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  • Writer's pictureAnna Wang

My Daily Monologue (July 2022)

Updated: Sep 1, 2022

July 4, 2022

I have been procrastinating on writing a book based on a female missionary's life in China. Today I decided that I had to do it whatsoever. The first step is researching. I started reading today. A fun fact I learned: In 1891, The Chinese central government decided, upon the request of an embassy of a European country, to protect the Alopen Stele. The central government allocated 100 taels of silver for this project. Only five taels were left when it reached Shaanxi, after trickling through multiple officials' handling. In the end, just a tiny grass shed was put up to cover the stele (Day 1)

July 5, 2022

Today I read about a woman who became a physician and surgeon while dressing as a man. His/Her name is James Barry (born Margaret Anne Bulkley). He was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1789. His father failed in business and was thrown into a debtors’ prison. Under the help of his uncle’s liberal-minded friends, Barry enrolled in the University of Edinburgh to study medicine, impersonating a man. He received an MD degree in 1812, joined the army in 1813, and was posted to South Africa in 1816. Subsequently, he served in many parts of the British Empire. Before retirement, Barry had risen to the second-highest medical office in the British Army. However, when Florence Nightingale met James Barry in Crimea, she wasn’t impressed. She commented that he was “the most hardened creature I ever met.”

It is incredible for a woman to conceal her sex in the British Army for 40 years. There are some books and movies about her/his life. I should check them out later. (Day 2)

July 6, 2022

Today I learned a new word, accoucheur, meaning male midwife. I encountered this word while reading a "Memorial on Female Medical Education" drafted by the medical school faculty at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor in 1870. The professors claimed that they held no prejudice against women. On the contrary, they praised women for their sensibilities and sympathies, agreeing that their proper sense of delicacy "demands that the duties of the accoucheur shall be placed in the hands of women." Still, they felt that medical coeducation would not increase a man's dignity or a woman's modesty. As such, they proposed to segregate instruction. Accordingly, they would be willing to teach an extra class "for suitable compensation" of $500 extra per professor per annum. (Day 3)

July 7, 2022

Today I felt frustrated. For the past three days, each day, I discovered a new book that I should read. It seems my only achievement is to grow a reading list. Now this project seems impossible. (Day 4)

July 8, 2022

Today I had to study for a Spanish test. I enrolled in a 5-week Spanish 102 at San Diego Mesa College. I had maintained a grade above 95% until yesterday, but the professor suddenly added one criterion, “participation,” to his calculation and only gave me 80. This new calculation brought down my whole grade to 92%, meaning I must get 76% at tonight’s final for my entire grade to be an A. %. I didn’t talk much in class, so I don’t think this grade is unfair. It’s just that I thought I only needed 60 at the beginning of today. (Day 5)

July 9, 2022.

Today I started reading Pearl S. Buck’s “My Several Worlds.” I instantly realized why my progress faltered the previous days: I like literature more than history. But I need to read history if I want to write about historical characters. Even if it is a novel that I’m going to write, I have to get the basic historical facts right. If only history were written as interestingly as literature! (Day 6)

July 10, 2022

Today I learned that in the 1800s, various churches were present in China. To avoid conflicts, religious groups divvied up the vast territory of China, each working under what came to be known as “conversion rights.” Still, little overlap in the field was unavoidable. Roman Catholics, who had been in China for centuries, sometimes would show more aggression than newcomers like American Protestants by offering better soup. Interesting. (Day 7)

July 11, 2022

My protagonist traveled from Toronto to Detroit by train in 1872. Today I read about train travel for women in the late 1800s. When railways first appeared in North America, critics worried that females’ uteruses would fly out of their bodies as they were accelerated to 50 miles an hour. Cultural anthropology points out that society’s panic over new technology often dotes on the threats the innovation might pose to women and children. Apparently, my protagonist arrived at her destination safe and healthy. (Day 8)

July 12, 2022.

