Thanksgiving Day is a holiday that has never really taken off here in China as much as other Western festivals have (perhaps due to its almost-uniquely-American origins, or perhaps because it's not easy to commercialize), so it's easy to overlook when you're an expat. Indeed, after the year I've had, it took some effort to think of anything to be thankful for in 2019 other than "thank God this year is almost over." Given that my Thanksgiving Dinner was a Double Whopper (and the idiot cashier didn't understand my accented Chinese well-enough to get the order right), it'd be easy to be negative on this festival that is supposed to be spent with family (which I can't do) giving thanks for God's Blessings (which have not been easy to spot this year). Yet, with less than an hour left of Thanksgiving Day here in Beijing's time zone (at time of press it's 11:15 PM in Beijing and 9:15 AM in Dallas), I want to take a minute to post some idle musings about things I should probably be thankful for.
It's with tongue firmly in cheek that I begin with this one. I've spent 2019 recovering (if that's the word you want to use) from a life-threatening infection in a leg injury, the treatment for which was utterly botched by Chinese doctors, and it has become clear that the injured leg is never going to fully recover. Even after months of extensive rehabilitation, I still need a brace on both my ankle and my leg for Karate classes (something of a liability when I'm going up for the Black Belt exam in a year), or even for a full day of walking or standing. It would be easy to develop a cynical attitude about this in my situation, but I think instead I'm going to say "I'm thankful I survived it; I'm thankful I escaped from the debt-trap of the hospital bill; I'm thankful the Almighty has put me through a life rough enough that it has given me the sheer doggedness to endure and keep training in spite of the injury.
I'm by no means rich (indeed, my total net worth has been reduced by 80% this year due to the aforementioned injury, in between hospital bills and lost wages from nearly half a year without work), but I have not had to count the number of meals I eat in order to make sure I'm not too broke to buy another before payday, which is a circumstance I grew intimately familiar with back in my mid-to-late twenties. Admittedly, I only just got out from under the hospital bill this month, and no sooner did I finally reach the point where my paycheck was my own again than every relative in the world suddenly started needing money for hospital bills of their own, and I won't lie: this has been frustrating as Hell, given that I was looking forward to FINALLY being able to put some money back into the bank instead of merely drawing it out.
It would be easy to develop a cynical attitude about this, but instead I think I'm going to say "I'm thankful that for once in my life I've got the money to help my family out instead of needing to beg them for help like I did through most of my twenties."
It makes me sigh to even type that word. I've seen my parents and one sister for a few short weeks ONCE in the past five years, have met my little niece only once (she was a toddler this summer and she'll probably be discovering make-up and boys before I see her again), and my other sister and brother not since I left the U.S. in 2014. I see my son and his half-sister (who I hope I can one day legitimately call my daughter, though adoption papers are a headache) twice a year at best, and never for more than 3 weeks at a time. Worst of all... she's seven and he just turned two, and I have never, even once, known what it feels like to see my children's faces on Christmas morning, or either of their birthdays.
But my children are Filipino, and this is all-too-often the way life is for them (if you're not familiar with the Philippines just type the words "Overseas Filipino Workers" or "OFW's" into Google and you'll see). I can't make enough to support them there, and I dare not bring them to a country as overtly racist as China is (especially toward Filipinos).
It would be easy to develop a cynical attitude about this, but instead, I'll say "thank God that they are healthy (my son, after repeated hospital visits and a lot of touch-and-go, just fought his way past the two year mark, something of a milestone in a country with an infant mortality rate as high as the Philippines)." And at the very least, even if I can't be with them, at least I can make enough to provide for them, as I said earlier. Cold as it is to say, the presence or absence of daddy isn't likely to be a life and death issue, but the presence or absence of the money for the hospital bill may very well be.
A year ago today I was only just patching my heart back together after hearing "let's just remain friends and do what's best for the kids" from the mother of my children, and I wondered if I could ever, would ever, or even should (considering that there were children in the equation) ever find anyone else.
Well, I did.
A Muscovian angel of beauty walked into my Karate class late in 2018, with her two-tone blonde/brown hair, shimmering gray-blue eyes that turn an absolutely intoxicating shade of aquamarine by candlelight, a body that has sleeker curves than a Lambo, and (of course) round-house kicks that can take a man's head off (when I say she has 'killer legs' I mean it in far more ways than one). After one flash of her smile I couldn't string together a sentence for the rest of class except for a stuttering, stammering "c... can you... can you reach me- I mean TEACH me to speak Russian" at the end of the lesson, and she walked out of the dojo with what was left of my heart in her purse, where it's been ever since. The road has been a winding one with a lot of U-turns and dead-ends and in truth I am not 100% certain even at this stage, even after spiriting her away to a tropical island, that I can truthfully say she's mine, but she's the only woman in the world who I can comfortably (and honestly) call дорогая without any sarcasm or irony.
It would be easy to develop a cynical attitude about this, given that I am not yet 100% certain if she feels the same way about me or not, but instead I will say "thank God that He finally put one woman in this city of 23 million who is worth chasing."
This is the one that I have to grit my teeth to write, but I'm going to go ahead and say it (with lengthy disclaimers to follow).
I'm thankful to be here in China.
Now then, when my regular readers (who know how much I despise everything about this God-forsaken country) finish sweeping up the broken shards of the wine glasses they just dropped and clean the drinks off of their screens, I'll clarify. I have not changed my opinion about China one bit. I maintain that the entire society is pure, unadulterated evil, straight to the hollow, icy, black core where their twisted and withered hearts would be if they had a culture that could even remotely be called "civilization." I have not wavered one bit in my conviction that my purpose in being here is to show the entire world the reality of China's twisted, putrid, festering soul, even if that unfortunately means that I have to live here in this country I once admired and have learned to hate.
And yet, at least I know I have that purpose.
After spending my 20's wandering the southern United States, bouncing from meaningless job to meaningless job, wondering if I had completely missed my calling in life but never knowing where or when, or even what calling it was, there is no small amount of assurance to be found in at least knowing "this is what I am on this Earth to do. I'm where I need to be, doing what I need to be doing."
It would be easy to develop a cynical attitude about this, having a perhaps-somewhat-self-selected "mission" in life that requires living in a country I can't stand, but instead I'll say "thank God that I have finally found where my mission in life DOES lie."
Ubique, Patriam Reminisci ("in every place, remember your homeland")
Happy Thanksgiving, and God Bless.