When We Were Young

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I am sometimes asked if I am married or have children. When I say no, mostly to friends of my parents, they would feel sorry and occasionally would try to set me up with sons of their distant relatives through my parents. They seem to believe I would make a great wife and mother, “she’s so smart, their son will go to the best university!”

In fact I was with a man for almost 6 years, before we broke up earlier this year.

We met in college, in a class about database systems. I was 20 and he was 31, we were poor but we were in love. We moved in together when we had been together for six months. After we graduated from college, we moved to New York City. Brooklyn first, then Queens.

We were happy together most of the time. It was the type of happiness that we could sit next to each other on the couch and code, for hours without uttering a word. And felt happy.

Then he got his dream job. It was the job he had been preparing for the past decade. He was happy. I was happy for him. The job was in another city far from New York. So we broke up and he moved away.

It can be awkward to describe this ending to people I don’t know. They tend to ask follow-up questions: “Why didn’t you just get married and move with him?”

“Why didn’t I?” I ask myself.

The answer is: many reasons. Because I was 26 and unsure how long the relationship would last. Because I wanted a career for myself. Because neither of us believed in marriage and we wanted to be adventurous more than we wanted to be married. Because I needed a work visa sponsorship and it was unlikely to find a company that sponsors in a small town, and I was too independent and embarrassed to get married for a green card.

But I don’t say any of these things. What difference will it make? We were in love and we wanted to set each other free. So we did.

Marriage and children. I got asked more often in Latin American and in China than anywhere else. My grandmother once asked me, if I don’t get married and don’t have children, what happens when I get old? And what happens if I get old and then get really sick? Who is going to be there to take care of me?

My grandfather passed away and my uncle had been a criminal and a disgrace to the family. I wanted to ask her where was her husband and her son when she got sick.

“But don’t you like children?” someone will then ask.

No, I don’t like children. In fact, I often reply with, “Tengo la discapacidad de sentirse amor ni compasión a los niños. (I cannot feel love or compassion towards children),” as honest and matter-of-factually as admitting “I’m vegan” or “I drank 3 cups of coffee this morning.”

I understand the financial and legal benefits of being married, like there’s higher deduction for couples filing a joint tax return, and there’s no surcharge for an additional driver for a rental car. But should we get married simply because of these? I’m certain there are successfully and happily married people, but I think marriage is slavery. We are in this world to love, not to enslave each other.

I recently found out an old friend of mine had been depressed and suicidal for the past year. He was in a long term relationship and had a good job, and I had thought they were happy. But you can never know what goes on between two people by looking at their Facebook updates.

Later in the year I met another man. We could not be more different and there was a bigger age gap, as much as I was 4 when he graduated high school. In front of such a man it is hard not pretend to be who I am not, or the most perfect version of myself.

I am still unsure.

I think love is like feeling your way through a dark tunnel; you have to get your hands dirty. If you hold back, nothing interesting happens. At the same time, you have to find the right distance between people. Too close, and they overwhelm you; too far and they abandon you. How to stay in the right distance? I think I still need to figure this out.

After 27 years, I still want to have my life for the unexpected.

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Arabic Class Updates

I guess I cannot sustain a 4 hour sleep per night too long. I was exhausted after my Arabic class, so I decided to Uber home. My uber driver happened to be Pakistani, so we exchanged some simple greetings in Arabic before I dozed off. Arabic remains one of the hardest things I ever attempted to learn so far, and I still struggle.

Una Pequeña Lección

El otro día escuché un podcast sobre la vida de los inmigrantes indocumentados en Estados Unidos. En este podcast Recién Llegados de Radio Ambulante, la periodista visitó a una escuela en California para los estudiantes extranjeros que han llegado hace poco tiempo.  Y me acordó un encuentro con un chico joven guatemalteco.

