I've been MIA for a while. But I have a really, really good excuse this time. Really, I do. I got kidnapped by the cyber-terrorist group, Goodbye Pussy, and sent off to work for a Chinese ganglord. They were running a counterfeit cellphone ringtone factory built underneath a Ming Temple, the Altar of Everprocreating Sons. They needed my nimble fingers and ability to muzak on the spot. After weeks of forging ringtones of the whole Billboard 100 List with a Lilliputian-sized synthesizer, I managed to bribe the the night-shift guard, Shen-Shen, for safe passage to the nearest Special Hypocrisy Zone. After a few nights in a Chinese gulag and a short stint in a Shanghai massage parlour, I managed to make it home with a few bruises, 2 missing internal organs and a suitcase of fake Rolexes.
OK. So that's not exactly what has been happening. But I did go to China with my family. I would have popped stuff into the blog while I was travelling but at each internet terminal I used, there was a nice little note reminding me that that any statements made against the Chinese government would be considered a crime against the state and once their cyber-filters discovered my criminal acts, they would string me up by my toes and stick bamboo needles under my fingernails and rub snake piss into my eyes. So I figured I'd just keep a journal and puke it all out once I got back to where the soil was only semi-fascist. I'll be adding entries harvested from my journal whenever I have a chance. The journal, BTW, is a little red book. How very Mao of me.
PS - Shen-Shen your Yao Ming pubic hair clippings are in the mail. Thanks for everything!
May 12, 2006 – Vancouver Airport – 9:17 am
Waiting for Pat, John & Dad to show up (John’s brother, Andrew, is driving them here) so we can get going to the Air Canada check-in counter for our CHINA TRIP!!!! Beyond excited about seeing China & all the relatives that we have never met. It’s all very strange to think of these people as family. Not sure what to even call them. Thanks to the Chinese obsession with familial taxonomy, each relative has a title that reflects a multiple of things including maternal or paternal lineage and birth order. This means each relative has a specific specification of their special post as speciated member of this family. In other words, each family reunion is half joyful celebration, half imperial exam.
I stayed up pretty much all of last night watching ‘Return of the King’ then ‘Connie & Carla’. After almost 4 hours of the epic battle over Middle Earth, my brain could only handle an early morning wallowing of show tunes & drag queens. Anything more substantial would have blown a fuse and rendered me useless for today’s travel.
I stayed awake for a reason. Though, I don’t really need a reason to watch ‘Return of the King’ for the 32nd time. The plan is to sleep most of the 11 plus hour flight to Beijing. Now, as I’m writing this, I realize that my brain is fallen into a bucket of stupid. My efforts to trick my body into Beijing time has left my brain dumber than my body. Considering how goofy my body is, this is definitely not a good thing.
That familiar tinny ‘ all-nighter’ feeling that accompanied me through most of my college days has taken over my body and is thick on my tongue and throat. Mom keeps asking me if I’ve eaten. It’s her default mode. When she has nothing to say to me, she asks if I’ve eaten yet. In fact, it’s the general Chinese default mode. We greet one another with ‘Have you eaten yet?’ upon meeting not because we’re concerned about one another’s state of hunger but because we have nothing better to say. But now, each time Mom asks me, it’s brings attention to my stomach, which at this moment in time, is very confused. It’s saying to me, ‘What were you thinking? Am I supposed to want breakfast or dinner now?’ I have a feeling that my stomach will not be happy for a while, especially once it gets a whiff of airplane food. I can only hope that the bounty that awaits us on the other side of the plane trip will appease it.
Part of me is so present for all of this trip. I’m a sponge (a sleep-deprived sponge). I’m taking in all the sounds and sights, the feeling of crisp pages of my passport, the cavernous airport and all the cheesy Canadian paraphernalia stores, the already dog-eared itinerary that I keep checking to see when I’m going to see what, and the speeding baggage carts and their drivers as people rush for their flights. Another part of me isn’t going to register it at all until I’m standing in Tianamen Square.
Oh fuck! I’m going to be in Tianamen Square. And I’m going to see the Terracotta Army and the Great-Freaking-Wall of China and those glorious limestone mountains of Li River and, and, and…OK…breathe. There’s a table of airport workers that are given this bug-eyed yellow gal strange looks.
Airports are strange places. They are not so much a place but a space that operates as a vehicle. Nobody comes here to be here. Well, except for that Christmas when our family came to the airport just to hang out because there was nowhere else that was opened. We hung out at the arrivals gate, waving at all the holiday-weary travelers as they arrived through the magical arrival’s door. The door that signals that ‘Ah-ha’ you’re finally here, you’ve passed through all the 9 gates of hell. Your swarthy eyes and 5 full sets of hotel toiletry sets haven’t set off any security alarms. You meet the minimal requirements in order to step onto this soil. You may go join the rest of the peons.'
Airports are transition spaces, spaces built simply to move people in a physical way. Some are good at this, other’s are human-size equivalents of sadistic rat maze experiments.
The souvenir stores are a countdown of Canada’s greatest hits: First Nation doo-dads and thingamabobs, 63 manipulations of maple syrup, smoked salmon in a bag- in a box- in a tin- wrapped in cedar bough and stuffed into the nether-regions of a beaver. There are tins upon tins of animal droppings which gives tourists the false impression that Canadians have a coprolite fetish. Disappointingly, they are merely fruits or nuts covered in chocolate, thown into a tin and slapped with an absurdly high price tag and a cute cartoon of the animal that the product supposedly was expelled from. Yummy.
We’re waiting in the food court by Bill Reid's 'First Folks in a Jade Canoe' statue. It’s a shame that most locals don’t get a chance to see this beautiful work until they leave this city. We’re still waiting for the others. It’s all fine since we’ve got a ton of time before our plane leaves. Anyways, I’m still mentally deciding what to pack. Should I have brought more underwear? Should I have brought fewer skirts? Should I have brought more t-shirts and fewer tanks? (a moot point since I only own 2 t-shirts and 28 tank tops) Should I have bothered bringing a pair of jeans? It’s amazing how much space a pair of jeans takes. I could have packed 6 more tank tops in space of one pair of jeans. Should I have brought another book just in case I don’t feel like reading the one I have. What are the chances of finding a English-language bookstore in Xi’an? Should I have brought more sunscreen? I had brought three bottles, one spray-on, one purse size spray-on and a regular smear all over yourself type.
There they are! We’re now off to the first of the treacherous nine gates of security.
10:53am -The bastards won’t let me carry on my knitting!!!! They’re freaking 6mm plastic knitting needles. There are baby toys that are more dangerous than these mammoth needles. So I’m stuck with 11 plus hours to fill up sans knitting. Provided that I sleep for about 6 of those hours, that still leaves over 5 hours. Hopefully the inflight movies will be good. If not, then I may have to talk to my family or whatever poor sap has their seat next to me. Thank goodness for Sudoku!