Next step

“Hi professor, I noticed you’re not asking me to take too many notes for you recently, so I was  wondering if you had some sort of schedule in mind, and if you don’t need me, I can go see some of the nature sights around here.”–Eleanor Chin, to Dr. T. Keller at some point early this week.

“Sure.  Just let me get caught up on some emails and then I’ll know how to plan my talks for the next few days.”–Dr. T. Keller, in response.

Two days later:

“Eleanor, you can go see the nature sights.  In fact, you can see as many sights as you want.  I actually don’t need you anymore.”–Dr. T. Keller, after checking his email and deciding on the topics for the rest of the course.

Well, that was that.  So I went to (attempt) to see the nature sights (the internet lied, they were not close, you had to take a bus to the very end of the universe and then transfer to another one, and I ended up wandering too far and getting lost and not seeing much of anything. Deja vu, v. 100.99+? Ahahaha.)

So I came back to Beijing, and BACK TO WORK.  (I really didn’t get anything done out there.)

I’ve got essays to write in Korean which I’ve been attempting (and failing) to write ALL DAY TODAY–I mean, “Whether or not you think artificial intelligence will overtake the human race?” as an essay prompt isn’t even a topic I’d really be able to argue about intelligently and coherently IN ENGLISH, let alone my third language.  So I need to read at least a little more about the topic, and then we can see what I’ll say about that. The second essay prompt was even more abstract and intimidating, I really have no clue how TO APPROACH writing this one. *cries

For my management class, I have business reports to read and then summarize in English.  Well.  :/ :/ :/ :/ :/ :/ :/

I have test preparation to do in Chinese (I officially registered for that HSK 6 THIS YEAR’S Dec. 3, bought the recommended prep curricula and now I need to pay the test fee, so I better not fail.  HA! Seriously though, what did I sign up for? I don’t know. I took a quick scan through the new book….*shivers in fear and anticipation.)

Oh, and of course, there’s NETWORKING TO DO.  I’m meeting a conference interpreter/angel investor/500 Co. sponsored entrepreneur tomorrow to ask him questions, mostly about interpreting, also about his other fields. SUPER VERY EXTREMELY EXCITED. LinkedIn Premium is really paying off.  Highly, highly recommend it. (well, I do think it should be a little cheaper. But still worth paying for.)

….

When I was (*cough) (not working on this mountain of work) though, I did watch a movie.  (not the ones I wrote about in the last post, those are going to have to wait for me.) It’s called L’auberge Espagnole.  Storyline = excellent. Cinematography = not excellent. Characters = so-so.  But I still enjoyed this film.  The paperwork scene, the “I’ve forgotten my mother tongue” scene, and the scene at the very end–worth the 2 hrs of not-exactly-action for just those.  (I’ll bet my mom and my dad will probably get bored within the first five minutes.)

Okay, time to make another millimeter of progress on this Everest of academics.  Wish me luck!

 

 

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New gig–part II

Or maybe it won’t?

Well, here we are on day 4 of this conference, and I AM GOING INSANE.

Firstly, it’s in the middle of nowhere.

Secondly, there are some nice nature sights around to see and I can’t see them because I’m working in the daytime.

Thirdly, this work is not turning out to be that interesting.  When I write this on my Linkedin, it will say “Professional Notetaker for Visiting Canadian Professor” but in reality, I just wrote a few lecture notes on the board in English while he waved his arms around and went on a million tangents.  I’m also in charge of translating some small group notes from Chinese to English, and with every sentence I appreciate the art of Chinese calligraphy less and less. (Scribbling=universal language, therefore, the professor can interpret these notes without me.)

Fourth, (and this is just due to the timing), there are two new films out that are supposed to be pretty cutting-edge in terms of storyline and cinematography and I really want to see them, and NEITHER ONE is being played around here.  So for that reason (as well as the gym and the university internet that has magically been allowing me to check facebook without a VPN) I can’t wait to get back to Beijing.

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But!

