Remembering Happiness

I'm such a redneck.

The Pennsylvanian outback. I’m such a redneck.

Memory is fragile, as anyone who’s experienced Alzheimer’s will tell you. But memory is also enduring. When you’re dying, life might not flash before your eyes, but you could end up recalling every goddamn ingredient in your grandmother’s secret chicken pot pie recipe. Memory is powerful. A simple taste, smell, sound can take you back to bliss or to tragedy. A long time ago, my friend claimed that there were two kinds of people in the world: those who remembered good things and those who remembered bad things. He said that he was a “positive memory” person. In his earliest memory, he was only a year old. His parents were pushing him through the law quad here at Michigan, and he remembered the sunshine against his face. The only other person I know who recalls such an early memory is a friend who was electrocuted into a coma.

I’ve had a strange relationship to memory, as do many others who’ve suffered. It’s easy to look back and think that life was always terrible. It’s easy to blame the adults in my life for wreaking havoc on my childhood. It’s easy to point the fingers at all the religious fanatics who took so much time I’ll never get back. But the truth is that this isn’t the whole picture. In the midst of it all, I had moments of happiness. Not the happiness I experienced the Sunday of my first Welcome Week, as I threw my hands in the air and sang, “The club can’t even handle me right now!” But a happiness that is whole, nurturing, lasting.

Although my father only lived in Allentown, Pennsylvania for a year, I will never forget the time I spent there. When I’m scared and I’m searching for a feeling of home, Allentown is what I’m homesick for. I miss walking out the backyard and trekking through acres of cornfields. I miss playing basketball with my dad in the driveway. I miss running outside at dusk, catching fireflies in my palms. I miss mountains that you can hike and rocky cliffs that you can look down, reminded of how small and human you are. I miss riding into the sunset and having your adrenaline spike when your guide’s mare catches the scent of a bear and nearly falls into a gorge. Then there was the drive-through movie theater where I watched Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man and Lilo & Stitch and ate Milk Duds while my baby brother slept in the trunk of our SUV. If one day I have to settle down and commit to the American suburbia lifestyle, I think I’d be okay with somewhere like Allentown.

The only other place I get homesick for is China. For Lijiang, the ancient city you can only enter by foot. For Guiling, one of the most breathtaking places in the world. For Wuhan, the city in the heart of the country that my dad has called home for a decade. For supermarkets that have multiple floors and moving ramps you can take your cart down. For department stores that are stories high and contain fashion that horrifies me. For breakfast food courts that sell noodles, dumplings, wontons, pork buns, you name it. Where you can eat for less than one US dollar, which is the daily allowance for an average Chinese. For KFCs that sell egg tarts and soy milk and porridge. For the squash court, the only in the city, that my dad’s best friend built and to which we have lifetime passes. For Huangshi, my father’s hometown, where my grandparents were born.

Guilin China

I think I look like a Communist in this photo. And, of course, the tour guide flag is in the background.

Of course, I must not forget Taiwan. My cousin Jacky’s flat in Kaohsiung that is both expensive and modest at the same time. Hualien, my mother’s birthplace, that is full of mountains and water. Where the same vendor has been selling shaved ice with sweet peanuts since my mom was a little girl. The hotel surrounded in fog, near the highest point of altitude on the entire island. Our room was two stories high and its decor was more Italian Renaissance than traditional Taiwanese. The most famous street in the country, packed with tourists, noodle shops, smoothie vendors, and one notorious sex store. The winding mountain roads that my former-taxi-driver uncles navigate like Nascar racers. The Greek palace that I hesitate to call a hotel, where we played poker and drank Smirnoff into the wee hours of the night. All the restaurants we visited, where every morsel of taro would end up on my plate, as my relatives knew it was my favorite.

Rebecca in Taiwan 1

Me, mom, aunt, cousin Jacky. Love how the Asianness increases from left to right.

Excited Rebecca

Excited about trinkets.

Greek Palace

Lounging in our Greek palace, nbd.

Greek Baths

Care to join our bath?

Taiwan_2009_5

We biked many kilometers this day. And we look like thugs.

