Posts Tagged With: east

Every long Journey will be Interupted

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We’re taking a trip.

A long one.

With no specific destination in mind, except perhaps to experience and learn.

And no determined end, except when we run out of grace and goodwill, which are both invaluable on a journey like this one.

We left our beloved country almost 20 months ago.

And for now, we find ourselves in a little village ( 大高舍村 ) on the outskirts of Beijing, about 10 kilometres from a city called Liangxiang.

We’ve received a lot of goodwill from beautiful people in this very foreign world.

And we lost some goodwill, from beautiful people who suggested that they were friends.

That is the nature of goodwill.

It cannot be claimed or demanded.

It is given, or not.

And in receiving,  or not receiving it, we are grateful,  for there is a Sourceror who conjures goodwill and lets it disipate in a perfect rhythm of gift and care, loss and gain and loss again.

On an extended journey like ours, the worst interuption is a medical matter.

In a country where we’ve not even been able to explain eloquently that we have a headache, it is daunting to imagine you might need a doctor, on short notice.

It is one of the things you put at the very back of your mind, lest angst consumes your every moment and you confine your children to padded rooms, only letting them out to pee, if they really have to.

We’re good at walking away from the things that worry most people.

You have to be if you want to load a 13 year old boy, two girls of 12 and 11, and an 18-month old Boo on an airplane and head into the unknown, without an idea of what it all will demand.

And then, when a need arises, you deal with it, at least consoled by the fact that every moment leading up to this need wasn’t poisoned by fear.

Fear is a terrible thing.

It sort of sucks the life out of you.

And everyone in proximity to you.

And every experience, which might’ve been beautiful, but seem gray and tasteless in the dim light of nightmarish phobia.

Fear makes us do stupid things.

Like being selfish and needy.

And existing without truly living.

In our little Tribe, the only thing soliciting greater anxiety than an amputated head on a stainless steel hospital trolley, after an horific accident in which half of us lost the ability to perform normal bodily functions and the other half lost their heads, is a dental emergency.

Ask Wildrie, our kind and very patient dentist back home.

It takes an unusual amount of coaxing and encouragement to get any of us to open wide, even despite excruciating pain and vivid pictures of Zombi-like rotting faces, brought to life by our own imaginations enticed by pain induced hallucinations.

So when one of our daughters anounced that she was going to need a dentist, only days after we arrived in 大高舍村, we knew it was important.

So how do you find a dentist in a new city?

Ask friends?

Google it?

Go on Facebook and ask for recommendations.

All pretty handy in a world where you and all your friends speak the same language, where you can read it and Google and Social Media is open and unrestricted.

Where we are, none of these options are viable.

In fact, private medical care isn’t available.

If you need a doctor, you go to a hospital.

If you need a dentist, you do the same.

And so we ask our neighbours where the nearest hospital is and head there, hoping for the best, armed with our passports, all the Chinese currency we could scrape together, after having relocated our Tribe of seven, aware that we’ll need to eat for 6 weeks, before my little bit of income from teaching makes its reluctant appearance, and that every ¥ we spend is part of a meal we won’t have.

Hospitals in China are Public.

State operated.

They are not expensive.

They are clean and well run.

We find the hospital.

Amidst a thousand signs we’re not able to read, we find an information desk.

With a translator app (almost as invaluable as goodwill if you journey through this part of the world) we explain we would like to see a dentist.

The problem with translator apps, they translate fine from English to Chinese, but the person you speak to usually doesn’t carry a handy translator with them and even though they understand you, because they are relieved they understand you and want to move right along as quickly as they can, in order not to seem incompetent, they start answering your question in Chinese which must have inspired the fast train which runs between Beijing and Hong Kong and you have to listen and understand as much as you can in the 7.3 seconds it takes for them to talk, before your eyes glaze over and you can see a mindless stare reflected in the lenses of their spectacles.

A bit of advice: learn as much of the language as you can, as soon as you can.

We’ve found, even though what comes out of our mouthes sound like giberish, since Chinese has different tones which influence the meaning and you can think you are explaining to someone that you are a teacher, while in actual fact you are telling him you are a mouse, solliciting uncontrolable laughter, always recieved in good spirits and optimism, because you don’t know what was heard and only what you hoped to say, when you practice listening, over time, you understand more of what is said.

