Monday, December 13, 2010
I was basically given less than 48 hours to pack up my life in China. I didn't get to say goodbye to anyone or wrap up any of my business. I was planning on moving into a new apartment on December 1st. The big 2 month holiday was coming up. Friends were coming to visit, then family, and we all had wonderful plans. My Chinese was improving rapidly, and I was making some great friends. This hurt. This hurt BIG. A lot of you know that my basic life philosophy is based on thinking that the people in my life and my relationships are more important than basically anything else. I cherish you guys, deal with it. Having to just cut ties on such short notice is likely going to haunt me for a long long time. So, I have overcome a lot of the emotional trauma I was going through a couple of weeks ago, but I'm definitely still dealing with random outbursts of sobbing and tears, although these are increasingly less frequent too. I owe my friends and family a gigantic thankyou for helping me through this, for your shared outrage, your words of encouragement, your patience and your understanding. Just amazing. I hope I can be there for all of you when you need it like you were for me!
So, what HAVE I been doing? Well, my first stop when I got back to Canada was Vancouver. I hadn't been planning on stopping over, but when Brig said "clearly I am going to come see you at the airport even if it's only for 30 minutes" it occurred to me that being in Vancouver and leaving after 1 hour was ridiculous. For reasons yet unknown, the school wasn't super happy about me stopping in Vancouver and actually tried to forbid it. Fortunately they relented at the last minute after I told them I had already purchased an alternative ticket to Toronto for a few days later. I figured "What does it matter where I am as long as I'm not in China right? Isn't that what the big deal is about anyway?" Anyway, I went to Vancouver. I didn't do a whole lot. I went to Whistler because Charlene insisted on taking me, and I'm glad she did. It was wonderful...everyone tells you about how pretty BC is, but as a stubborn and proud Ontarian I guess I've always brushed it off haha. Vancouver was perfect...exactly the adjustment period I needed before confronting Ontario, Toronto, and U of T. Plus, I got to see Brigitte and meet all these people I've heard all about but have never met. AND I got to see Main and Hastings in real life, which was exciting because I'm a big Canadian social sciences nerd and have read SO MUCH about that corner!!! SO RAW!
After Vancouver, I came back to Toronto. In chronological order: saw parents, saw Hridi, saw U of T (blech), saw Lisa, Lauren and Ray (And Hridi again), saw Abby and Tzazna, moved in with Abby and Tzazna, then saw as many other people as was possibly possible. This week is kind of a blur of me dealing with emotions and a couple of surprises and trying to wrap my head around being in Toronto and having to deal with the logistics of paperwork and stuff I had to do. It was good though. I have great friends. Unfortuantely my return has coincided with end of semester crunch time and everybody is all stressed out and busy, but we managed to work around it. Yesterday Dad picked me up and we stopped in Waterloo to see Robert. Quick Robert update (since about half of you will want to know): in the middle of exams, still taller than me (first thing he pointed out actually), has a job in SARNIA next semester (isn't working with any relatives though), still gets confused easily, did a dumb thing in the car and bent one of the rims, turns 21 on friday, has JUST discovered what a hair straightener is and what it's used for and is totally blown away by it. The usual.
I'm now back in Clinton where it has been snowing for like a week straight. I am trying to unpack my stuff (it sucks) which is going slowly. First of all, things in my suitcase still SMELL like China. And some things in the suitcase haven't been worn since China. Memories and stuff. Additionally, mom's house is already full of my stuff. I have 3 rooms worth of stuff, because I usually have 3 rooms at my disposal (dad's, mom's, with me). So I'm taking things out of my suitcase and have no where to put them. The drawers are ALL full. It would almost be better to just leave it in the suitcase until I move somewhere new (which is probably going to happen). Everybody should be home for Christmas soon, so Clinton isn't so bad.
What's next? The school hasn't really given me a good answer on this one yet and my main contact there is on vacation until January. I would like to get some answers from somebody sooner than that, but it may just simply not happen. I would love to find another job outside of Canada, but that generally doesn't ever happen once somebody comes home. There is a good chance the replacement job will be in Toronto or Ottawa. I am trying to push the school to find me something new sooner than later because I don't want to just be hanging around. You shall be kept posted about this situation.
So that's that. Details will be shared one on one if you should so desire! And I'm sorry to anyone that I didn't see and all the people I haven't responded to and stuff like that. Things are finally just starting to normalize now, so I should be able to talk about this stuff more now.
I'm working through it, I'll be okay eventually. Thanks again everyone!
Monday, November 22, 2010
Roommating is a tricky business. When you live with a person, you learn a great deal about them in a short amount of time. Sometimes roommates are soul mates, and problems are few and insignificant. Sometimes a roommate can turn into your worst nightmare. To further complicate the situation, you can never tell which it will be, regardless of whether your new roommate is your best friend or a complete stranger. And then to exacerbate the situation, you are often locked into a contract which legally binds you to this person for a certain extended period of time. Since I moved out of my parents' houses a little over 3 years ago, I have had a number of different roommates and experienced the gamut of situations. I plan to continue to live with roommates for a few years still, even though I know people who think it is time to strike out on my own. I think these people are crazy. Why would I want to live alone, isolated from difficult interactions with the world? I would go mad from boredom, this is a fact. I appreciate my alone time, but living alone just seems like a sentence of perpetual boredom. I like people, even if it takes some work to get along with them. That's what the world is, right? Finding creative ways to get along with people that are difficult to get along with? Trying to isolate yourself from them won't help, instead I strive to develop effective coping strategies.
