Surprise! I moved to China!
Okay, so maybe this isn’t such a big surprise. I’ve been blathering on about moving to China for some time now.
But the big move did kind of have a way of sneaking up on me.
Maybe I was too busy enjoying pretzel M&Ms.
Or maybe it was all that American reality TV keeping me busy. (Not only were there the countless hours I had to spend watching the likes of Jersey Shore and Jerseylicious, but I also had to spend countless hours afterwards researching terms like “gorilla juicehead” and “disco fries” just to know what everyone was talking about. Who knew, New Jersey had such a complex vernacular?)
Or possibly I was too busy devising new games to play with my niece and nephew, who spend the weekdays at my parent’s house. (My favorite: “Pile Toys on Sally While She Lies on the Couch.” Yes, it’s just as action-packed as it sounds! And, yes, I am available to babysit! Act now, or you might not be able to afford me… with genius games like this one up my sleeve, I’m thinking about raising my rates!).
I must have been so busy, that I forgot I was moving to China.
I had been home in the States for two weeks before I got around to applying for my Chinese visa. In case you’re wondering, I really wouldn’t recommend postponing the whole visa application process should you be planning a trip to China — unless you’re the kind of person who enjoys having a million stress-induced heart attacks. Getting a Chinese visa usually takes about a week, and it takes even longer if you happen to be applying for one in the middle of the Chinese New Year when the Chinese Consulate is closed. I didn’t get my visa until about two days before I was scheduled to leave home… which, coincidentally, was about one day before my heart was scheduled to explode.
It’s not that I didn’t want to go to China.
Moving to China was always something I wanted to do one day.
But, like all the things I want to do one day (for example: having visible stomach muscles, learning how to talk to boys, and owning a unicorn ranch) moving to China sounded like a lot of work.
Everyone who had ever been to China or lived in China told me that it would be difficult. I was warned that it’s hard to get by without any Chinese knowledge. I was told it would be freezing when I arrived in mid-February. I heard horror stories about the air pollution and the food and the pushy crowds.
Yet, prior to leaving the States, I didn’t bother to learn a lick of Chinese. I only packed one bulky sweater, and the one pair of boots I brought with me is made from flimsy pleather (when they really should be made of something a bit more insulated… like hearty whale blubber). I didn’t bring a face mask or a backup supply of granola bars or even a sharp pointy stick to keep the pushy crowds at bay.
In fact, I did very little to prepare for my big move back to Asia.
I didn’t spend weeks poring over a packing list and hemming and hawing over what to bring and packing and repacking like I did last year when I set off on my big trip. Instead, this time, I spent weeks pouring myself margaritas and eating nachos. I got rid of the pants that I could no longer fit into and stubbornly refused to buy new pants in a size I didn’t feel was really me.
When I did pack my bags, I ended up cramming in the few things that still fit me. (This is the reason why I showed up to China with more pairs of shoes than pairs of pants… sadly, none of the shoes or pants happen to be adequately insulated. Anyone know where I can pick up a nice pair of fur-lined trousers or one of those pairs of puffy moonboots somewhere near Shanghai?).
I didn’t write a big blog post about my plans for my upcoming year of travel. (And it’s not because I don’t have tons of super awesome, top secret plans for the next year. Trust me! In fact, my plans are so super awesomely top secret that even I don’t know what they are yet!).
I didn’t come up with a set of rules for myself. Last year, I had a whole list of do’s and don’ts for my trip. I would write down all my expenses and keep to a strict budget. I would not pay any rent or stay in any hotels or guesthouses. (After all, why pay rent when you can sleep in public for free? So what if you wake up with pigeons in your ponytail and what appears to be scabies? Birds and bacterial infections, my friends, that’s what adventure is all about!). I also swore off guidebooks and group tours. (Instead, I would “live like a local”…. Or at least like the locals who eat cookies and hang out on couches).
These rules lasted about as long as most of my self-imposed rules do: approximately twenty-four hours.
Quickly after leaving Japan and arriving at the Bangkok airport last February, I booked a room at a nearby guesthouse, where I spent the evening prior to my morning flight to Chiang Rai in comfort and clean sheets. (Rather than, say, on a park bench covered in pigeon feathers).
