Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Δ - symbol of change

I miss the way life was before last semester. I look back at the pictures of my family and I at Disneyworld for my birthday, and I always miss how happy, how carefree, how wonderful we were. I took life before last September for granted.

I curse myself everyday for the poor decisions I made. I can't look at my parents without feeling a pang of guilt for hurting them the way I have. I thought staying busy and being more involved at school would help me take my mind off things, would help preoccupy me. It doesn't. It makes me miss my family even more. I thought I would enjoy this semester being an active. I don't. I see my parents struggling with the idea of me being out late or out doing who-knows-what. I cry every time I leave the house now because of how my mom begs me to stay home and how I have to leave no matter how much I, too, want to stay behind with her. And the work I'm doing, frankly, doesn't make me happy.

I think it's a bit strong of me to say I regret the changes I made last semester. But, I just wish it was different.

Current music: Vienna Teng - Lullaby for a Stormy Night

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Can't spell 'friend' without an 'end'

Props to my friend and psis Melissa Prompuntagorn for the title.

Recently, I've been thinking a lot about maintaining friendships. I'm so disappointed to say that I have lost several really good friends in my past. Lost one of my favorite friends quite recently too, which prompted this whole reminiscing thing.

I've made mistakes in the past. Who hasn't? I've said and done things I shouldn't have. What I also make sure I do, though, when I've made a mistake is I fix it. Or at least try to, especially when it comes to apologizing. I'm a big enough person to admit when I am wrong or when I've misunderstood (and people who can't need to grow up). But if the other simply can't take that apology for whatever reason, I shrug my shoulders and move on. In my opinion, there are very few actions in this world that are simply unforgivable or that can't simply be explained/clarified, so when someone wrongs me and apologizes, I don't find it hard to forgive and move on. Now, I don't forget because these mistakes are very important in life, but I won't hold grudges. For example, if you tell someone a secret I only told you and you apologize/rectify the situation, I'd forgive you, but I'd think twice before telling you a secret.

My best friend taught me to say what I feel and think unapologetically. I usually try to do so in a nice way, but sometimes I slip up and, when I realize I've slipped up, I apologize. I think in my way, when I apologize, I sort of hand myself over to you. The ball is completely in your court. But whatever you do with it, I'll survive. I've done the best I can and have no regrets. I might have messed up before, but if I tried to fix it or tried to clarify, then I feel that I've done what I can and that's that. It's not exactly the same thing as "I don't care if we're friends or not", because I obviously do care - that's why I apologize in the first place. It's more of a "Okay, well I don't really understand but I can't force you to think otherwise." It's more acceptance than dismissal, I suppose.

Friends come and go. That much is clear. But I always prefer to have friends go on friendlier terms. It certainly can't be the case every time, but I can sure try. And that's all I can really do.

Current music: Lady Gaga - Boys Boys Boys

Friday, March 12, 2010

Sorority Row

I think this is the topic that's brought up the most often when I talk to non-Greek friends, especially old close friends:

Why the FUCK did you join a sorority?

Middle school and high school colleagues of mine would testify that they NEVER in a million years expected me to come out of my little shell. A sorority? That's the most non-Beth thing you can do!

True, it was the most non-Beth thing I've done (well, barring one incident last year that I won't get into). Angela Lopez (yeah, I'm naming you), a high school acquaintance whom I rarely spoke to during all four years of school together, had shoved a flyer in my hand and told me to come by just to check them out and there will be yummy homemade cupcakes. She caught my attention with the cupcakes. Plus she said I'd be doing her a huge favor. So off I went - to get my cupcake. I sort of shuffled my way through the interview, down the line for food, said hi to people whose names I forgot as soon as I turned around. Some days later I was given a bid, and I figured, meh sure. Why not? At this point, I had no idea what a sorority was (or a bid, for that matter). I struggled through the process, did what was asked of me, raged every day about how this was the most stupid fucking thing I've ever done, and cried a LOT.

