Adventures Abroad: Christmas

Adventures Abroad: Christmas

(Picture by Liam Shalloo)

‘Tis already December 26 for me and it’s the same sort of Monday I’ve had for the last ten months or so. There is some Christmas in China, but it’s more akin to say Catholics trying their hand at Chanukah. They know there are some candles involved and it lasts for a few days and something about a top, but they have no idea why they’re doing these things or what they mean. Same thing for China and Christmas. There is a giant inflatable Santa outside one of the stores and a few Christmas trees scattered about and—for whatever reason—many, many, people walking down the street dressed like Santa Claus. But there’s no spark to it.

When you walk down the street in the States during December there’s a low key buzz in the air. People are excited, they’re stressed, they’re happy, they’re a roller coaster of emotions all focused on this one day. My family doesn’t do the religious aspect of Christmas; it’s a time for family for us. We have a big get together with my aunts, uncles, and cousins over at my grandparents’ house the Sunday before Christmas and have dinner and exchange a few gifts and catch up on everything that’s happened. Christmas Eve my mom makes a ham and we do a big dinner and watch A Christmas Story until we can recite the movie verbatim. Then Christmas day Grandma and Grandpa come over and we do a special breakfast and exchange gifts.

There’s none of that in China. Christmas Eve and Christmas day are shopping days like Black Friday. The only part of Christmas that has trickled into Chinese culture is the commercialized and materialistic part of it. We had to do a Christmas party for the kids which was a waking nightmare for me, I’m pretty sure I still have a headache, but the school wanted either myself or Roommate to dress up as Santa Claus.

Uh. No.

They spent half an hour trying to negotiate with us on dressing up instead of shrugging and moving on or, you know, telling the guy who stays and the school and doesn’t do anything else to dress up, because for them Christmas is all about Santa Claus. In their imaginings of Christmas, not having a Santa Claus is like not having a Christmas tree. Sure for little kids Santa is a pretty big part of Christmas, but with all the holiday movies we have the idea that this is also a time for family gets through a bit.

So it was yesterday while I was at school, as usual, while 7000 miles away my mom and sister went through our Christmas Eve routine that I had my first true moment of homesickness. My sister commented on my FB page that she had said or done something weird that reminded our mom of me and that now Mom was missing me more. I was sitting in the office five minutes from starting my next class where I spend just as much time trying to keep the kids from fighting and screaming as I do teaching them basic English words, I had just finished giving one of my older kids a dressing down for spreading pro-Nazi propaganda during class, and the lobby was full of kids screeching and running back and forth. And I really, really did not want to be there anymore. My sleep pattern has been nonexistent and I’m starting another round with this head cold that I seem to remember having in February that is just a perpetual cycle of congestion, sinus headaches, and a sore throat most likely caused by all the coal dust in the air. I miss the cats and dogs, my dad has a new puppy I haven’t snuggled, and—seriously—thirteen months without any sort of animal nearby is a goddamn crime. I was done with all of this and ready to be home.

If that is true homesickness then I’d like to have a word with some of the authors who have written their characters being homesick because they dropped the goddamn ball. I can understand why people would up and leave short notice, because if I felt like I did during those few minutes in the office all the time I would have left in July. Actually, I would say Laini Taylor in her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy captures the feeling pretty well. Those books gave me so many feels, you guys. So. Many. Next trip I make out of China I’ll be adding them to my kindle so I can put all my feelings through a shredder again.

Great books, cannot recommend enough.

But, I didn’t get on a plane and head home. I went to my class, stopped the kids from fighting, might’ve taught them a word or two and carried on with my day. I have twenty-five days until we break for Spring Festival and after I get back from that planned excursion I have only eight straight days of teaching to get through and then I will be on my way to snuggling kitties and puppies.

And getting some goddamn peanut butter.

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Adventures Abroad: Roommate

Adventures Abroad: Roommate

(picture: Mechs of Law by Popetti on Deviant Art)

 

Ahh yes, took about ten months but I have acquired a roommate and thus the school has acquired a secondary foreign teacher. So I only have fifteen classes this semester instead of twenty-two. Roommate has been here for…two weeks now. First week was a bit rough since I was dealing with both a chest/head cold and my own agonizing brand of cramps. I can honestly say I don’t recall much from that first week.

But, I lucked the fuck out in the random roommate lottery. Roommate is a Brit with a masters in writing, which is cool. He’s also a science fiction and fantasy writer who dislikes the “classics” as much as I do. I don’t care what you say; Great Expectations is a fucking bore.

And neither of us likes The Beatles. Deal with it.

He also has a minor in politics and we’ve had several long talks about current US politics as well as UK politics. Last week we spent about five hours discussing superheroes and feminism. And I’ve also convinced him to watch Transformers Prime which is a huge boon for me. It’s become our nightly thing where we do our own thing during the day but about sunset make or get dinner and watch an episode or two.

Seriously you guys, I cashed in every scrap of good karma I had for this roommate.

I’m still a bit feral, I mean, ten months with no one’s company but my own, we’re lucky I didn’t try to bite him when they introduced us. But I’m slowly remembering how to function with another person in my space. Good news is both of us are fairly introverted so we don’t see much of each other during the day when we’re off. Sounds weird and kinda rude, but it works. Then we emerge and say hello and grab dinner and see if we can get the internet to work well enough to stream movies or shows.

