38 & 39 & 40 & 41: Bless You

Yeah, yeah… It’s been a while, I know.

First of all, thank you to everyone for the comments and likes and birthday wishes! Also, happy birthday to my grandmother! I would have texted/emailed her by now, but it’s about 4 in the morning, so I’ll wait a little longer.

Again, I’m grouping a lot of posts together. I rarely find a spare moment to write a post now, and frankly, I would rather spend those spare moments working on Chinese or just sitting beside Yuan Yuan in silence. I can always write a blog post, but I can’t always be in her company.

So, with that, I will try to prepare another post by the end of the week, but it’s very likely that my next update will either be from Beijing or when I’m home and jet lagged. To be completely honest, writing these is rather sad now. I’m either reminiscing about being home or dreading my departure from this home.

I had a little realization today. It’s not necessarily the happiest thing, but I think it’s important to mention.

I saw a picture before I came here. There were two stick figures seated across from one another: one of them labelled “comfort” and the other labelled “growth”. Growth’s hands are folded confidently above the table while Comfort sulks in the seat, looking small and defeated. Growth leans towards Comfort and says “this is just not going to work out”.

Every now and then, I notice this picture while scrolling through my photos.

Today, I really noticed how much my baby sister cries (there’s a point to this, I promise). It’s not a horrible, bloody-murder cry, but it’s enough to make everyone else in the house immediately direct their attention to her.

This is going to sound incredibly shallow, but I realized that the voice in the back of my head was saying “what a cry baby…”

Yes. Because she is a baby, and babies cry. That’s like, one out of 4 things they do. Eat, sleep, poop and cry. Well, and look cute, but that’s unrelated.

I started taking notice at when she cries. At first I thought she was hungry or she wanted to sleep or she needed to poop but I noticed that she only cries when Yuan Yuan is out of sight.

It doesn’t matter if she’s grabbing a glass of water or simply covered by a window curtain while yanking open the blinds; she’s not visible, and that’s all that her baby girl notices.

Well, even after I remembered that yes, she is a baby and babies cry, the voice wouldn’t shut up.

And then I realized why (again).

I’m secretly jealous. At first I assumed that I subconsciously wanted to spend more time with Yuan Yuan and that her daughter kept us at home for naps (I’m sorry that sounds shallow again…)

But, no, that wasn’t the reason either.

When her daughter cries, Yuan Yuan comes running. No matter what she’s doing, she scrambles into the room to pick up her baby (who suddenly stops crying) and then continues her task.

That’s what I’m jealous of.

No matter how long or how loud I could cry, I still won’t be home for another week. My mom can not come running in from the next room.

This was a little shocking to me. Of course, I love my family and friends back home and I do miss them, but I’m honestly not that homesick.

But, it’s human nature. When we’re young, we’re all used to having the option of running home to our moms or dads for support. It’s comfortable.

I thought the growth from this trip would be due to leaving home. But it’s not. At all.

Yes, leaving was incredibly difficult because I hate goodbyes, but that only takes a few minutes of strength.

The growth starts when you’re on your own for a long time. I mean, a goodbye isn’t difficult if you know you’ll see them in a few hours. You have to learn to trust yourself and become your own source of comfort.

In the beginning of this trip, I remember talking to many other students about homesickness. “It’s the worst when I’m alone… I just have to keep myself busy… Don’t think too much… I don’t trust myself to be alone with myself.” That last comment always came out of my mouth.

It’s completely true: I didn’t trust myself to be alone with myself. I knew I would make the situation much worse in my head and that I would only mentally scroll through pictures of home while listening to sad music (by the way, thanks, Ethan- those headphones are awesome).

I expected yesterday to be rather difficult. 16th birthday away from my family and friends. First birthday on my own… On the other side of the world.

Honestly, I had a blast yesterday (and that’s not just because I spent nearly 200 yuan on tea).

