Oberlin Blogs


February 2, 2011

Christine Chang ’13

Today is the last day of Winter Term (or it was, when I started writing this), so I thought I'd sum up what I've been up to. As I mentioned before, I was in Taiwan for part of Winter Term, and filled up the latter half of a journal with stories about my family that I had never heard before. There were also a few anecdotes about myself, told back to me by my sister, who has a much better memory than I do. It's sort of like she's held them in trust for me, and also kind of strange, hearing about your own life (the part that you should remember, because you were old enough to) from someone else. Not only for the different viewpoint, but also because, if you have no version of the event yourself, what really happened? Even if it was your own life, does that story belong to you anymore, now that you've forgotten it?

Also, I've come to the conclusion that, in terms of navigation, Oberlin spoils me. The street layout is so guileless after the first three days of first-year orientation. (Even then, when I head to a class from a different starting point, it takes some concentration to get to the right place. Usually I drift into autopilot and end up in Tappan Square or something when really, I want to be in the environmental building.) So, in those short two weeks in Taiwan, I attempted to lead the way to the same house from the same starting place, and failed all three times despite specific verbal directions from helpful citizens milling about the streets (at some point my sister usually despaired of me ever finding the right street, and hailed the next taxi). It's not even that far between the two places. I am, however, very gifted in going the exact opposite direction from our destination--a supremely reliable anti-lodestone.

My head, on the other hand, has always been a perfect magnet for projectiles, à la basketballs, baseballs, and those acorn flurries that the albino squirrels enjoy raining down like the wrath of... well, albino squirrels.

Anyway, now that I'm back in the States, I'm hiding out in Houston to avoid the Oberlin snow. Don't get me wrong; I love the snow, and I love cold weather, but I'm going to be back in it for the next two months at least, so no hurry. While suffering, acutely, from withdrawal syndrome due to deprivation of "street tea" (namely really cheap jasmine ice tea plus a ladleful, an actual ladleful, of sugar), I've spent the bulk of my time reading to stock up on serotonin before the semester sets in and I won't be able to do much leisure reading. Although a) classes and snow will be fun too, and b) I should probably not invoke neurotransmitters metaphorically if I'm going to major in neuroscience.

The goal is to read 52 books in 2011, but if I reach that I'll go for 100. Here is a screenshot from Goodreads (the addictive site Tess mentioned) with the reading challenge.

Notice the Korean textbook. While actually quite fun, it was nevertheless a textbook, and therefore the activation energy required to read it was necessarily higher than that of, say, a fantasy book. It just goes to illustrate how stuff gets done in either of two ways: as collateral, because you're avoiding doing other things (in this case, violin), or eventually as the main objective, because deadlines are looming--the great motivator of the procrastinating crowd. Winter Term strikes a nice balance with this, letting you focus on one thing with less stress, but giving you a deadline so you won't spend a month perfecting the art of thumb-twiddling.

Responses to this Entry

Activation energy. I approve.

Posted by: Zoë on February 2, 2011 6:10 PM

What a great project! Are you planning on continuing it past winter term?

On the note of family stories (which I love, by the way), we got my grandmother talking on video over winter break about how she and my grandfather met, became engaged, and got married. Those are good good stories.

Posted by: Ma'ayan on February 3, 2011 4:27 PM

Since there are some nuances of language, especially Taiwanese, that I was having trouble capturing on paper, I tried to audio-record my grandmother's stories once...she said it was nerve-wracking, and wouldn't tell me anything else until i turned it off.

Posted by: Christine on February 14, 2011 12:46 AM

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