deposition is about to start. For the last hour, someone has been using a sonically loud vacuum nearby.  I don’t know what kind of intermittent mess they’re cleaning up but it runs in cycles, on for a few minutes, then off, then on again, with strange banging noises in between.  This will never do, I’m charged with providing a verbatim record of this witness’s testimony, not just a few lines every page and I take my obligation VERY SERIOUSLYYYY.

I grab the sleeve of a passing attendant.

Me: So can you get your colleague to turn the vacuum off, can’t you see we’re about to engage in a high-stakes source code discovery process.
Her: Madam that is not a vacuum.
Me: So okay whatever it is.  Industrial washing machine?  Floor buffer?  It’s that Nescafe pod thing, isn’t it, they’re so unnecessarily loud for the return.
Her: Madam please look out the window, that is a rock-breaker for the high-speed rail link to Beijing.  They are literally drilling into the harbour as we speak.
Me: Well shit. Should I…speak to the manager or…?
Her: [scoffing] Xi Jinping?  Yeah let me just call him.
I mean you could try…

It didn’t work.

Best storm in a teacup…

35195616_10156243951726826_4685072402332254208_o

One of my first jobs when I was a teenager was a florist’s assistant.  It was so long ago I got paid with coins inside an ANZ Bank envelope.  Now I just loiter around hearing rooms waiting until everyone goes for lunch so I can take pictures of flower arrangements instead.  If someone comes in and asks me what I’m doing I just say “taking time to smell the roses”. “But they are orchids?” “how about you don’t blow my buzz you LAWYER”

Favourite in hearing room floral arrangements:

 

I spent three weeks deposing a witness in a mirrored ballroom and measured the days by the path of the sun and moon across the sky like a medieval farmer.

35564297_10156258798351826_5106241821705502720_n     35755951_10156258800296826_5180013872198713344_n35549999_10156258800526826_7874674609952391168_n

Then a deposition view from the 51st floor, overlooking – with tens of thousands of others – the world’s least private pool.  Apart from our witness crazily treading water, there were no other signs of swimming.

35882066_10156262887606826_2889692569850085376_n

Then it had been a minute since I’d been to Taipei, so…

 

Worked in Taipei 101, the tallest building in the world until the completion of the Burj Khalifa in 2010.  Nice synchronicity to report under the beams of both this year.

36267566_10156279099596826_6757593009702830080_n

My depositions had an unexpected early finish.  Felt like one side of my hotel room was telling me to work on a seasonal erhu composition but the other side was telling me to work on a nap, I WONDER WHICH ONE WON 🤔😂

 

And as “Bye-bai Dubai” always gives me a moment of joy, so does this: BYE-BEI TAIPEI!

36312674_10156279100121826_1693647068150628352_n

July
Important.  Took a break to go pat elephants at a sanctuary in Thailand.

 

 

Then back into the stadium for some more bilingual captioning.

36737322_10156301435201826_1667298229768683520_n

 

36776633_10156301435651826_3666366847608946688_n

This particular job had a big tech issue that I’m going to blame on K-pop, which already has a lot to answer for.  There was a Korean boy band doing a show in the hall next door.  Not sure what happened but as soon as they kicked off, the transmitting power in our audio booths went down.

36734021_10156301526191826_330569321942089728_o

We were mid-session so made a quick decision that I would act as the relay interpreter.  You know at places like the UN General Assembly, where they sometimes need interpretation from an obscure language into 30 other languages, they will choose one language with standardised grammatical rules, articles etc (maybe English or German) to act as the relay out to the other languages?  Like that.

We got the simultaneous interpreters to come out of their booths and stand in mine and interpret directly at me.  As the transmitters were down, we unplugged everything and let the unmixed audio stream in loudly from the floor so the interpreters could hear.  Consequently it was really hard to hear the interpreters speaking over the raw audio . And I was trying to go extra fast to give the Chinese interpreters a chance.  They would read my steno off our backstage monitors and interpret it to the Chinese steno for them to write, like some kind of four-man/lady Chinese whispers.  The whole scenario wasn’t quite realtime speed but we were close.

