Sunday, January 24, 2010

Goodbye old friend

For as long as I remember, there’s been a cat who called my house home. When I was young, I think the number of feline friends numbered eight, coming in all shapes, sizes and colors.

But the one I remember most came to us when I was in the fifth grade. Her name was Snowball, and if you can’t guess by the name (and pictures) she was a furry white cat.

She lived with us for twelve years, with three other cats. Over the years, as Snowball aged, she lost her hearing, ate less and lost weight and began to lose mobility in her legs. But as sick as she was, she always pushed on. For an “old lady,” as my mom called her, she was actually quite chipper, running around and behaving like a much younger cat. She still kept our other cats in line, starting fights if someone ate her food or took a nap in her spot.

But last week Snowball’s health took a turn for the worse. My dad emailed me to say Snowball had suddenly become sick and was going to the vet. Later that evening, I got another email.

Snowball hadn’t come home. After tests, the vet said she had some kind of cancer and fluid surrounding her heart. She was in a lot of pain and there wasn’t much that could be done.

Snowball was -- not by choice -- my cat. She liked my room best and could often be found sleeping on my bed. Even when I went away to college, she would still sleep in my room, waiting for me.

When I was home in September, I could tell she was glad to see me. She would follow me around, or search me out when I was in different parts of the house. And she always wanted to sit on my lap when I was in the middle of reading or working on my laptop.

I enjoyed the time at home, especially seeing my cats, because I somehow knew this would probably be the last time I saw Snowball -- her last winter as part of our family. I'd be gone another year -- a long time in cat years -- and it seemed Snowball was reaching the end of her life.

Before leaving for the airport, I found all four of my cats, saying goodbye to each of them, but my goodbye for Snowball was different. This wasn't a "See you later" goodbye. This was goodbye, forever.

Snowball was sitting on one of our radiators, in the sun. There was enough space for two other cats, but when Snowball sits on the radiator, she likes to sit by herself. The other cats, out of fear, seem to acknowledge this, sometimes. I patted her on the head. Goodbye old friend, I thought to myself. Goodbye.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

New housemates

Vivian moved out last week. Her lease was up and she wanted a change of scenery.

So now I have two new housemates -- Prudence and Stephi.

Prudence comes from London, working in Beijing with the British Council. Her job involves climate change work. She's been in Beijing for three months.

Stephi is from Indonesia. She's here in Beijing, where I'm guessing she lives with her boyfriend part of the week -- she's absent from the apartment most days --and works the remainder of the time at a restaurant.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Let it Snow

I woke up yesterday to a pleasant inch of snow on the ground. It was nice seeing weather that resembled the sporadic conditions of Pennsylvania - nice and sunny one day followed by a snowstorm the next. This morning (Sunday) I woke up to an additional three inches, which soon totaled a few more inches by the end of the day.

It's a week late and a white Christmas instead of just a cold Christmas would have been nice, but hey, some snow is better than no snow.

I hate the cold, but I love snow. There's just something about waking up to a fresh coat of the powdery mix, putting on my boots, a scarf and gloves, and taking to the streets. This time, I was able to find snow people. No Snow Mao's, but amusing snow figures none-the-less.

Yes, I love the snow... as long as I don't have to shovel it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Breaking with Tradition

For the past three years I've spent New Year's Eve in New York City. I wasn't there for the pan-ultimate New Year's experience of standing in Times Square as the ball drops, but rather to spend the holiday with my best friend, Mike Roman, his girlfriend and their families in Brooklyn and Queens.

But this year, my global location prevented me from making the two hour pilgrimage to NYC. Needless to say, New Year's wasn't the same.

Mike and I were roommates in college at Penn State University our freshman and sophomore years. I'd say we became friends out of necessity - we lived in supplemental housing with five other guys and the rest of our floor was predominantly girls - but how we became such good friends is somewhat of a mystery.

Mike - a Puerto Rican-Dominican who's lived in Brooklyn almost his whole life - always wore fitted hats and used terms like "Sup son" and "What's poppin yo" while I was from a small town in the Coal Region and apparently had a funny accent. Mike didn't know Penn State had a football team, let alone a good football team, while I'd been bleeding blue and white for some years. But we did share an unbreakable addiction to Jeopardy, watching the TV show almost every night and keeping score (last I checked, the score was 54-3 in my favor).

Somewhere along the line, I was invited to Brooklyn for New Year's, probably because Mike was too scared to come to Tamaqua, land of the white man.

The holiday has become something I looked forward to every year. I've been able to meet Mike's older brothers and his girlfriend's, Gianelle, family (the WHOLE family). Mike and Gianelle's families have always welcomed me into their homes for the annual event and I've always enjoyed the evening. The Hispanic food is always great, the music is lively and it's kind of nice being the minority for a change. Everyone always has an interest in my small town in the woodlands of Pennsylvania.

This year I had to break that tradition, spending New Year's with a new group of foreign friends: the French.

Through my former roommate, Alexia, I made quite a few French friends. And let me tell you, they know how to celebrate the holidays.

But as much as I enjoyed my Beijing New Year, part of me wished I were home with my friends, or that my friends from home were here in Beijing.

The food this year was good, but it wasn't the delicious plates of chicken and other Spanish-like assortments I was used to. The music was fun but it wasn't the same as Suavemente or the playlist at Gianelle's house.

New Year's in Beijing was full of fun and new friends, one of the best holiday's I've celebrated in a while. But it won't beat Brooklyn.

FILE PHOTO: Mike Roman (left) wearing one of his 6,000 hats (no joke)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Beijing Review New Year's

Click the link to see the staff of Beijing Review. Look for me in the Editorial Department photo.