August 8, 2022, Chongqing
I’ve found that luck is quite predictable. If you want more luck, take more chances. Be more active. You must get out of bed, show up to work, and be ready for that opportunity. The amount of good luck coming your way depends on your willingness to act. Sometimes you don’t have good luck, but you can get through it anyway. “The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work,” said writer and publisher Harry Golden. But maybe luck is a dividend of sweat. The more you sweat, the luckier you get.
These days, summer of 2022, there’s a lot of sweat to go around. I’ve been wanting to write and update my diary for a month and a half, but the heat and the sheer amount of things to do every day has kept me busy. That and the heat, the heat makes thinking clearly difficult enough. Thinking I’m clever enough to share my thoughts with the world off the cuff is not on the agenda. Did I mention it’s hot? Oh, and the construction. They’re building a new building in front of my foreign teacher’s apartment because the old building wasn’t good enough.
First, they knocked it down. Now they’re digging a big hole and going to build it up bigger than before. I open my bedroom window and see tractors digging a gigantic hole. I wake up to the sounds of jackhammers cracking rocks. Carpe lapis, I guess. Then they decided they needed more room for the building, so they needed to move the overpass closer to my building doorway. So now they’re breaking rock and pounding right next to my bedroom window, shaking the entire building because, as Douglas Adams said, you’ve got to build overpasses.
So we went to Sanya.
What can I say? Had a great view out the window. No construction. Excellent food, lots of ocean and beach time. Vacations are expensive, but COVID-free vacations in the summer of 2022 Omi-BX variant is something you can pretty much only do in China (while supplies last).
We went to Xi Dao, or West Island, for a few days, and it was super interesting to see the local people living in houses that were 500 years old by some accounts, and the visitors delighted in the daily fishing and collecting of shrimp, crabs and whatever else they could pick out of the ocean at dusk. All the restaurants will cook your catch for a couple of bucks, and we ate well. Sometimes we just went to the fish market and brought our own stuff to the restaurant by our hotel, and they did a delicious job with it.
I started a new WeChat channel for writing, creativity, and music and copied some of them to youtube. Production values well, it was windy, but I had a good time getting started and will keep it up on my writing journey. Join me if you like at ‘JorahKai凯哥老虎作家.’
We got back, luckily, before COVID came to Sanya. Xiaolin’s birthday was really lovely. We went out with Jin and Cici, and then the family came over a few days in a row to visit with us. I guess they missed us!
While the family cooked up a storm, I played my guitar, wrote my novel, and kept editing and working, and it was a nice week.
I bought Ethan and Niko a new little blue Ukulele because they showed genuine interest in my guitar playing, and now we’re all playing up a storm.
Fun stuff- I think the best part of getting older is sharing lovely things with younger people you care about and passing on good habits and artistic pursuits.
My buddy, American novelist Garrett Jones from Chengdu, came to visit Chongqing with his wife and four kids. We randomly ended up at Chef Nicola’s place in Jiefangbei. Nicola is the chef for a lovely restaurant in a unique historic 1845 French colonial building which was the historical Sino-British liaison office. It is also an art gallery.
It’s a great place to eat the best Napoli-style Italian pizza in China and well worth the reasonable price. Plus, Nicola does magic for the kids. The Jones’ were impressed. We had some great chats about future books and teaching writing, as he is the creator of the online Hemingway Course, a guide to better writing quickly, and what it’s like to have big writing dreams as ex-pats in China, and I’m really glad we had that chance.
I’ve been loving these taco wraps as Chongqing’s newest fusion food. I imagine how an Australian visited Mexico, fell in love with authentic cuisine, imported it back, and then a Chinese entrepreneur discovered that place in Australia and started a Mexican-Australian-Chinese spicy taco shop in Chongqing, and I love it. I’ve been taking friends and family, and they all seem to love it too, but I love it most.
The next thing I knew, it was August 1st, and I was packing for a ten-day writing retreat at Simianshanzhen Tudiyan Scenic Area. It’s in the Chongqing region but a two-hour drive from Chongqing City. It’s a lovely mountain with wonderful forests and fresh, clean air. It’s over 40 degrees Celsius daily in Chongqing, making these little village areas packed with city folk dying for a bit of respite. Under the tree cover in the shade, napping on a cloth hammock, it’s easily 20 degrees cooler than in the city or in the sunshine. Life is good.
