Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Impressions - Part Two: Changsha

(taken from an email to a friend back in September)

…..It’ tough to tell if the city weaves in and out of the mountains or if the mountains weave in and out of the city.

Not even 100 yards from my dorm is a start of a hiking trail.

Maybe a mile from my campus is the river which cuts the city in two, so when you ask people where they live? They first refer to what side of the river they live on (east or west) and then to the bus stop. Biked along the river last week with some friends and was rendered speechless... to my immediate left, maybe 30 feet away was steps going down to a stretch of farmland. The farmland stretched outward to the river for a few hundred yards and then along the river for miles. Looking down you could see horses milling about… and small fishing boats that could have been plucked out of a Chinese painting. Looking across the river is a backdrop of a city that is highlighted by mountain peaks. Ominous rain clouds do not exist. To my immediate right was the east side of the city I live on -- and one of the busiest highways, not more then 100 yards from the horses and fishing boats I just told you about.

The juxtaposition of these images is mind boggling to me at times. It's a unique blend of raw nature with concrete and development. I quite enjoy musing about how things must have looked like a hundred years ago.

People here are like people in any city. There are nice people and rude people -- the extremely fashionable and the ones that you can sense immediately are from the rural areas of China, city bound for the first time. People that speak flawless English and people that hawk a spit from the back of their throats. People with perfect hair and people who have rat tails. The humidity here can be oppressive at times, but I've quite gotten used to how kinky my hair is everyday. As most people would say here "随便”.

There is a decent amount of black people here -- mainly from North Africa, which really surprised me when I heard people speaking French. I've met a few Americans from Yale, but I have yet to see white faces unless I go out of my way to meet up with people.... and my American friends are Black American and Asian American.

I haven't started classes though, so perhaps things will become less interesting when I actually can't go out everyday to explore the city.

I figured out on my own how to use the buses, so I've been quite addicted to public transportation. It's a little weird being in a city with no metro, and no Starbucks (coming soon in a month). The idea that China is a "developing country" is definitely more apparent here than in any other city in China that I've been to before. Between the BMWs that drive on the other side of the road, the abandoned hotels where the beggars live, and the strawberry fields by the agricultural university-- Changsha is quite a contradiction in itself. Buildings are knocked down every other day and it seems like overnight... beautiful architectural masterpieces are erected just for fun. As if a child was playing with a trunk full of legos. I wish I could explain to you more accurately what I'm experiencing and seeing, but just be reassured that it is quite a new experience. It feels like I'm in a different world -- mainly because there seems to be no comforts of home or signs in English. I'm completely immersed in Chinese -- I even text in Chinese. It helps that I look Asian – people immediately write me off as from Hong Kong.

I miss home terribly, but only because of the people I've left behind. If I could take all of you with me to China, I wouldn't mind being here for another few years.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

people watching

with sunglasses on.
i really like it.
i have an excuse not to socialize.
a bit unapproachable.
legs crossed,
expressionless, eyes darting.
a slight jutting of the jaw.
a knowing smile that quickly disappears. wonder if it was even there.
my head cocked to one side --
a little too strong
but unassuming, discreet
i fancy, a bit mysterious.

i'm starting to wonder if this is what...

private detectives.
fbi agents.
cia operatives.
or just ordinary state troopers, day in and day out.

stake outs are really just...
...glorified people watching.

perfect location? shenzhen airport, waiting for my flight to bangkok.

Monday, July 18, 2011

King's Black Magic - Lady of the Sunshine


the roar of the subway
creaking of metal
the strumming of a guitar
a chinese serenade
phone beeps, alarms, and text messages
a child hopping up and down
shuffling and murmuring
a recorded, automatic, feminine, robotic voice

announcing that we've reached our destination.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Confessions of a List-aholic

Staring at my computer.

I was confronted with the death screen. White and blue lettering on an otherwise black screen. I turned my computer on and off, on and off, off and on, off and on, and then off again.

I pull back, slumping against my chair, a little too tired for words. My mind racing at the different options, different scenarios, and different price tags I might be confronting. I immediately pulled up my mental checklist, grudgingly adding another task to my laundry list.

Ewan tries comforting me and JunJun offers to go fix the computer with me. I walk up to my room under the excuse that I need to ask Amanda for her computer, but I walk away to collect myself. I try to assess my emotions. Sometimes I find it hard to understand what I'm feeling... but I always find that once I pinpoint what I'm feeling, I can calm down considerably.

I was feeling anxious. A little bit distraught... but mainly just annoyed with what had happened. I was nervous about how much money I would need to spend. I hadn't accounted for how much my French visa would cost in China (another 1800 RMB -- which is 277 USD or roughly 180 quid for those who want to quickly assess my financial situation)... and to tack on a computer problem would considerably squeeze my already tight budget. I started re-doing my budget and listing out future and potential expenses. Fuck.

When I feel anxious, I make extraordinary random lists and elaborate plans.

I can make list after list of things to do, things to see, books to read, people to meet, places to visit, and goals to accomplish. My planner is color coded -- my to do list in one corner and my day planned out by the minute in another corner (usually when I'm abnormally stressed out during exams, emergencies, or when my parents fight)

I compulsively make lists and plans. Like, really. Some people joke about having anxiety problems and quirks. I promise you; I most likely, probably, maybe, definitely do have an anxiety problem of some sort. And it's not a lame joke. I can't really explain why I'm like this... then again, I've never really bothered to understand this one facet of my personality. Some people may pick up on this habit of mine ... but looking back, I'm not even sure even my parents, my ex-boyfriend or even best friend ever actually knew how extreme this part of my personality was. Sometimes I'd be on the phone with my ex and I'd bring up the idea of traveling together (looking up hotel prices and emailing him random websites)... but he always dismissed it as random musings, as if I was suddenly caught by the idea of traveling... not realizing that when I was bored or distracted, instead of doodling, I'd be making ridiculously long lists of countries to visit. On the back of napkins, the corner of newspapers, book margins, random handouts in class, or on the edge of flyers.

I realized I wasn't normal when I realized I was afraid to tell people how far I plan out some ideas (particularly travel plans). Part of me was afraid people would laugh at me... How corny would it be for me to say that my dream was to travel the world? What people don't know is that I've been like this since before middle school.

I remember after one particularly large fight my parents had, I planned out an entire family vacation to Maine. At the time... I was 12, and I had the idea that if we just took one family vacation together -- things would just go back to normal. Maybe the fighting would stop if we just remembered how much fun it could be to be together. I was young.

Nonetheless, the image was in my mind and I was completely enraptured by the idea. Family vacations always seemed like they would be relaxing (at first), brought my brothers and I further apart (due to long car rides without AC), and managed to tire us all out by the end of it (because we forgot that the point of a vacation is to relax and we did too much sightseeing). But... my parents always mellowed out considerably and never fought. And that's what I wanted.

I looked up maps, hotels, and hiking trails. I planned out our daily schedule for a four day weekend trip... making sure to plan around a budget, timing each activity, and even taking into account driving time. I looked up when different museums open and closed and what areas had peak travel seasons, seasonal discounts, and special promotions. I looked up local attractions and popular restaurants -- and even tried to find restaurants that would cater to my father's high culinary demands. Every aspect of the vacation was considered. I even went so far as to check to see when the sun would rise and set in case my family wanted to do a hike to take some pictures. I compared hotel prices and tried to predict gas prices. I looked at rental options and also considered bike shops. I spent the better part of a day planning out a trip that we never took.

Now? When I'm really upset? I'll just hop onto a random site and look up airplane tickets (my current favorite - AirAsia)... my mind constantly figuring out a budget, listing out prices, figuring out currency conversions... my cursor quickly navigating hostelworld, couchsurfing, and various websites. Multiple browsers opened, endless amount of tabs to sift through.