I made it through and now have a nice little profile up on the sisters page of the website (like how I threw that in there?). In retrospect, it wasn't THAT bad. Time-consuming, sure, and a helluva lot harder to join than, say, the premedical society where all you have to do is shove money at the officers. But when I look at what I've gained out of a mere eight weeks...I feel that it was worth it, especially for the experience and the feeling of accomplishment. I bonded with five-and-a-half (Melissa, you are half) total strangers brought together from all corners of the campus to undergo eight weeks of processing. And I'm amazed by what each of my pin sisters had to teach me and by the stories each of them told.

After crossing, I've gotten to know so many of the girls I wasn't too fond of last semester, and I absolutely love them! For a group of 20 girls, I think we actually get along pretty well personally and professionally (at least from what I can tell).

As a junior member of the sorority, I guess I kinda miss the close bonds I felt with each pin sister. We've grown apart. We do a lot more work and frankly I no longer feel a sense of accomplishment after we do our assigned tasks. If I thought last semester was time-consuming, it's no comparison to being an active. With MCATs and family messes, the sorority is on the bottom of my priority list, and I kind of feel upset at myself for not being able to put in the same amount of effort into the sorority as others are. People are dedicating and sacrificing so much for the sorority that I feel like saying, "Hold up. Is it right to be doing that? Because honestly, I don't feel comfortable putting the sorority before my parents, my job, or my school." If people are doing that, isn't that what they expect from me? Should I just quit now?

I might just be thinking too much into it. But joining a sorority has had its pros and cons. I think it'll get better once I finish (and ace) my MCATs when I'll finally have the time to socialize. I really want to apologize to my non-Greek friends who think they haven't seen much of me lately because of the sorority. Yes, it's true that when I'm actually out socializing, I'm with the Sigmas. But I'm only allowed out every so often and for a certain period of time - I want to use these opportunities of freedom to get Sigma requirements out of the way. It'll change once I've taken my MCAT (:

As far as changing my personality to become a Sigma - that allegation is bogus. I have changed for the better in a social aspect, though I'm still improving. But you'll see that I'm still very much myself. I still hate parties and loud music so you'll rarely see me at a club (unless it was required). My IQ hasn't dropped any points. My GPA is still high. I still make goofy comments. And I still like to consider myself a good friend.

Current Music: Justin Bieber - Baby

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Ramblings - Revival Cast

Thought I should start blogging again just to practice putting my thoughts and feelings in words. I used to be so good at describing everything I felt and thought - now I feel rusty, especially after my recent careless words hurt someone who means a lot to me.

Also, I thought it would be a good place to start matching a personality to a name. It's so hard nowadays, with all that technology can offer us. And while reading someone's blog isn't really a good substitution to actually talking to someone face-to-face, I guess it's a good place to start. To reciprocate, I'm going to be reading my friends' blogs and notes too. Experience has taught that, for some reason, some people are more honest in their writing than in real life. Maybe it's because they don't ever think people will read what they write and they feel there's safety in using a (public) blog. I suppose I feel the same way about this - no one would truly read it, and it's only for my sake. It's a rather peaceful thought. I've gone back and read (and hid) past posts, and they make me feel interested in holding a conversation with past-me.

But I'm rambling.

I remember I stopped blogging because:
1. I didn't (and still don't) have the time.
2. I didn't (and rarely do) have anything worthwhile to blog about.

But this seems therapeutic in some romantic way. And everyone knows I could use some therapy. I suppose I won't be posting regularly - maybe I'll post tomorrow, maybe I'll post five months from now. I also probably won't be posting about every little thing that I did today. I never really bothered reading posts like those.

So yep. My introductory post as the rambling anorexic panda.

Current Music: Train - Hey Soul Sister <3

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Day 3 - As Much of a Normal Weekend as Possible

What? How do you set your mood as \'Good\'? Is that even a way to describe your mood? Crazy...

