Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.
—Leonard Cohen (via 408lurve)
I took both these pictures in Asia. The first one I took was 3 years ago and I was in love. I was in love with Chinese culture and I wanted to consume it whole. I took Chinese classes when I came back to the states and thought I could fix my identity with textbooks. I was ashamed that I had lost so much of what I thought was mine: my blood and my right. The second picture I took last month, waking up to another day of shadowing doctors in a Taiwan hospital. This time around I am still in love. But I am in love with a person who is ABC like me, who navigates the treacherous waters of that hyphen in between Taiwanese/Chinese/Asian-American. I still take similar pictures 3 years apart, entranced by the hues when light filters through the curtains. Both times I was laying in a bed that I had called mine for a month, both times I am still a stranger in a foreign land, both times I was looking out a window romanticized by light filtering through curtains. I’m still a tourist of a culture that is supposed to run in my blood.
Nowadays I accept that I am a lot of America and a little of Taiwan. I am not completely one or another. I am strange in both lands, yet somehow I find that it is all right. The collectivism of Chinese people allow them to make statements about me as if they were talking to their own children. They have a family member just like you, born in English speaking lands. They think that they know you. They think that they know how to take care of you. I went to a big temple in Kaohsiung last month and a monk said, “Even if you give someone everything, your love, your care, your attention, your money, ask yourself - is it what they need? did they want it in the first place?” I think that my Grandpa has grasped this concept. He offers his house and tells me that I should treat it as my own house. He doesn’t nag me. He doesn’t express pride or disappointment in my life; he is just happy that I am there with him. Sometimes I feel that he is a stranger, but I ask myself what is there really to know about me? I am a student here to study. I read a lot, I’m sort of quiet, and other than that we can barely communicate as it is. We play charades punctuated with our heavily accented Chinese. His accent leans towards the old world, the motherland. Mine leans towards the new land, the place of dreams. It is comfortable to just sit together and eat in silence.
Meanwhile, complete strangers assume shit about me. Nurses say that I “should” be able to speak and read Chinese fluently because I have a grandpa here. I cried pitifully later feeling the cut of that remark: that after my years of studying I still fall woefully short of fluent. I still can’t express myself, I still can’t read patient charts, I still can’t can’t can’t, and all my studies result in stuttering and incomplete Chinese sentences. Doctors speak at lightning speed and tease me in an overly familiar way when I have a deer in the headlights look. They feel like they can treat me like their child. Just because I have black hair and brown eyes like your own does not mean I am one of yours. Group mentality and familiarity has its benefits, but I am not someone that you know. Americans put all Asians in a box. The Chinese put all ABCs in a box. It sucks to be put in either one, always desperately trying to not be the foreigner.
At the end of the day, I am always most comfortable when I am by myself, in my thoughts. I will forever feel like an anthropologist in both worlds.
Secrets Are Lies
Sharing is Caring
Privacy is Theft
—The Circle, Dave Eggers
If originality is a “sense of novelty and freshness” then, in the act of constructing ourselves, originality is not the goal. We construct a self-portrait, relying on existing objects – books, quotes from authors and artists, images, art – that we are more than happy to show off to others for them to use as masturbation material or for the material by which they align themselves. This is the new action painting – the curational archive. The referential self portrait. The portrait of any other artist could be readily used to explain yourself, just reblog it and caption it with “same.” The past consistently becomes the present, not through linear time, but through the constant reconstruction and relabeling of it
I appreciate that for all the selfie loving, peace-holding, skinny arm Taiwanese person, there is one disgruntled oncologist in our hospital who despises pictures and thinks that having an experience is already reward enough.
I love that in Guan Shan (關山) there is one 24 year old nurse who chose to work in rural areas in need of medical attention. I love that she knows about insects, animals, people, trees, landscape, and geography. I love that she is a walking encyclopedia and understands how farming works. I love that she is dark skinned, doesn’t wear any jewelry, wears kickass puma gear and a fly watch, and finds interest in a place where nobody else has. I appreciate that although I am inundated with glittery, high-heeled, long-lashed, designer’d out urban twenty something year old girls everywhere forever in Taipei, there is one person out there who wears the same shirt three days in a row and gives zero fucks about it.