All the interpreters couldn’t fit in my booth, of course, so we had them arrayed outside the door and my tech guy would try to make an educated guess based on clothing and haircut of each incoming speaker’s mother tongue, and then pull the appropriate interpreter in.  Here you see the Korean interpreter whispering to me and the Japanese guy standing by.  We messed that pair up a lot – Koreans and Japanese wear similar hats and short-sleeved shirts and bow to a similar angle too.  Ideally they would have both sat under my desk on standby but, you know, “health and safety”.

This was a tough weekend, even without the interference of K-pop stars.  I started captioning in Hong Kong at 0700, finished at 1756, threw everything in steno case, bolted to shuttle bus, flew through airport via staff channels, boarded plane as doors were closing at 1920, and got to Taipei hotel at 0100 the next day, just a few hours before my depo started, and not long before Super Typhoon Maria was going to smash the city.

36778568_10156304286156826_4146231397423513600_o

I like cheese?  This is fun, you tell me something.

As I settled in bed for my four-hour sleep, I decided I wouldn’t be too depressed if it caused things to cancel – I hadn’t done any prep yet, wasn’t 100% sure where my iPads and tripods are, was tongue-tied from trying to say iPads and tripods, and had debilitating lactic acid build-up.  The price you pay for being able to run 0-100(metres) through airports in 19.5 seconds baby 😂

36903175_10156306209371826_731306147369189376_n

The day before cat-5 Super Typhoon Maria.
Not a cloud in the sky.

Shortly after lunch, the government shut the city down to ride out the typhoon.  Everyone had to run from the depo site to the hotel but I got lucky, I was able to fly instead.  Seeya!

36930036_10156308052036826_1984412123547041792_n

*Flaps off*

36964801_10156310918836826_1246865311387353088_n

The calm before the storm.

It was all over quickly and within a day we were back out on the streets having dinner dates.  Taiwan is famous for its faux-meat style vegetarian cuisine.  This little place is rated very highly.  You wouldn’t believe it but most of its TripAdvisor reviews say “no frills”.  Those two fans are pretty fancy on a steamy Taipei night if you ask me.  They look like they’re gonna walk right over and oscillate directly at us.

 

Also the food was.. frilly…good. And so were my long-time-no-see companions.

The depositions had a few frills in re unintelligible bookshelves but we’re used to that in international reporting.

 

“Madam Court Reporter, would you be so kind as to reach behind you and pass me the latest authority we have on Taiwanese judicial application of res judicata as it relates to the doctrine of collateral estoppel?”

“I mean I could if I wanted to but I don’t so basically yeah no”

Popped in at home to collect some washing and say hi.  Then back to my real home, the airport.  We sat on the tarmac for two hours waiting for this storm to pass.

 

In the end I think our captain had enough and said “CX416 to ATC, we outchea” because that’s how captains probably talk.  The storm hadn’t eased off at all but we went out like how they fly out in typhoons.  I don’t know if you’ve flown out in a typhoon but it’s the fastest vertical ascent they can manage.  If you ask me it’s either full pull-back on the joystick, or full push forward.  Whichever is the up one.  Thank you for knowing this and also other things, captains.

In such a take-off massive g-force sends Change For Good envelopes floating about the cabin.  People pray as they get slapped in the foreheads by negligible centavos, ringgits, kopeks, pesos, sous and baisas.

I actually think we overtook an Air China and a Scoot as we aquaplaned down the runway, I didn’t even know jets could do that.  It was a buffeting but eventually we arrived safely in Seoul, albeit high as anything from the three times recommended daily dosage of anti-anxiety meds I put down during the 20-min ascent.

Take me to the depositions, I’ve got this 😂

My family was able to join me on this trip because school holidays.  No summer holidays for you!  Educational trip to the DMZ instead!  Very, very exciting for a lonely wandering reporter.

 

37305831_10156326301746826_7966830121199861760_n

View from our almost nice breakfast view.  Going on a work trip with the family is eye-opening. For them.  They had no idea how much buffet and toiletries I pilfer throughout the day.  Well if your handbag’s capacious…

37310266_10156326313166826_7612973091441868800_o
One day’s looting. What if they get hungry while I’m at work??

I’ve been to South Korea for work nearly 50 times in the past decade. These guys come here for the first time and can legitimately speak more Korean than me…because of Overwatch?!

