Archive for September, 2016

Smoke, mirrors, and fire

I mentioned those in my last post, didn’t I?

Thene linked it all together for me, however, when she mentioned something a client had said:
“Some people try to get things right by bean counting, whereas others are all about calibrating risk, eg (in this instance) looking out for the things that were most likely to catch fire and making sure they didn’t catch fire, screw the beans. Made me think of me & M, not least in that he ALWAYS knew that X was going to catch fire. Literally always.”
I noted that M seems to note all the fires, but doesn’t try to fight any of them.
Thene: “Oh, yes, in many cases he notes the forthcoming fire & just fireproofs his own boundaries. esp with me, he can’t force people into making the fire not happen.”

My dorm had a required fire safety class yesterday. I was tired and I was skeptical, but in the end I found out some very valuable lessons that can be extrapolated.

The fire person:
“If the flames are licking the roof and spreading sideways – GTFO. Or death. Don’t even bother, just go. However, if the flames are less than ceiling height and going straight up, get your courage and faith together, be a hero, and put out that fire. Be confident and you will prevail.”

and

“The reason why fire extinguishers are designed to only have about 10 minutes of power is because if you can’t put out a fire within that time frame, the house is going up anyway, so to have it last longer would only kill your chances of survival because you’ll stand there trying to put out the fire instead of fleeing when the fire has already circled round to block off your exit.”

and

“If you’re in your room and you know there’s a fire somewhere, but you don’t know where for sure, stay inside your room. If you open the door, you are likely to introduce a backdraft, also known as providing a burst of energy to a previously oxygen depleted environment. In most cases, this will result in instant crispy death of the person opening the door. So stay inside your room, open a window, and signal for help. Don’t just stand there, thinking people will know you need help. Nope. When there’s fire, there’s too much going on and way too much smoke. If you want to be saved, you need to signal for help.”

and

“When fighting a fire, keep your distance or you might end up singed. Fire extinguishers can work up to 5 meters away, so there’s no need to get up close and personal.”

and

“Do not panic if you know there’s a fire alarm going on somewhere in the building but the alarms in your room aren’t signaling evacuation. The floors most immediately at danger will signal for evacuation first. Stay in your room to avoid overcrowding and possible death by stampede.”

and

“Do not wander around in case of fire. Smoke rises at the rate of one story every second. You cannot outrun it. If you are more than 30 meters from an easy exit, stay in your room lest you die of smoke inhalation rather than actual fire.”

….

All fire safety shit, right?
But nooo, we can extrapolate!

If someone’s drama/issue is straightforward and appears solvable (aka, not descending into ceiling-licking crazy), then by all means, be a hero, be confident, and put out that fire.

If you cannot solve someone’s drama within a certain time frame, GTFO because you cannot save them/it and you should preserve your own life.

If you’re not sure of what’s going on, stay barricaded within your boundaries and do not introduce more fuel to the mess.

If there’s drama and you need evacuation, signal for help if you want to live. No one will know you are there or that you want help if you don’t let them know. No one will know that you don’t want any part of it if you don’t speak up.

Keep your distance from drama. Don’t get pulled in. If you can put out the fire safely, do so, but otherwise, keep yourself from being burned!

If the drama isn’t spilling over onto you, please don’t go looking for it or add unnecessary panic to the mess. Stay calm, stay detached, and it will be fine.

Above all, don’t try to outrun the smoke. Barricade, barricade, barricade. Smoke kills more and faster than fire, in this case, meaning that drama explosion spill over ruins more shit than the original actual problem does.

Also, in a small contained space like a bus with lack of outside ventilation, lots of flammable shit, and people crammed together? You have like 30 seconds before everything goes up in fire fire fire. So really, gauge your environment, and if you’re in the equivalent of a bus (small incestuous screwed up group of people who feed off each other’s drama and think forgiveness is a myth), just GTFO. Unless you have super speed, which you don’t because you aren’t Superman or the Flash or whatever, you will be knocked out and crispy faster than you believe possible.

