Dope vs. Wack

Dope(adj.) of high excellence, ingenious, good, great, and/or awesome; often interchanged with “fresh, cool, fly, saucy”

as in:

These green tea flavored Kit Kat bars from Tokyo are dope.

Wack (adj.) not good, stupid, resulting from unintelligent decision-making, causing grief or trouble; often interchanged with “ain’t even legit, sorry, uncool”

as in:

Having our hot water turned off for three days, misspelling “operation,” and adding unnecessary hyphens into words are all wack.

It should also be duly noted that “dope” can also be used as a noun meaning heroine.

as in:

Whitney Houston told Diane Sawyer that crack is cheap, but avoids questions about dope.  At that time, her career was wack.



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In your face, Lady Gaga

I have mixed feelings about Lady Gaga. She is creative, and her songs are as catchy as they are irritating. However, I have nothing but admiration for this group of choir nerds (being an alum myself) who put Lady Gaga to shame. Well played, men. Well played.


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What happens after he puts a ring on it

All the single ladies.  Listen up.

Being engaged is something that (typically) only happens once in your life, which means that you may not know what to do, how to feel, or straight up may just be horrible at dealing with the things you experience for the first time as an engaged person.  With all the focus on the “Big Day,” the engagement is passed over without acknowledging its significance.  The fact is that no one is an expert at being engaged, because it’s a relatively short period of time in peoples’ lives and- as previously stated- it only happens once.

Long before we were engaged, Jason and I knew we wanted to get married.   Before there were any rings on these fingers, we had already secured and paid a deposit on our wedding venue, met with a photographer, and I had gone dress shopping.  It was a done deal, which also meant- in my mind- that we were pretty much set to be married.

I could not have been more wrong.

The trouble with being an engaged woman is the stigma attached to it.  There is an unwritten law that an engaged woman should be happy, excited, eager to show her ring to the world, enthusiastic about wedding planning… and yes, I do experience those feelings from time to time.  But to be completely frank, the emotions plaguing my life recently have been anxiety, doubt, confusion, frustration, and even regret.  To top it off, all of my shameful emotions are wrapped up neatly in an immense blanket of guilt for not being the starry-eyed bride I’m supposed to be.

I have slowly been opening up about my deep, dark struggle.  In doing so, I’ve been surprised to learn that other women- happily married women whom I respect deeply- shared my sentiment.  They also had their own fantasies of being the Runaway Bride, or felt that same stinging guilt for comparing their fiance to other people, or daydreamed about what they could be doing with their lives if they weren’t getting married.  It was like finding a group of women who closeted their difficult engagements… and it is amazing.  It is wonderful to know that I’m not alone in my helplessness and that solid marriages and partnerships can follow such tumultuous engagements.

And so that gets me wondering…

Why are women NOT talking about this?

Do we live in an age that still holds onto predetermined gender expectations so tightly that we cannot admit that some engaged women may not be perpetually giddy with joy?  If anyone would have taken a few moments to tell me that being engaged could mean sleepless nights or a few moments of emotional unrest, I may have been a bit jarred at first, but eventually grateful for these hard-hitting nuggets of wisdom.  Aside from being engaged not being all roses, my greatest disappointment is the fact that women are not chewing on the real meat of being engaged.  Being in a place as traditional as China has made me appreciate women’s progressive position in society in the States.  However, I find it tragic that these seemingly normal feelings about being engaged stay unaddressed and are wrought with guilt and shame for women simply because of an imposed idea of being engaged.

I still am convinced that there is no such thing as an engagement expert.  We probably all retire engagement rookies.  But I do know this.  Being engaged can be a terrifying and stressful time, but it also is an amazing opportunity for growth and training for married life.  Contrary to what we’ve been taught (Carrie and Aidan on Sex and the City, Meg Ryan and Bill Pullman in Sleepless in Seattle, and the list goes on), shaky engagements don’t always end disastorously.  My engagement has taught me that I lack faith in many things, G.d shows his strength in the most unexpected and amazing ways, Jason has an infinite supply of patience, and that women are still so tragically silenced by the expectations placed upon them.

On October 8, 2010, I will have the great privilege of becoming Jason’s wife.  I’m sure there will be plenty more bumps on the way there, and countless mountains after.  I remain faithful in what we are building now in our engagement.  I remain hopeful in the courage and strength of women– engaged, married, and of course… the single ladies, too.

Jason and me in Honolulu, Summer 2006

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On Becoming a Cold-Weather Hermit

It’s true what they say: Californians are spoiled.  Living in Beijing for the past two winters has certainly made me understand ideas like hibernating for the winter, down jackets, and hats with ear-flaps beyond just making a cute fashion statement in the freezer section of the grocery store.

Perhaps more puzzling is that Beijing is not nearly as bad as other parts of the country where people LIVE their WHOLE LIVES.  Yes, it’s tough for my mind to even get around the idea of waking up everyday in places like Haerbin or Changchun (deceivingly named, as it literally translates into “Long Spring” HA!) where the Winters are bitter, bitter, bitter.

