The UPS Man!

So it is  September 17th, 2010…a mellow Friday night here in Kingston and I apologize readers for not posting another blog sooner than now, but my life has been literally on full speed since I departed from the States on Tuesday the 14th.  Clearly, my wish came true & my passport was returned to me on time if I am here in Kingston currently sitting in my comfortable bedroom.  Let me fill you all in since my last post because it is a funny story at that!

So come early Monday morning (Sept. 13th ’10) I obsessively checked my email yet again to see if there was any progress in the issuing of my passport/visa.  To my amazement I was sent a confirmation email saying that my passport indeed has been issued and was going to be sent via mail for 24 hr. next day air.  Let me tell you, at that moment in time a feeling of relief definitely came over me.  However, after repeatedly checking my email every 30 mins. to see if the tracking of my package via UPS (United Postal Service) had been sent, to my dismay, the tracking never progressed throughout the greater part of the day.

Ok, so you can only imagine that by now that sigh of relief I experienced earlier for about 30 seconds now was turning into straight aggravation and nervousness.  All I kept thinking was that my passport would never be returned on time before I had to catch a flight the next day at approx. 2:23.

Well after dinner that night I got an email saying that my passport was FINALLY in the hands of UPS and was en route.  So after an extremely long long night of crossed fingers and harassing of the service agents that work at UPS, I was finally a bit hopeful that my passport may be returned to me before my flight the next day.  Skip to about 10:30 a.m the following morning…after sweating bullets for fear of never having my passport, the UPS man happily showed up at my doorstep bearing my packaged passport.  “THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOUUUUU!!!” is all I managed to repeatedly say to the UPS man, I literally was about two steps away from hugging him because I was soooo happy and in such disbelief that this happened…besides he was a good-looking  fellow at that 😉

After this whole escapade, my mother & I rushed out of the house and drove to Hancock International Airport, in Syracuse, NY.  My head was rushing and my heart  was beating at a ridiculously high rate.  NERVES.  However, for as a nervous wreck as I was (& believe me, I had such butterflies in my stomach, that I truly thought I was going to get sick) I finally realized I was holding my passport with my stamped visa in my hand.  And it was in that exact moment of that it dawned on me that this dream I have been waiting for for the past few years was REALLY going to happen now!

Panic Attacks & Excitement Freak-Outs!!!

One week…one week…one more week!!!

The thought of only 7 short days is ALL that lingers on my brain.  I woke up this morning with nothing but shear panic thinking about all the things that I still have to get done.  “Go to the bank, finish packing up my clothes that just went through the wash, be sure to charge my iPod, CRAP…don’t forget to find those adapters!”  My life for the past two weeks has been nothing short of random spouts of anxiety followed by happy bursts of excitement (it’s better not to ask.)

As the thought of finally fulfilling my childhood dream of visiting London nears closer, I can’t help but wonder why my panic attacks are ultimately outweighing my excitement!?  Perhaps it has something to do with my passport scare?  Long story short, my parents and I thought that rather than just having misplaced my passport (it was lying underneath my father’s desk in his study) that it had actually been lost or stolen when sending it to the British Consulate in NYC.  Well, imagine our relief when we finally did find it; literally all I could do was laugh at the fact that it was safe in our house the entire time.

Problem Solved!?  I think not.

Due to this unfortunate incident, my Visa application was delayed by a few days now and we had to resend everything back to the British Consulate.  I am still waiting for my passport & Visa’s return and I must admit, I am extremely terrified that they won’t be returned to me on time :(.  All I can do is hope for the best and have been trying to think positively about the whole situation, but its still a huge distraction knowing that the key to my leaving the country is in someone else’s hands.  But…for now I’m just going to continue riding out those positivity vibes and pray for the best!  That’s all a girl can do before entering on one of the biggest adventures of her life; especially when its finally becoming a reality!

Back in the US

Well…it was an interesting journey.
I’m not sure if I got everything I wanted out of it.
But I met a lot of interesting people.