I’m doing what I can to give Roommate a fighting chance for the next year he’s here. He’s already agitated and annoyed with the total lack of organization with the school. Not much I can do about that except tell him it’s not going to improve. He’s taught before, but that was at university level. He was quite irritated with some of the kids this last weekend which was his first real class. I’ve shared some of the discipline tricks I figured out the last two semesters so hopefully he can use those this week. We shall see.

There’s also all the little things I don’t think about anymore. Such as, in Asia, if you want to be polite you use two hands when accepting or giving people things. I learned that way back in January in Cambodia and I’ve been doing it ever since. I don’t think about it now and wouldn’t have thought to tell him that until I saw him hand money to someone.

That’s the hardest part of trying to pass on survival tips. Some of these things are so ingrained I don’t think about them anymore. Things like the using two hands or even how to cross the road. Again, I learned how to do that in Cambodia where there were no rules just suggestions on traffic flow. Roommate has come direct from the UK. He tries to stay on sidewalks and uses zebra crossings and I hardly give traffic a glance before stepping off the curb. It’s a hard habit to break, but you cannot stop once you start across the street or you’re going to get hit or cause an accident. The drivers see you and are already making course corrections to go around you. If you stop you throw off the whole system.

Roommate doesn’t have any Chinese which has thrown me for a loop because while I arrived equipped with only numbers and a few polite phrases I still came with something. So I’m trying to teach him helpful phrases and numbers while he also has Chinese lessons with one of the Chinese teachers.

I have no idea if another teacher is arriving after I leave or if Roommate will be on his own for a semester like I was so I’m just throwing all the knowledge I can at him. The one thing I’m trying the hardest to impart though is the knowledge that the school is going to tell you about important things days or sometimes hours before they need to be done. The ability to roll your eyes and deal with it and then bitch about it with friends and family later is the only way to stay sane. And that, I’m certain, is going to be the hardest thing to teach.

December Writing Updates

December Writing Updates

Well Hells boys and girls, it’s December! I missed my writing update last month as I was wrapped up in NaNo so let’s get back into the swing of things!

I had many a lofty goals in November to work on original fiction and that went straight out the window. So original fiction is in pretty much the same shape it was in…August? Whenever the last update happened. *sigh*

I actually talked to my side thug, Maye, about why I’ve been doing so much fanfic writing and less original stuff. She’s been doing more poetry than long form. And we’ve both come to the conclusion that writing stories we want to submit to agents exerts a ton of artistic pressure. Every line you’re thinking, is this a cliché? Does this make sense? Is there too much exposition?

And certainly, I want the fanfics I post to be good, but we’re all here for fun. No one’s paycheck is in jeopardy if I only get six reviews on a story. The only person I’m in competition with is myself, not the hundreds and hundreds—thousands even—of other writers in a slush pile.

I’m trying to find a way to shift this fanfic mindset back to my original writing, but it’s hard. Although, with the way my fanfic has been evolving I told Maye by this time next year I might be able to change some of the details and submit it as original, lol.

Hey man, if Fifty Shades of Grey can do it, I sure as hell can.

oOo

Anyway, fanfic updates!

I have scrapped my previous posting timeline.

Let me explain before you grab torches and pitchforks.

I had a reader suggest a story over on Archive of Our Own called Iacon Prophecy by ntldr. It’s set in the Barbarian AU. It’s not a humanformer fic, which is why I’d skipped over it previously. It’s a great story and just wrapped up not long ago. I absolutely loved the idea of a more primitive take on Transformers and I started writing a story with that in mind.

And so, I now have about 100K words written for a Ratchet-centric piece set in what I’m calling the Primitive AU because I’ve left out all modern devices. Of course when I started this it was just going to be a one story deal and going to be kind of short. And then I kept writing…and writing…and thinking and writing. And now this first story is probably going to another 100K before it’s done and I have already outlined the second and third stories in the series. Series is tentatively being called Constellations.

I’m still going to do the sequel to Where the Lonely Ones Roam and get up Tracks’ story for the Street True AU, but the priority has shifted a bit. I really like this Ratchet series. So I want to get at least this first look at Ratchet done and posted and then I’ll start on the others.

oOo

I also started an open ended series of unconnected stories under the title Of Gods and Mortals. They’re mythological stories because I loooooove mythology and I want to write a story for each major culture on Cybertron and then move into subcultures. So far I have a Polyhexian myth and an Iaconian one. I think next I’ll do Vos or Praxus. These are all with OCs but as another reader, Vela13, commented, these stories do relate to the universes I’ve written already and others that haven’t been written yet.

They don’t give away any major plot points or anything like that, but it adds some new textures and perspectives to characters if you really want to nerd out with me.

oOo

Make Believe I want to have wrapped up this month because January and February are going to be hectic. Also, my focus is drifting more and more to this Ratchet series so I need to get this Red Alert/Jazz thing wrapped up before my attention drifts too far.

I have four chapters left to write, next chapter will be up this week after I fine tune it a bit more.

 

That’s all I’ve got for you this month! I’ll check in again in February!