Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Real or Not Real

I finished reading "Mockingjay" ( the last of book of "The Hunger Games" trilogy) today. Sometime this morning. I forget exactly when. I worked from 1:30pm-9:30pm tonight... so sometime before noon. I really wanted to finish it last night... but I was sooo tired and still had a long way to go.

It's funny how you see certain characters clearly in books. How you fill in the blanks and "draw" the characters in your mind- especially with the characters who are not described very clearly. To me- "President Snow" was a Chinese man. Specifically a "Beijinger" - a man who was born and raised in "the capital" ( of China) and had all of the mannerisms and dialect of someone born in Beijing. This makes sense because "The Capitol"  and the entire country of Panem always reminded me of Beijing and China  (censorship, districts/provinces, etc.) I even had a dream where "The Hunger Games" was a real thing in the "real world" and two children were picked from each country to fight to the death in "the Capitol" ( of the world) - Beijing.

Randomly/Oddly - "President Coin"  in my mind looked and sounded like US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

At the end of the "day" (trilogy), I am  happy with the way that things turned out. I am sad that the  trilogy is over. I am looking forward to seeing the movie ( hope they'll show it here!)... and I am still "Team Peeta".

We all have those "Gale's" in our lives. The really good friend that we would fight and die for, the one who we love like family, but who we never could really see ourselves with in a ... "romantic" way. Whether you are a woman who dates men or a woman who dates women, a man who dates men or a man who dates women, etc. ... we all know the feeling. There are those friends who you LOVE ... but you would not, cannot ever cross the line with. The "chemistry" is just not there. It just doesn't exist. It's different. I think it was always that way with Katniss and Gale. In her mind anyway.

... and then there are those people who we are "thrown into the ring" with. The ones who we would have never noticed without the world intervening and throwing us at each other. The ones who catch us by surprise.  That is Peeta and Katniss. He always existed in her peripheral vision but she never really noticed him until she was forced to. Only then did the smallest memory ( the burning bread, the starvation, etc) coming flooding back to her and a connection was cemented into her mind.

I feel like I've been "thrown into the ring" here with Lisa. Sometimes I even feel like I'm playing that "Real Or Not Real" game that Katniss played with Peeta when he was trying to get a hold on reality after being tortured and brainwashed by The Capitol. There are "trackerjackers" seeping into my skin and "mutts" gnawing at my sanity and I'm just trying to .... get out of the arena with my mind (and my heart) in one piece.

I am wondering if snarky sarcasm translates through "Google Translate" ... even when you use ALL CAPS in English and "quotation marks"... I'm still not sure if the message gets across. I had some palpable, physical heat, some anger boiling through my veins today. ( In fairness though it's probably also almost that time of the month - sorry guys but- REAL).

I know that Lisa has been busy looking for jobs ... and I KNOW that not having money IS frustrating. But still, I thought that she would reply to a message that I had sent her last week - or send me a message to say that she was sorry that she could not meet up for dinner with me and Helen when we went out on Sunday night ... but she didn't.

 She DID have a little money to be social and go to KTV last Wednesday night with some friends though. Helen told me because she invited Helen. I was working - from 1:30pm until 9:30pm. I think they went to KTV at 8pm. So I was at work ... but still, hearing this, I felt a little hurt to not be invited. After  singing together and making promises to go back and sing together again soon ... plus Helen speaks English ... so I would have someone to have conversation with even if Lisa's friends do not speak English ... and I could show up late... SHE (Lisa) showed up an hour late when WE all went LAST time.

I just felt angry. "In English, we have a saying 'Actions Speak Louder Than Words.'" ( and yes this *gem* was a quote from the message that I sent her today). I just felt like I am trying my hardest to learn Chinese and to make time for her. She claims to "want" to spend time  together and "wants" to learn English ...  but sometimes ( like today) I really have to wonder (and ask her)  "REAL or  NOT REAL?"

