I've always been a little more sympathetic to the Communist ideology than my American friends. Maybe it's because history has treated my family better than most in China. But sometimes, I tend to forget that Communism is not about Mao's mausoleum in Beijing, old photos from my waipo's younger days, or my fashion totes.
Instead, it's about this.
We visited the House of Terror in Budapest. We saw the torture chamber where the political prisoners were interrogated for their affiliations with groups aiming to overthrow the Communist regime. We touched the cell walls where hopeless men have clawed through their desperation.
An excerpt from a documentary in the background:
Old Man 1: You can forgive but you can't forget.
Old Man 2: But you have to forget, no?
Otherwise there is no way to forgive.
These young men came with their ideals.
And their executioners.
This was their socialism.
Oh God, how could they have done this . . . and still believe?
People still put flowers on the ledge outside the House.
If he had lived, he would probably be a handsome intellectual
who was constantly holed up in a cafe writing books.
* Officially applied (and approved) for graduation! The advisement counselor teased me about being too uptight about my grades. She was a great cheerleader even when I expressed uncertainty about my future plans and I felt like a winner coming out of her office.
* Found out that the five best thermal baths in Budapest are actually not too pricey. In just three days, I'll be lounging around in one of the hot water spas in Hungary. My only reservation? The sites are not very specific about whether or not bath patrons wear clothes inside. If they are anything like Chinese bath houses, everybody would be (very) naked. You think they will let me in with my swimming suit?
* Justin dropped by last night and surprised me with a mixed CD of his favorite songs and a letter explaining what each one means to him. I listened to it five times since I was up till 6 a.m. writing a paper.
* It is warm even though the mountains are blanketed with snow. Need I say more?
Recently, I've been too wrapped up in my thesis/ PAS/ Golden Key/ Sigma Journal/ classes/ work/ Women in Politics panel/ missionary stuff/ future plans. Even though I was trying to hold everything together, I think I was falling apart at the seams.
"It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Overscheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks."
"love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time."
"If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most. Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light."
His solution for simplifying our lives? Focus on the four key relationships with God, our families, our fellowmen, and ourselves.
1. Relationship with God
I went to the temple yesterday. It's been too long. And sitting there, without looking at the clock, was absolutely wonderful. I learned some important lessons about myself. And on a less serious/ spiritual note, I also found out that I am now officially too tall for the size small and short baptism jumpsuit. It must be the vitamins.
2. Relationship with Family
My family periodically loses a child. And a sister. And a cousin. And a niece. They patiently wait for me to resurface from my piles of work. But while they've always been there for me, I haven't always done the same in return. Sometimes I call Chelsea when I'm rushing to school and she always sounds so surprised. So, this week I made a goal to call a family member every day. Soon, they'll be screening my phone calls.
3. Relationship with Fellowmen
I've made some really good friends this semester. I haven't done so well in hanging onto my old friends though. Last week, I cried when one of my closest friends shared about the depths of her loneliness. I cried because I've seen glimpses of it all along. And yet, I never really spent the time to just sit and talk to her. So then, I grabbed her and we talked. And talked. And cried some more. And then laughed at ourselves and danced in the bathroom.
4. Relationship with Myself
This one is the easiest and the hardest. I'll spare you.
According to this diagram from Information is Beautiful (love them btw), we're heading into a peak break-up season. Better hold off on the DTRs because it's going to be a climatic buildup of failed relationships.
Feel awkward comforting heart-broken friends? Check out this list of things that you should never say to anybody who just broke up.
Two years ago, on November 4, I woke up bright and early and ran over to the polling station. I made sure that I wore red, white, and blue, complete with my American flag socks. I even brought along my passport to feel more patriotic.
And I voted for Obama.
But today? Local elections? I didn't even think about voting. I have no idea who is running for what in Utah. I am slightly more up to date on Nevada, just because Sharron Angle amuses me (and I am more pro-Reid than most Mormons). There will be a predictable Republican surge. And frankly that depresses me. So my vote? Ask me again in two years during the national election.
I just want to forget about the four midterms I have this week, the honors thesis that I've been meaning to work on, and the portfolio that I need to hand in next week. Normally during times like these, I dream about going away. Anywhere. Preferably somewhere where people do not speak English and will not ask me about my thesis (by the way, it is not a good conversation starter).
Even though I'm heading to Eastern Europe in two weeks, all I can think about right now is Kanas, Xinjiang.
When she didn't have enough change for my one kuai snack, she rummaged through her cupboard and stuffed these chalk pieces into my hands. She motioned for me to eat it. I did. It tasted like chalk.
Apparently that's their sweet milk candy.
