Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I'm back...

...but I'd rather not be.

Maybe it's the way I left things at home, or maybe it's that I don't have anything to do here, but if I'm going to be doing nothing I'd rather be doing nothing in the States. At least there, I've got American television and my car. Here, I've got Olympics excitement practically slapping me across the face and Chinese traffic deterring me from wanting to really go anywhere.

The trip over wasn't so bad; the check-in guy was the same one who'd checked me in back in January, so we struck up a conversation and next thing I know he's handing me a new ticket at the gate and tells me, "I upgraded your ticket"- first class to Chicago! Then on the flight to Shanghai I found he'd placed me in the very first row in economy- plenty of leg room and a tv screen right in front of my face, with none of the responsibility of sitting in an exit row. I've never had a better 22 hours traveling. Certainly beats the 22 hours I spent on that bus to Taiyuan.
(However the taxi driver at the airport was upset with me; he said the drivers there wait five, six hours for a customer and I should've told him where I was going before he started driving cause he wouldn't make enough going to my destination. And my trip from the airport cost almost 100 kuai!)

So for this next month: originally the plans were a week each in Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai before going to Dalian. Now one by one all my plans are going to crap. Beijing's been scrapped (don't want to deal with that madness anyway) which leaves me with two weeks open in Shanghai, post-Shenzhen. However, I've been on travel sites for the last two hours trying to plan the latter trip and still have no true inkling when I'm leaving or coming back.

This is because my two aunts and cousin are leaving for the States on Sunday, and while I'm extremely happy for them that their visas were approved, I'm expected to stay at the Wu Yuan Road apartment until they arrive to say my goodbyes. I planned on leaving Friday evening for Shenzhen, but upon my arrival this morning at WYR I'm told no one's arriving til Saturday at the earliest. Mum says I can go ahead and leave Fri but please. I was raised with some sense of Chinese manners- I'd lose FACE for putting travel ahead of family. Good ol' face, the cornerstone it seems of all Chinese relationships.

Anyway so now I'm slightly peeved but mostly bored. What do I do for the next three days?? Again, if I'm going to be bored I'd rather be bored at my other aunt's place, with my own room, air con, WiFi and an ayi. Here, I feel guilty for asking them to put on the air con, am treated like I'm 12, practically force-fed every meal, and my laptop becomes nothing more than a glorified personal DVD player. At least I don't need the air con right now because of all the thunderstorms- the weather's actually quite windy and pleasant, an unusual statement for the end of July in Shanghai.

I should probably go out somewhere, but I've done all the sightseeing, minus some less popular sights like Sun Yat Sen's residence and the Shanghai Library. Besides, right now there are so many foreigners bustling about for the Olympics out there I'd rather take a nap. All the business of trying to figure out exact flight dates and times for the Shenzhen trip have worn me out, as well as the bleak prospects for the next three days. Those who know me know my biggest pet peeve is time-wasting*, yet it seems that's all I'm going to be doing....

*Those who know me would also argue I do a lot of time wasting. The distinction here is that I despise Unnecessary time wasting; time that is wasted because plans are up in the air, not time that is wasted because I don't feel like doing anything.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bad Timing

Honestly, I don't think there is a single day that would be worse for me to leave than Monday, because I have so much unfinished business here in York.

If I hadn't spent almost a week in Jersey and Philly, I think I'd be ready to return. But when you spend one week, in the middle of three, on vacation from your vacation....the other two weeks just feel wasted. The first week I was terribly jetlagged so I spent a lot of valuable family time napping, and since I got back from Jersey/Philly, it's felt like a prepare-for-the-trip-back week. There are so many friends that I have not had a chance to see, and I've seen my family even less than my friends.

Of course, the fight with my father has done nothing to improve the family bonding situation. I only saw my sister for an hour on her birthday on Friday, for which I will feel awful about for a long time to come. I've started spending every night at Ryan/Lys/Nikol's apartment, so when I went back today to start packing, my mother and I had words. I've never seen her so disappointed in me, but it can't be resolved before 5 am Monday morning. Over 10 years of pent up issues do not become unraveled in 30 hours. Plus I'm just not at that stage in my life where I feel like I can put the past in the past and suddenly open up to my mother. How do I explain to my mother who I am, when I'm still trying to figure that out and it's changing on a monthly basis?

I also have no idea what I'm going to do once arriving in Shanghai. Whose house am I staying in, and for how long? If I stay with my aunt in Pudong, I most likely won't be able to venture out at all because her villa is so isolated. If I stay in my grandmother's apartment in the heart of the city, I'll go slightly mad of a humidity/over-concerned relatives combination. I've scrapped Beijing out of my August plans but do I still have the money after going to Shenzhen to tour the cities close to Shanghai? Hell, am I even still going to Shenzhen?? I'm really a go-with-the-flow kind of gal, so I wish I'd booked a hostel for my time in Shanghai, just to have for whatever the days and nights end up bringing.

