Back on the Air, and in the Home Stretch

So. . .how long has it been since I actually posted anything? A million years? More? I’m  not really sure. I could give you a host of reasons, but this is the blogosphere we’re talking about, where attention spans are about those of a swarm of gnats at a Michael Bay premiere (assuming, as I do, that gnats do in fact have short attention spans; I can’t imagine it would be otherwise), and it’s likely the people reading this blog noticed my absence for perhaps a few days, then shrugged and just moved on to the rest of the entries in their blog feed. Or not. Maybe your life fell to pieces and you took to drinking fortified wine in a homemade bomb shelter, reading Camus, and waiting for the darkness to come. If so. . .well, sorry, I guess.

But by way of excusing myself a little bit, I’ll just say that I got married, and present this picture as proof, then we’ll move on.

Barring a world-ending cataclysm, I’ll be leaving China, possibly for good, in four or five months. If you’ve read more than a handful of my posts, you’ve probably noticed a distinct upward curve in my cynicism. My relationship with China has been a troubled one these last few years. I burned out big-time on the education system when I was a teacher, then I got excited again when I started my master’s degree, then burned out bit-time on the education system again, only from the other side of the teacher’s podium, then I got excited again at the possibility of spending a year just studying and writing here, then I got burned out big-time on China generally. The latter was the most insidious because there really wasn’t anything left within the culture or the country itself to keep me going. Actually, maybe I should rephrase that. It isn’t that the culture just ran out of interesting things, but rather that I stopped being interested in them. There are lots of reasons for that, but the simplest way to explain is that I’m ready to move on. Ready to move on to a place where I can breathe again (the pollution here stopped being funny a long time ago, and this winter reached truly absurd limits), ready to be in an academic atmosphere where I’ll be stimulated and challenged, and really, just kind of ready to move on generally. I’ve done everything I meant to in mainland China, and once you’ve reached a point like that, the little everyday things just don’t have any wonder left for you, so you start lashing out at all the things you don’t like. And I’d gotten to a point, last semester, whenI didn’t like much of anything.

But here’s the problem with attitude, quite apart from the fact that when you let yourself go more than a few meters down that rabbit hole you end up sounding like an annoying, grumpy old man: it leaves too much out. Through a variety of circumstances I’ve been reminded this week of a whole lot of things I’ve forgotten about my time in China. Yes, it’s true that there’s nothing left here that I want to do, and yes, it’s true that I find lots of things annoying (I for one maintain it isn’t humanly possible not to be annoyed at Chinese traffic or the pollution in the air), but it’s also true that I’ve been involved with China, either full-time through living here, or part-time through thinking about it or studying the language on my own, since roughly 2001. That’s a long time to do anything. Anyone whose blog on a place he’s lived willingly for over 10 years is nothing but cynical is a giant hypocrite. That’s like going to same restaurant every day for a year and complaining to your friends about it every single day, the response to which is always a simple one, “Dude, go somewhere else.” Or even better, it’s like that joke Woody Allen tells at the beginning of Annie Hall, in which two old ladies go to a restaurant and complain about it, saying, “There are two problems with this place: the food is terrible, and the portions are so small!”

Accordingly, I’m going to try to write a lot more this semester, and the tenor of what I write is likely to be a good bit different from what it was. It’s hard to get your head around something like leaving for good a place where you’ve lived for over ten years, especially when it’s had so many memorable experiences. I’ll be exploring a lot of those memorable experiences over the course of this semester, and asking a few questions. One, what does it do to a person’s thinking to live overseas long-term and then return to their home country? Two, what can we understand about where China’s heading, socially, politically, and spiritually, from something as simple as an informal autobiography written by an outsider? Three, and I’ll put this simply: what’s China like? You can’t answer that last one if you’ve only been here a few months, or honestly even a year. You have to have time to fall in love with a place, fall out of love with it, then learn to love it in a warmer, longer-lasting way.

 I’ll also do my level best to keep things entertaining because this is still a blog (of sorts) after all. The last thing anyone needs in this insane world is another long, dark journey into the self. If that’s what you’re looking for, you can find any number of high-quality novels and poems on the subject with content profound enough to actually get you to think, as well as even more low-quality blogs with content less profound than a game of Frogger. There will be a certain amount of necessary self-exploration, but it will always be coupled with something about China generally, because who I am has been tied to this country for a long time. So keep reading, and if it gets frustrating, I understand fortified wine is easy to either buy or manufacture.

 

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1 Responses to Back on the Air, and in the Home Stretch

  1. Cat says:

    I’m looking forward to it. Write away! (And welcome back to blogdom.)

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