We finally got to Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, China.
High adventure with new friends.
We finally got to Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, China.
We finally got to Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, China.
High adventure with new friends.
This was originally written in 1998 … I haven’t changed much, other than punctuation.
For me, the stress of this crisis began on Monday, May 18th.
“You’ve been ordered to leave.” Dini’s voice was rapid and strained.
“When?’ I asked as if someone was telling me the bar was about to close.
“This afternoon. Everyone’s meeting at the Shangri-La hotel.”
Dini, from the Canadian consulate, has been a great help. She’s helped with paperwork for our marriage; she intervened with an employer, and she has been a conduit for official information. Dini is also a very professional and pleasant person. Her clipped speech and frantic tone were completely out of character.
Basically, here was the situation. The Canadian Embassy and the US Consulate General Surabaya had chartered a flight. Canadians, Americans, Germans, Dutch and a couple of Turkish nationals were going to fly to Singapore.
For this excursion, they would pay the bargain price of $500 USD. Now, if you’re a businessman or an engineer – no problem. Teachers in Indonesia make between $300 and $450 USD per month. When you have a family, with children in school, you don’t have an excess of cash. My wife Emily and I have two children, Emily’s from a previous marriage, but nonetheless – our children. The wolf may indeed have been at the door, but that sucker was going hungry tonight. My family is my life and no crisis will change that.
On Sunday night we had a family meeting. I outlined the options.
Canada: We could spend everything we have and take the family to Canada. Canada is where I have family and friends, but no job to go back to. More importantly, I don’t have a place to stay, at least for any extended period.
America: I have friends there. Emily, my wife, has a visa. I love the country. It’s a damn expensive trip, and again I don’t have a home or a job there.
Hong Kong: Hong Kong is a big, beautiful and exciting city. Emily speaks passable Mandarin and her mother is fluent in Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese. The children’s Chinese is like my Indonesian: pathetic but earnest. Emily has family there. Hong Kong is impossible without money. Finding a job could be next to impossible. I want to see Hong Kong, but I’d prefer the experience to be a positive one.
Taiwan: The jobs are there in Taiwan. Many teachers have left for Taiwan. Would my family be allowed in? I can’t take the chance.
In the end, we decided to wait it out here.
With Wednesday’s impending madness (see story) almost upon us we discussed hiding out in one of Surabaya’s hotels or going out of town. We decided to wait on developments.
No one could give me a clear answer about the family. They’re Indonesian citizens, but they’re also Chinese. Even if Emily could come – as she’s my wife – what about the kids? Even if Emily and the kids were allowed, what about Emily’s mum? their Grandmother? my mother-in-law?
Do in-laws count as carry-on luggage? Don’t freak gentle reader – I love my mother-in-law. She’s a great lady. The bottom line is; I’m not leaving my family.
Norm Mcdonald from the Canadian Embassy said later that my family might be able to come out with me. On their own, Canadians have returned home. Some remain in Singapore waiting out the crisis.
Some will undoubtedly go to Taiwan or Thailand. Some will even go to Bali.
Some American friends are now in Bali, waiting.
We are now at home waiting for the situation to return to normal. Here we sit, packed suitcases and documents at the ready.
Local children are in the street. They’re playing volleyball. The ball makes a dull thud when they hit it. The balls here never seem to have enough air. They’re having fun.
Meanwhile, we sit behind our seven-foot iron fence – waiting.
Some streets, like the one directly in front of our house, are blocked by rusting cars and vans, while other streets are occupied by soldiers. The men seem decidedly less rusty than the cars and vans. The men seem to be having less fun than the children. The men are waiting.
People sit in small groups, talk, drinking and eating. Kaki Limas (five-legged men) the street merchants with their pushcarts, sell food and drink. The voices on the street are uncharacteristically low.
Sharing quick smiles, and nervous glances, hands together or resting on knees – they wait.
A young woman, eating food from a Kaki Lima, shakes her hips slowly and seductively to Ricky Martin’s ‘Maria‘. A large black rooster intrudes on the volleyball game. He exits quickly as the ball narrowly misses him. Too bad. He’s probably the noisy bugger who woke me up this morning, at three o’clock. The dancer has finished her meal and joined the game.
Young men, previously content to watch, have now joined the game. For now, they are moving, playing, and laughing. The waiting may come later.
The Missing Motorcycle 2
At the police station …
Are you okay?
You were speeding.
Yes. It was very cool.
Great. It was wonderful.
It was a very dangerous thing to do.
Oh, don’t be so foolish. I was wearing a helmet.
Where is the motorcycle?
The police have it.
