Living alone

Living alone for the first time, I found out, is basically like being a child and his mother at the same time.

Example 1:

Child Me: “OMG LOOK, A GIANT STITCH PLUSHIE!!!! LET’S BUY THAT”

Mother Me: “That costs more than one week worth of groceries, we can not afford to buy it.”

Child Me: “BUT PLEASEEEEEE”

Mother Me: “…maybe next Christmas.”

Example two:

Child Me :”I wanna eat chicken”

Mother Me: “No, you need to eat more vegetables”

Child Me: “Chicken”

Mother Me: “Vegetables, and if you don’t eat at least an apple a day goodbye giant stitch!”

Child me: “….okay”

I swear this is my everyday life.

Amen!

The usual premise about why I didn’t write in the last, two months? two months and a half? will be very short : I didn’t feel like it. I didn’t want to write, and especially not in another language. But now I do, so let’s go.

What’s the thing with Taiwanese Christians stopping random foreigners on the road to talk about God? although I appreciate their enthusiasm I must say when they stop me I feel a bit embarrassed. throughout my whole life nobody ever questioned my religion nor tried to convert me, for the simple fact that being Christian was the norm. Add to it the fact that my family is non practicing (meaning we don’t go to church every sunday and such),and you will see how I unconsciously developed the idea that religion is a private matter that nobody talks openly about.

Well now they do, and they are many, asking me to join their Bible study groups, asking me to reply “amen!”whenever they talk about God…and I am totally unprepared for that. It’s like meeting your long lost best friend and finding out that he became obnoxiously loud. On one hand you feel close to him, you feel affection, on the other you wish he stopped shouting how much he missed you at the top of his lungs. Tough situation.

So what do I do? I feel bad when I refuse to join people who insistently call me sister, no matter the fact that I actually do want to go to church sometimes, and I keep all of their fliers even if I never give out my own contact information.

But I repeat: I am not prepared for this. My relationship with God has never been praying and working with other people, but rather a silent conversation going on between Him and my soul. Sometimes my faith is stronger, sometimes I have doubts, but in the end I know the path back to believing, and I am terribly sorry about that, but it is one that I must follow by myself.

So God bless you Taiwanese Christians, and bless you more if you leave me alone.

Elisa knows how to – go to College in Taiwan – part 1

Dreaming of doing something is one thing, actually doing it is another (there’s an ocean between them, my grandma would say) and I understood it quite early in the process of trying to find a good college in Taiwan where I could not only be accepted but also understand the courses. Here are the steps that led me to NTNU, but if you are interested in studying in Taiwan please know that this is not the only option.

step one – be sure you really want to go to Taiwan

To me it was easy to chose la isla Formosa as my beloved happens to be Taiwanese, and I also think that since my goal is to learn Chinese as fast as possible, Taiwan would be the best place to go to, as I didn’t feel ready to face mainland China for other four years (nothing against the P.R.C, I was just sick of using a VPN), but I also knew that career wise chosing Taipei means that if I ever try to find a job in Italy less people will know where I studied as opposed to, say, Beijing or Shanghai. If you plan to go back to your home country you may want to consider the Mainland instead, and if you still don’t think it’s a good fit, be sure to check other places too, such as Hong Kong (which always makes an impression) or Singapore. The choice also depends from what you want to study, which is the next step.

step two – do you know what you want to do exactly?

When I first started researching about Taiwanese universities I was pretty convinced I wanted to study journalism in another college, not Chinese in NTNU, but that was mostly because I had no idea the course I finally got in existed. It might take a long time to find the perfect match, and you will have to consider many aspects, for example:

