Archive for September 30th, 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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.”


“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.

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?

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.