Chapter 78- Malaysia Part 4 (aka. will it never end?)

Imagine this: You’re on a boat with your lover, watching fireflies light up around you like a Christmas tree. It’s the most romantic thing in the world.

Except he’s dying.

At least he looks like he’s dying.

Mesmerized by millions of these winged twinkle stars, it felt as if I was right in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy.

“ Look! I caught one!” I carefully opened my palms to show Johan.

He struggled to lift his head up and mumbled a word of approval before nodding off again. I whispered to him not to fall asleep.

“I really have to pee…” He whispered back weakly, his lips the color of ash.

“I know…just hold on.” I comforted him while attempting to prop his head up so he doesn’t pass out.

We’ve been on this boat for an hour as part of the package tour deal. While he continued to sip the water I brought, his body seemed unable to retain liquids. Which only exacerbated his heat stroke.

By the time we made it to shore, he’s looking worse than I’ve ever seen him.

By the time we made it back to the hotel, he could barely speak.these-photos-of-fireflies-show-how-beautiful-summer-nights-are-in-japan-805x426

I laid him down on the bed and watched him shiver under two layers of blanket. Having the least clue of how to deal with this I started to google heatstroke symptoms on WebMD.

Heat stroke is also sometimes referred to as heatstroke or sun stroke. Severe hyperthermia is defined as a body temperature of 104 F (40 C) or higher.”

*Feels Johan’s forehead*

Holy fuck!

“Heat stroke is a true medical emergency that is often fatal if not properly and promptly treated.”

Holy double fuck!

I immediately ran to the bathroom and got him a cool towel like WebMD instructed.

I put it on his forehead and attempted to talk to him. He’s so out of it by this point that he can only whimper back.

I started to pace around the room, firing rapid words of comfort to him, but more so to myself. I rummaged through the mini fridge, using cold beers to cool his burning body down, but his condition continued to decline.

Fuck this! He needs a doctor!

I ran down to the lobby and frantically tried to explain the situation to the concierge.

“Is there a clinic nearby? Hospital??? ER???” I rambled on desperately.

“There is a hospital…but very far.” He look sincere but helpless.

“Oh my God…” I buried my head in my hands. “But my boyfriend…he’s burning up!”

“Ma’am… I’m not sure what I can do. There’s nothing near by…The hospital is quite far, you would have to call a cab…and then it’s maybe 30 minutes from here…”

“Nevermind!” I cut him off, knowing that if the hospitals were anything like China we wouldn’t get service until the morning. What with the paper work, our lack of ability to speak the local language and not to mention lack of travel insurance. The journey would only make Johan worse not better.

“Do you at least have a thermometer???” I asked as a last attempt.

“No…I’m sorry…”

I ran out of the lobby before he could finish.

Back in the room, John looked slightly better with the cold towel on his head. Out of options, I took every towel we had in the room and drenched it in cold water. I put the towels in the mini fridge then placed them all over his body. Hand towels on his neck. Bath towels on his chest. Pillowcases on his stomach.

Not knowing what else to do. I laid down beside him waited…. And waited…

“I love you…” I whispered in his ear.

There was no response except for a whimper.

“Please be ok.” I stroked his cheek and begged. “Please…”

I stayed up the rest of the night to freshen his towels.

Drench in water. Refrigerate. Place on body. Repeat.

When I opened my eyes I was assaulted by a blinding light that poured through the unshaded windows. I didn’t intend to fall asleep, but I must have because the sun was already up and for a moment I forgot where I was.

I look over at Johan’s still figure and suddenly remembered.

Saying a quick prayer, I opened my eyes and tentatively looked over once more. I saw his chest rising up and down, and just to be sure I placed my finger under his nose.

Oh thank God. He was still alive.

An hour or so later he woke up. Still weak but looking much better than before.

“Drink!!!” I thrusted a cup of water in front of his face.

After a few more cups of water, his color started to return and he no longer looked like the crypt keeper.

“What happened?” He asked, appearing more energetic by the second.

“You had a bit of fever last night…” Suddenly feeling silly at how much I freaked out last night.

“Mmmmmm…” Was all he could say as he continued to guzzle water like a camel in the desert.

Feeling calm now the worst was over, I was finally able to think of something else.

“So… what do you wanna do today?” I asked casually, sensing that the storm has passed.

“Hmm…” He said as he leafed through the hotel brochures of Kota Kinabalu. “ Ohhhhh! How about Deep sea diving???”

“Oh Hellllllllllll No!” Was all I could say.

Chapter 77-Malaysia (Part 3)

“Dizziness, nausea, disorientation…You’re either having a heat stroke or you’re pregnant.” I diagnosed Johan with the confidence from years of training at WebMD.

“That would explain the tenderness of breast.” Johan joked back weakly.

“Are you sure you still want to go?” I asked as we were about to board the bus to the music festival.

“I’ll be fine.” Johan promised. “Don’t worry about me and just have a good time.”

“Well, at least drink more water” I handed him a bottle and watched him drain it in one breath.

