Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lumi made this dress for Fanfan for the Chinese New Year.

I'm not lying or exaggerating when I say that I believe she's the most beautiful girl in the world.
The letter I put in the first post, where I told Fanfan that I would come to Paris to play a song for her, that deserves a bit of an explanation, I guess.

You see, one night, we had been talking, and I had written a song for her. We got on Skype so that she could hear it, but the connection was bad. After several time trying to connect, the internet went out completely.

That was always a reminder of how fragile our relationship was. Not to be melodramatic, it's true. Our relationship relied completely on technology. If one day, a solar flare had wiped out all electronic devices, Fanfan and I would have lost each other, all of our letters to one another, and all of our photos. In a sense, none of our relationship exists exept on lines of 1's and 0's.

Like the song.

Here it is...

Friday, February 17, 2006

Je t'aime ma petite. J'espere que tu trouve ce chanson. Une petite surprise pour toi.

(I'm aware that my voice cracks on "higher" and "stars," I don't have recording equipment. Just doing it on my computer)

The lyrics of this are based on this E. E. Cummings poem:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Technorati tags:, , , , ,

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means I’m supposed to write about how Valentine’s Days sucks, how love sucks, and how the opposite sex sucks. That’s what you do on V-day.

I’m not though, because I don’t believe it.

I will say, though, as far as this endeavor goes, I’ve hit a wall. You see, it’s not that I haven’t stories to tell, or that I don’t know which one’s to tell. It’s that there are too many stories, and that I don’t know how to tell them.

I called this “Just like in the movies…” because when I used to talk to people about what was happening between Fanfan and I, they would say, “Oh my gosh! It’s just like You’ve Got Mail!” (which it’s not, even though I’ve never seen the movie, it’s not) or any other movie with the “spending long periods of time far away from one another + communication + coming from far ‘different worlds’” theme.

I figured that if so many people feel that way, that the story is extraordinary, then by writing this I could do something bigger than just write a sappy love story (not that that’s what it is to me). I have the belief that most of the problems in the world come from an inability, impatience even, to communicate, and on top of that I believe that most of the differences that exist among peoples and cultures exist because we think they do.

I saw a video recently of John Lennon in which he said that he would like to think that he and Yoko were proof that people from different cultures could get along without trouble. That struck a cord with me, because not only does my happiness with Fanfan give me personally a satisfaction that I couldn’t find elsewhere, it also gives me hope in the world.

Fanfan and I grew up on different sides of the planet. Though, the climate in Taiwan is much like the climate of Charleston. For that, we grew up doing much of the same things.

We grew up speaking languages that couldn’t be more different. Chinese is one of the oldest languages in human history, and it, from what I know, has changed very little compared to other languages. Not to mention it is a tonal language, which is to say, you can say the same syllable “ma,” for example, in two different accents and it could mean two completely different things.

On the other hand, English is a relatively new language, maybe 400 years old. It’s a bastard language too, taking words from Latin, French, German, etc. This is why English has very few strict rules for pronunciation: “read” and “read;” the “ough” on thought, though, through, etc.; mischief and chief; find and fin; etc.

Despite that, though, we speak French to each other, which is neither of our langue maternelle. That levels the field, gives a common ground, with which we can both explore the language of the other. (Fanfan speaks English, I should mention, and I don’t yet speak Chinese).

I grew up in the “Bible Belt,” though to a somewhat Easter-Christmas-and-some-in-between family. I went to Catholic and Baptist schools. Christianity was the traditional religion for nearly everyone, aside from a few Jews. I have never met a Muslim in Charleston.

Fanfan grew up in a country that is far less religious that is traditionally Taoist or Buddhist, with Confucian traditions.

Yet, both of us have very similar views on religion and God.

My point is that there are differences between the environments from which we came that are clear as night and day, but somehow we turned out incredibly similar. Not just us, but our families, our friends, etc. For instance, one of the few bands that both my father and I agree on is the Eagles, so imagine my surprise when Fanfan said one night that she and her father used to listen to the Eagles when she was little. She says it’s one of her dad’s favorite bands.