Cuando estaba en Guatemala, después de saber que estoy viviendo en Nueva York, el chico Eric me dijo que uno de sus amigos también hizo el viaje cruzando México para venir a Estados Unidos, y ahora vive en Long Island. Le dije que sabía el viaje atravesó del México es muy peligroso, y me dijo que sí, por eso finalmente él no fue, y consiguió un trabajo en Guatemala. Me contó los esfuerzos de su amigo, que tiene más hermanos para apoyar, y con su nivel de educación, hay muy pocos trabajos en su región, y por eso no había otra salida.

De pronto la conversación con Eric me dio cuenta de que estoy privilegia. Y la verdad fue una pequeña lección de humildad, porque con la mejor intención yo quería relacionarme con ellos, solo pasé mi infancia en pobreidad y la mayoría de mi vida es cómoda y próspera. El privilegio de ser la hija única, de haber estudiado inglés desde pequeña y recibir una beca para estudiar en Estados Unidos. Parece que obtengo todo lo que quiero fácilmente. Aunque no soy estadounidense, mi país China también es cada vez más fuerte en su economía y reconocimiento del mundo.  También el privilegio que yo ser la raza asiática por parecer más pacífica o más inofensiva, que hace que no me detengan como lo detuvieron a Eric y los otros de América Latina.

I was robbed in Guatemala City

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I was robbed today a little while after taking this picture. It was about 2pm in the afternoon, a bright sunny day. I was in Zona 10, right under the Torre de Reformador, at exactly this location. I was waiting for Uber with my phone in my hands and two guys on motorcycle stopped by me, grabbed my phone quickly and went away.

I’m glad at least I’ve synced my photos with Dropbox whenever I can, so I can post this one from my computer. I only lost a couple photos from Museo Popol Vuh. Now I need to either buy a cheap digital camera or a single use film camera, as I’m leaving for Tikal tomorrow. While it is not my intention to speak about the relative safety of other third world countries, except to say that I did not experience similar events in my recent trips to China, Mexico and Honduras. I feel that most Guatemalans are nice, friendly, and honest people who would probably be more enraged what had happened to me in their country than I was. I’m simply sharing this information and hoping other travelers who also plan to visit or already in Guatemala to be careful.

For The Love Of The Long Run

I signed up for an Ironman 70.3 yesterday and was in denial for the rest of the day. What have I done?

Even though I’ve been running for more than a year, I barely know how to swim freestyle and I don’t even own a bike. I swam a lot in college but my background is in breaststroke. As for biking, my background is none. I rode a bike to school when I lived in Japan. But it was a commuter bike with no gear, and I have no knowledge of how to fix a bike either. Something even worse is that I actually hate indoor cycling: went to my first SoulCycle class two years ago and left half way because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

An old Chinese proverb says that sometimes people are brave because they are ignorant (无知者无畏). And I’m sure that is my case. I don’t know what it takes to complete an Ironman 70.3 so I thought it’s manageable.

Perhaps this is insanity at its purest level.

The real  reason for signing up an Ironman 70.3, besides showing off and being insane, is that I always skip cross training in order to do more long runs, because I simply love running anywhere for more than 15 miles. A triathlon will force me into swimming and cross training more, and it enables me to challenge myself while experiencing an amazing, healthy lifestyle. Having to train in 3 disciplines gives me much needed structure while challenging me to be a better athlete every single workout, every single day. I don’t know what had happened but I fell in love with running after my first treadmill class at Mile High Run Club, in May 2015. At the age of 24, I started running for the first time. Within a year of running, I did my first marathon and fell in love with the distance. While training for my second marathon, I had an injury and that led to my first DNS for the Rock’n’Roll Brooklyn Half. Though eventually I crossed the finish line of my second marathon healthy and happy, I don’t ever want to repeat another DNS like this again, so I decided to run less for some time and training for an Ironman 70.3.

Soy

Me di cuenta de que había muchos visitantes de México a mi blog, entonces decidí escribir un poco sobre mi misma.

Soy Daniel Zhao (mi apellido Zhao se pronuncia como Ciao en italiano), nací y crecí en China, y cuando tenía 18 años, me fui a la universidad en EEUU. Tengo licenciatura y maestría en la Ciencia de Computación y en 2012, viví un año en Japón como una estudiante de intercambio. Hablo 4 lenguas con fluidez, son chino (mi lengua nativa), inglés, japonés y español.

