I guess I got a little gushy, but that’s because I really am grateful that she was the person on the receiving end of my initial email. She’s very generous. This whole thing could have sucked in more than a few ways.
The forced formality of my writing - my attempts to be noticeably normal and intelligent - crack me up.
I feel we approach the world very similarly. I could be wrong, of course, but you seem to be a super “processor” like I am, and like to turn information and situations over and over and over. I’m lucky that you turned out to be who you are – I can imagine that
most other people would either ignore my original email and/or be wildly offended by it, or would just respond very superficially because they didn’t think deeply about the world. Your emails are so insightful and thoughtful. Thank you.
I’m not sure that I like China, but I am fascinated by it. It’s an interesting time to be here, and working with (rich, privileged) young people is very illuminating. They are totally entitled but also incredibly driven, a combination you don’t always find in America, and the population as a whole seems to think anything is possible. Considering what’s happened in the last decade, I think they’re probably right. I certainly don’t agree with a lot of China’s policies and actions, but I am still happy to be here as an observer.
The rumors about my father’s death made it to America, but I always thought it was an accident as well. I was in Ukraine a few years before he died, and it is not hard to imagine something terrible happening on those roads. I could see how someone might have had it out for my father, I guess, because that’s just the place it was (is?), but I know he tried to distance himself from all the corruption. He told me that’s why he
left the bank, actually. He truly wanted to help Ukraine, and he knew establishing a central bank that was corrupt from the start wasn’t going to benefit anyone.
That was such a bizarre time. I was 12 or 13 when he started working there, and I could not have cared less about what was happening in the world.
Though my father was a nationalist, he never taught us Ukrainian or any of the country’s storied history, so I didn’t feel very tied to it, or its future. I was, however,
intrigued by the little I saw of his work. There was a time when our house in Boston was filled with boxes and boxes of the interim currency, Coupones (?), that he helped establish, and I was so confused that he was, as I saw it, inventing money, or value, especially because all that money was valueless immediately. After the Coupones came the boxes and boxes of ballet slippers, which was almost as weird. I dealt with all of this
and the rest of my family’s insanity by becoming goth (of course).
What you said about my father’s attraction to you makes total sense, and I can relate to both of you in that equation. I had many charmed travel experiences when I was younger, and I think it was because I was young and shiny and really excited by the world. I’m still a little young and shiny, but it’s not the same. Part of the reason that I love working with young people is that I’m drawn to the possibilities and freedoms that I perceive them to have. I’m excited for them the way people were probably excited for us when we were younger, and that excitement is just one of many complicated forms of attraction.
I think that my father was probably pretty happy. He didn’t think he’d see the end of Communism in Ukraine during his lifetime, and I think working for Ukraine was something like a dream come true, which is awesome, and enviable. I think his happiness was hard for my mother, however, and was probably a big part in her gradual slip into alcoholism. She felt he left her for Ukraine, I think, and I think she feared that he didn’t miss her. He was so busy that it’s possible that he didn’t have time to.
As for myself, I am not particularly happy at the moment, but I am actively trying to change that. I don’t want to teach anymore, so I didn’t renew my teaching contract in America, but I have no plans beyond teaching in China this summer. I’m in China not because I want to keep teaching, but because I’ve always wanted to live a lot of my life
abroad, and I realized it was high time I got the hell on that goal. I am working on a few writing projects, and though they are going reasonably well, they are probably not going to earn me any money, so I will need to find another career, but I’m not sure what that will be. I’ve found that teaching, even at the college level, doesn’t always translate professionally, so even though I feel totally qualified to do pretty much anything, I’ve had a hard time getting people to agree with me.
It seems like you decided to change paths a little later in life. When I went looking for you, I was intrigued to see that you’re now getting a degree in X. What a cool choice.
I’m enjoying our correspondence and do feel there is a great deal of complicity. Thanks for taking the initiative to get in touch.
Like you, I am fascinated by China. It’s so important to the reality of Vancouver (where over 50% of the population is Asian and there are whole neighbourhoods with Chinese character street signs). I also spent the last 4 years with many young, talented and ambitious students from China in the undergrad Industrial Design program, so I can related to the wealthy, entitled crowd you referred to.
I would love to travel in China, especially to areas where social changes and upheaval are most apparent. But I don’t have the time to do this right now. It would be fantastic to do so vicariously through your eyes. One of the issues that interests me most is an outside perception of a lack of environmental consciousness.
You have mentioned a number of things about yourself. Can I be direct and ask you about your personal life? You mention friends, but no partners or lovers. And your travels in China does not seem to involve anyone else.