Johan looked worse and worse as the day went on. The festival was entirely outdoors, and under a blazing hot sun. The “Rainforest” was not nearly  as cool and rainy as the name suggested. We took refuge under tents, indoor food stalls, and hopped strategically from tree to tree for shade.

Luckily there was a particular stall that sold coconut water instead of just beer. Johan remembered from a trip to Vietnam that coconut water was basically nature’s Gatorade, excellent for electrolytes and hydrates better than water. I made a mental note to remember that the next time somebody have a heat stroke. Or just very hung over.

Soon Johan recovered enough to somewhat enjoy himself. Neither of us were huge fans of “World Music”, but it was nice to chill out to nice beats and feast our eyes of the beauty around us. This was a nice contrast from the concrete jungle we were used to.10478395_10102680494055502_7632546368786572371_o

Eventually we found a nice shaded area next to a river and laid down for a rest. I held Johan’s hands and watched him drift off into a much needed nap. It must have been days since he got a good night’s sleep with the travelling and not to mention…the bed bugs. I shuddered at the thought.

I must have fallen asleep as well, because it was significantly darker when I opened my eyes. I sat up and noticed a girl standing across the deck with a camera. She saw me looking and made her way over.

“I hope you don’t mind that I took a picture.” She explained shyly. “You guys just looked so… peaceful.”

I didn’t mind since she was far away enough that even if I looked ugly sleeping, you probably couldn’t tell.

“No problem.” I smiled at her. “Frankly I’d like to get a copy of the picture. Couldn’t have staged it better myself.” I gestured to our beautiful surrounding.

“Oh of course, this place is just gorgeous isn’t it?”

She introduced herself as Vanessa and this is her first time in Kuching as well. She travelled quite a bit as a fashion blogger, and said that even though she grew up here, the beauty of her country still managed to amaze her. Johan woke up just as a friend of Vanessa’s joined as well. So for awhile, we all sat  and chatted as Vanessa occasionally snapped pictures of the scenery.

This is another thing I really enjoyed about travelling; that you can meet people from all walks of life and become instant friends. Everyone is just open and eager to hear eachother’s stories, bonded by the fact that we are all strangers in a new place. At home I would rarely give strangers a second glance, lest they think I’m a creep or a thief. Because that’s what I would think.

As the sun start to set and the temperature become comfortably cool, we decided to walk around and explore the different stages. All the trees and foot paths were lit up with multicolored lights. Heineken balloons floated brightly overhead just in case anyone had any doubt about who was the sponsor. The whole place looked like an ethereal wonderland that only existed in story books. The musicians created equally heavenly tunes and just as in a fairy tale, my prince took my hand and twirled me to the music. For the rest of the night, we laughed and danced as the sky turned from pink and purple to a dark navy blue.

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Sometimes I have trouble living in the moment. A problem that I’m sure plagues me and only me. Sometimes I worry so much that I can’t even enjoy what’s supposed to be enjoyable. And vacations are supposed to be enjoyable. But throughout this trip there was always a sense of dread simmering underneath the surface. I dreaded the end of this trip, because that meant the end of our time together. All this dreading made it hard to enjoy out time together now, and this trip hasn’t exactly been a walk in the park. However, in that moment, dancing beneath a blanket of stars, it was hard to hold on to those thoughts. Drunk on the atmosphere and maybe the Heineken, all the voices in my head stopped, at least momentarily.

And sometimes not thinking is the best thing you can do.

*Disclaimer: I was not paid by Heineken to write this post. Believe me, I wish I was.

Chapter 76- Kuching (Malaysia Part 2)

As I reflect back to my time after KL, I realize that I had forgotten most of the trip. I could not recall how we got around, or what we ate for our meals. This is either an effect of aging (Why God WHY?! I’m not thirty for a few more months!). Or because the minute details were completely eclipsed by the series of unfortunate events. So forgive me if I skip the good and go straight to the bad.

It’s not fair to say that there was nothing good, especially since Johan had surprised me with tickets to The World Music Festival. ‘Attend an outdoor concert’ was on my bucket-list before leaving Asia. There wasn’t much time left so I had mostly forgotten about it, but seems like Johan didn’t. I didn’t know what World Music was, but who cares! It’s in a rainforest!!! How friggin’ cool is that?

So we ventured on to Kuching where it was held.

By the time we arrived, it was already night. We went directly to the hostel Johan found online.

Now, I have stayed in many hostels in Asia. They weren’t 5 star or even 2 star hotels (except for the one in Korea, it was at least a 3 star) but they were generally acceptable for the price. Once we got to this place, I finally understood why they inspire so many horror movies. The plot to Hostel 3 started forming in my mind…

First of all, the bathrooms was shared. Ugh, but fine.

Then I almost stepped on someone on the way to the bathroom. Many travelers did not rent rooms here, but simply slept in hallways. Fine. I’m no princess, I can deal with this.

