Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Takin' Care of Business

Since I've been back to my hometown, the name of which no one outside of Alberta seems to easily remember, I've been busy doing a few things.

The first thing I did was get a new debit card.
This card was to replace the old one that was stolen in Shanghai along with the rest of my wallet. I also incidentally earned some money, seems that thieves these days are bit more generous than before. Most likely what happened was that I forget the exact amount in my account since it was lost and now everyday is Christmas, I don't know what to buy first.

Another big step up on the responsibility ladder is updating my driver’s license.  
That was rather a painless affair except for when they "forgot" to give me my passport back. I know how precious those things are, lucky for me no-one in a ten-mile radius has my beautiful skin complexion or else I would be stuck in Canada forever which on second thought is kind of wonderful. I do regret though that when she asked me if all the information was correct for my new ID I forgot to mention I grew a few inches and got a piercing, now it’s too late, the shame of it all.

Something else I did oddly enough at the same time was to renew my Alberta Health card so I could put myself down as an organ donor, very convenient yet suspicious.

I also have a new job but more like an old job with longer hours. I’m a semi-volunteer with the semi being I don’t get kicked out of the house if I freely volunteer. It’s a lot of fun since I get my own desk, and permanent markers and file things all day long. I’m in charge of categorizing things alphabetically which is really hard since I've forgotten how to speak proper English, who in their right mind then believes that I can spell it? I’m also reading foreign names out so that doesn't help me improve yet I am thinking of having an alter ego and naming her Prisilia Opi.

So for today at work we did something a bit out of the ordinary. There’s a sidewalk event going on downtown so I was part of the man (woman) power holding the booth. It was a really nice day, warm with blue skies, and there was a live musician singing all of my favorite songs so a very relaxed atmosphere to say the least. I ran into some old friends and might have scared one or two of them with my sudden but welcomed presence. There was also a trampoline with a harnesses attached that I wanted to try but the darn little kids took up half the line. They also said the weight limit was 200 pounds and then turned their backs, but I'm not too sad, there’s always next week.   

As you can see not a whole lot of new changes in my life but I'm finally settling in, I've unpacked all of my things and have a bed to call my own. I've started listening to the Vinyl Cafe at night and laugh myself to sleep. I'm really enjoying the familiarity of everything from food to kindness and can say rather confidently that it's all starting to feel a lot like home.  

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dorm Life

I’m living in residence!

I received news this week that I was assigned a spot in my University’s dorm. It’s a bit of relief since I won’t have to be house hunting in the middle of August and or be in charge of a lease or finding flat mates and all of the drama that brings (and joys, if one of them is reading this).

What I’m most particular about is that I’ll have a mailing address and a private room. My old place in Calgary didn't have its own mailbox and I had to keep going to the neighbors to check for my own mail which was a little strange. Did you know it’s a felony in Canada to open mail that’s not your own? I do.

As well I’ll have a kitchen and a bathroom with a real shower and not the kind that soaks half the washroom. I can start cooking again and try some of the recipes in the cookbook I got for my Birthday. There’s a meal plan as well but I don’t think I’ll use it much since I don’t want to get too pampered. Hunger is a strong motivation to get out of bed and do something with my life.

 Last but not least I’m in a dorm with international and third year student so I won’t have to bother with all of the freshmen commotion, is initiation still a thing here?

With all of this happening fairly soon I can’t help but think back to dorm 1 at BLCU. This was the oldest dorm built on campus and is still in use though most people would agree it shouldn't be. It’s sort of hard to describe exactly why but we could start with the shared bathrooms that have more in common with an outhouse, or dimly lit showers with broken handles. I had my hair turn grey from sediment matter in the old pipes so many times it stopped becoming a shock and the only water pressure options were hard or none at all.

Oddly enough our rooms were fairly wide and seemed bigger than those in other dorms which might had to do with the scarcity of objects to clutter it up. We had the basics, a desk, chair and T.V. that didn't work. 

We also had personal closets and a full length mirror left from prior tenants that attached to the back of the door. Other than a kettle, we weren't supposed to have any other electrical appliances but that didn't stop Javkhlan, my Mongolian roommate, from setting up her own little tea parlour.