And now I have mastered using chopsticks. 😉

Peace,
Liam

Brand New Suit

I apologize in advance if I’m beating a dead horse here, but material things are the most exciting part of China. I mean everything is so damn cheap here. Don’t believe what my profile says, I am not a Chemistry Major. I am actually a business major, but a poor business major. I needed to get a suit, but I can’t afford nice ones back home. In China, however, a decent custom made suit will cost you about 700 kuai ($102 American). You best believe that in my last weeks here I got myself one. Forgive me for the flattery, but I feel I look quite classy. 🙂

Below are picks of me in my new attire:

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Time for a Head Check

As of now I have less than 3 weeks left in China. Quite honestly, there isn’t much going on lately, at least not in a “wow…China” sense. Most of me is biding my time until I can go home and just be thankful for what I have. However, all of this extra time has given me a chance to think and really see things from a different angle.

For those of you who don’t know me, I read books like an addict chases after a fix. At any given moment I am usually making my way through a few different books at a time, and researching the next stack to add onto the mile long list of books to come. In the name of this sacrifices need to be made, usually either my social life or my studies. I think I am finally learning that I can’t get all I want to know from a book. Instead, I have really been taking time and sitting down with my new friends while I still have the chance too. Normally I think of social situations in terms of gain, not in a literal material way, but as something that needs to be done efficiently, in a timely manner. Now, I am just happy to drift without expectations and my heart feels that much warmer for it. I’ve been in and out of a lot of social circles, especially over my college career, but I feel like for once in my life I am meeting genuine people that I know I will hold dear despite the distance we will face in the future.

As well as my social development, I am seeing my intellect grow in new ways. As something of a novice intellectual, most of my brain power goes into analysis and hoarding knowledge, never quite engaging with it. On top of learning language in China I have started taking up the Violin. Both of these pursuits take strong intentions of brain power in the same fashion as I am used to, but instead my mind is stretched towards more functional purposes; creating instead of analyzing.

This place, in this time, is one of a cheery limbo. I have time to breathe and think about my life. I am leaving this place of foreign adventure, but I’m not quite home yet, and as much as I miss it this is time to really look at things from afar and remember both sides before I go back.

Coming to a Turning Point

As of now, I have less then a month left of my stay in China. I originally planned to stay a full two semesters abroad, but I feel overwhelmed. I just miss home. I miss getting to sit on a normal toilet. I miss getting to eat food that isn’t full of grease and MSG. I miss my family, my friends, and my girlfriend. This country is definitely an acquired taste, and not for the light of heart.

In previous entries I wrote with a lot of excitement of the adventures of I had. They were all true: I’ve had a blast here, but I don’t know if my heart lies in this place. For one, I am a lover of freedom. China is not. You can’t get youtube or facebook here because its associated with “terrorists”. Even when I’m just searching on google I have a nasty habit of looking up subversive content. My curiosity drifts where it will and, often, I find myself getting blocked in the middle of reading a paragraph.

Also, Chinese culture is one of industriousness and polite respect. People are mostly concerned with duty and material wealth. There is little culture as far as music or art goes, because, quite frankly, most people aren’t interested. There are a few history museums, but most of it is contrived for tourists and contain few actual artifacts.

Regardless, this isn’t a bad country, it has its charms, but it just took me a long time to realize that its not quite for me. I booked a flight for December 21st. Originally my plan was to surprise my family and pop in for three weeks unnoticed, but now I am flying over for good. I’ve still got some time, so I’m living it up while I can, but as far as I’m concerned I’m ready to go home.

Best Wishes,
Liam

They Fixed The Heater!!! :)

Welcome to China! What’s new you ask?

Hmm…well…its COLD, really really, COLD!!

Sure, I’ve been in New Paltz for the last 3 years. I’ve had my share of cold winters, but its wet and cold in a place that’s supposed to be at the latitude of Macon, Georgia. This city was hot and polluted when I got here. It would never rain, and now when it just starts to get below freezing now it starts up at full force.

