Monday, April 23, 2012

Happy Birthday, Thesis!

Today is my thesis' first birthday -- yes, the six-month tormentor of my days and nights has turned one year old!  I know, normally people probably don't remember the exact dates of things like this, but I accept that I am an oddity.  Just for fun, here's what I wrote that day (April 23, 2011) after finishing those last few words:
I'm in a state of shock at the moment.  As of 10:00 am today, the horrible, monstrous, insidious, ill-formed offspring of my feeble mind, also known as my thesis, which has plagued me like a host of ten thousand camels tap-dancing on my shoulders in combat boots, is finally written.  I actually wrote a thesis.  I contributed something original, something on a topic which has not been covered, to the field of history.   
Forgive me while I faint. 
Okay, had to get that out of my system - the faint, not the shock.  No, I'm still in shock.  I honestly never thought I'd be able to do it.  I mean, have you ever considered what actually goes into writing a thesis?  It is no ordinary paper.  No reading a few books and then jotting down what you learned.  For my thesis, I read 62 books, countless journal articles, more than 1,000 pages worth of US foreign affairs cables, more than 2,000 pages of declassified OSS documents, several US presidential executive orders, and a couple dozen newspaper articles.  Oh, and I did that this semester . . . the same semester that I wrote the thesis.  That would be why I am just now finishing the creature. 
It's an odd sort of feeling, looking at the stack of pages that I created.  I'm not sure yet whether to tenderly regard it as my beloved child or as a grotesquely mutilated fetus that somehow survived to make it out of the womb.  I suppose I shall have to reserve judgment until my committee has reviewed the creature.
 The funny part is, even after a year, I still haven't fully figured out how I view my thesis.  I still regard it with half pride and half revulsion.  I am far enough removed from it to now be able to feel a glimmer of appreciation at my writing (I'm not meaning to boast; I just think I did a good job), but I still cringe when I suddenly think of things I should have done differently.  I guess this is evidence that I probably shouldn't go ahead and turn it into a book -- I don't think I'm cut out to be another Geoffrey Wawro.
Jasper "helps" me with research.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

We All Laugh in the Same Language

It was difficult knowing exactly what to pack when I filled my suitcases in preparation for China last July, although I did pack with considerably more knowledge and foresight than I had back when I packed for my year in Korea.  This time around, I knew well the value of "sacred objects": a treasured teddy bear who has been with me since I was eight, the dragon who accompanied me to Korea, the memory book my Virginia friends put together for me, the afghan my dear friend Rachel crocheted for me.  I knew that any weight those took up in the suitcase was weight well spent.  But what to spend my remaining limited pounds of weight on?

I knew that shoes and clothing would be hard to come by, with my "curvy" American size -- I would have to bring as much as possible.  And necessities like medications, deodorant, and, er, "western-style feminine necessities" were certainly worth the space they took up.  Books were a tragic situation:  I knew there just wasn't room for them, but I also knew I couldn't live my days happily without some Sayers (still not on Kindle, sadly), my Common Book of Prayer, and a couple of other favorites.  My old movies on DVD are valuable stress relievers (and, as I have found over the past several months, Chinese friends really enjoy them).  The rest of the packing was headache-inducing as I struggled to place the appropriate value on all of the things that had suddenly sprung from the woodwork, as it were, and seemed to tapdance about me singing of their various merits.  How to narrow it down?  It was all "just stuff" -- but some of that stuff can really make the difference between a stressed-out Stephanie and a relaxed one.  More importantly, I needed to assess what would hold the most value for achieving my goal of bonding with those around me.

In the end, I made the right decisions this time.  I reasoned that games, though they take up weight and are not used daily, nevertheless spark social interaction and could help in relationship-building with Chinese people.  What better way to bridge a language/culture gap than through laughter?  And so, even though it weighs about five pounds and meant leaving behind several other things that I wanted, Qwirkle made the cut.

Qwirkle is a shape and color matching game that is equally fun and challenging for both children and adults.  Best of all, by its very nature, it is easy to teach to someone who does not speak the same language (or who just doesn't speak it as well).  As I learned tonight, Qwirkle is a perfect game for mixed groups of foreign and Chinese people, kids and adults.