This point has become so clear to me over the last two years, but it’s so huge and all-encompassing that there is no easy way to explain it. I have so much trouble explaining things like. The most frustrating aspect of my life is seeing things that would make the world better if I could find a way to convey the idea to others, but I don’t know how to put it into words.

I have the same problem with Fanfan, actually. So often, I look at her, and I can’t stop thinking how in love with her I am. I know that sounds corny and I hate myself for putting it that way, but it’s true. I’m struck, still, after all this time. After all that we went through to be together, I still don’t believe I’m here with her. It’s the first time in my life that I feel love so viscerally that I feel short of breath at the thought of not being with her, of losing her, of seeing her cry.

John Steinbeck said in Travels With Charlie, “A sad soul will kill you quicker than any germ,” and right now I believe it. I feel physical pain at the thought of her being anything but happy, and I’m not exaggerating.

That said, I have no idea how to explain why I love her. I know why. I love her for all of those ephemeral moments where she crippled me with absolute cuteness (I can’t think of a better word). Those moments that pass at the speed of light when I’m sitting on my melodrama, thinking the world is crumbling and the war is coming, and she reminds me that there are reasons to hope. She can do it with a look, with a word. There’s no way I could ever explain what it is in her that smoothes all of the jagged edges of what I feel inside and calms the waters when I think I’m drowning. Most of all, she keeps me from being an adult, which is the equivalent of pulling me head first out of the abyss.

You see? It seems exaggerated. But, I really mean it. I don’t mean to give the impression that we’re always perfect. We fight. Not often, but we fight. I can say in all honesty, I’ve never even heard of someone having a love this strong though.

Still, I digress. I’ve been meaning to explain, that often when I look at her, I tell her I love her. Without thinking about it, just because that’s what’s in my head. I’m always thinking it. I love her. Even when I’m not thinking about us or about her specifically, I’m trying to figure out how I can be with her for the rest of my life.

Like the trains in France which all lead to Paris, all of my thoughts lead to Fanfan. When I think about careers, about my family, about my friends, about religion, I think of how it relates to Fanfan. I think of how my family will accept her. I think about if she’ll get along with my friends. I think about what career I could follow that would allow me be with her.

But, nearly every time I tell her I love her, without missing a beat, she asks one of two questions: “Pourquoi?” or “Combien?” The latter is easy. I can say, “More than there’s sand in the dessert” or “More than there’s light from the sun.”

But, when she asks me “Pourquoi?” I’m often struck dumb. I tell her because she makes me happy, because I can’t live without her, but she just sighs and says, “You’ve already used that one.”

Then I usually end up saying something like, “You make me laugh when you sing like an eighties rock star,” and she grumbles that I’m not very creative.

I hope one day I can find the words to explain to those of you reading this why I feel the way I do about us. I hope one day you’ll believe me.

Until then, Happy Valentine’s Day.

Technorati tags:, , , , , , ,

For six months, almost to the day, I was at Clemson University, while she was in Paris working as an intern for a Chinese-Italian artist. Every day, without fail, we spoke to each other. At midnight in Clemson, I would wake her up (six AM in Paris) and we would talk anywhere from two to four hours as she ate breakfast and got ready for work. We used Skype or MSN (God bless the internet). I usually went to bed at about four or five in the morning.

When I woke up, around 11 or 12 (I had late classes), I would speak to her as she was getting home from work and as I was eating breakfast. Many days, when I got home from classes, we would talk for a little while as well.

The six months had huge ups and downs. First, a Taiwanese friend of hers in Baltimore bought her a plane ticket to New York. I organized a place for us to stay and what-not. Then, after the ticket was bought, the US embassy in Paris said they couldn’t give her a visa.

