On this first day of 2018 I opened my phone to messages from our children, Jethro and Georgia – our 6 o clock being their midnight.
Happy New Year
Happy New Year
A few minutes ago Lex and I stood on the balcony at the end of our passage and looked out over Lanzhou. The Yellow River slipped slowly by over the road, not very far away.
Beneath us, on a partly demolished piece of land men were working, unloading boxes from a truck onto a few three-wheelers – pilling boxes onto their ‘bakkies’. Their loud voices carried up to us where we stood in the cold air on the 11th floor.
We sipped green tea and nibbled on Oreos – yes- exactly the same, except for the packaging.
Back in the flat now Lex plays Joni Mitchell for me and I watch our photos of home sliding by on the flat screen. For a while, we could be anywhere. Right now.
But we are here.
We chat over our computers, reading messages. No teachers have yet returned. Today is a public holiday. We are beginning the day slowly.
Last night we sat up and talked about the miracles of the last year, and especially the last 6 months. Starting with the fires, moving on to when we lost our jobs when British Academy closed down, through the offer of work in Lanzhou – how that came to us and stuck with us until Home Affairs eventually (after 14 weeks of waiting!) granted us our unabridged marriage certificate.
Last night and this morning we are grateful.
We are here in this flat, having left all behind – our house and home, our children, our friends, my mother, our country, and for me right now, my suitcase, within which are some items that I have held onto for over 25 years. Items with a memory and an identity. Mine.
I remember the devastating Knysna fires of 2017 – and all the heroic people who lost everything in a moment. Everything. And it was not by choice. My heart understands a very little bit more.
New beginnings are strange things. Tremendously exciting and yet relentlessly confusing. A little like China.
We decided, Lex and I, a while ago, not to spend too much time looking back. I do believe that all the worlds’ sacred texts warn you against that. And anyway, the past doesn’t really exist, does it?
The past is just a memory, that we are free to rewrite any way we like – as a tragedy, a comedy, a hero’s tale, a victim’s melodrama or (my favourite) as high adventure!
A solution to all always presents itself if we can only keep calm and carry on – as the old wise poster says. There is not enough room in this blog to list every extraordinary solution that has come rolling in towards us over the last year. I can only laugh out loud.
Lex and I look forward – but not too much. Next thing you know I’ll be writing stories in my head that may or may not come true.
There is the sound of a dog barking plaintively on the wasteland below.
There is a smudged line of tall buildings standing on the murky horizon.
There is a door opening close by.
The lift goes ping.
My phone reveals a message from a new friend, saying that she will see me tonight.
Joni plays that warm chord, my favourite song.
Another very small ‘naartjie’, still with stalk and green leaf attached.
I peel it and it is very, very sweet on my tongue.