Highest Altitude Taiwan

3150 meters high, baby! Brr cold.

Itchy Rebecca

Miserable me. Had to stop every minute to apply anti-itch cream. I counted 50+ mosquito bites by the end.

Here’s to happy memories! What are some of your happiest memories?

Ciao,

R

A Love Letter

Dear small-town Michigan America,

For years, I didn’t know you
For years, I ignored you
I thought you were comparable to Ann Arbor
when you were always in a class of your own
I thought that you were no good for me
and I no good for you
I thought you would suffocate me
the lack of human energy piercing my painfully extroverted heart
Forgive me
I didn’t know you
I didn’t know that the air you exhale is the gift of living forms high and low
I didn’t know the feeling of being cradled in your rolling meadows
of contemplating the heavens above as if nothing separated us
of wading through the serenity that is utter darkness.

I am sad for those who do not know you
Whose only contact with you are the fleeting minutes of their daily drive
leaving behind an unceremonious trail of roadkill
Who have long lost the innate love for you
slowly breeding it out of their blood
Who fear you so much that they resort to destroying you.

One does not know you by studying your creatures
by identifying family, genus, species
One does not know you by wintering in a log cabin by the seashore
overlooking the lighthouse
One knows you by sharing a life with you
by caring for you as you have cared for us
by giving back as you’ve given to us
By looking at you and whispering Alhamdulillah, thanks be to God.

There is nothing religious about you.

30 Things I Want Before 30

Now that I’m steadily creeping into my 20s, I’m getting nervous. You see, when I was in my teens, I thought a lot about my future. I didn’t have the smoothest ride through teenagerdom, so I was eager to be independent. An adult, emphasis on the first syllable. Little things like swinging my car keys around my index finger while making a run to the grocery store excited me. I imagined my future boyfriend sweeping me off my feet with his CD collection in his cozy New York City apartment. Yeah, this is back when people collected CDs. Fun fact about me: the only CD I ever purchased was Weezer’s Red Album. I don’t know where it went, but I still love me some Weezer.

Although I’m only 21, I feel like I’m so caught up in the responsibilities of being a near-adult that I’ve forgotten to focus on the goals I once had. The last time I made a list like this one, I was 18. I even know the exact date (Aug. 20, 2012), because it was posted on my last WordPress blog that is now private because it’s incredibly embarrassing. I just read through it now, and while I’m surprised by the things that haven’t changed, many things certainly have. So here’s take two of my goals for the second decade of my life.

30 Things I Want Before 30

  1. Some form of continued higher education. I’m not completely set on law school yet, but I know I’m not done with formal learning.
  2. Fluency in two more languages. I’m on my sixth now, Arabic. I like to think I have two more in me.
  3. Literacy in Mandarin. I can only read about half the common characters currently.
  4. A horse. Pretty self-explanatory if you know me. On another note, look at the pretty horse ring I picked up yesterday in St. Augustine!Copper Horse Ring
  5. Two adopted dogs. Named Blitz and Quinn.
  6. Turtles, housed in giant outdoor pond. Must redeem myself for mistreating turtles in my younger life. I’ve already given up on my fish karma, so I’ll just feed those little swimmers to my turtles.
  7. A weekly exercise routine. Well, it doesn’t have to be routine, but I’d like to keep playing squash, riding horses, and taking walks.
  8. Ability to sleep on my back. This is probably the hardest one on the whole list.
  9. Ability to sleep less than 9 hours. This might be the second hardest.
  10. Ability to drink alcohol. Forget what I said before — this is the hardest.
  11. Ability to apologize. Oh wait, no, this one is.
  12. My three favorite piano pieces, memorized. That’d be Beethoven’s Pathétique, one of the Bach fugues, and…hmm, not sure about the third.
  13. A painting, finished. This is where I left off with my first.Horse Painting
  14. Mad cooking chops. I think my chops are pretty good right now, but certainly not mad.
  15. A budget. Well, I sort of have one now, which consists of spending all my money. 😦
  16. Environmental consciousness. Which is why my dream car is the BMW X1, one of the most fuel efficient SUVs.
  17. General geographical knowledge. Why don’t they teach this in American schools?!
  18. A fabulous collection of lingerie. I’m stealing this one from my last list. Why? Because you know your life is going pretty well if you can spend time and money on lingerie.
  19. Community involvement. Whether exercising my voting rights or working in the government, I’d like to perform my civic duty.
  20. My novel, published. Hopefully I’ll get here before 30, but you never know.
  21. A year working abroad. I’m planning for Morocco in 2013-14.
  22. A year in Asia. I want to know my parents’ native countries better.
  23. A year in New York City. Probably more, but not too many.
  24. A job that I enjoy and serves a greater purpose. To me, that means nonprofit work that benefits lives around the world.
  25. A salary that gives me a comfortable life. Money isn’t everything, but it is important.
  26. A nice home somewhere that snows. That includes: a chalkboard-paint wall, a fireplace, a record player, a furnished basement, a fenced backyard, and a four-poster bed. Porch swing preferred.