A shaman inside told my mom that I would bring good
fortune to my whole family.
My mom and I were pretty touched.
He even gave me a dragon tooth charm.
The ancient Mongolians would touch these cloths for the blessings that they wanted:
white for longevity, red for courage, blue for wisdom, and yellow for peace.
I don't know why, but this is one of my favorite photos by far.
Perhaps it's because everybody laughed when I asked to take his photo.
Even he seemed shocked and unsure.
After I showed him the photo, he straightened his back, ran his fingers through his hair, and smiled.
"I grew up wondering why Canada didn't want to be a part of America. I thought that America is number one, and will stay that way, because the Book of Mormon said so. And the Gospel is truth, right? Then I read The World is Flat and it scared the crap out of me because apparently India will take over, with its call centers and everything. These are scary times."
I probably have too much to say about this. Any thoughts from you?
Sometimes, reading old love letters is painful. I can't help it - I just linger over every misplaced comma, cringe at all the misused contractions that make me into body parts ("you're beautiful eyes"), and agonize over run-on sentences that could have been easily fixed with elegant semi-colons.
Young Women leaders have drilled into my head that "spouse who understands the necessity of spaces within ellipses (space dot space dot space dot space)" is not appropriate for my future husband list . . . but surely a comma-conscious man is not too much to ask for?
I've deleted that email so many times, only to try again, bleeding out a line here or there.
How do you even write to one of your best friends whose father just passed away?
No wonder Hallmark makes so much money. For $3.99, you can buy an emotional cop-out. Instead of saying I-cried-about-your-dad-today-in-the-library-and-how-can-I-even-say-anything-to-adequately-soothe-your-pain, you can tie a neat bow around a "I'm sorry for your loss" four by six card stock and feel that you've done your job.
And have we? Do people in mourning want more than flowers and a card when the sense of loss is so fresh? When we try to make consolatory phone calls or emails, are we just putting them in uncomfortable positions because now, on top of dealing with funeral details, they will also have to return phone calls and repeat the same conversations over and over again? Maybe the Hallmark way deserves more credit; perhaps it is selling privacy behind all those cliches.
And yet . . . I know I would keep resurrecting that email from my deleted items. Because, privacy or not, somehow friendship just cries out for more than a bunch of cliches.
It's so ironic that I'm writing a paper for my OB class on how to motivate Kaplan employees . . . and yet I'm not at all motivated to finish this paper.
Perhaps it's because of the three hours of sleep I had tonight and the four hours last night, I'm just not feeling the miraculous motivating power that is supposedly going to spring from goal setting, efficacy, and expectancy theories. I am powering through though, just because I am looking forward to my soft-boiled egg, honeydew, and homemade wholewheat toast, slathered with Land O Lakes butter.
Instead of writing this paper, I should just write the textbook company and tell them to add breakfast to their categories of motivation tactics.
I'm sure you've all seen the original New Era ads. I saw these spoofs on a friend's facebook and thought that they were hilarious so I'm posting some of my favorite ones here. Do you remember the original slogans?
Something about R-rated movies.
Genealogy obviously. But this one is pretty creepy.
Something about protecting yourself with virtues.
Exactly what I was asking myself when I listened to
President Packer's (?) conference talk
In ninth grade, my English teacher assigned us
an argumentative paper on euthanasia.
I wrote my paper on why youth in Asia are controversial -
victory signs, hello kitty, and all.
You know that the Big Brother is strict and unforgiving when China's own premier, Wen Jiabao, is censored on national TV. The fact that he was censored suggests that there are higher powers in the Chinese government that do not like Wen's message. Possible factionalism in the Hu-Wen camps? If that's the case, then Wen is playing a dangerous game by opening touting political reforms in an interview with CNN. Perhaps the question is: Hu is emerging on top?
I'm falling in love with Budapest already - largely because of this photo blog. Ordinary people share their slices of Budapest and it's so much more exotic than all of the Lonely Planet books out there.
Here are some of my favorite photos.
Hard to say if these bullet damages are from 1944 or from 1956.
Celebrating Our National Day
August 20th. Hungary's birthday.
Old staircase in the Roma Parliament.
Kálmán Kis, gypsy man, in VIIIth district of Budapest.
Letter home to friends and family on July 26, 2010.
"Sheep penis!" I nearly choked on the chewy, translucent meat in my mouth. The men in their white aprons and chef's hats cackled and made some obscene gesture to further illustrate what I was eating. They must also have looked up that word in the thesaurus because they had some impressive variation. My friend Matt and I looked at each other and blanched. We had eaten it innocently, thinking it was snake meat that was wound around a kebab.
This was how we found out what it really was.
