Monday, October 20, 2008

kind of grossed out

in the course of my stalking, i have discovered two dead mosquitoes in this room. one was... long gone and kind of white, and that one was under the cabinet. then was another fresher one by the closet. i would like to believe that that's this evening's nemesis, but... that might be wishful thinking. meanwhile i'm extremely sleepy. functioning tomorrow will likely be an issue.

trying to lure it out with my laptop. if no response soon i'm probably just going to pass out.

vengeance will be mine

there are two things in the world i wish i had. ok, while we're at it, there are 3. one is my absentee ballot. come on warren county board of elections! wake up you bastards!

not long ago, i knew the joys of peaceful slumber. i fell asleep some time after 12, and again, not long after awoke having been supped on. i was PISSED. i now have turned on all the lights in my room and have been mounting an all-out offensive on the biggest ugliest flying blood-sucking piece of shit. it will not survive this night, and, granted how tired i am, neither might i. also, it's only big because it's full of my blood and i will not rest until its insides are smeared on the walls.

so, back to those things i wish i had. 1) a citronella candle. i have what is apparently a mosquito repeller, but what i want is one of those things that draws them in and then kills them. i recall the picnic table at our campout back when, and what i waaant is a killing field of mosquitoes. 2) one of those electrified badminton rackets that they've developed over here expressly for frying these little fuckers. I did used to have one of those in Beijing and I am going out tomorrow and buying another one and keeping it by my bed like a shotgun.

if you can't tell i'm really angry and itchy and sleep-deprived. i am doing the latimes crossword.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pfffft. I started the morning by being productive and then spent it all looking at old stuff and reading poems online. None of the other ones I wrote that year are any good, so I shall instead share this one that I just read on the Poetry 180 website.

After Years
Ted Kooser

Today, from a distance, I saw you
walking away, and without a sound
the glittering face of a glacier
slid into the sea. An ancient oak
fell in the Cumberlands, holding only
a handful of leaves, and an old woman
scattering corn to her chickens looked up
for an instant. At the other side
of the galaxy, a star thirty-five times
the size of our own sun exploded
and vanished, leaving a small green spot
on the astronomer's retina
as he stood on the great open dome
of my heart with no one to tell.

More relevant things to come, I promise! I'll get down to work after lunch :)


The google search turned up one or two things of interest, but also revealed that one can no longer find the pastel plant still-life I did in 11th grade or the crappy poem I submitted to Sam's website so that she'd have participants just by typing my name into a search engine. That may be for the best. And I went to flip through the crappy poetry I wrote as a sophomore for a creative writing class and discovered that none of it is on this computer. After a search through the piles of old webmail that I had forwarded to my new address before the Cornell system locked us out, I found it. And it's embarrassing, but you know... why the heck not? Oh GEEZ.


On the way from point A to point B
I discovered a bashful little stowaway,
A miracle and a chance meeting,
A grasshopper on my dashboard.
I discovered the bashful little stowaway,
Sitting demurely on top of my stereo,
A grasshopper on my dashboard,
Politely enduring my taste in loud music.
Sitting demurely atop the stereo,
He eyed the messy passenger seat with obvious indifference,
Politely enduring my exceptionally loud music,
As a vortex billowed outside the open windows.
He eyed the messy passenger seat with indifference,
And I wondered if he was as worried as I was
About the vortex billowing beyond the open windows,
If he were the daredevil type.
I wondered if he was as worried as I was,
I’d never want a guest to go flying out the window,
Even if he were the daredevil type,
Especially one so accepting of the hectic state of my car.
I’d never want my guest to go flying out the window
Before we reached our destination,
And he modestly accepts me with my hectic car.
I marveled at the bonds between strangers.

Before we’d reached a destination,
On the way from point A to point B,
I marveled at the random bond between strangers,
A miracle, and a chance meeting.

Refugee from another blog

Felt inclined to google myself today... and came across this blog entry on imeem. I decided to move it over here, but deleted the original just because.

The Downfall of my Junior Year

For anyone who's interested, I'm file sharing my art history 395 paper for a limited time. This is the paper that nearly killed me this semester... the one for which I'd had all the info and research for for weeks but which still ended up a tortuous week and a half late. This is funny for a few reasons...

1) I'm only posting it because I saw that there's a section for file sharing but it's the only thing I could think of to share off of my laptop. On the other hand, my sharing it actually makes a lot of sense.