The air here is SUPER CLEAN.  This is a blessing not to take for granted.  I’m soaking up every molecule possible.

The hotel came with lotion.  I’ve been too cheap to buy lotion for myself, so I’ve been enjoying this luxury.

The weather here is really good.  Perfect autumn weather. Even for a wimpy Californian. Beijing is too dry and too dirty.

It’s not too crowded. This event is at a college campus twice the size of Peking U with about a third of the students. (Just guessing from the daily observations.)

The food in these cafeterias is VERY BOMB.  My dad would be so jealous of all the things I’m eating here.  My dad needs to learn how to cook like this.  I mentioned before it’s also included.  😉

Well, we can’t have everything can we….ahahahaha

But seriously, if anyone wants to do a short video chat with me, I’d be so happy to hear from someone not related to the world of clinical psychology.

New gig

So, in China right now it is a holiday.  I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be the Mid-Autumn Festival, but it’s also overlapping with Independence day, so the point is, I’ve got ten days off school.  And during this period of time, my program coordinator was looking for a native English speaker to fill some assistant role in a conference on psychotherapy.  Experience to add on LinkedIn? Yeah, I’ll take it.  

I was really very happy to find out that transportation, accommodation, and food were included, as well as a small daily stipend.  Whoo hoo. So the infrastructure for completing the work was set in place AND there’s money involved AT THE SAME TIME.

Truly impressive and amazing.

So, here I am, in a hotel room at a university 90 minutes away from Beijing, after my first day of taking notes for a Canadian professor.  It’s not difficult, in fact, the most difficult thing is to stay awake while he’s simultaneously going on three tangents (or more.)  He has an interpreter, I met him and asked him some questions.  But interpreting isn’t his main job, so I didn’t find his answers very satisfying.

I was so surprised to see that this Canadian professor shows up to this 10 day conference on day one wearing sweatpants, sandals, and a t-shirt that has seen better days.

It’s gonna be a fun week…

 

 

China

So, I have to say that since leaving California in February this year, my life has been a string of hilarious, heartwarming, and sometimes, seemingly hopeless disasters.  It’s been extremely fun. Sort of. Mostly. Except when it’s not.  When bad things happen, I comfort myself by saying it will be a good story later.  I think I’ve collected more good stories in this year than I have through all of my college career so far.

So far, my life in China has been a continuation of the soap opera of Eleanor’s life.  (Because sometimes I really think the things that happen to me are so unreal that I question whether I’m actually experiencing them).

Happy note side story: I went on a program field trip to Xi’an last weekend.  It was really fun.  I saw some things that I didn’t see the last time I came here. 🙂 I’ll put the pictures up when I feel like it. (Might as well be honest.)

But anyway, for the last three weeks, I’ve been (not) settling into the Middle Kingdom.  China. Is. A completely different animal.  Wow. I mean, wow. I came here five years ago, and I don’t remember anything.  I have to say, it was a rougher start than I anticipated here.  For one thing, I really didn’t expect the culture shock to be so severe.  (I also came pretty unprepared to live in China.  So maybe that was a factor.)

Sidenote: BEFORE COMING TO CHINA,  THOU SHALT DOWNLOAD WECHAT, OFO, MEITUAN, AND MASTER VPN ON A SMARTPHONE FROM THE OUTSIDE WORLD OF UNBLOCKED INTERNET.  (I did not do this and as such, had a bunch of problems communicating with other people. Which in turn, caused other life difficulties.)

Back to the story, all the things, like the pickpockets and pollution and public (non) etiquette…it’s scary.  I mean, I thought I knew it was gonna be crazy but this is beyond my imagination. (And my imagination is pretty darn good.) The thing that makes me the most insane is people talking loudly on the phone in the subway. Actually, people talking loudly in the subway with or without the phone.  ITS THE SUBWAY!!!!!! Also these toilets are really nasty. The secondary library toilet was…well, i ran outside the building and i hope to never to go inside again. I’m now quite hesitant to use a toilet outside my dorm or private hostel room. ‘Nuff said.