*sigh* Maybe it's all much more innocent than I'm making it...
Maybe she knew that I would be tired after teaching a 2 hour class and would just have wanted to go home? I know this much: She wants to learn English. (REAL)  She wants to travel abroad (REAL). She wants to learn more English so that she can tell me her "heart feelings" (REAL - she typed that on her computer to me).  She has given me the name Li (her family name) (REAL). She was sad..sad..sad... if she "had a thousand words" it would not be enough to describe her feelings leaving me" when she left Best Learning (REAL - in an email I will post here at some point.) She asked me if I would ever "marry a Chinese PERSON" and then pulled me in close to take a picture together when I said "absolutely". (REAL)

It all leaves me feeling a little like Katniss - the way that she always expected the worst from Peeta - and then regretted treating him so badly after the fact- when it was made clear that he had her best intentions in mind.

I just want to get out of the ring ... far away from the grasp of President Snow.
I want these "games" to be over.

May the odds be ever in our favor...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Fighting against "the current", finding the (reassure) shore...

I'm here just riding the waves ... trying not to fight the current too much. I let it take me out just as long as I can keep my head above water. I take deep breaths when I go under. I push back against the tide when I feel the sand beneath my feet and instinctively know that I can fight it and win and scramble to shore.

The ocean is a good ( maybe a little overused) analogy for a lot of life situations. My Aunt Mary has a beach house in Westhampton, Long Island. She's had it forever. Since I was a baby at least. It's a beautiful place, filled with many happy summer memories. The ocean is literally in her backyard ( and "the bay" is across the street in the neighbors backyard) and so, in addition to swimming at the pool at "The Swordfish Club" - my cousins and I went out into the ocean a lot. I always admired my cousin Megan ( a year older than me, a Pisces- so she was always a natural "fish" in the water!). We grew up together and are kind of the "sisters" that neither one of us had ( she has 2 older brothers, I have one younger brother). She always seemed to be able to navigate the ocean so well. She almost seemed "in control of it". While I was timid and flailing and always stayed pretty close to shore .... unless it was really calm.

BUT  one time when it was really calm we went FAR out... we didn't even realize how far we had gone. We saw my mom and my dad's first cousin Maureen and her husband Hank  waving their hands and cupping their hands over their mouths trying to tell us something and gesturing to us to come in. It turns out that there was a SHARK who had picked up our scent and was swimming closer and closer. We could not see him from where we were... but once we got to shore we DID! Hank is a fisherman and he didn't think that the shark was that big (not like a great white from JAWS) but it would have definitely been big enough to bite into a limb and have a snack. We still talk about that story. I think Maureen got it all on video (VHS tape- this WAS 1991-92') somewhere.

So yes, when I was younger I pretty much always knew that if I went into the ocean, I could expect to get pulled out into the undertow. It was almost as if the ocean could sense my fear,  just like the shark picking up our scent.

I remember one time, seeing a big wave  seconds away, getting ready to swallow us and hearing Megan's instructions to "dive under" (we were no more than 10 or 11 yrs old at the time - she was SUCH a pro at navigating the ocean. I love her.). I remember rolling through the waves, feeling like I was inside of a washing machine. Hearing sounds and feeling that suction. Eventually "rolling" to shore and/or feeling the hand of my mother/father pulling me up....

and right now, I'm feeling like that too.

Like there are things - sounds and motion- going on all around me. But it's muffled and hazy and sometimes I feel like I'm holding my breath and other times it feels like I'm fighting to "break through" the (language) barriers and understand this world (language).  It is a combination of light and hope and beauty dancing with darkness and dizziness and murky mud between my toes. It's so frustrating because there is Mandarin... and there is Cantonese... and then of course each area has their own "local language". So in any given social situation I could be scrambling to navigate  my way through THREE different conversations. To "pick up the scent" - the tone, the information, etc. It's exhausting and at the end of it all, you've gotta just sit back and let it happen around you. You've got to TRUST that everything is OK and that you're not missing out on any important information. (I'm pretty sure that Lisa learned the English phrase" What did you say?...." from me. Because I SAY that so often in her presence.)

Lisa sent me a QQ ( like "Chinese Instant Messenger") message the other day telling me that she was sorry that she was so late in getting back to me (to my QQ message that I had left her a few days earlier) but that she had been in Guangzhou looking for jobs. She thanked me for my encouragement and said sometimes she felt frustrated but she was not giving up the search.

AND then the light broke through. I exhaled.
The ocean was still just long enough for a little happiness to surface..

Lisa told me that once she is settled into her new job- she wants to enroll in ENGLISH CLASSES. AND that she hopes to "TRAVEL ABROAD" in the future.