37216418_10156327176451826_8387858412242731008_o

It’s hiiiigh noon!

Meanwhile, I was doing depos during the day in downtown Gangnam.

37253178_10156322149916826_6797575053534822400_n

MOPPIN GANGNAM STYLE.  I said what I said.

I’m not going to say it wasn’t a tense week of depos.  One day in particular, the parties nearly came to blows.

12.02pm and after a morning where civility has reigned but surely only through the collective maintenance of the clenchingest of bum cheeks, the entente is shattered.

COUNSEL A: [Stands up with sweeping magnanimity] Why don’t we take lunch.  We’ve ordered in lunch for everyone.
COUNSEL B: [Scrambles up urgently, adopts stance of Mexican stand-off] I think we’re the ones who ordered lunch for everyone.
A: Pretty sure we did.
B: I mean we can check.
A: Yeah why don’t you do that.
B: Oh we will.
A: Yeah. You check.
B: Yeah I’m definitely going to check.
A: Yeah you should.
VIDEOGRAPHER: Should we…go off the record or is there still a pending question about… sandwiches?

37200824_10156324369921826_7695676693930835968_n

The majesty of the law.

 

Do you know that Seoul is packed with the most naturally beautiful women in Asia (imo) and also the most plastic surgery clinics?  Are they for the men?  ARE THEY FOR ME

37408989_10156330879551826_5319733891391553536_n

 

Got to bring the whole family on a work trip AND got to eat an ice-cream that looked like a rose, what a time to be alive!

 

Finally, my favourite Seoul food: naengmyeon, cold buckwheat noodles.  It’s so good.

Seeya, Seoul!

37574414_10156332380551826_2964422896266510336_n

Next up, India.  I’ve had lots of mixed experiences in India over the years – being held up at checkpoints, having a nest of bees fall on my head while writing etc – but overall immense job satisfaction.  This time, it was a return to New Delhi for a round of pharmaceutical depositions.

I gave the hotel six stars on arrival, but reserved right to reassess after spending the rest of the week taking chemists testifying in a pharmaceutical dispute on their home turf.

 

How right I was.  I got my draft out at 8.45pm on the first day.

37750584_10156344468236826_6513441535017615360_n

Who’s got brown hair and is the worst steno on the entire subcontinent today?
(hint: it is me).

That day’s witness circling outside the hotel room, checking out his next victim…

37811312_10156347514716826_384405727680135168_o

Another view from hotel window.  Can you see Humayun’s tomb?  It’s the precedent for all the great Mughal architecture that followed, including the Taj Mahal.

37873294_10156346571596826_5069301619741425664_o

Which, speaking of, I once again missed out on because of work fatigue.  One day.

37955379_10156351349276826_7520739274350657536_n

Iconic images of unforgettable visits to the Taj over the decades…

I gave this particular job 1/10.  It was way too hard, and luckily I’ve been on a bunch of other trips here because I didn’t have a single moment to leave the hotel.  And the 1 is only because one of the witnesses was a Bollywood star, and Shah Rukh Khan for life.
On the other hand I give the overall trip 15/10 because we stayed at the reopened, completely renovated Oberoi and it was so special.  The 15 is because I can’t do maths.

PS the deposition was conducted on a billiards table, that’s a first?!

37904320_10156350737156826_4512240156677242880_n

The food remained universally spectacular…

37883056_10156350737066826_1260029652437565440_n

..and at last the government are doing something to help my people…

37987894_10156350737506826_2330321312028819456_n

So, all’s well that ends well…or is it?  Nope.  I haven’t nearly died yet.  And yes, for the third trip in a row, I did almost die in India – and again not in a way you might expect.  I nearly choked on a fish bone that had somehow found its way into my salad.  As I sat at the table realising what was happening, three feelings struck me:

