A Phoenix Rises

Nicholas Quirke was beyond astonished on 7 June 2021 when he left the exit / entry office. He had been incredibly grateful that he had been granted an additional month and he had been all for booking his flight for the 6th of July as evidence of his commitment to the officials that he would leave China but being uncertain of the exact date he would have to leave by he refrained from any rash purchase. On arrival at the bureau they had to wait a little before he was seen and he felt anxious watching the flustered and upset actions of a laowai with an officer desperately trying to make sense of what they he was being told. He knew this feeling and as the complainant seemed to be about what the applicant had been told on his last visit and what they were telling him now, his own nervous state flared. He couldn’t help but wonder if they would say the same thing and he would be expelled. Nicholas worried pointlessly as the main question that was asked was had he purchased a flight and as the well worded answer from Peng was that they were still looking to find a cheap flight and the fact that they seemed to be impressed that he had been vaccinated he was granted 60 days. So he was in fact going going to be in China till August which he had not been expecting. From 6 days to 60 in 5 days was a swift turnaround and he felt like a phoenix risen from the ashes. It would take him a while to assimilate that he could not only go on the trip they had planned for Huangshan but he might even be able to fit in another 2 journeys. Feeling positive he cycled to Teasure at U-town mall where he planned to work till it was time to get to the school for his lesson with Jean. As soon as he had ordered a tea and settled himself in a comfortable spot he called Kim in Melbourne whom he had arranged a catch up with. As always the talk was invigorating and he left the call with his energy soaring. It was another day without lunch and he was quite hungry by the time he got home and greedily ate two ice lollies, a coconut yoghurt, some nuts and as they watched a Movie, ‘Our Friend’ two packets of crisps. In the mood for something at bit more light hearted they finished watching about halfway through and watched the first episode of ‘Mythic Quest’ which really amused him and suited his positive mood somehow though he was unable to sleep well and another restless night caused him to wake at 5am on 8 June 2021. With the next two months assured he was able to focus on the next journey which started the next day and the his morning and afternoon were spent in preparation, ironing, while watching ‘The Mosquito Coast’ packing and clearing out the fridge of degradable food for their lunch. He was surprised by how quickly the day passed and at 2.30 he had to set off for his final class of the week. He had noted a friend on FB had posted some pictures of Hollyhocks and read a plethora of comments about how English country garden these elegant tall flowers were, but they actually originated in China and the sidewalks proliferated with these dazzling flowers. He was always a little discomposed by the reading class he had on a Tuesday evening , but on this occasion it went incredibly well and he’s realised exactly how much the children actually enjoyed his lessons. Not only did Jenny comment on their enjoyment but he could see from their engagement and laughter how fond of him they were. He was not sure that this was important but it made him feel good and the class pass quickly and enjoyably. He wanted to keep pinching himself to confirm that he was still here as part of him believed he should be on plane back to the UK if he had abided by the original decree and not listened to Peng and appeal. He could still enjoy a post shower massage in the chair and watch a film on the immense TV screen which, that evening was the end of ‘Our Friend’ He liked how unsentimental this sad story was and loved the fact that that it did not follow a linear plot line. Shifting perspectives of the lives pre and post a cancer diagnosis of a couple and their close friend gave an incredible depth to what was an everyday story of sickness and death and how it touches and changes people. He really felt like he was part of this journey and as bit by bit ‘Our Friend’ and his own demons are revealed he wanted to be a part of the story. It had its depressing side but the redemptive nature of friendship give it an uplift that made it really worth watching and prepared him for sleep, though his tiredness probably came from the lack of slumber the night before.

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