Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tree of heaven

I am supposed to come to my office to work, but I am so mad at Fabrice today that I can't do anything else unless I have ranted here frist! 

Why am I mad at this guy?  Because this man thinks that he is the God thus no need to apologize for any of the mistakes he makes, even when such mistakes affect others profoundly!  


What did he do this time?  


He did not listen to me, which led to the loss of my food tree!  


Here is the thing.  I am a Chinese and we Chinese love to eat!  One of things that I love dearly is aromatic leaves of the Chinese toon tree.  It's Chinese name is 香椿 (xiāngchūn) whose tips can be harvested in Spring and early Summer.  I only ate them few times in my life because Xiangchun is not farmed in the place where I grew up You know most of us Chinese love ginger, garlic and cilantro?  And you know most of the italians love parsley and French love province herbs?  Well, toona leaves charm them all.  The 
flavor is so special that makes my mouth watery even just typing the name down. 


Alright, now, given this introduction, can you imagine how happy I was one day when one of my colleagues asked me in a small voice whether I would like to have some of her home-grown Xiangchun tips.  Was she kidding?  It's been over 20 years that I had not had any of this delicious food!  The day I first chopped them in the kitchen, Fabrice was drawn by their exotic and distinct smell - this is why our marriage still strong,  the French man loves food as much his Chinese wife!  He was curious and doubtful though when he had his first bite of the stir-fried eggs with Chinese toon, but he soon swallowed the whole plate - again, this is why our marriage lasts.  I am a typical Chinese wife, that is all I am saying.  

Ever since I discovered that Fabrice fell in love with Xiangchun, I have been trying to grow some of these trees in our yard.  


The first time I had a small tree from the friend who offered me the leaves, I asked Fabrice to put it under the ground.  But the man left it at the deck and only planted when the weekend arrived few days later.  The poor little tree did not survive.  The second time when she gave me another one, I 
immediately took off and went back home to plant the precious tree in the middle of our small garden at the corner of our house.  When Fabrice came home, he said, "it's ugly to have a tree in the middle of the garden."  So, the man moved it to the other side of our house.  One week later, it was gone.  We did not know where it went but from what's left there (an empty hole), we knew the tree did not just die.  It was removed by someone, most likely by our neighbor.  At this time, I felt bad to ask my colleague again for one so I ordered/purchased a small tree online from a Chinese Garden.  When delivered to our house, it was only a stick, looking dead.  Followed the instructions came with it, I carefully soaked the stick in the water for 2 hours and then dug a big hole to bury all the roots inside it.  Indeed, when Spring arrived, leaves had grown out of the stick and I was happy imagining the year after that, we could begin to harvest the delicious food (we were instructed not to nip the tips in the first Spring).  Disappointingly however, the tree fell into a deep coma.  This Spring, we saw nothing new growing out of the brunches.  

Sadly and shamefully I went back to my friend asking for another one and promised her not to lose it this time.  She happily gave me 3, in case you lose them again, she said.  But I had become quite confident in my ability to take care of it, so I generously gave one to my close friend Ling, another to a colleague of mine and then kept one myself.  "Now," I said to Fabrice, "choose the good and safe location for it this time so that our neighbor won't get rid of it again."  I said to Fabrice. 


He decided to plant it in our front yard so that it would grow tall to cover the "ugly electric pole".  "It's too close to the neighbor." I complained, "They will have it removed again once they see it."  "No, they won't.  It's so far inside our yard, they cannot come to our land to dig it out."  Fabrice responded.  


I don't know what's wrong with him and those electric poles.  Fabrice cannot stand electric poles.  For this very reason, we had very hard time to find a house in the district that we wanted to live.  We settled in this one because it is on the side and out of our sight.  He planted some flowers around the pole then found that was insufficient to cover anything.  So when he got a chance to have a tree destined to grow tall, he took it.  


Reluctantly I agreed, mainly I just did not want to argue with the God.  I had carefully watched it for a couple of weeks and happily found it kept growing quite fast.  This time, we should have delicious food in no time, I told myself.  We are having plenty rain water this year and that helps a lot too.  After having made sure that it survived, I began to forget about it.  Today, Fabrice suddenly decided to provide the fast growing little tree a support.  So he went to the tree with a stick and t
he only problem was the tree was nowhere to be found!  

"Did you move the tree somewhere else?"  He asked me, with the stick in his hand.  
"What do you mean I moved the tree.  What tree?"  I asked.  
"The Chinese Toona"  He answered.  
"What, you mean we lost the tree again?!" 

I went to location and found nothing.  The yard was covered by grass as if nothing had been planted there.  

Our tree was deliberately removed by most likely our neighbor, again!  

I was furious.  I was so mad at Fabrice for not listening to his wise wife!  This guy has grown into such a proud person that I can hardly stand him anymore.  Our relationship worked so much better when he was a baby long time ago!  


After having made a big fuss about Fabrices' unbearable non-apologetic behavior, I hid myself in the office and wrote this post.  The man made me lose all my alone time.  If this grant that I am working on will be not funded again, it would be all his fault.  