  • Does Taiwan offer quality education in the field I am interested in? If yes, good, if no, is there anywhere else I could study? If no, because I really want to go to Taiwan, is there any other course that may interest me? My opinion is that some courses might be good for locals but too hard/ too specific for foreigners who don’t know if they are going to stay in Taiwan forever. If you want to test your own determination just search the uni you are on Forumosa, the most cynical and useful website for westerners in Taiwan where 80% of people will try to dissuade you from studying in Taiwan (I myself read not so nice things about NTNU’s Mandarin training center)
  • How long do you want to stay? I personally think Taiwan could be a good choice if you are looking for spending a long time in a less busy place compared to China, but the beauty of the country is undeniable and if you don’t feel like living abroad for years, six months seem a reasonable amount of time to refine your Chinese. Whatever it is, do not push ourself to commit for a longer period if you don’t feel 100% sure about your choice.
  • How good are your Mandarin skills? It doesn’t really matter if the school’s website says they offer courses completely in english, you will still need to speak a bit of Chinese both outside and in school, so be honest with yourself and most importantly, take a test to prove your Chinese level, take TOCFL or HSK, but take it.
  • Do you really know how many colleges there are on the island? Because they are a lot, and you want to check them all. A useful though a bit amateurish website to do so is Study in Taiwan, which will also list all the courses one by one.

step three – get the documents ready

You know you want to go to Taiwan and you have an idea about what you want to do? Fine, go to your high school or college and start translating all the documents in English or Chinese depending on where you are from and especially inform yourself about where is the Taipei representative office in your country because you will most likely need to get everything stamped by them: every year’s records, diploma(s), recommendation letters from your teachers…everything!

TO BE CONTINUED

From Long Distance to No Distance

From time to time I still remember I have a blog to run, so here I am ready to write.

Now that I am done with high school, and I moved on to the massive amount of paperwork I have to do for the visa and such, I had some time to realize that a lot of things are going to change very soon, and I started asking myself how moving to Taipei will affect my relationship with Harvey. He obviously is one of the main reasons why I chose Taipei: I want to be with him, he wants to be with me and spending another five years apart was out of question, because even if we were not made for each other – and I hope it is not the case- we wouldn’t be able to tell by living so far from each other…

People think once you overcame the distance you can overcome everything, but even if there’s no doubt that long distance relationships are difficult, being in one is kind of like living in a bubble, which can preclude you many things but also somehow protect you from some other. I dream about leaving that bubble, but I am also aware that leaving it means having to readjust to a completely new situation, and it might be a bit complicated.

Let’s see why:

Your special one’s lifestyle and yours might not be as compatible as you thought

While we are apart, it doesn’t really matter that my room is a mess and I love street food while Harvey’s room is spotless and he prefers to sit down when eating. It doesn’t

matter if I like tea and he likes coffee, or if I  wake up and goes to sleep earlier and he likes to stay up late. It doesn’t matter if I super super love cats and he doesn’t like them as much, or if I prefer fans whereas he is a fan of the AC   (punpunpun). It doesn’t matter now because we can’t and thus don’t have to share a room or decide where to go to lunch so we have the luxury to spend hours and hours talking together in the environment that suits us the most without having to compromise. We will have to compromise much more once I move to his city, and while we both know it’s worth it, we can’t pretend it won’t take time to adjust.

Less time to spend just talking

When you are in a long distance relationship all you can do is chat: you talk on skype, you call each other, text a lot, you basically spend your time verbally communicating, often retelling detailed stories, discussing your own feelings and so on. Now, Harvey and I only met twice in real life since we became a couple almost two years ago, but both times we didn’t get to talk quite as much as we usually do, because although we were spending more time together we were much busier planning stuff and doing said stuff than just chatting as usual. I think when “transitioning” from a long distance relationship to a more ordinary one can put a couple in danger of losing sight of how important it is to just have some time just to sit down and talk. It’s kind of like letting a child loose in a candy shop after feeding him only vegetables for a week: he might know that vegetables are good for his health but he will just try to grab as many sweets as possible because he didn’t have any lately. In the same way, couples which have been in a long distance relationship for a long time might forget for a while how good communication is for them as lovers,because they just missed too much physically being together.