(TRANSLATION: She wants to speak English. She wants to get out of China.)

I know that in my first post that I wrote here I was talking about how tomorrow is never really promised and that there is "no day but today". That's still true .... but this message was the faith and the hope and the desire to invest in a potential tomorrow.

Like fighting against the "current" (situation) and swimming to shore.

I don't know how long it will take - but for a moment I found the air and understood my surroundings.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Breaking Strings and other things....

Specifically - CHAIRS.

My pride/ego wants to say something before I go into details and tell this story. So just wait a minute.

Katy's Pride/Ego" Hey guys... so yeah... ummm I ONLY weigh 143 lbs. I am 5 foot 5 inches. I used to weigh 155 lbs. I've lost 12 lbs in the past six months. Sure, 143 lbs is still a little "curvy" for my height... but for God's sake it's not obese. I know, I know, I live in China now. Maybe here "clinically obese" is considered anything over the 135 lb line?... I don't know... but  I'm NOT the ONLY one who broke a chair at work .... Yan ( who is my height but maybe 115 lbs at most) broke one TOO a few weeks ago ... and so did Milo a few months ago. They are CHEAP chairs!"

cheap chairs yes, but still, obviously my defenses are up a little bit, and my ego suffered a little bruising in addition to my butt today. lol...

Because I sat down a little too hard on my cheap office chair and broke it today. 

This was the second chair that I've broken since working here. I've worked in several office type situations before and have NEVER broken a chair. The first time it happened here, I was happy to hear that it happened to ("115 lb at most") Yann too. But the second time now .... is just laughable/frustrating/a little ego bruising.

HOWEVER- I am happy to report that after I broke this chair I marched into the conference room and got myself a GOOD QUALITY chair. Nothing too special. Just one with four strong, stable legs (instead of one cheap long "neck" type thing attached to four plastic wheels) and a strong but soft cushion.

SIDENOTE: I am also happy to report that since 13 hours ago, my QUALITY of LIFE has improved 110%.  Comforting. Relaxing. Reassuring. I have a feeling that my new little sturdy, stable office chair and I will be a good team... working together reliably and supporting each other each day for the next 6 months.

"Breaking strings and other things ... playing hard." - Ani DiFranco  (PS: where has she gone? Does anyone know? ... Ani DiFranco... Sarah McLachlan.... Jewel ... seems like the Earth swallowed them all up somewhere around the year 2000.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Chinese Nail Salon Adventures

Today... was better.

As my mom likes to say "Move a muscle, change a thought" ... or ( the more passive version of the same quote) "This too shall pass..."

I "moved muscles" today. I did laundry. I went to China Communication Bank and put 400 RMB into the account to pay my utilities bill for the month. I paid my rent. I put money away in my "savings folder" for  my Thailand trip in January. I played some "Words With Friends" and "Hanging With Friends" ( with friends in the USA!), I spent about 90 minutes each practicing "Mandarin" and "Cantonese" using the software on my computer.

and I got my eyebrows waxed.

Eyebrow waxing is not usually an adventure. I've had mine waxed here in China about three times now and it's typically quick and relatively painless and costs about 10 RMB ( about $1.60). There are a TON of nail salons in the shopping mall where my school is located. There is one hallway on the 4th floor where my school is that is literally "shoulder to shoulder" nail/hair salons. I'm not sure what the difference is with each .... but I've gone to several different ones for manicures/pedicures.

They are truly fascinating and unique and colorful places though. Each one. I'm really surprised that there hasn't been a movie titled "Nail Salon" made yet- in the same way as there has been "Barbershop" and "Beautyshop" because Asian nail salons are FULL of stories and great characters! Someone needs to get on that.... Margaret Cho are you listening?!

I've "shopped around" for a good nail/eyebrow place several times in the mall here because #1- the first place that I went to - I felt that I was being overcharged and I didn't like the attitude of the shop owner and #2. I've forgotten the exact location of the last two places that I went to! (because there are SO many around each corner and they are all so close to each other). The last place that I went to for a manicure... was jaw dropping... literally... and fascinating...  a woman was having some sort of a "mouth procedure" done while I was sitting in my chair getting my nails done. Like a dental procedure... in the nail salon. There was gauze in her mouth and lots of blood and some sort of a drill.  Her lips looked puffy but the woman working on her wasn't injecting anything into them. I wish I knew the Chinese words to ask WHAT they were doing to her. I'm not afraid of blood and couldn't take my eyes off her. She even TOOK THREE PHONE CALLS while she was having this "mouth procedure" done???!!

