Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I've got a feeling 秋意

Mid-Autumn Festival appropriately fell on the first real cool sway of the year. A passing typhoon (killing scores, villages inundated etc.) brought a refreshing breeze and a delightful temperature drop: people started to wear pants instead of shorts; men refrained from flaunting their uncovered paunches. The fringe clouds of the storm blotted out the moon for most of Guangdong for the festival evening - it is an evening when we are meant to enjoy viewing the moon with our friends and family. I enjoyed it with the thought that the summer, which I had feared before coming to China, had now mostly passed. And it is possible to miss the heat - it is 29 degrees now; will I freeze in the New Zealand spring? I'll soon finish my eleventh month in China.
Birthday season also passed and it was the first time I haven't done it with some form of party in many a blue moon. I'd have to go back to my birthday just after returning from Taiwan in 2000 to remember another year without a party. There is a sense of decadeness about it all. I went to mainland China for the first time in August/September 2000. As I may have retold on this blog, Guangzhou was the least impressive of all the places I visited then. I feel the changes both in me, the city and the country.
What can I remember? I can remember talking our way (my classmate and I) into many rather shady hotels; some were wonderfully priced decent places. I still remember the one in Yangshuo fondly. Shanghai was shabby. Xi'an felt lavish, though we were both with iffy bellies by then. Despite the niceness of the room, I remember there was a communal unwalled shower for the whole floor. I remember chatting to a fellow traveller there. Nice conversationalist. I remember the room on the top of Mount Tai and the wake-up to see the sun-rise. I remember the toilet and restaurant there too. (Toilets were quite memorable back then - not so much now.) Even though it was an unintended destination, I remember dusk at Liuzhou and the street where I ate sparrow rice porridge. I remember that it was my first sight of a still current phenomenon: men, often disabled in some way, writing long poems in chalk on the footpaths and streets recounting their lonely predicament, with a can for a coin or two. I remember men sitting on the side of the road selling peanuts (a scene still today) in Guangzhou. I feel rather privileged to have a degree of scale in the development of China. Of course, I have had association with others who were here even before the 80s, but they still provide a perspective and an understanding.
What of me? My ideals have changed somewhat, and my zeal for contrarianism has ebbed. At 20 I thought my views were extraordinary. Of course those views have been balanced by the conservatism of middling age. It may have taken ten years to cool off the heat of my feeling of being different and relax into being what I am, an ordinary person with a belief of commonality with everyone despite being quite different in some respects. Everyone is different: does it take this long to realise that one's own distance from others is a rather mundane fact of life? In the face of China the first time round, I wasn't shaken, but marginally stirred. I felt in my element even though, and this is a fact that hasn't changed.
So the wind has changed and I must plot a course for myself from this age to the next. I have to find whether this is the season for me to progress or hold. It should be interesting.


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