Published: November 11th 2011November 10th 2011
This GORGEOUS piece of art was created for me by my beautiful and talented friend and former Tianjiao colleague (boo hoo! :()Diane. It is a Fu--good luck symbol and it is hung upside down at Chinese New Year.
Sunday, November 6th, 2011, was bitter sweet. That was the day I taught my last class at Tianjiao and also hosted a terrific birthday party for me and Rich. Rich had turned 65 on November first and I turned 45 on November fifth. I thought it would be grand to have a combined birthday party at our apartment which would sort of double as a going-away party, too. Joyce and Charles were flying away the next day, Monday, back to Canada, and their respective homes and families in Ontario and Manitoba. Alan was departing for Tibet on Tuesday though Jim planned to stay for the month of November and I am here until November 19th. The party was so much fun.....we had the Tianjiao staff including all the teaching assistants, James, and all the teachers and Ed and his wife Elise. I'd also invited Hank, our former Tianjiao friend and I had invited some of my new Chinese friends also. Lilly, who Joyce and I met at Pizza Hut is a yoga studio owner and she came and brought her friend, Happy. I had invited my friend LiPing, but she couldn't make it as her store became very busy that evening.
Vicky & Me
Vicky, teaching assistant and friend, so lively and vivacious and friendly. I will miss her.
Also, my friend Samuel, that Dawna and I had met at the gym came as well. It was a wonderful mixture of people. We ate lots of party snacks and cake, drank some beers and glasses of wine and pop, sang some songs, opened presents and blew out candles. Rich and I had Happy Birthday sung to us in 3 languages--English, Chinese and French. How many people can say they've had that experience? Because it was a Sunday night, most of the guests repaired home quite early, but a small group of us lingered and sang to Alan's guitar and then the girls sang to us in Chinese using somebody's MP3 player. When we felt like we had bothered the neighbors enough, we decided to go to KTV and sing Karaoke! Now, let me say, the Chinese really know how to do Karaoke. It is SO much better here than at home! Your group gets a private room with a big comfy couch, and big screen tv for the words and a first rate stereo system. There are 3 mikes and a little "stage" also. Each room has an attendant who waits on you to bring you booze or food
I ordered les gateaux francaises, 2 very beautiful cakes: a scorpio for Rich and a horse for me, my Chinese zodiac symbol. The cakes cost about 350 Yuan or $58ish Cdn, and I could not have gotten them for this price at home. They were amazing works of art....iced splendidly with pineapple fruit and also jam sandwiched between vanilla cake layers. Rich's jam was blueberry and mine was strawberry. I had to take the boxed cakes home in a taxi the day of the party.
or whatever your heart desires! It was heaven for me! There was quite a selection of English songs and also we heard some very good Chinese music, too. We finally decided sometime well after 3 to head off home. We had told Joyce that we were keeping her up because she could sleep on the plane the next day! Alan, well, how he fell asleep in all the din I will never know! LOL but he did! We all caught cabs back to our places and had great sleeps.
Both Joyce and I cried and hugged tightly when we parted at the Xiamen airport the day after the party. We have become the closest of friends. She left China with her 3 very heavy suitcases and plenty of memories as souvenirs. I have missed her and the apartment is not the same without her. Thank you Joyce for all the happy moments we shared here in China. You were a great room-mate.
When I leave Xiamen I am not enroute directly home but will fly to Beijing for a week to take in sights such as Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, The Silk and Antiques Market, Beijing Opera, The Temple
This was Rich's cake. He wondered if it was because he was an old crab! LOL We couldn't fit all his 65 candles on it cuz the cake wasn't made for such an old geezer! LMAO. Just kiddin' Rich, you sick bastard! And yes, he likes it when I call him that. LOL
of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Yonghegong Lama Temple, and of course, the major one on my bucket list, THE GREAT WALL!!! OMG, I am so looking forward to that. I will fly from Beijing on November 26 to Vancouver, and then board another plane from Vancouver and will land in Winnipeg sometime on that same day (OMG, how crazy is that? Circumventing the globe in a single day!! It still bends my brain!) at about 11:30ish pm if all goes well, and will be picked up at the airport by Debs, my BFF. I will likely sleep for the next 24 hours! LMAO. The last leg of the journey is decidedly unglamourous. It is a bus ride home on number 6 highway. Sigh. I guess the fantasy had to end at some point. LOL. I will return to Thompson some time in early December from my adventure. And what an amazing adventure this has been! I highly recommend this sort of experience to anybody. Truly. It will change you and you will never be the same.
And speaking of adventures, ta-da! Even today was an adventure as we--we being my 2 new friends, the new teachers at the school
These photos don't really capture the work of art that this cake is..er, rather was! We demolished most of it at the party. The horse's head was some kind of candy. Mmmmm.
who are now living in the apartment with me, Vickie and Lee, and Elise, my former Tianjiao boss Ed's wonderful wife and my friend and I boarded the BRT in the pouring rain with our umbrellas and got off at the end of the line. We decided to hoof it to the ferry to Gulang Yu. I was going to buy pearls, and so was Elise-she was doing a favour for Alan, who had to leave before he could get to the pearl market. Having been there before and having seen the amazing pearl jewels I armed myself with 1000 Yuan from my last pay and gave myself permission to blow it all (!!) and off we went. We decided to go down some side streets and we ended up twisting and turning in these little Hou Tongs and getting completely LOST! LOL But all was not lost. We emerged into a gigantic, and I do mean gigantic, fish market with all manner of lively and squiggly sea creatures and fishes and god-knows-what else......things including live, LIVE sea snakes, meant to be somebody's dinner...and that did Lee in totally! Elise had to support Lee out of the marketplace as she
Horsie Cake 2
Side view of my delicious masterpiece.
