Sunday, November 30, 2008

My Short Crush on John Pomfret

I have been reading a book called “Chinese Lessons” this past week. I had seen the book in bookshops before but I wasn’t interested until it was spotted in the library a week ago. It is one of those books that you may find hard to put down once you get started and I had a crush on the author right from the beginning. LOL. I fall easily for adventurous Western (not to be confused with cowboys) men who can forego the comforts of the Western/Developed world to live elsewhere for a while. John Pomfret scored even higher marks when I learned that he is multilingual. Now, as almost always, I read neither what was written inside the front jacket nor what was inside the back jacket, I started the book knowing only that he went to China. It was towards the end of the book that I learned that he was already married with children. Bummer! LOL. That was good news to the slightly jealous M who has begun to call him ‘Fred’ to annoy me. LOL.

The book struck a chord with me because I too had spent some time in Nanjing many years ago. I was only there for about a month and a half though. John Pomfret went to Nanjing in the early 80’s when he was 22. I was younger than him when I went there in the mid 90’s – the December when that Big Bluffer Ye was appointed deputy chief of Nanjing’s Drum Tower District. I also got to Nanjing by train. To the utter horror of my parents, I talked my uncle and cousin into buying two tickets for my then boyfriend and I to travel to Nanjing from Guangzhou by train. I didn’t attend Nanda though. I spent my time improving my pronunciation at Nanjing Normal University with my own personal tutor in a big classroom. So, why was I given the special treatment? The reasons to that depend on who you ask!

Chapter 4 was especially hard to read. What happened to Old Wu’s parents was absolutely awful and it happened right on the lawn that I used to walk past almost daily. At the time when I was there, I knew very little about China’s recent history (post 1949). I had only just started to take an interest in what happened to Nanjing in WWII. My tutor and I used to visit the campus library to dig up books about the 1937 massacre. She thought I was rather odd to be so interested. So while I was quite capable of imagining the campus being part of the safety zone during the war, I was shocked to learn that the very same lawn also witnessed another bout of brutality against humanity and the complete madness that occurred during the Cultural Revolution. I too wondered how Old Wu could accept a teaching job at NNU after his graduation from Nanda. He must possess an infinite ability to ‘ren’.

Wow! That’s a lot that I have revealed about myself. I hardly talk about my experiences in Nanjing. The trip was one big adventure. I was on a high even though I developed minor chest problems when I left China and required asthmatic medication when I got home. My mum was proud of me. I was the first in my generation to have stayed for a period of time in China. Since the ban was lifted around 1990, most of us returned only for short visits. The high was short-lived. I came crashing down when I was informed of a death about two weeks after I left China. The death of this person shook me to the core and it forever changed me as an adult. It not only overshadowed my Nanjing experience, it sent my sense of adventure packing. From then on, the old adventurous Priscilla was packed away and a new pathetic Priscilla emerged. Poor M has never seen the old Priscilla. He has only heard of her in the stories that I told him.

A Break In, Being Sick & Busy Cleaning

I have not been blogging much this month because I have been busy. At the beginning of the month, we were shocked to find out that our storage unit was broken into and we were requested to move to another unit. Nothing was stolen. We weren’t the only one broken into; the stupid man also broke into the other units next to us as well. He has no problem gaining access into the building because he is the owner of the units that he broke into, but we rent our unit from the storage company that manages the whole building. So, while he has access into the building (to access his own unit if he has one), he has no right to break into the other units. I was very cross with this individual. Even though the storage company had already contacted the authorities, we were given details of him in case we wanted to take the matter further. A person like him is why I really can’t stand big headed hotshots. I don’t care that he is an executive of a giant mining company but idiots like him is one reason why I wish to live in a rural property far away. Unfortunately, someone like me may not be welcomed by rural communities.

The rest of the month was spent cleaning our apartment meticulously from top to bottom in preparations for the upcoming festive seasons. This late Spring Cleaning is absolutely essential because our festive seasons start with Christmas and ends on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year celebrations (which I think will fall on March 6th in 2009). We have been incredibly lucky to be blessed with beautiful weather most of this month. Temperatures under 24°c are ideal for cleaning. I am not a very nice person when the temperature soars above 32°c. This is why it is so crucial to get things done thoroughly now before the arrival of the super hot days. That said, it doesn’t mean that we won’t be doing any cleaning between now and March! We just do less. Hopefully the temperature in the days leading to the Lunar New Year celebrations will be just as good but I doubt it. For some funny reason, just the thought of the LNYC makes me craving for Nian Gao. I normally don’t even like that stuff.

M started the second half of his annual holidays last weekend. He has been looking forward to another break but he came home with a bug instead and came down with a cold within hours of arriving home. As usual, I was so angry at him for being sick and banished him from the bedroom. Luckily our Guinea Pig is no longer with us. Despite our careful attention in hygiene to prevent transmission, M managed to pass the cold to me. Before bed on Monday night, I felt like there was something in my throat. By the time I got up on Tuesday, I had a full blown sore throat like someone had smuggled razor blades into my throat while I was sleeping. Then I seemed to have gotten better on Wednesday but that was the calm before the storm. That evening the fever hit. I slept a little and then dashed to the toilet to puke, repeating the same process over and over for hours. M steered clear most of the time because that was expected of him but I found out later that he did pop in every now and then to check on me. I asked him to pull a face to show me what I had looked like when I was sick. If his acting was accurate, I conclude that I look pretty much like a dying water creature in a lot of pain. LOL.