However, I could no longer keep my brave fascade once we got to our room. Sorry, did I say “room”? I meant a bunk bed with a door and no ceiling. It was essentially a large space blocked off into sections with separators. Think of a train station in China with a little more privacy and a little less spitting.

“Are you ok?” Johan asked upon seeing my jaw drop to the floor, cartoon style.

“But…I’m a light sleeper…” I replied weakly.

“Sorry Hun, it looked so different in the pictures.” He said apologetically.

“I’ve never had siblings…” I rambled on.

“Yeah, this isn’t what I was expecting either.”

“I never had to share a room…not until college…”

“Um…do you wanna find another place?”

“Even then…it was just with one person…”

“Hun?”

“Evelyn…was her name….”

“Hun…please look at me.”

“She didn’t snore…but she did watch Gilmore Girls until 3am…”

Johan waved his hands in front of my face to get my attention.

“Did I mention I was a light sleeper?” I said as I came out of my dazed.

In the end, we decided to tough it out. It was too late to find another place, and I told myself to look on the bright side. I never went backpacking after college. It’ll just be like I’m 18 and doing what all carefree white girls do. Maybe I’ll even… OMG is that a flying cockroach?!?!?

The next morning, I woke up feeling surpringly refreshed. Probably because I was so drained from the shock and stress that I eventually passed out from exhaustion. It was loud thanks to the actual 18 year olds, but luckily I had industrial strength eye plugs. I always keep them on me just in case, thanks to my late-night-TV-watching roommate.

“Good morning, babe!” I peered down at Johan on the bottom bunk.

He was scratching incessantly in his sleep. I put on my glasses and took a closer look. His arms and legs were covered by rows and rows of tiny red dots.

Holy Jesus Mary and Joseph!!! BED BUGS!!!

In a fit of panic, I almost fell off the bunk.

I had a terrible experience with bedbugs many years ago. I ended up in the ER with a bad allergic reaction and blood poisoning. They strapped a machine strapped around my body that pumped antibiotics every 6 hours for 7 days. I did not shower for a week. After that, any time I felt itchy I think it’s bedbugs. They were not, but too late, I was forever psychologically scarred. BBPTSD (Bed bug Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) I called it. I feel itchy as I’m writing this now…

“These are not bedbugs bites. Looks like…sandflies! Very common!” The owner waved it away like it was no big deal.

“But..” I argued that they were in rows, that’s a sign of bedbugs!

“Trust me.” She looked at us like we were prissy foreigners. “If it’s bedbugs, then why only him and not you?”

“But…”

“Don’t worry hun.” Johan insisted. “It’s probably just sandflies like she said.”

“But…”

“Let’s go get breakfast. We got a bus to catch to the festival.” He started to drag me away.

Johan had spend a long time planning this and I could tell that he desperately wanted me to have a good time. I guess if it didn’t bother him then who am I to complain? So I decided to drop it, but not before checking myself thoroughly for bites.

We found a local eatery near our place. Half way through our meal I could see Johan wincing.

“Is it that bad?” I asked him thinking that it tasted ok to me.

“No…” He replied.

Before I could ask any more questions, Johan raced out of there yelling something about a bathroom.

A few minutes later he came back looking visibly pale.

“Guess I no longer have the iron stomach of my youth.” He joked weakly.

“My poor baby!” I threw my arms around him. “Why is everything happening to you?”

“As long as it’s not happening to you, I’m happy to take the hit!” He kissed my forehead.

He was right. Normally I’m the one getting sick one way or another. Since this trip, it seems that he has become a sponge, absorbing all the bad stuff and leaving me in the clear.

And unfortunately for Johan, the bad stuff does not end here.

Chapter 75-Malaysia Part 1

Oh I don’t feel good about this…

“Don’t worry.” Johan reassured me. “KL airport is tiny. One hour is more than enough!”

I bit my tongue. I knew he was right. Under normal conditions, one hour was plenty of time to transfer between connecting flights. Since he did most of the planning, I also didn’t want to be an ungrateful nag. So I decided to ignore my paranoia for once, the inner voice that always had me arrive at least 3 hours before a flight (even domestic!). Sure, let’s book it. I nodded and gave the thumbs up for the return flight. I had a tendency to be overly cautious anyway, and plus…

He just sounded so confident!

—-

We were finally on our way to Malaysia! Our flights were booked and Johan took care of the accommodations. He also said that there was a surprise in stored for me. I enjoyed surprises so did not ask too many questions. Plus, I ran out of ideas after about 30 guesses.

Our flight there was as smooth as a peach. So smooth that I have zero memory of it. Most likely I ate and slept for most of it. The first night in Kuala Lumpur was also unremarkable. I think I ate and slept for most of it as well.

When I was more lucid the next morning, we decided to spend the day exploring the capital city of Malaysia.

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KL is a colorful city. From its fashion to its people. While waiting at a street light in KL, you could see easily count 5-10 different cultures and ethnicities. There was no gawking at people of different races like they do in China. Everybody was just chilling and getting on with their day. The only person gawking was me…And I was just marveling at how diverse the city was. It was like a live version of the UN; a glimpse into our future, the way it should be.

