Posts Tagged With: tribe

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.

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

Let’s take Bus 35 to Somewhere

Bus 35 runs from our village, 大高舍村, into Liangxiang, where I have classes 5 days a week.

The bus runs between 05h40 to 20h30.

We’ve taken it to Liangxiang many times over the past few weeks.

This morning we got on it in the opposite direction, to see where it would take us.

It is amazing what you experience if you are willing to just get on a bus and go somewhere unknown.

We rode the bus for about 20 minutes and then got off in a neighbouring village, started walking along its streets, taking in the atmosphere, the old buildings, the beautiful people, the smell of food and the sound of laughter.

We walked down the main street, eventually getting to the entrance of the village.

I love how villages and towns and cities here in China have ornate entrances welcoming you.

We kept on walking in the shade of large trees planted decades ago, all along the road.

A woman on an electric scooter stopped alongside us.

She started talking and explaining, too fast for us to follow, but friendly and kind, us able to understand she has a gift she wants to share with us.

A little way further down the road we find their farm, their gift.

Amazing organic fruit trees.

Plums.

Peaches.

Apricots.

And a similar fruit we don’t know.

They explain that they do not spray their trees and invite us in to come and pick and eat as much as we like.

Birds provide the soundtrack fro our experience.

We enjoy one juicy plum followed by another juicy peach.

Maddi’s face and clothes are marinated in fresh fruit juice as she eats along.

As we leave we take a bag of fruit with us.

It starts to drizzle.

People offer us umbrellas which we politely decline.

The drizzle is perfect.

We find our bus stop.

We ride home, along tree-lined streets.

As Beate would call it, ‘China the Beautiful’.

Not just the trees and fruit and countryside.

The people.

Always friendly.

Always welcoming.

Always sharing their little bit of abundance with our little tribe of strangers.

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

From 大高舍村 to Beijing and back.

It was about six o’clock when we stood at the 35-bus stop.

The sign says the bus operates from 05h40 to 20h30 every day.

We’re heading to Beijing, about 40 kilometres away.

By car it takes 90 minutes to drive.

Today we’re taking the bus to Liangxiang and then the subway, all the way to the heart of this massive city.

It’ll take, maybe 2 hours.

Just after 6 the first bus arrives.

It is packed with people, more people get on, but we decide to wait for the next one, in the hope that there’ll be a little more space.

Just before half-past the next bus is there, as packed with people and we get on, because we need to get to Beijing to do our application for residency.

We’ve been in China almost 19 months.

First time round we got a 6 month residency permit.

Then a 12 month one.

That’s the longest they’ll give you.

They could renew it, or extend it, like we’re hoping they’ll do today, but 12 months is what they give you in one instalment.

It is the 23rd.

Today our existing residency permit expires.

So this is the day to do it, unless we’d like to burden ourselves with a massive amount of red tape and bureaucratic trouble.

We arrive at Liangxiang 25 minutes later, just outside the new subway station which looks like a scroll.

Everyone on the bus heads towards the station.

They’re smartly dressed in office clothes, ready to commute for 90 minutes to get to work, to commute right back home tonight.

I’m grateful I don’t have a 3 hour commute every day.

We take the Fanghsang-line to its end, get on line 9 and ride it to its end as well.

Then we take line 4 for 3 stops to transfer to line 2, taking it to the Lama Temple Station in the heart of the city.

We’re there by 8h45.

Anna Wang meets us at exit B and together we head to the local entry and exit administration office of the Public Security Bureau (PSB).

We complete forms, go to the right counter, but then the officer informs us there is a problem, my Foreign Expert Certificate (which allows me to work in China) has been cancelled by my precious employer and the new employer has taken too long to renew it.

Anna asks us to wait.

We wait.

2 hours.

She calls.

We should go have lunch, she’ll be back at the PSB at around three o’clock.

We walk down the street and find a beautiful Halaal restaurant which serves Chinese Food with  a Malaysian twist.

It is beautiful.

Then back to the PSB.

Anna is there.

The problem has been sorted out.

And I am reminded that good will and strong relationships often make a way where a way does not seem to be.

Our applications go in without any glitch, except fro the slight frown on the officer’s face as he processes applications for 4 children, repeatedly asking ‘four children?’, Anna explaining that we are from Africa and I am a good teacher and Zuko teaches the children and Beate is with us, so it really isn’t that bad as we are 3 adults and 4 children, which isn’t that different from China.

And I am reminded of grace.

Aware that it is our Origin’s grace which allows us to make this journey through this foreign world with its exquisite people and exotic places.

We make the same journey home.

This time the subway isn’t as congested and on most lines, most of us get to sit for most of the journey.

By 5 we’re back in Liangxiang.

By five-thrity we’re in 大高舍村 (High House Village).

Zuko brews a cup of coffee.

We talk about how clean the subway is and cheap, only 7¥ for the entire journey.

We talk about, even though millions of people use this system of underground trains and busses every day, how nowhere it felt too crowded or congested.

We talk about how well our little Tribe did, as we do the things you have to do, to be able to experience this journey.

And my heart is filled with gratitude, hoping that somehow these experiences will enable them and help them be able to live lives less ordinary as they quickly head towarss adulthood.

Categories: Asian Adventure | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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