One of the biggest issues between roommates is the issue of cleanliness. I have been on both sides of this coin, depending on if there are any slobs bigger than myself or not. First year university is probably an interesting experience for many people. At my campus, in my house, four complete strangers moved in on the same day. Some houses had six people. Naturally, for any reasonable group of people, there is a grace period of a month or two. In this time, we all let things slide that may irritate us in the name of making friends. Letting things slide gradually becomes bottling things up, and eventually something hits our trigger. I think first year university is extra difficult because it is everybody's first time living away from their home. This is significant, because in your parent's home, the rules are de facto and non-negotiable, and have often been in effect since before you can remember. The problem lies in every home having different rules, and every individual living in my house of four having different ideas about what was common sense and what was simply illogical. In this situation, I was not the biggest slob, and found myself sided with my roommates who couldn't stand the mess. In hindsight, I have some regrets about the way we treated this girl because I worry we may have ganged up on her and been meaner than necessary. My only excuse that I was young, inexperienced and still on my 'big-fish in a small pond' high (this has since subsided). This experience did help me understand that we all have different ideas of what an acceptable level of cleanliness is, and like all things, is more a case of difference than one being better than the other. Although I may just think this because I am also capable of becoming the slob in this situation.
I have never claimed to be a neat-freak. I readily admit to being a bit of a slob, but I like to think I keep it contained. I'm not so much dirty as I am messy, and it's important that people understand the difference. I bathe regularly, and when I clean I SCRUB. I don't like dirt. I get rid of it. But, I have a tendency to leave my stuff lying around. I can't get it out of my head that putting things away is a waste of time because you're just going to use it again tomorrow. Leaving things lying around SAVES TIME. Okay, also, I am lazy. But nobody has been able to convince me that being a neat person should be higher on my priority list, so it remains thus. I am aware that when sharing a space with someone, it is considerate to keep your junk clear of the common areas like living room, kitchen and bathroom, and I try to comply with this policy. One problem I seem to frequently encounter is the issue of dirty dishes. I DO my dishes, just not as frequently as some people would like. Dirty dishes almost feels like a sensitive topic to me, that's how serious it can become between roommates Maybe I was spoiled by the dishwasher when I was growing up, but I just can't motivate myself do do dishes unless it's pertinent. This may disgust some people, but this generally means that I have run out of dishes or I can no longer see the counter because it's covered in dirty ones. When two people with this attitude get together, things can turn ugly, and I mean literally ugly, not figuratively ugly. We were slobs, but we knew it, and we tried to clean before having company over. And it was wonderful. I'm sure there were fights between us but I honesty can't remember a single one of them. This situation is rare. What is far more common is someone like me living with someone who doesn't like to see dirty dishes all over the counter every morning. Due to my stubborn nature (I think), it has taken me a somewhat long time to figure out that the OTHER person is the normal person in this situation and not myself. I have managed, in my current living situation, to wash the dishes almost everyday. It is difficult to tell if this is because I have matured in the past couple of years or if the pressure and uncertainty of living in a foreign country where I don't speak the language has reduced me to a spineless yes-(wo)man who will do anything for an English speaking friend from a familiar culture. I'll decide on that later. Either way, I have realized that in order to be a good roommate, I need to try to be less of a slob, particularly in common areas. My room is my business, and if anyone tries to force me to clean it that's a whole different story of territoriality and individuality that would make me sound like an insane person. The point is, all of my roommates have demanded different levels of cleanliness, and ultimately, it is an issue that requires compromise from both individuals, but the slob in the situation can make it easier by acknowledging that it is more difficult for the clean person to give up being clean than it is for the slob to give up being a slob. And this is coming from a fellow slob. It's just easier...just do it.
I'll explain what it's for later.
In other news, I am moving this weekend. Much closer to school and work (cough) and the bars (cough). It has some furniture, but lacks a fridge, oven and washing machine, so I might finally earn some of that IDS street cred that my friends in Africa have been harassing me about. Or I might just go buy them. The next couple of weeks will decide.
Friday, November 12, 2010
Item 1: Send me food! Unfortunately, most of the things I really really miss are perishable, but if you could send me candy (chocolate bars in particular, anything with caramel or nuts or peanut butter in it) awesome. Other potential food items include:
jam (if anyone sends me homemade jam I might cry from happiness)
icing (like for cakes)
anything pizza. ANYTHING!
instant noodles (SO KIDDKING...there are tonnes here haha)
This may not be a thing that is legal...so you should probably look into it first. I would be ecstatic if I could get my hands on a Rickard's Red or Keith's or Mill St. But sending that may not be a thing that is legal. So find out first.
Item 2: I would also love some recipes for some things:
a) those caramel square things that I keep being told only involve crackers and caramel and are delicious.
b) pie, please send me pie recipes, PLEASE. I may need you to send me that stuff you use for the crust
c) easy bread recipes (I might ask mom to bring me a bread maker machine because I'm a total wuss that can't go a year without half decent bread)
d)basically any recipe that is delicious and easy and doesn't have a lot of ingredients. Send it to me please.
Item 3: I have some places for you to donate money to. They are fantastic. I highly endorse them. And anything to can give them helps me help them. Perfect present.
