Weeklyish Challengey Thingie: Five Challenges, One Weekend (Or “It’s Possible I’m a Superhero Now”)

March 12, 2012

As you may recall, at the beginning of the year, I decided 2012 is totally the year I’m going to challenge myself.

To make it official, I even came up with a big long list of challenges for myself for the year. These challenges include your basic New Year’s resolutions, like get back in shape and stop procrastinating and start being a better person. You know, the typical kinds of things you come up with when you’re feeling delusional at the beginning of the year.

And, to make it even more official and because I’m a total nerd, I typed up a bulleted list of the daily, weekly and monthly tasks I would need to complete in order to reach my goals. Then I printed it up and hung it on my wall.

Luckily, none of my challenges this year involve my having to stop being a total nerd, so I think I’m good.

Originally, I thought I would space these challenges out over the course of the year kind of like how Gretchen Rubin does in her book, The Happiness Project.

(Or at least that’s what I think she does in her book. I should probably mention here that I skimmed most of the book as I’m not particularly good at reading books that promise to make me a better person. I should have really made that one of my 2012 challenges. But I didn’t. So instead I’ve been using my spare time to read The Hunger Games series. Because, apparently, I’d much rather read books about children killing each other than books on how I can become a better person. I have a feeling I’m not alone on this one.)

Despite my intentions to slowly chip away at my list of challenges over the course of the year, I somehow managed to accomplish five of my goals over one quick weekend trip to Hong Kong the other week.

It was kind of like my own personal Happiness Project, except it took me a lot less time and included a lot more dumplings.

Which I think we can all agree would make a very awesome book. I’m planning on calling it The Dumpling Project. Or the No Hunger Games. Or just I’m Awesome. (Publishers, call me!)

Challenge 1: Be Budgety

I can’t say I’ve ever been the type to choose budget over convenience. Especially if the budget option involves waking up really early or having a long layover or being crammed on to a budget airline carrier.

Feeling lucky? Err, not really.

The last time I took the cheapest flight I could find, I was served bark as an in-flight meal. I know you all think I’m joking right now, but I’m not. I don’t joke about stuff like being forced to eat bark.

Despite my penchant for being served actual food during flights, I still went the budget route and picked one of the cheapest flights I could find for my trip to Hong Kong.

In fact, I ended up flying into the border city of Shenzhen rather than Hong Kong, as the flight from Wuxi to Hong Kong cost approximately the same amount as my monthly salary. Whereas I could fly into Shenzhen for about a quarter of the price, and then catch a bus over to Hong Kong.

The Shenzhen airport website assured me the bus would only take seventy-five minutes. And an extra seventy-five minutes of travel time in exchange for being able to buy groceries this month seemed like a fair trade-off to me. (I’d like to point out here that the Shenzhen airport website is either a really big liar or really, really bad at math because it took me, like, twice that amount of time to get into Hong Kong. But I still get to buy groceries this month, so there’s that.)

Luckily, I’m happy to say my flight into Shenzhen was rather pleasant.

I particularly enjoyed the in-flight entertainment, which consisted of cartoons illustrating various cautionary tales about the dangers of leaving your seat during turbulence or smoking on the plane.

The "no smoking" cartoon. Kind of like "South Park," but for airplanes.

Plus, the in-flight meal did not include bark of any kind.

Well, there was this, which I couldn’t exactly identify, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t bark:

Probably not bark.

So, yeah, being budgety didn’t turn out so bad after all. I may just try it again sometime.

More like "I was grateful Shenzhen Airlines didn't serve me bark." But I doubt that would fit on the cup.

Challenge 2: Try New Things

The main reason why I went to Hong Kong was to perform at the Hong Kong International Improv Festival with The Pirates of Dotombori, my comedy group from Japan.

The Takeout Comedy Club in Hong Kong, home to the Hong Kong International Improv Festival

Admittedly, performing improv is not anything new for me. I’ve performed off and on since college when I discovered that improv allowed me a chance to get up on a stage and get lots of attention. But it didn’t actually require me to memorize stuff or, you know, be able to dance or sing on key or anything.