We had a lot of fun together though, we experimented cooking different types of meals with a rice cooker and because we didn't have a fridge gave the extras away to friends who lived in the same complex. I think perhaps that’s one of the most defining features of dorm 1, we shared what little we had with others and with the combination of nationalities you ended up with some pretty random things. I personally received boxes of items from my New Zealand and Filipino classmates before they left, and in turn gave all my things to my Kenyan and Cameroon friends. This constant passing of items and useful appliances like toasters, hangers, and air purifiers created a sense of community. So even with the creepy stairwells, random room checks (where knocking was not a prerequisite) and frequent pest invasions I survived a year in dorm 1.

Looking ahead I don’t think my dorm life will ever get as basic as it did that one year. I like the social life of living in residence and convenience of getting to class, you meet a lot of wonderful people and since it looks like this might be my last year I want to make it one worth remembering and have people to remember it by.  


Tuesday, 22 July 2014

阿里怕-Mother of 19

As a final essay for Chinese Culture class I wrote about the Chinese viewpoint on the adoption of children. As I was researching this topic I came across one story in particular that made a strong impression on me. This is the story of a woman in Xinjiang, China who along with her husband raised 19 children from different ethnic minorities along with 6 she had by birth.

The type of sacrifice she and her husband must have made astonishes me especially since they come from a culture with a clear distinction between who is family and who are the others. Her children and extended kin as of 2008 consisted of 180 people.  This couple though poor raised more children than an average home daycare and it made me wonder why.
This lady gave most of her youth, and all of her energy to creating a family and this husband, who is hardly mentioned, gave all of his income to support them. I think it’s amazing that we have people all over the world who by doing the little things like, feeding a crying child, working extra hours and digging for herbs have such a vast influence when all is accounted for.
I translated the story myself since it’s not a famous one and is hard to find information about even on baidu (the Chinese web). Her English name is just a translation of the Chinese pinyin and I included her last name being the first character at the front. I’ve stuck close to the literal translation with a few changes here and there since I found some of the language to be a bit embellished when there was none needed, the bolded characters are names. 
                             阿里帕 -阿力马 (维吾尔族)
In 1963 Alipa with her Husband Abipao were already the parents of 6 children. Ahbipao worked in the public security department and was the sole provider of the family with his wage of 45 yuan a month. There family life was cheerful and happy, but one day during winter their neighbours who were of the Kazakh ethnic minority suddenly passed away living three children under the age of 10.
Seeing these children left alone with no one to provide for them Alipa took them up and carried them home. Today 53 year-old Tuohuti memories of being 8 and being taken home to Alipa’s house remain fresh in his mind. Within the following ten years Alipa continually took in and raised orphaned children of all different minorities, at this time her family consists of 19 children.
In order to support the family the husband Abibao every day after work went straight to other villager’s homes in order to work part-time digging the land, Alipa meanwhile everyday went to the food market collecting the produce no one else wanted. Even though their home had two cows, that must would loath to give up because of the milk they offered, both cows were sold to pay for the children’s education, and provide them with basic necessities.
Even though they were poor, every child received the benefit of a loving home. In talking of her adopted children Alipa says they are in a way closer to me then my own children. They’re not my own flesh, but all are my children. In her home water runs deeper than blood.  

In order to provide 3 meals a day for more than 20 mouths, Alipa bought a giant iron cooking pot, 1.2 meters in diameter, for the express purpose of making meals. Most of the houses income was put towards providing meals and if in the summer there wasn’t enough grain Alipa would dig the earth for herbs, in autumn she would go out and gather wheat, and potatoes.  Life continued on in this way, with ends meeting but just barely for a number of years. To provide more money for the children’s schooling and clothing, Abipao continued working extra hours digging the land, and Alipa found a job with the village food factory cleaning sheep stomachs and goat intestines.  

