Ah Tomb Sweeping Day, Qingming Festival;; the day that one tends the graves of their once-were-mates. One of those great non-Western holidays that we celebrate by not working, well working but not usual working, working in the plan-our-holidays way. The thing is about two and a half thousand years old and for the most part from what I see they do a few extra fireworks – a few extra – considering most mornings I hear fireworks from some local cemetery – a few extra gets to be a bit annoying when one wants to sleep in a bit. And they burn paper money though I am not sure what that is for. Nevertheless we jumped fully into the day; firstly, by changing our ticket back to Australia in July. Originally we had a six hour stop in Kuala Lumpur, on our ticket from Beijing to Adelaide after two weeks in the States. Today we changed that to four days in KL. The reason being that Narda has been looking for places we may retire to.
Somehow my mind disappears when I hear about retirement as my life I am doing sort of backward. I started my university career as a student at the age of 44 and continued it for 14 more years in the midst of being a single parent in the middle of a foreign country trying not to be foreign to myself but I may have failed and just ended up re-inventing myself as an old person. I started to teach at uni in 1998 whilst doing my seven year trek through the brain-numbing, though at times, interesting, world of a PhD, at the University of South Australia – age 51 – when some start thinking of retirement I started thinking what I would do when I grew up and finished my bloody thesis http://neuage.org/ODAM. I liked my world – the kids would go to Wirreanda High School in Morphett Vale for the day and I would take the train into Adelaide and spend the day in my office. It was an escape back when the Internet and making webpages was fun before the world was swamped with so much instant changes and so much information. I went slower in those days; fifteen years ago when I was only 51 I went at a much slower pace than now, probably enjoyed life much more, and definitely accomplished more in a day. I could teach classes, work on my thesis, and have time to be a parent, write children stories, do my picture poems, be on a basketball and a baseball team with my children and oh so much more.
I loved being a single parent and would recommend it to anyone if not everyone. We roamed the world; doing a couple of round-the-world trips, we dreamt of incredible futures – which almost eventuated and life was good. Life is still good but I felt I was more retired when I was in my 40s being a single parent, dreaming impossible dreams and just chilling. Now I have embraced adulthood – even must say it is quite enjoyable – I am just getting going and retirement? Nay, it’s not for me. But Narda, she is looking at the beaches, and grandchildren, and travel as if three trips to Australia and a trip to the States as well as other local spots: Viet Nam, various Chinese cities, in a year is not enough. One of the places that Narda has been reading about is Penang, Malaysia so we are looking for places to stay in George Town, an hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur. Four days in Penang and no doubt I will be shown the merits of retirement.
Actually I equate Tomb Sweeping Day with retirement. What I did get done on this glorious holiday was putting together my vast number of video clips from last week’s pop into Shanghai and distilling them down to two three minute clips. They are now youtube videos: http://youtu.be/KzbtUqU7Qcs = Shanghai, and http://youtu.be/FgWA_yne1VI = Zhujiajiao, as well I have made them additions to my blog for those two events: http://neuage.us/BLOGS/39-Shanghai2013.htm for my two blog readers in all of China and whom may not be able to get on to youtube due to not having a VPN. What we should have done today was ride out bikes but it is still cold and windy and well we tried a mini-retirement day. I even stayed in my jammies for most of the day and took a fifteen minute nap and now I will toddle off to the gym and work on body sculpturing or keeping the fat bits away anyway. I suppose if retirement was like today it was OK though I am really looking forward to tomorrow to go back to work.
I have my film class first block; 8:45 in the morning and we are finishing up quarter number three. We are Skyping with people in India and a person in the State of Washington who has written an orchestra piece that our school is performing. As well we are preparing our Skype work with a co-producer in LA who has recently had her film in the Sundance Festival and she is working with my class to do a film online. So retirement? Not this week mate. I love my job – I have so many projects going at once and rush from thing to thing, reminding me of decades ago when I lived a project-based life and in the midst had time to laugh with my children and dream incredible futures. That is what I love about my job; I not only can accomplish stuff I need as well as want to do but I have lots of flexibility to try new things and get involved in new directions. And now at 65 when others think of retirement I have started a new career as a film dude as I am getting involved in a kool global niche of creative possibilities I had not dreamt of even last semester.
