On Shopping and Men who Like/Don’t Like to Shop

shopping

A shopping mall just across the street from the uni. A lot of students have part-time jobs in this mall.

The other day I had an interesting discussion with my girl students about shopping which 99% of them listed as their number one hobby.

Before coming to China, I never personally knew anybody who listed shopping as one of their hobbies. Shopping was, and I think, still is, a luxury in my country.

Talking with these young people about shopping made me feel I was old (which I am) and/or strange to them (I probably am.)

They say they do not ever go shopping alone. I almost always prefer shopping alone. They say they like going from shop to shop until they find the one they like best. I will check out two shops at most and then give up. They can shop all day; I can only last two hours, I’d rather get my nails done or eat! They have the patience of a saint when their picky friends cannot find the item they like; like I said, I prefer to shop alone and the number one reason is: I shop like a man. Or do I?

I always thought men were not into shopping. And that if they were, they would not have the patience to compare prices and quality, blah-blah.

Then years ago, I met best friend number 2. One time, we went to the mall because he was going to buy me two pairs of shoes as his Christmas present for me. It did not take me a long time to find the ones I liked, but he disapproved of my taste saying the ones I liked were old fashioned or of poor quality, so after at least three hours in the mall (in another city!) we finally found two pairs that he was happy to buy for me. Because he has always had good taste, and he paid for them, I only complained in my head.

Best friend number 2 is not alone. Best friend number 1 (a.k.a. my husband) is just as picky and patient when it comes to shopping. One time he was also going to buy me a pair of shoes and did not like the ones I liked. He insisted on going to other shops to look, so finally I said I did not really need a new pair, and a few days later, went out shopping by myself.

When it comes to online shopping these two men are even worse. For a couple of months, best friend number 2 (perhaps because he missed the easy life in his home country after working long hours in the States) did not leave his apartment and just ordered everything, practically everything, online and had them delivered to his doorstep. That included his breakfast, lunch and supper. I knew because I saw the goods delivered while we were chatting online.

My husband too can spend hours shopping online. Several times a week for a couple of months this year we had something delivered. They were either books or toys for our son, or teaching materials that he could use to teach our son. (Time and money well spent, so I do not complain.) But yes, he could and still can sit in front of the computer for hours, not programming but shopping!

This makes me wonder if it is only East Asian men who enjoy shopping.

I remember a few years ago, when I was a little more sociable, I asked my non-Asian guy friend if he wanted to go shopping with me (back then there was no female colleague I could hang out with.) Since he did not have anything else to do, he said OK. We were already near the shopping street when he asked me, “So what are you shopping for?” Then I said, “I don’t know yet. I’ll have a look first.” The look on his face was priceless.

Another time, I was grocery shopping with another non-Asian guy friend after lunch, and I wanted to buy plates but couldn’t decide which of the two different plates looked nicer. So I asked him which one he thought was prettier, and he went, “Oh come on, they’re plates. Just pick one. Then, let’s go.” I could not get angry, in fact I laughed because it was exactly what I would have said if somebody had asked me.

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Will you remember…?

erhu

I love the melancholic sound of the erhu

 

I took this picture morning of Christmas Eve while I was walking at the park. I’ve always loved the melancholic sound of the erhu, so when I heard it, I  walked towards where the sound was coming from and saw this old man facing the pagoda as if he was playing for the one for whom it was built. Fortunately for me, he turned around and, click! I took a photo.

The ever sentimental me imagined the old man was probably playing for his grandfather or great grandfather, and I thought how nice it would be to be remembered the same way by the ones you leave behind. (Of course the practical and realistic part of me has something else to say.)

That night, Christmas Eve, my husband and our friends and I talked about death instead of having dessert after dinner. It came about after our friend complained about being over 60 and feeling that he was  getting really close to the end. I just laughed at him saying 60 wasn’t old, and I remembered crying when my father turned 60 as I thought he was going to die soon, but he lived to be 81.

It was not the first time we talked about death instead of having dessert. I remember another time when I thought aloud about dying and nobody would be coming to my funeral because I have not lived in my hometown for a long time, and my friends have also left. My husband, who is introverted,  felt the same way. And so did our friend who was in his early 50’s then.

But really, does it matter? Would we even know?

I would like to think my father is aware that we have not forgotten him, that I have not forgotten him. That I light candles for him on important dates, and I smoke a cigarette on his birthday and on All Soul’s Day, that I visit his grave whenever I go home and again before I leave. I do all these because I want to, because I like remembering him, and I want him to be happy, just in case he is aware of these things.

My husband once asked me if I thought our son (this was before our son was diagnosed with ASD) would ever visit his (my husband’s) grave in his hometown in the north of China on Tomb-sweeping Day. He was a little shocked by my blunt and totally unsympathetic reply: “Are you crazy? Why would you burden your son to travel every year just to visit your grave? You would not even be there anymore!” I did apologize for the bluntness, but he admitted it was a burden.

I don’t want to be buried. I want to be cremated, and my ashes scattered in the sea in my hometown or any sea really. Or, if Eli, by that time is already capable of feeling love and loss like typical people do, perhaps he can keep some for himself that he can carry around with him wherever he goes. And if the dead me sees that, I would be truly happy.

I think we all want, desire to be remembered by people we love. But when we’re gone, it doesn’t really matter if they do or they don’t, does it?

Remembering is only for the good of the living, not of the dead.

The Egret on Campus II

Alone but not lonely

Alone but not lonely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every Chinese person I know feels uncomfortable being alone. I still have to meet one who is happy at being able to spend one day alone. Even my monk friend is very sociable and enjoys being with people all the time.