Its been like this for the past two weeks, and for the entirety of those two weeks I have had no heat. The heater, attached to the upper wall over my desk, just wasn’t plugged in right. I finally got a maintenance guy to come in and fix it for me, and OH how sweet it feels! Dreams of warm blankets and hot coco run through my imagination.

The down(er) side to this is that now, nobody really wants to go in. We all want to stay in our little warm hovels and hide from the outside world. I, however, managed to find the motivation today, to go all the way to the center of the city to buy my girlfriend a few gifts. I think she’ll be pleased with what I found. It was great, because the malls were less packed then usual. Mind you, it was about the concentration of a regular mall day back home, but with a population as big as China’s that’s a severe reduction.

Right now, I’m doing okay. I’ve got my heat running on high, an extra blanket I brought from home, and a couple extra layers I bought from Wal-Mart (they have’m in China). If I can brave another month of this I think I’ll come out in one piece when its all over.

Warm wishes (hehe),

Liam

A Trip to The Spa

I really need to apologize in advance, it seems that I always forget to right about my best adventures. Usually, I am in such a lull of excitement afterward, that words seem to spoil the experience. So, I retell this adventure of mine, about a week after it has transpired.

I need to say firstly that I have one of the greatest Chinese teachers. I may have said it before, but it is worth repeating: she is my speaking teacher, Hou Xiao Fan, but her English name is just Kiko. This is the same teacher that took us to the crazy shopping center at the edge of the city. She is ridiculously funny and always has an answer of strong experience whenever we have a question about anything Chinese. Of all things, our wonderful teacher decided to take us to a spa resort for the weekend.

This place was unbelievable! It had about…let’s see – seven different kinds of baths. There was one filled with wine, one filled with tea, one that was boiling hot, one filled with flowers, one for “medicinal” purposes, one just for swimming, and my favorite (probably the most interesting) baths filled with little pucker fish that nibble at your skin.

Its a total head trip. They have one with tiny little fish, and one for fish that are a little bigger. Mind you, these were all outdoor baths, and when we arrived it was already night time. When you first get in its hard to see what’s in there. If you sit still and get in just the right spot they’ll come right up to you and pucker at your skin. It doesn’t hurt one bit, I swear, but OH does it feel strange. Me and a friend challenged ourselves to stand straight up and let them swarm at our legs, while we twitched and uttered strange noises. I’m not sure what I actually got out of that experience….but hey its China! 🙂 When in Rome…

Best Wishes,

Liam

Bananas and Cultural Relativism

China is a “developing” country so any visitor end up in some sort of strange cross section between the modern and the old. There are a few new commodities coming into this country that Chinese people don’t seem to grasp. Why do Chinese people wear high heels on the sports track and why do they always use umbrellas when it is sunny out? If something seems strange it is easy to write it off, but when it comes to how they eat their bananas, I think they may have us beaten.

Someone may think I am kidding, but I am serious. The “normal way” has always been to grab from the top stem and pull down; seemed logical to me. In China they pinch the bottom and peel it open. The first time I saw this I thought that they just “didn’t understand” bananas, yet. I was curious and tried it their way, and much to my disbelief, its actually easier. Even if its unripe, it just pops right open every time. Try it sometime, you might not want to go back to the old way.

Thank you China, and your funny eating habits, for showing me a new way, and for getting rid of a few of my biases.

Below is a few pictures of the method described above.

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Pictures from Nagasaki

Okunchi 1

This is from the Okunchi festival, the main strip of activities and food stands was near the heart of the city, in front of a place called Yume-saitoMegane-Bashi

river front at Megane-Bashi

These shots are from a place called Megane-Bashi, translated from Japanese it means “Glasses Bridge”. This is a very famous place in Nagasaki, it was the first bridge to be built in Japan that used the roman arch. It gets its namesake from its appearance, when the double arch is reflected in the river they say it looks like a pair of glasses

main shrine at Koshi-byo

Koshi-byo lanterns

Koshi-Byo main gate

These images are from Koshi-Byo. It is the only Chinese Buddhist temple outside of China that was built by Chinese hands.