They took it from me when I was arrested.
Hello. Can we speak to the owner of the Bangmyhead NX 200?
Yes. That’s me.
Good news. We found your motorcycle.
Really!?! I thought you had it.
Well we did, and then we lost it again.
You lost it?
Someone took it.
We caught the thief.
Not my grandmother again.
No. This time it was my Uncle Fred.
CSR: Good morning. Pay Now Fly Whenever Airlines
Customer: Oh yes. Good morning.
CSR: Can I help you?
Customer: I’d like to …. I need to reschedule my flight.
CSR: When is it?
Customer: At 5:30.
CSR: Where are you going?
Customer: I’m going to Jamaica.
CSR: What airline are you traveling with?
Customer: Jamaica Air.
CSR: When do you want to reschedule for?
Customer: For later this afternoon, if that’s possible?
CSR: Okay do you have your ticket?
Customer: Yes, Ah here it is.
CSR: Okay …. That’s Jamaica Air from New York. Uh oh …Okay. No flights this afternoon.
Customer: No flights?
CSR: Not until Tuesday.
Customer: My vacation isn’t that long.
CSR: That’ll be two thousand, one hundred and thirty-four dollars.
CSR: Two thousand, one hundred and thirty-four dollars for a return ticket.
Customer: What. I only paid One thousand, four hundred for the package.
CSR: Ah, you had a package.
CSR: Well then …nothing I can do.
Customer: What do you mean?
CSR: You need to call your travel agent.
Customer: Aren’t you a travel agent?
CSR: We wholesale tickets. The agent is listed at the bottom of your ticket.
Customer: Hmmm, yes. Now I see it. Dodgy Destinations. Wow … how did I not see that name?
CSR: Call them and they should be able to reschedule things.
Health and fitness
Being healthy is often our goal, but just as often our well-being is one of those many things that are put aside. We prioritize ourselves to distraction and to our detriment. Our health, physical, mental and emotional often fluctuates on the smallest upsets. We skipped breakfast; we stayed up late to finish work; or the lady at the counter was snarky. We cannot change the world around us, but we can modulate our reaction to life’s little hiccups. More often than not we don’t need to make drastic changes, as the small changes can have dramatic benefits.
Adding small routines like a morning stretch or an evening walk. There are benefits to having a glass of water with lemon before the coffee, or getting up a bit early so you can enjoy the solitude of a quiet living room. Just walking around your office/workplace/school periodically is helpful. Change up your routine from time to time by choosing a new restaurant, going to a foreign film, or visiting a new area of the city.
Take a dance class.
Shake your cares away and sweat off a few pounds with salsa, pole-dancing, ballroom dance or even hip-hop.
Soup kitchens, food banks, the Red Cross, the hospital, veterans homes, retirement communities, Boys and Girls Clubs. Get out and pitch in.
Read a book. Lead an aerobics group, or a Tai Chi Chuan class. Deliver mail and smiles around a hospital ward, or serve sandwiches and split pea soup. Run or walk a couple of 10K charity events. Walk with seniors, or help to organize a morning mall walk. If one doesn’t exist, create it. Your hours of dedication will brighten a life. It will most likely make your day as well.
Join a Martial Arts class
It takes a certain kind of person to walk willingly into a Muay Thai ring, but kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do, Karate or Judo instruction are all within a more prosaic range. If you aspire to be Bruce Lee or Batman after a few classes you can always hop a plane east.
Get out to the movies. There are still good movies being made, and the smell of fresh popcorn can be a tonic for a tired soul. Lose yourself in a movie for a couple of hours. Go with friends or people from the office. Discuss the film over dinner.
Books offer whole worlds of new insights and explorations. Reality and imagination in-between a couple of thick cardboard slices. Get out of whatever space your head is stuck in and explore biography, science-fiction, horror, travel, or even a good detective story. Pick up the Narnia or Harry Potter series. Perhaps you’re into female archers or sparkly vampires? Rediscover a few classics at your local library. Amazon might be a good place to explore. Start a book club. Share the book with children, seniors or veterans.
Eating right isn’t just a good idea, it’s a necessity. The balance of calories, proteins, carbohydrates and fats determines how well you feel, how well you think, and how quickly you can deal, or even bounce back, from an emergency. Apples, bananas, pears, peppers, and grapes are easy enough to find and easy to pack for lunch. Many fruits are natural antioxidants and refreshing, tasty snacks.
Antioxidants are essential to optimizing health by helping to combat the free radicals that can damage cellular structures as well as DNA.
