Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We knew this was coming

In an awkward position now where I've come up with kind of a cool paper topic, but am not expert enough in it to get writing. What the most serious problem is that I'm having organizational issues, which are deadly. I've got a few pieces that are somehow related, but how do I relate them in the context of the paper? Which flows into which? There's still some holes in my research that I need to fill before I write certain sections, but the thing is that I'm hypothesizing that certain things will turn out to be true... like that one scientist who predicted the existence of those elements... Mendeleev? Or did he just tell the elements where to go? In columns and in rows? So there's stuff that I'm expecting to share as information, I just have no proof just yet that it's true.

As always, I'm having difficulty finding a place to has this all out. My notebook is great for brainstorming, but I'm past the time where that's efficient. I can write short sections like intros and conclusions in there, but otherwise it's easy to lose form and write things that I then have to re-imagine before actually using them in a paper. Word engenders formality, because then I'm thinking that I need to be writing things that can be easily cut and pasted into a paper. So I think I'll try to start here with my thoughts. And see where they go. At least I want to solidify a course before midnight. That is when crunch time will truly begin.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

"The More Loving One"

W.H. Auden, 1957

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total darkness sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

On aimlessness, only not really because I don't use that word at all in this post

I've been thinking... it seems as though I don't actually believe in fate. This realization came to me with such clarity recently that I'm honestly surprised it never occurred to me before. I mean, I'm not really shocked, and my mind isn't blown... it's just interesting how much sense it made. I've been pouring every waking moment into the grad school decision, even stealing them away from conversations and other things I should probably have been paying attention to. I'm not any closer to a solution, it's still up between UM and NYU. The dynamics changed this morning, in I guess what you would call a big way, but astonishingly, it's still kind of a toss-up. In the end, the choice is simple: a second degree, or a life in the city. Dot dot dot.

Anyways, I was lamenting the whole issue to Steve the other day... and Selina... and Novella... and... actually anyone who would listen... but while I was talking to him, my unease finally came together in words. I don't trust myself to make the right choice (though I wouldn't trust anyone else to make it for me), because I don't trust that things will work out for the best regardless of which one I choose. Because it's so close at this point, a lot of people have suggested putting the names in a hat and crapshooting one at random. Seems like I might as well, right? Good things will happen either way, I'm sure I could succeed either way, so why not just pick one and let stuff happen?

Interlude: I've been thinking more recently about consequences, and the fact that we have to do work in order to affect all of our relationships/situations/futures. That things aren't "meant to be" until everything just before them have already happened.

Actually I have nothing to follow that interlude with. My brain got lasered by the insanity club this afternoon. But I guess I already said what I was thinking about saying. Just that I'm feeling now that there is no fate, just cause and effect.

Friday, March 20, 2009

More questions

Just felt like answering some questions and avoiding my work this morning.

1) What is your salad dressing of choice?
spicy/zesty italian or caesar

2) What is your favorite sit-down restaurant?
Haven't had one since Aladdin's crapped out.

3) What food could you eat for 2 weeks straight and not get sick of it?
Chestnuts, and bite-sized no-waste non-messy fruits, like cherry tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. Margaritas.

4) What are your pizza toppings of choice?
Pepperoni, or tomato/basil/feta (lots), parmesan cheese

5) What do you like to put on your toast?
Peanut butter and fresh jam

7) What color cell phone do you have?

8) Are you right-handed or left-handed?

9) Have you ever had anything removed from your body?
8 teeth from my face

10) What is the last heavy item you lifted?
My backpack-o-crap

11) Have you ever been knocked unconscious?

12) If it were possible, would you want to know the day you were going to die?
Yes. I think I could make some more informed decisions that way.

13) If you could change your name, what would you change it to?
Would never do that

14) Would you drink an entire bottle of hot sauce for $1000?
We'd have to iron out the details, but it's distinctly possible that I would.

15) How many pairs of flip flops do you own?
Who knows? I have one pair with me.

16) What’s your goal for the year?
Just do my best

17) Last person you talked to?

18) Last person you hugged?
Julie. omg that was a week and a half ago.

19) Favorite Season?
Spring. I really love late spring/early summer. Then summer. Winter is my least favorite.

20) Favorite Holiday?
I love the concept of Thanksgiving, but re:scheduling it's actually really stressful. I admit I always look forward to Christmas because of the vacation and also because it's the big reunion every year.

21) Favorite day of the week?
Thursday, cuz it's the day I get on the train.

22) Favorite Month?
Toss-up between May and July. These are the best months.

23) First place you went this morning?
Uh, bathroom.

24) What's the last movie you saw?
Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist.

25) Do you smile often?

26) Do you always answer your phone?
Right now I never answer my phone.

27) It's four in the morning and you get a text message, who is it?
I don't want to talk about it.

28) If you could change your eye color what would it be?
I always imagined that changing my eye color would make me look super creepy.

29) What flavor drink do you get at Sonic?
I might have gotten cherry limeade once. Henceforth if I ever end up there again, I'd probably just shoot for Coke. Unless they serve Pepsi, in which case, water.

30) Have you ever had a pet fish?
Just one that I won from an Asian Students' spring festival event and kept in Teddy's fish tank until it ate all the other fish and had to be released into the wild.

31) Favorite Christmas song?
Silver Bells

32) What's on your wish list for your birthday?
Laptop, haircut/dye

33) Can you do push ups?

34) Can you do a chin up?
Probably not now, but I almost did one last fall.

35) Does the future make you more nervous or excited?

36) Do you have any saved texts?
I save almost every text

37) Ever been in a car wreck?

38) Do you have an accent?
According to the Canadians

39) What is the last song to make you cry?
Something got me really misty recently, but I can't remember what it was. So I'm gonna go with the last couple tracks on the Glory soundtrack, which used to make me sob regularly... when I was younger, ok?

40) Plans tonight?
After tutoring, some dinner and then find a surface to sprawl on.

41) Have you ever felt like you hit rock bottom?
I've probably felt that way, and emotionally it may have actually happened at some point, but I know that I've fortunately been nowhere near that place.

42) Name 3 things you bought yesterday.
Chinese breakfast taco, train ticket, taxi ride

43) Have you ever been given roses?
It's possible, but I have no recollection. I did receive roses indirectly last summer though.

44) Current hate right now?
That I can't go on campus visits.

45) Met someone who changed your life?
Ever teacher I've ever had

46) How did you bring in the New Year?
Some Asti with parents and their friends in our kitchen, while taking a break from applications essays and my own private bottle of wine upstairs.

47) Which song most represents you?
I got nothin

48) Name three people who might complete this?

49) What were you doing 12 AM last night?
Maybe I was dreaming

50) What was the first thing you thought of when you woke up?
"Has my alarm gone off yet? No? I hope it's still only 4 am."

And now I must do work.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

where's your mom?

i got off the subway this afternoon hankering for some starch, so took a detour on the way home to buy some chestnuts. having climbed the short stretch of stone steps, i noticed a baby toddling around on its own, and had a little "awww" moment. usually, if the parents aren't immediately visible, they're at least within sight of the child, but i instinctively look around anyways. i figured they were sitting or working in the chengdu xiaochi restaurant, but when i peeked in, i realized... no one was paying particular attention to this baby. so i stared at it a bit... thought about walking away... and then it started trying to go down the stairs. well, the baby was not actually capable of going down stairs, so at the first step, it toppled and ended up stuck on its back like a turtle. i almost flipped out, but fortunately it didn't fall down more than one step, and it was wearing enough clothes that it apparently sustained no injuries to the body or head. nor was it particularly shocked... it just... lay there... staring. i waited for a moment for one of the invisible parents to react, but after no one did, i went and picked the baby up... and put it back on its feet at the top of the stairs. and then i just watched it... i mean, i tried asking, "ni de mama zai na li?" but uh... it was a baby and could not answer me. so hung around a bit. then i heard someone shout from inside the restaurant. the mom came rushing out, so i picked the baby up and handed it to her. on my way to the chestnut stand, i was a biiit disturbed at how easily that baby could have been injured or kidnapped. i mean, i picked it up. i talked to it. it didn't cry. some kids are just really easy to kidnap. man, it was cute though!

