Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Across the Miles

Today is a special day.

For me, it started at 4:45. An hour later, following a 45-minute taxi ride to Gulumanhan, I was climbing a hillside and watching the sun creep into a hazy morning sky over the endless plains and distant hills. As it rose, a whistle sounded in the distance. The morning passenger train steamed into the station, stopped, and departed with the full orange sun just above the horizon, white steam billowing back over the white coaches.

But that's not why this is a special day.

Today is a special day because it's the day, 26 years ago, that a very special person came into the world. Maureen and I have been sharing our lives with each other for almost four years now and got engaged in July. We haven't set a date yet. I think we'll at least wait until we're in the same country to worry about such details.

My coming to China wasn't a part of our original plan. Our original plan was to go to Japan together to teach English and share the experiences, side-by-side, of adapting to new lives in a new country. Until early April, it looked like that was exactly what would happen, but then, at the last minute, she was accepted into the teaching program and I was not, and we were both left looking for answers.

What we decided was that she would go to Japan and I would join her, but we're both much too independent for one to blindly follow the other across an ocean. That's part of what makes our relationship work so well. We both understand the other's need to make our experiences our own. Coming to China to look for steam trains before going to Japan was the way I found to make a year (or two) in Asia my own.

It's been nearly two and a half months since we've seen each other, and some three weeks since we've spoken on the phone. That's a long time. I tried calling twice last week on Bernd's international cell phone but only got her voice mail (a recording in Japanese) and didn't leave a message, not knowing if I had the right number. Bernd has since left, and I have yet to find a way of making the connection. This morning Ron helped me ask at the hotel, but they told us it is not possible, and suggested the post office. "When does it close?" we asked. 6:00. We arrived to 5:15 to find it had closed at 5:00. I then tried Ron's new cell phone, but his international service has not been activated. I then came to the internet cafe to send an email, but the electricity was out.

At dinner, Ron, Camron and I sat with three Australian railfans, also here to see the end of mainline steam operations. We drank a toast to Maureen's 26th and all hoped she was having a good day. I tried the internet cafe once more after dinner, and much to my relief, found the electric service restored. So here I am.

Even though our lives are right now physically connected only by the wires and cables of the world wide web, the connection we share runs much deeper, even as our lives run on separate paths, hundreds of miles apart. She's with me on every hill I climb, when I rest my head on my padded camera bag, gaze up into the big Mongolia sky and listen on the wind for the hint of a whistle or the chanting chug of an approaching train. She's with me in the towns at night when the flag dancers march and twirl and the drummers pound out the rhthym. She's with me as I struggle to order a meal in a foreign language and sit awkwardly at the table, hoping that what is brought before me will be something edible. And she's with me every evening, as I lay my exhausted head on a grainy (rice filled?) pillow and pull the comforter (no top sheets in this country) up to my chin and roll over for another too short night.

This summer I thought many times about whether I should ask her to marry me, a subject we discussed together many times, as well. The day I decided was the day I thought about this trip and considered making it if I knew she wouldn't be waiting for me at the end. I couldn't think of doing it, couldn't think of being here, without knowing that she was waiting for me on the other side.

With the next post we'll be back to steam trains, terrible driving, goat herders, flag dancers and tasty food that could be anything from chicken to kitten for all I know. But today is for my reason, my inspiration, my love, with all my heart.


NickiE said...

chicken to kitten?? haha.. what a funny way to put it! u left out snakes and embryos! =P

its good to know tht there's still good men out there, however meagre left. so though it may be a lil late, i'd still like to congrats u on ur engagement with ur fiance. =)

so are you learning mandarin? or have you already known the language? just curious, cuz i've always been intrigued by the fact tht ppl would actually go to a totally foreign country to start a new life n to educate the ppl there.

oh btw,just in case u're wondering, i came across ur blog randomly from blogger dashboard's lists of blogs.

Anonymous said...

Daggone it, you are writing as well as you shoot. How about giving the rest of us time to catch up?! Knowing you, I realize this is a well meant post. Good for you both, bud, good for you.
Love, B&C

skiphunt said...

So will getting married be the end of your globe-trotting?

I'm married and travel every chance I get. I tried to get the wifey bit by the wanderlust bug, but it didn't take.

However, I'm VERY fortunate in that she understood my traveling "affliction" before she married me... and now just enjoys a couple months of independence when I go.

I'm just asking because everytime I'm traveling people always ask, "And, your wife approves of you being gone so long?"

The Humanity Critic said...

cool post man..

Allison said...


your post inspired me! I am also a fellow ohioian. My fiancee lives on the other side of the world also..though not china. He lives in Australia. I know the pain of not hearing him or seeing him. We invested in webcams and it was money well spent. He just came a few days ago to visit me and let me tell you it was the best week ever! I hope it all works out for you. I will be going to australia next month. Have you visited there yet? If so..any advice to a fellow american for the trip to Oz? Let me know what you think!

Lots of luck and wishing you the best,

shakester said...

lovely lovely words scott. And I might add, lovelier thoughts. Such a intimate, personal and different spin onthe travel writing you have been doing...wishes to th elove of your ife, and you. enjoy this journey.

pkjazz said...

Hey Scott,

Your words inspire me as well. I too stumbled on your blog randomly and have been following your journey (however vicariously) ever since.

I've always dreamed of traveling as you are now; living my dreams and experiencing life to the fullest. How lucky you are!

Best wishes to you and your fiance. May your days be filled with happiness.

DB in Cleveland said...

Scott, enjoying your adventures, nice to see some pictures showing up. I know how I feel after a day of shooting; good thing you're a youngin'. Those are long days but you can rest later. Keep up the good work and take care of yourself.

jealous back in cleveburg

Bluegrass Harmony's Jane said...

You and Maureen are blessed. And you know it. There really is a love of my life and a rose of my heart for some of us. I am glad that you have found yours. Sometimes I feel guilty to be so fortunate while others are not.

The photos and the writing are impressive. Enjoy every minute and be safe. You are in the hearts of many all over the world. What a thought that is!

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