Friday, July 29, 2011

es muss sein

if my dissertation is a stone tied to my feet
time is the ocean rising.

ooh metaphor.

and i am holding the scissors staring at the rope
but instead of sawing away -
the hours pass and
i'm daydreaming
thinking of books
sitting in the sun
laughing at stephen colbert
going through my high school journals (that girl was funny)
writing about villains
watching vampires on my computer
running outside on the track (even that)

and i can't help but think of procrastination in the context of Se7en (i know this is an old movie, but I just saw it recently). which leads to more mind maps of punishments and fears of self-drowning, goldfish and impotent villains, and thinking of kevin spacey which leads to thinking of brunch - because i saw him at brunch once, he was with a male model, and i was surprised because i was thinking of american beauty and then the plastic bag scene and ordinary-ness, and then i think of summer days in new york and music and the park in the evening, mint mojitos, and the old men who play chess, and ...

all roads lead everywhere but to my thesis.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I played violin for my mom's church on Sunday. It's very beautiful, a simple wooden church with arching rafters and ceiling high windows with a view of this forest of oak and pine tree. It's an anglican church, so the service is always very proper with ritual and silk cloth and little white paper-thin wafers during communion.

I usually play each time I come back, because most people there never get to hear music in person, and mostly because I know it's one thing I do that I can count on making my mother happy. The structure of the church is perfect for acoustics, and I'd attempted to practice so that morning even to me, each note sounded like it was on a wing. It was like the sound was yearning for the pine trees outside, as though it was reaching for the gravestones in the garden.

Afterward, people came to talk to me, some shook my hand, some were crying. They told me how they'd heard the song at a wedding, or how it reminded them of the past.
An old man held my hand and asked me solemnly if I would play at his funeral (His tone was as though he were asking me to get married, or go spend a day picnicking. My response was an awkward laugh / misplaced guffaw - which was probably the wrong reaction.)

One woman said it was her and her husband's favorite. "I'm sorry he couldn't have heard it in person today."
Tactless me: "Oh that's too bad why not? Tell him he should come next time!"
Her: "Oh honey, he's always listening, but... he passed on some years now."

I know I should have felt some kind of happiness or maybe some accomplishment, but mostly I felt like a fraud. I know I used to have talent, but I had mediocre effort - and I was just skating by on some former learned technique and acoustics, nothing extraordinary.
They assumed I was studying music or playing all the time - when in actuality, I didn't feel like admitting I'd quit years ago before I really got anywhere with it. Then they asked about school and what I study, and how I was probably all set to be a lawyer - when in actuality, I was/am horrible at law school, and if I could have, I would have quit that as well. And that I've had a dissertation to write that I've put off for months.

I'm not trying to be a severe self-critic or revel in emo-pity, 'oh the rain how it mirrors my tears' but in those moments I realized that there is so much room for giving and improving the world, doing something wondrous. A simple song like that could create such an echo, such meaning. And I've been living with no effort, like I'm just trying to get by, only a step above quitting. Self-contained and self-involved with no echo.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011


Eaten at chipotle: 1 (day 1 actually)
Gone to the gym: 2
Days spent unable to bend legs: 4 and counting (I fell up a set of stairs due to non-bending)
Attended church: 1 (and felt very out of place)
Harry Potter books read: 4
Harry Potter movie seen: 1 (Sobbed over Snape, who knew he would be the true romantic hero of the series)
Moments spent tempted to name a child Severus: too many
Math textbooks read: 0 (I did try - but Deathly Hallows was more interesting)
Alcohol quantities: 1 inch depth (is that called 1 cubic inch?) of wine, 1 spoon of Kentucky bourbon in my coffee
Pages of dissertation written: 0
Days spent thinking about dissertation: daily (the anxiety comes and goes)

Begged out of not going to the track to run laps
: daily (jetlag is the very legitimate excuse)
Watched TED talks: daily
Practiced violin: daily
Missed air conditioning: daily
Felt incredibly wholesome: daily

Monday, July 18, 2011


In attempt to be healthy, I agreed to go to the gym with my brother. Well actually, I forced him to take me, and somehow persuaded him to act as a trainer.
The result was 2 hours of being reduced to hysterical laughter (apparently I laugh when I'm frustrated) and muscle pain.