Saturday, March 07, 2009


Apple trees must be really strong. And I mean, really strong. I had to tote 9 fuji apples home with me last night, and it was a pain. I guess it's not really that heavy, and if I could have carried them in my arms it wouldn't have been so bad. But it was a situation where they were all in the same plastic bags and the handles mutilated my hand.
From the International Women's Day sports thingy I went to yesterday morning:

So, as you can see, I did not end up "just sitting around cheering," like originally planned.
Instead, they gave me a vest and I participated in the figure-8 jump-roping race, which was terrifying, the happy home-maker relay (think martial arts flower arranging, just lamer), and tug-o-war. When I say that the jump-rope was terrifying... I loved jumping rope when I was a kid. We used to get huge groups going in the playground at recess, doing double rope, double dutch, and all those random precognitive games that predict something like upwards of 20 children for each jumper. And the most fun was when you jumped into the rope, so I used to be pretty good at that too. I really should have made a video of the other teams doing this, but I was mesmerized by them and just stared. In a limited amount of time, you have to get as many people in and out of the rope as possible, everyone jumping once, then running off to the other side to start over again. They had judges counting. To give you an idea of just how much we don't play this game outside of China, some teams managed over 200 jumps, and my team had 44. Also, they looked like they'd practiced, and our team certainly had not. Even the other half of the team, which was all Chinese, got fewer jumps than us, I'm thinking cuz they didn't practice. But it was really fun and I'd like to get the hang of it.

The relay was one of the least gender-neutral events they could have come up with. When I saw them pulling out the aprons and handkerchiefs for this relay I started getting all self-righteous about it and was glad that I didn't have to do it. The costume accents were completely extraneous to anything that had to be done, but everyone had to wear them anyway. The actual race involved one person setting up 6 baskets, the next person filling the baskets with bouquets, the third person removing the bouquets, and the last person cleaning up the baskets. If anything fell over you had to run back and fix it, and everyone had to start by skipping through a set of rings. We were doing pretty well, but our last teammate forgot to jump through the rings, had a lot of trouble with the baskets (honestly, the baskets sucked), and even wound up bleeding profusely at the end of it all. Also a fun game. Just demeaning. International Men's Day would have looked nothing like this.

Then for some reason I was put on the tug-o-war team. This was fun, actually, and we did win our first match handily. But it was tournament style, and the next team was a bit more hardcore. It felt good to use those muscles, but now they're all sore. Also, I learned that one of my automatic reactions in a tug-o-war situation is to randomly emit high-pitched screams. Even at the time I could hear myself doing it, and wondered why. And then I'd do it again and wonder why again.

At the end, I got a scarf.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Deep breaths

I was told today that the kids did enjoy class last Sunday, and some exceptional child even went as far as to ask his/her parents whether or not there was a class they could attend every day. Uh… I can’t even imagine which one that could be. But anyways, it was quite an exhilarating afternoon… long, and insanely tiring. I’d meant to go over it much sooner after, but pretty much needed to go straight to bed. The next afternoon I started my half-life in Beijing, and since then have just really had a hard time to revisit this thing. Which is bad, because I was reminded tonight of a sporting event happening early tomorrow that I should go to, which is bad because I was planning on doing all this work then. Why put it off so long? Well, I didn’t want to open up that can of stress when what happened for like two weeks prior to the first session was me staring at my books for hours and then writing out my schedule and handouts just a few days before anyways. That was a small part. The other was that after dinner in Beijing, I pretty much just needed to unwind and immediately start getting ready for bed. I’m committed to getting up by 6:30 every day so that I can get into the office by 8. But more on that later.

Saturday, I headed towards the office before 1:30. I needed to drop my things off there and then run to the supermarket to snap up some last-minute snacks and bottles of water. I thought there were some last-minute prep things I might want to take care of, and I did somehow manage to busy myself with… something. Cutting up pieces of paper, putting colored numbers on them, replacing them with paper clips (which I will not do again), taking things out of one bag and putting them in another bag, then taking them out again for some purpose, then putting them back again. All the things I wound up dragging over to the library and up to the 5th floor wound up being, um, really heavy.

This was around 2:30. Some of the volunteers were already popping up. Like I said, I'd picked 5 main helpers and corralled all the other names into a back-up list for emergencies. I wasn't really clear, I guess, in my e-mail to the teacher about this, and so she told all the students to show up at the library during the time I'd scheduled to meet with my 5 ONLY. She had some other activity lined up for the rest of them, but I ended feeling pretty terrible because they all showed up thinking that they'd be doing something for me. One of my former students falls under that category. She was one of the first to show, and when I didn't have a handout for her, it was awkward.

I tried to give them as thorough a rundown as possible of my expectations, which were sort of ambiguous at the time, given that I didn't know how much English these kids would be capable of. We didn't have quite enough time to run through the activities, but it seemed like they understood. Well...

When the doors opened, we went in to rearrange the classroom. The desks in there are unnaturally heavy. The kids showed up and there was great confusion as they all took seats and we tried to get everyone registered and paid up. I decided that I might as well get delegating, so I snagged one of my volunteers, handed her the sheet, and sent her around to check the names off for me. She did a great job, and turned out to be extremely competent. She's also much more confident in speaking out than the other girls, so I ended up going to her a lot for various tasks for the rest of the afternoon. We were running a bit late because of all this stuff and I was confused about how to proceed language-wise for the first class. All of the students had English names, and I could hear some of them using English as they saw one another come in. But then there was at least one girl at the front who I knew couldn't understand anything. She's kind of a special case though.

I wanted to get introductions out of the way as soon as possible, especially with the delay. Just wanted to get my name and the volunteers' names out really quick and then get started. Uuuuh, what happened was, though, that when I asked them each to give their names, they took the chance to give a little speech, all running along the lines of, "Nice to meet you, I hope we can be friends, I am here to help you and I hope that if you ever need help, you will come to me. I am also here to help Katharine, etc etc," and well-intentioned and sweet as they were, they ran kind of long. So that's something you don't encounter in volunteers back home. But it was nice, it showed their enthusiasm.

My icebreaker was a game we played as OLs my sophomore year. I sort of remember it dragging, but I pictured this group as being much smaller than my OL group and it was also kinda engaging. It's the one where everyone stands in a circle and you say your name and an activity you enjoy, then pair it with a physical action. Then each successive person very quickly goes around and says all the names and repeats all the actions again (a la the picnic game). I demonstrated this in the cheesiest, most obvious ways possible. I also thought I'd trained my assts in this beforehand, so I started in the back of the room with them. A couple of mistakes. If I'd wanted to get them into this, I would have marched everyone out into the hallway and actually gotten them into a circle. Because I'd wanted to keep them in the room, and because with the addition of a couple students (and a freaking LOT of parents) we ended up not having as much open space in the back, I decided to ask the kids whether or not they'd rather just stay at the desks. And they did. And, well, I'm not really sure what happened with my assts, but I ended up having to spend like 10 minutes re-teaching them the game while the kids sat around and waited. I was hoping they'd get the ball rolling and help me by setting an example, but either they didn't do the action or they didn't tell us about the other person, or they told us about the other person and not themselves, and it was awkward, and at this point I lost my cool for about the next hour.

What really didn't help me was that every parent was sitting in this tribunal ring around the back of the room like they were at an outdoor concert. It took me a while before I could truly ignore them, but before that I found myself getting profoundly disturbed by how inscrutable their facial expressions were. Also, every time one mother leaned over to whisper to another, I had the real/imagined sense that they were passing some sort of negative judgement on my organizational skills.

This was mostly a problem during the first half of the game. I say first half because I'm counting the number of people we got to during this period of time. In reality, it took an eon compared to the second half. Some of the girls at the front were having a completely unexpected stress attack about having to produce information on every child behind them, and were trying to write everything down. But it was iiiinnnnteeerrmiiinnaaablllle. And I was really feeling the effects of my poor decision making when I realized just how much of that time was going back over our volunteers' hobbies. Sigh. So about 9 kids in, when I was sick of the chatter arising from left half of the room, who must have been bored out of their minds (it's grammatical if you're british, I think), I told them that they could just do themselves and the one person who went before them. Then immediately realized that that idea sucked because it takes away any incentive to pay attention the rest of the time. Fortunately, the kids were all still a bit stunned, so it made it pretty easy for me to jump in and change things up again. After asking one girl her info and then really making her act it out, I randomly selected someone from the recent past and had her do them. The rest of the game went quickly and was much more interesting for all involved. I learned that on the spot, basketball, dancing, and playing PSP can all be represented by a generic shaking motion accompanied by laser sound effects.

