Getting around

My family and I seem to be acclimatising to China land – the heat is not that hot, the distances are not that far and the menus not that foreign or surprising (i sampled tendon on a kebab stick last night, an oddly tasty and chewy experience…) 

Beijing as a ‘walking city’ is quite a novelty.  Beijingers walk, full stop.  They walk to work if they can, to the shops often.  They walk to meals and from meals.  If they eat at home, then they often go for a walk afterwards (9pm…10pm… whatever) because it is healthy to settle your meal this way, the air outside cools down at night and it is pleasant to mingle with friends and be among the population, I guess.  And to take your dog out to pee and poop!

My mom and I have becomer late night walkers too.  Our little flatlet in which we crash each night is a 2km walk from my brother’s apartment – through one shopping centre (to cool down), across one of the biggest roads I have ever had to negotiate, with its constant stream of traffic, and past plenty locals sitting outside on the city streets, around small tables, cooling down for the eve.

Mom and i enter at least one dark alleyway on the way to apartment, feeling completely safe.  Looked at (as foreigners), yes, but in no danger of mugging, assault or rape. How refreshing.

Something about the humidity/berg wind atmosphere makes this late night trekking a bit of a dizzying experience, though.  But still, the walking is novel.

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Potential Blog Titles/FB Statuszz in China Land

“Why are we getting fat?” Mom and i ask each other, bewildered, as we pop another delicious morsel into our mouths…

“Jelly Fish with cabbage shreds or Edibble Tree Fungus Salad anyone…”

It’s 3am in the morning, why am I not sleeping?!”

“Tiannamen Square, never again…”

“The Chinese discover that dogs also make good pets; Siberian Husky finds new home in a 2-room apartment on the 9th floor…”

“Did I just see a Toy Pom (dog) being pushed around in a baby pram..?!”

“Who cares about the bicycles, there are 9 million umbrellas in Beijing.  With the pointy bits all at eye level.  Lots of fun…”

“My fat fat  feet in Beijing China…”

“Beijing comes alive at night…Not yet in love, but definitely infatuated.”

“Just bought five ice creams for the eqivalent of R8.50…and one cider for 50 bucks (sip slooowly)!!!!!!!!!”

“Rice Wine… tick…”

“Eel, tick.  Beef Tendon in marinade on a kebab stick, tick.  Now, where is that woof woof?”

“Where are you if riding the subway/underground pressed as close to your youngest bro (and surrounding people) as you have ever been?  Line 1, Beijing China

“I stand corrected, Chinese people do dawdle…”

Morrissey Lass in China-land

I’m just back from another day of adventurously sweating through the streets of Beijing, China.  Heat takes itself to the next level on this continent, with even seasoned Beijingers looking flustered.  The men like to hike their tops up to just above their bellies to let any form of breeze cool them down and the women wear lovely, loose-flowing clothes (I’m looking quite a frump in comparison) and short short shorts, skirts or dresses, which is all good because the women all seem to have great legs in this joint.  For the most part, women in Beijing are lovely.   They blow all the stereotypes into smithereens – many are tall and slim.  I have put this down to all the walking everyone does.  And the healthy food that makes up their staple diet.  And all the sweating.

China has probably been the last place on earth I have ever wanted to visit.  The thought of getting lost amid the sea of strange faces and foreign culture has always put me off.  How narrow-minded of me!  Although the Chinese population is immense and there are always people around (no matter the time of day), I am not pushing my way through crowds of bodies all the time, as I thought would be the case.  The saving grace for all of this is that there is no such thing as African time around here (thank goodness!).  No one dawdles, everyone is adept at weaving their way around – this includes taxis (often to be seen driving in the wrong lane towards oncoming traffic, so as to avoid pedestrians, bikes, scooters etc.), pedestrians weaving to avoid taxis and bikes/scooters and bikes/scooters to avoid everyone else.

What seems to be a designated pedestrian walkway is often not, so my mom and I are learning to dodging vehicles/scooters/bikes all the time too!

The best partof Beijing for me has been the food.  Everything is a communal eating experience in this country, which is lovely.  You can often cook your own food at your table (in a restaurant) as a family/group of friends.  Simply order raw veggies such as cabbage, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and all sorts of green food plants I had no knowledge of, along with thinly sliced beef, chicken, tofu and grill it Mongolian style on the hot coals in front of you (with everyone cooking and grabbing as you go) or boil it in a Hot Pot of Tom Yum sauce.  This makes eating quite an adventure.  That and the chopsticks!  Each meal is accompanied by rice noodles, plain noodles or rice and the yummiest of sauces.  For Hot Pot you get sesame seed paste and coriander to dunk your lemon-grassy-spicey food item in, for the coal-grilled Mongolian spread a completely different sauce.  Dunk in sauce or paste, place in mouth and let the flavours go BOOM!

People like to be around each other in China-land.  In the evenings they congegrate in the city centre to learn Chinese-style line dances, or they skip with ropes to music, or they can be seen writing things on the pavement with long-handled, sponge devices – the point being for the writer to focus and relax more than anything permanent to be done because the water they use to make their mark evaporates within a few minutes.  Jiang Wei tells me that many people in the city dont have the luxury of air conditioning, so they often take walks after dinner time to cool down and enjoy the night life. 