Architecture too, were a mixture of influences. From the ultra chic, ultra modern Petronas Tower, to the old styled colonial buildings; I felt like I was in one many different places at once.

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Overall it was a very fruitful day.

Sorry, did I say fruitful? I meant food-ful!

I’ve had Malaysian food before. I lived in Toronto, food capital of the world. However, after this trip I don’t think I could ever go back to eating fake North Americanized Malaysian food.

Maybe it’s the fact that we were served real Malaysian food made by Real Malaysian chefs. Maybe it’s the fact that we were so close to the sea, that giant prawns could nose dive their way directly into our pinapple shaped bowls. Whatever it was, the food was damn good.

And it wasn’t because we ate at Michelin starred restaurants. In fact, we mostly just ate at malls and food-stalls.

Johan also went on and on about something called a “Rotiboy”. Which I thought was the name of a drag show, but turned out to be a Malaysian donut. I didn’t see what the big deal was until I made the mistake of taking a bite.

“Holy shit…What the hell is in this thing???” My pupils widen from the sugar rush.

Then I smacked him on the arm.

“Why did you tell me to eat this??? I could have lived a perfectly content life without knowing what this tasted like!”

Great…I’m gonna get SO fat in Malaysia.

I wish I took pictures of the food, but clearly I was lacked the foresight to document it in case one day I start a blog. Plus, food was more of Johan’s thing. When he travels, he likes to seek out the local cuisine and experience flavours of the world.

When I travel, I seek out alcohol.

You see, there’s a lot one can learn about the people and tradition of a place through the drinking culture. The distillation method alone is a million tales from history just waiting to be told. So really, I drink to learn.

Because we had to get up early the next day, there was no time to seek out the local drinking hole. So instead we bought a bottle of locally brewed rum, some pineapple juice, two starbucks cups and went to the beach. Well, it wasn’t really a beach since there was no sand. But it was definitely some kind of sea/lake/a body of water. It was also full of children screaming playing, so we decided to sit next to a homeless guy taking a nap.

While sipping on our improvised Pina coladas, we spoke of everything. From the mundane (Wanna have More seafood curry tomorrow? Yes.) to our hopes and dreams for the future (More seafood curries to come hopefully). As the alcohol warmed my belly and day gave way to night, I leaned my head on Johan’s shoulder. He wrapped his arms around my shoulder and we sat quietly while enjoying the sunset against the sea/lake/body of water.

Despite sitting on cold concrete surrounded by crowds of people, I couldn’t think of a more romantic way to spend an evening.

As the sun finally disappeared beyond the horizon, I knew that I would one day look back on this moment and think about the magical time I had in Malaysia. I hoped to myself that the rest of the vacation could be just as dreamy as this.

Well, two more cities to go. Tomorrow: Onto Kuching.

A Chinese New Year Fairytale (Based on a true story)

Once up on a time, there was a Chinese Canadian Princess called Cinder-Princess-Kathleen-The 3rd (Let’s just called her CinderKathy).

She comes to visit her uncle for Chinese New Year, but he was under the mind control of his wife, Evila Stepmada. (Disclaimer: she was his real wife, that’s just her name. First name Evila. Last name Stepmada. Unfortunate I know, but any resemblance to the story of Cinderella or anyone in real life is purely coincidental.)

Shining Inheritance Mom

Evila Stepmada did not want CinderKathy around and therefore subjected her to constant verbal abuse, Evila’s secret weapon. She made crazy accusations against CinderKathy, such as closing the door too loudly or not washing the dishes properly. She also would not let CinderKathy use the heater despite being the middle of winter.

Evila made CinderKathy eat the same thing for break lunch and dinner; a gruel made of chicken feet and boiled cabbage.

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It wasn’t because Evila was poor, on the contrary, she was the most powerful witch doctor in the village and everybody wanted to be in her good graces. All year long, the towns people venture around the globe and competed to gift her with the most exotic fruits they could find. She knew that CinderKathy’s favourite thing in the world were fruits, so she locked them up in a giant fridge in her dungeon. (Since this was in China, it was really just a balcony.)

Soon it was New Years Eve and the most powerful people in town were invited to Evila’s annual Chinese New Year Ball Feast. Evila could not let others see her true colors and therefore had to let CinderKathy join them. CinderKathy put on her fanciest Red Dress and went to the Ball, I mean Feast. When she arrived, everyone turned to look at her. They were blinded by her beauty and whispers spread like wildfire. “Who’s that?” “I didn’t know Evila had a daughter!” “It can’t be her daughter, she’s way more beautiful than Evila ever was!”

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CinderKathy sat down and looked around the table. Sizzling duck breast, crystal clear shrimp dumplings and lobsters as big as a baby; quite a departure from the pig swill she was used to. She scanned the room for her uncle but did not see him. CinderKathy was so hungry that she didn’t think much of it and ate merrily with the other guests.