    Chalkboard Wall

    Photo courtesy Apartment Therapy.

  27. A kid. Alexander Sebastian or Clementine Astrid. I believe in syllables.
  28. A best friend. Sometimes, I feel like these are harder to find than husbands.
  29. A wedding. Just one, please. I’d like it in the fall because my favorite season is winter, but I want an outdoor wedding, and my sensitive skin wouldn’t last a lick in subzero temperatures.
  30. A marriage. I’m not in a huge rush to be married, and I may have some commitment issues, but it’d be nice to have a husband before I have an Alexander.

I’m probably missing a lot of other important things, but oh well. If you are over 30, what advice would you give us 20-year-olds? If you are under 30, what are some of your goals?

Au revoir,

R

AATA: China (Part Three)

Asian American Takes Asia

At long last, I’m wrapping up the travel series with Part Three of China. Last time, I told you guys about extravagant meals with the mayor and my father’s #1 and #2 companies. This time, I’m going to tell you about our leisure trip turned business trip to Guangzhou.

It was with a bit of shock and panic that I realized I had two weeks remaining in China. I’d promised myself that I would finish my novel by the end of my stay. At 60,000 words, my novel was nearing the finish line but not quite there yet. In order to complete it, I’d have to write more than I ever had before. After berating myself, threatening myself, bribing myself, I stepped up to the plate and faced the most daunting task yet. My daily morning routine consisted of chatting with Phineas, sending him off to bed, and gluing myself to my keyboard for however many hours it took to write 2500+ words. I felt bad for my grandma, who kept urging me to eat her cooking and tried to get me to go shopping with her. I didn’t give in until the very last day, when I — by some miracle — finished my novel a few days early.

Sometimes, my dad would take me to his company with him, and then I was writing while he met with government officials, discreetly coughing from second-hand smoke. When we went out to meals, I gulped down the food and went back to my corner, typing furiously. My father had previously mentioned a trip out to Guangzhou, where he would meet a healthcare representative to discuss collaboration on a future project. For the most part, though, he said we would be free to travel and dine at yummy restaurants. Little did we know.

I was told to pack for four days and we were off to the high-speed train station. My father’s #2 and #3 in command were apparently accompanying us. The #2 took my passport and my dad’s ID, and he hurried off to pick up our tickets. It was still surprising to me how much this man was willing to do for his boss. I understood that, in China, there was little separation between the professional and personal realms, but this guy had a Ph.D. for god’s sake! And he was still doing more ass-wiping than the average butler.

My daddy, talking to someone important.

My daddy, talking to someone important.

When we arrived at the hotel, I realized that it wasn’t quite a hotel. First of all, its lobby looked…funny. There were stairs heading up to a dining area, there was a little convenience store in the corner, and there were cubicles in the opposite corner. The place was thoroughly mismatched. It was also, like everything else in China, so new that there was still plastic wrap around the new furniture and elevator buttons. My dad explained to me that this place was both a hotel and apartment complex. The government had “granted” him one of the rooms to use permanently. I would get my own separate room for the night. After having dinner with this healthcare rep, who was fairly boring, I retired to my room. Happily, I found that there were no mosquitoes, the air conditioning worked well, and the internet was fast enough to support my How I Met Your Mother habit.

