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August 2006 Archives

August 31, 2006

Death of a Red Heroine

I'm reading a murder myster set in China in 1990, by a Chinese writer who now lives in the US. I'm finding it a really hard read, although I'm not sure why. The writing style just strikes me as so... Chinese. (Look at me, like I'm an expert.) Just little things about it really twig at me, like always identifying everyone by their full title or nickname that probably sounds fine in Chinese but sounds weird in English. "Overseas Chinese Liu" for example. It sounds odd.

I've updated a few more posts from China. It's slower going than I thought it would be, mostly because it's tedious.

I'm taking a trip up to Inverness for the weekend next weekend, so if anyone wants postcards, let me know.

August 27, 2006

There's Angst All Over Me (and that stuff stains)

I actually said to someone today "Remember when I used to have a life?"

I'm in the slow process of moving my posts from China over to this blog, 25 or so at a time. It's interesting to peek through them - I think I can detect the exact moment that it stopped being "ack ack I'm in a big scary foriegn country and I'm going nuts!" to "I'm thinking about this way too much..."

Random Side Note: When I was in China, I'd get emails and postcards from random strangers saying "You sound so lonely all the time". I always thought this was weird, because I was always *trying* so hard to sound upbeat and happy because this was a "great opportunity" and 'exactly what I wanted' and "an adventure, damn it!". Re-reading a few of the old posts... I see where they got it from.

I've been looking back at my time in China rather fondly lately, and I admit to missing it, but I'm looking back at it with that rosy-afterglow that sometimes comes. I was *so very lonely* while I was there. I loved it, it was all those things, too, but... yeah, lonely. I spent time while I was there sorting out who I was when I wasn't surrounded by people (ironic, all things considered, but I did have a flat on my own and felt very isolated), and thought I had figured it out. Returning to Canada afterwards was just.. well, it was hard, because I was back being surrounded by the expectations I had set for myself, the role that I had made for myself, and I was prepared for it anymore.

Part of the reason I'm chomping at the bit to get to Aus right now seems to be that I'm wanting to get away from it all again. I've got itchy feet, and I'm tired of expectations I've set for myself here. I want to be alone in that strange way you can only be when you're the only person you know. Because at that point, you need to get to know yourself pretty damned well....

Anyway, there's a new category, "China", and I'll be porting entries over about 25 at a time, dating back from late 2003. I'll have to get the earlier ones later, as I didn't use blogging software then, just html, and will take more time to sort.

August 26, 2006

Famous People I Have Met, a list, by jo

Famous People I Met While Living In Canada, a short list, by jo

1. Joe Clark - famous, if dull, politician. Nice enough man, and these things go.

2. That kid who won Canadian Idol. I didn't know who he was, and demanded ID before I'd give him the key to his room, not knowing the room was under an assumed name. His manager had a screaming fit at me in the lobbey of the hotel, saying things like "Don't you know who this is?" No, of course I didn't. But I did by the next day, as he was all over the cover of every newspaper in Edmonton. *sigh*

3. Dave Duncan. All I could manage to choke out was "I really like your book!" before running away as fast as possible. I am an author fan-girl.

Famous People I Met While Living in Scotland, a longer list, by jo

1. Nail Gaiman. He signed my book! I have a book, signed by Neil Gaiman, to me!

2. Arrogant Worms: Canadian band, ironically enough.

3. Rory Stewart: He signed my book! I have a book, signed by Rort Stewart, to me!

4. Alison Weir: She signed my book! I have a book, signed by Alison Weir, to me!

5. Antonia Fraser! Also signed by book!

6. Kevin Smith! I have his autograph in the back of Reading Lolita in Tehran. I need to stop coming unprepared to these things.

I really do turn into an incoherent fangirl around authors...

Book Festival is going great, Fringe is going great, I have photos and stories and stuff, but mostly right now... I want a nap...

August 23, 2006


So, I've been basing my Aus plans over the past year or so on the idea that I can only work in one place or one company for a maximum of three months. I got myself the idea that I would work and live in a province for three months, then back on up and move to another province, sign up with a new temp agency, and work my way around parts of Aus that way. I mean, yeah, there are more than four provinces, but really, that's just... well, logistics. The idea worked for me.