After dinner they retired to the living room. CinderKathy was instantly dazzled by what she saw there; it was love at first sight. Spread out before her was the biggest display of fruits she’s ever seen in her life. Juicy red cherries imported fresh from Germany, starfruits plucked by blind nuns in the Philippines, and many other fruits that she didn’t even know the names of.

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Evila shot CinderKathy her most evil glare, muttering under her breath a spell to stop CinderKathy from eating her most precious fruits. But little did she know that CinderKathy had a secret weapon of her own, a pair of red boots that she hid underneath her dress. RI-red-boot

She took it off, aimed it at Evila, and threw. Bam! Smacked her right in the boob! Evila screamed in pain and lunged at CinderKathy. “You little cunt!” She cursed, “If your uncle didn’t ruin my poison stew, I could have killed you tonight like I had planned!!”

All of the guest gasped at this revelation. Evila clasped her mouth shut once she realized what she had said. One of the guests immediately stepped forward and said “Ma’am, I am the town’s sheriff, and you are under arrest for attempted murder.” The officer led Evila away kicking and screaming all kinds of profanity.

CinderKathy suddenly remembered her uncle and ran around the house searching for him. She finally found him in Evila’s dressing room, chained to the radiator with fifty Iphone chargers. He was in shock but otherwise in good health. She was also overjoyed to find him finally free from Evila’s mind control. CinderKathy cut him loose and led him to the living room. All of the towns people clapped when they came in.

CinderKathy turned to her uncle and said “Uncle, you are now free!”. Her uncle smiled with tear in his eyes “Thank you CinderKathy.” then he said the magic words she’s been waiting to hear, “Let us eat fruit.” And they lived happily ever after.

The moral of the story is: Treat people nicely. Or they WILL turn you into a evil fairytale character and blast it all over social media. Ok, happy Chinese New Year Everybody!!!!

hongbao-rmb

 

Chapter 74- The Farewell Party

You know when you’re trying to fall sleep, but your brain refuses to shut down? You wonder how the hell it can still be up when every other body part just wants to pass out.

Brain- “I got something on my mind, and I need a good listener.”

Ears- “Sorry pal we’re off duty. We had to listen to people jabber on all day long.”

Brain- “What about you, Lower Lip? Fancy a chat? I’ll let you do some of the talking too.”

Lower Lip- “No can’t do. Upper lip is coming over and we’re gonna “Netflix and Chill” if you know what I mean.”

Brain- “No but sounds swell! How about you, Right Hand? I need a friend right now, care to lend a helping hand? Get it? Get it?”

Right hand- “Shut the hell up or I’ll slap you.”

It was just one of those sleepless nights where I laid in bed counting sheep. Soon those sheep would start to speak to me, and next thing you know they’re narrating the past three years of my life. They speak of the good (when I finally made friends) and the bad (Carlos and his misogynistic gang), the happy (boat parties, bus parties, private jet parties-I wish…) and the sad (Crying on a friend’s shoulders when one of the guys you met at said parties turn out to be a real jerk).

I suddenly realized that this whole time I was fretting about Johan, at least I’ll see him in a year no matter what. As for everyone else, I might not see them for a long time. If ever again!

“Why don’t you have a farewell party and say goodbye to your friends?” Johan suggested after I told him about my panic attack. “In fact, we could do a joint farewell party this weekend. I was thinking about having one anyway.”

Although I was unsure how that solved my dilemma, I wasn’t about to turn down an opportunity to party. Johan had graciously offered up his sister’s apartment, and set about to organize the food, music and games. I’m more of a minimalist when it comes to parties. Booze? Check! Done.

Though it was last minute, almost all of the guests had accepted the invite. Lucy was the first to come, followed by Ronnie and our Japanese friend Sushi. (I’m just kidding, her name obviously wasn’t Sushi. Although I did have a student named Sushi because she liked Sushi so much. Now that I think about it, Sushi is a cool name. I’m gonna name my kid Sushi.)

“I can’t believe you’re leaving me.” Ronnie moped for the fifth time.

“Come to Canada! I’ll fold you up and pack you in my carry on,” I proposed. “Just try not to look so alive when you go through the X-ray.”

“Kathyyyyyyyyyy! If you leave…” Lucy grabbed hold of my shoulders and shook violently. “Who’s gonna hold my hair when I throw up from drinking???”

“I’ll find you a replacement!” I promised her. “They might not be as good, so always carry a hair tie.”

This went on for awhile before the other guests came. Truth be told, I was relishing in the attention. I soaked up every bit of the lovin’ I could get.

Soon the hallway was flooded with shoes as more and more guests filed in, including to my surprise, Helen.

Although Helen was my first BFF, I haven’t talked about her for awhile because we had a bit of a rift since I started dating Johan. She was not happy about the situation and harassed me about not spending time with her. Of course I felt guilty. I didn’t want to be “that” girl and set aside time to hang out with her. However, she repeatedly canceled our plans because something better came up(She has a bit of FOMO remember?), and yet continued to guilt me over Wechat. So eventually I got fed up and stopped answering her messages. The last time I saw her was when we ran into eachother at a beer festival. She saw me and started crying. I got uncomfortable and ran away.

