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Archive for December, 2006

Father In My Dream

Last night, my father came in my dream again, his countenance being exactly the same as it was when he left me twenty years ago. Simply leaving a kindly smile, he turned round and left, no matter how I shouted and cried. Then I woke up with a start and couldn’t fall asleep. Then suddenly I was overwhelmed by sadness. It seems Father visits me less and less often now. Am I forgetting him? A feeling of guilt rose up in me. He’s my Father, and he’s now gradually slipping out my mind! I couldn’t help shuddering at this thought. No, I will not let this happen, I need to do something! I must recollect as many past memories about him as possible…I should not let them go, and fade away like a piece of washed-out cloth.

I was born into the family when Father was almost 50,and a kid gotten at such an age was usually fondly called ” autumn melon” by the local elderlies. I was a shy boy then and those uncles and aunties liked me very much…but partly might be out of my Father, who was a veteran batallion commander in the army. Though Father was a taciturn man of only a few words, he was respected by many people there ( Remember our farm was once a military regiment if you’ve read some of my earlier entries here). Till now, when some elder people mentioned him, they called him ” Commander Qi”.

Father was not good at expressing his love for his kids, but we could clearly feel it. When I was 4 or 5 years old, he often carried me  around in his strong arms,chatting with fellows, or working in the orchids.  I’ll never forget those days I spent with Father in the orchids. While he was trimming the apple trees or hoeing the fields, I was just playing around. How happy I was there, chasing after the butterflies or grasshoppers, picking up some beautiful flowers among the grass.  As soon as I was out of Father eyes, his magnetic voice would echo among the apple trees, and I just ran back to him as quickly as I could. How much  I enjoyed the company of the whispering breeze, the friendly insects among the grass, the singing birds in the woods, and my loving Father.

Later,at 7 years old, I went to a primary school near my home. As I grew older and older, I was getting ridiculously rebellious and didn’t like to listen to him. As I sometimes stubbornly stuck to my own idea, no matter right or wrong, I just stupidly insisted on it. Father was annoyed and blamed me sometimes, but never beat me no matter how I behaved ( Luckily I was not too bad then). Even worse, I would quarrel with him sometimes when he hoped to tell me something. It continued to be so for two or three years when something that happened totally changed me.
 
I was then in Grade Four. As my home was moved to a new place, I had to change my school, which was better than the previous one. However, I could not figure out why my chief teacher disliked me so much. He kept blaming me for my slips and errors so much that I thought he’d made too much fuss about it. Nevertheless, I felt lucky that the man had never beat me in class, as I’d seen so many classmates beaten and kicked by him in class.  I was even frightened thinking of him as a monster.

Then came the time I made another mistake. The monster teacher ordered me to tell my parents that he needed to talk with them. Instead of telling my mother, I asked Father to see the teacher. My father had just recovered from a serious stroke and had to walk with the help of a stick. Hearing this, he was angry with me but agreed to see the teacher himself. I could never forget how Father managed to walk to school. For a sound person as I was, it only took me about 15minutes to get there,but it would be quite a journey for a patient like him. I followed far behind him, saw him walking and taking a rest to recollect some strength. My eyes were suddenly filled with tears and felt so sorry about what I had done then. From that moment, I’d made up my mind, ” Be good, boy!” Then, a “bad” boy gradually turned into an example for all the other students in that small school, till I left there.

Father left me when I was in Junior Three and that night has been engraved in my mind forever. It was almost the end of the semester and I often stayed up quite late those days. Father was not feeling well several days ago, and Mom and I were really worried about it. As I slept in the same room with him, Mom told me to be more alert about him. One night, exhausted with a long time of hard study, I was ready to go to bed. As I lay down in bed, I noticed Father’s face looked wax yellow, and his eyes opened a while and had a glimpse of me…then they were closed. And I hadn’t expected it was the last look at me from my Father!
 
The next morning, while I was having classes at school, an uncle came to my class and asked me to go back home. Then I knew Father had left me,without saying anything to me. How regretful I was for my carelessness the night before!And from that night, I lost my father forever!

Now, twenty years are gone,and I have a son of my own. Time seems so powerful to fade anything away. Sometimes I feel scared to recall Father’s countenance…Sometimes it’s become so vague and is fading away!I’m so ashamed of it that I really feel painful. I should not forget my own Father!
 
