Monday, February 29, 2016

Winter in Winnipeg part 3

Yesterday was the burial. They're not a religious family, so there was no traditional funeral. The memorial service was at the funeral home after the burial. It was nice, as far as that sort of thing goes. Lily's father is genuinely missed. I think that's the most you can ask for when you're gone. If people mourn you, you did something right. Funerals are always sad, but if no one shows up, that must be heartbreaking to the surviving spouse. It felt like the whole town showed up for this guy.

It's been getting colder since I've been here, but there wasn't any snow until later last night, and barely any of it. It was dark and gloomy during the burial, but that's appropriate. It's snowing now, but it was pretty mild yesterday.

After the memorial service, some of us went to Lily's parents' house. I'd never been, so I was curious to see where Lily grew up. Her childhood neighborhood could have been mine. It was the same suburban middle class block a world away but pretty close to the hustle and bustle downtown. The houses are smaller and a lot closer together. We had more trees everywhere. Their houses are right on top of each other, so there is less room for trees. But the streets look exactly the same. Our street signs were small and green while theirs are large and white – and in French and English – but if you saw a picture of my street and a picture of hers, you'd never know they were different countries.

Lily's spending the night in my hotel tonight. She's been at her parents' house for a month and needs a break. She stayed with her mother after the funeral, but now she needs to do whatever she wants to do. My job is to be with her wherever she needs to be. Plus, the hotel has an indoor heated swimming pool. That's never a bad thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Winter in Winnipeg part 2

I went with Lily to the funeral home yesterday. They had to deal with all of the last minute issues for the burial and memorial service. They already picked a casket, decided on when and where to have the memorial service, open casket or closed. It's amazing how many decisions you have to make when someone dies. Fortunately, her father already had a place to be buried. I wasn't there to add my 2 cents to anything. I was purely there to be on Lily's side no matter what.

The burial is later this afternoon. After the burial, they're having a memorial service. Lily wants me to go to both, so I'm going. She's a lot closer to her family than I am to mine, but she was the closest with her father. She has old friends in Winnipeg, but they all gradually faded out of touch the way people do when you move to the other side of the world. I can understand that completely. I used to have friends in Minnesota who would take a bullet for me. Now, we sometimes forget to send e-mail on birthdays. Lily and I are basically sisters. Not going with her was never an option.

I also got a chance to look around the hotel. It's not the most exciting neighborhood in the world, but there's a Tim Hortons around the corner. It's not Krispy Kreme, but it's better than anything we have in Hong Kong. There are a lot of strip malls nearby and at least one indoor shopping mall, but I'm not here to do any shopping. That's something we have more than enough of in Hong Kong.

It's after 3 o'clock in the morning right now. I woke up an hour ago. I'm still adjusting to the time difference. It's almost dinner time in Hong Kong, so my body wants to be awake. As soon as I shift to Winnipeg time, it will probably be time to go home.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Winter in Winnipeg

I'm in Winnipeg. It's about -6°C/21°F right now. It's definitely still winter here. I like it. It reminds me of winter in Minnesota. People complain about the cold and snow, but when you've been away from it for a few years, it's a nice thing to get back into.

I'm staying at a hotel near the airport. I usually avoid airport hotels, but my flight landed after midnight and the flight out leaves at 6:30AM. This hotel has a quick and free airport shuttle, which is convenient for a lot of reasons. After a 15 hour flight to Toronto, dinner at the airport, a delayed connecting flight and another 3 hours to Winnipeg, trying to find the hotel wasn't on the agenda. If I stayed at a hotel in a more interesting neighborhood, I'd have to rely on Lily to pick me up and drop me off. She'd do it without complaint, but I think she has enough to do without worrying about me.

Thanks to all those time zones, the 15 hour flight only took 2 hours. But it sure felt like 15 hours. Thanks to the International Date Line, the 13 hour flight home will take 29 hours. Fortunately, it will only feel like 13 hours.

It's actually a pretty nice hotel. The rooms are basic business hotel, but there's a small swimming pool and hot tub – indoors, of course – and a decent little fitness center. I doubt I'm going to be doing much exercise outdoors, so that gym might come in handy. I haven't tried the free hotel breakfast yet, but I'm not expecting much. It's an airport hotel, after all.

I don't know what's outdoors around here. I haven't been out since I came in from the airport last night. I didn't see much in the pitch black.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Lily's Dad part 6

Lily's father died today. I wish I could say it came as a surprise, but he was headed downhill for a while. Lily is devastated. He meant the world to her and now she has to deal with all of that. It can't be easy. She's an adult who lives away from home, but she's still too young to lose a parent.

I'm going to Winnipeg for the funeral. I never met him, but I'm going to be with Lily. I won't lose my job over it because I'll only be there for a few days. Had I gone earlier to spend time with her, who knows when I would have come back. This time, they know when I'm scheduled to work again.

I don't know when Lily's coming back. She'll probably stay a while to deal with all the family things you have to deal with when your father dies. I don't know how long that takes. I'd love to bring her back with me, but that's not going to happen. I'd also love for her to still have a job when she comes back, but that's pretty much unlikely at this point.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lantern Festival 2016

Tomorrow is the Lantern Festival. That's the last day of the New Year. It's not a public holiday, but it's a party day.

The main Lantern Festival activity is lighting paper lanterns and letting them float away into the sky. It can really be something to watch. If you look in the right place at the right time, you can see thousands of lanterns floating off to wherever they go. They're supposed to go out to the ocean and become Neptune's problem when they land, but sometimes they land someplace that people have to clean.

I have no special plans this year. I've participated in lighting lanterns in the past, but it's a pretty minor holiday. Nobody really takes it too seriously around here.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Fault in Our Stars

After 13 shows, my triumphant performance as Clara Eynsford-Hill is no more.

