Monday, August 10, 2009


I cannot avoid thinking about the Beijing Olympics whenever I listen to CSS's album Donkey. Whether I was on one of two new subway lines, tracing the perimeter of the Olympic Green on foot, on my way to a party or event, or falling asleep on the 6AM high-speed train, the Brazilian electrobeats provided a twee, punky soundtrack to my every day. It's nice to revisit those days while sitting in traffic, running along the lake, or job hunting in the living room.

That's right: this beast just won't be caught. My main source of income is manual labor these days, and I have the calluses to prove it. I've become my parents' full-time gardener, and have undertaken a variety of otherwise-impossible-seeming tasks to fund my life while in Chicago.

Emotionally, I've been steadily moving away from the darkness. After emerging from a pseudo-relationship in which my desperation for finding something worth occupying my time led me to over-invest in someone obviously not right for me, I see how low I can go and have worked to move away from it. Life, it seems, is about valuing whichever side of the see-saw is in the air--though the career and financial aspects of my life are failing, I'm doing well socially and health-wise.

It seems obvious for me to return to teach in China. I would be able to make money, gain more experience teaching, and fill a year otherwise spent weed-whacking or paper-pushing. I generally reject making decisions based on emotions, but I really "feel" like I need to be here now. I've never worked particularly hard to make Chicago a home for myself; I've dodged friend-making, volunteering, club-joining, and so on for almost 7 years now. I've managed to enjoy parts of my disconnected life on both sides of the globe, but it's time to invest in my future happiness, and I think I should do that in Chicago.

Despite how much I miss xiang guo.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Tank Man.

I suppose I'm feeling nostalgic for the relative security--both personally and professionally--I felt in China during my time there. Thus, I finally decided to watch FrontLine's piece on the stirring image of a white-shirted man standing down a parade of tanks during the June 1989 events in Tiananmen Square titled "The Tank Man." Produced in 1996, it's a bit dated, but still offers a tragically enthralling narration of those protests and the subsequent massacre of potentially thousands of innocent Chinese.

I think it's free to watch on PBS' website.

2 months in.

I've been out of China for over two months now, and it's been rough. I don't know why I thought I or my situation or my social connections could change positively just by my planned absence from them. The I I left behind is still here, making the same mistakes in the same dysfunctional personal relationships.

Didn't I order an entree of Change at China Cafe, or was it even on the menu? I can't remember anymore.

Fuck this. I'm going veg.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

<3 India.

I'm having a Love India day today. After a great, fast-forwarded few days in Mumbai, I'm happy to be in lower-key Jodhpur. We're still constantly hassled by...well, everyone (in good ways, like shaking hands 10786 times with Teh Randomz, and bad ways, like being followed by bulls (almost gored today! scary!) and street children and street people and people selling everything (mostly weed, which, um, no thank you (though a bhang lassi is high on my short list of Illicit Things to Do Before Sunday))), but the city itself is beautiful, as is our guest house. We visited the magnificent sandstone fort today, from which one can see a delightful landscape of blue buildings. Our gust house is beyond charming and comfy and cheap and only a little bit teeming with termites.

On Mumbai: I imagine (and this only exists in my imagination, I know) that Mumbai today is Manhattan in the pre-Giuliani, grubby days of yore. People sleeping on the streets, in the parks, behind dumpsters (the magnificently mysterious and not-as-horrible-as-you-might-think-but-still-uncomfortable slums don't fit into this trope, but are obviously worth mentioning); middle-class kids playing cricket on lazy Sunday evening streets; a delightful mix of countries, people, socioeconomic brackets, histories, and architectural styles. Like Kerala, I wish I had more time to spend there, to unpack all the hidden suitcases of lives and legends (the luggage in Varanasi and Agra and Delhi, however, can remain tightly sealed, please).

Tomorrow we leave for a trip into the desert, via camel and Jeep. We're staying in a house there and will be cooked for; we'll sleep on the rooftop under a "canopy of stars." The next day we're spending some time at an NGO aimed at "empowering Untouchable women and girls." After that, a 1st class train will whisk us away to Delhi, from where we will depart for the US early Sunday morn.

I will be in my parents' house, in the beautiful guest bed (the softness of which I have dreamed on many nights), in less than one week. Somehow, that is both more amazing than the Taj, and more terrifying than being followed to my guest house by a bellowing pack of street dogs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Body issues.

1. I enjoy beaches, like most people, but the ensuing sunburn is not generally pleasant. Theo's especially red, as a delightful combination of topical skin medications and oral antibiotics weakens his tolerance of sun exposure.

2. I've sort of been ill this entire time (and what is "ill" anyways? I've been practically "ill" for the last year of my life), but it really knocked me out yesterday. After a wooden boat trip along Kochi's heralded backwaters, I returned home and crawled into a ball, only unfurling myself to take occasional toilet breaks. I'm on some antibiotics now, which seem to have greatly improved my state.

3. I was playing around in the water (which contained a shark today? and also odd gold filaments of some toxic nature no doubt?) this morning and scraped my nose on the ocean floor. In addition to being strawberry-sunburned, it's now oozing anger-pus.

We're sadly leaving this un-India-like state for Mumbai in a few hours. My stomach is churning with anxiety already.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Theo, having spent less time in...well, we'll call it "Asian situations," though several other euphemisms could be employed, has decided that life in India is "brutal." I tend to agree with him. It's been rough on both of us, but not nearly as rough as it has been on the 1.2 billion people who live here. Sure, Shah Rukh Khan is doing alright, but holy Shiva this place is rough.

Varanasi was tough. From start to finish. I was able to get Ganges-fied, though.

WE're in Kochi right now, on Cherai beach. It's lovely and full of animals and waves and green and sunburns.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Only day three?

The ridiculous heat and sun and sweat and everything make me feel (and look) like I've been here for years.

I visited the Jama Masjid and REd Fort in Delhi yesterday, and then randomly ("randomly") met a tour guide who, for four hours, basically unpacked Old Delhi for me. Sugar tasting, spice markets, a madrasa, gold casting, bracelet making, sari embroidery, 1000 equally fascinating Hindu and Muslin havelis, and a pleasant cup of chai tea ensued.

5 hours after Theo arrived late last night, we took an early (and misleadingly luxurious) train from Delhi to Agra. The Taj Mahal is nearly as beautiful as I'd dreamed, and since it's World Heritage Day today, we were able to see its magnificence without the pain of a $15 fee. After having beers, meals, Internet times, and conversations borne from exhaustion (the most unusual sort) we're heading to Varanasi on a sleeper train tonight.

I should have Ganges Water (and the accompanying pollutants, decaying human remains, and other such poisons) on my legs in 18 hours.