2) Alice is currently my only friend, therefore, the only person who would even have the opportunity to read it if she wanted to.

3) I still don't think it's a very good paper.

Oooh well.

BTW, the picture is from a pattern called "Ladder of Clouds" found a book by Traude Gavin called Iban Textiles. I thought it was appropriate. I honestly loved my topic and my professor, obviously so much that my blood curdled before it could reach my brain, which suffered immensely from the diversion.

Thank goodness that's in the past now. I really do owe a lot to every single person that was supportive of me during my meltdown even though I'm pretty sure it didn't make any sense to anyone.

So.. Onwards and upwards!

Just don't ask me what grade I got. I won't tell!

Monday, October 13, 2008

As for lunch today...

The first task... ok, wait, the second task that was ever assigned to me here was to assist the TEDA Public Library with their English website. What that currently means is that I'm translating the Recent News section of it, which is a lot like pouring acid onto my brain. Directly. It's certainly cool, and it's great for my Chinese, but after about 2 arduous translations I'm pretty much unable to continue. But that's just setting the stage.

Today was my second day at the library, and I had to leave about an hour and a half after I got there. As I learned, a hot pot (actually more like shabu shabu) restaurant had invited the folks from the nursing home for lunch at 11. We were invited too. I feel a little weird taking part in events with the nursing home because they typically involve my getting fed somehow despite not having actually ever volunteered for them. Yeah right, I feel really weird. But I went this time determined to be really nice. The restaurant was at the Shimin Guangchang, which is... well I wanna say it's usually a term given to a public square. In TEDA it refers to a mall, which was more or less deserted at this time of day. When the seniors arrived, I went down with Sunny to collect them. I didn't really know what I was supposed to be doing, but in the end wound up having to chase some of the speedier old men into the building and show them up the escalator. The man I specifically had to follow started the walk with a cigarette and tried to throw it into a trashcan. Fortunately he couldn't get it open. I told him that we could wait until we got up to the restaurant and they would probably have ash trays there. But by the time we got on the escalator, the cigarette was gone. I looked around but saw no trace of it. Turns out we were in a non-smoking establishment anyways.

The hot pot was all right. Lots of veggies. I really can't eat lamb at all anymore though I realize now. The man I was sitting next to kept taking my dipping sauces. Which was fine, obviously, since they weren't MY dipping sauces, but I just thought it was really funny. The seniors took up most of the restaurant, all in their matching long-sleeved polos. It was really nice to see them enjoying their lunch!

Afterwards, well... after an obligatory photo-session that I again questioned my part in, we all got up and walked around the mall. During much of this time I was trying to remove a chopstick splinter from my hand. Speaking of, I noticed that one of the men had torn one of his chopsticks into bits to fashion a toothpick. I eventually ended up by one of the more lively and much older men, who was being helped along by a really sweet volunteer. She attempted to indicate to him that I'm an American. I'm not really sure what she said, but since she said it in English it set him off. He turned to me and was very excited about speaking to me. I'm not 100% sure of everything that was said and what I agreed to or not, but he was awesome and made me laugh. While waiting for the elevator, he sought me out again and proceeded to give the cutest old man rant of all time. He insisted that the China Construction Bank had done everyone a disservice by translating its own name wrong. He felt that it should be Construction Bank of China. Which... makes sense. He set down a number of other examples and rationale, but alas, I had no idea what he was saying to me. Mostly I just nodded and the other girls laughed at me.

We saw them off then rode back in a sweet rickety van. Then I went to finish the translation from hell and when I did I was happy.

I need to say something about Shine home and probably last week, but... I'm starting to feel unbalanced in my typing again and it's making me really anxious and uncomfortable. I don't think I'll ever be able to type in peace again actually. That's kinda sad...

Thanks, eh?

I almost don't know how to begin. I haven't had any time in the past week to just sit down by myself and write anything here. I tried sorting out my finances just now and was simply unable to account for any of my activities the past few days. But of course, any good elementary school math student learns how to work backwards...

Tonight I celebrated Canadian Thanksgiving. Well, sort of. I celebrated it in the sense that I went to a place that was celebrating it and proceeded to eat a lot. An expat-run restaurant and bar called Parrot hosts Thanksgiving buffets (2) every year, and I didn't know anything about it until after I walked through the door. Last week Mrs. L introduced me to a woman who was looking to rent out a room. She's nice and her apartment's great, but totally out of my price range. Also she has two cats that are really crafty and like... mind-control you into petting them, regardless of how allergic you are. Anyways, she'd reserved a table at this event and invited me to come along.

