My boyfriend told me today (lovingly of course) that my blog has been great to read, but a bit inauthentic - like there's a lot more that is going on between the lines, which is true, that I haven't been vocalizing. So this afternoon as I sit on my windowsill, cooped up in my apartment, I will write about it - honestly.
I injured my foot a few weeks back. Actually, I flared up an old mysterious injury from about 2 years ago after my waterfall excursion the beginning of October. After seeing the company doctor this past week, a short, perpetually smiley faced, little round bellied, retired man, and having him smear what looked like organic creamy peanut butter on some gauze and wrap my foot up, I am on orders to rest today.
I have cabin fever...to say the least. I can't find music for my mood, so I finally settled on lovely Yo Yo Ma, who in China, is Ma Yo Yo.
I have been in China for almost 2 months now and I can honestly say I am happy here. But I am not complete, for many reasons. At times it feels like I live in a triangle between my apartment, the school, and Jimmy's apartment. I am beginning to make friends with people: the teachers, my roommate Sammy (though we rarely see each other), and even some people at the company when I occasionally visit, but for the most part, they are all still distant acquaintances. I am also in a culture that is rather private, save-face, and familial driven, so sharing oneself with a foreigner (aka ME) is a slow process...and there's a language barrier too. I also, being female, am advised not to journey out many places on my own. And though I do have enough Chinese now to roughly bargain with a rickshaw driver, the stares and gawks and fear of being taken advantage of (monetarily) are drawbacks to adventuring out on my own. So essentially, I am strapped to Jimmy. Those of you that know me well know: that is indeed pinning my wings down.
I miss photography - terribly. Every morning Jimmy and I walk to school (per my request) which is about a 20 minute walk from apartment. It's a pleasant morning ritual that takes us through an alley bustling with morning activity and steamed bread sellers, down and across a few roads, and around to the poorer community in which the school is nestled, or rather jammed in between. Everyday I see photographic treasures that leave me breathless: details, shapes, colors, lines, patterns, textures, people. Ah! It's a feast! And as of yet, I haven't brought my camera along due to the cautioning of others...and my hesitancy of still being a tourist, which sadly, no matter now long I live here, I will always be the foreigner.
I miss the freedom to wander, to roam, to look, without being looked at. I miss being known. A few weekends ago I was able to chat over Skype with two of my dearest girl friends. It was the first time since I left that I've had the opportunity to, at length, share my heart with some girls, my girls. It was like water to my soul! It is also new to be surrounded with people who do not share my beliefs. While a good challenge and a growing experience, it is lonely. Everything I do, everything I say, everything I now participate in is my choice, down to the smallest detail. My time here is my choice, how much do I want from it? I could just do my job, come home, talk to family, repeat. But we all know Jenny wouldn't do that, couldn't do that.
I am living - or rather learning to. I am not living "parenthetically" as an old professor of mine so wisely stated, meaning living for the weekend, or in my case going home to visit, the next vacation from school, the next time I get an email, or the next time I get to chat with those from home. I am living here. Shantou is my home now. For how long I do not know, but I am living here. A life away from the known as a foreigner does indeed come with its bouts of loneliness. But we all experience that, whether in China or not. Perhaps this is the post-graduate syndrome in some ways, just heightened by my change of geographical location. But I am living and it's okay to feel this way.
The sun is setting in Shantou casting beautiful shadows on this mysterious world around me. I long to touch it. I long to know it. I long to understand it, from the inside. I long to wander the streets my myself, to sit on a corner and watch the world bustle by, to get lost in some back alley and chat with some little old lady frying some unidentifiable local dish, to talk over tea with the shop owners that curiously watch me walk by. It will come in time. My parents were right today when they said it will all come when I can speak the language.
I watched a dog curiousy poke around the unfinished pond below my window this evening wondering how he got past the bars and gate that surround my complex. I then smiled as I watched him slip out through the circle decorative shapes near the bottom, with a stick in his mouth, back out into the freedom of the streets. I envied him a little bit.
My triangular life is not permanent. I believe it will change - but only if I want it to. Only if I continue to want to speak and study Chinese, as long as I want to spread myself beyond the relationships I have that now only exist over cyberspace and the internet, only if I choose to. It's a big choice...but a simple one. There's truly only one choice.
So there's my honesty: I'm living a triangular life here in China. But I will break free...eventually.
I'm off to study Chinese.