1. Shem Women's Group http://shemgroup.org/
Work with rural Tibetan women to empower and educate in their communities. Really well organized and operated.
2. Pentok https://omprakash.org/partner_profile/p/182
Pentok is similar to Shem, but they focus on one village, and they have an overall goal of actually building a school in this village and encouraging girls to become educated. Also a great organization.
K guys, thanks!
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Monday, November 8, 2010
On Saturday night I met one of my friends at a bar and proceeded to drink way too much. Just indulging in the culture mom! Anyway, left the bar, got in a taxi (apparently), and got home. This is when the problems start. We have a gate. Everywhere has a gate with a guard. I'm pretty sure it's more for the purpose of watching the residents than protecting them, but whatever. Usually when they lock the gate, the leave just enough space for a person to squeeze through. However, due to it was apparently super late (3am?) the gate was locked tight. I was in no state of mind to try to be climbing any gates (almost certain death), so I panicked. Drunk in China locked out of my house!? Not good. I called both my roomates and luckily they didn't answer (3am!), called my friend (who's fault it was I was so drunk in the first place) and started to kick the gate. Because apparently I decided that the best solution to this problem was to try to kick down the gate. KICK DOWN THE GATE! Geez. A security guard finally appeared to open the door. My reaction was "OH CRAP; CHEESE IT!" but instead I just said "I'm so sorry, thankyou, I'm SO SORRY" and ran up to my house. Nothing came of it until just a few minutes ago, when my roomates came back from dinner to tell me "the security guard just yelled at us because you broke the gate". YEAH. OH CRAP RIGHT? So I just ran down to apologize and see if he wanted me to pay damages, but he eventually told me not to worry about it. I still got the charm you guys. Awesome. But yeah. Close call. Gonna try to avoid anything like that next time. I managed to ask in Chinese what I should do if the gate is locked and he said just to knock until a guard comes. So now I know.
Uh so yeah, also, school is good. Good enough that I could speak Chinese to this guard (WHAT UP!?) And I'm going into the office again tomorrow. Very nice. And I am probably going to start working on my thesis proposal sometime soon probably. NO promises.
That's this week's story.
PS- I had a terrible hangover the next day.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
In addition to this kind of tense atmosphere in which I am paranoid about making connections with anyone who may be questioned because of it (for the SOLE reason that I am a foreigner and all my radical freedom loving ideas need to be quarantined from the Ts, because apparently indigenous people would never come up with these ideas on their own...sigh), one of my good friend's little brothers passed away in a car crash in the Clinton area on the weekend. If you've ever been unable to get home when something tragic happens then you probably understand how shitty I feel about it. Being separated from all the other people who feel shitty about it is just the worst. My friends are great and they'll help each other through it, I just wish I could go home to help them too. Sigh.
On top of all this, it was Halloween. I haven't missed a Halloween in EVER, literally. I have never missed a Halloween. Until now. And everyone's costumes were AMAZING this year. I mean, spectacular, clever, original. The works. So I'm mopey about that too.
Here's what's good: I am starting to pick up the Chinese. I can understand some of the conversations I hear. And I know how to ask certain questions now. It's getting closer, I can feel it.
Well that sucked. I'm sure things will blow over soon and I can't get back on track with work and stuff.
PS- if you have no idea what I'm talking about use Google. It is your friend.
Saturday, October 23, 2010
In other news, Chinese lessons are getting intense. Lots of work. But it means I'm learning it faster. She is making us learn the writing too. Which means I may be able to order food in restaurants soon. Which would be nice. I accidentally ate a HUGE chunk of garlic the other day, spit most of it out, and spent the rest of today and the day after feeling terrible. I maybe know how to pronounce the word now (although my pronunciation tends to be so terrible that nobody understands me) for garlic, so I should be able to avoid it in the future. Also, in a taxi yesterday I actually conversed with a taxi driver for about 5 sentences. I was incredibly excited.
I have friends (only a few)! Yay! Locals. I don't trust the expats here. They all have questionable motives for being in Xining. I am sticking with the locals for now. They take me out and order me drinks and get me on the right bus to get home. It's good. I think that from a combination of the beer being awful quality and the altitude being so high hangovers are much worse here though. So I can't go out and then get up in time for class like I can in Toronto. I also can't skip class like I can in Toronto. I explained the concept of skipping class to some of my friends and they were like "WHAT!? That's allowed!? We would never do that, just not go to class for no reason at all!" I try to tell them at least one thing that blows their minds every time I see them haha. They want to come back to Canada with me.
I have been kind of looking around for a new apartment, since everything I do is on the other side of town. I will definitely have to move by January, since that's when my roomates leave and I have NO desire to be in this big apartment in practically the middle of nowhere (it's like living in Scarborough) without them. I'm not hustling too much though since I really do enjoy their company. It's so nice to be able to come home and be Canadian all over the place after speaking Chinglish all day and worrying about being respectful and appropriate with everyone. Apartments here are incredibly cheap so I am resisting the temptation to get a REALLY nice one just to myself. For here it's very expensive, but in Canada money it would only be like $185 a month. That's so cheap...BUT, I could also live in a less nice place and pay only $60 a month in rent. Whatchya'll think? Splurge? Save for travel plans?
