Thursday, August 09, 2007

Blogging from China

Wenzhou – August 4, 2007

This is China.

Yes, so are the other cities I’ve been to over the past few months –
Beijing, Shanghai, Haining, etc. … but this IS China. Large, urban
constantly moving, not “getting ready for the Olympics”, gritty city
China. Right now the sun is a large hot smog-screened ball burning
through the haze scorching the skin. I don’t know it, the scorch, but I
feel it.

WHAT DO I NOTICE? The grit and grime. In the air. On the sidewalks. On
my skin. On the cars. On the bicycles.

What do I notice? The traffic flow, sometimes dangerously making no
sense – like other things in life – slipping past itself scarcely
missing death and injury in a disorderly form of order. The people get
by … don’t we all.

What do I notice? Along side the street where I walk adjacent to the
outdoor fruit market the stench of rot, yet the fruit is OK, it’s
edible, it’s nutritious. I guess the smell is yesterday’s discards or
juices mixed in with the dirt and the spit and the wash water left by
those who want to keep things clean.

What do I notice? The young woman riding past me on her bike who turns
and stares at me (the white guy in cargo shorts), and laughs and grins
and keeps looking like I’m from some of alien … and, of course, I am.

What do I notice? The puppy, maybe less than a week old still in its
world of wobbliness. The one year old kid sitting in diapers on the
sidewalk playing with a bowl full of small bolts and screws ( I
remember doing the same thing when I was a boy at grandma’s house –
‘cept I wasn’t that young). The city roadside shop keeper, legs propped
on a chair … no one else in the shop.

What do I notice? Old men and women … maybe not as old as they look ..
walking underneath the freeway (I don’t think it’s called “freeway”
here) scavenging wood into pots and bowls, and I wonder what will
become of the wood … and what will become of them – probably the same

What do I notice? A man peddling a three wheeled awning covered taxi
cab (they’re everywhere) and placing his right foot on a break attached
to the frame above the front tire. The motor scooters. I saw a Harley

What do I notice? Lexus, Buick, Audi, Volkswagen, Toyota, Nissan,
Honda. (Some of this is really curious given the anti-Japanese
sentiment here. Kind of like, “I hate you, but I’ll drive your car.
Thank you very much.”)

What do I notice? People love it if you smile at them… well most people
do. One guy looked at me like I was just plain stupid.

What do I notice? The trees and grasses are green. The buildings and
streets are brown. There are no clouds, but I can’t see the sun right
now. Funny it was here a while ago … but not the sky… it’s gone …
haven’t seen blue up there at all. It’s either gray or grayer.

What do I notice? The fumes of diesel, tobacco, coal, gasoline and who
knows what else.

What do I notice? People – walking, biking, working, physically active
everywhere. They’re all thin – regardless of age – well most are. Oh
sure there’s a fat one now and then. But over ninety percent (my guess)
are in surprisingly good shape. Hmmm.

What do I notice? I haven’t seen a 24-Hour Fitness Gym anywhere.

I begin to think – these are hearty people. And then I think that maybe
a hostile environment makes for being in-shape. If they had to they
could take care of themselves … because they already are. They seem to
move in peace, but don’t (screw) with them.

Then I think .. there are signs … billboards … now and then advertising
the military.
Then I think of my country where similar signs exist – in magazines and
on TV (I guess, because I don’t watch TV at home). And I think “citizen
And I think … I remember … an “ism” from my days when I was in the Army
and was instructed that the regular army was meant to be a ready force
that would exist to absorb the initial shock of war (in other words
“die”) so as to give time for the average citizens time to gear up and
sustain the fight themselves.
And I think, “That’s alive here.”
And then I think, “That’s not alive back home.”


These people live in peace. Lots of ‘em. Getting around each other and
all the (stuff) that’s around – iron bars, scraps of paper, bricks and
concrete blocks, a pan of water I see some guy washing his shirt in.
The people are constantly moving through and around each other. I don’t
see anyone running into anyone and I haven’t seen an angry person yet.
Maybe somebody is and I haven’t noticed ‘cuz I’m just too overwhelmed
looking at all this stuff, I don’t know, I just haven’t seen one
though. But then again – they’re all kind of straight faced people and
who knows what anyone’s really feeling anyway. Feelings change all the
time. I’m sure that there’s crime, problems and all that here … it’s
planet Earth for God’s sake (yep God’s here too … maybe no religion
here … but that doesn’t mean the people don’t believe in prayer or a
Higher Power … don’t you bet on it … the woman I sat across from last
night sure looked like she was saying a blessing over her food). Yet
even though they seem to live in peace, I get the sense that … they
could be ready for … anything. And … they could probably handle it. No
questions asked.

August 6 ... following up. I saw the blue sky yesterday and mountains
and a river about three miles away that I didn't know were there. And
last night I saw something spectacularly strange. A star! Actually, it
was a planet - probably Saturn ... I guess that's the brightest one up
there right now, and the ONLY "star" in the China sky. Thinking back
from here to Shanghai to Jinan to Shenzhen and Beijing a bunch of other
place ... I guess ... yep, that's right ... it's the first "star" in
the China sky in that I've seen in probalby two years. Hostile
environment, but at least I'm having a good time star gazing.

After "star gazing" I went to a tea house ... taken there by two of the
students from the Samurai (Warrior) Game ... both are business owners.
Wenzhou is a business/manufacturing center in China. The tea house was
a magnificent and quiet place (and very un-Chinese) filled with
valuable artifacts from all over Tibet --- all for sale, and some
priced as high as US$12,000. Place is owned by a woman and a guy -
he's a devout Buddhist. See comment above about "Higher Power".

We talked about peace.
I see what I get to see, when I get to see it ... and enjoyed the

An interesting trip. Too bad it had to end so soon.

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