Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Welcome to China

I've been teleported into another dimension. The world as I know it is has disappeared.
The sky is thick and brown, reducing the sun to a simple red circle that is comfortable to observe with the naked eye. Blocks of residential houses have been replaced by blocks of identical high rise apartments.

The social order and norms with which I am familiar have dissolved into a sort of chaos; I'm surrounded by a new world order.

A man walks toward me, looks me in the eye and then tosses his empty plastic bottle on the ground. It rolls for a moment before hitting another piece of trash. Nobody cares.

I hear the ghastly sound of someone choking. When I turn see what is happening, I discover that the sound is coming from an elderly woman sitting on the sidewalk. She proceeds to spit.

I queue to buy a train ticket, only to be pushed aside by strangers urgently insisting to purchase their tickets before me. Realizing that a queue cannot exist without the participation of others, I abandon the strategy of "waiting my turn" in favour of "pushing my way through the aggressive mob".

This is not my first time abroad and it's not my first time visiting Asia. Still, I find myself experiencing a mini culture shock. Most of my travels have left me with the feeling that people and places have their differences, but beyond that, they are really not so different. My first 24 hours in Beijing has challenged this feeling.

It's really hard to see past the feeling of outsideness that I feel here. This feeling is amplified by the attention that I attract from just walking down the street; I haven't had this many people stare at me so indiscreetly since I rode my bicycle naked through a shanty town in Namibia.

I hope that my shock will fade with time as I travel around over the next three weeks. I want to focus on what's actually happening around me and not how it makes me feel. I want to be able to discover new things and develop a true impression of China!


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