I don't generally know what I'm doing next week... let alone have a definite ten year plan (because I have 26 ten year plans -- Plan A to Plan Z). In fact, I'm the biggest procrastinator -- so to be honest, it's kind of stupid I even make plans. Probably the biggest reason most people don't know how OCD this quirk is ... is because it doesn't affect my mood if things don't go according to plan. I hardly ever have to stick to plans. If plans go awry, I never get upset, I just replan. Nothing is ever definite in my life. When you travel around as much as I do, it's tough to make promises and it's easier to be flexible and laid back. And I'm the furthest thing from high maintenance when it comes to traveling. But I like having ideas. An idea of what will happen. So let me clarify and say -- I don't compulsively plan, I compulsively make plans. Does that make sense? I make plans because I am stressed, I don't stress because of plans. I like having plans even if I'll never follow through with them.

So I always write down all of my options... and plan every option out. I have tentative plans for almost every country. For every country, I have a list as to what I want to do and see in each. You actually cannot understand my wanderlust. It's only after I got to college that I realized... I can actually follow through with the millions of ideas, scenarios, and plans I've concocted over the years.

So my computer breaking down? No big deal. Let's breathe, calm down, and think. New budget. New list of things. New plan.

p.s. I hope I didn't scare anyone.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

beijing, brits, and bars

my last three weeks....

the soothing ambience of jazz...
while sipping a cup of bailey's coffee
hostel life. dirty. loud. but fun
constant goodbyes
a mess of languages -
chinese, french, cantonese, british, english
sharing music with strangers, drum and bass with chinese pop
too many brits
and a beijing fling with feathery soft kisses
something called "liquid funk" that i need to look into
bar hopping and tequila shots
clubbing til sunrise... two days in a row
hangovers in the afternoon
bookworm. reading books on rooftop bars with a beautiful nighttime view
shisha bars and fisheyed pole dancers
"i like clever girls" and "i can't be bothered"
random weekend trips to tianjin
bargaining for cheap purses
and macau food with hong kong dishes
never have i ever...
first girl kiss and a tangle of limbs
fourth of july and rejection
good friends and the warm buzz of alcohol
conversation, the hum of music, and comfortable silences
surreal. young. invincible. twenty something dreamers
content, peaceful, happy amidst the chaos
summer storms and soaked sandals
the smell of cigarettes and sweat
dancing on bartops and boats
silly giggles and stealing hotdogs
overpriced water and cheap barbecue
cutting hair and little buddhas
sanlitun, the village, and uniqlo
skype chats and photos
constant texts and laughing softly
stumbling, smiling, and child pickpockets
flirting with bartenders and swinging fists
laundry, clothesline, and underwear
french visa. complicated. money.

30 days til Hong Kong
34 days til Thailand
45 days til Malaysia

can't wait til europe next year

Life, love, and what happens after... V (Final)

Close to a year ago… I had meant to soar into the water, but in the frenzy and in those few moments of adrenaline -- I found that instead I had plummeted instead. From such great heights. Hurdling myself too fast forward, tripping, and lurching into the depths below.

Recovering from my initial distress, I craned my head to look back up to where I had started my plunge. It seemed like an impossible climb back up to that point.

Pulling myself out of the water, I stood timidly at the bottom of the cliff, taking in the task in front of me. No way out, but up. But…the cliff looked too tremendous, too imposing, and incredibly high. Shards of green glass from broken beer bottles sprinkled my climb up as I guardedly chose my footing. Accidental slips, fumbling back two steps for every one step I took.

And the “steps” themselves were uneven in height -- some giant-size stone steps. Some just small bits of rock, jutting themselves out unnoticeably among the bits of vegetation that had reached a settlement with mother nature. At points, I quailed.

Barefooted, I clambered up the cliff refusing to look down or pause for breath. I took leaps of faith, from one level to another – and held my breath each time I felt my grip slip. I was so focused on the climb, that I didn't even notice when I had reached the top.

Pulling myself up to that final ledge, I felt my body tense nervously as I reached for the smoothness that was the ground -- my feet now catching up to my hands.

And for the first time in a long time -- I felt it. A thump. My heart. A breath of a pulse. The soft beep of a monitor, a wave of green, and the tentative hum of the machine. I had worried that I’d lost my heart for a while there…

Like Spring's slow emergence... afraid of a sudden morning frost or perhaps that last shudder of a snow storm... Spring takes its time like a gun-shy deer. Caught in headlights. Perhaps too startled to move. Or inhale. Because the world in the next few moments might shatter and crash. Demolished, with not a slap but a slam. Back into confusion. Horror. Shock. And then death.

But for now, I'll take it all in. Take what I can. I don't need anything more than your company. Just this moment of tranquility. Quite out of no where, when I least expected it. I can breathe normally again. I'm happy with where I've found myself, at peace with what life has in store for me.

And perhaps that light -- isn't headlights at all -- but the light at the end of a long dark tunnel.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Life, love, and what happens after... IV

After less than an amicable split with Mammet …

I, of course, once again, swore off men.
And of course, once again, I found myself in a romantic entanglement of sorts...

Let’s call him Lee.

A Chinese university student.
A biology major with a basketball obsession.
5’10 with black thick-rimmed frames.
An excellent Chinese calligrapher.
Who had a slight, yet endearing, Changsha accent.
And, he was smart. i.e. my type.

Our first date was probably perfect. Dinner, arcade, walking around the pedestrian street just talking, a movie, and the softest goodbye kiss before I left the cab. I had butterflies. He had treated me like a princess -- a perfect gentleman.

And so I found myself in the world of “casual dating”.

casual dating
v.: A compound of casual, meaning not regular or permanent and dating, defined as going out with someone in whom one is attracted to. Casual dating offers the benefits of relationships with none of the commitment: “casually dating him before we make any decisions to see each other exclusively”

My friend Jason after a dessert and catch up session just shook his head at the news.

“You’re going to break that poor Chinese boy's heart, Tc.”
I laughed, not committing myself to any response.

After the second date with Lee, I clarified that my studies was my number one priority. He told me that was fine.

After the third date, I clarified that my friends were more important at this point in my life. He told me he’d be happy if he was just a little bit special.

After the fourth date, I clarified that I didn’t want a boyfriend. He told me that he was willing to wait for me.

Almost exactly a month after our first date, we fell apart after the fifth date.
Perhaps I should’ve made it clear after the first date I didn’t want a relationship.

Lee was hurt to say the least. He said that girls like me were the worst. The ones that refused to get close to anyone because they’ve been hurt once. The girls that hurt guys because they don’t want to be hurt themselves.

I felt bad. But not bad enough to change my mind. I wasn't in love -- and as much as rejection had hurt him, he wasn't in love either. He'd bounce back -- I was sure of it. He was a good looking guy with a bright future -- any girl would be lucky to have him. I just wasn't that girl. He deserved someone better than me, or at the very least, he deserved someone ready for a relationship.

Instead, I was cursing my luck.

How did I keep finding guys that only wanted a serious relationship? Wouldn’t most guys jump at the idea of casually dating a girl? Where you don’t have to call or text a girl every day and where there were no expectations. The courtship period where only if two people were conveniently free at the same time -- would they then make plans to go out together and have a drink. The time period before two people have the "DTR" -- where you don’t have to attach the messy definitions of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” or “just friends”.

No strings attached. No time commitment. No heartache. No guilt for wanting to travel.

But then I realized, that was the problem The cultural differences that complicates all relationships with foreigners. Sometimes there are no translations, let alone definitions.

In English, we have a hard enough time defining relationships let alone understanding them. Casual dating, friends with benefits, open relationships, "single", hook up buddies, f*ck buddies, dating, boyfriend, girlfriend, backburner... it goes on, and on, and on.

