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Saturday, October 13, 2007

A Rambling Entry that you Should Probably Just Ignore

The promised power outage never came. It was a smooth, electrified Friday and Saturday here in Jilin; I came back from a long day in town (but more on that later) to a pitch-black apartment, but a quick trip to the "front desk" solved that problem.

I felt compelled to write something here today, in fact I was thinking about it all afternoon. What brilliant insights into China shall I deign to unleash upon my frothing readership today, I asked myself rhetorically. But now I can't for the life of me remember what it was I wanted to write. Guess it just works that way some times.

This morning and afternoon was spent with Jenny, James, and Kevin walking about Zhanjiang.

Wait, what? I honestly just wrote Zhanjiang without realizing it. It's been on my mind lately. I miss it, if you can believe that, and if you'd been reading this blog for any amount of time, about the only constant has been the inhuman amount of bitching I did about the place. But I do miss it: many things that were comfortable there, and familiar, that are now so far away; the e-mails I've recently swapped with students that take me back to hot classrooms, belabored lessons, Cantonese frustrations; and above all it's hearing from friends from down there, the people that made Zhanjiang what it was.

Home for the summer, it's almost as if I never really thought about Zhanjiang, or China, or what any of it meant to me, until I got back to China. Talking through it with friends and family was the begging of a process that only accelerated upon my return. I remember arriving in Hong Kong this August, a self-assured swagger as I moved through the familiar city, feeling that this country was old hat, well-worn territory. And as I watched the images of Hong Kong flash by through the windows of the double-decker 6X, a year's worth of luggage and memory shifting in the seats next to me, the bus crested that first amazing, familiar view of Repulse Bay in August and turned that slow obtuse turn around the beach toward Stanley, and my first year in China hit me, a mental fist with Zhanjiang fingers. Hong Kong, Zhanjiang, teaching, friends, traveling, Meghan and Deirdre and Patrick, the final weeks of the term, leaving; it hit me, and I was alone, trying to put it together before I got off the bus.

(I could have said a mental fist with a Zhanjiang brass knuckle, but I decided not to. I have too much respect for you, reader. You're above that.)

Anyway, I spent the day in Jilin, and I bought my first Chinese mobile phone today, going for the cheapest dependable one I could find, and in a sick twist of fate it appears to be the exact same model that Nic had in Zhanjiang last year. So it goes. I have absolutely no idea how much calling me on this thing costs, or if talking for a moment to someone in America will wipe clean my supply of minutes, but my number is 159.442.44.117.

I got the phone out of necessity (kinda), because having one just makes life easier here in Jilin. There seems to be a much more disparate social scene here when compared to Zhanjiang, a lot more people my age, a lot more people, period, and having a cell phone simply works. At the same time, the vastly different social scene makes this place feel far more like college and less like the "rugged" individualism of last year.

And here it is, nearly four in the morning. Good old blog: I never need anything to say to say it on here. I knew I needed to blog, and, well, you got a first-year memory dump. So it goes.

I'll leave you with what appears to be a new (?) brand of chips here in China. I first spied this brand in Yanji, but saw it here today in the building's little convenience store. I can only imagine what the people that came up with it were thinking: "Well, foreigners love Lonely Planet, and they seem to talk about God a lot, so ..."

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