The next morning, I chose to stay in instead of heading over to my dad’s company for an early meeting. I was on my laptop writing until my dad’s #2 man came to get me for lunch. When I arrived, my father, the healthcare dude, and another government official were already seated in a suite. I found the food mostly inedible (too spicy, oily, and fried for my taste) and drank a lot of this special flavored water. I still haven’t figured out what exactly the beverage was made from. It had these reddish prune-like thingies floating around that gave it the unique taste. In any case, I grew especially fond of this drink while in China. Last night, I found it again at a Chinese restaurant, but as usual it was sweetened 10 times more than necessary.

I excused myself from lunch early to go to the convenience store and stock up on snacks. I’m absolutely in love with anything green tea flavored and found the perfect crackers with green tea filling. Then, I headed back to my room and returned to my writing. That was my most prolific day of writing — I think I ended up with more than 3500 words for the day. In the afternoon, someone rang the doorbell. It was the #2 dude again, telling me to pack up all my things. I was confused, since I just overheard him booking my room for two additional nights at the front desk. He tried to explain what had happened, but I didn’t understand him fully. And so I packed, muttering under my breath about my dad’s inability to forewarn me on important developments. I still remembered how I found out about my youngest sibling, Kevin. On the way to Publix, the local grocery store, my other brother Justin (who was six at the time) asked loudly, “So Dad, we’re having a baby next year right?”

It was after I’d packed up and followed #2 honcho down the hall that I saw the most astonishing thing. #3 honcho was finishing packing up my dad’s belongings. He asked numero dos, “Did the boss say he wanted to pack this up or not?” To which the first guy replied, “I don’t know, but pack it to be safe.” My eyes were bulging.

After a few more minutes of scrambling, we got into a taxi that took us to my dad’s company. I found my father there, chilling out like he was hanging out with friends at a bar. Smiling, he told me that we had to go back to Wuhan immediately because some important government official wanted to talk to him about potential funding.

Smiling back, I said, “Okay.” Within an hour, we were back on the high-speed train. I guess everything in China is high-speed these days.

Ciao,

R

AATA: China (Part Two)

Asian American Takes AsiaThis post is part of the Asian American Takes Asia series, in which I chronicle my three-weeks-long journey to the motherland (Taiwan) and the fatherland (China). Hilarity ensues. 

When I arrived in Wuhan, China this May, a few things were different. I was used to visiting in July and August, during which Wuhan was quite literally a sauna — a 100-degree humidity that clogged every opening of your body. Of course, like every normal human, I used to hate it. I would gasp for air until the nearest taxi came and bemoan the particular driver’s affinity for saving gas by rolling down the windows. At last, I would duck into our apartment or a restaurant or a hotel and demand that the AC be turned on immediately. Then I would face another sort of problem. I’ve discovered a flaw in the Celsius system. Sure, it’s neat that water freezes at 0° and boils at 100°. Cool story, bro. But let me tell you this: it’s impossible to get the AC at the perfect temperature because 27° is a smidgeon too hot and 26° a smidgeon too cold. I’m always switching between the two.

This time, though, I arrived in mid-May, which meant that it was still on the chilly side. Surprisingly, I found myself a tad nostalgic for the sauna days.

The second thing I noticed was that my father was actually working. Well, my father has always worked hard. After all, he’s one of the most successful people in his field and is taking over the Chinese tech world. Currently, he has a primary company working on femtosecond lasers that are a fraction of the cost and much more powerful than what’s available today. This company is now housed in a much nicer complex, which he uses completely free of charge, courtesy of the Chinese government. In the same building is his second company, which does something I don’t quite know. Then there are third and fourth institutions that we’ll get to later. In short, when I’d visited previously, my dad could always take off work whenever he wanted. But now, he was working 9-5 five days a week.

