Au Revoir, Paris

April 21, 2009 § 29 Comments

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During the course of our lives, we make a lot of friends and establish many enduring relationships. No friendships, however, are as valuable and abiding as the ones started in childhood. There is something so pure and innocent about such friendships; they were established without preconditions and prospects of mutual benefits. Over the years, I have managed to retain most of my childhood friendships. Despite the fact that my bosom buddies are now scattered all over the world, I still keep very close contacts with them through letters and other mediums.

My closest childhood friend lived in Paris. I used to have a huge crush on her when we were little. Being such a terrific writer, she insisted that we correspond through letters; we did just that for nearly 7 years. Life in Paris was the most popular theme discussed in our letters. Her beautiful descriptions of the city with its magnificent architecture, scenic landscape, and of course the unbelievable nightlife were amazing. The vividly descriptive photos she sent to me were truly mind-blowing. I was so enchanted by what I saw from the photos that I promised her I would visit Paris when I have a chance, to go through the experience first hand.

We lost contact about three years ago. Inexplicably, she stopped sending me any more letter. In fact, my letters to her were returned to my address. At first, I thought it was a postal problem. After not hearing anything from her for over a year, I realized there might be a bigger problem. Through a friend, I was able to obtain her telephone number. Unfortunately, the number was no longer valid; I was still unable to contact her.

The following summer, I decided to travel to Paris to resolve the one mystery that had been confounding me. I was able to locate her residence using the address on the letters. Unfortunately, neither she nor her family was still living at the aforementioned address. The place was now being used as a boarding house for underprivileged students as well as undocumented immigrants from Africa and Eastern Europe.

I tried to ask the landlady if she knows the whereabouts of the residence’s former occupants. Although the lady was very nice and quite accommodating, she didn’t seem to understand my scrappy French very well; she thought I was some American tourist hoping to rent a room for the night. When I explained that I was not there for lodging, her attitude towards me completely changed. In fact, she chased me out of the building with a broom (a little exaggeration).

For the next several days, I wandered every corner of Paris searching for my lost childhood friend. Paris was every bit as wonderful as she described. Walking pass the famed Eiffel Tower at night was a remarkable experience. Regrettably, I was in no mood to enjoy it. During my return flight, my mind was full of unresolved questions. I guess she is the only one who knows the answers to them.

[Simon N.]

Mt. Lady Tiger Tamer

April 15, 2009 § 5 Comments

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I once came across a majestic mountain called Mt. Lady Tiger Tamer. On the mountain lies a beautiful temple, devoted to the worshiping of a young heroine.

Some years ago, the mountain was terrorized by a ferocious white tiger who made prey of local villagers. The tiger attacked its victims during nighttime and retreated back to its cave at daybreak. The villagers were in constant fear for their lives; many left the village seeking a safer place to live.

The daughter of the village’s chief, a young girl with a big heart, decided to take matter into her own hands; she wanted to save the village from the tiger’s terror. After consuming a sizable dose of poisonous herbs, the girl set out to confront the man-eating tiger.

Her mutilated body was later found near the tiger’s cave; the white tiger was discovered dead not too far away. Apparently, the young girl used herself as poisonous bait to snare the tiger. Upon devouring the girl, the tiger got poisoned and subsequently succumbed to its death.

To commemorate the girl’s heroic deed, the villagers built a temple to worship her and renamed the mountain after her.

[Simon N.]

Poetry for the Soul

April 9, 2009 § 34 Comments

When I was young, I aspired to become a songwriter. I was later talked out of it by my parents, however. They told me that no matter how much I put my heart and soul in writing the best lyrics I could have possibly written, it is highly unlikely that my talent will ever be appreciated. Most people only remember the person who sang the song and not the one who wrote it.

When I grew up a little, I wanted to become a poet composing verses that would make even the great Shakespeare proud. Unfortunately, learning the various elements and forms of poetry was a strenuous exercise; I was not quite up to the challenge.

When I was about to give up on writing poetry, a friend of mine told me something I would never forget. She exposed the fact that poetry is neither about forms nor elements; it is about capturing the feelings of the moment. Forms and elements are only tools used by really gifted poets to showoff and to discourage normal folks from doing so.

From that time on, writing poetry becomes a major part of my everyday life. Ten years later, I have only written a few short poems–most of which are left unfinished. I guess I’m not quite the gifted poet I thought I would be.

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On a late autumn afternoon, I was driving home when……

Darkness falls
When light still reigns.
From afar,
A sad bell rings.
Puffs of cloud
Wander the sky.
Frantic birds
Ponder on their path.

~~~

Darkness falls
When light still reigns.
Falling leaves
Fill empty streets.
Scattered showers
Sadden one’s soul.
A lonely heart
Seeks his way home.

[Simon N.]