Anyway, after a bad day on Saturday (yes, I played Bad Day quite a few times to make me feel better), I was confident that Sunday would be better. I was very bleary-eyed when I woke up (at four in the morning). From my room, I was able to find a wireless network and established Internet connection (albeit a bad one). I signed on to AIM and was bombarded by IMs (some sent from before I left) that made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Thanks to all of you for making me feel better even if you guys didn\'t know about my breakdown the night before :)

So I stayed online (or struggled to) until about eight in the morning. Guma #3 woke up around seven as she usually does, but I pretended to be asleep just so I can finish my morning rounds online. Finally, I got tired of losing the battle with my connection and \"woke up\".

Guma #3 took me out to meet Guzhang #1 for breakfast. When she told me that he had gone to the restaurant at 6:30 to claim us a table, I felt so bad. The poor guy has Alzheimers and is going through a rather rough patch with Guma #1 (this is the adultress situation some of you know about. For those who don\'t, I\'ll explain it all later today in a \"Beth\'s Crazy Family\" post).

I brought along a huge bottle of Lethicin for him. I have no clear idea of what Lethicin does. I was under the impression that it was just a healthy supplement, but my mom says Lethicin makes your headache go away (I think it\'s just some sort of a placebo effect), and Guma #3 says it improves brain function. When I Googled it just now, I got some CRAZY answers. So it\'s either good for your eye, does nothing, masks THC in drug screens, and/or makes people floss before bedtime.

Ah well, I\'m sure the Lethicin won\'t kill him. >.>

Anyway, we got to the restaurant around 8:45, and my cousin XiaoBuDian (it\'s just a nickname, but I don\'t know what his real name is >.>) and Shaozi #2 and their child Yu arrived just a little later. Again, what I know about them will be explained later today. We ordered some dishes we wanted and ate our breakfast. I think I\'ll get used to eating huge breakfasts sometime over the next 80 77 days. During breakfast, Guzhang #1 kept saying the same thing over and over again. I felt so bad when everyone at the table chuckled. I admit I kind of snorted into my tea the eighth time he said something my dad eating junk food and still remaining healthy.

I was surprised to see that XiaoBuDian ordered a bottle of beer. Beer in the morning? Hmm... Then he turned around and gave the bottle to four-year-old Yu. While I knew that drinking was a big thing in China, I didn\'t think you could drink at such a young age. Don\'t they know it\'s not healthy? Of course, I didn\'t feel like it was my place to criticize their lifestyle and how they were raising their children, so I didn\'t say anything. But gosh.

When we finished, we went our separate ways. Guma #3 took me to this GIGANTIC bookstore nearby. It had seven freakin\' stories, and there were people everywhere. I was a bit overwhelmed.We asked like five people if the bookstore carried Chinese-English medical dictionaries, and everyone said they didn\'t. And when we ended up finding it on the fifth floor, I was ecstatic. The only problem is, the words are in Chinese characters, not pinyin (pinyin is when you spell out the words phonetically). Only the first word of each medical phrase was in pinyin. I figured I\'d just write what I hear in pinyin on a notepad and bring it home to decipher the meaning with the help of my aunt.

We also headed down to the second floor (Language) to pick up a Chinese-English English-Chinese dictionary so I wouldn\'t struggle so much communicating simple thoughts and ideas (although it didn\'t have the Chinese word for \'jersey\' when I was trying to explain to my aunt that I wanted to get one). We headed across the street to the mall to look for a basketball jersey in the sports department on the fifth floor. I told my aunt it was for my brother, but secretly it was for me (they\'re so comfy, I swear). They didn\'t carry any good ones, so we wandered to an adjoining shop to look at sports equipment. I picked out two badminton rackets, one for me and one for Dad. It was so cheap! About 50 USD for mine and 60 USD for my dad\'s.

I was amused by their warranty policy. Each racket was covered by a three-month warranty, but the warranty did not apply if the string broke, if the handle showed signs of wear-and-tear, if the frame shape warped, or if the paint on the racket peeled. So essentially, the only way I could get my racket replaced was if I snapped it in two.

