Winter Song

Those chilly mornings where you alarm clock goes off and it’s still pitch black outside and you’ve barely slept because But you jump out of bed anyway and run to the hot shower shivering and smiling. You are healthy and even though you only really sleep in your apartment at the moment, that’s totally OK because that just means life is good and fulfilling and fun. It really must be winter now because the nosy neighbour across the road who usually stares into your apartment each morning hoping to get a peek at a naked foreigner is not in his usual spot. He must be huddled up indoors. Hopefully he doesn’t own a set of binoculars. You should keep your curtains closed, you tell yourself, but then you would miss out on the beautiful rising of the sun and the pretty view of trees blowing in the breeze. You keep them open.

On the way to work you spot an elderly Chinese gentleman grinning. He is carrying a McDonald’s brown paper bag and you chuckle silently to yourself. It’s funny how the West has just crept in here, almost overnight. Back home if you saw an old Scottish gent nibbling on some noodles for breakfast, would you giggle too? Another man cycles by with a plant the size of a jungle on the back of his bicycle. No one bats an eyelid. Everyone zigzags along the path, the rat race to get breakfast before anyone else. You skip the baozi stand and opt for a bowl of hot porridge instead. It really is getting cold around these parts and you can’t help but smell that Christmasy scent, just around the corner. Or maybe it’s the copious amounts of cinnamon you just sprinkled over your porridge? Either way, Christmas is coming! You started to feel it this past weekend as you wandered through the flea market in the local art district. Two big, beautiful trees decorated with ballerina cutouts stood smack bang in the centre of the market. People looked happy with their little red noses and bobble hats. You drank warm fresh fruit tea under the trees and ate mini heart-shaped chocolate cakes with a tiny spoon and talked about your plans for the Christmas holidays. Scotland and Ireland for two weeks. It can’t come quick enough and yet at the same time why on earth is time ticking by so fast? How can it be the 1st of December tomorrow already? Slow down please.

The weekend always passes by in a blink of an eye. Sleep Party People graced the stage dressed as bunny rabbits to mark the start of the weekend and you danced and closed your eyes and let the music scoop you up and warm you from the inside out. You slept like the dead and awoke bright eyed and healthy and set about having a productive weekend filled with lots of walking and talking and good food and good people. The perfect mix of relaxation and fun before a week of performing.

Here is to health and happiness and cosy winter days with lovely people.

When Life imitates Art

As ten white-coat clad men hovered around my bed giggling at the crying foreign girl, I almost let a little laugh slip out. The irony was uncanny. A mere two days before I had been standing where those white-coated men were standing, but it wasn’t real, it was art in the form of acting, a play. I guess you could say I take my acting seriously, so seriously in fact that I actually found myself smack bang in the middle of a hospital, for reals! One day I was the one in scrubs taking temperatures, the next I was curled up in a ball in a pair of striped pyjamas, crying my eyes out as Chinese doctors prodded and poked at my stomach. A perfect example of life imitating art and now when I’m up on that stage, a little bit of art imitating life as I bring what I learned from those hospital days onto the stage.

The night when the pains really started was while I was waiting for a rehearsal to start. I had been in bed all day but seeing as the opening night was only two weeks away, I dragged myself onto the metro and sped across the city. As the other actors started to appear, they could tell something was wrong. They were already kitted out in their doctor’s coats and as they knelt over me asking me what was wrong, I truly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so I did both. I was supposed to be standing up there with them in my purple nurse scrubs, not cowering below in the foetal position.

Well anyway, I learnt a lot. Like how to use a stethoscope and how to take someone’s temperature and that the dynamics between the nurses and doctors in the play are very similar to those in real life hospitals. I also learned that I can successfully stay in a Chinese hospital for almost three days and survive, and on top of that, by only speaking Chinese. I have no idea how I did it. I speak Chinese, but I’ve never been to a Chinese hospital by myself, let alone actually stayed in one overnight! It was weird, and I wanted to leave the entire time I was there but when the doctors actually released me, I felt sad. I would actually miss these people who had graced my life for a few days.