I downloaded the paperwork and was looking at it yesterday. I don't know if it's changed, or if it was always the same, but now you can work for the same place for six months.

This is, of course, a major change in my world-view. Cuz, you know, I'm like that.

So, I'm pondering: Do I go with Original Plan A, and work my way around various parts of a really big country? Or do I go with amazing and super-new Plan B, wherein I work in one place for six months (like, say, in the west half of the country), take a month to wander around on my way to the other half of the country and settle there for another six months, using that month in between to bum around Aus, checking out stuff and being a backpacking 30-year-old fiend.

(And does the plan of wandering around a country I know very little about with a big old "I'm a Tourist! Love me!" in my hands, aka the guidebook, strike you as more 'exciting and adventurous' or 'crazy with a side order of risky'?)

I really like the idea of bumming around a country for a while with no plan other than "Get to Sidney before June". But on the other hand... well, I'm naive, but not that naive.


Either way, I'm getting really excited about this now - I want to simultanously enjoy my time in Edinburgh and make January get here faster.

Also, there's a place in Aus called Kangaroo Island. Guess where I'm gonna go?

August 20, 2006

Tattoo II: Return to the Tattoo

{That is, by far, the worst title I've ever come up with for a blog entry.}

I keep running into people who have either never been to the Tattoo or went once, when they were kids, and never intend to go again. I've sort of chalked this up to the same reason I can't be arsed to go back to the Waterpark at West Edmonton Mall. Of course it's there, it will always be there, and it will never, ever leave.

But I love the Tattoo. It's more fun that anything else I can imagine involving so much bagpipe music. I may love the pipes, but by about mid-August I could happily strange every busker on Princes Street, and that's not even going into the recorded stuff played in shops. But the Tattoo does pipes, like everything else, larger than life. If you ever get the chance, go.

{On the other hand, I regularly talk to people online that take "I'm going to the Tattoo! I loved it last year, I can't wait to go this year!" and think I'm talking about something to do with body art. *sigh* It's not.}

Plumed It's hard to describe the tattoo though. It's military bands doing performances for the public, which can sound kinda dry. Unless, of course, you know those military bands include the Top Secret drum corps from Switzerland, and they wear hats with white plumes. (Link is in Swiss, I assume.) I won't speculate on what's so Top Secret about a military band with drums - do they sneak up on the enemy by playing loud and entertaining beats in the dark? Their drums are all black, as are their outfits, but the sticks are white. (But, plumed hats!) Everything with them has this interesting combination of over-the-top performance and obvious skill. The plumed hats, as you can tell, did it for me, and now I want to move to Switzerland and find myself a nice young man with obviously good hand-eye coordination. (They would toss sticks between themselves to trade beats!)

This year's 'special' presentation was the Scottish Military, and the talk they gave read like a bad wikipedia article. Won't comment on it anymore than that, since if you're going to the Tattoo to learn your military history, you've got bigger problems than I can address here. It's nifty, though - they use the Castle as a projection screen for that part, while the bands play a counter-point (on the pipes, of course) and the announcer talks. Last year was about Admiral Lord Nelson, and involved a dramatic re-enactment by Highland Dancers.

(It wasn't a very good one, though - I have a hard time believing that the battle looked so neat and checkered.)

One of the best things this year was the band from New Zealand. Further proof I need to move there. {In saying that, do I have to give up my trip to Aus? I have no idea what the relationship between the two countries are...} They did Interpretive Dance during their performance. At one point they played the theme to James Bond while two trumpet players mimed out an opening gun sequence, and when they played the theme to Swan Lake the tuba players put down their instrucments to do "dying swans". At least, I think they were dying swans.... I hope they were dying swans. {Link is to a blurry photo.}

Powerpuff Girls! They also had a group in from China that made my heart hurt... One of the kids looked like one of my students from Jiangyan that I miss. *sigh* The demonstration of Kung-fu was great (in a performance sense - I could hear Kris rolling his eyes and making sardonic comments), and hard to photograph. Strangely, children jumping in the air with swords *move*.

I didn't love all of it - I though the gospel choir from Africa didn't lend itself well to a stadium-sized space, and I missed the little guys on bikes from last year - but I loved most of it. I wish I could go again, and I intend to at some point in the future, but like everything else I do this summer, it'll be the last time for some time, and that leaves everything a bit bitter-sweet.

