Saturday, May 31, 2008

a broken water heater

A broken water heater could perhaps sum up my experience thus far.

My cousin is younger than 30, and kinda, sorta resembles me. She works at the office of some bookstore company, and lives at a company sponsored apartment with 2 coworkers. I'm staying in her room, sleeping in her bed, and she's sleeping in the other bedroom with her friend. This place is really quite shabby, and really quite old-there is no internet access, and her water heater is broken-nevertheless, it's cozy, and I'm certainly glad for any place to stay.

The Bathroom: a small room containing a toilet and a decrepit sink in one corner, a washing machine in the opposite corner, and a shower head in the corner in between. There is no partition between any of these elements--it is one all-encompassing room. It stinks like every other bathroom one will encounter in China -- and let me tell you, it is not pleasant.

The Shower Situation: with no hot water, my cousin kindly boils water for me every night, throws it in a plastic bucket halfway, and fills up the rest with cold water. This delightfully mixes to be the perfect bathing temperature. I then take a washcloth to the bucket, and proceed to wash myself from that water. All while standing in the middle of the toilet, sink, and washing machine. My clothes and towel go into two plastic bags that hang from hooks on the wall so as to not get wet.

My Daily Breakfast: begins with my typical awakening at approx 7:30am every morning. Not sure why, maybe jet lag hasn't left yet, maybe it's because I sleep so early every night (midnight or, one time, 10:40 pm). This is because every one else in the apartment sleeps this early, all the lights are off, I thought I didn't have internet, and it was just awkward to be awake doing nothing. 小方姐姐, or (Little Square Big Sister if translated literally, hahaha), my cousin, makes eggs for me every morning, and sets it on the table next to my green mug that she bought especially for me, next to a loaf of bread, an apple, and the container of orange juice. She's really quite great, really considerate, always thinking the best for me, and yet does not understand me at all.

hen I first met her at the airport, it was a little strange. I think I might have met her once in my life, when I was 2, and she was 9 or so. I have not seen her since. Clearly I have no recollection of her. She doesn't know any English. She also thinks I am anorexic, or something. Whenever she asks me what I want to eat when we're at the store, or wherever, I never have much to say--mostly because the first instance was right after I got out of the airplane (from the last entry, we know why I wouldn't be hungry), and... I don' t know. For some reason my appetite hasn't been there.

I've decided that my lack of appetite must be due to one of these reasons:
1. the uneasiness i feel from the plane has not left yet
2. my stomach is adjusting to the cultural/food change
3. brushing my teeth using water from the sink (you can't drink tap water here) has negatively affected my body

My Situation During The Day Since My Cousin Works All Day: consisted so far of me meeting up with both Mong^2 and Robbie. In the future, Robbie will now be Cao Shan.

For now I will end here.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

thoughts from the air

waiting at Seoul Incheon for my plane

I wrote the following in my sketchbook because looking at a computer screen gives me a headache on the plane, but because I'm bored to death right now on layover at Seoul Incheon International, I will go ahead and transcribe (most) of what I wrote:

Excited. Calm. Apprehensive. Anxious. Anticipation. AIRSICK.

Total trip time: approx 14 hours
Time left as of writing this: 4 hours

How the hell did I manage to get through 10 hours by myself?
This is so surreal. You hop on a plane. Fall asleep for a few hours, step off the plane, and are instantly dropped off in a whole new world, country, culture. And we just take this for granted. Maybe it's just me. Only about 1% of US college students are able to afford the luxury of studying abroad, for reasons both due to money (or lack of) and simply not having a desire or will to do so. Is is the amount of research involved? the application process? Hell, I've been able to make it happen twice. I feel that there's no reason for not even looking into the option of going abroad. For some particular people that I've encountered or are acquainted with, or even friends with, seeing a world outside of Plano, or Texas, or the United States would be good to open up some narrow minded thinking. But perhaps I'm being a little harsh.

I'm flying via Korean Air, and this flight is considerably better yet considerably worse than last year's 10 hour Air Canada flight with Kelsey to Milan:
Worse? No company. Much longer. No personal t.v. screens. Several temperamental babies. And last but not least, the Filipino lady (who resembles Jen's mom) sitting next to me has a horrible case of dandruff, and decided to brush/shed her hair all over the right side of my body. She continues to do so as I write this.
Better? The Korean food is great. I just ate bibimbap (sp?) for lunch, and had a hot beef bun sorta thing for a snack. These Koreans sure know their pastries. :) The movies that they've shown are good selections too--Charlie Wilson's War, Once Upon a Time in Corea (yes, they spelled it w/a C), and National Treasure Book of Secrets (okay frances, it was an excellent movie).