In that same evening, my friends and I had eaten fried scorpions (not bad except for the pieces of legs stuck in your teeth), grilled starfish (charred and bitter), and gecko hide (burnt, crunchy mess). We did end up eating the snake meat (I was sure this time) and snake skin. The snake meat, seasoned with red pepper flakes, was absolutely fantastic. It was all part of a glorious attempt to eat what the locals eat and live up to our "When in Rome" policy.
(Me, Natalie, Anne)
Got to love Anne's seductive I'm-about-to-eat-a-starfish look.
(Me & Matt)
Back when we still thought it was snake meat.
The triumph was short lived though. My coworkers hooted and slapped the table when I recounted our gastronomical adventures the next day at work. Apparently they had never eaten any of that. My next-door cubicle neighbor said that that was especially for foreigners who would shell out big bucks to eat what nobody else would eat. On a more serious note, he also informed me that I better watch out for my health because as a woman, I had just eaten too much "maleness," or yang, and I would not be able to handle it.
Sure enough, I got sick the next day. Despite my insistence that I already had the sore throat before eating all that stuff, my cubicle neighbor shook his head and blamed it on the overwhelming yang. The lady across the hall, looked at my hands and informed me that it was because of my diminishing yue ya, the milky semi-circles at the tip of your cuticles. Apparently one needs at least eight to be classified as healthy. She instructed me on pressure points to massage daily and sleeping habits to adopt in order nurse my precious yue ya back to their previous glory.
After I got sick, I became part of an experiment among the neighborhood ladies. As I laid moaning on my bed, I listened to my wai po pick up phone calls from her friends with advice on foods to cook me. Their solution? A lot of ginger, black fungi, congee, and nothing cold. One morning I came out of my room, bleary-eyed, and saw that my wai po was reading her food chart intently. She looked up at me, stuck her tongue out, and grinned, "I think I nearly poisoned you!" According to her chart, there were certain foods that will hurt your chi, or your life energy, if you eat them together. Apparently what I was having for breakfast, shrimp chips and watermelon (it's the Vitamin C), formed one of the fatal combos. When I looked skeptical, she quickly hid the watermelon from me.
While I still laugh at some Chinese food theories that seem bizarre to me, I now approach the subject with an added measure of reverence. I occasionally look at my tongue in the mirror to monitor my yin yang balance and constantly check to see whether my yue ya have edged back. But I'll admit, when my wai po isn't looking, I still eat my shrimp chips with my watermelon.
After I told my friend at Global Times, a super right-wing Chinese newspaper, that I would be happy being the MC for one of their events, I didn't think too much about it. After all, I would just be introducing some of the performers in English and Chinese and smile my face off. I enlisted Matt, one of my BJ street-cruising buddies, and we both agreed to just wing it. No big deal right?
We first made a bunch of stage jokes that none of the Chinese audience understood. They did crack up though when Matt, overconfident with his Chinese, told the crowds that the dancers were really angry (excited) to be dancing for them.
Matt and me on stage.
Perhaps because we were doing a good job, my Global Times friend decided to leave for a more important meeting and handed it over to us. She pointed to a few important looking people and told us that we didn't have to worry because others would be there to take care of the logistics.
Boy was she wrong.
Matt and I suddenly realized that we became the de facto Global Times spokespersons because all the GT staff ditched. We were soon mobbed by those same important looking people who saw their chance to make some drastic changes to the program.
The dance company representatives switched up the dances while I was on stage announcing them.
At the last minute, a few pizza boys informed us that they really wanted to do a dance (no kidding). So, we watched helplessly as they sauntered on stage, doing a Backstreet Boyz-esque routine while tossing pizza dough into the air.
Mini celeb, sneaky event staff, my big head, and an overwhelmed Matt.
Then enter mini celebrity on the left. The venue event staff pulled a supposedly "next pop queen" out of nowhere and demanded that we interview her on stage to promote her new book, CD, and vegetarian dish that she had brought to the event. My waipo later reported that she forced herself to choke down the celeb's tofu mystery dish just because I was selling it hard core on stage. The things that waipos do for their grandchildren.
Interpretive Dai ethnic ballet.
The Chinese didn't know how to take it when the Tahitian
dancers started yelling in the middle of their dances.
It was very awkward.
Matt and waipo. She loved rocking the VIP status.
Matt and I grabbed sushi at a fancy restaurant afterward. We laughed about all the improvs and close calls. After all, we pulled through and it was not even a big deal. Yeah right.
p.s. I'll be back-blogging a lot about my China trip this summer. Due to the censorship, I wasn't able to post all of these little posts that I had crafted in my head while my face was being squished against the BJ metro doors.