NaNoWriMo

I was in bed Wednesday night, waiting to fall asleep. As I was getting drowsy, I suddenly remembered that the next day was November 1. November. Wasn’t that NaNoWriMo? I’ve had several friends participate in the national novel writing month, in which one attempts to write 50,000 words in 30 days. I never did it. November is a busy month for students. Maybe I’d do it some summer. Or some other year. When, you know, life slows down enough for an ambitious 50,000 word project.

But if I’ve learned one thing in 2 1/2 years of college, it’s that life has a nasty habit of not slowing down. In fact, when you most need a break, it tends to speed up and rush headlong into deadlines you are completely unready for.

And there’s that senior thesis thing that will swollow me whole next year.

So, why not now? If I don’t try it now, I’d never get along to trying it.

And so, welcome to November! And bring on those 50,000 words!

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English Proverbs

I spent an evening some weeks ago looking through a book of Little Blue Books that someone from another dorm owned. It was delightful, and I was highly envious. I read the entire booklet of Proverbs of England, Little Blue Book No, 113, edited by Haldeman-Julius, that evening, and I vowed to return some other night and read other Little Blue Books, including one about the New York Chinatown.

But here were some proverbs that tickled my fancy, and I hope at least one or two might delight you also.

。None but cats and dogs are allowed to quarrel in my house.

。A book that remains shut is but a block.

。A goosequill is more dangerous than a lion’s claw.

。Say nothing of my debts unless you mean to pay them.

。Put not thy hand between the bark and the tree.

。Some have been thought brave because they were afraid to run away.

。Better bend the neck than bruise the forehead.

。A dry cough is the trumpeter of death.

。It is no festival unless there be some fighting.

。When fools throw stools, wise men must take heed of their shins.

。One has never so much need of his wit as when he deals with a fool.

 。A wise man may look ridiculous in the company of fools.

。He that thinks in his bed has a day without a night.

。”Almost” was never hanged.

。Better to slip with the foot than with the tongue.

。A full belly neither fights nor flies well.

。The fire in flint shows not till it is struck.

。Change of weather is the discourse of fools.

Grace

A few days ago I wandered from that straight and narrow path into the wilderness.

I’ve wandered down the wrong path before – have we not all? – and each time, in the end, I would come back to my Father’s feet and plead forgiveness and mercy. Every time, just as the father of the prodigal son, He welcomed me back in open arms and wiped away my tears.

This time I wandered away, perhaps intentionally. And in the wilderness, my heart broke. Once again, I have done wrong. Once again, I have left my Father’s house, knowing full well that I would break His heart. I have fallen so many times. So many times I have left and returned, and asked for His grace and mercy. How could I do so again? How could I return, knowing full well that in time, I will only wander off and disappoint once more, twice more, thrice?

I have a proud, hard heart. And in that wilderness, my broken heart was hardened. I told myself that I could not bear to disappoint again. How could I beg the forgiveness of which I was so utterly unworthy, again and again? I was ashamed, and hid in my shame. The harsh winds of the wilderness cut my cheeks, the sands coated my throat. I was weary, painful, broken. And, in such terrible pride, I told myself I deserved it. So be my fate, I cried to the empty skies.

My Father did not await me at the golden gates of His house like that father of the prodigal son. He came looking for me. He came into the wilderness, calling my name. And He found me, huddled in the midst of pride and weariness and anguish. He knelt beside me, comforting me with soft words, and gently – oh so gently – wiped away my tears. He held me close, caressing my scars that they be healed. And he said to me, “Come, child, let us go home.”

My Father’s grace was not so much in that He granted forgiveness when I finally swallowed my pride and came to His temple pleading for mercy. My Father’s grace was in that He came out into the wilderness seeking me when my heart was hardened and I would not return.

Chungking Mansions

Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong KongGhetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong by Gordon Mathews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A group of Hong Kongers enter the Chungking Mansions, in search of “real curry” perhaps.

They huddle closely together, unused to being the minority. Some of them stare openly at all the foreign faces, none of which are white. Others carefully avoid eye contact, especially the girls, unused to such open scrutiny. Unconsciously, they clutch their purses closer, not knowing that travelers from various corners of the world freely leave thousands of dollars on counters while they carefully count out the payment for, say, a shipment of copy mobile phones.

The Hong Kongers weave their way through narrow corridors lined by tiny shops, mostly catering to Africans and South Asians, and worry about the dangling wires overhead. They find the staircase near the back of the building, clear of junk which may have once been constituted as fire hazards. On the second floor, they find the Indian restaurant their friends told them of. They relax a little once they enter that small quiet world which was outfitted for the comfort of Hong Kong costumers. They are served by a quiet Indian girl who speaks beautiful English. Her relative, perhaps a husband, brother, or cousin, occasionally comes of the kitchen to stare at the TV, which was broadcasting the muted tones and bright colors of a comedic love story on the Indian subcontinent.