New schedule

Right now whenever one of us is sleeping the other is automatically free, and when we are both awake we just need to open our computers and it’s magically Skype time. But what will happen when I move to Taiwan? My guess is that we won’t see each other as much as now but we will keep texting and maybe make phone calls quite often.  It might seem like being in the same timezone would make things easier, but since right now Harvey’s free time is mostly late at night because of his school’s crazy class hours, and late at night isn’t my forte, I guess we will have to settle for a couple of afternoon a week. Of course I might be wrong, but what I am trying to say is that we will for sure have to rethink our “dating pattern” and this will probably affect the way we spend our free time too. For example, right now I can chat with him the whole afternoon (his night) and then go out with my friends later, without having to choose, but this is only because we live in different timezones. Later on, we will have to learn how to balance our time and organize it more efficiently, something that kind of scares my disorganized self deeply. Oh but don’t worry, I got an organizer. Hashtag adult life.

Conclusion

I still can’t wait to move to Taipei but I want to say one thing: “beating the distance” is not going to magically solve all your issues, and might even put you in the position to solve problems you never had to face before as a couple. So what does that teach us? That there will never be a time in wich you can take your relationship for granted and stop trying to make it better, that no matter if you have your significant other by your side or not, things might get rough and you still have to fight for it if you think it’s worth it.

And this professional complainer here still thinks it’s all worth it.

Exams are over!

On one hand when I walked out of my school for the last time I felt a little down, because five years of my life passed so fast and now I will proably never see some of my classmates and teachers ever again, on the other I can finally sleep eight hours per night and it feels amazing.

But the point is: it’s done. I graduated from high school!

Why I think finals suck

In Italy, it’s time for “maturità” which is a sort of Gao Kao or whatever you call those exams you need to pass to finally graduate from high school. And it sucks. Why?

  1. Because no matter if you graduate with above average grades or the teachers had mercy and simply raised all of them, you still have to study for another month for ???? reason
  2. Because I am too busy thinking about my future college life to keep focused on high school stuff
  3. Because we have to write a final essay about a random topic that no one will read anyway and we have to do that in the spare time we have between reviewing every single subject we studied so far
  4. Because every class is going to have a different test so how can the final score be relevant to judge which class is more prepared?
  5. Because we already know who is going to fail what
  6. Because it’s to hot to have tests
  7. Because nobody knows when they are actually going to be over
  8. Because I’d rather learn how to cook and survive by myself in a new environment than being asked for the tenth time about Marx’s view of history
  9. Because no matter how relaxed I am now, I bet I will be super tense when the actual exams start and i hate being super tense
  10. Because teachers can’t agree over the importance of these tests
  11. Because how can you expect me to realize I haven’t graduated yet if we are not going to school anymore
  12. Because they turn me into a toddler who just wants to nap and snack
  13. Because I don’t want to do anything, let alone be tested

Happy news are happy!

All I could do so far was dreaming about Taipei, a city I only knew through my boyfriend’s words, a city far enough from fair Verona, where I live, to make our relationship 100% long distance. But things change, and this time they took the best turn possible, as I was accepted in a college that is thirty minutes by bus far from his home.  yep guys, unless something terrible happens, I am moving in September, destination: Taipei.

Most importantly, not only I am going to study full-time what I always wanted to – Chinese- but they will also teach us how to teach it (coming from a family of teachers and being a wannabe teacher myself, I am delighted), give us some basic classes for translators and interpreters, and all of this while living in a Chinese speaking environment. Is this even real? Being the superstitious Italian I am, I can’t help but fear that I will have to break some of my bones very soon to make up for this extreme luck.

No but seriously, you should have seen me yesterday, when I logged in the students’ database, scrolled and scrolled down and suddenly read my name, just after a tiny red “Admitted”; I was shocked, at first, and then overly excited, and then more than overly excited, jumping around and stuff, and then I started calling everyone while still jumping, and then I sat down and cried and then I spent something like two hours opening the database every three minutes to see if my name was still there. And it was, every time! Which means, my friends, that in the near future I will probably no longer be Dreaming of Taipei but rather Living in Taipei. Well at least after I try my best to graduate, fill in other 300 forms or so, take some more horrible passport pictures and things like that.

But I know it’s worth it.

Screenshot_2015-05-15-19-18-46

Cultural appropriation?