The deep taste and sticky, chewy texture of this dried fruit is high in antioxidants, as it is considered a cancer protector and a good source of vitamins. Prunes can effectively lower your cholesterol and boost your bone health.
These fruits are loaded with antioxidants and help you lose weight. They’re also very beneficial to maintaining cardiovascular health. “While all fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, the so-called “superfoods” with the higher amounts include berries (wild blueberries, goji berries, acai berries, red berries),” Alissa Rumsey, according to registered dietician and spokesperson for the New York State Dietetic Association.
Cloves are known to be a great antibacterial and anti-fungal medicine. They are typically used in spices, but they are effective in reducing inflammation, toothache, and even improve our sexual health. Foods in the brown family like cacao and cinnamon are also excellent sources of antioxidants.
It comes as no surprise, strawberries make the top 10 best antioxidant-rich foods list, especially since they can be very health to eye health and maintaining healthy skin. This fruit reduces the bad cholesterol and can contribute to heart health. Strawberries boost blood antioxidant levels and can help prevent chronic diseases. Strawberries have a large concentration of phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids known to have antioxidant properties. At a cellular level, they fight free radical production, and therefore, lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and dementia.
This super fruit can help boost the immune system. They are most known for their effectiveness in treating urinary tract infections, and kidney stones. Cranberry products have the highest level of phenols — a disease-fighting antioxidant — and can even reduce the risk of heart disease.
This super nut is known to deliver a powerful dose of cancer-fighting antioxidants. The American Cancer Society has noted ellagic acid — found in walnuts — may have anti-cancer benefits. These nuts have been known help in the treatment of type 2 diabetes as well as important for healthy hearts.
This fruit is packed with antioxidants and can, like walnuts, be extremely helpful when it comes to heart health. They can balance blood sugar levels and are considered a diabetic medicine.
Although they may seem unlikely to make the list, pinto beans are actually full of antioxidants and very high in fiber. In the U.S., it is estimated 8 lbs. of beans are consumed each year per person, as pinto beans and navy beans are the most popular. They are very beneficial to our digestive health.
Blackberries are considered to have one of the highest levels of antioxidant compared to other fruits.
Being abundant in vitamins and minerals, soursop offers several health benefits. It is often recommended by the practitioners of herbal medicine to cure various ailments.
Not just for warding off unclean spirits anymore. Garlic may be the wonder cure for all sorts of ailments, but the jury is out on how much is good for you, and how much is too much.
Small red beans are known to be very beneficial to bones and teeth, and even lower the risk of heart attacks.
Sorry to put the tomato all the way down the list. They are very good for skin health. Like a lot of the wetter fruits and vegetables, tomatoes can help to keep the body hydrated.
Mix fruits and vegetables into your meals. Do not skip meals. Breakfast remains important.
Add supplements whenever possible.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health, especially your digestive system. Probiotics are often called “good” or “helpful” bacteria because they help keep your gut healthy.
Often vitamins are available in fresh foods, but a few can be supplemented, such as A,B and Omega 3. Zinc is important for the bodies’ immune system and while zinc is available in pumpkins, it can be easily supplemented.
Get at least seven hours. Take a nap if possible. If you can’t focus, or you’re ready to kill every time the phone rings, nap. You aren’t helping anyone by trying to tough it out. Sleep is a restorative and it is the time the body and mind need to heal. The early morning hours between two and four are when the body is detoxifying. It’s the reason you stumble to the bathroom in the morning. Your mind is also clearing the detritus of the day, psychically at least. No wonder you’re groggy and irritable in the morning, your biological hard drive hasn’t been defragged.
Prepare yourself to sleep. Turn off the phone. Turn down the lights. Don’t bring work into the bedroom. Lie down and stretch a little. Close your eyes and feel yourself breathe. Do that for a few minutes. It may feel silly at first, just ignore that. Imagine a white light at your feet and imagine as it moves up your legs, over your thighs, up your stomach. It’s at your fingers and hands. As the light passes over, at least in your mind’s eye, allow that part of your body to completely relax. The light moves up your shoulders and chest and up to your neck.
Now do nothing. Float for a few moments. Then get up. Fold the covers down. Get into bed, and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
If you can’t tune out the world for a few moments every few hours then burnout is a very real possibility. This is not just true of people in high-stress jobs, but anyone who is meeting deadlines, dealing with children or just getting back and forth to meetings. This could be a time for meditation, yoga or relaxing with scented candles.
Know your limits
Set boundaries. Know what your comfort zone is and stay within reach of it. That doesn’t mean you don’t stretch yourself from time to time. It does mean you don’t stretch so far that you can’t function or return to a place of comparative safety.