Despite having years of experience performing improv, it still felt like a new thing for me because I haven’t done it in such a long time. The last time I performed was almost a year ago at the Beijing Improv Festival.

You see, improv is kind of like doing a sport. You have to regularly practice it to be any good at it. Performing improv requires the ability to think and move quickly. Neither of which happen to be natural abilities of mine.

I performed during two shows at the festival, and I spent most of my time on the stage looking like this:


And this:

Umm, what?

And this:

Ooo, ooo. I got nothing.

Needless to say, I was a really integral part of both performances. I mean, I was obviously really good at getting into character. Just as long as that character happened to be the village idiot.

Challenge 3: Talk to Boys

One of the bestest parts about going to Hong Kong was the fact that I got to hang out with some of my favoritest people on Earth.

Like the director of the comedy group, Mike, who is pretty much the nicest guy you’re ever going to meet, and I’m not just saying that because I know his mom reads my blog. (Hi, Mike’s mom!)

Me & Mike, my brother from another mother (Hi, again, Mike's mom!)

I also got to hang out with quite a few people I’d performed with before either in Japan or last year at the Beijing Improv Festival and a few other people I’d never met before.

Hooligans. Every single one of them.

And seeing as improv tends to be a male-dominated kind of thing, most of those people were men. As much as I’d really, really love it if more women did improv, I do have to say the male-female ratio did kind of work in my favor.

I mean, come on now, I got to spend the weekend being surrounded by a group of attractive, funny guys. Which, I have to say, is not a shabby way to spend the weekend… not shabby at all.


This is how I roll... for exactly one weekend out of the year.

Challenge 4: Eat Better

Of course, a trip to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without some dim sum. After a raucous all-night after-show party on Saturday night, we headed to a dim sum place for Sunday brunch.

Because, really, there’s no better way to recover from a hangover like eating brunch with two-hundred of your closest Chinese friends in a restaurant that’s decorated with enough shiny stuff to make your eyes spasm.

While the decor wasn’t exactly hangover-friendly, the food definitely was.

Well, maybe not these:

Mmmm, mud carp fish balls in calm sauce.

But these were:

Soup dumplings.

As were these:

Dumplings with salmon roe.

And definitely this:

Crispy pork

Okay, so originally when I made the resolution to “eat better” I didn’t mean “eat more dumplings and pork.”

But, I think we can all agree that I should have meant that. Because, really, you can’t eat much better than dumplings and pork.

Challenge 5: Be Positive

I would like to think I’m a naturally positive person. But, the truth is I’m really not. 

I mean, I have a feeling naturally positive people don’t have to write things like “Be positive” on their bulleted lists of goals for themselves. (Instead, I bet they write things like, “Stop hugging strangers so as to avoid any more lawsuits this year” and “Start singing in my head when in public.”)

Sure, I have my moments of joy when I’m the human equivalent of a rainbow and pretty much everyone wants to slap me.

But, on most days, I can be pretty cranky.

And, when deprived of sleep, personal space and regular doses of coffee, I can be downright vicious.

But, miraculously, I managed to stay relatively upbeat and chipper during my two whole days in Hong Kong, despite having very little sleep and having to share my hotel room.

Okay, so maybe I did have something of a tantrumy moment when I learned the dim sum place did not serve coffee. (I mean, what’s the deal, dim sum place? If you can have a karaoke machine and a fish tank the size of Kansas, you can invest in an expresso machine, dontcha think?)

But I totally didn’t kill anyone.

So, in reality, that means I accomplished six challenges last weekend. (Not that I wrote “don’t kill anyone” on my bulleted list of goals. That would be weird… and kind of hard to explain in case anyone looked at my list. But I’m pretty sure it’s implied.)

Fess up: How are you doing with your New Year’s resolutions?

I've blathered on long enough! Now it's your turn!

  1. On March 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm Bob Werley said:

    #Hashtag Bob Werley was so glad to perform with you in Hong Kong. Even though I was cranky at 5am when I needed my cab ride home. Hopefully we can perform together again…before April 2013.