I maybe am getting closer to having a research topic. The problem here is that EVERYTHING that is interesting is also sensitive. I was thinking that looking into how NGOs function in an environment where they aren't really even allowed to touch public policy would be cool. Locals I have talked to think it would be cool too, but my roomate has warned me that it may be too sensitive of a topic. Here, you don't worry about getting yourself in trouble, but rather getting anyone who is connected to you in trouble. They can't call their embassy and jump on a plane to Canada. So I may have to rework this so it's less political. But it's the best idea I've had so far, so I'm getting somewhere (I hope?)
I realized a few days ago that I miss the diversity of Toronto. First it was "I miss seeing white people." Then I was like "Man, I miss black people!" Shortly after I was like "I miss ALL the people" (except the Chinese...there's lots of them around haha). But yeah. I will never again take for granted the sheer variety of different kinds of people in Toronto. I swear it.
My roomate just opened the window and apparently it is snowing. Toque power time? I think so.
Okay. That is an update just so you're aware that I haven't forgotten about Canada. It's long again!
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Dear family and family of friends,
These are dumplings. They are delicious, and widely available in the GTA, and unless they poison me I love them. Just for clarification.
Working on getting some work. Have maybe made friends. Almost done the second season of X-Files. Will divulge more at a later date.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
So, I am going to blog this trip in installments, because it's been that awesome so far, and tomorrow is supposed to just bet better. And I can't access blogspot from my hotel room internet, so this is just the way it's going to have to happen. To start off, my sweater smells like yak. Yak smell has become imprinted on my U of T sweater. How cool is that? Now I will tell you how this came to be.
I took a lot a lot of pictures, so ya'll should be satisfied. We unfortunately weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the temples themselves, but that just makes common sense. Even I don't like risking incurring the wrath of gods nobody can prove don't exist. Common sense, right? They were beautiful though. Breathtaking. Tibetans like colour and goooold. And HUGE statues. Come visit, I will bring you here. For sure.
THE NEXT DAY...
Breakfast was awesome. No MSG, no grease, no meat...it was glorious. And the best bread I've had in China yet. Most of the time they fry their bread instead of baking it, which leaves it pretty greasy. This bread reminded me of the bread in Italy...a little hard and dry, but insanely wholesome tasting. So yeah, that in itself was awesome. Then we climbed the mountain. It probably took us about an hour to get to the hermitage at the top. So we made it to the top, where there is a hermitage that some famous lama (I can't remember which) used to meditate at for long periods of time.They are renovating it, so there were a bunch of workers, as well as three junior monks looking after the temple thing. Apparenlty they rotate every 10 days so taht the same three aren't stuck up there forever.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
In other, less hypothetical news, we went to get our health checks done so we could get our resident permits. We figured they were just going to test our blood for AIDS, syphilis and the heps (A and B). And that did happen, but then we also had to get a chest x-ray (TB...in Canada we do skin tests!), and EKG (I didn't even know what it was until several hours later), blood-pressure, height, weight and colour-blindness. Has anyone ever been kicked out of China for having high blood pressure? Or being colour blind? And an EKG!?! REALLY?? And the EKG test machine really did look like something out of x-files. And we had no warning. My brave roomate went first when they were like "lie on the table", and we were like huh, that's weird. Then the doctor was like "ok, rool up your pants and lift up your shirt" and started attaching clamps and suction cups all over the place. My first thought was "GREAT, now we're lab rats for some kind of insane Chinese experiment being conducted on foreigners. GREAT." But it was (so I'm told) just an EKG. It was all so surreal. This whole damn place is so surreal though, that when stuff like that happens it almost feels normal. But after my roomate and I had recovered from the shock a little bit, we talked out how ridiculously pointless most of those tests were. It was either a scam to take as much money from us as possible or a venue to show off China's impressive collection of medical equipment, or both. Either way, it was confusing and strange, but it's over, and I didn't even test positive for syphilis (inside joke, if you don't get it, don't freak out, I've NEVER had syphilis).
In order to get our residence permits, we also had to go back to tour local police station and ask them to give us back some of the sheets they kept that they weren't supposed to. Nobody at this station speaks english, and we don't speak chinese. So a friend of ours talked to the cops via cellphone explaining our situation. Then the cop looks for our sheet and says "we don't have it". My roomate starts to hyperventilate (small exaggeration), and we're like, no, you have it (I can say that much). So he checks a different room that has a different file for each of us, and finds the papers we need. Relieved, we say thankyou and leave. As we were walking home though, it occurred to us that they have TWO files on us, in two different rooms. Weird right? ANYWAY, we got our residence permits, and after almost a month here I am now officially legally allowed to be here. Yay!
I have become mildly frustrated with work. After feeling out the situation a bit, it would seem that I was never given clear instruction or direction about what exactly I'm supposed to be doing, and I'm having difficulty getting any concrete guidance. This is annoying mostly because my talents are not being utilized effectively. I have recovered from the frustration low point and should be able to work something proactive out if I don't end up getting any concrete guidance from people. I just get irritated by poor communication of goals and such. But from what I've gleaned, this is a pretty common placement issue, so I should be able to find some kind of a solution. My roomate says she has some stuff she could use my help on, which is great. She's basically working on a medical anthropology PHD, so I'm definitely down for that. I'm also taking on a babysitting job...a friend of a friend has a niece that they want an anglophone for. At first I thought they wanted me to TEACH her english and I was like "errrrrrrgh..." but then it was clarified that all I would have to do is hang out with a 7 year old kid for a couple hours every week I was like "OH! SWEET! Sure!" Because I don't have friends and I have a lot in common with 7 year olds (too much in common? Screw you, keep your opinions to yourself!) Anyway, it should be fun, and maybe I'll finally get to go to the museums and the zoo and the park and stuff like that!
