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 And I can't breathe! It's the craziest thing, but I guess I got used to the fresh country air at home - where air pollution is basically all cow farts and nothing else - and then came back to the scummy air of Chengdu, air that you can very literally cut with a knife. Hooray! I've been short of breath since I came here, but I only "noticed" it yesterday. Dan has the same thing going, so it's not just me. Ick!

The rent. is. paid. The landlord came over yesterday and sat in our living room while we counted out 7800 kuai. Whose landlord comes to your house and sits in your living room to get your rent, anyway? And in cash? And then another 106 for gas and water. So he gets set to leave and goes, "Where's the 106 for the water and gas?" And of course, we say,"But we gave it to you!" So Dan wanders around the apartment looking in funny places looking for it, and I recount the money. 8000. What? He's got an extra 200 kuai! So Dan recounts it. 7900. He's got the extra 100 sitting right in that massive stack of hundreds. And then the landlord recounts it. 7800. It's also the magically shrinking massive stack of hundreds. So we recount it slowly while I go to get my purse to dig out another hundred, and lo and behold, Dan had set the money by the door. Now we get to go through that whole mess again with an even larger massive stack of hundreds - My tuition and Dan's for one semester will total more than 15000. I do not like carrying around large wads of cash; this is what the check was invented for. This is a literal chunk of change. And

And the landlord also informed us that the apartment complex is installing intercoms. This seems rather nonsensical to Dan and I, considering that there is no front door -- you just walk into the stairwell and go right up, so why bother? Well, it's China, so whatever. Except that we are both jetlagged right now and falling asleep at funny times, so we missed the knock on the door tonight. They'll be back tomorrow. Probably.

So, that's my week so far. Aside from getting used to some differences - they've landscaped and changed the pathways of the apartment complex, which I think are a great improvement - and things that have remained the same - it still ticks me off when people stare at me and whisper about the foreigner - I'm doing ok. How's it going in your world?
I'm back in China.

I brought Dan home to experience America at its greatest - Michigan in the height of a recession - and spent a month wandering around the backwoods and the basement to replenish my depleted stores of energy and decent clothing. It's been a month of revelations and interesting, weird events, stuff I'd never have expected and everything I'd sorely missed.

The oddest thing I realized: I really miss the backwoods of Michigan. I realize that almost everybody in the US considers where I'm from one of the worst places in the US to live, but there's a homey honesty to it. I miss the politeness that I know sets me apart from a lot of people I meet in China - apparently I'm much too polite, rather than not enough as the American stereotype stands. The people I've grown up with are chronically nosey and have no hesitation in asking you rather personal questions out of simple curiousity, and starting up random conversations with people they've never met before. They (and I) will also overshare to an almost embarrassing degree - mine's mostly just volunteering that I just came back from China, and that's mostly because I know that it'll make people feel special, like they're a little bit part of my adventure when they hear about it because it's so random and off the wall. 

I've spent hours sitting out on the porch with Dad and Dan, talking about random things, half of the time with a cat in my lap. Much as I like China, I can't have those sorts of interactions - the politeness does not translate well, not even to other Americans, and I can't have those intimate, possibly philosophical conversations at all hours. And of course, no cats. 

It's odd, though. A lot of my friends in China are disdainful about returning to the US permanently; there have been jokes made around late night tables that the last place they'd ever want to go back to is America. And this is even considering that some of my friends really do understand that there are two kinds of places in the US - the city and the country - and that those two types of places are so vastly different that they may as well be different countries. 

Before I left, I wasn't really very conflicted about my return to China. China's China, and it's another year of doing basically the same thing - no big deal. But leaving this time tore me to pieces. I'd been steadily realizing over the past few weeks that I just didn't want to leave. Seriously. It wasn't just the cats or my parents or the fresh air or blue skies, the stars at night or the good food.  It was something else, that I-don't-know what that's included in customs and body language and expected questions and answers, people you love and things you're familiar with.

At the end of Peace Corps, we had a training seminar where they basically spent three days warning us about reverse culture shock - that we were going to have a major malfunction when we returned home. It was absolutely the opposite for me. Maybe that means I didn't integrate well into China - but I never really had a good opportunity to. But I think I've done the best that I can in the situation I was in. And I didn't dislike China, but it never really fit me very well.

But here I am again. And I'm feeling terribly guilty because I just keep breaking my cat's heart - I have six at home, but one in particular just kills me every time I go. Eris, the tiny kitten I adopted years and years ago at two weeks old and has remained a single-person, shy but loving cat takes forever to readjust to me. And just as I was leaving, she had finally started to open up to me again and come to see me, and there I go leaving again. It absolutely killed me, and every time I think about it I start to cry. Yes, I have spent the past two days solid crying about breaking my cat's heart. I suck.