The Tatto ends every year with all of the bands coming together to play while the performers dance, and although the combined music works *really* well... let's just say that "Can You Feel the Love Tonight?" is not a song I needed to hear played by bagpipes! The rest worked well, as did the entire audience once again singing Auld Lang Syne.

If you're planning on going to Edinburgh, get tickets. They go quickly. I haven't sat near the front, but the 'cheap' tickets at the back are still a great view, and you won't regret it. Bring a blanket, though - it gets cool in August.

August 14, 2006

Everything Comes To This


I'm disgustingly proud of this photo and felt the need to share it. I finally got to take my brand-new tripod (Thanks, Don) someplace and use it, and I got some lovely photos of St Cuthbert's Churchyard at night. Since it's usually locked up, I was very satisfied over all.


I was in the churchyard at that time of night because of the Fringe show I caught there. It was Vespers, sung in Russian, and it was beautiful. It's amazing how religious music can be so moving, no matter if you know what they're saying. It really felt like... well, like a choir of angels. I was reminded of a quote I read once in my history of Wales... "When we meet God, I'm certain he'll be speaking Welsh." I think, in the end, how faith and spirits move us is so entirely based on feelings and impressions rather than words.

Which may be why the Islamic festival left me with a bad taste in my mouth. There was a presentation yesterday on women in Islam, and it was very poorly done. I don't want to go into it too much here, but I was hoping for some real discussion and insight into the faith, the religion, the culture, and everything caught up in those things. I wanted it to talk about things that were important to women in that culture and faith. Instead, they chose two "poster-child" type women to speak about their experiences. Neither had ever lived in a different culture. At least one didn't read Arabic. Neither could answer any of the questions we had about Islam and women. Neither was a scholar. In comparison to the way the man's talk earlier in the week had been, it was frustrating. And whereas I can see why people may not want to stand up and talk about their faith in terms of questions that seem like instrusions... well, that's what it was billed as. That's what I expected from what the Mosque itself had advertised. I wanted more.

I spent a lot of time questioning things this weekend. I went to a talk about history in India and Persia, where the idea that the problems in the Middle East right now go back as far as things in Ancient Greece. That sense of divide between us and them goes back to Sparta. Points were brought up about resentment on the side of people who are "Eastern". I tried to ask if the speakers, both authors of recently-published books about the history of the region, thought this might be because the "authoratative" books on the history and culture of the area were both written by White, Middle-Class, Western, Scottish Men. I didn't get a satisfying answer.

I wasn't really surprised at that.

I was strangely surprised by something else: Who'd have thunk it: People read at Book Festivals.

I was also surprised at one other thing: My passport returned from the Home Office. If I recall correctly from the last time this happened... things will start to move rather quickly from this point on.

I am so scared.... and so excited.

August 11, 2006


I got an email from a friend of mine a few days ago that I haven't been able to answer yet. She talks about stuff going on, as life does, and then mentions in passing that her step-father passed away.

Two months ago.

To really understand, you need to know that I spent a lot of time in high school at her place, and although I'd never go so far as to say they were my second parents, her family made her place my second home. I remember so many times in that apartment, I remember dancing at their wedding, and I have so many recollections of her parents together like that. The idea that one of them is dead has struck me like a kick in the stomach.

Especially since it was two months ago... and no one thought to tell me.

I don't blame her or her mom - my first priority if my dad died wouldn't be emailing people who haven't seen him in two years. And frankly, he was ill, and I've been waiting off and on over that two year period to hear that something had happened. But I'm sitting here, staring at this comment in her email, and I'm shocked. For two months I thought he was alive, and he wasn't. He's been gone, and I didn't know.

It's touched into my biggest fear about living so far away - that not only can something bad happen without me there, but that no one would think to contact me. I wouldn't be a priority to know. And whereas I'd probably find out eventually, I don't know how long that time would take. I have friends that I know either entirely through the internet, and I don't think anyone would ever let me know, they'd just drop off the net. Other friends... no one else I'm close to is close to them, and I'd never be told. When weeks or months can go between contacts, it's easy not to notice you haven't heard from someone in a while.

I'm so afraid.

