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China, chores and cartoon cayotes

August 13, 2011

Where to begin?  At the beginning, I suppose, but where is that?

We could start at some point in the future, perhaps.  The moment we set foot on Chinese soil for the first time, at the end of August 2011 scared, excited, shell-shocked and not really knowing what the next twelve months will bring.  Or perhaps the journey begins the moment our plane leaves the tarmac of Heathrow, as we stare out of the window at the quickly vanishing lights and buildings of the airport, falling away behind us – letting in as much of our tiny island as possible, trying to imprint the moment
so that it becomes one of those key times of your life that you never forget –
which of course it won’t be – those little gems of memory are never the things
you think they will be, at the time.

Perhaps it started when I met, Jess, and in those first few dates she told me of her passion for travelling, and her plans of working in a foreign land for a year or so.
Of course back then we had no idea we would be spending the rest of our lives together, although I secretly contemplated it – you don’t talk about these things on the second date, you know – and I was doing my best to sound as adventurous and exciting as she seemed to me; telling her how I too dreamed of working abroad, even though I had entertained nothing of the sort at any point in my life so far.

We could look elsewhere, of course.  I mean, why China?  I could tell you about how we initially decided upon Japan, just before the earthquake struck and we were forced to
re-think.  Maybe the real beginning was when I made the decision in my head that I was going to do this with Jess, or when I told her that the deal was it had to be somewhere where I could experience a martial arts journey that I couldn’t hope to achieve in the West.  Was it when I decided that martial arts were going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life?  Was it when I used to always be the ninja when playing soldiers as a kid, when my obsession first took seed?

Perhaps the beginning is now, as I sit on a friends’ sofa house-sitting, having just taken my partner Jess a cup of tea and complained that I don’t know how to start, or even what to write.

“Just start writing” she said, not ten minutes ago; “why don’t you talk about how it started?”  So here I am. Homeless for three weeks, living out of luggage as we try and come to terms with the fact that in three weeks, our lives will bear absolutely no
resemblance to anything we have known thus far.“Write about how you feel” was the next pearl of wisdom.  But I’m not even sure I can do that, really, since I don’t really know if I feel anything yet.  All I can think about is the next job, and the next job, and the job after that. Finish work, move out of the flat, clean the flat, cancel the bills, sort the forwarding post, prepare lesson plans to teach in China, complete a medical, pick up the blood tests, chest x-ray, inoculations for Hepatitis A & B, Rabies, Japanese Encaphalitis, Typhoid, pick up Malaria tablets and a first aid kit, apply for a work visa, declare ourselves at the Chinese Embassy,tell the Foreign Embassy where we’re going, arrange our flights, put ten years of stuff in long-term storage, hand my Ninjutsu class over to my friend and fellow instructor Stu, sell the car, do a car boot sale, get the Student Loan Company to recalculate our payments, pay off our depts, buy some travelling clothes, cancel the phones, learn Mandarin, pack, arrange transport to the airport, whimper softly in the corner of a room.

I don’t know how I feel yet, but I can’t help bringing to mind the timeless fate of that cartoon baddie from my childhood, Wile E Cayote, as he chases Road Runner along a mountain pass. You know, the one where old Wile E nearly catches him – legs a blur of
motion as he puts everything in his feeble furry brain in to closing in on the smug blue blur, only to find that what he thought was a bridge was actually a poster of a bridge over a rather large ravine – with Road Runner hiding behind a rock (still looking smug – even smugger, if possible).  So focussed on the chase, he doesn’t even notice until long after he’s sailed through the poster, and is hovering in mid air some feet behind it.  He stops, looks round, looks at us through the television (he knows we know, and there is a silent understanding between the two of us – the closest a kids cartoon has ever come to poignancy) and, with a resigned sigh, down he goes, to the ravine floor.

Don’t worry, it’s a cartoon he’ll be fine – but very much like Wile E Cayote’s perpetual, pointless chase, we won’t know we left the ground behind until long after it happens.

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From → China, Personal, Travel

One Comment
  1. You my good friend are a genius

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