Yeah…awkward…

Since I was leaving the country, I figured it was time to make amends and invited her. I decided to just woman up and talk to her about it. Guess Helen felt the same way since she came.

By the time she arrived, the party was already in full swing. I think she had another party before this, since she was already tipsy.

“Sis! I’m gonna miss you so much!!!” She pulled me into a hug and planted a big kiss on my cheek.

“I’m gonna miss you too!!!!” I screamed over the music, and hugged her back.

And just like that, the cold war was over.

Even more unexpected was the appearance of Julien. Remember Julien? My not-so-platonic male BFF? Once he found out I was dating Johan, he stopped talking to me. He also left the country without a word, followed by a few passive aggressive messages when he got back. Now that I write it, how did I ever think our relationship was platonic???

“Hey…” I saw him and waved unsurely.

“Hey…”He replied hesitantly and made his way across the room.

We stood there for a good minute before hugging awkwardly. I made some small talk and he asked about my plans. We were soon interrupted by some drunken well-wishers, and that was the end of my exchange with Julien. I don’t remember seeing him for the rest of the night. I guess part of growing up is accepting that not every friendship can, or needs to be salvaged.

Once the yogurt-soju(more delicious than it sounds) came out, the dancing also started. I was quickly dragged to the dance floor by Helen and Ronnie. We danced and selfied, danced and selfied. Soon it was mostly just stumping as people got progressively drunker. Bless Johan’s neighbors. I believe he bribed them with pie.

This went on to about 2am, until both Johan and I ready to collapse with exhaustion. However, some of our guests looked like they were just getting started as people galloped to Gangnam style.

“Last song!” Johan screamed.

“Last call!” I screamed.

After another hour, the guests finally left. Johan and I finally went to sleep, and this time I did not have insomnia.

We woke up the next morning to a massive pile of garbage. The two of us started tidying up, and I found the poster that our friend had custom made for us. (yes, that’s Toronto’s crack smoking mayor Rob Ford.)

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Each of our friends had left a message. They made me laugh, they made me cry. They also made me realize that friendships don’t have to end because of distance. The people you want to keep around will always find a way to stay.

Unless they block you on Wechat. Then it’s truly over.

Chapter 73-For Love or Money?

“Money money money mooooneyyyyy. Money!”

Bouncing up and down on my king-sized waterbed, I sang the classic tunes by The O’Jays and threw stacks of cash in the air while sipping champagne.

“That is a lot of money…” It was my father’s voice that finally snapped me back to reality.

“Oh yeah” I rubbed my eyes sleepily and struggled to pay attention to the phone conversation.

“NOOooooooooooooooo!” The screeching voice of a female jolted me awake.

“Don’t you listen to him!!!” Sounds of struggle and bickering in Chinese can be heard as my mother snatched the phone from my father. “Life’s not all about money ya hear? You consider carefully what you would be giving up if you stay in China another year!”

What I would be giving up…

  1. Clean air
  2. No…that’s it.

Seduced by money, I temporarily forgot why I wanted to leave China in the first place.

If I was honestly, there wasn’t one but a combination of feelings and motivations that made me want to return to Canada. They had become a melting pot of emotions at this point that I could no longer tell what my real reason was. If you forced me to break it down, I would say that after three years, I just needed a change. I was curious to see if I could make it on the other side. Grass is always greener right?

Except now I had another reason to leave, and that reason was a boy.

If the boy wasn’t in the picture, I would probably take the job. There wasn’t much waiting for me in Canada and at the back of my mind I always suspected that I’d be back to international teaching eventually anyway. So screw curiosity, I choose money!

Now that there was a boy in the picture, it all looked so different. The boy was going back to Canada. The boy was probably gonna stay in Canada. It’s friggin’ 2014 and I’m considering giving up an awesome job opportunity for a BOY??? *Pause for feminist heads shaking everywhere.*

Yes I find it riDUNculous as well, but the problem was…I love the Boy. I can always find another job, and I can always find another boy, but I can never find another Johan. And before you arrest me for taking the women’s movement back 10000000 years, let me just say that if I was a Boy, I’d do this for a Girl. If it’s the right girl, of course. (Preferably someone with J.Lo’s body, and Barbara Walter’s brains. Preferably not the other way around.)

If there was any way for Johan study and find a social work career in China, I would have asked. Well, actually I did, but we couldn’t figure out how. Whereas for me, teachers are needed everywhere, just not paid as equally. Not that anyone EVER comes into this profession for the money. It’s just nice knowing that our jobs are valued enough to be compensated accordingly.

And ohhhhh, money is just so nice sometimes!

So money or love?

A question that might be a no brainer for many, but given that I love both very much, this was worse than Sophie’s Choice. Actually don’t quote me on that, I have no idea what the movie was about.

“Babe?” I murmured as we laid side by side in the dark.