I had been wanting, for some time, to have my teacher Theresa over for dinner.  She took me out for coffee on a Saturday a few weeks back and basically voluntarily gave up about three hours of her time to teach me Chinese (we chatted, reviewed vocabulary, and then played some games in Chinese -- in other words, I had a wonderful time).  I couldn't wait to give a return invitation.  Finally, I had my chance tonight.  I had Theresa, another close Chinese friend Maggie (the one who gave me my first Chinese nickname, 老三), two foreign friends, Edith and Angela, and the kids of another set of friends (Edith was babysitting them).  With such a varied group of people, I was concerned at first about how to ensure that everyone had a good time.  My efforts seemed initially doomed when the local stores suddenly decided to stop carrying the ingredients I needed for the meal I had planned (that happens a lot here).  Fortunately, my creativity rallied at the last minute:

I decided to introduce my two Chinese friends to nachos (I knew the foreigners would be happy, particularly the kids).  Although cheese is not so loved by the Chinese as it is by Westerners, I knew that the two friends I had invited are both fans of it.  And, it struck me as wise to have a meal where people could pick and choose the ingredients they wanted to include, since I was trying to please the palates of two quite divergent cultures and two equally divergent age groups.  Nachos, as I had hoped, were a tremendous hit!

For entertainment, I wanted a game that would let the kids be involved without forcing the adults to pretend to have fun while actually being bored.  Even more importantly, I did not want Theresa and Maggie to to feel uncomfortable -- some Western games can have the effect with Chinese people, if they are not confident enough with their English (Maggie and Theresa are both pretty fluent, but modest).  I wanted a game where everyone would have as close as possible to a fair shot at winning.  Qwirkle was perfect for my purposes!

Since it involves matching colors and shapes, it is easy enough to pick up that explaining the game is easy.  However, there is a lot of strategy involved, which keeps it interesting for everyone.  At the same time, it is simple enough that you can easily keep up conversations while playing.  To make it even more interesting, I decided to add a rule:  if you made a mistake, the people on either side of you got to make a rule for you that lasted until your next turn (for example, having to act like a bird or only being able to speak with an accent).  The kids got MORE than a bit crazy with the added rule, but hey, at least they had fun (their parents are in America at the moment, so I figured something crazy would be good for keeping the missing-Mom-and-Dad-tinglings away).  After the kids left to be put to bed, Maggie and Theresa decided to stay for one more game with me, which was also a great opportunity for them to make me speak more Chinese (ALL of my Chinese friends LOVE to do this).

It was nice to find yet another game that crosses cultures, languages, and ages well.  It always feels great to clean up after a successful evening like this and know no one was excluded, and that everyone had fun together.  These are my favorite moments in China:  when East and West meet together and realize that they are not so different after all.  We all laugh in the same language.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fumbling with Language

I thought, for the general amusement of all, that I would share from my ever-growing list of mistakes I have made while learning this lovely, entertaining, confusing, frustrating, and delightful language (yes, Chinese is all that and more):

What a Difference Tone Can Make!
The undisputed winner of "Most Humiliating Chinese Mistake Ever" is the time that I accidentally said my first (and, hopefully, last) Chinese obscenity.  My friend Linda (who is Chinese) was quizzing me on characters and held up the flashcard that I had written 草 on.  In my excitement at recognizing it, I shouted out "cao" . . . but with the wrong tone. When you say it with the third tone, it's a nice, innocent word that means grass or plant.  Say it with fourth tone, as I inadvertently did, and you make your very closest friend in China turn incredibly pale from shock!  Her eyes widened, her jaw dropped, and she insisted that I, "Say it again, right now, exactly like you just said it!"  After Linda's horror died down enough to explain what I had said, she was able to inform me that I had just discovered the equivalent of the 'F' word in Chinese.  哎呀!

We All Have Our Hobbies . . . 
Another classic is the time, back in the early days when I was just learning pinyin, that my teacher (Jackie, at the time) wanted me to say "I like birds."  With the correct tone, the sentence should be “我喜欢鸟” ("wŏ xĭ huan niăo").  However, ignorantly using the wrong tone on niao turned the sentence into “我喜欢尿.”  To the untrained Western ear, the two sentences sound the same.  But to the ear that knows Chinese, I confidentially informed my teacher, "I like to pee."

