It’s Wednesday morning and the start of another week. I teach until Sunday the 28th. I can only hope that the next weeks will be easier than the ones gone by.
It’s really strange where I’m at right now. I can’t say that I feel happier at work, just for knowing I’m leaving. I can’t say that I walk around with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. It’s pretty much the opposite. I’m withdrawn, I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, I can’t bare the sight of my frown and I’m drained constantly. However, once I’ve totally distanced myself from the work place and I’m in my own space, then the bounce slowly returns and the smile starts to appear. My own space, by the way, is my apartment and the occasions when I’m having great conversations with the few people I can connect with here.
Needless to say, I’m in between 2 worlds; no longer really here in China and not yet in India. I feel India is so near though. Because whenever I close my eyes, it’s all I see… but then when I open my eyes, I’m still here in Jinzhou, China. I still have to face reality. I still have to be here and force myself to focus on the job. I still have to feel the pressure and stress that now just comes from being outside of my apartment in the streets that burden me in many different ways. In a tired state I still have to smile and still have to enjoy my last weeks in China… just to be appreciative and to be happy… I still have to take pictures and be the traveller… and still have to realize that savouring the moment will move me on to better things.
This is what’s been happening: I no longer walk through the streets. Well, I do, but ONLY when I’m totally in a happy place in my head. Once upon a time, I’d walk along and feel amazing as I’d be inspired by what I’d see and I’d never mind for people to give me the exact same looks of amazement or shock for what they were seeing (which was, and still is…me). Now though, the stares are a burden. The way the people STILL look at me, after I’ve been walking the same route for so many months, is something I can no longer appreciate or feel comfortable with. I used to return a smile. But how can I now smile and feel happy for others to see me, when I don’t want to see myself in this city anymore? It’s impossible to give a smile to the stares that come from the thousands of strangers who see me walking to work, day in day out.
So, I’ve taken to hopping on the bus each day. I feel that’s less stressful, less of a burden… and my mind is clearer. And I then I sit… I stare out the dirty window and I’m gazing at the Chinese people doing their daily things… buying fruit, going to the bank, riding their bikes, shopping for clothes or just sitting and talking with each other to pass the time. And then there’s me… sitting on a bus, in Jinzhou. Feeling so distanced from society. And there’s no way I can ever break through… because of the language…
How nice would it be to buy some fruit from the market, and have an easy conversation with the stallholder about the… weather? the new produce? The…whatever…???!!!! Yes, it would be so great to communicate with these people. Because they ARE all good, they are all WARM people. But all I see and feel are the first initial stares that come from the thousands of eyes that may have never seen a foreigner before. And because I’m not happy, I can’t smile and break the ice. And because I can’t speak Chinese, I can’t even have the lightest of chit-chats that would brighten their day as well as mine. And, right now, I’m touching one of the main reasons for me to have been feeling alone, isolated and withdrawn: LACK OF COMMUNICATION… Wouw… how much we can take it for granted; the simple act of connecting with a stranger.
Months ago, when I decided not to study Chinese, I consciously chose not to make the effort to fully experience China. The language here is the culture… It’s the main thing, in Jinzhou especially (as it’s so ‘backward’ compared to most Chinese cities), that will shake foreigners about. Only if you’re planning to be in China for quite some time, then Chinese is the thing to study and the efforts will eventually start paying off… even though it can take years to master it fully. But I chose not to be apart of China in that sense. And by having made that choice, I was actually closing myself off from the culture and the people and most things I value in life as I travel: a flow of new people that would bring new opportunities into my life whilst being apart of a society that’s different from where I hold my roots. I wasn’t willing and chose to focus on writing instead.
Not all foreigners choose to learn Chinese. But they have… each other instead… and so they have the communication they need. They feel comfort in their own group of foreigners, who they can relate to. And that can be enough for them to feel happy in their job, happy in their Chinese lifestyle and open to embracing ‘travel’ whilst being ‘stationary’. For me, comfort never really came, in the foreign connections. Or maybe I’ve had moments of comfort, but they started to vanish, ever so slowly and so I started to sink deeper into my own world and started to create my dreams that are now becoming reality.
For the fact that what I was creating is now starting to appear, I don’t have any regrets whatsoever. Really I don’t. I’m totally at peace with the focus I put on writing and I don’t mind that I never broke through into the Chinese society. Those with a passion for China would embrace it fully. But I personally never had a passion for China. It’s never been a place I longed to visit. I’ve always had a ‘list’ of so many countries in the world I’d long to visit… but China was NEVER on it… So, it’s really no wonder why things have planned out the way they have done. And it’s only making my love for India and my passion to write, become all the more real. I know these 6 months have set me up in such a way, that I’ll appreciate India more than I would’ve done, had I not come to China first.
As for the communication ‘thing’, I hear you ask: doesn’t India also have different languages? Yes, it does. BUT it’s a heaven for travellers, in the sense that English is spoken everywhere. When I was there last year, many things shook me about, but the language was NEVER one of them… India can be a country that’s not convenient and many challenges can arise when doing the smallest of things… BUT it’s a luxury in terms of communication. Why is there so much English? The British were once upon a time the rulers… I’m not going to make this post into a history lecture. It’s way too long already… haha… So I leave it on a lighter and brighter note… Everything is moving forward as it should and I feel good. Maybe, just for 2 more weeks, I might show smiles to the strangers staring at me, when I’m feeling happy as a result of what’s appearing.