Monday, May 2, 2011

South China Manifesto

Part 1: Note to Self

I packed as light as I could be. I did not want to be burdened by any luggage. I wanted to be physically and mentally free and conserve as much energy as I could. I went to China with a few books and about 3 changes of clothes. Most important to me were the books. I did not know when I would have access to English language books again, so I packed a few specials and few off-hand.. I put them in one of my mother's eco-friendly hemp shopping bags, together making up about a third of my luggage. I also packed what I thought would be emergency essentials: Berocca, Imodium, Day Nurse, Night Nurse, Anti-sceptic, Pain killers etc etc...What I didn't bring along is of course what I ended up needing the most: mosquito repellant and an umbrella. You don't even need clothes or medicine, as long as you have these two things you will go very far. A comfy pair of shoes helps too. I went in with a new pair of black and blue striped Adidas sneakers. I looked forward to possibly seeing the factory they were made in.

When I arrived I would buy things as I needed them. If it's raining, I buy an umbrella. I want to write stuff down! Where do I find a pocket notebook? I wanted something small. Something I could stick into my pocket. So I bought two notebooks, the pocket one and a bigger one for copying into. Both turned into a massive mess of scribbles and poor pinyin interpretations. Not to mention banal journal entries, saldos, messages, plans, observations, and other sentimental mumbo jumbo. I have always felt a need to write stuff down, but I resist it because I am uncomfortable re-interpreting those signs. I want them to remain positively vague. By going back to it, the feeling changes, for better or worse. I am a sentimental fool and have trouble holding on and letting go. The mind forgets and sometimes all we have left are these incomplete stories.

How did I get here? Is horizon broadening occurring at this very moment? I think so. Am I any wiser? I don't know. What is wisdom? Why do we need to seek it? How can I achieve it? Do I need to achieve it all? What are needs? How do they affect my personal well-being? Am I not better off needing nothing at all? When is no information good information? How is it safe? Is there faith in spitting? What do dogs think about? Is eating a pig okay?

I am bombarded by information. I try not to look too broadly or narrowly at it. I must strike a fine balance. There are too many interconnected structures at work here. I try ignore them. They can only serve to distract me from any immediate concerns. Such as the ceaselessly pouring rain. And the muggy heat, which makes me feel alive because it is in my face and it is tropical. I am now in my Apocalypse Now dream, I am boating down the Nung river. I think, this is good. I am happy in this moment. The rare moment when you are actually aware of it. Happiness is a simple concept to me, I feel it when I am relaxed and able to express myself freely. I slurp down some more of the local soupy noodles. This isn't so bad! Pretty good, actually! Cashews, spring onions. Yum! The soup makes me dreamy. My mind wanders off and I forget about the 6 other people sitting at the table with me. I wonder what Martin Sheen would do? He would want to go back into the jungle. I look around me and I see that I am in a jungle. A mighty jungle with grey skies, narrow streets and steamy alley-ways. I find myself back at the table. I take a good look around me. I see nation states, I see America, England, Sweden and Holland and finally I see China. And then this small southern Chinese city takes center stage all around.

The moment arrives. Complete disillusionment. The good kind. What we've all been waiting for. It's a feeling that makes us grow as humans. I see other people growing. I squint my eyes and take a mental picture. Who are these people? What are they doing? Where are they going? For thousands of years they have been hidden from me; I eat their food, I buy their umbrellas. They are not strange to me, yet they are completely unknown. A feeling similar to déjà vu. I think of my grandmother and I think of the Bold and the Beautiful. She loved loved that soap opera and I can only imagine how many years she must have devoted herself to it but to me all that remained was a Theme Song and a few recognisable faces. Over time I learned to accept and ignore it, occasionally maybe even indulging in it a little; but not quite giving it my all. I never questioned its presence, it's always been on; a staple of my subconscious. But look here they are still, developing their style over and over again, steadily increasing in popularity as the years move on.

I don't like the Bold and the Beautiful but I like China. They are the same in a lot of ways. Both are well dressed, wear fancy make-up and are tailored and presented to the public for consumption. It is easy to be blinded by the differences, of which there are a great many, our common bonds too are just as plain to see. People emphasize difference. Simple details of difference brings much excitement. They want to get to know you and find out what is different about your life compared to theirs. Can I teach you to be different from what you are accustomed to? Empty your cup and you will learn. How different is a drunk man here than he is there? All drunk men stumble and fall. All drunk men spout out ludicrous remarks. All drunk drunk men are silent. All drunk men are sad.

Drinking is friends with time and drunk men are to be found everywhere at all times. People become happy and offended all at once. Lines begin to blur. I see more drunk men. I see a woman standing at the back. I stare at the people around me. I am not afraid to stare, it isn't rude. They are staring at me. This person is as curious as I am. I want to communicate, but I am drunk and I do not know the language. I focus on non-verbal communication, I think out loud. A lot can be said without words. Yes, indeed. Be animated. Look alive! I grab my notebook, I have him write something down for me, even if I do not understand now, I may understand later. I smile. I imagine myself as a twisted representative of my nation. Look good. Be sharp. Lose yourself or pace yourself. Try not to lose face. Smile and remember: you are here to have a good time. Empty your cup. Breath. Challenge your stomach. But also don't be afraid to say 'wŏ bǘ yào, xièxie ' – I don't want that, thank you. But most importantly learn to say wŏ xi huān yào nèigè .I would like that . Point. Stir Lick your lips and Indulge and finally hĕn gāoxing rènshí nĭ – it is nice to know you.

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