Saturday, December 04, 2010

And 59 To Go

Just over a month ago Aya arrived in Shanghai. I brought a photo with just to make sure it was her (pictured). As usual I was surprised by how small she is. More than that I was so accustomed to a silent house that having my little chatter box back has changed my world here. She has changed my world in many other ways too. It has been a year now since we were married in Hawaii and in some regards that seems like only yesterday. To celebrate one year together we took a trip to Hangzhou. It’s a scenic town not far from Shanghai. I expected a smaller town with nice scenery since it had been hyped up that way by people I had talked to and the research I had done. There were supposed to be some nice hiking and running trails surrounding that a scenic lake. I was very much looking forward to that as Shanghai is a busy place with lots of people, thick air, and few places that are quiet and people free.
We departed Shanghai on a bullet train which zipped through the country side at 350kmph. The train ride was nice enough, but as I looked out the window I kept thinking, “Ok, we are getting further into the country side, when are we going to get to a place where the smog parts and the blue sky shows itself?” I kept reassuring myself that Hangzhou and blue skies were just around the corner. I was sorely disappointed.

Hangzhou has some nice scenery, but like every other place I have been to in China it was packed with people and very polluted. As we arrived at the train station and hailed a taxi it was obvious that this place was not a smaller city. Sky scrapers could be seen nearby through a haze of smog. The train station was brimming with people coming and going from Hangzhou. I was immediately crestfallen as I realized this was not going to be a weekend where I got away from the city atmosphere.

Indeed, there were mountains and scenic pagodas. There were nice views and old structures. There were hiking trails and running trails that wound through nice patches of mountain side and scenic lakeside landscaping. It had all the potential for a nice place to be for a weekend. At one point after climbing a pagoda we spent some quiet time in a tea garden, the tea was really good, and for a moment we escaped the city. We walked about a lot and saw some sights, but the first feeling of being in a smoggy crowded place was prevalent. We made the best of it and enjoyed our time just being together and relaxing. At one point we had wandered down a side street and the strangest feeling fell over us. It took us a few minutes to realize what it was; we weren’t surrounded by people, traffic, smog, and noise. It felt great.

Since then I have had none of that silence, back here in Shanghai. There has been no silence outside and none inside either. Aya has been waiting for me when I come home each day as we continue our lives here. I enjoy my job immensely and she says she enjoys her life here too learning Chinese and tending house. There are certainly things that we don’t like, but it seems that we have found enough things we do like to keep us here a bit longer. I think part of that is just having each other. Three months without her was too much and I could tell that my stress level was higher before she was here. While I still value my private time I am growing more and more appreciative of having a partner to share my life with, someone to unburden my concerns to, share a laugh with, to be perfectly honest, to share in my triumphs and my defeats no matter how mundane. Our futures are now tied together and each step we take is together.
Recently one of my dear friends passed away. I have followed some of his widow’s thoughts as she tries to make sense of such a sudden change of her life and the impact it has had is one that is obvious. Once you have committed your life to one person and built towards the future together, what happens when one day they disappear? I try to never think about it, yet think of it all the time. I wonder what Aya would do if I suddenly died. While it pains me to picture her as a widow it pains me even more to know that I won’t be there anymore. In my own selfish way I think the worst part of my death won’t be that I can no longer experience the world, but that I will no longer have the company of my wife. On our trip I remarked to Aya that we had, “One year down...” To which she replied, “…and 59 to go". I hope that is true.