Tuesday, September 18, 2007

balancing the brush

I realized while talking to a friend of mine today online that I've accidentally given my blog a rather negative tone so far. This entry is an attempt to balance the mood in my little corner of cyberspace.

This weekend was very positive on the whole. On Friday afternoon I went to the second session of my traditional Chinese Painting Studio class, where we tried our hand at painting Chinese orchids. I can't say that my fledgling attempts were high art, but some of them were attractive in an amateurish way, which pleased me greatly. Well, I should clarify--my attempts at the orchid leaves turned out okay. The strokes involved in making the flower itself still mystify me to a great extent, but my roommate has done Chinese painting before, so I am optimistic that with a practice and a little tutoring I'll improve.

After class, I was pretty much exhausted and felt slightly discouraged by my status as the only round-eye in the class (since the professor's mode of operation so far has been to give me a brief translation after speaking to everyone else in Cantonese). Despite this, I can definitely say that I am learning something new every time I attend that class.

EDIT: I talked to the prof. this last week, and he was really nice about using more English, thankfully. Now I just have to figure out how I'll turn in a passable orchid painting next class... scary!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Just say no, kids.

There's a bizarre pattern that I'm noticing here in my second week of studying abroad: International students seem to think that the weekend starts on Wednesday and doesn't end until Monday night, even when they have class.

Please tell me that this is a phase people will get over. It makes me feel so edgy! Am I missing out on everything? Is it weird to feel uncomfortable with the idea of going out with people who will most likely get fall-down drunk? Okay, that isn't fair. I don't know if they do that every time they go out--but the idea that they might still makes me feel panicky. I don't want to find my way back to campus at 2 am by myself from downtown if everyone else feels like stumbling back at 5 am instead. (And I've heard stories involving times just like that, so it's no exaggeration.)

At least I'm getting to be friends with some really good people. I'm going to go out with some of the tamer crowd tomorrow night, and we're getting our hair done before. I'm really looking forward to that, so at the moment I'm trying to focus on it instead of stressing out.

To be realistic, there was more to my remorse and panic over turning down the invitation to go out tonight than just fear of exclusion. I've already decided that I'm not going to pursue this for multiple reasons, but I kind of like one of the guys who invited me, and despite my decision to no longer encourage interest, I still felt extreme internal pressure to please him. I kept calm on the surface, but I basically freaked out after I called to cancel on him.

I don't know--people seem to feel I am too expressive or too emotional, but I honestly feel like I'm more content than most people. Yeah, I don't hide my enthusiasm or my disappointment or even my seriousness for that matter, but it's only honesty--not psychosis. :) I like being expressive and open. It's fun, and I never have to worry about "if I'd said this" or "if I'd only told him that." I think everyone experiences the things that I express. It's just human, but for some reason we rarely share our humanity. That's okay. I plan to love and grieve openly anyway, even if it isn't the popular choice.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

ach, mein stomack!

I tried to be really tolerant and adventurous at the Pepperdine group dinner last night, but I guess I was a little too brave. We had hotpot, which is a style of dining where there's a pot of boiling water with spices in the center. The food is then cooked by dropping raw veggies, meats, etc, into said water.

My experience last night wasn't bad, but this morning I woke up feeling slightly nauseous. Perhaps the different food was a shock to my system after having so little to eat earlier in the day. Thankfully a fellow Pepperdiner had some Pepto Bismol, and my looming health crisis has been averted--for today, at least. I'm praying that my system will have sorted itself out by the time I wake up tomorrow morning.

Note to self: It is good to be adventurous, but your stomach is not made of iron.

Oh--and I just made an absolutely wonderful discovery! Each floor of our residence tower has a kitchenette, and I've only just realized that each one is fully stocked with cooking utensils, cutting knives, and dish detergent. I see glorious nights of self-cooked meals in my near future. :)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I need your grace.

I felt kinda crappy last night. I don't know if that came across in my entry or not, but it's definitely true. After talking and thinking, I've decided that even though all the classes and new people and new experiences are overwhelming, I'm not going to let them beat me.

I could lay around in my room and feel sorry for myself, which would be more than easy to do, but I refuse. It's time to grow up one more time. I will take care of myself by exercising regularly, eating well, praying often, and accepting things easily. No more of this pity-party crap.
God loves me, I love me, and that should be enough fuel to get me going each day.

In keeping with this line of thinking, I'm going to go swim now, and then swing by the library to do some reserve reading for class tomorrow. Life doesn't have to be as dramatic as we like to think, thank goodness!

breaking in my traveling shoes

Well, I've finished my second weekend here in Hong Kong, and it's weird to reflect on my experiences so far.

I've just come back from my first venture to the "Night Market," and that was fun--lots of colors glittering under lights and pushy salespeople. I went with Elisha and Peta (among others), and after spending time with them today, I think they'll become buddies of mine. They're both a ton of fun, and I enjoy laughing with them--an important ingredient in any good friendship, in my experience.

I guess part of the reason it's bizarre to think about my time here so far is because it just doesn't seem like Hong Kong could really exist--it's been this theoretical place of textbooks and travel shows for so long that stepping into it is somewhat unnerving. Parts of it jump out at me as suddenly and strikingly familiar, such as the shining tables of jade and open-air food vendors, while other times, I am swept away by the profound foreign-ness of this place. Occasionally the sensation can be quite literal, as when I almost fell out of the bus this morning after getting tangled in its automated doors.

I've kept a very good internal balance so far, but the sense of being a rookie hasn't quite worn off yet, which can be stressful at times. Always having to ask people and and think about what you're doing gets a little tiring. Thankfully, with some journaling, prayer, and the support of my parents from across the miles, I've retained some sense of myself. Unlike my 6 weeks in Japan this summer (which was my first extended trip abroad), I'm making a conscious attempt to be patient with both myself and others during this adjustment period. It's really made a difference, and I think that accepting myself for where I am instead of trying to push myself forward has allowed me to be much happier during my culture shock so far.

In some ways it feels like I've been here forever, because it's so easy to be immersed in the moment as I experience this city for the first time--I simply forget about both past and future. Standing knee-deep in the flow of the present is truly beautiful, let me tell you. However, there are some mornings that I wake up and feel like a newborn--completely helpless, vulnerable, and ignorant. I think that going through the pain of culture shock is good. I like it in some slightly twisted way, I guess, because that pain lets me know that I'm growing. It tires me out after awhile, but that's good, too, because then I understand why my reliance on God is vital--not just some spiritual exercise.

This doesn't even begin to cover my first two weeks in Hong Kong, but I hope to document my internal and external journey more thoroughly in the future by journaling on a more frequent basis. Have a blessed night/day/etc!