Friday, August 31, 2007

address & diva demands (not really)

start sending letters now and maybe they'll get there by the time i do
my address until november is as follows:

PCT Angelica Kang
Corps de la Paix
B.P. 299
Thies, Senegal
West Africa

i like letters, photographs, haruki murakami short stories ripped out of magazines, pictures of mike rowe and clive owen and while i'm not implying i expect people to have the time and money and motivation to send me things, these are some of the diva/cosmopolitan things (don't judge me for the things i love!) that i will really miss from my current life and it might be nice on a birthday or christmas or something:

jelly belly jellybeans, new york times crosswords*, demeter fragrance cologne sprays**, soy wax scented candles, trident tropical twist chewing gum, pilot easytouch retractable ballpoint pens (fine tip), current and past episodes of my favorite tv shows***, and dove moisturizing shampoo and conditioner

note that this address is only valid until november 2007 but i'll definitely let everyone and their mom know what my new address is once i find out

thanks in advance for letters and (maybe) packages of love!!!!

*i can't finish beyond a wednesday (not smart enough i guess)
**in gardenia, lavender, or jasmine
***the office, entourage, 30 rock, family guy, american dad, project runway, and america's next top model (guilty pleasure!)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


people have been asking me if i'm excited, anxious, nervous, or whatever and it can get difficult because sometimes i can't even explain it

i don't know what to expect and these days, i am trying to expect nothing
maybe this whole process began on an idealistic and romantic whim (many years ago) of flying off and seeing the whole big wide beautiful world while affecting others along the way

these whimsical and flowery ideas eventually transitioned (due to my education and traveling experiences) into something -- still idealistic -- but perhaps legalistic? theoretical? maybe even slightly militant as i became angry at the injustice making the beautiful world so ugly and marred and diseased

it seemed clear then that change would be created only by participants who would fight, fight, fight -- legally, violently, physically, through words/books/music/art, non-violently -- to win their battle
politics and war deflowered my naive beliefs about the world and how i existed in it

yet i wanted to know more
so i talked and read and took notes and studied and evaluated and assessed and analyzed to the very point where i became sick with the notion that here was the world, bleeding before my very eyes and crying out for help and in my trying to understand it, here i was, inspecting the miserable as if they were lab rats or some kind of case study/social experiment

in studying humanity, i forgot humanity and thereby i put down the books and decided it was time to do
i applied for the peace corps, eager to begin this process of becoming a participant in activating global change
and there was anticipation
quivering excitement
moments of clarity and inspiration
and times i felt that perhaps this was just another way of running away from myself
but ultimately, mostly, i felt passionate, valiant, and confident that this was my time and place and that there was no other purpose for me at this very moment in my life than this
for a while i was chomping on the bit to go, eager for immediate departure
but no, i had to wait
i waited many days, many weeks, many months for this

and now, it is here
just a few dimly lit steps away
and as my hand approaches the doorknob that will lead me to a whole new experience of life and myself (much like alice)...

i feel empty

i have no more expectations
it's as if i've suddenly realized that there is absolutely no way to even slightly comprehend what i am about to do, so why try?

i don't think this is a bad thing but it is rather odd, rather interesting, to feel so void of anticipation in the shadow of such a large event
but i will have to say, i might like it and hope that this will only help me do the absolute best work for this job that i am being sent to senegal to do

i never fully understood what it meant when christians were instructed to be like empty vessels but now i think i am starting to understand...

Friday, August 24, 2007

gratitude and a full stomach

i have to admit, one of the perks about leaving for PC in a few weeks is the sheer generosity i have been greeted with!

when people (strangers and friends alike) find out about this, there has been interesting benefits ranging from having an entire evening's worth of drinks paid for by a stranger (an interesting story) to the loads of food and beer/wine that was brought to my going-away party. i've gotten gifts, cards, checks, free drinks, entire meals; my goodness i feel a little guilty i'm leaving for only two years. these past few weeks i have done nothing but accept the generosity and support from others and i am sooooo incredibly grateful. you all know the way to my heart is through fine food and good drink and boy, my stomach is showing the appreciation. thank you thank you thank you!

