Monday, August 29, 2005

Even during rain, the sun still shines

Woke up with a nose that leaks incessantly. Thank god for tissue paper.

I have been reading more and more lately. It's a nice way to relax the mind and indulge in fantasy worlds, some that aren't too far off. I just finished "Fools Rush In", a true story by Bill Carter who writes in a personal and moving manner about the war in Bosnia. He manages to, during his time as a food deliverer to citizens of Sarajevo, get the attention of U2 and have satellite link-ups from Sarjevo to their live concerts all across Europe.

It is very inspiring to hear and read first-hand what the strong-willed and passionate can accomplish. Carter has also produced a documentary entitled "Miss Sarajevo" that I want to see now. I love it when i'm inspired by these strangers whom i've never met and yet feel so close to after having read their intimate details of a time in their life. It's almost satisfying in a nosy, curious kind of way. That story left me feeling that there is good in all people, albeit you gotta scratch the surface a bit first. It also left me a bit confused as to how I could do more to help this world become more acceptable to live in, a little more peacful and understanding.

But i am more focused-inward as of late, and i'm not sure how to direct the energy outwards; to be honest, i'm not sure if i want to in the first place. It's always a prime necessity for me to have something concrete to look forward to. A date, that's all i need. Just a month and number to tell me that on this day when the sun rises, this event will happen that will break free from the shackles of routine. At least for a day, a moment. And right now that day is September 30th, when at 19:20 the plane will be taking off the runway of Urumqi Airport, transporting me into the next stage of my life, exactly 1 year and 3 days ago when i left Canada as a naive, single girl, ready to immerse herself in what Urumqi had to offer. Well, i gues you could say i immersed myself in ways i never thought possible, and now here i am, still naive but i'd like to think a little less so, but married, so anxiously awaiting the next leap. Life is a series of leaps and steps, isn't it? But we constantly move forwards, it's that inevitable thing called time. However, we do sometimes crane our heads around to remember our past jumps and strides. It's like the West African adinkra symbols, the one that stands out in my mind is the Sankofa, where a bird is flying in one direction with its head looking behind him. The symbol represents the importance of learning from the past.

I've been reflecting a lot recently on my past and what steps and leaps i've taken to reach this point here. At some points, i've called my condition (if it's even that) as 'being antsy', but i don't know anymore. I feel that i'm more aware of time and the boundaries that are associated with it, and how i don't want to idle. But perhaps i should listen to someone who long ago, once said to me when i was rushing around, headless chicken state, doing what i, for the life of me, cannot remember now but seemed at the time so extremely vital and important: "Chill, Bon. In God's time."

Also, I will adhere to the advice of an 18-year old i was working with last year, who dared me to do something everyday that scares me or that makes me feel joy inside. Today i will write and paint and play music.

And if we're talking dates, today is a celebration in itself: it's our one-month wedding anniversary!

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Am i safe anywhere?

I have one little boy, JiaLun, whom i teach now on a voluntary basis every week. He was part of my group of kids that came twice a week for some good old fun and games in English. The other students' level of English were significantly higher so i was always trying to cater to the different levels yet trying to maintain a fun and conducive learning environment.

We made banana bread a few weeks back which was, of course, a huge hit. This week, however, one of them went on vacation in Korea, and the other started regular school again (did you know every child starting from high school in China must attend a mandatory one week military training where they get to learn how to fire their OWN gun?), so I got some one on one time with JiaLun.

He has impressed me with his vast memory and his ability to pick up new words. Above all, he is so very keen and eager to learn. Brilliant! It motivates me to see him so motivated. The most significant improvement that i've seen in him these past few months is his level of confidence which has been soaring. It says a lot when you can witness that in anyone, but particularly within a child.

Have been more conscious about trying to be safe on the streets as there are many cars, trucks, tractors, bikes, horse+carts, that sort of just appear out of thin air when crossing the road. Even when walking to one side of the road, you can never know when a moving object will suddenly turn a corner into your path or if it will suddenly be heading straight for you (even on a one-way street!)