I can’t say that I was too surprised at my willingness to give up on my rules so quickly. I’ve never been the “rules type”… or the “budget type”… or even, say, the “sleep in the international departures lounge of an airport type.”
The one thing that I managed to accomplish while I was at home (aside from aforementioned binging of Pretzel M&Ms and intensive studying of all Jersey-related reality TV shows) was to go through the few boxes that I kept at my parent’s house. After donating my old clothes and ditching old yearbooks (really, do I need evidence that my bangs once used to rival two-story buildings in height?), I managed to reduce my belongings down to three measly Rubbermaid bins and the two bags I brought with me to China.
In one box, I came across a letter I had written myself while I was in the eighth grade. The letter was sealed in a pink envelope and marked with the express directions that it not be opened until the year after I had written it.
I ended up opening it over fifteen years later.
My mother gave me the letter a few years ago after discovering it shoved down the pants of one of my old dolls (in the eighth grade, this must have been my idea of a time capsule).
The letter contained the following oath, which I had written to myself:
I will never not be myself: I will not fall victim to others, ideals or things.
I will not take drugs.
I will not be a slave to popularity or popular people!
I will not die if my clothes clash or if they are not expensive.
That is my oath
Hopefully I have kept it.
Me, Myself & I
After reviewing this oath written almost twenty-one years ago, I have to say I’ve done a pretty good job of upholding all my promises.
I am never not myself… despite all my attempts to be cooler or better or, you know, one of those people who has willpower.
I don’t do drugs… mostly, because they scare me. Heck, I’m even creeped out by cold medicine.
I have done a pretty good job of avoiding popularity. (I’d like to think this has been a conscious decision… and not, say, the result of my lack of ankles and my inability speak in coherent sentences while talking to cute boys.)
I have never once died because of my cheap, clashy clothes. (And, trust me, there isn’t anything I love more than cheap, clashy clothes! So what if my new shoes don’t match a thing I own and were made from nuclear waste? They only cost me two dollars! That’s like a dollar per shoe! And any resultant foot scarring comes free! Talk about bargain!)
Given my success at keeping to a whole bunch of promises I couldn’t even remember making back in the eighth grade, I’ve decided instead of rules, this year, I will just make oaths.
Oaths don’t sound nearly as restrictive and unfun as rules.
Besides, an oath is made when doing significant things – like becoming President or, ummm, a veterinarian. Sure, I’m not going to be castrating any cows anytime soon. (At least, I hope not! But, you never know! Given my past volunteer experiences, I wouldn’t be too surprised if I end up signing up to perform amateur cattle surgery in exchange for free room and board.) But, heck, getting rid of all my stuff (again), picking up my life (again) and moving myself to Asia (again) sounds pretty significant, right?
So, here, goes:
My Oath for my Upcoming Year of Travel
I will never not be myself. I have tried before and it simply doesn’t work. I’m stuck with me – every couch-loving, long-blathery-blog-post-writing, rule-scorning, scaredy-cat, snarky bit of me. And you’re stuck with me, too. (Or not… I mean you can stop reading this blog at any time. But that wouldn’t be very nice of you, now would it? And aren’t you just dying to find out what hi-jinks I get up to in China? That is when I muster up enough energy to leave my couch…)
I will not take drugs. Or jump out of an airplane. Or zipline through the jungle. Or do anything else that scares the ill-fitting pants off of me. But maybe I will try to conquer a few of my fears and do a few things I’m afraid of – like ride a horse in Mongolia… or, umm, pet a horse in Mongolia. Baby steps, people.
I will not be a slave to popularity or popular people… or those lists of popular travel bloggers. (Although if you want to put me on a list of popular travel bloggers, you’re welcome to do so. Just know I won’t be your slave! But I will totally be your BFF.)
I will not die if my clothes clash or if they are not expensive (but it would be super awesome if they could fit again… just saying). I will not die if this year doesn’t end up exactly as planned – even though I don’t really have much of a plan to begin with. I probably won’t even die if I ride a Mongolian horse or two (but maybe it’s best I don’t risk it).
That is my oath.
And I’m sticking to it… just like I’m sticking to my new couch. Have I mentioned my new couch? It’s HUGE. See:
All those people who told me I’d have a hard time in China, obviously, had no idea about the size of couches in these parts.
Me, Myself & I (and my new couch… we’re kind of an “item” these days)