St. Patrick’s Day felt much more like my birthday than the 16th did. Probably because I spent it mostly alone wandering around. I bought myself a DQ Blizzard in lieu of a cake and tromped about fairly happily. There’s a sports store that is always playing Eminem out on the sidewalk when I walk by. Not sports like equipment but an Adidas and Nike and LiNing (all carefully separated) clothing place. I also dove down into Fashion Lady mall, that neon underworld all the little underground shopping centres are aspiring to be. Then up into a SuNing to play with an EeePC a bit. One of the things holding me back from buying one is that these seem to be loaded with XP instead of the Eee Linux distro. But now I’ve held one and I think I could make such a thing work for me. Someday someday. Finished The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love in the morning and started a Margaret Atwood book in the afternoon.
Also in the afternoon I sat in a park off Guangzhou Lu listening to all the birds being walked. Maybe I’ve mentioned it before but that’s possibly my favourite idiosyncratic thing about China. Taking your bird in its cage to the park so it can sing with the others. Mostly old men are accompanying them and then they gather around holding court. Though there are also lone guys smoking cigarettes while the bird has its own fun. The bicycles or scooters with draped cages on the back, draped so the bird doesn’t get disorented on the drive, make me smile in a way that someone walking a dog just doesn’t. Alison will be glad to know I miss having a cat around, even one as annoying as Steven B. Froese.
In the evening we ended up at the Taj Mahal Indian restaurant where we happily sopped up Mutter Paneer and Dum Aloo Kashmiri with Naan and later forks before slurping our Lassis. That felt like a birthday meal. Eating Indian food, we quickly got into the questions that concern a couple of young people like ourselves. What to do with a life? Going to school or starting a business, looking for challenge or getting credentials. Back in Shanghai Holly talked about this too, about how she’s not sure what the future may bring. She’s heading back to Harrisonburg for the beginning of October to help Myrrl out with the semester’s visiting scholars and she’ll stay at least until February. Her mom wants her to stay longer but also doesn’t want to talk about Zhao Xing so if it were me I might not take her that seriously. I mean, really, it’s not like Holly is some flighty stupid girl taking up with some random guy. This is Zhao Xing, a smart interesting guy. Who happens to be a Buddhist. Holly and my mom can find support in each other in the face of their respective mothers on these issues.
One of Holly’s options is going to school back in the States. She’s been talking about Fuller Theological Seminary in California somewhere. They’ve got an associated psychology school (or something) which might be useful. That would lead to a focus on China related issues and would be good for doing work with people and organizations like Zhi Mian. But the question is if she wants schooling. On one hand it would open up some higher up doors which might be useful in her being heard and listened to by people (in China) who care about such things. She’s worried it might cut her off from the people she really wants to work with though. That they’d see those letters after her name and wouldn’t be able to deal with her as an equal. She doesn’t want to be above any farmer she might meet in the course of her work. Part of this dream involves interviewing people and writing a book about it. Her book would be much better than what you’re reading here because she is more interested in people than I am. That’s probably my biggest weakness as a writer, but neither here nor there so I’ll drop it.
Another big option is to start up some sort of organic farm/guesthouse in western Sichuan with Zhao Xing. Maybe work with the Leonards and their China tourism business. This is something she doesn’t need school for and is part of her more direct goals of not separating work from life and all that. This is also a scarier option. Before starting the business, buying land and all that, she’d want to spend some real time studying Chinese, maybe teaching to pay for the studying. That’s a much more satisfying prospect than teaching because your organization isn’t with it enough to get you a visa for your work with Zhi Mian.
That last one is my favourite option for a number of reasons. 1) It maintains teaching English as a viable and not utterly stupid way of makign a living. 2) It puts Holly in China with Zhao Xing. I’m a bit of a sucker for a good couple I guess. 3) Western Sichuan. Guesthouse. That’s prime visitiability right there. Especially if I end up in Japan for a while.
The option I wish she wouldn’t take is just heading back to Harrisonburg and a nice simple life. I’m sort of doing the equivalent in Winnipeg and really, it sucks. It should be better, more noble or something, but there’s nothing quite like being lonely in a far off land. I have a spaceman on a shirt looking wistfully at the Earth for exactly that reason.
Whatever. These are Holly’s options these days and what we talked about at the Indian place with the waitress who couldn’t put on a decent fake smile. We drank our lassis while three Russians entered, ordered, talked on speakerphone, ate, drank and left. There was what may have been a first date going on behind Holly. It was between a gray haired (but adventurous seeming) woman and a long-haired guy I initially mistook for a woman. Until I heard him ask what kind of music she listened to.