for example, tonight my parents took me out to dinner for a a meal of lightly fried silk tofu & cucumber, soft-shell crab (which might just be my absolute favorite food in the world), mongolian lamb, broiled flounder, lo mein, beef stew, and chinese watercress with garlic from hot wok cafe (217 clarksville road, west windsor; 609-716-8983). and of course, we split a bottle of chardonnay. (i wish leanne hadn't missed it!!) i definitely feasted my heart out. (we are good friends with the owners and they always treat us great.) the best part of the meal came when we asked for the check and my uncle kang (same last name but not a real uncle) opened his arms wide and told us it was on the house because this will probably be the last time i see him for a while and he wants to fatten me up for fat reserves.

one of the kindest gestures i have ever received.

a lot of posting lately.
feeling chatty, i guess.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

chinita! chinita!

when i was studying abroad in central america, i could not go one day without being referred to as "chinita." it drove me nuts! ("chinita" basically means "chinese girl" in spanish but is pretty much used to refer to anybody asian-esque.)

the first time (and the second, third, fourth, five-millionth time) somebody called me that (heckled on the street, no less), it made my blood boil. most of my peers couldn't understand why i hated it so much; most of them felt that it was a harmless term of affection. (after all, didn't they go each day being referred to as "gringo" or "gringa"? and ultimately, it was true, wasn't it? i am a chinese girl.)

regardless, every time i was called "chinita," i couldn't help but feel offended and slightly demeaned. for some reason, the word conjured up images of pulled-back eyes, "coolie" caricatures, and over sexualized asian women. thankfully, by the end of my stint in central america (which i ultimately loved despite the attitude of this post) i had learned to suppress my infuriation and had developed the spanish to explain that i was a north american despite my skin, hair, and eyes. yet, i really struggled with this "pet name" and even upon my return to the states, the "chinita issue" plagued me.

why did this term make my skin crawl and make me so angry? what was the big deal? hadn't i had my entire life to deal with being labeled?

this past week, the new york times has published a series of articles titled "new power in africa" chronicling the new social phenomenon of the increasing presence of chinese in africa. obviously i find the timing quite poignant because although i have never stepped foot in china, most first impressions will probably lead to the assumption that i am a native chinese. moreover, a chinese-american friend of mine has been in kenya and has sent email dispatches regarding the presence of asians in east africa and how he is grappling with this. i am hearing the terms "colonization" and "recolonization" often in these conversations and that worries me. i don't want to be seen - even if it is just first impressions and misconceptions- as a colonizer. (and based upon my experience in latin america, asians are already being seen as such there and it sucked being accused of it!)

a few excerpts (from one of three articles though i highly recommend you read all of them):

“We expect a large influx of at least 40,000 Chinese in the coming years,” said Renaud Dinguemnaial, director of Chad’s Chamber of Commerce. “This massive arrival could be a plus for the economy, but we are also worried. When they arrive, will they bring their own workers, stay in their own houses, send all their money home?”

“The Chinese claim to come here as investors, but they are trading just like us,” said Dorothy Mainga, who sells knockoff Puma sneakers and Harley Davidson T-shirts in the Kamwala Market in Lusaka. “They are selling the same things we are selling at cheap prices. We pay duty and tax, but they use their connections to avoid paying tax.”

When the salesman finally left the room, members of the restaurant staff gathered near the door and vented their disgust. “We don’t need people like that to come here and colonize us again,” one said.

after reading these articles, i've begun to rethink my trouble with being called a "chinita" in central america and i'm also coming to the realization that one of the biggest frustrations of my transition into life in senegal will certainly be the chinese thing -- being asked where i'm from even after i've stated that i'm an american (hell, i have that problem here), having children pull back their eyes when they see me, being pestered by "how do you say ____" in chinese, etc.