That little (crap the word i'm looking for is somewhere between "incentive" and "innuendo" but I just can't think of it... also my internet's currently down so i can't thesaurus it) left us nearly at the hour mark. We were supposed to have accomplished so much more by then. So I just went ahead and completely forgot to hand out schedules and talk rules and expectations. HA. When I realized this in my meeting with the volunteers at the end of class, as a result of wondering why I still had a full folder of schedules in my possession, I could have kicked myself. But I guess that's ok. We'll have more time next time. Famous last words. Other things I forgot... juice at snack time, and water. So at least we have water this week. And also juice.

What was really good about the game was that it told me a lot about each kid's personality and started familiarizing me with their language abilities. For example, and this was such a shoot-me moment at first, the first actual child to say anything in the game claimed that he didn't like anything today. "My name is John and I don't like anything today." Oddly enough it was pretty easy to roll with it and it ended up being a good talking point with this kid (who I'm sorry I totally thought was a girl for... a while... he just had such nice eyelashes). The volunteers clearly bonded with him. He's not REALLY a misanthrope (though kinda), but I imagine there was just someplace else he'd rather have been on a Saturday afternoon.

Then... passed out paper tents, markers, crayons, and colored pencils so they could make name cards. When I asked the volunteers to start collecting the drawing materials so that we could move on, they ended up collecting the name cards too, and so then we had to pass them out again, but then they got collected again by volunteers who didn't get the memo the first time. So then we passed them out again.

I decided I wanted to get out from under the parents' noses and that there was no way that snack was going to go the way I'd planned in this room in the remaining time. So I threw the volunteers into the fire. I started passing out paper clips and had kids with the same color go out into the hall with this or that volunteer. UNFORTUNATELY, my quick thinking was SO quick that I didn't think about the fact that there were too many of too many colors of paper clips for this to work out mathematically in any situation short of an actual miracle of probability. I did some freestyling, and planned to just send remaining kids out to join the other groups, but this did not sit well with them, since they did not identify with any paperclip colors other than their own.

Snack activity was supposed to be... describe, using every sense, the mini-banana in your hand. Originally, every kid would randomly be assigned a sense, at which point they say whatever came to mind, and once that had happened for everyone, they could eat. I'd explained the concept to my volunteers, and when I realized that I'd have to give this task to them to perform in groups, I immediately called one of them over (vivian, the one with the initiative), and told her to pass that along to the other girls. I dunno if they got it, but I guess it doesn't matter. I went to each of the 3 groups and gave them the assignment again before walking away. When I got to the last group, Vivians, I realized that it was just better if I led them with some questions. After that worked out well, I went back to the other two and did the same thing. I have no idea what they were doing while I was gone. Then I called them all back to the room. When I went over to get Vivian's group, the kids were everywhere and I was told that one or more of the kids had thrown their tissues over the balcony... into the study area on the 1st floor. I would have lost it if I'd had my wits about me, and actually disciplined someone, but then again, I didn't so I didn't. I planned on saying something back in the room about how we needed to be respectful of the library so they'd let us keep using the room for free and not ban us from the hallways, but then I forgot that too.

The second half was better-structured, and went more or less according to plan. I turned out half of the lights (because I didn't know where the other half of the light switches were), and gathered everyone on the floor in the back of the room (totally making all of this blocking up in my head, btw) for the book. Oh, fyi, these kids are all 9-13. As far as I know. Then I remembered the vocab sheets. Then I remembered to pass out pens. Vocab time was fun. They all pretty much knew a lot of the words... of which there were only 9 or 12... some multiple of 3 that fits in a grid on A4 paper... and the drawing aspect was a stroke of genius on my part. One of the girls, who sort of wound up being one of my favorites purely on the basis of her tendency to overanalyze and take everything I said seriously and at face value (reminded me a little of me, minus the crazy part, which, oddly was embodied in a totally separate girl who ran completely amok on me and had to go to the bathroom SO many times).... anyways, that girl got really worked up over the somewhat conceptual ones like "experiment" and was like "do we have to DRAW that?" I told her no, she could just write the definition, but most of the others were cool with digging into odd references that they probably wouldn't have gotten later.

The book was The Dot, which I fell in love with at the bookstore. It's about art. When I asked the kids how they felt about art, they were all pretty eh about it. I was like... hm. That's a major component of this class. My wrist hurts and is making some pretty ridiculous noises.

After the reading and a short discussion,we moved on to the painting part. It was like... insanity given physical form. I have some watercolors that I was hoping to maintain for the entirety of the 12-class cycle, but... do kids this age not understand the concept of water colors? How a little goes a long way? I think one problem was the sponge brushes that came with the brush assortments I bought... those are coming out next time. So it was like a nightmare you have after reading Oliver Twist. "More green please! We need more red! Blue! More blue, please!" Then, when I'd obliged them, a great swarm of brushes would descend, and leave the palette bleach-white yet again. So the chorus was constant and my volunteers looked a bit harassed. I don't think we ever stopped moving during this activity. I had about 4 "last calls" on paint, and finally ended up speeding the "get out of here" process by passing out markers and having the kids sign their works of art.

I know I use some negative imagery here, but overall I thought the kids were great and we all ended up having a pretty good whirlwind of a time.

Some of the boys made a holy mess of the desks and all I could think of was "thank GOD this is water color." Cleanup took ages, and then I had to chat with one of the parents about something. Finally I got to meet with my assts and get their input... it was also just a really helpful way for me to get thinking out loud. What we decided to do was divide the kids into 3 permanent groups, though fluidity of membership was ok to allow for naughty/nice transfers and other movements. The idea was that one set of students is really an English-speaking class. Most of these kids go to an international school, and it turned out that at least one of the girls didn't really understand one of my vols when she spoke to her in Chinese. Also, this particular volunteer got really uncomfortable with her English, which is decent, but gets worse when she's nervous. Another set of students is ok with English, but still need slightly more assistance. The last set is kids whose English really is not at the same level as the rest. The volunteers were key in helping me to make this list right then and there (SO glad I didn't decide to "do it later" on my own... because I'd be doing it now, and struggling to remember which kid was which). They requested their assignments too, which, fortunately, were exactly what I was hoping for-- I had pictured one of them with the lower-level group, looking after the girl who spoke no English, and doing a lot of Chinese language guidance, since that's something she's pretty good at. I also wanted Vivian alone with the high-level kids because I think she can handle them on her own as I make my rounds (the others were all grouped in twos... the mid-level kids also include some high-level kids who are disciplinary concerns), though in time I'd like to be spending more time with these students too. It's only partially favoritism, and I know that's true because I like all of the kids (except the really quiet ones I can't quite remember... and I like that they're quiet).

So... what now? Now I need to decide what's going down on Saturday. I can only print this stuff in the office tomorrow afternoon, so what would be great is if I have something started before then. I'm not concerned about anything for the kids. I'm actually thinking about writing out the directions for any activity or permutation of activity that we might end up doing on Saturday so that they can be prepared for the unexpected. I'm really really tired now though.

Though I am thinking about Do you like your friends, the Mirror game, and using the 5 W's as a theme. BTW, a lot of my ideas/inspiration are coming from a book called Kids Take The Stage, and it's too far away for me to feel like getting up to see who the authors are, but I figured I should credit it anyways. It's a really nice little resource, a quick read, and an activity goldmine.

The book scheduled for tomorrow is Ish. I meant to accompany it with a drawing activity. Or series of drawing activities. I guess we can still do that. No need for a snack activity. We can have a civilized, hydrated, snack at the desks. I'm thinking half of an apple and some crackers for everyone? I feel so unqualified to be giving kids snack. I remember in my daycare we'd get a lot of graham crackers and peanut butter... cheese... i think even sometimes graham crackers and frosting... ants on a log... but yeah, something starchy and something fruity. It might be too late for tangerines. Yeah, apple slices will just have to do. I wish peanut butter was more widely available. Maybe it is? I'll check on the way home tomorrow. I know they sell it, but is it in my budget? Well, I guess since we now have more kids=more money, it could be...

