LEAVING PERTH AND SWAN RIVER BEHIND
Scattered Images in my mind 3
Five years ago
I took my youngest son
to meet his Grandparents in Europe
for the first time
Five years ago
he opened 'his diary'
looked on our aeroplane
and scribbled in it: THAI
while I bought a new book
on the Perth Airport
like always on long flights
'to kill the time'
'MAO'S LAST DANCER'
was the title
a true story of an Australian
who was born in Communist China
found freedom in America ...
" Mum, I am bored, when we go to fly?"
I stopped reading and looked at my son.
I just ate my breakfast
on the Thai aeroplane.
I fly to Bangkok from Perth.
We stop in Phuket.'
My son has written in his diary
when I am reading it now
I imagine all this greenery
landing there we saw
until Phuket disapeared
following Christmas Day
under a big tidal wave.
' 4.24 pm back on the plane
I watched Garfield and Harry Potter
the Prisoner of Azbakan
My mum was looking for my passport
she cried, she lost it,
It is nowhere to be found.'
My son has written in his diary
when I am reading it now
I remember a long night
in Bangkok airport
listening to foreign sound
of suspicious tranzit officers
telling me that my son can not fly.
i hugged my son tightly
as he started to cry
suddenly a young Chinese man
sat next to us and said simply:
" Just call me Mr Nine"
He took us to the Hotel Samui
at midnight of Bangkok time
unpacking our laggage
my book: 'Mao's Last Dancer'
caught his eyes
and while my son slept soundily
he ordered a green curry
and a bottle of Singha beer
finnaly calmed me down.
He was also born in Communist China
a son number nine
his parents left for Thailand
when he was only five
We discussed the creative freedom
and a quest for self expression
that was what 'Mao's Last Dancer'
was looking for and paid a painful price.
He managed to be free
of communist ideology
Mr Nine was an artist too
and he was not scared of China
he was Thai
but with his minimal wage of 5 dollars
he knew, I knew
taxi driving and any other odd jobs
he has to do instead of painting
if he wants to survive.
Three whole days
while my son's new passport
with our taxi driver
Aka Krung Thep
City of Angels
Venice of the East
wide chaos everywhere
Phraya River which snakes through it
divides the historic old city
with temples and palaces
the districts of Dusit, Banglamphu
Ko Rattanokosin and Chinatwon
are full of Buddhist wats,
street markets and public parks.
On other side is a futuristic new city
with skycrapers, elevated highways
karaoke banquet halls and gigantic shopping malls
ancient tuk-tuks with urban trains and sleek skytrains
run through it all.
While my son ran through the Grand corridors made of gold
and touched the biggest golden Buddha
on his toe
Mr Nine looked sadly from the Royal palace window
on the city below us
where the old meets the new
where the Eastern slow contemplative tradition
is swallowed by fast crazy western consumerism
" We need a massage," Mr Nine winked at us
and we followed him without a clue.
In the park under the sweet smelling tree
a young Thai girl gently spread
Indian and Chinese oils on our bare arms and legs
" Your energy will flow now around your body freely,"
Mr Nine sighed with a relief: " Your body and your mind will be one."
" And what about Thai pirates?" My son jumped impatiently
brushing his oily cheek: " You promised me some..."
Mr Nine sighed again: " Oh, I see, you westerners and your speed,
it is a time for you to learn 'jai yen'."
" What does it mean?" My son jumped on his seat, while our
taxi honked and stopped on a crowded street
I watched passing tourists shouting hurriedly on tuk-tuks drivers
while drying their sweaty foreheads in a sticky heat
Mr Nine waved to a group of locals on other side
who sat calmly on their motorcycles
in a traffic jam waving back to him with a broad smile
" What is 'jai yen, Mr Nine? " My asked again: " Are we there yet,
and can you please put on more, the aircondition, I am hot now."
We stopped neat the River and watched the thin boat sail,
while Mr Nine told us a story from old days
about the pirates who ravaged the Thai coast
coming from Europe, India and the Persian Gulf
with the start of the monsoon wind and rain
they returned home rich
with their boats full of gold ready to sink
full of stolen Asian beauties wrapped in shimmering silk.
With his last words Mr Nine
smiled with a twinkle in his eyes
he gave my son a pirate flag
in black and white
and told him to be a Thai pirate
he needs 'jai yen' - a cool heart.
To me he gave a gentle water colour picture
painted with thin Chinese strokes
on the side with a line of empty rickshaws
painted with dark colour of brown
" It is called 'A journey from poverty'",
he said with a sad frown.
On our last day on the airport
when we said 'Good By'
I handed him the 'Mao's Last Dancer' book
with a thank you note inside.
" I can speak English, but I have to read more,"
He said with a sheepish smile.
" I plan to go to Beijign to study Chinese Art,
I will write."
We visited the Europe
and my son saw his Grandparents
before they died
and we returned to Western Australia
to sail on the Swan River,
to live on, to remember, to laugh and cry.
Mr Nine sent only one letter
from his Beijing studies
he wanted to learn more about art
and felt foreign and lost,
it is overcrowded
he met his Chinese family
living near the Yellow River,
looking on the vast plain around
the flat city goes forever,
new buildings appear overnight,
the roads are jammed with the latest cars,
the streets are full of fashionable people
with mobile phones clamped to their ears,
business and money
is what everyone wheels and deals
people live and die in vast shopping malls,
fighting for an exclusive foreign brands,
answering their mobile phone calls.
The ancient capital of Mongols,
Ming and Qing Emperors
The Communist ideology destroyed it's culture.
The Western consumerism destroyed it's identity.
Beijing is one gigantic shopping mall,
it's environment is dying,
paying the living cost.
It is not a place for an ancient Chinese Artist.
Mr Nine left,
I hope Bangkok is still his home..
Five years past,
Li Cunxin autobiography
was made to a movie.
' Mao's Last Dancer'
we watched on a big screen.
Me and my son,
licking on icecreams,
we cried on his suffering
in a gruelling classical dancing class
in communist Beijing.
We cheered on his fight
to dance free and be famous in America,
then to fell in love
with an Australian
and to retire happy here,,
finally he knows what it means to be free.
We went to sail on the Swan River,
me and my son,
his pirate flag flying high,
black and white,
from Mr Nine.
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