August 23. Chongqing
We’ve had a heatwave this summer — often topping 44 C daily and 35-38 through the night. This kind of heat, without relief, has been tough to take in the city. Hard on us, the animals, and our plants. In the mountains, we spent ten days in Simianshan, relaxing under tree cover, in hammocks, and writing my book. But excessive heat means drought and low rivers, which means more problems.
My birthday was terrific – a surprise birthday party from friends and their families in the mountains. I was thrilled and touched by the kindness and special care my friends and family in Chongqing always make for me, knowing that sometimes I feel far from my Canadian family. Still, I never feel neglected or lonely and have never learned more contentment from such a large and loving group of individuals. I hope my parents can revisit me in Chongqing soon. We are waiting for the right time and hope the pandemic will be over more quickly.
I spent my first day as 43 under a 1000-year-old tree after Benben stepped on a bee. Thinking about how to live well, honestly, virtuously, and taking care of our family and our environment occupies many of my thoughts now. I’ve finished Amos the Amazing, my latest novel. I’m just waiting for the editing and revision to be completed, and then the Chinese translation before it will come out next year with a prominent local publisher. It’s fascinating. I also got news of a heart-warming nomination for a prestigious Chinese award. Just being nominated is a great honor to me, and I will continue my hard work to build bridges and cultural understanding between China and the West, which I think is both meaningful and very rewarding for me to do.
This heat is more than uncomfortable. It means little rain and low rivers. Drought is a problem for many farmers, predicting a poor fall harvest, another cloud on the horizon. Low rivers mean less hydro (clean) power, and as a result, we are on power saving mode – yesterday malls, which already were on restricted use (escalators off, AC at a minimum), were told to only open half days, from 4 pm-9 pm. Just like that, lunch is one of our many sacrifices for the greater good. At least we are willing to work together to make the best of the situation with clear eyes. It might not be great, but only by being realistic, creative, and willing to sacrifice and work hard can we dig ourselves out of the calamities of a global pandemic and climate emergency wrapped into one. A cool byproduct of low rivers is the discovery on the Yangzte in Chongqing of ancient Buddhist sculptures on the river bed – a secret not meant to be discovered, but perhaps will help us to channel our prayers to navigate this crisis, and the correct actions needed to overcome the calamities.
My friends say the current outbreak of COVID is because of the low rivers – they are convinced a river dragon, or river spirit, such as the one that introduces Amos in Amos the Amazing, has been responsible for Chongqing’s general safety during the pandemic, and the area where the river is lowest- Shapingba – is the area hardest hit by COVID. Perhaps this is an amusing anecdote and a coincidence, but I hope for rain, and if we have river dragons protecting us – I tell them Jiayou!
Still- today the people of Chongqing stock up on food, and tomorrow, the entire city will get a COVID test. we expect to stay inside for a few weeks, which may be enough to root the outbreak out again, as it has in the past.
Luckily, Baba Wang squeezed in his 80th birthday lunch just before things got serious, yes, it was warm, and we had minimal AC in the restaurant, but everyone waved hand fans, and we managed. Xiaolin and I wrote and delivered a well-received speech, and when Baba took the mic to thank the family for getting together to celebrate his 80th birthday, he was on the verge of grateful tears. It meant a lot to him, and he was deeply moved.
As usual, Ethan was happy to help blow out the candles.
Meanwhile, Shapingba has been closed down for ten more days. A few other XiaoQu’s near us are also locked down. Yet, we continue getting Xiaolin daily Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatment for her dance-related knee injury and an older shoulder injury from our last Europe trip in 2019, which still bothers her somewhat. We did scans and checks, and the good news is that it’s nothing severe, and the heat, electroacupuncture, and herbal salves are helping her a lot. We have to check out today and stay at the school, though – the notice has been given; if you’re in the hospital, you don’t leave, and if you’re leaving, try not to come back for now.
The 5th annual Smart China Expo is going on, but because of the COVID situation, my live streams and interviews were postponed. Still, many signing opportunities and deals were brought to Chongqing. The theme of this year is ‘smart city,’ and we are making amazing progress with technologies. My wish is that we can use all this ingenuity and technology to cool the planet and get to carbon neutrality as soon as possible. Maybe end the pandemic once and for all, too.
There’s no start date for my classes yet – due to the high temperatures and possibly also due to the emerging outbreak situation, we are postponing the September 1 start and might wait until mid-September. I guess I have more time to write my next book, but I’m excited to go back to the classroom, and I think I’m excited about winter for the first time.
For all the sacrifices we make in China to delineate between red zones and green zones means public infrastructure like hospitals and airports function normally. For all the rolled eyes our policies get in western media, ‘look at all the trouble they *still* go through to try to fight the virus,’ most of China is in a reasonably normal ‘green’ state, most of the time. That means schools are safe and regular, businesses operate, and the economy functions, which gives us the ability to do important things – like focus on a carbon neutral designation and carbon sink (suck) applications that will cool the planet and guarantee a livable and healthy tomorrow. This is so important.
My father, back in Canada, had to get an injury looked at and was faced with a litany of bad options: 24-hour wait in the emergency room for treatment, with some Canadian emergency rooms just closing overnight or on weekends because the health care system is short-staffed, overworked and ill themselves. He made an appointment with a family doctor, and the earliest was in 2 and a half weeks. So he found a walk-in clinic, got up at 5 am, and was the first one in line when they opened at 8 am – and got some relief and a treatment plan. I’ve been so worried about him, but at least I can relax knowing he’s got this under control. He might have to go to Toronto to deal with it, but at least he can drive. I’ve been told there are also lineups at the airport for two or three days sometimes, and gates are closed because there is no airport staff to manage them. It sounds like chaos and confusion.
Here in Chongqing, we are praying for rain. At least four Chongqing districts report wildfires, mainly in mountainous areas, forcing more than 1,500 people to be evacuated. More than 5,000 rescuers have been helping to extinguish fires in the municipality, which is experiencing the worst heatwave in six decades. In some areas, the skies are full of clouds, and people are waking up to find their homes full of soot. The local government has sealed off mountains in its 38 districts and counties to control fire sources strictly. Swimming pools are busy, and when I have the chance, I go for a swim and enjoy the chance to cool off.
My weekly gaming crew is trying to squeeze in one more session this week if things don’t lock down too much by Thursday. We have a surprise (don’t tell them!) for the happy couple expecting a baby next week. For all the children that haven’t lived a wild 42 years in the world already, I hope we can make this world as green and comfortable, healthy and fresh and happy as possible. That’s why we work and sacrifice together – for them. For lunch today, it’s Subway, the last time I might get a chance to be close enough to order it for a while. A little treat to tide me through. Still, my health is improving. Daily pushups, squats, and planks work even when I can’t get to the gym. Believe it or not, I’ve lost 40 pounds and feel great. If you’re looking to achieve that too, it’s mostly diet, cutting all the sugar and alcohol, and don’t eat more than you need, and walking and exercising every day. If you do that, it’s simple.
China’s national observatory on Monday issued its 11th red alert for high temperatures – the most severe warning in a four-tier system for many parts of China, including Chongqing. We are expected to get some relief soon as meteorologists predict a cold front will move south, cooling Chongqing by the weekend.
Let’s hope it brings autumn rains and a cooling of China that we drastically need. Until then, I play guitar and pray for rain. Here’s an Apache (Native American) blessing, for Chongqing, for China, and for all the planet Earth, our beautiful home:
May the sun bring you new energy by day,
may the moon softly restore you by night,
may the rain wash away your worries,
may the breeze blow new strength into your being,
may you walk gently through the world and
know its beauty all the days of your life.
– Apache Blessing