This is how dangerous and unpredictable Urumqi streets are: I was walking this morning, lost in thought (as usual) when suddenly this humongous piece of plywood from a store sign fell right in front of me, causing it to break into a dozen pieces and the dust to rise in my nostrils. I looked up and saw two workmen hacking away at this building, no protection on, and no signs or fenced area to warn pedestrians of falling objects, nothing. You really just have to fend for yourself here. It would save many people a lot of grief if there were some magic herbal medicine that one could take where extra eyes could be grown at the back, side and top of your head. It would do one of two things: prevent more accidents or have drivers/bikers drive even more recklessly. Come to think of it, it would probably do both. Back to square one.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

tick tock tick tock

Haven't been so inspired to write lately since not much has happened, however i do want to... I have been doing a bit of this and that in preparation for our wedding in September and our grand exit to Hong Kong straight after (5 days to be exact). Our plan is to spend a few days in Hong Kong and then fly out to Vanuatu, where we will have our honeymoon - extremely exciting! We've booked a sailing voyage on a tall ship where we get to participate in the actual sail and navigation. It was even voted by National Geographic Adventure Magazine as one of the top 25 greatest trips in the world!

Also planning to do some diving. The largest accessible shipwreck in the world is situated in Santo, Vanuatu, called the SS President Coolidge ship, a luxury liner during WW2 that struck an American mine and sunk just off the coast. Apparently this wreck is so fascinating that several dozen dives are recommended to just 'get a feel' of how amazing it is! I must get certification first, but the more research i do, the more i think it'll be worth the hassle, even if i have to spend a few days in Santo to get certified. There might be a chance that i could squeeze in an open water dive course in HK before we set off... currently exploring options.

But back to here, these days have been sort of a blur as i'm living in anticipation for the future whereas i should perhaps take some time to relish in Urumqi's delights as the month-long countdown begins.

Matt hurt his wrist yesterday after a tumble during a soccer match with local friends. My heart was racing, as i saw the whole thing from the sidelines. He got up too soon though, started to stumble towards the wall (and me, i rushed to him the moment i saw him trying to walk) but then when i thought he was reaching out to hug me, he slipped through my arms and landed on the hard concrete floor. The sound of his skull hitting the ground was insanely scary, it actually echoed in the room, and i just instinctively dropped down to him and cradled his head to see if he was conscious. I can't quite remember it exactly, but i think i was screaming for someone to get help and at the same time using my colourful repertoire of obscenities, although directed at no one in particular. He had blacked out for a second, but was quite dazed and disoriented. I don't believe i've ever had a scarier 10 seconds in my life, where a million thoughts flashed across my mind in just split-seconds. It left me bewildered even after things had calmed down, how so many thoughts can actually pass through your mind in such a short instant. An incredible feeling, but something that i don't need a repeat of. We went to the hospital just down the road from us and took an xray of the wrist, but thankfully nothing was broken. The only visible damage done is the nice purple bruise on his left eye and some scrapes and bruising on his legs and arms. The bruise on the eye looks like someone did a bad eye-shadow job on him in bright purple. I'm trying to convince him that i should get out my makeup kit and make the other eye match, just for the sake of symmetry. For some reason, i'm not having any luck yet.

Enjoying the tail end of Xinjiang's summer, anticipating fall (which i'm told is very short lived), followed by the winter's frost but by then we shall be safely away in hot humid HK. I've been thinking, i will miss wrapping up in my thick sweaters and pulling on my heavy woolen socks. And even that feeling of breathing in the icy air where your nose hairs freeze and your tears trickle down your numb cheeks, i will truly miss that.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


To my dear childhood friend whom i used to build blanket forts with and hide in crawl spaces to avoid tyrannical brothers with, thank you so much for the beautiful gift you sent. It means a lot to me. I hope you are enjoying your journey, we shall meet soon. xx

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Zaijian Urumqi, Foon Ying Hong Kong!

