Plato believed that we lived in a world of
images, three-dimensional shadows of the true one. What we see with our eyes is nothing more than a cheap imitation of its true state.
example, the chair we see before our eyes is nothing more than a shabby image of the true chair that exists. We carry on everyday with
flawed perceptions of the true ideal form.
Life After College:
Year 3 - In Transit
[Friday, June 30, 2006]
I'm such a sentimental bitch.
So despite the rockiness of the past week with my brother (fighting every day, if not more), I was a little sad to see him go just now as he got on the plane to Beijing. I even teared up a bit. I guess because despite everything, I had fun, and though I wish the entire trip had been like the last 2 days, even having 2 good days is enough. I guess I love the little stinker. The problem with my brother and I is that when we're bad, we're really bad, and when we're good, we're really good. So he's off to Vegas where he'll have the vacation he really wanted, and I'm off to Yunnan to start the solo portion of my trip. Pseudo-solo, since I'm meeting up with a classmate there. This was supposedly the part I was looking forward to the most. But instead I'm sitting at an airport gate by myself, trying hard not to cry, trying not to think about my brother, and feeling a little bit lonely. I think the catch is to start off on your own. Once you've had company, it's tough going back. My company for the next hour is a Hitachi flat panel television with a ping pong match going on. I'm not sure who's playing who, but it looks pretty serious as it's sponsored by Volkswagon.
Posted by ink |
[Thursday, June 29, 2006]
I got my first Chinese massage today. For 70 yuan (a little less than $9 USD), I got a 1 hour foot massage and a 1 hour body massage. I didn't realize how many bruises I had on my legs until the little Chinese masseuse began to rub them. I ignored it and told myself that having my bruises rubbed is good for them. Besides, the pain was offset by the intense pleasure of having my mosquitoe bites rubbed. It's almost just as good as scratching them, except without the blood. I just wish I hadn't started giggling when she got to the thighs and butt. Rather inconvenient ticklish areas to have. Though, after the massage, she did comment that my bum "you hen duo ro!". Direct translation: "Your bum has a lot of meat." I've had my butt squeezed (unwillingly in clubs), slapped, but never kneaded. It was ...interesting, to say the least. My brother fell asleep during his.
Some tidbits about China:
1) I'm tall for an Asian gal in the U.S. In Shandong province (where my mom's family is from), everyone is tall. My brother and I are actually quite short for Shandong people.
2) Here - I'm considered to have a badonkadonk.
3) My brother and I are curiosities here. People think we're Korean, or from Hong Kong, or Japanese, and are surprised to hear we're Chinese. This always evolves into a lot of explaining our family history (fled from war in China to Taiwan, parents grew up there, immigrated to the U.S., we're vacationing in China). Siblings are also a rarity here due to the One Child policy.
Being with a Chinese family means lots of large meals. Meals in which aunts tell you you're not putting enough onions on your Peking duck, where the males are offered beer but the women are not (but women get to ride the air conditioned car to the restaurant while the males walk), and where you never eat enough - as the relations say while putting more food on your plate. Being with a rich Chinese family means a chaffeured car to all the tourist sites (and it's magically always just pulling up as we exit the restaurant), spa services which come to your door, and servants who move your things so you can never find anything the next day. I've already been chided for mistakenly asking if we should tip the chaffeur and for wanting to peep into the housekeeper's quarters to see what it was like. Being with my uncle's Chinese family means having his student look up train tickets to Mongolia for me, another student pick up my aunt when she got lost in the city, and a luxury-all-expense-paid trip to Shandong province via first class soft-sleeper train. It's just like the Harry Potter train! Complete with a little cart that comes around with food. I keep expecting Bertie Bott's jelly beans (Ew! Earwax!), but all they have are steamed buns. The TV station manager picked us up at the station and drove us to the hotel. Meanwhile, doctors in the U.S. are no longer even allowed to accept free pens from pharmaceutical companies anymore.
We've managed to hit Badaling Great Wall, Mutianyu Great Wall (recommendeD), Ming Tombs, Summer Palace, Forbidden City (recommended), and the nightclub scene in Beijing and karaoke with the country's top advertising students.
Interestingly, students all over the world are pretty similar, even if you're in a communist country. My uncle teaches advertising and branding at Beijing U., which my mom tells me is the Harvard of China. Beijing U. has old buildings (except they're Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon type buildings instead of Gothic buildings with ivy), decrepit dorms, and students wearing Birkenstocks (lots of them). There's a surprising number of foreign students here. The campus seems a little safer, not by virtue of the neighborhood, but more by virtue of cultural values. Students are placed on a pedestal here, so homeless people don't even think about sleeping on campus, and thieves never steal from them. They're quite literally in an ivory tower. Even student protests are generally overlooked (Tianamen being a notable exception) because they're waved away with a hand and a shake of the head and the utterance "They're students, let them be idealists." Many former student protesters stay on to be professors at Beijing U. They're not allowed to have anti-government propaganda in their lectures, but they do encourage their students to think freely and critically about issues.