Starting today, and for all the rest of the week coming up, it's the chinese national holiday. So we're gonna go see stuff. Which means I should have pictures. There is also a huge lake nearby that people keep telling me I need to go see. My coworker has asked me like 5 times what I'm doing for the holiday, but I can't figure out if that's because he wants to go places with us or if he's just curious, and I don't want to make any social faux pas's by making assumptions. I think I'm going to resolve the confusion by asking if he wants to come with us. That would be awesome for us, because he's a local, and we'd be way less likely to get screwed. Also, this means I should have pictures by the end of next week. YAY!
I think that's the important stuff for now. OOH! Also, I found a place where you can get 10 dumplings for less than a dollar. That was exciting. And I'm having that problem where when I try to think in Chinese I think in Italian instead. Stupid Italy. I keep trying to make these short and keep failing. Sorry.
Friday, September 24, 2010
The other thing to relay about the museum is that a couple of the halls scare the crap out of me because they have life sized statues of people and stuffed animals and stuff. As some of you know, I have a pretty serious phobia of things that look human but aren't, including clowns, mannequins and statues. On top of this, the lights in the museum are on a timer, so that if no movement is detected for about 10 minutes, they go off. So, picture me sitting in this museum with these statues of monks debating behind me, knowing that the lights are going to go off any second. It is in situations like these where my overexposure to sci-fi and fantasy stories kicks in and I start to think about how I would be able to defend myself from the attacking monk statues that probably come to life in the dark and probably want to harm me, probably because I'm a whitey and shouldn't be in their museum at all. This particular fear of being killed by statues in the dark comes from a terrifying episode of Dr. Who, actually hahaha. So, it's scary and I have an overactive imagination, and it for real stresses me out. I've decided to wait a month or two before trying to explain my fear of the museum statues to anyone at the museum and use that time to convince them that I'm not crazy before I reveal that I am.
In other news, we have finally finished going through all the video footage. He has 640 clips about food production in his village, and we watched every single one of them, gave it a name, and catalogued and categorized it so that he can access them easily when putting together his film. This film is supposed to be ready to go by the end of January, because the professor wants him to show it in Toronto in February. That is like, no time to do the post-production junk needed for a documentary. I am stressed out for him (he's not stressed at all...probably Buddha's fault). Once I know more about that I will let you know, because I want you guys to go see it, especially if I end up putting as much work into it as I'm starting to think might happen. The up side is, I now know to make butter and cheese and bread and other wonderful things that Tibetans eat. Also, they like juice. A LOT! Random right? The other upside is that when I'm at the office, one of the guys will usually order my food for me at a restaurant, which is something I still can't do haha.
I started my chinese lessons this week. They are actually already helping. When people speak to me I am able to pick up on a few more things and I feel like if they would speak a little slower I would be getting so close to understanding. The only two other people in the class are a young married couple from Switzerland. They seem really cool, even though i suspect they may be missionaries a little bit. I'm okay with it as long as they keep being cool and inviting me out for apple pie and refraining from missionizing me. It's nice to have some other english speaking people in the same boat as me anyway. If I was taking these classes all by myself I would be WAY less motivated.
My Tibetan bossman INSISTED that us young Canadians watch Avatar because he feels it accurately represents Tibet. My one roomate had never seen it, so I warned her about it and then we watched it. We are now expecting an impending debate of doom in which I predict I will end up having to explain white guilt and the noble savage myth and such. I'm not looking forward to it. I sent him an article critiquing the movie as a buffer. I'll let you know how it goes.
I haven't really made any friends outside of my roomates yet but I feel like I may be on the verge. I am starting to think the guys at the office are pretty big nerds and thus don't actually have a lot going on that they could invite me or they are shy about inviting me. I will crack them soon though. I DID get invited out for drinks by some guy I have never met (or even seen apparently?). He called me, said something like "you don't know me but I saw you and I want to know you" and refused to tell me who gave him my number. I thought it sounded a little sketchy (probably should have told me where he got my number or at least been like "I work at the museum!"). I asked my roomate what she thought of it and it turns out that between Tibetans, if someone asks you out for 'drinks', as opposed to asking you to hang out in a group or even just dinner, it is pretty much the equivalent of someone asking you to sleep with them. And as my roomate said "They pretty much think that all white women are Paris Hilton." So the good news is I'm hot, and the bad news is only the creepy guys are inviting me to hang out with them. This happened on Tuesday and I haven't heard from him since, so I think I might be in the clear haha.
I've been trying to think about thesis and stuff, but it's just too hard. There are too many complications with putting people at risk and such. I need to spend some time thinking about it and asking around to profs and such who have done/are doing research here, because it's too stressful to think about without having someone acting as a sounding board.
Also, we found this:
and we're pretty sure this phenomenon occurs because of the high levels of MSG in the food. The first thing on my list of things to learn how to say is "no MSG please" haha.
And it's starting to get cold...feels pretty similar to Canadian fall. I've been told by several people I need to go do some mountain climbing soon because now is the prettiest time. Hopefully I can get it done soon. Apparently there is a big week long holiday coming up in the beginning of October during which I should probably do some sight-seeing. When I figure it out I will let you know.
