Life pain

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My heartstrings are tugged easily by all sorts of creatures in life. It’s difficult for me to think of pain or death for almost any living thing. This has been exacerbated by being in China, where life and death are constantly on display.

That tank of fish at the restaurant? They’re there so you can pick one fresh to eat. The meat market? Freshly killed animals that morning. Even a gaggle of geese by the side of the road could be plucked for a meal at any point.

I’ve never been crazy about meat but now I truly spent some time considering whether I should go vegetarian completely. I saw a truckload of pigs in the freeway and all my heart could do was cry at the thought of their fate. Visiting my uncle, there were geese and ducks and chickens abound. He eagerly had one of the geese caught for us to eat. I was nearly sick at the thought. Why should I be the reason a goose had to die that day?

Strangely enough, my hypersensitivity started when I noticed a massive ant and pointed it out to my mother, only to have her stomp on it. I was so upset that in my mind I was thinking about shoving her or even punching her. Had I not pointed it out to her, it would still be alive. This was a desperately upsetting thought and I suppressed the urge for all maturity to fly out the door and kept myself from throwing a tantrum. Inside, I was fuming.

Life is so precious yet we humans so carelessly take it left and right. We kill bugs out of fear or sometimes even pleasure. We kill animals for food. We even kill each other in anger. It’s crazy and sickening. I know that eating animals for food is a natural part of life, but it’s hard to accept sometimes. I hate being the reason for death.

It makes it hard for me to enjoy meat now. I found myself averse to eggs, fish, and various meats. Guilt riddled every bite, if I could bring myself to take it. All I could think of was the pain of a piece of my flesh being torn, cooked, and consumed. Seeing bone made me imagine my bones being broken. Pigs’ feet reminded me of that truck. Everything makes me sad and this sudden closeness with the source of my food has increased my sensitivity to it all.

It’s difficult imagining the pain of the creatures we eat. But at least we’re using them. What bothered me most about the death of the ant is that it was completely senseless. It was not a pest in our home we wanted to be rid of. It was not something we would eat. It was not attacking us or endangering us in any way. So why did it have to die? Thinking about it makes me so sad. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over it.

Our world revolves around food

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My entire visit to my grandfather was predicated on food. First, food for the kids. My mom put together goodie bags of all sorts of crackers, cookies, etc. for my cousin’s children.

Then, breakfast at the hotel before heading over.

Once there, we sat and conversed until lunch was served.

In the afternoon, we went back to rest and then returned again for dinner.

As we left, we were given an assortment of food to bring along, including zongzi (sticky rice and meat or dates wrapped in leaves) and fujiu (a family fav of fermented rice).

The next day, it was breakfast at the hotel again and we were off to the next destination.

My slang gives me away

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Whenever I speak to a Chinese person, they very quickly figure out I’m from the Northeast. For years, I couldn’t figure it out. I spoke perfectly standard Mandarin! Right?

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I learned certain phrases gave me away. Most of my conversational Chinese I learned from my mom and maternal grandmother. That side of the family is from the Northeast of China. While accent-wise we generally sound like the folks you’d find on TV or teaching you Chinese pronunciation in a language learning course, we’ve got our own slang phrases.

Our local “dialect” isn’t like many other dialects where it’s completely unintelligible compared to the national language of Mandarin. It’s basically like a Californian who uses “like” a lot, refers to freeways with “the” and that sort of thing. Growing up, that’s all I knew, since so much of what I retained was learned from Northeastern sources. I even went to school there for a year. It never occurred to me that our vocabulary would be different.

I used to be very conscious of this fact (ok, if I’m completely honest I still am) and sometimes carefully chose words and phrases to try to mask it. I also do so attempting to ensure I sound like a local and not a strange person who didn’t learn enough in school and speaks using strange phrases. But really, what am I so worried about? So what if they can tell I’m Northeastern and didn’t grow up in the motherland? At least I speak the language fluently unlike so many others who grew up stateside.

It’s strange how I embrace being different, yet whatever mode I’m in I want to be flawless. The Chinese role becomes ever harder as I get older – at once more understanding is expected of me yet I’m more disconnected with cultural norms. I’m trying to learn to embrace what I do know and can say without being too harsh on my skills. I’ve got to keep practicing!

Communal parenting

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In China, personal lives are a family affair. I’ve seen this playing out day after day in my family, even in my relatively short visit. Everyone spends time worrying about others’ situations. Is that nephew struggling to find a job? Can that granddaughter get into preschool? Does that niece have a significant other yet? Is a cousin’s marriage in the rocks? Does that uncle have financial troubles?

