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A Letter From China
A Christmas Letter 2010
Boxing Day 2010

As you in the West perhaps have the first chance to relax for several weeks, or those working (As I have done many times in the past, nights mainly) try and catch up with the festivities, and with family and friends; you will probably feel a sense of relief that it is all over and done with for another year? Many will have about 2-weeks holiday, whilst some may have to go into work for a few days because of holiday restrictions. Chinese New Year is exactly like this in China, and I wonder if either culture truly knows the depth these similar holidays have impact on the others culture.

This year saw my 8th consecutive Christmas spent in China, and I know many of you are curious about what this means to an expatriate. Chinese society does not celebrate Christmas at all. Foreigners are usually given one or two extra days leave for the period, but often this is compromised by duty and outside obligations such as private teaching. On the other hand, many teachers use this to their own means by bringing Christmas themes into the classroom, or by planning with Chinese friends and families, their own Christmas parties. Most foreigners end up later at night in their own clique in a western bar surrounded by other English native speakers – with often the main purpose being to get as drunk as possible. This doesn’t really have very much to do with cultural exchange, or explaining what Christmas means to westerners does it?

Whilst I do like a pint now and again, my own Christmas’s in China have mainly been spent with Chinese people, so what’s it all about?

Over the years the Chinese have adapted and incorporated Christmas themes into advertising and store displays. Shopping to Jingle Bells sung in Mandarin is quite common, as are Christmas trees, decorations, lights and Father Christmas. The religious elements are not particularly important to most Chinese, as they are likely to be mainly Taoist in the north, south and east, whilst the Muslim populations of Uyghur’s to the west follow a similar but different path. Unless inspired at personal level, China does not really get involved with the deeper meanings of Christmas, excepting a minority of Christians mainly in eastern cities. So pretty similar to modern UK really where it is common for the birth of Jesus to be portrayed as an interesting sideshow to the main commercial event. Attending midnight mass is one surviving tradition in the west, as are the local carolers, nativity plays and scenes – so perhaps I was a little harsh with my previous observation?

As an Expat living in one of the hottest parts of China, it is also difficult to relate Christmas to regular themes such as snow and reindeer, when the daily temperature can be in the high 20’s - its sort of a bit out of place somehow. Neither have I ever seen a turkey for sale anywhere in China, although western restaurants can order these especially many weeks in advance. Out in the stores you can buy plastic Christmas trees and baubles, Christmas lights; but there it sort of peters out. No boxes of crackers, wrapping paper and fancy ties. No holly and mistletoe, no Christmas cake or pudding, and no cheese worthy of being given the name. Neither have I ever been in a Chinese home that has a hearth and roaring fire, although these may exist in colder climbs. Contrarily, I have seen chestnut stuffing and cranberry sauce on sale in a very large supermarket favoured by foreigners, once! But there again, the local streets have vendors with tricycles selling roasted chestnuts, and many shops stock Christmas cards in English – although working out how to post them is a totally different matter! When taken all together, you will soon surmise that the Christmas spirit and essentially what make Christmas as we know it – is entirely missing.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past

2004, my first Christmas in China was spent in a small Cantonese town called Shunde Longgong (Shunde, Long Jiang in Mandarin). I was working as manager for an English language school and we were 2/3’s the way through our course structure for that semester. During the week we were running three classrooms each evening ranging subjects from ABC for adults, through intermediate English for professionals, to some quite advanced Business English for export personnel. Quite a mix, as at week-ends we also ran two kindergarten classes in the mornings for 3-5 and 4-8 age groups based on Cambridge English. The afternoons were for older Primary and secondary students, with extra classes for those seeking 1-to-1 teaching. We also had a group of 4 teaching 11 to 18 year olds at a state school every Saturday and Sunday = several hours drive away, and one of my personal responsibilities. There were about a dozen teachers on our books at any given time, with Office Manager Jane Wong and myself being the ones looking after it all. Great times for yours truly! We were ably assisted by Sue Zhang and Yuki, both of whom went on to become Chinese state registered teachers.