The curry was superb, the Hong Kongers all agree, definitely much better than the stuff they were served in Hong Kong restaurants. Of course, they do not know that the cook greatly altered his recipes to please the mild palates of Hong Kong Chinese.

They pay the bill, and the quiet Indian girl hopes that they enjoyed their meal and would come again. Of course, they reply, but wonder if they really wanted to risk the dangers of Chunking Mansions again, only for a meal.

They finally leave Chungking Mansions and re-enter the bright, familiar world of Hong Kong. On the sidewalks of Nathan road, they heave a collective sigh of relief and loosen their grips on their wallets.

~

Hong Kong people do not understand Chungking Mansions at all, but this book offers an insightful explanation of the building and its important place as a threshold to the developed world for the South Asian and African middle class. (Rnadom fact: The author estimates that about 20 percent of the mobile phones used in Sub-Saharan Africa had gone through Chungking Mansions.)

It is also a very well written book in that it is able to capture and retain the interest of even those who spend too little time reading non-fiction. It usually takes some effort for me to read non-fiction (okay, LS, put down this fantasy book for a while to finish a chapter of that history book), but this book was so interesting that I staid up quite late a few nights reading it. ;)

View all my reviews

Bus conversations

I met a Mexican while waiting for the bus one day. Said his name was José. He told me that he had been here in the States for five years, and hated the snow.

We got to talking, seeing as the bus was still a while in coming. He had just finished working at this bar just down the street. It was a good place, he told me, and they served good beer. But of course, I was not of drinking age yet.

So was he on his way home? If only. He was catching the bus to get to his next job, a chef at this mediterranean restaurant. They served very good food. Shells, fish, lobsters. The shells were done with a handful of one spice and a handful of another. And woosh – the flames!

So he enjoyed cooking? Oh yes, he really did. And the people at work were really nice. He loved his job, and his face lit up when talking about it.

Do you have a facebook, he suddenly asked me. No, I didn’t. Well, as it turned out, neither did he. All his friends did, though. But he didn’t get it. Putting all your photos and things on the internet? It was something teenagers did.

We then exchanged ages – he was 23 now – and I proceeded shyly to pry into his background.

Being a college student, I lived on campus with a wonderful roommate. He lived on XXth with his youngest brother. It was boring in the apartment, because there was nothing to do. All he could do was stare out the window all day. But I said that I was a college student?

Yes, studying history.

He’d never been to school before, but he would like to go someday. Did I party a lot?

No, I smiled. My excuse was that we didn’t have a car, but the fact was that I wasn’t much of a partying girl.

But what did I do in my spare time? Was I not bored?

Oh no. I read books. Lots of them. I wondered absent-mindedly if he knew how wonderful books could be. I know few of my friends did.

He then told me that there were a lot of Asians on XXth. Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese, etc. I made a mental note of that, for I knew a Vietnamese friend who was starved for compatriots.

So, did he have any other family in America?

One other brother who didn’t share the apartment. His parents were still in Mexico. He also had a girlfriend, but when he went back 2 years ago, she was married to another man.

Five years away from his family and friends. It was such a long time. Will he eventually go back?

Yes, of course! He went back for a visit 2 years ago, and he will probably be going back in a year or two. This time for good. He’ll drive a car to get back. It’d be like a road trip.

I smiled. I had always wanted to go on a road trip. And it made me glad that he will be going home sometime. Maybe even next December.

We lapsed into a comfortable silence for a while. THen I asked what he missed most about Mexico.

His parents, he replied without hesitation. Then after a pause, he added his girlfriend to the list.

I’m so sorry, I whispered, offering shallow condolences. How does one offer comfort about something like that?

Then I asked my most foolish question. Why did he come to America?

To earn money.

Of course. Why else would anyone come to the land of opportunities?

You see, he told me, a thousand dollars here is twelve thousand dollars back home. That’s a lot. In fact, he already owns a house back in Mexico. He went on to tell me that Americans don’t have houses. They say they do, but you see, they don’t actually own them, because they still owe a whole lot of mortgage and credit and stuff. But he had a house. A real one. And he didn’t owe anyone anything.

He grinned in pride as he happily contemplated the thought of having a house to go back to in 2 years, and I shared in his joy of the moment.

So, did he have any plans when he got back?

No, not really. He was thinking about going to school. He’d never been to school before, and he kind of wanted to go.

Then the bus came. We boarded, and spent the trip in silence. He got off at East F. and XXth. I watched him jog toward the mediterranean restaurant, and wondered if he was late.