I’ve had a wide variety of experiences over the last few days, so today’s entry will just be a random walk through where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing.

Casting my vote

I voted today. Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin, announced an election last month scheduled for June 28. Since I’m in China at the moment, I get to vote by mail. So I faxed in a photocopy of my passport picture and signature pages, plus an application form. The ballot came in the mail last week. It’s an interesting system, really.

The ballot itself is just a piece of special paper with the following sentence (in English and French): “I vote for…” and then you fill in the candidate’s name. It was up to me to find out who is running in my riding and to fill in the full name of my choice. Once the name is filled in, the ballot goes inside an “inner envelope” which has no markings on it. Then the inner envelope goes inside an “outer envelope” which has my name, my riding, a bar code, and my signature. The signature must be there and must match the one I used to apply for the ballot.

The system insures that I don’t vote twice, that someone doesn’t use my ballot instead of me, and it preserves my anonymity. It works like this. When the mail-in votes are counted, the outer envelope information is checked against the registry. Then it is put with the other ballots from my riding. The outer envelopes are opened and the inner envelopes are all mixed together. This way, the ballot is no longer traceable to me. Then, the inner envelopes are opened and the ballots removed and counted.

I say I voted today because I went to the Embassy here in Beijing and turned in my set of nested envelopes. They will ship mine and everyone else’s ballots to Ottawa tomorrow. I doubt that my candidate will win, but that is not necessarily how I choose my candidate. In fact, all votes, even those for candidates that lose, are important because the number of votes that a given political party gets in this election will determine their status and funding from the government for the next election. Most people don’t realize that, figuring that their one vote doesn’t count for much. They are wrong.

Okay, enough preaching. But it was fun to vote from abroad.

No sleep

I didn’t sleep last night. Except for maybe 20 minutes of sleep when I first crawled into bed after midnight, I stayed awake the whole night. I eventually turned on the light at 03h30 or so and started to watch South Park on my computer. One of the problems with my insomnia here in Beijing is that sunrise right now is at 04h46 and it starts to get light at 04h13. (Hey! I just realized that it’s the Solstice today. I can’t believe I wasn’t paying attention.) Once it starts to get light, I find it almost impossible to initiate sleep. If I’ve already been sleeping, it’s no problem, but if I haven’t fallen asleep before 04h00, I’m screwed. I did laundry at 07h30, and then I started to fade waiting for it to finish the spin cycle. I made it to the end, hung up my shirts, and then went to bed at 08h00. I had no trouble sleeping then. I woke up four hours later in time for lunch. I’ll probably be tired again by supper time, but I should be able to readjust and fall asleep normally tonight. At least I hope so. As for the cause of this insomnia, I don’t really know. My suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome has a lot to do with it. I need to write about this topic sometime later cause I won’t attempt to fit it in here.

The latest Swing news

The weekend was pretty good. I got to go out with my Swing Dance friends (pretty much my primary social group now) on Friday and Saturday night. Since Zuma mysteriously disintegrated, we have no place to have our Swing parties on Saturday nights. This is a huge disappointment. Zuma wasn’t perfect, but it was a venue that we were quite happy with. The only thing really missing was a live band, but that takes more than just having a venue. Now we have neither.

This is a problem for this week especially. We have a guest dancer from California joining us tonight (don’t know how long he’ll be here) and another guest dancer, Amanda, from Texas coming this week as well. Amanda is working on her Masters research in cultural studies, and Swing Dancing in China is her topic. At least this is what I understand it to be. I’ll learn more when I meet her on Thursday. She’ll spend over a week with us and then move on to join our fellow “hats and cats” in Shanghai.

Update: You can read Amanda’s report of her trip here.

A private honour

I visited Qiao Ying in her teahouse yesterday. Aside from some guests, we were the only ones there, so we got to spend some quiet time together. It was good to feel her spirit again and leave behind the world of negative thought that I inhabit so much. As we were saying goodbye, Qiao Ying told me that her teahouse was “my place”. She wasn’t just saying, “make yourself at home”, but she really meant that I belonged in her teahouse and that it belonged in me. I could welcome no greater honour than this.

A needed vacation

I guess I could announce it here. I’m going back to Edmonton for a one-month vacation next month. I’ll leave for home on July 18. In fact, Michael, my German best friend, is also going home for his family visit at this time. Some projected highlights for my trip:

  • Blueberry Bluegrass Festival
  • Chris’ 30th birthday
  • Seeing my family: mom, sister, brother-in-law, and nieces
  • Being bathed in nature’s freshness
  • Swing Dancing
  • Hanging out with some local astrologers
  • Whatever else the Universe has in store…

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