Sunday, May 17: It’s Sunday evening again, time for cocktail hour in my humble laundry room. I’m so glad you could drop by! 🙂 Five o’clock is wine o’clock, so please, come in and have a seat in my comfortable Wal-Mart chair while I pour us some chilled Merlot. I know we’re not supposed to chill red wine, but if I hadn’t put it in the refrigerator, it would be toasty. Warm red wine isn’t very pleasant, not at all. I used to do this in Oman as well; it seems I’m always living in hot climates and have to refrigerate my wine.
“She wished it were evening now, wished for the great relief of the calendar inking itself out, of day done and night coming, of ice cubes knocking about in a glass beneath the whisky spilling in, that fine brown affirmation of need.”
― Michelle Latiolais, Widow: Stories
I won’t bore you with a picture of the laundry room this time, but I can tell you that my lavender flowered sheet is still hanging right where it was last week. The sheet dried during the week, but I never got around to taking it down. The weather got moist, so the sheet is now damp again. I guess I’ll need to leave it up a while longer until it dries out.
I know I haven’t yet responded to all your comments from my last week’s cocktail hour, but I will, I promise. Hopefully tonight, after we’ve shared a glass or two of wine. Or the cocktail of your choice.
“The writer is a mysterious figure, wandering lonely as a cloud, fired by inspiration, or perhaps a cocktail or two.” ~ Sara Sheridan
So, how was your week? Did you get outdoors for some springtime walks? Did you hear a new song you liked, or did you watch a good movie or read a good book? Did you eat anything interesting? Did you make a new friend, or lose an old one? Did you have a special shared moment with someone, or did you have a falling out with someone? Did you explore a new place or have a crazy adventure? Did you sing in the shower or in the car? Did you get any exercise? Were you stressed out by work or did you have a relaxing week?
I was happy to get so many responses to my last cocktail hour. I really wish we could all get together in one place, all of us bloggers, and have a real cocktail hour. I think we’d have a grand time; I know we’d share a lot of laughter and stories. I’ve met a few of you in person: Jo, Marianne, and Annette; I really do hope to meet the rest of you one day.
“If you were to ask me if I’d ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I’d have to say that I doubt it; where certain things are concerned, I plan ahead.” ~ Luis Bunuel
I was a bit curious about some comments I received. I know I talked a little about my depression last week, but I guess I should clear the air. I do get depressed from time to time, but I wouldn’t say it’s a constant state of mind. I’m not crazy about daily life in China mainly because I don’t have one good friend (and I’m normally a “one good friend” kind of girl), but I still have plenty to do and my depression and frustration come and go like dandelion fluff in the wind. So, I’d like to assure you that you needn’t worry about me. I’ll be fine. One thing I’ve always been is a survivor.
I was especially intrigued by Vee’s comment; she guessed I was depressed because my photos looked so dark. I guess some photographers do that; maybe the best photographers purposely take pictures that reflect their moods. I thought about the pictures I took recently, and the only ones that stick in my mind are the ones in Hong Kong, looking out over Victoria Harbour. I love those pictures; I think they are some of my best. I felt really lucky to have been there with that fabulous moody late afternoon light and those dramatic dark clouds hanging over the skyline. I do wonder, do most of you go out taking photos hoping to reflect your state of mind? Maybe I should be more aware of that.
I had some interesting things happen this week. I met with a fellow novelist, Paul, for dinner. We are reading each other’s novels and it was time to report back to each other our thoughts about the other’s work. Paul was very encouraging and told me he can’t believe I’ve been sitting on my novel for over 10 years. He said he can’t imagine an agent or publisher wouldn’t pick it up. I was happy to hear that from him, and I don’t think he was just being nice. I also think he’s an excellent writer; his book is clever and fascinating, especially as it’s somewhat autobiographical and I recognize some of the characters. 🙂
I finished up my midterm marks and handed them in on Friday. That was a relief.
On Friday night, I met one of my students, a very stylish and cute girl named Azura, for dinner. She planned the whole evening. Online, she reserved a table for two, and a meal for four (!), at an “Asian restaurant.” She wasn’t sure how to find it, so we wandered around behind the NanBai Supermarket looking for an “E” building. Then we got on an elevator in what looked like an apartment building rather than a commercial building. On the 11th floor, we walked down a narrow hallway and Azura knocked on door. There was no sign whatsoever indicating it was a restaurant. A woman in an apron answered the door and invited us in. Her living room was set up like a very cozy restaurant. The walls were painted green and she had little decorative knickknacks everywhere: potted plants, stuffed animals, vintage dresses, old guitars.
The woman got busy in the kitchen, cooking up a set meal in big wok. Azura grabbed some bowls, spoons and chopsticks from a table. She also grabbed us two kumquat drinks served in clear plastic bags (sort of like Capri Suns in the USA).
She told me we’re allowed to have four of these altogether, since she ordered a meal for four. When she told me she ordered a meal for four, she said, “I hope you’re hungry!” I wasn’t that hungry and would never eat that much food, but I tried my best since she went to such effort.
The woman served up pineapple rice, clams with pineapple, fresh fish (head and all) with cilantro and tomatoes, cabbage and potato soup, and pork ribs wrapped in aluminum foil. We talked about Azura’s dream to get into fashion design and the two boyfriends she once had in high school (“It wasn’t a very good thing,” she told me.) She’s a Year 1 student, so I sometimes had trouble understanding her, and vice versa, but we only had to resort to our online dictionaries a coupe of times.
After dinner, I tried to pay the bill of 88 yuan (about $14), but she would have none of that. She wanted to split the bill, so I gave her 44 yuan. As she prepared to pay the proprietor the money, the woman requested that she please pay online for the meal! How strange. Azura had the cash right there, but maybe she just wanted the money to go directly into her bank.