Then,everything is rushing in my mind, with those old memories..and I found myself missing my father so much! As my fingers were typing on the keyboard, the letters on the screen became so misty and blurry…Then I realized my eyes were filled with tears and I couldn’t help them….

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A Hectic Day

Like all the other Sundays since September, I’ve been taking classes in a university here for a master degree on international finance. The classes start from 9 in the morning and ends at 4, with one hour’s break at noon. So I have to stay in school for lunch, and the canteen often brought me back to my old school days.

Today is the Christmas Eve. I left early in the morning for school. While standing in the bus, I received greetings from several good friends. The faraway greetings with warmth really made me feel good in the chilly morning. However, I knew a busy day was just looming ahead of me…

It was the first lesson for a new subject, Public Finance. The teacher was really experienced and the lecture was fairly interesting. It was the first time I didn’t doze off during the classes after lunch. The teacher was quite cynical and complained a lot about many social disparities. A serious-looking man as he was, he let out some funny remarks that made us burst into laughters. Anyway, there was at least something we enjoyed during the class.

After class, we took a test on macroeconomics, a subject we finished two weeks ago. It was ok and finally I managed to finish it. It lasted about two hours and I was really exhausted when it was finally done. Almost 6:00 pm.!

As was planned last week, we went to a restaurant for a dinner to celebrate the Christmas Eve, and to offer a chance for all the classmates to get to know each other. It was the first time we held such gathering since the class was begun in September. Many of the buddies were from banks or investment companies, just a few like me were from some trading companies. It was interesting to meet new friends, though. We also invited some of our teachers to join the dinner and they were so kind to accept our invitations. They were quite different from when they were at the platform, open and friendly, instead of being critical and cynical. The whole dinner was overflown with joy and happiness. We sat at the tables telling jokes, giving performances, even singing and dancing. What a time! Now, I am just sitting in my cozy chair in front of my pc, typing down this hectic yet wonderful day, at the Christmas Eve!

******

It was exactly 0:00 when I finished this entry, and I wish my earliest greetings will reach you with the first ray of sunlight in a new day. Despite chilliness outside the window, I can feel the warmth in my heart, that is my love for you, dear friends! Love is always a wonderful thing. Merry Christmas!

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Many guys may enumerate many drawbacks living in Beijing: air pollution, traffic jam, sandstorms…and the high living costs here. The other day I chatted with a friend, the young guy felt upset and complained,” Oh, my god! My apartment is going farther and farther away from me now…When can I own one of my own?”

He is not alone though. Living in this city, people are feeling more and more pressure at the soaring housing prices. According to the statistics released by the National Statistics Bureau, the average housing prices in 70 major cities kept rising by another 6.7% in the third quarter compared with the same period last year. In September, the selling prices in these 70 cities climbed up by 6.3%, among which Beijing had seen an amazing 10.3% growth. As a matter of fact, housing problem, along with the pyramiding education expeses and sky-rocketing medical expenses, has become one of the three major social problems in the current economic and social development.

Frankly speaking, the housing reform program initiated from 1998 has been a failure. Since then, China has been reforming its housing system by implementing the Affordable Housing Program, when the government abolished the welfare-oriented allocation of public housing, marking the commencement of China’s housing system reform. That was the time when the concept of affordable housing was introduced and initiated. As per some related laws and regulations promulgated thereafter, 80% of the households in major cities would benefit from the government’s affordable housing program instead of those for commercial purpose. The policy should have made in favor of those who are really in need of apartments, only to find it had been framed in protection of the interests of those property developers. In fact, the major real estate developers were more than delighted to learn the news and embraced the new regulations totally to their heart’s content.

At the same time, however, it is common folks who finally bear the burden and pay the bill. Many common folks who really need a place to live have not benefited from the affordable housing program. More and more low-income households cannot afford to buy an appartment for themselves. A beneficial policy that should have favored the common folks has finally deteriorated into a fountain of evil triggering social disparity. Some people jokingly remarked that China’s housing reform was an “eight-year war against housing conundrum”, which has at last grown into a black humor. It finally has benfited the rich, other than the poor. A friend in the circle commented that China’s real estate industry had become another monopolic industry besides gas and petroleum, telecommunications, and electricity.

This will surely be a bad news for us common folks. I felt lucky that I bought my apartment two and a half years ago, at a fairly acceptable price. Now, the prices for an apartment of the same size as mine in my neighbourhood have almost been doubled. I could not have afforded mine had I not bought it then–I would have paid at least 200grands more than that I had paid two and half years ago. And I would have spent several more years to cover it.

