Saturday, April 17, 2010

Three Bumpy Weeks

In the days leading up to Friday the 26th of March, our little pigeon hole was turned upside down as the tradesmen worked hard to fix up the two bedrooms that were damaged by the freak Melbourne hailstorm. I was happy that they were fixing our bedrooms so soon because my Mum and her helper were arriving from overseas on that Friday and they would have to stay in a hotel if the spare room wasn’t fixed. Imagine staying in a hotel for three weeks!

In the weeks leading up to their arrival, I was feeling uneasy about having my Mum around for three weeks. I have felt increasingly distant from my family in the recent year or two. It’s like I am drifting further away from them as time goes by. We still communicate regularly but things are changing. I admit now that I wasn’t really looking forward to my Mum’s visit but nothing could stop this Superwoman’s decision. Not even a storm damaged bedroom could stop her!

The first week was quite weird. I felt like I didn’t really know them at all. I was actually counting down to their departure date. Is that sad or what? I had to learn again how to communicate with them in person. I was also more than a little rusty in the language that I had to use to speak to my Mum’s helper. I used to speak that like a native as a child. Other than a few words, M doesn’t speak that language at all! By Good Friday, I was beginning to enjoy their company but that didn’t stop me from having an argument with my poor Mum on Easter Sunday!

In the first week, we mainly went to places around the little pigeon hole. Food is the number one thing that the two women like to purchase. Both my Mum and her helper are petit people but food is very important to them. Almost every meal that we consumed at home had to be elaborately prepared by the helper and ‘assisted’ by my Mum. Their favourite places to buy food were the Queen Victoria market, Victoria St (Richmond), China Town and QV. The two of them also liked buying clothes and souvenirs, so we spent many hours looking around Queen Victoria market, Outlet Stores in South Wharf and Harbour Town (Docklands) and Chadstone.

The second week was spent mostly visiting places where my Mum could gather ideas for her work and purchasing books. My Mum and I are literally in the same field, so I had fun going to these places as well. By the end of the second week, the two women realised that they had bought too much to lug home. A few church going backpackers came to the rescue. My Mum had managed to talk them into helping her carry some stuff home. I flew into a rage of course. I never like it when she approaches strangers but the deal was done behind my back. It is hard for me to believe how trusting some people are and I am not just referring to my Mum.

Last Saturday, my Mum’s helper, whom I shall call MT here, went on a bus trip to the Great Ocean Road on her own. I was a bit reluctant to let her go on her own but the poor woman needed some time to herself too. So off she went with a group of Chinese speaking tourists from various parts of East Asia. MT is not Chinese but she understands basic Mandarin & English. She is also semi fluent in the dialect I speak to my parents. She was the odd one out in the group that day. Apparently there was only a toilet break every three hours or so. She was so worried that she drank and ate very little during the trip. That evening, M and I took them to a popular Vietnamese Noodle shop for a budget dinner that I suspect was laden with MSG! LOL. MT was chuffed that she had eaten at a place where Jackie Chan had eaten in the past. They liked the place so much that the duo went there again with those helpful backpackers from the church and after the second visit, MT proudly told me that American President Clinton had two bowls of the same kind of noodles that she had! LOL

With the kind backpackers carrying some of their goodies home for them, the last week was spent purchasing even more things. MT was absolutely crazy about anything with the word “Australia” printed on it. My mum was not just buying for our own immediate family. She was also buying for our extended family in China. In the end, they weren’t able to take home a Sandwich Press that M and I would like to get for my Dad. We also went to popular places around the city to take photos. MT had asked over and over to see the Sidney Myer Music Bowl in person so she could go home to brag to her friends that she had been to the place where the Carols by Candlelight Christmas Concert is held each year. LOL. The place is within walking distance from the pigeon hole and we spent a few hours exploring it and the surrounding parks on Monday. I was happy to see my Mum getting around with greater ease this time. The surgeon and his mentor (another surgeon) have both done a wonderful job with my Mum’s left hip. When my Dad comes in the next trip, my Mum has already planned to go walking with him on the Tan Track – something that neither of them was able to enjoy in the previous trips.

MT has been working for our family for 12 years or so. The others were not aware that she was travelling with my Mum. They thought that she had gone back to her village. She is very kind to my parents. My Mum likes her because she is very alert and picks up new skills very quickly. She often jokes that MT is multi-purpose. If my Mum is the Superwoman, MT is the Wonder woman. MT is not perfect though; no one is. She has a quick temper on some days. She had never cracked it in front of M and I but she does get impatient if my Mum meddles too much. Hopefully she will work for us for years to come.

Although I didn’t want them to visit me at first, I did end up enjoying having my Mum around. I managed to tell her something about myself and I am glad that she has accepted it. She even bought books to learn more about it. We talked about my childhood, reminding her things that she had forgotten. She updated me with news of friends and family. Again she came with another business proposal (proposed by a good family friend) for M and I and again, I turned her down before she even finished explaining. I was surprised that she took my decision just like that. It was with great sadness that I saw my Mum and her helper off on Thursday night (16/04). She was in tears. She has never been in tears whenever we separate. It’s like she has finally realised why I remain here. Seeing my Mum in tears reminded me of my Grandma’s sorrow when she recorded an extra long voice message on a cassette tape that was to be taken to China during my Mum’s first trip in the 80’s to visit the siblings that returned to China when my Mum was only a small child. Citizens of my birth country weren’t allowed to go to China until the 80’s and then only people with immediate relatives were allowed to visit. This was because China is a communist country. Three of my Mum’s siblings were stuck in China after 1949 and I think my Grandma blamed herself for the hardship they had to endure over there. I sometimes wonder if my Mum blames herself for what had happened to her siblings. I hope she doesn’t start blaming herself for my wish to remain here for the time being.

The little pigeon hole is all quiet again. My neighbours no longer have to put up with loud conversations in 4 languages filtering out from our place. Not for a while anyway. One good thing about speaking Asian languages in public is that people collecting money for charitable organizations tend to steer clear of you but it doesn’t necessarily stop beggars. MT just couldn’t understand why Aussies have to beg anyway. Before my Mum’s visit, my sense of loneliness was further heightened by something that had happened to my blog, but since they left Melbourne I feel truly lonelier than ever. With the 2nd anniversary of the death of my beloved Guinea Pig looming and the arrival of winter, it will take me ages to get over this sadness inside me. I am glad that M likes to have them here. I think that he felt it too that our little pigeon hole is a whole lot livelier when my family is here.