Hello Friends From All Over the World!
My friend Hannah, who I mentioned in a previous post, is in Guatemala with the Peace Corps making a real difference that most people, including myself, merely think about doing but don’t for whatever convenient reason. If you are one of these people, well here is your chance to do something–help 16 year old Any continue her education by visiting Hannah’s blog and making a monetary contribution!
It is a common question–how can I, an individual, make a difference? Well, besides what Hannah is doing–devoting 2 years of her life to helping develop a remote village in Guatemala (they just built a “bottle school!!”)–I also offer the example of “Africa’s Beautiful Bag Lady” which I found equally inspiring: http://animprobablelife.com/2011/11/26/lori-robinson-bag-project-africa/
Whether you make a contribution or not, I hope you do at least take a peek at Hannah’s blog because not only is she excellent writer, she is truly passionate about her work. Oh Hannah, you are my role model!
Maybe after reading all of these blogs that I come across everyday of individuals who are doing amazing things around the world, I will finally get off my bum and do what I’ve always dreamed of doing–building schools.
I was looking through old photos from my travels while I was studying abroad in college, and it made me miss my independence. In my second year at Ithaca College (I later transferred to NYU), I decided the town was too small for a gal like me and signed up for a semester in Spain. Little did I know, I would never return to Ithaca.
When I first arrived in Barcelona, I was excited for a change of scenery. I stayed with a senora, her cat Deraymon and her wonderful boyfriend Armand (they were an old couple, so it was exceptionally sweet). I also couldn’t have asked for better roommates; the four of us were completely different but we got along like sisters and are still in touch today even though we’re each on a different continent (Hannah is in Guatemala with the Peace Corps. Check out her blog!).
At the very beginning of this trip, everything was new and exciting, especially the night life. As the first weeks went by however, it started to get a little bit lonely and I spent hours upon hours getting lost and people-watching in cafes–that is how I became addicted to coffee. But gradually I started to cherish all the alone time I never had in college. At such a small school like Ithaca, it was impossible to escape, even for a moment. In Barcelona, I felt like I had all the space in the world and it was freeing.
On weekends and breaks from classes, I visited surrounding countries like Portugal and Italy, both of which I traveled to alone. That’s what brought me to write this post; I realized while going through my photos that some of my best memories have been during trips that I’d taken by myself.
Sure, it got lonely at times–like the 23 hour “cruise” from Italy to Spain, during which I just had to dream about Titanic–but the majority of my time was spent gawking over Europe’s beauty both in landscape and in people. All that space and time also made me think, about anything and everything. I remember sitting at the front of the boat, staring into the endlessness of the sea thinking that if I were to die in that moment, I would’ve died happy, and my life would’ve been a good one. Of course I didn’t die, in fact I’m alive and kickin’, but the point is I was happy, and I was alone then.
I wasn’t always alone though. Making friends was easy as everyone in hostels seemed to need a friend–I still keep in touch with some of them. Some of my best friends from the States also came to visit and traveled with me as well while I was in Spain. I also went to Morocco with friends and had the most amazing
experience of my life driving through the desert with Berbers and sleeping under the stars.
I miss that independence terribly, and wish I could explore China the same way–just me and my backpack, although a friend wouldn’t hurt. My situation is different now though; I live with my mom and I have a full-time job. What I’m living now is life, but not the life I have in mind. It sounds silly to complain about my job while millions of people can’t even find one, but I’m not one to stick with something I’m not happy with (my ex-boyfriend was an exception). I realize that I am so lucky to have the privilege to say, “I’m not happy here. I’m quitting.” But that’s exactly what I plan on doing, because my time here (in China) is short (give or take a few years, but compared to a lifetime it’s not a long time). I want to make sure I take the time to explore the country in which my ancestors who I know absolutely nothing about are from, to learn about my heritage, this language, and my family (I didn’t even know what my grandparents’ did for a living until recently, and I still can’t remember my grandma’s Chinese name).
Lonely Planet: China is already collecting dust on my bookshelf (Beijing is an exceptionally dusty city) and waiting for its pages to be flipped through. I am getting antsy at my job thinking about all the places that await me, food that has yet to be tasted, people I have yet to meet. It helps that I read so many amazing accounts of people’s travels through WordPress that inspire me to quit my job. Therefore, whether or not my parents will allow me–yes, after years of living on my own, I am back to curfews–to travel by myself, I will think of some way to find the space and those alone moments I once cherished.