He also mentioned a couple of cases where people just wanted to burn some brush or dead leaves and ended up causing huge amounts of damage they were then responsible for. *nudge nudge*

Be safe, kiddies, and don’t play with matches. Or explosives. If you must, however, do it with permission and intelligently.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 36

Te quiero versus te amo versus I love you versus I like you versus 我愛你。

But first, about wanting, needing, desiring, and then as always, definitions.
I was talking to a couple of friends about being 僑生 (overseas Chinese), coming to NTU, thoughts, expectations, and the funny thing was: we were totally bonding over our mutual disenchantment and wanting to flee.
I say funny because I was really hoping to connect with other people in a more positive way. Less dammit universe and more this is so great. I say funny because it’s just that sort of semi-hysterical laughter coming from – if you’re bonding over your mutual want to escape, what does that ultimately mean?
I really like Wei and Wanda. They’re funny, friendly, and unlike everyone else…willing to be friends. Wei, in particular, is my particular favorite brand of incisive, and Wanda just makes me laugh because she’s such a sweetheart.
We were discussing the whole NTU thing: it seems we’re all Type B people stuffed into an environment full of Type A++ people. The Type A++ people hereafter referred to as the JJs for brevity. That might change if I actually meet a couple of JJs, but for now it works.
And it appears that we’re not having the best time of our lives, but goddammit, who really ups and gives up a degree from NTU without at least giving it a shot?
Not me, anyway.
I gave up a chance at NYU and lived to regret it. I don’t want to just dump this without giving it the good old college try, but then again, let’s return to the question at the root: what exactly is prompting this?

Vanity? Oh hell yeah.
Hopes that this will open up more doors? Definitely.
Anticipation that this might lead to other things? Fuck yes.

But truly, how much of the actual doing and going are pleasurable?

Not a whole damn lot, unfortunately.

The class load is going to be insane: 18 credits next semester or seven classes. Each credit equals one hour of class time. If we calculate four hours of homework/practice per class, that’s  28 hours. That comes out to about 46 hours per week, not counting group projects, additional practices necessary to catch up to par, and practicum hours.
The teachers actually said that they’d prefer that we practice interpretation on our own for about 8-10 hours per week in addition to classes and homework.
The thing is, this isn’t mindless work. It’s full blown, brain stretching, mind melting levels of focus. And I truly don’t think even 4 hours of that per day is sustainable, much less the rates at which they’re suggesting.
People do it. People have done it. People are going to do it.
I don’t know if I can.

So that’s one.

Another thing is, being a 僑生 is freaking strange here. Neither fish nor fowl nor good red herring. As Wei put it, if we were blond and blue-eyed, we’d have people swarming all over us. But being “overseas Chinese” just makes us odd. It’s worse for those from countries that are seen as more “backwards” and “undesirable” by the Taiwanese.
It’s sobering.
As an American, there’s the issue with displacing the indigenous people (oh, those people who just like to get drunk, play off their heritage to get attention/benefits, and who are naturally lazy), the horrifying attitudes towards immigrant workers (those horrible Mexicans), the weird pandering to the desirable Europeans, and the lack of respect for people’s difficulties.
As a Taiwanese person, there’s the issue with displacing the indigenous people (oh, those people who just like to get drunk, play off their heritage to get attention/benefits, and who are naturally lazy), the horrifying attitudes towards immigrants (those darn Filipinos), the weird pandering to the desirable ones (Japanese, Korean, white Westerners), and a general lack of cultural sensitivity.
All three of us feel a bit ostracized and the odd person out because we didn’t rise up through the ranks the usual way and because we’re overseas Chinese. Too cool for the average person to like, but not cool enough to be liked, contrary as that seems to be.

So there’s that for two.

And then there’s the overall stress of being a Type B (or as Thene put it, wanting to be a type Z person) in a world of JJs. Wanda and Wei’s roommates apparently do nothing but study. Get up early in the morning, sit their asses down, and do nothing else all day. It’s to the point where they don’t feel comfortable in their own rooms because they’re afraid of disrupting their roommates’ focus.
All three of us were hoping to make friends, meet people, network, and …y’know, have lives. We’re seeing that this might be a bit more difficult than originally anticipated.