It turns out now that I will NEED all 5 volunteers every week. So now I wish I had a runner that I could like, send out to cut apples and then pass out papers etc. I'm sure I can get someone who will do that. Maybe a parent?

Ok, made my vocab sheet... so easy. No more than 12 words each time if I can help it. Hopefully none of these are too conceptual because I don't like explaining those sometimes.

Remember: SERIES of drawing activities. NO free-for-all this time, just some quick impressionist art and a follow up group activity. Gah I have to sleep. We have to be at this thing at 8 am :(

I went into this season ready to be dead tired though, so yeah, you can bring it.


Ugh, I hate Free Cell. I waste more of my life on that than anything else I can think of right now. And it's better that I don't think too much about that because a) that would waste more time and b) I don't want to think about all the time I may have lost in various other inane activities.

Anyways, I was supposed to be here, writing for an hour. Somehow over 3/4 of that hour are now gone. Uh oh... feeling the anger now. I feel the urge to cuss. Like, a lot. Fighting this urge is hard.


Thursday, February 26, 2009

Back up, now

Had the bright idea just now of putting copies of my picture files onto my little hard drive, even though they already get backed up through the little program... just in case I wanted to access them directly... aaand ended up deciding to delete most of the originals anyways. So basically if I ever lose this thing, years of my life will be going with it.

As I was doing this though, I discovered that I'm missing... all of my pre-Shanghai pictures from my '05 China trip, and Kim & Teddy's wedding pictures. And probably other random things along the way. I have no idea why I'd be missing those China pictures, but I'm assuming they're on my other external drive somewhere back home. The wedding pictures are a bit trickier since I don't think I had time to back any of those up before I left for Baotou. They should exist on a CD in my box of China stuff, so hopefully I can pull them off of that when I get home. The problem is, a lot of these things were entrusted to my desktop, which my mother proceeded to run into the ground for her own nefarious ends. That computer's a swamp now and anything that was on it is long gone. I'd thought that everything had been duplicated onto the other drive, but... yeah, guess there wasn't much depth to my thinking.

Meanwhile, my little drive gets more and more cluttered, but I managed to free up a lot of space just now by deleting all those photos. Actually, most of them are just chilling out in my recycle bin right now. All I permanently deleted was a bunch of fireworks videos that I just HAD to take at Disneyland (yeah...) and gave myself 2 gigs more of space, which is nice because I've been downloading music like the craziest person ever.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Train Schedule

Hey, I swiped a service guide from the high speed train last time I rode, so... For future reference of myself and any random others who may have use of this information:

The train leaves Tanggu at... (hits Tianjin at...) and arrives at BJNan at...
C2274- 12:14pm (12:36) 1:10pm
C2276- 1:44pm (2:06) 2:40pm
C2278- 5:04pm (5:26) 6:00pm
C2280- 7:59pm (8:21) 8:55pm

The train leaves BJNan at... (hits Tianjin at...) and arrives in Tanggu at...
C2273- 10:45am (11:15) 11:39am
C2275- 12:35pm (1:05) 1:29pm
C2277- 3:55pm (4:25) 4:49pm
C2279- 6:50pm (7:20) 7:44pm

Wow... I cut it kinda close a couple of times...
Besides those, there are a butt-ton of rides between BJN and TJ starting around 6:30 am and going to 10:45/11pm.

Other useful information:
Cars 1 and 8 are 1st/2nd class cars
Car 5 is a 1st class car
Cars 2, 3, 6, and 7 are 2nd class cars
Car 4 is the bar car

Not THAT useful... but maybe you could use it.

Where are we going with this

Having difficulty working this out through other mediums, so I figured I might as well try blogging about it. Haha. Blogging.

Anyways, my first little activities camp session is this Saturday. I screened through potential volunteers yesterday at the Polytech school. When they told me there would be "many" students who'd be interested in helping me, I thought "ok... like... 7?" But I ended up talking to 25 students yesterday, which wasn't everyone who showed up, since we had a few drift away as the interviews went on. Then were was like... a reserve classroom of another 40 standing by in case I didn't find anyone I liked in the first group.

I didn't have many questions for them, but just really tried to coax them into English monologues about anything. I need assistants who would be able to react to things in English and really encourage the students to be using English during our sessions. There weren't very many of those in the group, actually, which was sad, because a lot of these girls (and one guy) would be great for programs like this. They were all so willing to give up 12 consecutive Saturday afternoons (not that I've been able to determine that there's much to do out where the school is, but still... Saturdays were always precious) that I didn't want to turn them down.

Mostly I was impressed by the ones who kind of... were very convincing despite not having the level of English I was looking for. The girls who were like... "I may not be perfect for this, but if you give me the opportunity, I'd really try my best." Or, "No, I don't have any volunteer experience, or experience with anything like this, but this would be my chance to start."

Anyways, there were 3 sophomores that I picked out for their English ability and general demeanor, before some of my old students came in and blew me away. First, there was one girl who I'd forgotten pretty much played the assistant role in my class anyway-- translating back and forth and pumping everyone up for like skits and stuff. Then there was the girl who made me sing back in December (uuuugh) who blew me away by reading my mind during the interview. So that's a total of 5 ladies I'd like to take on, for 3 positions that I had in mind.

Then, what did I do? I thought, well that's too bad. I'd love to let as many of these kids help out as possible. Maybe we can just add more students! So I made a call and said that we could increase the class size... but since then I've sort of been thinking about it and... I kinda wish I hadn't done that. Haha. We'll see how many we're at at this point, but I think I'll cut it off this afternoon at whatever number it's at. I'll take all 5 volunteers and just... figure out a use for them.

I guess if this weren't starting THIS SATURDAY, I'd be a lot less anxious.

Anyways, the volunteers aren't a huge deal. I am having a hard time picturing everyone sitting comfortably in this classroom anymore. What I'm having issues with right now is the agenda for the first session, as well as like... the vocabulary worksheet that I'm not even really able to visualize right now. And the eternal question: Introductions first? Or icebreaker first?

Currently I'm thinking... sound-off names for me and the volunteers, and then play some introductions/name-game kinda icebreaker. Reconvene to go over rules and expectations and make little name plates. Then break up again and do rotating groups of name-centric games. At half-time, we'll all get together for snack and pass out vocab sheets for the book we're reading. Do any pre-reading activities. Then all gather on the floor to read this book out loud. Follow it up with Q&A and then move into the arts & crafts segment. Ah. At this point, would it be ok to break for skits again? There might not be a ton of time for that. It might be better to just play a big round of "Do you like your friends?" and save thematic skits for the next session. So we can review the story that way too.

That seeeeems like a plan, but there's that big hole in the first half where I say "name-centric games." What the freak are those supposed to be?

I guess I have until Saturday afternoon to figure that out. Before that though, I need to get this worksheet or whatever it's going to be banged out, since I actually need to get it printed... and probably a volunteer info sheet would be good to have.

Ok. I decided that instead of just defining all these vocab words, most of them can be illustrated. So we shall be illustrating them in-class.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

what might have been

well. i am really embarrassed right now. i've been in the process of archiving all my old e-mails, and as a result, a lot of older correspondence has come floating to the surface of my inbox. one unread piece has been bugging me for a couple weeks now, so i went ahead and clicked on it, with the intention of glancing through and then archiving it once and for all. it turns out that this e-mail was NOT what i've been thinking it was.

i guess last year i started filling out an americorps vista application, but i THOUGHT that i decided to hold off on finishing it. i guess... that was not actually the case? this e-mail, just over a year old, was an offer of a job interview with an organization that i probably would have been thrilled to work for. craaaaaaap! i feel terrible now, but the reason i never opened it is because i assumed it was a random americorps update that i wasn't interested in reading at the time.

last february... i was seriously looking for a job. if i'd managed to get this position, i would still be in san francisco now, just finishing up the year-long commitment. what on earth would the past 12 months have been like if that were the case? it's enough to make a girl wonder if she's really better off the way things are now.

oh well, there's a lesson for me: READ ALL YOUR FRIGGIN E-MAILS.

ok, correction: i would have been in concord, NH, not san fran, but that just makes it even crazier. i think i feel bad mostly because i never responded. like, i'm sure they contacted lots of people besides me, but it seems so impolite. and now that i look at the details, yeah, i would have enjoyed this immensely. alas!