  1.  Embarrassment. Of course, OF COURSE I would die at a five-star lunch that the client has paid for and in fact they’re sitting at the next table.  Also various other levels of embarrassment like a lot of vomit is about to be ejected and I am surrounded by silk-clad waiters, expensive-suited businessmen, magnificently upholstered chairs, and fine linen.
  2. Dread.  I can’t die!  It’s a thing now, no-one else in my family can die for a very long time.  None of us can handle it, and also even though we said we’d all put funeral arrangements in place asap after what we went through in April, inevitably I haven’t put any funeral arrangements in place.  Fark!
  3. Panic.  Shit.  I am choking on a sizeable fish bone, I can’t breathe, I may actually die here.  Why is no-one giving me the Heimlich manoeuvre?  Gasping and dribbling, with my last breaths I tried to dislodge the bone, inform Joel of my funeral wishes, apologise to the clients, look for somewhere to vomit, and pretend nothing was wrong.  Joel stayed calm to keep me calm, told me I was getting it up, and to use my napkin.  A few hours or seconds later (I couldn’t tell which), with a fanfare of awful yet unstoppable masculine gagging noises, the bone was ejected into the expanse of linen on a projectile wave of saliva.

Tears coursed down my cheeks.  Waiters gathered around, removing my plate, replacing everything on our table, bringing me sorbet and ice.  The chef was summoned from the kitchen and made to kneel at my feet in his white paper hat and plead for forgiveness with ludicrous obsequiousness.  For the rest of the trip, we were followed from room to room by deputy managers apologising and asking how madam’s throat was.  For the record madam’s throat is fine but the self attached to the throat is full of shame.  Yes, I have now vomited at a table at the Oberoi, bastion of elegant hospitality, and as much as I may wish it wasn’t, that is my legacy at the historic edifice.  Next time I check in there’ll just be a picture of me vomming popping up on the screen.  THE VOMMER.  JADE VOM KING.

On the last morning at breakfast, a waiter asked if I’d like to take some sweets away with me.  Having already consumed half of everything that looked like it didn’t have bones in it, I declined, but he insisted, as a final gesture of remorse.  Later in the hotel room when we opened the box, we saw it was basically a croquembouche made from finest German donuts – Berliners Pfannkuchen and Fasching piled into one last tower of apology.

I’m glad I didn’t die.  On the flight home, we took off just as the red moon eclipse was starting.  It was 1am India time and the air hostesses walked the aisles asking everyone to close their window shades, but I glanced out and I saw it, and Mars, and Joel took this photo with my phone through the plastic window, which is a pretty good effort but in no way represents the majesty of the galaxy at that moment as seen from 35,000 feet over Uttar Pradesh.

38023134_10156356083446826_1835680966614450176_n

When we landed I saw my Australian friends’ pics of the eclipse on Facebook. It was upside down.  Wow.  I got hammered on my jobs in India, and was then nearly bested by the biconcave rib of an aquatic craniate, but were things that tough I hadn’t noticed our pilot had actually inverted our plane like Denzel in ‘Flight’?  Oh that’s right, I just live in the other hemisphere now.  It’s only been about a decade, I’ll get used to it soon.

You guys I’m gonna stay in Hong Kong for at least a couple of weeks.  Just glaring out my window at the fish in the little bay right outside my house.  NOT THIS TIME YOU BRINY MFers.  NOT THIS TIME.

August
Concerted effort to stay in Hong Kong, and away from fish bones.

You might think it’s easier for me to be in my own city but do you know it takes me longer to get from my house in Sai Kung (Hong Kong) to Central (Hong Kong) than it does to get to Taiwan (not Hong Kong)?  I wonder if that catamaran would be a better way home.  Could someone check with the Marine Department and get back to me, thanks.

38600171_10156376494096826_3271979250860687360_n

If they can’t work out a catamaran service, no problem, I’ll be happy to stick with land-based offices like this beauty.

38297809_10156364724221826_6118304496540975104_o

Nek minnit, I’m adding another stipulation after this fantastic bunch of depos:
I only work in rooms with my name properly on the door 😂🤗

#lindaevangelista

38772414_10156381265271826_3916303836515401728_o

Still in typhoon season, remember, and we got hit by a small one that would only last 24 hours.  The witness was an hour late despite the considerable tail wind.  But Jade it could have been a head wind.  How do you know which direction he came from?  I don’t.  I’m just saying.  The wind doesn’t have much impact on the subway.  Just be on time mate.

