Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Where some have found their paradise

People will tell you where they've gone
They'll tell you where to go
But till you get there yourself you never really know
Where some have found their paradise
Others just come to harm
Oh Amelia, it was just a false alarm...
-- Joni Mitchell, "Amelia"

An old friend of mine spent five years living in India, and she always regaled everyone around her with wild stories about life in a place that was so inconceivably different from anything I knew. Too many of these stories ended abruptly, with her shrugging and saying, "I just can't explain it. It's a completely different world. You can't understand it unless you've been there." This used to always anger me -- everything can be explained, I would think, along the finite range of human behavior.

But it can't. I've learned that now. Because I find myself wanting to tell stories about the strange, strange world around me, and they never come out capturing it. Not in this online format, anyway, not without pages and pages of background and clarification, and it's been so damn debilitatingly hot here that I can't be bothered to do all that explaining.

I had hoped that moving across town to where all the other foreign teachers live would help me deal better with living in China, and it has, a little bit. But it hasn't made me actually like China any more. If anything, my distaste for this place grows with every passing day, with every incredulous stare from the locals, with every time I step outside and end up covered in a thick layer of dust that coats this entire damn city, with every time I come home and can't take a shower because they've turned the water off again, with every time I realize that someone's seeming kindness is only the manifestation of their misplaced sense of Confucian propriety.

Fuck you, moral relativism. I want to go back to the USA, where things are done right.

But on the plus side, R will be here in just a few days. I will take some time off work, and we will play in Beijing, then go to Chengdu. After he leaves, I will only have six weeks left in this damn country.

On a different note, I am posting this from a still-active Great Firewall of China, thanks to the wondrous proxy-wrangling powers of H2B. Suck it, firewall!

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