Friday, February 23, 2007

A Choiceless Choice

At dinner A was saying that surprises have always seemed to land on her lap at moments most unexpected. Everytime she comes back to the states, things happen that transport her out of this country again to a new country/territory where she'd have to build new roots, make new friends, and get used to a new culture and language not necessarily the most familiar. She wanted to be in NYC after graduation but ended up working in HK for 4 years. Now coming back to the states for MBA, it seems like the summer is going to send her to London (or Bombay even), an opportunity that perhaps will just spin into continuous overseas posts and adventures in the future.

"But I really do feel like settling down a bit more and building my roots," she said.

"Could it be that these companies always like to send you 'out' b/c they value your already rich overseas experience as an Indian descent grown up in Taiwan and educated in the West?" We asked.

"True, very likely. However, how am I ever going to settle? At this point, I can't even say for sure where home is anymore."

Completely understood.

People like us have 2 choices: a) To continue to move and migrate and make this very transitional nature of our past the fundamental and eventual ID of our lives; b) to - at one point - say, "nope, I ain't going anywhere until I have some roots built up and a place I know for certain called 'home'".

Either choice seems infinitely difficult at times. Choice a) entails the persistence and stamina to stay onto the route always taken; choice b) requires perhaps even greater stamina and determination to reverse a path always taken.

The reality is - at times, it just isn't about what we want but what life brings to us. A is not going to turn down a great job opportunity even if it means sending herself to the most expensive city over the summer for 15 weeks, as glamorous as it may seem but something that perhaps just a bit too tiring for a well-traveled soul. On the other hand, what is the alternative? To stay put out of a personal will at a place that may still never become the real home that A herself is looking for?

The other day I watched "French Kiss" on the way down to NYC. By no means my favorite movie but one scene struck me hard. When the movie came to the end, Meg Ryan, in a plain, summer dress, was kissing Kevin Kline and walking down a tiny path in a French vineyard, two hands holding onto each other's tight.

I was shocked. After being someone who was neither Canadian nor American, whose her green card application utterly rejected and ID - for a while - becoming country-less and border-less, Meg Ryan chose that simple country life, somewhere down in a beautiful vineyard or winery in an unknown French town.

Why would she do that?! I asked myself, utterly puzzled.

Then I realized - the reason why that scene startled me to even a slight point of disgust was because I was too afraid that I might one day becoming like that character in the movie. To put it simply - I thought I saw my own image in that scene.

Scariness with a tint of truth, perhaps.

梅ちゃん at 3:53:00 PM

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Days of Simplicity

That summer in Yokohama is dearly missed.

When everything in life just seemed so much more simple. Waking up at 8 am, I'd munch on a piece Japanese pastry purchased on the way home the night before while trying to jot down key words from the morning news report - an assignment should've been done the night even though on a really rushed day, a peak at the news headline brightly flashed in front of the JR Sakuragi-cho station would work just fine.

Before the 15-min NHK morning drama came to a close, I'd gulp down a glass of cold milk and then dash out of the apartment, joining the crowd of salary-class with a fresh start of day, anticipating the new and the exciting. Classes may not always be the most fun, but on a slow day seeing U-san across from me sipping his second can of Georgia Coffee in order to stay awake or L-san struggling to hide his big yawn over a slow discussion on a piece of boring article was entertaining itself. The art of gossiping, cross-lingual miscommunication, and house-wife-like chit-chats were practiced daily at lunch. After all, who can avoid not comparing the delicacies in each other's obento-box when there is more than cold sandwiches and iceberg lettuce salad to offer?

If I decided to take a break from Tokyo or museum gallery rooms, YC and I would get together in the late afternoon, at that usual meeting spot, a few steps away from the starbucks at west exit. Sometimes a small udon-shop tugged in the corner of restaurant alley in the basement of the station would satisfy our appetite, and sometimes a little heavier drinking was explored. Out of the blue one time YC and I walked into the arcade center and blew away 2000-yen right there. "Don't bother with the Curry Museum upstairs, it wasn't as good as the Ramen one," YC told me as we rode on the escalator downstairs at the end of the night. "L-san and I are going to visit the Kanagawa-ken Museum of History tomorrow, wanna come?" She also invited.