Christmas 2004 was unusual, being my first outside of western culture, although I had spent one in Austria many years before. The mainly American teachers on our books had decided they were going to spend Christmas in Hong Kong, as this or Macao are the only two places where it can happen in a truly western way. They loved the lights and shows, everybody understanding English and Christmas to a degree, but came back not wanting to do it again.

For me, there were proposals from Directors we host a Christmas spectacular, but this never quite crossed the cultural divide. One of my first misgiving occurred in mid December when the Christmas themed text books in Mandarin and English had the words of a common carol wrong. I think it was “When shepherds watched their flocks by night”, but I may be wrong. I told the Director this was wrong, and she played the accompanying CD, where I managed to work out perhaps why somebody had misheard the words and written different ones in the book, and then somebody else had made the new words rhyme for publication. Later it transpired the work has be translated from English into Mandarin, given to Cantonese speakers to work with, and then translated back into English. Nightmare! I was told that I was wrong and that the book was correct – I really do not think so! That was not a good idea Amelia, who then decided to change several other things about Christmas to suit herself. I totally lost interest and the foreign teachers we needed to make it real also stated they were ‘definitely not working’ on Christmas Day, as stated in their contracts, so there was no party. It was all pretty stupid actually, and should have happened except for a clash of personalities and facts.

That whole day was quite strange, as whilst everybody was wishing me ‘Melly Kiss-much’, and the shops and malls all had Santa Claus, that was it. I did feel out of touch with what I knew, and there was nothing here to do anyways. I went down to the local street bar and we had some fun later that night, but as for Christmas = forget it.

1st January 2005
I will always remember my first New Years Day in China also. The Managing Director, Rebecca, had decided we should all attend the large town square, which our offices overlooked. There was some sort of performance taking place in conjunction with local TV, who also shared our building with the town’s museum and art centre. A stage had been erected similar to the one we used to launch our summer camp a few months earlier. The local government was quite heavily involved to make this a feature for the local population to enjoy; and it was supported by captains of local industry plus many schools and colleges.

Local TV also provided the sound system which was excellent, and there were more than 30 acts ranging from singers, through dance displays, so some speciality numbers. Many of the performers were local schoolchildren of all ages, and it soon became apparent that planning for this must have taken months and involved the show featuring as some form of class work. The show lasted for around 2 hours, from 9.30 am and was a great success.

You may conclude that this is why I remember it so vividly, but you would be quite wrong. Although we had lovely sunshine for the performances, overnight the wind had changed and was now blowing a fearsome icy blast down from the Himalaya’s. Whilst the temperature never drops below 10 degrees here, this felt like minus 20 – so very bitterly cold! Fortunately I had bought a thick anorak in Beijing some months earlier, but even so I was frozen that day.

By 2005 I had moved to the main city called Foshan. I had made new friends in a foreign place, of whom Eason remains my ‘brother’ to this day. Notable also were his great friend Bill, Yuyi Fish, plus Catherine and her partner Wing, and a lovely girl called Kenny who I sort of liked a lot. We all met at one of the local restaurants for a dinner of Chinese fayre, before heading off for karaoke. Later Eason and I hit the street bars and made it to 5 am before deciding it was time for sleep … well, I went to sleep at home, and he went into work very early! This is totally in keeping with Chinese work ethics, which at that time stated that as long as you attended work on time each morning, the rest of the day was largely superfluous as regards meaningful productivity. Apparently the boss was very impressed that he was in so early, so he was allowed to sleep at his desk for most of the day – meaning we were both fresh to do it all again the next evening!

For 2006 things were moving on in a stationary sort of way. I had been cured of the western addiction for Christmas so with Eason we decided to do western Christmas Day. I had Christmas lunch with Kenny and her record studio owning boyfriend JJ at Martino’s. After an afternoon nap, Eason and I headed for the bright lights where we later caught up with John’s Bar and then went exploring ‘downtown’. I seem to remember we also did a club, karaoke, and massage all in the same night, and it was about dawn when I got home. C’est la vie!