If only I had this message written on my wallet, then I might–just might–consume rationally. But it’s so difficult to resist when you walk into
places tourist traps like Ciqikou, an ancient town in Chongqing where everything looks like it should either be hanging on my walls or settling in my stomach (mostly here).
From fresh black sesame candy to sweet globs of sticky rice, how can anybody resist a taste?
And where else am I to find nunchucks and chicken-feather hackey-sacks if not here in the ancient town? Decathalon Sporting Goods? I don’t think so.
At the end of one of the many roads within Ciqikou, I saw the light; the bright, glimmering reflections of useless souvenirs.
One of the exits of Ciqikou overlooks the Yangtze River. Gloomy as that day was, it was still refreshing to be by a body of water.
Strolling along the dock, I came across a particularly ominous but beautiful abandoned bridge that looked very familiar to me. As soon as I took the picture, I remembered why. I had seen an image of this place in an article in the New Yorker.
It didn’t quite feel like déjà vu, but the world felt smaller and I was happy to know that beautiful places we come across in photographs actually exist in the most practical places.
- a full stomach
- loving parents, no matter how unbearable they can be at times
- friends for the rest of my life, who love me for the silly way I am
- WordPress, because I’ve learned so much, shared so much, and have met so many inspiring people I would never have met otherwise
- the ability to see, hear, smell, taste and feel
- my parents, again, for working tirelessly their entire lives so that I may enjoy all that I now have in my life (including the new pair of boots I got today!)
- mobility–including the privilege of travel which has opened my eyes wider than any book or lecture (and just to take a moment to brag, these are the countries I have visited: Guatemala, Morocco, Portugal, Amsterdam, Spain, Germany, Japan, France, and Italy.)
- public transportation, though it can be such a hassle
- my college adviser, June, who I admire so much for her compassion, brilliance and kindness
- my “almond shaped” eyes and dimples (thanks to mama dearest)
- being bilingual–my salary is higher because of it
- a conscience that told me not to accept the job teaching English at a monster corporation (New Oriental, it literally has an office in every corner of China) that robs students of their money and teachers of their sanity.
- Gmail/gchat because I can keep in touch with my friends across the ocean
- Time Out Beijing.com because it just informed me that a Hello Kitty themed restaurant is opening up in Beijing (I haven’t had the chance to mention the Hello Kitty store I came across in Chongqing yet). Keeps my life exciting!
- farmer’s markets (in the US) because their produce is just so fresh and the prices are unbeatable!
- not just one, but several roofs over my head. I feel like I have a home wherever I go. That’s surely something to be grateful for.
There is infinitely more I am grateful for, but it would be impossible to list them all here.
So, Gobble Gobble to those who celebrate Thanksgiving! And Thank You, to those who make life worth living!
Rereading what I wrote last night, this is how I feel about it:
kinda like a goof. I guess the smallest amount of alcohol really does alter the state of mind. It causes word-vomiting and secret-sharing. But then again, I wasn’t going to tell my mom all that, so who better to share my inner and outermost thoughts with than to you all, my faithful blog readers? On the world wide web? Thanks for listening to my rambling
Tonight I went out for the first time in a while. It’s only 11:45 p.m. Beijing time, so you can imagine how unexciting it was, but it was a momentary high I’ve been lacking lately.
On the cab ride home, my friend and her boyfriend were “discussing” marriage in their drunken state. My friend, who I’m going to call Lucille, is my age–23. Lucille kept asking her boyfriend, 26, when he would take her hand in marriage so that she could finally stay out all night, or spend the night with him. I asked why she couldn’t move out of her parents’ house before marriage, but she only shook her head, “no.” I guess as modern as China is getting, many aspects of tradition are still intact–the role of women being among them.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve only been in a serious relationship once, and it ended horribly–HORRIBLY–the idea of marriage is as shocking to me as Brad Pitt leaving Jennifer Aniston for Angelina Jolie (is that that shocking, actually? Angelina is prettier.). No, I think the idea of marriage is shocking because I’m still 23 and have so many things to accomplish before settling down with someone. There is no doubt that marriage works out for some people my age and I’m genuinely happy that soul mates exist, I just hope my soul mate doesn’t show up till I have more checked off my to-do list.