These all seem to be each other’s business. It even extends to the in-laws’ families, so it can get quite complicated. One person may be helping pull strings to get so-and-so into a good school, at any age. In fact, the younger children have a harder time just to get into a program. At least when they’re older, their grades play a factor.

Meanwhile other family members are discussing how best to interfere in a relationship that has gone sour. One aunt might go talk to the wife and another aunt or uncle would approach the husband. Of course the parents and in-laws have been heavily involved all along, often in the middle of the conflict.
Then there are those dealing with some crazy complex financial situation regarding property ownership or some business venture. Who lays claim to what? Should they engage in a lawsuit? How much money should each family give? It’s a big muddled mess.

These aren’t exactly what’s happening in my family per se, but you get the gist. I don’t think Western cultures put as much emphasis on meddling in each other’s affairs. It’s completely normal and expected in Chinese families though. Sometimes I wonder about my own sense of obligation to participate in family affairs in the future. In a way, I’m shielded from this because I’m so far and there’s little contact between me and my relatives outside of my occasional visits to China.

Yet, I can choose to engage. As a connection to the Western world, I can help those who want to send their kids to school in the US. Some of my cousins have expressed interest in this when their toddlers get closer to that age. We’ll see what happens when the time comes. Having Eastern and Western influences growing up, but slightly more from the West gives me some freedom of choice which way I want to lean. My heart has always been on the helping side!

What was your upbringing? How much involvement would you think is normal for an extended family?

My 5 Chinese favs

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These are some of the things about China that I’ve been reminded I enjoy:

Hot drinks

You can get hot water all over the place and trains even have an area for you to top up your jar. People tend to bring their own reusable drink containers, whether actual jars that used to hold something else or actual thermos type cups. Even juice drinks come out warm (typically some sort of orange-esque drink). It’s like a warm cup of Tang, which may sound gross but I love it.

In the US, I’m constantly asking for water with no ice or straight up hot water. In China, I don’t have to worry about it. I know I can get it by default. My stomach can’t really handle cold things, which may be due to my cultural heritage.

Salted duck eggs

These are brined eggs with a very salty egg white and an oily yolk. I absolutely love these and is the only time I actually seek out eating yolk. Usually I avoid yolks, but these are sooooo tasty. I can find these at the Asian market in the US, but I don’t really eat them there for whatever reason.

Minimal meat

There are plenty of delicious dishes with little to no meat, which might be why I don’t really crave meat. I never got used to eating it like Americans tend I’mgo and  perfectly happy with vegetarian options and lots of fruit.

Chinese cucumbers

They just don’t grow’em in the states like they do here. I’m guessing it’s a different variety, but I haven’t seen cucumbers quite like Chinese ones in the US. They’re bumpy on the outside, have a yellow flower on the end, and are so very tasty. American ones are all watery and rather tasteless. They make for great pickles though. Still, I prefer the Chinese ones that are sweet and have smaller seeds.

Wear whatever, do whatever

I can look however I want and act however as long as I’m not disruptive. I don’t feel the need to suppress a burp or worry about how big my belly is. Folks here don’t care and I don’t care what they think anyway. I’m free to try out different looks without running into someone. It’s not like I’m doing anything crazy, but it’s amazing how something as simple as wearing lipstick changes how people see me. With family and strangers, it doesn’t matter and my image is not affected like it could be at work.

Transcontinental, transpacific travel

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Used my lounge pass, which expires at the end of June. I never got a chance to use the other one, so I gave it to the attendant to let someone else in. I hope he actually did that.

This lady in line had quite a unique sock look.

Breakfast at the airport! I arrived around 11, met up with my mom, and we got in to the terminal sometime after 5.

Landing in Vancouver.

They’ve got a cool aquarium!

Flying by Alaska!!

I thought those white things where ships at first, but they’re actually little icebergs.
I spy glaciers!
Another glacier!
More glaciers!
Check out the little icebergs breaking off from the glacier.
You can even see some of the thick layering.
Amidst all the snow is a thin bit of blue that I thought was a surfboard of sorts. 😛
Here’s a more visible patch of blue ice on a windblown iceberg.
Headed to the ocean.
Getting close to Beijing and there’s some smogginess in the mountains.
Is that heart shape naturally-occurring?

And in Beijing the morning is a bit muggy.

Stressful relaxation

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You know the eye of the storm? You’ve just been through a boatload of craziness and you get that break before the next bit hits – * bam! *

I feel like I’m there now. After everything I worked on to finish work and hand off everything, it’s a welcome break to have a vacation. Yet, I know the madness yet to come, so it’s hard to relax and not feel stressed about starting school, especially with all the prep work.

