– 谢迈克 2008年8月23日]]>
It’s a bittersweet feeling leaving this country. Of course I think there’s a lot of rotten things about the government, and there’s quirks of the culture that I’m not too fond of, and the food? Mostly terrible, to be honest.
But what I’m feeling mostly right now is that I really want these Olympics, and by extension, the whole process of building a modern, prosperous (and hopefully one day politically free) China, to succeed. I tear up when I hear “We Are Ready“, I love the Fuwa, and my fondest wish is for clear, blue skies for the opening ceremony tomorrow. There are millions and millions of totally guileless, long-suffering people who are extremely emotionally invested in these Olympics and the success of China’s athletes. We’ll talk about Tibet, Taiwan, the environment, Darfur and the rest in a few weeks. My feeling is: let them have their moment. It’s not their fault.]]>
For starters, it’ll be interesting to see the bumper stickers. A lot of them will make me fume, but it’ll be interesting. That and maybe people’s T-shirts.]]>
On the way back, at a location of a Korean chain of French-style bakeries, I randomly ran into a couple of Algerians (who asked me to inquire in Chinese whether the bread had pork lard in it, which I did indeed know how to ask). Now if it had been a Korean-owned Brazilian barbeque, that would pretty much cover all your continents!]]>
He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.
I’m coming pretty close to deciding to skip the Great Wall. I have a number of good reasons to not go, and a few bad reasons to go. First off, who is Mao to tell me whether or not I’m a man? He’s dead, among other things. Next, it’s at least an hour and a half on the bus each way, depending which section to go to. My general rule of thumb is that I want to spend at least as long at the place I’m going as it takes to get there and back. And what am I going to do at the Great Wall for three hours with all the heat and humidity?
Next up, I’m not really into old stuff. There’s a lot of relatively old stuff in the US that I could have seen. There’s stuff from native cultures too that’s even older. But it’s just not what I’m into. I like new stuff…contemporary culture, art, music, architecture, technology. If I’m just going to go somewhere and see something just because it’s famous, the sort of place that keeps coming to mind for me that I’d want to see would be Abbey Road Studios in London. Go back fifty years and it basically has little or no significance, but it’s enormously significant in modern culture.
Probably the biggest thing is that I feel like from Mao to the guidebooks, I’m being pressured to do something that I might not otherwise want to do. To be told it’s a “must see”, or that going there determines my worth as a human being, kind of inspries a kind of “Oh yeah?! See if I care!” attitude. It almost seems like an opportunity to assert my uniqueness.
Lastly, I imagine that when I tell people that I went to China, they’ll always ask if I went to the Great Wall, and I’ll have to explain why I didn’t. But I’m going to have to explain to people why I was in Beijing in the summer of 2008 and didn’t stay for the Olympics. Not to mention why I decided to uproot myself from the US and live here almost a whole year. So if people want an explanation, who cares? I can give them one or not. It’s not, in itself, worth the time, expense and inconvenience to do something that might not even be fun.
I came to China to get to know the language and the people, and I’ve done that. I didn’t really come here to look at walls.]]>
Oh, and I finally got a haircut! They really did their darndest to keep those little hairs from getting everywhere, but as always, close but not quite. It was nice, though, to get both a before and after shampooing. Total cost: 38元, or about $5.60.]]>
The smog doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the heat and humidity…I really don’t feel like going out without an air-conditioned car to immediately get into. It makes me realize just how to used to that lifestyle I am, even though I haven’t driven a car for nearly a year.
And I haven’t seen any data to support this, but nowhere in China have I experienced pollution even close to that in central Guiyang. It was absolutely oppressive. It made me feel like there just wasn’t even enough good air to breathe. In Beijing, it’s clearly not that bad. It looks bad, but you can breathe, at least if you’re not running around.]]>
I’ve already had a whole bunch of “wow, I’m in China” experiences, seen a ton of things, learned a little of the language (not much at all, really, but enough to make me happy with what I’ve been able to accomplish) and made some friends.
I’m pretty much ready to go back at this point and start figuring out what to do next. I was looking at pictures from my mom’s house back in Worthington the other day, and it looks so cozy. There isn’t a single piece of furniture here or in the last two places I stayed or in my apartment in Guiyang that’s as cozy as about five or eight chairs in her house.
That’s a big choice, isn’t it? You can have a settled, cozy, domestic, but potentially boring life, or you can have an adventurous, mobile, risky, but sometimes…itchy life. I think it’s much easier to move from the latter to the former, though…it’s hard to imagine planting myself in a home and filling it up with junk only to sell or throw away the better part of everything I own again and take off and go vagabonding again.
And on the other hand, I think so often about adopting cats…but can I really commit to living the same lifestyle, or even in the same country, for 15, 20 years or more?
Maybe when I get back, I’ll stop wondering and worrying…maybe I’ll kiss the ground and realize that I never want to leave again. But I don’t think it’s likely…I think this stuff will take time to figure out.]]>