Whenever I meet someone with Yuan Yuan, I always hear her tell them “she’s 15 (now she says 16, but that’s beside the point),” which always triggers a sharp gasp out of her friend’s mouth. They all think I’m an adult (they also think I’m Russian, but again, beside the point (although this really perplexes me because I don’t think I have a single drop of Russian blood in me)) travelling (WHY IS THAT WORD ALWAYS UNDERLINED AS BEING MISSPELLED) to China to be reunited with friends (that sentence was really difficult to get through, I’m sorry (I’ve been told to stop apologizing in my blogs so I’m sorry for apologizing).

Being independent is not about throwing yourself into random situations and feeling confident about them (I used to think this term and definition matched). Being independent and being outgoing are very different. Independence is just about being comfortable in your own skin.

I look up to Yuan Yuan a lot. Well, not literally, ’cause she’s not that much taller than I am… But anyway, yes, I look up to her. I remember on the first day how her movements really shocked me. She’s incredibly synchronized. Now, you can accredit this to years of Taiji and Kung Fu, but let’s go with independence, too. She has a lot of street smarts; the ins and outs of the city, what food to eat, what price to pay, where to step on a cracked sidewalk, who to avoid, who to engage, when to speak, when to stay silent, etc.

Now, this drastically contrasts with me. I think I mentioned this earlier, but I trip like every day. Especially here. At one point yesterday, after I tripped, Yuan Yuan said “oh good, you hadn’t tripped yet today and I was getting worried.”

Quick side note: people don’t say “bless you” here after someone sneezes. Actually, they don’t say anything. There’s always an awkward silence afterwards (well, at least us Americans can sense the silence). I told Yuan Yuan that we say “bless you,” which I think she interpreted incorrectly, because after I tripped she said “bless you”… Oh well, I explained and we had a good laugh.

Anyway, I always feel awkward with my arms. Do you ever just stand somewhere and not know what to do with your arms? Like, you just feel out of place and don’t know what to do.

Well, I realized that I used to do this because I always felt like I needed to grab hold of something to stabilize me, or bring me comfort. This is surprisingly difficult to explain. Basically… Hm… It’s all about being comfortable in your own skin. I know I said that, but… It’s true.

You need to let go of comfort to grow. And from growth, you will gain more comfort, and realize that you never really let go of anything to begin with.

My family and friends will all still be there when I return, and Yuan Yuan and her family will all still be here when I come back to China (and yes, I meant to put in “when” and not “if”).

I wasn’t originally going to talk about all of that… ‘Cause not all of it really makes sense… But I decided not to do a collage of random, weird moments.

Well, actually, I know that for some of you, those weird moments are the only reason why you’re here… So… Okay, rapid-fire humiliation go!

Remember when I told you I ate pig ear? Well I was eating with Yuan Yuan again and just casually chewing on some beans and beef when she says “do you know what this is?” (this is my most feared question now).

“… nooooo….?”

“It’s cow.”

“Oh, right!” *sigh of relief* “Yeah, I thought it was beef.”

And then Yuan Yuan opens her mouth and points to her tongue…

It’s cow tongue. I was eating cow tongue…

Definitely going raw-vegan when I get home.

OH, for my birthday, Yuan Yuan bought me a long qipao and necklace from Tibet!!!!! She’s incredible. “I just want you to be happy,” she said. I’m always happy here.

She also threw me a little surprise party at KTV with a bunch of my friends from the program. The cake was fantastic (lots of fruit on top). Thank you to all that came and happy birthday to Alex and Helena as well!

So I mentioned that we bought a lot of tea yesterday, right? Well we also went grocery shopping… and bought bracelets… and some scarves… and some chopsticks… so we had a lot of bags. We also walked to all of these stores… Meaning that we had to lug everything back to the apartment. Our arms almost fell off but we were both laughing the entire time so it was hysterical.

I think that’s it for now. Sorry this post took so long. No promises on an update this week, but I will certainly try.

Last weekend with Yuan Yuan… for now, anyway. Wish me good luck on the culminating project and OPI!




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