darn near collapsed. Um, yeah, lol, we didn't linger in that section of the market! We boarded the ferry and rode it over to the island for the 7 minutes it takes--I know this because I have recorded this with my camera before--and disembarked searching for a suitable lavatory in which to do our collective businesses. Ahem. LOL The first order of shopping was at Yogi's shop. Yogi is a Chinese artist and his shop is full of beautiful things. He likes Elise so he gives her great prices, here they are called "best friend prices" on everything. I bought a couple of hand-painted Christmas ornaments and also got a custom created Kanji artist's ''chop'' made for my painting. A chop is a customized and personal stamp used by artists to sign their work in China. Western artists sign their names. Chinese artists stamp art with their chops. Well, now I have my own personal chop with my name in Chinese Kanji characters. I must say, I find it extremely beautiful. I can't wait to create a painting and 'chop' it! LOL Next stop was the pearl market. YUP. I did blow my wad of 1000 Yuan and then some.
Alan and his Guitar
At my request Alan brought his guitar and so we sang for a good long time before deciding to go to do Karoake!
I bought an ivory, double knotted strand for myself, with of course, matching earrings. I bought gifts for my mother and others. Lee also bought pearls...nobody could resist either the beauty or the quality of these pearls but also the "best friend prices" that Elise is offered! Alan's 1600 Yuan bought him 2 strands of lustrous black pearls with earrings and WOW, they are breath-taking pieces! In short, we dropped some serious cash in the store. The girls in the store re-strung my pearls, installed sterling silver clasps and then re-made the 4 pairs of matching drop earrings in sterling silver, as well. I am so pleased with my purchases. AND, if you think about the prices of these round natural beauties, well we really almost stole them. I purchased a string of real pearls--double-knotted (I watched them re-string and double knot the precious darlings), a sterling silver purply-brown pearl pendant, and 4 sets of sterling silver earrings for 1035 Yuan or about $172 dollars. That's IT. Yes, you read that right. It's almost like stealing. But it's not. Everyone was happy. The girls in the shop were happy and we were happy. Hell, I even did a little happy
My friend and my former Tianjiao boss Ed's wife, Elise; my friend Samuel that I met at the gym; and Joyce.
dance when I exited the shop to celebrate my good fortune! LOL Then we proceeded to tour the island on foot. It rained. We hid under our umbrellas. Then, we came to a little Inn by the sea, and it was so lovely, so absolutely lovely in the misty rain, and the light was fading, and the waves were crashing on the sandy Chinese ''graffiti', temporary until the next tidal rise swept it away for all time and I just couldn't resist the call of the sea any longer so I thrust my umbrella at Elise and ditched my sandals at the foot of the beach steps and ran laughing and skipping into the warm South China Sea, wondering at me, little Carolyn Halcrow from Thompson, Manitoba, Canada having such an amazing life! I frolicked in the surf for a precious few minutes and decided that this island, this beautiful, amazing, hilly, sub-tropical, crumbling-colonial-architecturally-infused, vehicle-less place was now one of my most, MOST favourite places on this Earth. Before I leave Xiamen, I may return overnight to the little Inn by the sea, just to savour the unique flavour of this one-of-a-kind place. How precious it feels to me. In
Party People 2
Alan and Joyce. Joyce is wearing a pretty rose ribbon Vivian deftly folded up. She made one for me too, from the cake ribbons and we wore them in our hair for the rest of the evening.
those moments with my legs and feet in the sea feeling the soft sand underfoot I remember thinking, "How great is my life? It's so great...I can't even articulate it." The words of Mary Oliver came to me “Tell me-what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I felt a rare joy--a joy that I have experienced several times in China and I feel profoundly grateful for that. China feels to me a second home, my second country and I will be back! I swear. I promise. I will. Be. Back. Not if. When.
After reluctantly boarding the nearly deserted ferry in the dark and taking in a gloriously lit Xiamen skyline on the now blackened sea and then finding a Guomau bound bus, we decided to eat at a good Hakka restuarant near the school. Now, I am going to brag a bit. Earlier in the day, at lunch, I ordered our food in Chinese and was told by our usual cheerful waitress how good my Chinese had become. And this night, I again, ordered our meal, and was told by the waiter that I spoke good Chinese. WOW! I am so proud
of myself. I really am. I came here knowing NO Chinese. I can order a meal, and tell someone with whom I'm communicating that I don't understand him/her, say hello, yes, no thanks, good morning and good evening, tell a woman she has a beautiful purse (priorities, eh?) and recognize a few other little word or phrases. I know so much more than when I came. I believe I could speak very good Chinese in time. It's the third most commonly spoken language in Canada after English and French. I was surprised to learn that today. And what are tomorrow's adventures? Maybe some yoga at Lilly's studio. Maybe some packing. I now have 3 suitcases to bring home. Yeah. I must stop shopping! LOL I am just not sure what tomorrow will bring. What I do know is that I'm going to enjoy every last second. Try to do the same.
There are more photos below