Maria Holland

I Packed My Suitcases, and In Them I Put*:

In Uncategorized on June 7, 2015 at 10:09 am

*note: this list is not comprehensive

  • 21 face masks of various styles (10 of my favorite, 1 super heavy duty, and 10 that I didn’t like but hopefully someone will appreciate?)
  • 10 Stanford University shirts (2 to wear, 8 to give away)
  • 10 pounds of chocolate – See’s, Ghirardelli, and Hersheys (gifts!  And s’mores…)
  • 3 hemispheres of my brain (two in my skull, one 3D printed in my checked luggage)
  • 3 bottles of California wine in 3 “flight safe” carrying bags (more gifts!)
  • 2 external hard drives (I take backups very seriously)
  • 2 bags of marshmallows (s’mores!!)
  • 1 light weatherproof jacket, 1 black sweater, 1 long-sleeved shirt (apparently Beijing is “hot” but after four years in Palo Alto it’s impossible for me to envision a warm night.  I have no idea if all three are unnecessary, or woefully inadequate.  Probably the former?)
  • 1 DARE shirt (DARE = Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence, a fellowship I just began.  A member of my cohort will be in Beijing in July and we plan to take a picture together)
  • “travel” Catan (minus the ocean hexes, and in a plastic bag to save room)
  • Chinese bank card and account book (it had 50CNY in it five years ago.  Not sure if it has 57CNY now (from interest), 40 (from fees), or if they just shut the whole thing down a few years ago.)
  • Kindle (experimenting with this e-book thing for the first time)
  • a few 
  • a small pharmacy (hopefully enough medication to keep me breathing for 2+ months in Beijing?)

Um, I hope I didn’t forget anything?

I’ll be in China in 24 hours.  This . . . does not seem real.  I’ve been looking forward to this trip for just about five years, when I last left China without knowing when I’d be back.  

I did a post like this as I departed for my year of study in China, and looking back on it I realize how much has changed, but how much has stayed the same.

For instance, despite having been to China several times, I am aware that I am probably still in for a big shock.  A brief list of the things that I know have changed:

China.  It’s been five years!  Of break-neck, China-paced development!  I remember passing through the Beijing train station 3 months before the Olympics in 2008, and then one month before the Olympics.  The train station was unrecognizable.  Okay, now multiply that by 30 and an entire country . . . What has changed, and what has stayed the same?

The location.  At first, “my China” was a farm, outside a small city, outside a slightly larger city, in the northeast.  It was almost Korea, and everyone thought I was Russian.  It was a place where I worked with my hands, was surrounded by animals and their manure, and got very dirty.  Then, my China expanded to include a beautiful tropical island in the south.  It was almost Taiwan, complete with unintelligible dialect.  It was a place where I went to classes (when I had nothing better to do), danced several times a week, and regularly ate my weight in whatever fruits were in season.  Now, my China is going to include one of the largest cities in the world.  My purpose for being there is also quite different, as I will be doing research at a university, working in a fully Chinese setting.  

Technology.  On my first trip to China, I was delighted to get email at the internet cafes in Hunchun.  On the second trip, we had internet in the house.  On the third trip, I used a friend’s VoIP phone to call home when we got stuck in Yanji due to snow.  On the fourth trip, I Skyped regularly with my parents.  Now, five years later, I have no less than three devices with me that are equipped for video chat.  I have several apps (Whatsapp, 微信 (WeChat), Google Voice) that enable me to send free text messages internationally.  I can get facebook, YouTube, and WordPress on my phone (except for where they’re blocked, which means I need a VPN for my phone as well).

Me.  I’m five years older now and a PhD student, so I’m pretty solidly in 剩女 (leftover woman) territory.  I drink alcohol now.  I eat fish on the regular, and the best 饺子 (dumplings) I’ve eaten in five years have been ones that I’ve made.  I think I’ve gotten more outgoing.  I’m five years nerdier and have gotten more specialized in my field, to the point that when I say what I do, they don’t understand even if I use Chinese :(  I’ve kept a journal for 10 years and have been rereading entries recently, so I think I have some more insight into myself and the things I’ve experienced.  I’m coming from Silicon Valley, one of the most expensive areas in the country at least, which will further affect my perception of Chinese prices.  

What do I expect will be same?  The internet will still be a hassle.  I will continue to have [hopefully comic] misunderstandings, of both language and culture.  I will still feel like a giant talking muffin.  The Chinese people will remain [largely] friendly, welcoming, and generous.  The food better be all that I’ve been dreaming about for five years!

And I predict that it will be difficult to leave once more.  

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  1. Enjoy it all!

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