The third change was the fact that the Chinese government was all over my dad. The first man I met was a very strange top official in the Huangshi municipal government. Huangshi, an hour away from Wuhan, is where my dad was born and is sponsoring many of his projects. Anyway, I had a preconception in my mind that all Chinese officials were power-hungry, materialistic, corrupt, chain-smoking, drinking dudes. This guy was, from what I could see, only the latter two. I asked my dad and he agreed that yes, he was one of the good guys. Our first meeting was at a restaurant that resembled a botanical gardens and, of course, the official footed the bill. I played a lot of Temple Run and inhaled a lot of secondhand smoke that day.

For our next meeting, we drove out to Huangshi to meet the whole gang. We were seated in a fancy conference room in a five-star hotel and I was told that the important-looking man was the mayor of Huangshi. Instead of trying to follow the difficult conversation (which probably involved a lot of ass-kissing), I hammered away on my laptop, bringing my novel closer to completion. Then, we entered a private dining room. These are the newest big thing in China — you get your own waitstaff and a separate restroom and you’re served a 10-course meal. I was surprised to see my name card on the table.

My Chinese name! Cao Sushin.

In the middle of lunch, the mayor had to leave to attend his second and third lunches of the day. What a busy man. After we’d finished eating, everyone scattered, but we had to stay at the hotel for another meeting. Seeing that I was tired, just like that, one of the officials opened a hotel room for me and I was free to use it for the time being. I took a nice nap, and then we were headed back to Wuhan. Before we move on, let me tell you about Huangshi. In the past, I’d always thought of it as the poorer, smaller version of its cousin, Wuhan. Though all my relatives lived in Huangshi, I much preferred Wuhan for its nice department stores and relatively cleaner streets. This time, though, I was utterly shocked by Huangshi. I didn’t recognize anything except for my grandparent’s apartment. My dad told me that the apartment’s worth had skyrocketed tenfold since he purchased it years ago. The development that had occurred was incredible — it was as if someone had cheated at Roller Coaster Tycoon, had billions of dollars stashed away, and built whatever he pleased. Technically, this someone was the Chinese government.

Within months, a new five-star hotel arched over the lake water. With a snap of the fingers, a beautiful ancient-style restaurant was erected by the shore.

Ancient Chinese RestaurantWhen we dined at this place one sunny afternoon, we were the only guests. As I continued to type furiously on my laptop while trying to escape the secondhand smoke, one of the officials kept chasing me. I don’t really like my ass being kissed, but I was grateful for the gifts I received. A very expensive bracelet I don’t know when I’ll ever get a chance to wear and an awesome water bottle I later gave to Phineas. My dad also got a soccer ball signed by the entire Chinese national team, but he doesn’t even watch soccer and, as far as I know, the Chinese team isn’t very good…

Our next voyage to Huangshi contrasted greatly with the lunch with the mayor. It ended up being one of the most incredible experiences and I will remember it forever. We were escorted into a strange-looking complex guarded by a stern man in uniform. The rows of buildings appeared old and unused, and I wondered why anyone would need to protect this place. It seemed like something out of a James Bond flick, where the next action sequence would take place. I whispered to my dad, “I thought we were going to lunch. Is this some secret government hideout?” My questions wouldn’t be answered for awhile, since my father had no clue either.

We pulled up to this warehouse and I walked in to find graffiti on the walls and random statues scattered about. On the other side of the warehouse was an open space shaded by a roof made of vines. A man came out to greet us and began to pour us tea at a mosaic table. I felt like I’d just traveled back in time. A few men came out of a kitchen to speak to the tea guy and he gave them orders. I was thoroughly confused. When we were served a lavish, home-cooked meal that was better than any of the restaurant dishes, I had lost my patience. What the hell was this place? Laughing, the men began to explain to me. One of them was the odd official whom I’d met first. Apparently, we were in what used to be a Communist storage warehouse. The area we were currently in was their old barracks. Looking up, I saw a portrait of Mao on the wall. 

As I spoke briefly of Mao with these officials who, many would say, are still Communists, it was absolutely surreal. None of them began to chant a Communist hymn or whisper a prayer to their deceased leader. They just mentioned Mao matter-of-factly and continued to explain that this complex would soon be torn down to make room for something new. Nowadays in China, everything newer was better. I told them that I would be sad to see this place go, however. No matter what had happened here in the past (executions? Torture? Brainwashing?), it was a piece of history and I’m a sucker for old things. To immortalize this Communist warehouse, I took a few photos.

