19 August 2012

Another new phase

It often happens that post-vacation-blues set in after returning from a beach.  This time, it is following not only the Hainan Island trip but also four weeks away from work studying Chinese and hanging out with LiLi.  Many of the schools in BJ have already gone back but LiLi has another two weeks off so she'll spend it on playdates and with Ayi.  Since Ayi does not speak English, it'll be good for LiLi's language too.

On our way up to Lido for tutoring on Friday, LiLi started counting the weeks until we go back to our home country:  18.   Though my plan had been to go back last week, I never actually booked a flight for us so on some level I knew that we'd extend our stay.  I wasn't ready to go back last week, and home wasn't ready for us either.  This time we have air tickets on an actual date.  We also have my (very global) sister coming to China in December and my (also a globetrotter) mother meeting us in SF in January.  So we have some things to look forward to in addition to seeing our friends and neighbors.

Speaking of neighbors, there was a NYT piece about my San Francisco neighborhood that generated many many comments from my neighbors and others and made me miss my hood more than ever.  I still can't imagine myself sleeping in my own bed but there are other things I long for there.  Including: my books.

I've started reading for pleasure again after a long break.   We didn't have tv at home for most of LiLi's toddlerhood so after she went down and after I took care of all those life tasks like putting away toys and washing dishes, I'd read.  I have a book lined library at home, along with three book cases in my bedroom which are filled with the as-yet-unread.  But once LiLi began school and once we got tv and once I started doing work that demanded evening hours, I stopped reading for pleasure.  I was simply too tired.  I continued to buy used books, though, like hundreds per year, driving my ex crazy.  So I bought those bedroom bookcases to house the books I would read "later."  That went on for several years.

And now I'm reading again.  Since this work break and since LiLi's own interest in reading has taken off we've begun to borrow books (English ones, we buy the Chinese ones to keep) from a cafe/bookstore in BJ called the Bookworm.  I think of all those books I have at home and wish I could somehow transport them here at least for 18 weeks.

Sometimes I have to intentionally stop, breathe, and notice, so I can remember certain moments.  Moments of life and moments of parenting.  One recent one was this:  I was lying in my bed with my head propped on several pillows with some novel (some fast-paced Swedish mystery maybe, no E.M. Forster right now) and LiLi was lying perpendicular to me with her head propped on my stomach engrossed in a kid mystery.  Reading together.  I recall a friend whose kid is five or six years older than LiLi saying, "Just wait until you can read together.  It will change your life."

So the next 18 weeks are what I'm calling a new phase.  Fall semester for LiLi and wrapping up work projects and continuing to study Chinese for me.  It will be a busy time--I know that already--but a sweet, poignant one.  I know that already too.  Maybe we will be consciously letting go of China, feeling lucky to have lived this part of our lives here.  Or maybe I will be plotting our return.  That, I don't already know.

17 August 2012

Hainan: island paradise

We spent last week on Hainan China's version of America's Hawaii.  Hainan is an island and China's southernmost province.   Loads of tourists visit Hainan since it is a tropical paradise built up as a tourist resort destination.  It is apparently popular with Chinese as well as Russian tourists.  In fact, the signs where we were on Yanlong Bay (above) were in Chinese, then Russian, then English.

Last summer when we traveled around China with our group of four I had wanted to come to Hainan at the end of the trip.  But we weren't able to manage it and see everything else we had wanted to see.  We had heard too that summer is monsoon season and the rain could ruin the vacation vacation.  Indeed, last week our visit was sandwiched between several typhoons and we were lucky to have lovely weather during our week, with a bit of cloudiness and rain toward the end of the week.

We visited Nanwan Monkey island off Hainan, an island habitat for some 2000 monkeys accessible by chair lift.  Some monkeys were made to perform but most seemed free to roam.

Mostly we lazed on the beach, built sand castles, swam in the warm sea or in the many swimming pools of the resorts.  The air was clean and the fish was fresh.  I daydreamed about spending a month there next summer depending upon...well, depending upon where we are living by then.