As for my visa/resident card….

If, the next time you see me in person and I look like I aged significantly, you can imagine exactly what happened.

I’m finally enrolled in classes, praise God.  It took me forever to get registered. I don’t really feel like writing about this particular incident, so again, you can imagine what I went through.  Oh, I  also need to file for graduation back in Long Beach.

DOES THIS CYCLE OF PAPERWORK EVER END!????????

I have to admit, I miss Long Beach.  Especially the resort-like gym, which is included in my tuition, and not an extra fee. (I cannot believe the on campus gym charges me per use.)  i also miss rate my professor and amazon book rentals.  I miss knowing how the online system works.  Oh, and the generally respected recycling rules. (Today I saw someone throw food waste into a recycle bin. It took a lot of willpower not to scream.

It took me three hours to find a classroom last week. Well, 2 hrs and 55 minutes to be precise. And when I went to Carrefour, I asked 3 different workers where to find something and NONE OF THEM KNEW WHERE IT WAS. “Over there, in the back.” “it should be around these aisles” “I don’t know, I’m the cashier.”  I really expected more from China, but okay then…

I did meet a group of nice Japanese students.  These are pretty much the only friends I’ve made so far.  It’s been really hard to get to know anyone here.  I don’t have a lot in common with my program comrades, I don’t have a roommate, I’m waiting to hear back from an acquaintance  about PKU’s fellowship group, I haven’t seen any advertising for student clubs, and as a senior, I think it’ll be hard to make friends with my classmates. (By senior year, everyone in the major has solidified a friend group and is busy routing their next steps and is not interested in spending more time with a foreigner.

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Well, that has been my life for the last three-ish weeks.  As I already mentioned, it hasn’t been the smoothest of starts.  A lot of things haven’t been working out like I had hoped they would, and as such, I’ve had a lot of not-exactly-good things to say.  I was reminded recently though, of Ephesians 4:29–“do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.” Well then.  Matthew 15:18 says that “the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean.”  Clearly, we have work to do.

I guess it’s okay to go a step at a time.  If I’m not quite as enthusiastic as Paul in all circumstances, at least I can consciously try to fill my mind and heart (and subsequently mouth) with all that is approved of in Philippians 4:8.  In both cases, the trash talk and grumbling shall cease and desist.

🙂  🙂  🙂

Well, that’s all for now.  Now that I know this wordpress thing doesn’t require a VPN,  I can definitely keep up blogging!

Until next time,

Love,

Ellie

catching up round 2

“To travel is to take a journey inside oneself.”–Danny Kaye

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Well, I’m about ready to wrap it up and head to my last year of uni, so I wanted to write out a longer reflection of my travels.

I’m slightly at a loss of words here, writing beginnings of things always really sucks.  (Conclusions too, but slightly less so.)  So forgive me, let’s just start with an obvious statement and work from there:

It was great.

(It? What is It ? You must be specific.  Write for an audience who has absolutely no idea who you are or about the subject matter.  Also, use a more powerful adjective than great.)

My summer 2017 trip through various countries in East and Southeast Asia was fantastic.

(There, that’s better.)

(Why was it fantastic?)

Because I turned a bunch of scattered daydreams and vague ideas about these places into a real memory. Because I got to meet a bunch of friends that I haven’t seen in three or four years.  And whoever Danny Kaye might be, he was right.  To travel is to take a journey inside oneself.  This trip has been deeply beautiful and re-calibrating, and I’ve really learned a lot about Eleanor Xiafei Chin.

(Tell me more…..)

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Firstly, there was Thailand.