That’s the curse of being from a contentious “country.” Though Taiwan, in most respects, is treated like a sovereign country, it is considered by the international community as a part of China. China and Taiwan for decades have been at odds over Taiwan’s independence, and on a regular basis China threatens to attack Taiwan. For this and other reasons, Taiwanese and Chinese people have to have visas anywhere they go, by and large.

Needless to say, Fanfan couldn’t come.

Then, a little while later, her boss in Paris, the jet-set only child of a Chinese business man in Italy, decided she wanted to spend a couple of months in New York working in SoHo. Fanfan decided to advance a trip home to Taiwan that she was already planning on taking a couple months later because she hadn’t seen her family in over a year. In Taiwan, she got her visa, and we were convinced that the time had come. Her boss was going to rent an apartment in SoHo that would have a room for Fanfan as well, so I was going to hop up to NY to stay with her for a while. I had never been there.

Weeks past, Fanfan’s boss kept pushing back the trip from February to March, to April, then it just sort of faded away. We were both hanging on to that idea of being together on the basis that when people say they’re going somewhere, they plan it out and they go. Needless to say, neither one of us is the only child of a wealthy business man, so we didn’t understand the concept of hopping from Paris, to Morrocco for the weekend, then to LA for two weeks, then to Venice for a birthday party.

She never came to NY.

By then, I was already planning my return to Paris. I was writing letters, translating my whole life into French, etc. I finally got excepted to the University from which I am writing right now.

But, even there, there were a hundred snags that tripped me up on the way here, the largest of which being the French Consulate in Atlanta. For anyone who has never gone to live abroad, and has thus never been to a consulate, you don’t know that all countries employ only the most soulless of people to work in consulate visa departments. I’ve watched numerous times, as consulate officials rip dreams apart with a straight face as they change the number on the screen and yell, “Next.” The poor person, trying to go home and see their family or, say, trying to get back to a girl with home they are in love is left standing, blank-faced, trying to figure out what just happened.

I’m not exaggerating. If there is a hell and Satan has any wits, he will take a hint from the visa waiting rooms in consulates around the world.

When I went to the consulate in June, it was the second time I had been there. When I studied in Angers, France, I had to get a visa, so I had to make that five hour drive to the consulate. I got my visa, after being told by Sen. Hollings office that it was too late and there was no hope. They gave it too me that day. This time, I went, full dossier, a month before I was planning to depart, with everything they could possibly as of me. I spent the night with the friend of a friend and I woke up at six in the morning to drive to the consulate.

I waited for two hours in the lobby, talking to an Indian man who was there with his two boys trying to go back to India to visit his family. He had to get a French visa just to change planes in France! We both vented about how horrible consulates are, and he assured me that the American consulates are worse, which I can imagine considering the huge number of people trying to come to the US.

There were three girls who were leaving in two weeks to study for a month in Aix. The were in front of me in line (not really, we were made to come down to the lobby because we arrived to early, when we came down, the girls went up, so they were in front of us). I heard Nina (I think that was her name) say to the first girl that the normal waiting period for a visa now is two to four weeks.

“But, we’re leaving in two weeks,” the girl said.

Nina just sighed and repeated herself. I don’t know if the girls ever got their visa, but I know what happened to me. I got up and presented all of my information.

First of all, the pictures I had weren’t acceptable. So I had to run down to the post office and get them redone. The lady at the post office said, “Before I accept your money, I have to tell you that the consulate turns down on a regular basis the pictures we take. Are you sure you wanna do this?” I told her I had no other choice.

When I got back, Nina reopened my folder. Everything that I had neatly organized, she tore apart, stacking things in different piles, then she asked me “Where’s this?” “Where’s that?” I wanted to say it was with all the other stuff she tore apart, but I just politely said, “It’s right there under those papers.”

She pulled up my university acceptance letter. “We need a more official letter,” said ole’ Nina.

“I’m sorry, but that letter says I’ve been accepted. It’s signed and stamped by the president of the university.”

