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Part 1 Softball
April 19 – 20
I thought it was last weekend but then I was wrong; so I thought it was the week prior then the weekend prior to that but now looking at the date it was a month ago. When yesterday was a month ago and last weekend was closer to tomorrow and tomorrow in reality does not matter as it has yet to manifest then living in the moment has been actualized. It is really the goal of human existence; if not stated then at least alluded to in one’s subconscious or super-subconscious or maybe even in the collective mind that we work so hard at denying exists so that we can have our alleged individual-walled off-tweeted minds but it is a trick. We really do live in the moment.
It is simple physics that what exists is existing now and not tomorrow and not really what did exist because that is what did and what is, is the magic of now. Part of the magic of now though, as humans, and maybe animals – how would we know? Is that we can transcend now and live elsewhere without living there. So I am thinking that it seemed like last weekend but it was not and that is fine because there has been so much good stuff since what I am really going to write about at least at first here that I have not had the opportunity to write since that great weekend because of all the other great moments since. Narda says I use way too many words to get to the point and because she is much smarter than me I suppose that is correct so I will get on with it.
In between or during, on top of, along-the-side of, those great moments are the mundane though thought provoking due to their life changing results moments; such as packing. It is close to moving-on to the next experience in life time and to alienate myself from what I believed in the paragraph above and just a few moments ago I am thinking and probably trying to live a tad bit in to the future because what we have been doing will be reflected in our future. For example what do we toss, what do we ship, what is carry-on luggage, what is dragged along with us stuff? A minor problem, well not problem but more of an issue is that all our belongings; I need to rephrase the part about all our stuff as we have a shed full of stuff in Adelaide, Australia that has been in storage for about 12-years, we have furniture and nicknacks in our house we our renting out in Jersey City and stuff in both of our houses in upstate New York that for some reason we have not really gotten rid of and we actually avoid any conversation about whether we should get rid of because it will just cause stress and no one wants too much stress in their life so we put the ‘we-have-crap-to get-rid-of’ bag over our consciousness and go forward into the weeks, months, years and now decades of whether we should have a conversation about bringing our past into the future.
For now we live in the moment – the ideal space – and what we collected and stored in the past can just stay there for now. I am not fond of packing unless of course I am packing to drag more of my past into the future then I am a real fan of packing. Back in the mid 1980s when I was a single parent in Australia living on a farm in Mt. Compass out on Tooperang Road (on the Fleurieu Peninsula) – the photo below is where my children and I lived from 1986 – 1988 – the years get blurry sometimes but strangely enough alive enough to feel like last weekend too. I even moved my tofu making business here – see my never-ending ~ ever-evolving e-book on making tofu and raising children with stories such as when the cows came and ate all my tofu-burger mix for the week at http://tofu.neuage.us/ what I do notice about this picture and where I live now in China is the blue sky and white clouds; all so different than the polluted skies and air we have here.
Back in the mid-1980s my children and I packed boxes and I said the next time we open them we will be in New York. It never happened and those boxes of toys and clothes stayed packed and we moved them from place to place; we lived in ten homes in about 12-years; not the easiest life being a single parent but overall it was good. Of course my children at the time were about five and seven years old and the concept of storing and dragging memories and loot from place to place was not really a manifest destiny at the time other than what they saw in one place was magically transferred to the next; not magic for me as I packed and lugged then unpacked to give our home in so many places that seamless ‘it is home’ look. Not that it is now thirty years later makes me any different. I read recently in an article about designing responsive web pages that fifty percent of our personality has genetic causes meaning I obviously inherited the need to hoard from those who came before. [Prinker, Steven, ‘How the Mind Works,’; in Aarron Walter’s article on ‘Redesigning with Personality’ in Smashing Magazine.}
That weekend ago; I looked forward to it for a month; actually now a month later I am looking back at it a month; sort of the midpoint between now and then and the month before when I first decided to play in a softball tournament in Kunshan (a bury burb of Shanghai). “The ‘Zhou City Cup’ slow pitch softball Kunshan Grand Prix; 25 teams from across the Taiwan Strait…of intense athletics.” Source: China News – Views: 7-Times (four of those times was me, showing how popular this article was in a month’s time in a country with a billion plus people http://www.vhteam.cn/feed/en_1996233).