I told you before that I was really excited about Thailand. Another reason other than the research project and the fact I’ve had a mini-crush on the idea of that country since I first went abroad was because Thailand was just for me.  Maybe that sounds a bit weird.  Here’s an explanation.  Before I went to Korea, I had intended to go to Thailand by myself.  While I was in Korea, I met several other like-minded individuals who were interested in other Southeast Asian countries as well.  I had hoped to make a complete travelling itinerary with them, and we talked a few times.  We were looking at going to India together, but due to the fact that India is its own universe, they decided they would rather see some other places.  And at that time I was still pretty preoccupied with computer science and daily life in South Korea.  So there was a period that I wasn’t really sure about where I was going at all, or if I was going to travel with anyone, or if maybe I just want to go home to California and travel another time…(it did cross my mind a couple times.)  To be honest, I was really kind of hoping someone else would make an itinerary and tell me, “hey, let’s go here.” But that didn’t happen, so I had to make my own. I solicited a lot of input from a lot of other friends who had done a better job at planning than me.  But most of them were planning a hyper-intense highlights tour of almost every single country in Asia except India.  I really didn’t find that to be an appealing idea, so in the end, I thought, “screw this. I’m going to Thailand. By myself. Because want to go there.”  And I went.  It was a very satisfying feeling.

It was slightly less satisfying when I got there.  I realized that I had a lot of semi-outdated academic knowledge about industries contributing to the GDP and the linguistic roots of the Thai language.  And absolutely zero knowledge of the things to do as a tourist, the currency conversion, cultural nuances, the history of the kingdom of Siam, or even any useful phrases in Thai.  It was quite humbling to realize exactly how much I didn’t know about a country I thought I had loved.  And the longer I stayed in Thailand, the more I realized that I had loved Thailand as an idea, rather than the place it was. I had loved Thailand because it was exotic.  Because Thailand was located in Southeast Asia. Because Thai traditional costumes were so spectacular. Because Thai writing was and is strange and unfathomable.  Because Thai has five tones, and I thought tonal languages were at the zenith of difficulty in second language acquisition.  (And if it’s the zenith of difficulty in language acquisition, I shouldn’t have any problem picking it up, right?)

But I did. Not only did I not learn any Thai, I came to really dislike hearing it. Really, really dislike it. The once-captivating tones began to drive me absolutely insane.  A lot of things about Thailand ended up driving me insane.  Being a “ripoff-target”.  Having to be extremely wary of my stuff at all times.  The hideously confusing public transportation. The heat.  I realized in Thailand that I am a true Coastal Southern California Wimp. (Sorry).  I do think this condition can be fixed by finding a place that I can really, truly love enough to put up with “temperamental” weather (hahaha).  I don’t think Thailand is that place.  I got ripped off a couple times–(Partly my fault because I still have a hard time to forcefully say no. But still.  It feels terrible.)  I didn’t always feel really safe because people kept telling me to be careful. (I also wonder if they told me that because they knew I’m prone to be a little absent-minded sometimes)  So I got kind of paranoid.  Praise God I didn’t have anything get stolen or lose anything important or get abducted and raped, but having to be “on guard” all the time really wore me out as well.  No daydreaming while walking.  Putting a lock on my bag when I went out and having to carry it in front.  (I did both.) Having to make sure my cell phone never ran out of battery so that I could always get back to my hostel with google maps.  A place where the culture of having to be that extremely careful is normal–I actually wonder how it attracts so many tourists.   I don’t want to live somewhere that unsafe.  I’m really glad I went to Thailand.  It’s really beautiful, and the food is good.  I do not have the desire to go back anytime in the near future.

When I was in Thailand, I wanted to check out some sustainable tourism initiatives for the purpose of getting some ideas on where to work.  I was probably most excited about that. But after looking at a couple places online and downloading a very thorough report about tourism fluxes over ten years in Phuket which I started and couldn’t make myself finish, I realized I’m no longer really so interested in this.  I thought it might  be because my brain is too worn out from everything I went through in the semester–(by the way, I passed everything.  I really wasn’t sure that was going to happen.)

But even though I ended up not being able to visit any offices or have any interviews, I made sure to pay attention to all the businesses that cater to tourists. It’s one thing to know that tourism contributes only slightly less than 20% to the GDP of a country.  It’s quite another to see how many different transportation companies, travel agencies, and tour package sales offices there are in a 50 meter walk outside your hostel on backpacker street.  It’s shocking.  I find it a bit scary. 

