August 30, 2010

Bring it on, 22.

I should be eating dumplings and singing karaoke in downtown Hangzhou today, but instead I'm spending my 22nd birthday creeping on campus as if I were still a student and hanging around Fargo with some of my favorite people. I can't complain, it's just not where I expected to be.

After a month of "I should know by tomorrow what I'm doing..." I finally do know what I'm doing. For the most part, anyway. 

By some sort of miracle, I have a really great friend coming with me to China. She tried to go to Korea in August and after a handful of punches to the gut for both of us, we decided to take our emotionally battered selves and go to China together. Though, we're both hesitant to get excited just yet because there is so much that's still up in the air.

She was the best birthday gift I could ask for; at this point in my life, I just didn't have enough inner motivation to go to China alone for 9 months. When I went to Rome, I didn't think twice about going alone, but Italy is a completely different breed than China. At any rate, at least I'll have a karaoke partner! (Ugh... I've never sang karaoke stateside and it's the social equivalent of going out to coffee in Asia...)

My friend and I are like little soldiers waiting for deployment. I'm drifting around Fargo for the next 10 days - 3 weeks (have a couch I could stay on?? Kidding! ...well sort of). As soon as our permits arrive, my friend and I are both going home then we'll meet in DC and take care of our visas there.  From Washington it's onward to Shanghai. With any luck, we'll be there in a month from right now.

We'll be arriving 3+ weeks after the semester's start, so we'll literally get thrown into our jobs immediately. At least I'll have a jet lag friend to commiserate with. 

I'm much more prepared this time around, I've learned more Mandarin, I'm learning how to become a teacher, and I've been through airport hell, so I'm ready for whatever is going to get thrown at me next. I've spent too much of the last month wrapped up in bad energy and anxiety. I'm completely spent of all the negativity from the situation and really have no where to go but up.

Cheers to a year full of adventures!

....P.S, I just want to give a big thank you to everyone who has put up with my atrocious attitude all month long. It's been such a strange time in my life and I really appreciate everyone's understanding and forgiveness.

August 16, 2010

Barnyard Yoga

Well 16 days into this awkward, transient new lifestyle of mine, I find myself wishing ever so slightly that I was going back to school next week with all of my friends. Ok, so maybe I'm just hungry for the predictability of it...or the social life.

I've now spent more time on the farm this summer than I have in four years. I'm living in gym shorts and baggy t-shirts and I don't remember the last time I did anything with my hair besides pinning back my bangs. I've been living out of my suitcase since July 7 (due to moving, coming home in July, etc.), which means my sock and underwear drawer has been a travel-size space bag for more than 40 days. Let me tell you, space bags are not designed for daily use.

I'm trying to give myself some sort of purpose while I'm home, doing things that I normally would living by myself. Like yoga, for example. A few days ago I set my mat out on the grass and was looking forward to 60 minutes of outdoor bliss...until my dad rolled in with the grain truck, quickly followed by one uncle in his pickup truck, who was then followed a few minutes later by another uncle in a tractor. I could hear a collective "what the hell?!" from the looks they gave me. Just another notch in my you're-too-liberal-for-your-own-good rep that my extended family has christened me with. Oh well, it's all for fun anyway..

My days are quite boring, I glide through a few hours of my online ESL teaching course (not required for my job, but I have to clue how to go about teaching anyone about anything) then I eat lunch, after which I study some Chinese, then yoga and a bike ride through prairie trails completely covered in butterflies (for real; alfalfa is bloom for the second time this season, hence: butterflies). Then I'll make supper. And sit with my family.

It's miles from what I thought I would be doing. It's certainly not what I ought to be doing as a college graduate. And I'm definitely not living up to my capabilities. But, I'm doing my best to make the most out of an unfortunate hiccup in my plans.

On a positive parents, aunt and uncle and I are going to have Mexican food in the old nursing home in Noonan. Ethnic food in strange places weirds me out, like Chinese food in Canada. Why does everyone from around here jump the border for Chinese food?  It certainly can't be for it's authenticity, Estevan isn't exactly teeming with Asians.

August 9, 2010


"A lot of us first aspired to far-ranging travel and exotic adventure early in our teens; these ambitions are, in fact, adolescent in nature...Thus, when we allow ourselves to imagine as we once did, we know, with a sudden jarring clarity, that if we don't go right now, we're never going to do it. And we'll be haunted by our unrealized dreams and know that we have sinned against ourselves gravely." 
- Exotic Places Made me do it [by way off Rolf Potts' Vagabonding]
I've never heard of the author of the "Exotic Places" book I quoted above, but he read my mind. This week has been hell. It's been seven days that I've been trying to navigate my next move and every night I've gone to sleep thinking that things will get figured out the next day.

Well, things are finally figured out. I'm going. And I'm going alone.

There is a lot of variables left to figure out, but I'm still going to go to China. I am experiencing that "sudden jarring clarity," it's difficult for me to trust and to know that this is the right decision after all that I've been through this week. But I have to do this.

I'd by lying if I said I wasn't scared. Hell, I'm terrified. I have to believe that this is a good fear -- I know I'm about to embark on the most spectacular of adventures. I have to wonder though, is this just me being foolish? Is this a smart and safe decision? I guess it depends on who you ask. I have to have faith that this is my intended route.

