Back in the Bingcheng

Most of you reading this are people I saw these past two weeks in the states, so I figured a detailed post on what I did there would be a bit unnecessary.  I still felt the need to write something though now that I’m back in Harbin (or the Ice city/bingcheng as it’s known, particularly around this time of year).   I came in to a very smoggy day unfortunately, but today it cleared up wonderfully so we took the opportunity to go ice skating.  Coming back to Harbin always fills me with such joy, but the smog kinda puts a damper on that, so I didn’t quite feel it until today when I woke up at 3am thanks to the wonderful force known as jetlag!

I feel so happy to have been able to spend the holidays at home.   Yes, it did use up practically all of the out-of-country leave, but it was super worth it.  Without a doubt it was one of the chilliest Christmases I’ve ever had with the fam, just us, nice and relaxing, and I got some great gifts despite not thinking I needed anything.  Thanks, everyone.

What wasn’t relaxing was taking the GRE, but thanks to a decent amount of preparation and incredible luck, I got some incredible scores!  After that test the second week definitely felt much more like vacation, featuring the second gin and gingerbread party which went smashingly.  Besides that, saw a lot of great friends (love y’all), ate some great food (minus one meal of Chinese that I ate with my dad it was all stuff I can’t really find in Harbin), got to spin (thanks aunt Jen for that Christmas gift), and got a great tattoo!  My sister and I, at our mother’s request as a gift to her, also helped sift through tons and tons of old photos, doing away with duplicates, getting rid of moldy albums, and generally helping with our collective familial sanity.   My sister is also resentful of the fact that there were waaaaaaay more pictures of me than of her.  Comes with being the first child, but she got to drink years ahead of me comparatively speaking though so you win some you lose some. Came across some real gems.

Here’s a picture of the tattoo, which seems to have healed up pretty well.  It’s a leaf from a kitkit dizzee (also known as mountain misery) plant.  You’ll recognize it as the picture at the top of this very page you’re reading right now, and I explain a little about what it means to me on the “What the Hell is This?” page there.  I’ll repeat a bit though, the tattoo is to commemorate camp, as kitkit dizzee gave it its smell, and for me the leaf symbolizes not just camp, not just home, but the fact that a new place can become home as well.  I’ve been talking about it for a while, and my sister and I got them together.  Hers is in a different location from mine, but we used the same stencil which I’m incredibly satisfied with.  I was a little apprehensive at first, but our artist was super chill, fit us in when she had a cancellation, talked through what we wanted, and then designed it right then and there.  Didn’t hurt too much (that’s reason one of why I wanted it on my shoulder blade, other reasons being low likelihood of stretching and concealability), and it only took 40 minutes of actual drawing time.  Overall I’m very satisfied, and will probably add to it (sorry, mom).

Speaking of which, here’s pics of the apartment.  In order:  From the door, from the entrance to the kitchen, the kitchen, my little tea/coffee shelf, and a cat accompanying me as I write this post.

Now that I’ve come back to Harbin, it’s time to start this Fulbright business.  Nine and a half months feels like a long time to not see my fam, but at the same time will it be enough for me to get my fill of China?  Who knows?  At my mother’s suggestion, I’ll be figuring out an eight-ish hour schedule for each day, and take 1-2 off like a normal weekend.  Kinda like a normal job, but with practically complete control over my schedule.  So reading, writing, working out, hopefully serving as a volunteer counselor, and whatever else shows up will be my days.  Should see about making friends too so I’m not just in my apartment all day as attractive as that sounds.  I also may start collecting material for a novel about Harbin’s Jews for if and when the muse strikes.

As far as Fulbright goes, my initial proposal was to look into the viability of the SCO as a vehicle for renewable energy cooperation in Central Asia, but I had been thinking about looking into its applicability to solving North Korea’s nuclear problem as you know.  My advisor didn’t think that was so feasible, so now I’m looking to go back in that first direction under the big umbrella of infrastructure cooperation.  I don’t have much of a background in that, but that’s what Fulbright’s about!  Learning!   I still want to give the North Korea thing some research consideration though.  My main goal is writing,  seeing as Fulbright has no hard requirements as far as products of our research, and seeing as I don’t have a study I’m conducting, I’ll be measuring my success in the amount of written material I churn out and hopefully publish.  That’ll only come if I make myself write everyday, so while I’m counting this blog as my finished product for the day, I’m also hoping to write something else.

Seems like my little post became over a thousand words, ah well.  Lastly, here’s some pics from the two weeks home.  Some fun, some artsy, some silly.  I hope all you reading this had a wonderful holiday season and that the new year is full of joy.  I love you all, be well.

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