I’ve taken two diagnostic exams, signed up for a pre-course, read some material, entered the lottery for parking, paid my first rent installment to my roomie, and planned out all the other things I need to do. The list only gets longer, it seems.

Yet here I am in China with limited resources to get things done, plenty of family to see, and weeks stretching out ahead of me. I hope by the end of my trip I’ll feel well-rested and refreshed. I’m starting to learn to let go and sleep if I’m tired or sit without reading. It feels so odd to shut off and chill when there’s so much to do.

I hope there’s enough time to catch up once I’m stateside again and the pace really picks up. Until then, meditation practice and deep breaths are in order.

Blocked sites in China

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It’s been two years since I last visited China and I can’t quite remember what my technology needs were at that time. I think I just needed to blog and private message Panda and that was pretty much it. This time around I’m trying to use Instagram and Snapchat, which I have just learned are blocked. I should have known just about any American social media would be inaccessible.

I wasn’t even aware that Google is now banned and this whole time I thought my internet connection was just that slow and I couldn’t even load that page. But it turns out it just can’t be accessed without VPN. Thankfully, I have that set up to use as needed.

If you’re even planning a trip to China, I recommend preparing with VPN and doing a quick search of which sites are still banned at that time, so you’ll know why something isn’t loading.

Airplane windows

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I’ve been on 15 planes in the past two months or so and I’ve really noticed the window situation. Why do they make them so low that we need to hunch to look out? It’s rather uncomfortable and doesn’t make much sense.

It feels like they designed the exterior of the plane, framed out windows, then threw in seats that don’t align. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have larger windows, one per row of seats that extend higher than most people’s heads? More folks would be able to enjoy the view outside regardless of where they sit.

I suppose part of the issue is how they constantly change the spacing between seats in the ever-changing musical chairs of legroom. Still, the Herat and general size of the window could be extended to benefit more of us all, don’t you think?

Prospurly May 2016 review

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Gosh, I’ve been meaning to review this for quite some time, but I didn’t have the time to properly sit down and evaluate everything. Just like that, two weeks have flown by!

Prospurly is just under $45 per box (with code for 10% off your subscription – use my referral links from this post) and comes with artisan foods, bath & body items, home products, and other sustainably crafted items. Boxes are sent monthly with no option to skip. They offer a referral program that earns you free boxes.

prospurly may 2016 box open with products showing prospurly may 2016 info card with product details

Skin Nutrition from nature with love pink grapefruit shea butter lotion – Mmm, what a nice light grapefruit scent! This is a very thick lotion that feels great and smells wonderful. This will be perfect for traveling with, so my hands don’t get dried out after hand washing.

Three Little Figs Citrus and Smoked Salt jam – Whoa, with orange slices, chiles, and smoked salt, this jam is all sorts of flavors. I’ll definitely want to try cooking meat with this to give it an extra boost of taste.

Skin Nutrition from nature with love organic matcha green tea under eye balm – What a unique eye product! I like being able to apply an eye balm like this, which helps me control how much gets on without using too much (which I tend to do with most other eye products).

Skin Nutrition from nature with love bug bite balm – This will be handy throughout the summer, helping with itchy skin situations. It’s so compact and easy to bring along anywhere.

Skin Nutrition from nature with love citronella campfire spray – Perfectly paired with the bug balm, this will hopefully help keep bugs away in the first place! Citronella is well-known for warding off mosquitoes. The addition of catnip essential oil is definitely different and pretty awesome!

Foxes & Ferns holistic bath tea in Rejuvenation & Relaxation – Both of these smell very nice and are definitely the type of thing you want to help you relax and enjoy a bath. I love the suggestion to throw these in the dryer for the next use, but also to freshen up the laundry.

Artisan Salt Co Alaea Hawaiian style sea salt – I enjoy these salts and have two from previous boxes. This is supposedly a special one made for Prospurly, but I definitely got the exact kind from Escape Monthly before… so it makes me wonder if they (and Yogi Surprise) are the same company. I’ve suspected it before, since they have similar styles in box presentation.

While I really like all the products, I do feel like it was very heavy on a single brand and I would have liked to see greater variety. Still, I like everything and can’t wait to use them all! What do you think of this month’s box?

[This post contains affiliate links. Signing up through them helps support my subscription and I’d be ever so grateful. 🙂 All opinions are my own and I received no compensation for this review. I just purchased this box and wanted to share what I got!]

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