Howdy y’all! I haven’t been posting over the past few months. It looks like since March. I appreciate the folks who’ve inquired after my welfare. I have been an erratic but frequent blogger, but there has been a confluence of events that prevented me from posting or making the time to post. Here, I’ll outline them for us all to read.
You might recall that there was a pandemic that caused all of China to go into lockdown in mid-February. It coincided with the end of the two-week Chinese New Year holiday. Funnily enough, it isn’t called New Years in Chinese. It is something about the beginning of spring. Go figure. So, we had been on holiday for those two weeks. Many teachers had left the country because holiday, you know. We had stayed because saving money.
We spent the rest of February and much of March — Honestly, I couldn’t tell you how long. It all blurs together. I recall a notice being given to the teachers abroad to return by 15 March, though — in lockdown. Then we decided we had to start teaching by distance. Maybe we started that in February. It really does all blur together.
As it turns out teaching by distance is really hard. You have to re-tool all your material to stand alone and then produce new material to guide your students through it. When we did return to the physical school sometime in April, we were missing a lot of our faculty who had gotten trapped wherever they were or boxed out of China when they closed their borders. So now we’re back in school with tons of restrictions on who can be where when, lots of missing teachers to cover for, and supervisory duties to do.
Long story short, as they say, we were working our butts off.
The US Went Down the Shitter
The Ol’ Pussy Grabber lived down to expectations. I mean the guy just doesn’t disappoint, does he? The shit-show in a dumpster fire added circus clowns, flying monkeys, and whole lot of sick and dead people. Honestly, it was just depressing.
The most depressing part is that I was right. The GOP is suffering from groupthink and their decisions have been increasingly destructive and immoral. Nothing demonstrates this more clearly than their collective response to #COVID19.
It is the most ridiculous crap in the history of the world that our response to the worst pandemic in a hundred years was, “Meh, people gonna die. Whatchya gonna do? Know what I mean?” Oh, and how can I make a quick buck on it all.
Anywho, suffice it to say as things spiraled out of control in April and May, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. Where could you start in order to explain it all? Actually, I had thought about going back to the beginning — the Enlightenment — and going over the basis of liberal democracies. I probably still will.
Sometime in all of this, towards the end of March that is, I was contacted by two women who were the daughters my late sister had had in her late teens and early 20’s and had put up for adoption. I had only known about the first one. I had often wondered what had happened to her and whether she would ever try to find Cheryl.
It has been terrific fun catching up with them. I love telling stories so trying to explain our family and our history has been a most enjoyable exercise. Learning about their lives has been intriguing and gratifying. It is odd how similar they are to the rest of us in the family.
There was an emotional intensity of exchanging email messages. Looking forward to the next answers and spending time writing the next email. I felt obligated since I am the soul survivor of my family of origin. There were things that only I knew and too many things that I didn’t. There was no one to ask any more, either. My nieces have part of the story. I have part of the story, but no one has the full story. And, no one ever will now.
There was a fair amount of grieving for both my mother and sister that I had to go through. Not only for their deaths but for the life that I didn’t have. The life in which I knew about both of these people, and the life in which my family had a stronger emotional bond. I had to go back through what had happened that had left me feeling so estranged from them.
George Floyd and Black Lives Matter
As if the pandemic debacle weren’t enough, we get the horrific death of George Floyd and the magnificence of the street protests. I figured the protests would continue for ten days, maybe two weeks because fatigue. But, they went on for three weeks and still continue in places.
It was a like stream of bat’s piss that shone like a shaft of gold when all around was dark, to steal a line from Monty Python. I felt buoyed. Hopeful, even.
We are leaving China in a few weeks. We’ve taken teaching positions in Cambodia for next year. This year’s medical insurance is crap for anything other than in hospital stays. Last December, a doctor I saw who was familiar with our insurance policy strongly advised me to take advantage of it and have my herniated bellybutton fixed. Procrastinator that I am, I didn’t do it in the winter holiday break, but figured I do it at the end of the Chinese New Years holiday. Ha ha! Fateful decision.
As April drew to a close, I realized I needed to get it done, and China was opening up. I contacted our service provider and started making arrangements. We did all kinds of imaging, ultrasounds, contrasted CT scans and stuff.
I knew I had a cyst on my left kidney. I knew it was big. I had been referred to a urologist in HK to have it treated a couple of years ago. He didn’t think it really mattered. Now, it had grown to 45 mm the threshold for removal.
The other thing they found was a 35 mm kidney stone blocking my right ureter. That is bad because it causes urine to back up into your kidney which can destroy it. And, they found another 30+ mm stone in the left kidney. So, instead of having one surgery, I was going to have three.
It took until June to get the surgery organized and done, which is good because it would be about a month before I could lift heavy objects. A month after the surgery, we would be departing for Cambodia, and I will need to hump our seven or eight bags through airports. That’s my job when we travel: baggage humper.
I had the surgery on a Monday. I got out of the hospital on a Tuesday. I was back in the classroom on Thursday. I would’ve been back on Wednesday, but my bladder was so irritated that I wasn’t continent. No good teaching high school and middle school while dribbling urine all over yourself. No one likes that look.
I was sore, but everything was fine. They did the laparoscopic-style surgery of using only three small holes — four if you count using the urethra to get the ureter stone. They left a stent to help the big kidney stone fall. To my knowledge, it hasn’t yet, but it may be trying to. Next week I get the stent out.
I have a high pain threshold. Pain just doesn’t affect me like it does most people. I feel sensations, just not pain. It was a relief to have the staples and stitches out, for example. I could feel them tug and pinch and rub against my clothing.
When I look back on it, I realize that everything I do takes a significant emotional investment. Teaching is an emotional experience. I invest in my students and courses. Creating lessons and study materials takes emotional energy. It’s enjoyable, but it still takes something out of you.
Being a patriot and watching the deterioration of our country and democracy under the Ol’ Pussy Grabber takes an emotional toll. It is distressing, agonizing, maddening endeavor.
Corresponding with my two newly discovered nieces takes an emotional investment. Telling those stories, processing the emotions requires an commitment of time and energy. And, it became a priority for me.
While the George Floyd and Black Lives Matters protests were positive and encouraging, they still took an emotional toll. Not knowing what would happen built more tension than any suspenseful horror movie. I found myself waiting to read about another Kent State or Charlottesville. It was a roller coaster.
Surgery, no matter how minor, takes a physical and emotional toll. There is always risk with a total anesthesia. Everything is harder for a while.
Ending the school year has been difficult, too. It has been one of the hardest endings to a school year ever. Trying to figure out how to get from China to Cambodia has been difficult. It is not easy traveling in the time of #COVID19.
So, that’s my story. I just have not had the emotional energy to put into the blog. I will now. School’s done. We’ll have to pack, move, quarantine, and set up house, but there should be time and energy enough to blog frequently and erratically again.