Anyway. I have another year in China. Maybe. Hopefully my experiences of it will be different with no Peace Corps hanging over my head. I can leave earlier if I really want to, and I might, but I also have Dan here. 

Rock, meet hard place. Just leave me a place to sit. 

Oops.

As a warning:

 

I’ve just learned that I can’t really go back through and edit my entries like I post them, unfortunately. So if I accidently post a buggy one, I can’t just hit delete and repost it like I thought I could. :/ I can’t even connect to Blogger, not even through a proxy, and Livejournal loads really buggily through a proxy.

 

I promise not to screw it up in the future. Sorry!

Posted via email from lyrrael's posterous

I’m a country girl by nature and by birth. I’m from the middle of nowhere, 

central, on the backside of nowhere. I’ve always enjoyed cities because I 
love the variety of experiences available there - I love how, in America,
 
you can have any kind of food, go out for some music or a play, or happen
 
upon some sort of free experience in a park or something. If you plan right,
 
you can go out every night of the week for free or really cheap and do
 
something really, really different every day. I love the huge libraries, and
 
the coffee shops. Country living, while quiet, lacks a lot of variety.
 
 
 Before I came to China, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that the
 
further west you went in China, the less developed it was. And as I was a
 
volunteer in an international development organization, I was not expecting
 
to have any real level of modern development wherever I went - I was
 
expecting to be hauling my water and not have electricity. I knew that
 
twenty years ago, it was considered a real boon to have a bicycle. I had no
 
idea what I was walking into. As we flew into Chengdu, I was struck by the
 
numbers of cars we saw - hundreds, thousands. I wasn’t expecting many - I
 
was expecting a city mostly dominated by bicycles. Chengdu IS a bike city,
 
by the way, but cars are definitely in the ascendant.
 
 
 Chengdu’s one of those cities with a personality, a real feel to it that
 
many cities truly lack. It’s well known throughout China as one of the most
 
relaxed and laid back cities in the country, and that’s even with its
 
rather large population, arguably somewhere between 8 and 13 million
 
depending on where you draw the city limits. Most people will happily spend
 
the day sitting and playing mahjong or a popular card game called Beat the
 
Landlord, drinking tea and talking. Office hours are flexible - class times
 
are not. A lot of office workers I know take three or four hour lunches,
 
which is annoying if you need to talk to someone. :)
 
 Chengdu’s got all of that awesomeness of city living in America. While you
 
don’t quite have the same level of variety as you do in America - I’m not
 
going to be able to find Ethiopian food, for instance - but I do manage to find
 
a great deal of variety in my experiences (and there’s a few Western food
 
places, and good Japanese and Korean and Indian places.) While I can’t go
 
find a bookstore that has five floors of books for me to browse through, I
 
do occasionally find a bookstore with a few shelves of popular English
 
fiction, which totally makes my day, by the way. There’s a huge expat
 
population, lots of amazing, earthy bars with fantastic live music, clubs,
 
tea houses, the zoo, the pandas, awesome shopping… Oh well, you’ll hear
 
about all of this in the future. About the only thing Chengdu does not have is sunlight. China’s also famous
 
for its high levels of pollution, and Chengdu is not exempt. Lots of
 
construction, cars, and coal powered energy leaves the city eternally
 
shrouded in grey, no matter how favorable the climate is. It’s funny,
 
because I never see the sun, but everyone carries an umbrella the moment the
 
sun is even vaguely tempted to peek at us. It’s almost like the smog’s
 
been engineered to protect us all from the sunlight. :>
 
 
 Anyway, as a postscript, you guys are going to get to see my Chinese
 
homework as I progress in my studies. At this point, I’ve been learning
 
characters for about a month, so you’ll have to put up with my utter
 
simplicity, if you can read it. If you can’t, just tolerate it and/or
 
ignore it. J
 
 
 
我来中国以前,我的家有三口人:我妈妈爸爸和我。我妈妈是老师,我爸爸是记者。那 
时候我是大学生。我专业是历史。我们也有六只猫。他们都是我们的好朋友,所以他们 
都也是我们家的人。现在我在中国,可是我妈妈爸爸和六只猫都在美国。 
 
(translation: Before I came to China, my home had 3 people: my mom, my dad,
 
and me. My mom was a teacher, my dad is a journalist. At that time, I was a
 
student. My major was history. We also have 6 cats. They all were our good
 
friends, so they were also family members. Now, I’m in China, but my mom
 
and dad and six cats are all in America.)
 
 
 Pax!