Female missionaries were instrumental in China's missions in the 1800s because Chinese women lived in confinement, and only women could approach women. Men had different opinions about women's work. Some stressed that women must recognize man's natural and predestined headship in missions. Others deified these ladies for "immolating themselves upon the altar of humanity..." These two kinds of opinions are typical of men's views on women. I imagine my protagonists heard an earful of them. (Day 9)

July 13, 2022

Today I read about my protagonist’s journey from San Francisco to Shanghai. This development is faster than I thought. I still have questions about her experience studying medicine at the University of Michigan and her adoption by the Women’s Foreign Mission Society. However, her biography fast-forwards to her sea voyage, and I must go along. (Day 10)

July 14, 2022

Today I read an interesting opinion: Americans are coded with an urge to go westward. One generation in New England, the next in western New York State, then the Old Northwest, Ohio, the Mississippi Valley, and on and on. The American mission to Asia is the inevitable extension of the westward trend, which could also be regarded as “the American urge to counter the rotation of the earth,” said David Treadup, the fictitious missionary in the novel “The Call.” (Day 11)

July 15, 2022

Starting in 1867, the Pacific Mail Steamship Company established a line from San Francisco to Hong Kong and later extended its service to Shanghai.

My protagonist might have embarked on her adventure on one of the two sister steamers, City of Tokio or City of Peking. The ship carried American merchants, missionaries, and government officials to China. They enjoyed their fine sea voyages, social teas, and ten-course dinners. The ship also carried steerage passengers who traveled in miserable conditions. They were primarily Chinese coolies who returned home from building railroads. I imagine this is the first chance for my protagonist to meet a real Chinese person. (Day 12)

July 16, 2022

My protagonist changed to a smaller steamer at Nagasaki, from where she sailed to Shanghai.

Approaching Shanghai, she would see the luculent blue of the Pacific change to murky water of the Yellow Sea. The Yellow Sea is a flat, shallow, and partly enclosed marine embayment. Year after year, silt was washed down from the mountains into the major Chinese rivers, which in turn discharged the sediments into the Yellow Sea. The shady water gushed from the mouth of China, clouding miles and miles of saltwater before finally fading into the Pacific. This would be my protagonist’s first impression of China and a lasting symbol of her Chinese experience. (Day 13)

July 17, 2022

I can’t believe that I have kept going for 14 days. Now I deserve a day off to doubt myself. (Day 14)

July 18, 2022

Today I learned the word “comprador.” It means a native who acts as an agent for foreign organizations engaged in investment, trade, or economic or political exploitation. “Comprador” is Portuguese, derived from the Latin comparare, which means to procure. It might have emerged first in the Portuguese colony at Macao. I happened to learn the Spanish word “comprar” last month. The Chinese translation of comprador has a slight derogative connotation because it conjures up a face always smiling at foreigners flatteringly. (Day 15)

July 19, 2022

Back in the 1800s, there were three major groups of foreigners in China: merchants, diplomats, and missionaries. They didn’t necessarily see eye to eye with each other. An American diplomat saw missionaries as “the only barrier between the unhesitating advance of the commercial adventure and the not incongruous element of Chinese imbecile corruption.” At the same time, a British consul told London, “Immense services might be rendered to our commercial interests if only the members of the various missions in China would co-operate with our Consuls in the exploitation of the country.” Why did they say that? (Day 16)

July 20, 2022

Concessions in China were a group of lands occupied and governed by foreign powers during late Imperial China and the Republic of China. The concessions had extraterritoriality, meaning the residents in concessions were governed by the laws of their home countries instead of China. The word “concession” suggests defeat. In 1842, after the United Kingdom defeated China, both countries signed the Treaty of Nanjing, which stipulated that China open its ports for trade and lease out territories to the United Kingdom. However, the Chinese word for concessions only means leased or borrowed lands. (Day 17)

July 21, 2022

Today I want some inspirational quotes, so I set up search criteria: “You can do it, quotes” and press “return.” Guess what the most interesting quote I got is?