Ok, I looked it up

Wikipedia's explanation is actually pretty cool:

re: yuanfen

I'm sure I've spoken about yuanfen before, but since I can't verify that [because I am too lazy to go through the archives], here's the "definition." Yuan is a Chinese concept, and when they tell you that there's no English equivalent to the word, they're probably correct. I haven't been able to find one yet. You come close with ideas like serendipity, fate, destiny, "meant to be," but all those are considerably inadequate. For one thing-- the way I understand it-- they're a bit too grandiose. And more importantly, yuan is more of a subcategory dealing with relationships, so these words actually have too many applications to be accurate.

Yuanfen is something that is possessed by two people whose meeting was meant to be. A lot of people mention it when they've met someone, compared notes, and found some element in the relationship suggesting that a higher power was somehow involved. In the same situation, I might say, "what are the odds," or "clearly we have some connection." Whether there is yuanfen associated with all of our relationships is not clear to me. I have just opened the wikipedia page and intend to read it, but after writing what I was ACTUALLY planning to write when I opened this window...

RE: yuanfen

Last Friday, I hopped a train to Beijing to start my search for housing in the spring. I'd been reviewing ads for the past week and trying to set up viewings for the cheaper, more conveniently located apartments even while they were being snapped up. I'd scheduled my trip for that weekend so that I could also pay a visit to Julie, but as apartments came and went, there was a point where I was afraid there wouldn't be anything to look at by the time I got there. Just before leaving though, I confirmed two apartment visits, and this is the story of those.

Friday the subways were uncharacteristically crowded for the early afternoon. I mean all 3 lines I rode from Liujiayao all the way to the Ag Exhibition Ctr. Even the bus from the train station was crowded. My train came in probably around 1, and I was rushing to meet this guy at 3. As I stood on the crowded subway and realized that I was just barely going to make it in time, it occurred to me that I probably wouldn't want to make this same trip twice a week every week until May. Anyways, I jumped off the subway at the exhibition center and checked my watch. And started the rush out.

I wasn't all that clear on where I was going. It was a 10 minute walk, and I plotted out what I'd probably have to do on the google maps satellite image of the area (the map image is... outdated? completely not what the area looks like at this point in time?) and checked it against the map in the subway, but I was positive I'd have to call him for directions at some point.

On the escalator out of the station, I ended up behind this guy. He turned around at one point and gave me the awkward "I'm on the escalator, you're on the escalator" glare, and I glared back until he turned around again. Uuh, maybe you know this look I'm talking about. If not, pay attention next time you're on the escalator and you mistakenly make eye contact with someone.

That would have been the end of that, but something about the way he was dressed sort of jogged my imagination. Striped button up, green t-shirt, old-Chinese-man cloth shoes... His face looked Chinese, but it was entirely possible that he was from somewhere else. I saw him check the face of his cell phone, which is what I had been doing, and thought, "Hm. Wouldn't it be funny if this is the guy I'm supposed to meet at 3." I mean, because he was supposed to be coming in from work or something. Anyways, we got off the escalator and he turned right. Well, I was supposed to turn right. So I started walking after him. Then he took the next right I was supposed to take as well. I thought, "So be it. I am going to tail this guy until he a) deviates or b) leads me to the Korean restaurant where I'm supposed to wait for the apartment dude."

Well, this wouldn't be a story that I associated with yuanfen if it was (a). Ok, no, I take that back, I'm sure it still could be, it'd just have to be a lot longer. He landed me at the restaurant, but then kept walking into the xiaoqu next door, which I thought could well have been where the apartment was located. After a few moments, I got in touch with the guy and let him know I was outside. You are only given one guess as to who came out to collect me.

So that was fun. The next day I had a little bit of a public transportation snafu trying to get from Julie's to the subway, but it was minor... (nothing a Y10 3-minute cab ride couldn't solve). When I found out that the second apartment was at Liujiayao, I got pretty excited. Turns out it's right by that northwest exit, immediately next to the bus that goes to the train station. As I walked up with the girl, I found out that she and her roommate are actually Baotou ren! I met her boyfriend too, and he went to college at the school by the Baotou train station-- I'm pretty sure that's where Linda was teaching. And then it came out that she and her roommate went to college in Yantai. She was born in '83, so that essentially means that we might have been there around the same time. Speaking of age though, I (born, if you recall, in '84) tell people that I am 24. Due to the Chinese way of doing things, she tells people that she's 27. Go figure.

Anyways, we had a good time sort of talking about Baotou, even though she's from the eastern half and I lived in the western half (they're practically 2 different cities), I decided I liked the place, and I put down my deposit for the room! I'm moving in at the end of the month... well sort of.

Monday, February 09, 2009

On closed doors

Apparently I don't exert enough force when trying out doorknobs on strange doors, and tend to conclude that they're locked when they really aren't. Recent manifestation: the door that stood between me and heat/hot water. It wasn't locked today and it wasn't locked two days ago. Sigh.

(and... it's not the first time)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Ha, Facebook meme

Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You also have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

(To do this, go to "notes" under tabs on your profile page, paste these instructions in the body of the note, type your 25 random things, tag 25 people (in the right hand corner of the app) then click publish.)

Twenty-five random things about me.

1. As crappy as I am at it now, Chinese was my first language. When I first entered daycare at the age of 3, I (allegedly) spent all my time crying in the arms of one of the ladies there because I had no idea what was going on. I learned English by watching Disney's Sleeping Beauty on continuous repeat and singing along (I remember asking my parents what "familiar" meant, and coming away thinking that it meant "evil."). Then, when Arthur started using words like "dad" at home, I started doing it too.

2. When I was younger, my mom and I would watch cooking shows together CONSTANTLY. There was a lot of Julia Child, Yan Can Cook (love him, love him), and that skinny man with the beard. The Frugal Gourmet? We'd also go to the Union Twp Library and borrow videos on garnishing and cake decorating. These we would watch while I drank Crystal Light lemonade.

3. I got a bowl cut in the 1st grade, then started growing my hair out as long as I could. This lasted until, like, 6th grade? Anyways, back then, and then also in junior high, strangers would come up to me and demand that I never cut my hair. In the lunch line, waiting for the next roller coaster car, these girls would literally say, "You have such pretty hair! Please don't ever cut it, please!" Meanwhile, my dad was convinced that the weight of my hair was dragging down the right side of my head and resented it.

4. All right, I have a comic book collection. It is in the basement in a cabinet under the bookshelf. It is still being refreshed from time to time. Mostly it's X-men and its ilk. This is rounded out by the 4-player arcade game from the early '90s, original arcade cabinet. But if you're reading this, you knew I was a dork already, so whatevs.

5. I don't really enjoy shopping anymore. I am less and less a fan of the mall. That said, I still love perusing for trinkets and gifts in small shops, and sometimes a purchase can release some much-needed endorphins (just as making a return the next day allows me to feel like a responsible adult). None of this applies to food shopping, which I still approach with passion.

6. At birth (mine), the doctor apparently used pincers... wait... he was not a lobster. The doctor apparently used calipers to, uh, pull me out. My mom would look at my face sometimes while I was growing up and blame him for putting my eyebrows off-kilter.

7. You know the red Triaminic? I hated that stuff. I probably still hate it. You know when your doc told your mom that it's time for Triaminic and you went with her to the medicine aisle and prayed that you were getting the orange kind (for sinus trouble) but she always crushed your hopes by picking the red kind (for coughs)? That always happened to me! Anyways, as a result, I cannot enjoy cosmopolitans especially, and most drinks made with clear grain alcohol in general.

8. The single most-played song in my itunes right now, according to the program, is "Elevator Love Letter" by the Stars, by a surprisingly wide margin. My best explanation for this, other than that I do like that song, is that it topped one of my playlists for a while, so whenever I started it, that song would play first. But it's a good song.

9. I adore spicy food. The more tears and snot running down my face, the better. In fact, food like that feels like a gift from the universe directly to me. I date this back at least to mapo dofu when I was 7 or younger, though my most vibrant memory is of a PHENOMENAL bowl of beef noodle soup in some random little Taiwanese shop. Nothing compares, though these days a bowl of Lanzhou noodles with several hefty spoons of the available spices hits the spot. BTW, the best treatment for a sore throat is spicy food.

