#Confessions of An #AsylumSeeker: “My Life is Shit” (Part Two)

SSBFTOLEXCERPTNEWCOVERLOHOne of my earliest memories was my parents’ arguing about whether or not I should be sent to school. My father, the eldest of 10 children, never had a chance for literacy. He had to help out in the family from a tender age. My mother, a girl and from an even poorer family: her education had not been deemed worth mentioning in her household. What was the good for a girl to be educated? All the learning she needed in life was to know how to marry a decent man and to produce sons for her in-laws. She had watched her lucky peers go off to the school in town, admiring the gaiety in their walk and the colourful books in their school bags. Her longing to walk in their shoes had been secret, yet undeniably strong. I could sense it even at my young age, and see it in her eyes, although she never voiced it or hinted at it to anyone. The way she argued with my father took everyone by surprise. Before that, she hardly ever raised her voice, and then out of the blue she became a fierce, protective creature who would not back down until she got what she wanted.

“My son is going to school, no matter what it takes,” she declared in a determined tone, which nobody in my family knew existed until then.

“No,” my father had persisted, his tone already less firm.

My father was a quiet man of few words. Too much responsibility too young must have killed any joy and fire in his belly. He seemed an old man before his time, and all I ever remembered of him was his slightly hunched back, squatting outside our small mud house, smoking nasty, cheap tobacco. When he saw me and my siblings running around half naked in the courtyard, he showed no interest in joining in. It was our mother who would be there to pick me up, when she happened to be watching, taking a quick break from her busy household chores.

“Yes, he must.” My mother had the last word.

The school was 15 kilometres away from my village, at the nearest town called Wu Zhen (Black Town). It was deemed not revolutionary enough during the Cultural Revolution, so was temporarily renamed as Hong Qi (Red Flag) Town. But old people like my grandma still referred it as Black Town.

One of the schools in Fujian Province

One of the schools in Fujian Province

At seven years old, it seemed an awful long walk from my house to school. I rose before dawn, arriving at school just before the morning exercise. All the teachers and pupils gathered at the small courtyard in front of the one and only school building. We followed the instructions on the radio, spoken in perfect Mandarin, quite different from the local dialect we used both in class and at home.

It took me a while to do these physical exercises properly. I usually stood at the back row and went through the motions. I did not see any point in stretching my arms or turning my small body around. I had enough physical exercise when fighting with my sisters and other boys in the fields and running family errands.

I did not mind school. It was neither fun nor interesting, but it gave me a chance to learn the basic Chinese writing and to perform simple calculations. I remembered my first Maths teacher, whom I really liked. She was the youngest teacher in our school, probably twenty years old, though quite old in my young eyes. She came to our school after graduating from a college in Fuzhou, the capital city of my province. She wore nice clothes and spoke our dialect in a Fuzhou accent, which was different from how we locals talked. Some pupils laughed at her accent, but never in front of her. Even naughty boys showed respect to their teachers. I was never naughty, never missed a day in school, no matter rain or shine.

A modern school built by a super rich overseas Chinese

A modern school built by a super rich overseas Chinese I visited during my research trip

Now when I reflect upon my life, as people do when they are on the verge of ending it, I think that my school days were perhaps the best times of my life: certainly the easiest part when I had the least worries. Five years of continuous studying, playing with other children, and repetitious rote-learning of Chinese characters and Mathematics was to last me a lifetime. From then onwards everything seemed to go “pear-shaped”, a path beyond my control, a spiral going downhill.

What have I done in my previous life?

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#MusicMonday: What a Wonderful World

Roses can be pink too

Roses can be pink too

It’s been a while since I last shared music which resonates with me, so here we go, on a cold Monday morning, what better ways to brighten up our day than a heartwarming song?

I don’t know about you, but every time I listen to What a Wonderful World by enchanting Louis Armstrong, I feel my spirit soar, a warm surge in my heart, and my soul being instantly uplifted.