2007 had rung the changes in both our lives, as Siu Ying was now a permanent fixture in my life, and Siu Geu in Eason’s. He was getting serious about work at last, and I was moving-on also – literally as we were also changing home at the time. What with that, loading a container ourselves (our first in total charge), and opening both an office and warehouse in the days preceding Christmas, it was a very busy period.

Eason and I were still the best of mates of course, so we had a proper Christmas dinner at Martino’s. The only problem this year was that I was actually playing Santa Claus in the restaurant at the time. Dave had just been over for an intensive visit and whilst we partied later, the event was somewhat strange for me. The night was primarily for children, but Bill the owner laid on a proper turkey two nights in a row, and a great time was had by all … including your (secretively) beer drinking and cigarette smoking Santa! Apparently in the East it doesn’t matter! God was that red suit hot!

2008 brings a repeat of the year before, in that I am again Father Christmas in Martino’s. This time there was a kids’ party is on Christmas Eve, and it was that evening I met Fiona, our China Expat’s resident English teacher, and her principle colleagues and associates. Christmas night sees the whole restaurant upturned for a large booking by English teachers of various western nationalities. I was now married to Siu Ying and had spent an overnight in Hong Kong a few days before because of the stupid China visa criteria. I remember more Christmas spirit (Not alcoholic) in those few hours spent in Hong Kong, than in what I felt when I returned to China for the main event.

Notably, the kid’s party was very much a success with ages ranging from 3 to mid teens. They were all part of Fiona’s group and learning English in extracurricular ways during their free time, in addition to regular school classes. The children loved the turkey and they all wanted their picture taken with Father Christmas and the giant bird. We played party games in English, and then sang Christmas carols in English. Again some of the words were slightly wrong, but this time I let it pass for the kid’s enjoyment.

Fiona and I had not met before this evening, but I left her my card and we later spent much of January together. The upshot was our own English Salon, which is a relaxed teaching environment with the emphasis on fun and learning about cultural differences. My emphasis was to teach them how to pronounce English correctly, whilst Fiona wanted to add moral conduct with things like respecting elders, etc. I must admit it was very successful and brought me into contact with many other teachers in the state and private sector, including Yuki. Our regular preparation meeting on a Thursday at Martino’s soon developed into an irregular Cantonese Salon for Expat’s, or Mandarin if that was their preference. Needless to state, 2009 was a busy year for us as we all developed in new and intriguing ways.

The teachers party on Christmas Day was entertaining, but they were very much of a clique and I was basically there as a novelty. They started early and were all done by 8pm, when they left en mass and headed for the clubs. This suited me very well as Eason and Siu Geu had actually got married that day. It was a ‘Simple Signing’, or the Chinese equivalent of our Register Office wedding. However, it is a very low key event in Chinese culture, and nobody recognises them as being married until they have a monstrously large celebration lasting 3-days, and costing the earth!

They had taken an extended lunch break to get married, and whilst this is the legal bit; there was no celebration whatsoever and they both returned to work after the deed was done. I was having none of this, and even told Bill at Martino’s I would not be playing Santa that night. However, Eason was working late and the party was due to finish early, or I would simply leave – and so it came to pass that just after 8pm the four of us (Eason and ‘wife’, Siu Ying and myself) were all seated in a nearby hotpot restaurant sharing true friendship and a great time.

2009 was an interesting Christmas in that we were by now living on the island, Siu Ying was very heavily pregnant but wasn’t telling anyone (Even me!), and Dave had just been over for a sortie with his Chinese suppliers. That week is described in detail in my missive “7 Days Before Christmas”, whilst the birth of my and our only child, Rhiannon, is described in full in “The Christmas Present!

Her full English name is ‘Rhiannon Dorothea Morris’, whilst her Chinese name is ‘ mo on kay’ in Cantonese, meaning angel. We call her ‘Nonni’ most of the time, but frequently decide that the English contraction to of Cantonese as ‘Monkey’ is far more suitable. Those of you used to Cantonese culture and linguistical odysseys will note her English name has at least one ‘r’ in every name. Well Mr. Johnny Cash, at least I didn’t call her ‘Sue’!

