Jun. 17th, 2010

marjorieinchina: (Default)
It has been eight months today since I arrived in China, and I admit to feeling a little the worse for wear. My hair needs trimming, my teeth need cleaning, and my eyes need some kind of help so I can wear contacts again. My camera is chipped where I've dropped it, I got a rip in my back jeans pocket somewhere in Hong Kong, and my tennis shoes are full of holes. Lately, when people see me they frequently remark "You look slimmer" and, to make it clear what they mean, put their hands to their cheeks: "have you been worrying?" What took the cake--I thought--was a week ago when someone came into my apartment while I wasn't here and stole some money I'd had in a drawer.

I can't claim I've been a model of patience, but I dealt with all these things moderately well, because I had to, because it would all get taken care of when I got home. Then my computer failed.

When my money was stolen, I had remarked that at least they didn't take anything else, that if they'd stolen my laptop I would have crumpled. I underestimated myself. When the screen went blue with a blinking folder-and-question-mark icon, I did not so much crumple as erupt. The word "no" was uttered rather a lot. I must have appeared, had anyone been there to see, like Mrs. Bennett when Elizabeth refused Mr. Collins, or like Cassandra when no one would believe her about the wooden horse. I don't think I have ever been as angry at a person as I was at that MacBook.

As soon as I was seeing straight I sat down (I had been pacing) and did some very angry list-making to try to take stock of what I had just lost. If the Apple Geniuses can't retrieve the data off my hard drive (I have no idea whether they can or not), I will have lost: most of my photographs from my first term in Quzhou and anything from the second I didn't upload to Flickr; the programs I taught at the Wolf Center last summer and at least some of my lessons from here in Quzhou (I think I saved some of them to a flash drive); odds and ends and stubs and drafts of a number of unfinished writing projects; and potentially a rather large quantity of music.

I have not lost: anything I posted on the blog or any photos on Flickr; my graduate school writing sample, which is in my e-mail a few times over; my bookmarks in Google Reader and Read It Later, both of which I recently started using in an effort to make my online life more orderly. I don't believe I've lost my college essays and thesis, which I'm cautiously sure I saved to an external hard drive. I haven't lost the last three years of e-mail, which is all in the magic Google cloud.

It could be better, then, but it could be a far sight worse, which is what I told myself when my lists were made out. There remains the question of what I'll do with myself without this little machine. The fact that I used it for teaching is a relevant but minor detail. It's been my telephone, my CD player, my newspaper, my mailbox, and my TV. It has been my link to America in a city where exactly no one talks the way I do.

Maybe I shouldn't have needed such a constant piece of home here with me--maybe I would have been more engaged with China if I didn't have it. Then again, maybe I just would have been lonelier and run through my reading material faster. It's hard to define shoulds and shouldn'ts in this kind of situtation, and it's hard for me to say I shouldn't have relied on the device that supplied me with things to think about during some very long dinners when everyone was speaking Chinese.

I'm done with teaching and have seen everything I know of to see in Quzhou, and three weeks in my apartment without the computer is a grim prospect, so I am taking this as my cue to get out of Dodge. I'll go to Shanghai, to Hangzhou, to Putuoshan; if I've spent too much time in my self-defined American safe space, then all right, I'll get out and eat the food I can't identify and take photos of the monuments and shout at cross-purposes with the people who think they can speak English. I'll do all these things one more time and then I'll go home.

I can't shake the feeling, though, that I made this happen by thinking about how awful it would be. As of this moment, I am setting aside all thoughts of what it would be like to lose my passport.

Typed Thursday, June 17, on the big desktop PC that was in my first apartment and that I've now carted into the new one. It is not really mine and it runs in Chinese and it doesn't have my software, but I've figured it out far enough to write this, and I can still be reached by e-mail.


marjorieinchina: (Default)

July 2010


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