Life has been a whirlwind. It throws surprises, curve balls of all sorts my way. Sometimes these are unpleasant, sometimes, bittersweet and sometimes fantastic. Two Fridays before Thanksgiving, my mom called to tell me she wouldn’t be home for Thanksgiving. She had just purchased an airline ticket to her hometown in China. The next morning, I purchased my own tickets. Why not? I had Thanksgiving week off.
I spent the next four days working on obtaining a last minute visa to China. I looked up how to do it on Saturday, but the time I was done and ready to leave the house, all of the travel agencies were closed. The next day was Sunday. I had planned a hike with a friend. He picked me up before sunrise. We hiked for a short time in the redwoods and then went to a travel agency. The agency said that they could not obtain the visa in so short a time and advised me to do it myself, so I went to my friend’s house and printed out the application, which I spent hours filling out. I took Monday off and went to the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco with my application. I paid an extra $20 to have it rushed Express. Then, I dropped off my receipt with a different travel agency and paid them to pick it up for me in San Francisco so that I would not have to take the following day off. If you’re interested, I learned that visa photos can be obtained at the consulate office for $10. They have two booths there but it’s an amusement park-sized line…. Ok, maybe not that long, but it’s a wait. I got mine at CVS for $16 where there was no line. A clerk who said his parents were also from China but he had never been there helped me. He said he had to work on Thanksgiving. They would be busy because Obama was speaking in San Francisco that week. I found out from other people also waiting in the DMV line-sized- consulate- line, that at Costco, visa photos can be printed for $9. Spending Monday and Tuesday in traffic to get the application in and then to pick up the visa from the travel agency was worth every minute and every dime because I spent a most unusual spontaneous Thanksgiving vacation meeting up with my brother and mother in China, which we traveled together for the week.
During this last week, I have been thankful for the time with my family. Relatives picked us up from the airport, which was an adventure in itself because the two elderly people could not recall where they had parked their car!
We attended a symposium in honor of Grandfather, the man who taught me how to tie my shoes. There, we learned my aunt and uncle treated us to tour tickets for Xiangxi, Hunan, which we took a train to the following day.
We saw many sights over the week:
- on ice… I slipped and fell….
- on the world’s first natural bridge
We walked behind waterfalls..
and met many robbers
We saw my mom’s pre-school and elementary school. We met her childhood friends….
- Saw an exhibit with photos of my grandfather and his manuscripts encased in glass with letters between my grandparents… Heard a concert with music written by Grandfather.
- tossed chrysanthemum petals into the Yangtze to honor the spirits of my grandparents whose ashes were scattered in the river. My brother says, “Peace out” as he tosses the petals in his hands. My mother’s cousin, Mom and I kowtow three times.
In the evenings during the week, I found myself thinking about John:
A friend who passed away in September due to complications from cancer. John wrote and spoke about choice and circumstance. He taught people that we could not control our circumstances but we could control our choices. He said it much more eloquently than I can recall right now. Thinking about John who would talk with me (and many others, as he had a way making people feel special by giving them his precious time) for hours about so many dreams and plans and thinking about my grandfather who is being honored on what would have been his 100th birthday, I wonder to myself if I am playing it small. I check my email and find that one of my co-workers has put in 2-week’s notice and find myself a little envious, but I also know it’s not time for me to move on yet.
The rainfall tonight is like loud rhythmic music on the tin roof of my silver cottage tonight but it isn’t loud enough to drown out so many thoughts about John, my ancestors, family, friends, the future and so many hopes and dreams.
In the evening of our last night in China, my mom rifled through cabinets and found an undiscovered book of manuscripts from my grandfather. The next morning, we ran into the former president of the music conservatory my grandfather helped establish and my mom handed him the notebook to submit to the school.
I think to myself: When was the last time I set time aside from work to work on my own thoughts/ ideas/ creative endeavors?
When I go shopping for something in mind, I am not usually quickly to grab what I need and go. Instead, I meander and look at different aisles on the way, but maybe it’s okay to be a slow shopper: to buy fifteen items instead of one. Procrastination can be as delightful as reaching the end goal…Can’t it??? The only thing that bothers me is that I forget what I’m shopping for…. What was I doing again? Where are we going again? But aren’t some of the best experiences unplanned?
The sounds of rain is fading a little now. I’ve returned from my trip but I never will quite return.
What did you guys do for your Thanksgiving???