Tag Archives: leaving on a jet plane

Baggage

25 Feb

Over the weekend, I watched “Up in the Air” for the first time with my host family. It was a good movie and I found it fairly thought provoking in a number of ways. Like, “okay, I know I’m probably nowhere near 10 million miles, but I wonder how many I’ve flown?” (Answer: uh, I dunno? I don’t keep count, but I’ve done a fair amount of flying in my life.) More importantly, I kept thinking about George Clooney’s character’s spiel about things. Continue reading

Mountains

21 Sep

Hey all. I know it’s been a while since my last real post. I spent a nice and lazy summer with my friends and family, enjoying life back in the States. You’d think that after a year in China, I would be done with the whole “living abroad” thing.

Yeah, about that.

I’ve found that lines from the Lord of the Rings movies are always applicable to daily life. (Except the bit about a dark lord and a ring, but you know what I mean.) In the first movie, Bilbo Baggins is explaining to Gandalf why he wants to leave behind his comfortable existence at home. “I want to see mountains again, Gandalf. Mountains.”

After two months at home, I was ready to see mountains again. Or, in this case, Europe. I’ve only been to Italy once. I want to see more of the world, while I’m still young and unencumbered. I’m a student of history. Compared to any point previous, the barriers to traveling abroad are pretty freaking low. Let me put it this way: it used to take a sailboat two months to get from NYC to London, and you routinely lost a few passengers along the way. In comparison, I can get on a flight from Washington Dulles and land in Paris a mere eight hours later. Commercial air travel is an under-rated miracle of the modern age.

So I’m off to Paris, to see the city of lights and learn what it’s like to live in a slightly less foreign country. Do I speak French? Not really, no. I figure it can’t be much harder than Chinese, although it might take some getting used to using conjugations again. My goals are to see a few sights, go to a couple museums, and eat my body weight in French bread. It’s all about easy, reachable goals.

 

If you’ve got any suggestions for my time there, I’m all ears!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

25 Jun

I’m still in transit today. By the magic of the International Date line, my plane lands in San Francisco three hours before it takes off. Three hours. Clearly, this means I’m a Time Lord.

I had a lot of fun in Hong Kong this weekend. It was great to see Amy and her family. I even got to go into Macau for a day! All of this and more will be forthcoming in the next week or so.

This is sort of a bittersweet journey to NY for me, happy as I am to go home and see my family. I might not have enjoyed spending this year in Chengdu, but I am sad at leaving Asia. I honestly don’t know when I’ll be back to see my friends in Hong Kong. And that’s a legit cause for sadness. On the other hand, I can get a decent slice of pizza whenever I want at home.

See you all Stateside, folks.

I Left My Heart in Tuen Mun

11 Apr

So, I’m back, internet. A full day ahead of time, even. I was going to come back by train, for the sheer novelty of it. After all, the average Chinese person travels by train when going around the country and wasn’t I all about authenticity? So thus, I stood in line at the Shenzhen train office, waiting patiently for my turn and when I got to the counter, there were no hard sleepers left. Or the much more expensive soft sleepers. The only seats left were the hard seats. For a 32 hour ride.

There’s being authentic and then there’s sheer stupidity.

Needless to say, I ponied up the extra hundred bucks for the flight back to Chengdu. Mea culpa. I’ll take the train on my next trip. Also? The internet is lying about the current going rate for long-distance train seats. I had a bit of sticker shock when the agent reeled off the ticket prices.

ANYWAYS, the previous bit, you know, hanging out in Hong Kong? That was a lot of fun. I hung out with Amy and her family. Her aunt and uncle live over in Tuen Mun, which isn’t exactly downtown Hong Kong. More beaches than skyscrapers out there in the New Territories. Yeah, life is real hard, living in a tropical island paradise.

It was a pretty low-key week, to be honest. I spent a lot of time hanging out, reading, comparing knitting styles with M., and helping out a little at their new shop. M. and F. just opened a Dymock’s in Gold Coast and it was interesting to see the other side of the counter, as it were.

I also participated in the national pastime of Hong Kong*. That was fun. I even bought some black ballet flats, which I’ve been looking around for. Huzzah for large shoe sizes!

All in all, I had a really great time in Hong Kong, mostly thanks to Amy, M., and F. Thanks, guys!

*Shopping. They’re hardcore about their malls in HK.

Programming Notice

13 Jan

For the next month or so my posting schedule is going to be erratic or downright nonexistent. China’s major holiday is the Spring Festival aka the Lunar New Year. It’s like Christmas, New Year’s and your birthday rolled up in one, plus enough fireworks to make your last Fourth of July display look like a couple of bottle rockets. Therefore, I’m on break for the next four weeks or so.

Right now, I’m hosting my Dad for a few days and then I’m meeting Mom for a two week tour of Australia. I’ve never seen Sydney and I really want to go to the Great Barrier Reef as well. Given my neon white complexion, I foresee large floppy hats and a bucket of sunscreen in my future. Then, I’ll try to meet my friend Katia in Beijing for a week before scooting back to Chengdu in February.

Should all go well, I should have a few moments here and there to post updates, but I’m not promising anything. :D See you all in February!

In the Country of Heaven will be on hiatus until February 13.