Many people receive bootleg Taiwan tv channels via satellite, so the people here have a good media outlet to the outside world. The police tend to look the other way because they too, watch the same channels. China is in political flux and most people know it. More interesting is the technological flux. DVDs are everywhere, but you cant' find VHS if your life depended on it, because China opened its borders later and skipped over that step. Cell phones are dirt cheap but the payphones were never upgraded.
The food, of course, is still the same. So far I've eaten turtle soup (with the turtle floating in it, shell and all), grubs, and every sort of sea-animal possible. I've thought about eating pigeon, cicadas, grasshoppers, and a few other things that were on the table, but I bailed out. My brother did manage to eat grasshoppers and cicadas after much coaxing.
It's funny being around relatives that you haven't seen in 20-some years. They're full of stories about this or that that you used to do when you were little (I was never a good child), how you used to drive grandma crazy, and how adorable you were. It's also funny hearing stories about mom. I think she may have been funny and quirky. Weird. I like to think I'm funny and quirky. I'm also told I dance a lot like her (during a fun but strange nightclub outing with me, my brother, my cousin, and my two 50-some year old aunts). They used to make fun of her for crying over everything. Grandma used to get mad because it'd make her look bad to have a kid who was always crying. My aunt makes fun of my uncle for tearing up over soap operas. It's nice to know I can blame genetics for my tendency to tear up at long-distance commercials, at will, or when angry and frustrated. It's not due to inherent weakness of character.
My uncle got me a cell phone to use in China so I can call in case of emergency. It's nice, except I can't read Chinese, so I don't really know how to use it. I have 12 messages in my inbox that I don't know what they say, and I can only call the 3 numbers I have in my phonebook - my uncle, his assistant, and my friend Ed in Shanghai.
My aunt has been matchmaking me with the son of the tv station manager who took us around during the luxury vacation. I had to tell her that in the unlikely event that I drop out of medical school, move to China, live in pseudo-rural Shandong instead of Beijing or Shanghai, he breaks up with his long term girlfriend and we overcome the language barrier, I suppose I'd consider dating him. She said we should keep in touch over email, even though I can't read Chinese and he can't read english because we never know what may happe in 5-6 years.
Every morning/afternoon (depending on whether it's a weekday or a weekend), I sit down in cubicle 2-29 (2nd floor, cubicle 29 because I like prime-numbered cubes. Or when pressured - a cube that's a multiple of 2 prime numbers is sufficient), set up my laptop, and raise the blinds to reveal a glorious view of the construction pit that used to be our plaza. And so starts my day, after chugging down overpriced (but delicious) coffee from Chapterhouse (one of my favorite coffeeshops on 9th and Bainbridge) and browsing the bikes available at Via Bikes. Today is a big day. But then again - every day seems to be a big day recently, since I make a renewed vow every morning that this is the one in which I'll catch up to my study schedule instead of letting it pile up indiscriminately behind me as I blithely ignore the oncoming train wreck of an exam that's worth 2/3 of my grade.
I've wound down as the year has wound down. Instead of chugging ahead full speed past the finish line, I've slowed down. Instead of the finish line being a motivating factor, the sight of it is a comforting factor, giving me the license to take my time since I'm almost there. This is pretty typical of me. What motivates me is the unknown. When I'm not sure if the finish line is around the next corner(s), I turn them at breakneck speed, anxiously wondering if I'll ever get there. Now that I'm assured it exists, I'm resting on my laurels. Bad Ink. This doesn't bode well for my future since the big unknowns generally become known by your mid 40's. Who you'll marry. How your kids will turn out. What your career will be. Looks like I'm ripe material for a mid-life crisis. And I thought the quarter-life-crisis was bad. I'm also bothered by my inability to meet personal goals since I set them, go full speed, and then watch them slide by as I get close. Perhaps my inability to commit pervades all aspects of my life.
It's a rainy day. Wet and humid. It's the first time I've been able to test my Gore-tex shell, which is supposed to be waterproof (already tested this winter) and breathable (tested this morning). Apparently, technology is still better at making promises than delivering. I arrived at the library drenched in $300 worth of my own sweat. Either my sweat molecules are larger than the average person's (since Gore-Tex is supposed to have pores small enough to keep water out, but large enough to let sweat escape), or North Face has swindled me. I tell myself - yes, I'm clammy, but I bet I'm a lot less clammy that I would be in a cheaper non-breathable waterproof jacket! ...In addition to not meeting my goals, I'm also really good at lying to myself to justify expensive purchases. I'm not shaping up to be the responsible, sophisticated, smart grown-up I envisioned.
big change, the choices we make
in life, gut instincts, on-the-whim
hairpin turns, the search for truth, the desire to be happy, the journey to finding out what
makes us happy.
being young and clueless, hoping
that we're not blindly leading ourselves to our own demise with every
tentative step we take, the pitfalls of dating, the trials
and travails of being a young woman in the post-feminist era.