Monthly Archives: August 2008

My Seventh Monsoon

At Christmas I received the book, My Seventh Monsoon, as a gift. I was delighted and intrigued as I know the author, Naomi Reed, but had no idea she was even writing a book. I do not know her well but other members of my family do and that is why my parents sent me the book.

My Seventh Monsoon is autobiographical but it is much more than just the story of Naomi’s life so far. The book is full of insight into the way God works in people’s lives to bring about his purposes. It is also about living in two very different cultures: Australia and Nepal. Naomi has deftly woven the strands of her book together to create a memoir which inspires, teaches and captivates.

Naomi’s years in Nepal with her husband inspired the title. Nepal’s seasons, particularly the intense monsoon season, set her thinking about the seasons of her own life, which gave her the framework for her book. Starting back in her childhood she identifies sixteen seasons, and shares with us not only the events and memories of each season, but also the lasting impact that season had on her life. She stresses that she was not aware while experiencing each season that it was just that: a season, a section of her life, a time which would eventually end, leaving her in a new place.

Her early life in a family which hiked, camped, skied was not a life of luxury but a life of adventure and simplicity. Of course she could not know then how it was preparing her for seasons in Nepal, hiking for hours and living with little. Leaving Australia to work as physiotherapists in Nepal was a dramatic move for her and Darren, her husband. Living in a country where the language, food, geography and weather were nothing like she had ever experienced created great feelings of inadequacy for Naomi and brought her to a point of greater trust in the Lord who is adequate in all situations.

As Naomi spent years in Nepal and years back in Australia her son and her husband faced life threatening emergencies. There were seasons of waiting, seasons of relief and refreshment. God was providing and enabling throughout them all. It is hard to describe how easy it was to connect with this book. My life is not that similar to Naomi’s and yet I found her writing totally relevant to me. We do not all have the same lessons to learn but we all face challenges at different times in our lives.   When growing through seasons of hardship and seasons of blessing  it is worth remembering that there is a time for every purpose under heaven.

Additional Note:  I found out this week that Naomi’s book was awarded second prize by the Australian Christian Literature Society in the 2008 Christian Book of the Year category.  I was also thrilled to see that Simon Holt‘s book, God Next Door, was awarded first prize.  Simon is a long time friend from our days in Glen Waverley.

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Shanghai

Shanghai was our last port of call in China. As we drove in, we gazed at highrise as far as the eye could see. I still don’t know how far the city stretched as haze hung in the air restricting visibility.  Even though we came in on a weekend, the traffic on the freeway crept along.  We arrived at our hotel, a renovated 1930’s hotel close to the Bund.  After dinner we were taken to the Huangpu river where we waited to board a boat for a river cruise which would give us a view of Shanghai by night.  On one side of the river we saw the old buildings of the British concession and on the opposite bank we could see the new buildings of Shanghai, all less than 15 years old and many stretching up higher than 60 storeys.  All were lit in some way, with flashing neon lights or  images flashing on and off and climbing the building.  On the side of one building I saw the Mona Lisa and other paintings by great masters.

As we shopped in each city several people asked Ping, our guide, where the best place to buy silk was.  He kept telling us to wait until Shanghai, where we would visit a silk factory.   I bought what I believe is silk in Beijing at the Pearl Market, but I have no guarantee.  At the factory we were shown the steps in the silk making process.  I was intrigued to see threads from nine small cocoons being spun into a single, almost invisible thread.

Silk cocoons are also made into light, warm comforters.  Double cocoons are selected and instead of finding an end to the thread and spinning it, each cocoon is stretched out over and over again.  Once the cocoon has been stretched out to resemble cobwebs it is laid down and more stretched cocoons laid one at a time over the top.  The result is a very light, but hopefully very warm doona (comforter, duvet).  I bought one but yet to use it.

Of course there was a showroom full of beautiful silk items.  I tried on a silk dress, the fitted style with the little collar, but unfortunately it didn’t fit over my hips.  I could have had one made and delivered to my hotel the next day but I decided against it.  A12 was given a beautiful gold and green scarf as a birthday present from the group.  After being called away from the silk factory we celebrated A12’s birthday with a delicious lunch and a mango mousse birthday cake organised by our guide PIng.  Everyone sang happy birthday and A12 was delighted with her scarf and a card signed by everyone.

While in Shanghai we participated in two exchanges with young Chinese musicians.  The first was at the Shanghai Children’s Palace, a facility which comes alive every weekend when hundreds of children arrive to attend music, art and other extra curricular activities.  We joined a young orchestra at their rehearsal.  We were able to play a few pieces for them and listen to some of theirs.  We discovered that Hungarian Dance was part of their repetoire so the Intermediate Performance Group joined in and everyone played together.  There was time at the end for a bit of conversation between the musicians.

Naturally our group was relying on the Chinese students having more English than our two or three words of Chinese!  After the exchange we spent the remainder of the afternoon preparing for the evening concert at the same venue. The second exchange was at the Shanghai Conservatory where we were treated to some solo and group performances.  Both groups had versions of the Butterfly Concerto, which was a highlight of the afternoon.

We spent one morning in the beautifully preserved old quarter of Shanghai. In the centre surrounded by walls is a garden, once privately owned but now enjoyed by everyone.  It was full of delightful plants, ponds, bridges and pavillions where the original owners did calligraphy, listened to concerts or sipped tea with guests.

I had several items I was determined to find while shopping in the old quarter, and for the first time during my time in China I found myself without musicians to keep track of.  We were told to meet outside Starbucks at a 11:30 so I made sure I knew where it was and set out to find the teapot, a kite and a couple more items.  The only problem was all the shops looked the same to me so I spent the first half of my time continually checking I still knew where Starbucks was!

After our experience haggling at the Pearl Market in Beijing I was a little better prepared for the bargaining process.  Each time I was ready to buy I decided on the price I wanted to pay and offered an amount way below it.  I always felt awful stating such a low price which was always met with howls of, “You joking, lady!”  Reaching a compromise was an exhausting but satisfying process.  While bargaing for Ben’s kite I was told over and over, “You hard bargainer, lady,” but I paid what I felt was reasonable.  It was, of course, impossible to tell the quality of the merchandise we were buying.

To my relief I found several shops devoted to tea, pots and cups.  I was able to browse in a few places before choosing a dark brown pot with a bamboo motif.  When I asked for matching tea cups, the vendor sent someone to another shop in the market to obtain six matching cups.  It arrived home safely and we were able to have a tea ceremony of our own!

Our last night in China was spent being amazed by the Chinese Acrobatic Show.  Jugglers, tumblers, acrobats and a magician held us spellbound for over an hour.  The finale was a display of five motorcyclists riding inside a metal sphere.  My favourite was a trapeze style display where two acrobats swung and performed suspended by lengths of silk twisted around their arms, legs or torso.