“If you can do it then why do it?” by Gertrude Stein. (Day 18)

July 22, 2022

Another day that I have no progress at all. I’m going to New Jersey tomorrow. There are lot of things to be taken care of before I leave. Plus, I’m too excited. (Day 19)

July 23, 2022

On the plane to Newark, a gentleman across the aisle read Edgar Allan Poe on his computer, then opened a file titled “Book/Movie Ideas.” We writers are so easy to give away the secret of our identity. (Day 20)

July 24, 2022

Today I found a lovely B&B at Morristown and learned a new trick: buy NJ Transit tickets on my phone. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to Drew University to do research. (Day 21)

July 25, 2022

The librarian at the United Methodist Archives and History Center is amazing. Look at the books she found for me. Now the question becomes if I can read them all in two weeks. Today I made very little progress. It took me a lot of time to familiarize myself with the facility, but I feel closer to my goal. (Day 22)

July 26, 2022

“Life is elsewhere,” says Milan Kundera. I always feel I’m doomed not to live my life but to be subjected to constant preparation. Look at the days leading me here: Friday I was fidgety; Saturday I was on the flight; Sunday was spent on relocating; Monday was used on knowing the facility. I hadn’t reached my goal, but I was closing in. Life would be right here, waiting for me, in the library, starting from Tuesday. But, voila, today I’m sick. New Jersey is on fire, and the air-conditioning in the library is freezing. I caught a cold, headache, running nose, and all. I had to go out to buy a jacket and Tylenol. Life is in a pharmacy, in a thrift shop, not in the library yet. (Day 23)

July 27, 2022

Today I read half a volume of "The Heathen Woman's Friend," a monthly magazine published by the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Many articles read like either travel literature, testimonial, ethnography, or a combination of these genres. A couple of reports from China described the missionaries' summer retreat. In China, especially in North China, if you wanted to find summer residences, you could only find them in the mountains. And who would go through all the trouble to erect buildings in the mountains? The Buddhist priests. In other words, the missionaries had to rent spare rooms from Buddhist temples.

Mrs. E. E. Baldwin expressed her regret that they had to contribute to the heathen temple, surrounded by wretched idolatry sound. For Miss L. L. Combes, lodging in a heathen temple made her look out even harder into the distance and see with eyes of faith all these overthrown. (Day 24)

July 28, 2022

Today is the most productive day of the past month. I read an entire volume of "The Heathen Woman's Friend." So many interesting things I've learned are competing to be recounted, and Mrs. E. E. Baldwin's cure for foot-binding is the winner. She understands why it is hard for Chinese parents to give up binding their daughters' feet. If a girl had a pair of large feet, she couldn't wear the beautiful head-ornaments and all sorts of fashion for upper-class women, and she was doomed to be married to a laborer. It occurred to Mrs. Baldwin that the first lady of the empire must have unbound feet because the ruling class of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) were Manchus, a nomadic group from the north. She then encouraged the Chinese converts to adopt the Manchu shoe fashion, called horse-hoof shoes. It worked. (Day 25)

July 29, 2022

Lucinda L. Combs caught my attention more and more in the past three days. Combs (1849 – 1919) was sent to Peking, China, as a medical missionary by the Women's Foreign Ministry Society in 1873, four years prior to my protagonist, Leonora Howard. Combs liked writing. I read many essays penned by her from "The Heathen Woman's Friend," like "A Bright Day at the Peking Hospital," "The Peking Hospital," and "A Morning's Visit at the Peking Hospital." Her vivid description made history come to life. So far, I haven't read a single piece by Leonora Howard, and I grew more and more fond of Lucinda Combs. Whichever trade you're in, you must know how to write. (Day 26)

July 30, 2022

Libraries are my sanctuary. Today the archive center at DU is closed, so I’m hanging out at a local library. This installation art is cool. (Day 27)

July 31, 2022

Now that I’m in New York, I must go to the lighthouse. (Day 28)

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