I can't even seem to grieve properly. I haven't seen him in so long that his absence isn't really something that affects me. I can believe that nothing's happened, that life in Abbotsford is continuing exactly the way it was when last I was there, but it's not happening. I forget, for a while, and then feel awful that I have.

I don't want to keep worrying. I don't want to wonder if a blog hasn't been updated or an email not returned, if I don't get a phone call that wakes me because of the time different, that something awful has happened. But I don't know what else to do. I don't want to go back, because I have friends here I would miss and worry about as much. I don't want to stop caring, because these are wonderful people who deserve to be cared about. I don't want to stop making friends, because I'd be lonely without people around.

But I keep thinking that I wouldn't know. No one would think to tell me, because I'm so far away.

And I wonder how long I could go if something happened to me before someone would know....

Forgive me for angsting. The Military Tattoo is tonight, and there will be fireworks and explosions above the castle.

Little by little a piece of your soul shatters.
Soon all will fade.
All will fade

August 6, 2006

I am the Sun!

It's impossible to describe Edinburgh during The Festival (also known as August). Natives either completely embrace the city, or wish they could be elsewhere. The streets are packed with too much of everything, and it's either excilerating or overwhelming.

This year, I'm so excited! (Last year, not so much.)

Super You can see all sorts of things during the Festival, and it all seems so common place. There are buskers everywhere, doing everything you can imagine. There's a guy sitting on Princes Street during the day who's doing busking with chess - play a six minute game of speed chess with him. It's great to watch, and he seems to be quite seriously raking in the money.

Of course, the best thing about the Festival is that odd conversations and things you'll see. I had a very odd little man (made me think of Wormtongue) come up to me and start going on about how I was the sun. Yes, I, Anna, am the sun, and he was the Earth, and he revolved around me, and I was the sun, and great, and wonderful, and the sun, and my friend Melle was the moon, and should rotate around him, who is the earth... and I said "Can I marry you?" And he stared at me, and said "Yes...." then said "See, she is the sun, whose job it is to smile and not speak", and then wandered off.

I out-weirded the weird people on the Mile. Life is good.

I think most nights of this month will end in fireworks. I'm a good 30 minute drive from the Castle, and I could watch them from my window. I love fireworks, they're great. I is happy.

I'm really looking forward to days of being on the Mile, of the crowds of insane people. I might not feel the same way after three weeks of having buses slowed down on my way home from work, but right now, the world is full of promise, and the festival is full of exciting things to do...


To Do Before Leaving for Aus, a list, by jo

I'm making a list of everything I should have done in the next four months. I'm trying to remember the things that would have made coming to Scotland easier, and extrapolating from there. Wish my passport wasn't at the home office - I could use it and get at least some of this done now.

If anyone has thoughts - whether you've moved internationally or not - I'd love to hear them. Please, share!

To Do Before Leaving for Aus, a list, by jo

1. Sort out Visa issues
2. Price out tickets for mid-January (looks like leaving after Jan 20 is best)
3. Find out about cell phones in Aus
4. Win Lottery
5. Buy the suitcase I'm covetting
6. Buy an iPod, it's a long flight
7. Get seed money gathered together
8. Cull through the books (ask self: how did I arrive in the country with four books in total and now have a packed bookshelf)
9. Ebay various items
10. Fix the table that I broke
11. Fix the wall that I also broke
12. Return the artwork I took off the walls. Be happy none of it is broken.
13. Put the beds back together.
14. Cull through clothes - strangely, won't need winter weight down there
15. Decide where in Aus to land before buying ticket
16. Suss out living arrangements (long term hostel? Flat share?)
17. Look for work
18. Collect reference
19. Bank account info
20. Get taxes sorted - do I owe anything? Should I get anything back?
21. Power stuff? Will I need adaptors?
22. Get a clearer idea of the weather in Aus, from something other than Weather Pixie.

August 3, 2006

A Link

146 Miles Without A Map is a blog about a guy who decided to make the walk from Winchester to Cantebury (you know, the one in Cantebury Tales). It's interesting, and I wanted to recommend it.

*sigh* One day I'll either decide to go on a long Walk like that... or I'll stop wanting to.

About August 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Anna Overseas in August 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

July 2006 is the previous archive.

September 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.