That’s three.

That’s the NTU part of things and it mirrors and feeds into the “significant other” side of things. It’s all fear and smoke and screaming and it’s so very hard to find the actual fire to put it out.

Fear:
I need this program, this degree, to get ahead.
If I fail at this, I fail, period.
People will think less of me if I quit and it will be hard to find a job.

I need a man to thrive, possibly even to survive, because this shit is super hard to navigate through alone.
If I don’t get a man, I’m a dried up spinster who has no lasting value to society.
If I fail at this, what other stuff is there?

Logic:
I will survive, regardless. We’ll talk thriving later, you and I.

But Fear screams louder than Logic, unfortunately.

Note: I’ve been wanting to cuddle up to tree frog (he who is pretty and tempting and probably…poisonous. in that, an otter and a cat may fall in love, but where will they make their home sorta way). And it’s terrifying, mostly because I can’t tell what’s going on. Is it skin hunger exacerbated by stress or actual attraction? I don’t even know.

So. Love.

There was a question of interpreting “I love you”. The teacher said “I love you” and “我愛你” – theoretically meaning the same thing, even has the exact same structure grammatically, yet …one is not truly a substitute for the other. She said that (and this is where I disagree with her): “I love you as spoken in the US is lighter, something that can be said casually, but ” 我愛你” in Taiwan — have you guys ever said this to someone? Doesn’t it feel heavier? Can you actually imagine saying that to someone?”
Everyone else was like – yeah.
I stayed silent because I didn’t agree. I don’t know that it’s lighter or heavier or a question of how it’s going to be taken or accepted. For the longest time, I struggled with saying that to my family, even the “lighter” I love you rather than 我愛你. Of course, my personal traumas and issues come into play as well.
Teacher: so I wouldn’t translate I love you as 我愛你, necessarily, I would translate it as “I like you very much” or “I like you”.
Spanish guy: Yes, same in Spain, we would say te quiero, which is I want you, but te amo? I have never said that to anyone in my entire life.
And te amo is reserved for romantic love; you do not say that to your kid or parent

I thought about it, and no, I don’t think it’s lighter in America as I have experienced it. Yes, one says “I love X” or “I love Y”, but there’s a matter of tone. How does the quote go? “Back in my day, one did not say I love potatoes the same way they said they loved the Lord” or something like that. And whereas the character was decrying the devaluation of “love”, I would argue that one, in fact, does not say they love potato salad the same way they claim to adore God. When you string together “I love you”, in that precise way, that carries weight and I actually have not heard it as often as people seem to expect from watching US-based media.

I also mentioned that I might say “I love x”, while sitting in a group with X and Y, but direct that sentence at Y rather than turning to X and saying “I love you”. Because that’s lighter. That’s easier. That carries less chances of rejection or awkwardness.

It took me a long time to be able to say “I love you” to Thene, and there were many baby steps along the path. ILU or I <3 you or “me too”. I had to make the conscious effort, not because I didn’t feel it, but because those are indeed heavy words.

And…well, love has hurt in many unexpected and lasting ways. To say it, to summon it, to name it — it’s hard and weighty, no matter the language. Even though I do find it easier in English. Because of cultural baggage, because Chinese to me is the language of rejection, because of all manner of things that have nothing to do with reality.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 28

Almost a full month!

Although, strictly speaking I’ve been very definitely “single” in relationship terms since I moved from the US to Taiwan in June of 2015.

It still feels like an almost-milestone though, since it’s only been 28 days since I’ve really been truly thinking about what it all means, how things are affecting me, and why I want what I think I want. Or is that the reverse? Why I think I want what I want?

I was talking with Thene about things, and recurring themes seem to be: what is romance, exactly; is it true that what doesn’t break you makes you stronger; and why you hold on to things the way you do.