But there are still many unlucky guys as my friend. He is planning to buy one and collecting the information of all the housing projects in his desired area. The results are frustrating. However, this is a problem he has to address. After all, a place to live is one of people’s basic needs!

Black humour? Sure it is!

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The other day I received a call from a friend. The guy was once one of my customers when I worked in my previous company. I advised him after I had left there, yet we didn’t have any business due to quite different line I was engaged in now. It was two years ago. The boy was several years younger than me and was having some trouble recently. He left his company last month because he offended one of their key customers, and he was actually dimissed by his boss. I really felt sorry for him. I thought it was really not something that should’ve happened to a guy at his age, though. To us, customers are always right and we have to serve them well. I think of the following three questions I read in a book: 1) What is our business? 2) Where are our customers? 3) What value can we provide to our customers? Simple questions as they are, it is very difficult to implement them in reality. However, they are so important that we must always keep them in mind. That may be the reason why the writer of the book requests the readers to repeat these three questions every day before they start their work. It is essential that you know about your business, then you will be clear about your goal, and everything you do will be set around it. What’s more, you must know everything about your customers so that you can always offer best service to them, so you must know where they are and who they really are. Last but not the least, if you hope to maintain a long-term relationship with a customer, you need to have “something” that the customers may be interested. We call it “value”. If your customer thinks you are the only option or at least you can save some money for them, then you will make it. The customer will always follow you. Hope he will get over it and start his new career soon. I can also draw some lessons from him.

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Chris: My New Friend

Chris is a Canadian guy I met in the gym. As a matter of fact, it was not the first time I saw him but we did chat for the first time. The gym was nearby our office and I went there once a week. I found him every time I was there. He was a tall guy with a strongly-built body and curly hair, really a Triton among the Minnows in the gym, partly because of his big figure and partly of being one of the few foreigners there. We’d never talked to each other before that day, but I did notice this weird guy. I always managed to hold my laughters at seeing him doing some physical exercises with various equipment in the room. When he worked on one, he seemed to to consume up all his energy on it. He did it fairly quick, gasping heavily, and sometimes bellowing like a beast. or hissing like a snake. Every time I saw this, I just couldn’t help chuckling and saying to myself,” Oh,man! Can he stay healthy if he rushes headlong into it? He’s just torturing himself! Or he must be one of the Hieronymites as in Da Vinci Code!”

After exercising with those equipments, I went to the swimming pool for a while. As I was a terrible swimmer and it was so weird that it just could in no way interest me.  Twenty minutes later, I jumped out of the pool and went to the Sauna chamber.  The guy was there. 

The chamber was quite small and we sat there, almost shoulder by shoulder. To break the embarrassing silence, I tried to start a chat with him.

“Hi, nice to see you..”

“Huh huh, me, too.” …….Some routine formalities.

“Where are you from?”…..Another routine question.

” Canada.”

“Canada?” Interesting.

” Oh, I’ ve been doing business with some Canadian cutomers now.  Which city?”

“Oh, really? I’m from Calgary.”

” My! I can’t believe it!”, I exclaimed,” Really a small world! Our customers are in Calgary and I was there last September!”

” Wow! How interesting!”

Then our conversations expanded to the city of Calgary, the picturesque Banff National Forest Park, and our jobs.  Before Chris came to China, he was a journalist in Canada. In 1997 he came to China working for UNDP as a coordinator.  Now he’s been in China for nine years.  He was around the same age as me and I found it really easy for us to get something interesting to chat about.

I asked him if he could speak Chinese now that he’d been here for such a long time, and the guy blushed and told me that he was quite slow in learning Chinese.  Such a long time had he stayed here, he could only speak very limited sentences, according to what he put it, some survival stuff. He could order dishes in restaurants, bargain in the market, but he could never talk about Confucius with you.  At my repeated requests, Chris said something in Chinese, in broken sentences.   He told me how surprised those taxi drivers at him when they learned he’d stayed in Beijing for such a long time while still speaking so poor Chinese.  As he said so, I could see his face blushing, maybe because of such a shame, or of the hot steam in the chamber.

 

We even found our offices were quite close to each other.  As it was such an inconvenient place to tell him my cell phone number, I promised him to give him my name card next time when I saw him. The guy was easy-going with a very agreeable personality.  Maybe we can have a drink together soon–there are some good bars near our office, though. It was indeed an interesting meeting.

Nice to meet you, Chris!

