Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Qinghai, baby!

Hello friends and family!
I was hoping to post a longer blog before leaving for Qinghai. Alas, ETD is less than two hours. So I'm just saying a quick hello, letting you know all is well here, and making sure you each know how much I'm thinking of and loving you. Last weekend Rebecca and I took the train down to Suzhou and Hangzhou to spend three days wandering through gardens, eating giant baozi, reading, drinking tea, and experiencing direct sunlight. Yes! I hope to say more about our trip soon, but I've got to finish pulling things together here. We will return from Qinghai sometime around the 29th or 30th of April. I'll be back in touch then with plenty of things to ramble about, I'm sure. 
Endless love,
(Mak, Kenzie, Kenz, Kiki, Older-sister-not-Tatyana)

Giant, wonderful-smelling peonies in Wangshi Yuan (Master of Nets Garden).

Here is China! Qinghai is the giant purple province. We will be in the north-easterly part in the Tibetan area Amdo. We tend to think of Tibet just in terms of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), the big blue province. But Tibetan regions also exist in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Hello beautiful friends and family!
I'm sorry it's been so long since I last posted anything. Days and subsequent weeks really have been passing quickly. And nothing too exceptional has conspired since I last wrote. Maybe that's just the nature of acclimation--more happens, less feels noteworthy.

Of course, as with anywhere, these days are packed with moments of contentedness or humor or frustration or wildness or awakening, and while some are obviously more enjoyable than others, all leave me feeling awake and part of something. We had a brief and beautiful warm spell, a couple clear days with unusually blue sky, tiny breezes, and sunny walks. I've been disappointed by the temperature plummet over the last week or so, particularly since we've passed the arbitrary mid-March date marking the end of heat in our rooms. In the morning I layer up for class--long underwear tops and bottoms, a belly full of fresh coffee, and a mug full of hot tea are key for survival of four hours sitting in our vacuum-for-warmth classroom. All things cold aside, I'm still really loving the language study. We recently had to write an essay on some world-famous individual from our country. (Given the number of well-known American, male politicians, I think my teacher was slightly dissatisfied with my focus on Mia Hamm, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to broach the subject of female athletes). But the real high point through all this took place during a class discussion. Our professor inquired about the Kazakh's most famous world figure, in response to which he received a consistent, low round of 'A-teel-ah, A-teel-ah' (Attila). 'Of course,' he nodded his head, 'just like Mongolians, like Genghis'. And then the uproar ensued. 'Not the same, not the same,' both groups insisted to the shocked professor, and then, quickly switching out of Chinese, each side engaged in a zealous debate referencing differences and superior points. There wasn't much more to do except sit and smile.

We also recently visited Beijing's 798 Art District. This area originally existed in the form of abandoned, military-supply warehouses, but has slowly been beset by artists looking for a little free space. In the last year or so, the district has become more commercialized, and there were plenty of Chinese and foreign tourists wandering through the galleries or enjoying some coffee-patio time (ah Portland, how I miss thee...). I think my favorite part of all this, though, were the different doorways. There were just so many, crumbling and rebuilt, brick and iron, quiet and waiting and still, all just seeming like little welcome ways for tiny, bold thoughts. I don't know why, but each just felt like it had its own personality, like it was saying something, and not for the purpose of letting others hear, but just because it cared about its idea. It all sounds silly, but I liked the day a lot.

Well, the news of the hours is, we're definitely going to QINGHAI! Because of the political situation with China and Tibet right now, we couldn't know until the first of April if we would actually be allowed into the region. But now we know, and we are! Unfortunately, my excitement for the trip keeps me from writing with any semblance of composure or articulateness. Until we were looking at pictures and piecing together our itinerary, I didn't even have a sense myself for the degree to which I am genuinely, wholly, expressionlessly looking forward to the trip. It will be brief--around two weeks, leaving the 17th or 18th of April--but I feel so certain that this is an area I will return to. I don't know, sometimes it seems like maybe my excitement is based on some subconscious impression that this is the start of something bigger for me, the discovery of a new, all-engaging love. Something that will shape future decisions I make. Or maybe I'm getting ahead of myself. Either way, I can count on two hands the number of stars I've seen in the last couple months, so I feel confident knowing my mind and everything it reaches out to touch will feel freed and energized and happy, just so so happy, at getting to run and be wild on the open, cold plains with whipping winds and faultless skies. And horizon lines, I miss horizon lines! I could speculate for pages on all the wonders of mountains and yaks and clear waters and trails and rich tea. But maybe I'll wait, save it all for the retelling of the real thing.

This is Thursday, tomorrow is a holiday. Three-day weekend, what what! I think I'll hop on the bus soon and head out to a bookstore or a tea shop. Not sure yet, I've got a couple potential destinations in mind. Next week I have mid-term exams in my listening, speaking, and comprehension sections, so I'll do a fair amount of studying this weekend. But not today, not with this popsicle-friendly, warm afternoon. Next weekend roommate-Rebecca and I have Suzhou or Hangzhou travel plans. Still working out the details--yeah logistics!--but it should be an excellent few days of spring and water and walks and blooming flowers.

I'll sign off now, though there's always plenty more to say. Just know I'm sending so much love to all of you!

Good is natural and primitive. It is not miraculous to itself.