Sunday, February 27, 2011

Today I Met the Boy I’m Going to Marry

I had just gotten off the bus and was walking down the snow packed lane towards my home. As I passed the bazaar one of the young Uyghur guys who stands outside with a camera in hand to take pictures of the tourists called out to get my attention. I waved my hand in dismissal trying to indicate that I was not in need of photos. However this young man was more persistent than most, and I ended up turning to him and having to tell him very clearly that I live here and don’t need cheap touristy shots of myself standing beside a building I pass every day.

He was so surprised I spoke Uyghur, that he quickly grabbed his bag and started to follow me home. He asked questions about where I was from, and how old I am. He also asked how easy it was to get a Canadian passport, and before we had even made it to the front gate of my apartment complex he had popped the big question. He had proposed, he had asked for my hand in marriage, he committed his life to me (or at least to my passport).

Now I just have to decide what I want. Do I want to marry the camera guy, or am I more interested in the taxi driver that asked to marry me last week, or should I keep my options open for the son of the shop keeper I meet last week ( I didn’t actually get to meet the boy, but his mom thought we would be perfect for each other).

They say that every girl spends time dreaming about the way her man will propose. I don’t need to dream about it, I get to live it at least once a month since I moved here. My roommate keeps a running total of how many proposals she has had on her facebook page, I think she is nearing 20. If we were doing something to instigate these professions of ‘love’ it might be understandable why the count is increasing so quickly, but we don’t do anything. Today as I walked home, I didn’t say or do anything. I kept my eyes pinned to the ground so as never to make eye contact. I answered all of his question with only two word grunts. I made sure he knew I was a lot older than he was. I tried to say goodbye three times and in the end I walked the other direction, away from my home so that my new suitor would not know where I lived.

I’m getting good at excuse as to why I can’t marry them. “I am still young” (which doesn’t work as well now that I am over thirty), “My older brother isn’t even married yet” (Bruce is going to strip me of this one very soon), “we are on different paths” (they Uyghur word for husband is literally ‘roadmate’). I have told some of them that they are not tall, or handsome, or rich enough for my taste. But my best ’out’ is blaming it on my father. I have told some guys that they will need to get my father’s permission, and in order to do that they will have to learn English, fly to Canada, and convince my family that they are worthy.

So dad, if a Uyghur guy shows up at the front door with a camera in hand, you will know why he is really there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You’re Fired

This week I heard these very words roll off the tongue of my boss as I sat in the living room sipping tea with him and his wife. Fired, this is the second job in my life from which I have been let go. The first was a summer job I had during college. The boss scheduled me for a Saturday morning shift even though I had repeatedly told her that was not a good time for me (Those of you who have known me for years may remember that every Saturday morning I was subdued under the effects of my medication). When I came in, unable to actually work, she let me go on the spot even though I had been the top sales person five weeks in a row. Thankfully selling suitcases and handbags at the mall was not my lifelong ambition.

This week’s firing was not as traumatic or as much of a reflection on my inability to work. I was actually the one who asked my boss to fire me; I even drew up the need paperwork for him. If you keep up with my blog you may know that I have been working for a Uyghur handicraft export company for the last year. But since we had no internet for 10 months, this internet based company really suffered. So much so that they are currently in the process of shutting down, my boss has not called me or needed help for several months.

In order to obtain my new visa working for Fusion (Whole Hearted Translation), I needed a letter of dismissal from my current employer. I typed it up, and email it to my boss so that he could print it off and give me the official stamp. I than went to his house to visit with his wife and hold one of their adorable twins. With a dramatic “you’re fired” my boss handed me the letter and I officially ended my employment with them. My father always told us to leave a good taste in the mouth of our employer so that they would be willing to hire us back, and while I may never get to sell luggage again, I think I will have many more afternoon tea times and encounters after my dismissal from this job.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sparks are Flying

Growing up on the Canadian /US border I looked forward to the once a year huge fireworks demonstration that Windsor-Detroit is famous for. Every year in celebration of our two countries birthday we have an International Freedom Festival that culminates with three barges in the middle of the river entertaining over a million viewers. We all are mezmorized by the colours and lights exploding in the air for over half an hour. They burst into maples leaves and stars high above the skyline for all to see. This is fireworks as I have grown to know and love them.
Fireworks here are hardly the same. I was woken up this morning at 6am to the sound of firecrackers blasting, bursting and popping all around me. There has barely been a lull all day as almost every family around me hosts their own mini firework display. Some are the type that shoot like rockets and bounce off the windows above, others are long strips of red paper that send sparks shooting off in all directions, others are attached to a sting that you hang out your window, causing fire to rain down on the people walking below. After over 16 hours of nonstop explosions resonating around me I have been reminded that not all fireworks are as beautiful or colorful as the exceptional show I grew up watching. In fact some of them are just plain loud.

