Saturday, May 10, 2014

our moving castle, part one

China, in chapters. Transcription of journal entries from March 27th to April 14th. Many messy words and minute details (see meals), but thought that they had to be told to some one. Endless thanks to the Liu family for the trip of a lifetime. 

midnight arrival in Qingdao
I couldn't sleep last night. I had the chasing dream, the one in which the large, muscular, inescapable man hunts me, to kill. But when I woke up, the morning was a beautiful one indeed. The trembling, quandarious night always unfolds into a half-lidded, loving morning, light and white. I stretched time, 8:30 to 11:30, by making pancakes and braiding my hair. Then I slathered my parents with "I love you"s, enough to last them for two weeks. For our time remaining is so little, and the hours of contact during the day so scant. But my departure grants us fewer hours than normal.
Then I saw Samuel and Ariel and Mr. Liu, and in no time we were at SFO, in all of its light-blue, sine-curve glory. After a smooth passage through security, we settled into a Japanese restaurant. The sushi (shrimp tempura, unagi, avocado) was quite delicious (avocado soft!), and the ramen had a pleasant chew and a soup with depth. Samuel had crispy chicken teriyaki, and our orders were echoed by the company opposite. It was at this nameless eatery that Samuel and I frantically refreshed pages and rooted through emails for passwords to college portals on wifi that was otherwise occupied. My heart accelerated as the letters loaded -- two rejections (kindly phrased in "not able" w/ sorries). I was numb for a while, until we boarded the plane (which we held up -- arrived 5 minutes before posted take off time). As I sent an update text to Mom and Dad, the stupid tears with minds of their own trickled down, as thought I had to type the news to know it. Well, I know it now, I know it truly, and I do not resent it. I move along, phased, but re-phaseable. I hope my parents are too. 
There's not much to say -- I don't want to revisit that heavy, tired state following rejection. Somehow, with a half-hour, God -- working through His people, past and present -- has made all whole again, and hopeful. I trust in His plan, even when I cannot make out the path and width, and rejoice for others as they walk along theirs. Now I have certification from these schools, replies that do more than sit on the shelf and fade to insignificance, but instead move one to action every time I lay eyes on them. There's more to do, there's always more to do, and right now there's a little more than usual, as usual. It's all forward from here. Thank you God for amazing grace. Music of the day: Shostakovich Piano Concerto no. 1, 3rd movement (absolute exuberance), Barber Adagio for Strings (supplied by Samuel to aid mourning), Dusty Blue... And of course, the persistent hum of airplane that doesn't seem so loud anymore.  

Indescribable... How to recapture the last two days? They have been times of incredible joy, of new depths of insecurity, of comfort and loneliness, of warmth from all that I've met. I've opened email after hard-sought (on internet rations) email from colleges that, after thoughtful deliberation, politely said no. But every minute eases the disappointment and brings encouragement -- I had a dream of Middlebury, and [my classmate] was in it too, maybe because we are both not yet settled (his rejection quite affected me, I guess). But as I talk to Samuel's relatives, the more I love the idea of immersing myself in languages at Midd, of being able to communicate with all. [mushy thoughts] while sitting on the rocky Qingdao shore, we decided to decide without considering the other. But from shores opposite or near...
moveable feast
After exploring Kang Youwei's home (which featured his souvenirs from every continent), we scattered onto the sand. 大伯伯 took them to play volleyball. Then we returned home to steaming plates of fresh dumplings on 奶奶's round table, supplemented by all sorts of beautiful dishes crafted masterfully by aunts. I downed 14 dumplings (pork, too!!)!!!11 And they were velvet packets of garlic-soaked goodness. The more garlic you take here, the louder the approval. Garlic sauce is initiation, as is the beer.
The. Beer. Olala. The first full cup of beer (two, in fact) of my existence. And if you can't tell, I just had another one! Ah. I feel las a lovely, loose, goose. The ink flows from my potent pen!
Napped last afternoon, and rose to practice piano at the neighbor's flat across the floor. Her space was spotless, the piano pleasant and muggy voiced, as was the room steamy. Her daughter used the computer next to me while I ran through warm-up and Haydn, striving for spotlessness. My constance, my constance. Practiced 'til sweaty, then headed home for a meal of fried fish and steamed fish and ___ fish and more fresh dumplings. Ahhhhh. Slept at 9:30, like an infant.
it's a city by the sea
This morning, ate breakfast with newly arrived Timmy and handmaiden. Then we visited the cemetery: a manicured garden oasis in a concrete desert. The rocks, thoughtfully placed throughout, housed speakers which played soap-opera-soundtrack-style music. We placed flowers (I held wrappers) at the graves, prayed. They thanked God for his peace. We exited in paris. Whenever I partake in these happenings, I gain much-needed perspective, and the limited trials in my life take their proper place, but small instances of small significance (even Snapchat stories) knock me back into deep, catatonic doldrums. Thankfully, I wake quickly.
Church: at home. They sing and pray. Ariel and I sing in English and said 阿門. They were absorbed, focused, passionate. A circle of brothers and sisters, a link in the chain. Before lunch, Samuel and I walked up the road to the open-air market. Little kiosks spilt from every doorway, bearing black rice and crayfish and butt (of pork). We got a strawberry ice cream ("Breyer's!") and scuttled home for fancy lunch at teppenyaki place. 8+ courses (each an animal), sashimi, starfruit, ice cream buffet. A whole brick of yellow butter (I love oil) and giggles over handsome cheekbones, adam's appleses. New friend: his basketball playing added points to the college entrance exam. Sedated afternoon of nap and piano and browsing the blackish market, topped off by a dinner of clam soup (and a wee cup of beer). Samuel and I found a talking nook, a curtained extension where laundry is hung to dry. Two chairs, one rocks. A wide window through which Samuel shone a laser when he was small. Now, Timmy does. Samuel's dad shared reunion wisdom: look forward. Compare less. Give hope, and encourage old friends to be better than they were before.
Monday, fonday. After breakfast (麵疙瘩dumpling knots) I walked with 大伯母up the nearby mountain that Qingdao folk used for defense (little stone forts, tunnels, checker walls). People kicked hacky-sacks, did taichi, meditated. The air was cool, was warmed by walkers. Every few paces we admired the view: an old city, a new one, and the sea (white as the foggy sky). She held my hand and lead me along me like a mama. On the way home, we stepped into little markets, convened at home and headed for Koreatown, very silver and posh. Samuel recounted his great uncle's stories from that morning's interview as we went. Each store was lovely, soft, baby-toned, Korean. People demonstrated fitness bikes outside to loud K-pop. Ate gratifying Western meal at Pizza Hut (again, shiny and granite). 
Qingdao colors
Before schmoozing with oro, though, Samuel and I took another walk, in the other direction. Concrete jungle, cement rivers. Broken glass, abandoned high heel, stamped advertisements for graffiti. We watched loud elementary schoolers at recess play basketball, did air-walking at play structure (they're placed thoughtfully throughout town). An evening of 韭菜盒子,more nook, dancing with the small person, and Cloud Atlas. Ariel had a fever that abated by the beautiful morning. I write as they pray for breakfast.   

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