Can you imagine them blowing up this statue? Poor guy.

Can you imagine them blowing up this statue? Poor guy.

Not only did the officials not mind, the funny dude insisted that I take his portrait. Voilà:

This guy had a peculiar sense of humor.

This guy had a peculiar sense of humor.

During this day, I was reminded again that I love China for its history. While I’m amazed by the speed of development that is happening there every second, I am also saddened that places like this will be eternally lost. China is enamored with change, but I hope that it one day learns to appreciate its past as much as its future. But then again, it’s hard to preserve historical sites other than to turn them into tourist havens who will be both annoying and destructive. When I was in Rome, I was shocked to see ruins everywhere, fenced off from construction sites as if they were mere weeds.

To those who haven’t yet seen China, I encourage you: please visit before pollution and tourism ruin its exquisite scenery and before development and business turn the big cities into scenes from a sci-fi film.

For more about companies #3 and #4 and our business trip to Guangzhou, stick around for Part Three!

À bientôt,

R

AATA: China (Part One)

Asian American Takes AsiaThis post is part of the Asian American Takes Asia series, in which I chronicle my three-weeks-long journey to the motherland (Taiwan) and the fatherland (China). Hilarity ensues. 

Since my dad moved from Boca Raton, Florida to Wuhan, China eight years ago to start his own company, I’ve visited him almost every summer. When he first proposed the move, I remember being on the phone with him, feeling shocked. As I spun a plastic globe from North America to Asia, I thought sadly about how much further away China was than Florida from Ann Arbor. To me, China was foreign. The only time I’d ever visited was when I was eight years old. At the time, I was a petulant, spoiled kid who refused to visit the Forbidden Kingdom because it was more than 100° F out. During the same trip, I was so overwhelmed after meeting what felt like hundreds of relatives I never knew I had that I promptly burst into tears.

Chinese Princess Rebecca

My dad paid five RMB to have this photo taken of me on the Great Wall.

I’m not sure what I was feeling when I flew to China for the second time, the summer I turned 12. But I do know that, once I landed in the land of my ancestors, I began to fall in love. For all the reasons that foreigners tended to hate China, I loved it. What others thought was rude, I thought was amusing. What others thought was backwards, I thought was authentic. What others thought was dirty, okay well, I thought was dirty too. But while I avoided public restrooms like the plague, it didn’t spoil the charm of China. Once, I even peed in a hole in the ground next to a rooster, and I thought to myself that I was initiated.

When drivers drove the wrong way up one-way streets, I laughed. This past Christmas, when my carsick siblings complained to me that I drove like a Chinese taxi driver, I beamed. I’ve never been so proud, because damn, Chinese taxi drivers are good. When parents let their toddlers go number one and even number two on the sides of streets, I stared bug-eyed at first. But then I realized that cities, paved roads, and plumbing were all relatively new concepts to many Chinese. Shitting in a bush wasn’t a sign of backwardness, but simply part of a culture that still retained the rawness of its impoverished history. And that was exactly what I loved about China — it was so raw you could look someone in the eye and read his life story through his irises.

Of course, I was not living in poor conditions by any means. I’ll admit that, as a young girl, part of China’s charm was the fact that I was treated as a princess. Food back then was much cheaper than it was now, and I could order anything I wanted at a restaurant. Simply because my dad had more than $40,000 in a Chinese bank, we were considered VIP at airports and waited in lounges while others checked us in. We drank coffee, which was quite an expensive commodity then. When we traveled to Guilin with a tour group, we requested a separate five-star hotel. Even on vacation, my dad and I visited foot massage houses, my guilty pleasure. I still remember one particular place in Guilin. In the dim lighting, one of the masseuses had guessed that my father was only 25 years old, to his great satisfaction.

Every time I’ve returned to China since 2004, I’ve enjoyed it to the fullest. There was the time we visited the old town of Lijiang and went riding in the nearby fields.

