According to the Gregorian calendar, we’re nearing the end of this peculiar year. Chinese New Year, following the lunar calendar, will be on February 12. Yet, the winter solstice (dōng zhì 冬至, this year coinciding with a rare Jupiter and Saturn conjunction) felt more like the true turning point of this year. Despite the global upheaval Covid-19 has caused, this has been a good year for me personally. The only downside has been not being able to go home, but hopefully, I can return for a long visit in the summer of 2021.
Making the move
The last couple of months I have been going back and forth between my guesthouse in Dali Old Town and the renovation of the courtyard in Heyang. Over the last few days, I have been lathering the floors with oil and next week I will move in.
The builders are finishing the final touches, and after they leave it’s up to me to turn it into a home. It was a big gamble to take this on but I feel very good about it. I’ll be happy to have my own space again, after two and a half months in a small hotel room. A spacious, quiet and bright space with lots of character.
The last couple of months I spent way too much time worrying about money, but work is picking up. I somewhat overestimated how much I work I would be able to do while living in a new town, in a small room with a cat, an ongoing health issue and with a renovation project on my hands. But things are looking up, and after spending a small fortune on my renovation, money is finally starting to trickle back into my depleted bank accounts.
I will start tutoring a smart 13-year old girl, did a pilot for creative workshops for kids, I’ve edited an art essay for my friend Luofei. I’ve just received confirmation from the Consulate of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Chongqing that I will receive generous funding to continue and further develop my cultural programming in Xizhou, Dali and Kunming, after a successful pilot earlier this year. Settled in my new home, I will finally have the time and headspace to take on more writing and editing jobs.
The second big gamble of this year is also paying off, and I’m happy I made the choice to go freelance.
Following the winter solstice, the days will get longer, but we are now entering the last two solar terms of the lunar calendar year – Minor Cold and Major Cold – until Spring Festival arrives, bringing warmer weather. The lunar calendar is much more in sync with the seasons than the Gregorian one, so everyone can safely assume that after Spring Festival the weather will be nice.
A friend came to visit from Kunming, and we went to a nearby hot spring resort – a very basic room in a small town. The place is basically a highway flanked by spa hotels and has nothing to offer but a few restaurants and shops selling inflatables and frilly swimsuits. But, there was no one around, the hotel staff were very kind and we had the warm swimming pool to ourselves. I hadn’t quite realized how much I needed a break until I took one.
Floating in a warm pool, I could finally let go of this year. There will be plenty of challenges in the year ahead, but I will be in the best possible place to take them on, surrounded by great people, close to nature and settled into a wonderful home.
I wish you all a happy, healthy and beautiful year ahead.