Being a person who spends most of her time on the internet and sometimes  checks out a few tumblr blogs, there was no way I could have avoided reading about cultural appropriation somewhere.

What is Cultural Appropriation? Quoting from Wikipedia

Cultural appropriation is the adoption of an oppressed people’s cultural elements by members of the dominant culture, or by members of any culture that has historically oppressed the people of the originating culture.[3] Appropriation may eventually lead to the appropriating group being seen as the new face of said cultural practices. As oppressed people’s’ cultures are mimicked by the dominant culture, observers may begin to falsely associate certain cultural practices with the mimickers, and not with the people who originated them. This is often seen in the use by cultural outsiders of a minority, oppressed culture’s symbols or other cultural elements, such as music, dance, spiritual ceremonies, modes of dress, speech and social behaviour, among other cultural expressions.

That lead me to a few questions. First: what is a dominant culture? Am I part of a dominant culture because of my being white or am I excused because Italy is, traditionally, a “loser Country” and has a long history of invasions, not to mention the great amount of stereotypes against Italians? Second: when we talk about oppressed people, do we mean the ones oppressed by a certain other Country or any people who has ever been oppressed? Third: is cultural appropriation only perpetrated by the people who once/still dominated against the once/still oppressed people? For example, China suffered from Japan’s domination after WW2, but was never an Italian colony*, does it mean that I can wear a qipao but a japanese girl can’t? Or by dominant we only mean culturally dominant (white?) Fourth: How are immigrants in a once/still oppressed country supposed to behave? Is it cultural appropriation if someone coming from a dominant culture (supposing that we defined which cultures are dominant) simply tries to fit in among once/still oppressed people by following their traditions?

This doubts I have come from the fact that while living in China I did all I could to become “as Chinese as possible”, not just because I had a sincere interest in Chinese culture, but because I was immersed in the culture, and there was no way I could completely avoid being touched by it. I was basically assimilated to the point where I subconsciously started laughing like a Chinese girl and counting on my fingers like a Chinese, and some of those things stuck with me. Was I being offensive? Am I offensive now, with my Chinese name written on my notebooks, writing calligraphy? Am I a wannabe or I can be excused because I lived with a Chinese family for such a long time? Or even because my boyfriend’s culture is different from mine?

It bothers me not to know where to draw a line between cultural appropriation and enjoying other people’s culture/ fit in other people’s culture.

So I will ask you, since I know most of my followers have to deal with multiculturalism, what is cultural appropriation? Where are we to draw a line?

*big mistake, apparently for some time there was a small territory in northern China called tiantsin concession that was under Italy ‘s control for a while.

Double cultural appropriation, apparently: throwback to when my Han/Kejia host family made me wear garments from another ethnic group. Yep, those were my slippers.
Double cultural appropriation, apparently: throwback to when my Han/Kejia host family made me wear garments from another ethnic group. Yep, those were my slippers.

Happy Birthday!

So apparently I have been on WordPress for a year now…really? I am not very good with numbers and that goes for dates too, so I will just believe what other people tell me. What can I say? I am very upset that I wasn’t able to write at all lately, but I am positive that when my last year of high school aka hell aka who-the-hell-made-me-do-this will be over I will be able to keep up with this blog too.
For now, I wouldn’t even have too much to write about, unless you want to know about the struggles of a teenager torn between anxiety caused by her approaching final exams, excitement caused by…the future she imagines maybe, and the strange feeling she gets when she thinks the five years of high school that basically made her what she is now are soon to be over (I hope).
Taipei wise, we just have to wait. An application has been sent, covered in blood and sweat (just kidding) and now there’s nothing to do but wait and pray whatever god it takes to be accepted in that particular university.
So…happy birthday to us, and to more years of random blogging!