It's not that I was fired. The production was shut down. I have heard a few different reasons why, but I think the main culprit is lack of interest. Hong Kong isn't ready for turn of the century British gentility. Or maybe they're sick and tired of British people telling them how to behave. Or maybe people were expecting the musical.

Someone pointed out that 13 is an unlucky number. But it's not in China. It's not an especially lucky number, but 4 is the unluckiest because it sounds like the word “death” and 8 is the luckiest because it sounds like “wealth”. Nothing really sounds like 13, so no one cares about 13 around here.

Whatever the reason, I can stop wearing Edwardian costumes now. That's never bad news.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Valentine's Day 2016

I can barely remember the last time I didn't have a date on Valentine's Day. I was in high school. I didn't care that I didn't have a boyfriend because I knew I was young enough that society was not going to look down on me for being single. At 15, no one freaks out if you're not paired off. At 25, everyone wonders what's wrong. At 35, people assume you must be a freak.

Valentine's Day is a fake holiday. Everyone knows it, but most of us play along anyway. We buy the candy and give people cards and gifts. I've been giving out Valentine's Day cards since I was in kindergarten. Hallmark made a lot of money off me.

China has two Valentine's Days. Qixi in August and this one in February. I've always ignored Qixi. Most of the time, I don't even know it's come and gone until someone tells me about it. Unlike February 14, it's on a different date every year – like most Chinese holidays.

I probably would have gone out on Valentine's Day with Lily, but she's still in Canada. So I stayed home. She didn't do anything either. Her father's still in the hospital, so she spends most of her time there.

There were a few parties I could have gone to, but then everyone would ask why I'm still single, as if being single is a lingering cough that you just can't shake. I don't mind going out by myself, but I'd rather do it without being judged.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Lily's Dad part 5

Lily's dad had another heart attack. They rushed him to the hospital and took care of him immediately. Right now, he's stable, but Lily is freaking out, understandably. I want to go to Winnipeg to be with her, but I can't abandon all of my jobs to comfort a friend. Can I?

I want to tell her that everything will be ok, but this is his third heart attack right after his second. Everything is not ok. His body is screaming at him that everything is definitely not ok.

Part of me wants to quit everything and get on the next flight. There's nothing I can do for her father, but at least I could be there for her. Another part of me realizes that I might not have any jobs when I come back. I could ditch the play. That's no big deal. They can replace me in a second. But I need Disney for my visa and leaving them shorthanded at the busiest time of the year isn't very nice. The holiday puts more strain on everyone. Lily put even more strain on a few people by leaving without any notice. If I left, I'd only add to all of that.

Then again, am I only rationalizing my fear of leaving? I know that going to Winnipeg is the right thing to do. I also know that staying here and fulfilling contractual obligations is the right thing to do.

The best possible outcome here is if Lily calls me and says her dad is great and they're sending him home. She'd still be worried, of course, but at least she could worry at home instead of in a hospital room.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Monkey New Year

Sunday is New Year's Eve. It's not a public holiday, but that's when people really start to celebrate. The actual holidays are Monday to Wednesday. After that, everybody has to go back to work. Some people get the Lantern Festival off, but it's not a public holiday. Technically, the New Year lasts 15 days, but in Hong Kong, only the first 3 officially count.

This is my sixth Lunar New Year in Hong Kong. The first one was right after I got here and I didn't know what was going on. I was in a brand new city in a completely alien country and everyone was partying their hats off. I almost thought that was typical Hong Kong, but then it all quickly died down and everyone went back to their routine.

I'm by no means an expert on Chinese culture or their festivals, but I think I understand this one better than I used to. I always know when it's coming up, which is unusual for Chinese holidays. Sometimes people tell me it was a holiday yesterday and I only missed it because it was in a different month the year before. The Lunar New Year can be any time between January and March, but enough people talk about it beforehand that everyone gets plenty of warning.

New Year's Eve is a big family dinner. I don't have any family here, obviously, but I look forward to some of the special food we only see during the New Year. There are a lot of good 油角 places near my apartment and all kinds of candy I never see the rest of the year.

New Year's Day is for going out to watch fireworks, lion dances and red envelopes. It can get low key in smaller Chinese towns, but Hong Kong is a big city that knows how to put on a show. There are thousands of places to go to watch people perform. Almost everyone goes to Avenue of the Stars for the fireworks. That makes it a little crowded. It's like Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Day 2 is when daughters are supposed to go back to their parents' house and a lot of people visit their local temple. It's a great time to go to temples if you want to see how boisterous they can be. It's not such a great time to go to temples if you want to meditate in peace and quiet.

Day 3 is for burning money and letting a fortune teller decide what you'll do for the year. This day means nothing to me. I'm not a fan of burning money and I don't like fortune tellers at all.

The holiday continues until the Lantern Festival, but people observe less and less as the days go on. Everyone goes nuts on New Year's Day, and even New Year's Eve, but it's hard to tell anything is even happening by day 14.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Lily's Dad part 4

Lily is staying at her parents' house. She says it's strange to spend so much time there after being away for so long, but it's also nice to be somewhere familiar. I can understand both parts of that. When you move to the other side of the world, it's nice to hold onto even the smallest things that remind you of home. Actually being there changes everything. She's eating the foods she grew up with, walking down the streets she walked as a child and going to sleep in the house where she spent most of her life.

Then there's her father. He's doing a lot better, but he's still weak and needs to learn how to eat again. He grew up a rugged Canadian eating too much red meat and salt on everything. Now, he has to eat healthy food. Healthy by Canadian standards means only two cups of syrup on your French fries. He needs to get healthy by medical standards. That's probably harder to do after a lifetime of caribou & poutine.