Okay. That's all for now. Thanks for reading guys!
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Yeah, so, tomorrow (Monday), I start Mandarin lessons, which is exciting. What I'm not excited about is that they run from 8:30-10:30 AM EVERY DAY, Monday-Friday. I realize this is fully just whining, and that I should really just suck it up, but that is SO EARLY. And EVERY DAY. And it's across town. It's kind of like having to make it to Scarborough for 9am...and a few of you know how great I was at that (awful). But there are only 3 people in the class, so I'mma get there on time if it kills me (it might). And I think I'm going to spend a solid chunk of today brushing up on the little Mandarin skill I have, just in case I'm totally screwed and start to cry in the middle of class.
I had my first real day at the museum yesterday. And just to rub it in Abby's face (again), it's a Museum of Tibetan Medicine (totally badass). I'm helping them improve the english translations they have for basically everything. Tibetans talk in a very elaborate, drawn out fashion, so some of their english translations are increadibly complicated to make out. I really am doing any future english speaking visitors (everyone come to visit me) a HUGE favour haha. Also I am learning a tonnnne about Tibetan culture. Like, overload haha.
What else...I edited a funding proposal for a development NGO trying to get a health clinic better equipped, and in the process, discovered that hardly any Tibetan NGOs use measurement indicators. They just go in, do their stuff and never really check back to see how things are going. And they still get money. I am waiting to see if maybe the reason they don't check back is is because they are so close to the communities they would hear if something was wrong with it through sources, without it having to be an official failure? Because that might be pretty disrespectful to the NGO, if they think they're doing the community a favour. I don't know. I fully admit to not yet understanding the subtleties of the culture, so I'm not going to make a final judgement yet.
I met with the guys who make the documentaries and stuff. They're cool. The professor wants me to help the one guy go through ALL of his footage that he took in his village and to catalogue it and make a list of what he has. I spent 3 hours on friday going through footage of a woman collecting mushrooms. YEAH. The worst part is, is that I'm not even bored, because it's actually pretty interesting. It's awful. Awfully interesting. Also, in that same office, I ended up teaching a bunch of Tibetan university students how to use a Mac. Basically, the guy who usually teaches them stuff, forgot they were coming and asked if I could do it because he couldn't about 30 minutes before they were coming. THAT was fun. I hope they learned at least a little bit. Also, in this office, since I'm the 'hot foreigner' by default, I make the two younger guys quite nervous, which is cute, but makes it hard to work efficiently with them. They just automatically say yes to everything I suggest, and I can't tell what they actually think. Due to I'm an ass, I'm sure it won't be like that for the whole year...I will just have to belch in front of them a few times and keep spilling food on myself on a regular basis and dropping things for no reason.
OH- and I am volunteering to teach an english class to people who want to take the TOEFL exam. I read them Anne of Green Gables and asked them questions about it. I need to find better stories haha. Also, the call me teacher, which makes me feel an interesting combination of awkward and special.
Also, if anyone can think of a good word to use instead of 'auspicious' let me know. They freaking love that word. It shows up 3 times a paragraph, and it's driving me crazy because I hate it but don't know what else to use, and the thesaurus failed me. So if anyone has any ideas let me know.
And I've been told that the people want pictures, which means I need to start taking some. Which I will do. Eventually. I don't want to be the annoying whitey who's always sticking her camera in everyone's faces. Think about it.
K- breakfast time. I can no longer think clearly because my stomach hurts.
Monday, September 13, 2010
1. I am constantly tripping over small children and almost kick or step on one every 10 minutes when I am walking somewhere, which draws my attention to them more than what would normally happen in Canada. It finally occurred to me yesterday that the reason for this is because nobody here uses strollers. Those kids WALK everywhere...and if they don't walk they get left behind (not forever haha). Part of me that thinks kids should have as much freedom as possible thinks this is great. However, the part of me that likes kids to not die or get hurt thinks this could be potentially dangerous. Example: my roomate yesterday was in a cab that just BARELY stopped in time when an unattended, small child ran out in front of it. EEEK! Either way, Asian babies don't get carted around everywhere like Canadian babies.
2. You need to be able to see this next one to fully grasp the hilarity of it, but I will give a brief description. So as soon as their kids can walk, they stop putting diapers on them. What they do instead is cut the crotch of their pants so that there is a big space for them to pee and poop out of. So, these kids are wearing pants, but their entire bottoms are exposed. It kind of looks like they are wearing chaps haha. So, picture all these little kdis runing around with something ike chaps on.
Second part: it's not like these kids are potty trained or anything, so that means they just pee and poo whenever and wherever they need to...you know, like a dog hahaha. Walking down one of the main streets yesterday we saw a little girl just pull down her pants and pop a squat (she didn't have the convenient pants-hole). She actually made a point of moving over top of like a sewer grate and doing it there...we were impressed with her conscientiousness.
Part 3 of this whole no diaper/hole in pants business is that kids are able to play with themselves wherever and whenever they want. We were in a restaurant yesterday that's down the street from us and owned by a friendly Muslim family (Muslims make superior food here). They have a toddler, and he was sitting int he dining room on this little plastic chair. He moved his chair over to us and we were saying hello to him in Chinese and English, so he was all happy. And he's got this big hole cut in his pants and he's just like flashing us and giggling, and then he starts to diddle with himself and giggle. We tried not to laugh but we couldn't help it. Could you imagine what would happen if a kid started diddling himself in a restaurant in Canada? So, reason number two Asian babies are superior: they aren't restricted by pesky diapers or toilet etiquette or diddling etiquette like Canadian babies.