38928784_10156381922101826_1033878767941976064_n

Proudest understated moment of assertion:

40223486_10156423445536826_234764072040529920_o

Another chance to unship the gag that never gets old:

39900654_10156409631011826_585983764245512192_n

I’ve posted lots of great views from here before.  This building is covered in porthole windows, and it used to be the headquarters of the Jardine Matheson taipans: for both reasons it’s known as the “House of 10,000 Arseholes”.

Today, 10,001 😂 Hello!

And that’s August.  Seems like after a rocky start, the year is rolling along smoothly, right?  What could possibly go wrong?

September
I wrote 270+ pages a day all week in week one.  The machine side of that doesn’t change; I’m knackered.  But the surroundings do.  Here is my week and actually my life represented in four photos: a few days working at the Mandarin Oriental, then over to…the Wanchai Regus 😂

That’s not a bowl of chips btw. It’s for “decoration” only and you can’t eat it even when your job is still sitting at 8.30pm.  Now we all know.

 

We all thought maybe typhoon season was over but we forgot about climate change.  We started to get warned we were about to get hit by the biggest typhoon in Hong Kong’s history, Super Typhoon Mangkhut.  The first indication came when I tried to book my work airfares for the following week and the airlines were already shutting down.

41682312_10156463472531826_3794329733131403264_o

I had some important jobs lined up and regretted not practicing open-water swimming against storm surge with steno machine tied to head.  Resolved to be more committed if I survived this typhoon.

It finally hit on a Sunday and it was truly insane.  We spent 10 hours at the highest storm level, T10.  When it was over, Hong Kong was wrecked. Here are some pictures of the aftermath.

 

 

 

View from our front window as the day progressed:

 

This is usually a dry carpark.  By the end of the weekend, most of our neighbours’ cars were washed out to sea.

Obviously, work was cancelled for some time.

42044342_10156470758896826_2270714849656832_n

Attorneys: I don’t see the problem here, we’re still going ahead right?

Scene at a nearby train station when the government declared work was back on before fixing the subway.

 

The typhoon put the mockers on my work trips, but I was meant to cover assignments in two different countries.  One was Malaysia, that just went by the wayside, washed out to sea like my neighbours’ dreams slash automobiles.

The other one, I was able to complete from home.

42126829_10156475366036826_6767808615186169856_o

Our village was decimated so picture me at the communal bins, climbing the mountain of green waste and holding my phone in the air to get enough juice to hotspot my laptop, balanced on a broken piece of Banyan tree, and download audio in separate encrypted files.

I picked my way back inside, waving at helpers heaving logs onto the pile.  Sorry guys. I would love to help but the General (Ret.) waits for no woman/natural disaster.  Also, you know, persistent upper body weakness.

Even though I was now at my kitchen table instead of in person at the summit, I thought I should get a fancy drink.  For gravitas.  So I carefully opened the high cupboard containing the International Bad Mug Collection, wary of falling shards, but they all appeared intact, each piece of porcelain uglier and sturdier than the last.  I chose the Mongolia mug, a neutral receptacle under its grubby gold paint.  I ran the tap and filled up Ulaanbaatar with fresh water.  And then I got that shit done.

I give myself five or six court reporting stars for completing this assignment.  I think that means I would’ve out-ranked him if I’d been there in person, that would have been embarrassing.

*salutes*

#stenosurge
#stenocommand

Finally, the planes and trains got back on track and I was able to head off to Taiwan, but this time was a special highlight – after all these years of carrying classified patents around Asia in dirty laundry bags, was this the trip I finally got to see an actual chipset in the wild?

42629589_10156495897656826_8879460201439166464_o

HQ at last!

First impression: staff canteen is killing it. Catering budget may be bigger than legal. It all becomes clear…

View from hotel in Beitou district, with sunbursts and rainbows and full moons.

 

Huge digital Mona Lisa made from old motherboards in the lobby.  Is it art?  Is it science?  Man I dunno.  But I really liked it so probably just craft 😂

42994770_10156503800721826_7166389409980350464_n

October
Back home for a week or so and lucky enough to see the Tai Hang Fire Dragon.