Crossing the cultural divide as it were, Siu Ying has since spent much time learning how to speak and write her daughters name correctly. She is totally gobsmacked that there are so many letters involved in just the one name, never mind the other two words (Dorothea Morris). To Siu Ying’s own view of this world, there should only be three characters total, as there are only three names. Rhiannon’s teachers are going to love me hahaha!

So, this Christmas finds me the proud father of my first offspring, and we are in hospital in … Shunde Longgong, a minute’s walk away from where I first had a home in China. Paul Wei Yuan is the new friend who supports us wholly to his inconvenience during this time, and although Uncle Sam and his ‘sister’ Anne offer stalwart support, it was Wei Yuan who was there in our times of greatest need. They are never forgotten by either of us. Thank you!

That Christmas Day I had the task of telling Siu Ying’s own Mother that she was now a Grandmother, as her daughter wasn’t saying anything to anyone! Mama was in heaven of course, and then they chatted for hours on the phone, for the first time in almost one year. I head out for the streets with orders to buy things, not really knowing what or why, end up at MacDonald’s at 5am as there is nowhere else open hereabouts, as I wait for shops to open; and arrive back as Uncle Sam and Anne rock-up to help us (Neither of whom have kids of their own, yet). It was one of the most bizarre days of my life, and the timing perfect for those that seek the deeper meanings of Christmas.

For me, it simply taught me to recognise that there was perhaps a small chance for a deeper understanding of my own life. Then as the ramifications of shaping my own daughters life appeared to me over reflections those days, I got busy doing what all Father’s do on the birth of their first offspring, which is … erm? …I’ll let you know once I work it all out : -)

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Christmas 2010 comes around within the blink of an eye, and therefore it comes as no surprise to us all that we are another year on, and still as baffled as ever.

For Rhiannon’s First Birthday we bought many new things she probably has no idea about, or won’t have in later life. She has several new outfits and her first pair of shoes, one of which is always found lying on the floor moments later. Whilst buying the warm winter clothing, Nonni decided that she was in love with a chariot in the shop, which forced us into buying her, her first car - seeing as we could not stop her from using it. ‘Baby Power’ has now entered my life!

This Nonni wagon is excellent and she really enjoys it. Her favourite tune is one that her parents considered sacred to themselves as a couple = happenstance!

Rather than describe it in boring detail, just look nearby for a photograph. She has no clue yet about what the working steering wheel does, but loves the buttons that play tunes when pressed. There are actually about 8 tunes plus 5 animal noises, and they can all play together sometimes!

It begins with the William Tell Overture, Jingle Bells, ‘Our Song’, and Michael Finnegan + then other button pushes add: cocks a’crowing, bulls a’bellowing, and ducks a’quacking. Then there is the ‘Tweetie Pie’ sound that doesn’t really go with the rest at all. And all these sounds play at the same time!

What are the proper words to Michael Finnegan? I haven’t even heard that tune for aeons.
‘I knew a man called Michael Finnegan
He grew whiskers on his chinegin
Sometimes nine and sometimes ten o’thim
Poor old Michael Finnegan…
… Begin agin:‘

Meanwhile whilst I ruminate in past forgotten moments, Rhiannon is pushing the buttons so as to make the ‘Nonni-Wagon’s cock crow all the time, accompanied by whatever music. She knows already what a cockerel is, and the sound it makes – which is from her times spent in ‘The Village’. Abstractly, when the song for my wife and I comes around, she stops pressing buttons and sort of dances to it disco style. We worry she will topple over, but it has not yet come to pass. Instead she bounces around from one set of toes to the other; and as whilst the pukecipid and very yellow-yawn munk beast rocks beneath her dancing toes, she remains sound as a pound. Blimey!

I had been expecting Eason for Christmas Day, but it was not to be as neither of us firmed the arrangement. Therefore when my wife appeared later that day and stated we were going to her parents home tomorrow (Christmas Day) to wish some relations well on their forthcoming trip to the States, I said ‘Ok’.