I also learned from the saleslady that on June 1, China mandated that shoppers must now bring their own bags to store their purchases. No more plastic bags. Guma #3 explained why, but I didn\'t understand her. I\'m pretty sure it\'s an effort to clean the environment/reduce global warming, but the dictionary was useless when I tried to ask.

As they prepared our rackets, Guma #3 and I headed down to the basement level to pick up some groceries. She got some orange juice and coffee for me. She also picked up a carton of milk, which I wasn\'t too pleased about. They put a LOT of preservatives in milk here since not very many Chinese people like putting their milk in the refridgerator. Last time I came here with my brother, we spent about three weeks trying out every milk the stores had in stock to find one we were okay with drinking.

We spent about 15 minutes waiting in line to pay for our groceries. There were SO many people. Joanna told me the day before that there were over 15 million people in Guangzhou alone. Crazy stuff. We lugged our groceries back up to the fifth floor (just kidding. We used the elevator) and picked up my rackets. Then we hailed a taxi and went home for lunch.

I then spent nearly the entire afternoon on the computer. Why were 30 people on my buddy list up at 2 in the morning?! I chatted with a few people for a while before they started to drop like flies xD At around five, Guma #3 woke from her nap and told me that the relative who I was shadowing was coming by to talk to me about my schedule for Monday. We were going to meet her at the apartment complex\'s gym.

When we got down to the gym, I found out that I had to pay 50 yuan (a little more than 9 USD) to use their facilities since I wasn\'t considered a resident. So I told Guma #3 that I didn\'t have to exercise today, not when the price for using the gym was 25 yuan on Mondays through Fridays. I was a little disappointed since I was looking forward to a work-out finally, but I\'m going sometime today anyway, saving my aunt about 5 USD.

Instead, we sat down outside the gym and waited for Gugu to come. I\'ve never met her before, but she was very friendly and nice as she explained the environment I would be thrown into on Monday. I was relieved to hear that the doctors at the hospital could understand English well and was even looking forward to practicing their English on me. Apparently, the doctors here sometimes have to go to English-speaking countries for conferences. What\'s more, they use a lot of Western drugs, so they don\'t have a problem with reading English either.

It took about fifteen minutes to cover what was going to happen on Monday. Essentially, I could wear whatever I want since in the surgery rooms, I have to scrub up anyway. They have scrubs there for me wear, but I could bring my own sandals into the procedure room if I wasn\'t comfortable with their shoes. Sandals in a procedure room?! Ms Pesin and Ms Kacher would have a heart attack if they found out. I was to work from 9:00 AM to 12:30 PM and then 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM initially, but as I start rotating department-wise, my hours will change as well. For Monday though, I was to come in only from 9 to 12:30. 

She and Guma #3 began gossiping in Cantonese (but I knew they were talking about Guma and Guzhang #1\'s situation) so I began to wander around the facilities. The gym (it\'s actually just a work-out room) has glass walls, so every time I walked by, this one guy there would stop whatever he was doing and just stare at me. I\'m startled by how openly people stare at you around here. I noticed a lot of people just following some white people in our building with their eyes. Scary. So I stopped walking around and just sat down next to my relatives, trying to look as interested as possible in a conversation I couldn\'t understand.

The rest of the day isn\'t worth describing (I ate, I chatted, I washed, and I slept).

But as you can see, I had a good day. It more than made up for yesterday :]

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day 2 - Hanging out with the locals

I was too depressed/tired to write about Day 2 yesterday, but since I promised that I would chronicle my entire journey, here it goes.

Yesterday, my cousin Joanna (the English-speaking one) took me out with her group of friends. Actually, she didn't know everyone there - just about four or five of them - but basically it was a group of people who have all studied English and/or traveled abroad to English-speaking countries. I had agreed to go only because I expected to finally find company in a few English-speaking Chinese people.