We got some of Xiaolin’s friends’ kids together and played Dungeons & Dragons. They had a blast. It’s like their ‘werewolf’ game but with so much more English practice. Maybe this will take off in the future… TBD.
It’s lovely here. Local, fresh grown food, blue skies, shade, and hammocks. It’s going really well. I’ve been rewriting my Amos novel like a madman. I am almost done, ready to hand off the rest to my excellent literary translator and to hope she can deliver it within a few more months to the publisher, who is excited to sign a contract. Fingers crossed, just doing the best I can every day.
A lot of ex-pat friends have discussed a changing vibe about foreigners in China recently, and sometimes I do feel people are straight-up surprised or concerned to see me as if I remind them of the world outside of China and the dangers they want to forget as they enjoy a sunny afternoon. But walking through the little courtyard of this village and seeing a half dozen children between 6 and 10 swinging and playing who all stop, beam me a big smile, and yell ‘Hi Kai Kai,’ restores my faith that things are going to be ok.
So my friend proposed to his girlfriend in Sanya, and we were overjoyed. Then we got stuck there as Sanya’s exit policies changed daily. He persisted and made it back to Chongqing just before a city-wide Sanya lockdown strands a reported 80,000 tourists. I mean, it’s not the worst place to get stuck, but things are picking up again COVID-wise, and even Chongqing has a few cases now. We hope to get back and get settled before it gets worse. That said, a summer vacation in a pandemic feels a little like playing Russian Roulette, even if it’s just rubber bullets.
I used to be a lot more self-destructive growing up. For one, westerners tend to think bad habits are sexy for some reason, whereas the Chinese are much more logical and pragmatic. But I think there is an appeal in self-sabotage because if faced with the coin flip of working your ass off and maybe failing, or controlling your guaranteed failure with your horrible life choices, somehow holding the assurance of your (terrible) destiny in your hands is seductive. I encourage you, the reader, me, the writer, and anyone who could be reading this, even a sentient and hopefully benevolent AI, that it’s worth working your buns off for the chance to succeed because nothing great is guaranteed. Still, you have a try to win. That goes for goals and dreams as well as the solarpunk green energy transformation we desperately need.
While Chongqing is built to withstand summer heat, the UK and Europe are literally melting. I have seen photos of traffic lights dripping onto the pavement, planes unable to take off because the runways were melting and sucking the landing gear into the ground, and other absurd things that should wake up anyone that thinks we don’t need a radical policy shift to green and renewable energy, like, 50 years ago. I posted a few tweets that are easily searchable about how the big energy companies have had half a century to gracefully shift and have squandered their time and our comfort to maximize their profits. Some studies go as far back as 1959 to discuss how the fossil fuel companies were cognisant of the dangers of flooding our delicate earth with carbons but decided to wait until we were literally burning to make a shift. I get it – China was going through a big development, but I don’t understand how the US so willfully ignored the science when they were in the position to do some good. Now, China hopes to speed things along with their blinding technological revolution and save the rest of the world with them. That’s the basis of my upcoming nonfiction work, “SOLARPUNK,” anyway. Fingers crossed, I get it done soon after Amos is published.
Speaking of the US, things with China have been tense lately since a certain congress lady speaker decided to make a trip over this way, as many skeptical American netizens say, to help her husband’s tech company make some insider trading money on computer chips, under the guise of some political sword waving, which sounds like American politics in a nutshell to me, so it rings true without having to read that book. OF course, violating Chinese policy will not go over well here, and people are on edge, but so far, cooler heads have prevailed, and I can only hope we continue to live in peace, including ending the prolonged Russian-Ukraine invasion and a dozen other current hotspots. We’ve got COVID mania, and it’s melting outside like it’s just too hot to fight can we work together and save the world? Please? “My advice is flip a coin. If you regret how it landed, go with your gut.” – Somebody.
Hoping COVID does end one day. I miss my family back in Canada. Until then – video calls and google phone calls to Grandma will have to do. My birthday is next week, and as I finish my 42nd trip around the sun, I think I might just have figured out the meaning of life, the Universe, and Everything.
“Small opportunities are often the beginning of great enterprises.” ~ Demosthenes