I listen to the radio, to every conversation on which I can eavesdrop, to people in shops and restaurants and gradually my brain has built a translator of its own.

So this morning I figure out we must go to the 3rd floor of the hospital.

Which we do.

Where we are told we need a hospital card, fear slowly dripping down my spine, becuase why would China provide state-sponsored healthcare to a foreigner and his oversized family?

Before the sweaty droplet could reach the crack where a monkey-tale used to be, according to the stories my Dad told me, the friendly nurse writes a few words on a piece of paper, asks an attendant to accompany us somewhere and smiles at us.

We go to the 1st floor, which is actually the ground floor, since buildings in China do not have ground floors, making it easier for me to understand,  since I don’t know yet what ‘ground’ is in Chinese, but I do know how to count, and there is no word for 1st or 2nd or 3rd in Chinese, just ‘ee’, ‘ar’ and ‘san’, one, two, three and ‘low’, which means ‘floor’, so ‘ee low’ is easy enough to follow, but on ‘ee low’ it took us 30 minutes to find the information desk, and so we are grateful for the smiling chatting attendant walking us down, first to one desk where our daugther’s details are entered onto a computer and she is handed a hospital card, then to another desk, where we pay the 3¥ for the hospital card and a light blue booklet in which all records will be manually kept of all treatment she will ever receive at the hospital.

Then we go back up to the 3rd floor, where a young dentist greets us.

She calls herself Dr Gee.

She speaks a little English.

She takes a look at the mouth of our daughter who, by now, needs no more vivid imagination or gentle coaxing to open wide, as relief that we’ve come this far washes over the two of us and pool at our feet.

She needs x-rays.

A piece of paper is printed.

We go to the 4th floor.

10 minutes later we’re back with Dr Gee, x-rays in hand.

She explains the problem and starts treatment.

45 minutes later we stand at a counter and pay the days bill.

151¥

Then we go to the pharmacy counter to collect medicines, which we need to take back to Dr Gee, before we can be ‘released’, so that she can retrieve and replace the anesthetic she used and explain about the rest.

151¥ and about 2 hours later we head back home, laughing at ourselves for our rediculous fear of dentistry, while patting ourselves on the back for being able to find our way through this as well, with so much ease, in a place where nothing should really be easy for people like us, except for grace and goodwill.

This morning, from a nurse who was kind enough to scrible a few words, an attendant who didn’t mind showing us the way and Dr Gee who took the time to give our daughter treatment which equals everything we’ve ever received in our beloved country.

And from Wildrie we received better than the best.

Goodwill.

We can’t make sacrifices at the feet of little golden statues to sollicit or guarantee it.

We can’t make advance payments or take out insurance.

It is given or not.

Which fills us with gratitude every time we receive it in such abundance.

Helping us not to take anything for granted, not anything.

On our journey, we are learning this, feeling a bit stupid, since this isn’t suddenly true.

It is always true.

For all of us.

And as we walk away from Dr Gee and the friendly nurse, finding our way to the home with the kind neighbor who fed us on the night of our arrival and who helps Zuko with her vegetable garden, who shows Zuko where the perfect little shops are to get unique little things, we are deeply aware that whoever we are, wherever we go, even despite our desperate striving to create a safe bubble in which to exist, but for the goodwill of our Origin, we would be lost in a world filled with animosity.

Categories: Asian Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Between Worlds

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It’s been 18 months.

At the end of 2013 my little Tribe and I packed up our little wooden house on the not so little hill, sold our ageing Defender to a shrewd lawyer and our beautiful inherited antique furniture to Colonial Antiques, bought six plane tickets with the proceeds and found our way to Jiamusi in Siberian China.

A bit more than a year before our departure, we realized that something will change in our life.

We didn’t know what, but we knew change was on the horizon.

We sensed it, like you can smell the rain in the Kalahari, as it is on its way.

It wasn’t the first time, we’d smelled the rain before and felt it on our soul.

I’d been working for a non-profit for more than half a decade.

It wasn’t the first time.

My career, if you could call it that, had been in non-profits and non-profits are just that, not profitable, so you go into it, with a lot of passion and hope, aware that you won’t be making exceptional profits, hoping you would contribute something to life and society, and sometimes the non-profit isn’t even breaking even, so you walk away with loads of experience, but somewhat poorer financially than you went into it.

