China

In the Big “League” Now

At a slightly later age than the norm I have finally reached the Ivy League. Apartments, that is. This name seems appropriate in that my complex is directly across the street from Xi’an Jiaotong University, which is a Tier 1 Chinese university. Ivy League, indeed.

The apartment was passed down to me by my predecessor. Shortly after I was hired in May I received a flood of photos in my email inbox and several request for a decision about whether the lease should be renewed. On the basis of photos and verbal assurances alone, I accepted. By carrying over the lease I also had the side benefit of moving into an almost entirely furnished apartment. With the arrival of my boxes from Zhuhai I felt I managed to sidestep most of the fitting-out-of-the-apartment phase.

The thing that tickled me about the apartment initially wouldn’t even warrant a raised eyebrow from a local—it’s on the 30th floor. Oooooo. I think I would have to move to New York City for that to be even somewhat commonplace. However in Xi’an from my perch my view is littered with buildings of a similar height or even taller.

There are, of course, elevators in my building and the ride to my floor does not actually take very long. Though there are days when I must control my desire to pace around like some caged animal. Forgetting something upstairs has a heavier psychological burden than it does in real minutes wasted. And once I am upstairs going down seems like much more trouble than it really is. There’s been many a day when I’ve pondered whether I can survive without my next meal due to the perceived trial of going downstairs. Have there been studies about this condition? It is just me?

My apartment is really far larger than a single gal like me needs. Which means that my clothes and shoes and scarves and books have a huge space in which is disperse and seemingly multiply. The different areas of the apartment have garnered very specific functions in my mind. The “dining room” is my staging area, meaning it’s covered in various bottles, books, and bags. The covered balcony is the sun room and/or morning reading room. The large sectional sofa is the functional center of the apartment and has three zones. The left-hand side is the guitar zone, the corner is for semi-reclining reading, and the right side is for watching TV. The second bedroom is the “office,” which I forcibly put myself in when it is time for some dedicated working. (I spend far too much time enjoying the various sofa zones.) The bedroom I initially didn’t like very much. It was all sharp corners and tight walkways, but one evening spent dragging and pushing and pulling the furniture around got me an arrangement that I like.

Living on the 30th floor I have had few pest problems, unlike last year when I lived on the second floor and had a higher number of mouse and cockroach encounters than I was altogether comfortable with. On the downside windy days mean sleepless nights as all my doors and windows rattle horribly and the wind whistles through them. As far as general city living issues, there is also a lot of light and noise pollution, even at night. There are two buildings being constructed right across from me and work never seems to stop.

On the positive side, every evening is like a communal concert. If I leave the windows open I will enjoy a number of public “performances” from residents practicing their various musical instruments. There are at least two pianists, I think, as well as a saxophonist and some traditional flute-like instrument. I also get to listen to the “bells” of the senior high school below me and be amused by their morning exercises that are broadcast starting around 7 AM.

A final story of note in regards to living in a tall building: you may be at the mercy of mischievous youngsters. On several occasions I have gotten into the elevator only to see the work of a childish hand—every single floor button pushed on the panel, from 1 to 33. You see it in the movies and you laugh—but just wait until you experience it!

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**Note on the slideshow: I must admit that theses are actually the photos from my predecessor. Looks much the same, just minus some the framed paintings and rugs.

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Breaking Radio Silence

I’ve been in Xi’an for approximately 8 weeks.

For approximately 8 weeks I’ve been thinking about how I should be blogging. Blogging for my, like, 20 avid readers. And all those random web searches. Well, not them. No, I don’t owe them anything.

But there’s been a problem. A long-lasting eight-week problem.

It’s not what you might think. No, not writer’s block.

No. I know exactly what I would like to say.

I just don’t know HOW to say it.

It’s a question of tone. I don’t know what tone to take. There are many options.

I could be humorous. Making light of everything that’s been going on or not going on. This is common for expat-type blogs. Life abroad is so great! I never ever regret leaving America. Homesick? Never!

I could dig out the ‘ol silver lining. Things haven’t been so hot lately, but—hey!—at least I found some raspberry jam!

I could be academic. In the five weeks since the subject has been in Xi’an he/she has experienced some of the traditional stages of culture shock.

I could be spiritual. Thank you, Jesus, for helping me through these first challenging weeks of my exciting new adventure in China.

I could be emotional. ( )

I could do any of these. I could do all of these. I have weighed the pros and cons of each and have come to no clear decision.

On top of the tone problem there is the problem of how you—the reader—will respond to each of those tones.

To the humorous tone you might be slightly amused. Laugh out loud, shake your head and think you are actually missing out on something great. Which would be more than slightly misleading.

To the silver lining I’m more worried I might not be able to carry it off convincingly and the emotion would bleed through, leaving you with a somewhat unsettled feeling. What exactly is she trying to say here?

To the academic you’d probably be bored. And that’s not really my goal. I might wish that it be understood as a subtle cry for help, but I don’t think that anyone has been analyzing my writing style enough to detect such a disturbing digression from the norm.

To the spiritual you might nod approval or disgust. In either case I will feel slightly dishonest.

To the emotional you might respond in any number of ways. You might be shocked. I can’t believe she wrote that! You might be contemptuous. Oh, please! Get over yourself! You might be amused. Someone’s regressing. You might pity me. Which isn’t what I want. You might have some helpful suggestions for me. Which I’ve probably already heard.

Believe me, I’ve thought about this.

So the question then becomes am I writing for you or am I writing for me?

I wish I could say that I write solely for myself, but it’s not true. I journal for myself, yes, but blogging is essentially public. And I am forced to realize that I am far too concerned with your possible reaction and response to my writing. I wouldn’t want anyone to be displeased with me. I wouldn’t want anyone to be angry with me. Or—God forbid—anyone to think less of me. End of the world.

Yet despite my concern—my fear even—I have this intense need to communicate—to share in a public space, to communicate with other human beings, to offer my experiences in as dispassionate and un-hyped a form as possible for your review and critique hoping—desperately—that when the tale is told there will be agreement from my public, my readers, my friends, that my experiences are real, my feelings valid, and my responses reasonable.

Which would be tremendously appreciated as I am sort of falling apart here.

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