Joanna picked me up around eleven in the morning and took me to her boyfriend Steve's home for lunch. Steve had studied four years in New Zealand so he could also speak English (though he's more reluctant to do so). I met Steve's mom and both his grandmothers. It was a very uncomfortable experience. I had never gone to someone's place who was not somehow related to me in China. What's more is that Steve's mom and grandmothers don't speak Mandarin very well - they speak mostly in Cantonese - so there was a more defined language barrier than what I was used to. Steve's mom spoke a little Mandarin, but she also kept looking at me strangely, as if she was not too happy to see a Chinese person who seemed so out-of-touch with the Chinese culture. That was the vibe I got from her, at least, since she kept asking me why I didn't eat this or why I couldn't read Chinese.

Backing up a bit. Steve's mom cooked a lot of food for all of us. I felt awkward sitting on the couch with his grandmothers while they talked about me and while everyone else was setting the table. This continued at the dinner table as everyone talked in Cantonese while I continued eating in silence. Steve's family was obviously asking about life in America, but I was miffed to see that Joanna took the liberty to answer for me without bothering to translate. It wasn't a big deal, and I'm certainly used to people answering for me, but I would've liked to the opportunity to clarify some things and/or clear up any misconceptions. Looking back on that, I realize I should've spoken up and asked Joanna what they were talking about. At least then I would've shown some interest in the conversation.

The food Steve's mom cooked was good. The flavor was similar to what my mom and dad cook back home. However, I had a bit of trouble eating as much as Steve's mom wanted me to. I think she thought I didn't like her cooking, even though I assured her again and again that I really liked the food and was just used to eating smaller portions. To make her feel better, I picked one dish - potato leaves - and kept spooning it into my bowl. It seemed to work because she smiled at me, but she also poured the entire dish into my bowl at the end. There was a dish of steamed potatoes that they pushed at me, but I politely declined it (I don't eat potatoes because of the starch content). I was amused to find that everyone at the table thought I didn't eat potatoes because I ate too many potatoes at home xD I didn't know America was known for their potatoes, but there you have it.

After eating, Joanna, Steve, and I piled into Steve's car, and we drove down to a parking lot where the rest of the group was waiting for us. There were about five or six cars total, each with about five people. Steve seemed to know a lot of them, but Joanna, who wasn't feeling too good, was more aloof. She introduced me to the few people she did know, and they seemed amused to see me tagging along. We drove for forty-five minutes to Maofeng Mountain on a very windy road. Steve's driving came me a headache, especially since I sat in the back, but the scenery was so beautiful, I couldn't help staring out the window. We drove up in our caravan to the furthest point you can reach by car and found out there that to reach the peak, you had to climb about a half-hour. Mind you, it was really hot and humid, so all of us decided to just wander around the area. Joanna's side was really hurting her, so we just took a short walk and sat by this small pond. I thoroughly enjoyed just taking in the scenery, especially when a cool breeze began to blow. I chatted with a couple of them about life in the U.S. They were very interested in knowing about the weather in Houston and California and about my studies. I secretly take a lot of pleasure in scaring them by telling them about how long medical school is.

Unfortunately, most of the people in the group decided to play poker. Since it was impossible to play poker with the wind, everyone moved under this makeshift tent. I sat down with them for about five minutes or so before I had to move. The mosquitoes were vicious; right now, I have about eight mosquito bites on my legs alone. I played a bit of monkey-in-the-middle with two of Joanna's friends and Steve and enjoyed that as well. Joanna then had to go back to the car to get her shoes, so Steve took her back to the car. I sat down in the grass and played my iPod while watching everyone else play hacky-sack.

It was then that I felt this wave of depression. I'm not usually a sad person, and I was really having a good time up until then, so the tears were very sudden and unexpected. But when "Lullaby for a Stormy Night" by Vienna Teng came on, combined with the laughter coming from that group of friends playing hacky-sack, I was suddenly reminded of how much I missed my own friends and my own family. The stress of feeling like a stranger for an entire afternoon got to me too. I lowered my head so others wouldn't see the tears in my eyes and pretended to be resting. I didn't cry, but my eyes were quite wet and shiny. And I was very careful to not close my eyes so the tears wouldn't actually come out. But unfortunately, I think one or two people noticed. One girl sat down next to me and told me she didn't know anyone here either. It gave me great comfort, and we talked for a while.