The population of Kunshan is 1.647 million (by 2010) according to Wikipedia which is more people than Adelaide, South Australia which is the fifth largest city in all of Australia with 1.203 million people (2010 – I know I counted them) and which we are moving back to in five weeks. Kunshan is a small town in China. To get an idea of how small it is The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that at least 15 mega-cities with 25 million residents are now in China (all of Australia has 22.68 million (2012). Kunshan is, like most of China, a construction site with highways all over the shop being tossed in.
The fact that most of the people on our team were half my age had Narda asking ‘are you sure you want to do this’? There were seven of us English garbling folks; five from Dalian American International School and two that work at local international companies. The rest of the team were Taiwanese. We have been practicing with them on Sundays for the past year and last year when I had a bit of a heart problem and got sent off to Hong Kong to get four stents put in some place in my heart area they got together and signed a softball with all their names and no one thought I would or probably that I should play with them again. The doctor said whoa but four weeks later I was out there chasing flys and hitting the ball all the way to the pitcher – OK so I am the worse player on the team but I am also the oldest.
Actually I do not look that terribly old – the next oldest is ten years younger and most are in their 30’s with Brandon there at 24 and some in their 40’s. So to recap; one in the sixties (66 and in another two months 67 – yippee), one in his fifties and the rest just young.
It was a hoot. On Saturday it rained all day so we just slipped and skidded around and I even got a hit and got on base – what a dude. I was the catcher as they probably thought I would have a heart attack if I had to run after the ball and I did make a few good plays. We lost by heaps the first game something like 17 to two, and won the next. On Sunday we lost one and won one and did not do well enough to make it to the next round so we only played four games. For whatever karmic reason that we get what we get in life we got the crap field with lots of mud holes.
We played at the Kunshan Zhoushi Middle School and it was closed meaning toilets and any human related facilities were not available. We managed to get our bus driver to go off and find a Starbucks and bring us back large cups and luckily I brought enough sandwiches for two days because the box lunch that were provided looked and smelt pretty foul being composed of meat from indeterminable origins. Or to say I did not see any cats, dogs, rats, birds, bats, flies, butterflies and etc. in the area could be a hint of what could have been in the lunch boxes. We had fun though and we all laughed a lot and the younger ones had not problem with making fun of one another.
We stayed at the Crown International Exhibition Hotel Kunshan for the weekend getting in Friday night after mid-night. I knew for weeks that enough sleep was not going to be on the agenda. Narda and I usually go to bed at nine pm and we are up at six but this weekend Narda was a bit concerned that I would not have enough sleep – even my wife thinks I am old. Sure enough I was up and down for breakfast around six am on Saturday and off playing by eight. The others had stayed up a couple of hours more to have drinks. Saturday night I was determined to be asleep by ten but first we were all off to the KTV attached to the hotel. If you have never been in China and have no idea what KTV is well I suppose one could Google it. Basically you get a large room and it is to sing in on the lowest end of the scale. It is not a front for prostitution (they say) but where one pays to have a girl sit with them then according to how much you pay then you get more. Girls are led in, in groups of 5 – 7 and if none are chosen the next group is brought in.
A person will even announce how much a girl to drink with you is; in the first group it was 500 RMB for a girl to talk with you and have drinks which were extra. One group we were told was 700 each as they were some top sort of girls whatever that meant and then one group was a special at only three hundred per girl. In the short time I was there I counted six groups of girls. Us baseballers were just looking at the TV and laughing at the songs and drinking. Well I drank water as I stopped drinking alcohol about seven years ago. I was told several times not to take photos but I did anyway and took video clips until at the end when I was taking video in the hall I was escorted out by three tough looking dudes who had no smiles between them. I am not making any youtube type of clips for various reasons but here are some images I took off of the video clips I managed to get.
The girl in the blue flight suit was kind of in charge – there were a couple of them and when someone chose a girl – the Taiwan players were keen the girl would turn over some electronic device to the girl in the blue which I supposed was an expense account-tracker.
The TV in the background is the karaoke screen. I do not remember if the hand in front of me is telling me once again to put away my camera or if it was choosing a girl. After some people looked aggro at me with my Nikon (especially when I had a zoom lens on) I took photos with my iPhone and sent them to Narda (hey guess where I am?)
