Y, her family, and her friends have all been introducing me to many wonderful foods during my visit in Taiwan.
Yesterday, Y and I joined her high school friends at a popular vegetarian restaurant between Taoyaun and Jhongli. This was a very peaceful setting for our lunch, because it was a traditional style house imported from China. The owner loved the house so much that he bought it, had it disassembled, and then reassembled in Taiwan complete with Buddhist statues. There is no menu at the restaurant. Instead, they prepare a number of different courses each day. Much of the food was spicy including a tiny salad with wasabi and spicy cabbage that we ate with purple rice. I particularly enjoyed the sweet and raw tofu.
After a visit to a local temple where I took many photographs, we all visited Anita’s flat in Taoyaun. After snacking on peacock cookies and shrimp flavored crisps, Anita brought us snacks from a local restaurant. This was my first time eating pork intestines with noodles, stinky tofu, chicken ass, chicken heart, and other fried chicken parts. Besides the smell of the stinky tofu, I loved it all. I am amazed at how we don’t enjoy these kinds of food in the States. There is much that we waste that we should eat. The Taiwanese do not waste their food–not because they are necessarily trying to be efficient, but because these American neglected food parts are so damn good.
My buddy Masaya, who started the PhD program at KSU at the same time that I did, just left Kent for a new job in Japan. He’s planning on finishing his dissertation from home. It is uncertain if Yufang and I will see Masaya again in Kent, but we are planning on visiting him in Japan when we go to Taiwan in the near future to visit her parents (and I get to meet the parents for the first time!).
It seems that we’ve reached that point in the PhD program that those friends we began with will be leaving soon. It probably won’t be long before more of our friends here will be moving away for jobs, too.
The same is true for professors we have grown to count as friends: Masood and Jenny Raja will be leaving for Texas in July.
I guess this is my experience of academia (others’ mileage may vary)–always moving on and always building new friendships. This has happened for me at Georgia Tech, the University of Liverpool, and now at Kent State University. In each case, I’ve kept in touch with friends by email and Facebook, but it feels nearly impossible to stay in touch as well as I would like due to the work that I need to do now (and it is always now that work needs to be done). Will there be a point where I will feel caught up enough to maintain those friendships that are important to me? It’s hard to imagine a radical reconfiguration of my work and personal schedules to really make it possible. Perhaps now, I am better at in-person relationships–that is, good at maintaining friendships when there is a geographical proximity to friends and as distance grows and other means of communicating such as email or the phone are required. The fact is that I have trouble engaging technology to support long-distance friendships even though I am heavily engaged with technology on a daily basis. I realize that some folks are really great at keeping in touch online, and I am very thankful for their efforts. I will have to give it a lot of thought about how to be one of those folks who are experts at maintaining friendships regardless of distance.
To Masaya: Borrowing in part from Garisson Keillor, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch [even if I forget to sometimes].”
Last night at Applebee’s: Dave, Seth, Masaya, me, and Yufang.
Do you know how in a novel a friend of the protagonist may walk back into his or her life after an extended absence–a chance encounter that is happily unexpected. That phenomenon is also a really fun aspect of conferences. While I was sitting in the lobby of the hotel, leeching off Marriott’s free Internet access and writing updates for DynamicSubspace.net, Melissa Stevenson appeared from behind the glossy tile covered column to my right.
I pulled up a chair for her, and we talked a bit about my earlier presentation and other things that we’ve been up to (e.g., she needs to be more careful at Walt Disney World). While I was telling her about my essay, Melissa briefed me on a very interesting article from the early 90s that might be apropos to my discussion of online identity and Internet communities by Julian Dibbell titled, “A Rape in Cyberspace: How an Evil Clown, a Haitian Trickster Spirit, Two Wizards, and a Cast of Dozens Turned a Database Into a Society.” You can read it online here. Dibbell’s work will undoubtedly come into my conversation in the longer version of my essay. Thank you, Melissa!
My wonderful girlfriend, Yufang, drove me up to the Cleveland Airport so that I could catch a plane headed back down south to IAFA in Orlando, FL. I flew Continental Airlines, and I had a First Class seat. Normally I don’t fly First Class, but I waited too long to purchase my ticket and that’s all that was left for non-stop flights between Cleveland and Orlando. However, the price was more expensive, but the First Class experience (my first) was well worth it! I had a spacious seat, three glasses of red wine, a snack that included more wine, cheese, meat, crackers, and cookies (as opposed to just a packet of mixed nuts), and a fellow non-First Class traveler as my next-seat mate (a produce supply chain manager–not sure about his official job title, but it his work sounds interesting–though I had more questions than I was comfortable asking regarding modern farming and displacement practices).
After arriving at the Orlando Airport Marriott, I ran into Lisa Yaszek and Doug Davis who were on their way out to the pool. Later that night, I talked to two long-time IAFA-goers, Tim and Brian, at the opening reception. Then, I ran into Karen Hellekson and Craig Jacobsen, co-editors of SFRA Review. We all moved outside and had an enjoyable talk out on the dock behind the hotel on a large pond. While enjoying the night breeze, Taryne Jade Taylor joined us. If she’s representative of Florida Atlantic’s MA in English, SF and Fantasy track, then they must have an outstanding program! After the first exodus of bodies, Aidan-Paul Canavan lurked into the darkness under the gazebo. It was great seeing him again (he’s in the PhD program at the University of Liverpool).
What a great arrival to the conference–enjoying time with old friends and new!