Ning Ding


Ning Ding

in-house Interpreter for the United Nations, New York


Now that the hustle and bustle of the office space and the NYC subway is behind me, for now, the first order of business for my halfternoon is, sadly, to tidy up the house and put things in order while praying that this state of order survive the ‘magic touch’ of the little pixie when she comes home in three to four hours’ time.

Then, time permitting, I will prepare my favourite drink - black coffee - and/or my favourite food - instant ramen. Neither sounds healthy or tastes that great on their own. The combined effect? Out of this world, literally! But a world without idiosyncrasies and ‘acquired tastes’ is a dull one, so there you are. There’s much joy to be had in doing all this. And it tends to go well (nowadays) with The Billion Dollar Spy, a fascinating inventory of genuine CIA and KGB stories from the Cold War era, and Broadchurch, a brilliant British TV drama that excels in letting the audience glimpse the equal parts disturbing and heart-warming aspects of human nature when it’s dragged through a stress test.

Oops! Time is up. I must dash. Here’s a my to-do list for the time slot that follows today’s halfternoon: picking up my daughter from school; sending her to her ASP program; rushing back home to prepare dinner; sprinting back to ASP to pick her up.

In a few moments’ time, I will find myself engulfed in the surging mass of fleet-footed New Yorkers, with The Spinning Song in my ears!


How nice to come up with the idea of a “dream halfternoon”! Sam, you are a genius! My dream halfternoon would be the exact opposite of the real one. :))

Step 1
I light a scented candle or a stick of incense and let the smell envelop me. I take a few deep breaths and coax my mind into a ‘hover-in-the-void’ state.

Step 2
I spread the yoga mat, meditate and stretch. I’ve always enjoyed meditation. The process may initially struggle with nagging thoughts crowding my mind, but then they gradually learn to live in harmony among themselves and with me. I know they are still there, tucked away in some nooks and crannies, but they’ve become part of me. Meditation sensitises me to their existence and to the fact that their existence, like myself, is real in this set of dimensions. Accepting them is all I need to do. 

Step 3
I make a nice cup of tea. I go down, and out, into the garden. I talk to the maple trees. I water them as well as the flowers. I remember the 21 months I spent in Nairobi, Kenya. The large swathes of woods and the trees near my house provided much needed solace. Almost every morning, I would take a long walk in the forest and ‘chat’ with the trees in total silence. They gave me shade and strength. I have always wanted to reconnect with them since.



I am an in-house simultaneous interpreter working for the United Nations. The meetings I service are mostly boring, sometimes challenging and occasionally undoable. Every day I stroll or run to the Chinese booth, join two colleagues there and as soon as the Chair/President’s microphone is on, start to talk (to interpret, that is) for 20 minutes, before resting for 40 minutes and starting again in the next round. Conference interpretation is my chosen profession because of a childhood dream and I received training in Beijing and London. I love language. I see it as a unique form of art that, when applied with ingenuity, has a singular beauty that has few rivals. Notwithstanding my grievances concerning the content of the meetings I service, my work, associated with this art, is indeed a source of joy and contentment to this day.

I live on the Upper West Side of New York. We moved here a year ago from Midtown East. I like our neighbourhood and my old brownstone apartment, emanating a calming and reassuring ambience and the right dose of seclusiveness.

Halfternoon | What you do given half-an-afternoon to yourself to revive + restore + reset and re-inspire.

Swim in Lake Me | a swim in your own self-awareness.