I took video in the hall because it was such an impressive place with stained glass and lovely furniture and I thought no one could see me but I was quickly escorted out of the building – but here is an image from a video of a hall:
I thought it was all quite interesting from a cultural anthropological position studying the primordial role and development of the reptilian brain of sports players. Everyone was having a good time drinking beer, singing, and me watching until a female sat next to me and started saying ‘hello’. I did not want to be antisocial but I was not interested in talking either. And further more she did not speak English and she was young enough to be my granddaughter. I don’t want to sound like abnormal as a sports player but I was thinking maybe I should get a blanked to put over her as she seemed very skimpily dressed for the air-conditioned room and she could easily catch a cold then she may be missing school. I could have asked her why she was not home doing homework but again there was a language barrier. I have no idea why she was sitting next to me trying to talk then I realized the Taiwan dude next to me, I am sure, paid for her for me. He asked me if I could speak Chinese so I could talk to her and he assured me she was good. Good in meaning she gets all A’s at school? Or she sings well in the local church choir? When I went to take a sip of my water she took her glass and clunked mine and said something and I smiled and said, ‘sorry dear I have to go’. Gosh things change when one goes from being in their twenties to their 60’s. So I went back to my hotel took a sleeping pill and slept from nine pm until feeling refreshed Sunday morning I was ready to play ball.
The first time I came across a KTV was when three couples were in Dalian for the weekend our first month at Dalian American International School. We had all started at the same time; now three years later, one couple: Frank and Kay are in Burma – we went to visit them a few months ago and the other: Jean and Sean, are still here. We had no idea what we were walking in to and we sat down and these scantly dressed females came in. I think it is about karaoke as there is always a large television screen and you get a microphone. We got into laughing fits and left. That was my full KTV experience until Kunshan. Everyone was going in the evening after dinner. Dinner was quite the event with band and singers all in a large Chinese-style-over-the-top-chandelier laced room.
Reason for doing.
Everything we do is because of.
Conscious or not.
I was conscious about why I was going to play softball with a group of energetic young folks. I do not socialize much here and rarely have socialized much anywhere. My idea of a nice weekend is creating a new webpage or doing some writing, making something in Premiere or After Effects, having a play in Photoshop; I have had a subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite for the past year and there are not enough hours in a week to learn and create in all the programs and do all the wonderful things I try to squeeze a few moments in a day out of to make something. I am fortunate to have a job where I can use lots of programs during the day at Dalian American International School. One of the creative parts of my job is DAISlive which is our in-house news show that I do with my middle school and high school classes. I try new animation and video features each week. The rest of my position is ‘technology integration coordinator where I work with teachers and we create stuff using film in courses from literature to science and we use designing and CAD programs so I will miss all this creative buzz with students and teachers. But outside of school I do not do much with others except of course Narda. I am lucky for many reasons but one of them is she likes to spends stacks of time on the Internet looking at real estate or on Skype with her granddaughters or sons in their various places of residence (Hanoi, Adelaide, South Australia, Atlanta, Georgia) and now as we are moving back to Australia she is looking on Gumtree (Gumtree is Australia’s answer to Craigs List in the States) for furniture so now at 5:30 AM I get to continue to write.
OK drifting is so often common in my thinking which manifests in my writing too often and to wander off to the actually point of playing softball at a tournament at the age of 66 almost 67 six months after heart-repair and a few aches and pains acquired from who knows where?