10. One summer, after spending most of one night awake in my dad's study finishing a history paper, I moved masses of blankets and pillows into the family room and set up a pretty comfortable bed for myself. I started brushing my teeth in the downstairs bathroom. My parents humored me, even though a) i was blocking the tv, and b) there was a giant bed in their family room. Then I came home one day at the end of the summer and it was gone. It was time. But I continued to brush my teeth in the downstairs bathroom until we moved some years later.

11. My parents played oldies in the car, always (ok, not counting long car trips that necessitated those friggin Chinese music tapes), and so this is the music I listened to until just before high school. I couldn't tell you song titles, and would have a hard time naming any artists, but if it was popular in the '50s or '60s, I probably know all the words to it.

12. At a company picnic once, when I was young and oh-so-precocious, I found myself standing next to this woman who was lighting up a cigarette. I tapped her on the arm and said, "Girls don't smoke." She looked at me a moment, then said, "You know, you're right." And she put it out.

13. I used to treat dishwashing as a privilege, spending maybe an hour on a stool in front of a sudsy sink pouring heady "beers" into dirty cups, but that was an extremely long time ago. It is now something that I do not enjoy doing, but in the end I'm the person I trust most to get things satisfactorily clean.

14. Once I got out of the cartoon phase (i.e. when they cancelled She-Ra), my favorite show as a child was totally Get Smart. It's tough to watch now, but I'd stay up until 9 or whenever to catch it so I was always the most tired child in the mornings at daycare.

15. I'll wave to people as I say goodbye to them over the phone. It's not conscious, and I wouldn't know about it if someone hadn't pointed it out to me.

16. The first thing I learned to cook was scrambled eggs, followed quickly by egg fried rice. I also took advantage of the after-school cooking classes in elementary school. I don't remember any of those recipes, but during an illness that kept me home for two days, my mom taught me basic soy-marinated chicken and pork chops. That's come in handy.

17. It's great to have large gatherings of friends, but more than that I like hanging out with people one-on-one or in really small groups. The exception is groups of 3-- too often I'll just check out of those conversations.

18. Why are there so many pictures of you on my hard drive? Well, I'm a very nostalgic person, so even though my short-term memory is godawful, I put a lot of value into the things I can carry with me long-term. Sometimes one of my favorite activities is to just sit down with a friend and go over fond memories. Bonus points if there's a related video in which someone is singing. (This is also why things rarely get thrown away unless they've somehow proven perishable.)

19. If you ask me a question, I will answer it truthfully. I can't ever bring myself to lie. I'm sure I could be pretty good at it, but I don't like to let myself. The exception to this, of course, is if you are one of my parents and I think the answer is going to really tip the boat over. But even that has rarely rarely ever happened (like, twice in recent memory, and I can't even remember one of the times). This also means that I can't take being lied to, which i's one thing that will make me truly angry. Caveat: this doesn't mean that I don't get a kick out of bullshitting, which I do with vigor. It's fun, isn't it?

20. I am uncomfortable in situations in which I have to bargain or fight someone over the price of an object or service. I mean, I hate getting ripped off in any case, but most of the time, it seems like I'm not the one getting ripped off.

21. Traffic sucks ass, but I love to drive. Given a reasonably open back road or highway and enough juice in my music player, I don't even care where I'm going. My dream excursion is a long road trip.

22. Around 3rd grade I entered a non-fiction reading phase, and one week I'd read everything in the library about dolphins, and the next week it was volcanoes, then killer bees, ants, poisonous plants, snakes, and so on. At one point I read every synopsis of old-school horror flicks on the shelves. That's how I know the plots of the various Draculas, Phantoms, Frankensteins, and so on, even though I'm still too chickenshit to watch them myself.

23. I really can't stand the smell of pollen or any flower that smells heavily of pollen (lilies, if you need an example). This smell was everywhere right after my grandpa died, I'm assuming from all the funeral flowers, and I thought I could smell it on all my mom's clothes. I associate it with headaches and dizziness, which I was probably experiencing at the time.

24. Meanwhile, I can't tell you how many buses I've missed in Berkeley because I got distracted by all the gorgeous flowers in people's gardens. It really is nice to stop and smell the flowers, photos optional. And yes, I have TONS of photos. And yes, this also applies to rocks, cool bark, metalwork, found notes and tickets, glass, parked cars, clouds, the moon, and most things that are shiny. My attention span is what it is.

25. Anything that makes me laugh wins. Not to be confused with an ironic chuckle or snort-- I mean laughter that makes me throw my head back, fall out of a chair, or pee a little bit. I can forgo sleep (and GOD I love sleep) but I can't forgo this.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Please prepare to get off

It's 9:10pm over here, as far as I can tell, and I'm going to bed soon without a shower. Yes, that does suck a whole lot, but there's nothing for it. I had a sense that this might happen, this being that my hosts are on their own vacation and turned off the heat for their absence-- it's happened before. This was back when I had to be over here to work on my essays every day, so I just wore lots of clothes during the day and froze my butt off during the night. This time, however, they turned the hot water off as well, which leaves me cold *and* dirty. Ah well. Technically there is another place that I live here, and there's plenty of hot water and heat there... but... I might as well admit that I don't like it there. I mean, the bed's comfy, I share the room with a nice girl but there's enough space, BUT the bathroom sketches me out. It's too bad that I have bathroom issues, but I have serious bathroom issues. Bathrooms are game-changers for me in just about every situation I can imagine. So the Baotou bathroom was grimy, but it was spacious. This too is grimy, but that's what sandals are for. What honestly kills it for me here is that to flush, the toilet fills with water almost to the rim before emptying. I'll leave the implications to subtlety. Oh it just freaks me out so much that I like to avoid it whenever possible. Ah well. Since I suspect that the key to the heating controls is sailing somewhere in the vicinity of South America right now, I'll clearly have to just let this one go.

Anyways, that's not anything like what I was planning to talk about, which was my return trip. Wednesday night, Sam stayed the night at my place and the two of us hightailed it to the airport at 5:30 Thursday morning. Roads were clear, weather was clear. Continental baggage policy is a little confusing, so I arrived thinking that I had 70 lbs clearance for my just-over-50 lbs suitcase. After being redirected to Delta to check in for my connection flight, I was informed that 50 was the limit. In the past, United and Continental agents have weighed a slightly overweight bag and just thrown the stickers on it, no questions asked. This gentleman suggested that I remove 4 lbs of stuff from my suitcase and carry it on my person. So... In addition to the load of books and laptop gear already in my carry-ons, were now even more books and also a pair of flip-flops. I don't think this backpack was meant to distribute that kind of weight that well (not to mention the satchel on my shoulder), so I actually felt, throughout this whole thing, that I was carrying something heavy. My back does sort of ache now, but that's also probably the whole awkward sleeping positions thing too.

We were a tiny bit late boarding the aircraft in CVG because of the security check, but since it was a small jet with few passengers, it didn't take long once they opened the door. They gave the security spiel and we started taxiing, when suddenly the plane stopped... and sat there. The captain came on to tell us that there was a maintenance issue, and we needed to return to the gate in order to fix it. They were expecting it to take about 10-15 minutes, then 10-15 for de-icing, and then we'd be on our way. I was a bit nervous at this point because I'd booked the flight with a decent window of layover time, but it was by no means very long. 10-15 minutes would have been ok though. Well, two hours later, we finally started taxiing out again. During those two hours, we lost several businessmen who needed to be in important meetings (at least one of them was going off to call in), we lost our first officer who timed out (whatever that means), we lost one of our attendants I think for the same reason, and our captain left the plane to bring coffee from Peet's for everyone. When the coffee came around, I declined, and this was because I was in the middle of what might have been a slight anxiety attack. It was being fueled by my recent paranoia for flight, and given that there was this mysterious "maintenance issue" that was "taking them longer than they thought to fix," there was a bit to keep me going there. Also was the fact that as time went on, the window for me to make my connection was narrowing, and I didn't know what sorts of randomness finding my gate would entail. Also, I just wasn't comfortable. I hadn't had much sleep the night before, and my morning was just very emotional-- leaving the house, the comforts of home. There was also never a moment that I just stepped back and felt, "Yes, I'm packed," or "Yes, I feel ready to go." So sitting in that cold airplane, staring at a collection of bleached dead insects trapped IN the panes of the window, wondering how the hell they got in there and whether or not the fact that they did was in any way a safety hazard, I just started losing my cool. There was a moment that I knew that I would never make my flight, and I started asking the attendant what I should do. One thought was that I could get right off the plane and deal with the agents at CVG and possibly just go home and delay until my folks got back... but she never really had a response for me. Just always "hmmm, I'll let them know" or something equally ineffectual. I asked her again at the hour and 45 minute mark, but was interrupted when they announced the completion of the maintenance work. She was just like "Well, enough said!" I'd been having this internal battle about whether or not to get off the plane, since I knew the other option was to end up having to deal with a missed flight in Newark, where I do not live. But then I figured, what the hell. Better to just see what happens this way. Well, maybe not. But whatever.