Now if there are no translations for these types of relationships -- how can you even fathom the concept? The idea of "casually dating" or "open relationship" is as foreign to a Chinese person as the idea of "celibacy" is to an American frat guy (sorry for the stereotype).

In Chinese there are only three types of relationship a guy can have with a girl:
1. 普通朋友 (normal friends, "just friends" which you do not hang out with 1 on 1)
2. 兄弟姐妹 (brother and sister relationship -- self explanatory) and...
3. 男女朋友 (boyfriend and girlfriend)

The closest idea they have to "dating" is "谈恋爱" -- which literally translates to "talk about love" and roughly translates to "be in a relationship". But this verb can only be used to refer to "boyfriend and girlfriend" relationships --

The idea of “暧昧” means "complicated" but only in reference to the period before you confess your feelings to each other and you're still unsure about the other person's feelings.

So how do you explain the idea of "casual dating" to someone who has never heard of casual dating? It's difficult. It's like reteaching the alphabet to a seven year old who's set in his ways. Lee just couldn't understand the concept of "no commitment" because to him -- if he liked a girl and the girl liked him, what was stopping the two persons from making a commitment to each other. He didn't understand that in the States.... we can spend weeks, months, forever dating someone before deciding to make anything official. Liking someone isn't enough reason for a relationship. For him, it seemed as though there needed to be a 结果, a conclusion, of some sort to our complicated relationship. Why waste your time if you're not going to end up together?

My mindset at the time? I was in the firm belief that if there's a "start" to a relationship, then there necessarily must be an "end".

So why define it?

If I start a relationship someone (at least at this point in my life) -- more than likely, there will be a "break up". I hate being broken up with and I hate being the one to initiate a break up. So let's bypass the mess, I say. I didn't want a conclusion to my friendship with him -- so it was easier to keep things up in the air. It was nicer to not be defined. To not need to breakup. To not need to say goodbye. If we were happy just spending time together then why couldn't we continue just getting to know each other?

After a few weeks apart, we ended up staying "just friends".

And then I happened upon a realization... I wouldn’t waste my time with a guy that didn’t want to spend time with me – get to know me, appreciate me. But the guys that wanted to spend time, get to know me, and possibly fall in love with me? For the most part, won’t be the type to waste their time on casual relationships. So, to sum things up: I want a guy that wants to spend time getting to know me -- but not a guy willing to dedicate his time to me. I never said that I made sense. Damn. I realize I'm going to be single for a very long time.

So howabout a Beijing fling?

: A short period of enjoyment or wild behavior: "one final fling before a tranquil retirement"

Friday, July 8, 2011

You know

you've been in China too long when you have a choice between a "squat toilet" and a "western toilet"... and you choose the "squat toilet" because the idea of sitting down on a toilet bowl disgusts you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

HSK -- 汉语水平考试

-- i.e. the only reason why I spent a year in China.
I passed my Chinese proficiency exam!!! 及格了!!!
All the headaches, late night studying, resultative complements, and grammar cramming finally paid off.

高级,五级 -- A等

Thanks to all who helped me, guided me, encouraged me and saw me through this! Love you!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Life, love, and what happens after... III


I stared at the Mammet on the screen. Speechless, terrified, I felt my feet turn into ice. Did he really just say he loved me? I knew it was coming, but I was still baffled, speechless, and scared shitless.

Within few days, I broke up with him.
Over Skype… (hey, I never said I was perfect)

Breaking up with someone... is always a less than pleasant affair, to say the least.

He begged me to stay with him but I stood my ground.
He begged me to let him see me but I ignored him.
He begged me to make him understand but I had no words.

I felt disgust, confusion, anger, regret, guilt – and a little bit of everything at one time.

At one point, I heard myself thinking.... “Why are you being so pathetic?” as if those weren't my own thoughts and words, but that of a heartless bitch. Then, ashamed of myself for not being able to empathize and be more patient with his pain... I retreated into my thoughts until I could come to terms with what I had just done.

What had I just done? I had broken someone’s heart.
I had broken someone’s heart because I had been trying to fix my own screwed-up one.

I tried my best, did the most I could, to make things easier for him… but is there such a thing as easily breaking someone’s heart? Breaking someone’s heart easily? Easy heart-breaking? Breaking easily into someone's heart. Easing a breaking heart? The ease of breaking a heart.

It’s not you, it’s me.
I’m not breaking up with you because of someone else.
I just want to be by myself.
I just don’t love you.

After some bitter words from his end, I had more than enough reasons to never talk to him again. By the time it was all over, all I could feel was “relief” – in the very true sense of the word. I finally wasn’t running away, escaping, or using someone to pass the time. I was cleansed in a sense.

But I want to clarify. I wasn't a good person for hurting him, but nor was I a bad person. It took me a long time to understand that jumping into a relationship, and essentially rebounding... so soon after the end of a tumultuous relationship... was definitely wrong, selfish, and had the potential for high casualties. But I'm only 20 years old! I'm still young! I had been honest with him the entire time. What guy wouldn't want a casual relationship!? But, Tc, be honest.... You should've known better. Approaching a relationship with an end-date was probably a bad idea. At least, I'm making these mistakes now instead of later on when it's supposed to count... I tried to assuage my consience with these facts and life lessons. But I still feel horrible for what happened.

And then my friend Jesse asked me a very important question…
“Are you sure you’re not breaking up with Mammet because he’s a “nice guy”?”

Valid question…

But what is a nice guy? I had once thought, the only “nice guy” is the guy that’s in love. But that can’t be true, because I myself have a ton of guy friends who I consider “nice guys”. You know… the ones that deserve the sweetest, smartest, and sexiest girl out there.

The “nice guy” that you would ideally date, have fantasized about dating, or have future plots to date -- but for some reason aren’t. You know those guys that are not garbage, have baggage, or seem damaged.

Stable, loving, and committed.

And I thought about this question for a long time… was I a masochist? Did I only love my ex because he didn’t love me back? Did I only like a guy because of the chase? Did I want guys to play “hard-to-get”? Was there a Freudian answer to all of my questions?

Nah, the answer was simple. Mammet wasn’t a “nice guy” by any measure, but at the end of the day… it didn’t matter if he was a “nice guy” or not. He just wasn’t “the guy”. Or rather, I just wasn’t “the girl”. Or better, I just wasn’t ready for a relationship.

I didn’t want stable, loving, or committed.

I just wanted to be happy again.
By myself.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I realize...

I haven't seen the stars in a while. I miss them.
Right now in my life, I lack total silence.
Probably why I could never spend the rest of my life in a city...
Give me a clear sky any night.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Quick thoughts:
"端午节" does not translate to "Dragon Boat Festival"
Thai & Vietnamese 粽子 are more 丰富... and use banana leaves.
Chinese 粽子sometimes don't have any filling!!??
We're celebrating a guy because he killed himself.
Okay, not really.
And no, no boats in sight. A little bit of a disappointment. =[

Don't bother watching the video below.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dear Cupid,

This is a bad joke.

Yours truly,

Two missed calls later...

+00614XXXXXXXX (05/29 7:40 PM): Hi,this is an international call,my name is George in Sydney.sorry to bother

Another ring… But my mind wanders briefly…

Vague recollections, memories from October of last year, begin to float languidly to the surface. It had been raining that night. A slight sense of dread draped me as I took a step out of the café. Why hadn’t I brought an umbrella? Why didn't it start raining three hours ago when I was on my way out? I grimaced looking down at my new shoes I had decided to parade around today, of all days. I hate rain and public transportation. I hate rain without rain-boots...