I Suppose It Could Be a Legitimate Thing to Study
When I first started with my teacher Theresa, she was asking me what I like most about Chinese, after delightedly discovering how much I love learning this language.  I meant to tell Theresa that I really love to study 汉字 (hànzì), which means Chinese characters.  Naturally, I used third tone on zi instead of fourth and instead said that "我爱学汉子" ("wŏ ài xué hànzĭ"), which actually means "I love to study men."  I don't think I have ever made Theresa laugh so hard!

It's Raining Stephanie
Recently, when telling a friend in Chinese about my experiences with gardening as a teenager, I was relating the tragic experience I had with a beautiful yellow rosebush.  Yellow is my favorite color, and I had been so excited to find this gorgeous plant.  I did everything I could to make it happy and thriving, but the rosebush repaid me by dying.  I meant to tell my friend that the death of the rosebush made me cry, but I accidentally mixed up 哭 (kū) with 雨 (yŭ) -- so, I instead told her that "I rained".  She was quite amused at the mental image.

The Ice Might Get in the Way . . . 
In my lesson with my weekend teacher, Lulu, today, I was supposed to be discussing things that people can enjoy doing in the wintertime.  I meant to say that I really enjoy ice skating in the wintertime, but for some reason, I said "huá shuĭ" instead of "huá bīng".  So, the sentence that came out of my mouth was, "In the wintertime, I often like to go water-skiing."

You Really Shouldn't Eat Those
When discussing food with some (Chinese) friends, I was talking about some of the things that I really enjoyed eating when I lived in Korea.  In particular, I was very fond of the Korean pancakes (not the delightful fluffy breakfast treats that spring to mind; these are a completely differently but nevertheless incredibly delicious type of pancake).  Sadly, I yet again made a mistake with my tones.  As soon as I informed my friends that one of my favorite dishes in Korea was "lăo bīng," the look of confused horror on their faces proved that I had made an error.  "Oh, wait, I used the wrong tones!" I realized aloud.  "I meant to say, lào bĭng."  "Oh, good," one of my friends laughed.  "I am so glad to hear that you do not like to eat veterans!"

Perhaps I Should Just Make My Own Language!
And then there are the times when I get all the words right, but I just can't get the grammar correct.  When checking over a short story that I had written entirely in Chinese (my first such attempt), Lulu suddenly laughed aloud.  As it turned out, I had used Chinese words with perfect English grammar.  Smiling, Lulu remarked, "You know, Stephanie, you and I are so much alike.  I speak very good 'Chinglish' and you speak very good 'Englinese'!"


I was caught off guard recently when three different friends all used the same word in describing my life here in China.  They all said that I had made sacrifices to be here.  At the time of each conversation, I didn't quite know how to respond adequately or appropriately -- I think I express myself much better in writing than I do verbally.

I adamantly do not view life here as sacrifice.  Is there hardship?  Sometimes, but it isn't privation of any sort.  Emotionally I have gone through quite a bit these past nine months, and yes, all of those things are difficult to handle alone and so far from the sources.  I struggled tremendously with guilt during the worst part of Mom's illness, wondering how I could stay here while she was left without a daughter to care for her -- but at the same time, I was following the clearly marked path that I saw God leading me down, and also honoring my mother's wishes; there just was no other course to take.  I've struggled recently with some of the other bad news coming in from stateside, coupled with some issues here.  It's hardship, it's baggage, it's weight; in my crasser moments I refer to it succinctly as "crap."  Sometimes things make me cry.  Recently, things made me angry (a rare occurrence, so I didn't quite know how to handle it).  But I don't think it warrants the title "sacrifice".

To me, sacrifice is so much bigger and deeper.  It involves tremendous loss.  I've lost things, yes, and the losses of some things do hurt (like Eowyn, St. Timothy's, the close involvement with Lantern Hollow Press, Inklings III, freedom in some of my decisions).  But I haven't had to give up anything essential.  And I feel like I have gained so much that to call coming here sacrifice is almost an insult to God.  I've been given so much, even when I'm spending a few weeks weighed down with situations beyond my control.  I know that my previous two posts lacked my usual joy, but even in the dark cloud I've been inside lately, I've still known that I am blessed to be here.  It's a gift, not a sacrifice.  I know that the people who have called it that have meant well, but I really stiffen at having such a significant word applied incorrectly -- it just seems like a slight to the people who really do make sacrifices.