“We need it on more official letterhead.”

“That’s all that they gave me, ma’am,” I said, “It even says on the letter ‘this is what you’re supposed to take to the consulate in order to get your visa.’”

“I need you to contact the university and ask them to fax us a more official letter. We’ll keep all your information here until you do that.”

I gave her a US Post, overnight envelope to send me my passport in Charleston (big mistake, no tracking number). When I got home, I emailed the university and asked them if they could give me another letter. They said they didn’t understand the problem because the letter they sent me is what they send to all international students and there’s never been a problem. I forwarded that email to the consulate.

Here’s the other problem with consulates (at least the French one), they don’t ever acknowledge contact. I emailed them at least twenty times, asking if they had received the email I forwarded. I called, but nobody ever answers. Once someone answered, I said to him in French, “I’d just like to know if you received the information I sent.” Hearing my accent, he asked, “Is it for a visa?”


The line went dead. He had transferred me to the visa department where nobody answered. I called back, he never answered again.

Then, I called Sen. Lindsay Graham’s office. By this time, it was two weeks before I was leaving. They were right on it. The people in his office worked very hard, just for me. I was more than impressed. After a couple of days, they actually got through to someone and actually found out that Nina was still waiting on the letter from my university! They gave me a fax number. I printed the email from my university, and a letter explaining the situation. I wrote “ATTN: NINA” at the top.

I faxed it every day for four days. No response. After a couple of days, I was sending faxes and emails saying, “If you got the information, could you just send me an email with the word ‘yes,’ and if not ‘no.’ So that I can plan accordingly?”

I got no response. Sen. Graham’s office could no longer get through either.

The Sunday before the Wednesday I was to depart, I drove back up to Atlanta. I was the first person in line that morning. Nina came to the window, and I told her why I was there. She typed my information in the computer and told me the passport had been processed.

I was elated.

However, she looked through all of the passports in the office and back in the mailroom and couldn’t find mine. My happiness quickly faded.

“It must have already been mailed,” she told me, but she didn’t know when it had been mailed.

After driving five hours to Atlanta, I had been told what I was waiting to hear in all of five minutes. Now, though, I was scared that my passport with my visa that I could use to get to France to see Fanfan after six months was lost in the mail.

I was on a back road outside of Easley, South Carolina at about noon when my mom called me.

“Your visa is here,” she said.

I felt like for the first time in months I could breathe. I couldn’t stop smiling. I was all alone, but I new that I wouldn’t be for much longer.

Fanfan called me soon after that, and I didn’t have the heart to pretend that I hadn’t gotten it, though it crossed my mind. I told her that I would see her in two days.

The worst thing about all of that, is that I had almost no time to see many of my friends. I had been so wrapped up in getting the visa, that I had had very little time to spend time with my friends and family. I was left with only that Tuesday.

Technorati tags:, , , , , , ,

Thursday, February 02, 2006

(I don't know how to make it so that it doesn't play automatically. Sorry. Also, I know the title is nerdy, I was just playing around with the sofware, and now I don't know how to get it off)

The video above comes from the last night I was in Paris.

My plane was leaving early in the morning, so we decided not to go to sleep. We spent these last hours like we had spent the majority of our week together, probing around in the air for some sort of sign that we weren't being foolish. We were constantly asking each other questions: do you do this in Taiwan? Is it true that, in the US, you do that? How do you say this in Chinese?

There was a lot of silence, where we lay quietly on the bed, breathing, never ceasing to be amazed that we could hear the other breathing next to us. I remember thinking how nice it was to feel her breath on my neck and knowing it was her breath.

Despite that, I was scared to death.

One time last spring, I heard a report on National Public Radio that explained how scientists could say that, in atoms, electrons move around the nucleus by "all possible paths." The commentator said that it could be explained by the way a parent views a child. A parent can be furious and utterly in love with their child at the same time. Any person can be both sad and happy at the exact same moment.