Anny laughs, what was I worried about? Her friend George could drive us home. It wouldn’t be inconveniencing him at all. Who is George? I don’t know him, never met him – but Anny assures Brandon and I that "George" will drive us home. If Brandon comes, it should be alright… Plus, I reason, I don’t want to take a cab home by myself. We greet "George", not pausing for introductions, and jump into his car.

The car ride back to the dormitory is relatively short, no more than 10 minutes, give or take a few pauses. It seems small talk in English is mandatory. “George” talks mainly about himself… he’s headed to Australia soon. I’m lost in my own thoughts as I watch raindrops coalesce, separate, intertwine, and not so fluidly trail down the window. I sit in the backseat with Brandon. Still a little stiff… my hands begin to hurt. I hate rainy weather...

I lift my head quickly as I realize someone is talking to me.

Perhaps we could all meet up and practice English, his Chinese accented voice breaks through my weariness. I am polite but not warm, giving a muffled non-committal hum.

A few days later I received a text from “George”. He’s sorry to bother me but he had gotten my number from Anny. Was I free for coffee?

Who was George again? ... I pause, fumbling and sifting through papers on my desk, buying my memory time to remember the name. I scramble for a scrap of my memory. I remember I didn't have a particularly good first impression of him.

He had come off as strange to me... I had a neutral, leaning towards a negative, first impression. Impeccably dressed, not bad looking, but not my type, a little too arrogant that wasn't confidence, and I could tell he was "rich". Not that I dislike people with money, I'm just wary of them. And I hated his voice. Low but not at all attractive, like a dull thud, like a wet log being thrown into the mud. Or a limp corse being tossed casually into a grave. A little bit like Bert's voice from Sesame Street. Boring...his speaking style a soft drone and not the least bit riveting or even interesting. Like listening to a lecturer from the back of a large auditorium with two hundred other students, half of whom are hidden behind their books. Make no mistake, they're sleeping not studying...

Would Anny be there, I ask? He doesn’t reply and instead sidesteps my question telling me he could pick me up because he has a car. I’m not sure I really care he has a car.

Tomorrow’s not good? What about anytime I’m free?
I’m conveniently busy at any time. I tell him that maybe we can go when Anny’s free.

A few weeks later in December, “George” texts me to ask me if I’d like to get coffee again because he’s leaving for Australia in two days. He would love to be able to practice speaking English with me before he has to leave. At this point, I’ve started dating Mammet… so I politely decline telling him I don’t feel comfortable meeting him one on one while I have a boyfriend.

The texts end.

Another ring and my thoughts interrupt themselves.

He was a friend of a friend, perhaps I should be polite. Plus, it seems as if he won’t stop calling until I pick up… And apparently he's calling me from Australia?


We speak for less than two minutes and thirty-six seconds, during which time I robotically go through the pleasantries. I’m quite good at those now. I’m distracted as I take the call… I’m shopping with Best, my roommate.

Yes, I do remember him… but why was he calling again? Is it urgent? He doesn’t hear my question apparently – and instead returns my question with a few of his own. Yes, my studies were fine. Yes, so was my health I suppose. Oh really, he’s coming back to Changsha – well isn’t that great. Oh, too bad I’ll be leaving Changsha soon. Where am I going? Beijing. He tells me that he was thinking of traveling to Beijing for some fun when he’s back in China. Right… Damn

He asks me for my email… I distractedly give it to him. Maybe he’ll stop bothering me now? I give him the wrong email address at the very last moment. I tell him I’m busy, now annoyed with myself. I try to live by the idea that it only takes a second to be polite -- but I had given him 156 seconds. I hang up, perhaps a little too abruptly.

+00614XXXXXXXX (05/29 8:01 PM): Hi,very glad to hear you are going to work in Beijing for sometime.I will go to Beijing at the end of the year. I thought I can not see you any more.take care

I carelessly look back at the text, dismiss it, and go back to the changing room. In my mind at this point, I had fulfilled all necessary obligation to be polite to a person who was my friend's friend.

+00614XXXXXXXX (05/29 8:36 PM): Hi,I just trying to send you emails,unfortunately I failed. Would you mind sending me email so I can email you back with the following address: you and looking forward to your email

Tc (05/29 9:25 PM): Hi, just wondering why you wanted to contact me? I just find it odd you would go through so much trouble? Hah…

+00614XXXXXXXX (05/29 9:32 PM): To be honest,mysterious longing just for the once unforgettable charisma.Hopefully you do not mind accepting as a friend

Gotta hand it to him, haven’t heard that one yet. I’m a little weirded out, but it’s not as if a random pick up line can really phase me. I don't text back. I decided to ignore him. He'll get the hint, right? He'll go away.

A few days later...

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/04 9:52 AM): TC,Best wishes on the dragon boat festival.I understand it is hard for me to win your confidence,which is not bad.Maybe I should have an Aussie girl friend

Tc (06/05 10:45 AM): ? Why are you telling me you should have an Aussie girlfriend. Did you think we were going to date? Either I’m confused or you are...

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 10:56 AM): I really wanted to date you before I left Changsha, but you said you have a boyfriend and denied to meet me.Even do I still miss you and hope to make friends with you because you have your rights to choose your boyfriend.I am an optimistic man,I sincerely wish though I can not make it

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 11:36 AM): If you are available,I am honored to one of the potential candidates to go after you.If you are not available I am happy to be friends

Tc (06/05 12:48 PM): We only met once… I don’t understand how you could want to pursue me. You don’t even know me. I’m sorry but I’m a little uncomfortable with this situation.

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 2:36 PM): I saw you once,that’s true.But you did give me a very good impression and honored to be friend with you.That’s the reason,I ask for your email ,so we can get to know each other more.So take it easy and relax,I will never push you.Anyhow I will go to Beijing after I graduate

Tc (06/05 2:42 PM): Okay… But I’m not going to be in Beijing? I’m going back to France then the States.

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 2:44 PM): OMG,when will you depart Beijing

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 2:51 PM): is your email address?I planned to send you a few pictures so you can recognize who I am.Please do the same, so I can keep you in my heart

Do you think if I see a picture of you I’ll suddenly change my mind and become interested? And my picture? Uh. If the warning bells hadn't gone off already in my head, they sure as hell were ringing out full blast now. I don’t text back. I’m actually a little scared. This is so stupid, I think to myself…


My cell phone rings almost six hours later at 8:30 PM. I don’t have caller ID and usually pick up all of the calls I receive.

“喂?” I calmly ask....

His voice. I immediately hang up. I panic. Why is he calling me?


+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 8:37 PM): Hi, your voice is very sweet,I do not know the reason my voice can not go through

Tc (06/05 8:40 PM): I’m sorry. But the attention you’re giving me is making me uncomfortable. Especially because you’re overseas and still feel the need to contact me so persistently.

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 8:45 PM): I am sorry to make you uncomfortable.Would you please send me your email and when will you go to Beijing and then depart.I am thinking of taking the upcoming holiday to back to China so you can have minimum impression on me.if I can make it,good,if can not,I will keep you as a friend in my memory

Tc (06/05 8:53 PM): You’re going to come back to China just so that I can meet you? I’m not comfortable with meeting you. You’re really a stranger and I don’t need this type of attention.

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 9:06 PM): Do not be nervous.I tried,failed, will not regret. This will be a short scenario in life.I thoroughly respect you.Would you please send me your email address.Actually I am considering apply PHD in an American university

Tc (06/05 9:10 PM): I’m sorry. But I do not want to give you my email address.

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 9:15 PM): You do not have to say is all my fault.Your denial makes sense .Maybe this is the last contacts between you and me

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 9:24 PM): I always watch my manners as a gentleman should be based on my horizon.Your refusal just breaks my long waited dream.Anyhow which is not bad.I always sincerely wish you best happiness though I can not bring to you.