43250717_10156513949166826_4097845391083438080_n

You know in Hong Kong we have dragon dances to celebrate just about everything but this is a special one.  They reckon more than 100 years ago this particular village, Tai Hang, was afflicted by a run of bad luck – slammed by a typhoon, hit by the plague, and then a python came along and ate all the livestock.  The villagers were like really, a damn python?  Enough is enough.  And a soothsayer told them the only way to stop the chaos was to do a fire dragon dance for three days and nights over midautumn.  It worked, so they still do it every Midautumn Festival, even though of course in 2018 the plague is extinct and pythons have probably moved out of the now largely gentrified streets of Tai Hang.

Still, this Midautumn it was a bit hmmmm since we’d just been hit by Super Typhoon Mangkhut (recall all my neighbours’ cars being washed out to sea).  I mean can you really say it worked in the wake of what we’ve just been through?  Did they not dance hard enough at 2017 Midautumn, did they not light enough incense scales?  On the other hand, DID it actually work?  Did the gods throw everything they’ve got at us with Mangkhut, and we survived with no deaths and not too much permanent structural damage?  In that sense, what a success, and maybe all governments everywhere should implement a fire dragon.

It’s a bamboo skeleton totally covered in incense sticks so you see it burst through clouds of fragrant smoke as it belts along the cross-streets until it finally gets to your vantage point.  The villagers shout as they run and the crowds press against it and shout as well.  We shouted.  “YES FIRE DRAGON YES!  YOU DID BEAT MANGKHUT WHOOP WHOOP!”  It was quite primal and exhilarating.

43471285_10156513949491826_4710091626213539840_n

Also seen on Midautumn Night, one of my favourite things in Hong Kong: Clan Chan* Pipe Band and Highland Dancers.

*may not be actual name.  But I hope so.

I saw them years ago at a rugby tournament, they’re so good and so unlikely.  I haven’t felt this Scottish since I was last in Scotland.  Someone pass me a clootie dumpling.

43392909_10156513897541826_8624559132281667584_n

I was a fashionable 2hr40min late to work one day after what can only be described as a public transport debacle.  The visiting attorneys were okay about it, even though you could tell they didn’t believe when I said this NEVER happens in Hong Kong.

The next day I was two hours early and gratified to be vindicated by the newspaper.  I saved this to take in and show them all.  Just as soon as the sun rose.

44228406_10156538421151826_6486673095510720512_o

My last deposition before setting off on the next big trip was held in a hotel room.  Some years ago I took a deposition in a hotel room in Mongolia.  Can report it is still just as awkward today.  Seven of us were gathered at this window trying to keep the conversation flowing while the witness strained to take a relaxed wee in our shared bathroom two steps from the table.

44304553_10156539182006826_7885147264933429248_n

Finally, it was wheels up for Washo!  I was so excited to attend the Empowerment Conference for reporters in Washington DC!  Had a last bowl of noodles in the airport lounge in preparation for all the gigantic pizzas and burgers I was sure were coming my way.  I mean.  I haven’t been to continental US for 15 years, but I remember.

44289391_10156540544536826_8189254082184085504_o

About three days later, jetlagged af but thrilled af-er, I arrived and went straight to dinner with some of my most respected colleagues.

44519355_10156543356186826_2425695050861117440_n

An amazing three days with like-minded colleagues and friends.  Empowerment to last infinity times the 44 hours it took to get there and back.

 

 

 

It was especially brilliant to be there over Halloween:

 

And especially ESPECIALLY brilliant to be reunited with my fellow Aussie-expat-reporter, Leah!

 

There was another career highlight for paramount reporter and gentleman Joe, who was lucky enough to sit next to me during the conference lol.

 

I also met the current Chief Reporter in the House, Joe’s successor, who found time on her Saturday to take me on a private tour of all the secret bits of the Capitol, plus some of DC.  Politics aside – and out of respect for my colleague’s generosity in doing this, and also her job, I won’t make or respond to any political comments here – this was something very special to see.  Am so grateful!  Will never forget it!  I’ve made a particular effort to remember the House floor (no photos allowed).  Straight to the pool room of my memories.

