I’ve traveled to cultures based on a collective sense of identity. Meaning there is no assertion of “This IS mine” and this is yours, and no one articulates physical space as an entitlement. Perhaps it was the language barrier as well, although many young Chinese know English much better than I know Spanish, but almost every attempt I made to engage with the locals, was negated.
Except for a wonderful tour in Shanghai, by the Noodle Tour Company. I have a soft spot for tour companies that give travelers insight into the lives of people who live in the city rather than just information regarding the top tourist spots. Especially due to the felt barrier between me and the “real
culture” of China, spending $50 on a 4 hour tour felt worth the expense and almost as if I thirsted for it.
Traveling, more than any other classroom or course, impresses upon me lessons of humanity, and every excursion contains the opportunity to run me amok, put me in my uncomfortable awareness that I am not the center of the universe and my circumstances truly are rich
I have a master’s in the field of theology. And yet, have met God more in my adventures than in a pew, a plane, or a classroom…or an essay. Divinity, God, is in the moment where allow myself to seek and find miraculousness in the simple moment. To be awed more so from the site of a broom, than the great wall.
This, perhaps, was most surprising to me. Even though I’ve felt for quite some time, more moved by a connection in these moments that confirms my, or a, place, within the mystery of things.
And Chinese life…continues to be a mystery to me…….but still, so fundamentally familiar, looking back on it now. Stolen moments, captured below:
Going into back alleys and seeing remanents of Mao’s portraits on the wall in the French concession. Hearing about the laws and interests of the people (such as a ban for two weeks on smoking. At least one out of every other male smokes there)
Going through the Market and eating local food there was thus moment where a friend dropped a vegetable Steamed bun on the ground and a woman began quibbling to inform the vendor.
The electricity and miscommunication but clear engagement was very pure…Eyes meeting eyes all around….Humourous confusion. A sense of not being understood…but connected. This was a moment I savor now…
Another time strolling through and seeing how communities utilise large chalkboards to give advice on how to get rid of rats, feed their families with local sales or encouraging exercise. Our tour guide pointed out small boxes for daily milk collection and ventured us into a local confucscious temple, where we escaped the hustle and fervour of the urban rounds to find serenity and peace.
Then clear as back “home” ….a bird song, which then immediately un-defeaned my ears to their chirping all around. The tour guide explained how birds are comment pets, almost always taken to the community park in the morning and then reperched swinging from the top floor over over hands.
These simple yet poignant evidence of daily life of the city inhabitants reminded me that we all are striving to achieve the best possible So simple, yet easily missed by a tourist attempting just to break through the crowd and break through the tip of an iceberg to discover …. SO MUCH
One of the most overwhelming aspects of traveling in China is the sheer amount of people occupying a short space. One morning, riding around on 600-year-old city walls, the sense of profound quietness felt a bit jarring. Okay…maybe it was the 40 degree overcast morning, and the scenery to the left and right of a busy industrial based existence assuring that, yes, 8 million people can occupy about 10 square miles.
What are the symbols of your culture? The day to day objects you reach for each morning, a french press, an electronic toothbrush, a tampon, a quadruple headed shower head. These images not so starkly contrasted to life thousands of miles away, in a tongue not your own, on land that doesn’t feel free, in a culture that cannot be simply summarized.