Icosian Reflections

…a tendency to systematize and a keen sense

that we live in a broken world.

[China] Regressing


This is the last post on my first try at polyphasia. For convenience, I've listed all four of my previous polyphasic posts here:

After missing two naps in a single day, I realized that this polyphasic thing wasn't going to work in China.

1. We didn't have breaks at the right times in the day.
2. I was incurring approximately 100% overhead on walking back to my dorm to nap.
3. The utility of my time was extremely phase-sensitive, which is to say that having extra hours during the night didn't help anywhere near as much as extra hours during the day.

So I stopped. Re-transitioning to monophasic wasn't precisely effortless, but it was still pretty easy (after all, I've had nineteen years practice). Oddly enough, I had this conversation with my (Harvard summer) roommate a few days before I left for China:

"We're doing pretty well, it seems."

"Don't be so confident; next week is when most people fall off the wagon."

Oh, well. We're not all abnormal all of the time.


In other news, I decided I was going to eat meat while abroad. It seemed pretty common-sense to me: if I put down every dumpling that turned out to have pork inside, I'd probably starve. I'm only sort of joking -- in a place where you can't speak the language and are ordering food by pointing, it's really impossible to ask "is that fish or chicken?" And the meatless cafeteria offerings were more or less a starvation diet (steamed veggies and some grain... if I were lucky).

In any case, the real reason to be a carnivore for a week was larger than mere convenience -- there's plenty of things I regularly do to inconvenience myself. Rather, it was important to me to do my abroad experience -- limited as it was -- right. In the end, I didn't make it off campus much, but at the outset, I had this idea that I didn't want to miss a single "cultural experience".

Now, to be honest, I did find myself ordering a fried chicken sandwich at McDonalds, just for the novelty of eating fried chicken (and yes, it tasted good). And there were basically no meals at the RDFZ cafeteria that would qualify as "cultural experiences" by most reasonable heuristics. But eating out was another matter.

When we made a run for mall-food-court fast food on the first day, I legitimately enjoyed a truly awful bowl curry beef that positively stank of fast-food off-ness -- even though it by no means Good Food, the fellowship of consuming cheap calories with friendly faces in an otherwise alien land was a comforting experience. Eating with people I only barely knew, there was a sense of home, so far away from home. When the entire camp staff went out for hotpot dinner at a swanky restaurant, it was remarkably freeing not to have a 'dietary restriction' that would force me to request my food be cooked in a back room and brought out to me -- while everyone else was fishing strips of beef out of a communal stew pot. And late-night runs to McDonalds don't have the same life-is-unreasonable-but-we've-got-each-other feel with a casually-offered "No, I'm good." or "I'll just get fries."

After my last airport-food-court stir fry, I woke up on the plane home to a "vegetarian meal" -- I'd honestly forgotten that I had ordered one -- which was nothing more than steamed, unseasoned vegetables and rice. Ah, nominally-accommodating food industry, I'd forgotten how much I loved you...

Now at home, I'm back to a meatless diet. I think I'm tempted more to "break" my vegetarianism, especially in the face of slim pickings at the dining hall, but I suspect that I won't. Not until Thanksgiving, perhaps, when I'll take a piece of whatever my mother's serving to the family, just to be polite. And, of course, so I can share with my family the same experience families have been sharing with each other since humans became social animals.


Just in case you were dying of suspense, vegetarianism (and my temporary hiatus) were the reason I digressed from China posts to write a couple about eating animals. Of course, once the term started, I lost both the time and the energy to write consistently. Hopefully now what my everything-and-the-kitchen-sink shopping-week schedule has crystallized into a reasonable study card, I can settle into some rhythm and churn out two posts a week.