I miss the amenities of home - being able to go and buy my own food, make my own food, come and go as I please, and just feel in charge of my life.  I had a dream the other night that my grandma was living here; I was elated to discover this because it meant I could move in with her and take care of myself again.  Staying at Marylin's is something I wouldn't say that I'm struggling with per se, but I certainly am having some trouble with it.  There's a sense of freedom in being responsible for taking care of myself.  I'm used to doing most household chores myself and now and it's weird to have food cooked for me, my clothes washed for me, and my things cleaned for me.  It makes me feel too much like a guest.

Today was refreshing because I took it upon myself to wash some items, but I still feel strange whenever I'm in the kitchen, so I'm certainly not about to pull out a pan to cook myself something.  Instead, I bought myself some salad and fruit to eat, but since I spend most of my time at the office, I'm keeping them there.  My eating habits don't match up with any traditional method or what people tend to do (however many meals a day) - I like to snack throughout the day and have one or two larger meals, but mostly just be munching every hour.  That's a lot harder to do when the food is offered up and then it's expected to be cleared away after a certain period.

I also like to wander around outside or drive around, which is not exactly an option for me here.  I suppose I could always go downstairs for a stroll or a swim (I wonder if I need a special key for entry?), but I feel bad making someone open the door for me whenever I get back.  It's difficult to find a good balance between doing what I want to and also not getting in the way or being an inconvenience.  I tend to think everything I do is disruptive except for staying in the room, out of everyone's way.  And so that is what I do for pretty much 90% of the time that I am here.

It's an unfortunate combination of factors working here.  For one, it's not worth it to move to my own place - I'd end up paying to be here and I don't want to dig into my savings (or my parents' generosity).  Yet, staying with her poses a myriad of conundrums.  I'm very grateful that Marylin and her family have so generously taken me in, but I feel like I have to tiptoe around everything.  I don't want to use too much of their resources.  I feel guilty every time her mom so kindly buys me lunch that is ready for me when I wake up on the weekends.  I feel awkward asking their maid to do anything, so I try to do it myself, but then I feel like I'm breaching her territory.  I try to stay away from the living room in case that makes them feel like they can't use that space.  I don't talk to her parents very much because I don't want to disturb them.

All these things are nobody's fault, but just unfortunate byproducts of the situation.  I'd much rather be on the other end, offering my home and resources to others.  In fact, I often imagine how things could be when I get back and after we've found a way to get Marylin over there too (and possibly others!).  Of course, everything else I miss about home doesn't help things either.  I've been getting a lot of invites to events occurring on campus and I wish I could be there to attend, as an alumna now.  This weekend is the Festival of Books and it will be the second year that Livescribe has a booth there.  Last year I was there, working the booth as a campus rep, so I wish them another successful weekend!

I'm going to compile a list of all the things I want/should do in Singapore (and maybe nearby countries, if I can make it) and start figuring out when I'll have time to get around to doing them all.  That'll help get me out of the house, see more of Singapore, and keep me entertained.  I shouldn't spend my weekends lying around all day, drinking water incessantly and doing who knows what online.  Sometimes I amaze myself with how I distract myself.  I hope that before I know it, I'll be headed home (though a bit nostalgic and sad to be leaving here).

 
A future unknown 04/23/2009
 

Today, Panda and I discussed our future living situation and it's a good thing that's far down the road!  Though everything else we differ in opinion on can be compromised more readily (like the cat I really want I can "adopt" by going to a local shelter to volunteer with the cats there), where to live is something that is much harder to agree on.  Though I think I would like to end up living in LA, I also can't imagine not finally getting around to living in a few of the places I've been thinking about: Houston, Denver, somewhere in England again...  I've never lived in any city for longer than 4 years and I can't stand thinking about being caged up to one city for the rest of my life.  I move a lot, I experience a lot, and I change a lot.  Ironically though, even though I'm used to change, I don't like the change of having no more change.  Change is what I'm used to and that is what I'm comfortable with.  I like a new kind of scenery, a purging of my life here and there, and plenty of chances to learn from a wide demographic!

On the other hand, Panda is born and bred Californian.  Not only has he never left the country, he's hardly left the state.  He knows LA and he loves LA.  It's hard for him to imagine living anywhere else, ever.  He grew up with the same people pretty much in the same school district his entire life.  He hasn't moved since he was just an infant (other than going to college).  Even the college he chose is close to home and right in the middle of LA.  He's comfortable in that city and doesn't want to leave.  Though he's willing to take trips to visit places around the world, he's just not interested in settling down anywhere else, for any length of time.  His life has been stable, consistent, and reliable.  So why would he want to take a chance and change all that?  It's far easier to keep on doing what he's doing and get a job in the area, raise a family there, and grow old there.  Very predictable.

I have known this about him and it has worried me a bit as I imagined our future together.  It's good that we still have time to change ourselves and perhaps change our minds, but what if we don't?  How do you reconcile two opposite demands?  Just vacationing is not good enough for me.  I want to immerse myself in a new place, which can only be done with lots of time.  So, I was thinking, maybe I could spend a few months of each year in another city and switch the city every few years.  However, I don't like being away from him and I certainly would not want to start a family like that.  Panda suggested that we can try to have two houses, one in the greater Los Angeles area, and one in whatever other city I'm interested in.  That's a good idea in theory, but when would he have the time to join me there?  Being an engineer, I'm sure his work days will be long and hard and the vacation time will be minimal.

