Goodbye, Mary

Last Thursday at 10:30 pm, my mother Mary passed away. It was quick, which I’m thankful for. She did not suffer.

She lived in a nursing home for several years — the last two years of her life in a steady decline. Thursday night her breathing became labored, so they put her on oxygen, but the levels kept dropping, until… the inevitable.

I was not even in Wuxi at the time, but in Changzhou, in the middle of judging a senior high school speech competition. My brother wanted to speak to me on the phone, but there I was stuck in a hotel without the ability to make a long distance call to Canada.

So the news came by email first. I mouthed the words slowly, as though English suddenly became alien and I forgot meaning and grammar. It was odd to receive such explosive news that way. Is this the price I pay for my adopted lifestyle?

I was always fascinated why my mother chose or was given the biblical name of Mary for her Canadian identity. It suggests that she was destined to marry a solid man and bear saintly children.

By |January 24th, 2013 |Categories: Life |40 Comments

Shades of a Shanghai Marriage Market

One of the big draws of Shanghai is People’s Square and People’s Square Park. Prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, People’s Square served as a course for horse racing, appropriately named the Shanghai Racing Club, open to elite members of Shanghai society.

When the communist government was established, horse racing and all its charms were considered decadent, so the area was converted into the municipal government’s headquarters. Over the years various attractions have been added to lure visitors. The Shanghai Art Museum is worth a glance and some fanciful, ultra-modern buildings like the Shanghai Grand Theater or the Hong Kong New World Tower will stimulate architecture buffs.

A longstanding event has endured among the glittering towers and lush gardens of People’s Park, attracting unwanted tourists and the curious. The “Marriage Market” gathers every Saturday and Sunday, where parents flock to the north end of the park from noon until 5:00 pm to get their daughters or sons matched.

It was an unexpected sight to stumble upon as I walked through People’s Park with friends one November weekend.

By |January 15th, 2013 |Categories: Culture, Shanghai |30 Comments

Chicks Conquering the World: ProjectExplorer.Org

It’s a new year and the best way to mark it is by relaunching a Chicks segment. Believe me, you’ll want to meet Jenny Buccos. Follow the breadcrumbs of a business minded project manager’s awakening to the gifts of travel. Jenny saw a deficit in the world and instead of dismissing it – she started a non-profit organization – one that blends joy, discovery and circling the globe. But not just for anyone, her educational multimedia content targets the most impressionable – school children. If you’re an educator or just intensely curious about our global community, welcome to ProjectExplorer.org

Q:  You founded ProjectExplorer.org in 2003. Why combine education, children and a video travel series? What did you see in the world that was lacking and prompted you to start this organization?

A:  In the early stages of developing ProjectExplorer.org, I found that people had a wide variety of preconceived notions about other countries and cultures, particularly here in America where our culture, news, and discussions can be so inwardly focused.

In our rapidly shrinking world, I believe global understanding is a critical 21st century skill that all students will need to possess in order to succeed. Seeing foreign places firsthand and having my own beliefs challenged was a real awakening for me, and I wanted to try and give that experience to as many people as I could — especially young ones. Of course, it is not possible to take every student abroad. For me, the solution was simple: by creating free student-focused videos on global topics, thousands – even millions – could experience the world beyond their borders through online video.

Allergic to China, Standing Still and Bikes

On the Shanghai Metro in happier days

This is why I’ve been so quiet the past few months. I was stuck.

And sometimes I just don’t want to air my dirty business on the blog. Or maybe you want to read about that guy who never texted me back after our date (his name rhymes with ‘alone’ – I’m not joking) or how that girl in a canary yellow helmet nearly snuffed my life out.  I was standing, she was riding an ebike, and our bodies met in the most obtrusive manner. Luckily only my right hand and thigh got nicked.

And then there’s China. After the rampant discrimination I’ve faced in the past two months, my enchantment with China was over. I was ready to punch it in the face.

Them: “You look Chinese.”
Me: “Uh huh.”

Them: “Oh, you look Chinese.”
Me:  “Nooo, you look Chinese.”

Them: “You know, you look Chinese.”
Me: “Oh, you don’t say,  I always thought I resembled her.”

I’ve never had to explain my face so much before. It made me lose heart in China. For a country that is developing at rapid speed, their openness to the world is smaller than I guessed. I wonder if the country can balance culture and technology as Japan has done so successfully.

By |January 8th, 2013 |Categories: Life |35 Comments