Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wo yo...

I have a funky-looking Indian visa! All my year-long visa debacles have officially come to an end.

I have a custom-made suit! Well, I will soon, at least. I was measured for it on Saturday. It'll be a perfectly fitted grey herringbone piece of perfection.

I have a cold! The government decides that since March 15 is "spring," it can shut off the city- and country-wide central heating on this date every year. According to my thermometer, it was -3C last night. Spring, indeed.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


I can already tell that I will return to my trusted brand of insanity when I return to Chicago. It's already starting to take hold.

It is really windy outside.


chòu: stench / stink / smelly / to smell (bad)

With temperatures reaching 80 degrees Fahrenheit this afternoon, Tianjin returned to the familiar array of scents I grew oddly fond of last summer, as a guitar player grows reminiscently fond of the calluses on her fingertips. The cigarettes-and-chemical smell of my school, the occasional whiff of feces (both human and otherwise) as one walks down the street, the burning food smell gingerly carried on the back of an evening breeze, the acrid odor of my upstairs neighbor's home perm circling our communal drain.

All these are the days my friends and these are the days my friends.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A break from our regularly-scheduled program.

I've regrettably relied on many outlets of American media to make me feel "home" in some way, and This American Life has never failed to reaffirm my gratefulness for the sort of programming our government (and, in larger part, wealthy donors) creates for its citizens.

Although TAL generally provides me with the sorts of poignant, important, relevant programming I crave, a few weeks ago Ira & Co. aired a show titled "Somewhere Out There": a celebration of the idea that there's one (or, in the practical calculations of one contributor, 100,000) person out there for each of us. As much as my rational side rejects this idea, I still, as an indoctrinated slave of popular love narratives, believe this is partially true.

But that's not the point.

The point is this: sandwiched between a lovely anecdote about a Midwestern man who recklessly pursued his now-wife in Tianjin in the 90s and a comedy sketch by a guy about being his girlfriend's other boyfriend was a piece about two transgendered girls who met at a trans family conference last year.

There is so much I don't understand about transgendered psychology and experiences, but this piece touched my mindstrings and heartstrings with equal weight. How telling of our evolution (?) as human beings in the United States that parents would embrace their children's innermost yearnings for self-acceptance by encouraging them to share their experiences with fellow trans kids.

Although I am thankful that I only had to deal with the fact that I'm queer, and although I still have so many questions and un-understandings about the trans community, it really made me pleased to know that no matter how far away from the hegemonic boundaries of an Acceptable Member Of Society one lies, there is a place for each of us.

I cannot emphasize how great it has been to put some distance between myself and the US. When I left Chicago, I knew this experience in China would either open my eyes to the failures of my country in the wake of a more ideal way of life, or it would force me to embrace the limited, though present, "freedoms" and "liberties" I am lucky enough to access. Obviously, the latter has happened (despite how much I have learned about the whys and hows and whats of the workings of the world, with China and the US orbiting around the same pile of money), an inevitability I have come to accept.

I'll never forget approaching the awe-striking Tianjin Olympic Stadium (the home of my new gym) on that cold March twilight, listening to the experiences of two little girls who, through the ridiculously American virtue of individuality, finally found someone who could truly say, "I know how you feel."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

50 years ago.

50 years ago today, China gripped its fist around its south-westernmost regions, after resisting an attempt by Tibetans to fortify some semblance of an autonomous identity. I'm gearing up for mayhem (as is the thousands-and-thousands-strong military presence there) that will only be reported in non-Chinese news sources. Hold on to your hats!

Oh, and Uighurs: you're next.

Things are coming together here, but that's not helping my sleeplessness. Today, with the help of one of my Chinese bosses, I bought my ticket to Delhi. I'll arrive there at 1AM on April 1, for what I hope will be an unforgettable (and unsmellable) three weeks. I'm heading to BJ Thursday morning to process my tourist visa. Otherwise, I just need to decide some important-but-not things: should I ship most of my belongings back to the US? Should I swing through Perth on my way to Chicago to visit my Aussie bud Jared? Where the hell am I going to get my hand-made suit from?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

A month in pictures.

1. I rode around in this beautiful 1937 Chinese motorcycle. It's a reproduction of a BMW military vehicle. It was...grand. Alan spends too much money on everything.

2. You were too good for this world.

3. It's hard to see from this photo, but if Cheri Oteri and Mariah Carey had a baby, it would be Getha.

4. I had my first flu/food poisoning/clash with death two weeks ago. It provided a good base for getting back into shape (since I didn't eat for 4 days), but let me tell you: vomiting in front of a group of ogling students in the toilet is not a pleasant experience.

5. Oh, XīZàng. First, you won't celebrate the way They want you to. Then, you fuck it all up for Oasis. The throngs of marching military men They've sent to intimidate you was inevitable.

6. I'll miss this little guy.

7. Snake wine is as terrible as it sounds.

8. I'm finally at the point where I can say, "I'm leaving China next month." NEXT MONTH. Theo's bought his tickets for India; we're going to travel around the fabled Golden Triangle (with a side-trip to Mumbai) and return to the US in May.

9. I don't really sleep much anymore. My mind dashes from one huge ordeal I'll have to surmount in the next month to another, resulting in lots of tossing and turning. Plus, my China Manifesto as woefully untouched, which means...I have a lot of work to do before April 15.

10. There is so much great music out right now. Thank you M. Ward, Neko Case, bird & the bee, Lily Allen, Beirut, Animal Collective, William Elliott Whitmore, and all collaborators on the spectacular Dark Was The Night for-charity compilation. You melodically drown out the daily sounds of China.

11. I'll write more in the future than I have in the past, I promise.