So, since I unfortunately forgot where THAT salon was, this place that I went to today was the 4th place I've been to. I walked in and it was quiet- maybe three other customers- and I went up to the woman at the computer who looked like "the boss" and said "Ni Hao ... Wo Yao ...meimao" ( Hello I want .... *points to eyebrows*.. eyebrows") meaning that I wanted to get them waxed. She gestured to a young girl who took me to a chair and gave me a headband.

A headband? I figured that she wanted me to put it on, but I had no idea why. I don't usually wear headbands. Hair elastics.... yeah sure, but I'm not really a headband kinda girl. My eyebrows weren't SO overgrown that they were creeping up my forehead.  With the headband in hand, or errrr... on my head... I knew that this was going to be.... different. THEN seeing the girl pull out this big long ( and STRONG) white thread that looked like dental floss and seeing the old man and woman talking about and staring at me, watching this all from across the room, ...confirmed my suspicion.

I was about to have my face "threaded". It was "threading" that's the word. I had never been "threaded". I've had a little laser around my  eyebrows and chin and bikini line a few times before. I don't consider myself a very "hairy" person. I don't really like a lot of extra body hair on me. But I don't mind it on other people. It's a personal choice. To each his/her own.  I try to tweeze any little stray hairs I find, but the way this girl was working on me ... you'd think I was hiding behind a mask of hair.  She "threaded" everywhere - even up into my hairline a little.

I just sat back and let her go at it.... as long as she trimmed my eyebrows...  AND as long as it didn't cost too much extra. The thread was strong. My eyes were closed and tearing a little from the pressure/pain and it felt like the thread was vibrating - even though it was not electric,  it wasn't "plugged into" anything. It ( and she) was just SO strong.

"Jigga ...Doh Shao Chen?" - How much does this cost?" I asked her. I thought that she said 40 RMB
 (which is a little expensive for a mistake, but whatever. ok)  but in the end it turned out to be only 15 RMB ( about $2.50).... whew!

It was slightly awkward and humbling. Truly no privacy. No room for personal space. But in the same way, I felt a connection was built between me and this girl. Since she has entered my personal space so "deeply" already - and was so kind and thorough and didn't overcharge me - I feel comfortable going back to that same salon for manicures/pedicures ... and "whatever else" ... in the future. Hair was removed, trust was embedded.

AND I will remember this salon because it has the same kind of black and white (instead of the typically "red and white") spinning "barbershop" light thingy outside of the door.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I want to pack the U-Haul. I want to play house again. It's been too long.

Before I start writing... whatever this is about to become, you must understand that

it is taking all of my energy to post this.  I am ...tired. (But the title of this post says it all)

Today is my day off. I had plenty of sleep last night. I've got plenty of money in the bank here. I'm well fed. I have been living here in China for 6 months now and am truly over most of the "culture shock".

I know
how to work my hot water,
how to pay my rent and utilities each month,
how to buy groceries/clothes/etc.,
how to use the subway,
how to transfer money home to pay my bills
how to connect to "forbidden websites" - Facebook/Blogger (VPN account)
how to speak some Mandarin ( "Pu-Tong-Hwah")
how to speak even less Cantonese  ("Guangdong-Hwah")

I've been - to Beijing and Guangzhou and Hong Kong so far.
I plan on going to Thailand and Tibet in 2012.

I'm not tired for lack of sleep or being too overworked or busy ...
I'm just tired... of being single.

Being a single woman from NYC who planned on traveling to China for a year, I held off on dating in New York before I left. I was (am) NOT blind ...  but I didn't want to get into something that I couldn't be present for.  One partner being in China while the other partner is in NYC - gives the term "long distance relationship" a whole new meaning.  It's a whole different level. It's too long. It's too distant for me ( and for most people I'm guessing)

So... I didn't think about love before coming over here. I could only think in the short term - I knew that I was going for my teacher training in Beijing for the first week and while I was there I wanted to hike "The Great Wall" and see this live Martial Arts/King Fu show.  - and yes, I did both. Scratch those off the list. If love happened here, I guess I assumed that I would maybe fall for another "ex-pat" and that we would travel around China together and eventually settle back in New York or Canada or wherever together. I didn't really give it much thought.

