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The "Wu Word" Blog

October 2018

The Perfect Place

According to my father, my first trip outside of the USA was when I was Mexico and not even 1-years-old.  My muddled memories flood me that my very first trip outside of the USA was to Hong Kong to celebrate my 9th birthday with relatives that I met for the very first time in my life.  Hong Kong always holds a special spot as overseas trip for me; It was the first place I traveled alone to when I was 15-years-old, met my grandparents for the first time, attended and participated in a wedding for the first time, and paid tribute to my grandfather for my first experience in death of a loved one.  I still feel the oppressive humid heat of Hong Kong that can knock you over with dripping sweat and then the blast of arctic air from the air conditioners cranked up in public places.  I remember all my visits to Hong Kong at 10-years-old when my uncle was getting married and I was the flower girl in a puffy pink dress, 15-years-old when my sister was living there for her very first job, my grandfather’s passing away and thrown into culture shock at his Buddhist funeral ceremony services. 
 
I spent one summer with my aunt in Canada after my parents’ messy divorce.  The area she lived in was predominantly Asians and Cantonese-speaking.  I discovered and devoured new foods and tastes that I never had before: fleshy pink salmon encased in crispy skin, spicy hot Asian-styled spaghetti, and bitter fresh vegetables.  I learned how to used chopsticks at 11-years-old.  My aunt taught and told me: “You never know until and unless you try.” 
 
I traveled around the world from home by writing to people in other countries, or penpalling. In the day of the digital, I still love nothing more by to curl up on my couch and travel to another country when I receive and read a letter from a dear friend across the oceans and continents and decorate stationary sheets to my dear friend overseas.   Starting in roughly 2006, I started traveling alone to my “penpals” or people I never met face to face, but felt like I knew from our long, personal, and in-depth hand-written letters.  I went to England and Holland where I finally met and spent time with my penpals, only for them to crash and burn.  I also traveled to Germany and Portugal and Spain where friendships only strengthened as more than merely “penpals.”  In all these trips, I made it a point to go to places where I could climb to the very highest to see and soak up all the beauty of a country from the very top while also feeling every step on the ground I was walking on that held history at my feet.  From these solo adventurous travels, I learned that there is still NOTHING more important than spending and meeting with someone face to face and in person.  I also made it a point to travel around the USA in east coast to west coast, north, and south, overseas, and declared whenever our wicked wintry weather hit New York: “That’s it!  I’m moving to sunny California!”   
 
For as long as I could remember, I traveled.  I think I traveled because my father traveled and told me, “There are some people who have NEVER traveled and do not even have a passport.  It is a lot of work, money, time, and energy to travel and even more so now than before, but so well worth it to see the world and understand more about others and yourself.”  I wanted to see and taste the world and inhale any and all customs, cultures, languages, and life of the unknown and what seemed as “odd.”  In all my travels, I wondered about this world and where was the perfect place for me.  Although I was fearless to travel around the world, I had never moved to anywhere else different and new in my life.  I was born, grew up, and am still living in the same small suburban county that is a mere dot on the map of the entire state of New York.  I had thought about and even spoke about moving somewhere and anywhere because the mere thought of just packing up my crap and leaving everyone and everything behind to start anew where no one knew me and where I could “find myself” was invigorating and thrilling.  What does “find yourself” actually mean, though?  Do people find themselves by leaving and traveling or by committing themselves to where they are and with who they are with? 
 
I once asked my aunt who took care of me in Canada and who now lives in Hong Kong: “Where is the perfect place?  Do you like Canada or Hong Kong better?”  She responded, “It is never about the perfect place.  It is never about the place.  It is about the people.  You can travel and see the world and it is important to do this, but being a traveler and visitor is different from where you eventually live and commit to.   You will live with the people who mean the most to you, and the where will not matter.”  My mere conclusion then is: “You live where love is” and the ‘loves’ or ‘love’ in your life differs from person to person and in the places and periods you are in your life.  I traveled to see the world BUT I never moved because the perfect place was about the people and NOT the place. 
 
How important is it to travel and see the world versus not?   Have you moved around to different places and, if yes, what led you to pick up and start a new life in a new place?  Do you think you have to travel far and even around the world and different places to find yourself and understand yourself better? Or maybe as a way to escape? Can you find and understand yourself if you grew up in the same place all your life?    Where is your perfect place?

Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 

Dirty Work

I was half asleep on a weeknight at around 10PM getting ready to go to sleep.  My usual nightly ritual is tidying up and getting ready for the next work grind morning so I am not rushing like a chicken with my head cut off the next day.  My garbage happened to be overflowing that night.  I figured that I could bring it out the morning and so I put my hand right on top of the garbage to push as much of it down. 
 
Big Mistake. 
 
Suddenly, I felt something sharp slice and break through my skin.  I let out a feeble yelp.  The next thing I knew, bright red crimson blood was bubbling from my top right ring finger and spilling over on to the kitchen floor.  It turned out the one of kitty cat can lids had sliced right through my finger.  Immediately, I washed my hands with soap to try to disinfect and then grabbed paper towels and lifted my arm straight up like Lady Liberty to try to stop the blood flow.  But the blood would not stop.   Paper towels soaked through.  Droplets of my blood had made a trail from the kitchen to the bathroom in my panicked attempt to stop the bleeding.  Worst of all, I was all alone.
 
I kept muttering to myself as I tried to take deep breaths, “Do not freak out.  You can stop the bleeding.  It is just a small cut.”
 
I do not know if it was panic or being all alone with what was quickly looking like a crime scene or I really had cut myself too deep, but I started to break out in a cold sweat and feel extremely dizzy and nauseous like I was going to pass out.  I could see the headlines now: “Woman passed out and bled  herself to death from a kitty cat can lid.”  I chuckled to myself at the thought!   As the blood kept flowing, though, I knew I needed help.  I never ask for help unless I truly and really need it. 
 
I no longer go to my parents as my first source of an emergency or help.  In fact, as I have gotten older and fiercer about my sense of independence, my parents have become my last resort or even no resort at all.  Also, I reasoned, they lived 20 minutes away, and I needed someone right here and right now.  I did not have time for 20 minutes.  I started frantically calling all my neighbors.  Finally, on the last call, one of my neighbors immediately said, “I’m coming over right now.”
 
My neighbor tried to distract me and calm me down with stories of her children while we struggled  and then waited to try to stop the bleeding.  She was convinced that I did not need to go to the emergency room and I probably bled so easily and so quickly because I was on immunosuppressant medications.   It took at least ten minutes (but it felt so much longer) for the bleeding to stop. I had a restless sleep from my finger throbbing in pain.  The next morning, my finger was experiencing such pulsing pain that I went to the emergency room all on my own.   When I moved out almost ten years ago, my father said one of the most important places for me to live near was the hospital because of my health.  He wasn't joking.  My finger was cut deeply, but not deep enough that it needed stitches.  It was not until I left the emergency room that I started to share with my parents and a couple others what had happened.  For two days, my right hand was bandaged up and then it took almost a month for my finger to fully heal.
 
I always thrived and truly love living alone, but this incident suddenly put a thought and even worries and fear in my head that still stays and has made its own room and place in the back of my mind:  What would have happened if my neighbor had not picked up or if I had fainted?  Who would have found me?  What would I do in the event of an emergency with me living all alone and my parents eventually gone?  Who would I go to?  Who would actually do the dirty work and be there for me to DO something when I really needed help?
 
One of my earliest life lessons I learned after my second kidney transplant was that people are there for you when it is fun and easy and when there are lots of laughs, but people rarely stick around when it is really hard and really tough with lots of tears.  It is even rarer to find those who quietly and without complaining do the “dirty work” to actually DO something to really help rather than SAY something.  It is easy to say anything just like it is easy to be there when it is easy, but it hard to do something just like it hard to be there when it is really hard.  And, yes, life is hard and it gets even harder as we get older.  People provide their sympathies and maybe even listen for a short time to your woes, but that is it—no offer to really help.  In my life, with the exception of my parents, my circle has shrunk to the number of people I can really turn to for help and especially in an emergency.  I find more and more people are less and less able to help.  I think people genuinely do want to help, but people are increasingly limited and struggling/fighting with our own problems and issues.  After all, how can we help others when we cannot help others?  We are all limited in a limitless hurried and harried world.  We can only do the very best that we can. 
 
 
It is easy to be there when it is easy, but it is hard to be there when it is really hard.  Who is there for you when you are down and out?  Do you have someone or some people you can go to in the event of an emergency?  Who will actually DO the “dirty work” for you and not just say or speak?  Are you perhaps the one who does the “dirty work” more so for others than vice versa?    
 
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,

Mary ;-) 
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