 

 

45292642_10156578868306826_9223331797306179584_n

 

 

45331527_10156578868866826_7952230217395732480_n

 

Even the original Supreme Court, with reporter benches on the side…

 

 

45299898_10156578870326826_8810673886422106112_n

Best in censored pics from the White House 😉

 

..then back on a plane for two days, a day at home, and then off again to Seoul.  Airports hey.  Who loves ’em.  Tom Bradley International maintains its title as worst in world this year for me, btw.  This was a 28,260km (17,559 miles) week!

 

Best in interpreter exchanges:

44832294_10156558464381826_7433536062258937856_n

I tried to relax back at the hotel.  They don’t make it easy in Seoul.

44783407_10156558490241826_2338989986256257024_o

*presses emergency button*
“Hello madam! Hello!”
“Yes hello I have an emergency.”
“What kind of emergency?”
“An…enema emergency.”
“You used ‘rhythm’ at the same time again didn’t you.”
“My body my choice.”

At least I had a stunning view.

44857075_10156560127131826_7355521297041850368_n44901153_10156560127586826_2681895510834413568_n44838544_10156560127226826_1998287092706181120_n

Room requests: high floor, non-smoking, at the intersection of a parabola if possible.

November
Office for the first fortnight.  What’s better, the view or not having to take my kit back and forth for two weeks?  To be honest it’s hands-down (and hands-free…) the kit.  9.5/10 though, view.  You couldn’t have tried much harder.

45593456_10156586022776826_748009739039801344_o

But why has someone scraped “44F” on the windowsill?  Is this a kit building?  Please I don’t want to die by IKEA flatpack.

45887155_10156597318886826_3113182387098353664_n

A gorgeous office I wanted to move into, if we could resolve the structural integrity issue.

 

But alas, like all good jobs, they do come to an end.  A gorgeous sunset end.

46403379_10156607213706826_5442356088160649216_n

46439170_10156607185916826_4464204675503095808_o

Look at those ships steaming away up the Pearl River Estuary.  Where’s their next port?  Mine’s bed, then captioning at the stock exchange on Sunday.  Sunday.  The day of worship.

#capitalism

46486256_10156607213831826_5862663035151187968_n

46400375_10156611136026826_5941376381093937152_n

Captioning at the Stock Exchange.
Number bar come through!

^The best thing about this pic is it shows the “solution” when they forgot to set up a monitor to show us what was happening on the floor…. “just open the door and look sideways when you need to see what’s happening”.

46459205_10156611734046826_332320908389646336_n

Dictionary prep, international captioning style.

46499337_10156611136366826_3018463682318303232_n46491873_10156611136311826_7090277822081531904_o

 

46362767_10156611136091826_520541639614136320_n

Favourite team shot of the year: no common language; much common triumph over adversity.

46379458_10156611728841826_4825747471927869440_n

Driving home from this job, best shot of someone else taking a shot.  Facing the wrong direction.

47104642_10156636372176826_7617712042392158208_n

December
The final month of the year began back at my favourite place, the airport, with a very timely reminder from this gentleman.  This might be my motto for 2019.

48053013_10156666597556826_4285125026253897728_n

Don’t let them.

It seems fitting to end the international trips for the year in Seoul or Taipei, since I’ve spent more time in those two countries this year than any other years since I’ve moved here.  They are the Singapore of 2014, the Tokyo of 2012, the Bangalore of 2015.

Every time I go to Seoul in December or January it’s suggested I should wear socks under my shoes.

Look.  I gave up my thongs okay, let me just wear my sockless shoes in peace.  [Frostbitten] baby steps through the -10 tundra.

 

A magnificent office view of a sunny snowstorm:

48379384_10156671875191826_1583442205949820928_o

And a lovely snowy videographer/husband view to finish off my international travels for the year.  I mean unless an emergency injunction arises in the next few hours.  I probably won’t answer my phone though.

48355787_10156669162546826_7059002600376500224_o

I finished up this work year with some Hong Kong jobs.  First, captioning at a blockchain conference.

You know some of us got in the game for the front-row seat. WELL what about second row, in the open press pit, on a Sunday?  Any takers?

48379593_10156675404816826_2820771478759276544_n

Obviously this was about cryptocurrency, something I already know little about, but at the developer level.  With a skewed speaker ratio of French/Indian/Japanese experts.