There was a message playing my head that was disgustingly contradictory.

"This isn't real!" it cried, "This is too good to be true! Your in Paris, with a girl from the other side of the planet, and your in love! This doesn't really happen to people!" Then a toned, more sober me explained, "Not only is this not real, it's a plane crash." The latter me, was the one that realized, when life is so good, it can only get worse. It's true. It's like that first moment of lifting a heavy weight and thinking, I could hold this forever, but after a minute your arms start shaking from the gravity of it all.

I think that's what a relationship is. It's two people holding something up that's so much bigger than themselves. If either person decides they don't have the strength or purpose to hold it up, it's going to fall.

Three years before laying there with Fanfan, a girl whom I had loved let go and let it fall all around me. I'm sure that's why they call it "falling" in love. The thing is, when your falling, you think your flying. The first time you hit bottom, you never forget it.

It was the memory of hitting bottom that kept me from being completely happy about feeling her next to me.

"Tu sais, j'ai peur," I said to her. She didn't move. She told me she knew I was scared, so was she. I told her that I just wanted to be honest.

"Je sais," she said. Neither of us moved.

In just a couple of hours, I would be going back to the US to finish my senior year. She would, of course, stay in Paris. If one were to take a globe and draw a perfectly straight line from Clemson, South Carolina to Paris, it'd be 4,298 miles (6,917 kilometers) long.

I still find it amusing that my first girlfriend broke up with me after two years because she couldn't take the 200 miles from her college to mine, or so she said.

That, however, is a perfect example of how my life has changed in the last two years. Far from being the Charleston native, whose world consisted of very little outside South Carolina, I am now utterly involved in the push and pull of the world. In just a couple of years, I went from never having left the country or spoken a foreign language, to having lived abroad and travelled to countries as far away as Bosnia and Poland. My world went from being small, to enormous, and, as a result, to being even smaller than it was before.

The distance from Taipei to Paris to Charleston is nothing, unless your trying to get there. You see, that's one part of our globalization. Fanfan and I, after the night I spoke of above, would go back to being thousands of miles apart, but there would pass very few days where we didn't speak, where we didn't see each other. Will, my roomate and fellow voyager, had a webcam that he never used, so I would attach it to my computer, and Fanfan and I would talk to each other for several ours a day.

I didn't know that when I was laying there in Paris, nor did that reality make it easier to be far from Fanfan. I still couldn't tell you if it's easier to see her and not be able to touch her or not to see her at all.

The hours passed. We rambled around the tiny yellow room. Kissing, cooking, trying to learn about each other. She pulled out some paintbrushes and a special type of paper that they use in most Asian countries to teach kids how to write (it's what's in the video). What you do is you wet the brush with water and write, after just a couple of minutes, the words are gone, like invisible ink, and you can rewrite the words.

At about four that morning, I took a shower, and we packed my bags. An hour later, we were walking the blistering cold streets of Paris. After a week of pretending to be the only two people in the world, the empty Paris streets just seemed to reinforce the illusion. There was no sound, save for the wind. There was no sound but our feet.

The next part I remember is several hours later. I was on the escalator bridge leading to the terminal where I would take my flight to go back home, through the class I could see Fanfan staring at me looking utterly helpless and alone. That image is burned in my head, seeing her standing there crying, with people just passing by behind her.

I never want to leave her again. I never want to be far from her. I can't take that.

That's what I mean about seeing her and not being able to touch her. There are some things that words can't do, for that you have to touch people. I never want to know that she's hurt, lonely, happy, hopeful, or broken and not be able to touch her and experience it with her.

I've never been in love with someone like that.

I used to tell people that love is being with someone and not needing to say anything, but dying to speak to that person when they're away. I'd revise that a little now, because the physical touch of that person is a crucial aspect of love.

When I would lay awake at night, I craved just the feeling of her hair.

I can't leave her again, that's all I can say.

Technorati tags: , , , , , , ,