This past summer, a family friend suggested that I get married soon. I’m closing in on my mid-20′s but come on! I’ve barely grown out of the training bra of childhood! I’m still new to life and its complicated facets that bring heartache, love and disappointment, feelings that I’ve only just begun to experience! Heartache stinks and disappointment hurts, but I’m eager to know what it’s like so I can learn how to avoid it in the future. As for love, I’m still waiting for the next round.
I’m in no hurry, although being around Lucille and her boyfriend makes me wonder when my own loverboy is going to come around. Maybe springtime, the season for love. Or is that summertime? I can’t remember. Maybe it’s reversed in China, like the clock. Maybe love blooms in the wintertime in the east. Oooo that’s soon!
But like I said, there’s no hurry. For now, I’m patiently waiting, unexpecting (because things tend to happen when you’re least expecting. Funny and frustrating how life works.). Anyway, I’m going to sleep on these thoughts and leave you with a classic which I found quite fitting:
I had a Cranberry White Chocolate Mocha (my parents insisted) at Starbucks the other day while waiting for my flight at the airport. Normally, I don’t step foot in Starbucks, but the cozy couches and the Christmas decorations lured me in. That was the first moment I felt homesick for America.
Around this time of year back home, I would be walking out of my way just to step in piles of dry, crinkly leaves to hear the crunch, crunch, crunch under my boots. My roommate would probably be working on her stewed beef recipe or baking something delicious with Golden Girls or Christmas music playing in the background. Our apartment would be decked out in oranges, yellows and reds in preparation for Thanksgiving. I would be brewing up a Hot Toddie with fresh apple cider from the farmer’s market…
Just writing this is making my Brooklyn-sickness stronger. This is the best time of year to be in the States, and particularly in my former neighborhood, South Park Slope, where everything inside and out just feels so homey. I miss window shopping in the cold and stepping into one of the many cozy coffee shops to warm my hands and stomach with a hot cup of coffee. I miss walking down the block to my favorite neighborhood bar (Bar 718, if you’re ever in South Slope, you should pop over for a visit–you’ll feel at home in no time) for my typical whisky-ginger and a good chat with good people. I miss the smell of apple pie, the excitement for the holidays, the decorations, and even the music. I miss my backyard.
One thing to be grateful for this holiday season, however, is that I will be spending it with my parents. I can’t remember the last time I spent Thanksgiving or Christmas with them. My mom moved back to China 6 years ago, my dad 4, but even when they were still living in the States, they always worked then. But life is about compromises, so I guess this year–and maybe the next–I will compromise the Hot Toddies, the decorations (I don’t know where to find a pumpkin around here!), the crunch, crunch, crunching, the apple pies, and the strolls in Brooklyn for time to spend with mom and dad. That’s what the holidays are all about after all–family! This winter won’t be Park Slope homey; it’ll be a different kind of homey, but that’s just as well.
Besides, I can still watch Love Actually.
My trips are never complete without a passport mishap. This past trip to Chongqing, which I just returned from a few hours ago, was no different.
I was standing in the check-in line with my dad when he asked me to take my passport out. That was the first time a passport even crossed my mind! Obviously I didn’t have it; it was tucked away safely at home. How is that possible for someone who has traveled pretty far and wide? Anyway, my mom had to rush it over via a 150 yuan ride so that my dad and I could change our flight to an hour later for another 302 yuan each. Oops.
The first time I left my passport behind was when I was going to Guatemala. I was on the west coast with my ex-boyfriend, from where I was going to fly directly to Guatemala. But of course, my passport was in Brooklyn, on the east coast. My roommate had to express mail it.
The second mishap was in August, on my way here to Beijing. I was sleeping soundly, with my bags all packed and everything I was leaving behind stored away at Moishe’s Self Storage, when I got a call from my mom the morning I was to fly asking me if I had my passport ready. Yes, yes, yes, obviously. I was half asleep when I said that; I had absolutely no idea where it was. Well, after a whole morning of freaking out and driving back and forth from Moishe’s searching like a mad-woman for that darned little paper booklet, I found it in my dresser at home.
Whatever. Every trip needs a little adventure. Mine jut start before my trips even happen. I guess you could say I like to live my life on the edge, though quite inconveniently. Anyway, the important thing is things always work out. I believe that’s true for everything, at least thus far.