It seems to me that sometimes when so many bad things are happening in this world, like the recent Paris shooting, and so much injustice, such as car drivers getting away with killing pedestrians and cyclists, we become disheartened and start questioning what kind of world we are living in. Then I switch on the radio or put on my iPod, and I hear music streaming through my ears and reaching deep into my being. It is there within me where I find peace, joy and reconciliation. That inner peace spreads inevitably, with unstoppable force, from my heart to my brain and light up my face and my whole being. Such is the power of music and positive energy.

The world is full of colours & beauty

The world is full of colours & beauty

What a Wonderful World teaches me things. It teaches me that there is beauty in every day life, blue sky, white clouds, green trees and red roses, many little things around us, if only we open our eyes and look around. Love and happiness can be found everywhere, in a friendly handshake, or a warm hug and a kind word. Simple pleasures, great rewards.

We stopped to enjoy the clouds on a mountain top in Tenerife

We stopped to enjoy the clouds on a mountain top in Tenerife

In a country where rain is abundant and often people complain that there is too much. But without rain, and sunshine that inevitably follows, how could we be blessed with beautiful rainbows? Without rain, would roses bloom as brilliantly and grass stay as green?

Awesome rainbows in Madeira

Awesome rainbows in Madeira

Perhaps good and bad go hand in hand, and perhaps seeing good in a bad situation is what is needed in this world sometimes. Perhaps we all need to stop what we are doing and take a moment to smell the roses. If only we look at the bright side of life, then we see how blessed we are. So without further ado, please enjoy this wonderful song and fill your heart with love.

Sweet smell of roses

Sweet smell of roses

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If you wish a spread a little cheer to others around you, feel free to share. Or better still, give them a smile or a hug!

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#Confessions of An #AsylumSeeker – Ah Ming: “My Life is Shit” (Pat One)

 Journey to the West: Book 3

Journey to the West: Book 3

SSBFTOLEXCERPT

 

 

I don’t like my life. In fact, I hate it. I hate it so much that I have tried to remove it from this world, not once, not twice, but several times.

Not a bloody clue what the hospital patients’ record says; I am quite sure that attempting suicide is the reason I am now in a psychiatric hospital in Derby, a small town somewhere in the middle of the UK. My geographical knowledge has always been limited. Before I left China, I had never been out of my home province.

Beautiful Fujian, Ah Ming's Hometown

Beautiful Fujian, Ah Ming’s Hometown

If I had a choice, or any say in my destiny, I would have wanted a different life, to be a different person, or to live in a different era, or to belong to a different race. If I had a choice, I definitely wouldn’t want to be born Chinese. What good has being a Chinese done for me? It is all suffering, sacrifice, and surviving. It is not much of a life, worse than being an animal sometimes. Even animals have better welfare than people like me, an ordinary peasant.

What have I done in my previous life to deserve this? I’ve asked myself this question a thousand times, but there is never a good-enough answer. No one will ever tell me. Even though I wear a cross around my neck and pray to Jesus – or whoever above supposedly watches over us mortal souls – asking Him in my despair, I get no reply, nor any kind of a sign that He has heard me. I don’t know if it’s because He cannot hear, or worse, does not care, about a poor sinner like me. Still, I wear my cross, and I persist in asking Him. One day, maybe He will hear me, and change my life forever.

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Many religious temples to pray for the safe sojourners

Many religious temples to pray for the sojourners

Is my life some kind of a sick joke? I sometimes wonder.

Life of Immmigrants

Life of Immigrants

I was born in a rural village in Fujian Province, with beautiful coastlines and bountiful produce. Yet memories of my childhood were of nothing more than starvation and deprivation. I came out of my poor mother’s womb sometime in the Chinese year of the Dog, aka 1970. Neither my mother nor father could tell me when exactly according to the sun calendar, except that it was on the fifth day of the spring, following the movement of the moon.

My father was too occupied toiling on the worn-out land that his ancestors had worked for generations, while my mother was busy giving birth to one child after another, until she had me, the son she had craved more than anything in life. I was to give her social status as a deserving wife and daughter-in-law. None of my sisters counted, of course, because they were to be married off, sooner or later, to someone else’s sons. Only my birth validated my mother’s place in the family and on this Earth, a proud producer of an heir to carry on the Wang family line, and a son to look after them when they could no longer work the fields and were too feeble to take care of themselves. My duties were decreed the day I entered this world, and they would only cease the day I chose to depart for the next.