I'd like to say that if you're in TEDA and really into Thanksgiving, this restaurant is where you want to be on this day of the year. I thought we would just be sitting in a big group, ordering off the menu, and running up your typical slightly-more-than-chinese-food-but-still-not-gut-wrenching bill. But yeah, actually, all-you-can-eat Thanksgiving buffet. I met her friends, mostly teachers at an international school, and then the owner came by to let us know that we could get our turkeys whenever we wanted. He's a suuuper-nice oldish gent with a southern drawl, and I asked him later where he's originally from. North Carolina! Anyways, I was like wow, turkey, what? But he directed us to the buffet while they brought out the birds. At the buffet: green beans, corn & red peppers, salad, sweet potatoes, cheesy broccoli, aaaaand STUFFING and MASHED POTATOES.

I really hadn't planned on eating any western-style foods for the next few months, for a number of reasons. But MAN I was happy to smell that stuffing. It was real quality stuff, and the potatoes were nice too. Gravy and cranberry sauce were also more than satisfactory. The owner came by and ladled a bunch of it into bowls for us to keep at our tables. At the tables were two honest to goodnest huo ji. I have no idea where they came from.

I really don't know how to stop eating Thanksgiving food. So I had a lot. And then went for pie and chocolate... torte? Should have skipped the chocolate. It was not what I wanted. But there was sweet potato pie and pumpkin pie. And lots of real whipped cream.

How much was it? Y150. Luckily I happened to have that amount in my purse, otherwise I might have been embarrassed. Ok, I would definitely have been embarrassed. I would pretty much venture that I would usually never disburse such an amount for a meal. Oh, and by today's exchange rate, that's about $21.9535... but that's a lot of money kind of.

It was really tasty food though and fun company. Glad I went!

Just remembered: severely apocalyptic dream last night. Like... I'm pretty sure the world was honestly ending. The moon crashed down anyways. And other stuff happened. Scary stuff.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Don't tread on me

I heard this story after dinner today. A better version, obviously, and in Chinese, so forgive me. I'm a little unclear as to how the scene was set up, but let's say it takes place at Tiantan (the temple of heaven).

At the Temple of Heaven, the grass was full of ducks, and it was very difficult to navigate around them. God declared that anyone who stepped on one would be sorry. There were three women in the park, and the first started to walk through the grass. However, she accidentally stepped on a duck. God then paired her with an ugly husband. The second woman started walking through the grass and tried to be as careful as possible to avoid stepping on a duck. Unfortunately she also accidentally stepped on one and was paired with an even uglier husband than the first woman. The third woman was terrified, and started walking through the grass. She managed to make it through without stepping on a single duck! She was paired with a strong, tall, handsome husband. A catch, if you will. She couldn't believe her luck! Wondering how she could ever have been so fortunate, she turned to him and said, "Wow, what did I ever do to deserve a man as wonderful as you?" He replied, "I don't know, but I stepped on one of those ducks back there."


This is what my name means.

Before we were born, my grandfather drew up a list of names for our parents to snatch up on our behalf on a first-come-first-served basis. As the story has it, by being the second-born girl in our generation, I managed to get the second-best name on the list, beating out Selina by two years and also slightly annoying her parents.

Here it is in traditional characters: 潘絢愷 (pan1 xuan4 kai3)

Today as we went from office to office meeting various managers and higher-up sorts, I ended up in front of a man who asked what the last character in my name means. Now that you know where this is headed, I'm going to veer off a bit.

The first character, of course, is Pan, the family name. That's what's engraved on the giant headstone in the graveyard in Springdale where we all have plots.

Once, back in either junior high or high school, Selina brought up the topic of Chinese dictionaries during a phone conversation. At that point I'd already dropped out of Chinese school and was mostly uninterested in the topic, but when we started wondering what our names meant, I asked my mom to pull one out and show me how to use it. This was, of course, before the internet and looong before or any of those other fancy online dictionaries. Dictionaries for the traditional system are really fascinating things, and definitions are itemized by radical and stroke count. So you really kind of have to know what you're doing in order to navigate one. Anyways, we looked up the character pan, and discovered that it refers to the water in which one washes rice. It's not one of those words that ever comes up in conversation, at least not as far as I can tell, having been relegated to the status of a popular surname instead.