We hit the street about 10.20 am and headed off for the main bus station just across the road. Today would be ‘bussy day’. As we stopped for traffic to clear, so the Fastest Stagecoach in the East pulled up and the driver waved to me and indicted if I needed a ride. Not this time Thankyou, but so nice to be remembered from times previous. The conductor also recognised me and made playful banter , along with his big smile. We crossed the busy road and next thing was another coach pulled to a virtual standstill beside us – it was Dai Lo, Siu Ying’s eldest brother stopping to wave at us. So that means he had already driven that coach to Shenzhen, and back again this morning. I bet your Christmas Day didn’t compare with this!

Reaching the bus station we find the back-passage has a broken turnstile (I have no idea why they fitted them in the first place, but never mind), so we take a short cut to the bus we want. I ask the girl how long until we leave and she says 10 minutes = time enough for a fag. Returning 5-minutes later my mobile is ringing and I note it is my wife, so I wave to her instead of answering. The driver gives me a smile and I say “doh d’zhi” = great Thankyou. We board and Rhiannon is in a fit, she loves this and soon clambers onto my lap by the window seat and rocks and rolls as the charabanc heads off. She is really into this in such a big way it is unbelievable!

The last time I took this coach was a tad bizarre, as Siu Ying appeared to be having a stupid moment. She rang as I exited the bank en route to the bus station, just to check I was leaving – as she had wanted to overnight with her parents, and I did not. I asked her if the bus to ‘Gong Hoi’ was the correct one (I can recognise the characters), to which she replied “Do not go to Gong Hoi!” So next I try “I go the bussy Gong Hoi, me no go Gong Hoi”. She replied with “You no go Gonghoi”. Well that’s as clear as mud then! However, that call ended with Siu Ying admonishing me for wanting to go to that town. I guess for once we lost a little bit in translation. As I am pretty sure this is the correct coach I hop on board and await ‘take-off’.

This bus waits until it reaches the outskirts of the city before taking fares, it is pretty standard practice actually. It is totally packed already, with child stools being retrieved from the overhead compartments for those that are standing. These are placed in the central isle so the patrons can sit down. There are five of them this trip, plus a couple of people with large amounts of baggage that also overflows into the aisle. Chinese rural coaches really hate it when people try to use the side pods, and stop them. This would all probably be illegal in UK, but in China it is considered normal practice. Actually, finding a bus in UK is pretty unique, let alone people using one?

The conductress gallantly battles down the coach to the rear in order to take fares. I am near the back and I don’t have the words for where to get off; so I had to try and tell the her I wanted to travel for Y8 worth. This doesn’t compute in Chinese, as all destinations are spoken as the destination, not the fare. It is her job to say how much it will cost. I did know already I may have a small problem because I didn’t have the correct change, requiring 2 RMB back from a 10RMB note. This would never normally be a problem, except the fuckwitted conductress was only speaking Mandarin, and expecting a destination. So I said ‘8 RMB’ in Cantonese, Toisanwah, and Mandarin, and still she didn’t get it at all. Total nightmare! Stupid cow – yet I didn’t ring my wife. One of the nearby lads understood me perfectly and tried to explain, but she was so focused upon where I wanted to be dropped of, that he didn’t stand a chance either.

Well we got it sorted eventually, whilst I noted that next time I really did need to learn the Toisanwah for my specific destination. One thing I also noted is that she chopped the ticket at 7 RMB. They have a ticket that basically has a load of consecutive numbers on it relating to the price charged for each ticket. The conductress rips off the ticket at the set fare, which obviously goes to accounts for tallying at the end of the day. By ripping the ticket 1RMB short, she is making 1RMB for every passenger, of which these charabancs are always full with 40 or so passengers. So that makes 40 RMB – doubled for return trip, and probably three trips per day = Y240, per day. She probably does this 30 days each month = Y7, 720, where a university graduate will make around Y1, 600 per month. Not bad money - and she gets paid on top of that!

