Autumn, better late than never. The time of the year in Guangzhou when that you again start to recoil from the flying water shrapnel from the first unheated blast of water from the shower. People are complaining about the temperature outside, but it is now coded perfectly for my genes. Cooling. At least for now. There will be warm burps of air punctuating the comfort in the coming days, perhaps breaking the 30 degree mark, the Autumn Tiger as they call it. But for now it's blanketed dreams, the chance of more vigorous outdoor pursuits and the ease that comes in sweatlessness.
It's the month before my last day of work and two months before I leave my home of the last almost six years. Nothing to get flustered about. We're in the process of lunching and dining with friends, for the last time for who knows how long. Thinking about parties. Thinking about who will inherit our Christmas tree. Drinking the last of the accumulated tea leaves of so much generosity. And trying to finish my diploma portfolio: well, that's another story. I had that all on one computer, that my brother-in-law offered to upgrade and whose hard-disk he then incidentally formatted. Apparently it's saveable but when you're in a hurry and the most time-bound and motivated it's more than an annoyance.
Well at least while I can't work on that I can focus on the important things, like finishing my fifth nove, the Heavenly Sword and the Dragon Sabre, by the most famous writer of the genre, Louis Cha (pen-name Jin Yong). I'll probably blog about him alone once I've finished that.
This phase is also full of travel. In this year alone, I've been to two of the famous mountains of China, Emeishan and Hengshan, and there is a chance of some more mountain fun before we leave. I guess this the "returning to your nature" phase where after having so many choices for so long that you don't take what is most special to you but with time dwindling we make the clearest priorities. The next two months there will be one major trip with two parts and at least one side trips, but that could change quickly. The major trip will have two legs: taking the parents-in-law around some cities, followed by the free travel portion. We've taken "Laau-dau" and "Sam" (what I call my father and mother-in-law respectively in Qingyuan dialect) for a trip in each of the previous two years, to Hangzhou, and to Beijing. The destination is always hard to decide. Naturally we'd like to find the places they'd most like to go - it could be one of their last times out of Guangdong (they're not getting any younger) - but they are typical parents, they most want to spend time with us and even if they really want to go somewhere, it takes a thorough Socratic examination to evaluate their relative desire to visit various places. Currently it looks like we'll go to Shanghai, Suzhou and Nanjing, all nicely lined up on a high speed train line. I've been to all those places before but when you're looked to for guidance that's sometimes the best way. Then once free we'll probably head to Xi'an, where I haven't been for over 15 years, and Shanxi province, where I've never been at all, becoming the 15th province I've visited in China.
Work should have been a general progression to less but it hasn't worked out that way. One of my successors, an external hire, isn't quite cutting the mustard, and even though my other centre the management succession is clearer, our centre is in the middle of our second cancer scare in three months. That has meant a lot less time for training and means I'm covering and being more involved than I'd rather.
Looking over the Jiangnan Xi cityscape, from my sofa, looking over the balcony: the grey sky, the honks below. October falling.