Tag Archives: wonderings

Places

When I was home this summer, everything was strangely familiar. It was a comforting feeling. No wonder a place is a called “home” for a reason. My parents’ house is pretty much the same, my friends are just the same, the streets look the same as I last saw them. The first time I left for China, I was heartbroken to leave my New York. My one and only home, I was so sad to leave it, and even made a list of things to do and see before I left. As I learned during my visit last summer, almost everything is still there, and I was reassured of that again this time.

So although I only had a few short weeks at home, I was not as afraid or sad as I was the first time. Especially since this time, I said goodbye to Suzhou, a place I will probably never live in again, but I know that New York is a place I can and will always return to.

I had always been eager to spend time working and living in China. I was sad to learn that Suzhou wasn’t the kind of place I was looking for. But what I was sad to leave behind were some incredible friendships and relationships there. Right now, I am facing another new adventure, I think of it as China: Chapter II. I am now living in Guangzhou. In a short time, I feel much more connected to Guangzhou than I ever felt in Suzhou. Maybe it’s the fact that my father’s family is from here, maybe it’s the fact that I know the dialect (Cantonese), maybe it’s the warmer Southern culture. I don’t know. In Guangzhou, I’m happy to wander the city, go to a nearby museum, hike up a mountain, go to a pretty impressive import store, or meander through Chinese medicine markets.

I feel at home. Whatever the reason for that feeling is, I’ll gladly add Guangzhou to the exclusive list that New York is on: Places I Call Home.

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all

– The Beatles’ “In My Life”

New (school) Year’s Resolutions ’10-11

I know that right now it’s still the middle of the summer for most of you. But believe it or not, I am heading back at this very moment. Yes, I am on a 4 hour layover. Granted, I have over a week of orientation, meetings, and set-up time, but we start school on August 11. So I realized it is yet that time again, time for me to decide my New (school) Year’s Resolutions for the school year of 2010-11.

First I’m going to have a quick refresher of what I decided to do last year

1. Be less negative.
I think that I have been…

2. Get to the gym.
I didn’t go very much at the beginning of the school year, then did a huge burst of it in the late middle of the year. But then when my membership expired (around May?) I decided not to renew because I was leaving Suzhou soon. I told myself I’d run outside in lieu of that but could never wake up early enough.

3. Save money / spend less.
I think I did. Finances are happy now.

4. Cook more / eat more healthily.
I tried and I believe I did pretty well. It’s easy to want to order in on a bad day. Overall, I think I cut down on restaurant food considerably.

5. Learn more Chinese (character recognition)
Unfortunately, I didn’t do a lot of studying and didn’t take lessons but I think I have improved a lot. Just noticing when I travel and need to read signs, and also the fact that I can read and reply to texts in Chinese. I will try to learn more – and now I also need to practice my Cantonese pronunciation. It’s in my head, just doesn’t come out of my mouth right!

6. Keep in better touch with friends and family back home.
I think this one was… FAIL! As a poor excuse, the firewalling of Facebook has caused me to drop off a lot of correspondence. It sometimes is just too busy to write email! I tried on the phone but people aren’t often free in the morning (best time given my time difference) My friends forget to check my Flickr and Blog, which is where most of the updates about me are.

So for this year….

1. Exercise – I have found that there are dance studios in GZ. Finally!
2. Consume less. This is both for the environment and to save money.
3. Continue to cook more / eat more healthily
4. Continue to learn more Chinese
5. Keep in better touch with friends and family back home
6. Write more and read more. I used to carry around a little notebook and jot things down. Similarly I always had a book to read during any kind of time spent commuting or waiting in line. I have forgotten to that in recent years in the interest of traveling light.

Quote of the Day

“I don’t want to see us descend into a nation of bloggers…I think we need editorial oversight now more than ever.” – Steve Jobs, June 2010

To put this into context, Jobs said this in regards to hoping that the new iPad will be a content delivery tool. He adds, “Anything we can do to help newspapers find new ways of expression that will help them get paid, I am all for.”