Therefore it comes as a wonder when I shout across to the conductress on the coach this Christmas Day to find out what time it leaves, and her immediate reply = 10 minutes (In Cantonese) - and that this is that very same conductress that couldn’t understand me last time, presumably because she was flustered. You have to cry to keep from laughing sometimes!

This is why we Expat’s embody the saying ‘Here is China’, as there is never anything about it that makes continual sense!

Christmas at Ganma’s was a weird sort of affair. Their relations were leaving for America, so this day was a party to celebrate their departure. Luncheon was cooked many hours before, and was stone cold as usual. The weather was chilly to begin with, and bordering on freezing by the time we left. The meal was offered in traditional Taoist ways to the ancestors to enjoy first – although they consider themselves to be Buddhist. As usual the Ancestors didn’t eat very much at all, although I think a bit of rice-wine went missing somewhere along the line … Mama? Partaking of cold Cantonese food in an ice-barn with freezing wind does not rate highly in the ranks of my most memorable of Christmas Days’.

Dai Lo had not rocked up for this meal, but his wife and son had arrived some moments after lunch was concluded. Then they had gone off for a nap, as there really isn’t anything to do hereabouts. I stayed below and suffered the freezing temperatures so I could watch TV – well, I was wide-awake and itching to do anything vaguely constructive on my Christmas Day. Yee Lo and I had sort of gotten into some talent show thingymagig, which was only spoilt by the obviously Cantonese presenters speaking only in Mandarin. Fortunately most of the contestants spoke only Cantonese, which became a little hilarious at times.

I had sort of expected we would be leaving around 7pm, but this was not to be. Dai Lo arrived around 5pm and immediately disappeared off somewhere, which he usually does. Then a load of people I didn’t know came by to borrow the key for the garden toilet some 50 yards away, around the corner. Seeing me they instantly dropped into ‘Meet and greet’ mode, which none of us understood, but it sufficed for pleasantries duly observed.

Time passes, slowly…

It transpired that we had another meal prepared for 7.30, this time next door at Baba’s Sister’s home, and featuring a hot and savoury melon dish that works really well as a potatoe substitute, especially when dipped in a sweet and hot chilli sauce. There was also some steaming hot gray soup of questionable origins, which tasted very fine in a gray soup sort of way. The rest was very cold, and basically preserved left-over’s from the previous meal.

I still have no idea who was leaving for the states, nor whose party this was in honour of. Towards the end everybody slopped off – the girls going outside to wash the dishes under a running tap (Simply a running tap of cold water). The boys were inside and having some sort of Chinese Tea clique, to which I was invited to join by some guy from ‘koran’ whose English was long since passed. He introduced me to his 5 brothers, so I disrespect his remaining linguistical skills in order to make you laugh.

Just as we were getting into it, I happened to go outside to put my butt away (Cigarette end), as Dai Lo appears again and tells me he is going to the bus stop, then departs without speaking to anyone else. I have a feeling this may be relevant in some way?

I had sort of presumed we would be going back in his car, but obviously not. I ran the probable and improbable permutations through my mind, coming to the conclusion that we were catching the charabanc back home, and he was proffering a lift to the main road. Correct – as my wife soon hollered for me to get ready to leave, NOW! Chinese people never, ever do this in advance, and I wonder…

I bid ‘faretheewell’ to the Brothers and go next door to find my wife packing for leaving. I am given orders, but take a few seconds off to go piss in the cauldron upstairs – remember, they do not have a toilet inside here, and the private facility is padlocked and 50 yards away. Last time I used the public facility some 200 yards distant I met Mr Ratus Norvegicus for the first time, who was using the hole in the floor as the personal doorway to his domain. Hmmm!

Meanwhile back at the ranch (as it were), we collected all our shit together and headed off to the end of the alleyway. Dai Lo was parked in front and had defrosted the car by now (= + 10 degrees, but very cold for us here). He took us to the main road and waited with the doors locked for a bus; or so I presumed. Nope! My first clue came when he started honking his horn arbitrarily at passing vehicles. You may consider this to be an odd thing to do, but not in China. On his third attempt a microbus pulled up and we were a go!