If spent in solitude, the afternoon would either be an adventurous stroll down an area never visited before or a nostalgic reminiscence near a station once frequented everyday or a cafe where a certain memories were always kept intact.

And I love the scenery past by before the train arrives in Shinagawa on Keihin-Tohoku line. Stunningly beautiful, even if the sun rays are too dazzling for my eyes to open wide.

Wish life could be like that summer, each and everyday. Not that life wasn't all rosy and merry or if void of worries, stresses, or aches. But life was simple, and each day was filled with anticipation of learning about something new, something never seen or tasted or touched or experienced before.

That summer is going to return. Soon, very very soon.

梅ちゃん at 10:19:00 AM

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Post-Dramatic

First tutorial section went really well. Couldn't get my students to stop talking (while munching on the chips and valentine's day sweet goodies at the same time), and I definitely over-prepped. Can't figure out if it was the post-dinner meeting time that made them all the more relaxed and laid back or if it's just the effect of the first meeting. But all in all it was a good meeting, and I look forward to more.

Although I'm so incredibly brain dead right now.

Sometimes I wish there could be someone or a small pack of good old friends who could be there to share the post-dramatic moment of my life. The dramatic moment or the height of an important event is always glamorous, but the hardest is the time of aftermath, when one returns to a quiet room all by oneself, wishing there could be a few kindred spirits awaiting there, giving a pat on the shoulder or a cast a smile or an eye of recognition that signals "good job, 辛苦了,お疲れさま ..."

Tired of always needing to have my acts together, have my independence intact, my solitude enjoyed only a little bit too much over the course of time. Wanting to embark on a journey where I may not be the only traveling party but at times there is someone else out there who could board the plane with me, seal the last cardboard box for me, or - even better - share that inner, tumbling feeling of sentimentality when I have to draw my last glance at a once familiar place before leaping ahead into the future, even when all that is awaiting me is the unknown.

Thanks for the song "Yellow." The warmest source of solace after a long long day of work.

梅ちゃん at 3:05:00 PM

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

For Passion Doesn't Die ...

Snow had fallen so quietly over the past few hours while I sat in front of the living room dinning table, rigorously preparing for my very first tutorial section tomorrow evening. I wish I could be the first one to step out of the house and see the perfectly untreaded snow field outside before the early-morning risers overlook and destroy the serenity of that flatness in the midst of their early-morning rush.

A friend of mine graciously shared with me his latest book just recently came out in TW, one that shouldn't be the most relaxing read after a long night of section preparation but one that I somehow could not put down even after a long night of section prep. Putting aside the language of flying passion across every page of the book for a moment, it is the firm, thriving faith in what is nowadays often ridiculed if not entirely forgotten by those who claim to have experienced the world or grown in age - idealism - is what drew my eyes.

One of the commentaries on the book regards this book (and my friend) as a precious jewel in this day and age where passion, idealism, and faith have long lost their grip on the hearts of the populace. "Innocent passions & humble pursuits of ideals," as the commentator readily writes, stand as core values that characterize this book, a unique work of art that stands against the tides/waves of the day too often caught up with pragmatism, personal gain, if not utter cynicism or all together long-abandoned hope in the possibility of change, whether the positive or the progressive.

What shook me more is to move from the pages of the book to the contemplation on the question of what would characterize my very own passions and in what particular way have I or will I continue to pursue such passions before becoming too jaded by the values and standards of the world out there. Still too abstract for a full-length discussion, I know (esp. given that it's 4 am in the morning), but I just want to write this down as a reminder to myself - passion doesn't die; it's just a question of how you sustain it persistently, pursue it actively, and conscienciously keep it burning like a blazing fire.

For the passions long beheld and those dreams/goals not yet realized. Each day is a golden opportunity to move closer towards that ultimate end, isn't it?