Regular exercise is tough. It takes time, dedication and special shoes, doesn’t it? In fact, it only needs a bit of time each day and the dedication to do it three of four times a week. You only need shoes if you intend to run, or take up parkour. A bit of planking, stretching, push ups and some quality time with dumbbells will do wonders for your mood, your waistline, and your appetite.
Start simply with a simple goal to do five push-ups, 20 crunches and a few curls with dumbbells. Yes, you probably will need to buy them. Add some stretches. Within a few days, you’ll be past the initial aches and pains and you can add five more push-ups and 10 more crunches. Increase your repetitions. Go swimming. Don’t join a gym, unless you want to socialize. Gyms exist on the basic premise that people will sign up, and for the most part, never attend. Imagine the fun if everyone who bought a membership turned up on the same day. It would be like a scene from the Producers.
Speaking of theatre, go see a play. Or better yet, join a community group and get involved in acting, stage management, or set design.
There are real benefits to reflexology, shiatsu, and the other forms of manipulation. Whether it’s deep tissue punishment you seek, or a more relaxing sleep-inducing pampering, there are many schools and styles of massage.
Yoga is a mental, physical and often spiritual pursuit. This is not about religion, but about connections. You are pushing past your comfort zones in a safe place. You are making a connection with the deeper and more quiet parts of your mind.
Everyone has advice on this. Drink a lot of water, but not too much. Drink mineral, or filtered, squeeze a cactus or straight from the tap(the cactus might be safer). Often we feel hungry or tired when we’re actually thirsty. An amazing number of people walk about in a state of mild dehydration. Avoid the sugary drinks. Avoid juices, unless they’re actually squeezed and without sugar. All of this is a matter of routine. One can of soft drink is unlikely to cause major damage; unless it’s thrown at your head. Water is always the default and a few glasses in the morning, after lunch and then at home will help. Get a refillable sports bottle to take with you. People will think you’re an athlete. Clean it or people will think you’re unsanitary.
Certain teas have natural healing properties and can aid hydration.
Kombucha tea is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria, and yeast. Although it’s sometimes referred to as Kombucha mushroom tea, Kombucha is not a mushroom — it’s a colony of bacteria and yeast. Kombucha tea is made by adding the colony to sugar and tea, and allowing the mix to ferment.
Matcha is a finely milled or fine powder green tea. The health benefits of matcha tea are supposed to increase as when drinking matcha you ingest the whole leaf, not just the brewed water.
As with good tea, good relationships take time. Relationships begin with contact. Get out and move around. Join a club. Fitness and bars are fine if you’re the type that can interact with strangers, if not a hobby group or a college course may expand your social network. Spend some time with family. Get out in the yard, or the park. Get out of the city and hike. Explore the city. Go to a farmer’s market. Grab a camera and take shots of sunsets and sunrises, or the cityscape from different locations. Just don’t do this alone. If someone is around, engage them. If not, make an effort to meet people.
None of these ideas are revolutionary. The secret is that it only takes small changes to have dramatic results. Some of these will work, some won’t. Try the next one. None of these ideas take any great investment in money or time, but they need a commitment. Make an appointment with yourself to spend a few moments each day enjoying life. That’s perhaps the true secret; allowing yourself to enjoy your life.
It has been a long time since I wrote anything new, at least that wasn’t lesson related. I sat down to write but was almost immediately distracted by our cleaning lady’s youngest. The little girl is three years old and there is no one home to look after her so she tags along with mom. Her older sister, the grade three student, is still at school.
The littlest one, whose name is unpronounceable, to nobody but me, is happily checking everything out, babbling pleasantly and occasionally popping over to see what the odd old man is doing. To be fair, I don’t know if I appear more odd or more old to her, but she seems happy either way.
The long and the short of it is I have no idea what to write so I’ll leave you with a short thought. Have a great day and enjoy the smiles that appear unexpectedly.
September 19th, 2008
September has come to Surabaya.
Not the bracing chill of autumn,but the pressing heat of the late dry season.
I miss seasons.
I was just remembering how beautiful autumn could be. I look forward to rediscovering the colors and smells of a September morning. I’ve told Emily, the kids and my students about the long walks.
How difficult to communicate the long moments spent admiring the golds, reds and greens and browns. To feel the last warmth of the year on your face.
To stare unashamedly into clear autumn skies. To breathe deep of the cooling breeze. To taste greedily of the clean air.
How to explain looking up at the sky and knowing that this brief, transitory experience has to be embraced and then tucked safely away as winter’s approach is heralded in the ever-darkening skies.