One of my most memorable experiences on horseback.

One of my most memorable experiences on horseback.

There was the time we lived in a house on top of a mountain in the middle of the city that was built long ago for expats. There was we traveled to Dali and I met Knight, the inspiration for and namesake of my company.

After this longwinded background story, I’ll tell you now what I meant to say in the first place. I’ve known China for a while now, and I’ve never been as surprised by her as I was when I visited this summer. China is changing ever so rapidly, in more ways than you can count. The China I knew and loved is dying out quickly and I don’t know yet if its successor is good or bad. All I know is that my experience of China from now on will be vastly different. If you want to know why I believe the future lies in China and how the Chinese government ended up paying for many of my meals, come back for Part Two.

Were you or one of your parents an immigrant? What kind of relationship do you have with your mother country?

À plus tard,

R

Do You Think About Your Carbon Footprint?

The Day After Tomorrow or Hurricane Sandy? It’s hard to tell.

This morning, after I dutifully churned out 1294 words for the day, I had a couple of minutes to spare before my first class. My email informed me that I was one of 1000 participants selected to take a survey. No, I’m not special or anything — Michigan students were randomly chosen. The drawing for a $50 e-certificate from iTunes, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble piqued my interest and I decided to click on the link. The next 15 minutes and 20 or so questions proceeded to make me feel like a horrible human being.

Was I aware of the university’s ongoing efforts to protect the Huron River? No.

Did I set my thermostat 65 degrees or below in the winter months? Definitely not…can I blame bad circulation and extreme sensitivity to cold?

How often did I purchase grass-fed beef? Um, how do you know the difference?

How often do you purchase locally grown or processed foods? Oh, hey, I went to the farmer’s market a few weeks ago. And I buy from Trader Joe’s! They’re local, right? Uh-oh, I’m pretty sure my mustard was imported from France.

Do you use motion sensor outlet plugs? What the hell are those?

Needless to say, on my way to Spanish Linguistics lecture, I had plenty to ponder. Generally, I consider myself someone who’s concerned about the environment. I wholeheartedly believe global warming/climate change is real. Heck, look at the East Coast right now. Sometimes, though, I lose faith in humanity and it’s so hard to believe that me — just one person — could ever make a difference. I feel like for every pound of carbon I don’t produce, a hundred more pounds are emitted from building the next Apple knockoff store in China. How can I ever compete?

Yet all social movements were begun with a few lonely souls. Not to say that I’m striving for the Nobel Peace Prize or anything, but it’s a fact that individuals can make a difference. Upon further thought, I decided to adhere to the following rules throughout my lifetime:

  1. Never own a car. Well, I kind of already own a car. I guess my goal is not to use a car on a daily basis. I aspire to live in an area where I can either walk, bike, or take public transportation to school/work/grocery shopping.
  2. Never use air conditioning. I can’t stand the cold, but Americans are really babies about summer heat. No, it doesn’t make your company cool (in the figurative sense, of course) to set the thermostat at 65 degrees all summer long. Most buildings in Europe don’t even have AC installed.
  3. Buy organic, bio-based, local, and hormone-free products. Although they may be slightly more expensive, the health and environmental benefits far outweigh the additional cost.
  4. Plant my own garden. This is something I’ve always wanted to do anyway, but now I’m more motivated.
  5. Keep my own chicken coop. I don’t think I could eat a bird I’d killed myself, but fresh eggs sound delicious.
  6. Buy secondhand appliances and furniture. I love antique shops and flea markets anyway, but now I’ll also hit up Craiglist or Ebay for appliances. No wedding registry for me!
  7. Procreate at most twice. Overpopulation is a serious imminent problem and people should seriously consider the morality behind having more than two biological children. If you, like me, want a large family, go the Jolie-Pitt route.
  8. Instill love of nature in children. A real childhood is spent outdoors, without electronics or Internet. It always makes me sad how toddlers these days need technology to function.

How often do you think about the environment? Does it affect the daily lifestyle decisions you make? How are some ways you sacrifice for the global good?

Salut,

R