But in the past 6 months I've fallen pretty hard for a "good friend" of mine here. A (former) Chinese co-worker at my school named Lisa. We email and go out for dinner and KTV with friends ... but since she quit her job working at my school ( last week) ... I am missing our everyday contact. A lot.

I know that she is busy looking for jobs in Foshan and Guangzhou right now. Before she left my school, I promised her that I would write her an email every week and that we would make plans to get together once every month at least.  I just don't know if I can "keep on" like this. Lisa has "deep feelings" for me. I know that. She has told me that she wishes that she could speak more English so that she can share her "heart feelings" with me. Although I have seen some of those feelings... when we have wrestled and played around in school. I know that she does not like writing her feelings because I think that she believes that people ( the government or our employers) might be able to read her emails.

I am just at the point where I am frustrated by not being able to use a lot of words to speak to her. I am trying to learn Mandarin AND Cantonese ( the language that she speaks in most often with her family and friends.... she's from here... from Southern China) as quickly as I can. But ... it's hard.

To fall for someone who is closeted and who does not speak your language ... borders on masochistic. It's 2011... gay marriage is legal in New York... there are so many out and proud and wonderful women in New York. Why make the whole thing so hard? The truth is I didn't mean to fall. Do we ever mean to fall? ... It just happened. It just happens.

Being patient and trusting and connected here with this requires digging up personal strength from previously untapped sources. Like tapping a maple tree in the summertime trying to get enough sap to make a bottle of maple syrup. ... who would do that? I feel like nothing is definite. Nothing is promised. I guess that's true with everything in life.... but most days we all forget that. Life is truly "no day but today" - but when you are married and you speak the same language, you can afford to put stock in tomorrow.... to believe in tomorrow.

This is all very new... in so many ways.

Here's a little list (see below) of things that are so sooooo new to me.


#1. You find yourself researching and learning the words "Do you have a boyfriend?" - in Cantonese and asking your "good friend" this question  ("No") just to be sure that you are both on the same page ... just to be sure that the translation and the actions and everything add up.

#2. You get jealous of her friends for simply being able to talk to her.

#3. You have her phone number programmed in your phone, but you never call her.

#4. She gives you her last name "Li" (to add to your Chinese name "Xia Tian") within the first two months of knowing each other. "Li Xia Tian" - that's me.

#5.  The idea of "illegal immigration in the USA" suddenly doesn't seem so bad to you and you being to understand that there are ... exceptions. Well, there's one.

*sigh* we're not even technically "dating" so it's silly to expect the natural progression from 1st base to home base to happen here. I have to take it "one day at a time" but then sometimes I am so impatient and eager I want to flip ahead several pages to see what happens one year from now.  Will "we" be? I know that we would have to be somewhere with more of a gay scene, somewhere more "open" - like Hong Kong or NYC. A million thoughts about immigration and costs and things fill my head at times .... and then at other times I know that I can't afford to think that far. I'm just trying to hold on to a friendship. To learn a little more Cantonese and Mandarin each day. That's all that I can afford to believe in at this point. 

I had a blog on tumblr but "Big Brother" found it and deleted it. (I'm pretty sure he won't find this one though). I know that this first post here on blogger is not much of an "introduction" to me , but I kind of feel like I'm just picking up where I left off.  I'll fill in more blanks later. I'll provide a rough monthly 2-3 sentence update of April/May/June/July/August/September soon. I promise.

I also know that some friends and maybe family are reading this and I hope you know that I appreciate it. I love you and miss you more than words on paper ( or " a computer screen") could ever say. Being connected is... the best. I'm glad that I decided to have this *adventure* during the "iPad/wireless internet/computer technology age" when home does not feel nearly as far away as it would have felt having an adventure... say back in the 1700's. :)

Whatever kind of life I am building/experiencing here ... there is TRULY NO PLACE like HOME - New York/NYC. I have amazing family and friends who I love and thinking about you all makes any "emptiness and confusion and frustration" here immediately disappear.

OK I'll write more soon. Let me know if you have a blog or  if you know of any blogs that you think I should check out, follow, read, etc.