Sunday, September 21, 2008

living the surreal life.

five weeks in and my life is a dichotomy of normalcy and surrealism. things are settling down and, for the most part, it's just life. but then, every so often, i just have these moments when i stop and realize that i live in china, and no matter how hard i try, i just can't make it real.

it's the little things that get me:
  • choosing a restaurant and then realizing i have no way of ordering
  • washing tin bowls and chopsticks in the sunny yellow bathroom at school with the window wide open
  • women walking down the street wearing 3 different patterns that aren't even close to matching
  • the way my heart skips and i fear for my life or that of a pedestrian at least once every single time i ride in a motor vehicle
  • people selling loofahs and phone cards out of suitcases on the street
  • a grotesquely deformed beggar sitting on dirty cardboard on the street corner
  • eel for lunch - with the spine still attached
  • chicken feet and squid on a stick
  • an entire braised duck hanging in the window of a restaurant
  • umbrellas on sunny days and arm covers all the time (i think of them as shirtless sleeves) to avoid even the possibility of tanning through the smog
  • shower gel with herbal whitening essence
  • the frozen dumpling section at the grocery store
  • the dried meat aisle at the grocery store
  • ok, fine, the grocery store
  • walking down the incredibly crowded, sensory overloaded street to find both designer stores and hole-in-the-wall chinese businesses intermingling as far as the eye can see
  • flower boxes full of greenery lining the freeway
  • glancing into the open door of a construction sight to see 2 grown men standing naked in front of a tub of water while a third scrubs their clothes on the ground
i'm sure there are more. this list will probably grow throughout my time here, but for now it is a random sample of the uniquely chinese in my life. in the end, too, i realize that there is something very subtle about life and the culture here that i may never be able to express in words. it can't be summed up in any list of differences or customs. it just is and you can't really know it unless you've been here. my life here may never feel real, but that cultural understanding definitely does, which is just fine, because i think it's more important anyway.

2 comments:

Robby said...

Hi Kim! Nice list. I bet it will get longer :) You talked about "cultural understanding" - what is that meaning to you right now?

kim said...

exactly what it says, an understanding of a different culture. i don't think i can define that understanding yet. it's too subtle and words are too imprecise.