Sunday, November 21, 2010

Doctor Who as a Metaphor for Life

There are so many things I could address in this blog. I could address our fat idiot of a principal threatening me. I could address the fact that Yew Chung eats your soul, even when you don't work there. I could tell you about the old Chinese man shuffling down the street backwards in his brand-new Converse All-Stars this morning on my way to church. But I'd rather talk about Doctor Who.

A significant number of people who have come into my life in the last six years have been Doctor Who fans, and this spring I decided to give it a try. I liked it alright, enough to watch two seasons, and enough to get excited and set the recorder when I found it on BBC America this summer, but it wasn't until a week and a half ago that I decided to start season three. It and four (which I'm halfway through after starting this morning) have been amazing. Why? Okay, I gotta say, I love the whole traveler of time and space thing - repeatedly the Doctor is asked what he does, and he replies, "Travel." That's kind of my life! But what's really doing it for me is the heroines from these two seasons. Don't get me wrong - I liked Rose, I liked what I saw of Amy, but they don't have the flaws that give Martha and Donna meaning. Or their strengths - I love the fact that after a season of pining over the Doctor Martha says, "Look. Enough of this. I'm getting out and moving on." Who has that kind of strength? And Donna, who we meet at the beginning of season three - she's kind of a loudmouthed idiot, but she helps save the world and, more to the point, pulls the Doctor back from the edge that he currently puts himself out on, then says, "You know what? No. Not going with you - ya kinda scare me." She comes to regret that decision, and by the time you see her again at the beginning of season four, she seems like a totally different person. Still a loudmouth, but more with it, more willing to embrace the world, even when it scares her, and still able to help the Doctor remember what makes him who he is.

I kinda want those qualities for myself.

I also love the fact that this show leaves you with that feeling that anything is possible. I don't mean aliens or time travel, but the little miracles of finding your strength, of moving forward and reaching for what you want.

It's November 21, 2010. I've been in Shanghai for three months and eleven days. In that time I've lost some weight - not sure how much, as it's been a while since I last hit the sauna - made some friends, and become a more driven teacher. But I've kind of been holding back. There's so much more I want to do - I want to belly dance again, not just practice but perform, in the body I had when I lived in Korea. I want to write and illustrate my book - I haven't even touched it in almost two months. I want a closer relationship with God. I realized today that the way I feel about one of my friends, who doesn't seem to really care about me unless I'm needed is probably the way I make Heavenly Father feel, even being the patient, omnipotent deity that he is. When I get home from school, there's not much dance in me, or much art for that matter, and let me tell you about how much I feel like hanging out with Mormons for three hours on the other side of town, let alone throughout the week. But I've been that version of myself before, on all three counts, and so it MUST be possible to be me again. And watching impossible things like Doctor Who makes me believe, somehow, that I will.

That's all I have to say, I guess. Except that I wish - OH, how I wish - that the weekends were just one day longer. I could really use another day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Honeymoon's Over

So, I've been in Shanghai for three months now. In my experience, this is about when the whole, "ooh-I'm-living-in-a-foreign-land-kinda-like-on-vacation" period ends, and the reality sets in. In other words: the honeymoon's over.

But actually, I'm not sure I even feel that honeymoon period anymore. Maybe I'm just jaded, but picking up and moving to Shanghai hasn't been that exciting. Like any place where the majority don't speak your mother tongue, there are challenges, and like any international school, there are quirks, but on the whole it is, as they say here in Asia, "Same-same, but different." Same s-h-you-know-what, different toilet (in this case, one over which you squat, and which no longer comes with a hose attachment). I mean, Shanghai is basically a big city, and no matter where you go, big cities operate about the same way. It is modern and fairly clean, has subways and buses, and all sorts of foreign foods and shopping. It's not hard to adjust, under the circumstances, and I've gotten pretty used to communication gaps and being stared at, and the culture shock has quietly eased during my last two adventures.

In fact, if anything, I feel like I'm hitting my stride right now. I've gotten used to the pressure and angle the school uses when they jerk me around, and because this is my second PYP school, I can anticipate some of the things they're going to ask me to do. I'm getting over that awkward period you go through with new friends, and things are normalizing with old friends. I've found a good dance teacher. So maybe the honeymoon's over, but I'm sure the honeymoon gets boring eventually, and the mark of a good life is being happy to be home, and I guess I am.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pounding Pavements

This is the seventh night Socrates and I have gone walking since last Monday.

Our whole walking thing was a lot more convenient when he was living upstairs from me. The only effort required was one of us phoning the other and suggesting it. (This was not the only convenient thing about being neighbors - it was easier to convince him to bring his movies down to watch on the projector when it was a matter of taking the stairs rather than a taxi. Oh well). Now one of us has to go across town to meet the other. One of us being me. Don't go hating on him, though...I volunteered for it, and not just because I am so selfless that I will go all the way across town just to be sure he gets his exercise. Partly it's because I want the extra exercise of riding my bike over to his place, partly because I eat dinner over there every other night or so, anyways, and partly because afterwards I can stop at Coldstone's, if I'm feeling it. Okay, maybe the trip to Coldstone's negates some of the positive effects of walking for one and a half or two hours...but then, since I rode my bike over and back, I reckon I'm still ahead of the game.

And yes, I said one and a half or two hours. We never walked that long in RAK. Usually we made it forty minutes back then. Of course, there really wasn't anywhere to go in Ras al Khaimah. No sidewalks. Sand in your sneakers. Assholes driving up and ogling you. None of that's a problem here (okay, actually I get stared at quite a bit but I've just accepted that as a fact of my expat life, and I don't mind it when Asians do it), and there are endless tree-lined streets to beat. We've wandered the streets north of his place. We've wandered them all the way to my place. We've even wandered ones that we didn't know the destination of and, thus, ended up getting turned around to the point that neither of us were quite sure of where we were. It was fun...well, up to the point where he had a hypoglycemic episode on the ring road without a convenience store in sight. That was a little he was swearing and talking to himself about where the next convenience store was, I was having visions of carrying him piggyback up to the walking street (and so yesterday I stuck a pack of candies in my purse just to be safe, tonight he carried a can of coke).

Is it a pain in the ass? A bit. I haven't had the time/energy to work on Kashmir in a week and a half. But I'm enjoying the time with him, and I'm REALLY enjoying the fact that my clothes fit better - whether it's from the walking, or just plain old Asian magic, I can't wait til the next time I weigh in at the sauna!