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Published: June 18th 2008
"You're been spending your time/Thinking about why you think so much/If there was ever a time/now would be time to see your time is limited
"Everybody here is a cloud/And everybody will evaporate since/You came up from the ground/From a million little pieces, have you found where your place is?"
6/13 12:15PM beginning of bus ride
Every place is the same place until you force yr insides to change
Vaporize the parts that try to change things
Killyrself so identity can re-burst peeking newborn
Cocoon children finally running naked around new place
All the city signs & stores just like home
Foreign characters same gimmicks ~~ message
I cant consume a damn thing inconspiculously
Everyone trying to sell me something
Everyone selling something to everyone and themselves
People as Products of our own self-produced environment or products
Do you love me or the things I choose to surround myself with
可能impossible to distinguish b/tw soul& self-projection of personality, at the very least identity is a combination of both
I walk the streets of Beijing and people-watch but feel myself being people-watched back
Everybody just selling things to themselves to be happy
Is it really such a bad way to define yourself if humans find it so reflexive and innate
Humans™ just amalgamating their own logos from culture's list of logo options
The root word of "personality" & "personalization" is "person"
I wish the world was a menu and life was my order, and if I made a mistake, the waiter could bring out another plate, and I wish I could try everything and become everyone and eat forever without ever being hungry or full
The fast is no different from the feast if the faster and feaster both define themselves by their choice. Fast =/= feast, but Ascetic = Glutton
Immersion in either self-abuse or indulgance
I know it's good writing if it hurts while I thing, like the pencil's sucking a poison out from my malenky veins
Take a # and order yrself an identity
Pick & choose, select, mollify yrself
Life is a series of conspicuous consumptions, and our final aim is Patronage
Ordering our products w/terrified authority
But some people make their souls look&feel so beautiful this way
Can I hate the process if it results in such intricate and beautiful things? Even if it's only a few it might be worth the prices and materials of creating all these menus
I just want to be beautiful
Wanna buy these characters I've written yet?
Sometimes just listening to clouds as you look out the window is beautiful
I'm listening to clouds right now, can ya buy that?
I'm done peeking over shoulders, hypocritically, monastically criticizing what everyone else is buying, because my time's better spent listening to clouds and evaporating w/them
We're driving over the Yellow River as I start writing this. We'll be arriving at our hotel in the Shandong Province in just two hours. Already been on bus for 6. Some of the best window-watching of my life. Dozens of breeds of trees I've never seen before. Horizons of rural farmland. A herd of grazing sheep, happy. Trucks full of catttle herds and caged defeated chickens, heart-wrenching. Life is alternately unbearable and picturesque.
Old men working rice paddies hard with their bare hands and wiry dependable yet breaking bodies and peasant tools.
5 minutes later I see a set of cranes putting up a housing development, then a web of telephone lines.
Now I'm looking directly a the sun--it's so hazy/humid in China sometimes, there's no real clouds or fog, just haze. No stars, but beautiful temperature for walks at night. I like to walk and go people-watching here--I stand out so much, the people watch back.
The 6p.m. sun is Mandarin Orange. The 4:45 a.m. sunrise was too hazy to see. I've been awake for both.
Week in Review so far
Wes&I skipped out on last Tuesday's excursion (art museum & tea house) to do laundry/other necessary shit. Apparantly exhibit was good, very interactive, by a guy named Gerhard Richter, and teahouse was full-service-top-of-the-line but very expensive. Sounds fun but i regret nothing.
Wednesday we had an art class in addition to 8-11:30 Chinese. These are every wednesdays and some mondays. This time it was a calligraphy intro/demo by an art teacher from RenMin. Found it very interesting as I will be taking CHI215 (intro to calligraphy) @ ASU next semester. Impossible to believe I could learn how to do it but I'll try. Such dedication, discipline is a better word, and a cultural richness/embededdness that nears religiousness.
Wes is taking calligraphy next semster as well so we'll have at least one class together in the Fall. Also taking the same Short Stories lit class but not sure if @ same time. Never met such an avid reader, he's been reading nonstop this whole bus ride, almost killed an entire Asimov book just today.
Tried to read as well but Kierkegaard can't hold my attention when such window-gaving is available. To be honest I keep getting distracted from this entry as well.
Spent another night w/friend from English Corner. Her other friends canceled so we just basically walked around and compared cultures. Ended up @ 北京大学 campus, which is very expansive and has a lake in the middle. Some classrooms have architecture similar to that of the Lamissary, much more traditional than 人民大学. I learned a lot this night, more than in class.
