I can’t help but feel, just six days since I arrived in China; that my senses are somewhat overloaded. But I cannot say that is a bad thing; not at all. I can feel new parts of my brain snapping to attention as the sensory input floods in. I find myself more tired than usual, but that also could be to do with the six plus kilometres a day I am walking in addition to about 15 flights of stairs daily.
There is no lift to my six story apartment and I am pleased for that. I have been slack since coming back from Nepal with exercise and it was time to get moving again. I intend to only rest one day a week and my days off will be filled with walking and writing.
This is the first time in my life that I have lived in the downtown central part of a large city. I thought I would find it challenging but I love it.
My walk to work is a delight and each time I notice more and more about this enormously high density environment.
In my travels to non-English speaking countries outside of most westerners comfort zones I have often found other travellers lamenting on “what there is not”. For me it has always been about “what there is that I haven’t seen before” rather than focussing on the “what is not here that is at home”.
I don’t wish to compare my existence in my home country to this existence because I think that’s nothing short of madness. Some things will be alike and some will be vastly different, but dwelling on what you miss or think is missing is like complaining about no clouds in the sky – things are as they are, not how we think they “should” be.
I am connected to the world and not separate from it, so how can I miss anything? Yes, I have no doubt that in a few months I will want to see my friends and family and I think of them often now, but not with any negativity attached to it. I try not to think of it as “missing”. I love them and they love me, it’s as simple as that. That I can’t see them in person does not make them any less present in my thoughts or in my world, it just makes them further away geographically.
Often I think of it like “Connor would like that, Mum would love that, Velvet would enjoy that, Rene would laugh at that and Larni would be in there dancing with them…”, rather than seeing any of this experience as negative.
On the way to work is a public park and in the morning’s there is Tai chi and Badminton. One side is Tai chi like I imagined and the other side is like a more upbeat, dance like version. It seems to be older people right in the middle of the city, but that might be because of the time (it’s about 8 am) and the earlier times might attract younger people, but I can’t be sure of that yet.
I am aware there is dancing at night too and I want to join in on both eventually, when I am more settled in.
Two things I have found fascinating but were not like I expected:
- People’s love affairs with their dogs here. Like the pet pampering club I photographed in Pudong in Shanghai, right near my home is a larger version here in Guiyang. My neighbours have very preened and spoiled canines of all shapes and sizes and mainly recognisable pure breeds. They are prone to dressing up the smaller ones in some very elaborate doggie outfits. When I think I can ask someone nicely in Mandarin if I can photograph their dog/s I will do and post them.
- Busy but not angry streets. The traffic lights are timed for both cars and pedestrians and it makes for very calm but still busy driving and walking. You know exactly when you will get a green light or a green walk symbol. No one sits irritated at the lights. People walk slowly through the streets even when it’s super busy during the week. Where I walk to and from work is a very busy part of the city, commercially and socially, yet it’s pleasantly calm in a busy way. People have less personal space but people don’t crowd you either.
For the first time one of my neighbours said hello to me today. I have passed her a couple of times and today she stopped and said “Hello” and then continued speaking in Mandarin. I figured out she was asking me where I lived and I pointed up and said “number 604”. She smiled and said “Goodbye” – so I think I answered the question correctly.
I have some mandarin I have learned but I’m not using it just yet. I want to listen a whole lot more yet and when I do speak I hope my pronunciation will be better for having listened well. When I have tried a couple of key things like “yummy thank you” in front of my Chinese colleagues I have done pretty well so far. My regular teaching days will be Friday afternoons, full days on Saturday and Sunday and Monday afternoons. It leaves me with Tuesday through to Thursday to my own devices. This week I am training and will only have had Monday and Thursday off and it’s been full on – but I’ve loved every minute.
So I’m going to continue to enjoy my sensory slavery and will include some pictures soon.