I wonder about these people on this plane with me. What are their stories? Where are they going, and where did they come from? Who is this father & son from Hong Kong that are speaking so loudly? Who is this chubby little girl that's been periodically going up and down my aisle and hitting everyone's arm as she walks by? Maybe getting into LOST has brought on these thoughts. I admit also that LOST has probably contributed to my paranoias on flying. As I was boarding the plane today, I wondered as I passed the midsection if that was where the plane would break in half if we crashed. (yea...i know :/) Add that on to my paranoid thoughts about random freak accidents, combined with my severe hatred and fears of plane rides in general--not exactly a great equation for a smooth trip. Surprisingly, I haven't experienced much airsickness yet--maybe I'm getting better at this. Mostly my body just feels like its been in a coma for a year, and my eyes are really sore.

okay enough of that. I won't type the rest because it gets a little more personal and I'm sure no one actually cares. (If anyone besides one person will even read these posts, haha)

I actually drew out these stupid, quick pictures of everything I consumed on my plane ride. If i somehow find access to a scanner or whatever, then I'll try to upload it on here.

Otherwise, Annyong for now, and Ni Hao very soon...(flying into beijing international airport)

Friday, May 23, 2008

"a-musement? wtf, really, angela?"

first entry.

let's start by explaining my title.


a: singular, Angela
muse: to reflect upon, contemplate, ponder
ment: [suffix] result of, act of, means of

amusement: a feeling of delight and enjoyment


So I'll be going back to the mainland next week. My homeland, but is it really my home?

There have been so many crazy thoughts flying around in my mind lately. I haven't seen my grandparents or spoken to them in ages. The last time I saw my cousin, he was 9. Now he's a teenager and apparently taller than me. My friend Robbie that I met last time goes to Peking University also, where I'll be, but I haven't seen him in 4 years, and the last memory I have of him was pretty bittersweet. Not to mention, I think I've forgotten all the Chinese I so faithfully kept up with and memorized in the fall. Making the technical details work out for this trip to happen has also flung some obstacles in my way. Trying to get the Chinese Embassy to give me a visa was a bitch. I ended up writing a sad story-letter explaining my plans to visit my grandparents and not stay in Beijing after the program (only partially a lie!). But hey, I got the visa, didn't I? Being jobless right now is quite painful, and my program costs upwards near 10 grand...
...and the bathrooms over there will stink.

But it's time! It's been too long, and I need to do this.

Last year, studying abroad in Italy was probably the best decision I've ever made in my life. To be so independent in a foreign country, for an extended period of time--it really does make you reflect on your life, and the kind of life you've lived. While in Italy, I began to wonder if I've ever actually used my eyes before, or my ears, or my tongue. I felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open long enough or wide enough to see it all. I wished to trap the sounds from the street outside my apartment and the crashing of the waves on the rocks at Cinque Terre and the beautiful language into a bottle for me to drink at my will like the wonderful sangria from the vineyard at La Torrazetta. And don't get me started on the seafood in Monterosso. (the most divine swordfish and the most flavorful pesto sauce) This is cheesy, I know. But before then, had I realized such powerful experiences were possible? Such camaraderie to be made, such stories to tell in the future? Perhaps not--until I was forced to better engage with this big world in which I so luckily inhabit.

And thus, hopefully, I'll keep all this in mind when I go to Asia.

This trip will be different. I always daydream about what kind of person I would have been if I had grown up elsewhere and hadn't lived this Plano, TX lifestyle with these Plano, TX people. Although I won't ever be able to see my life as 温馨 growing up in 中国, I can't wait to be in China for the summer. This is the best and worst time to go. There will be record numbers of people in Beijing (even for Beijing), and the Olympics will be there, but so will I! Who knows what I'll be like when I get back. Maybe I'll come back and greet you with "herro" instead of "hello", or have a hacking cough from lung cancer, or weigh 10 lbs heavier because of the great food...

but despite all of my griping and anxiousness...I really can't fucking wait!