Friday, August 22, 2008

China, Jai You!

Whatever language I had been faithfully practicing every day in my car to prepare for this move, it was clearly not Mandarin. People have been staring blankly at me, head cocked to the side in a mixture of confusion and amusement and irritation, whenever I've tried my few words and phrases. Embarrassing.

After the deafening cheers in the stands during yesterday's kayaking races for the Olympics, I turned to the Chinese guy next to me and asked him what he was yelling: "Jai you!" He said, "It means, go!" Last night, I asked my friend, Alex, what it really meant, and he explained, "Literally, it translates to 'add oil.'" When you want to win or go faster, you need to add a little fuel. I love that.

So while my family slumbers on this morning, I thought it was about time that I committed my personal resolutions for the next year in China in blog. Here's how I want to add a little fuel for myself! Justina, jai you!
  • Acquire some basic Mandarin language skills! While it's impractical to think that I'll be fluent in Mandarin after a year, I'd like to be proficient enough to have a real conversation. Not just a transaction of information: where is the bathroom? I would like two orders of these dumplings. You know what I mean. Exchange ideas. And really, it would be absolutely amazing to get fluent enough that I could speak with my mom. Have a true conversation with her.

Translation: hire a Mandarin tutor, make sure to get out of my expat compound and practice the language with real people!

  • Write my next novels! So my agent kicked me in the rear end when I saw him in L.A. a few weeks ago, telling me it was time to Get Back to Work. The truth is, after my last book tour which lasted almost SIX months, I was burned out. Absolutely and completely burned out. I took the entire summer off of writing. That's one long dry spell, longer than any I've ever given myself. Even when I was launching readergirlz with Lorie Ann Grover, Janet Lee Carey, and Dia Calhoun, I was writing--and even finished North of Beautiful during our most intense time. As my writer-friends have assured me: I have just been filling my creative well. I think they're right. Now, I am yearning to get back to the empty page and spend hours writing. I have four (count them, four!) book ideas that I've been ruminating over the past year or two.

Translation: commit to writng 3 full days a week and 2 mornings a week.

  • Throw myself into the China experience! My year in Australia with my husband flew. Absolutely flew (except for the first few months when I had to adjust to all the racism...). So I know my time in Shanghai will be fast. I want to get to know the city, the quirky neighborhoods, the secret places to eat and shop. I want to travel in Asia (and have already booked our trip to Bhutan!). And I want to meet the cool, creative people who are changing the face of China now: the architects and designers, the directors and producers and writers and artists, the entrepreneurs.

Translation: set aside a day a week to explore the city. Pick out the places we want to visit in China and Asia. And interview cool people. This is all about feeding my creative well.

  • Take exquisite care of my family, friends, and self! And of paramount importance to me, I want to make sure my family is safe and happy. So I want to do what I can to help my kiddos acclimatize to their new home. (That might mean volunteering at their school as a writer-in-residence since my eldest still--so far!--doesn't have a problem with me being onsite with him. I realize this will change sooner than I like.) One of my very best friends from college lives 10 minutes away from me now in Shanghai! I definitely want to devote some great quality time with my girlfriend. And finally, the big 4-0 has proven to me once and for all that my metabolism is slooooowing down. Must work out. Every. Day. Or I will take on the shape of a round Shanghainese dumpling.

Translation: breathe.

And take new exercise classes: try out tai chi! fencing! heck, racewalking!

Geocache with my family! And just have fun.


  1. All of which sound like great, attainable, exciting goals.

  2. Erin(dd)recently pointed me to your blog. Now I know to be true what others have said about you: energy literally bounces off of you onto others. Really. Your love for life is apparent in every post and it's contagious. Thank you!

  3. Good ideas, all! You inspire me! Miss you. xo

  4. Thanks to all of you for your support! I think this is going to be a year of ups and downs. So I'm glad I committed my goals in print (or in blog). Thank you!!


  5. Jia you, Tina!

    I don't know if you remember, but I made everyone say this at my break-out session at the Washington SCBWI conference where we first met in person. It's a great battle cry!