Tuesday, July 30, 2013

How much can happen in one day?

About two years ago I watched the movie One Day because of Anne Hathaway, now I'm finally reading the book and finding it a bit too long as I try to recall the movie. One single day every year has been shaping their lives, Dexter and Emma. I can't wait for them to get together yet I know as the end draws Emma's life will be coming to an end too. I like sad stories. Happy endings are such a cliche in Hollywood, I'd rather see something that makes my hear twist. It's the longest book I've read this summer and my heart if yearning for a happy ending that I know it's not giving me. Well, I didn't ask for it.
Each chapter happens in one day. So much can happen in one day. Lives are changed in one day. But when one day becomes every day, they seem to be much more mundane. I have had a rather mundane summer, one might say, my first summer in the United States. I have been staying at home most of the time, away from the heat, chained to the desk in front of my computer working, studying, and playing. I have been cooking more, but my upcoming jobs in the fall require thorough preparation and all the other excitements are also calling for diligence. I didn't go to the beach, not just because I can't swim or my fat body would look horrific in a bikini, but because I have been working on two syllabi for the two classes and three sections I'm going to teach: Business Writing and Freshman Composition. I've read about four or five books and have finally finished one syllabus that is looking rather like a syllabus. Thank God!
Thus my summer has been mostly a one-day summer where every day is pretty much the same and not at all like Dex and Emma's one day. Here's the run down: I struggle to get up early but still consider myself lucky if I can sit down by 10am. I have breakfast and start the Chinese TV show on Youtube which will be the background music as I begin working on either GRE or my classes. I make one big meal in the middle of the afternoon and go back to working. I eat fruit and snack for dinner, and then put my books away when it's 9pm. I play around and read till I fall asleep, which is not always before midnight as I planned before the summer. Intermittently throughout the day, I play games on my phone to take a break away from work. I know, pretty boring. But every once in a while I would have a rather interesting day, yet not always in a good way.
Yesterday I finished my first syllabus, a draft, but a quite mature one. As I turned to my bed around 10pm I saw a small bug near the box spring; it jumped as I approached. I grabbed bug spray and sprayed it and it ran toward the corner under the bookshelf. As I was waiting for it to get out, another one showed up, exactly the same. They looked like grasshoppers. I finally smashed them with paper towels and flushed them down the toilet. Then I thought I'd better check behind the bed. Dried bug skins, shells or whater ever in between my bed and the wall. I pulled the bed away from the wall and started cleaning, killing, spraying, Debugging! Just as I thought I had finished killing whatever was in sight, shells or eggs, a big one appeared on the floor out of nowhere. I quickly pressed down my paper towel and picked up the dead body. It was quite a fright! Once again I feel grateful to my boarding school experience in suburban Beijing where bugs were regular visitors in the dorm and I somehow became the designated exterminator. When the bug extravaganza was over, I realized that my toilet had become clogged for some reason. The day was not over!
And it dragged on till today when the toilet is still not functioning normally I went out and bought a plunger. By the way, do you know how expensive they are? The cheapest one at Target is about nine bucks! I came home to fix the toilet with all the confidence as an exterminator. After thirty minutes, the situation is not improving. I gave up and called the maintenance. I guess I can't be a bug exterminator and a plumber at the same time.
So, my days are not all that mundane after all. At this point, it's probably not very appetizing to talk about food. I shall wait till next time to tell you one of my better adventures.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Illusion of Separateness in a Hotpot

You might have heard of this saying from somehwere: every person can be linked to another person within a six-people chain. That means, through a link of within six people, you can be connected to anyone. It may be stretching a little, but many wonderful stories stem from some unknown chain events. This past month Simon Van Booy brought us his new novel: The Illusion of Separateness. I read his first novel and a collection of short stories because I had heard of his name through a chain of Wikipedia article reading. "If Margueritte Duras and Scott Fitzgerald had a son, he would be Simon Van Booy." I was just beginning to read The Great Gatsby at the time and have been in love with Duras for years, so I had to read him.

Six people, six lives, seemingly unconnected, live through the darkest and most painful moments of their lives across the ocean, continents apart. But there's a chain, an invisible connection that has brought significant impacts on their lives. Some of them have never known who others really were or have only encountered them once. Everything was so beautifully woven and unveiled bit by bit in the book. Van Booy has once again, took my breath away.

"Love is also a violence, and cannot be undone." It's a story of love, pain, and the illusion of separateness.

The best dish in the world that can express the same concept is Hotpot. I'm not really sure if it's one word or two. I suppose either way works, but I prefer one word, another sign of union. The Chinese hotpot is similar to the French fondue, except that it's a much bigger scale version and requires more ingredients and connects more food together.

A trip to an Asian market made my day. Spicy soup base, thin beef brisket, Asian greens, fish balls, a simple hotpot warmed both my stomach and heart. Tastes just like home.

Spinach, beef, fish ball, tofu, frog legs, mushroom, shrimp, fish, tripe, anything you can think of can be put in a boiling pot and cooked together as you dip in and dip out from the pot to your bowl. Sesame paste as a sauce base with pickled tofu, spicy sauce, a bit of cilantro. Ready to serve! You think these things can't go together? Sure they can! Anything is possible in a hotpot. The world is a hotpot.

Global village, tossed salad, or hotpot, whatever the metaphor, the world is in your boiling soup. No matter how different you are, you all participate in enriching the flavor of the soup and you all absorb the flavor of the soup. You swim together, you hold hands, you go through pain and love, you hug one another, you land in the bowl together. Each one of you is essential in making the flavor as a whole. Separeteness is only an illusion.