Auguri e figli maschi! (may you be blessed with many sons)

#WARNING FEMINIST CONTENT (or at least what I deem to be feminist)

Ok, you may proceed

Auguri e figli maschi is a typical italian expression used to congratulate young (or less young) married couples the moment they step out of the church/city hall/wedding venue, and it literally translates to “congratulations and may you have sons”, but it also implies wishing the couple not to have many daughters. This is because in the past, just like for many other cultures, a son could become another breadwinner in the family along with the father, and when the father died he could carry on the family name and take care of the women “left behind”; while the most a daughter could do was to assist her mother until she was old enough to get married, and even giving her away was a bittersweet moment for her parents, because although they wouldn’t have to feed her anymore, they still had to give her a small dowry. These are no longer problems italian families face, the Country shifted from an agricultural one to an industrial one to what should be  a Country that relies on tourism as its primary source of income (and yet Ercolano and Pompei keep being neglected), but auguri e figli maschi is still widely used.

When I was a child, I did not like that. Whenever I was invited to a wedding and would hear that sentence I would add “and daughters” under my breath, because daughters are just as awesome as sons, right? Can I get a hell yeah? Hell yeah. And I still think that, absolutely, but I have come to realize that maybe, maybe having a son could actually be better than having a daughter. I mean, raising a child seems like a terrifying amount of responsibilities and worries to me no matter if it’s a baby or a baby girl, but as a future woman (?) I can’t help but to think that there are some more problems girls in my Country usually face and boys usually don’t (and no, I am not talking about buying pads and tampons, although they can be very pricey)

reminder: I am talking about my experience in Italy, these are my thoughts, not the universal truth.

1) It is a man’s world, not a woman’s: It is, trust me. And by saying this I mean that the default human being is male. Draw a stick figure of a person and if you don’t add a skirt or a bow, it will be  a male in your head. Most possibly, at least. Even the words we use to describe humanity as a whole are mankind or just man. Wouldn’t I know? In my mother tongue when you speak about a group of people of both sexes is not they, it is something like hims. Mind you, I am not saying that this should change, nor I care if it will ever change, I just want to point out that this is the reality of our minds, your mind, my mind, almost everyone’s mind. And I am not ashamed to say when I hear “doctor” I always think about a male doctor, I just want it to be acknowledged. Because only by admitting that most of the time we identify people with men can we go on to the next problem.

2) Representation: The reason why I usually think about a male doctor and not a female one is that because I probably saw more male doctors than female ones. Not in real life, in fact I know more female doctors than male, but in the media. When I first heard about the Bechdel test  I was like, what is this? And then I started trying it an a whole new world opened up in front of me. This is a test you can apply to any movie or tv series episode, and to pass it there are only three requirements: 1) The movie must have more than one  female character, better if named 2) Two of these female characters have to talk to each other at least once (some say for more than 15 seconds but I think at least once is enough) 3) They have to talk about something other than a man, but I would specify something other than a male love interest, because while we are at it we should remember men still exist (thank god!) so I think it’s better to be clear that the problem is not talking about a man per se but rather making being in love with a man the only matter discussed between women. Well, you will discover that many famous movies don’t pass the test, especially adventure movies and romantic comedies targeted to women. To be fair, some (fewer) movies don’t or barely pass a reverse Bechtel test: for example in Maleficient two male named characters refer to Maleficient in both their conversations while one of them is romantically (?) involved with her, although his being in love with her is debatable, and if you consider unnamed male characters too, the movie passes the test. But the point is, movies that don’t pass the test give a distorted image of the world, and this can be harmful especially to young people of both sexes: are men really always expected to be the heroes at the end? Can women ever rely on their female friends for something other than relationship advice? Yes they can, and we know they can because in the real world we experience it, yet it is undeniable that we all look for representation in the media, especially children (when I was little I hated my fringe and bob cut because no princess had that hairstyle) but really, anyone likes to see someone similar to them going through similar struggles and to be able to identify with them, but how can you portray a variety of situations if you only have a limited number of characters playing it out?

(P.S Movies that don’t pass the test are not necessarily bad or sexist, they just don’t show enough women/ they don’t show women according to reality)

3) Periods and not being taken seriously about things because of them

Yes, my friends, some women tend to get nervous and overly emotional before that time of the months (and even during), I know, I am one of them, BUT that doesn’t mean that when we get angry about something it’s just because of circulating hormones or that the reason why we got angry is less serious if it’s found that we have PMS. This “are you on your period?” trick is pulled both by men and women and I always find it equally annoying. Pretty feminist, uh?

