Whenever we have house guests they always seem to leave a few things behind when they move on, some by mistake and some on purpose. When they leave I like to go around and collect all these little treasures. They usually come with fond memories attached.
Right now I’m discovering many interesting leave-behinds and knick-knacks that remind me of our most recent temporary tenants. On the desk in the spare bedroom I found a tiny red tin of Tiger Balm that came all the way from China.
There was a citronella candle resting on top of the stereo along with a book of matches from the Black Bear Casino. They had used it to fight off the vicious mosquitoes. There were exotic cooking ingredients and jars of jam and jelly left on the kitchen counter for our use.
A lost sock here, a forgotten book there – we’ve been re-living the entire visit with nostalgia and a little sadness now that they have continued on their journey.
My brother and his wife popped in on us about six weeks ago. They just left last Sunday. From here their travels will take them to Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver and then back home to China where they live and work.
China is in the news almost every day now and the stories often have a Canadian connection. Most recently a large Chinese company has offered $15 billion to purchase Nexen Inc., a Canadian oil producer with a head office in Calgary.
Many investors and bankers are rubbing their hands at the prospect of doing business with this economic superpower. But my interest in China has nothing to do with money or power. For me it’s personal.
It all started a couple years ago when my brother met a visiting professor from China who was working with the forestry department at Lakehead University. Add cupid to the mix and before I knew it we had a Chinese sister-in-law. We were all very happy about this development but I did have one serious concern.
As the happy couple made plans to move to China I sadly realized that although my family had gained a new sister-in-law, I was losing an experienced bow man for my canoe. After years of canoeing, fishing and camping my crew had abandoned me. But as they say, the heart wants what it wants so, being the romantic type, I got over it.
Almost two years passed before we saw them again (the search continues for a new bow man) and now as we reminisce and gather up the scattered treasures from their visit there is a definite Chinese current flowing through our home.
Sister-in-law told us how much she was learning about Canada from talking to us and travelling around the country. But for us her visit has been a golden opportunity to learn about China from a talented, well-educated and very charming house guest.
As we listened we learned about the history, geography and culture of a country that remains a mystery to many Canadians. We shared our own stories about family traditions and quaint Canadian customs. It was a true cultural exchange.
She has spent a lot of time living and working right here in Thunder Bay so it was a very comfortable conversation. And thanks to my brother, she is very familiar with Canadian humor and sarcasm and can hold her own when the one-liners start flying. Just like Canadians, Chinese people love to laugh and sing and have a good time.
Through our conversations we learned that Chinese people are often looking for positive signs and omens. While our houseguests were staying with us we heard one comment over and over again, “Canada is a very lucky country.”
Rainbows are a very good sign in China. One day a while ago we found ourselves on the shore of Lake Shebandowan during a rain shower. A brilliant double rainbow crossed the sky and lingered for five minutes or more. Song Ling was wide-eyed and grinning from ear to ear.
She told us that she had been seeing rainbows everywhere she went in Canada. In her opinion our country has more luck than China. She sincerely likes our country and she even has a soft spot in her heart for her Canadian husband’s home town.
As my brother heads back to his home in China with his own little treasure I’m sure he agrees with us on one thing – she’s one in a billion.
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