Sure he cared about the little tree too otherwise he would not have thought about going there to put a stick to straighten it.  However, his love for Xiangchun is clearly not enough to make him listen to the love of his life.  


Alright, now it's time to analyze the situation.  As Fabrice said, "You should not blame me for this.  You should think about why the neighbor keeps removing it."  He finally agreed to my diagnosis that the tree most likely had been removed by our neighbor.  He had not thought so when 
the tree mysteriously disappeared the first time although he could not come up with any good explanations. 

A good listener does the following: 


I went online and found out why my neighbor keep removing my beloved Xiangchun.  Do you want to know?  


He must have thought that we are having the "tree of heaven" in my yard!  


My guess is that he must have confused our trees with those stinky and invasive sumac - they look identical!  In fact, I have seen few of those trees on my running tracks and even harvested some one day to give them a try.  They has some distinctive smell too, except it's quite far different from the enchanting smell that Xiangchun gives out (hence the name "chòuchūn 臭椿" for Stinky Spring).  Their young leaves taste extremely bitter too.  


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Love at first sight


"Hi I am Yolanda.  This is my medicare and the rest of my family are over there."  A woman was wheeling an old lady (her mother and medicare) out of a van and introduced herself and her family to me with extreme politeness.  "It's so nice to meet you."  She carried on the greeting.  We were guests of honor of a farm party.

"Oh, it's nice to meet you too." I greeted back with only half of the enthusiasm than hers because I forgot to tell her my name.  It's always difficult for me whenever I greet someone extremely polite and respectful.  Maybe because my answer did not contain any information, she tried a bit harder to get us acquainted.   "I work for Jim."  She said, which caught my attention.

Jim is a the host of the farm party - I've later found out that the farm belongs to his life-long friend Marcia.  Jim loves to use the farm to attract his close friends and family.  He had invited us last time 2 years ago: Zhuzhu (4) caught her first fish and Niuniu (2) had his first horse ride that time.  They both also bought few ticks home last time because they spent quite amount time running around and flaming mesh mallows in the woods!

What I did not remember was that Yolanda and her son Cody were also at the same party 2 years ago.

"Me too, but I wonder why I have never met you before."  I answered Yolanda with a question to myself.  Both Fabrice and I are also appointed by the department where Jim is an acting chair at the moment.  I understand that Jim as a Chair does have an army to serve him.  Even though I don't usually "see" them, I do at least "meet" them via emails.  However, I have never received any emails from this Yolanda woman, which was strange.

"Oh, maybe because I work at the Admin office."  She explained.

"So are you new?"  I continued to investigate.

"Oh no, I have worked there for more than 15 years!"  She said.

At this point, I had to shut up.  Yolanda finally escaped from me to move on greeting other people at the party.

Not only did I not know her, I also did not know the fact that I spent my entire 2 hours fishing together with her son Cody and another young man whose name I did not catch.  The man gave up fishing after few tries and went to socialize with others.  In fact, he spent his farm party time almost exclusively on chatting with Macey, the daughter of Marcia who is about his age and an attorney specialized in family laws.

They spoke loud enough for us, the fishing team, to hear and their conversations covered a wide range of topics from live style to politics. 


Just at the moment I began to get the hang of fishing and caught few of small ones, we were called for dinner.  I unwillingly put down my fishing pole for hamburgers, sausages, sweet beans, and some salad.  Clearly the party was not designed to enjoy French or Chinese delicacies so my goal was to eat as fast as I could so that I could fish some more before it got completely dark.

Now I wish I had sticked to my plan.  


When I discovered that I was surrounded by a group of people that included Macey, the young and chatty man, Yolanda, Cody, Yolanda's Mom, Jim and Fabrice, I started to shift my fishing mood to chatting mood.

That was when I made a fool of myself.

"Is Cody your son?" I turned my head to Yolanda and inquired.   Cody had spent his entire time fishing.  At the beginning, he kept failing while NiuNiu, the youngest participant succeeded.  About an hour into it, Cody became very good at it.

"Yes." She answered with a clear proud look on her face.  


The conversation should have stopped then.  But stupid me turned my head to the young man, who had chatted with Macey after he quitted fishing earlier, and asked Yolanda, "Is he your older son, then?"  I continued. I was going to lead the conversations to make fun of his "early retreat".  Had he stayed, he could have succeeded like Cody.  But before I could do that, I heard this:

"No no, husband." Both Yolanda and the young man answered simultaneously.

I stopped questioning them but only allowed myself one second to react to the unexpected answer - I simply cannot handle a silence among a group of people.  I always feel obligated to elicit interactions among a group of people. "Are you Cody's father?" I questioned the young man with clear understanding the answer would not be positive because he looked way too young to be his father.

"No no, I am not." The young man said awkwardly.   Cody was then leaving the crowd and I understood it was the signal to stop making anyone else uncomfortable.  Yolanda looked at least twice of the young man's age!  But the age difference was not what shocked me.  What surprised me was the fact that this young man who spent his entire evening with Macey was already someone else's husband!  


I had assumed that he, the husband of Yolanda, was flirting with Macey the whole night long!  I thought they were "in love at the first sight"!

