A Letter: China, and back again.

Click here if you’d like to hear my semi-cheesy (sometimes bumbling) reading…

Dear friends,

Not writing. Not posting. Not good.

May I say, at least, that since my August 16th post, I’ve been to Scotland, lived in Zhuhai, China, survived a super-typhoon, taught almost 100 students at Beijing Normal University, and navigated life in a foreign land, halfway across the world, whilst on the prowl for food, new friends, places to see and stuff to do, somehow bumbling through (solo), without the benefit of speaking the language. And trust me when I say, ain’t no way to fudge Mandarin.

China… First couple of weeks… isolation on steroids and 7-pound weight loss because I couldn’ figure out the food, but then I found my groove, not to mention those 7-pounds.

Rest of the visit… Peking Duck, dumplings and pomelo every day, occasional celebrity status (I blame my hair), and a bombardment into people’s homes and lives, with my customary bull-in-a-China-shop attitude, bolstered by an unexpected sense of freedom and abandon I never, ever imagined I would feel in the country.

By the end of my stay, I’d snuggled into a bit of routine. Every morning, the fellow who crossed me across the street to the other side of the campus where I taught my class would give me a warm smile, all the way up to his eyes, and as I passed, he’d say, without fail…

Nǐ hǎo, nǐ chīle ma?
Me and the bus-tour Pink-lady brigade… in one of about twenty-five photo & video ops they dragged me into that day… ya, i love every minute of it and the gang.

Loosely translated, he was saying “Hello. Did you eat?” And what that really meant was, hey… how you doing today? And that made me feel a little bit like, maybe China wasn’t my home, but in that country I might find me a little piece of that feeling , just enough, maybe, to get by.

And then, in late October, a 16-hour flight left Hong Kong airport and whooped me back to Canada where I then spent almost three weeks in Ontario, primarily to see my son, brother, friends and mother. She’s been in and out of hospital since August, but that’s a complicated story, for another time.

And then, in a blink —  whoosh again — when two big, fat, silver wings in the sky whisked me back to Halifax in November, where I landed, shell-shocked, in a ying/yang where-am-I-now? what-comes-next? state. It really wasn’t the best condition to be in when I unpacked my bags in my big old empty house on Duncan Street, having been away for almost three months and returning to the reality of my son moving out in July, leaving me with a whopping case of empty nest syndrome, easily forgotten when I wasn’t in Halifax, much remembered upon my return.

Jonesing for something more than silence, for first two solid weeks, I rattled about the house, from unused room to unused room, wandering around in sweats and the multiple sweaters I layered on my body to help keep me warm in the house’s 60-degree living conditions (and yes, I do set the thermostat, but do you have any idea how much oil costs in Nova Scotia ????), all the while wondering… what happened? where is everyone?

The Duncan Street Cave… so pretty, albeit lonely… (Do note atop the fireplace, photos in homage to sons. (sniff… sniff… why can’t we all just live together forever??????)

You see, when you’re still a relatively shiny new penny in a city halfway across the country from your five-decades of history and rootedness, picking up the pieces after months away is an onerous undertaking, albeit a task that is well-aided by scotch and plenty of Skype and FaceTime sessions with sons, brother, and friends back in Ontario.

One bottle of 12-year Glenfiddich later, perseverance and patience my stalwart companions for the kick-start back to life in Halifax, I started by the sending of multiple, cheery texts and emails saying: ‘Hey, I’m back!’ Project Friend-style, of course. (Do refer back and read the original Project Friend blog, if you like, written when I was a serious newbie in Halifax, back in 2015, Project Friend).

As responses trickled in and the coffee and wine dates started to populate my calendar, I realized the upside of the waiting period. Two weeks of being alone in Halifax was nothing in comparison to the China experience, which, by the way, did help me dig up serious coping strategies when experiencing social isolation, whatever its reason.

‘Lil Red, me, and little Felicity a long time ago in a place far, far away from Hali.

Course, now nearing a month home, semi-settled with friend-dates stacking up nicely, I’m hitting up all the fun stuff there is to do solo in Halifax since I I’ve perfected how to be my own best friend.

And yet again, I’m soon to hit the road, me and my faithful companion and trusty car, ‘lil red.’ The two of us, plus a whole heck of a lot of podcasts, are soon to hit the road.

I’m gonna shimmy ‘lil red down my skinny driveway, take the MacDonald bridge over the Halifax Basin and catch Highway 2, which is actually the lowest numbered highway provincially maintained in Canada. And then I’m off, on a solo-driving adventure back to Ontario for Christmas.

Old grey, I’m gonna miss you so. Please… please don’t forget me and all we’ve been through.

I’ll be stopping for one overnighter in Montreal., bunking in friend Wendy, whom I haven’t seen for well over two decades.

While with her, I also plan to return to her the grey wool sweater, borrowed a long, long ago, in the mid-90s. (sniff, sniff… this is gonna hurt… I love that sweater). That old thing has been my go-to from the long-ago days when my house was full with kids and a dog, until now, when it’s not. But that old sweater, man, it’s done right good by me, and it’s time, I think, to pass it back to its rightful owner.

So… in the meantime, (as in the meantime until I get my butt to Ontario and find the time to finagle a next blog post about one or another of the age-inappropriate situations I keep finding myself partaking of in this runaway life), at least you might have a peek at my new column to get you by. It’s published monthly, in  The Herald, the Atlantic province’s newspaper. I write it with another writer, Jill Ellsworth.

Ginger Cookies
CLICK: Well, hello Mary Jane

The column is called ‘Between Generations,’ cuz I am old, and Jill is young, young enough to be my kid… easily. But we’re having fun together, and ain’t that what it should be all about, anyway? (Click the Ginger Cookie illustration link to read!!!!)

So, I’m gonna sign off, and until the next time, know that I miss you and promise to write again real soon. SO much to tell you!!



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