My brother doesn't believe in cardio, at least not on a treadmill (I didn't bother bringing up elliptical because that would have only earned me a look of extreme disdain) - only weight circuits, so that's what I did.
I used to think I was pretty strong for "a girl", I hate that expression... but apparently I'm not even that. To my trainer's frustration, I couldn't lift my body weight, I couldn't hang from the pull-up bar, much less pull myself up, and I had to keep asking for less repetitions. Asking for less only resulted in more repetitions.
He kept telling me that it was all mental; he ignored any crying or laughing "what's so funny?" :frown: and when I told him I really was going to drop the weight bar so HELP, he only walked away, which did force me to lift the bar back up so that I wouldn't be crushed to death. It was effective teaching I guess.
Overall I learned that sibling disapproval is a very motivating thing.

Also during my absence from the states, my parents have apparently become NRA supporters. While they've been members of the NRA since we were kids, now there's an NRA sticker on the car, and my father wears an NRA hat. They also told me about bills the NRA has successfully lobbied. When I mentioned the bill about concealed weapons on college campuses, they said it sounded like a wise idea.
cue speechless confusion.
I still don't know what to say about all this, it's too surreal, but last night I dreamt of revolvers and shotguns. I think my brain is still processing it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


After a 2 day flight delay and layover, I am finally back in the U.S.

It was embarrassing, I ended up saying bye to the dog and home a total of 3 times. The first time, I made a big hoopla about it, dramatically hugging my dog and cooking an elaborate meal (attempted to), and doing the whole drive to the airport, wave at the security gate thing. I then sat on the plane for 3 hours before they told us that the flight was delayed til the next morning.
So I sheepishly went back home, the dog was confused and then the next morning, went to check-in only to be told that the flight had been moved to that evening.
Went back home, dog was even more confused, and then the 3rd and final goodbye, the ride to the airport felt very deja vu. By then, I think everyone involved was just ready for me to leave. Elongated good-byes are so anti-climactic.
Parting is only sweet sorrow - if the parting happens quickly.

My layover was in Chicago, we were given the night to spend at an airport hotel. I'd never stayed in a hotel by myself before, and the whole experience felt surreal and falsely grown-up. I feel like I always read about strange things happen in airport hotels. And I had dreams of myself disappearing and no one knowing where I'd gone. "She was last seen at the O'Hare hotel."

Being back in virginia feels familiar and uncomfortable at the same time. It's like I'm in middle school, I can't really identify the feeling. It's feels as though there's a pressure in my skull, but I think that's also because my parents don't believe in air conditioning. (That sounds very spoiled, but honestly sometimes it feels like time is stagnant from the heat.)

I've realized that being in the U.S. is so much more 'interactive'. In Hong Kong, people try to pretend that others don't exist. If you fall or you brush into someone else, there is no eye contact, and people just move on their way. Here, everyone seems to have comments about things, I felt like I've had a dozen mini conversations with people, when I just realized it was only interaction. strange.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

deep water

I've been trying to finish my diving license. I never finished the one I started a couple years ago, because of my failure to pass the basic exams.
Apparently for an upcoming trip, it's best if I'm also an "advanced" diver, so I figured I should make the first step and get my basic license first.

The reason I failed last time was that I couldn't "clear my mask". Clearing a mask requires you to fill up the mask with water, and then somehow use air pressure to snort it out.
I didn't really understand the physics principle of it, and each time I'd end up gulping a huge maskful of water and then gasping and coughing my way to the surface.
It's even worse with the second step of the test, which requires you to take off the mask and then swim around and put it back on. I never got the chance to swim, the moment I took off the mask I'd start inhaling water.
The instructor tried to act like it was all right, but after 30 minutes of this, he stopped me. I think he was worried he was going to have a student drown herself in the 5 foot pool.

So last week, in the days before my training, I practiced walking around the apartment with a mask filled with water, breathing only out of the snorkel. It took some time, and I wondered if I could become the only person to drown above water.

I'm not sure why I am so afraid of water. It's not the thought of dying that scares me, but rather the moments of panicked breathing, coughs and gulps of water and lack of oxygen. I heard that babies are natural swimmers, and that there is a class where parents will take the newborn infant and drop them into the pool, but catching them right before they hit the water. Apparently this erases any fear of water and creates a life-long love of it. I wish my parents had signed up for that one.

After getting over the initial fear, and acing the mask clearing tests (walking around with the fish tank over my head was helpful!), there was something calming about being underwater beyond the fear... it felt peaceful. Free.