There’s always a moment before a huge trip that I have sudden regret. What am I doing! I don’t want to go…I feel better staying here.
But then I think of all the wondrous things I will experience, see, hear, touch, feel. No regrets whatsoever. Regrets would be not doing anything at all.
Here’s me the day before I left for Hong Kong and Vietnam.
I am showing the blank pages of my passport, which are now filled with a used Vietnam visa, an entry stamp from Vietnam, a departure stamp from Vietnam, two entry stamps from Hong Kong and two departure stamps from Hong Kong.
As I donned my rooster hat, I was thinking how sad it would be to travel without my usual companion, how I will come back with mosquito bites (and I did), how much anxiety I would have if I forgot something (and I did), and the money drain on my bank accounts. But the adventure, the experience…was right there!
When I believe that it’s going to be amazing, it becomes amazing.
It was never this way. My first word supposedly was “ball” in English meaning the round spherical usually colorful object that rolls and bounces. Or it could be “ba” the first sound of father in Cantonese.
Starting kindergarten, there was a moment when I wanted to say something in English, but it sputtered out in Cantonese. I spoke Cantonese fluidly, but then as school continued…as the desire to fit in with my classmates…and feeling inferior by going to speech therapy disqualifying me from GATE…I improved my English.
Suddenly being surrounded by Cantonese again in Hong Kong…this time by myself without an American companion, I forced myself to understand what was being said and finding the words to respond. It was all pidgin Cantonese as the words did not flow easily. There was delight yes…as I overheard a group of older ladies and an older gentlemen mocking each other in the way only Hong Kong people could on the airplane from Saigon. And the serendipity of finding a motorbike tour guide in Saigon who spoke Cantonese, but tricking me into paying more than needed. And the saleslady at the museum who walked into a failing negotiation and gave me a bargain because “she always takes care of the Cantonese…don’t worry.”
But in all, it was a struggle. I realized that’s how a lot of people felt in the states once they immigrated here. Fifty percent of the world would pass them by. Some immigrants would became more sheltered and quiet unlike their personas back in their nativeland. Others like my mom defied the odds and didn’t let language stop her.
Entering customs at SFO on Sunday morning was suddenly a relief.
Although one officer asked me if I brought durian pancake back. I simply said, “Ugh, I don’t like durian pancake.” In English.
Every so often, I come across someone who says, “You’re so laid-back and carefree. I can never imagine you angry.”
I am always surprised, because I know I can be high-strung, anxious and obsessive. And angry. And yet there are very few times in my life that my anger actually results in something drastic. Most of the time, I am able to temper it with rationale and careful analysis. But the few times…I am suddenly trapped in a narrow tunnel…tunnel vision. My own animal comes out from within—kicking and screaming. In a tantrum. Or perhaps seeking to avenge a fault. And it all comes out…still in my steady voice, never quite yelling.
This is why I am reluctant to lose control of my sound judgment. Someone once said, “Jenn, I have never seen you like this.”
First, I have to admit that I look down upon dependence. Especially when someone does have the potential at independence. Now that we have that out of the way…
In middle school, my best friend’s mom did not drive. She said that she was afraid of driving. As a stay-at-home mom, she relied on her husband to drive everywhere. And worse off, the act of not driving especially in the suburbia of California meant she was trapped.
I can’t be trapped. Yesterday at my friend’s friend, I allowed my aunt (originally from Hong Kong) to escort me to my friend’s house for the festivities. But I refused her to come pick me up after the reception. It was silly having her to take a taxi to pick me up and then take a taxi back. I insisted that I could survive in the city, having had navigated around domestically and perhaps once in Thailand/Cambodia. In almost an act of defiance, I didn’t pay attention to the cell phone (plus I still couldn’t recognize the ringtone). And as the reception wrapped up, I walked outside, flagged down a taxi and showed the address my aunt wrote down in my book. “I understand,” the driver said and then tried to figure out the directions to the building.
I was surprised when my aunt opened her door who greeted me with repeated statements “You so smart! So smart!”
[Obviously I found a power converter. My equipment is no longer dying, but quite alive!]
And at my friend’s wedding, I got to know some of my friend’s “sisters”. We talked about what we knew about Karen and our separate lives in the states (they having had gone to the states for college or graduate school). Then I met the other American during the reception who spoke no Cantonese. We joked about the food, talked about traveling, and academia.
But somehow, as I was saying goodbye for the night, there was this empty moment. Indeed, I could have gone to my shameless mode and ask for their Facebook, their email address…or something similar. But here, nothing. “Nice to meet you,” I would say. And then that would be it.
And at the end of the night, I accidentally found myself in another wedding where here the primary color was purple. I wandered outside and flagged a taxi. The driver read the address in Chinese that my aunt had written in my book. And then it was empty again, almost like how I had arrived in the morning at 8 am.
But I have shared much in my friend’s greatest moment!
Of stupidity, I did not pack the right adapter for my laptop or my ipod touch. Sure, everything can be fixed quickly by dishing out the money. But of all the frustrations I have had traveling, lugging around a dead brick is the worse thing of all.
1. NYC trip in Spring 2005. I neglected to charge BOTH of my batteries for my camera. I whined a lot and a friend lent me his camera where I put in my CF card, resolving situation.
2. Trip to Chicago in October 2006. I forgot my power charger for my laptop and ended up conserving the battery, basically lugging a brick around.
And now? We’ll see what happens. I love my electricity, why does everything have to be so difficult. PSHAW.
In less than three hours, I shall be departing abroad for Hong Kong and Vietnam!
A wedding. Then visiting relatives. Then seeing a friend. Then meeting up with ta-ching.
See you on the flip side!!!
In a small act of rebellion, I declared that I would leave a mess. Or at least, I wouldn’t stop being who I am. Almost like a light punishment.
So thus, I left (and not so deliberately either):
cookie crumbs on the floor
empty cookie bags
open blu-ray cases
bags near the front door
unclean cutting board and an avocado pit (no dirty dishes, because washing dishes is something I believe in)
dirty laundry on the floor
A few days ago, I said, “My life would suck without you!”
In response, he said, “Huh?”
And then I continued, “Baby I was stupid for telling you goodbye!”
And he said, “Isn’t that the Kelly Clarkson song?”
I had already started, “Maybe I was wrong for trying pick a fight! I know that I have got issues!”
And he said, “Omg, are you quoting the actual song?”
But I couldn’t help myself, “But you are pretty messed up top! But I know…that…………” I paused for dramatic effect.
“AYYYY,” he exclaimed. “Did you know she got fat?”
“We are nothing without each other!” I shouted. “You got a piece of me! And honestly! My life…MY LIFE! WOULD SUCK…would suck…WITHOUT YOU!”
“She was cute and everything, but the fat look doesn’t work for her.”
To create something together…together…not individually is something so great so…powerful. Because it’s not just the power of one, but the power of two.
I envy the bands where there is a couple at the forefront. Making music together. I wonder if night of night if they’re playing guitar to each other, singing together…that it becomes less a job, but of a creation. When they sing together, with their eyes locked…are the words that come out meaning so much more than the words we hear?