Published: November 10th 2011November 10th 2011
Endless, endless apologies for not writing sooner. I am consumed with shame to realize that it's been nearly a year since my last entry. Inexcusable! [Except for this ridiculous fast pace of life here that occasionally barely allows moments of respite and reflection coupled with the inclination and available energy to sit at the computer and type]. I have also been suffering technical difficulties with my MacBook and was no longer able to upload photos or utilize anything beyond basic surfing. This can no longer be an excuse however! I am the proud new owner of a fabulous MacBook Pro (which I am still currently getting to know the ins and outs of, so patience please!) After not replacing my technology in nearly six years it's a fabulous feeling to have access to a machine that ACTUALLY works!
Quick explanation as to why I now have time to burn... I stupidly (typically?) neglected to pack my keys this morning during my mad dash out the door to work, so now I sit in the dim little "Irish" bar in my building compound in an attempt to escape the frigid weather until I can reach my flatmate, who as chance would have it, is "temporarily out of service". Crossing fingers that this isn't one of those evenings he works until midnight and is able to save me from freezing on the streets!
Ok, where to begin?
News Year's was heralded in by celebrating with the largest group of blondes I have ever encountered in Beijing. My Norwegian girlfriend, Cristina, who is studying Opera was celebrating her birthday, and (it seems) only attracts blonde friends. It was a hilarious evening beginning with champagne home party, dinner at our favourite Thai restaurant, Purple Haze, and ending at a chic nightclub where we were able to jump the queue as, like I mentioned before, were so blonde. Bonus? January passed in much of a blur, because what I was really looking forward to was a much anticipated visit from an old and dear flatmate from "home" during the upcoming Spring Festival (Chun Jie 春节).
The longed for month arrived and many preparations had been made! Extra bike had been obtained and a second hand motor scooter to zip around in. I was thrilled to finally be showing off my home to Loewen (my dearly missed ex-roomie). I awoke on February 2 to the irritating noise of my landline shrieking. When I answered I was greeted by the noise of frantic sobbing and a despairing lament that her presence was not possible as her visas were not sufficient for entry. Of course, being a public holiday, all the embassies were closed and zero options available. My heart felt like it was swimming in and around my feet. I was then given the news that our other flatmate (the amazing Bean) had flown in the night previous and their plan had been to surprise me at the airport. So now Bean was "somewhere" in Beijing, sans cellphone and with nary a clue of how to find me, or me she. (I admit I sat and stared at the wall while rocking back-and-forth to process this chain of events... unsure where and how to begin). I attempted to call Bean... but of course couldn't get through at her hotel. I finally reached her and we agreed that I would call her at 14:00 and we would then decide how to proceed and meet. I ran some errands, met a friend and wandered around a bit to kill time. I tried calling her at 14:00, only to be greeted by the horrifying news that my cellphone was out of credit and unable to process the request! Of course, being Chun Jie none of the regular shops were open, and the ones that were open were (wonders of wonders) out of chōng zhí kǎ (recharge cards). Arrghhhhh!!! I borrow my friend's phone to call the hotel and discover that Bean had checked out. (I later discover she was weirded out by a stain on the carpet which she then psyched herself out into believing it to be blood!) At this point, we have both become unreachable and the little sanity I had remaining - vanishes! My poor pal watched in amused horror as my mentality crumbled and I begin to stomp the city streets in a total conniption. He calmly suggests stopping by his flat, using internet to find the hotel location and enjoying a calming cup of coffee... I could barely nod my assent in my freakish state of despair. I quickly discover the hotel's location (not far from his flat) down my coffee and rush my burnt tongue to a taxi shouting directions madly. Being stuck in traffic did not gel with my mood, so I flung some bills in the driver's direction and jumped out to make my mad way sprinting towards the hotel. To frantic to even feel out of breath I burst into the lobby, bellowing "BEEEAAAAANNNN!!!!" madly to the shocked stares of the Chinese staff. Luckily this shriek carried enough oomph and a timid reply of, "Lindsie?" was heard from behind some fake foliage. Reunited at last! We packed as much fun as we could into the five days we were able to share together. It was incredible to reconnect, especially as she lived in Beijing nearly five years before I arrived and was able to relive some old memories and show me her old (remaining) stomping grounds. I was able to introduce her to a greatly evolved Beijing and we enjoyed bike rides, spending hours at my little bar, watching the city explode (the novelty wears off after the first day), sleeping less than five hours per night, early morning jiaozi (my fav!), and best of all... chatting for hours on end to catch up on the years missed. It was glorious! Of course you have to pay for such bliss and nary two weeks later found me with a dislocated shoulder which incapacitated me for three weeks. Alas, no tales of glory to relate here... I was at work, lifting a tiny two-year-old to blow at the feathers I have hung from our ceiling and somehow managed to adjust her awkwardly and ended up dislocating my shoulder. I was rushed to the Chinese hospital nearby with our school nurse (who also doesn't speak English) and put through a series of exams, handed off to doctor after doctor who were seemingly refusing to treat the laowai as they are unused to our bone structures??? I was keeping a stiff upper-lip and was keeping quite silent... that is until they all banded together and decided that if they all treated me that I couldn't get furious over the treatment of one in particular. I was then given a (useless) tranquilizer and pinned to the table by six men who began to tug at my body in several different directions. At this point, I lost it and began to scream and swear in as many languages as I could recollect. They finally replaced the bones and I was sent packing with a flimsy sling and instructed to bed rest for the three weeks recovery time. (Seriously??) Not much to report during this healing time besides suffering from excruciating boredom.
