Writing things

I love Vancouver, part 1: Stanley Park (note: pics have nothing to do with writing here)

America has sapped my will to write blog posts. Something about the place – the consumerist frenzy (which definitely exists in China, if not in Rebgong), the value put on excesses and luxuries and frivolities, the clean environment, the factoryfarm food, the friends and family, the time spent in cars – has reduced my once-voluminous flow of weekly blog posts to a trickling Qinghai creekful (e.g. not much; Qinghai is semi-arid).

But now that I’m back in China, the words start flowing out again. I arrived in Beijing yesterday and already feel the need to write something down.

I love Vancouver, part 2: hotpot

Why is this? Is this my need to exhibit my experiences or thoughts? Is it that being in China raises my curiosity and powers of perception and observation to higher levels, while being in the US – a familiar “home” environment – results in a noticeable sensory dulling? To some extent I feel this must be true, and yet I have an opposite impulse at this point – to insist that for me, at this point in my life, China feels more home-like, more familiar in a number of ways than America.

Why is this? This trip to the States was the first time I arrived in Philadelphia and the city felt foreign. I did not feel like I was coming home. While I still know the city, it no longer feels familiar; though I know the fifty miles of running trails in the Wissahickon Park intimately, know their every curve, every ascent and descent, every ledge and stone to the point where I can literally run them for hours in my dreams, surroundings as clear as a picture – though I know all this, it is no longer my home turf. Strangely, in a short period of absence I have lost much of my attachment to this place. And while my visit to Bowdoin College produced a much more homelike feeling, as I spent the last four years of my pre-China life amidst the pines of Brunswick, Maine, I nevertheless felt like I was no longer part of the place – a feeling reinforced when I was prevented from entering the fieldhouse, where I had daily attended track practice and worked for my coach, by a woman I had worked with for four years (she somehow forgot who I was) due to my lack of student ID.

big trees, Stanley Park, Vancouver

So why do I feel more inspired to write in China? Simply because of the fact that I feel most at home in a place which is simultaneously utterly foreign to me. The familiar and the different and the confusing are mixed up haphazardly into a wonderful discordant universe of people, places, and ideas, a universe whose simultaneous lack of order and rigid structure I find utterly fascinating. Being at home in a foreign place is the ultimate stimulus to writing, as there is so much going on inside your head at any given time that your main challenge is to structure and order the multitude of ideas, to create an argument or story instead of simply committing the discordant universe directly to paper in original mind-boggling form (although this is also a worthy, if potentially unreadable, project in itself).  But why write about something if it doesn’t need to be structured in your mind first? What things that are worth writing about aren’t worth thinking about first?

Anyway, I’m back in China, and as a result I expect the blog posts to start flowing again. I had a good if over-long trip to the States, visiting a number of friends throughout the northeast, spending a weekend at my college, and skiing with my dad. But by the end I was more than ready to come back. Though it sounds harsh, there’s simply too much for me here right now to spend too much time in the states. And hopefully, I’ll be able to continue  writing down the things I learn, see, experience, smell, and think – writing all these down in my sad English in an attempt to get across what about this place I find so utterly fascinating.

America still makes for nice pictures. Bowdoin College quad

 

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One Response to Writing things

  1. Kailah says:

    oh yeah. Definitely relate to this. I didn’t have as much major culture shock as I’d expected, going back to the US after 1.5 yrs away, but it hit me in smaller ways. Being back in Beijing felt totally natural (as natural as it can be, for a city I don’t quite know). but I’m getting small dabs of culture re-adjustment being back in Shangri-la, even as homey as it’s become. And indeed, being on the last bus leg of the long haul overland from Beijing, and getting closer and closer, did feel like a homecoming. But expect some readjustment when you get back to Rebs.

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