While I was there I shared a room with a young Chinese lady who had a similar mysterious stomach problem (oh, by the way, I’m fine now, don’t worry!!) and we actually got on very well. Hospitals are the kind of place where I think it’s quite easy to get close to people quickly. As soon as I entered the emergency ward at 3am in hysterical tears, I left all my dignity at the door and immediately a thought bubble popped out of my head screaming “I am vulnerable and scared!” And I carried it with me the whole time. It was there when on the second day the doctors told me I couldn’t go home because the hospital data systems had crashed and they couldn’t get me the paperwork to leave, it was then when I realised you have to fend for yourself in a Chinese hospital and that you’re just expected to know to bring your own water and toilet paper! It was most certainly there every time the doctor came to update me on my test results, where we would pass my phone back and forth in a flurry of translations of weird medical terms.

Then friends brought me flowers and cookies and made me laugh, and I remembered I’ll be OK and that this is just another of life’s misadventures. Somehow it doesn’t surprise me that I end up in these kinds of situations. In those moments you need to laugh more than you normally do, and tell people you love them and just be grateful to be alive. I know three days in a hospital isn’t really a big deal, but it still put everything in perspective. For almost a month I let doctors tell me I was fine, even though I knew there was something wrong. I could feel it. I just knew. But something held me back. I told myself it’s too expensive, that I’m just stressed. Well, always listen to your gut (literally). It’s usually right. Your health comes first and no amount of money (or lack of) can change that. I’m so grateful I went to the hospital when I did, even if I terrified the guards where I live by sprinting through the garden at 3am clutching my stomach and crying in the back of the taxi the whole way there.

I am feeling so much better now and the rehearsals for our play just feel so much more vivid. Ah, life is a funny thing indeed.


 Image sourced from here.

On Spontaneity

This year has been one of the most spontaneous years of my life. I like to believe that I’m quite a spontaneous person in general, but yesterday as I booked a flight ticket for TODAY, I thought to myself, wow, who even are you?! Two weeks ago my Mum got offered a trip to China for work and she jumped at the chance. Because I’m going home to Scotland for Christmas next month we thought we’ll just wait until then to see each other. However, over the weekend I started thinking how can I possibly not go visit my Mum when she is in the same country as me? China is huge, but still. So yesterday I woke up, came to the office and immediately booked a ticket. I GET TO SEE MY MUM TODAY! Wow, that feels so surreal and amazing. It’s even more exciting because normally what I love about travelling is the anticipation and planning that happens before a trip. This time though, I have no time to plan. That makes it all the more awesome because I have no expectations and I don’t have to wait. I am flying today!

My Mum has been to Beijing and Xi’an so far, and today we will meet in Chengdu in Sichuan province. I have been there once before in 2012 for my friend’s wedding and so this time I will get the chance to finally meet her little girl Tekla, who was born 3 years ago. My Mum has quite a busy schedule, but it’s all fun stuff, such as visiting the Big Buddha in Leshan, going to the panda reserve, frolicking in ancient villages and experiencing the local spicy hotpot cuisine. I can’t wait to see all of these place with her and I can already imagine the amount of hysterical laughter that will ensue. China never fails to amuse and every adventure is guaranteed to be hilarious.

Also, seeing my Mum is just what the doctor ordered. It’s so special for us because usually we only see each other twice a year when I go back to Scotland. Lately I’ve been feeling a little tired and uninspired, but after I get to see my Mum who oozes calm, everything will be wonderful. I just know it.

It’s funny because last week my work spontaneously took us on a weekend trip to Hunan province. It was freezing but beautiful and just the kind of typical adventure you’d expect from China (more on that story later). Anyway, after I got back, I told myself and everyone around me that I won’t be going anywhere until Christmas, and yet here I am, a mere week later and I’m already flying off somewhere else. Haha. Well, that is life and what better way to spend it than to grab every opportunity that comes flying your way. I know I won’t look back when I’m an old poor lady and regret that I used my credit card to pay for this trip because I ran out of money from ‘too much travelling’. Most likely I would regret it if I didn’t go! And so, here I go again, off on another adventure which I’m sure will be filled with funny stories, cute pandas and lots of magical moments with my Muma!



p.s. Have you ever spontaneously booked a flight? Have you ever just turned up at the airport and chosen a random destination? I would love to do that sometime!