Soon everyone was gathering their things to head down the mountain for dinner. We piled into our cars again. Halfway down the mountain, we ate at a place on the side of the road. I'm not a germaphobe, but I'm not used to eating in restaurants that aren't clean. I have a great deal of trouble eating on park benches and picnic tables (really crazy, I know). So when we pulled up to that place, I suddenly lost my appetite.

Our car was the last to pull up in the parking lot, so when we got there, the entire group had already split themselves into three tables. Each table had only one or two seats available, and everyone had already settled into their separate groups. I felt incredibly awkward when Steve loudly asked to have three seats open at a table for the three of us to sit at. There it was again - the feeling of being a stranger and being an inconvenience. It took about two minutes to reorganize the seating arrangement to accomodate us, but to me it felt like forever. We finally took our seats and had dinner. Unsurprisingly, I ate even less than I usually do and finished a good deal earlier than everyone else. Because I didn't want anyone to feel obliged to speak to me as I sat there watching everyone else eat, I just pulled out my headphones and pretended to listen to music.

When everyone finished, Joanna asked me if I wanted to go with them to a karaoke bar afterwards. I couldn't take being a tag-along anymore, so I politely declined and asked them if they could drop me off at Guma #3's house on the way. Joanna insisted that I come with them and just relax and have fun, so I told her that I had to get home soon because it would be Saturday morning in Houston and my parents were definitely going to call (I had told them via email that I would be going out with Joanna today so they were going to ask me about the trip).

On the way back home, I cried a little in the back seat. I was upset by how pitiful I was, and by then, I missed my family terribly. I was thankful that the darkness made it hard for Joanna and Steve to see my tears in the mirror when they checked on me.

Steve dropped me off at Guma #3's building, and Joanna insisted that she take me up. Yet again, that feeling of being an inconvenience. By then, I was feeling horrible, so I decided to take a very long, hot shower. Around ten o'clock, my dad called. Guma #3 handed me the phone and went off to do something in the kitchen. My dad asked me how my day had gone, and I felt the tears coming again. However, I took big breaths between sentences and was able to control myself. Then he put my mom, whom I haven't spoken to verbally since the morning I left, on the phone. And I lost it baaaaad.

I was crying so hard as I told her that I didn't have a good time today (though I couldn't tell her why at the moment) and I told her I didn't think I could stay here all 80 days. I'm so grateful that she didn't point out how unreasonable I was. Instead, she said that once I have work to do that would take my mind off of home, I wouldn't have such a horrible time (which is true). She also said that my relatives here were so happy to see me and that they were being so nice to me (also true). My conversation with my mom made me feel a lot better, even though I still continued to cry for a while after handing the phone to my Guma. I went to the bathroom to clean up (and sob a little longer) but came out generally calm.

Guma #3 was very concerned since I never showed one hint of homesickness until now (this impresses even me). She didn't make me feel any better, though, since she kept saying how she would be just like my mom here.

So I went to bed generally feeling a hell of a lot worse than normal. I've always tried not to go to bed unhappy, but crying always makes me sleepy, and the day had been way too long. I was almost impatient to close my eyes and wake up to a new day.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Day 1 - Arrival

So after surfing the Net for an hour, I finally found out that Blogspot, not Blogger, is blocked in China. Didn't know there was a difference...

Edit: Found the difference. Apparently, I am unable to actually see this post after I've posted it since my blog is at blogspot...Wow.

Anyway, it's been a little over a day since I first touched down in China. I landed yesterday at 10:12 PM here. The flight was terrible. I woke up around 6:20 AM CST, along with the rest of my family on Wednesday. My mom had to leave to drop my brother off at school at 6:50. I was very proud of myself in that I only teared up. I hung out with my dad for about half an hour before we left for the airport. I got a beautiful text message from my Canadian twin that, unfortunately, did make me tear up, despite her promise that it wouldn't :P

At the airport, I was able to hold it in very well...until we got to the point where non-ticket-holders could not go further. I started crying like a baby. I'm surprised they were able to match my face with my passport picture. I stumbled through security (I had two hidden laptops in my carry-on that I should've but forgot to put on the conveyer belt). I waved a quick good-bye to my dad and headed off to my gate. I didn't break down as much as I thought I would, so I treated myself to a vente frappucchino at Starbucks. Bad idea. If you're a nervous flyer, never have caffeine right before you board, especially if the flight's super long.