Oh Narda has just found a caravan for us to purchase – another retirement plan of hers. We will have a caravan in Australia and live in it when we visit family when we are not cruising the Nile or trekking Nepal or whatever it is old people do that have money – well that is not us, too ugly and too poor maybe but not ones with money so maybe we will just buy an old caravan – tie it up to our old car that sits in storage in Australia – and become trailer trash and get fat and live along the coast of Australia. Every day will then be Tomb Sweeping Day.
We had the first of two-days of parent teacher’s conference at our school today. I have done this at schools before, nothing new, but I did get to thinking about life in general and the turns and twists one takes on the journey.
Sitting there with parents I remembered my days as the parent with my children. Life was so different then. I was a single parent in South Australia (I was the foreigner there, being a Yank and all, though allegedly I spoke the same language as the teacher) and usually there was a problem with at least one of my children, I will not say which one. Of course I blamed the teacher because obviously the reason my child acted out was because the class was not challenging enough and my son was creative and beyond their slowed down standards. Actually I was probably the parent from hell.
This was between 1985 and about 1999. Not sure why but my children attended lots of schools. We started off with Mt. Compass, and then there was Pt. Elliot, Meadows, Victor Harbor, Christies Beach High School, and that was just primary. There was Wirreanda High School later on and a temporary school because of some discipline stuff and maybe Seaton High too; I lost track.
I started my own studies in 1991 and went straight through to 2005; 14 years of university, from starting my BA when I was 44 to collecting my PhD at the University of South Australia when I was 58. I started teaching in 1999 at age 52, when most people start to look at retiring. Before that I had been a tofu maker for seven years, a brother in a religious order, a cook, street artist in New Orleans, NYC, South Australia, Honolulu; a happy hippie living in communes in the 1960s and a variety of things but sitting in front of parents talking about their children always amazes me; especially here in China, where I need an interpreter for Chinese, Korean, German and or etc. and I am happy to present myself as the teacher or as is the case now, the student’s advisor. I try to recall my children in school and think of nightmares – principal’s phone calls, me defending my children, the fire in the boys toilet that many years later a son said yes it was him, to the court appearances for graffiti and on and on.
One of my favourite moments (not) was when I was being showed my son’s diary (this happened with both children). There were lots of absent days with my signature – this was at Wirreanda High School, my children would have been in about 8th and 10th grade. There were days when they did not have their uniform with some excuse about it is in the wash –this was in many entrees. The reasons for missing school were everything from baseball practice at another school (that son was later signed by the LA Dodgers as a pitcher) or meetings at the dentist, doctor and a host of visits I barely could have imagined. All signed by me. When I pointed out it was not my signature anywhere in the diary I was shown the front page of the original signature – my children had signed my name from day one. OK so I never looked at their diaries – poo hoo on me. I had other things to deal with like being a perfect parent.
What I find really fascinating is when two parents are talking a mile-a-minute in a foreign language, and looking up every once in a while at me then going back to saying stuff I have no idea what. 他无法组织一个妓院的螺丝 (He couldn’t organize a screw in a brothel).
Today a student was the interpreter for the mother. “How is my daughter doing?” So I go on about if she stopped using her cell phone, talked less during class, did work… I am sure she did not tell her mother what I said. The mother looked at me with a bit of – was that amusement, disdain, surprise, shock…? How would I know? The daughter could have said, “Dr. Neuage says if you do not have enough water in the basin when cooking beans they will burn.” I did hear the Dr. Neuage part.. the result was a blur of sounds and pitches; some going up and some going down.
I also never know when to bow or shake a hand. The Koreans like to bow when greeted the Chinese will go for the paws. But then I never get the Europeans and Aussies kissing on one side then the other thingy. I lived in Australia for 22 years and still never know which cheek to peck first. I am not saying I still can not tell the difference between Koreans and Chinese that would be rude I suppose but truth be told I can’t. And what happens if we bow at the same time and hit heads and one of us gets knocked out?
I love my job – teaching broadcast journalism and being our video media person and creating our school news shows and working with teachers with technology and teaching my middle school publications class. It is just a long ways from being a single parent living on a pension with naughty children and a tenth grade education until one day I thought shit I am in my 40s and doing not much and then 14 years later I was Dr. Neuage. Whats next? The only thing that is the same is that I am, as always, in a foreign country.
Well tonight is Friday and early tomorrow morning we are off with the International Club of Dalian for a two day trip to one of Dalian’s best getaways destinations – Bingyu Valley 冰峪沟! “Beautiful scenery, exciting white water rafting, fresh air and interesting people…” More about that next week, after the trip.