Thursday 1 September 2011

Wishful Thinking!

 This story is about the consequences of making choices based on predetermined wish fulfillment. As you may have heard me mention in a previous blog, Russell was in fourth year med school and I was in second year interior architecture when first daughter arrived. This was the consequence of a sleepless night spent in a creaky old hotel run by three creepy spinster sisters in Bega (see Crazy Cyclists).
 When R was in his final (6th)year and I was in my fourth year second daughter arrived (luckily not in the orangutan reservation in Borneo, but that's another story). R's fellow med students couldn't believe it. 'Did you miss the family planning lecture Russell?' they asked. My uni studies became more and more part time with all the unexpected arrivals, but as I had with first daughter, I took second daughter to uni with me quite happily breastfed her in one arm whilst trying to work on the computer or draw with the other arm.
I had a new unit and tutor - a thirty something male - in perspective drawing. In the first class we were doing a drawing activity when second daughter started crying. I picked her up, popped out a boob and proceeded to breastfeed her whilst simultaneously endeavouring to stabilise the paper, ruler and manipulate the draughting pen. Suddenly Mr Tutor disappeared for approximately 15 minutes. When he returned he had a beet red face so naturally we wondered what was up with him.
After class the head of department invited me into her office.
'You've really shocked the new drawing tutor' she said with a smile on her face, 'He came in blustering and spluttering'.
Apparently he'd stormed into her office and demanded she do something 'about the, the, the, well! There's a woman in my class and, and, and well, she's breastfeeding!'
My H.D. had looked at him calmly and casually inquired, 'And?'
'Well!' he exclaimed, 'Aren't you going to do something about it?'
'Hmm,' she considered, 'Well, I don't think I can breastfeed the baby, what about you?'
He stormed out of her office and never raised the matter again.
 My HD told me she thought I was an excellent role model and inspiration for younger girls who thought a career and study ended with motherhood.

Two years later I was feeling quite ill and took myself off to the doctor. A pee and a dip of the stick in the jar later he exclaimed, 'By god, you're pregnant!'
What!!!I rand R at work.
'We're pregnant!'
'What??? How???' he said shocked.
'Well the usual way I guess' I replied.
In a dilemma we conferred over what to do - could we cope with another child. We joked that we would only keep it if it was twins. We also told all of our friends this. A short while later R had to go to Dunedin in New Zealand on a training course for a month. We would regularly post Anne Geddes card to each other of twins and I showed these to our friends. As I got enormous he took it upon himself to sew me two new dresses (see above photo) only thing is he didn't allow for the 'bump' so they were rather short at the front!
 As soon as he came back it was time for the 12 week ultrasound. 'Well, here's where we find out if we're having twins" we joked with each other. The doctor brought up the ultrasound image on her screen and the began shifting from foot to foot.
'Umm, is this your first pregnancy?' she asked.
'No, third.'
'Umm, I'm not sure how to say this but you're having twins' she announced.
R had already seen the screen and was looking disbelievingly at it. 'Oh my god! We really are having twins!' is all we could say for the next hour while we drove to pick up first daughter from her Montessori school. Waiting outside her classroom we told some of our friends who were there and showed them the ultrasound. They couldn't believe it.
'Nooo!' they said, 'Who does that? Wishes for twins and then gets them!'
Well, I guess we do! Then there were four!

Snakes Blood Anyone?

In 2005 we took a months journey through China. Russell had been there in '86 with his high school orchestra and things had changed significantly since those days where everyone wore the standard blue Mao workers uniform and rode push bikes. Signs were posted everywhere for the benefit and instruction of the ignorant tourists - usually in English, like the sign above, that would have said tourists in fits of laughter. One such sign in our bathroom stated that floor drainage had been installed for the benefit of air pollution.  Beijing was a riot of vehicular and pedestrian confusion. 
It had been a lifetime wish fulfilled to see the Great Wall of China and I was incredibly excited to see and touch it in real life. We were given strict instructions to be down from the wall by a specified time or we would be left there, so off we scuttled. The children asked if they could go off aways along the wall and because Russell had a devious plan in place (see Four Weddings, No Funeral post) he shooed them off quickly enough. They took off at a great rate, racing along the wall. After he had proposed in front of the Chinese audience and I finally said yes, we realised that we only a few minutes to get back down to the nearest town and the kids were no where in sight! Russell dumped his backpack with me and started sprinting along the wall. Fifteen minutes later a very puffed family arrived back - the twins and second daughter had just thought they would keep going as far as they could - and you know how far that would be - until Russell had managed to sabotage this plan by catching up to them.

 After Beijing we travelled via Xi'an where the terracotta warriors are to Chongching where we started a seven day cruise down the Yangtze to Shanghai. I had read Simon Winchesters River at the Centre of the World in which he travels from Shanghai up river toward Tibet and recounts the history of China through the events that happened in each place he comes to. The children were fascinated by the fact that unwanted girl babies were often thrown into the river (even still today) and would lean over the rails for endless hours in the hope of spotting a bloated and floating body. The best the river could manage was a rotten pig carcass.
Cruising through the Three Gorges was spectacular, the water an emerald green, and many people were still living a very basic rural life by the banks of the river, washing clothes in the river, using the old sampans and junks, but the damming of the Three Gorges would soon threaten their lives with the rising water levels that was set to swallow entire towns.

 In Guilin we  had lunch in a local restaurant, handpicked to have no other tourist in it. The waitress asked for our order and as it was local we actually didn't have a clue what was on offer, so gave her the 'I don't know' look and shrug of the shoulders. She enlisted the help of a male assistant and gestured for us to follow her. Around the side and attached to the restaurant was a small room that contained our lunch choices - all alive. We could choose from chickens, ducks, various other smaller birds, cats, and various snakes. Oooo! I'd always wanted to try snake since watching a film set in the Amazon where a plane crash survivor lives on roasted snake. I'd heard it tasted a bit like chicken so that was what I was having. I cajoled Russell and young son into trying it with me but the girls weren't having a bar of it. We then had to select which snake we wanted and as we didn't think we could eat a big fat snake we chose a smaller one.
 Back in the restaurant the very thoughtful waitress brought the skin of the snake which the cook had prepared into a 'snakeskin salad' - crunchy. She then brought out glasses of the snakes blood mixed with pure alcohol and indicated it would make us strong. Young son who will try anything drank his happily. I took mine a bit reluctantly and you can see in the following photos Russells experience.

 First daughter screamed at the appearance of the snakes blood and ran from the table with her two younger sisters in hot squealing pursuit. They weren't having a bar of it!
 As if this wasn't enough to entice us with the green gall bladder juice was then offered to us - ok that was enough! Finally the roasted snaked itself appeared but we really should of chosen a fatter snake - it was full of bones and not nearly as succulent as I had dreamed it would be.