A full collection of Journey to the West trilogy

A full collection of Journey to the West trilogy

Author’s note: Ah Ming is one of the main characters in Land of Hope, and he was based on the real life of an asylum seeker I met during my interpreting career. If you would like to learn more about him, come back for a forthcoming serialisation of his turbulent life story, but if you cannot wait, grab an ebook or paperback from Amazon now.

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Fast and Slow – a Tale of Two Tapas Restaurants (#Tenerife 2)

Eating out in Tenerife at Christmas Time

Eating out in Tenerife at Christmas Time

by John Kirk

During our two weeks on the Spanish island of Tenerife we had the pleasure to eat at two very different tapas bars. Both great in their own way, and highly rated on the all-important TripAdvisor website, they present two vastly differing experiences.

Casa Ramon (Avenida Ramblas, Santa Cruz)

Just across the busy Ramblas from the Santa Cruz bullring this is a downtown bar, used to serving people in a hurry with a no nonsense approach and little in the way of social niceties. In fact, the rough and ready approach to food and service is all part of the attraction.

We stuck our heads around the door at about 2pm for a late lunch to find the place still packed. Not a table free, so we were stood at the end of the bar until seats became free. No booking, just turn up and they will squeeze you in. Unlike the UK where it is so often their pleasure to turn you away.

Just popping in for a bite

Just popping in for a bite to eat

IMG_1943Within five minutes we had drinks and a couple of snacks, watching the pell-mell rushing back and forth of waiters from the tiny kitchen along the full length of the narrow bar. Dishes are brought out singly and so you get the first order quite quickly. While we waited we watched the carving of the holy “jamon” or ham right in front of us. The waiters were all middle-aged men who really seemed to know their job. Boy, that place must really crank the cash. It is industrial.

The dishes were a decent standard but a bit lacking in taste given the volume of work coming out of the kitchen. The place was stuffed of people, a nice mixture of locals and tourists. We were in and out in about half an hour and about 40 Euros lighter – not too bad, and we were well stuffed.

Carving of beloved Jamon

Carving of beloved Jamon

Tasca Tierras del Sur (Granadilla de Abona)

Friendly, family atmosphere

Utterly delicious tapas selection

Tucked away on a side street in the quiet little mountain town of Granadilla de Abona, this is a very different business. We emailed in our booking via their website and had a little on-line exchange with Victor and Astrid about their menu and what we might select. We were the first people in for lunch on Christmas Day and we were offered a glass of Cava before a lengthy discussion with “comments” from Victor on our potential choices, and then a selection of a nice Rioja to accompany the meal.

Everything is about the experience and the right choices. Victor really knows and loves his food and wine and this come across immediately. It really feels like you are eating in his private dining room. The room is large and comfortable with lovely décor. Victor, Astrid and their German chef serve the best best tapas we have eaten anywhere including Madrid and Barcelona; and they do it with grace and hospitality.

Simply fabulous food

Simply fabulous food

Cheers, Victor

Cheers, Victor

 

Two hours later we strolled back to our car, determined to return two days later. The bill was the same as in Santa Cruz but the experience and the food were of a much higher order. Recommended.

Happy Diner on Christmas day

Happy Diner on Christmas day

Junying’s Note: Just a few words to add to John’s fabulous review above.

Delightful home-cooking, Spanish style

Delightful home-cooking, Spanish style

I was very glad that we had stayed in two different locations (Santa Cruz and Costa Adeje) and I was able to cook some of the time. I loved browsing through the Supermercado and saw the greater variety of fresh fruits, cakes and different Jamon on offer. Being able to create something by my own, using local produce is hugely satisfying, especially enjoying the fruits of one’s labour in a tropical paradise, basked in beautiful moonlight.

We were both immensely impressed with the personal touch of Tasca des Tierras del Sur and we each wrote a review on Trips adviser following our visit. Here are the links to my review: “Wonderful food, Fine Decor & Exceptional Service”; and John’s: “Victor is Victorious”.

Enjoy food, enjoy life!

Enjoy food, enjoy life!

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