Chinese girls identify themselves as more "traditional" and American counterparts, and think that all American relationships are fast/easy. Much surprise when I said that a lot of couple don't live together until marriage--perception was that girlfriends hopped into boyfriend's apartment right away.
The Shengdan earthquake is viewed as a national trajedy, to be mourned/suffered equally by all Chinese, and a suffuring to be borne only on Chinese shoulders. 'Nuff said. Like a secret Katrina.
Women's righs didn't exist until 1949. Women (especially independant-minded ones, as college girls tend to be) are still pissed abou this. Until about 50 years ago, feet were still wrapped as pre-teens to stunt growth and keep them small/pretty, and only men could initiate a divorce.
The concept of a Sunday picnic is completely foreign to Chinese.
The highest suicide rates in the country exist in the early 20's age bracket, as kids are contronted with the college-to-workforce transition. Probably it's because people are pushed so hard all their lives to study, pass eqivilancy examinations, keep up w/modernization, study, study, be the most copious student possible. And then, when it comes time to get a job, some of these kids that were so successful in college are all textbook, no practical skills. This education structure is starting to turn out batches of worthless geniouses, and the workforce doesn't necessarily want all of them. So a successful student w/no future options feels very shamed/depressed, and sometimes...
The closest comparison i could make to american culture was the tendancy of high schoolers to kill themselves because of social anxiety/family disconnect/body image issues/etc. The thought was impossible to my Chinese friend: "how could someone so young want to do that?" And yet, kids here have the same problem of feeling worthless to their surroundings and life not worth continuing, just at a different age and for different reasons.
On a more cheerful not, I learned the most gorgeous Chinese phrase: 只可意会，不可言传. Loosely this reads "Something you can only feel, not articulate." but it loses some in translation.
Okay, I'm going to finish this later. I already pretty much know what I'm going to say (as it already happened to me, huh?) so why write it out now when the window-watching is so pleasant?
6/14/08 6:45 a.m. @hotel
A rooster was literally crowing as I woke up in Tai'shan this morning.
This is a very rural, rugged area where people live tough but seemingly happy on the street corners, playing games of mah'jong on the roadsides, picking up donated bottles from tourists/well-to-do Chinese. Actually I'd better step aside and explain this system: Homeless/poor people walk around or stay in a pedestrian-crowded area with plastic bags, asking for empty plastic bottles, adsorbing trash instead of begging for change basically. They then take these to the recycling centers for 1 mao apiece (or 0.1 rmb, roughly equivilant to $.01). Kinda like the soda can system in America, but much more widely embraced and effective/ingrained here. China has a living recyling program.
Everything here is the exact same as back home in some strikingly different way.
I'm about to climb up 2,000 and down 5,000 steps of the (in)famous TaiShan mountain, but I'm sure my insights on that will be more entertaining afterwards, so these will wait until later.
But yeah, I feel like such a tourist this morning. WHile the locals work and cry and sigh and laugh deep from their bellies, I'm rolling my head off my pillow to meet a group of US college students in the plush Int'l Hotel lobby and take off in a private University shuttle bus paid for in my program fee to one of the more historically enviable & naturally beautiful destinations in good ol' ancient 中国。
But don't worry, vicarious tourists, I'll have my camera on me.
Also I've been informed that more and more people are starting to read this travel journal which is good/welcomed, let anyone know who might be interested. Hello to Tegan's aunt/mother.
1:41 p.m. on bus back from Tai'Shan
What an amazing mountain. What an amazing time. The taoist monks believed this mountain ascended them to the gates of Heaven. They wrote poems into the walls on days with weather as perfect and mild &clear as today and on many days much much worse.
One set of characters is inscribed in red directly into a cliff face. TaiShan, Peaceful Mountain. Each character on this cliff face is a square meter large. There are at least 40 of them in the prayer. I don't know how they did it but it much have taken so much from so many and that and the trees and the stairs and the Mountain and the trees make you forget everything else.
It was exactly what I needed.
We took a shuttle bus/gondola up 3/4 of the way due to lack of time still a small climb to South Gate, more incense burning, more reverence for nature.
Stayed/explored a little on top, but got very perturbed by the rampant markets/aggressive venders/consumerism en ruote up the Taoist (eg immaterial) haven. But you can't escape material things just live next to them and not live your life through them. Enjoy the sights and smells and touch and tastes of your surroundings but decide for yrselves what they mean to you.