“Yeah?” He mumbled softly, on the verge of following asleep.

“We should book that Malaysia trip before we go back to Canada.” I said casually and waited for his response.

He was silent for awhile then finally asked “We?”

I smiled at him and replied “We.”

Chapter 72-A Canadian in Chendgu?

“Are you sure you want to leave China?” Johan looked up after reading through the papers that I thrusted at him.

“I’m never sure about anything.” I replied jokingly.

Except it was true in this case.

A few months ago, when I first found out about Johan’s rejection from UofT, I had a spur of the moment idea to stay in Shanghai with him. Unfortunately, as I had given the school my notice long ago, I assumed they already found someone.

“No Problem.”Ronnie promised me, “I get you job.” She winked and I secretly wondered if she was in the Chinese mafia.

Eager to keep me around, she had sent my CV to everyone in her circle. Being a headhunter herself, she had many connections in the recruitment world. One of whom turned out to be Jack.

If you recall, Jack and I had a brief fling before I met Johan. Or perhaps I should say, it was thanks to Jack that I even met Johan in the first place.

Jack worked for a company that specialized in education recruitment. He had asked for my CV during one of our initial encounters; a clever invitation to further flirtation. I briefly wondered about any potential conflict of interest, but that never became a problem. After I met Johan, Jack had almost if not completely, escaped my mind. By the lack of communications, I assumed the feeling was mutual. So I had given him no second thought, until that is, he called me out of the blue.

“Hi Kathy…” Jack sounded nervous on the phone. “Um, your friend Ronnie contacted me with your CV.”

I knew Ronnie sent out my CVs awhile ago, but I had since then given up on the idea of staying in China. Especially since Johan had also decided not to stay.

“Oh hiii!” I cringed at my high-pitched voice, and cringed at flashbacks of us making out. “Um, did she now?”

“Um well, you were already in our system. If you recall, I had gotten your CV awhile ago…” His voice drifted off and the conversation got even more awkward.

It’s not weird unless you make it, I said to myself. Just…be professional!

“Yes. Correct. I remember.” A terrible British accent came out instead.

“Well, our company is hosting a job fair this Saturday.” He continued, appearently not thrown off by my weirdness. “It’s one of the biggest education job fairs in Shanghai. Would…you be interested?”

I had already decided to leave China and was unlikely to change my mind. However, I couldn’t help but be curious. I was interested to see what the job market was like in Asia having been with the same school for over 3 years. They could have been using me as slave labour and I wouldn’t know otherwise. Plus like my dad always says “Get an offer first, you could always say no later.” At least I think he was referring to job offers.

Jack gave me the details and I went to the job fair with no particular outcome in mind.

Based on past experiences, my life in Shanghai had a pattern. When I desperately want something to happen, it never does. Like how I desperately wanted Johan to get into the University of Toronto, and already planned our future there. However, when I have no expectations, similar to how I first met Johan, things happen in the snap of a finger.

Now that I think about it, that’s kind of like how I ended up in Shanghai in the first place.

So despite having no real intention of working in Asia, I was offered a job on the spot. A great job, almost double my current salary, with perks usually reserved for fat cats of the business world. The position was in Chengdu, and I briefly pictured myself eating Szechuan food and hugging pandas.

“Are you thinking of staying now?” Johan asked again as he handed the contract of employment back to me.

I stared at the number of zeros following the money sign and had no idea what to say.

Chapter 71-How I told my parents

We had planned our Malaysia trip for the end of June. There was a week’s window after classes end and before I leave China. In the main time, we tried not to think about our inevitable parting and focused on enjoying our time left.

Deciding to do long distance also took our relationship to a whole new level. We spoke of a joint future and talked about 5 year plans. He proposed that we live in Toronto. I pictured us on a yacht in Maui. Even the topic of kids passed by in conversation. Johan: 3 kids and 2 dogs. Me: 1 kid and a pet monkey. The only thing left to do was change my relationship status on facebook. Ooooh, that’s a big step… I should probably have a serious discussion with Johan first.

I realized that before I announce anything on social media, I should probably tell my parents first. My father regular stalks me on facebook; partly because he’s bored, and partly because he only has 6 friends. I figured he might appreciate finding out in person than through his newsfeed.

They were dropping by Shanghai for a brief visit and I knew this was my chance. It would be a first for me, since I never tell them anything about my love life. I was also nervous because I had no clue how supportive they would be. Johan didn’t exactly fit the ideal son-in-law category by Chinese standards of 高富帅 (ie. Tall Rich and Handsome). He was Brad Pitt to me, but he definitely wouldn’t be considered tall. He also wasn’t an accountant or lawyer, and in fact I’m not even sure they’ve heard of the social work degree.

It wasn’t gonna be an easy conversation.

So I decided to take them to an All-you-can-drink Teppanyaki.

As the food arrived, my parents brought up my love life between bites of eel. More specifically, they wanted to know about a guy.