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I’ve no idea why I dislike most of Chen Kaige’s movies, or even hate them, including his latest “blockbuster”—Wu Ji, a movie which met with tons of criticism since its debut, and I have even not seen it yet.  I’m really tired of the hollow contents and the familiar plots copied from some other movies.
 
But I’d admit it that Farewell To My Concubine and Together are two exceptions.  I’ve seen it several times and been touched by it every time.  On the train to Harbin several days ago, I watched the movie Together again, and was moved as I was before. The plot is simple and I’d rather not repeat it here.  My eyes got wet again when the movie reached its end. It was a montage of the present and the past: The man who became the foster-father later was running anxiously in the hall of the railway station,with the little baby and a violin in his arm;Then the scene was switched to the boy rushing to the railway station to catch up with his foster-father, with that finally-found violin in hand.  Only at that moment did the boy realize how he loved his father.  He finally gave up the opportunity to win in the international contest and chose to be with his father.    Standing at  the waiting hall of the station, the boy played the violin–whole-heartedly, for his dear father, for his profound love.  The scenes were then flashed between the performances of the boy and the girl who finally grabbed the chance to take part in the contest.  Finally, the hearts and the souls of the father and son were together and would never depart.
 
After watching the movie, a strange idea occured in my mind.  Maybe the boy had some better ways to reciprocate his foster father’s love, whose only plain wish was that the boy could be a successful violinist when growing up, simply to fulfil a so-called request from the boy’s natural parents, whom he’d never met. I believe the gifted boy would win the contest if he took part in it.  What might follow would be the reputation and wealth for him.  Then the life for the father and the son might be quite different. They might be much better off than they were now.
 
You may regard what I am thinking as vulgarity or of lower taste, but it’s realistic.  People crave for success, because it brings them sense of achievement as well as fame and wealth. Though I believe the least thing in the foster father’s mind was  the wish that his efforts would be repaid someday, I myself do hope so, because I strongly believe in the saying, ” One good turn deserves another.” I hope the foster father will lead a happy life with his beloved son though they don’t have any genetic connection.   Sure I know Mr. Chen would not plot the movie this way, it’s just my personal wish.
And I hope a good deed will never be missed out by the God.
 
>>>>>>>>>>
 
I should put two thumbs up for the performance of Mr. Liu Peiqi in this movie, who won the award for the best actor at Saint Sebastian Film Festival. Mr. Chen also won an award of the best director with this movie.  They both deserved the honor.
 
However, Chen Hong’s performance was quite disappointing.  I am really frustrated to see her affected and artificial performance. It’s just like some flaws on a jade.
 

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Thanks to a whole night’s sleep, I recovered from the liquor sickness in the morning. Since everything was done yesterday, we had some time to learn more about this city. However, due to the cold weather, we couldn’t stay outside very long. Then we finally decided to go to the famous Central Avenue, a bustling downtown street in the city.

It was a little foggy and windy morning. After about 15minutes’ ride by taxi, we arrived there. The wind made it even colder. The Central Avenue was a wide street stretching from north to south, lined with yellow and cubic shaped Russian style buildings along two sides. Though it was not a very long street, , it was tucked with over hundred stores, big or small. There weren’t many people in the street, and the pedestrians were just walking by hastily in twos or threes.

While we entered the Central Shopping Mall, we saw something quite different. The whole building seemed to be packed with thousands of people…What a hustling place! We went to the supermarket down in the basement and bought some native produces: some black fungi, and some well-known sausage in Harbin.

Cold as it was outside, walking in the street really offered you something different. The wide street, not that busy as some part in Beijing, was neat and tidy. You could still vaguely see the snowfall last night. Filtered by the snow, the air was so refreshing. The pace of the city seemed so calm and peaceful, quite different from Beijing. I hardly have time to slow down and have a closer look at things around me in Beijing, and always seem to be driven by something…..Sometimes it really makes me depressed and stressful. However, I felt so relaxed here. Maybe I’m a wheel spinning too fast and need to slow down…

A friend of mine once told me, ” I really wish to live and work in a smaller city, where I can have a house of my own; I can do whatever I want; I can have more leisure time; I can truly enjoy my life….” Enjoy my life? But how? For me, I have to stay in Beijing no matter how I dislike it….In fact, I am trying to love it now…It is my second hometown. But what if I live in a city like Harbin? Will it make any difference? I’m not sure…..What I only know is—-Cherish the present…..

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