I’d been muted. Internally my voice has been trapped and cannot appear to find a way out. I’d been meaning to update my life since I’d got back from my Asia trip last June. Since I’d gotten back, nothing much has changed. A little perspective oriented. A little perception shifted. Otherwise, nothing much has happened.
I’d met some wonderful people along the way. I remembered Sue telling me within a few hours of meeting me, that “you’ll do great” or “you got this innate talent.” I wasn’t sure what she was referring to but I wanted to desperately prove her statement, her belief in me. I don’t even believe in myself, nonetheless, someone I’d just met a few hours in a karaoke bar told me that “I believe in you” That brought invisible tears to my encrypted heart. I think I had left my heart somewhere or someplace in the last few years. I can’t really feel emotions much nowadays. On certain days, I would like to release some pent up tears but nothing works for me. Often times, I would use some tiger balm and lightly pat above my eyes to simulate the tears. Have I gone cold and dead inside? Am I immune to feelings now? Or am I simply aligned with the cynics of the world. Where is my heart? Where is my soul?
I would like it back. Please, let me be me again. It’s actually quite amazing how i’m even typing all this out in the cyber world. I’d been denying it for so long so here goes a little reflection for those of you who cares about what’s on my minds for the last few months.
January and February 2010: I was still situated in Texas. I was working 12 hour shifts 6 days a week. I was making decent money if you must compare to the wages others were making. I felt purposeful. I woke up and went straight to work everyday at 8:15. I would pop in my frozen dinners and warm it up for 7 minutes. I knew I had to work on a full stomach or else I’d be too weak to earn my dough. I would arrive at 9:30am at the restaurant. I would start my daily chores that we were assigned. I began slicing lemon wages for the day. I would cut 5 large bowls of lemons wages for the day.
Afterwards, I would get a bucket and fill it with warm water mixed with detergent. I am ready to wipe all the tables and chairs for the day. Don’t forget about the walls and the buffet bars. I had no idea that I was capable of doing that. Who knew I had the strength to do this every day.
On my day off, I would boil 6 pots of hot water and pour it in my bathtub. Then, I would pour in the Epsom salt to release and relaxed my exhausted body. I would often have my laptop on top of the toilet playing some old Chinese movie. I would just soak for 2 hours or longer. One time, I almost fainted as I should not have soaked for too long in the steaming water. At the present, my skin is highly sensitive to hot water. Maybe my skin has suffered enough, I cringed whenever I touch warm to hot water.
Overall, I’d felt like I was in military training. I was deprived of any social interaction other than facing my guests every day. Each and every day, there was always a goal in mind and we always strive to break that goal. The goal of course refers to the tips we would collect each day. My lowest tips in a day that I’d received was approximately 80 dollars. The most I’d made on a busy Sunday was $155. Despite the conditions, the odd relations of the supervisors and the manager and the injustice we face each day from our guests and superiors, I survived.
I remember February 3rd 2010 with such vividness. I was serving a couple on one table. As they left to pay the meal, I thought they were dining and dashing. I got back and noticed a dollar on the table. I reached out and picked up the American dollar on the tray. I’d felt disrespected. As I started sweeping, I immediately noticed a 10 dollar bill on the floor. The lady guest must have tucked her 10 dollar bill in her bra and dropped it by accident. It was when I unfold the presumably 10 dollar bill that an extra zero appeared. It was apparent that this was a 100 dollar bill. As I rushed to the counter to see if the couple were still there, I knew they had left. I thanked God and said that if the couple came back and ask me for the bill, I would return it.
God heard me and blessed me. No one came back to claim it. I’d made $187 that day. That was the highlight of my journey there. It ends there. I packed up February 29th and Flew back to Toronto. I said my goodbyes. I bought Lindor chocolates for my amigoes and amigas. I personally handed them out and said goodbye. I told myself I was very fortunate compared to those who were struggling to make a living. This was not meant for me. I deserved better. Of course, mind you that I deserve better simply because I am privilege and educated to have the choice to choose my desired life. Thank you Mom and Dad.
March 2010: I can’t recall too much. I just completed many logistics like renewing my passport, obtaining a visa to China, rummage the cheapest flight I could find. God blessed me and found me a 900 Dollar ticket. The itinerary was Toronto to Chicago to Hong Kong. And Hong Kong to Japan to San Francisco to Toronto for the return flight.
I left Toronto on April 18th 2010. My goal was to join this contest taking place in China. I wanted to join Happy Boys 2010. After I booked my flight, I’d noticed they were holding auditions in Toronto in person and through youtube.com. I was so upset since the ticket was non-refundable.