Despite passing the cold to me, M has been a champ in helping to give the apartment a good clean. He was needed to clean all the hard to reach areas. Most of all, I liked how he patiently re-whitened the grout lines in the bathroom. Super white grout lines are very important to me. M will pick up the Christmas tree on Wednesday and we hope to have it up and looking pretty by Saturday.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Andre Rieu Gave Me a Signed Picture

On my way home from the city today, I heard the 'Bananas in Pyjamas' tune coming from Fed Square. I am glad that I went over to check out what was happening because I got to see Andre Rieu practising with his orchestra on stage. At the end of his practise session, he hung around to greet his fans. I deeply regretted not bringing my camera because I was so close to him. Seeing other people asking for autographs, including a mum who was not happy with the autograph her young son received, I wondered if I should do the same. I didn't have anything for him to sign though. It would be rather weird to ask him to sign a Montessori book in my bag! Then he reached into his pocket and took out a stack of pictures. His assistant handed him a silver marker so he could autograph them before handing them out. The man was not only warm and friendly, he even gave each recipient a few seconds of his time. Ok, here is another little secret about me. I have trouble giving and maintaining eye contact and was about to chicken out when he saw me. After signing the picture, he looked me straight into my eyes and smiled as he handed it to me. I put on my very best smile and thank him, in return. Trust me, that was a very big effort on my part!

I am of course over the moon that I got to see him play and I got to 'meet' him even though it was only for a brief few seconds. When he popped in at ABC a few days ago, I thought the closest I could get to him was to share the air of my 'neighbourhood'. LOL. Unfortunately, my worries about the current financial crisis and not knowing what will happen next meant that I will not be going to his concert even though it is right here in Melbourne. That really is a shame! I still really want to go!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Pantry Cupboard Door

Our little Guinea Pig learnt very early on that the sound of the pantry door opening and closing was linked to the possibility of a treat (dry food) for him. He was also particularly sensitive to sounds from the kitchen, especially any sounds to do with the fridge or chopping board. He knew that was linked to the possibility of other treats (vegetables) for him. As soon as he detected these sounds, he would emerge from his little ‘room’ and squeak joyfully in anticipation for a treat that might come his way. As soon as anyone of us walked past the cage, he would stand up on his hind feet or crawl up the side of the cage. When he was very happy, he would do a little dance called ‘Popcorn’ and when he was little; this was also followed by a race around the cage. Around and around he went. We soon realised that we weren’t able to get to the kitchen to get a drink without attracting his attention. I didn’t like disappointing him whenever I needed to get something else for ourselves from the pantry cupboard. Eventually, I began to leave the pantry cupboard door slightly ajar so that no noise was made when we needed to access it for ourselves. But when I did go to the pantry cupboard to get him something, I sometimes deliberately shut the door and then re-opened it again to ‘notify’ him of an impending treat. His reaction was just so funny to watch. LOL. Even though he left us six months ago, I noticed the other day that the habit of leaving the door ajar stayed stuck. I miss him so much.


I woke up very early on Monday morning and couldn’t get back to sleep immediately because my first thought was of my little Guinea Pig. I suddenly missed how he used to request for a bit of attention by parking himself near the side door of his cage. It dawned on me again that I won’t ever be getting any of that from him anymore. It is six months on and it is still hurting. People must think that I am crazy but try get yourself a pet and you will learn the bond that can develop between an animal and its human friend.

To avoid waking M up from his much needed hibernation, I dragged myself out of bed to wait in the living room until I was ready to return to the land of Nod. So I sat and stared at my Guinea Pig’s photo for a good few minutes before realising that the last Formula 1 race for the year must have just finished. Eager to find out before M, I turned on the telly to see how Louis Hamilton went. He won but I didn’t jump around like an idiot to celebrate his win. I just sat there feeling very happy for him. I also felt happy that an interracial person had won the championship. He has been on the list of potential role models for any children I might have since his debut on the tracks. When I heard that the Queen of England congratulated him, I instantly thought how amazing it must be for him to get her seal of approval. More and more will see him as a Brit now. He apparently had wanted to win this since he was 6 and his dream had really come true!

M and I had the telly on the moment we got up on Wednesday. Depending on the channel we were watching, the election results were different. I just simply wanted M to tell me the good news but even though we wanted the same outcome, he was not stupid enough to promise me anything as he knew very well what would happened if the results changed. The suspense was too much. So we left to go to the library first. I think it was when we were heading to ALDI that it became official that Barack Obama had won the election. He too is on my list of potential role models. On our way back, I suggested that we check the big screen at Fed Square to see if it was broadcasting the results. When we saw the few people that gathered there, we thought the screen was probably broadcasting something else but we were wrong. SBS news was on and we arrived just in time to witness McCain’s speech. I was over the moon to learn for sure that Barack Obama had won. Despite my trademarked straight face, I was bursting with excitement and kept asking myself, “Is this for real? Could this possibly be happening in my lifetime?” I have always thought that it is unfair that only Americans can vote for a new president. This is because whoever they vote in impacts on the rest of the world as well. It turned out that American voters must have come to their own senses this time. America is suddenly beautiful again in my mind.

My view of the world can be rather gloomy and this has a lot to do with my life experiences. The two wins this week have given me a bit more hope. In fact, I think they both have indirectly given hope to minorities and interracial people around the world. The next time I come across one of those “Future Prime Minister” bibs when I go shopping for gifts, I don’t think I will cancel it out immediately. Obama’s win changes everything. I now feel that I too am entitled to parent a potential future Prime Minister but seriously though, I will never wish it upon any children we might have.