Saturday, January 08, 2011

Dilapitated chicken

At 9:00 yesterday morning, I had two very welcomed visitors. Repairmen to bring me a new toilet. My old toilet has been broken for 3 months, continually leaking water. I felt guilty everyday listening to the hissing of running water. At the same time, I am helpless; I am not a plumber and the plumber who came to fix the toilet in the first month simply said, “Mei banfa” which means “There’s nothing I can do.” So, I have been waiting for the funds to go through from the school before I could get a new toilet. Finally, the funds must have gone through, and the two repairmen who showed up took about one or so hours to install the toilet. As they left, they told me, “it flushes hard” and “don’t use the toilet until tomorrow morning.” I listened to their advice; I didn’t use it yesterday. I flushed it hard this morning, and would you know….the new toilet has the same problem as the old one. It is continually flushing a little bit of water. I opened up the tank to find that after one flush, the flusher is stuck. I kind of feeling like crying this morning, but I guess I’ll just blog.

After the toilet men left yesterday, I headed out to do some errands. On the walk, I saw two memorable things. First, a dilapidated chicken was lying on the grass. Surrounding the chicken swarmed a group of other chickens. It seemed they were tending to the sickly chicken. But as I got closer, I saw they were pecking at him. It was disgusting so I told the gate-keeper. He looked over and with a cigarette in his mouth muttered, “It’s not our chicken; it’s fine.” At that moment, the man’s wife comes out of their apartment to invite me to dinner. I have already lost my appetite for a good day or so.

I walked out the gate and what else should I see, but an old arm chair up in flames. About 3 or 4 people were standing around the chair watching it burn. “Kao Huo” the store-owner said to me with a big smile. Kao huo refers to the small coal burning pit that Hunan people use to warm themselves. The actual translation of “kao huo” means “to warm ones’ self by the sitting close to the fire.” I guess this was one cheap and practical way to stay warm for half an hour or so.

On my way back from errands, I stopped to buy some sprite for my sick team-mate. I was sporting some mittens that a class of students had given me as a Christmas present. The store-owner, (the one who perpetually gives me advice and comments on my appearance) told me that my mittens were very romantic. In response to his comment, I closely examined my mittens to try and see what could possibly be considered romantic about them. These mittens are grey with small black polka-dots on them. They have fur trimming and on the fur, a big stuffed plaid bow. If these are romantic, then I am a poor student of romance.

China seemed very strange and foreign to me yesterday. I understand, and yet I don’t. I am compassionate to a point and then sometimes one word or strange look from a stranger pushes me over the edge. I don’t want to judge, but the noise pollution from hissing water everyday and fireworks every morning at 4 or 5 has done something to my sense of fairness. My reality feels arbitrary, annoying, and completely out of my control. I feel a bit like the dilapidated chicken, with the stresses of living in another country pecking away slowly at my exterior shell of competency and adaptability.


Drew and Rachel said...

RESONATE strongly with this!!! well-said:
"I don't want to judge, but..."
"my reality feels arbitrary, annoying..."

at least these feelings can keep us firmly planted in a place of dependency and hopefully, contrition.

I guess if you're not going to eat for a couple days go ahead and don't drink anything either. that may buy some time to get the toilet fixed until you need to use it next. ?


Julie Hodges said...

Both Charlie and I read this entry and what you said in the last paragraph is how we felt the last semester we were there. Charlie says he felt it wasn't so much China in general, but Hengyang in particular that ate away at him gradually.
By the way, you'll have to tell me which store owner thought your mittens were romantic. I am guessing the guy that is always horsing around?
Keep on keeping on, Portia. Our Father is well pleased with you. : )

bitsyinchina said...

Well written, Portia. I think this is the first time I've heard a chicken described as 'dilapidated'! :) Good word choice! And I know the feeling of a tiny annoyance you notice every day but can do nothing about-- mine was a missing window pane that let earwigs into my apartment in vast numbers... yuck.
But I digress...
You know, in some ways you're right. Your reality is arbitrary, from our limited perspective. And for sure, it is completely out of your control. But let me say this to encourage you, "In their hearts humans plan their course, but YHWH establishes their steps." He has established your steps, dear Portia! And your toilet's leak and your romantic mittens... He has planned each and every moment of your crazy China life. Sometimes, that isn't much comfort, but I hope you'll find that today it is at least a bit comforting.
I know those bad days--bad periods of time--so well. Sometimes, though, I'd take China even on a bad day if it meant I could be back. I do so miss it and time with teammates like you (and other commenters D&R!)
So I'll ask that He sends you what you need to get through this day today. Then I'll ask the same for tomorrow. I'll ask that He help you to release that (very valid) frustration and tension in constructive ways, and that He would comfort you with His deep compassion.
Portia, you are loved! Sending you much love from this side of the pond. ^_^