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Go New Year's. Get up, play PS2 all day long, then go to computer to do my daily rounds. Nothing really new and exciting in webcomics, all email inboxes are empty except for the irritating male-oriented spam...

Interesting... and you know, I really didn't take that much out of my private Schnapps bottle.

Happy Hangover Day, e2!

Moist Noder Love

We had met through Mish, his sister, my closest friend at work. She had decided we would get along well, so she put her cupid hat on and went to work with a barrage of arrows.

I wasn't ready to fall in love again - I'd had my heart broken six months before, but for the first time in my life, I decided to relax and see what happened.

For a long time nothing did. He had my email address, but for months I didn't hear a word, and then one Friday afternoon, as I got ready to leave work, a link to a singing sheep appeared in my inbox.

I replied with a beating heart, not knowing why I was suddenly so nervous and excited, and then went home for the weekend. The five weeks that followed were a luscious courtship, where we learned about so many parts of each other's lives, and grew closer and closer as friends. He fascinated me. His words painted colourful images in my mind, even when describing something as simple as a pair of trousers. I saw a lot of the world with new eyes during those weeks, yet I didn't see him face to face once.

After five weeks Mish invited both of us around for a drink. I sat nervously next to him, the unknown of what he wanted making me feel 14 again. Mish, being the subtle cherub that she is, got up to get a bottle of wine and said "So are you two going to snog or what?", and walked out.

We sat on the couch as the sparks crackled between us, and after a few long moments started to laugh. "OK, so he doesn't want to kiss me", I thought.

The evening drew to an end, he walked me out to my car and hugged me goodnight. I looked up at him and said "I'm going to kiss you now", and I did. It was the perfect kiss. I lost myself as he nibbled my lip and gently took my breath away.

That was two years, two months and two weeks ago.

From very early on we spent almost all of our spare time together. I waited for him to push me away, or to show me a part of himself which would make me not want him any more. I've stopped waiting. He fits me perfectly.

After a month he told me he loved me, and regardless of how I didn't think I was ready to fall in love again, I realised I loved him too.

We moved in together after five months. I'd always planned to date someone for two years, move in for a year and then get engaged. It seemed like a perfect plan, until I met Greg. We found a perfect house to rent together, moved in, and within weeks, got adopted by a gorgeous stray cat we've named Nori. Our family has now grown to include Bob, a big stray tom who, just like Nori, walked in one day demanding food and love.

I expected living together to be difficult; after all, every piece of relationship advice I've read says that being in a relationship isn't easy, and you have to work hard to make it work.

To be blunt, that's bullshit. It's not a chore to talk openly with the person you love. It's not hard to look after them when they are sick, or tired, or grumpy. The whole point of loving someone with all your heart is that you do this because it makes both of you feel good, and doing anything but this would be painful and difficult.

Since moving in we've travelled throughout South Australia, driving half way across the world's biggest island to watch a total solar eclipse. We've laughed at silly things, we've shared our souls and our dreams with each other, and we've made the most passionate of love.

It hasn't gotten harder to find the spark, or to spend our time together - I am happier than I have ever been, because I'm sharing my life with my perfect partner.

I love him for so many reasons and in so many different ways. It's his intelligence, his sense of humour, his tenderness, his selflessness. It is the way he is different from any person I have ever known. It's the way he understands me, when even I don't know what I'm on about. It's the way I catch him looking at me at the oddest moments, with love and pride and lust.

On December 20th 2003, Greg proposed to me. We had gone to see some short films by Bill Plympton and wandered outside into Federation Square for a coffee. As the sun slowly set between the buildings of Melbourne's CBD, one coffee turned to 3 coffees and 4 Hoegaardens, as the day to day stuff stopped, and we basked in distractionless time together. As the shadows lengthened and our faces bathed in a soft, orange glow, the conversation between us flowed into more personal, loving utterings of the happiness we've found in each other. That's when he, in a most beautiful, simple way, looked into my eyes with so much love, and said "Ania, will you marry me?"

He didn't get down on one knee, he didn't ask me by paying some guy to write those words in the sky, and the moment couldn't have been more beautiful. Our equality is one of the things which makes our relationship so amazing, and living life with him by my side is what I want most in this world.

I'm sure I said yes, though that bit eludes my memory, because although we had talked about spending our lives together, when he actually uttered those words, I melted.

I know it's a girlie thing to do, to dream of finding The One, and living happily ever after, but when you find the person who fits you so perfectly, cheesy cliches have a way of making perfect sense.

So, I am wondering when the culture shock is going to start. I am wondering when the feeling of dread, longing and utter alienation will start.

I've known a good number of people in my life who are so quiet, so cultured, so generally pleasant, that I am somewhat nervous, because I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. And such is my experience in Taiwan.

There was an intial experience of culture shock merely from being exposed to an entire culture, and not having a filter to judge which parts were relevant to me and which were not. Just as if I didn't know Portland and just started wandering pell-mell through the neighborhoods, I would probably see some strange things, so my first experience in Taiwan, where I didn't know where I was going and rambled pell mell through the residential alley ways, was somewhat shocking.

But once I settled in to my student life, most of my surprises have been pleasant, such as paying the equivalent of 200 US a month for rent on a modern, clean apartment. Or realizing that the restraunts were cheap here, but that supermarkets are mostly for fashionable, upscale purchasing. Or walking into a police station and being greeted with a respectful, casual atmosphere. Not to mention the fact that citrus fruits cost somewhere around a quarter a pound...

Which isn't to say there is not problems here, or things that bother me. This is, after all, a country that only recently joined the first world, which means there are still some problems with poverty. Also, the population density is probably close a 100 times that of my home state, Oregon, which leads me to miss some of the nature I am used to. They also don't have small, pocket sized pencil sharpners in the stores, just bulky, wall mounted ones. There are plenty of things I would prefer differently, but that doesn't translate to culture shock.

Culture shock seems to me to be the feeling of unalterable alienation, an uncrossable gulf between one person and another person, or group of people. It seems to me that it comes from realizing that the identities of the people around you derive from a totally different place. The formation of identiy is a hard thing to describe. It is interesting that one of the best descriptions of culture shock here, comes from liontamer, when she was living in Japan, a culture that bases identity around descent from a mythic ancestor. If I had been in a country like Japan, Israel or England, where this is the main basis for identity, I would perhaps be feeling a greater amount of culture shock.

I hate to contribute to the dimestore philosophizing on Chinese culture, but this is how I understand it: the Chinese seem to like to eat, to sleep, to play, to study, to work, to spend money, to see interesting things, and to enjoy themselves. I like to do the same things. Therefore, although there is a language barrier, and a custom barrier, we can understand each other, even though they have yogurt that is drunk and not eaten.

All of this, of course, sounds like famous last words.

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