At first I thought it was just the young Chinese who feel this way, until one day my husband asked his mom if, when she was young, she had ever spent one day alone not talking with anybody, and she said never and that it would be terrible not to have anybody to talk with for a day!

From the conversations I had with most people, young and old alike, I get the feeling they think of introversion as some kind of disorder, and that people have to be outgoing. If a person is a quiet type or prefer to be alone, then they think that person is strange.

Today, Christmas Eve, I saw the egret on campus again. It seems it survived the (relatively) cold winter alone. Of course there’s no way of knowing if egrets can feel happiness or not, but it did look content to me as it searched for food in the shallow water. Seeing the egret again (if it is the same one) reminded me of my conversations with people about being alone. It seems hard for many to accept that one can be solitary but not lonely. Especially in China where people swear they cannot survive spending a day without anybody to talk with, or where you can hardly meet an unmarried person over 30 because if they are 25 and still single, their parents would panic and set them up on blind dates, the idea of solitude is as unimaginable as dying without having contributed to the population of the race.

But I think of the single people I know (not Chinese), and the ones who always find time to be quiet,  and I see them more content with their lives than the ones who are more sociable and go out often. They certainly have fewer worries than those who are married or those who have several circles of friends. For one, single people who do not have children do not have to worry about their children and the children’s  tuition and their future. For another, they enjoy the freedom that most married people or parents can only look back to with a sigh. They have more time to devote themselves to developing their talents and focus their energy on their interests.

As a wife (to a man who has a different cultural background), mother (to an autistic toddler) and a teacher (who faces a class of 35 students 14 hours a week), I insist on having as much time alone as I can. I go out for walks and have lunch or coffee alone. I get stressed when I am CONSTANTLY with people, be they family or friends or acquaintances. I guess being Asian and living in a country such as China where people are so eager to give you their two cents and feel guilty if they have no advice to give even when you do not really need one (they mean well, of course) , it can be overwhelming to be in the company of people.

So I can truly understand people who want to be alone and are content to be alone. One can be alone and still find contentment. In fact like I said in another post, we all need to experience alone-ness. We all need to be solitary sometimes and to experience solitude. As Thomas Merton once said: “It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love others. The more solitary I am, the more affection I have for them.” May you find time for solitude and consequently find love and contentment in your life.

Merry Christmas!

Writer’s Block (Or, Where’s Bradley Cooper when you need him?)

People inspire me. What they say and how they behave are ideas that get me writing. When they leave or just disappear from my life, I will be inspired to write some more for a week or two, and then there will only be silence.

No amount of free writing will make me come up with something I’d be happy with.

I can write a rant about a number of things, but I feel I am too old to be making my rants public. I’m supposed to have better self-control and calm that go with age.

At the moment I have zero inspiration for any creative thinking. It is too bad that one’s spouse can’t be an inspiration. My husband is a wonderful person, my best friend number 1. A witty, sometimes very funny and intelligent man. But he is so real to me. So real. And I say that with love.

What gives me inspiration is having people around me who can call forth my imagination, and right now my brain’s a desert.

Where’s Bradley Cooper when you need him?

Bradley Cooper

There he is! Got this pic from this site. 

Sunday Coffee

My fave coffee shop needs no advertising, so I'm using this photo instead which I got from this site http://www.catholicvote.org/caffeinated-graces-or-why-giving-up-coffee-is-a-very-very-bad-idea/

My fave coffee shop needs no advertising, so I’m using this photo instead which I got from this site 

She decided not to ask him to meet up with her this time. No pressure. She knew he was busy. She would just wait for him to ask her out. And it happened on a Sunday morning. He invited her to have coffee with him. She was walking down the road going to the coffee shop when something told her to look behind, and sure enough, he was pulling up to let her inside the car.

She thought she had changed, that “it” was no longer there. Yet, as she sat next to him, and watched him drive, she realized, “it” was still there. That high-school-girl feeling of actually sitting next to the guy you really, really like.  And she just sat there, not flirting, not trying to be cute, just enjoying the feeling of youth and excitement.

And that felt good. To know that even though she was now with somebody else, and he was with somebody else, and they could never be what they used to be, share what they used to share, that she could still feel like this when she’s with him .

She didn’t see him again after that Sunday coffee. Yet it was enough. She had her fill.

New Year’s Resolutions (Or, how to keep my sanity in 2015!)

From elementary school through high school, we were always made to write a composition called “My New Year’s Resolution” before Christmas break. That was always the last formal theme writing topic.

Believe it or not, every year I still write down my resolutions on my journal. Reading my journals from previous years, I find I managed to keep some for a year or longer; but mostly I failed.

For 2015 and the coming years, I resolve to be kind not only to others, but to myself most of all. I am too old to be making the same mistakes and hurting myself the same way I did when I was 20!

So here are my new year’s resolutions. What’s yours?

1. Don’t be too proud, be humble.

2. Don’t be vindictive, be forgiving.

3. Don’t expect too much from people you care about, be patient with them.

4. Don’t care too much about the lives of the people you care about, live your own life.

5. Don’t forget you’ve made these resolutions before, be mindful of them.

IMG_1781

A beautiful day in Jimei

Love in the time of Computers

How many times have I fooled
Myself into hoping
That you’d come
Knocking at my door
To surprise me
To make me smile
Like you used to.

Why is it so hard
To store in this brain
That you had moved on
But left everything
For me to process
And decode the meaning
Of your sudden leaving.

Isn’t it enough
That you had left
(Not the country,
Though I sure wish you would!)
And that you see me
See you happier
Without me?

But ah, this brain
This brain has faulty programming.
Its memory is full.
It cannot store new data
And none can be deleted.
It can only self-destruct,
In due time.