  2. On March 12, 2012 at 3:18 pm Ali said:

    Congrats on completing so many of your challenges! The dim sum looks yummy! Although I am curious what “calm sauce” is from the previous picture. Glad you had a good time in Hong Kong!
    Ali recently posted..My 7 Super Shots From 7 Continents

  3. On March 12, 2012 at 3:28 pm MaryAnne said:

    Um, i think I may be regressing in my resolutions to the point where I’m pre-resolution. The resolutions are currently so unresolved that they are barely a twinkle in, um, my Word doc. I haven’t even been able to think up a list, let alone act on it.

    I really admire what you’re doing this year and I’m hoping to get my ass in gear soon. Also, those dumplings look awesome. Maybe I need to resolve to eat more dumplings.
    MaryAnne recently posted..A Totally Impractical Expat Interview #17: Edna Zhou

  4. On March 12, 2012 at 3:38 pm Waegook Tom said:

    I’ve already failed my generic ones miserably. “Eat healthier” and “lose weight” have mutually sabotaged one another – binge eating in the UK because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get certain snacks for another 12 months cancelled out the weight one. Although it WILL get back on track as I got my medical results today and I’m 4kg heavier than I thought I was. Boo.

    The travelling related ones aren’t going so badly at all.

    I think I made one about reading books. Your blog counts as a book, right?
    Waegook Tom recently posted..The Korean Fried Chicken Guide

    • On March 14, 2012 at 12:56 am Sally said:

      You haven’t failed at all. In fact, you’ve been very successfully following Sally’s Bulk Up Plan for Instant Diet Success (patent pending)! I do that every time I go on a diet. Basically, right before your diet, you eat absolutely everything in sight for about a week so you gain tons of weight. And then when you start your diet, you lose that weight pretty quickly which makes you feel awesome and inspires you to stick with your diet. I know. It’s totally GENIUS, right? I should totally be a fitness/diet guru!

  5. On March 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm Lauren Garlapo said:

    I have been reading Gretchen’s Happiness Project for far too long. At this point, I should flip back to page 1 and start over. I truly want to commit to it, but I have to “Be Lauren” and realize that I am not the committal type.
    Sally, I always think of you as the human equivalent of a rainbow.

    • On March 14, 2012 at 12:53 am Sally said:

      I tried to start over too, but it just reminded me of why I hadn’t gotten very far in the book to begin with. I feel it’s a well-written book and I could relate to a lot of it, but I feel like Gretchen and I could never be friends. I wanted a book written by some complete slob who was completely miserable and horrible and crappy at relationships who then turns her life around and makes herself perfect. Instead, the book seemed like it was about a perfect person who becomes even more perfect. Gah. I couldn’t really handle it.

  6. On March 12, 2012 at 4:17 pm Kay Ross said:

    It was great fun playing with you at the Hong Kong Improv Festival! And thank goodness I wasn’t the only person onstage thinking “Errrr….” and “Umm, what?” and “Ooo, ooo. I got nothing.”
    Kay in Hong Kong

    • On March 18, 2012 at 2:20 am Sally said:

      Thanks for the comment, Kay. It was a pleasure performing in Hong Kong. Hopefully I’ll see you again at one of the other improv festivals in the area!

  7. On March 12, 2012 at 5:15 pm Priya said:

    OK, so when I got to Challenge # 3, I thought that was the end of the post, but it kept going and going!

    I did some improve in middle school when I was like 13.. but really enjoyed it! I want to do it again. Perhaps I will look into festivals and stuff. Did you take classes at all?

