So it's been a while, hasn't it? At least a mile in the Memento-esque non-memory of the internet, where the "what have you done for me lately" mentality is measured in seconds.
I have returned to Jilin. I'm finding it very difficult to get a good routine of studying down, mostly because every tutor I have sought has fallen through: one tutor, Lotus, has been given the chance of a lifetime to go teach Chinese at a Confucius Center in South Korea; my tutor from last year, Yu Laoshi (于老师), is overburdened with classes this term; and the other teachers that I've approached all seem to have schedules that conflict with when I teach. So it's been just over a week back here in the "lucky forest," and I still don't have a routine for studying. Which, for me at least, means I barely study. Damn it.
I do have one good routine going, but it's hardly a week old and I hate to jinx it, but I've joined a gym (a good, modern, Western gym, too, at steep, modern, Western prices), and I've been going consistently, if you can call a week "consistent." Every time I step on that treadmill it's punishment for every Ben and Jerry solo I've ever played (or maybe it's more honest to say Ben and Jerry duet). For me, it's always been a matter tricking myself into a financial obligation to get my ass to the gym: if I put a large sum of money down, up front, on a mad whim of healthy self-improvement, I'll have no choice but to get my money's worth and go to the gym. So that's what I did, and here's hoping it works out. (Oh, the puns, they are so delicious!)
James, Carolyn (taking the photo), and I crossing the mouth of the waterfall at Tat Kuang Si, Luang Prabang, Laos.
Yeah. That waterfall.
I am sitting here, in this sleepy smoky little pocket of northeast China, and I am still in awe of this trip, this Trip of Trips, from which I have just returned. It was, quite simply, audacious. Epic. In the true sense of the word, awesome. A lifetime of memories in a brief two months of travel, the journey against which all other travel will be judged. To come back and just, ugh, stay in one place ... it feels ... wrong. To use a pompous word I love, it's anathema after such a long time on the road. But Jilin is where I will be until the summer, a slow steady toil of teaching and studying and gym'ing, and come the end of June I will leave Jilin (and most likely China) behind me.
Talking about China of late has led to me vomiting a lot of hateful vitriol, a mixture of resentment of having to come back here after so much wanderlust liberation, of frustration with learning the language and all-too-quiet students, of desiring something great and challenging and interesting to come next, and deciding whatever that next step will be. But you get me going on China, on Zhanjiang and Hong Kong and Jilin and friends and Maryknollers, and I'll have that glazed real-men-don't-cry look in my eyes. I will miss this place. I'll miss everything so much. But, for now at least, it's time for me to go.