Later, I put up a picture on Instagram explaining this situation, and my friend Dai from Nepal mentioned he read somewhere that “apartment restaurants” are all the rage in China! I’ve been here for 8 1/2 months, and I’ve never heard of them before now!
We planned next to get a manicure, so we walked down a long street in the pouring rain under Azura’s umbrella because I had left my umbrella at home. Azura got a manicure, but I ended up getting a pedicure and manicure, my first in China; I’ve never been able to find a salon before now! After our treat, it was still storming, so I bought an emergency umbrella for 25 yuan, even though I already had one at home. We leapt and splashed over puddles on the way home, but shortly after I bought the umbrella, it stopped raining. Wouldn’t you know?
It’s getting awfully hot out here in the laundry room now, so why don’t we move inside? My apartment is rather dreary, but at least we can be cool in the air conditioning. Can I get you another drink?
On Saturday, I helped a colleague, Erica, sort out her spread sheets for her grades, and then we had some dinner together after. When I came back home, I watched an episode of Homeland, Season 4, Episode 8. I couldn’t stand not knowing what would happen next, so I watched episodes 9 and 10, one right after the other without a break. I also saw the season finale of Scandal, which seemed to have been wrapped up very nicely. Does that mean there are no more scheduled seasons for Scandal?
I also got involved this week in an Irish detective show with Gillian Anderson called The Fall. I watched all five episodes of Series 1, but I can’t seem to get Series 2, so I’m very frustrated as I can’t find out what happens next!!
Today, I decided to explore a place a colleague, Gavin, had recommended to me some time ago: Liangfengjiang National Forest Park. Approved by the Ministry of Forestry in September of 1992, the park was one of the earliest national parks in Guangxi. In 2003, it was regarded as one of Nanning’s top scenic spots.
Gavin had told me to take bus 707, changing to bus 301. I had forgotten the details, but I got on bus 707 and was on it for a long time. I showed a girl on the bus the Chinese name of the park and she pointed out that I needed to get off in 8 stops to get on bus 301. Before I got to that stop, a Chinese woman with blonde hair asked me “Spreek jig Duits?” I said, “You speak German?” She said, “Yes, no English!” She motioned that I should follow her off the bus at the next stop, and she put me on the phone with a friend “from America.” I couldn’t hear the woman on the phone because the bus was so noisy. The blonde Chinese woman kept motioning for me to get off the bus with her, so I did. I regretted it. She wanted me to come to a friend’s house for lunch, but I just wanted to go to the park, so I told her I couldn’t. This meant I had to wait a long time for the next 707 bus. Some other men came up while we were at the bus stop and tried to help as well. They told me the blonde woman wanted me to have lunch with her and her friend. Of course I hadn’t understood at first, otherwise I would have never gotten off the bus! Here are the whole lot of them. They were a really helpful bunch!
I then got on bus 15, following their advice, and I got off at what I thought was the right stop. However, the bus sign said nothing about the #301. So I got on the 707 again, and then I knew I’d gone one stop too far because the Chinese characters didn’t match. So I got on the bus going the opposite direction, and got off again at the same spot, where someone convinced me to wait for the 301 even though the sign said nothing about the 301. Finally the 301 came, and I was on it, packed in with people, standing room only. I finally made it to the park about 1 1/2 hours after I started out!
And what a disappointment it was!! I could kill Gavin for having recommended it to me. He had told me it was a nice park in which to take a walk. Maybe he’s just been in China too long. It was the shabbiest, most unkempt place I’ve been in Nanning.
The paths were muddy and rutted, the arbors were untended, and the river was murky. There was the hugest, tackiest picnic area imaginable, with stinky garbage everywhere. There were people running around flying kites, and there were arcade games where you could throw darts at balloons. There were miserable-looking ponies to ride.
Now I can cross that place off my list and stop wasting time thinking about it. How could any Westerner have recommended it as a nice place? I kept walking around hoping there would be something good to see. There wasn’t! Plus I got eaten alive by mosquitos. The only saving grace was finding some ice cream for sale: I bought a vanilla flavor with chocolate on the outside and banana on the inside. I think I will stop venturing around Nanning. There really is nothing to do in this town!
Overall it was a good week, but I did have a sort of falling out with someone. At least I think I did, although I have no idea why. Basically we have both been ignoring each other for the last two weeks. I don’t know what’s going on, but when I feel ignored, I withdraw, and then that probably has a domino effect and makes the other person withdraw more. So now I feel our friendship is out in the hinterlands, never to be restored. How does this happen? I know I can be ultra-sensitive, and I often take things as slights that aren’t meant to be. Mike tells me that all the time, anyway, and he knows me more than anyone. Why do I have to be this way? Is anyone else like this, or is it just me? I know that I often sabotage my friendships, and I don’t know why I feel the need to do this. I do know I don’t like feeling hurt or angry, and sometimes by pushing people away, I can avoid those painful feelings. I’m also never the kind of person to run after people, or to beg a person to be my friend. I just accept it; if someone doesn’t want to be in my company, then I back off and give them space. Lots of it.
Oh well, at least I have plans to be away the next three weekends. I’m heading on a work retreat next weekend. The following weekend, my colleague Erica and I are going to Yangshuo if she can get a day off from her Sunday job. The weekend after that, I’m supposed to go to Beihai to meet a lady I met in Xi’an. She’s Finnish and works for a Finnish company there. So that will get me through the first weekend in June. Thank goodness!
Cheers to you all, and I hope to see you again next week! Have a wonderful week with lots of happiness and love. Sending hugs your way. 🙂