There is a war going on right now in cryptocurrency.  It is called a hash war.  Again, I’m not over all the details, but it seems the various factions are all forking each other.  So their speeches were sprinkled with insults and the ridicule of each other’s predictions and filthy looks from beneath hoodies and hostile panel sessions.

As is normal for Chinese events, we were allocated seats in the media section.  It’s noisy, chaotic, and we usually have to make the square, Viking style, and fight for available power outlets.  GLORY OR VALHALLA! OR 240V, EITHER/OR!

 

It was really quite fun.  But it was so hard.  And it’s given me one of the best work pictures of the year.  Who knew it would arrive so late in December, me and this Chinese stenographer at the end of the conference, propping each other up in front of the stage, brains gelatinous pulps, hands mangled dysfunctional stumps, with a gigantic “SUCCESSFUL” writ large behind us.  You having a forking laugh mate?

48382727_10156682740731826_5655204982199156736_n

One last quintessential Hong Kong view…

48390824_10156686619106826_7587403317177745408_o

..and it’s just about sundown on this year.  I don’t know if heartrending grief, illness, and catastrophic weather were entirely cancelled out by satisfying steno adventures from the desert to the snowfields and everywhere in between – but they definitely helped.  I continue to be hugely grateful and, yes, in some ways at least, #blessed.

I know two things, steno-wise, about 2019 already.  I will be speaking online at Stenofest.
And I am so excited to be coming to California to speak in person at the DRA conference.  Other than that, 2019 is a blank slate, to hark back to our scribe predecessors.  I don’t know which countries I’ll get to, which events I’ll caption, and whether I’ll finally attain diamond frequent flyer status with my airline.  But hear this, toddlers of the world: I know I will not let you wee on my foot again.  That is for sure.

Happy new year!  May all your steno dreams come true! xx

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Michelle says:

    you continue to kick ass x

    1. jadeluxe says:

      OR, YOU DO x

  2. Deborah Meyers says:

    Wow, I just sat and read through the entire thing in one go. I’m exhausted! I can’t wait to see you at the DRA convention, maybe even get to say hello. You are a rock star.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Deborah, that’s a huge effort – thank you! It took me days to upload all the photos, can imagine it took forever to read. Let’s be exhausted together, the only way to start 2019 😉 Can’t wait to see you at DRA also! You must say hello! I’m worried I will be overwhelmed trying to differentiate who everyone is so please make sure you grab me! Can’t wait to say hi 🙂

  3. stenoodie says:

    Blogger to blogger, I know how long this must have taken to compile together but it was soo good to relive your experiences this year, Jade!!! Wishing you and your family good health and happy adventures this year! xx

    1. jadeluxe says:

      So long Karen!! I don’t know how you do this more than once a year lol. Happy new year lovely xx

  4. ValiViSteno says:

    WOW!! I am in awe….just read the whole thing. I can’t wait to meet you at the DRA convention in Santa Barbara!!

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Thanks so much, I appreciate that! I can’t wait to meet also! And see a little bit of Santa Barbara! See you then 🙂

  5. Took me a couple of days to read the full year in Career. I laughed so much. Your world is so different. You’re making me want to sign up for the DRA conference and drive up to Santa Barbara. It will probably take you 40 hours, and it’s only 2 hours for me, so I shouldn’t complain at all. Your life/career sounds so amazing. Can’t wait to meet you in person, maybe.

    1. jadeluxe says:

      Hi Cassandra 🙂 Hope you’re well! Thanks for reading. Yes, go on, your two hours to get to Santa Barbara sounds positively dreamy 😉 It takes me that long to get from my house in Hong Kong to the central area where I work here lol. Would be great to say hi at DRA or if not, then somewhere else. Happy new year!

  6. Sheri says:

    Hi, just found your blog. Love it! Learned steno many, many, many years ago. Trying to get back into it. I was confused about trying to learn realtime now or just use what I know already. Email from Mark Kislingbury convinced me to worry about realtime later and just work on getting to the point of being employed as a reporter. Do you agree? Just curious, what type of steno machine do you currently use? In one of the pics it looked like you no longer write on your 8000lx. Thanks for sharing your journey! Extremely motivating!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s