Anyway, I was beginning to have doubts about going into tourism development.

Then I went to Vietnam.

 

Vietnam was a lot like Thailand.  The tones, traffic, temperature, and of course, tourism.

I went to a lot of places in Vietnam.  I hit up Hue and Ninh Binh and Sapa, some of the “must-dos”. I was planning (ish.) to hit da nang and hoi an, which are also in central Vietnam, but the heat was killing me, and I needed to get my visa in Hanoi.  Plus, to go from Hue to Da Nang and then Hoi An, you go south.  And since I took an 18 hr and 23 minute bus ride to get from HCMC to Hue, I was not too keen on even considering going in reverse.  Anyway.

In Vietnam, I met a lot of my friends that studied abroad in Taiwan with me. They’ve all moved on to the mythical world of “postgrad life”.  One even got married and had a baby!!

By far, meeting up with these girls was the best part.  But it also makes me a little envious, because the endless job searching and internship applications are over for them.  (Internship apps…*cries)

I liked Vietnam because I met my friends, saw some beautiful scenery, and ate some AMAZING food.  But Vietnam was really a stressful place to travel.  There was a time that I bought two bus tickets for the same trip because I got error messages from the webpage saying that they payment didn’t go through, so I asked my hostel staff to help me buy one, then I later got an email saying the first payment went through. Then, of course, cancelling tickets is a hassle…and the hostel staff didn’t speak very good English, so I wasn’t sure….After that, I would never buy tickets until pretty much the day I left one place to move to another.  I felt lost all the time, and thanks to being ripped off in Thailand, the danger paranoia hit an all-time high. Vietnamese people can also be kind of aggressive if you commit some faux pas or don’t buy their stuff, and then start yelling at you in Vietnamese, which I found quite frightening. Furthermore, I didn’t like how strangers would tell me that I look Vietnamese, and then wonder out loud, either directly or subtly, why I don’t speak Vietnamese. Then they’d ask me about my family background. It’s a conversation that once it starts just can’t stop.  (For the record, this happened a lot in Thailand and Korea, too.)  Where are you from, what about your parents, you look same-same as (insert country), why can’t you speak (insert language).  I know this is bad, but I’ve lied more than a couple times to try to get out of this conversation.  Sometimes I wished I were non-Asian so no one would ask me these stupid things.  I’m really quite looking forward to living in Beijing.  I’m going to speak Chinese with a slight accent but other than that blend right in. 

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In Thailand, I had begun to question whether or not I should still go into tourism development.  In Vietnam, I became fairly certain that I need to be looking at other industries.  By the time I got my visa for China, everything in Vietnam was driving me ridiculously insane. Everything. The Vietnamese language grated on my ears.  Traffic, which I first found quirky and entertaining, became a nightmare. I could keep going, but you get the idea. I really don’t see myself working there, either.  I don’t want to learn Vietnamese, and I don’t want to learn Thai. In fact, other than improving upon my Chinese and Korean, I think I’m calling it quits on any more foreign language acquisition for now. (But that’s another story.)

My development professor in the USA told me about how completely draining it is to work in a developing country, and that most people only work in that kind of position for a few years in their twenties.  Which is really terrible because like most other things, the longer you work in it, the better you get.  Even though we as millennials are supposed to change jobs every 1 to 3 years, development work is demanding enough that you probably should stick around a bit longer to really get good. (It’s a bit of an intra-industry point of contention: how to attract the talent needed to really be able to make a difference in the projects.)  By the time you’re good enough to be really useful, you’ve used up all your reserves of mental and emotional energy.  I’m staying with someone who did Peace Corps Philippines, and she agreed that yes, at the end of your 2 year assignment, you are truly SPENT. 