All in all, it has been a positive experience so far…

Morrissey Lass

Once upon a time, in a wee village filled with people of many shapes and sizes, there lived a rather skinny lass called Morrissey.

Morrissey was a ponderous type who had secret, wild and fanciful designs that she was a Viking in the making (being, after all blonde, blue eyes and of moderate height), she had one but small problem – she lived in a flatlet, owned a dog, was never clad in bear skin, and so was not quite convincing in this role.

In the eye of her imagination, she could not see herself feeling very comfortable in wild Viking skirts and belts anyways, and had not quite figured out the appropriate wardrobe for it otherwise – hanging onto ship masts in heroine apparel (sheer fabric, low cut neckline) did not seem very practical.  She thought that she might just wear Jeans and a fierce expression instead, none of which would surprise anyone in the village by any means.

Morrissey thought that life might be nudging her onto a more adventurous route than normal because it was failing to steer her towards a comfortable one.  She had an intense power of deduction that way. 

Although the people in her village pointed to village life and the warmth of pubs and fire-lit houses (with kids clinging to their m’aams skirts and wives arms comfortably linked into the crook offered by their bearded husbands) and nodded assuredly that one day it would all be hers, she recognized that not all advertising was true, and that, if life circumstances kept certain things at arms length anyways, she might as well figure out why, on an adventure of sorts.

She had noted certain trends in the village of late which was leaning her towards packing her suitcase and heading off down the road to see what might be happening around the corner.  (Although she had to admit to herself that she did not entirely believe in greener grass and felt that something else was afoot.)

For one, the bearded, manly ones, who were to imminently rock up on a steed of sorts and whisk Morrissey and others like her away on the adventure of her lifetime, were becoming a rare sighting at village gatherings and were not as imminent as had been promised by folklore and older villagers.  She recognized this as a world-wide phenomenon.  With no world wars in her vicinity to blame.

Because of this, the single ladies of the village had stopped preening themselves and tilting their heads every which way to find a man and were, instead, learning how to be practical and take the rubbish out themselves.  They were getting quite good at it.

(This had caused quite a stir amongst some of the existing bearded ones – they grew quite hot and flustered about bearded ones roles and how ladies taking out the rubbish infringed vastly upon these.  To which many of the ladies simply shrugged in response, as many practical women do, and said, ‘So, leave the rubbish to accumulate and stink instead?’ )

Morrissey decided to take all of these issues up with the village God.  She pointed out to Him that she and the village’s ladies were not at fault for taking out the rubbish and infringing on specified roles if no other alternative was available to them.  Morrissey secretly believed that the village God had a role to play in all of it anyway.  He seemed quite peaceful at the prospect of so many of his village ladies flying solo, so Morrissey had to conclude that it was not the worst outcome for a young ladies life as others were intimating.

In fact she had been at a wedding ceremony just the other day where someone had leant across, squeezed her arm and commanded, ‘Stay single!’ which was a further indication that perhaps married life was not all it was made out to be.

The question then remained – what was going on?

(more thoughts to follow…)

Forest

I get the distinct feeling these days that I am just clear of a particular dense and complex forest in my life – as if I have bolted out into a clearing at an increased pace, but being so accustomed to the intensity and focus required for clambering, crashing, maneuvering and crawling over and under undergrowth and the thick roots of trees as I am, I have only just recognized the blue sky above me and that I am free.

Yes, this is how I feel. And so, as I come to a standstill in this clearing and about-turn to face ‘from whence I have come’, I feel relieved and grateful and proud. I made it! There is real sweat on my brow. Real grit on my face.

But I am also distressed and frustrated, so hunker down to ponder momentarily… Why did it take me so ruddy long?!

Why was I trapped in that shadowy, perplexing, distressing, body/heart-grazing place for so ruddy long?

In this forest I have lost and held (in that order) two sweet boys- nephews – and have ached along with two who tried to muster enough to go on, amidst the confusion, anger, emptiness and greyness that ensued.

We have lost our way and found it, lost our way and found it.

In this forest, I have been a fool with my heart. I have given it over to be crushed and bruised. I have not been careful with it. My own doing. My own desires, misunderstandings and misinterpretations and applications of love and life.

I have let it (my heart) drag behind me for many a mile and gotten twigs lodged in it. There are some things missing, some things added. It is back in my chest now. It just feels different – sits different – wary and street smart.

In this forest I have hated me, misunderstood me, clawed around for life’s meaning, tasted the ashyness of dulling disillusionment…

I have seen people rise and people fall. In this forest I have also heard God’s call the loudest – from off in a direction I did not expect, and then more intimately and tender than someone, stuck and hating in a forest, really feels they deserve. It has bought with it rushing relief, healing, rest, redemption…

As I sit in this ‘now’-clearing I feel stronger. I feel decided. I feel grounded. I realize now that the brush had been thinning around me for some time, I had been gradually catching the soft stroke of sunlight across my face.