In comparison to wanting to see my friends and settle things with my parents, this last reason's more selfish laptop's gone haywire and I wanted it fixed before I left. Lately it's been loading only Skype and a few random sites (yet not Facebook or Google) so I uninstalled Firefox with the goal of reinstalling it, but after I did that it just went mad and nothing is reliably working anymore. I want to just reboot the entire system but I need to find my drivers first, which thanks to my mother's packing methods are hopelessly lost in the boxes in the garage that contain my entire life pre-China.

Though going to the Jersey Shore was definitely what I needed to finally relax, if I had just one more week, seven measly days, I could gain so much more out of this "recharging trip" that I'd originally planned. I'd see more friends, go shopping with my mother, eat at Texas Roadhouse, try out the Wii my sister got for her birthday, eat at least one sit-down meal with my family, play tennis and go running....

I feel like I've not done right by a lot of people these last 19 days, and when I next return to York it will be 2009, it will be winter, I will have two cousins and an aunt living in my parents' house, and I will be a second semester Junior in college. From half a year in China I felt like I grew so much as person, in light of the ups and despite the I feel disappointed in myself again, kicking myself for lost opportunities with people and not knowing who I am or what I want in life. Something about being here seems to always do that to me, perhaps it's best I leave? Even if I am leaving only to face completely sketchy Shanghai plans.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Starting Over

I don't know why exactly I stopped writing. In fact, so much has happened in the last three months that I wouldn't even know where to start, were I to catch up from April 24th on.

What I do know, however, is that I have missed blogging. I read through my old entries and wish I'd kept with it, if anything just to laugh at my predictions for the future. The only excuse I have (and it isn't much of one at all) is that so much was happening, so fast, that I felt overwhelmed by it all and eventually gave up on blogging about it and focused on just surviving life in Dalian.

SO! I have decided to bring back the blog. I am spending another semester in Dalian, another five months in China altogether starting on Monday, and my first step in the grand scheme of my life is to outline some goals. (Hey, baby steps.)

1. In the next five months, I want to update at least three times a week (when internet access is available)
2. I want to focus less on making money and socializing and more on becoming proficient in Chinese.
3. I want to seriously consider taking the HSK.
4. I want to NOT know exactly what I want to do, but perhaps do research into grad schools or other career paths post-graduation.
5. I want to spend no more than 500 kuai a week (~70 USD)
6. I want to talk to my sister at least once a week.


For those who are interested, a brief recap of the last three months:
-May Holiday was a week on the Yangtze River, and a day in Chongqing/Dazu and a few hours in Beijing, during which I really started to become close with Andy Z and Leanna
-I returned to training with the Dalian Wolfhounds Gaelic Football Team
-Celebrated Cinco de Mayo with Kathleen and some close friends
-Sichuan Earthquake hit on May 12 and while we were about as far away in China as possible, it was extremely impressive how the country reacted
-My expat friends started getting stopped for visas and passports quite frequently
-Went to a housewarming party of another friend...became very social in general
-Went back to Beijing the weekend of the 16-18 with BCA again, met with Etowners
-Cancelled my trip to Shanghai for my birthday and celebrated with friends in Dalian
-However, because of the 3 day bar ban that resulted from the May 12 Sichuan Earthquake the week before we didn't really have anywhere to go after dinner
-Went to Beijing for the All China Gaelic Games June 6-8 => so far, the best weekend of my life
-My father visited the second week of June and after seeing Binhai Lu and Xinghai Square, loved the city
-Started tutoring a Korean student in Math and English for the Dalian minimum: 150 rmb/21.50 USD an hour
-A friend opened up a bar/restaurant called Brooklyn that is doing extremely well among the expats
-Come June, everyone started leaving! Expat turnover in smaller cities like Dalian is constant
-Finals were a mess! I really lost focus the last two weeks of the semester
-Went to Shanghai July 6th, met some friends, left the 9th back to the States
-Since being back in the States, haven't done much, but did go to Cape May, NJ to stay with Andy Z for a few days, then stopped in Philly on the way home to visit Amiekay for a night as well
-Yesterday was my sister's 12th birthday, but my father and I have had huge issues discussing my Future so I am currently living with Lys, Ryan and Nikol in their new apartment and feel bad about not being close to my sister
-Was not wanting to go back to China because of pre-Olympic madness, but since row with father, don't really know where I want to be right now. The US has my friends, but I can't stay at home; while Shanghai is extremely humid and housing is tricky...was going to travel but now don't know since my funds are low and my parents might not want to help me with expenses anymore....

So that's a decent, if not brief, overview of what my life has become in Dalian and the summer so far. I'll write more in the morning, I'm exhausted from the last two days of family drama.
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