Macey seems to be a career-oriented woman who may not spend her time going out with friends, whereas the young man appears smart, warm and witty who gets on with Macey perfectly well.  I seriously and secretly believed that they were made for each others!

Shortly after dinner, Yolanda collected her gang and excused herself from the party.  They left in such a hurry that they missed the course of homemade ice-cream and baked mesh mellows on the fire.  We had them for dessert.

On the way back, Fabrice laughed while driving us home.  "What are you laughing about?"  I asked the crazy driver. "About you."  He laughed a bit more with audible voices!

"What about me?"  I wished that he would not mention about what I said at the party.  What happened at the party should stay at the party, right?!

"I was so sure that you would ask that question.  It's so typical of you!" He added.

"What question?" I continue to pretend.

"Are you the father of Cody." He had to point out the obvious, damn devil!

A romance between Macey and the young man could have existed.  A story was being written in my head already when the 2 young ones feeding my ears with their interesting topics.

Poor Yolanda.  I have no idea what I would say to her next time I meet her.



Sunday, August 4, 2013

Post vacation activity

I am sure many of you would agree with me, after a vacation with kids, we adults would love to have just a few days away from them, agree?

So we dump Niuniu back to his daycare and Zhuzhu to a summer camp run by our university and call it's done.  It's Zhuzhu's first summer camping experience and she has not complained so far.  Quite the opposite, she has been enjoying it immensely because she suddenly finds out all her preschool friends are coming back to her life.

To us, however, this summer camping means our work day has become short.  So we decided to make her summer and our baby sitting life less boring by introducing the kids a bit of ice skating.

One lesson later, the kids could stand, walk, and slide on ice comfortably.  Three lessons later, the kids can now "skate" on ice rink.  According to Zhuzhu, she likes ice skating better than skiing.

I signed up ice skating lessons myself and I have been learning it side-by-side with Zhuzhu and Niuniu, which amused them quite a bit, although I had had only few minor and well-controlled falls in the first 2 lessons.

Last lesson however, I was quite confident on getting my balance under control, yet just at the moment that I felt quite good about myself, I had a terrible fall on the back, resulting a big bump on my old skull.  So I am living in a fear of getting a brain tumor!  

All I am trying to say here is that it's not surprising that I am still in a vacation mood.  What's strange is that Fabrice, the workaholic, seems to be still in his vacation mood also. 

Last night at 9 pm, I came home from my dance practice and found the garage door open, bedroom lights on, yet but no kids nor Fabrice.  At the beginning, I thought the kids were playing hide-and-seek with me like they often do, so I started to search inside the house.  When I failed to locate the daddy, I knew something went wrong.  So I started to shout out loud their names, but no one answered.  From the look of it, I knew the house was not robbed and the kids were not kidnapped.  Where could they be then, it was too late for them to be at our neighbors' as their kids'  bedtime is 7 pm.  

So I dialed Fabrice's cell phone and immediately I heard, "Heeeeeeelloooooo?"  He sounded mysterious and mischievous!  "Where are you and why the garage door is wide open?  And where are the kids?"  He said, "Ah ha?!"  Then I heard the kids laughing and talking excitingly on the background.   

"Oh, here I come!" I regretted immediately for all my questions, because I could hear the kids' real voices, which did not seem to be far.  I looked out the backdoor and there they were, flashing lights at me and towards all 4 directions!  They were inside a tent at the backyard!

So IN I went and the OUT I got as soon as I gave each of them few kisses.  

I did not want to stay inside the tend because the cushion was too thin to support my old bones.  

However, when I finished eating dinner and getting ready for the bed, it was too cold and too empty!  So I invaded the tent again but this time, no one was awake to welcome me.  I had to squeeze Fabrice to Niuniu's side.  But no matter how I tried, I just could not sleep!  

The dirt floor hurt, the air was too wet, the sky was too bright, the night was too quiet...

So I got out one more time to take my iPad so that I did not have to stay inside with my eyes wide open staring at the sky.  Then I spent next few hours watching the dance video against few warn bodies.  At 4 am, I got up to use the toilet in the house.  When I was done on my way back to the tent, I met Zhuzhu inside the house at the backdoor.   Why?  I asked and she said, "Daddy asked me to come in because it rained."  I wondered what had happened, we both had checked the weather report before we committed ourselves to a tent-camping out and confirmed the night would be free of rains.  Then I went outside and felt nothing was falling to my hand.  

I knew then the man was looking for excuses to come back to his comfortable bed.  There is no way the "rain" could become any bigger than few isolated drops!    

Anyway, it would be good for me.  I am too old to sleep in a tent!  Immediately, I helped the man to take everything back to the house.  And finally, I dosed off at 5 am or so.  

A romantic and unpredictable camping night ended up with 4 hours iPad watching in a tent for me.  But it implanted some ideas to the kids head and they went back inside the tent as soon as they got up this morning.  They have made the Daddy promise them to take them out for a real camping so that they could sleep in a tent for real next time because they enjoy it so much!

Yea kiddos, if only I could ask you to stay inside, like forever...