梅ちゃん at 5:45:00 PM

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The Unfathomable Gap

Sometimes it feels like life just has not stopped being in constant flux for as far as and as long as my memory could serve me since the beginning of the school year. So many events and people, whether expected or unexpected, have come into life, spinning my head to an unfathomable degree and throwing me off guard.

Looking ahead, there remain monumental amount of work and issues and ends to meet and take care of before the book of life turns into a fresh page in a familiar yet essentially another foreign land on the edge of the Pacific ring. What is the future going to entail I cannot say for sure; at this point I'm just going to focus on how to get through the transitional stage in between.

Today in lecture Prof. C reminded us of the anxious gap between the traditional and the imagined "modern" that Liang Qichao once attempted to tread over in his failed fictional attempt to draw a beautiful "New Future of China." Because the gap was too great and even the way of treading over seemed vastly opaque, Liang eventually abandoned his ambitious project and left behind a grand (though horrifically boring) beginning of a fictional writing not even anywhere close to being a futuristic blue print of China.

Not that I myself have any grandiose ideas on how to bridge this gap between the traditional and the modern in relations to the future of China, but the anecdote of Liang somehow made me think of my own life at the moment - in flux, in transition, in searching for a direction to tread over this seemingly vast and unknown "gap" in between the "now" and, hopefully, "near future."

"Faith" is becoming monumental in the picture. 信念吧,必須要一些,besides the everlasting grip on 信仰。

梅ちゃん at 8:13:00 AM

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

霜景

週六安靜的午後,應該是最適合好好念書的,卻不知為何思緒在電腦前遊走,找不到落腳處。

一月底開學後的第二週,京都下了場很大的過夜雪。一早起床從窗戶往下看,樓下那棟小小的樸實木屋的已被覆上一層厚白的雪。那是當時四条新町的小巷裡唯一還沒有被大的建築公司買去的一塊地皮吧。半年後的暑假回去,那塊地皮開始大興土木;兩年半後再去,以往從廚房的窗戶可以望見的京都鐵塔完全消失蹤影。

從OK便利商店買了做為午餐的炒米粉便當和沖泡式海帶湯後,穿過馬路去對面的紅色郵筒投信。地上溼溼的,卻看不到任何雪白的足印。畢竟是京都市中心的銀行區,一早往來的上班族們毫不留情地將前晚積留下來的薄雪踩成一灘灘的小水窪。

站在(現已倒閉的)さくら銀行前等著五路公車,手中拿著半小時後第一堂課要小考的生詞表,眼睛卻盯著對街隔著玻璃窗,坐在すき屋的櫃台上低頭趴飯大口喝湯的中年おじさん們猛看。一早起來能喝碗熱騰騰的味璔湯還真是幸福,雖然對這些薪水族們之後一天忙碌的職場生活不生任何羨慕。

四条河原町・三条京阪・三条東山前・平安神宮前 ... 聲音低沉的公車司機不厭其煩地報著站名,眼中不時瞄著的生詞表開始變得無趣。在車子還沒彎過美術館前突然決定把生詞表往背包裡一塞,掛上discman(畢竟iPod還沒問世啊~)的耳機。「就是一首歌也好,在三小時的日文課開始之前 ...」,心裡想著。

一向是下了車急忙穿過不大的馬路,延著動物園的圍牆,穿過學校後方的停車場進入那三層樓高的語言研究中心。那天跳下車的我,卻在人行道上駐足不動。

眼中凝視的是左手邊不遠處的東山。陽光很強,原本靄靄的白雪化的只剩下杉樹林尖頭上的殘霜。從來沒有發現細細的杉樹是如此的富有層次,突然想起小時候家裡裝第四台時,早上十、十一點鐘在NHK上有個留著大鬍子的大師教大家畫油畫的節目。那一刻東山上的殘雪好似那位大鬍子畫師拿著點著象牙白的顏料畫筆,在東山的杉林枝頭上輕鬆塗點的成果,純淨而完美。

今年的波士頓幾乎沒雪,氣溫卻是零下十幾度的寒冷。有一個畫布的話一定會嘗試著將那天早上看到的東山雪景畫下來的,即使畫出來的會是隨著時光流逝遺留下來的記憶殘景。

「霜霜」... 那會是多麼美的名字。

梅ちゃん at 4:38:00 AM

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Buckling Down ... Time to Get Work DONE!!!

