Live from Chapel Hill, North Carolina

I am in Chapel Hill right now visiting my aunt and uncle (and their son, Albert, whose third birthday is tomorrow). I arrived here with my grandpa two days ago. My uncle teaches physics at UNC, and Shra has been here since 1 July, working at his lab.

We haven’t been here long, but I have visited before and therefore remember enough to not want to venture outside if I don’t have to. It’s not too hot, but it is humid enough that with a short walk the moisture clings to your exposed skin as if you had poured it out of a bottle that morning and rubbed it on yourself, like lotion. Not a pleasant feeling. I get the impression bugs flying at me would stick easily. So I stay inside most of the time, and since my aunt and uncle are both working, as is Shra, and Albert goes to daycare, Gong-gong (grandpa) and I have the run of the house for most of the day. I love this house. I fell in love with it four years ago when I last visited, but I’d forgotten just how different its pleasures are from those of normal homes. The rooms are large and the ceilings relatively high, but what I really love is the feeling of being surrounded by nature. The house is just a short distance from the UNC campus, and the street is right off a main road, but the houses are spaced far apart from one another, and thin leafy trees grow tall and thickly between the houses. The windows are huge and usually left uncovered, since there’s no one around to see us. So you can see the trees from almost every room, and even the sky from many of the rooms since there are multiple skylights. It feels like being in a forest. You can’t see the roads or hear the traffic, so it’s very peaceful, the quiet punctuated only by the sound of birds chirping. At night the denseness of the dark and silence are wonderful. I slept so well my first night here that I woke up before eight local time, completely alert and ready to face the day. Imagine being in a comfortable house, then take that feeling and that house and put them into the sights and sounds of a secluded forest. That’s what it feels like here. It’s tremendously restful and also very evocative, so that I find it easier to think, write, and play piano. The piano is set in a corner of the living room, which has the highest ceilings and the biggest windows: good sound and great view.

It may be that the house seems even more comfortable after the discomfort of flying. I hate airplanes and get very anxious before I have to go on one, although this time the instant we got on board I was perfectly fine and had no problems the whole flight. It’s possible that all my deep breathing made a difference, because I actually felt very relaxed, and my shoulders never tensed up like they did when we were flying to Maui last summer. And the people in the airport and on the plane were very very nice. I’m sure all the peaches and chocolate I brought helped too. ;b Still, I was immensely grateful to be back on solid ground. And I can say solid, because there are no earthquakes here. ;b

As you might have discerned by now, particularly if you read this regularly and know my usual style, I have been very calm since I got here. I really think the deep breathing (I don’t know if I can call it meditation) helps a lot, even when I am not doing yoga. And the trees and birds make it easier to relax and breathe. I haven’t experienced many of my usual hangups about new places, and in fact yesterday I took the bus (the bus system here is FREE!) and had lunch with Shra and a guy she has met here, Matt. Let’s just say Matt is not like other people in my life. I think I have already told some of you who read this regularly exactly what I thought about him. Lunch food was good. Baked crab dip and a Caesar salad. I think I might gain weight here. Southern food is not known for its lightness, and even though not eating barbecue or fried chicken probably helps, I have been guzzling chocolate ever since I got on the plane. Tonight I am going out to dinner with a good friend of my good friend Ying. Her name is Ning (we know) and she goes to school here. I have met her before, so it will be nice to see her again, and she can show me where college students eat. 😉 I think a year ago I wouldn’t even have bothered to contact Ning, even though there’s hardly any chance of it being an unpleasant meeting. But like I said, my usual hesitation is nowhere to be seen, and I am feeling very unperturbable. It’s pleasant to think I can travel across the country to a place I have only been to before once, and still have friends here that I can go have dinner with once I arrive. It not only makes the world seem a smaller place, but it makes it seem friendlier and less intimidating.

Enough for now. I am using Shra’s laptop and I am not used to all its buttons, so I am terrified I will hit something and lose this entry before it’s finished. Normally I update my journal using a Windows client, but for some reason it won’t download properly to Shra’s computer so I just have to update via the web.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at]