Saturday, June 28, 2008

the sun burn cometh

I am the only person I know who could go outside for 30 minutes wearing SPF 15 and get sunburned. Not only did I take preventative measures to spare myself from the harmful effects of too much sun, but I was also mostly in the shade. Three months from now when I've been without a glimpse of sunshine for weeks in smog-covered China, I'll be praying for blue skies and yellow sunbeams. For now, though, I'm gonna go ahead and raise a recently manicured middle finger in the sun's general direction. Tomorrow, I'll be using SPF 30.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

it's kind of sad, really

Twin sent me this from today, it would be funnier if it wasn't actually sort of true:

For real, though, Chinese people do eat dog. I guess in some cities guys bike around with these carts that have puppies tied to the back, which people buy then cook. SICK. How about I just buy a bunch and have a whole apartment filled with cute puppies. Then when they turn into not-so-cute dogs, I can release them into the wild and buy a new batch. I'm totally kidding. My apartment is strictly no pets.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

well, at least someone will care about this blog when i'm in china

I guess in the back of my mind I was aware of it, but I didn't fully appreciate the extent of Chinese censorship until last night. Every Tuesday night all us graduate students have to meet for "highly encouraged" informational sessions from 7-9 P.M., because we're not insanely busy or anything. Last night the first 45 minutes were spent by some guy talking about his experience working as a ministry in Hong Kong which couldn't have been more boring to me. I mean, religion is cool and all, but I have no intentions of "spreading the word" in China, so I don't really care about effective and safe ways to do so.

On the plus side, there was an alumnus there to share her experiences on living, working, and studying in China, and that was really interesting. She mostly talked about the shock of Chinese toilets (they're squat toilets, as in you have to squat over them because there isn't really a toilet at all, it's just a hole in the ground), but she also briefly mentioned issues with communicating home and the Chinese government tracking literally everything you do and write. Immediately, visions of uniform clad men with menacing eye patches and swords attached to their belts kicking in my door and yanking me away from my desk as I write yet another intriguing installment in the life of Strawberry popped into my head. I mean, this actually happens, people. It seems amusing now, since it's so far removed from my sphere of reality, but there is an ever so slight chance that it might happen. And by that I mean it's actually possible. Here in the good ol' U S of A, the worst that could happen from writing scandalous material in your blog is that you get fired from your job and end up making 40k a month by blogging full time (Dooce is my hero).

It's all very unlikely, though, especially since they're mainly concerned with people discussing socially sensitive issues like religion and politics, which just so happen to be the areas I am least interested in writing about in China! Lucky me. However, I will have to self-censor some of my content from time to time, I'm sure. So this is just a warning beforehand, because if I were to write about the government censoring my blog content while I was in China, it would probably be immediately removed from my website. I know very little about the internet so I'm not even sure how that's possible, but China is constantly monitoring it's citizens, especially foreigners that are living there, and I have read several articles in the past hour or so talking about people whose e-mails were mysteriously deleted or had posts suddenly go missing. Also, to be even creepier, they totally go through the real mail. Their technology is so sensitive that you can't even detect that they opened the envelope, but things will be blacked out or cut away from your letters.

In a way, it's kind of flattering. It's nice to know that someone cares enough about my life to check up on why I'm Googling "johnny depp naked" and getting InTouch magazine and easy mac shipped to me bi-monthly. Let's just hope those don't become politically sensitive activities.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

it's tuesday and i'll cry if i want to

I tend to avoid things that give me a headache. There are plenty of things I put myself through on a daily basis that I find uncomfortable, like wearing heels for example, but the pain of a headache is something I usually try to avoid altogether. In fifth grade when I went to see Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, I walked out of the theater because watching the alternating high and low speed transitions made my brain hurt. After about 30 seconds of Tom Leykis's grainy voice spouting misogynistic propaganda to penis-driven young males and insecure females, the beginning pounding of a migraine forces me to change the station. If only I had a choice when it comes to Chinese.

Of course, I do have a choice. I could just not go to China. However, that's not really an option. I want to go to Shanghai and teach English more than anything I've ever wanted to do before, but learning the language is like putting my head through a vise while simultaneously listening to recordings of the word "Ma" being said in all four tones. I have never tried to learn something before that literally gave me a headache when I studied it. Today in class, after a series of encouraging words, my professor offhandedly commented that I needed to practice my Pinyin and I nearly broke down into tears. Of course I know that I need to practice my Pinyin, to date I've only had 9 hours of formal instruction in Chinese, but after being asked to distinguish being "zh" "ch" and "sh" for thirty minutes my brain had reached maximum capacity. I am definitely making progress, but like any sort of language learning, it is taking time, especially since I have to learn how to read and write characters as well. Luckily, my class is super small (four people including me), so I was able to pull each person aside today and warn them of the inevitable waterworks that will occur sometime between now and the last class in 4 weeks.