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/05 9:37 PM): TC,except dating,there ate many things more than that .I do not understand why it is so hard or even impossible to make friend with you.I am not a wolf nor a hooligan ,but a sincere man with warm heart and integrity

Tc (06/05 9:45 PM): I don’t know you. If you were actually a gentleman you would take this rejection gracefully as you said you would. I have no interest in being friends with someone who barely knows me and goes to such lengths. Your attraction to me seems superficial at best. Please stop.

+00614XXXXXXXX (06/06 11:37 AM): TC,I will give up as you said.However I want to protest that love is miracle and distance is not the pretext .I will back to china in several months. Best wishes to you

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Life, love, and what happens after... II

Within a month of my boyfriend breaking up with me…

I changed my plane tickets back to the States, called up my friends to make travel plans, bought tickets for Thailand, Indonesia, and Singapore, changed up my style with two new pair of reading glasses, cut away more than ten inches of my hair, dyed it brown…

flirted with my hairdresser, went on a shopping spree, bought sexy black lingerie, splurged on a pair of kick-ass heels, reread “Tale of Two Cities”, and of course found myself another relationship.

This time around?

I had a Turkmen-Muslim courting me in Chinese.
The hilarity of the situation did not escape me.


can't be described as the type that struck you as particularly good-looking, nor was
particularly brilliant.
could obsess about soccer, Akon, and mayonnaise.
had a habit of fiddling with his phone, which
would spin compulsively between his thumb and index finger.
was just about 6’, dressed like a Parisian.
was learning Japanese and fluent in Russian, Turkmen, and Chinese. But…
didn’t make for outstanding conversation and his taste in music was… terrible.
simply peeked my curiosity, blipped onto my radar, because
spoke so many languages, and his voice was dead sexy.

have a thing for voices.
had never heard of Turkmenistan.
kind of just wanted to say I dated a guy from Turkmenistan.
really like guys who can speak more than one language.
could read him like a book.
knew he wasn't smarter than me.

I had to leave China in eight months.
He had to go back home to an arranged marriage.

He warned me, “I can’t marry you. I can’t love you.”
I replied, “Get over yourself”.

It seemed like the perfect situation. A few months. Fun, light, non-committal and more importantly, there was an end-date… And I hate to admit it, but I liked it that way.

There was no immediate spark or strong connection.
But, he was exactly what I needed.

When I woke him up at seven in the morning, crawled under the blankets, and started quietly crying…He laid down next to me, silently, wiping my tears – remarking how I was still beautiful when I cried.

When I went to the bars with the sole purpose of forgetting the night and hopefully the last two months before that night…He accompanied me to the bars until four in the morning until he finally had to leave to catch his flight to Guangzhou for work the next morning.

When I had higher expectations that he would sleep around with other girls than text me…He managed to find time in his schedule in between conferences, meetings, and clients -- to Skype with me even though he’d only get a few hours of sleep.

When I woke up mad one morning and refused to talk to him…He bought me a scarf to apologize, made me breakfast in bed, and more importantly he looked at me as if he was the luckiest guy in the world. I had forgotten how nice it felt to be


Wait. What?


And then I asked myself an important question… did I want this relationship?


And it all went down hill from there...

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


[1:13:23 PM] Olivia Lucas:
you're not traditionally celibate
you're just emotionally celibate.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fall Semester Plans?

Class schedule for the fall.

May the French Language gods have mercy on me.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

CPOP for the win!

If you're friends with me... you'll know that I have a pretty wide range of taste in music. I dare you to challenge that last statement and show me something new :] -

Passion. Innovation. Talent.

If an artist has at least two of the three aforementioned criteria, I can appreciate their music. I listen to everything from your classics to your classical -- from jazz, to 90's grunge, to blue grass, to rap, to simple acoustic, to R&B, to post-rock, to indie folk. Then multiply all that by the number of languages I'm learning. Why confine your music appreciation to just one language?

My favorite way to get to know someone?
Having them make me a mixed cd.
My favorite type of person?
The one that continues to make me mixed cds.
My favorite mixed cd?
Has music I've never heard, but will love.

However... pop music...I won't lie. I make a concious effort to avoid listening to pop music. Not necessarily because I dislike this particular genre of music, but because pop songs are designed to get stuck in your head. As easy to catch as the common flu - symptoms include headaches, nausea, and temporary memory loss as you hum your way through the bits of rap they manage to squeeze in between the uninspiring lyrics.

But I digress....

Came across this particular song during my taxi cab ride home yesterday. Yes, they have music videos playing in the tiny television in the back of taxi cabs here too. And yes, they had me trapped and partly brainwashed.... which might explain why I found this video so catchy.

"I'm Back" by Danson Tang - 唐禹哲, featuring Amber

Why do I love this song?
1. I have the hugest girl crush on Amber - she has my haircut AND raps. Badass.
2. Asian choreography will never cease to amaze me. And...
3. It's been stuck in my head, on loop, for the last 24 hours.

The only cure? To share this song, listen to this song, and then translate this song for myself -- in the hopes that I'll get sick of it and will never want to listen to it again... until maybe a few months from now, when this song just becomes associated with my memories of China.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

To not be continued... 有缘分

Destiny. Fate. Serendipity.

In English, we often times use these words to describe our romantic entanglements, first impressions, secret affairs... love or what have you. For some reason, those words are often pulled out during weddings, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day… or in a really sappy love scene in the latest romantic comedy.

It was an inevitable course of events. A series of fortunate events. God, or whatever higher power you may believe in, planned for you to meet this person, at that time, under those circumstances, for whatever reason. Let’s keep it simple so I'm not forced to pummel you with my philosophy minor and thoughts on religion.

In Chinese there’s a saying that can’t quite be translated quite as accurately, as meaningfully, or as perfectly into English --

To have destiny, but not be fated.
To be destined to meet, but not be fated to end up together.

But in Chinese, it doesn’t sound corny, clichéd, or even remotely exaggerated. I avoid translating this concept as "star-crossed lovers" because it's not necesssarily depressing and no where near tragic. It’s a phrase that can be used to describe a variety of people, situations, or events – not just past lovers, ex flames, ex-boyfriends, and ex-complicated.

Like the strangers that have crossed my path, infiltrated my memory bank, and ambled away without a second glance back…

I remember... one winter’s day, I found myself pleasantly lost, by luck, in a back-alley record store located in one of the many 胡同's in Beijing. The record store itself was a tiny cramped room, the floor space perhaps no larger than the last elevator you were in. The door to which, barely barred the wind from forcing its way inside, and would loudly clang the bells attached to the doorknob every time a customer entered… as if the owner wouldn’t notice when a customer entered and immediately took up one fourth of the space in the room.... Shelves and shelves of CDs hid the walls from view, threatening to topple over at any second, daring customers to just try and jam a CD just a little too roughly, a little too harshly, back into the shelf. Band posters and concert flyers served as a table cloth for the “cashier’s desk”… where a tiny Chinese hipster was hunched over his laptop (black rimmed glasses and all) – intent on whatever new album he seemed to have gotten his tattooed hands on.

And for whatever reason, destiny, fate, or not… I met him.

Not as if he or I had a choice in the matter… just entering the shop, I had already found myself right by his side. A step to the right, a duck, and a weave – as we naturally revolved around each other, trying to take in the music collection contained within the overly cramped room. Carefully picking our steps so as to not crash into each other - a dance between strangers.

