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Musings and rants

It’s been 12 days since my half birthday. I didn’t celebrate; I don’t do that sort of thing. Instead I spent the day stuffing myself with lozenges, echinacea and tea. I started work at a daycare about three weeks ago and I blame my two-week cold on that. In retrospect, maybe that was a good way to “not celebrate” my half 29th birthday. It was 12 days ago, did I mention that? This means that I’m already into the second half of my year, and practically at the tail end of my depressing trip to my….(sigh)…30’s. There’s 365 days this year, cut in half that’s 183 days. Minus 12 days and that’s 171 days…until I have nothing left to live for. Am I being slightly overdramatic? Any 29 year olds reading this, you’re flat-out lying if you say that you don’t share my sentiments. To any 30 pluses, you’ve shared my feelings at one time. And for the younger kids…you will one day. Just wait.

So I have 171 days left and I feel like this deserves some sort of list. A report card, a countdown, any sort of written document to tell the world that I still have goals, still have hope. At least for the next 171 days.

 138

 Twenty Things to Do Before I Turn 30

 1. Hop a plane. Anywhere, even if it’s as close as Halifax

2. Publish a story

3. Find the perfect mouthwash

4. Read a book every two weeks (that’s 13 books….that’s all of Vonnegut’s novels plus one)

5. Go to a concert so good that it makes me cry

6. Decorate my house with pictures that I took while travelling

7 .Make jam

8. Make sure (at least) half the people at my 30th birthday party are people I haven’t met yet

9. Take a road trip

10. Learn to play three songs on guitar

11. Read a book of poems

12. Go dancing with lots of girlfriends

13. Write a blog post that gets over 300 hits

14. Hike a mountain (I’ve hiked many before, and I’d like to keep the momentum going). Run five miles (in one shot, without passing out)

15. Find and purchase a nice pair of hoop earrings

16. Go to a writing seminar

17. Blog about a film festival

18. Eat the perfect veggie burger

19. Dance in the rain

None of these will help me prepare for my 30’s, but at least I’ll know that my 20’s weren’t a waste 🙂

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Take me home, country roads, take me home.

 

I met a friendly University student named Dawn when I was in China in 2009. Well, Dawn was her English name. She was one of my first Chinese friends outside of my co-workers. She studied at Donghai University and I met her and her BFF Monica at my German friend Harry’s apartment one Friday night. She was the most outspoken young Chinese person I’ve ever met. She was full of questions about Canada, she taught herself English despite her parents protests, and she criticized almost everything about the Chinese system. Just talking to her about politics made me nervous that I’d get deported.

When Dawn told me her favourite English songs were John Denver’s, I was impressed. From what I’d learnt from my first month in China was that for the average citizen their knowledge of non-Chinese music didn’t go any farther back than Celine Dion. Actually, Michael Jackson. But then at the end of the year I went to Beijing and discovered that John Denver is adored. I heard him in bathrooms, shopping malls, bathrooms in shopping malls…places like that. John Denver and China are synonymous for me now. When I hear “Take me Home, Country Roads” (which is usually when I’m in China, but not always), instead of cringing I am uplifted. Similar to when I eat greasy food, wait an hour in the rain for a bus, or perhaps see some poop on the street, I think of China and I’m happy again. I don’t know if that means the Mainland is my home, but it’s certainly something to question. Isn’t home a feeling you get when everything around you is a disaster but you still don’t get depressed? When everything looks terrible but you can’t keep your eyes off it? That’s kind of like love. I don’t know. I’ll have to pray to John Denver.

In March of 2012 I returned to China. I had been on the road for just over a week and I was staying in a great hostel in Nanjing when I heard a piano bar rendition of “Take me Home, Country Roads”. I sitting in the back of the hostel bar and it was part of their “Jazz Fridays”. If you aren’t a fan of that song to start with, then you must go to Nanjing to hear her version because you will most certainly…hang yourself. But the city boasts a great museum, and some juicy dumplings, so the trip won’t be a total loss.

I smiled the whole time while listening to that song. I knew I’d come back to a special place. It was the first time I’d heard a John Denver song since coming back to China, and being there over a week without that song made me sad. “Where were you John Denver! I’ve missed you!” It was pouring rain outside. I was stuck in a hostel with a great bar and beautiful terrace, but I was the sole patron. It was March and the backpackers hadn’t arrived yet. And Nanjing wasn’t exactly the most travelled place. I was totally alone, my bank account was already dwindling and I had no job prospects and no inspiration to write. But I couldn’t have been happier.

Take me home, country roads, take me home.

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It’s now week number three with no job. I get up at 10, I get to eat a real breakfast, I get to watch late night TV. And I get to do whatever fulfills me creatively in between. Jealous?

A lot of that involves a lot of writing at Starbucks. Not on this blog, of course. By the way, would any of you be interested in reading a travel literature book about wandering around and teaching English in China? A kind of little girl meets big Communist world with Eat, Pray, Love-ish, self-discovery characteristics? If so, please leave me a comment after this post. I’d like to know if I’m wasting my time or not.

Unfortunately this creative pursuit doesn’t seem to pay, for now at least. So I have an announcement everyone…I’m broke! And living in this fickle little world where everyone who seems to win, wins big, and the rest of us just have to muddle through, I assume a few more of you are too.

Here’s what I’ve learnt so far from trying to live a frugal but fulfilling lifestyle. It’s only been a few weeks I know, but I have previous experience. Let me know if I’m missing anything.

 JEN’S TOP TEN: HOW TO LIVE WHEN YOU’RE PRACTICALLY PENNILESS

 1. There’s a reason cars suck: You can’t drive them if you’re poor. Gas is like gold.Don’t get behind the wheel if you are unemployed, only the passenger seat.

2. Always order the lunch special. Or the dinner special, breakfast special. Anything on special. You don’t have the luxury to order off the menu anymore. Why should you anyway? Are you the QUEEN OF ENGLAND? (I know, I shouldn’t be going out to lunch, dinner or breakfast. But I need to get out of the house or else my little brain will go crazy. I eat about one meal a day out of the house, and it’s a special, so it’s not so bad)

3. Bring an old tumbler and refillable water bottle with you everywhere. Coffee will be cheaper, and water should be free. Just look around for the fountain.

4. When walking the streets, always keep your head down. Not because you should be ashamed that you’re a jobless hobo, but there might be money down there.

5. Always have a date on Saturday night. You’ll feel like a normal working person who needs to unwind on the weekends, plus your date will probably pay.

6. Set up a Facebook group for dumpster diving in your area. You never know what’s out there, for free. You just have to dive for it.

7. Rummage through your storage boxes. You’ll never know what you’re gonna find. Old tote bags that match an old pair of shorts you haven’t worn in a few summers, sandals you forgot you owned, CDs, DVDs….the possibilities are endless.

8. Nothing says “romantic dinner” like homemade beans on toast!

9. Go for a hike instead of a cocktail. No mountains to hike? Then go for a walk. Bored on your walk? Bring your dog with you. Don’t have a dog? Sign up to be a volunteer dog walker at the animal shelter.

10. Just be true to you. And one day a paycheck will come your way that you’ll be proud of.

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