So if I almost went insane on a 2.5 month vacation because of things like the language barrier, the cultural idiosyncrasies, and the temperamental weather, am I really someone who can make serious contributions to a volatile industry responsible for approximately 20% of a developing country’s GDP??? Maybe it’s something I can come back to, but for now, I don’t know if I’m strong enough to do that. I find that realization very depressing, but my high school friend told me that it’s probably better to know that now and not accept a job and fail miserably later.

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You know what I found myself doing in Bangkok? Attempting to read a Korean book and watching a Korean drama.  I highlighted words and used an internet dictionary and tried writing some journal entries in Korean as well.  I realized that I really missed  doing this.  I got really stuck at a certain passage so I stopped there.  I don’t like being frustrated on the same page forever.  (Or maybe I’m just lazy.) I’m on my vacation before my senior year of uni, I kind of think I should have had enough of this process by now. I feel this too, like I desperately want to move on to some other area, but I come back, again and again and again to this process of internalizing vocabulary and nothing else that I’ve accomplished has ever matched the joy I have when I express myself in a foreign tongue. I also wonder if I’m clinging to that because it’s a habit, a habit that I’ve cultivated for so long that I’d be completely unhinged without it.  

Oh well.  Only time will tell for that.

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In conclusion, there’s more.  There’s always more.  There are a lot of other tiny stories that I didn’t write here and don’t intend to.  There are other thoughts I have that aren’t completely formed yet. Other emotions that I’m still processing. (Like hangover stress from the visa….) There are more pictures of more places.  But let’s conclude here. The daydreamed version of this trip was significantly less harrowing and less exhausting, but the memory of this trip, with all the ups and downs, is a million times better. I’m still in awe and incredibly grateful that I got to meet old friends again. Even though we aren’t as close as we were before, it was and is still an amazing feeling. And that I came to know so many things about myself and about the world, even though they might have been unpleasant to discover, is something that I’ll treasure for life.

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….but for life not to escape us…

Well, I hope you enjoyed the last set of pictures I put up.

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out.  I have no intentions of getting into photography, and I will not be buying a dslr which I have to buy another case for and worry about dropping or having stolen.  But it’s just nice when you look at photos later and then go, “wow that would be a good screen background sometime”.

Anyway, I’ve had an eventful couple of days.

I was playing around in HCMC and I took a guided tour of the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, it was really so fascinating! And the guide was an animated storyteller who liked singing.  He did an impromptu singing performance for us.  It was fun.  And then I went to mui ne.  That wasn’t actually a planned stop, but I saw some pictures from someone else that went and they looked very nice, so I thought I’d go.  It was kind of a waste of money.  There’s nothing there other than sand dunes and more sand dunes and incredibly thin cows walking around on the sand dunes. (There’s the beach, if you’re into that…) Plus I wanted to see the famous sunrise, so I paid for a sunrise tour (which wasn’t too bad) but the weather was terrible and the driver got started late and had to pick up eight more people.  By the time he finished getting everyone, the sun (if you can call it that) had risen in the clouds.  And then it rained. :/

Then I went to Nha Trang.  I had hoped to meet my ex roommate but she was on a business trip.  Bad timing, haha.  It’s okay.  I had fun.  The pictures in the last post are from Nha trang.  The Sinitic-style temple is the Long Son Pagoda.  The one made out of bricks is the Po Nagar temple.

And, in Nha Trang, I went cliff jumping.

I went to Ba ho, which is like a nature reserve.

It’s like the place in Jeju.  I like it.

It cost me about $46 to go there and back by taxi because there was no public transportation, and then the impromptu tour guide extorted $18.18 out of me…so it was expensive, but it was really nice.

And then I went back to HCMC to meet my friend again.  I got to meet her baby and other family members. 😀

Now I am in central Vietnam, in Hue, the old capital.

I was originally going to take the plunge and do a couchsurfing arrangement, but that didn’t work out, so I stayed in another hostel.

I went to see the Imperial palace yesterday, it was very nice.

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I saw this eight years ago!! Now it is undergoing renovation. The area around it has become what I imagine as a mini harajuku
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Impressive looking temple/pagoda/shrine