On April 19th, I’d finally arrive in Hong Kong. I had to book another flight to HangZhou for another 250 CND. I recall waiting and seated in the gate observing the large number of people carrying many luxurious designer brands such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel. I was perplexed by the wealth these people held and paraded around for the world to see. I also got curious as to the type of passport they held in their hands. I usually recall Chinese citizens with red coloured passports. Yet in this particular situation, I saw plenty of blue passports. I thought to myself that these people must be from Taiwan and not from mainland China. Later, someone told me that it was a particular domestic passport for entry into Hong Kong, and that the red coloured passport was for international travel.
I arrived in HangZhou at 12am at night. I was alone and worried. I didn’t know where to go. I saw this lady in uniform sitting in a “help desk.” I came up with the idea to pretend to be a reporter from England. I had a badge that printed “CIBC VISION” and I pursued to ask her for assistance. I was afraid of being misled or manipulated by some random stranger. Looking in hindsight, it didn’t make sense that I pretended to be a reporter.
I politely asked her if she could help me find a taxi to my desired hotel. I told her my dilemma: It’s late and my company did not schedule someone to pick me up and I am new in the country and I am a reporter. She immediately jumped in to help with a passion now that she ‘thinks’ I’m famous. I sincerely told her that I would come back after my reportings are over and that I am going to treat her to dinner. That never happened since I’d never made it to the audition. I asked for her name and telephone to show my sincere grateful gesture.
She directed me towards a taxi and I got on. Despite pretending to be a local, the taxi driver saw right through me and told me that I’m not from here. I told him that I’m a reporter. His face lit up and I pursue to record the conversation just in case I got murdered or kidnapped. I asked him plenty of questions revolving China, economy, relations with USA and the cultural difference between the two. It was a pretty insighful conversation. I’d finally arrive after 30 minutes of heart pumping fear that he might actually drive me to a mountain cliff to rob me.
There goes my imaginative mind. I checked into Hotel 88 booked two nights. I paid and signed. I finally landed in China. My throat was infected. I could feel the throbbing bubbly cracks within my throats. I was jet-lagged. I bought some instant noodle and chowed it down. I went online to let everyone know that I was safe. I asked my friend Eugenia in Toronto to call my father reassuring him that I arrived safely in Hangzhou. I woke up and determined to find the audition location. I decided to have some breakfast. For some unknown reason, I felt foreign in this city of Hangzhou. I felt out of place. Anxiety stirred inside me. I felt judged. I felt misplaced. I went into Bruce Lee’s Kung Fu fast food take out and order some noodles and congee. I felt alone. I felt alone in this city bustling with people getting to work. I saw combination of cars, electric bikes and rickshaw all in one lane.
I decided to look for the audition location just in case there are thousands of people lined up. I started walking. I finally noticed I was going towards the opposite of the desired location. I made the effort to walk back after I nervously asked a lady.
I finally found it. It was a karaoke hall. There were only a few other boys. Some with guitars and others dressed up. I fell ill to my stomach. I gave up. I walked back towards the hotel. I had the urge to go back to my home town. I searched online and found that I was able to purchase a bullet train ticket from Shanghai to Fuzhou. I feel ill as my infection spreads. I called an uncle letting him know that I was going back to Fuzhou and that I needed a ride to his apartment. I spent another 87 Yuan on the taxi to the train stop.
At the train station, there are two options. You can purchase a hard seat for less around 30 or a soft seat for 60 yuan. I chose the soft seat instead. As you can imagine, the hard seat waiting area was filled with people from the countryside returning home for the weekend or visiting. On my side, the people were better dressed, often businessmen. I felt privileged and fortunate. The demeanors were the same regardless of the way they dressed. The people were quite rude and dirty. I noticed how the locals just somehow butt in lines without me realizing. They had this innate ability to sneak up behind you and butt in. I let about four to go ahead of me since I’m not aggressive like them.
I purchased my tickets and sat there. I knew that there was an audition on April 22nd in Fuzhou, my hometown. So I decided to go back home. I still can’t explain the odd foreign feeling I felt while in Hangzhou. Maybe the dialect, the environment or just cultural shock in general. I felt more at home in Fuzhou since I’d been back for the fourth time in the last 7 years. I called my aunts and told them my arrival times. I arrived late at the Fuzhou train station approximately 9pm. I called my uncle and he came to pick me up despite poor communication as to the exact location to pick me up.
After settling on a focal location of the Disco Burger, he found me. I told him I felt ill and he sent me to a doctor’s office. I got an injection in the bum. I actually healed up the next day. I went to bed anticipating the audition date. However, when I woke up the next day, My cousin called to inform me of the QingDao Earthquake Commemorating the victims of the quake. The entire country was officially given a day off, prohibiting business to open.
We went there anyways, to check out the venue. Thus, I had another day to rest and relax. My cousin told me she could accompany me the next day. We’d met up the next day on April 23rd. I wanted to arrive early for fear of of being the last in line. To my shock, I was the first contestant to be in line. I’d arrived at 8:30am while the second person appeared around 9:45am.
To be continued.