Nothing of consequence recollected beyond the most hilarious massage ever administered. Our bathtub was drain was blocked and I rang a repair man to come to fix it. It didn't take too long and then he noticed I was sitting a bit strangely on the couch (I had literally just been given the a-ok for sling removal and my body was still adjusting). He then brokenly explains that he can "fix all things" and before I know it, I've been flung down on the couch and he begins to pummel away at me!!! I was literally in shock at this bizarre situation and for nearly 20 minutes he was working away... huffing and puffing his was to "fixing me". I had to give him a towel and water after his cure to sort him out and then send him on his way. Truly... this is a weird place I live.
Thailand, Thailand, Thailand! For Qingming Festival (Tomb Sweeping) as teachers we have longer holidays than most, so I began plotting on escape! Through recommendations of friends I booked myself a bungalow in Koh Phi Phi and excitedly ventured off. I was blessed with beautiful weather, indulged with the freshest of foods and fruits, exquisite natural beauty and peace. I had decided on a sober holiday (ironic in Thailand, no?) and packed plenty of books, preparing for some major R&R. Within the first day I took I hike which gave me the most ridiculous shorts tan lines which allowed me to look foolish in a bikini. And guess what... random viruses guarantee relaxing and have incredibly slimming qualities! Yep. The Lindsie luck continued and day five of my nine day holiday found me violently puking my very soul into the toilet. At first I just figured that I either had heat stroke or food poisoning... but after four straight hours of horrendous upchucking and the beginnings of hallucinations, I began to consider that I perhaps required medical attention. [Major pitfall of traveling alone: situations like these]. So I stumble out of my bungalow and attract the attention of the owner... one look at me and he exclaims, "How much you driiiiiiiiiiiink?" Now, try as much as you like, the fact you are a foreigner in Thailand means you will never convince them that you haven't had a sip. I attempt to communicate my situation in between boughts of rushing back to my room to be sick. Eventually it's relayed that the nearby clinic is closed with no one on-call. The only option is to go to the hospital which is near the bay and on the opposite of the island. Of course I picked a residence high up Phi Phi Don and in the jungle, so the only option was to trek to the hospital. He graciously offered to lead me there and I deliriously followed behind, becoming sick as nature called as discretely as possible. We arrive at the hospital not a moment too soon as I fainted across the threshold. I woke in a bed, plugged into an iv, which still did little to prevent my uncontrollable nausea. For two days my existence was pure puking. It didn't matter what meds I was given - it all came out again and they were not allowed to release me until I had kept something down for four hours. That day finally arrived and I shakily checked out, paid my bill of 669 baht (around $21.00) and wearily made my way back up the mountain. The remaining days were torture as I was able to consume little more than water but always surrounded by the most scrumptious and appetizing of sights. Side Note: I was privileged to one of the most glorious of sunrises while in the treatment room of the hospital. While gazing raptly and then a moment later hurling into my bucket I soaked in the sight through the wall length windows. That was nice. Returning to work was bemusing as all the mothers were coming up to me and crying out, "Oh Jennifer laoshi! You are so slim... you should stay like this always! But you are too dark. You look ugly". Got to love their honest views.
The warmer months were largely spent brunching on our favourite rooftop on Gulou Dong DaJie, winding down the school year, planning hilarious theme parties at Cafe de la Poste, moving to a new (far grander) flat, too many goodbye parties, heading back to Vancouver for my amazing sister's wedding (epic), a quick visit to Shanghai via the new bullet train, and setting up for the new school semester. Teaching is going well and we are adjusting to the new class. The first days are always heartbreaking as your kids from the previous year walk by and don't understand why they are no longer with you. You have to steal your heart in an attempt to love the new children in your class and not remain nostalgic for the previous year. Selfishly I am still overjoyed that anytime my kids see me they still shout out, "Jennifer!!!!!" and rush over for a hug. (Their current teachers are jealous!)
Woooosshhhhhhh. Ok. Hopefully this gives you an idea of how time has been spent here (pictures to follow!) I promise to (at least attempt) being more regular with posts. Big kisses from Beijing!! xx