 

Posted via email from lyrrael's posterous

Click here to download:
winmail.dat (48 KB)

DSC_0051 (20)-3.jpg
 
 I’m a country girl by nature and by birth. I’m from the middle of nowhere,
central, on the backside of nowhere. I’ve always enjoyed cities because I
love the variety of experiences available there � I love how, in America,
you can have any kind of food, go out for some music or a play, or happen
upon some sort of free experience in a park or something. If you plan right,
you can go out every night of the week for free or really cheap and do
something really, really different every day. I love the huge libraries, and
the coffee shops. Country living, while quiet, lacks a lot of variety.
 
 Before I came to China, I had no idea what to expect. I knew that the
further west you went in China, the less developed it was. And as I was a
volunteer in an international development organization, I was not expecting
to have any real level of modern development wherever I went � I was
expecting to be hauling my water and not have electricity. I knew that
twenty years ago, it was considered a real boon to have a bicycle. I had no
idea what I was walking into. As we flew into Chengdu, I was struck by the
numbers of cars we saw � hundreds, thousands. I wasn’t expecting many � I
was expecting a city mostly dominated by bicycles. Chengdu IS a bike city,
by the way, but cars are definitely in the ascendant.
 
 Chengdu’s one of those cities with a personality, a real feel to it that
many cities truly lack. It’s well known throughout China as one of the most
relaxed and laid back cities in the country, and that’s even with its
rather large population, arguably somewhere between 8 and 13 million
depending on where you draw the city limits. Most people will happily spend
the day sitting and playing mahjong or a popular card game called Beat the
Landlord, drinking tea and talking. Office hours are flexible � class times
are not. A lot of office workers I know take three or four hour lunches,
which is annoying if you need to talk to someone. J
 
 Chengdu’s got all of that awesomeness of city living in America. While you
don’t quite have the same level of variety as you do in America � I’m not
going to be able to find Ethiopian food, for instance � I do manage to find
a great deal of variety in my experiences (and there’s a few Western food
places, and good Japanese and Korean and Indian places.) While I can’t go
find a bookstore that has five floors of books for me to browse through, I
do occasionally find a bookstore with a few shelves of popular English
fiction, which totally makes my day, by the way. There’s a huge expat
population, lots of amazing, earthy bars with fantastic live music, clubs,
tea houses, the zoo, the pandas, awesome shopping… Oh well, you’ll hear
about all of this in the future. About the only thing Chengdu does not have is sunlight. China’s also famous
for its high levels of pollution, and Chengdu is not exempt. Lots of
construction, cars, and coal powered energy leaves the city eternally
shrouded in grey, no matter how favorable the climate is. It’s funny,
because I never see the sun, but everyone carries an umbrella the moment the
sun is even vaguely tempted to peek at us. It’s almost like the smog’s
been engineered to protect us all from the sunlight. :>
 
 Anyway, as a postscript, you guys are going to get to see my Chinese
homework as I progress in my studies. At this point, I’ve been learning
characters for about a month, so you’ll have to put up with my utter
simplicity, if you can read it. If you can’t, just tolerate it and/or
ignore it. J
 
 我来中国以前,我的家有三口人:我妈妈爸爸和我。我妈妈是老师,我爸爸是记者。那
时候我是大学生。我专业是历史。我们也有六只猫。他们都是我们的好朋友,所以他们
都也是我们家的人。现在我在中国,可是我妈妈爸爸和六只猫都在美国。
 
(translation: Before I came to China, my home had 3 people: my mom, my dad,
and me. My mom was a teacher, my dad is a journalist. At that time, I was a
student. My major was history. We also have 6 cats. They all were our good
friends, so they were also family members. Now, I’m in China, but my mom
and dad and six cats are all in America.)
 
 Pax!

Posted via email from lyrrael's posterous

My time as a volunteer here in Chengdu is nearing an end. I have just a touch less than 4 months left to teach at my school, and then will be transitioning into a different sort of existence.

 

After a short jaunt home with my boyfriend, intended to introduce him to my parents and the myriad joys of America -- including our actual ability to microbrew “real” beer and not just “awful lager” – I’ll be continuing on as a student of the Chinese language.

 

As such, I’ve been working rather hard as of late to catch my language ability up to the point where I won’t be starting in a low level class. This means I’ve been studying for hours and hours a day and trying to push myself through my textbooks at a rather extreme rate, and having Chinese classes with an amazing tutor/friend who teaches at Sichuan University. At this rate, I think I ought to be able to catch myself up before the autumn semester starts, and I’m rather excited about it.

 

However, because I’ve been so lax about my experiences here, I’m planning on starting to write a little bit about the joys of China. Kick me if I forget, because I’m tired of always forgetting to write. I enjoy writing – I just don’t do it often enough. J

 

Pax!

Posted via email from lyrrael's posterous

May. 12th, 2008

I'm fine! I'm safe! Another post will come later.

Jun. 26th, 2007

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving. ~Lao Tzu


<i>A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.  ~Lao Tzu</i>

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