    My new years res is to write.. and since I started the blog I think I’ve kept up with it… even though it’s about time to write another post, which will happen soon! I promise! No, no, you don’t have to fly out to Chicago to make me do it. but it would be fun if you did! ….And I’ve been doing 750 words this month everyday.. though some days I cheat and just write crap so I can hurry up and watch a rerun of Friends. Ahem…

    Oh, and where’s that youtube video I asked for? And I’m still waiting for my Pony! And what’s up with the peace sign?! 🙂

  8. On March 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm Eleven - The Unframed World said:

    I resolved to be more involved in the blogger community, but only comment on blogs I really liked.
    So far it’s going well.
    Eleven – The Unframed World recently posted..Hardcore at Higgins Beach

    • On March 14, 2012 at 12:50 am Sally said:

      I should do that too. I’m really crap at commenting on blogs. I tend to just lurk around. Plus, I read most blogs on an RSS reader, so the whole idea of clicking on the link to leave a comment seems like a lot of, you know, hard work. 🙂

  9. On March 12, 2012 at 7:49 pm Melanie said:

    I am in serious need of an Unbrave Girl-style bulleted list of personal growth challenges. But I would totally laminate it. Anything is more official when covered in a sheet of plastic.

    I was in bed all day yesterday reading Catching Fire and I spent like 2 hours really frustrated at the books because of all the sexual tension but utter lack of actual sex scenes–and then I realized that the main characters were 17 years old. Whoops.

    Of course, if I was a member of a male-dominated international improv comedy group I probably wouldn’t be spending entire days in bed frustrated by my inappropriate sexual expectations for underage fictional characters.

    Improve comedy, eh? Now, if only I was half as witty and entertaining in person as I am online. Also, twice as humble…
    Melanie recently posted..on pueblo ingles and the multiple meanings of “going down”

  10. On March 12, 2012 at 11:12 pm Jackie said:

    I am always grateful that your blog posts generally include pictures of awesome looking food. I am still in the process of forming my new years resolutions….I am giving myself until July-ish to accomplish that. Until then I am going to live vicariously through you, since you seem to be awesome at it.
    Jackie recently posted..How to Overreact on a Plane, in an Airport, and elsewhere

    • On March 14, 2012 at 12:47 am Sally said:

      I think July is a good time to start. I find I’m more productive when given less time. Like, right now, I’m planning on leaving China in June, so I’ve finally got around to doing the huge pile of things I’ve been meaning to do for the entire year that I’ve been here. It helps to know that I have a deadline… and that deadline is SOON!

  11. On March 13, 2012 at 1:46 am Matt said:

    It looks like Hong Kong delivered as it normally does. While I am not a publisher, I will donate a few RMB towards the production cost of Hong Kong Games. I would totally read that.

    New Years Resolutions…not so much, though I am working on the generosity thing.
    Matt recently posted..March 11, 2011

  12. On March 13, 2012 at 4:08 am Ross said:

    That’s quite an accomplishment for one weekend. I completed a few of my goals for this year. Start a blog, check. Break my addiction to caffeine, check (this is a repeat goal I make every year and I do it every year… for a few weeks then I start up again, not intentionally, it just happens). Write down my goals, uh… I guess I should have started with that one but I still have nine and a half months.

    Looks like you’ve mastered the “Chinese Girl” pose for your photos. Way to blend in!
    Ross recently posted..Death Valley

    • On March 13, 2012 at 6:12 am Ross said:

      Duh! That’s the unbrave girl pose. The Chinese girls must be copying you. Sorry.
      Ross recently posted..Death Valley

    • On March 14, 2012 at 12:44 am Sally said:

      You mean you’re living without coffee? I don’t even know how people do that. I tried that once but I almost killed people. It didn’t help that I worked at a coffee shop at the time and just the smell of the coffee beans would drive me insane. I got very close to shoving a handful of them in my mouth once.

  13. On March 13, 2012 at 5:20 am Roy Marvelous said:

    Congrats Sally! I dunno if I could say I’ve completed my new year’s resolutions. My resolution was to write some down and print it out in sweet bullet-point form like you did but I’m still working on it.

    p.s. if a unicorn gets a wings doesn’t it cease to be a unicorn?
    Roy Marvelous recently posted..Muay Thai Training In Phuket [Review & Cost]

    • On March 14, 2012 at 12:43 am Sally said:

      No, it just becomes a unicorn with wings. Now if it lost its horn, that would be a different story. But you don’t want to know how a unicorn goes about losing its horn. Trust me on this.