This trip to me means looking at beautiful new trees growing out of crevices of rock cliffs 1,000's of feet above sea level with the smell of incense in yr. ears and a blue sky clearly above yr eyes
David & I walked up to South Gate together & saw a clifftop observation begoda, immediately wanted to surmount it before the climb down. We coincidentally ran into first Daniel then Melissa completely seperately, and Team Great Wall was reborn. We conquered the precipice, enjoyed the view, talked future plans and ASU politics and awe of our surroundings and jokes and laughs. Then, running low on time, we headed out/began the steep descent.
5,000ish narrow stairs from top to 中天门(Middle Sky Gate), where group was to meet @ 1. We made record time, passing classmates and flying down tiny tiny near-vertical steps. While making time for grop photos and cheap souveniers. Got down @ 12:59 haha, but Pang LaoShi(trip leader) wasn't down for another 15 minutes anyway, her legs went empty, poor thing. She's a tough energetic lady but everyone gets a bit wobbly sometimes.
Grabbed group lunch @ hotel then split up--1/3 went to get an oeverpriced massage down the street, 1/3 just went back to hotel lobby/their rooms, rest of us took a little hour-long optional afternoon excursion to Tai Temple, the worship/resting place of the Emperor whenever he would visit Tai'Shan or the province. Gardens, bonzai trees, ponds. Peace, didn't really take pictures because sometimes you should take a break and not say anything or interfere.
Now we're picking up Massage Kids and heading back to hotel--4:40p.m. ...i'm gonna post up a shower, then a fatty nap, then have some fun w/friends.
Confucius Birthplace tomorrow, but just myself for now.
6/15 12:35 p.m.
6:00a.m. wake-up call , check-out/breakfast @ 7, left, @7:30. Stayed up late talking to friends, so a little tired, but got 8-9hr bus ride to look forward to/read/write/study/sleep/window-watch.
Chinese continental 早饭is very weird, I was hankerin' for a good ol' American hotel-style cereal/coffee/OJ, got fried asparagus and tofu soup instead. hahaha, also had steamed bread/eggs/milk, stuck to those
Took bus w/our friendly faithful tour guide, 张先生, to Confucius Temple, where his scholars/followers continued his traditions & wrote down his teaching (from memory, so who know how authentically). To be honest nobody was that interested because as we entered, one of our girls had a seizure by the front gate. She just clenched up & fell down, hit her head on ground w/small cut. Teachers woke her up w/cold water, tour guide called amublance. Most students were just stunned and froze up, b/c what can we do? One kid ran & brought the ambulance workers back to scene [they came very quickly, although I heard the hospital itself was rudimentary. The Temple's in a rural area outside town after all. But I mean, they released her w/o even a diagnosis). A couple others had brought sunbrellas and used them to keep the heat off her. A couple tripmates & I kept the other tourists/locals back so she would have some breathing room--apparantly they thought this drama was included in admission & were forming a crowded circle around her.
So yeah, no one was especially super-interested in the temple tour. But she was fine, recovered immediately, and was already back on the campus shuttle 2 hours later when we were finished, smiling @ eating an apple.
Not sure of the cause, but for sure an isolated incident. Her room had been fumagated the night before @ hotel, so a bad reaction to that seems most probable cause.
Group in much better spirits for 2nd destination--Confucian Forest. Large hidden enclave, shadowy & sunny & green, naturally stunning beauty, lush plant life. This is where Confucious, his son&grandson, and emperors from Qin/other dynasties make their final resting place. We only had time for tour of Center of Forest, where the tombs (again, supposedly--so much isn't known about the guy and so much evidence destroyed that these could just be mounds of dirt) of Confucius + son + grandson. Also here is the house of his most acclaimed and devout follower, Menchis (sp?). He built it w/own bare hands, and lived in it in solitude fr 6 yrs, right next to his mentor's grave, as atonement for missing the funeral. Rumor has it the solitude was complete and Menchis only ate vegetables the entire 6 years.
But again, who know w/this stuff.
Snapped some pix fr everyone, check the link, we're now on the 8+ hr bus ride back to 人民大学。I only got 3 1/2 hrs of sleep last night, and we start a couple new chapters in the morning, so I'm gonna post up a nap. 再见。
<Must be off to weekly art class now--painting lecture and demonstration this time.>>
New pics up btw: http://s294.photobucket.com/albums/mm93/sterlingsin/TaiShan%!e(MISSING)tc/?start=all
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