From Houston to Minneapolis, I listened to the same song ("Bleeding Love" - Leona Lewis version) over and over again for the duration of the two-and-a-half-hour flight. I was supposed to have an hour rest before boarding my next plane to Tokyo, but my boarding gate was on the other side of the international airport, so it took me about forty minutes just to get there. When I turned on my cell phone, I sent the thank-you text message I wasn't able to coherently make earlier. My flight to Tokyo was eleven hours and fourteen minutes long. Utter torture. I would drift off into sleep and wake up, expecting two hours to have passed and cursing when I realized only twenty minutes have passed -_- What's worse is I sat next to this Japanese teenager who gave off Unabomber vibes - he didn't speak a word throughout the entire trip, even when the Japanese flight attendant asked him what he wanted to eat for his meal. Instead, he just gave creepy smiles and pointed.

When I got off at Tokyo, I felt like crap. I could hardly move. The only thing that pushed me through customs and to my next gate was the fact that there would be seats there for me to lie on (just my luck, there were no seats for me to lie on when I got there). I was also upset to learn that despite T-mobile's promise that you can text from any country, I could not get signal in Japan.

I told the flight attendant that I didn't feel too well and wanted to lie down on an empty row of seats. She and the other flight attendants arranged for me to have an empty row to myself. Unfortunately, the row they gave me was the exit row with seats whose armrests don't lift up -___- So I had to lie in a very uncomfortable and awkward position from Tokyo to Guangzhou, which was about five hours of air-time. However, this time I managed to fall asleep for about four hours, so I felt quite awake when we finally landed.

I waited with the rest of the passengers for our luggage for about half an hour. When I finally got my stuff, I realized that everything inside was either frosted, frozen, wet, or cold. Oi. So I lugged both of my suitcases toward the exit where a huge group of people were waving at me. And despite spending the last thirty hours in an airport/airplane, I felt quite warm inside. They had all taken two cars over to pick me and my two measly suitcases up, so only one car ended up going with me to my aunt's house. They kept asking me if I wanted to eat something, drink something, wear something because it's so darn cold. Despite being a little bit chilly and despite having not eaten in the lasty thirty hours, I told them I was all right. Heck, all I wanted to do was to get in a bed.

So around midnight, I finally crawled into my bed, the first of eighty nights I'll be staying in China.

The next day, I ended up waking up at six in the morning. I don't know why I woke up so early, but I began to unpack my belongings and clean up. Around seven, my aunt, whom I call Guma #3 (she's the third-youngest of my dad's older sisters. Weird, I know, but that's how they differentiate relatives) woke up too, and decided to take me to a place to have breakfast with another aunt and uncle (Guma #2 and Guzhang #2). It was a huge breakfast (in English, you call it dimsum and usually have it for lunch, but in China, you have it for breakfast), and it was only 10 yuan (which is less than 1.50 USD). The hostess gave me a weird look when I asked for ice water since no one in China drinks ice water at a meal, certainly not at breakfast.

After we ate, Guma #3 took me to Beijing Street which is solely for shopping. I got about 60 USD worth of stuff. It's more than I've ever spent on a shopping trip, but I got SO much. About eight shirts and two pants and a pair of silver earrings. After just two hours (it was about eleven-thirty when we finished), we went to Guma and Guzhang #2's apartment since they wanted to take us out to lunch. I hung around my cousin Joanna's room while she prepared for lunch. I'm grateful I have her around; she speaks a lot of English so she can help me keep my sanity as well as serve as a translator xD The four of us went out to a restaurant nearby where we met Joanna's boyfriend (he was one of the people in the group that picked me last night). The meal was quite excellent, except at one point, I almost threw up. My relatives had ordered this worm soup that is supposedly really sweet and nutritious. I can handle watching heart surgery or hip replacements, but I CANNOT watch someone slurp down a giant white worm.