It's official, and it's officially out in the open for public consumption (although it's mighty difficult to keep anything secret in Urumqi): we're moving to Hong Kong!

Land of expensive clothes with sewn-on fashion logos, steamy dim sum dishes in clattery restaurants, business people scuffling in between buildings of the stuffy concrete jungle like lost beheaded ants or lemmings (what an image), etc etc.. well, that's the stereotypical picture i have of HK. From a comparably semi-passive Chinese city like Urumqi to busy busy Hong Kong it will be a feast for the senses indeed.

Matt was head-hunted and offered a new job there as Regional Director of Asia-Pacific for a German renewable energy company. Job description: to start up an Asia-Pacific branch from scratch by conducting market analysis, developing a strategy to enter the renewable energy market through mergers and acquisitions, setting up good relations with government officials, and whatever else that may come along. I've been given permission to speak on his behalf and say he is very excited to be given the opportunity to start something new and harvest invaluable experience. Since there is absolutely no presence in Asia at all, it was up to us to choose a location to be based in. We were thinking HK in the back of our minds just because it is very convenient to be able to fly out to other destinations even for a long weekend, for me to go back to school and find work, for me to improve my Cantonese drastically, the fact that I have some relatives there, and the draw of a multitude of things to do which we were quickly running out of in Urumqi. And so with the go-ahead from the Germans as a good strategic place to set up office, it's off to Hong Kong we go right after our Xinjiang wedding! Couldn't ask for more perfect timing really.

What i find so interesting in this new development is the fact that I was so close to going to HK as an English teacher last year, until Urumqi finally won the debate in my head as somewhere more remote, culturally diverse and exotic. I will never ignore my gut instincts - ever! Look what has happened in the past 9 months! I'm no longer surprised at the turn of events in my life where things seem to naturally follow suite in good order, kind of like fulfilling the full circle of life that is meant to happen. Sequences of events happen at their own pace, not really quickly, but at a rate where life is never boring. And now it's time to move on, to start our new life together in a new place, meeting new people and seeking new challenges and adventures.

When my mom heard about us moving to HK, she was amused at the fact that her daughter is following in her own footsteps, completing that 'circle' analogy that we've referred to on numerous occasions. From Hong Kong, my mom moved to Canada, met my father, got married and settled in Canada. I've gone to China, met my husband, got married and am (at least for now) settling in Hong Kong.

Have been researching online about places to live in HK, things to do, see, eat, visit. All very exciting and all VERY unbelievably expensive. We just received several books in the mail today which we ordered off Amazon, one of them being "Living and Working in Hong Kong: The Complete, Practical Guide to Expatriate Life in China's Gateway". Anxious to go through it later. But it looks like we'll have to forfeit our 'grand palace' here in Urumqi, where we have 3 EXTRA bedrooms, bathrooms (+jacuzzi) in exchange for a flat the size of our current kitchen. Makes for more intimate space with the mister, which truthfully, i don't mind one bit. Despite all the giddiness and excitement of moving to a new place, it's mulitiplied tenfold because this will be our first home as newlyweds. Plans and checklists are being made. Number one on the list is, of course, air conditioning.

On another note, I saw a man peeping out of a sewer hole today, kinda like a groundhog would out of his hole checking to see if it was nice weather. I didn't notice at first, he blended in so well. Not even a minute later, I saw a woman carrying about 50 frozen vacuum-sealed hot dog weiners (!) down the street, wagging her behind as if she were some waitress carrying a tray of expensive, breakable glasses.
So bizzare. So random. So China.

Will i miss these obscure sites when in HK? Don't know, maybe, probably, although i hesitate to admit it. However i'm sure there will be more random, eccentric things that will tickle me on a day to day basis, different to the things here, but still at a highly entertaining standard. Can't wait really.