Squeezing inside we had the rear-most compartment to ourselves. This consisted of an unfixed seat that rock and rolled according to the external dynamics of acceleration and deceleration. I guess it was not fixed so that they could accommodate either passengers or luggage at various times. Opposite was a bench seat from a kindergarten that used the back of the seats in front as a backrest. Thoughts of enforced ‘Luge’ lessons spring to mind, but are soon forgotten as our driver slows every time something comes in the opposite direction, frequently.

We make it back to Toisan city without having to pick up any more people, though ‘God’ did he try. I go to pay our fare, only to find it was already taken care of. Thank you Dai Lo. I did ask my wife what time he was going home today, as a matter of curiosity – as it struck me odd that we didn’t all leave together. Well; it appears he has to leave for Guangzhou airport at 3 am to collect a client! China is like this also…

The Ghosts of Christmas to Come

It is becoming quite obvious now that in order to get a visa for Siu Ying to enter UK, we will have to be married and checkable living together for three years. She really worries she may not ever meet her new parents = my parents - and this is central to the Chinese psyche. Therefore our plan is to head for UK sometime next year, and probably the latter part, as she also want’s to play in the snow – something she has never before experienced in her lifetime, nor likely to unless I change it for her.

I also want her to have the western Christmas experience, as buying and wrapping presents, choosing a tree and the decorating of it, going carol singing, and perhaps attending a midnight mass; are all things she has no comprehension of. Neither has she ever seen central hearting, nor a hearth alight with coal and wood. She doesn’t even know we have piped hot water at the turn of a tap!

I would like to take Nonni with us; but logistics, status, and finances may rule this out. However, I would like my own Father to hold his only Grandchild at least once in his lifetime – which may become the over-riding factor.

This year I decided not to play Father Christmas, so there was no Christmas morning stocking for her-ish, although there was one for my wife with a few baby related things inside. Next year, wherever we are, it will be different as Rhiannon ages into acknowledgment of a very special day, and grows into her strange heritage…

What else comes is as may be, and for us to wonder and discover in due course as the years unfold. I am learning that Christmas is actually about our beliefs, our children, and how we relate these two things to the worlds around us;

Merry Christmas!

… and may your god walk with you

This work including text and associated photographs is Copyright of Jonno Morris (Unless stated otherwise), and may be reproduced for personal and private use under Collective Commons 3 Licence. An email would be appreciated in such circumstances, as would a reference.

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Some artistic licence has been used arbitrarily in some of these Letters, and whilst most facts are in essence correct, some personal and literary interpretation may have been employed to greater or lesser degrees.
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Image: Nonni exploring aged 11 months - Click to Enlarge

Image: Siu Ying and Rhiannon outside 520 Club - Click to Enlarge

Image: Jim and Duma come to visit - Click to Enlarge

Image: Busy main street at 6.45am - Click to Enlarge
Canton Caddywack
Image: Village Microbus

Image: Village School

Image: Siu Ying pictured during February at the local town

Image: Modern Tipper Truck on the Island

Image: Ho Shun Lao Restaurant, Foshan

Image: Siu Ying and Nonni recently in Toisan

Image: Preparing Toisan Chicken for Qingming

Image: Gaogong apartments

Image: A new vehicle is added to the family fleet

Image: Mama weighing a live hen brfore cooking

Image: Village Allotment 2

Image: Village fields Summer 2008

Image: Village fields Summer 2008

Image: An old house or perhaps pig sty, chicken coop or toilet - its hard to tell?

Image: Steve and Baba's Ox

Image: Dai Lo or Number 1 Brother + Family - Click to Enlarge

Image: Siu Ying and Yee Lo or Number 2 Brother - Click to Enlarge

Image: Nonnie Wagon - Click to Enlarge
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Image: Wax Gourd - Click for Details

Image: Courgettes - Click for Details and Recipes

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Image: Gai Choi is a large leafed plant that tastes similar to cabbage - Click for Details

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Chinese Recipes
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