In Newark, I went straight to a gate agent to explain the deal, and a man came up behind me saying he had the exact same issue. One solution would have been to cancel and try racing over to JFK to catch a flight that we probably would never have made either. I... opted no for that one. The lady sent us over to Delta ticketing, which, in Newark, is... weird. Anyways, after standing there a long time while they tried to work things out with Continental, I walked off with a ticket for the next day, a hotel voucher, and two meal vouchers, and went looking for my bag. Lucky for me, a guy was JUST pulling it off the carousel as we got there. Unlucky for the other guy, his bag was nowhere to be seen. Also, Continental was giving some bullshit about his ticket. We ended up separating there, and I found out later that he was at the airport for a couple more hours. I got some lunch, which then became my dinner, and then went looking for the hotel shuttle.

The Wyndham Hotel by the airport is actually not too shabby. I was very impressed by their bath products, which were Bath & Body Works True Blue Spa. [Oh MAN I'm getting cold. Still can't see my breath though, which is all right]. Also, most of the people working there were really nice. I got in, got situated, and passed out until nightfall. It did me a lot of good, I think. At some point after I woke up, I realized I was sitting in a king-sized bed. I turned on all the lights, but still things seemed dim. I went for a spin, to get some ice and buy something to drink. I got some guava juice, ate the rest of my corned beef sandwich, and watched Family Guy and CNN. After a bit more time, I went to use my dinner voucher in the hotel restaurant. It was only $7, but after my sandwich, I really just wanted some soup. The split pea was pretty good. I then decided to follow it up with fruit, but the fruit salad didn't sound that great. The other option was melon, which, at this time of year, is cantaloupe. I ordered cantaloupe. I was presented with half of a cantaloupe and a steak knife. This was beyond my wildest dreams. I got it wrapped up and took it back upstairs. Back in the room, I watched a little bit of American Gladiators, and listened to my ipod through the alarm clock, read, wrote, figured out why the internet hadn't been working for me. I showered too, which was nice. Then... more sleep.

Everything went smoothly the next day, if you don't count me carrying way too much stuff everywhere. The passengers were sparse, so there was an empty seat between me and my rowmate. It was actually cramped though because the seat in front of me reclined to the point that if I sat up straight, it would have been on my forehead. So eating was ridiculous. The guy I was sitting with was nice, and before the flight ended he offered me a couple Reese's cups for the road. I finally got to see The Secret Life of Bees, which played on one of my SFO flights, but which I didn't watch then because you have to pay for Delta's headsets. It was good. I teared up.

So, obviously the multi-entry visa worked just as described. I'm presumably all set for the next 120 days. I'm going to be here less than 120 days. That somehow just made me feel a bit better. At baggage claim, I moved most of the books back into my suitcase. Then...

I wasn't 100% sure how I was going to get back to TEDA from the airport. I'd been told in the past that there was a bus, and I was hoping to just... ask a bunch of people and figure out where I could find it. FYI, girls working information at PEK don't really speak English. But one of them directed me out exit 11 to where the shuttle buses were waiting. I went to the end of the line to find the Tianjin stop and ask if there was anything anywhere going to where I was going. I am stating for the record right now, for anyone who googles "Beijing airport bus to TEDA," there is, as of February 7th, 2009, NO BUS from the airport to TEDA, or even Tanggu station. I asked what they suggested, but even if I took the bus to Tianjin, taxiing around there to get either to the light rail or just back to TEDA would have been way more than I was willing to spend. Also, I don't know Tianjin at all. Also, no way was I dragging my suitcase around any place I didn't know.

So... I turned around, and headed down to the Express Train to the subway. I figured I'd be able to make a train to Tanggu and maybe still avoid a population crush. For reference, our plane landed at about 2:45pm.

Took the express to Sanyuanqiao, and decided to just get off there. It seemed like it might be easier to navigate than Dongzhimen (where I got lost and annoyed last time) and would drop off higher up on the 5, and I wanted to get on that as soon as possible. This was not a bad idea, as it turned out, except some random girl cut in front of me to buy a subway ticket (and I HATE that shit) and I had to put all my bags through the x-ray (but one of the attendants helped me) and then one of the girls at the x-ray machine really wanted to see if she could lift my suitcase but never actually asked me-- she just took it from the guy and started carrying it away and I had to walk after her with this look on my face like "do you realize that I'm here to catch a train" and even when I finally got it back from her she didn't say a single word to me, just stared off into space with this vacuous smile on her face. Also, no down escalator in that station.

It was a bit weird on the train, this guy who'd been standing near me on the platform decided to strike up a conversation. He asked if I was coming from abroad, where I'd been, did I spend new years there, was it fun... I was like... this is not information that I feel comfortable divulging on the subway when I have so much stuff to deal with. Then came the typical "are you from the south" and I ended up just telling him that I was from the US. He complimented my Chinese, at which point I noticed a girl laughing. I have no idea either way, but I just had the feeling that she was laughing at this conversation. THEN he went and said that he felt comfortable talking to me? Like... you know when you first see someone...something something something, did I know what he meant? I said I didn't know. Cuz I only caught part of it anyways, and it just didn't seem like something I wanted to agree to. He said that I had a nice smile. And something about teeth showing. I said thanks and just... tried to avoid making eye contact again. I was really not feeling whatever this was that was going on. Anyways, as I was about to exit he started going through his wallet for his card, but, too bad, he didn't have any on him. Oh well! I rushed to transfer. No down escalator here either, but some guy behind me took pity and helped me get my bag down the steps. The train here was packed. It was on this train that I realized that I hate the general pushiness of the population here. Like... the people I'm ok with (for the most part... there have been a few so-called "customer service" agents I've wanted to slap), people you talk to are generally nice. But lordy the population, the pushing, shoving, cutting, yelling, and general disregard for others that you get at ticket counters, on subways, at crosswalks, pisses me off to no end. This is what I typically find myself complaining about at the end of a long day.

The whole subway trip from Sanyuanqiao took maybe an hour? I was so relieved to finally make it to Liujiayao, but was slightly apprehensive because I didn't know which exit to take. Last time I tried this, I took a couple different exits, and by the time I figured out which was the right one, I was completely muddled. The problem this time was that I was only giving myself one shot to get the right one. If it was wrong, the trouble it would take to either get my bags back downstairs, or across the street, or, heaven forbid, up the stairs to a skybridge, across the street, and down back to street level, would be more than it was worth to just take a taxi from any of the incorrect exits. But... man, I'm cheap here. I went with the Northwest exit. For future reference, THIS IS THE CORRECT EXIT. I chose it because it ran completely opposite to what my guess would have been. I figured I must have tried Southeast last time, and it turns out that was true. Turns out there's a part of the ascent from the station that involves stairs. There's a wheelchair lift, evidently, but I'm guessing I would have had a lot of trouble getting that operating anyways. But a girl coming up behind me offered to help. Again, awesome. Especially awesome because by this point my body had really almost had it.