All this extra time in the states has granted me even more time with my family and some of my friends. It's still difficult to explain the situation to people, but at least I'm inching closer to a resolution. I'm using my birthday (August 30) as a mile-marker of sorts -- I will either be in N.D. or Washington DC (most likely in DC working to obtain my visa) and by then I should have my flight booked to Shanghai for the first week or so in September.

August seems like an endless expanse of time and space right now. July went so quickly knowing I only had 30 days left at home. Now I feel like the next 30 days is so much time, but I have a lot to accomplish.

I've decided to re-vamp the look of this blog to better reflect the change in perspective I now have on this endeavor. I've had to seriously question my motives and desires for going and I thankfully have amazing family and friends who haven't been afraid to challenge my rationale. I finally feel with a discernible amount of certainty that this is what I need to do.

Granted, I won't feel confident about this until my passport has a page for the employment visa and then is stamped once I arrive in Asia, but any great opportunity to learn comes with a hearty dose of uncertainty. In the next month, I need to surrender to the unknowns.

Going back to my very first post, "I'm not crazy, I promise." Maybe I am crazy. At this point, I can't really tell. But I need to go and find out for myself if this is really what I'm meant to do. And in the long run, this is nine months of a lifetime. That's one school year, a pregnancy, three seasons -- definitely do-able.

So off I go to try again. I'm really not crazy, right?

August 3, 2010


I've been back in Fargo now for 36 hours and feel no better or worse than I did in the airport in Denver.

I now know that I would have been detained in Hong Kong for not having a return ticket or proof that I wasn't staying for more than our planned two weeks. It helps knowing for sure that it's a blessing we decided to stay stateside. But it doesn't help me decide one way or another what I'm supposed to do now.

Thankfully my brother and his wife have a comfy bed for me and a full pantry for me to eat from, but I don't feel comfortable here. This isn't where I'm supposed to be. I'm having a difficult time facing my friends or wanting to talk to anyone at all. 

I still want to go to China. I do. But I'm burned, badly. I do not want to get on another plane until I know for sure that everything is going to work out once we arrive. I have dozens of questions for my employer, and if they can't answer every single one I'm not going. I refuse to go through what I went through on Sunday all over again.

We're in negotiations with our employer now and I should know by Monday if we're going again or not going at all. 

I don't know what to do. I'm at a loss. I have to make the most out of whatever decision I make and opt out of looking back with regret. Already this situation has taught me how to finagle the most complex of airline scenarios on the fly. So that's a positive, yes?

Hmph. I want my luggage back. I only have one clean pair of underwear left, but luckily I have a hodge-podge of clothes that got purged from my suitcase last minute. I'm using up the sample products that I had reserved for my travel plans post China. Hopefully it'll arrive in Fargo tomorrow. 

What a strange state of mind I'm in. It's disconcerting.  Uncomfortable. And I'm doing everything I can to not feel sorry for myself and try come up with a positive solution. C'est la vie.

August 1, 2010


I would have imagined our plane crashing before I could have envisioned how today turned out. But here I am, in the airport Holiday Inn in Denver, spending the night before my flight back to Fargo in the morning.

This afternoon when we checked in at Fargo, the gate agents blatantly told us that we wouldn't get through customs in Hong Kong without some sort of return ticket (it's possible to visit Hong Kong for up to three months without a visa; but without proof of a return ticket, we could be staying indefinitely for all the immigration agents know...). In hindsight, we shouldn't have gotten on the plane in Fargo, but we felt confident we could find a solution during our four-hour layover in Denver.

We contemplated booking a dud return flight from Hong Kong back to Fargo for three weeks from now and then just cancel it. But that wold be an expensive little rendezvous. We also thought maybe we could re-route to Washington DC and stay there for a week or so until we got our work visa then fly straight to Shanghai (bureaucracy is a gem; since we're N.D. residents, we have to fly to DC to get our working visa. If we lived in Minnesota, we could put everything in an envelope to Chicago). Our third option was to fly back to Fargo and press reset.

....Then our flight was delayed an hour from Fargo to Denver. We seriously thought about getting off the plane, but we were stuck on the tarmac, and we would have further delayed the plane by another hour if we would've chose to be the assholes who got off.

That left three hours in Denver. Thankfully my parents were there (they're returning from a vacation) and we had the same layover. I broke. I cried. It was messy. We called China and had about 15 phone calls with the professor who helped set us up with this job. We negotiated prices and options and decided coming back to Fargo is the best thing.

So $450 later and more phone calls and stress than I could have imagined, I find myself postponing my China adventure. Our bags? They're in San Francisco. I don't know when or if I'll ever see them again.

I'm humiliated. I'm embarrassed. I'm ashamed. I'm writing this situation in so much detail on this blog because I can't bring myself to tell every single person individually why I'm back in Fargo. It's too complicated and too stressful.

Throughout the past few months, I've wondered what it would be like to prepare for a trip this long and such a strong culture shock only to have to cut it short, or in my case, not even leave the midwest. Regardless of whether I go to China or not, I'm out a ton of money that the university originally agreed to pay for but has now been doubled as a result of this mess.

I don't know what to do. I just have to keep faith that everything happens for a reason. I may not ever know why we were held back in Denver, but I do know that I'm going to go to China. I have to. I've devoted too much of myself to it not to actually live and breathe it.

So, say a little prayer for my friend and I tonight, please?