As I perused the collection, I noticed that most of the music I already had… which isn’t surprising as my CD collection is on the brink of reaching 300.... (You can laugh if you want but I’m an old soul at heart, hate new technology, still prefer record players to the newest iHome, and only recently succumbed to iTunes). So as I thumbed distractedly through the CDs, I found the time to discretely take in my fellow music-enthusiast…

Now, he wasn’t dashing, and by no means gorgeous… But he had a strong jaw line, a lean figure, and from what I gathered he was just a little under 6’. To be honest, I can't remember his face... only that he was handsome at the very least. What I do remember? He was immaculately dressed. Underneath his grey wool peacoat, a sleek skinny tie peaked out of a dark blue cardigan – dark washed jeans, and leather lace up boots completed his outfit. A too careless look that had to have been planned. A stark contrast to the shadow of a stubble I noticed he seemed to have neglected that morning... He moves slowly, fluidly. I lower my eyes, focusing just a little too hard on the album in front of me as he turns to speak to the owner in Chinese...

It was his accent which first captured my full-attention.
Startled, curious, intrigued – I had to ask,

“Excusez-moi, mais… est-ce que vous-êtes français?”

And indeed he was. A French grad-student who’s been living in China for the last six years. We held a conversation in three languages, and he held my heart within three seconds. Was I French too? No, I spent time in France because of family -- but why was he in China? Oh, really? No, I’ve only been here for a few weeks. He spent some time in Vietnam, he says -- oh, and yes, of course I love jazz. And, could he recommend me some French music? Reaching above me to a shelf located to the left of my head, he quickly pulled out a few CDs handing them to me with a promise that I'd enjoy his selection.

Songs by Gotan Project breathes this memory into life every time one of them manages to shuffle itself onto my playlist.

If I had bothered to get his number? What’s the most that would have happened? We would have become facebook friends? We would have exchanged maybe three or four emails – before our moments in the record store, would be nothing but a muddled memory. I’d discover that he’s like any other man -- with flaws, defects, and not the Parisian I had imagined him to be. He'd be average. My first memory of him would be tainted. Our correspondence? Would fizzle, with a last crack to signal its death, then like the embers of a campfire of the next morning, be buried in grey ashes. No, I couldn’t let that happen.

I wanted to keep him as a perfect memory. Distinct. Vivid. A memory of a cold, clear day -- in a record store in Beijing. Some moments are only perfect, because of the beauty that can be captured by its brevity. Like a transient daydream. An artifice of your imagination. Fleeting yet enduring. A moment to revisit and romanticize. His character, forever slightly a mystery, which only my imagination could serve to fill in the blanks.

Which is why I walked away…without a second glance back. And without regret.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Life, love, and what happens after...

Soundtrack: The Only Moment We Were Alone -- Explosions in the Sky

When I first came to China, I was in the midst of a long distance relationship.

He was my high school sweetheart. Probably the most complicated character in the first chapter of my life. The antagonist. Maybe, just a dream of sorts. My best friend. The person who knew me best at my very worst.

Our relationship… was one of those messy situations that came about after almost four years of being off and on, hot and cold, loving and hating, and god knows what else in between (the sheets).

Knowing that the likelihood of us staying together was minuscule, wishing we hadn’t fought all summer, and making impossible promises; we put a blindfold on and approached the edge of the cliff. And instead of flying, we swan dived. It wasn’t a surprise to either of us. Like jumping into the quarry back home.

And yet… hitting the water, there was still a sharp intake of air as I sliced into the icy darkness. The immediate shock that releases itself into pain. My eyes sealed shut, as I focus on the pounding in my ears. The pressure. From the speed at which I fell, combined with the water consuming me – driving out all rational thought. My breath, lost. A sense of weightlessness that comes with being underwater. The space around me, attempting to right itself. Instinct taking over as I flailed my way to the surface. I found myself alone, surrounded by an immense expanse of water, the sky above me, the cliffside towering behind me.
Did I jump in by myself? I wonder.

In the end, we just didn’t know how to grow up together.

Handling a broken heart by oneself in a foreign country, on the other side of the world, with a 12 hour time difference, and poor internet connection -- is not highly recommended. Your best friend isn’t a phone call away and everything familiar and comfortable will seem out of reach. A hug is hard to come by. And a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Completely impossible.

Which is why I didn’t deal with it. At all.
I rebounded.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fruit -- and things that look like it.

I have dragonfruit for breakfast, freshly cut pineapple during lunch, and snack on fresh mangos all day. But sometimes...when I'm daring (or just bored) -- I try out whatever fruit I've never had/seen/tasted/heard of before in the States. Usually hit or miss -- but always delightfully colorful.

There's a game I like to play here in China. It's called "Guess what."

Guess what this fruit is...

in Chinese?
in Thai?
in English?
in Vietnamese?

This particular fruit -- I found it in Chinese is called "甜瓜" which translates to "sweet melon".

What is that you ask?

I'm not very sure myself. A slightly less sweet version of a honey dew melon -- that sweats a translucent orange, much like the color of a topaz...

As fun as it looks, looks can be deceiving. Not nearly as sweet as its name, and entirely too heavy to have for a snack. When put in a Thai dessert it's passable as a dessert.

I miss peaches and plums from the States. But...

I'll miss having kiwis, lychee, durian, dragonfruit, small oranges, pomegranate, mangoes, pineapple 等等 -- all for ridiculously low prices. Why can't I have all of that in Massachusetts... Cheap, exotic, fresh fruit. One of the many reasons why I love living here. :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

whether the weather will whatever

The wind breathes warmth into my room, foreshadowing temperamental thunderstorms that have yet to come. The door to my balcony is wide open as I wait for the weather to make a decision.

The weather has decided to adopt the ‘Japanese horror-film’ version of suspense – the slow build up with no ultimate climax. The atmosphere – constantly heavy. You feel your breathing becoming labored, because of a constant pressure on your chest. It's psychological, don't worry. If you’re not paying close attention, time drags you to no ultimate destination.

I take my time walking into my room and then out again onto the balcony, adjusting to the noticeable difference in temperature.

Should I wear a sweater? It’s cold in my room even though I’ve left the door open all day. But…I can’t bring myself to do it, despite my discomfort. I think it’s as ridiculous as wearing a sweater in the summer because the AC is turned on high – while people outside are dying of heat.

The sky has been brushed grey and the air weighs down on me -- a sigh barely escapes my lips. I want to stand on my balcony and watch as people walk by, but my neighbor is out on his balcony… and hypocritically enough, I hate when people watch me people watch. Watching people people-watch.

I should go for a run. Or stop typing. Focus on work? Translate a few poems for fun. Read the Murakami book I’ve had bookmarked halfway but haven’t touched in two months. Study Chinese. Finish my stupid essays. Start my Chinese essay. Review my Modern Chinese chapter.

I don’t have a point to this post. I’ll save you the headache of reading my thoughts and stop here.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Life Advice of the Month

[11:49:58 PM] Jesse Hou: just remember Tc
[11:50:02 PM] Jesse Hou: marry a middle eastern, eastern african
[11:50:04 PM] Jesse Hou: so your kids
[11:50:08 PM] Jesse Hou: can be the most racially diverse ever

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Walked into a bookstore the other day.

Imagine. A stranger approaches me – and proffers a pamphlet.

I look down… it’s an advertisement for one of the many English programs that can be found across China. Learn English in 30 days. Prepare for the IELTS, the TOEFL, the BEC, or whatever English proficiency test that is currently offered in an attempt to rape your savings. I laugh a little at the situation. Offering an American, English classes… this happens way too often. I can’t blame them – I’m not exactly their idea of a stereotypical American. One, I’m not white. And two, I can speak Chinese.

“不用” I tell him. I was born in Texas and grew up in Massachusetts. Really, now? Of course I don't need it.

He keeps following my friends and me around the bookstore. We’re browsing through HSK study materials, and I can’t hold a decent conversation with my friends as he keeps asking us questions.

“我们都是外国人,” I state, in hopes that he understands that English proficiency tests are the least of our worries. My annoyance is creeping into my voice.