His name was Jang and he was a family friend. Jang was my age and was doing a Phd in Atlanta. His mother, like all Chinese mothers, fretted about his singlehood at the age of (gasp) almost 30, approached my father about a potential set up. They gave him my Wechat awhile ago and he started messaging me. They didn’t explicitly tell me their intent, but I somehow doubted the guy just wanted a pen pal. I had zero interest in starting something with a stranger over the web, but being a family friend I also couldn’t ignore him completely. My attempt to be civil consisted of one-word answers, “Yeah”, “Thanks”, and when I’m really lazy, an obscure emoji.

Screenshot_2015-12-25-14-13-43.pngHe was not a dense fellow, and eventually got the message.

“I heard from Aunty Huang that he contacted you.” My dad probed as he sipped on warm sake.

“Yes” I resorted to my usual tactics, hoping to end the conversation soon.

“He said you seemed busy.”

“Right.”

“You know he’s quite an exceptional boy.”

“Ok.”

This went on for awhile. A few shots of sake later, they only became more persistent.

“His mother really likes you! Why won’t you give him a chance?”

“Likes me? She’s never even met me!”

“She knows about your background and that you come from a good family.”

“How did I…When did I…Travel back to the 1920s???”

“He’s good looking, smart and hardworking. What’s the problem?”

“How about the fact that I’ve never even met the guy? Somehow I think a Wechat relationship is unlikely to bear you grandchildren.”I snorted to myself.

“We could invite him over during the summer…” But from the look in his eyes, he already did.

“Oh lord, please don’t…”

“You know you can’t be so picky at your age…”

“Ugh.”

“Why are so you against it?”

“Because!”

“Why???”

“Because if I date him, I would be a two-timing cheater.” I blurted out. “Because I already have a boyfriend, Ok?”

And that’s how my parents first found out about Johan.

Chapter 70-Count down begins

“I thought about what you said.” Johan spoke over the phone while I browsed a grocery store for sales, a favourite pastime of mine.

“Mmhmm” I murmured absent-mindedly while trying to remember what I said, and whether Coke Zero was 5 cents cheaper at the other store.

“And you’re right.” He continued to speak while I fiddled with a tub of toothpaste, free cup with purchase.

Duh, I thought to myself, I usually am. So what about this time?

“You said that my priority should be to get into school.” He spoke as if reading my mind. “And that I should do everything I can to make that happen.”

“I am wise like Confucius.” I walked away from the toothpaste and congratulated myself for my remarkable self-restraint.

“So, I’m going back to Canada.”

Oooh, free sample of Nescafe. Wait… “WHAT?!?!” I yelled and the Nescafe girl jumped.

“Well, the only reason I wanted to stay in China it’s because it’s cheaper to live. But you were right, that should not be my priority right now.”

It was all coming back to me, and I started to remember saying those things. However at the time my intentions were not entirely selfless. I was trying to persuade him to come to Toronto so we can be together, but I didn’t think he’d actually listen. I could never manipulate persuade him to do anything!

“So you’re coming to Toronto?” My hands started to shake with excitement.

“No…”

“Oh…”

“I’m going back to Edmonton.” He said. “I can live with my parents, so it’s won’t quite be as expensive. I’ll get a part-time job, so I can take the classes I’m missing and still apply to school.”

Edmonton…That’s in Alberta…Ugh, it’s so far it might as well be China.

“Ok, that’s a good idea.” I started strolling down the cereal aisle, not quite as excited as before.

“And it’s only a two hour time difference instead of 12!” He was referring to our long distance arrangement.

“That’s true!” Something’s better than nothing, I thought. “And you’re increasing your likelihood of getting into U of T…”

“And we’ll be together again in no time…” He finished my sentence.

“We’re not even apart yet!” I laughed.

“One month left…” He sound deflated.

“Only?” I felt like we had lots of time left.

“Hey!” His voice got loud again, “Let’s take a trip somewhere!”

“Ok, come to Pudong.” I joked.

“No, I mean like Japan or something!”

“But you’ve been to Japan.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“What about Thailand?” I said, then realized he’s been there as well. “Singapore?”

Then I realized he’s been there too.

“Where haven’t you been???” I demanded.

“I’ve been everywhere in Asia, but this is not about me.”

“Indonesia? Malaysia?” I rambled on. “Dammit, you’ve been to all of those places!”

He sighed “I just want to spend time with you before we…”

“Ok, Ok…” I had to stop him before he made me cry into cereal boxes.

“But wait, Malaysia’s actually a good idea.” Johan contemplated. “I’ve been there, but very briefly.”

The MH370 incident was less than 2 months ago at the time, but I quickly brushed it aside. I was so eager I wanted to go right then and there.

“Ok let’s go!!!” I shouted again. Some people are quick to anger, I’m quick to excite.

More people turned to stare but I did not care, because I was gonna spend a week with my baby on the beach, sipping coconuts, and not to mention the food.

“Mmmm…Malaysian Curry.”

“It’s gonna be a week of food, sun and fun.”

Yep, it was gonna be very low key. Nothing crazy at all…