I mentioned before that I have to think really hard about the guy who my cousins are throwing at me. He’s nice, cute, smart, and apparently has a sense of humor. But is he extra attractive as a potential fantasy object because of how much more awesome he seems each time I see him, or because he’s probably the only other person who is close to my age in my class of seven people and because my cousins keep trotting him out as potential-husband fodder or because I’m “desperate”?

I put “desperate” in irony quotes because that’s another thing to think about. Am I truly desperate? If so, why exactly am I desperate?

If Mercury retrograde hadn’t hit me with everything in Hermes’ arsenal.

If I were in a city I knew well, was comfortable in, and could navigate around without issue.

If I got my priority list under control and was feeling like I was on top of things.

If I already had an adequate support network.

Would I still be as devastated as I was the other day when people paired off after class and left me looking forlornly after them?

The answer is an unequivocal no.

Again, I mention that oh-so-popular idea that once you have a significant other, you have a wildcard up your sleeve that can be used for any hand you might want to play.

It seems a bit like cheating to me, honestly, in a way. Unless there’s that spark, that undeniable draw, is reeling someone in just so I can huddle by their warmth an okay thing to do? It almost feels like setting a honey trap, just so I don’t have to be alone, trading emotions or the promise of emotion or maybe even more for security.

Thene pointed out that people huddle together all the time, that no one stays unless they’re getting something out of it.

Sure, but when we were talking coping mechanisms today and how the things that kept us alive when we were younger might now be the very things holding us captive from true joy — I said that I don’t know what I have, what I do, how I cope (if at all), and the only things that I’m certain of at this point are my morals and principles.

Sounds high-minded, yeah?

It’s not, really. Not as pretentious as it sounds, certainly.

There are things that I have lost, things that I thought were for me that weren’t, people who thought they loved me, people who I dreamt loved me, and things that I thought I wanted that now seem of dubious provenance. All of that has washed away with the tide or sank into quicksand.

There are days when I have to laugh at the idea of having survived anything. Or, if I have survived, does it matter when I do not feel like I thrive? Am I truly a stronger person after what I’ve been through, or am I a zombie limping through life with bits falling off, mindlessly looking for flesh to consume to further drag out the agony?

How does one even tell?

My only saving grace is that I don’t feel the need to repent anything. I don’t regret having loved the way I did. I don’t regret having done the things I did. I don’t regret giving what I did. I don’t consider myself to have knowingly sinned against myself or others.

Perhaps I wasn’t perfect, but then nothing is. Maybe the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but at least I will have good company.

Someone once told me that principles are a cold thing to take to bed.

That may very well be, but I’d rather be cold than have insomnia from a pricked conscience. I will keep my principles and my morals and my cold bed, if that is what it means.

I’d rather burn myself out at one go rather than sputter to a bedraggled end, leaving behind a sooty, smelly mess.

All things considered, I feel like the largest disservice people ever did to me was lying to me about how indispensable I was to their life. In the end, I was just another candle, maybe a torch they carried, not the sun they claimed me to be.

Well, this time around, I say burn bright or leave the matches alone. I refuse to be just another taper, just another pocket warmer in someone’s life. I refuse to use another person the way other people have used me in the past. I will either burn with you, or I will leave the fuse alone.

Now that I know better, now that I am trying to see more clearly, I am trying oh-so-hard not to fall into temptation. Even when temptation comes in a cute package.

Day 28.

I will sleep tonight, alone, in a pleasantly chilled room, and dream of phoenixes.

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 24

I’m spiraling.

Trigger warning for suicidal ideation, possible mention of self-harm (is that redundant or no? I can’t decide) and general morbidity. Also warning for possible rambling.

Grad school started, but that’s a shitshow of a week for another post. Suffice to say that things were bad enough that today when I was worried about my dad’s state of mind and his driving, the not-unwelcome thought of well, if my parents die in a fiery car crash, no one can fault me for not continuing on with grad school totally drifted through.

My father’s second eldest brother drank a cup of pesticide a few weeks ago. I’m still processing. Part of me doesn’t even know how to process.

