Thursday, October 30, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
There are so many times when I sit and stare out of my eyes—trying to will my eyes to soak in all the scene before me. I sit and look and try to figure out what it is—specifically, numerically, definitively—that makes the panorama before me different than America or all that which I am familiar with.
I do it most in the countryside or ‘nature zones.’ Before I left I would take hikes at Radnor Lake in Nashville or along the trails in NE Tennessee and SW Virginia—and I’d stare at the flora and fauna, the foliage of deciduous undergrowth and old Appalachian hills and valleys. I’d look at it and try to figure out what made it so American. Because it is. It’s American and there’s nothing to match it anywhere else in the world. I do it as I drive along the interstate too—the hills and farmland along I-40 in Middle Tennessee or the rolling turns of I-81 through Virginia. I can’t figure out exactly what it is—the shade of green or the shape of things—but it’s only there in America. American art has captured it. Mark Twain and Walt Whitman captured it. I can’t seem to be able to with my own words. I’ll have to let the experts do it…
The cities are easier to figure out. Our cities simply aren’t old enough or packed enough yet to feature the hodgepodge madcap tumbling jumble that are Chinese or even European cities. These ancient cities where buildings have been built on top of other buildings and then a new building built around that. Where you walk past a row of storefronts with no clue that the gap in the sidewalk is there because it was once a street—a street that now is a building—and that if you find your way behind that building, which you probably won’t because there are no alleys leading to it and you actually would have to traverse several blocks north to find the entrance—right there a few yards behind the row of stores you walk beside—there is an entire hidden neighborhood of twisted rows of street vendors and shack dwellings and alley upon hairpin turned alley—all that once was accessible but now is hidden because a new row of buildings went up. Hundreds of people live and work behind the walls of the strip shops—and you’d never know except that sometimes you smell the food the vendors are hawking from their stalls or see the smoke rising from their charcoal briquettes. There exists none of our puritanical efficiency with straight lines and city grids moving outward from the city square. The cities are teeming—literally swarming—with life and movement and floor built upon roof built upon roof because there’s no room to grow except up, diagonal, or overhanging.
And everyday my attachments to America both grow and detatch. Every day I let go of a piece of what ties me to home. “As quietly and naturally as a twig falling into the Mississippi I dropped out of the stream of American life.” (henry miller) We must let go of it because home is not there anymore—it’s not what it was when I left it and we can’t actually return to what is in the past. And everyday I realize that what remains….what is left after those pieces that I must release are released…that is the pure love that I have for home. For America. For Kingsport, for Nashville, for Texas, for Roanoke, for the South…all of it. For New York, For Chicago, for Boston. I don’t yearn for driving or sandwiches as much as I once did—I don’t have to follow obsessively the releases of new movies or tv series or pop music. It is ok to not know these things any more. I don’t need to be in the loop anymore on the current pop culture of home. It doesn’t matter to me here. And so I let go of that piece.
I haven’t written much this year on this blog, and I was worried about it for a little while. But now I think it’s ok. It’s ok that things or everyday events aren’t quite so expository in their nature anymore. It’s ok that my ‘new life in China’ that I wrote of last year is now just my life in China…in fact, just life. I am no longer a year-long tourist. I might not be totally a resident yet—but something in between. This is a good step. I am really happy here.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Friday, October 10, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
It’s 6 a.m. and the sun has not yet risen over Wuhan. The sky is charcoal blue and the air in my apartment is cool. The cleaner came two days ago and it still surprises me that this dust-free dwelling is my own.
I gave up on a good night’s sleep about an hour ago and have been playing at damage control ever since. I’m one of those who should just stay awake once passing a certain threshold point in the night. If I slept now, I wouldn’t wake up until the afternoon. So I turn on the lights and open the curtains and rest—but don’t sleep.
I’ve been sick for two weeks and now a cold has set in. I’d like to know what became of my immune system during the past month. I sit here and eat one of my precious packets of oatmeal brought with me from America and listen to the workers sweeping the street below.
There are so many things that I want to share but can’t. I love this country. I love the kindergarten below my apartment—waking up from afternoon naps to the sound of children playing. I love my students’ faces when I call them by name. Ivan said it once when I said “Hi Ivan” as she walked into class. “You know me?” she asked. “Of course I know you!” I replied. “I am happy of that,” she said. Sometimes my heart overflows.
There are so many things…and those things are all that I want to write about. Please forgive the lack of content in postings lately—maybe someday when I live in the US again, I will share all these thoughts that are bursting from my heart. Until then, I’ll try to come up with some of the crazy anecdotes of life in China that are now routine occurrences in my weeks and months. A chicken foot poking out of someone’s purse in a shopping mall. A taxi driver pointing at me and saying “you are a foreigner” (in Chinese) about 5 times in a row. The hats from our travel agent…
Until then, I’m going to go teach and then crawl into bed for a nice looonng nap!