When Leigh was fourteen he went on his first out of town baseball tournament. He went to Melbourne playing for a spot on the U-16 National Team playing in St. Louis Missouri. (sites I made at the time: http://www.angelfire.com/hi/U16/australia.html and http://leigh.neuage.info/u16.htm). He did not tell any of his friends that he was trying out for the national team because he did not want to say he did not make it. He was ready to keep going though and had a week’s clothes and his passport with him. I had spent a lot of time in family court getting permission for him to go as his mother did not want him leave Australia thinking that in someway I would run over there and keep him there. By this time in 1997 I had been a single parent since 1984 when Leigh was a year old and Sacha three and a half but we had already been to family court heaps (we managed 66 times in court during the course of parenting, mostly over money and my wanting to take the children to the States to see their grandparents which I managed to get permission for twice). He made the team and helped Australia to get into 4th place in a field of 12 countries. There were a lot of away tournaments following that from playing on National Schoolboy teams to Australian National Teams, a World Cup in Taiwan, a series in Africa and the Under 18s World Series in Canada (http://leigh.neuage.info/u-18.htm) and on to playing for the LA Dodgers. Leigh was constantly taking a bus, train, flight to somewhere to play ball. Sacha had left home the last couple of years Leigh was home before Narda and I too left and went off to New York to live in 2002. I would clean Leigh’s room and sit in there thinking about him traveling around and try to visualize his life on the road. I often made web pages for whatever team he was on or tournament he was at. Between 1997 and 2003 Leigh got to travel a lot. So my going off with a team and playing in a tournament was exercising ghosts and mind-spacings I have had for a long time. http://neuage.org/leigh.html says it best.
I was successful with my travel. I would not do it again but taking a flight and buses and staying at a hotel and wearing Leigh’s baseball cleats and using his glove all put me in the right place and I have cleared a bit part of my life and now I can drift off into old-age knowing that I too played ball in an international tournament. Riding with the guys on a big yellow bus – I think if Leigh had stayed on the planet he would have thought this was kind of kool – of course he would probably be a big-time ball player but hey we all have to start somewhere and getting on the bus to the game is the first step. It has been a month now and no scouts have rung me like they did when Leigh was a teenager when scouts from Atlanta, Arizona, Minnesota, and finally LA though there were others whom I have forgotten all visiting me because of my son. Maybe I did not do well enough or it could have been the language barrier.
We got home after midnight or early Monday morning. Somehow I managed a couple of hours of sleep and then I was off to school. Needless to say it was a day of being tired. The downside of working where you live – or nearby, as Dalian American International School is a five minute walk to Campus Village where we live, is that it is very tempting to go home and have a nap which I have not done in three years but it is reassuring to know it is possible.
Part 2 Wedding
May 10 – 11
Vivian has worked with us for the past couple of years. She teaches Mandarin at our school. She speaks English very well and as she lived in Minnesota for a few years she is quite Western sounding. When she sent out the invitation to the whole school 27 of us signed up to go to her wedding in Liaoyang. At first we thought we were at the wrong venue because the photoshop folks had kind of made Vivian look not like her but sure enough we were at the correct place.
Liaoyang, another close to two-million people town has wide streets and is known for its petroleum products; maybe not widely known, I had no idea what that meant until after a weekend there. It is is one of the ‘oldest continuously-inhabited cities in northeast China’ according to Wikipedia.
I had not been out of town for almost two weeks since going to play ball in the international tournament down in Kunshan as us sport players who are constantly on the road just have this need to go to the next town. We took the fast train up which only took 1 hour 40 minutes and cost 143.5 RMB (23 US dollars). The fast trains in China are one of the best things in this country. They are exactly to the minute on time,very comfortable, cheap, clean and of course fast. The ordinary trains are quite budget.
This was our second Chinese wedding and they never fail to entertain. See http://youtu.be/hXTnilDBg1Q for this wedding and http://blog.neuage.info/?p=35 for my blog about a previous wedding which also at http://youtu.be/PJoDYbCswC8.
After the wedding we spent the day touring. On Sunday we stayed together with the group that went up and Vivian gave us a narrated tour but on Saturday when the wedding and brunch was over, all before noon, Narda and I went off in search of the local pagoda in Liaoyang White Tower Park. Guangyou temple, first constructed in 1145 houses a giant statue of Buddha made from sandalwood. From my observation it was about four stories high and as always he looks quite happy.
There were heaps of interesting images (just a smattering are here) including a series of creatures holding up Buddha’s foot.
And wondered how a controlling country like China keeps track of 1.3 billion people and saw our answer in the park; they send children out on patrol missions in little vehicles.
And that is it… probably my last blog written here as we ship everything off next week to Australia and we are off soon after: firstly to Hong Kong to have another peak at my heart then to Hanoi and on to Laos and sometime in mid-July we will regroup in Adelaide and a month later our shipment of crap will arrive and by then we will be looking around wondering why did we move back to Australia.