Because you know what I feel when I think about his trying to off himself? Fuck yeah, affirmation. Someone else thinks that this game is no fun and wants off the loony tunes train. Someone else, someone close(ish), not some rando off the streets who you might know nothing about. Someone who carries your genes and who just might have the same issues you do.

It feels like permission, even as the aftermath that’s left everyone reeling has pretty much fully illustrated the horror that is suicide for all the victims.

So I’m wrestling with that, with oh my god, how can I do that to anyone I claim to love and what if I fail and need lots of care and attention that no one can afford to give, while at the same time thinking but, but that sounds like such a good idea.

On the romance and babies and “normal behavior” front, general crazy has happened, not the least of which is the appearance of a dude who my cousins are throwing at me with all the subtlety of a nuclear war head and about as much mercy. Spoiler: I’m pretty sure he not only isn’t interested, I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m a complete moron.

And it’s hard, so hard, to resist the idea because gods-fucking-dammit it is tempting when things happen like: intense culture shock, lots of humiliation, finding out that you signed up for all the wrong courses and missed the first week of your classes through sheer I-don’t-know-what-nightmare-happened, computer breaking, massive loss of data, and on top of it all, back to back typhoons rock the tiny island you’re perched on.

It is so fucking tempting to just buy into the idea that hey, there is this person who will be there to help, to answer questions, to guide you through this shitshow, and if not able to help, at least to bear witness to your efforts and stand by you, and that will make everything better.

Which, yes, it will probably make things better, but is that even close to a good reason for latching onto the first vaguely-attractive/eligible dude like a limpet?

No, there were no bolts of lightning, no intense need-to-fuck feels, nor were there omg my soulmate is found thoughts. I’m not sure there was even any interest, although gods know I am 1. very bad at picking up when people are interested and 2. so drenched in humiliation and stress the entire time that a tornado could have passed by without note.

I have been kinda-pseudo fantasizing about this guy, but at this point I think it’s just because my brain is going along with the crazy. Because when “go after him! get him! take the brakes off and goooo!” is mentioned whenever anything vaguely intercepting the notion of dating comes up, I figure some conditioning has to occur. By vaguely intercepting, I mean that my cousins have been telling me to invite him to the family Moon Festival barbeque (after knowing him for like 3 days), to ask him instead of them when I needed to know where to find a computer fix-it store, and so on and so forth.

I’m at the point where it’s not funny anymore and I am getting mad when I don’t get support, just a lot of “go get what you need from this dude who for fuck’s sake is probably not interested”.

And the million dollar question of today is: when I think that I shouldn’t saddle someone else with the crazy bundle of flail that is myself, that I should get myself together before attempting to share my life with another because no one deserves to be burdened with the floppet that is me — well, do I deserve to be burdened with myself?

When is it okay to say, I’m a work in progress and you’re a work in progress, and we can proceed together? At what point is one considered good enough for prime time, so to speak?

I honestly don’t even know at this point.

 

 

Of Tigers and Feathers – Day 11

Last few days were a doozy. Lots of sleeping. Lots of trying to get the brain online and falling short of action potential.

But I’m still on the consciously single train. Even though I suspect I’m ovulating. (read: cuddles, snuggles, and someone to do it with sounds really good about now)

Yesterday, my cousin showed me a picture of a girl he wants to introduce my brother to. She looked sweet and pretty enough, but what was fascinating was the conversation that sprung up around the showing of this picture. A conversation that involved neither my brother or the girl in question, by the way.

Makes one wonder what sort of things get talked about when I’m not in the room.

Cousin: This girl, doesn’t she look sweet and pretty? Just K’s type. She’s also the right height – I checked, slightly shorter but not short enough so that they’ll make short babies. She’s not quite as busty as his usual type is, but that’s okay because she’s so great in all other areas. She’s got her childcare license, and her parents bought her a place so she’s running a daycare out of it. So that means she’s patient, likes kids, and she comes from a good background where her parents can afford to buy her a house. What do you guys think?

…romance isn’t dead, guys. /sarcasm