(for the record: i am not making some kind of rash implication that the senegalese are ignorant and racist; i am building off of previous experiences in multiple countries -- including my own -- topped with the understanding that in areas with less access to education and exposure to the international world, the idea that americans come in more colors than white and black is still rather novel.)

after spending more than a year contemplating my averse reaction to a single word and poring over these articles these past few days, i think i have come to the quasi-conclusion that it isn't that i am ashamed to be of chinese descent or that i have slanted eyes or that there are constant rumors swirling about my people eating dogs and is the simple notion that i have spent a good part of my life trying to be more than just what meets the eye.

i don't want to be remembered as the "asian girl" or the "chinese girl" but as so much more than just that -- even if i have only met somebody for five minutes. i want to be (amongst many things) the girl who fought for justice, the girl who loved to read, the girl who could make a mean shepherd's pie, the girl who would die for her family, the girl who was impeccably gracious all the time (ha!), the girl who exuded confidence and intelligence (double ha!), the girl who was more than just chinese. i think that's why "chinita" made me so irritated; it pigeonholed me and made me feel like rather than build an understanding of who i am, i had to reverse the idea of who i am based on stereotypes, misconceptions, and the sins of some of the people who share a physical makeup similar to mine.

but alas, i cannot strip myself of my physical exterior and subsequently all the baggage that comes with it. this means that i will have to work super hard to battle these first impressions and show to the world that i am an american and not from china, not lucy liu, not an exploitative colonizer, not a commie, not a martial artist but ANGELICA KANG, the fiercest of the fierce and ready and willing to do whatever it takes to change the world!!!

well, maybe now i am just getting a little nutty (it's late!) but basically this conversation between my sister and i conveys what i've been jabbering about:

me: this nytimes article makes me nervous
9:54 AM there is going to be so much to deal with in terms of being chinese AND american AND a woman
9:55 AM Leanne: YES
9:56 AM me: i'm not really looking forward to that part
9:57 AM Leanne: remember, the power in the Spirit
part of how u deal will be your tactfulness and awareness, the other part will just be sheer prayer
pray that they won't see you in those categories, that they will for some reason easily take you in as their very own
9:58 AM and they'll see you as a GIFT

...can i bring my sister with me to senegal?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

lucky me

my family threw me a wonderful going-away party on saturday
there are multiple things to say about this:
(they sound kind of cliche but i swear i mean every single word)

1) i have a fabulous family that shows me time and time again how much they love me, believe in me, support me, and trust me (damn it feels good to be a kangsta)
2) i have a beautiful house, a luxurious life, and ample opportunity
3) i have amazing friends who are willing to travel far and wide to express to me how much they care, one cannot say that often
4) i have somebody watching out for me as it rained the day before and after but not the day of and what more, the day of was the perfect weather
5) i have a lot of leftover beer in my fridgie

deep(er) thoughts to come soon related to the new york times series on "new power in africa" but i'm tired from trying to bike off all the excessive calories i consumed this weekend, so for now some pictures (people like visuals more than words anyway)

that's a whole lot of me (and chicken) and my dad is totally right, i need a new smile
sheesh, i look the same in every picture
a bunch more pictures on my flickr & facebook

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


i came home today with a pounding headache and a chill from the mindless job that i currently hold only to be greeted by dozens of packages and best of all, my staging kit from PC!

so here are the details:
september 10: i fly to hotlanta (atlanta, for you lame-os) for staging (i am also going to try to squeeze in a trip to mecca/martin luther king jr.'s home)
september 10-12: staging aka getting holed up in an overly air-conditioned hotel (i should enjoy it while i can) being stuffed full of information about departure and getting lots of vaccinations and meeting lots of new people
september 12: fly to senegal
september 13: arrive in dakar at the buttcrack of dawn which is also the first day of ramadan which will prove to be an interesting experience (i hear people get uber cranky during ramadan...i don't blame 'em!)

so basically what i'm saying is that you have until september 10 to see me, hug me, love me, feed me, confess you sins & secrets to me, and shower me with affection and love and then i am off and out of your lives for the next 2 years (maybe -- probably -- more)

i think i am suffering from pre-departure mood swings
one hour i am excited, the next i am ready to call it quits, the next i am elated, the next i am depressed, then the next hour i am pumped and an hour later i hate everything
bear with me, por fa(vor)
or, should i say, sil vous plait

