My first fortnight of 2011 is going remarkably well. (And yes, I just used the word “fortnight”– oh English language, how I miss thee!) Research and Chinese classes continue to progress, friends in Taipei are doing well, and best of all, I am not failing at any of my ill-conceived or over-ambitious New Year’s Resolutions, as I usually do at this time every year in January.
Why, might you ask?
Because I didn’t make any this year!!!! (Cue the dance party!)
So that could be the end of the post right there, and I’ll go back to having a glorious 2011. But no, I’ll tell you just a few things that I’ve been doing INSTEAD of resolving to change all of the things that I am not perfectly satisfied with in my life. With all of my newfound free time (and emotional energy), I have been trying to broaden my horizons, say yes to cool possibilities that emerge, and see more of Taipei. Some fun results of flying free of resolutions have been:
1) Eating Delicious Meals!
Calorie-counting? Not this year! I have had some delightful 2011 meals, including a deluge of sushi, a ridiculously large American-style hamburger, delicious fish tacos, yes, even some vegetables, and tonight, for the first time since I arrived in Taipei, real New England style Buffalo Wings. Those of you who know me know I can’t live without buffalo wings any more than I can without books, Beckett, or bacon.
2) Going to See Live Music
What? Who are you, and what did you do with Kim, queen of canned tunes? Yes, world, I have been to a live music venue in Taipei, it’s called The Wall, and I’m really impressed by it! The lighting in particular was totally amazing, and the place is really professionally run– apparently, all the big deal bands that come through Taipei go to The Wall. As for the band, it was called The Okay Cars, and they were more than okay– I found them melodic, innovative, and fresh! I would describe them as a mix of sounds similar to Beck, Moby, and maybe Modest Mouse, with a touch of edge thrown in. Anyone in Taipei want to catch Deerhunter at the Wall, or another upcoming at a cool venue, just let me know!
3) Sleeping Late
I love sleeping late. I also enjoy reading, writing, and answering emails late into the night. Thus, without an 8am Chinese class this semester, my natural circadian rhythm has taken over, and it’s like the reforestation of the Amazon…. in that all of my sleep is better, longer, and sweeter than it was in the fall. Ahhhhhhhh that pillow feels good.
4) Seeing More of Taipei
My excuse on New Year’s weekend was that our American friend was in town, so Eva and I took her sightseeing around Taipei! We went up to the 35th floor of the Taipei 101 building, which conveniently boasts an Illy Café where you can sip delicious espresso drinks and feast your eyes on the city (in particular, the Xinyi district), without either having to pay the fee to go to the top of Taipei 101, or for that matter, squint. Since Taipei is a pretty low city without many skyscrapers, the view from Floor 35 is quite a good one!
Other places I’ve been talked into going to since New Year’s were the Fine Arts Museum (which was completely empty on a Tuesday night, go figure, so we basically got a private viewing tour), a yummy new Mexican restaurant called Macho Tacos, a walk around Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall the other night when the fog made it look like the Taipei 101 was just floating through the sky, and a bar with both a pool table and foosball. Taipei is such a great city, and it’s nice to see new sides of it.
5) Writing. More. Often.
This in some ways is the most boring to report, but also the most crucial of the since-2011 phenomena in my life. The writing buzz is back. It’s funny– I had to calm down from the frenzy of the fall, and let some of the obligations fall away, before I suddenly remembered why I’m here. My writing schedule has always been a bit erratic, but scheduling whole afternoons or whole days for writing works well for me.
One afternoon, I called a friend to meet me AFTER a writing session for dinner, so I wouldn’t chicken out and leave the café and go home early. And after a particularly hard day of work, seeing friends is that much more pleasurable: conversation is luxurious relief from the pressure of the unfolding creative process. Studying Chinese becomes an exciting journey away from English, and writing English a welcome return and restful retreat into the halls of familiar words.
Basically, none of the things I’ve been up to is revolutionary– no major epiphanies, no drastic changes of lifestyle. If anything, resisting the desire to enumerate the ways I could improve my life has reminded me of how good I have it.
More than ever this holiday season, I’ve been giving thanks for this amazing opportunity to study and work abroad. I know how many people in America are having a rough time– financially, politically, or otherwise.
I read about the Arizona shootings with a particular kind of dismay– dismay at the craziness of psychotic people, dismay at the availability of such dangerous firearms, dismay at the fractured relations between political parties, and between politicians and the citizens they work to help and serve. And I felt dismay that I was not at home to do my part in expressing outrage, grief, and consolation.
Spending the holidays abroad has reminded me of how much I not only miss home but how much I love being an American. No matter how crazy things get at home, it’s my home, and I have a responsibility to eventually return and try to make it a better place to live. And right now, I have a lot to be grateful for. So have a Happy New Year (+ a fortnight!), may there be peace and recovery and mourning and reconciliation in America and across the world, and may your resolutions, or non-resolution choices work out well.