Monday, November 22, 2010

Not About China

This is something I'm thinking of submitting into a little competition thing. Let me know what you think. BE CRITICAL!

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.

Missing everybody!

Friday, November 12, 2010


This is what I want for Christmas. If you've never met my family you may think this is presumptious and slightly selfish. If you are my family you might leave a comment like "Well it's about time! Christmas is only 6 weeks away!" See, I'm not doing this for me, I'm doing it for them. Here goes.

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:

arrowroot cookies
peanut butter
jam (if anyone sends me homemade jam I might cry from happiness)
icing (like for cakes)
maple candy
anything pizza. ANYTHING!
instant noodles (SO KIDDKING...there are tonnes here haha)
This may not be a thing that is 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

Work with rural Tibetan women to empower and educate in their communities. Really well organized and operated.

2. Pentok

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

Enlisting your help

Does anybody recognize this writing, or know someone that might? We are trying to figure out what it is an where it's from. Thanks team.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Mary WOULD do this

Well, this is going to be candid. And embarrassing, but ya'll need to hear this story, because in a month or so it's going to be on of those stories that I bring up ALL the time. SO here goes.

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

Mopey Mary

I think everyone who does one of these placements experiences moments in which they go "holy crap I miss Canada" (or anywhere else they may call home). I mean, even with all the flaws, we really do have it good. Not once in Canada have I had to think to myself "hmm, I wonder if this person is a government spy trying to trick me into expressing my dissent". Or "I wonder if it's safe to take a picture of this, or to keep it on my computer, or to put it on the internet". Or "I wonder if that man in that car is there to watch me." Or received phone calls telling me not to come to the office for a little while because of "some problems". Or stuff like that. It's weird.

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.