After a huge lunch, we were supposed to go back to a shopping center nearby. However, I just couldn't move after eating all that food, so Guma #3 and I decided to go back to our apartment where we rested a bit and I hung out on the Internet. At around 4:00 PM or so, my cousin-in-law (Saozi #2) and my cousin (...I don't know what to call him; thus far I've been successful in avoiding calling him by anything) came by with their son to take us out to - guess what - eat.

We got to the restaurant and met up with my other male cousin and Saozi #1 and my niece Kelly. We ate yet another hearty meal. Everyone kept pushing me to order something I liked off the menu, forgetting that I can't read a darn word. So I pointed to the pretty pictures that looked good and went with that. Luckily, everyone liked the dishes I picked out (even if I didn't). So after dinner, Kelly helped me waddle down two or three blocks to the second largest shopping mall in China where she took me ice-skating. I ice-skated for about an hour before I had to sit down - the food was weighing me down, and the sides of my skates were cutting into my skin. She decided to skate for about an hour more, so I left with Guma #3 to go back home.

My mom sent me an email telling me that she had been calling me all day but could never get to either me or Guma #3. As soon as I had replied, detailing everything I had done today (and signing it with "I'm a little homesick"), my dad calls. He asked if I'm okay, and I did start crying a little bit when I was talking to him. So after a very brief conversation, I gave it back to Guma#3. When I got back to the computer, I found that my mom had replied with a very loving but short note that made the tears really start coming.

Tomorrow will be an exciting day. Joanna's taking me along on an outing with her friends. All of her friends are English-speakers. Some have even stayed in the U.S. and other English-speaking countries for a prolonged period of time. We're all going up to this mountain about forty-five minutes away. I'm sure it will be an interesting trip.

Today, I learned a lot about the Chinese culture:
1. Chinese people like to eat. Joanna told me it's Chinese custom to eat a big breakfast, a big lunch, and a small dinner and that it's Western custom to eat a small breakfast, a small lunch, and a big dinner. I think Chinese custom is actually to eat a big everything. If you can walk after you just finished eating, you didn't eat enough.
2. Chinese people are frighteningly skinny. Nowadays you see a lot of criticism toward the Hilton sisters or the Olsen twins (I forget which one) for having thin legs. I now can see why my relatives think I'm a bit on the chubby side (even though I wear the smallest size available even in China).
3. Chinese people drive madly and don't like looking both ways before crossing a street. I don't know how many times I almost screamed when it looked like a pedestrian was about to get run over. Traffic here is worse than that in New York City around Times Square. Here, cars will high-beam pedestrians if they walk too slow and will only stop at the VERY last possible moment. Drivers will maneuver in ways you didn't think was possible. Taxi drivers cut everyone else off, even other taxi drivers. The lines on the street are strictly for decoration only. Pedestrians are encouraged to jay-walk; in fact, it's almost impossible to get to the other side of the street unless you run right in front of an oncoming car (though you have to keep in mind that traffic goes both ways). I honestly don't know if these drivers are considered really really good or really really bad.
4. People will suffocate their guests - lovingly. Everyone has asked me if I want to have breakfast/lunch/dinner with them tomorrow, if I'm getting used to the city, if I want to go to their house, if I want to go out with them tomorrow, if I want some water/food/money, if I want to use the bathroom, and/or if I am tired. I know they mean well, but at the end of the day, I'd really like them to stop.
5. In their minds you will always be a five-year-old. My aunt holds my hand when I go to the restroom and even asks me if I would like her to help me. She's gotten me these cute PJs that have a huge duck on the front. She has also shoveled dish after dish of food onto my plate. And everyone looks astonished when I tell them, yes, I am eighteen.

With these lessons in mind, I'm going off to bed :)