Then I was thinking, maybe the company he works for would have offices in the places I'm interested in, so he can request a transfer for a year or two.  After a few of those, we could end up in LA again and settle down then.  Of course, that is banking a lot on the possibility of an office where I want to go and available space.  The type of work I'm doing now seems to (and hopefully is) propelling me towards a life of entrepreneurism and various ventures, which would make my schedule more flexible.  So perhaps I could just wait until he finds a good position and then we relocate.  Granted, this is assuming he'd be willing to go through all that trouble for a couple of years.

As a kid, I got sent on a lot of camps and trips, from annual summer visits to China to swim camps and boot camps (no, I was not a bad child, it was for my JROTC unit and I elected to go).  I like being exposed to different things all the time.  From my upbringing, I tend to get bored of things easily, unless it is always making me see and do things in a different way.  I am afraid that that is going to happen with LA.  I just need some time away, to get out all the dreams I've had before I can feel good about settling down in one place.  Unfortunately, that "time away" can take anywhere from 5-15 years.  Who really knows how things will turn out?  I'm trying not to worry about it right now, since it's still far away, as are deeper commitments with each other.  But, here I am, just about seven and a half weeks into my time in Singapore and I can't stand a day without him.  And much as I appreciate my experience here, I dream of the day that I get to hold his hand again.  How could I ever leave him in LA again and again for years?

For me, when it gets to the point where I know a city inside and out, it loses a lot of its appeal.  It is no longer mysterious, no longer exciting, but suddenly a solved puzzle.  But for him, Los Angeles is his home.  Literally and figuratively.  He's familiar with its areas, its weather, its people.  He knows just where to go to get the food he wants to eat or the things he needs to buy.  At the same time, Los Angeles is a sprawling metropolis with so much to explore and see!  From the famous landmarks to visit to the beautiful places to see, it offers up a whole bunch of options.  I can totally see him staying there forever and never getting bored.  I admit, there is still plenty for me to go see and do, but I've hit up most of the important areas (multiple times) and I'm ready to try something new in a few years.  I still want to go back and establish something there first, but after that... who knows.

As for now, we'll both just have to see if we can break out of the barriers we grew up learning and find some sort of a compromise down the road.

 
 

I was watching a video with clips of an interview conducted overlooking the San Fernando Valley today and it brought up so many memories, particularly of Valentine's Day, when Panda and I had a similar view.  Seeing that, with the California sun and telltale smog, made me miss LA so much.  Not just the memories and experiences from there, but the greater Los Angeles area in general.  From the landscape to the opportunities to the people, there is so much to love.  Between two cities in LA County, I have spent the greater part of the last six years living in Southern California.  I have certainly grown to the love place, despite the hours I spent travelling up and down the 5 and 405, stuck in traffic.  Of course, there is also a slew of terrific memories of all the wonderful things I got to experience there.  Most recently, there was the drive up and down Mulholland Drive that brought about some great new views of familiar territory.  Then earliest on, I had been introduced to many of the main attractions in the area, from Santa Monica Pier to the Hollywood Bowl.

I remember when I first moved out to California, I hated the place.  I was heartbroken from being torn from my high school friends, teachers, classes, and organizations with such little notice (everything happened within a period of two weeks).  I never got a chance to tell people I was leaving, but for a handful of close friends who I saw briefly days before flying away.  Everyone else just started school that year to find me on the other side of the country.  Between having to adjust to a new social life and academic challenges, it was frustrating to also be annoyed on a daily basis by small nusances like the dry weather.  I had to start showering in the mornings and pin my hair up to prevent it from getting too staticy and itching my skin.  It was also irritating to have to slathe on lotion day in and day out, just so my skin wouldn't crack painfully, retricting my activity.  It took my body two full years to finally adjust to the arid SoCal weather.

Once I started college at UCLA, things began to look up as I started to discover myself more and more.  No longer worried about brittle hair or dry skin, I could go out and enjoy myself so much more.  It's amazing how basic physical comfort can contribute so much to quality of life.  College life also brought about so many opportunities, explorations, and new experiences.  Although I had always grown up independent, this offered a different level of freedom, where I could sleep in on days I didn't have class in the mornings or stay up all night hanging out with friends just because.  I also began to learn how to take care of myself, from doing laundry to making sure I ate and slept a decent amount.  Let's not forget that students are offered so many great deals, from the countless groups to get involved in to the plentiful discounts exclusively for them.  Through that, I got a taste of the wide variety of attractions that LA has to offer, from the beaches and mountains to the entertainment centers and museums.  Food from all over the world is more or less offered there as well, though to differing degrees of Americanization.  Overall, it was truly unparalleled exposure.

Even though I'm used to never staying put in one city for too long, I can see myself staying in this one for years to come.  I have always strongly believed that I can make a living in any city, as I have always done.  But, at the same time, there's something nice about claiming a city as my own.  As the one that I know in and out.  As the one I came of age in.  As the one where I found myself.  There's a certain romantic notion about devoting so much to a city and absorbing yourself in that culture.  And of all the cities I've been to, I can't think of another one better suited for my wants and needs.  The only thing I wish was different would be the quality of air.  Every time I see that layer of smog, I can't help but think of how many years of my life I could be taking off just by breathing that in.  In the long run, I can see this being a city I would want to settle in.  However, at the same time, I am still interested in living in other places while I can still move around.  I don't know how Panda feels about that one though.  Perhaps I will just have to take business trips and vacations to the other places I've wanted stay in.

I miss my home.  Not just the house we have, but the friends who are still there and the familiarity of the place.  I feel safe there, surrounded by everything I know and understand.  It has become my element, where I can effortlessly navigate life there.  Plus, I left my heart there.  I can't wait to go back, if only to be able to hug Panda again and return to a place that is mine.