3. Because there aren't a tonne of other white people here, sometimes it's clear that I am the first white person a baby has ever seen before, which is pretty much the funniest thing ever. Sitting on the bus the other day, this little baby was facing my roomate and I, and just kept looking back and forth between the two of us, like he was trying to figure out what the hell was going on. He did this for like 25 minutes, and still looked incredibly confused. Do yo uknow how dute confused babies are? The result was me cracking up for all 25 minutes of our bus ride.
Okay, I think that's all the important points of my argument thus far. I may expand upon this later though. In other news, I am going to work today, and I have for reals actual work to do now too. And we are all registered and here legally stuff too. And I may be able to start learning Chinese very soon. And I am teaching an English class every wednesday starting tomorrow night. And I haven't received my funding monies yet, so I'm getting a little anxious about that. I will talk about all that stuff when I know more.
Keep fit and have fun gang!
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Okay, serious stuff aside: I have moved into my apartment that I'm sharing with a PhD candidate from Canada who is working in a field relevant to my work and her boyfriend who is working in a restaurant for a couple months. They're great. They're also small town Ontarians who love beer and making fun of each other and take a laid back approach to roomate-ing (?lol). It's going to be good. This is also simultaneously the biggest and cheapest place I have lived since moving out on my own. This place is awesome for being cheap. It's like 17 cents to get on a bus. Beer is about a dollar for a litre bottle, jeans are $10...it's awful, and awesome. But it's kind of strange because a $100 here is about $20 Canadian...so you walk around with all these $100 bills and feel like you are carrying waaaay too much money, when really it's not at all. I feel like a total baller.
For all you IDSers I need to let you know: I have electricity, hot water, 2 bathrooms (complete with showers) a TV, all of Lost that has ever been put on DVD, a fully functional kitchen and a washing machine. And my roomate who I will call Matt actually enjoys cooking, so he cooks for us, I do the dishes and my other roomate Jessica does their laundry. So, I'm totally a baller.
I had a chance to check out the museum I'm going to be doing some work at. It was SUPER cool. If you want to know more about it email me or something because I don't want to go into a lot of detail here. Basically, I'm going to learn a shit tonne about a certain culture, it's history, and their medicine. They want me to help with english translations and setting up an english website. The plan is to go once a week so I have time to do all my other stuff, which I haven't figured out what will be yet, because I haven't met with my people yet, because I've been dealing with this craaazy bureaucracy business. Next paragraph.
BUREAUCRACY. HOLY. I have to go to the university I'm enrolled at and then get a bunch of papers from them and then I have to go to TWO police stations and get all these paeprs from them...we have to take our landlord to sign stuff to prove we live where we say we do, then we have to go get a letter from a doctor saying we don't need to be quarantined, then show that to the police stations again...it's insane. And you have to do this right away, because you can get in trouble if you are living in a place and you're not registered with the government that you're living there. And they find out, because outside of every building complex there is a person whose sole job it is is to sit and watch who comes in and out and report anything suspicious. Being white in this city is pretty damn suspicious. So, bureaucracy must be defeated IMMEDIATELY, which is so hard to do when you can't understand anyone and nobody understands you. Next paragraph.
LANGUAGE. It's killing me. I am going to find a tutor. Like, it's just so necessary for daily life. There is no way I can stay here for a year and not figure it out. The problem with this place is that there are SO many other languages too, and since I will be spending some time with minorities, they won't even be able to speak the language that I am learning how to speak. And there is no way I can learn 2 langauges at once. No dice. We'll see what happens.
I'm still crazy jet lagged. Apparently it's going to take a couple of weeks to get over it which sucks. I keep waking up RIGHT at 5am on the dot, checking the time and going "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" Which reminds me of another story: I met some of the people who work at the museum, and they were all going out to party, and since I don't know anyone or have any friends I was like "hell yeah". Only two of them spoke english well enough to be able to converse with me, but they were amazing for explaining to me all the shit that was going on. The one guy even looked all worried at first and I said "you look worried" and he said "This is the first time I've eaten dinner with a foreigner!" It was cute. Anyway, they drink ALOT. At one point, a tray with 6 shots of Chinese rice wine (different from sake...it has the same percentage as vodka) was put in front of my face and an older woman explained to me that if we were all going to be freinds i had to drink all 6 shots. I did 3 but could feel the alcohol mixing with spicy spicy food in my stomach and was like "no more", but apparently that wasn't an option, so I did half of each of the other 3. Then after dinner, they went to karaokee. I know right? Of COURSE they went to karaokee. This was SO classy though! Greeters and strobe lights and other lights...it was pretty cool. My interpreter soon became too drunk to interpret things anymore so I just followed suit and drank when someone cheersed me and smiled a lot and watched with fascination as things got funnier and funnier. Anyway, it was a good night.
Okay, that is long enough for now. If you want anymore details let me know and I will for sure let you know...I just feel uncomfortable posting it all out here where anyone could read it.
Monday, September 6, 2010
ANYWAY...flights all went well, I have all my luggage, which means I am going to have to kill my brother to apease some gods at some point, but it's not that big of a deal. He knew it was coming. Uhh ok, highlights, in chronological order if I can.