Jesus's work on the cross was sacrifice.  God sending Him was sacrifice.  David Brainerd working himself to death at age 29 was sacrifice.  Taking a bullet meant for someone else or giving away your last dollar to feed someone else or living in a leper colony in order to care for them -- these things are sacrifice.  I don't think that sacrifice always needs to involve death necessarily, but it does need to be pretty earth-shattering, in light of precedent.  Moving to China to teach my favorite subject to extraordinary students and show love to the most gracious and loving people I've ever met -- that's just not sacrifice.  Having a few tough blows isn't enough to make it that either.  It makes me really uncomfortable to have that word applied to my situation.  I know that most people stateside have a very different view of China; please, please let this post convince you that life in China is not a sacrifice.

To the three dear people who have used that word with me recently -- please don't feel censured; I understand what you meant even if I stumbled about in a verbal confusion when you first said it.  But my life here is not sacrifice.  I may have spent 26 years not wanting to ever set foot NEAR China, but it only took a few months to change that.  I am exactly where I want to be.  I've been given the rare gift of having my dream come true, even though I never knew it was my dream.  I am honestly very happy, even when I'm sad.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Where Have All the Outlets Gone?

I think I've partially solved the mystery of my increased headaches (besides the two health issues):  it's the lack of outlets for my stress and emotions.  While I have always been a person who actually thrives, to an extent, on stress, here I have encountered a situation never previously dealt with:  my primary outlets for stress are completely gone.  Additionally, I have dealt with a considerable amount of emotion here, something I am not generally comfortable with or welcoming to (I generally completely avoid anger, and I have a similar response to sadness and grief).

My biggest outlet was always the presence of a pet, usually a dog.  In fact, I have only spent two years out of my entire life NOT having a dog (not including this almost-a-year in China).  I never realized just how much that meant to me until now.  I wondered recently how I coped with loneliness in Korea, since I was so isolated in Gyeongju.  The answer is Jasper.  That furry darling got me through a lot; I don't know that I would have made it through grad school without him and, later, Eowyn.  But here, I've had to give that up.  I dream at night about Jasper and Eowyn, and I often wake up feeling a sense of emptiness at their absence.  In the past, empty apartments never felt so empty as this one does now.  Some days I almost dread the apartment, knowing that no one furry is waiting with wagging tail to greet me.  During the difficult emotional times, such as now, the apartment almost feels like a prison at some moments.

I also have greatly missed my jewelry-making, though not nearly to the extent that I miss having a dog.  When I was packing for China, I wanted to bring my supplies, but since I had no idea what situation I would be entering, I was afraid to bring too many things that would have to be carted back to America if things didn't work out (clothes can easily be disposed of, but not all belongings are so easy to part with -- a lot of money went into my jewelry supplies!).  On the bright side, I'll at least have these things when my parents come to visit in two months.

My third missing outlet is a bike -- what a difference that made in Korea!  Riding past the tombs, the rice paddies, the temples . . . it was rejuvenating.  I have thought about buying a bike here, but being more in a city than ever before in my life, I am uncertain about the quality of rides that I would have.  Somehow I can't imagine gaining quite as much relaxation from back alley streets as I found pedaling past cornfields in Michigan, the river in Gyeongju, the flowering dogwoods and Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia.

I've made studying Chinese an outlet here, and it does honestly help, but I think I really need to find another outlet as well, one that perhaps uses my mind a bit less.  My writing, at present, just adds stress -- the more I read through and edit Sídhe Eyes, the more I grow to hate what I have written.  At present, I am thoroughly convinced that my novel is the most uninspired and nauseating piece of drivel ever written.  I'd love to step away from it, but I can't let down the rest of Lantern Hollow Press.  And honestly, I do want to publish the thing . . . I just kind of want to burn it first.  I keep hoping that it will turn out like my thesis -- I spent the whole time convinced I had written something completely bush-league and pathetic, but when I recently reread it, I was actually a bit impressed (I even, I will admit, briefly again entertained the thought of expanding it into a book -- delusions of grandeur, I know).

I guess I'll just have to keep searching until I find that perfect outlet for life in China.

Any suggestions?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Standing (almost) Alone

"Stand up for what is right, even when you stand alone."

My fourth grade social studies teacher had this statement on a poster hung amidst a myriad of similar mantras in her classroom.  I recall that the words overlay a photograph of a man standing dramatically erect in an obvious sea of disapproval.  Although the image was cliche enough that I don't recall it clearly, the sentiment has stayed with me all this time.