I’d been interested in happiness, writing and speaking about it on every opportunity afforded me.

Not because I wasn’t happy, or was seeking happiness, but because I was immensely and increasingly happy, since I could remember, and wondered why, for so many others, happiness seemed so illusive.

As a young child, immersed in ignorance, as a young adult, inspired by aspiration and most recently, progressively framed by love and peace as faith seeped deeper into my being, enabling me to live a happy life, despite loss & gain, always caught by loss again, happiness existed in my being.

I was curious to understand why I’d been happy for most of my life, except for that brief moment in 2006 when my world seemed to implode and rejection desired to devour my heart, from which I emerged happier than before, aware that the depth of our sorrow contributes to the breadth of our happiness.

Curious, why so many with seemingly so much more, weren’t.

Aren’t.

Then two forward thinking Academics noticed my writing and offered me the opportunity to study again, perhaps sensing that happiness is indeed an Ancient topic well neglected in modern literature,  only recently revived, in Psychology and Spirituality,  but perhaps untied from its deep Ancient Roots and the thinking which has gone before.

I had the privilege of studying when I was young, and publishing in an Academic Journal, but life and hope and aspirations consumed my time and it had been 15 years since I expended any real energy on extensive learning.

There was the post-graduate Certificate I gained from Rhodes University, which taught me a bit of Broadcast Management, but to be offered the opportunity to read towards a real PhD, on a topic which made your being come alive, was a prospect to be embraced.

The rain we smelled started falling.

The scholarship,  however, wouldn’t cover the cost of clothing and feeeding a family of six, nor would the 16-hour days I’d been working at the non-profit, allow any time for legitimate learning or pondering.

It seemed an impossible fortuity.

Something which would have been wonderful,  but would have to be set aside as the glistening golden chains of regular life and responsibility bound us.

Impossible, however, only exists, when we are unwilling to let go and unwilling to consider  metamorphosis,  and so we let go and found the chance to teach, while studying, in the deep Far East.

A world apart.

18 months later, I am inordinately grateful.

I’ve only touched the surface of what had been written, by Ancient Philosophers,  excited that there are deep wells from which to drink, over time and encouraged by the old African Philosopher, Augustine of Hippo Rego, that we should allow ourselves time to digest, but somehow I’ve learnt much already.

Sustained as I patiently consume and consider.

Energy does flow where attention goes.

The gift of the past 18 months, not only reading forgotten wisdom, but reading it in an environment to which I am un-accustomed, a listener and observer, learning about happiness in every moment and every interaction.

Soon we will depart from Jiamusi, heading to Liangxiang, a little University Town, with fewer than 100 000 residents, not too far from Beijing.

And as we pack our bags and say our goodbyes, I contemplate and take stock.

I’ve realized my own happiness is a gift.

A gift received from when I was born, as I lived under the grace and kindness of our Origin.

They, awakening in me an awareness of their presence and a comprehension (rudimentary,  but non the less) of Their Being.

Gradually, like the tide, coming in, pushing water over rocks and river-banks, until all that is parched is covered by its cool.

I’ve realized, loss is gain and gain is loss.

Neither one better than the other.

Both vital to our happiness.

I’ve realized, although we verbalize it, and endeavor after it, in different ways, we have this desire to be happy in common, as a species, a kind, a race.

And mostly we are dissapointed, because we seek it in Spirituality or Materialism, but seldom in the Origin of Spirit and Matter.

Denying ourselves the gift we have already received, from Them Who brought us into Being.

And perhaps the unwrapping of what has already been given exists in ridding ourselves, or being ridden of, the conviction that we have want.

Seeing, that we have no want, for They are and we are with Them.

Also, as we embrace the metamorphosis,  receiving the time to live slower, to walk slower, eat slower, love slower, happiness is afforded the conditions it needs to flourish.

The past 18 months gave us the opposite of what we had.

Instead of 16 hour working days, I had 4 or 5 classes to teach.

Instead of getting into the car and rushing through traffic to just be on time for an appointment,  we had slow walks, talking along the way, listening, smelling, consuming our environment.

Instead of no breakfast and a hurried late dinner, we had slow meals, with long conversations and simple food.

Wealth isn’t always wealth, for with it, often it seems, comes the poverty of our being.

