Saturday, March 31, 2012

Moved out and mixed up

Our office moved to a new lanehouse. It's bigger but cheaper than the old one and located north of my apartment, so less central than our old place. It's a three-story outfit tricked out in gold trim and gaudy wallpaper (think brass-colored dragons and phoenixes surrounded by ornately drawn Chinese characters). It's awful but I imagine somebody was really happy at one point putting it in. They probably thought it was incredibly cool.

I'm sitting at my new desk covered in my old stuff and feeling out of sorts, which I think has to do with the cold I seem to be catching and the all-nighter I pulled Friday night on my little brother's last night in town (more on that later!). Oy. I slept 10 hours last night but I still feel tired. Oh and did I mention I'm working on a Sunday? The Chinese govt decided everyone should work Saturday and Sunday in order to have a three-day Monday-Wednesday holiday. Such strange scheduling only really benefits people who take the following Thursday and Friday off (and thus get a whole 7 days off in a row). For everyone else it's just annoying.

I've spent several minutes now sitting at my desk trying to remember if I like to use my mouse with my left hand or right hand. I write left handed but like most left handed people do a bunch of other stuff with my right hand. As taxing as this task proved, I can't imagine I'll get a whole lot of work done today. Sigh.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Take me hoooome, country roads...

It's Thursday evening, we've just wrapped the April issue and I am sitting at my desk appreciating this New York Times op-ed about homesickness. It starts by citing a Gallup poll: 25 percent of earthlings wish they could move abroad, maybe permanently.

Hold your horses, earthlings! The grass isn't all green out here in expat-ville: studies show that foreigners living in foreign lands experience anxiety and depression at a much higher rate than their folks back home.

The hard data ends there and isn't exactly shocking, but I liked this part: 

"Today, explicit discussions of homesickness are rare, for the emotion is typically regarded as an embarrassing impediment to individual progress and prosperity. This silence makes mobility appear deceptively easy."

and this part:

"The persistence of homesickness points to the limitations of the cosmopolitan philosophy that undergirds so much of our market and society. The idea that we can and should feel at home anyplace on the globe is based on a worldview that celebrates the solitary, mobile individual and envisions men and women as easily separated from family, from home and from the past. But this vision doesn't square with our emotions, for our ties to home, although often underestimated, are strong and enduring."

I'm not exactly a "solitary, mobile individual" but I was for six months, until my main man James moved to town. It was tough! Actually, I might even call it one of my prouder achievements in life so far: moving abroad by myself to a city where I knew no one. It's empowering, but Lord it's not easy. James likes to joke that I put in all the leg work and he got to arrive on the ground with a group of friends; that's basically true. 

Everyone wants to hear the wacky tales of international tomfoolery. No one wants to hear about the nights you come home and have absolutely no one to keep you company. You don't want to call home and burden them with your blues. I read a lot of books in the bath those first months. 

And about that 'cosmopolitan philosophy,' I love my life here in Shanghai, but the prospect of making it permanent - away from the mountains and the ocean I grew up with - is not something I entertain. It's impossible to quantify this feeling, but the best way I can describe it is I wake up a lot of Saturday mornings and think: it would be nice to go walk on the beach or take a hike ... in America.  

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Sun!

Today I woke up and, for the first time in just about forever, sunlight was streaming through the curtains that separate our living room from the enclosed balcony. Hurray!

Before I went to work, I moved my vegetable into the kitchen. For months now we've been using the balcony as a surplus fridge. We have the lamest, smallest "full-size" fridge known to man. But the balcony stays so cold in winter that it keeps beers the perfect temperature and keeps veggies fresh. But judging by the morning sun, our surplus fridge is no longer.

I also sneezed all the way through my Chinese class and joked to my teacher "with the sun, also comes allergies." She laughed and taught me an ancient Chinese proverb that basically translates: "Fish and bear. You can't have both."

Right. An English-language equivalent doesn't readily come to mind, but basically the idea is if you catch a bear you probably don't have time to catch a fish. Or maybe your bear will eat your fish. And similarly, when the sun comes out you will be happy but you will also sneeze a lot and your beers wont be cold.

Happy Monday, y'all!

Monday, March 5, 2012

So many rainy days

A picture of me in warmer climes.

It rained 18 days in February and we've had the longest stretch of gray days in 32 years. Last week I kept rambling on to whoever about how this winter in Shanghai made me feel like I could really empathize with the hypothetical denizens of nuclear winter. Those people who had to live on earth while they were trying to relight the sun in Sunshine? Yeah, I get it.

Right now you might be thinking: 18 days of rain ... didn't you spend 18 years in Alaska? Correct. But Alaska has this super awesome thing called central heating and I didn't have to commute to work on a bicycle.

In other less-than-brilliant news, I'm two assumed rejections deep into my grad school application results. I could use some sunshine.

But since it ain't coming for at least another 5 days, according to the weatherman, I'm ordering heaps of Greek food for dinner. I plan to fill the gaping hole of non-acceptance with dolmas.