“外国人也需要学英语. 看一下吧,” he replies. Damn, I forget sometimes that I look Asian. He thinks I’m Korean, Japanese, or from some Southeast Asian country. I look Asian, like everyone else. And for everyone else, English is required as a second language (except for Koreans?).

“其实,我是美国人 -- 我真不需要。别打扰我门吧。” My patience is wearing thin, and I usually don’t offer the fact that I’m American unless absolutely necessary.

He looks at me incredulously. I grew horns and a tail in the last few moments, apparently. “什么?你不是美国人 –敢说这样” I can imagine his thoughts. I immediately regret telling him I’m American. I should have just said that I was Japanese or Korean and gotten this conversation over with. I silently pray that he doesn’t ask me to prove it somehow. Am I supposed to always carry around my passport? Then I hear it--

"不会吧。那, 你用英语说话。给我听一下吧" Goddamnit. Every. Single. Time. Fine, whatever.

English it is, “I really am American. What do you want me to say to prove it? I grew up near Boston, Massachusetts and I’m here for the year to learn Chinese – not English. Could you leave us alone now?”

His eyes widen. It looks like he doesn’t know if he should laugh or even how to reply. He’s a little shocked – 惊呆了. I think to myself, “He finally gets it.” A wave of relief washes over me. I smirk, satisfied with his reaction.....

“骗人-- 你的发音不标准呀!听不懂。怎么告诉我你是美国人?你应该考虑我们的英语课"

My face drops.

The same expression that you’d have if you had the wind knocked out of you -- or just heard news about your ex getting married – or if you found out your friends stranded you with the ugly one – or discovered that someone’s been talking shit behind your back? – graced my face. The “are-you-fucking-kidding-me?” face -- as I like to call it.

I was just told by a Chinese guy that my English is terrible. I can’t possibly be American. As far as he knows, I’m a liar.

I give up.

I’ll just speak French next time and tell people it’s English.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Year of the Horse - 属马的

I've come a long way from middle school when I used to follow my horoscope religiously (at least for a month or two). But every so often, I'm tempted to take a peek at what a Libra should expect... but since I'm in China, I should probably check my Chinese zodiac horoscope huh?

Occupying the 7th position on the Chinese Zodiac, the Horse symbolizes such character traits as strength, energy, and an outgoing nature. Extremely animated, Horses thrive when they’re the center of attention.

Horses are extremely intelligent so they’re able to grasp new subjects with ease. They’re also capable of multi-tasking however they don’t always finish what they start because they’re forever chasing the next opportunity. Horses are honest, friendly and open-minded. They’re perhaps a bit too centered on themselves and have been known to throw tantrums when situations don’t go their way.

Translation?: I think too highly of myself and think everyone should love me. I have a bad case of ADD and when I'm having a bad day -- you'll know.

Horses enjoy positions in which they can interact with others. They aren’t fond of taking orders and they’ll run from jobs they consider routine. They’re able to grasp new subjects with ease making them capable of handling most any job. They’re effective communicators and they enjoy power. Good career choices for Horses include: publicist, sales representative, journalist, language instructor, translator, bartender, performer, tour operator, librarian or pilot.

Translation?: I won't settle down into a stable job until my late 30s apparently, but no worries -- I'm good at bullshitting and good at delegating.

Horses, being spontaneous, have a tendency to fall fast and hard for others. They tend to give themselves fully in each new relationship a quality that ends up chipping away at their inner being. Fortunately, this exhausting trait mellows with age and relationships are stronger and more stable later in life.

Translation?: I'm a tumbler. I'm in love with the idea of love. I like being the 'perfect' girlfriend. But really? I'm a fake. It's tiring, and I run away before the other person founds out.

Metal Horse – Years 1930 and 1990
Free-spirited in every sense of the word, commitment is the easiest way to scare Metal Horses away. They prefer jumping from one relationship or job to the next. Because of this, Metal Horses make better friends than partners.

Translation?: I'm a heart-breaker. You've been warned. Catch me when I'm not traveling... I dare you.

Disclaimer: Don't take any of the above seriously. If you want to get to know me, take the time to. :)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

方大同 - Khalil Fong

So after becoming infatuated with 方大同, I decided to look up his songs...

But, I never quite liked any of the translated lyrics that Google or Baidu gave me for this particular song... so here we are. Constantly lost in translation.

It's not a literal translation of the Chinese version-- since that never works unless you want to sound like Yoda... but it's a pretty accurate translation, if I do say so myself. I tried to keep to the original version, but used a bit of artistic license to convey the flow/feeling of the song.

If you would like to fix any of my translations or have a better way of wording the lyrics -- let me know! I'm open to constructive criticism.


Why won’t you grow your hair long again?
Why did you even bother learning how to drink?
That boyfriend of yours,
Seems to be able to hold his liquor.
I’m just afraid that talking for an entire night won’t be enough.

你为什么跟她闹酒 ?
Why do you get drunk with her?
Is it possible that you’re drowning your sorrows?
That girlfriend of yours,
Are you still with her after all?

搞不好我们四个人 去旅游
Can’t figure this out. The four of us, let's go travel.

Looking back,
Couldn’t see your tenderness until I looked back,
At that time, my love just wasn’t enough.

At that time, we could only be friends.
Our past happiness didn’t change to sorrow,
原来在那关头 全因舍得分手
At that moment, we had every reason to part.

You say, “Isn’t it ridiculous?”
“We’re even closer now than we were before.”

One of these days, I’ll stop by to see your mother.
I went for a walk with my girlfriend.
你就知我理由 不外乎太羞
You know there's only one reason I didn't greet you -- too shy.

如果要一起去旅游, 去欧洲
If you want to travel together - let's go to Europe.

那天澎一声关门 就走
That day, the door slammed and you were gone.
I really wanted to ask…
你有没有眼泪 想流?
If you had any tears you held back?
You think…?

You have just enough charm --
How rare.

It seems as if we’re just being nostalgic.

还去不去欧洲 四个人不许酸溜溜
So, are we still going to Europe? The four of us together, can’t be that bad.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

First Impressions – Part Two: Arrival

It was around 4:30 AM in late August, when I arrived by train to Changsha– with way too much luggage and jet lag. “Tc, where the hell are you?” and similar thoughts crossed my mind…but mainly adrenaline was rushing through me as I took in the setting.

The Changsha train station? Sketchier than New York’s back alleys. Darker than that parking garage scene where the serial killer is about to come out at any moment. There was the overpowering smell of urine, the screeching of the departing train, and the suffocating humidity.


SCENE I: A dark train platform illuminated by one light. Two other shadowy figures stand nearby.


COMMENCE monologue.

TC VU: I think I had a moment of panic when I first stepped off the train -- I mean… I must have… right? But to be honest, I don’t remember how I felt at that moment in time. Bewildered? In a state of shock? Maybe, just sleep deprived... Too tired to care that there were two men in front of me getting into a fist fight over who would carry my luggage to the exit.

Enter WOMAN.
TC VU walks towards her.

I walked past them and entrusted my luggage with another woman who helped me carry my belongings – she seemed sane – at least she wasn’t on the floor fighting with the other two scraggly old men.


Yes. Definitely a state of shock, I’ve decided. Yet, there was silence beyond my immediate surroundings and my immediate shock… the silence that comes with any place after people quickly exit -- leaving you standing alone, on a platform, by yourself.


The silence that signals that you’re alone.

END monologue.


Luckily, a not-so -familiar face was there to greet me at the exit. My Chinese teacher’s student’s student or 我的老师的学生的学生 -- who happened to be a good friend’s ex girlfriend’s student. Oh, the connections…

Withy – a cheerful, optimistic, and warm hearted Chinese-Indonesian girl with the biggest smile that legitimately could fill the Grinch’s heart with warmth – waved enthusiastically as I stepped past the exit gate.