Just spent the entire evening (alright, except a few MSN moments and phone conversations) going through my email mailbox flooded by all the unreplied email to the point of explosion. Can't believe that life can become so chaotic after a week of email laziness.

Had the first lecture for sophomore tutorial today. Great to see old, familiar faces from past semester's history course and excited to see a lot more fresh faces esp. those eager to make EAS their secondary concentrations. Seeing them and esp. some of their enthusiasm shinning across their young, lovely faces, I thought about the Chinese lit class that I took in 2nd sophomore year that in many ways played a big role in my love for East Asian Studies later on.

I really love Prof. C for not only her academic expertise but also her sense of humor (rare for a faculty member in a snobbish academic institution like Harvard) and, most importantly, her keen sense with the latest happenings in the world, in the field, in the literatures/arts, in the film industry, and even mainstream pop culture. Seeing her brings back a flickering hope for academia (that sometimes feels like has been dwindling since day one of my arrival here), for she is someone who demonstrates to me that an academic could be different and live differently, apart from the much ridiculed (at least to some people in the world) culture of the "ivory tower."

This is going to be a great class, I can just feel it. Even though I'm still not too sure how to approach leading a section from 7-9 pm on a mid-week evening (and still don't know how Harvard students could possibly have more energy during that time slot after a full day of activities), but I'm in everyway looking forward to it.

Hopefully this is going to be a remarkable experience for my students as well, though I haven't met them in person or learned their life stories yet. Hopefully one day some of them, if not all, would be able to look back and say - Ah, that sophomore tutorial class ... That was what made all the difference.

梅ちゃん at 4:02:00 PM

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

下一站

書寫旅行進入下一站,如同躺在溫暖的沙灘般美好。

The comment problem has been fixed! Please feel free to leave or share your dearest comments, thoughts, inspirations or greetings here!

梅ちゃん at 3:16:00 PM

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Walking Out & Walking Past

The following was written (and posted on my old xanga site) about a year ago, in Feb 2006. Re-reading it and looking back at my own self in Feb 2006, I am startled to see that those were the very thoughts deeply believed and beheld a year ago.

How in the world has life evolved and changed in such an astonishing degree in merely one year?

Was that my true self? Since when have I felt so incredibly apart from those thoughts and ideas, that bursting passion and faith that carried me on through the ups and downs of the days studying my life away in the library corner yet dreaming for a whole different universe miles away from me?

Events and people and circumstances have occurred over the past year that brought me to one of the lowest points in life. "Melancholy" is the term pervasively felt or commented by a close friend of mine who reads through numerous blog entries on this new site.

Since when has melancholy come to define my state of mind and soul?

Eager to shake it off. Though that is part of me, that sentimental and pensive and perhaps thoughtful yet melancholic side of me; it hides and casts shadows upon the other side of me that continues to believe, to dream, to hold on to the promises once given to me.

To have faith and to continue to hold on to it - both spiritually and in various aspects of reality - is what I eagerly await myself to become. To walk past the events of the year past and look forward to the future, to reclaim and hold on tight to the passion and faith that once claim the corner stone and utmost beauty of my life -- THAT shall be the new year resolution.

I'm holding my breath, awaiting for the "future" to come, though I cannot see clearly what it entails or what it beholds. Yet with passion and faith I will continue to await.

Walking out and walking past. It's a step of immense difficulty that I have struggled with during countless days over this past year. Yet, it is time.

May all thanksgiving and praises be given to the Him who once renewed and continues to refine my life, event by event, day by day, season after season.


*****

- summer 06 -

I received a 2006 calendar from OMF, the missions organization I went to Laos with last summer and THE BOMB org on earth I think, a while ago but didn't open it up till last night. Immediately I was drawn to the pictures of the people's groups across every page of the calendar. The Han Chinese, the Hui, the Shan Burmese, the Japanese, the Khamba Tibetans, the Thai ... On each picture there's a scriptural reference to the command for missions, and there's also a percentage figure for the Christian population among these people's groups. Except the Han Chinese page that reads "5 percent" for the figure, all the rest read "1 percent" or "less than 1 percent."