Instead of short sleepless nights, interupted by anxiety of unpaid salaries or knocking suppliers, we had the regular deep rest of uninterrupted long nights, waking up revitalized.

We were happy before we came to China.

I was happy as an oblivious little boy and as an arrogant post-teenager, when Zuko and I fell in love, I was happy as a student and as a Minister and a Media-guy trying to bring about change with no resources and excitable people.

We were happy then, despite the loss.

And we are happy now, despite the loss.

For loss is always gain and loss will thankfully be ever present.

Don’t be misled.

The happy life is not a life poor of loss.

Selling all your movable assets and moving 13000 kilometres away from everything you’ve ever known is loss.

Being in a world in which you understand nothing and are never understood is loss.

Being the distrusted foreigner is loss.

Not being able to reach out to your Mom when she is afflicted by a stroke, or being able to console a friend when his wife and daughter dies, all of it is loss.

But loss is gain and gain is loss and it is good, for our happiness isn’t born of circumstnaces, but concieved by the Origin of our circumstances from Whom we receive in such a way that it is complete.

Not some of us.

All of us.

And not because of our devotion or delighting in Them.

Because of Their Being.

For They let it rain on everyone and They too bring famine to everyone, indiscriminately, as old confessions would say, for we all are from Them and They do not abandon what has been brought into being from Their own Being.

There is no reward or punishment, as religions would like you to believe.

There is They from Whom we come, Their grace and kindness, Their indestructible consistency and desire to live at One.

And so we find ourselves between Worlds, finishing up in Jiamusi, looking forward to settling (for a while) in Liangxiang, but always between Worlds, as we live a life which is complete, while it is still being completed, understanding it, as understanding will still dawn in our being.

Gypseys, vagrants even, in a world filled with death and injustice, seemingly out-of-control, yet perfectly loved by They Who are Love.

And so we encourage you to be on your own journey, from World to World, good travelers who never arrive at their destination.

Looking inwards, instead of at the illusions of success and acceptance.

Listening to Their ever present Voice, not the voices of destruction planted in your  being over time, the Voice of Them from Whom you come, always Whispering, calling us out, to be, as They are.

Not seperate or superior.

Redeemed and Regenerated, as we are being redeemed and regenerated.

Becoming the gift, as we receive it, for we are all created in Their image, not just some and we are all being called, all of us also answering at once, even if it be fumblingly in our muted blindness.

Happiness ours, along this Way.

Our Gift.

Which cannot be lost.

PS: at Sevencitys you could read some more about The Gift of the Way

Categories: Asian Adventure, information | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Perceptions & Misconceptions

Nope.  The city where we live is not polluted.

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This is Wilhelmina & Sophia.

Yip, they’re wearing face masks.

But not because of polution.

Because of the cold.

It is so terribly cold, if I walk around without a face mask, the beads on my beard are frozen solid in less than a kilometre.

Yet, on every website & every blog I read, before coming to China, if I saw people with face masks, it was associated to pollution.

Don’t get me wrong.

Jiamusi is a city of almost 1.6 million people.

By Chinese standards, that’s a small city.

And there are industry here.

The very famous American John Deere is built here.

There’s also logging and a paper mill.

A wind farm.

A pharmaceutical plant.

But it is small in comparison to the industry of our home city.

Another misconception we contemplated was the absence of bread.

On the ground floor of the building in which I teach there is a stunning pastry shop, the aroma of which contends for my last yuan, every day.

Every supermarket has a bakery.

And carry flour on their shelves.

And off course, Chinese people eat dog?

Nope.

We’ve not seen dog meat for sale.  I imagine you could find it.  Somewhere.  But we’ve only seen chicken, pork, beef & the most amazing array of live seafood.

And exquisite pasta.

They call it noodles, but it’s pasta.

Tasty pasta.

Everyone was right about the cold though.

That was no misconception.

And it is a bit tough to catch a bus.

Although they drive by every 5 minutes, as regular as clock work, we have no idea where they’re heading.

And so we opt for Jiamusi’s version of New York’s yellow taxi cabs.  They’re blue & silver.  They cost 6Y kr R10 or less than a dollar,  no matter where you’re heading, too.

And we can show them a piece of paper with the address of our destination.

And they take us right to our doorstep.

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