Monday, August 13, 2007

easy/not so easy

i was doing a crossword and 32 across was "Dakar's Country"

not so easy:
figuring out how to use the converter with my solar panel aka i plugged it in, there was a "pop,"and then lots of smoke proceeded to waft up into my eyes causing me to freak out and break into a panicked sweat

blast from the past
back in 2005
the "graffiti" has been painted over long ago but whenever i walk through this tunnel i think about how they used to always brighten up my day

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


in unrelated PC news (thank god!),
i (surprisingly) have quite a few friends in minnesota
they all come from study abroad and although we knew each other for only a semester, we all went through a somewhat traumatizing experience together as a group so we still stay in touch
[some of what we experienced was downright traumatic! i.e. the managua dump (pictured, taken by a. peters) i still cannot believe that people - children and infants, even - actually live on those grounds]

they are all okay, thank goodness
and it was interesting to get a point of view from minneapolis
(most of my MN people go to school only blocks away from the bridge and have crossed it thousands of times in their daily lives)
it's been hard to respond properly to this bridge-falls-down news coverage because, well, you know how the media likes to make a big hullabaloo about everything
true to prediction, both friends i spoke to reflected opinion that the entire event has become something of a spectacle
and while it is certainly a great tragedy and a terrible shame,
the media has scurried to begin pointing fingers of blame and instantaneously have turned it into something political

i'm glad i got this dispatch from minneapolis and by no means am i saying that this is true hard fact about the situation
i just find it interesting to hear different perspectives about things

more pictures of the managua dump (all taken by the fabulous ms. peters)
(ask me about it in person)

Monday, August 6, 2007

the things i fear

exactly one month after i got my driver's license, i got into my first car accident
a 15 minute trip to the grocery store suddenly become an ordeal involving the police, concerned parents, an old woman in a fur coat, and a dented gold mercedes (not mine, of course) and i was pretty shaken up
after everything was settled and i was back in the safe confines of my house, my mother asked me if i was ever going to fulfill my errands at the grocery store
i responded with wails of refusal, i never wanted to drive again, and unless she wanted me to walk down route 206, i was not going
she shoved the keys in my hands and forced me out of the house, telling me that if i lived my life in fear, i would never get anything done

this anecdote is not meant to be an attempt to reveal how ironclad my upbringing was, but rather that my parents raised my sister and i to be fearless girls, who did not feel bound by paranoia, timidity, or gender roles
we were expected to advance into life with no hesitations, no fears, no looking back, and no expectations that some prince charming would show up to do things for us

subsequently i do not suppose that i fear many things
sure, i used to race up the basement stairs refusing to see what was chasing behind me or have childlike paranoia about high winds (long story) but i was never truly fearful of anything
there are lots of things i don't necessarily like, but i have never felt the option of letting these things get in my way (i.e. flying in commercial airplanes, eating pork, killing millipedes, getting shots)

even these days, my mother constantly reminds me to fear nothing
that with god & j.c., i am invincible (in a spiritual sense, i suppose) and that regardless of what happens, where i go, or who(m) i lose, i have god and my family supporting me and subsequently, i will never have to truly fear anything

however, as i approach this new stage in my life there are moments of reflection and thinking and over-analyzing and one of the recent topics in my mind has been:
what do i fear?

i may be reluctant about peeing in a hole in the ground or wearing long pants and t-shirts in the dead heat or not speaking the language or being alone in dark creepy nights or being cut off from the modern world or not being able to bathe on a regular basis
but i don't think i necessarily fear these moments because i am confident that in the end, i can champ it out and deal with it (maybe with some bitching and moaning on the side...)