Such is the reality of the world that we're living in. There remain to be 2 billions of people who are unreached by the gospels, and a majority of the same 2 billion people also fall into another category of the 2 billion people living under $2 a day.

As I'm planning ahead for this upcoming summer, I'm again pondering on the option of missions. Funny how I just used the word, "option." Yes, the sad reality is that for too many Christians including myself, too often we regard missions as an "option" or a "choice" that one has the privilege to make. However, is that the same attitude that the Scripture holds for the work of missions? Is that what Jesus wants for us? When 2 billion people still have not heard of Jesus or the Christian faith (and henceforth never having the "choice" to choose to believe or not), and when the same group of 2 billion people most likely live in poverty of $2 a day if not less, I am still sitting in my cozy room in Cambridge, pondering the "option" of going on missions or not.

I understand that there are seasons in life and in each season there is a primary goal/purpose/agenda that one needs to focus on. I am a Ph.D. student on East Asian Languages and Civilizations, and this is my primary "job" or career ID that I want to remain faithful to. Yet on the other hand, I too am Christian and this identity remains constant and should override all other worldly identities that I behold (esp. since worldly ID's shift around all the time, and my Ph.D. status will likely or *hopefully* evolve into something else 3-4 years down the road). So regardless of where I am, what I'm doing, or which particular season of life I'm in, my Christian ID is SET in stone and shall never change.

I am a missionary wherever I go, whatever I do, whenever I am. It's a mentality, just like my Christian ID, that should remain constant and never change. However, why is it that while we as Christians don't question so much our ID as Christians, we often think of the ID of missionary as something that only belongs to those who are the bravest or specially called?

Practically speaking, what does this missionary mentality mean for my upcoming summer plans? After all, there is a summer to come and 4 months to spend away from the Cambridge campus, so how shall I live myself out as a missionary during the course of June, July, August, and part of September?

Summer has always been my favorite season and at times is the only thing that keeps me going in the midst of intense workload during the school year. I don't know how many times in the middle of writing an essay or trying to cram for next day's seminar, I'd envision myself riding on the train somewhere in Tokyo and just doing people-watching in front of Shibuya station. Or I'd walk around in my room barefoot and suddenly think of the sensation of walking down hot, sandy beaches along the coastal line of Thailand. Sometimes even the aroma of some sort is enough to bring back memories of Shi-lin night market in Taipei that are too hard for my stomach to bear. Summer, at times, is the only thing that I look forward to in the winter nights of Boston even when my room is nicely heated and resembles of weather in the high 70's.

So what is this summer going to entail or what stories will it unfold? I just wrote a bunch of email to my prof's asking for letters of recommendations for summer research/travel grants. And already I can see myself carving up the summer by segments of 6 weeks here, 3 weeks there, and another 4 weeks somewhere else. I want this summer to be rich with research experiences, packed with both fun and rough times on the road, or filled up down to every minute great memories for another long academic year to come. Yet, most of all, I want to be able to grow and mature, both in faith and in personhood, through experiences and encounters with people that no classroom setting or library books may ever offer. I want to be able to engage in life and esp. relationships with people that surpass whatever that scholars or writers tell me and to claim those experiences as "tasted," not "learned." Most of all, I want to be able to see God and experience His presence amongst and love for people - for all people - not b/c the church or the Book tells me so but b/c I vividly see Him walking amongst them.

So what is this summer really going to be like? I don't know ... With too many applications to fill out and deadlines to meet, I can only keep doing them and hope that God will soon solidify some of the "options" for me. Well, to Him, they won't be options anymore but His will. And all I need to do is to enjoy the ride that He's given me and be as faithful to Him as possible. Most of all, regardless of where I end up going or what I end up doing, I want to maintain the mentality of a missionary (if not becoming a member of a missions trip or some sort for a period of time).

And here in Cambridge as well.

(2/16/06)

梅ちゃん at 2:44:00 PM

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