My friend recently posted the following on her blog regarding this erupting holiday of light and sound “There's the quantity ,we heard the average home here spends approximately 3,000 worth of local currancy($450 USD) on fireworks for this celebration. Not sure that could be correct though. (That's two months worth of rent for me!) and the incredible scariness/ foolishness of shooting them off: little kids running between huge piles of missile-type shooters and crackers thrown onto sidewalks bustling with pedestrians or inches from homes."

All of this excitement leaves the ground littered with red paper and the air heavy with the smell of ash and smoke. The constant cracking has the children running around screaming with glee , while the loud bagging often prompts car alarms to go off incessantly . A simple walk outside is like an overload to the senses.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Goodbye Sunshine

I have left the warmth of Thailand and arrived back to the wintery chill of home. Even though this means saying goodbye to the warm sunshine and the glistening beach, there are still many things I am thankful for:
108) Safe travels

109) Seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a very long time

110) The chance to debrief a very stressful year and a half with a wise counselor, whose words of wisdom and truth resonated with me in such a deep way that they felt like a breath of fresh air.

111) After those conversations the ensuing sense of freedom I had and the ability I had to let go of some responsibility that was never really mine in the first place

112) For the chance to go swimming with my friends kids. It is so fun to hear them yell “Aunt Karen, Watch me” as we splash around in the cool roof top pool of our hotel.

113) To have a pool side seat as my friends play watermelon waterpolo

114) finding sand dollars on the beach, or discovering that there is still a snail living in the shell that I put in my pocket the night before

115) the free hotel breakfast that every morning included fresh pineapple, mango, papaya and dragon fruit

116) Fresh fruit slushies

117) Reading biographies of those who have gone before… their stories live on today as a strong mentor in my life

118) My friend taking the time to write up a good suggested reading list for the next year

119) A break from running to government offices and doing business stuff

120) Not being one of the many people at our hotel who got salmonella poisoning from eating the buffet lunch one day

121) My friend's willingness to drive a car in Thailand, even though it is the other side of the street, so that we could enjoy a cheaper vacation

122) The cheap price of an hour long foot massage

123) I was very thankful when the lady behind us on the train finally got off. She had been suffering with motion sickness ( and being sick in a bag) for the first 6 hours of our 13 hour ride across the country.

124) Auntie Ann’s cinnamon sugar pretzels

125) Time spent celebrating with friends

126) Steroid shots in my shoulder that decreases pain and helps me sleep better

127) For an overall good check up at the doctors and the amazing hospital facilities here

128) Fresh smelling laundry that was dried in a dryer and the use of fabric softener

129) That even though we carried back an extra bag for my roommate, we were never charged for having over weight language

130) For friends who put up with me for weeks of travel, even when I am cranky and tired and still calls me a friend at the end of it

131) the time and planning that many people put in to organizing a retreat

132) Wisdom shared with me by people who have lived cross culturally in this part of the world for many years

133) To have survived a night in their airport and more than 24 hours on route home

134) I am very thankful to be home in my own bed after staying in a total of seven different hotels (not counting the airport bench).

Thursday, February 03, 2011

I Don't Know Why She Swallowed that Fly...

My friends and I decided to take in all the joys afforded us at the weekend market in Bangkok, including the bugs.

As you can see we came across a stall selling fried insects of every flavour and variety. We opted for one cockroach and a bag full of grasshoppers, to share as our afternoon snack. The initial dare to actually take a first bite was rather eventful, but by the end of the day we were just sitting in the park munching away on the remainder of them. For those of you who are interested there really isn't much flavour, they tasted like most greasy fried food with a bit of a crunch. I still don't know why I actually ate the groasshopper, other than the friend I was travelling with is one of those types of people who sees something new or different and says "let's try eating that". All I can say is it has been several days since I swallowed the bug, and I don't think I am going to die.