4) The Nun-Slut problem

This really confuses me in real life and I don’t think I can explain it very clearly, but I wanted to put it out there anyway because it’s one of the things that bothered me the most in the past few years. The problem basically is that while it is generally thought that a boy is cool if he sleeps with many girls and uncool if he doesn’t (I sure don’t agree and in my opinion I think this puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on boys to lose their virginity), for a girl it’s a little bit more complicated, because if she doesn’t have sex she is either labeled as a prude nun or as the kind of girl whom in Italian we would call “una che se la tira”- which is to say an extremely stuck up girl- but if she does have sex, especially if she is known to have had more than one partner, she is a slut.  The perfect balance would be reached when the girl finally loses her virginity to her boyfriend and simply stays with him for a good while, but in reality the only way to get out of it is to woman up [cit. GoGo Tomago] and understand that when it comes to your intimate life you should only do what makes you feel comfortable, which is why I believe most of girls who suffer from this are teenagers who still kind of have to find themselves. But hey, a little help from society would be appreciated. Also, sometimes having or not having sex is not even taken into consideration, it is enough for a girl to “friendzone” a guy (since when people are attracted to every single person whoo is nice towards them?) to be a nun or stuck up, and for a girl to wear revealing clothes to be labeled as a slut.

5) Being scared of getting raped

Men get raped too, and it should be right to warn your sons about rapists, consent etc. but please don’t do it as it has been done with girls so far. When you are a girl, you are taught that you are in danger around male strangers because they might take you somewhere dark and rape you, you are taught that the chances of it happening increase if you are wearing a skirt, shorts or anything that might be appealing, and that going out alone basically means you want to be sexually harassed. yes, maybe you will, but there are some problems in this method of teaching people about rape: first of all, rape can happen (and sadly does, a lot) at home, in a relationship and between friends; second, even old ladies get raped so I don’t really think the length of your skirt will make any difference; lastly, it is not safe for anyone to go out in “bad neighborhoods” at night, but it’s still not your responsibility if something happens. To teach kids about rape means to teach them about consent and respect before anything else, because we don’t need a world with more pepper spray and long trousers, but rather a world with less rapists.

6) Catcalling

This for sure does happen more often when wearing revealing clothes…or does it? because I still remember the first time I have ever been catcalled, I was eleven and I was taking out the trash wearing a t-shirt and baggy sweatpants when a bunch of twenty-something years old started calling me honey and asked me to stop and smile for them. Was that a compliment? Should I have stopped and smiled, maybe even thanked them? Anybody in the right mind would say no, because actually everyone knows the difference between complimenting and catcalling, even those who say “you should learn how to take a compliment” when you complain about not being able to walk down the street without being dragged from what is your daily routine to a sexual and potentially dangerous situation because who know what could happen if I smiled to them, would a smile mean I am available? And what’s next?

7) “Like a girl” means weak.

It would be enough for me to write Malala Yousafzai, -the girl who took a bullet to fight for her right to learn- to make my point, but I promised I would only talk about the situation in Italy so…have you ever thought about the fact that every time we use “girly” to describe something lame not only we are defining half of the human beings on this planet lame as well, but we are banishing the other half from doing anything typically considered feminine? Because if lame=girly then girly=lame, and this is limitating to say the least for everyone who lives in the kind of society that perpetrates this equation. Look at your mothers, sisters, daughters, look at yourself, are they weak? Are you easily scared? Would you say they are lesser human beings than your brothers and fathers? No. Then let’s eliminate once for all “like a girl” from our vocabulary. I propose we say “like a cracked boiled egg” instead. Or we could, like, not make fun of people for not being good at something. Hey, look at Alex trying his best to run the marathon even if he is sweaty as hell.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAH this post was a labour, I apologize for the bad grammar in advance, it took me hours to write and I was too tired to check it properly. But thanks for reading!