Retrospective: 2011

30 Dec

Well, another year has gone by. I don’t feel that much older or wiser, but 2011 was a doozy of a year for me. In honor of Janus, we’ll have a nice little look back at the year and some hopes for the new year.

2011 Pros:
I graduated from University of Florida after writing the most hellish thesis ever.

I moved to Chengdu to further my studies in Chinese.
I learned how to knit and finished my first pair of socks.
I visited a bunch of cool new places, including Boulder, CO and Hong Kong.
I started (and maintained!) a blog and a regular update schedule.

 

2011 Cons:
I entered a terrible job market. Give me a job?
I moved to Chengdu, that grey-skied city of pandas, which I am not too fond of.
I figured out this year that I am kind of burnt out on Chinese studies and am probably not going to grad school anytime soon.
Crippling depression at inconvenient points.

 

As for 2012, I am pretty much resigned to misinformation about the Mayan calender, more impertinent questions about my job search, and a great quantity of more knitting done. (I bought some more yarn and needles from the Knitting Cove! I also got a cool pattern for fingerless gloves that I’ve been coveting.)

Frankly, I haven’t enjoyed my time in Chengdu all that much. Yes, I know, I’m a crabby, cantankerous bitch. Pandas are great, but the overwhelming boredom and lack of educational direction has poisoned my opinion on the city. Also, the grey skies. What gives? But I don’t like being that kind of crabby bitchy person, so I am going to put a new foot forward. My new year’s resolution for 2011? I am going to travel to one new place a month. At least. I have a list as long as my forearm of places I’d like to see in China. I doubt I’ll be going back anytime soon after my scholarship is over and done with. So – travel. I already have a quick two-day trip to the Leshan Giant Buddha planned for January and a week-long trip to Beijing/Harbin in February. I also want to visit Xi’an, Shanghai, and Kanding. If there’s anyplace you think I should go, let me know. China’s a big place, man, odd’s are I’ve never even heard of that one cool place where Discovery/BBC/NYTimes said you had to visit. I’m young, I’m in China, I should make the most of it.

I’m going to be on a plane for New Year’s, so no champagne for me this year. This was a lovely interlude back to life in America, but it is a short one. I have to be back for a meeting on Wednesday. Not complaining, though. The miracle of modern air travel means I get to China in 13 hours from the US, not three months by ship or three years by caravan, thank Frigg.

Wishing you all a very Happy New Year’s!

Where the Lovelight Gleams

23 Dec

If you guys are getting this post, that means that I am on a plane somewhere over the Pacific heading east. Yes, I’m coming home for Christmas. Yes, I realize this is a little sudden, given the nature of my last post.

See, on Wednesday, I was writing “Christmas Abroad” and grumbling. I hadn’t had class this week and next week was looking less and less likely. “If only I had known ahead of time,” I muttered self-righteously to myself, “I could be at home right now instead of planning a truly depressing Christmas Eve.” (It involved a case or two of Great Wall red wine, lots of chocolate, and Planet Earth.)

And that’s when the treacherous little voice in the back of my head piped up. “You know, it’s still possible to get to NY before Christmas Eve,” it said enticingly.

I squashed the idea. “Shut up. I’m just feeling depressed and that’s crazy talk.”

Come on, there’s nothing going on here except you killing your liver.” It said matter of factly. “It’s not like you have class or finals next week. Hell, your advisor wouldn’t even miss you.”

I sat at my desk, pondering. “That’s true. I could probably catch a flight to Beijing and take the non-stop to Newark. A couple of hours on a train and I could be in Port Jeff before midnight.”

“See? You could go to midnight Mass, see your friends, eat real food, and be back before New Year’s. There’s nothing really keeping you here,” my brain said.

I had visions of Christmas turkey. Steak. Dairy. “Mmm, that does sound good — shut up shut up, that’s the self-pity talking and I won’t stand for it.” I resolutely went back to editing the post and trying to tone down the homesickness/whining. No one likes a complainer.

The little voice kept up the very logical rationalizations in favor of going home over the next few hours. “If you don’t even try, you’ll hate yourself for it later,” it said smugly, aware this was the final nail in the coffin.

I cracked. I called home and laid out all my reasoning and half-baked plans for Dad. “So basically, I just need you to tell me that this is all crazy person talk and I should stop thinking about it.”

This is all crazy person talk and you should stop thinking about it.” He replied promptly. “Now hang on a minute, let me check the flight loads.”

I feel this is pretty self-evident, but I really love my parents. When my family wants something done, it gets done. Within four hours of my call home, I had bought myself a ticket to Beijing and my mom had listed me space-available on Continental Flight 88. The only hesitation was on my part, when I talked it over with Katia a little. (I did not acquit myself well. There were tears.)

My mom was very understanding. “You sounded a little homesick in your last blog post.” She said bluntly.

It’s true. It’s been a long couple of months here in Chengdu and I need the mental health break. I need to hug my parents, go shopping with my sister, joke with my brother, bake something toxicly sweet, and watch my favorite movies on the beat up living room couch with my friends. Despite this, there is the lingering sense of guilt. That I am cheating, that I should tough it out and stay, that it’s somehow not fair that I can go home on a whim. I am ruthlessly suppressing that sort of negative thinking, because Thor-dammit, I want to be home for Christmas and there is nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. I have paid my dues and I am calling in my credits; this year, I am going to home for Christmas.