When I got above-ground, my first thought was "CRAP." Then I realized that I was in the right place. Confirmed when I saw the big Suning building. Started making my way to the bus stop, and the 652 bus came right as I approached. I still had to bang on the door to get them to let me on, and at that point dragged my suitcase on like it was a piece of carrion, first heaving it onto its side, dragging it a few inches, then pulling it upright. Paid for 2 tickets-- one for me and one for my suitcase. It occurred to me that I would have thrown a tantrum if, say, the AC Transit driver demanded a second fare for a suitcase. But this did not faze me when it happened multiple times on my way through Beijing in December, and I didn't give a whit this time either.

The 652 made quick time to Beijing Nan, I got my ass up the escalator, through security, and over to an automatic ticketing machine. Hell if I was going to deal with an actual ticketing agent. It was 5:10. The only ticket available to me (or so it seemed... the machine wasn't very sensitive and I was really unfocused so I couldn't really tell what was going on) was 18:50, which I originally interpreted, incorrectly of course, as 5:50. I figured it out though. I sat around for an hour and a half, reading, kind of comfy, but slowly needing to pee more and more.

I discovered, upon boarding the train, that there was actually enough room for my suitcase in the seat with me. There was no legroom, but at least I could keep it within my sight and not have to drag it any further. So I grabbed the window seat, caused some confusion for the other two fellas in my row when they finally showed up, but no biggie. Stacked my things on top of one another. My ipod has now chosen not to play yet another one of my favorite songs. SIGH. After receiving my free bottle of Tibetan spring water, I just collapsed over my things-- basically wrapped my body around them-- and fell asleep for the ride. I woke up for a few things: the arrival in Tianjin, and several moments when the guy in front of me tried to recline his seat. Usually, whatever, but with my suitcase, he couldn't really get his seat back as far as... he would have liked it? I couldn't tell if he was just a flopper or if he was actively trying to push his seat back farther than I was letting him go. But every time he did whatever he was doing, my suitcase tilted, and world got rocked.

I was in a total daze upon exiting at Tanggu. I was also freezing. I just wanted to get in a taxi and get back to TEDA. The swarm of people grabbing taxis at the exit, though, was insane. In the past, I've either had the mobility to wander farther afield for a taxi, or have had to purchase tickets for another trip and so missed the mass exodus that I was at that moment being swept into. I'm actually not sure what happened. A man asked where I was going. I told him, and assumed that I'd be going with him. But then he asked another group of people where they were going. Then they asked him how much he was charging, and I was like, wait, I can't handle that right now. So I started walking the line, looking for the point where the number of people jumping taxis petered out. Then suddenly another man was in front of me, asking if I was going to TEDA. I'm still not sure how he knew. But he said what sounded like 10 yuan to go, and motioned me into his cab where two other women were sitting. He'd already whisked away my suitcase and I was trying to figure out in my head if I was getting ripped off or not. Well, not, I was saving at least Y1.40. I got in. Was slightly unsure if he knew exactly where he was taking me. We dropped one woman off first, then I got into the front seat and then remembered my thing about sitting in the front seat of Chinese vehicles with no seatbelts. I think I did not fasten my seatbelt. He drove me in to the complex as far as he could, I gave him a 20 just to see if he'd really said 10, and he had. I clambered upstairs, and about 5 and a half hours after touching down in Beijing, I was "home."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

From the rental car

I'm sorry but I'm just thinking of the right words to say
I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be
But if you wait around a while I'll make you fall for me
I promise you
I promise you
I will

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Making a difference

Actually, it really helps to have a visual aid like this.

song chart memes
more music charts

Friday, January 09, 2009

What does work, however...

... is pouring the cool, damp coffee grounds from the last cup you made into a paper towel, rolling it up, and using it to massage the eye area when it seems like your lids weigh like a thousand pounds. I admit this was the result of a sudden wild urge as opposed to anything that was thought out at all, but I figured that if the Body Shop makes products with this theme, then home experimentation shouldn't be too dangerous. In any case, I feel tons better now... lights are somehow brighter... placebo effect? Perhaps. But I guess it was worth it.

FYI: coffee and you

In case you were wondering, no, introducing caffeine through the surface of the eye (a la the first episode of cowboy bebop) is not an effective method of making the eyelids any lighter. At least not if you're doing it the way I accidentally just done it, and not at this point in the game.

Lots of jagged edges

Here's a recommendation: when cleaning a home coffee grinder, do NOT blow into it. Doing so will scatter the grounds onto your face. The debris will cling--stealthily-- to your eyelashes until such a time as individual bits will drop onto the surface of your eyeball. The pain comes over and over again, even after you thought you cleared the offending particles away last time.

Friday, January 02, 2009

i have no $*$&%^ing idea

i dislike what is happening right now. i think i may have just wasted the whole day. i just looked up cornell bhangra, base, and absolute zero on youtube... and did not write anything during that period of time. this is because i finally got up enough energy to start typing and realized that everything was crap crap crap. what has my "journey" been? how did i get to this point where i am trapped indoors all the time applying to grad school? well, the most honest and straightforward answer is the answer i gave when they asked more or less the same question for the statement of purpose. what came to mind and which i failed at articulating over the past 24 hours is that a) i am applying for grad school because i know what i want to do, but b) i don't know enough about it to just go out and do it without first attending grad school. c) i figured out what i want to do thanks to college ntres classes and a lot of community service + helping out at all these random npos over the years. d) that only ended up happening because i was raised to be the kind of optimistic/idealistic/community-loving person that i am. and this is where i lose the thought... because i couldn't just pinpoint for you where exactly that came from. the prompt suggests examples like, "you grew up in an area with an abundance or lack of educational opportunities" or some shit like that. and i'm like... is that really what this is supposed to be about? if you want to know about a student's socie-economic background, just... put a stupid multiple choice question in the application. why make people jump through these kinds of hoops? what about that makes a person more or less attractive as a candidate? why do i need to write a paean to the lakota public school system? maybe i'm reading this whole thing wrong (like last time) but it just makes me a little ill. i don't think i'm going to say a word about any of that because i honestly don't think the admissions committee is at all entitled to make me qualify that information. i think instead i'll write about how i got so involved in community service and how the desire to continue serving and be both environmentally conscious and effective about it has led me through all sorts of reinforcing experiences to the point where i'm on the verge of tears most days at the mercy of all these admissions deadlines. of course now the challenge is to do that while being as un-trite as possible. it's difficult. if you don't try, you write an essay like millions of others before yours. if you try too hard you sound like an affected moron. ok i think part of my brain is phasing out because i've been dropping "o's" from "too" pretty consistently for months. ok and my laptop insides just started howling. what is going on? anyways i've mostly given up my battle against cliches, because there's no way that in a pool of thousands of other essays, that mine's going to be particularly "original." no. we all got the same prompt, our goals are pretty similar (we all want to go to grad school), and we're not the first nor the last to have to deal with this crap.

ARGH. ok i think i need to turn my computer off right now. and then shower. and then turn it back on again. today SUCKED. though... i guess i did get a chance to watch before sunrise again. good movie! and also got to sear some scallops and roast fingerling potatoes (which i'm pretty sure were leftover from when i bought them in AUGUST). my mom will be upset when she gets home and sees the mess :)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

The destination, not the journey

Trying to write about "the journey that has led" me to grad school. It was long, rambly, twisty, and nonsensical even to me even at the best of times... not sure how to go about condensing it into 500 words. And anyways, it's hard to think when I've got this song stuck in my head:

When I Get to the Border

Dirty people take what's mine
I can leave them all behind
They can never cross that line
When I get to the border

Sawbones standing at the door
Waiting 'till I hit the floor
He won't find me anymore
When I get to the border

Monday morning, Monday morning
Closing in on me
I'm packing up and I'm running away
To where nobody picks on me

If you see a box of pine
With a name that looks like mine.
Just say I drowned in a barrel of wine.
When I got to the border
When I got to the border

A one way ticket's in my hand
Heading for the chosen land
My troubles will all turn to sand
When I get to the border

Salty girl with yellow hair
Waiting in that rocking chair
And if I'm weary I won't care
When I get to the border

Monday morning, Monday morning
Closing in on me
I'm packing up and I'm running away
To where nobody picks on me

The dusty road will smell so sweet
Paved with gold beneath my feet
And I'll be dancing down the street
When I get to the border
When I get to the border

It's resonating right now, and I'm sure you can count several reasons why that would be.
Meanwhile, there are some loud guests at my parents' new years party downstairs. Good thing I have my pinot up here.