Ahora soy programadora, y en mi tiempo libre, me gusta correr, especialmente las carreras a distancia. También me gusta nadar, ir al cine y comer afuera. De hecho, no puedo cocinar y desde hace 7 años, desayuno, almuerzo y ceno en restaurantes todos los días. Me gusta viajar mucho, y mis momentos favoritos de viaje incluyen andar en bici a un faro en Key West, comer smorgasbord en Amish Country, correr el Maratón de Festival Derby de Kentucky, tomar el estrecho tren de Yunnan a Vietnam sin pasaporte, y visitando el sagrado santuario sintoísta de Tokugawa Ieyasu en Nikko, Japón.

26

26.

I was born in 1990 and today I turned 26 years old. But I felt I have been born many times. I was reborn at the age of 18 when I left China for college in a small town in the US; again at the age of 20 when I decided to become a programmer; again at the age of 24 when I had Essure; and now, again.

In between 25 and 26, I became a serious runner and spoke fluent Spanish. I started running in 2015; I was merely bored with my life and decided to see if I have the capacity to do something I always hated, which is running. Then something happened and changed everything. In December 2015 I ran my first half marathon. I signed up for it because everyone I knew on Facebook seemed to have ran a half, and I wanted that as a milestone. Instead during the course of my training, I became the person who studies training plans and discusses them endlessly with friends and even strangers behind water fountains. The night I finished my first half, I signed up for a marathon. Then in the next few months, I signed up another two marathons. Running went from something I occasionally do to who I am.

Spanish is something I always wanted to learn, but never had the resource or time, until I moved to New York City two years ago. I went to the first class at Instituto Cervantes and just kept going. In August I traveled to Mexico City alone and suddenly found that I could understand almost everything. I also went on Spanish speaking day trips with Peruvian and Colombian tourists, went to cheer the Mexico City marathon and made friends with fellow Mexican marathoners, and we were planning to run the Rock’n’Roll half marathon together in Mexico City next March.

I’m a good student and I worked hard: I hardly missed any classes and I always do the homework and the required reading; I took a lot of notes and on Friday nights I would study them instead of going out. The classes were expensive at $580 per course, and that’s about 30 hours of class time. But it was all worth it.

It is this year that I became a new person again, the person not quite who I want to be, but much closer to the goal. I reinvented myself into a runner and a Spanish speaker. I had to, because the person I had been would never have been capable of. In the next year I will probably focus on getting better: run faster and learn to understand more Spanish dialect. And the person in 10 years will again be completely different from who I am now.

人民币上的毛

这个周末要去墨西哥度假10天,于是今天下午我去换了一些墨西哥比索(Mexican Peso)。

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从某种程度上讲,墨西哥和中国其实很相似。墨西哥也是一个历史悠久的国家,是美洲文明的发源地,有辉煌的古典时期。近代同样经历战乱,殖民以及独裁统治,最终成为现在的民主共和国。在墨西哥比索上,有古典时期的哲学家,国王,殖民时期的诗人,近代的革命英雄,总统,艺术家。有男人,女人;有土著人,也有混血儿。我不禁想到,为什么我们的人民币上只印有毛泽东呢?难道中国五千年的历史,到头来只有毛一个人值得印在纸币上吗?墨西哥并不是一个模范民主国家。我们在新闻,报纸上都能读到,它的政府腐败,它的边境上犯罪率很高,失业率也很高 (因此美国有众多的墨西哥非法移民)。但是起码可以从纸币上看到,墨西哥政府对自己国家历史以及文化的尊重。而我们呢?上下五千年,我们有数不清的文学家,哲学家,书法家,帝王以及大臣… 旧版的人民币上起码还有五十六个民族大团结,可是新版的人民币上却只剩下了毛。我真想看看,是不是朝鲜的纸币上只有金家王朝…

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