  14. On March 13, 2012 at 2:59 pm Selly said:

    Amazingly you mancaged to make me procrastinate on buying soy sauce and let me tell you not many people have the power to do that because having soy sauce in the house is almost as important to me as my daily fixes of coffee after I was stupid enough to abstain for a week. I’m also contemplating never to talk to you again (not that I would be particularly successful in that department because I happen to like your blog and your tweets) because you always make me crave food. Now I have the trouble of calling up my friends and organising a dim sum. Such hardship.

  15. On March 14, 2012 at 7:02 am Karen McCann said:

    Congrats on being able to check off so many resolutions so early in the year!

    My New Year’s resolution was to spend more time on Facebook and other cyberconnections. Yes, I know, most people are trying to spend LESS time doing these things, considering them total time wasters. Not me! As you know, Sally, when you live abroad, you have to stay in touch. I knew I had reached this goal when my husband gave me a valentine’s card with a giant FB “like” button on it, crossed out and corrected to read “love.” He said he wanted to put his sentiments in terms I’d understand.

  16. On March 15, 2012 at 3:16 am jan said:

    I have four words for you.
    Carry them for when you can’t get coffee.
    They are so good you might even give up drinking coffee.
    Sorry, I did not mean that last thingie.
    Don’t hit me!

    • On March 15, 2012 at 12:56 pm Sally said:

      You are a genius person. Although, I really doubt I could keep chocolate covered coffee beans on my person without eating all of them immediately, but maybe I should try?

  17. On March 17, 2012 at 1:18 pm Jan said:

    Just stumbleupon-ed your blog and have spent the last 5 minutes laughing. With tears.

    On a side note, I met my live-in boyfriend of 18 months over OkCupid. He is your male doppelganger AND used to teach English in China. Well, until he got arrested for overstaying. 23 days of rice and cabbage means we don’t eat rice or cabbage in this household.

    Don’t ever stop being funny and awesome.

    • On March 18, 2012 at 2:18 am Sally said:

      Omigod. I would not want to end up in Chinese prison. That doesn’t sound like ANY fun at all. But it would probably be good for the weight loss… hmmm.

  18. On March 18, 2012 at 10:54 am Katherina said:

    Wow, congrats on crossing out 5 on a row!! So far, the only resolution I’ve managed to cross out was to learn how to ski… I mean, if skiing down a hill on your butt is your thing (it’s totally my thing, it avoids you from having sore legs after all!).
    Katherina recently posted..Picture This: The Guardian

  19. On March 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm Sabrina said:

    That’s a lot of things to tick of your list. Congrats 🙂 I have to admit I didn’t really make any list, but so far my year is progressing pretty well. I should make a list though. Sounds like fun being able to cross things of a list 🙂
    Sabrina recently posted..Popular Food in Germany: What This German Expat Sometimes Dreams of

  20. On March 19, 2012 at 7:17 pm Ceri said:

    For the first time, I didn’t make any proper New Year’s resolutions. Actually, I think mine was, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing’ … which clearly means, ‘Keep living abroad’ and ‘Keep eating as much junk as you can possibly fit in your mouth.’

    So far, I’m doing pretty good. 😀

    Love this post, btw, hun. I only ever once watched an improv group and they kind of died within 3 seconds of starting. 😛
    Ceri recently posted..Letter to My Mother

  21. On March 21, 2012 at 10:22 am choi kum fook said:

    Miss Sally, good post and good planned, made sure your challenges could be overcome! Do things definitely on time. Procrastination, is thief of time, as my former teacher said. Try to avoid it! My new year’s resolution is, working harder, try to make a bit more money just to get enough expenses to the continents of N. and S.America to which I have not been. Especially working as volunteer in your parent’s farm. This is my will. I am longing for it always. I hope the God will give me some luck! Do you know, my name,”Kum Fook” means “Golden Luck” Ha! Ha!

  22. On March 26, 2012 at 11:17 am cottage scotland said:

    Congrats on accomplishing most of your challenges. You are right; a trip to Hong Kong is incomplete without having some dim sums.


  1. unbrave girl | Weeklyish Challengey Thing: Go To the Gym
  2. unbrave girl | Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: My Dear John Letter to China

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge