“to build or not to build bridges?” – a metaphorical dilemma

“to build or not to build bridges?” – a metaphorical dilemma

I recently read an article shared by a friend on Facebook about friendships and how these change during the transition from adolescence to adulthood: ‘Why adult friendships makes me sad sometimes‘. The result of reading it making me stop and think, and reflect on what she wrote through the eyes of my own life.

I can relate to what she’s said of how during my teenage years, so many hours were devoted to building and maintaining friendships: the highlights of the week always being break time and lunch time at school, the use of messenger as soon as we got home and the rise of Bebo and especially Facebook (which apparently I joined almost nine years to the day ago!), the day-long day trips walking around the local town shopping – or more appropriately – window shopping. I always managed to remember to give out birthday cards, Christmas cards and was a rather avid gift giver as a display of my friendship.

Yet, as the author of the above article so articulately wrote, as I’ve creeped further into adulthood and more candles appear on the cake, the clock seems to race against me to remember to speak to a friend, invite them to an event, attend their own event… and the list goes on. I worried that my travels abroad during my third year of my undergraduate degree in Spain and China would result in losing many friends. Although we have technology in abundance these days, it is so easy to not pick up the phone and have meaningful exchanges like I once spent 2-3 hours a night doing at the young age of 15. Life is no longer within the confines of my parents’ rules and dependence and without this, the rest of the real world comes flooding in with responsibilities, distractions, and skewed perceptions of what sometimes is more important.

Yet, I have been so fortunate to have long-distance friendships that still stand strong. And, despite only seeing some of them once, twice a year, I adore them more than anything ❤

These friendships that have stood the test of distance, time, high stress-levels, bursts of excitement etc. give me faith that I’m doing something right by them. At least, I hope so. Many of my friends have joined the working world yet time doesn’t adjust to accommodate ‘adult friendships’ as if we all still have three million things on our to do list before being able to at least sit on the couch and take a relaxing breath.

These changes that accompany the transition to the independent big wide world are not something that we can control, nor is there a solution to harmonising the balance between work, life, home, friends, family and a myriad of other things that take up our time. Nevertheless, I now understand when one should always continue to build the metaphorical bridge between friendships or let them slowly burn down and go our separate ways. I guess it’s own own responsibility to recognise where we apply our efforts like our social-obsessed teenage selves did and even though it is not an easy skill to master, it is manageable. One of my lovely friends always has time for everyone, and reminded me that sometimes it can be good to give friendships a second, third, even fourth try because that is the right thing to do. And if it works, the rewards are endless.

However, this time, I believe that holding onto the past never has got anyone very far and I’ve recently done that in a bid to sympathise, to be a good person, to try and keep a crumbling bridge from crashing down, and to protect the other person and myself from hurt. But in all honestly, it has, instead, dragged it out, letting the bridge to just implode from the pressure of the unhealthy friendship.

*sigh* life happens.

Yet it’s not what falls apart that defines us and this doesn’t mean that adulthood is the doom of friendship and happiness! Although it can be a real struggle and there isn’t any guidebook telling us what to do or how to balance anything. As my godmother reminds me, some friendships are put on the “back-burner” but depending on circumstances can be rekindled at a moments notice. Just to make life even more complicated! 😀

So, I can’t agree with Man Repeller more:

This does not mean giving up. I have a lot of cards sitting on my dresser that I intend to mail once I finally buy stamps; there are a few friendships that I cracked and want to repair. At the same time, I have faith that certain sisterhoods [and brotherhoods] are built to withstand periods of not-so-good friendship, and when they do, I will thank those enduring souls for their patience, send magnificent bouquets of flowers and be prepared to reciprocate.

❤ Xo.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2vBLd5Egnk – Scared to be lonely.

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“don’t let the ‘man’ get you down”

I hope you all recognise the quote I have put as the title for this blog. If you don’t, get online and watch ‘School of Rock’ immediately. You won’t regret it!


 

Dear friends (and anyone who reads this),

This post isn’t long nor about anything special or exciting. We’re back to that time of year again where it’s suddenly April and we don’t know where the time is going. It’s suddenly easy to reminisce as Facebook kindly reminds us of all the fun things we were doing a year or more ago everyday (thanks facebook…) or we’re looking forward to the moment of freedom we are ready to sell our souls for. So I’m just writing this post and we’ll see where this ends up… the title says it all really: Don’t let the man get you down guys. 

Continue reading ““don’t let the ‘man’ get you down””

正月十五:fifteenth and final day of my ‘hóngbāo’ adventure

For my final one, I thought I’d make a video. I tried to keep it short but it is just over six minutes! (I apologise for any babbling or for talking too much.)

For those who are looking at this blog page for the first time, this ‘hóngbāo’ adventure is a series of posts starting from the beginning of the Chinese New Year up to the Lantern Festival. It covers the traditions and is part of a little quest I’ve set for myself to give a ‘hóngbāo’- red envelope – to someone each day and in return, they share a piece of advice that they love or has inspired them that always comes back to them. This is the final day, the 元宵节 (yuánxiāojié), is the Lantern Festival to mark the end of the Chinese New Year celebrations.

The customs on this day is to watch Lion and Dragon dances, for the whole family to eat tangyuan (the glutinous rice balls), guess the riddles on the lanterns. If you google the festival, you will see a variety of lanterns that in the past few years have grown in size to resemble traditional Chinese images, such as fruits, flowers, birds, animals, people, and buildings. The lanterns can be as small as the standard ones we see in drawings to huge sculptures of animals etc. It is a very joyous day and is marked by the full moon that shows that the festival has been through its cycle and it is now time to start the new year. Continue reading “正月十五:fifteenth and final day of my ‘hóngbāo’ adventure”

初六: day six of my ‘hóngbāo’ adventure

初六: day six of my ‘hóngbāo’ adventure

YAY! It’s Saturday!

I have had a very Chinese day today as a friend and I went to Beeston which is an area of Nottingham on the other side of the University Campus. The town council had organised a two-hour long Chinese New Year Lantern Festival which involved various Chinese dance performances including the Lion and Dragon dances. The children of a local primary school had spent a day making Chinese Lanterns out of gold card and red paper mache and just before fireworks paraded around the square, and they looked adorable!

As it is the sixth day of the New Year, it’s time to send away the Ghost of Poverty. Why?

“According to the legend, the ghost of poverty is a son of Zhuan Xu (an emperor among the Three Emperor and Five Sovereigns in ancient China). He was short and weak, and liked wearing ragged clothes and eating poor porridge. Even when people presented him with new clothes, he would not wear it until he ripped it apart or burn it. So, he got the name of “the man of poverty”, and with time passing by, he gradually became the ghost of poverty.

So, how to send away the ghost of poverty? Usually, people will throw away their ragged clothes, rubbish and other dirty things. In addition, they will also light some candles to lighten the road for the ghost of poverty.”

Source: chinatravel.com

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It’s a good excuse for us to light candles, right? It is also a chance for us to declutter the things that just sit unused and unworn. The image above says “The Sixth day of the New Year is to send away the God of Poverty.” And the speech bubble says: “I wish to be prosperous, the God of poverty can go away!”

Now, regarding my adventure, I chose a friend that I knew would have some good advice and wisdom up her sleeve: Dorottya or we call her Dóri for short!

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Dóri with her hōngbáo under a street light – she doesn’t look this scary really! 😉
a cheeky selfie!

What did she come up with?

Go into a new culture or situation without any preconceptions, prejudices, with a blank slate.

This is the best way I could write it because there isn’t a completely clear phrase or idiom that encompasses what Dóri wanted to say…. But I’m going to have a go at explaining it. Dori has travelled a lot for her studies, she is Hungarian and has lived in America as part of a University exchange, spent a summer in South Korea and now is in the UK for her Masters degree. This life lesson (as she called it) is linked to her various experiences adapting to a new culture and its habits. Yet I think she’s touched on something really prevalent in society that everyone experiences, not just those who have the opportunities to travel. She shared with me that our first impressions and experiences, if difficult and below expectations, isn’t what it’s going to continue to be as long as you don’t let the cultural differences get to you. When we are faced with something new it’s not easy for us (somewhat) sensitive human beings to change and adapt when we are so used to a certain lifestyle. I found this inspiring because it highlights how much we don’t appreciate ourselves and allow us to feel rubbish and not believe in ourselves to get through it.

I have taken this advice and will attempt to apply it to daily life. In every new situation or experience, it is good to think that we go into it with a positive attitude and without preconceptions of what we expect it to be. In many of my new experiences, both afar and in the UK, I am definitely guilty of feeling disappointed or uncomfortable until I let myself relax into it and let go of any worries of judgement or anything. We make ourselves so vulnerable when we should be so strong. Dóri doesn’t imply that everyone is widely prejudiced but it is common knowledge that we do judge without meaning to. There are negative connotations that we need to get rid of to free ourselves from our own constraints and stresses. We also talked about a version of the very popular english phrase “treat others as you wish to be treated” and how, as long as you walk into a situation being your happy self, it is more likely that the people around you are most likely to reciprocate your mood and actions. And without realising it, we’ve managed to increance the chances of having more fun and coming away from the experience fulfilled.

Therefore, in a whole bunch of words that I’ve just typed in my exhausted state, today is a day that shows and teaches us to be ready to change and adapt to the various challenges and new experiences that come. As soon as there is expectation, we are creating boundaries, and there’s no need for them! We are great people as we are and even though there can be language and cultural barriers or just being different people, let’s head into everything feeling bold and full of life. Everything Dóri and I spoke about has left me thinking about it all non-stop so I could keep babbling but as it’s quarter to eleven in the evening… I’m going to call it a night.

I hope this inspires some of you. It may resonate with those who’ve moved abroad for any period of time more than those who reside in the own countries… But none the less, as the Koreans would say, “fighting!” (which translates (in my opinion to be “let’s do this!” )

Lots of love,

Xo.

If you want to read about the whole journey so far from the very beginning of the Chinese New Year… http://wp.me/p566Mh-C2

初五: day five of my ‘hóngbāo’ adventure

If you want to start from the very beginning of the Chinese New Year… http://wp.me/p566Mh-C2


 

Today, the 12th February, is a cloudy and cold day in Nottingham so leaving the vicinity of my cost and warm bed to start the day at 7:30am felt like a challenge already. Nonetheless off to campus I went and realised that I didn’t have a chosen person for my ‘hóngbāo’ (red envelope) today. Nooooo! I had wanted Mark, a classmate of mine, to do it but seeing as it was his birthday yesterday and he hadn’t shown up for mandarin, I knew I had to re-think…..

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It’s the fifth day of the New Year and traditionally it is known as ‘破五节’ (pòwŭjié) which means that the taboos during the Chinese New Year period can be broken. The rules such as ‘don’t sweep the house’ are lifted and people return to normal daily routines. It is also considered the birthday of the God of Wealth or Fortune. Therefore, on the chance that the God may visit the family home, a massive feast is cooked. It is very common to eat dumpings ‘饺子’ (jiăozi) rather than rice as they resemble the Chinese ingots. Ingots are the ancient currency used until the 20th Century in China, they resemble little Chinese-style hats. (and are in the image above). Some say that women are not allowed to leave the house as it is bad luck on this particular day, but other sources claim that they can leave but for too long in case they miss the God’s visit.

Now onto my little quest for people’s advice and life lessons…

This time I chose my Spanish Translation Lecturer who has the joy of seeing me for three hours a week: Jean Andrews.

Jean Andrews
Jean Andrews

Never give up (on your dreams)

Compared to yesterday’s advice, this is short and sweet, and I love it. Jean is a professor at Nottingham University and is an inspiration to me in a sense that her vocabulary is AMAZING. Her study and knowledge of translation is vast and the way she commands the attention of students in a lecture is fantastic. To me, it is obvious that she was not one to give up. This shows that regardless of the little challenges and hurdles we have to navigate over on our journey of life, being stubborn and sticking to the reason we made our choices in first place is not going to turn out wrong of us. It may not turn out as expected however, in a strange inexplicable way, will become what we want.

I don’t want to say too much about this advice because I feel I would repeat myself and ruin the simplicity of the phrase ‘never give up (on your dreams)’. So, live and breath it everyone!

I hope you all have great weekends and let your feet up for a bit… and enjoy Valentines (and Anti-Valentines if that still exists) if you are celebrating. ❤

Lots of love,

Xo.

 

Year Abroad: Relationships & Friendships on Exchange

I would say that one of the biggest worries about going abroad is that of our relationships. Even coming back with only one year to go it is a small weight on our shoulders. I refer to the friendships we have had for a long time, those made at university and any relationship we are possibly in.

It is scary to have to leave all that behind to go off to an unknown place where we won’t know who we’ll meet, what will happen and what our lives will look like in six months or a years time. For some, who have been together for ages or are more accustomed to long distance anyway seem to have a higher chance of staying together but is that true? I think it’s safe to say many young people ‘google’ “will my relationship survive the move to uni?” “Is long distance possible?” as if their questions will be directly answered with the top result being: “yes [insert name], your relationship will (or not) survive and you’ll be very happy together!” 

And despite our small ounce of hope, we know that we will never know the answer until we’ve lived it. As a saying goes: “life can only be understood backwards, but it is meant to be lived forwards.”

The first hurdle all of our relationships have to leap over is the move to university. For me, most of my friendships have survived and I’m still very much in touch with a few who I’d now say are friends for life (unless they meet a replacement much cooler than I in the near future…. Kidding). My relationship also survived. We had only been together a year but we gave it a go and succeeded. It was long distance (UK version) – him in London and I in Nottingham – but taking turns to see each other almost every other weekend worked magic and we were happy. We communicated a lot every day on WhatsApp which kept us as close as ever.

So there’s advice #1: forget the distance and just tell them everything you would as if you were both back home; whether you do it on messaging or during your phone calls doesn’t matter. Social media makes it *so* easy these days (compared to the past anyway).

My advice #2 is to make the effort to see them. If it is possible, set a rough date or arrange a time where either they can come out to see you or you go back to see them. If you’re really lucky then do both! For us UK lot, this is a lot easier if our exchange program is based in Europe… Outside that, it does get a lot trickier. 

Advice #3: although it sucks that you can’t be with them all the time, enjoy the fact that you have someone that you will see (eventually) and have to talk to whenever and wherever you are.

I think the foundation that holds up the relationship is how you feel about one another. No doubt everyone knows that. You gotta love ’em for it to work. 

This is where it changed for me. I was one of those googling about relationships abroad, desperately trying to find a site or post that would explain everything to me. I wanted someone to tell me exactly what to do, why I feel what I feel so I didn’t feel so alone about it. I started the year of 2014 utterly fearful that my relationship wouldn’t survive… Little did I know that my heart had a different plan to what I had anticipated. I had said that I wanted to fight for our relationship no matter what. However, it all built up towards the end of the year and led to me choosing to do the exact opposite: to end it. I am certain that I was in love with him during the three years were together but it turns out we aren’t meant to be. I rationalised it and thought over it a million times, questioned my heart, tried my best in hoping that I was just having a weak spell because I was not home but, sadly, no.

But sometimes it’s even scarier to feel numb, to feel stuck, to feel the desire slipping away.

It’s easy to explain why you adore someone, or why someone’s good for you. It’s harder to describe why those old reasons aren’t enough anymore. It’s hard to explain that to your friends, and it’s often impossible to explain to your partner. Sometimes, it’s hardest to explain to yourself because you don’t want to be the person who admits that it’s over first.

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With this, I finally admitted that I had fallen out of love. My gut instinct knew that and my head had to accept it. This wasn’t necessarily by fault of him nor I but a culmination of many things. My year abroad has definitely changed me, what I want to life and how I feel about things. And above all, I felt the need to do the cliché thing and “find myself”. Despite how much it hurt to say goodbye to the lifestyle that I had when I feel to Canada to start 2015 with my family, I knew what I did was right. This isn’t written to say that long distance relationships are doomed to fail. There are so many that have survived across the world that we don’t know about. It is easy to ask google about it all and just find forums where one in eight people have a surviving relationship. Thus conclude that the odds are not in many people’s favour.

I have two friends now who have decided to have a long distance relationship having only met and known each other in exchange for five months. One lives in America and the other in South Korea yet they make it work. It is adorable. I think it’s fantastic that they are together because relationships on the exchange are so different. Normally the quote goes, “what happens on exchange stays on exchange” but in my friend’s case, it has kept going! 💖

Basically. Expect the unexpected. Keep in touch. And milk the entire experience for what it is worth!

Xo.