We liberal Americans hold up Taiwan as the perfect picture of universal healthcare. After shadowing for 3.5 weeks, I have realized the picture is far from perfect. Tired, jaded, and disgruntled doctors who are trying to provide the best care possible find themselves stuck between anxious patients and insurance restrictions. Patients go “hospital shopping” and treat the doctors like vendors of a product called health care. Insurance companies keep a sharp eye on the amount of tests doctors order to make up for the waste generated. Patients come to the ER for a paper cut. Patients consult cardiologists based on the fact that “their friend told them to come”. When shit is cheap, is it human nature to devalue and waste it?
"What do you think of TCM?" I asked to other physicians in the hospital. Answers: Neutral to antagonistic feelings. A resident tells me, "First, do no harm". TCM is not evidence based. It fucks with kidney function, especially if the pt has chronic kidney dz. Holistic care providers are in synergy with OMM, yet the doctors had little patience for their patients, and treated me the worst. When push comes to shove, it’s not for the little miracles that ‘holistic’ modalities give you, it’s the hard and cold facts of evidence based medicine. It’s all about the numbers, baby.
I. The anticipation before a first kiss. Everything you know about someone else’s body changes after this moment.
II. Waking up in the midnight hours from a bad dream, to find arms already wrapped around you. Maybe this is home. Maybe this is comfort. Maybe it is temporary.
III. The two seconds between “we need to talk” and when its meaning registers in your foggy mind. Your heart has dropped to somewhere between your stomach and your feet. You do not want it back just yet. It has already splintered.
IV. Watching a child sleep on a mother’s shoulder. I am halfway between hope and nostalgia for something that has yet to happen. There is an ache behind my ribs and a small, phantom hand slipping into mine. It belongs to a little girl with my cheeks and my mother’s tenacity. I want to meet her. I will not tell her she is beautiful. I will tell her she is a fighter.
V. The certainty of permanence. It is more than a ring on your fourth finger. It is thirty years together, and finding that the inside of their thigh has molded to the shape of your fingers. You cannot sit without letting some part of your bodies overlap, and that has become your resting spot. There is a palm-sized print at the base of your spine. It is more indelible than any tattoo.
VI. The perfect high bun. Hair is a fickle thing. It does not stay the same color. I can see this in my grandmother’s mortality. It does not stay the same length. I can see this in the 12 inches I cut off, the same 12 inches he loved to run his hands through. I appreciate my hair now. A perfect high bun is a rare thing.
VII. Raindrops hitting my window as I sip a hot cup of tea. Outside my reality, there are people seeking cover under bus shelters and lonely alcoves. I wonder what I have done to deserve this life. The answer is nothing.
VIII. Finding someone who will uproot an entire field just to find you a four-leaf clover. It is yours to keep. They tell you they used up their luck in meeting you. I would not know. I have only met those looking for wildflowers in me, and realized they were digging through land mines.
IX. Cold pizza after a hangover is the eighth deadly sin.
X. I think perhaps you are the ninth.
She deserves better, you say. I say: You’re a goddamn coward. What she deserves is an actual person she can connect with. She deserves you, or me or the entire world; she deserves someone achingly real and honest. She deserves a human being equally raw to pursue her and love her and, perhaps, destroy her emotionally, but she deserves all that as well. She doesn’t deserve anyone’s sugary fairytale. She deserves to float freely, with you, or me, or the world, into the very depths of her own psychosynthesis. She deserves to explore the meaning of the word "intimacy", with someone beside her that will care regardless. She fucking deserves all of it. So, pluck up the courage and be with her or leave her in peace but don’t you dare "sell" her your own "inadequacy" as a lie so that, again, you manage to comfort your conscience and eventually come to feel that you love her exactly because you’re letting her go. Because, darling, that’s bullshit. That’s only your own little self-created lie laying behind a much bigger lie; it’s not even properly concealed within itself, you fucking idiot.
My student points towards a tree whose trunk has grown straight through a rock—and then marvels at it.
Joy is infectious.