What would I have done without her?
To this day, I still don’t know. She was my perfect welcome.

Welcome to Changsha.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


A personal favorite... :) I personally think she's adorable.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

to Yasmeen, with love

Dear Yasmeen,

Thank you for being wonderful and having such a beautiful soul.

Thank you for being a saint, a diva, my number one fan, an angel, a fucking rockstar, a therapist, and a little too crazy at times. Thank you for being what I exactly needed at any given point in time, for being so forgiving of my ugliness, and for being just you. Thank you for being my friend.

Bet you didn’t expect this coming – but I really needed to write this one post just for you. I don’t know how I could have survived the past four months without you.

I remember once a mutual friend asked me,
“Tc, you realize you’re three years older than her – right? Why do you even go to her for advice?”

Yeah, why do I go to you? I admire your patience, your loyalty, and how gracious you are to your friends. You never falter in reminding your friends how important they are to you -- and I truly respect that. In an age where its easy to hop from friend to friend, to lose touch, and only contact each other via facebook ... you know how to be a good friend. That's rare and special.

Age is not an indication of maturity. And you? You are a testament to that. When you want to be – you are beyond your years (when you’re not bouncing off the walls, wildly wiggling your eyebrows, cussing like a sailor just for fun, attempting to make every situation or moment raunchy and sexual, and giving the cameras in front of your house a free dance show…. Wait, should I take that maturity bit back?)

And I want to thank you, for trusting me too – with your thoughts, insecurities, fears, and hopes. Because…I wouldn’t fully appreciate your perfection without knowing your flaws.

And when I found out you had got into college, it was as if your happiness was my happiness too. It was as if I had just gotten into UCLA – I was so SO proud of you. You have come such a long way from the girl I first met – who was a little shorter than I had imagined, a bit more delicate than I had expected, and a whirlwind of uncontained and definitely uncontrollable energy. When you are… Happy. Strong. Proud. Confident. Calmly looking "future" in the face, armed for battle and ready to embrace life despite the cheap shots it’s taken at you – Yasmeen, you are truly captivating.

Thank you for giving me a piece of your heartache and watching me as I stumble through mine. We’ve watched each other cycle through so many emotions in the last few months. The initial bubbling hot anger, the poisonous bitterness, and the dreadful grief that comes with the end of a relationship….you have a gift for being able to empathize and I appreciated having a companion in my sorrows – as depressing as that sounds.

“We’ve come a long way from then haven’t we?” said more as a statement than as a question.

It’s been a hell of a ride – and you know what, we’re not done yet.

In fact, if anything, we’re at the top of the last climax – looking down at our feet limply dangling, hanging towards the ground, hundreds of feet below us. Peeking past the bars holding us down, out to that unexpectedly-calm blue sky...then slowly taking in our surroundings -- that chaotic theme park below us, nothing but a broken music box playing as if it had just been wound up -- cacophonus, discordant, rushed. Our breaths, shallow -- barely noticeable when compared to our hearts beating rapidly, ready to burst. That moment, we’re trapped in that moment. Facing the next moment, knowing exactly what will happen, but still nervous to experience that sudden jarring jerk from the rollercoaster pulling us down. Faster than gravity – that rush of adrenaline and fear.

But we both know, we’ll make it out alive. Because after we suddenly drop, we know we’ll scream at the top of our lungs. Then that sudden turn to the right, and a swoop around the bend– welcomed by a sudden abrupt stop. Stop. Like the end of a French movie. It’s over. Fin.

Wait…it’s over?

It’s over.

Are you ready for the last part of the ride? Because, I think we are.
We'll look back and wonder why we had tormented our hearts into anarchy... because we'll be okay in the end.

I love you, Yas.


Monday, January 10, 2011


“Get me the fuck out of here.”
is what I’m currently, quietly screaming inside my head.

I wonder if this wanderlust will ever disappear.
I’m never happy in one place for too long. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever be happy in one place. I actually have a legitimate concern – that I can’t be happy in one place. You know how financial troubles, academic woes, and relationship drama can keep people up at nights? The fact that I can’t be happy in one place to me? Is what financial troubles, academic woes, and relationship dramas is to other people…. Analogies anyone? – No? Forget it.

This feeling of restlessness? Boredom?... Disgust? - at times. With any one place at any given time. Anxiety… that I’m at the wrong place, at the wrong time. What am I doing here? With my life? BREATHE. I should be somewhere else. Not here. Not there. Maybe, not anywhere. Life moves too quickly, too slowly -- why am I not home?

What is home? Define home. A convenient place to direct your mail? A convenient street number to write down on your financial aid forms, tax documents, and all things legitimate, official, centralized, stamped, sealed, tucked away in a dull grey file cabinet, bureaucratic, governmental, and entirely unnecessary. A necessity for a license and all things fun -- like that blue, sort of battered, matte-finished passport I own.

You can’t just exist. You need a number, you need a place. You need to belong. To somewhere. Anywhere.

As it turns out, we don’t own places, they own us. You’re strapped to that information. You live in the United States. You ARE a US citizen. Try to deny it. Just try it. You want to live somewhere else? What? You want to just pick up and live in Italy? Ireland? Where the hell is Maldives? Tonga cannot fucking exist. Timbucktoo for all I care. That’s not how you spell it? Oh, really. Well you can’t live there anyway. The middle of no where Mongolia? Good luck. Paperwork, red tape, embassies, visas, passports, interviews... God, help me. I can't just say I'm home when I feel like it?

You think you can just exist? Just wander? Just travel the world? Someone, somewhere, needs to know where you are. Well… what the fuck, I don’t feel like having a place today. Can’t I stand at any given place in this world, at any given time, and just declare “I belong here. THIS is home.” – without someone asking me for a document to prove it?

I don’t own a place. Why do I need to write my “permanent address”?
Lie. Yes, folks -- they’re telling me to lie. At this age, how the hell could I have a “permanent address”? What do I write down? My parent’s house. But, I’m hardly ever there. Maybe one out of four months of the year I live there. Not even. This year, I’ll be there for less than 50 days out of 365 days of the year (it’s not a leap year right?) My parent’s house. It’s not home. For me at least – it’s not home.

Home? You mean that room that is now my little brother’s?
The couch that I sleep on in the living room when I get back to my four bedroom house?
Home? It sure as hell isn’t *insert town, state* -- because for the last three years, I’ve spent more time at my dormitory room in Delaware than I have at that address. I love my family, but the place we live, doesn’t feel like home. It’s not a part of us. I could take my family members to China with me, and not miss that small, cramped, and entirely too messy house.
Home? It used to be where my heart is. But now my heart feels like a ship at sea, without a lighthouse to guide it safely to shore. Yeah, you can sue me for that last bit. I agree, it warranted a bit of vomit.
Home? It can’t possibly be China. It can’t possibly be a country. I just want one place – to stay for an extended period of time. To decorate. To own. For my personality to permeate into the room. For others to walk into the room and think "This is definitely her place -- just look at it".
Home? It's a place where my things belong. So I don't have to move all my stuff every other month, lose favorite shirts in the process and re-alert my school where I will be staying for the year. It's a place where I belong.

I have feelings of longing. For a place that doesn’t exist. It exists in my mind as a fairytale. I want to put down roots. I want to come back to a space that’s my own. I want to know that it exists. That the little I own, when I come “home”, will be where I left it. Not stuffed away by my mother in the attic until I move into another dorm, another place, another temporary existence. I want picture frames to collect dust, music CDs to still be sprawled on the floor, the quilt as I left it on the couch, and the slight smell of flowers to fill the air when I bring white lilies home to freshen up the place.

Fuck. Someone tell me where home is.