but what is it that i fear?
after all, we are all programmed to fear something
i have come to the realization that my biggest fear in life is LONELINESS
i don't like being alone with nobody but me and my thoughts to taunt me
loneliness is what drove me to a box of petit ecolier cookies (per day!) and endless hours of mtv europe (and subsequently an additional 30 pounds) when i lived in paris
loneliness is what drove me to the string of broken relationships that trail behind me like straggling shadows
loneliness is what drove me to the numerous mistakes and mishaps i made my earlier years of college
loneliness is what drove me to dangerous situations with strangers in e.s. that nearly destroyed my dignity
my fear of loneliness and what i do to appease it drive me to be a silly, (sometimes) insolent, hopeless person and this is what i fear in africa

i fear the nights in which i have no companionship, nobody to talk to, nothing to seek comfort in, and the heart wrenching ache of feeling like you are the only person in the whole wide world
i don't know which came first -- my fear of loneliness or my inabilities to have close, intimate relationships with people but sometimes i feel like i've lived much of my life in isolation
yes, i have some true genuine friends that i don't see myself being able to live without (and i love and appreciate them so dearly) but often times i feel like my existence is much like the moon
that there is a dark side of me that is unexposed and only satellite snapshots have been taken of it,
otherwise, it remains unexplored, mysterious, and perhaps somewhat ominous
maybe it is because i have moved so often or had a childhood shrouded in secrecy or grew up in a homogenous town or maybe it is just my character, but i struggle so much with loneliness, fragmented relationships, and the feeling of being isolated in a world so full of people, chatter, and companionship

i am afraid that in my times of utter loneliness and desperation in senegal, i will be driven to make stupid decisions or to have stupid thoughts and/or feelings or to simply give up
i struggle with communicating my feelings and emotions and subsequently bask in peoples' misconceptions about me which only furthers the loneliness in my life
i am uncomfortable with taking up people's time talking about my personal feelings and therefore, alienate myself from being honest and genuine with people who deserve more than just an idea of who i am

i am quite convinced that the biggest thing i have to fear (and battle) in senegal is my chronic loneliness
and since i have vowed to be completely honest on this blog,
i hope people will understand where i am coming from -- rather than feeling insulted or annoyed at my complaining or assuming that i am drowning myself in self-pity
this is truly my downfall and i am not (yet) entirely sure as to how to deal with it
i just hope the loneliness does not consume me and prevent me from doing what i have been destined to do
(which is -- as of now -- hugging trees and people)

on a lighter note, i went to the beach today and roasted myself in the sun in an attempt to get some color and when i came home my mom thought it wise to point out to me that i have the next two years to turn as dark as i want so why bother exposing myself intentionally to the poisonous sun
point taken
which leads me to wonder...
what am i going to do without my mom whispering wisdom into my ears for the next two years????

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

packing & purchasing

i am realizing quite rapidly that this is not the kind of packing that i can procrastinate to the night before (as i am notoriously known for doing), is it?

picking and choosing what you think will last you for 2 years is a hard task
particularly because - i'm not going to lie - i live by the idea that if i am going to do something, i should look good doing it
not that i have to have expensive clothing or that i am asking to bring a closetful of clothing, but i am a firm believer in maintaining one's personal image and hygiene and so the picking of clothing is quite the meticulous task for me
(i know that this is vanity speaking and who knows if she'll still be around by the end of this stint and subsequently, i am quite grateful for the 80 pound bag limit!)

it is interesting that in order to enter a life of simplicity i have to purchase so many things...from the mundane (blank cds, food storage containers) to the more exciting (solar panel, swiss army knife, my first lonely planeter/backpacker pack!)
i have essentially been on a shopping spree on, cramming my shopping cart full of items and while i am pleased with my skills in finding the best deals, i wince at the growing total and hesitate to "proceed to checkout"

i spend a lot of time wondering if i really need some of this stuff and i've nixed (with much reluctance and inner pouting) a multitude of items from my list i.e. water purifier (i'll just boil), headlamp (i'll pee holding the flashlight between my teeth -- i've done it before! ), crystal light (i'll deal with the taste of chemically treated water), a bunch of my books (with no electricity there's not much hope for night reading)

all of this activity makes me ponder my purchasing power and my role as a consumer and about what it means to have and what it means to not have
there's been an interesting dialogue playing out in my head
(for the record: i don't normally over-think this much, it just so happens that i have the most mindless job in the world which allows me a lot of time for wandering thoughts)

considering how many times i've packed up my life to head out for another, you would think that i'd be good at this but it almost seems to get harder every time