The good thing about adjusting to this new weather is that I feel like I finally have an established home here in Beijing.  Last year, winter was the great foe that stood between me and loving China.  Yes, in spite of the creepy snacks, the crowds, pushing, spitting, smells, lack of cheese and good chocolate, it was the COLD that almost did me in.  I hated going outside.  I hated that everything took twice as long to do.  I really hated that my life had been reduced to a relationship with my laptop and 80 Chinese-speaking channels and CNN.

This year, my activities haven’t changed all that much.  But I’ve figured out how to grapple with the Winter Beast.  Host dinner parties, invest in more pirated DVDs, read more books, and enjoy the company of those close to you.  Also, be grateful that I live above the Yangtze River line where the Chinese government allows central heating (sorry, Jase!).

A few years ago, my parents moved to Oregon.  That winter, I called my dad on a Thursday afternoon, and was surprised to find that he was at home.  My workaholic father would never be home on a Thursday afternoon, so I knew something was up.

“There’s an ice storm outside,” he said.

“A what?” I answered.

“An ice storm.  No one can go to work, it’s too dangerous.  Your Uncle Tim actually injured himself when he was getting his mail because he slipped on the driveway and may have cracked a rib.”

Long pause.

“And that– Dad- is why I would never live in Oregon.”

My dad laughed in his good natured way and told me to never say never.  Well, now I know that I can eat my words.  I actually love Winter here in Beijing.  It’s not my favorite season (hands down, Autumn) but I love the coziness I feel when I am indoors, enjoying life despite the weather outside, and finally feeling like I have a home and hearth here in this strange and always-changing city.  The chaos and Siberian winds have encouraged me to embrace something I would never thought I would have to endure in my comfortable Bay Area life.

And besides.  If there weren’t cold Winters in Beijing, there wouldn’t be awesome snowmen like these:

Well, thank Winter and the Chinese government for cloud seeding.

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Zombie Blog (Comes Back from the Dead)

China is a strange place. First, they take away YouTube. Then, they take away private blogs. Finally, they take away Facebook. In the words of Samuel L. Jackson in The Negotiator (spoken at a normal volume, oddly enough), “and THAT… I cannot tolerate.”

Fortunately for me, there are wonderful, technologically-talented folks here in Beijing, namely my friend Buzz who outfitted my Mac with a VPN, which means I can access ALL the sites I once was forbidden from browsing!


So, with that, I have decided to resurrect my blog and give it a proper chance again, now that I can upload pics, attach songs, refer websites… all that good stuff.

I’ll keep it simple for now, but I’ll try my best to do better with the updates in the coming months.

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Way Late Father’s Day Present

I’m coming home in less than two week (EEP!), but I thought, hey, I posted a nice post for my Mom on her birthday, so it would only be fair for me to post a little something for my Pops, too… I don’t like playing favorites, after all. Well, not only has Father’s Day come and gone, but my Dad’s Birthday has also passed. My dad is a great, great, great man. When I was young, my mom would always tell my sister and I to look for a future husband who is like our dad. At the time, those words totally grossed me out in an Elektra-complex kind of way. Now, I totally see what she means, but I know that the task at hand is by default completely impossible! If you know my dad, you know there is absolutely no one else in the world like him. I’m posting a poem today that I wrote about my Pops a few years ago back when I was living in Santa Cruz. I don’t know what inspired it, but I just remember sitting up in bed late one night and the words just spilling out of my pen, and it’s my favorite poem so far. I’ll let the piece do the talking… but I just wanted to say that I love you, Daddy, and I’m so excited to see you in a few weeks!

I hear he was a natural.
Piano-Man daydreams turned reality for a sweet
He wanted to read the world in music
clumsy fingers striking black and white keys and he felt
a quick return to infancy.
Still they told him…
A Natural.”

Maybe music was inside of him.
Maybe he could rest his heart on an instrument
and let it’s pulse tell a story on its strings.
But instead,
He let me.
A girl at the tender age of 14
plucking out Dust in the Wind and Amazing Grace
He’d sing along
“Dust in the wind… all we are is dust in the wind…”
Silently he told me
“You’re a natural.”

I hear he was a natural.
Burying himself under blueprints and models
Whistling Frank Lloyd Wright anthems.
He’d practice drawing straight lines freehandedly
His imagination exposed candidly on drafting boards and
graph paper sketch pads.
He saw skyscraping towers and drew out their dimensions
as he climbed the stairs to a job that paid his mortgage
Forgetting architect dreams that were turned into a reality for a sweet
two years
He’d return home to draw out gemoetry sketches on my math homework
As i’d watch him freehand perfectly straight lines
as if it was all completely natural.

I see you
Trying to evade age with scalp massages
Your salt and pepper turned into a retreating hairline that
chased after your stories of 7-11 graveyard shifts to pay the bills.