I had to live out this statement earlier last week; I have seen something all year which is horribly wrong and which I have fought against constantly.  The sheer frustration at people who should know better behaving in such a callous, inexcusable fashion built up until I suddenly found myself speaking out about it, trying desperately to hold back emotion and avoid inadvertent insult.  I didn't want to cause hurt or anger, I didn't desire confrontation; I just knew that if I stayed silent, I was as guilty as the rest of them.  I needn't have concerned myself:  my words were "water off a duck's back" as they say.  Nothing changed; the people who are most to blame in this either ignored me completely or showed me the cold shoulder.  Conversations in the days to follow proved that my stand accomplished nothing; apparently this situation is not even on the radar for the people creating it.  And that, to me, is the ugliest fact of all.

Was it worth it?  Yes; I can answer affirmatively without hesitation.  It made no discernible difference, I regretfully have to admit.  I suppose I didn't really expect it to -- this cancerous behavior is too engrained at the moment.  Definitions and morals will have to change before this situation can be resolved -- and the message is just getting completely blocked out by other, more frivolous concerns.  However, I can sleep with a clear conscience because I know that I TRIED.  I spoke out.  I didn't blindly accept something that I know to be wrong.

It's been difficult because I want so much to like every person I meet and to think the best of him or her.  But when you consistently see people content to behave in a hideous manner towards other people, perfectly content to keep hurting and excluding them, how can you keep thinking the best of the "guilty" parties?  They KNOW better.  They each have an obvious moral compass.  They have NO EXCUSE.  They make excuses, but none of them are valid.

How do you fight against wrong when the people doing it don't view it as wrong?  How do you keep yourself free from the tarnish of their actions?   How do you avoid falling into a self-righteous attitude?  How do you fight against the anger that rises up within you when you see so little impact from words that came from the heart, words tinged with pain at what you witness each day?  How can seemingly GOOD people be so BLIND?  These are the sorts of questions I've been grappling with each day.  They're the tarnish on otherwise beautiful, meaningful days.  I've had to remove myself repeatedly from situations just to keep from speaking out again, this time in anger.  I'm not completely alone -- a few other people share the frustration and the burden -- but sometimes it feels like I might as well be alone.

I've shed a lot of tears lately.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Culture Conversations

A Kind Person
Me:  "Linda, how do I say 'kind' in Chinese?"
Linda, slightly puzzled:  "Kind?"
Me:  "Not zhŏng; I want to know how to say 'kind' as in, she is a kind person."
Linda:  "Oh.  You can say qīn qiè dē."
Me:  "Qīn qiè dē?  Could you write down the characters for me?"
Linda writes out the characters (亲切的).
Me:  "Oh, wonderful!  Now I can thank people better when they are kind to me."
Linda:  "Oh, actually, we don't say that.  You should only use this when you are not talking to them."
Me:  "Like if I'm talking to someone else about a person who is kind?"
Linda:  "Yes, never to the person's face.  We don't say things so strongly."
Me:  "So to someone's face . . ."
Linda:  "You can say hĕn hăo, or maybe hé aĭ kĕ rén, but never qīn qiè dē.  If you say that, they will maybe feel —"
Me:  "Bù hăo yì si?"   (Bù hăo yì si means embarrassed.)
Linda:  "Duì."
Me:  "So maybe I should just stick to complementing Chinese people in English?"
Linda:  "Yes!  Exactly!  You can say as strong as you want to if you do it in English."
Me:  "In that case, you are the KINDEST person I know!"

Western Directness
Me:  "Linda, would you say that I am a direct person?  You know, like a westerner is direct?"
Linda:  "Oh yes!"
Me:  "Am I ever too direct?  I mean, do I ever accidentally seem insulting to Chinese staff here?"
Linda:  "Oh no, no, you are never that way.  You are a very accessible person."
Me:  "Accessible?"
Linda:  "We are all feel comfortable with you."
Me:  "Ah, okay.  So I don't offend with my western directness?  Ever?"
Linda:  "No, because you are not so direct in Chinese.  You only do it in English."