Alipa and Abipao’s goal wasn’t to just make sure the children were well-feed but that they could study as well. Their home didn’t have electricity so Alipa would take old pieces of cotton wad and roll it with her fingers into strips, and then these small strips were used as a wick for the oil lamps. It was by the light of these oil lamps all 19 children studied for, and completed, elementary and high school. Not one child because of poverty dropped out of school. 
It’s because of Alipa’s willingness to face many hardships to raise her extraordinary family that her children learned from a young age what is most valuable., they learned to love each other and show concern and care. It was through the ability to bear much that Ahlipa cared for all 19 children who slowly grew into adults, now every Spring Festival and holiday are the happiest of times, because it’s at this time the whole family small and large get to be with one another.


阿里帕·阿力马洪(维吾尔族) 母爱最真,  


Friday, 18 July 2014

Babies Everywhere

One thing you should know about my family is that it’s big and keeps on getting bigger.

Children keep being born and I’m told their part of my family but all they do is stare at me with their large eyes. If their motor functions are bit better they then progress to pulling my hair. 

The strangest things is this all seemed to happen when I wasn't looking, I heard it’s supposed to take nine months produce a child but now I’m not so sure, I mean with all advances in technology these days anything’s possible so be afraid, very afraid.      

A song that keeps playing through my mind is Sweet Dreams (are Made Of This) by the Eurythmics. I think deep down the meaning of this song was, and always will be, dedicated to the children in our lives. I changed the lyrics to more suit my particular situation. 

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something

Some of them want to eat you
Some of them want to get eaten by you
Some of them want to play you 
Some of them are very good at manipulating you 

Hold your head up, crawling on
Hold your head up, keep moving on
Hold your head up, crawling on
Hold your head up, keep moving on

Some of them want to tease you
Some of them want to get teased by you
Some of them want to sit on you
Some of them are far more heavier then they look

Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree?
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody's looking for something

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Returning Home

I’m currently in the Seattle Airport waiting for my connecting flight. I was given special attention during customs because of a chicken sandwich I bought in the Beijing Airport, and then selected for random security check, so you could say it was my lucky day.

I’ve been looking forward to this flight for a long time.
I had started a countdown in June and every time I crossed a day off the excitement rose. During that time I wrote three essays and completed three exams. I wrote the HSK5, tried my hand at a screenplay, and graduated from BLCU.
Most people ask if I’m sad to leave and truthfully I’m not. These past two years have been immensely eventful, mentally grueling, and full of ups and downs. This China chapter of my life is far from over but I don’t see the need to lengthen it out into obscurity. Something I noticed while living over there is how it seems to suck young people in and never spit them out. Perhaps it’s the easy cash, or feelings of independence, but one year quickly becomes three and then five. That sense of directionless bothers me and I feel that two years is a good amount, perhaps a shade too long. In fact it’s hard to pinpoint a perfect length of time especially when it comes to language learning. I’m sure we’ll all agree a continuous exposure to the language and the culture environment is the best but that would also require a complete life commitment. Being only twenty-two I’m not wanting to make it a permanent settling place since there’s still lots of other things I hope to accomplish. So even though it’s hard, and always feels like I’m on the edge of breaking another barrier, I think it’s time I wrap up my “official” language studies.
I’m very grateful to all the teachers I’ve had, friends that have been made and family members who supported me throughout all of this. I’ve come to realize you’re only as distant from those you care about as you want to be. In this time of social media and ever reaching telecommunication we can talk instantly and conveniently; the real choice lays in how much you want to divulge. This is where I haven’t made up my mind, the balance between saying too much or sharing too little is a hard one to find. As a rule of thumb I error on sharing too little since that’s easier to rectify and causes less waves. A quote I stumbled upon once, and haven’t been able to find again, runs with the idea that personal thoughts and opinions I will share with everyone but my privacy I will keep to myself. I like it a lot because I feel that personal beliefs tell more about a person then names and dates, and when some are so focused on getting the answer they want to satiate their curiosity they  miss out on a wealth of knowledge and don’t get to know the person any better than if they were reading an obituary.
Now that I’m in a time and place where I can write more I will; hopefully it will be worth reading and full of exploits. I’m back from Asia but have lots of plans for the future, not only is writing a good way to share with those I’m far from but it’s a memoire for me as well. It’s something I can look back on for the experiences and helps me to evaluate what has been done and what I still need to do. This summer is going to be great. It'll be full of family, good food and relaxation. I can honestly say there is nothing as good as being back home from a long trip away.