Xuan is the generational name for girls in our family, so Christine, Selina, and I all have 2 out of 3 characters in common. I looked this up with my mom too, and she returned that it meant "bright." After I got into college and was regularly looking up words on the internet, I double-checked all of these, and got basically the same definitions. The MDBG dictionary corroborates the meaning as "brilliant," but also adds "adorned," "swift," "gorgeous," and, uh, "variegated." Whenever I hear Chinese people describing my name to other Chinese people, they describe this word by using the phrase "xuan li," which means gorgeous or magnificent. But usually people can guess which one of the various xuans we're dealing with, and I'm guessing that it's common enough in girls' names. For example, no one's ever mistaken the xuan in my name for the one which apparently means "lathe/thread in screw."

I remember back when I first started attending Chinese school, we were in a dark ornate part of the church, seated around a big table, and since we were most of us too young to have any clue how to go about writing our names on our papers (in traditional, no less), the teachers were doing it for us. It went swiftly for the most part, but then they got to me and the process stalled. There was some confusion as to which kai served as the last third of my name. They discussed briefly, then wrote down two characters, showing them to me and asking if either seemed familiar. I didn't even really know what I was looking at. After some more deliberation, they decided it was more likely to be one than the other, and wrote it down and moved on. It was SO COOL to have my name written down on my stuff, right? When class ended, I went to show my mom right away and she was nonplussed. She told me that that... wasn't my name. I was stricken. We went up to the teachers and they said that they had been confused and showed her the other option that they'd come up with. She said, "oh no, it's not that one either." Eh? said the teachers.

So, this is the character that everyone invariably assumes it to be. 凱, as in 凱旋 (kai xuan). It means triumphant, and the phrase means to return triumphant (according to MDBG).

When I started Chinese 109 my freshman year at Cornell, there was one morning that the teacher went around the room and commented on everyone's name. I was told that my name was a boy's name.

While hanging around the copy shop in Baotou waiting for one thing or another, the owner and his daughter(?) asked me if I had a Chinese name. I gladly told them, and the girl-- who I'd liked pretty well up until that point-- turned to the owner and said that it didn't sound good.

When I told the fruit seller what my name was, he said he liked it. I had to write it out so that he could see the character. He said it was unusual, but that it made more sense once knowing the character, and that it was fitting.

In Muping, they just called me 小潘 (xiao pan) which means, literally, Little Pan. It's a common enough nickname though, since according to my host here, that's what they used to call my dad in college.

In Baotou, no one would call me by my Chinese name. Instead I was Kai se lin, to go with the official name on my documents, or, for some reason, Cathy/kai xi/combination of both. The one time in my life I've ever let the name Cathy happen to me, and I still shudder a bit.

I understand the necessity of going with a Chinese version of the name on my passport since the name by which I've been known in my family all my life is devoid of any officiality, existing nowhere outside of my family, our friends, certain classrooms, and my Chinese homework. How weird is that?

So, today, I was sitting with my host at the desk of one of the important people with whom I ought to be acquainted and he asked me what my name was. After hearing it, and saying it, he asked me about the meaning. What does the "kai" mean? From our dictionary, my mom had come up with "victory," and that's the meaning I've held to throughout the years. Mrs. L didn't know, so I told her what I thought it might be, and she translated for me. They discussed it a bit more and she decided to have one of the girls in her office look it up when we got back.

In the office, the Chinese Literature major was assigned the task of checking online for the definitive answer. I expected her to eventually just come up with a few synonyms and phrases and have that be the end of it. Instead, she very sweetly gave me a great explanation.

Back to the character: 愷. It's made up of two parts. The first, the line and two dots on the left, is the radical and it's actually a variant of 心, which means heart. The other part means happiness or joy. According to, it also means celebrate. So one meaning is happiness or joyfulness. She went further to say that it describes someone who is good and can bring that joy to others. Another dictionary definition is "kind." There's a second meaning, which basically translates as "easy-going." I was surprised to not hear the meaning that I believed it to have all this time. Then she found one more. It also refers to the type of song played by a party, I picture an army of some sort, after a victory. Her favorite was the second, easy-going.

Ok sorry, this ended up being far longer and more involved than what I'd initially intended, which was a paragraph-- maybe two-- just about today's encounters. But anyways, this morning I loved my name, but I had no idea that it was so... cool. It's funny to me a lot of times that I was given an English name that people appear destined to be misspell for eternity, and a Chinese name that's so easily misunderstood.