I’m only just in the clearing, so its time to savour it. How long will it last? But why did it take so ruddy long? Maybe there is no way to reach the clearing without the forest? No such thing as clear-cut pathways. Maybe life is about what we lose as much as it is about what we gain. And we learn to be better built for it. Maybe twigs-in-hearts is par for the course? Maybe loss and turmoil should be embraced? Maybe all of it is our making, so we hang in regardless? So the length of time is inconsequential, as long as we learn what we need to learn along the way.

I have hunkered down long enough. Time to stand, turn, walk. Enjoy a new space.

SC & FS

I believe that there are two realities to the single life which a single needs to learn to balance between in order to retain a personality viable enough to survive this status.  (Failing such marital bliss ever materialising, mastering this balancing act will make you a good conversationalist at a full table of mostly married or dating couples who envy your apparent contentment.)

Self Containment (SC) and Full Submersion (FS) are the opposite poles of life that we singles teeter between on a daily basis.

The one reality (SC) resembles an evening indoors with a meal for one, slab of chocolate and a DVD series to consume, all devoured with barely a hint of self pity or depression.  SC is being able to avoid all panic at finding oneself alone again, mixed in with the ability to strategically and calmly implement  ‘oh, that’s all right, I love my life anyway’ strategies that are truly fulfilling.

I am currently being Self Contained by blogging, for example, instead of going through my contact list on my phone, wondering who might be free for the evening or morosely running pictures of my future on the shelf through my head.

SC is also being able to have a meal at a restaurant on ones own and truly enjoy it, or to be occupied with activities that make you feel good about yourself – like home improvement, studies, musical endeavours, gym, jewellery-making classes, hobbies and the likes.

Shorter versions of SC (because SC is not always easy to maintain) we will call Self Contained Moments (SCM’s).   SCM’s make the single feel empowered, confident and content during brief flashes of inspiration that remind them of some of the benefits of single living.

Full Submersion on the other hand is when we throw our lives into the lives of our married or dating friends/family and become the best aunts/uncles, brothers/sisters, friends, babysitters, listening ears, advise givers and third wheels that we truly can be.  The benefit of FS is full blown family life that can become our very own, without having to pay the mortgage.

We feed and burp and coo (as ladies), relieve marital tension through the diversion our presence creates, get hugs and meals, and lavish affection on our ‘safe’ people to keep our hearts pumping.

As there is only so much of borrowing another’s life, baby ,problems and fridge content that one can actually do before it becomes a bit too much, we singles soon find ourselves zipping back down the rope to Self Containment to create some needed balance.

SC is a hard reality, however, which is why some singles opt to live with other singles in a SSC – Singles Survival Commune, where SC and FS can operate under one roof.

FS is easier until it highlights you own lack.  Sometimes we don’t quite make it to the other side (to SC) intact and this is when we can be found hanging upside down with others having a SW (Single’s Whinge).  SW’s are necessary venting realities.   I partake in them on a weekly basis, in fact.  It’s much like ‘here we go around the mulberry bush’ – with the same issues and pains revisited and hashed out each time.  But it is cathartic and, as we go home to no one, a good boost of encouragement to put heads down and move forward nevertheless.

I have just been interrupted by real human beings at my door and have to conclude that SC is overrated and I would like to put my order in for a family of my own please 😉

 

How to Survive Being an Older Single Female at Social Events

The following are some suggestions on ‘How to Survive Being an Older Single Lady at Social Events’:

1.)    Never be on time, especially if going to a married couple’s house for a social event.  Married couples (hosting or attending) are rarely are on time themselves.  If you do arrive early, you will inevitably be the first to arrive (possibly by a good hour or so).  Which is just awkward.  Even at the best of times…

2.)     Be prepared to experience further awkward moments sporadically throughout the evening – over where the hang to sit at the table so as not to split up couples, or where to be when everyone else of your gender is changing poo nappies, feeding children, putting them to sleep, or leaning comfortably against a significant other.

3.)    Talk about the children you would like to have one day as much as those who have children are doing so.  Give your ‘children’ names and funny quirks.   Do some thorough research on schooling opportunities so that you can provide an educated opinion when the topic comes up.

4.)    (If you don’t feel comfortable with suggestion 3, then do what singles normally do – ask incessant questions about those children present and accounted for throughout the course of the evening, or dialogue directly with said children, even if you have to field developmental questions about genitals and which particular set you might have…)

5.)    Bring a very strong drink with you.

6.)    Practise glaring down all remarks about being the feminist single in the group who is not ‘faffing’ in the kitchen (you have done the math and there are already X number of women ‘faffing’ in said kitchen and X number of clever gents sitting on their asses culturally ignoring all of it…what would you do?) and therefore clearly to blame for your single status.

7.)    Find the other single in the room (if you are lucky enough not to be alone) and cling to each other like shipwrecked people holding out for imminent rescue, but not too closely unless anyone gets any ideas.

8.)    Better yet, divert the conversation towards that singles woes and relational shortcomings.  It’s cruel, but so is much of life.

9.)    Go home alone, feed your dog, climb into bed and savour the reality of a night of blissfully uninterrupted sleep ahead of you J