1. Since I was flying through US airspace, I had to go through US security, and the guy I got was a dick, and also, I stumbled on my name because I forgot (like I usually do) that I have a middle name. Because who uses their middle names? Whatever, made it through but he rattled me.
2. Watched The Last Airbender on first flight to LA. Moved M.N Shyamalan to the top of the "must pay for his actions" list, beating out Sarah Palin.
3. Made friends with a middle aged Chinese couple on the flight to Beijing. They didn't speak English and I don't speak Chinese. It was wunderbar. I think I made out that they had gone to the US for their 25th wedding anniversary, and they are from Shanxi province, they told me to buy a phone when I got here, and I think they made a joke about me getting married in Xining. And then I had to explain to some Mexicans that I didn't understand a word of what these people were saying to me, I was just pretending to because I was too tired to try anymore.
4. Air China food is THE BEST. THE BEST.
5. have you ever been on the 3D ride at Canada's Wonderland? I have the best idea for one ever. It should be called "CHINA CAB RIDE". If I wasn't so tired and like half hallucinogenic I probably woud have been terrified. As it was I was like "THIS WOULD BE THE COOLEST VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE EVER!"...because you know, sometimes reality isn't enough LOL.
6. At one point I finally got to sleep on the plane, but for some reason I dreamed that a squirrel had gotten into a house that we were having a party at, and that it had crawled up my arm and was sitting on my shoulder. Naturally, I am terrified of squirrels (I have enough evidence to assume they are spawn of the devil and totally in cahoots with the geese). And I could FEEL this squirrel sitting on my shoulder. So I woke myself up by throwing my pillow, which was perched between my should and my head (exactly where the squirrel was), pretty much at the guy sitting across the aisle from me. If he saw it, it probably looked absolutely retarded. I tried to think of a more politically correct term but I couldn't...that's exactly what it would have looked like. If any of you guys had seen it you would have laughed till you cried. Oh well.
I screwed up the chronological order, but you can figure it out. It is definitely sleepy times and then buy a phone times for me.
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Packing went WAY better than I thought it would! I'm still not sure how. I suck at parting with my clothes...I just love every single garment SO MUCH. But I somehow managed. I am almost positive that there i not way my luggage is going to make it to Xining with me...I mean 2 stop-overs, one airline switch in LA...ugghh. We'll see though. I've packed enough to get by into my carry-on until it shows up, and as my friend Amanda said, that would at least give me an excuse to do some shopping!
The plan for killing time on this flight is to continue to learn Mandarin, until I get distracted by TV. And sleep. So much sleep.
So that's about it...not a whole lot of exciting news yet. Hopefully I will be able to get on here in less than a week to update ya'll. In the meantime though, my email and skype name are both posted on facebook if you want to get in touch with me.
Monday, August 30, 2010
I have spent the past week meeting with my contacts figuring out exactly what I will be doing and stuff. It sounds like I'm basically a resource to anyone who needs it...whether it be for translating purposes, technological competence or instruction needs. I will get a lot of opportunity to work with many different people in many different areas. It is actually a dream placement. The office I will be based out of works mostly with video...they make documentaries in their villages. The office next door works with music and photography documentation of villages. I also know they want my help at a local museum for translation help, at a rural development office, and there my be opportunities at the local women's issues NGO (for lack of a better term haha). This also means there will be a tonne of opportunities for research. Which means it's going to be incredibly difficult to focus my research, but I have decided to deal with that later.
I have been warned that I may have to be careful about what I write on here and what not. I'm not likely to get into any trouble, but for the sake of the people I am working with I will probably not be able to get into detail about work. I will let you know about everything else on here though...and the rest of it you can skype me or email me about! It sounds like it's going to be great. I will be able to hook up with a lot of prominent academics who specialize in the area (apparently I already have...), and will learn a lot.
I have also been warned not to eat out too much, because I WILL get fat from Chinese food. And I will have to start working out. And they are used to white women being assertive (that was for my family haha). And I probably won't end up in jail (also for my family). The plan is to learn as much as possible, immerse as much as possible and travel as much as possible. Oh yeah, and that thesis thing too. Whatever. It will get done.
That is all for now...I think that was the important stuff. Thanks to everyone who is reading. I will try to keep this updated as often as possible. but if I don't and you're curious, shoot me a message somewheres and I will let you know more.
Arrivederci for now!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Up until now I haven't really had any news though. But yesterday I declined the offer from an organization called CUSO-VSO, which is kind of a big deal. This is why:
I had two offers, one with an organization called CUSO-VSO that probably would have sent me to Mongolia in September to do research on their educational system with the goal of finding ways to improve it, particularly where disabled children were concerned. It would have been awesome. The second offer (kind of offer) is with some colleagues of a professor of mine who work at the Quinghai Normal University in Xining China doing some cultural research and stuff with them. If you want more details about that ask me and I will let you know. My preference was the one in China, for several reasons, but it is entirely dependent on getting a visa, which will probably happen, but still may not. So yesterday I was talking to my contact from CUSO-VSO and he said they needed to know right then what I was going to do, so I turned down their offer. Which I am pretty sure means I am either going to Western China or nowhere. So we are hoping for Western China. In September.
Xining is a big city in the mountains/plateau and is really culturally diverse. Google it if you want to know more. If it all works out I should have a great year. I will let everyone know as soon as it's confirmed.
Till the next one,