I felt really happy while she was explaining it to me, like a shade was being lifted or like a massive spit-shine was taking place. Aside from actually being able to share this information with others from now on, I discovered that my name is something that's really worth living up to. I remember when I cornered Prof. Zimbardo after his lecture at the WAC and asked him to write one of his favorite inspirational quotes in my book, he sort of misunderstood and instead wrote an inspirational message directed at me. Basically, it's the hope that whoever I meet, I manage to make them feel special and glad to have known me. That's what popped into my head during this conversation today.

Hopefully I'll be able to do justice to these three words that are such a special part of who I am. I've got my fingers crossed, anyways. Remember: be optimistic and kind, joyful and at ease, and smile until people start smiling back.

Visa clarification

This one's for future reference.

We went to the PSB today so that I could register my presence. We didn't have all (ok, why is spell check telling me that "didn't" is spelled wrong?) the necessary materials, but the officer went ahead and looked over my passport anyways to take a look at my visa. In the process, she answered a question that had been plaguing me for most of August but which no one unofficial could answer.

For the record, my visa's an (F) type multiple entry, valid from September 19, 2008 until the same date in 2009. The duration of each stay is 120 days after entry. What this translates into is permission to enter initially at any point between the valid dates. However, once I've entered once, the 120 day countdown begins. I can exit and re-enter as many times as I want, but only until the 120 days pass. At that point, my visa is considered expired and I would need to either extend it here or otherwise apply for a new one.

The question I'd been asking before was: If one gets a double-or-more entry visa with, say, a 90-day duration, is that 90 days per entry or 90 days total? Well, it's 90 days total, which makes just slightly more sense considering that we are in fact dealing with a system, but just in case there was room to wiggle around in, I wanted to know that it was there.

Anyways, this means that my visa's only really valid until I go home for Christmas, at which point I'll have some more paperwork to muss with. Luckily it looks like things might go more smoothly now that I'm here.

Friday, October 03, 2008

This is dedicated...

Mainly to Steph Glass because this is our poem, but also to anyone who is/has been/will be anything. The words popped into my head earlier today and I felt like it was about time to share them again, because I do still love this poem.


by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,
The crystal goblet and the wine . . .

Jacques Crickillon

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.

However, you are not the wind in the orchard,
the plums on the counter,
or the house of cards.
And you are certainly not the pine-scented air.
There is just no way you are the pine-scented air.

It is possible that you are the fish under the bridge,
maybe even the pigeon on the general's head,
but you are not even close
to being the field of cornflowers at dusk.

And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the boots in the corner
nor the boat asleep in its boathouse.

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.

You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

Billy Collins, “Litany” from Nine Horses. Copyright © 2002 by Billy Collins. Reprinted with the permission of Random House, Inc.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Twice Shy

Last night I went to bed at some point after 12:30.

I dreamt, possibly of momentous things, but then in my dream I started feeling itchy. Oh crap I remember now. I was dreaming about Sarah Palin... I was watching her on TV and was convinced that she was somehow making me itch. Then I started waking up, and was in a semi-delirious state, scratching at various parts of my arms and trying to get back to sleep. Then I realized that I was honestly very itchy and scratching at swollen bumps and freaked out. I thought it must be like 6 or 7 in the morning, but when I turned the light on, I discovered it was only 2:50. I decided to go to the bathroom mirror to check myself out, and there I found 4 large fresh white-hot welts on my arms and index finger. I continued cussing in amazement. I was still pretty out of it and my mind raced to explain the situation. Usually I'm very sensitive to the sound of mosquitos, so I wasn't sure if that was it. But they didn't look like spider bites, and I ruled out hives and other allergies. For a fleeting moment I feared bedbugs (OK, I always fear bedbugs), but having thrown the sheets around in search of any insectoid culprit and come up clean, it seemed like it had to have been a mosquito after all. Still couldn't find any sign of one in the room though, and I thought that any single mosquito only bit like once or something before going off to lay eggs... or something.

Anyways, in the course of 2 hours, I acquired my 2nd-5th mosquito bites all year. There's another reason San Francisco rules. They have since swollen pink to the standard size of an inch or two in diameter. I'm lucky though... even if I somehow drew my attacker in with my smooth skin and comely ways, it seems my exposed face wasn't quite attractive enough to be ravished the way the rest of me was. It came away unscathed.