It’s strange how, when you are leaving a place, your thoughts change but often your feelings don’t.
I’m filling my last days in Suzhou to the brim. Brimful time.
Everyday, on the roof of my kitchen, for two hours, my TaiQi teacher tries to teach me the basic steps. I’m rubbish. It’s hard to even learn the basic eight steps when it’s never been a part of your way of thinking. And, until I learn these steps, there’s no way forward. My teacher is a gentle woman called Ginger; though, she’s not. She’s uncharacteristically divorced and her 17 year old son lives with her parents in North East China where the temperature is now minus28. I’d hoped to have 3 months learning TaiQi but that’s not going to happen so, like the last days in Beijing, I’m cramming things into every hour. When time becomes limited, it becomes more precious.
For the next three days, I’ll meet Ginger on Lindun Lu every day and she’ll come home and patiently spend 2 hours with me trying to get me to understand the basic moves. Today, I told Lao Wang I was learning TaiQi. He then proceeded to show
me QiGong. He looked quite fetching squatting in his garden in is fur hat and amethyst pin with all the dogs running around. I listened, I watched, I understood what he said and liked him showing me. His shoes were shiny.
Then, on the way home, down Pingjiang Lu, I surprisingly found exactly what I’ve been looking for for the last 2 weeks. A man was writing the New Year, lucky, red paper couplets. Two years ago, I had some written for me when I was living on Ding Hui Si Xiang and this year, I couldn’t find the hand-written ones anywhere - but here they are, just the same as ever - perfect. I can’t read Hanzi so a man in the shop, who was also watching, pointed me a pair out which were lying on the floor amid many others with inky characters wet and drying.. I can’t read them but knowing which one is left and right helps. I write on the back which is which so I can figure out the right way to hang them. It made me very happy to find this small thing. Such a small thing that seems too small to
make a dent in my day but it was the ‘icing’ on top of learning, being with friends, shedding a few tears over leaving and making plans for New Year.
Now, I’m in Pin Von eating rice parcels and bubble wontons and making a mess over the table. I came at the wrong time. It’s also the tea time for the staff and they’re sitting around a table downstairs ignoring my order but I don’t mind - it gives me more time. I can hear the click of the lighter of the men in the next small cubicle as they smoke but cannot smell their smoking. I’ve nearly got ShuShu to quit but only in front of me.
The sun is setting and I feel calm - not sad at all. In fact, when I look at the last two months, I know how lucky I am. China is a place where things happen to you, around you, with you, alongside you. It’s the way it is, there are too many people for much to happen in isolation. You just have to look in the right way. Sometimes, I get taken up by looking at it the wrong
way, taking in the things that really stress me but I know I will always remember the very good first.
Now I’m leaving, I feel that everything has a story again but I haven’t had time to take it all in. I can read everything as new stories which already have roots inside me. This makes them easier to read.
I feel as if the time has both been snatched away and given to me as a wake up call.
Happy Chinese New Year, It's the year of the rabbit - my year
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