Sunday, November 28, 2010

Our Iron Curtain

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.
Why, why?
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.
Or a Hungarian Elvis slash Grease front man.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


A few things that made today fantastic:

* 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?

Monday, November 15, 2010

What matters the most

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.

Last week in Relief Society, somebody shared with us President Uchtdorf's talk "Of Things that Matter the Most." Here are some lines that struck me:

"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.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Delay those DTRs!

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.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Alter Ego

Meet Jessica.

She's my alter ego.

There is this random boy who knows me by that name.

He is convinced that he's been to my house.

Apparently I made him laugh at a party once by telling a Titanic joke.

I don't know any Titanic jokes. 

I swear that I've never met him.

But now I bump into him at least once a week.

And more than once, I've answered to the name Jessica. Accidentally at first. Later, purposefully.

We're sort of friends now.

He even knows what kind of bagels I like to eat.

I guess names aren't important anyways.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My Vote

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.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Dreaming of Kanas

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.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Who We Really Are Inside

I was originally going to dress up as the Provo bubble. 
But making a costume out of garbage bags and duct tape was harder than I thought.

So one hour before the party, I rummaged through my closet 
and transformed into Chun Li the street fighter. 

Any guesses what Nate and Hwanhi were?

 My vote was drumming waiter vs. red-headed housewife. 
Apparently they were Ricky & Lucy from the 1950s sitcom I Love Lucy.
 Duh. Of course.

With Jesse, our P90X lego cowboy.

Of course, Justin just showed up in his PT gear. 
If I ever run for office and need to court the NRA vote, 
I guess I have just the right photo for my campaign.
Kim Jong-il and his favorite girls.