Typical Questions
Lulu:  "One of my students just send me a text.  He wants to know how to say to a Chinese person, 'mind your own business.'"
Me, laughing:  "Oh, did he get asked how much his salary is?  Or how much he weighs?"
Lulu:  "Yes, probably.  But you can't answer that way!"
Me:  "Ah.  Yes, we find those questions rude in America.  We don't think it's polite to ask things like that, especially to ask a stranger those things."
Here the conversation went on in Chinese, since this was, after all, during one of my lessons.  However, for the sake of my readers, I'll record it in English.
Lulu:  "In China, it is not rude; it is okay to ask the questions if it is an older person."
Me:  "Yes, I get asked those questions often, too often!"
Lulu:  "How do you answer?"
Me:  "Oh, I have an easy solution.  Any time that I don't want to answer a question from a Chinese person, I just say, 'tīng bù dŏng' and pretend that I don't understand Chinese."
Lulu, nodding:  "Yes, that is a very good method."

Double Words
Lulu:  "So sometimes we say the word two times, like cháng cháng or kān kān."
Me:  "Yes!  How do I know when to do that?"
Lulu:  "There are usually three times when we do it.  First is when it is a suggestion or maybe not so much.  And second is if you want to have a try, maybe not definite about it."
Me:  "Okay."
Lulu:  "And sometimes we just say it because we think it sounds better.  Because, you know, when we speak Chinese we usually want to use two characters instead of one."
Me:  "Why?"
Lulu:  "Just . . . because.  Actually, I am not sure why exactly we do it."
Me:  "So in other words, you do it just to confuse poor westerners who are trying to learn your beautiful and thoroughly frustrating language?!"
Lulu, laughing:  "Yes, probably."
Me:  "I KNEW it!"
Lulu:  "So we use those three ways for putting the word twice."
Me:  "I'm never going to understand this, am I?"
Lulu:  "Probably not."

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Back at Last

After a three-month absence, at last I am back to blogging!

It has been a difficult three months, to say the least.  I don't like to let myself dwell on negatives when there are always positives that one ought to focus on, but here are three of the "yuck ducks" I've battled recently:
  • Headaches every day for the past month.  And I do mean every day.  Up until this past week, about 4-5 of those headaches were migraines each week.  It was exhausting and miserable trying to work through the pain, but I really had no other option -- I can't just quit when my body gets in the way.  I got quite frightened at one point, wondering if perhaps my two little aneurisms had decided to grow up and cause trouble.  During the worst of the migraines, I would huddle in my bed and worry that it was a brain tumor (believe me, migraines make even the most illogical things seem perfectly logical and likely).  I greeted each new day with dread, knowing that it would only be a matter of time before that day's headache arrived.  I finally broke down and went to the doctor, and I am now trying to make some changes to improve my condition.  I'm still having headaches each day, but it has been a full week since my last migraine.
  • My closest friend here in China had to leave, owing to visa problems.  This is her story, not mine, so I won't go into all the details.  We spent the past week in Hong Kong trying to get another visa for her and had the sudden surprise ending of her having to temporarily return to the USA instead of getting a visa -- I didn't see that blow coming.  It's going to be lonely without her.  
  • For one terrifying week, my MacBook died and appeared to have deleted everything on it.  EVERYTHING . . . including my only (at the time) copies of my master's thesis and my 310-page completed first novel.  It was my most emotional week of 2012, believing that I had lost the only two impressive achievements of my life.
And, for balance, three of the "yay ducks":
  • I was able to restore everything on my MacBook, so nothing was truly lost.  And, now everything is backed up as well.
  • I can now read more than 800 Chinese characters, after only eight months in China.  Although I'm a little proud of this, I'm also a bit disappointed with my recent slow progress (owing mostly to the headaches).  I had set a goal of 1,000 characters by my upcoming birthday, which means I need to speed up the learning process if I am to make it.  I did, however, have one achievement today:  I finished writing my first short story entirely in Chinese characters.  It's nothing great, of course, but I am pretty happy that I managed to do it.  I can't wait until the summer, when I can work on writing a much longer and more complex one!
  • I got to go to Hong Kong this past week (for spring break; blog post about it coming soon)!
"Passage—immediate passage! the blood burns in my veins! Away, O soul! hoist instantly the anchor!
Cut the hawsers—haul out—shake out every sail!
Have we not stood here like trees in the ground long enough?
Have we not grovell’d here long enough, eating and drinking like mere brutes?
Have we not darken’d and dazed ourselves with books long enough?

Sail forth! steer for the deep waters only!
Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee, and thou with me;
For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go, And we will risk the ship, ourselves and all.

O my brave soul!
O farther, farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! Are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!"

~Walt Whitman, "Passage to India"