I would lean more towards agreeing than not. My first life, my first “career” was in news and magazine publishing. Now, nearly a decade later I still think that content is king, even when the dollars mean nothing to me anymore. Why? Well, a blog is short for a ‘web log,’ a public diary if you will. Since blogging became easy to do and free in some cases, to boot, scores of blogs on all sorts of topics have cropped up. Of course, everyone says this is wonderful, since the media is biased, and now journalism is accessible to everyone, not just journalists. To some extent, yes. But in the generation of “if it’s on the internet, it must be true,” this can be dangerous. It’s getting exhausting seeing all these blogs that crop up posing as an online magazine. Sorry, you’re just… not.

I do think that blogs should stick to personal things – interests, experiences, etc. But it’s a big, wide open internet so the iPad probably won’t change the trend of blogging, and what is blogged.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose

Growing up Asian means that not wasting (and by proxy, saving) is just second nature. Whether it is food, water, electricity, clothing or money, it was just drilled into me, waste not, want not. How convenient that when I was in high school, not only did being environmentally friendly become the right thing to do, it was also quite trendy. Of course I joined environmental activist clubs in school. Sorting your recyclable materials became the norm in the 90s, as was giving up aerosol cans (imagine that, right after the 80s big hair!) Back then, it was our way of showing we cared about the environment. Maybe a witty button on your backpack or something too. People said things like “save a tree” instead of using a piece of paper and inappropriately used the term “ozone layer.”

Years went by, and we learned there was a lot more to preserving our earth than just recycling. There was also reducing our consumption and reusing products. Then we learned about “carbon footprint” the cause to replace the ozone layer. With people still using the term wrong. It seems like it is getting harder and harder to care for the environment – maybe like being the parent of a teenager?

What I’ve started to take on as my new personal goal is: re-purposing. My reasoning behind this is that some of my actions have small benefits. I don’t know how much energy and manual labor it takes to sanitize bottles and jars for recycling, to recycle paper, or to manufacture new products. One could even loop in the carbon footprint idea here.

It has not been as easy as I thought it would be. There are lots of great ideas out there in books, blogs, and magazines. Some ideas are outright unattractive (who wants a scarf made out of an old t-shirt?) while some are functional and aesthetic. I can easily spot which items can be washed and saved but I don’t necessarily have the creativity to turn it into something useful. In my effort to try this, I’ve become more of a pack-rat than I’ve been able to help the landfills. The best I have done this year is re-use paper which had something printed wrong on the other side.

My new home resolution is to create a bin in the corner (there’s a huge junk room/closet) off the kitchen which I will use to save…. junk. I’ll need to keep up to date on web sites with re-purposing ideas and then go back to my bin o’ junk. Hopefully it will also satiate my craving to do crafts. Lastly, this re-purposing junk is a skill I should get better at, if I want to be a better early childhood teacher. I just admired some good ideas right here.

My question to you is, do you have any ideas for me? Any that you have heard about or have tried at home?

Chinese-Americans: A Different Species?

I’ve written here and talked to friends at length (ad nauseum?) about my lack of identity, both in China and the US. In both countries, I’m often told that “You’re not really American” or “You’re not really Chinese.” Emphasis on ‘really.’

I’ve hoped to find others in my specific situation that could relate. It’s easy for people to say they understand… but really, they *can’t.* Earlier this month, I visited my cousin (also American) in Beijing, where she has lived on and off for the past few years. It felt strangely comforting to know that she also gets questioned at the gates of apartment complexes that are perceived as expat or expensive.

I learned last year that a childhood friend of mine had written and published a novel called A Thread of Sky about the Chinese American experience in China. It was just released this month and she is busy promoting it all over the US. I’m so eager to get my hands on it to see what she draws from her experiences living in China, and how they are similar to mine.

It probably won’t be until summer, when I get to North America, that I can buy the book. But I got a sneak peek into Deanna’s China experience in a recent essay she wrote for The Millions. She has always been a beautiful writer, but odd as it may sound, it was emotional to me. Reading about the questions we are asked by locals and expats alike, feelings of isolation, and seeking a sense of belonging felt so familiar.

In the beginning, it was humorous that people didn’t “get” me. It’s annoying now, even frustrating and insulting. Instead, I’m more often given a label by whomever is too lazy to try to understand. Or worse yet, challenged about what my true identity and culture is.

Deanna, I’m so proud of you. Can’t wait to read your book