~~~~~

Culture 101: “All You Can Eat” Diplomacy

April 3, 2009 § 10 Comments

The Chinese have always been known for their creative diplomacy. The “Ping Pong” diplomacy between China and the United States was a fine example. But there was another creative instance of Chinese diplomacy that many aren’t aware of.

In the early 1900s, there were a lot of unrests in the Chinese capital of Beijing. A number of foreigners were killed by a nationalist group called the Boxers. The killings infuriated foreign governments who demanded the Qing government to take swift actions. In hope of reducing tensions, Empress Dowager Cixi invited all the top foreign diplomats to a very elaborate banquet.

The banquet was one of historic proportions. It lasted for several days (& nights) and cost around 80-100 million dollars in today’s value. Unfortunately, very little diplomacy actually took place during the feast; people were just too occupied with their eating. In fact, the participants spent more time in restrooms than engaging in conversations.

Ironically, many Chinese died of starvation during the same period; the money spent on the banquet could have adequately fed most of the Chinese poor for a whole year. The banquet, however, failed to dissuade foreign governments from attacking China and nearly demolishing Beijing.

[Simon N.]

Hard Fate

April 1, 2009 § 5 Comments

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Zhang had confined herself in her room for nearly three days. Despite numerous threats and pleadings from her husband’s family, the authorities, and even her own mother, she insisted upon not leaving her room until her demand be granted. Holding a pair of scissors in her hand and the baby girl in her arm, Zhang was willing to do whatever it would take to prevent this lovely little girl from sharing the same fate of her two sisters.

“No one can take you away from me, not now and ever.” If death was to be the inevitable outcome, she would gladly accept.

Zhang married into her husband’s household at the tender age of 17. Her marriage quickly made her the object of envy among her friends. Her husband’s family was one of the wealthiest in the region. She will probably spend the rest of her life not worrying about making ends meet.

The early part of Zhang’s marriage was the happiest time of her life. The husband’s family treated her extremely well. Zhang did not have to work or doing any chore; she was given birdnest to consume nearly everyday. Before the marriage, her mother-in-law was told by a local matchmaker that Zhang was the perfect woman to bear children. Her husband was the family’s only son. They were hoping that she would bear a son for them to continue to the family’s line.

When she was pregnant for the first time, her husband’s parents threw a lavish party to mark the occasion. Zhang’s parents were showered with gifts. They have raised such a fine daughter, exclaimed the husband’s parents. Even when the predictor chart indicated that Zhang’s child-to-be was a girl, it did not damper the optimistic mood. “My gust instinct tells me that it will be a boy,” said her mother in law.

To her dismay, the prediction turned out to be correct. Zhang’s first child was a girl; she named her ‘Orchid’. Although the husband’s family had wanted a boy and not a girl, they remained cautiously optimistic. Zhang and her husband were relatively young; they will still have numerous opportunities to produce a son.

Almost five years after the birth of ‘Orchid’, Zhang became pregnant again. The five-year period seemed like a lifetime for the husband’s household. Zhang and her husband were not getting any younger; they were racing against time. To conform to the one-child law, her first-born was adopted by a childless relative who lived in another region.

When the husband’s parents learned that the second child would also be a girl, they were emotionally devastated. Upon hearing the news, Zhang’s mother-in-law nearly fainted from disappointment. Another opportunity has been lost, bemoaned the mother.

The husband’s family started to question whether Zhang was even capable of producing a son. There were talks within the household of the possibility that the husband would divorce her and marry a more “capable” woman. Some even suggested that Zhang should abort her unborn child to plan for her next child–hopefully a boy. The mother-in-law went as far as asking the matchmaker for a refund.

Zhang was incredibly distressed by the actions of the husband’s household. God knows how many sleepless nights she had spent thinking about the matter and how many tears she had shed bemoaning her fate. Whether she bears a boy or a girl was beyond her control. But what saddened her most were the unfounded hostilities toward her unborn child. Just because the unborn was going to be a girl did not give anyone permission to treat her this way.

Her second child was born under the most inauspicious of circumstances. Her husband was away and there was heavy downpour. Despite her desperate plea for assistance, the husband’s family simply ignored her. They acted as if they didn’t want the child to see the light of day. They wanted to see her dead; the mere sight of her would disgust them.

Fortunately for Zhang and her unborn, an old girlfriend and her husband heard about her situation and offered their help. The two kind souls brought her to the local medical center; Zhang delivered her second daughter ‘Daisy’ after a tough labor. What an adorable little girl Daisy was! She resembled what Zhang looked like when she was little–those angelic eyes and chubby cheeks. Hopefully your life will turn out a lot better than mine, lamented Zhang.

~~~
[Simon N.]

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