To help in my Chinese language endeavors, I filled my Netflix queue with a bunch of Chinese and Taiwanese films and will be watching them over the next month to somewhat immerse myself in the verbal part of the language. It's pretty cool that this school is in southern California because there is a huge Chinese population, and so many stores and businesses have Chinese characters in their signs. So far I can really only recognize 5 characters, two of which are in my name, but when I do see a character I recognize it feels so rewarding. Approximately 3,000 are required to be able to read a mainland Chinese newspaper, so looks like I have 2,995 to go.

Monday, June 23, 2008

nobody likes you when you're 23

That's right. That's Travis Barker, the drummer of Blink 182. And even though it goes against the lyrics of one of his better known songs (I'm 23), he totally liked me. I even got to put my head on his shoulder! Swoon.

I spent the weekend with Rod, relaxing for a few days at his home in the Los Angeles area. Even though it was about 15 degrees hotter than it is here in Irvine, it was great to get off campus, out of my dorm room (yes, I am sharing a room with someone else and sleeping on a twin bed), and ignore my graduate studies for a couple of days. Oh, and meet up with some celebs.

As a way of avoiding overheating in the 109 degree weather, Rod and I spent the day shopping and sightseeing around town. I love Target so when I saw the big red bullseye we decided to go in and hang out for a bit. After trying on a bunch of clothes I didn't really want or need, Rod wanted to make his way over to the car accessory area to check out a bunch of stuff he didn't really want or need. On the way down the aisles I spotted a super sweet Hello Kitty lunch pail that I had to talk myself out of immediately grabbing from the shelf. While looking at it, though, I heard a guy talking to his son about a Pirates of the Caribbean lunch pail, telling the little boy it would be better to wait until school started to get an even better one.

I can't ever eavesdrop on a conversation without looking at the people talking, so I casually turned my head over my shoulder and saw a very tattooed man with two adorable kids. This guy looks familiar, I thought. Right away in my head I was screaming "TRAVIS BARKER! TRAVIS BARKER!" but Rod had also seen the man and didn't seem phased at all, so I figured it was probably just a case of mistaken identity. After all, he was wearing a hat, and plenty of people in LA are covered in tattoos. But still, I turned to Rod and whispered, "OMG, I think that's the drummer from Blink 182." Rod was just as skeptical as me, but urged me to get a closer look at the man to verify if it was Travis or not. And so my not-so-inconspicuous trailing of Travis Barker through Target began. I pretended to not be following him, but it was pretty obvious that I was navigating through the aisles a few steps behind him, quickly looking away if he ever turned in my direction.

A few times he caught me staring at his tattoos, so I decided to take a moment, grab my Treo, and try to find some recent pictures of the drummer on the internet. Well, my phone was going incredibly slow and was of absolutely no help, but I persisted. Rod kept pushing me to go ask him if he was, indeed, who I thought he was, but I was so embarrassed and worried that it really might NOT be him, and how weird would I sound? Oh, um, excuse me, your tattoos look like the tattoos of this band member guy, are you him?

After finally giving up on my Treo plan, I looked around for the man and couldn't find him, and had almost resigned myself to the thought that I had missed a golden celeb sighting opportunity when I noticed a girl around my age taking a picture with someone who was standing in line to pay, and my suspicions were finally confirmed!

Did I run up to him, embrace him tightly, and pledge my ever dying love for him? I wish. I didn't even want to go up to him, I was so nervous. I insisted to Rod that I didn't want to bug the drummer since he was clearly there trying to be low key and buy toys for his kids, but in truth I was too scarred to talk to the guy. Rod wouldn't take no for an answer (thank goodness!) and made me ask for a picture. Travis was so incredibly nice to me. I admitted to him that I had thought he was from Blink 182 but wasn't really sure, and that I had been following him around the store for a while (he laughed at that). I also got to tell him what a huge Blink 182 fan I was which he told me was "awesome", and he assured me it was "no problem at all!" to ask for a photo even though he was there with his family. After I bought a tank top and a pair of shoes, I passed by Travis one more time as he was packing up two carts full of things for his children and I told him thank you again for taking a picture with me, he told me "Oh no! It's totally cool. Have a great weekend!" And I totally did.