I see you
Even when they don’t
When their intimidating pinstripes make you doubt yourself
When you ask me to proofread your resume.
In the cheesy jokes Umma doesn’t get and the
Bad one-pot meals made with love when she was sick.

I see you
A hero in every sense of the word.
With powers so hidden even you don’t see them
Under strength and humility. Driving back into your
superhero hide-out where
a hot dinner and petty arguments waited
for your victorious return.

I see you
Despite your silence.
Waiting for the right moment to speak
and always saying the unexpected at the perfect time.
Patience acquired through responsibility for the ones you love.
Patience big enough to let go of nature
and learn a new trade for those waiting at home.

I see you
Smiling like you’re hiding a secret
Under tears that hid too long beneath masculinity
Like an undecorated soldier-
Tired of the fight but so content to simply live
Watching daughters leave and son grow.
You signed a silent vow and sealed it with a kiss
to love us enough to forget your dreams
to love us enough to make us better without
to love us until it hurt
to love us until we stopped hurting you and then
to love us still

I see you.
In loving, I know
You are
A Natural


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An Update and an Apology

So sorry that the blog has been severely neglected for the past few months!

This semester has been busy (as usual) and the weather has been exceptionally lovely (unusual!), which explains why I am not sitting around figuring out how I can get around the internet proxies in China to get information and photos up on this sad little blog. Still, I wanted to give you all an update before heading back to work.

Let me begin by saying that springtime in Beijing is wonderful. The sun comes out and there’s a comfortable breeze that comes over the city and sweeps a lot of the nasty smog away. In addition, the flowers come out in full-bloom literally overnight. Peach and cherry blossoms, lilacs, even roses… the smell of spring is a welcome change from the creepy sewage smells that usually float around in concentrated clouds. I was able to visit the Summer Palace for the third time (it’s about a fifteen minute bus-ride away from my house), but definitely my favorite one to date. It was a horribly crowded Saturday (check the pictures), but the colors were amazing.

My friend, Samara, and I also enjoyed a lovely Easter Sunday together. Both of us had given up sweets for Lent and made plans early on (really early, I’m talkin’ one week into Lent, here!) to break our fasts together by going to Haggen Daaz and treating ourselves to some ice cream. People, Haggen Daaz back home does not even hold a candle to what they have in China. We ordered a banana split, which, in China, means the bananas are perfectly ripe and caramelized and the ice cream is served at the exact right temperature (did you know there was such a thing?). I felt a little sick to my stomach consuming so much dairy at one time—which makes me a little nervous about the amount of cheese I plan on eating when I get back—but it was worth it!

I’ve also quit my side-job, which has been great for having more time to spend getting to know my students. This has been great, but of course, nothing comes without a price. Observe the last photo attached to this blog post—yes, people, THAT is what happens when you invite your students to your home. They bring you bananas… A LOT OF STINKIN’ BANANAS. What in the world are they thinking? Am I a monkey? Do they think Americans eat nothing but bananas? Do they have a sneaking suspicion I’m hiding a small village of people who only eat bananas somewhere in my apartment? Did I mention in class by a slip of the tongue that bananas are the love of my life? All jokes aside, it is pretty hilarious greeting each student at my door and saying, “Oh woooow… more bananas!” each time they hand me a bag filled with said xiang jiao (now y’all know how to say “banana” in Chinese too). Needless to say, I’ve been making a lot of banana bread. And the craziest thing is… two weeks after that photo was taken, they did the exact same thing! Aiiyah…

In any case, life is good, but certainly not easy. My students this semester are amazing and I am really enjoying teaching writing, despite having no book or curriculum to work off of. My small groups are going well and I am grateful for the relationships that I am building. Still, my frustrations with this strange country often trump my ability to see the blessings that are poured out on me daily. I often remind my self that “Different is just different,” and not necessarily good or bad… but sometimes I swear it’s just straight out wrong! Just the other day, my students had plenty to say about how their greatest political concern in inflation because they want to buy a house for cheap, but showed absolutely no concern for AIDS, famine, poverty, drug trafficking, and a few didn’t even know what Sri Lanka was (“Is it a person or an animal?”). My PhD students firmly believed that divorce was perfectly acceptable as long as the wife was financially independent, while others believed it was unacceptable because it was the direct cause for homosexuality. Imagine being on the cusp of being 25 years old and having to dish out my opinion of why both opinions were completely problematic to a room full of PhDs and deans of various departments at credible Chinese universities.

With spring in full bloom and a notoriously hot summer just around the corner, I am starting to refine my love-hate relationship with China and now have legitimate things that I truly, truly love, and things that I strongly, strongly dislike. Still, He is good… all the time… and presents new opportunities for me to be an obedient and unworthy servant and example of love, patience, kindness, and (no pun intended) grace.

Next up: Chinese Snacks—Hits & Misses… it’ll be a good one!

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