flowers and forecasts

Here’s an excerpt from a post that I started writing a while back in Da Nang, in October 2010, and never finished—probably because it was time to take out the garbage.

nine yellow roses

it’s flower arrangement day at hotel Hai Lam (aka, Quynh’s family home). apparently, prevailing conditions allowed for the buildup of flower purchases in our vicinity, which favoured the formation of an active flower system leading straight to our door. Government florists describe the system as cyclical, although this particular system is considered to be stronger than usual for this time of year.

So anyway yeah. Lots of flowers in the house, for Quynh who just came home from a Baha’i Institute training in Malaysia, and for the family shrine too. Pink, red, white, yellow flowers, roses, lilies and (??). I met Quynh at the airport with red roses—and a bouquet of nine roses when she got home. We even got a new set of bed sheets with roses on them!

Rollin’ like the mack, indeed. You can tell the effect it had on the love of my life:

more flowers?

shoe city

siang in shoe heavengreetings from behind the Great Firewall! At this very moment, I’m coming to you live from the city of Guangzhou, known as the shoe wholesaling capital of China (the world?). there are literally thousands of shops here, all packed into huge buildings and complexes, selling shoes at wholesale prices for buyers that come from just about anywhere in the world. it figures that someone who intensely dislikes shopping for shoes (such as me) would pick a place to go that is internationally famous for selling shoes. isn’t that right? of course it’s right. and that’s okay.

all sarcasm aside, after several months hanging around Vietnam, I’m taking a break for a short trip into China—I figured, why not swing into China for a week since I’m in this part of the world anyway? So I hopped onto a flight from Hanoi to Hong Kong this past Friday, spent a few days hanging around in HK getting hawked by Indian tailors, and just yesterday grabbed a train up the Pearl River to Guangzhou, one of China’s bustling commercial cities. I… don’t know how I feel about China yet. I haven’t been here long enough, and I’m still under the shock of arrival. The first thing I noticed is that I can’t read any of the signs, since they’re all in Chinese (duh). Since I’m visiting a friend while I’m here, I got him to teach me some of the more common Chinese characters, and now at least I know the difference between, say, the Heavenly Cloud Five Gold Shop and the regular Five Gold Shop. (????) I managed to at least buy a bottle of cola and get back some change in Chinese yuan, which is something.

uh, so yeah, shoes. right now I’m in the downtown part of Guangzhou, which is stuffed to the cracks with shoes, shoes spilling out of every street corner basically. they’re gathered here from many different factories in the area and in China as a whole, shown to international buyers, and shipped off by the crateful to shoe stores in Canada, Japan, America, Australia, wherever, you name it. I’m not especially knowledgeable about wholesaleing but these people seem to have gotten it down to an exact science, or rather, made it into a bustling national enterprise. No wonder China’s economy is doing so well. It’s just too bad I’m not so crazy about shoes—if they were wholesaleing, say, smurfs or something that’d be pretty awesome. I’d pay to visit a smurf wholesaler. there must be one in China, I can feel it. Smurf City, here I come.

funny dreams

I had some pretty funny dreams last night, and by “funny” I mean genuinely amusing. I thought I’d share them here before I forget them.

In the first dream, I was back from my trip to Vietnam and back to work at the Conference Board of Canada, being warmly welcomed back by my colleagues. My boss was particularly interested in talking to me, to bring me up to speed on the company’s latest research product: an extensive review of Book 1 of the Ruhi Institute’s community training series, Reflections on the Life of the Spirit. I was quite surprised—and speechless—but thoroughly impressed as I leafed through the draft of the thick research publication, which analysed the book’s impact on organizational performance—and presented it in quite a good light.

In the second dream, I was looking around for my good friend Martin so I could have a friendly chat with him. When I found him, he was dressed in snappy work clothes, extremely busy with innumerable tasks for the Spiritual Assembly of Ottawa, the Cluster Growth Committee, and other Baha’i institutions. Acknowledging my presence without looking at me, he asked me to address myself to his clone, who was sitting nearby, wearing jeans and looking relaxed and welcoming. I was extremely confused, but began talking with Marty’s clone, who explained that due to the mounting workload of the Baha’i Institutions and the pressures of his social life, Martin had decided to create a clone of himself to deal specifically with social issues, such as hanging out with friends, playing card games, updating his personal website, late-night runs to McDonald’s and Denny’s, and so on.


For those of who aren’t yet subscribed to my Twitter feed, here’s what you’ve been missing for the past week:

Apr. 1st

  • touched down in Saigon a couple of hours ago, everything seems to be ok so far. i’m off to bed in a sec. look for photos tomorrow.
  • GOOD MORNING VIETNAM! ok, I know you all wanted me to say that, so now it’s out of the way. the roosters outside do help add a little colour
  • i suppose i could pull an april fool’s prank of some sort but reality is just much cooler than jokes right now

Apr. 2nd

  • the visit to KFC (Gà rán Kentucky) in Saigon was funny. rice? with gravy on it? wow. and yeah, I know, you’d think I’d go for ph? first off.
  • the noise here is amazing. from 7 AM to 10 PM it’s kids, roosters, motorcycles, street vendors, TVs, radios, pretty much anything
  • reading and re-reading a Baha’i pioneering doc about culture shock; all the symptoms seem to apply. praying for serenity while i adjust.)

Continue reading

sleepless in chicago

huge planeI’ve slept only about three hours out of the past twenty-four. it kinda sucks. most of them were spent frantically packing my bags in my devastated (ex-?)apartment in Ottawa. I stayed up printing out last-minute photocopies and sending emails to Japan, leaving about three hours (actually closer to two) of productive sleep before waking up and making my way (thanks to mom and dad) over to the airport to catch my flight to Chicago. I’d say something dramatic like “this is where the real tests begin” but actually the tests began when I first decided to go to Vietnam. whenever someone arises to serve God in some way, tests begin immediately to prove their mettle, sometimes little by little, sometimes in huge clumps—and sometimes exponentially as that proverbial “last minute” approaches.

oh look all the pilots are boarding the plane now, clad in black monkey suitsuniforms with pretty gold trim. appropriate enough since this flight looks very much like a class act. now the flight attendants are boarding and they too look like a class act. I’ve heard some good things about Japan Airlines and I have the sneaking suspicion those things are about to be proven right. That’s a little more than I can say about the American Eagle flight from Ottawa. that one was okay, I guess. it’s just that the plane we were on seemed to be designed and built with smurfs in mind. the Japan Airlines plane (see photo attached to this post) makes it look like a bug in comparison. in fact, I’m pretty sure this next plane eats little tiny commuter planes for breakfast with noodles and miso soup. I’m okay with that.

I should probably be catching up on sleep right about now, you know. I just don’t think it’ll do me a whole lot of good to sprawl onto the floor of the waiting lounge or stretch out onto a cluster of seats. i’ve been told my assigned seat has good elbow room; that sounds good. I’m hoping I can grab some shut-eye on the thirteen-hour-long flight across the Pacific. The Pacific seems like the perfect ocean to cross on a long airplane flight: nothing to see for hundreds of miles outside your window except, uh, lots and lots of nothing. perfectly boring, and hopefully eminently sleep-inducing. except for the offers of drinks and meals at regular intervals, of course. Instead of sleeping on the Chicago flight, I brushed up on some Japanese and practiced some phrases that should come in useful when passing through customs, you know, like “I have nothing to declare”, “thank you very much”, “may my life be a sacrifice to your ancestors”, and so on. gotta make a good impression, you know. …I guess this is what happens when I don’t get enough sleep.