Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Back from Another Universe
Last Wednesday I returned from the most puzzling and isolated journey of my life. I'm still sorting it all out and am even more slowly resuming my usual life in Seattle. After two months of using five phrases in Chinese and having limited conversations in my native language, without connection to google or other staples of my internet existence, with news that was usually a week old by the time I received it, I'm still catching up on every conceivable level that I can think of.
Like everyone I know, I was reeling from the presidential election and its hazy yet horrifying consequences. I thought about it almost every waking moment, read the NYT and news sources on Twitter to the exclusion of practically anything else, and Facebook was my lifeline to friends who were in the same state of mind.
And then I went to Shenzhen, where I was cut off from everything but whatsapp, yahoo (ghastly news source), and occasional bursts of gmail through an AT&T app on my phone. Deprogrammed, definitely, and it was painful.
I am able to travel alone because every night I put photos and updates on Facebook. Family and friends respond and the conversation never stops. Without that connection, I felt adrift for quite a while--well to be honest, for the entire sixty days I was gone.
On whatsapp, a few wonderful people sent news and photos and messages about daily living. Without them, I would have withered.
Meanwhile I realized that in preparing for my trip, I had made every conceivable mistake. Details come later for anyone as clueless as I. Let it be enough to say that three months in Beijing was not really helpful when translated to two months in Shenzhen.
Even so, that city is compelling and (for me) seductive. While I was there, I wrote every day and took more than a thousand snapshots of what I saw. I struggled to get a grip on what it was to live there and where its core might be. I still don't know, but I will spend a lot of time now that I'm away from it searching through the barrage of sensory detail and hours on the metro and journeys through its streets. This blog is where I'll try to make some coherent sense out of my time away.
What I do realize already, and what I am grateful for, is my time in Shenzhen has given me back my life, and I won't let it be taken hostage again. Letting a madman control the narrative is a sure road to madness. Balance is essential and there are more crucial elements in being alive than consumption by politics. I'll keep being aware and active but that can't come first. First is family, friends, food, long walks, welcoming the beauty and pleasure of the world around me.
Glad to be back.